From all of the way back in February, the Arizona Cardinals hierarchy had a plan for injured quarterback Kyler Murray. It was a process that required patience, especially in the midst of a disheartening 1-8 start for the Redbirds. Nothing, however, was going to make the club's decision-makers veer away from the course that had been set for the current face of the long-suffering franchise.
Murray will make his highly-anticipated 2023 debut just days from now against a 4-5 Atlanta Falcons squad. One gets the feeling that Arizona's management team had targeted a Week 10 all along. In fact, Cards general manager Monti Ossenfort and his cohorts may have chosen the perfect opponent for Murray to get back in the saddle against.
Over the past month or so, the Falcons have struggled mightily against the pass. Even more concerning for defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen is the fact that it's been mediocre passers who've been having their way with his unit. It stands to reason that a productive outing against a vulnerable Atlanta secondary would be an outstanding way for Murray to build his confidence.
Arizona Cardinals may be placing Kyler Murray in an excellent position to succeed this coming Sunday
Things began to look ominous for the Falcons back in Week 6 during a 24-16 loss to the Washington Commanders. Sam Howell, a 23-year-old who was making just his seventh NFL start, completed 60.9% of his passes and unleashed three touchdown tosses for the Commanders. The 119.7 rating that Howell registered versus Atlanta was the best of his young career.
The floundering pass defense hit rock bottom back in week 8 during a 28-23 defeat to the Tennessee Titans. Will Levis, a 24-year-old who was making his first professional start, resembled a seasoned veteran during the Titans triumph. The 6 foot 4, 229 pounder completed 65.5% of his throws for 238 yards and four touchdowns against a humiliated group of Falcon defenders.
Last Sunday, Nielsen's crew allowed a quarterback who had joined the Minnesota Vikings just four days before to lead his new employer to a scintillating win. Josh Dobbs, the former Cardinals starter, completed 66.7% of his passing attempts and accounted for three of the Vikings scores. Dobbs' six-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Brandon Powell with 22 seconds left was the finishing touch on Minnesota's 31-28 victory over Atlanta.
Murray will be looking to do more of the same for the Arizona scoring attack this coming weekend. Based on their recent struggles, the Falcons possess a pass defense that the talented 26-year-old can take full advantage of. Murray can thank the Arizona braintrust for what could potentially be a highly-successful return to the playing field this coming Sunday.
(Statistics provided by Pro Football Reference and ESPN.com)