The Arizona Cardinals are set to welcome back their dynamic quarterback Kyler Murray in this week's matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, much to the delight of the Red Sea faithful who've been yearning for his return. As if this news wasn't enough to ignite spirits, there's more on the horizon to fan the flames of optimism.
ESPN insider Adam Schefter has sparked further excitement with his report that the Cardinals are looking to activate running back James Conner’s 21-day practice window, signaling a potential return of the powerhouse to the field. Conner's comeback could be a massive boost to the Cardinals offense, injecting a fresh dose of energy and power into the team’s playbook. When he returns, defenses playing against the Cardinals will have to account for him, taking resources away from stopping Murray.
James Conner's absence has been felt deeply over the past four games, with the Cardinals missing his presence since he was sidelined with a knee injury against the Bengals in Week 5. Before this unfortunate turn, Conner was a key to the Cardinals' offense and had them ranked fifth as the league's fifth-best rushing attack.
Averaging an impressive 5.7 yards per carry, he wasn't just gaining yards but changing games. When Conner returns, defenses playing against the Cardinals will have to account for him, taking resources away from stopping Murray.
Arizona Cardinals looking to open James Conner's 21-day practice window
The Cardinals landscape has shifted since Conner landed on the injury reserve, with the offensive line bearing the brunt of further injuries. These setbacks have reshaped the run game a bit, and it would be ambitious to expect Conner to hit the ground running at the same dominant pace immediately.
Yet, his track record suggests that even just his presence on the field could elevate the team's play. Conner’s return won’t be a magic bullet, too much has changed in just four weeks. Patience will be key as the team works to rebuild the robust rushing offense that they started the season with.
The Cardinals' strategy regarding Conner’s return isn’t set in stone. They have the luxury of time with the 21-day practice window, which could allow Conner to ease back into peak condition. This is partly thanks to rookie Emari Demercado, who has admirably stepped up in Conner's absence, churning out a solid four yards per carry and surpassing what many expected of him.
With Kyler Murray also on the comeback trail, continuing to give Demercado significant playtime could pay dividends. It's not just about this season, but building for the future, giving a young talent like Demercado the chance to grow could be just as valuable as another "W" in the win column with eight losses already on the record.
Looking at the long game, would rather see the team strengthen their draft position and secure the top pick for 2024. Given their current 1-8 standing, that's understandable. Meanwhile, there's excitement among others who are eager to see the team’s marquee players, sidelined by injuries, return to the fold with the potential to change the team’s momentum before the end of the season.
Truth be told, the Cards could easily play themselves right out of the top pick. With a quarterback who is such an elite talent, and James Conner, who’s having himself a career year, the Cardinals could become an offense that teams are scared to face down the stretch as other teams make a push for the playoffs.