NFL 2014 Preview – Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals had a strong 2013 campaign, finishing 10-6 and just missing the playoffs in the stacked NFC West.  In his first year as head coach, Bruce Arians maximized the roster’s talent.  The 2014 Cardinals should be better and can make the playoffs even despite the talent in their division.

 

The Arizona Cardinals had a strong 2013 campaign, finishing 10-6 and just missing the playoffs in the stacked NFC West.  In his first year as head coach, Bruce Arians maximized the roster’s talent.  The 2014 Cardinals should be better and can make the playoffs even despite the talent in their division.

That’s because Arizona fields a defense that is at times dominant.  Granted, the Cardinals suffered season-ending losses to defensive end Darnell Dockett (injury) and Daryl Washington (suspension).  But a wealth of talent remains.

The Cardinals employ a 3-4 scheme, and their defensive line is outstanding.  Nose tackle Dan Williams is a great run stopper.  He is flanked by Frostee Rucker, Dockett’s replacement, and Pro Bowl caliber Calais Campbell.

Arizona starts pass rushers John Abraham and Matt Shaughnessy at outside linebacker.  The veteran Abraham had a resurgent 2013 season, making another Pro Bowl.  On the inside, Karlos Dansby is gone, but ex-Steeler Larry Foote replaces him.  Kevin Minter starts alongside Foote.

The team’s secondary is headlined by All-Pro Patrick Peterson, a dominant corner.  The Cards signed Antonio Cromartie, another quality talent, to handle the opposite side.  At safety, second-year players Tony Jefferson and Tyrann Mathieu are tabbed to start.  Mathieu is coming off an ACL injury but should be ready soon, and Jefferson is underrated.

On offense, the Cardinals were better than expected last season.  Future hall of fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald finally had a half-decent quarterback in Carson Palmer.  While Palmer isn’t necessarily a world-beater, he can still make plays.

Joining Fitzgerald at receiver are Michael Floyd, coming off his career year, free agent signee Ted Ginn and rookie John Brown.  John Carlson will likely start at tight end.

Arizona’s run game is largely dependent on Andre Ellington’s health.  Ellington is small but has unbelievable talent both as a runner and receiver.  However, he could be out awhile.  Jonathan Dwyer and Stepfan Taylor will shoulder the load while Ellington misses time.

The team’s offensive line was just average, but it should be improved this year.  New signee Jared Veldheer takes over at left tackle, and 2013 top 10 pick Jonathan Cooper, a left guard, is back from injury.  Right tackle Bobbie Massey, right guard Paul Waniaka and center Lyle Sendlein round out the unit.

Arizona currently stands at 40-1 to win the Super Bowl and 20-1 to win the NFC.  The Cards are projected to have the eighth most difficult schedule (.547 opponents’ win percentage).