Sunday, August 9, 2015

2015 NFL PREVIEW - Arizona Cardinals

ARIZONA CARDINALS                                               

2014 Record:  11-5-0 (2nd in NFC West)

HEAD COACH: Bruce Arians

New Players in 2015 - DB Alfonzo Dennard; DL Corey Peters; DL Cory Redding; OL Mike Iupati; OL A.Q. Shipley; LB Sean Weatherspoon; LB LaMarr Woodley.

OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 24th in NFL (319.8 ypg)

DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 24th in NFL (368.2 ypg)

Offense:  A lot hinges on the healthy return of veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, who was off to a great start last season before missing the final seven games with a severe knee injury. Palmer threw for 1,626 yards with eleven touchdowns and just three interceptions in the six games he did play in. Backing him up will be Drew Stanton (1,711 yards with seven TD and five INT).
The running game has Andre Ellington (660 yards, 3.3 ypc average and six TD) penciled in as the starter with rookie David Johnson (Northern Iowa), Stepfan Taylor (208, 3.3 ypc) and Kerwynn Williams (246, 4.6 ypc) slated as the possible backups.
Wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald (63 receptions for 784 yards and two TD), Michael Floyd (47, 841, six TD) and John Brown (48, 696, five TD) are a good trio for the Cardinals and will be relied on once again. Rookie J.J. Nelson (UAB) and Jaron Brown could provide relief. The tight end will likely be Jermaine Gresham, signed as a free agent after making 62 grabs for 460 yards with five touchdowns in Cincinnati last season.
The back up tight ends are Darren Fells (five receptions in limited action) and Troy Niklas (three catches), who will be looking to fill the void of departed free agents John Carlson (retired) and Rob Housler.
The O-Line is made up of center Ted Larsen, guards Mike Iupati and Jonathan Cooper and tackles Jared Veldheer and Bobby Massie. Top rookie pick D.J. Humphries (Florida) will be looking to crack the starting lineup in camp.

Defense:  The Cardinals will have Alameda Ta'amu at nose tackle with end Calais Campbell (seven QB sacks) and tackle Frostee Rucker (five sacks) flanking him. Free agents Corey Peters and Cory Redding will add depth.
The linebacking unit will be Matt Shaughnessy and Alex Okafor (eight sacks) on the outside with Kevin Minter and free agent signee Sean Weatherspoon playing the inside spots.
The secondary has Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers, who each made three interceptions, at the corners while Tyrann Mathieu, coming back from injury, and Tony Jefferson will play the safety spots. Adding depth in the Cards' secondary are Alfonzo Dennard, Justin Bethel, Deone Bucannon and Rashad Johnson, who led Arizona in 2014 with four picks.

OUTLOOK FOR 2015 - After a rousing 9-1 start, the 2014 season ended with a dull thud as Arizona was knocked out of the playoffs in the Wild Card round by a sub .500 Carolina team.
Having QB Carson Palmer healthy for the entire season would do wonders for the Cardinals offense, which managed a paltry 19 points per game last year. The running game MUST improve to take the pressure off Palmer and the wide receivers, who seem to always be nursing injuries.
Defensively, the Cardinals were a bend but do not break type defense last season, giving up 368 yards per game (24th in NFL) while ranking 5th in the league in points allowed, yielding 18.7 points per game. The Cardinals were good at forcing turnovers (plus-8) while getting 18 interceptions and accumulating 35 QB sacks.
Head Coach Bruce Arians may have to pull a rabbit out of the hat again if any key players suffer injuries for any length of time this season, especially on offense.
Chasing the Seattle Seahawks and fending off the up-and-coming St. Louis Rams in the NFC West will not be an easy task, but Arizona showed they can win with defense and timely plays on offense, which was the formula that worked for the first ten games last year until the injuries caught up with them.
It appears it will be a tougher road this season for Arizona, especially with the loaded schedule down the stretch.
Figure on 8-8 for the Cardinals this year as a .500 record would be the most likely scenario for the them this season as they look to go to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the Kurt Warner era in 2008-2009.

Week 1 - vs. New Orleans Saints
Week 2 - at Chicago Bears
Week 3 - vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 4 - vs. St. Louis Rams
Week 5 - at Detroit Lions
Week 6 - at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 7 - vs. Baltimore Ravens
Week 8 - at Cleveland Browns
Week 9 - BYE WEEK
Week 10 - at Seattle Seahawks
Week 11 - vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 12 - at San Francisco 49ers
Week 13 - at St. Louis Rams
Week 14 - vs. Minnesota Vikings
Week 15 - at Philadelphia Eagles
Week 16 - vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 17 - vs. Seattle Seahawks

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