Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2014 NFL PREVIEW - Arizona Cardinals

ARIZONA CARDINALS                                         

2013 Record: 10-6-0

Key Additions: CB Antonio Cromartie; TE John Carlson; WR Ted Ginn, Jr.; LB Larry Foote; OL Ted Larsen; RB Jonathan Dwyer; OL Jared Veldheer.

Key Losses: RB Rashard Mendenhall; LB Karlos Dansby; WR Andre Roberts; CB Antoine Cason; LB Jasper Brinkley; OL Daryn Colledge.

HEAD COACH: Bruce Arians

Offense: Quarterback Carson Palmer enjoyed a good year in 2013, passing for 4,274 yards with 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions and is looking to get the Cardinals into the NFC playoffs this year. Drew Stanton will be the backup.
The backfield lost leading rusher Rashard Mendenhall (retirement) but still has Andre Ellington, who ran for 652 yards (5.5 ypc average) and scored three touchdowns. Stepfan Taylor played sparingly last season but will get his chances now that he is the number-two man in the running game. Jonathan Dwyer, who had limited carries with Pittsburgh last year, is also available.
The wide receivers are led by Larry Fitzgerald (82 receptions for 954 yards and 10 touchdowns) and Michael Floyd (65, 1,041 yards and five TD) while Rob Housler (39, 454, one TD) and John Carlson (32, 344, one TD) form a good tight end tandem. Ted Ginn, Jr. (36, 556, five TD) comes over from Carolina to add depth to the receiving corps while Jay Ballard and rookie Troy Niklas (Notre Dame) will be in reserve at the tight end position. Rookie John Brown (Pittsburgh State-Kansas) is a player who may get a chance as well at wide receiver.
The offensive line is anchored by center Lyle Sendlein. The guards are Jonathan Cooper and either Paul Fanaika or Earl Watford. The tackles will be Jared Veldheer and Bobby Massie. Ted Larsen, Bradley Sowell and Nate Porter will look to help when called into action.

STATS - Arizona was 12th in total offense last year, averaging 346 yards per game while scoring just under 24 points per game. They were 13th in passing with 250 yards per game while the running game averaged 96 yards per game, which was 23rd overall. The Cardinals allowed 41 QB sacks and turned the ball over 31 times last season.

Defense: Nose tackle Dan Williams is the man in the middle of the 3-4 set for Arizona. The ends are Calais Campbell (nine QB sacks) and Frostee Rucker, who will being filling a big role left vacant by Darnell Dockett, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Others in the fold up front include Alameda Ta'amu, Ed Stinson, Anthony McCloud and rookie Kareem Martin (North Carolina).
The linebackers are inside men Kevin Minter and Larry Foote, who comes over via free agency and will step in for Daryl Washington, who is serving a season long suspension. The outside linebackers are John Abraham (11.5 sacks) and Matt Shaughnessy.
In the secondary the corner men are Antonio Cromartie (three interceptions with New York Jets last year) and Patrick Peterson, who also picked off three passes. The safeties are Tyrann Mathieu and possibly top rookie draft pick Deone Bucannon (Washington State). Others looking to contribute are Jerraud Powers, Tony Jefferson, Rashad Johnson, Orhian Johnson and Curtis Taylor.

STATS - This defense played superb against the run last year, allowing just 84 yards per game, which was first in the NFL. The pass defense was 14th, giving up 233 yards. The Cardinals finished sixth overall in total defense, allowing 317 yards per game. The scoring defense finished seventh, giving up 20 points per game. Arizona had 47 QB sacks and intercepted 20 passes while recovering ten fumbles.

OUTLOOK: For the Arizona Cardinals to duplicate last season's surprising success (even though they did not make the playoffs) they will need the defense to have an encore performance, in particular against the run while also continuing to be an opportunistic defense with the turnovers.
Head Coach Bruce Arians showed he can succeed as the top man after helping lead the Indianapolis Colts to the NFL playoffs in 2012 as the interim Head Coach while Chuck Pagano was being treated for cancer.
The Cardinals offense showed they can move the ball with QB Carson Palmer hooking up with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd on a regular basis. The running game needs to improve, so Andre Ellington will be on display in that area in 2014.
Turnovers were a problem last year (Palmer threw 22 picks) so the Cardinals must cut down in that area if they want to move up in the NFC West standings, where San Francisco and the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks loom large.
If the defense can play dominant football once again (Cards were the number one run defense in the NFL last year) and the offense can show more spark on the scoreboard while limiting the turnovers, the Cardinals can indeed win ten games (or more) again this season.
The call here is for an 8-8 season in Arizona this year as the Cardinals will not be sneaking up on opposing teams as they seemed to do last year when they were taken lightly.  It's up to them to show that last season was not a fluke.

Week 1- vs. San Diego
Week 2- at NY Giants
Week 3- vs. San Francisco
Week 4- BYE WEEK
Week 5- at Denver
Week 6- vs. Washington
Week 7- at Oakland
Week 8- vs. Philadelphia
Week 9- at Dallas
Week 10- vs. St. Louis
Week 11- vs. Detroit
Week 12- at Seattle
Week 13- at Atlanta
Week 14- vs. Kansas City
Week 15- at St. Louis
Week 16- vs. Seattle
Week 17- at San Francisco

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