After a disastrous 2012 campaign the Arizona Cardinals are excited for a new beginning. One of the weakest positions on the roster also happened to be the most important: Quarterback. With the offseason acquisition of former Cincinnati Bengals and most recently Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer there is an air of optimism around the Cardinals facilities not seen since the retirement of Kurt Warner. Palmer’s addition alone should be enough to show great improvement on offense as Larry Fitzgerald now may be able to contribute at his usual superstar level.
Also new to the offense is Pittsburgh Steelers cast-off Rashard Mendenhall. Unfortunately Mendenhall doesn’t look like he will be much of an upgrade over Beanie Wells. New head coach Bruce Arians has to be praying that Ryan Williams can stay healthy and become the back he was expected to be before a season ending patella tear ended his rookie season. Also in the mix is Stepfan Taylor, a rookie out of Stanford who was drafted in the fifth round this April.
As far as receiving options go Fitzgerald remains one of the elite wide receivers in all of football. Behind Fitzgerald is second year man Michael Floyd whom Arizona grabbed in the first round in last years draft. Andre Roberts had a solid year in the slot last season and looks to be productive in the same role in 2013. At tight end Rob Housler has the raw talent to become a special player in this league, though whether or not that will happen remains to be seen.
The Cardinals offensive line was a disaster last year and the new coaching staff addressed it by signing free agent tackle Eric Winston and using the seventh pick in the first round this year by grabbing North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper. More good news is the return of tackle Levi Brown from a season ending injury in 2012. Unfortunately for Arizona, Cooper suffered a broken leg in the preseason this year and will miss all of 2013.
And now we can look at the most exciting part of the 2013 Cardinals, the defense. The lone bright spot last season, this year they will be looking to continue that success. Playing a 3-4 base defense, the line will have the disruptive Darnell Dockett playing defensive end opposite Calaise Campbell. Unheralded big man Dan Williams is capable of clogging the middle, freeing up the linebackers to make plays. And speaking of linebackers, this unit is athletic and plays fast. Daryl Washington will serve a four game suspension to start the season, but when he returns these guys can be problematic to opposing offenses.
Another nice addition is the return of Karlos Dansby who should be able to hold the second level of this defense together with second round pick Kevin Minter until Washington returns. Minter had a huge year for LSU last season and could be an important addition.
Looking at the secondary you will see plenty of question marks. Besides emerging superstar cornerback Patrick Peterson, not too much is certain. Arizona acquired Jerraud Powers, Antoine Cason and Javier Arenas in the offseason and Powers will start opposite Peterson. Arenas is a capable nickel back and Cason provides depth. In a high risk, high reward pick in this year’s draft the Cards took embattled safety Tyrann Mathieu, former teammate of Patrick Peterson at LSU.
With his highly publicized off-field issues, Mathieu, easily a first round talent, dropped to Arizona in the third round. This is possibly the only team Mathieu can find success with due to the presence of Peterson who has become a mentor to the young safety. The results so far have looked good. Always a playmaker, if Mathieu is able to corral his all or nothing ways he should work his way into the starting free safety position where he could play a major role in the success of the Cardinals this year.
All things considered, the Cardinals look to be improved dramatically from last year, however playing in the ultra-competitive NFC West will make it difficult for them to win more than eight games in 2013.
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