ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-13)
EXPECTATIONS: Not much is expected of these Cardinals after a terrible 2022 season that produced wholesale changes on the coaching staff, in the front office and on the roster. New coach Jonathan Gannon was the defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles the past two seasons, helping them reach the Super Bowl last season. Gannon has brought in a young, energetic staff that includes two coordinators — OC Drew Petzing and DC Nick Rallis — who are in their 30s. This is a rebuilding year as new GM Monti Ossenfort stacks draft picks for 2024 and the franchise awaits the return of quarterback Kyler Murray, who is still recovering from last season's knee injury.
NEW FACES: Gannon, Petzing, Rallis, QB Joshua Dobbs, QB Clayton Tune, WR Michael Wilson, WR Zach Pascal, OL Elijah Wilkinson, OL Hjalte Froholdt, OL Paris Johnson Jr., OL Dennis Daley, OL Jon Gaines II, DL Carlos Watkins, LB Kyzir White, LB BJ Ojulari, DL LJ Collier, P Nolan Cooney
KEY LOSSES: DL J.J. Watt, WR DeAndre Hopkins, DL Zach Allen, WR A.J. Green, WR Robbie Chosen, TE Maxx Williams, LB Markus Golden, LB Isaiah Simmons, OL Josh Jones, RB Darrel Williams, LB Ben Niemann, coach Kliff Kingsbury
STRENGTHS: Murray is expected to return some time during the season after being a two-time Pro Bowl selection in his first four seasons. He's been inconsistent at times, but has great arm talent and — when healthy — a scrambling ability that few can match. It'll be interesting to see how he fits into Petzing's offense, which features a more conventional approach as opposed to Kingsbury's "Air Raid" philosophy. James Conner is a bruising back who ran for 782 yards and seven touchdowns while also catching 46 balls out of the backfield. Veteran tight end Zach Ertz returned during the preseason and could be ready for Week 1 after tearing his ACL midway through last season. The Cardinals are solid on the offensive line, particularly at left tackle with D.J. Humphries. Rookie first-round pick Paris Johnson Jr. has been a quick study and is expected to start at right tackle. The strength of the defense is expected to be in the secondary, where two-time All-Pro safety Budda Baker and veteran Jalen Thompson are back as starters.
WEAKNESSES: The Cardinals don't have many great options at quarterback before Murray returns, and they're not sure when that's going to happen. Recently acquired Joshua Dobbs and rookie Clayton Tune are the options to start the season. After losing Hopkins, the Cardinals don't have much height or star power at receiver. The team's top three receivers are Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore and Greg Dortch, who are all under six feet tall. The defensive line lost a lot of its talent when Watt retired and Allen signed with the Broncos during free agency.
CAMP DEVELOPMENT: The Cardinals shook up their roster less than three weeks before Week 1, dealing LB/DB Isaiah Simmons to the New York Giants, releasing QB Colt McCoy and sending OL Josh Jones to the Houston Texans. Simmons was the No. 8 overall pick in 2020. A few hours later, they added Dobbs in a trade with the Browns. The offense is in a bit of a holding pattern while they await Murray's return. Johnson's quick development and talent at right tackle has been a plus.
FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: Conner could be a sneaky good pick at running back, particularly during the opening weeks of the season when Murray is out with his knee injury. As long as Dobbs or Tune are under center, it's fair to assume that the team will lead heavily on its running game. Conner has proven a valuable workhorse over two seasons in the desert and has also been a better pass catcher than expected.
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK SAYS: Win Super Bowl: 18,000-1. Over/under wins: 4 1/2.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
The Associated Press