NFL Preview: Arizona Cardinals

It’s safe to say the 2016 campaign was a disappointing one for the Arizona Cardinals.

After being dubbed as a Super Bowl favourite to start out the season, the Cardinals feel extremely short of their goals finishing with a losing record of 7-8-1.

The previous year, Arizona had a historic season winning 13 games resulting in the most in their franchise history. They also had two players break team records. First, Carson Palmer became the franchise leader in passing yards with 4671 and passing touchdowns with 35. The other being future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald who became the franchise leader in receptions with 109. Despite all that this team achieved in the regular season, they couldn’t make it past the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game and were humiliated 49-15.

The effect of losing that game in the fashion they did clearly rolled over into last season.

It was surprising to see a team with arguably a top five roster in the league underachieve as much as they did. Granted they were hit with plenty of injuries throughout the 17 weeks of the regular season.

What’s Changed

Going into the 2017 season, the Cardinals have been left with a big hole in their defense, literally. Six foot eight defensive lineman Calais Campbell left the team in free agency to join the rising Jacksonville Jaguars. The 30-year old had eight sacks last season which was good enough for third on the team. Campbell also forced two fumbles. His absence will definitely be noticed next season.

Arizona also said goodbye to safeties Tony Jefferson, DJ Swearinger, defensive end Alex Okafor (3.5 sacks) and cornerback Marcus Cooper (65 total tackles, third most on the team).

It wasn’t all bad for the Cardinals though.

They snapped up veteran safety Antoine Bethea from their division rival the San Francisco 49ers. The three time Pro Bowler signed a three-year deal with the Cardinals and will be an excellent replacement at safety. Bethea led the 49ers in tackles during the 2016 campaign with 110 tackles.

Linebacker Jarvis Jones (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Kicker Phil Dawson (San Francisco 49ers) were added to the roster this off-season too.

The 2017 draft class could turn out to be great for the Cardinals. In the first round, they snapped up Haason Reddick, a versatile athletic defender who can play linebacker and defensive end. Mike Mayock had him ranked as the second best linebacker in the class, right behind Reuben Foster. The second round saw them select Budda Baker, a safety out of Washington. Some scouts saw him as a first round talent and was ranked as the best free safety in the draft class.

One move the Cardinals didn’t make in either free-agency or the draft was finding a future replacement for Carson Palmer. Fans started to see a decline in Palmer’s game last season with his touchdown numbers decreased and interception numbers increased. Seems like a bold move by the Cardinals staff, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Next Season

As I previously mentioned, they have an extremely talented roster with David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown on offense and then Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Chandler Jones on defense this team really has no reason to be watching the playoffs from home.

Despite the talent on the roster, the Cardinals have an extremely difficult schedule facing nine teams who had a .500 record or better last season. They only play four opponents that had a losing record which include:

  • The Jacksonville Jaguars who got better this offseason
  • The Philadelphia Eagles who were only one win away from being .500
  • The LA Rams who got one of their four wins against the Cardinals last season.

Final Thought

If Carson Palmer can get back to the level he was at in 2015 they would have a chance of making it back to the postseason. However, he’s a 37-year old quarterback so it’s hard to imagine that happening.  

With their schedule being as tough as it is and their quarterback aging, I believe once the season ends the Arizona Cardinals will be watching the NFL postseason from home.

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