It was believed by many the Arizona Cardinals would be the worst team in the NFL this season. They went 4-13 in 2022, leading to wholesale changes in the front office and a new coaching staff. Plus, star quarterback Kyler Murray tore his ACL late in 2022, which is forcing him to miss a chunk of the 2023 season. When the Cardinals released veteran quarterback Colt McCoy before the start of the regular season, many believed the Cards had tipped their hand that they were tanking. However, four weeks into the 2023 season, we haven't seen any evidence of tanking from Arizona.
One reason why the Cardinals have been more competitive than expected is new quarterback Joshua Dobbs. Arizona a fifth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for Dobbs and a seventh-round pick in late August, something the Browns were open to after rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson had a monster preseason. The Cardinals' interest in Dobbs likely has to do with what happened last year in Nashville.
The former fourth-round pick started two games for the Tennessee Titans while they dealt with an injury to Ryan Tannehill and inconsistency from rookie Malik Willis. Despite having virtually no time to get acclimated with his new team, Dobbs averaged 205.5 passing yards and threw two touchdowns with two interceptions, and clearly caught the eye of Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort, who was hired as the new GM of the Cardinals this offseason.
Dobbs was previously viewed as an intriguing backup quarterback, but he's looked like a legitimate NFL starting quarterback this season. Despite the 1-3 record, the Cardinals have held leads in two of their three losses. Additionally, Dobbs is one of just three starting quarterbacks who has yet to throw an interception.
Check out how Dobbs currently ranks among the league's other quarterbacks through four games:
|Dobbs this season||NFL rank|
There are a few characteristics Dobbs possesses that make him a legitimate NFL quarterback: He has a capable arm and is also a dual-threat signal-caller who set multiple rushing records during his time at the University of Tennessee, and actually left Knoxville as the Vols' No. 7 all-time leading rusher. Finally, Dobbs is smart -- something you want in your quarterback. He was an aerospace engineer interning at Pratt & Whitney, and NASA's Kennedy Space Center as part of an NFLPA externship. The Cardinals have a rocket scientist at quarterback.
Dobbs has seemingly gotten better as the year has gone on. In Week 3, the Cardinals upset the Dallas Cowboys, 28-16, as double-digit underdogs. It was the Cowboys' largest upset loss since 2006, as Dallas had won 15 straight games when favored by 11 or more points. Dobbs was efficient, completing 17 of 21 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown, and he added 55 yards on the ground.
In the 35-16 loss to the undefeated San Francisco 49ers this past weekend, Dobbs completed 28 of 41 passes for a career-high 265 yards and a career-high two touchdowns to go along with 48 rushing yards on 12 carries. Dobbs' dual-threat ability has stood out this season as he's rushed for 141 yards, which ranks fourth among all quarterbacks.
In San Francisco, Dobbs did something notable when he orchestrated an 11-play, 99-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter to cut the deficit to five points. It was the first time in over two decades the 49ers defense gave up a 99-yard touchdown drive, per the Fox broadcast. Dobbs accounted for 74 yards on that possession, and completed all four of his passing attempts -- including the 8-yard touchdown pass to Michael Wilson, who ranks No. 5 among rookie wideouts in receiving yards (237) with Dobbs as his quarterback.
To further show the Cardinals have exceeded expectations this season, they are 3-1 against the spread. Those who don't give much thought to gambling probably don't care about this statistic, but what this shows is the Cardinals are keeping games closer than expected -- they are more competitive than expected, they are better than expected.
The Cardinals aren't out of the "Caleb Williams sweepstakes" just yet, and the front office won't keep Murray on the bench when he's ready to return. But Dobbs has kept the Cardinals in games, and looks like a legitimate starting quarterback through four weeks.