NFL

The Round-Up: Arizona Cardinals Edition

With the Cardinals finishing their season with a disappointing 3-13 record in the competitive NFC West, Steve Keim replaced the existing coaching staff to aid coaches Kliff Kingsbury and Vance Joseph in implementing their new scheme. While it remains to be seen if they contend for the playoffs, the entire Cardinals organization remains on the hot seat until the team shows some level of competitive play with the rest of the NFL.

The Cardinals still have talent on their roster with the likes of WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB David Johnson on the offensive side of the ball, and still have elite playmakers like LB Chandler Jones and CB Patrick Peterson on the defensive side of the ball. They also have emerging talent with players such as S Budda Baker, ILB Haason Reddick, and WR Christian Kirk. However, does the team have enough to turn heads this year?

The Losses:

The Cardinals didn’t lose much talent during the offseason. They forced veteran S Antoine Bethea to pack his bags for the New York Giants, as he will reunite with his teammate LB Markus Golden. Golden has failed to produce a 3 sack season since his breakout season in 2016, where he recorded 12.5 sacks in his sophomore season in the league. Former quarterbacks Mike Glennon and Sam Bradford will leave $20 million in dead money for the next two years as Glennon will backup Derek Carr on the Raiders. Second-year quarterback Josh Rosen was traded to Miami for ten cents on the dollar, as the team only received the 62nd pick and a 2020 5th-round pick in return.

When it comes to offensive lineman departures, the team certainly lost a valuable player in G Mike Iupati, but it remains to be seen if he could be healthy for the division rival Seahawks. G Oday Aboushi will most likely fill a depth role for the Detroit Lions as he has not played well as a starter throughout his 6 year career. Also, speedster J.J. Nelson will leave to the Raiders as WR Christian Kirk had supplanted him as the vertical threat during the regular season, and produced more consistently during the previous season. Former safety turned linebacker Deone Buccannon has reunited with former head coach Bruce Arians on the Buccaneers, but the linebacker has struggled as a run defender due to his thin frame.

The Additions

The most notable addition during the offseason was that of LB Terrell Suggs, who is entering his 17th season at the age of 37, and is tied for 13th on the all-time sacks list, and will add a veteran presence to the locker room to go along with his valuable pass rushing prowess. This addition contrasts that of underrated ILB Jordan Hicks, who is capable of being a leader on the defense, but has yet to play 13 games in a season since his prolific 2016 season. Versatile safety D.J. Swearinger was also added in free agency, as he has played well for the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans prior to arriving in Arizona. The team also adds a valuable veteran presence in Darius Philon who would be an effective run-stopper on the team.

Another injury-prone acquisition made by the Cardinals was former first-round pick Kevin White, who has only played 14 games in his three-year career. White has been labeled a bust throughout his NFL career, but he was productive during his senior season at West Virginia where he played under Dana Holgersen’s air raid offense, a similar version to that of head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

The team also added former Seahawks in G J.R. Sweezy and QB Brett Hundley. Sweezy is an upgrade over Iupati as he garnered Pro Bowl alternate honors during the previous season. Hundley will most likely serve as a backup to QB Kyler Murray, but does carry starting experience from his tenure with the Packers. The Cardinals also added a reliable guard in Max Garcia, who excelled as a pass blocker during his time with the Denver Broncos, but is coming off of a torn ACL injury. Former Steelers T Marcus Gilbert was acquired for a sixth round pick, as he would probably start on the line if healthy. Ex-Falcon CB Robert Alford was also added to compete for the no. 2 spot, but will presumably start the season due to Peterson’s suspension.

Despite making good offseason acquisitions, the strength of the Cardinals’ offseason arrived through the draft. Selecting an electric playmaker in QB Kyler Murray was great as they received someone who can throw to anywhere as a pocket passer and has electric speed that will terrify defenses.

The Cardinals’ draft was also well received by sports media since it had many value picks. Many analysts pointed to the selection of WR Hakeem Butler and S Deionte Thompson in the 4th and 5th rounds respectively as steals. Second round pick and third round picks CB Byron Murphy and DE Zach Allen were referred to as first round picks prior to the draft and scouts were impressed by WR Andy Isabella’s speed and route running capability.

An Overview

The Cardinals look like a competitive team when looking at their roster, but the team has a weak backbone when it comes to injury. It remains to be seen on whether the players on the team can remain healthy, especially with the likes of T Marcus Gilbert, ILB Jordan Hicks, and WR Kevin White. The team looks strong offensively with the running back and wide receiver group, with the tight-ends sometimes sprinkled in with Kingsbury’s 4 WR Air Raid offense. However questions remain if the offensive tackle trio of Marcus Gilbert, D.J. Humphries, and Korey Cunningham will give enough time for Murray to throw the ball, since the Air Raid relies on throwing the ball 65 to 75 percent of the offense’s snaps.

The Cardinals did a good job replacing some of the holes in the defense which include the 3-4 DE positions, where they added Zach Allen and Darius Philon during the offseason. Questions do remain with how well the unit will play after acquisitions were made for the front 7 of the defense. However, the secondary is vulnerable due to Peterson’s suspension and Byron Murphy’s development as a rookie in the league. The safety duo of D.J. Swearinger and Budda Baker will definitely improve the quality of play from the previous season.

Season Prediction

Unfortunately, the Cardinals are going to finish the season with a 4-12 record. The offense will be strong but with the team facing the AFC North, NFC South, and NFC West, they will be forced into too many shootouts for Murray to handle. The team will pick apart opponents such as the Buccaneers, Giants, Raiders, and Bengals but they face too many playoff teams during the regular season. Also, a good amount of starters will be injured after Week 10, resulting in them to ride a five game losing streak to end the season.

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