STACY ROST

How Seahawks’ NFC West foe Arizona looks heading into 2022

Jul 23, 2022, 1:35 PM | Updated: 1:37 pm
Seahawks Cardinals...
Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals runs the ball in front of Jordyn Brooks of the Seattle Seahawks on January 09, 2022. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Norm Hall/Getty Images)

We’re just days away from the start of Seahawks training camp.

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Before diving into the position battles, surprises, and questions of camp at team headquarters in Renton, we figured we’d take a look around the NFC West to get our breathing heading into 2022.

Our next guest for this series on Bump and Stacy is ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss, who joined the show to give a preview of the Cardinals. (If you missed our last guest previewing the 49ers and whether they may trade Jimmy Garoppolo to the Seahawks, you can read that here.)

First things first: The Cards’ biggest move of the offseason was this week

The Cardinals inked former first overall pick Kyler Murray to a 5-year, $230.5 million extension. The average annual value of the deal, $46.1 million, makes the 24-year-old the second-highest paid NFL player behind Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.

For those questioning Murray’s ceiling as an all-time great, consider the Cards’ history with passers may have made this decision an easy one.

“One of the big things that this team, for as long as I can remember, they haven’t had quarterback stability,” Weinfuss said. “They’ve had good short-term (answers): Kurt Warner for a few years, Carson Palmer for a few years. But besides those two guys, they really haven’t had that stability that Kyler Murray could provide them. So it’s really kind of in their benefit almost to get him under contract long term to change the perception of this team, and maybe even the future of this team.”

Kyler Murray has weapons, even with DeAndre Hopkins’ suspension

Pass catcher may be the single greatest strength of this team in 2022, but it’ll take a hit early: wider receiver DeAndre Hopkins will serve a six-game suspension for reportedly testing positive or a prohibited substance, and a masking agent (it should be noted that the NFLPA this week disputed the NFL Network’s reporting, stating that “Hopkins never tested positive for any diuretic or masking agent”).

Without Hopkins though, Murray still has weapons in Rondale Moore, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Andy Isabella, A.J. Green, tight end Zach Ertz, and rookie tight end Trey McBride.

“Moore and McBride I think are going to have much bigger roles than we expect them to,” Weinfuss said. “Especially early on. Those first six games are basically going to be an all hands on deck (with Hopkins out)… I do think we’re going to see a lot of balls thrown to McBride early on. I think you’re going to see Zach Ertz have a great season this year. Obviously he came in midway last year, but I think he’s going to be a major part of the passing game. And then Rondale Moore, it’s going to be interesting to see how he’s used but I do think he’ll be used a lot… I think we’re going to see Moore be used in more jet sweeps and stuff behind the line of scrimmage.”

Kliff Kingsbury could be on the hot seat… but he’s got a built-in excuse

The Cardinals started the season as one of the hottest teams in the league last year before stumbling through the second half, including a Week 18 loss to the Seahawks, and getting the boot from the playoffs in an early exit. It was a disappointing end to the season for Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury, both of whom are still seeking their first playoff win together. Worse still, the second-half issues aren’t a first for Kingsbury’s offense.

So does he start 2022 in the hot seat?

Not so fast, says Weinfuss. The tough slate of opponents (the Cards open the season against the Chiefs, Raiders and Rams) without their top pass catcher gives Kingsbury a built-in excuse.

“If this season goes completely awry – if they finish 4-13 or 5-12 – do I see him coming back? No. But if they’re finishing 8-9, 9-8, 10-7 even I think he’s fine unless it’s just an absolute falling off of a cliff situation like it was last year,” Weinfuss said.

So why did this team fall apart last year?

“The problem with Kingsbury’s offense – and sure, he is known as an offensive savant, as this great play caller – but when one team starts to shut the Cardinals offense down, everyone starts to do the exact same thing. And then it just becomes a pattern of how teams know how to play the Cardinals, and they just keep doing it week after week, and there’s no adjustments…

“I’ll tell you this: Kyler Murray has been extremely frustrated after the last two years. And if this happens again… I think he will demand more from this franchise. What that looks, like I don’t know. But he was not happy.”

The big question: How do they get past their last two seasons?

Naturally then, the big question for the Cards in 2022 is whether they can bounce back from a disappointing playoff exit. According to Weinfuss, the next month or so will play a huge part in building that chemistry, confidence, and plan.

“If they do that, I think this team could be OK this year. If they don’t do that, if they don’t (leave) training camp feeling comfortable and knowing they ironed out all of those issues, then this is going to be a very long year for this team.”

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