Arizona Cardinals 2014 Preview

2013 Record: 10-6
Last season the Cardinals made themselves relevant once again under new head coach, Bruce Arians. Unfortunately for the Cardinals they were the team that finished with 10 wins and yet still could not get into the playoffs.  The Cardinals have an unfavorable situation of having to play Seattle and San Francisco twice a year.
Arizona usually finds themselves at the end of the year with a top 10 ranked defense.  Arizona is a team that likes to blitz and take chances.  They are able to do so because they have one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in Patrick Peterson.  Peterson is one of the true shutdown corners in the game and usually makes life difficult for the oppositions number one wideout.  The Cardinals took a gamble on signing veteran Antonio Cromartie, who is a shell of what he once was but is still a decent enough corner to play opposite of Peterson.  The safeties on Arizona could add a lot of excitement to this team.  The versatility and aggressiveness of Tyrann Mathieu had Cardinals fans amped at what this kid could become, but while exhibiting terrific play in his rookie season, he suffered a torn ACL which ended his season and may still have him miss a week or two going into this season.  The Cardinals drafted Washington State’s strong safety Deone Bucannon in the first round to add another hard hitter to the safety depth.  Bucannon will display pretty good instincts in his first year but sometimes he tries too hard and leaves himself open for cuts or juke moves in an open field, one on one situation.
The Cardinals defense was hit with two big losses in the off-season.  Karlos Dansby is now in Cleveland and Daryl Washington has been suspended for the 2014 seasons.  Dansby and Washington were the two linebackers that set the tone for this defense.  They were able to plug the middle when needed and had the ability to attack outside the hash marks.  A lot of their blitz packaging involved one or both of these men at times, and you can’t just go out and replace two pro-bowlers who were vital to the success of a defense.  The linebacker position has lost speed and power – which leaves them turning to the likes of 36 year old, John Abraham.  On the defensive line, left-end Calais Campbell has been a model of consistency on the line for Arizona and should look to continue to make an impact. Expect an 8 sack season from the Campbell who at 6’8″ 300 pounds has steadily made improvements in technique and in stopping the run.  Darnell Dockett is still hanging around and although he’s still valuable, don’t expect him to get to the QB often.  The Cardinals recognized the need for youth on this line and drafted two defensive ends: Kareem Martin out of UNC and Ed Stinson out of Alabama, which could prove to be a fifth round steal.
Michael Floyd, Pat Angerer
On the offense let’s start with Larry Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald has not totaled over 1000 receiving yards in two seasons (798 in 2012 and 954 last year). In 2012 we can easily point to terrible quarterback play, but last year Carson Palmer threw for over 4000 yards and it becomes harder to search for an excuse for Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald’s counterpart Michael Floyd totaled over a 1000 yards last year so maybe there’s more to it then people want to see?  Maybe this is the beginning of Floyd becoming the number one option?  I’m not trying to jump to conclusions, just throwing that out there – keep in mind Fitzgerald still had ten touchdowns, compared to Floyd’s five.  Rob Housler didn’t turn out to be the tight-end most thought he’d become in Arizona which led the Cardinals to drafting Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas and acquiring veteran John Carlson. Carson Palmer will be throwing for a lot of yards again because – this is a Bruce Arians offense but the lack of depth at the QB position is cause for concern considering that Palmers still threw for 22 interceptions and has seemed to lose some juice in the deep ball.  Second year running back Andre Ellington will be asked to touch the ball a lot in this offense.  He surprised many last year proving to be an all purpose back and with rushing and receiving yards combined, piled over 1000 yards.  The Cardinals want to see more of what Ellington can do in an even more expanded role this season.
Last season my prediction on the Cardinals was 10-6 which is how they finished, but I also expected them to make the playoffs which they didn’t.  This year, they enter with more questions than excitement.

Pro Bowl Predictions: Michael Floyd, Jonathan Cooper, Calais Campbell, Patrick Peterson
2014 Prediction: 8-8

G.W. Gras
twitter @GeeSteelio

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