Much to the surprise of the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals have been better-than-advertised thus far in 2023. Head coach Jonathan Gannon and his staff are presiding over a squad that has the ability to compete with anyone. Imagine the possibilities if the Cards were equipped with their full allotment of players.
Unfortunately, Arizona has an ample amount of talent that is currently wasting away on the club's injured-reserve list. Crying about it would fall on deaf ears. Anyone who follows professional football is well aware that injuries are just a part of the game that all of us love so dearly.
Technically, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray isn't on the team's injured-reserve list. However, the two-time Pro Bowler was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list back in August. At the very minimum, Murray would be forced to miss the first four games of the current campaign.
Word out of the desert is that the Cards are not quite ready to get Murray back on the 53-man roster. It's entirely possible that the 26-year-old's torn ACL needs more time to heal. It would also not be outlandish to believe that Arizona loves what journeyman Josh Dobbs is doing, and that the new regime could be ready to move on from the polarizing Murray.
It will be interesting to see how good the Cardinals defense can be when safety Budda Baker returns to the playing field. The five-time Pro Bowler did play in the season-opener, but has missed the last two matchups with a strained hamstring. Baker will be eligible to return on October 22nd, when the Redbirds go on the road to take on the Seattle Seahawks.
Arizona Cardinals could be even better if they can get a few of their injured players back
The Cards' defensive line took a big hit when two of the unit's solid contributors both suffered injuries to their biceps. Both L.J. Collier and Carlos Watkins were playing well until they were sidelined a couple of weeks back. It's not yet known if either defender will heal in time to return to the squad this fall.
Shortly after training camp began a couple of months ago, Arizona finally acquired a capable, number-two running back. Marlon Mack, a former 1000-yard rusher with the Indianapolis Colts, was brought in as a complement for starter James Conner. It was a fine idea that was shattered just days after the signing, when the injury-prone Mack went down with the second torn Achilles tendon of his pro career.
The Cardinals pass rush was also weakened when second-year linebacker Myjai Sanders hurt his hand. There's hope that the 25-year old will be activated from the injured-reserve list as early as next week. Sanders will be counted on to put pressure on the opposition's passers after registering three sacks as a rookie in 2022.
Arizona's depth on the offensive line was affected when three of it's members ended up on the I.R. Pat Elflein, Dennis Daley, and first-year player Jon Gaines II were all expected to contribute to the team's blocking unit. It seems as if Daley may be able to return at some point this season, but Elflein and Gaines are done for the year.
One last player worth mentioning is Rashad Fenton, a veteran cornerback who was placed on the injured-reserve list with an undisclosed injury back in August. The 26-year-old was supposed to bring experience to a Cardinals cornerbacks room that is extremely young. That plan was dashed when Fenton's stint with the franchise came to an end just five months after it began.