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With the Cardinals’ Kyler Murray still injured, #VFL Josh Dobbs might be literally running his way into a more permanent starting QB spot

Dobbs’ play this season has taken the NFL by surprise, and he’s showing the ability to perhaps land a starting gig, somewhere, sometime, even if it’s not with the Cardinals

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Florida v Tennessee Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images

When Josh Dobbs was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the QB room in the Steel City was a bit, well, complicated. Long-time starter Ben Roethlisberger was nearing the tail end of his career, and the Steelers had former Oklahoma QB and journeyman backup Landy Jones already on the roster.

The situation got more complicated the next season, when the Steelers drafted Mason Rudolph out of Oklahoma State, also in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The quarterbacks’ room had clearly become overcrowded, and Dobbs was traded to the Jaguars for a 5th-round pick.

From there. Dobbs bounced around the league, landing on five different rosters in seven seasons with two separate stints in Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

Last year, Dobbs got a shot to start with the Titans after starter Ryan Tannehill went down late in the year with an injury, but the #VFL went 0-2 with a sub-60 percent passing percentage along with two TDs and two interceptions. In March of 2023, he was traded back to the Browns, but by August, the Browns traded him to the Arizona Cardinals — a team looking for a QB since Kyler Murray’s torn ACL in December of 2022.

The Cardinals drafted Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, the same year GM Steve Heim hired Kliff Kingsbury to be Arizona’s new head coach. But Murray’s had his share of injuries, outside of the torn ACL last year. Kingsbury and the Cardinals, with Murray at the helm, went 28-37-1 through four years.

The one bright spot — its 2021 season — Arizona went 11-6. The team gave Kingsbury and Heim extensions through 2027 and ended up signing Murrary to a 5-year, $230 extension in July of 2022. That season, the Cardinals went 4-13 and decided to retool the team’s administration. So Murray remains, while a new coach and GM are now in charge. Typically, in sports, the new administration wants to bring in its own guy.

The Cardinals hired new GM Monti Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon before the year, and Dobbs’ play, along with the front office reset, has some NFL reporters wondering if the team should keep Dobbs and trade Murray once he’s healthy enough to put some play on tape. Reports around the league vary about what the Cardinals are going to do, but Sports Illustrated reports that Murray’s trade value is likely dependent on other teams seeing him playing at some point this season.

On Monday, Murray became eligible to return from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list after missing the first four weeks of the season. Murray tore his ACL in Week 14 last year and hasn’t quite hit 100% in his recovery...

That could - or couldn’t - come at a cost for Murray, who inked a massive contract extension ahead of a 2022 season that saw the Cardinals finish 4-13 before cleaning house from top to bottom. The talent is obvious, yet with Murray returning from such a massive injury there’s also obvious questions on what the former Heisman winner will look like...

Speculation from other NFL teams - according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano - is that Arizona will move on from Murray after this season.

“The outside speculation — the word I get when talking to agents and executives from other teams — is that the Cardinals likely will move on after this season. Again, that’s speculation. But there are common-sense reasons to speculate that way,” Graziano said.

Though the Cards are just 1-3 through their first four games, Dobbs is putting up numbers that are far better than at any of his other stops through his career. He’s completing passes at a 71-percent clip while passing for 840 yards, four TDs, and perhaps most importantly — no interceptions in 123 attempts.

AZCentral’s Jose Romero ran a story on Monday, and Dobbs talked about how the new staff is empowering him with the team’s game plans.

“It’s a team effort. Obviously, as the guy kind of on the field orchestrating it all, I’m comfortable with the play calls coming in and understand the plan,” Dobbs said, crediting his collaboration with offensive coordinator Drew Petzing and teammates in formulating an offensive game plan Dobbs feels good about.

Example — this throw to the far boundary that’s placed perfectly for a first down.

He’s currently 23rd out of 34 QBs with a 6.6 yards-per-attempt figure — not great, but not awful — and he’s only been sacked six times with half of those coming against top-10 defenses. Not bad for a guy who had two career TDs in seven prior seasons and 50 total completions.

Additionally, we’re finally seeing some of the plays he can make with his legs that bailed Butch Jones out at Tennessee countless times.

For the year, Dobbs has 21 rushes for 141 yards with an average of nearly six yards per-carry. He’s only got one rushing TD so far, but with the Cardinal’s new regime tailoring their offense to his strengths, I’d bet that number rises if he continues to start.

The Cardinals are very clearly in the hunt for the No. 1 overall pick next year, sitting at third tied with a host of teams at 1-4 that are all trailing the 0-4 Chicago Bears. Arizona is situated in a tough position, with decisions to make about a thought-to-be franchise QB and an upcoming draft where they may take a shot at another franchise quarterback. They’re also in the NFC West, and have to deal with the currently 4-0 49ers one more time and the somewhat surprising 3-1 Seahawks twice more before season’s end.

Dobbs’ future may not lie with the Cardinals, but he’s putting on an impressive display for the rest of the league.

(He’s 15th on this list, for those of you who don’t feel like clicking).

The team lost its first two games of the year by a combined seven points, then beat the 3-1 Cowboys 28-16. There are so many mitigating factors to this situation that it’s impossible to guess at what the future holds for Dobbs, but it’s clear he’s garnered some looks from teams around the league and may land a starting gig at some point in the future. I’m just glad NFL folks are getting to see part of what made Dobbs so special at Tennessee.