Training camps are opening up around the NFL, and understandably, fans have a lot of questions about their favorite franchises. With that said, Pro Football Network has pulled the weekly mailbag out of storage (it was hidden behind a compilation CD of Billy Joel’s greatest hits and a very beaten-up “Operation” board game) to answer some of those inquiries.
NFL News and Rumors Mailbag: Cardinals, Eagles, and more
What will it take for Kyler Murray to win a Super Bowl with the Cardinals?
On Thursday, the Cardinals agreed to a five-year, $230 million contract extension with franchise QB Kyler Murray, as confirmed by PFN Insider Aaron Wilson. So, the Cardinals believe Murray can lead them to the promised land, but he needs to overcome some tendencies to get there.
Murray has gotten off to some pretty impressive starts in each of his first three seasons in the NFL. However, both he and the Cardinals have struggled down the stretch the past two seasons. The 5-foot-10, 207-pound QB has put up pretty good numbers, but the Cardinals have finished with a 2-4 record in the final six games of back-to-back campaigns.
Murray isn’t completely at fault for the late-season faltering. The Cardinals have dealt with injuries and inconsistency in other areas of the depth chart. Losing DeAndre Hopkins to injury during the second half of last season was a poison pill of epic proportions for Arizona. Hopkins will miss the first six games of this upcoming season because he tested positive for a banned substance within the NFL’s drug policy. That means Murray will need to overcome not having his top weapon in the mix to start the season, a period he has typically thrived in.
That said, the Cardinals have tried to mitigate the damage of Hopkins’ suspension and Christian Kirk’s free agent departure by re-signing A.J. Green and trading for Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. In order for Murray to lead the Cardinals deep into the playoffs and eventually the Super Bowl, he needs to consistently connect with players other than Hopkins. Brown could be a massive asset in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, and former Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz has the deep playoff experience to come up in the clutch. With Brown’s speed and Green’s consistency on the outside, Murray should be able to make the most of Ertz over the middle.
Murray needs to find consistency in the winter months of the year. If he and the Cardinals can keep their momentum intact down the stretch, they could go on an epic run. While the defense has lost some key pieces this offseason, the offense is built to put up huge numbers. Murray needs to stay healthy and continue to be among the more accurate passers in the league. The offensive line also needs to stick together and protect him well.
Do you see any more offseason moves happening for the Eagles?
The Eagles have an open spot on their roster following the release of former special-teams captain/cornerback Craig James this week. James has already signed with the New York Jets, but the Eagles haven’t made a corresponding move.
While some have speculated that the team could have interest in trading for Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates III, that move is tougher to pull off than most perceive following the franchise tag contract extension deadline. The Eagles would need to give up a notable asset for Bates without the security of a contract extension. Bates has yet to sign his franchise tag with the Bengals, and there seems to be no end in sight to their discord over his deal.
Looking at the Eagles’ depth chart, the one position that could use enhanced depth, just from a numbers standpoint, is running back. The Eagles have five running backs under contract: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Kenny Gainwell, Jason Huntley, and Kennedy Brooks. That is the smallest total in the league entering training camp. Most teams go to camp with six to eight running backs.
A name that makes sense for the Eagles is former Denver Broncos and New York Giants running back Devontae Booker, who could play the Jordan Howard role in their backfield rotation. Howard is also still a free agent, but given his injury history, it’s understandable that the Eagles have played it coy with him.
The safety position might still leave fans uneasy, but the Eagles’ signing of Jaquiski Tartt appears to be the Band-Aid of the offseason.
Who are a few undrafted players who could surprise teams and fans and make Week 1 rosters this year?
Speaking of the Eagles, undrafted QB Carson Strong feels like a safe bet to make their roster as the third-string QB behind Jalen Hurts and Gardner Minshew. Yes, his style drastically differs from Hurts and Minshew’s strengths, but that’s an okay situation for a third-string, developmental QB. The Eagles gave Strong $320,000 in guaranteed money, a massive sum that indicates that he is well thought of by the front office and/or the coaching staff. His only competition is perennial practice squad passer Reid Sinnett.
Another interesting case is New Orleans Saints running back Abram Smith. The former Baylor running back was projected to be a mid-round pick but fell out of the draft because of some injury concerns. Smith was a standout at the Senior Bowl, and his tape is terrific. If he can stay healthy, he should win a job in the Saints’ backfield rotation.
New York Giants fullback Jeremiah Hall also appears to have a promising situation in the Meadowlands. As the lone fullback on the roster, Hall is really competing against himself. He is working in the tight end room, which is unusual for a fullback, but it fits what the Giants want to do with the position. Hall is an H-back hybrid player, so being able to fill in at tight end and running back is important for the rookie fullback.
Chicago Bears linebacker Jack Sanborn was a surprise undrafted player. He doesn’t face a ton of competition for a backup gig, and I expect him to be a special-teams standout early on. He has the makeup to be a longtime NFL scrapper as a depth linebacker. He’s also a cool story as a local kid.