2017 NFL Season Preview- Arizona Cardinals
After being one win away from the Super Bowl in 2015, the Cardinals instead suffered their first losing record under Bruce Arians. Part of the of the problem was injuries and the team's inability to close out games with a 2-5-1 record in games decided by one score.
Quarterback Carson Palmer played well enough over the final six games that he is capable of returning to his 2015 form. Without question, running back David Johnson is the life line of the offense. The second year back lead the league in touchdowns with 20 and in yards from scrimmage with 2,118. In his 13th season, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald Lead the league in receptions with 107 and had his eighth career 1,000 yard receiving season. Tight end Jermaine Gresham had a strong second half of the season after taking less money to rejoin the team. Undersized center AQ Shipley was the only offensive lineman to start every game this season.
The defensive line was solid for the most part. Defensive end Frostee Rucker has been a rock for the last four years, but he will be entering his 12th season. The linebackers had a mix of good and bad. Outside linebacker Chandler Jones had a solid year after being traded from New England and Markus Golden replaced Alex Okafor after registering 12.5 sacks. Inside linebacker/safety Deone Buchanan missed the last three games with an ankle injury. Once the strength of the defense, the secondary enters the offseason in need of repair with concerns at three positions. Tony Jefferson and Marcus Cooper were in the last year of their deals and Tyrann Mathieu draws concern due to injuries.
Kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed several key field goals including a 47 yard miss on opening day that would have beat New England and missing two field goals in the lowest scoring tie in NFL history against Seattle.
The team produced three Pro Bowlers in running back David Johnson, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson has developed into arguably the top corner in the league as he made his sixth consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl.
The rookie class have a lot to prove going into year two. Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche had next to no impact thanks to injuries and poor work ethic. Guard Evan Boehm only started one game but could be the starting right guard next year if not needed at center.
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 9th
NFL Rank- 18th
NFL Rank- 4th
NFL Rank- 9th
NFL Rank- 9th
NFL Rank- 2nd
With 7-8-1 record in his fourth season, head coach Bruce Arians knew that if they would have won two of those one score games, they would have been the final wildcard team. Moving forward this season will be about staying healthy and finishing games strong.
Notable Additions- QB Blaine Gabbert, WR Aaron Dobson, LB Jarvis Jones, LB Karlos Dansby, S Antoine Bethea, K Phil Dawson
Notable Departures- QB Zac Dysert, RB Stepfan Taylor, TE Darren Fells Defensive end Calais Campbell, LB Kevin Minter, LB Sio Moore, LB Alex Okafor, CB Marcus Cooper, S Tony Jefferson, K Chandler Catanzaro
David Johnson Highlights
2017 NFL Draft
Holding the 13th overall pick going into the draft, Arizona knew they had to reload at certain positions. Most notably at quarterback, inside linebacker, and cornerback.
Carson Palmer is 37 and Drew Stanton is no spring chicken. The Cardinals would be to draft a young quarterback to sit behind and learn from Palmer for a year or two.
Kevin Minter is now in Cincinnati and Deone Buchanan is a converted strong safety. An upgrade in the middle would be ideal given Buchanan's ankle injury.
Three different players were used to try to play opposite Patrick Peterson. The team needs a solid cornerback to sew up the secondary.
On draft day, Arizona selected Temple linebacker Haason Reddick with the 13th pick. Reddick was viewed as the top pass rushing linebacker in the draft but his tweener frame limits his growth potential and there's also the situation where he was suspended for three months for an off campus fight.
The Cardinals also notably drafted Washington safety Budda Baker in the second round, Pittsburgh guard Dorian Johnson in the fourth, and North Carolina running back TJ Logan in the fifth. Baker had the best man coverage skills of any safety in the class but lacks the body type to carry the appropriate weight for the position. Johnson was said to be the best run blocking guard in the draft but his fundamentals are lacking from his game. Logan left the Tar Heels with just under 5,000 all purpose yards but his patience between the tackles isn't there.
Haason Reddick Highlights
What to Expect
Given the team's injuries last season, I see no reason why Arizona won't get back on track.
Carson Palmer needs to get back to his 2015 form where he was in contention for league MVP. David Johnson should remain the rock of the offense both as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. Signing Aaron Dobson and having the John and Jarron Brown back with Larry Fitzgerald will give plethora of targets to distribute the ball to. The offensive line should be fine with Jared Veldheer and DJ Humphries back at their natural positions.
Robert Nkemdiche will have to step up big time to replace the production of Calais Campbell. Adding Haason Reddick to pair with Deone Buchanan solidifies the linebacker corps and should develop into one of the best in football. The safety position should be solid after signing Antoine Bethea and drafting Budda Baker, but there are still concerns on who will play alongside Patrick Peterson.
Phil Dawson may be entering his 20th season, but he's reliable and won't buckle under pressure.
With the dysfunction of the 49ers and Rams, as well as the regression of Seattle, Arizona has a solid chance of winning the NFC West.
Best record they can hope for: 11-5