2016 Season Preview: Arizona Cardinals

 

2016 Season Preview:

Arizona CardinalsArizona Cardinals

Much has been said about the  6-0 start and the 9-1 record before Carson Palmer went down, but lets also keep in mind, he’s not exactly Brett Favre on his best day- healthwise.

Lets also keep in mind that the biggest offense output the Cardinals had in the closing 6 games was 18, and three of those losses were one score games. Thankfully for Panthers Fans, Cam Newton didn’t throw half a dozen picks in the playoffs this time.carson palmer

The problem is, Arizona still can get slapped around by Seattle- that 1 in the 9-1 was a spanking, and in the 6 game closing kick, another blowout beaten was given. I’m not sure the Cardinals can play the bridesmaid role that San Francisco did the past two years, but they are getting a massive amount of Talent back from the ER. For the Cardinals to move forward in the playoffs, they have to avoid Seattle, or figure out how to stop them. With the defense shuffling bodies around until they find the right mix, that’s a tall order.

Offense:

andre EllingtonThe Cardinals have to throw the ball. Andre Ellington killed many a fantasy team with 201 carries the entire , and other than third rounder David Johnson, there isn’t a lot to concern defenses on the ground. Not so much in the air, however. The Cardinals still boast one of the best receivers in the NFL, with Larry Fitzgerald, still rolling at year 12. The issue is he still doesn’t have a consistent tag-team partner, with Michael Floyd being an inconsistent disappointment as a first rounder, and John Brown being a pleasant surprise as a rookie. Its going to be fun to see what the Cardinals do with all the other camp bodies here. Larry Firtzgerald makes a lot of other targets better on the field, but they just can’t get anyone to do anything with the opportunities.

Upfront, the Cardinals should have a fairly good wall, with Jared Veldheer being a stud LT, to Mike Itupati being a solid a tag team partner. Over on the right side, we should have a season long battle with Bobby Massie and first rounder DJ Humpries, the loser possible making sure 2013 first round bust Jonathan Cooper never sees the field. All in All, a solid group here. Oh wait, they need a center. Ted Larsen is the incumbent, but AQ Shipley was brought in to push  him, and possibly take his job. Center is still going to be a weak spot in this otherwise good group. to possible great unit.

Defense

The Cardinals run a 3-4, and lost two of that front threesome in the offseason with Dan Williams and Darnell Dockett gone.

Calais CampbellThe one they kept, End Calais Campbell is the best man of that unit, and the gap just got wider, no mater what rookie Rodney Gunter says. on the other side, Frostee Rucker is the next man up, and brings a decade of experience to the role. In the middle is Alameda Ta’amu,  and possibly Ed Stinson. Expect to see a lot of rotating in and out throughout the pre-season and maybe even early in the season here. Only two players in camp only three bodies with more than 5 years experience in the NFL before camp.
If the Cardinals fail again on defense, this is going to be why.

The Linebacking core is going to have a ton of bodies coming in and out, but The fun one to watch is going to be Sean Weatherspoon, over from Atlanta, who if at 100% and back to form, is going to be a huge asset. He’s only been in the league been in the league 6 years, hardly a huge gamble. The other inside man, Kevin Minter is heading toward another in a list of recent first rounders that have not exactly lived up to their billing. So watchout for Darryl Sharpton, coming back from ER. Outside, it comes down to who plays opposite Okafor, who lead the team with 8 sacks. I would expect to see a lot of rotations with rookie Markus Golden, LaMarr Woodley and Matt Shaughnessy.

Patrick PetersonThe last line of defense hinges on one man. Patrick Peterson, who did not have the best of years last year, after setting the world on fire since coming into the league. If he bounces back his “normal” All–Pro status, that makes the secondary a monster. Losing Antonio Cromartie is going to hurt, and if Peterson plays like that  like last year, this unit is toast. Tony Jefferson is ha rd worker, but undersized. The honey Badger is a feast or Famine guy, thankfully its injuries not issues between the ears that have been holding him back so far, the leader to get the other cornerback spot is Jerraud Powers, , who will be pushed b Justin Bethel – both work hard, but are again, undersized.

How small is this until? Looking at the pre-camp roster, if you drafted them all by height- you would not get a defensive back picked until 6 receivers are off the board. and 2 more defensive backs would come off after the last Receiver, and that’s the guy that ran a 4.3 40 at the combine. . This is a tiny unit, that gets the job done with hard work.

Special Teams

Gotta love when an undrafted rookie takes out a 17 year vet. Chandler Catanzaro made his first 17 FGs, and stunningly, got no rookie of the year votes. Maybe it was fading a bit down the stretch with 4 misses in his last 16 attempts. Punter Dave Zastudil was hurt most of the year, if he’s at 100%, then the Cardinals have some weapons here. The return game has a TON of fast bodies, but considering how many may be in the rotation, it could be hard to get any consistency.

Sean WeatherspoonOverall: Its kind of hard to really get a bead on the Cardinals. I want to think they are going to be right there nipping on the heels of the Seahawks, but when I break down the roster- I just see too many issues I have a hard to figure running game, a QB made of tissue paper, a TON of moving parts in the defense, and a coaching staff that has a lot of work in front of it. The defense is the hard question for me here. If you told me Daryl Washington is back early and back to form, and Sean Weatherspoon is back to the days when i hated him in Atlanta, I could plus Patrick Peterson is back, I could see a top 5 defense here. But if all three of those things don’t happen, and Campbell/Okafor backslide, this could easily be a bottom 10 defense. I think the spread is that wide.

 Bottom Line

The Schedule is fun. You almost pencil in 2 losses to Seattle, But 2 wins vs the Niners, and a split with the Rams. So 500 so far. They do get the NFC North, so I’ll take a split there as well, since they go to Detroit and get Minny at home. So that’s still 500. They get the AFC North, so again, I have them at a 500 record since they have the Bengals at home, at Pitt, and Baltimore at home on a Monday night. The bonus games are New Orleans at home, so that should be fun to see the two defenses play tag all night, and at the Eagles late in the year, so who knows how Chip Kelly will be. I almost want to go 8-8, with the difference being how much faith you have in Pittsburgh, the two with the Rams, Chicago and again, Chip Kelly. I’ll go 9-7, since that closing kick (Phil/GB/Sea) could be BRUTAL.

 

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