Grading The Arizona Cardinals Rookies Through Week 9
The Arizona Cardinals currently sit at the bottom of the NFC West with a 3-5-1 record. Even still, the Cardinals look like a real team with chemistry that can continually grow. Cardinal fans have reason to be excited, especially with how the rookies have been contributing in year 1. The offense can easily march the ball downfield, the Redzone scheme is the only thing keeping the Cardinals from scoring. The offense is alive and can establish a rhythm. The offense is miles ahead of last year thanks to the talent and phenomenal ability of Kyler Murray and minor contributions from the rookie receiving core.
The rookies on the defensive side of the ball are not as impactful as the offensive rookies, but they have been able to hold their own during games. Byron Murphy helped to fill a huge hole in the secondary with the suspension of Patrick Peterson and the injury of Robert Alford.
Below are the rookie grades and a breakdown of their contributions.
Kyler Murray: A+
This grade comes with a little bias because I believe in the future of the Arizona Cardinals with Kyler Murray at the helm. Through the last five games, Kyler has a passer rating of 101.2, zero turnovers, and has helped guide the Cardinals to three wins. He gave the 49ers a scare on Halloween last week; he almost upset their perfect record. Murray's numbers don't lie. He has 2,229 passing yards for 282.4 yards per game. He is also currently the team leader in rushing yards with 313. Fans learned that Kyler was special in Week 1 against the Lions when he rallied the team to come back in the fourth, and every week after he has been nothing short of amazing.
His potential is so high in this offense. He continues to grow and develop each week. At the start of the season, Kyler would run out behind the line and become trapped by defenders. At Oklahoma, he could outrun and avoid most the defenders, but he learned quickly that NFL defenses are faster, stronger, and tougher. He ended up taking a sack for huge losses in most instances. It put the Cardinals in tough down situations. He has learned when to throw the ball away, he has developed an eye for openings that allow him to rush for bigger gains. Kyler has grown throughout his rookie season and has gained tremendous awareness through nine games.
Kyler saw the open field and knew that he could fake the handoff for a huge gain. The beginning of the season showed him being conservative with his rushing ability, but Kyler does not seem to limit himself anymore. He can burn defenses on the ground and destroy them through the air. His rating is an A+. The Cardinals have something really special at the QB position.
Byron Murphy: B-
The Cardinals selected Byron Murphy with their second-round draft pick, 33rd overall. He was put into a very tough situation from the start. Patrick Peterson was suspended for the first six games of the season. Robert Alford injured his leg in practice before the season started and he is still out. Murphy has had some great plays. His tackling technique is really strong and guided. He could possibly a real cover CB in the near future.
He was able to tackle with enough force to knock the ball from Julio Jones' hands, who is one of the best in the game right now. Byron gets a B- only because I feel like he has been quiet so far. He has gotten beat quite a few times. But he is decent when called upon, he has the potential, along with some good plays. He just has not made a game-defining impact as of yet.
Andy Isabella: C
Andy Isabella has not been in too many games to warrant any grade other than a C, which is average. It's a passing grade. Yes, he was one of the most promising WR's from the draft class. Yes, Kliff Kingsbury was very excited when he was able to snag him late in the second round (who could forget the fist pump he gave in the draft room). And yes, he can be very explosive because of his quickness. and agility. But he has a long way to go before Murray can rely on him every week. There is a reason that he has been inactive and sidelined for most of the games this year.
He relies on his body to catch the ball too often. His catch technique needs to evolve to the NFL level. If he can retrain his technique, he can definitely be a very speedy receiver that can take the top off for the Cardinals' offense.
However, this was a beautiful play to make against a division rival on Thursday Night Football. This touchdown run gets a solid A, but there just has not been enough of Isabella to improve his grade beyond a C.
Zach Allen: D-
Zach Allen was the third-round draft choice. He is currently the starting Left Defensive End, but he is questionable for this week's game against Tampa Bay. He sustained an injury that has kept him out in Week 4 against Seattle. Zach hasn't shown much in the 4 games he has played. He has 8 tackles total, but no sacks, no forced fumbles, and no interceptions. He gets a D- grade because he is not in the defensive line up all that much. Hopefully, he can pick up a few tricks playing behind all-stars, Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs.
KeeSean Johnson: B-
KeeSean is currently the third WR in the starting line up. He has had 19 receptions for 173 yards. He has a good ability in grabbing the ball in the air, but he has also made some big drops. He caught his first touchdown against the 49ers last week on a beautifully designed offensive play.
He has the hands. He just needs consistency in catching the ball in the big moments on crucial downs. However, he is not a bad player and he showed great promise in the preseason. He gets a B- overall.
Other Cardinal rookies, SS Deionte Thompson, C Lamont Gaillard, RT Josh Miles, DE Michael Dogbe: No grade
These rookies are third strings in most cases. They don't deserve an F grade because they are not on the field enough to accurately grade their development so far. Deionte Thompson has seen some playing time, but nothing amazing or game-changing so far. Maybe these rookies will have their chance before the season is over, but right now I think that no grade is the fairest choice.
Let's hope the rookies continue to impress for many years to come, through week 9, this has been an exciting draft mostly because of Kyler Murray.