Sep 5, 2023 - Sports

Arizona Cardinals face low expectations as new coach enters first season

A man wearing a red cap and black sweatshirt gestures with his hands while football players walk behind him.

New Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon on July 31. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Remember the good times, Cards fans, because it's probably going to be a rough season.

The big picture: The Jonathan Gannon era is here, and expectations for the Arizona Cardinals are as low as they can get for his first year as head coach.

  • They're pretty much universally expected to finish last in the NFC West.
  • Some preseason predictions have Arizona ending the regular season with the worst record in the NFL, and even the rosiest projections have the Cards barely out of the basement. They're not statistically favored to win any of their games.
  • FanDuel has them tied with the Houston Texans as having the worst odds in the league to win the Super Bowl, and they've got the worst odds — by far — to win 10 games.

Catch up quick: The Cards acquired Gannon, the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive coordinator during their run to last season's Super Bowl, after firing head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

State of play: With Kyler Murray still recovering from last year's season-ending ACL tear, the team's quarterback situation remains unsettled.

  • Murray is expected to miss at least the first four games of the season.
  • It's unclear who will start under center in his absence. The Cards cut Murray's primary backup, Colt McCoy, leaving newly acquired Joshua Dobbs and rookie Clayton Tune to battle for the spot.

Zoom out: Whoever shares starting QB duties with Murray this season, they'll be missing the team's former best receiver in DeAndre Hopkins.

  • The team cut Hopkins in the offseason after failing to find a suitable trade for him, and veteran receiver A.J. Green retired in February.
  • That leaves Hollywood Brown and Rondale Moore as the team's top wideouts.
  • Tight end Zach Ertz, who missed much of last season after tearing his ACL and MCL, could return for Week 1, though it's uncertain.

With so many questions surrounding the passing game, the Cards may look to rely more on their running game instead.

Between the lines: On the other side of the ball, the Cards' defense is likely to struggle. Bleacher Report ranked Arizona as having the third-worst defense in the NFL this year.

  • Their defensive line lost a lot due to J.J. Watt's retirement and Zach Allen's departure.
  • On the plus side, all-pro safety Budda Baker is still with the team. He requested a trade in April but is still with the team after getting pay raises for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.
  • And Gannon oversaw one of the NFL's toughest defenses in Philly over the past two years. Hopefully he can help a defense that gave up 348.9 yards per game last year, ranking 21st in the league.

The intrigue: Arizona is already facing accusations of tanking, and if they do actually finish at the bottom, they'll get the top pick in next year's NFL draft.

  • Last time they had the No. 1 pick, the Cards drafted Murray. Next year, they could jettison him after five seasons and take Heisman-winning USC quarterback Caleb Williams.

What's next: The Cards open their season Sunday on the road against the Washington Commanders.

  • Arizona is a 7-point underdog.

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