By Eric Ronnebeck
Over the last couple of weeks we’ve covered the self-imploding circus that is the San Francisco 49ers as well as the team that is more or less that guy you know, who needs a place to stay for an indeterminate amount of time but no one really wants to help him out because he’s kind of a prick, the Los Angeles Rams of St. Louis. In this final week, we turn our attention to the recently formidable Arizona Cardinals. Coached by Bruce Arians, the Cardinals have found the identity that the franchise had been searching for for years. They attack deep in the passing game; they’re going to run the ball; they’re aggressive in pass defense and they love to rush the quarterback. If any of that sounds familiar, it is. Except the Cardinals don’t have an irritating offensive coordinator. After finishing the 2015 season 13-3 and winning the NFC West, do the Cardinals have what it takes to repeat their success in 2016? Lord, I hope not..
Free Agency: The Cardinals made two big signings this offseason. First, they traded a second round pick and Jonathan Cooper to the Patriots for proficient pass rusher Chandler Jones. That move stings a little bit. With that move, the Cardinals went from being a good pass rushing team to a better pass rushing team. On the offensive side of the ball, they signed right guard Evan Mathis. This move shores up offensive line and adds to the run blocking game on the right side of the line, which should benefit the rushing attack of the Arizona Cardinals. The season hasn’t started yet but as a Seahawks fan I am not a big fan of these moves. Mathis is an expensive play for an older player but Chandler Jones is only 25 years old and already a very good pass rusher.
Draft: Drafting at number 29, the Cardinals selected Robert Nkemdiche, a defensive tackle out of Ole Miss. This guy had the stats to be drafted in the top ten but plummeted to the end of the draft because of an off the field incident. He didn’t show consistently at the NFL Draft but he should still start for the Cardinals immediately, helping in the pass rush up the middle. The Cardinals drafted two cornerbacks and a safety in rounds 3, 5, and 6 but the talent level of the players isn’t spectacular. They could add depth within the secondary or you could never hear from them again. Also, since 2016 was the year to do it, the Cardinals drafted two offensive linemen: center Evan Boehm out of Missouri who could start in 2016 and guard Cole Toner out of Harvard. Toner is versatile and can move around on the offensive line and should end up adding depth to the Cardinal’s offensive line.
Wild Card: The Cardinals are a young team with some solid veterans sprinkled within their ranks but their quarterback, Carson Palmer, is “football old”. At 36, Carson Palmer’s best seasons are behind him. Can he be productive enough to lead the Cardinals deep into the NFL playoffs in 2016? That depends on his health and his ability to bounce back from a disappointing 2015 postseason. After a great regular season, Palmer threw six interceptions in two postseason games, winning the first game and losing in the NFC Championship.
It’s no secret that the Cardinals are one bad hit on Carson Palmer away from being a slightly better version of the Los Angeles Rams. So the sooner Carson Palmer loses his ability to throw the football, the sooner the Cardinals can go back to being irrelevant.