The 2016 NFL season is upon us, the Arizona Cardinals are amongst the top five teams with a legitimate chance to get to Super Bowl 51 in Houston. After a devastating defeat at the hands of Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, the Cardinals have their eyes set on not only avenging that loss but also completing what they probably should have done last year.
This year’s expectation is very high and will bring some added pressure that will be hard to overcome. Is this Cardinals team ready for the challenge? Having been revamped and gone through 3 previous season’s under Head Coach Bruce Arians and getting closer and closer to the prize.
Last year’s progress although disappointing should pay great dividends to a team that has now seen it all. 2015 Cardinals appeared to be a good defensive team early mid-season but tailed off from that status after several key injuries occurred that forced them to rearrange their lineup.
Defense on the back-end even with star safety Tyrann Mathieu having gone down with his second knee injury has been able to hold its own. The problem has been the lack of a pass rush to help the back end hold up in coverage.
Have the Cardinals taking care of their pass rush woes? and have they added the pieces to this defense that will allow them to be as dominant as their offense was last year.
In the NFL, defense still wins championships. Having a high powered passing game can only get you as far as one game away from the Super Bowl let alone win it. The defense has to be able to do exactly what the Denver Broncos did to a Cam Newton and Tom Brady, and that pounds them to death.
The adding of Chandler Jones and rookie Robert Nkemdiche should aid in building a relentless pass rush, which also should free up two time all-star defensive tackle Calais Campbell from being doubled teamed. Kevin Minter and undersized linebacker Deone Bucannon will be vital to this year’s defense.
Training camp will be great to watch as the competition will yield the best players at their prospective positions.
The Cardinals success hopes last year started on Carson Palmer’s shoulders and it also ended at the hands of Carson Palmer, who had one of the worse playoffs runs that an elite status quarterback has had in years. Two playoff games combined for 48 of 81 attempts for 584 yards and a whopping 6 interceptions. Not to mention the several dropped picks in both games he could have had double-digit picks in two games. Palmer’s role this season may not have to be on the same level stat wise as last year, but his play has to be smarter than last years playoff run for this team to have any chance to get the next level.
Can the honey Badger return to form after another season-ending knee injury. It will be hard for the badger to stay healthy because of his size and chip he plays with, so hopefully, if there will be an injury set back that it’s early and not late in the season. In the year of contract talks, it’s for certain the last thing Mathieu wants is another injury set back to his great potential career.
Players to watch apart from Palmer and the Badger will be the second year of the run backfield of Johnson and Johnson, can these two guys produce better than last year? That is what will be needed to keep quarterback Palmer out of the turnover city. Adding a healthy Andre Ellington should give the Cardinals one of the most explosive backfields in the game.
One key component that Kazual Sportz will be watching for is the special teams kicking game from kicker Chandler Catanzaro and punter Drew Butler. These two will play key roles in the success this year. It is obvious games will come down to field goals and field position and can these two guys stay out of the Arians doghouse this year? Roster spots are limited and wasting them on a kicker to come in to challenge these guys would be a great disadvantage to the team, seeing they could use those spots for skill position depth.
I have not mentioned the wide receivers that have an opportunity to step up their game to show who will take over as the go-to guy in this offense. Larry Fitzgerald is certainly the heavy favored but no guarantee as to his role sometimes causes for him to block in the run game and be a decoy underneath.
Is Michael Floyd ready to become dominant? And get in the talks of the Brandon Marshalls and Julio Jones and others in the league? How many levels away is he, or can he even be that caliber receiver? These questions will be answered during training camp this year and it will be very exciting to watch the 2016 Cardinals come together and embark on a quest to get the Lombardi trophy to the Dessert for its first time.