Jun 112013
 

Arians and Palmer7. Arizona Cardinals
Head Coach: Bruce Arians
2012 Record: 5-11
2012 Offense: 250 points scored, 32st in points, 32nd in yards (28th passing, 32nd rushing)
2012 Defense: 357 points allowed, 17th in points, 12th in yards (5th passing, 28th rushing)

Key Additions
Head Coach Bruce Arians, QB Carson Palmer, RB Rashard Mendenhall, DL Frostee Rucker, LB Karlos Dansby, LB Lorenzo Alexander, LB Jasper Brinkley, CB Javier Arenas, CB Jerraud Powers, S Yeremiah Bell, CB Antoine Cason, S Curtis Taylor, DE Matt Shaughnessy, G Jonathan Cooper, LB Kevin Minter, S Tyrann Mathieu, G Earl Watford

Key Losses
S Adrian Wilson, QB Kevin Kolb, QB Brian Hoyer, QB John Skelton, S Kerry Rhodes, S James Sanders, CB William Gay, LB Quentin Groves, LB Paris Lenon, RB Beanie Wells, WR Early Doucet, CB Greg Toler, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, DE Vonnie Holliday, DE Nick Eason, LB Stewart Bradley

Why 2013 will be better
The Cardinals offensive line gave up 58 sacks in 2012… that’s right – 58. It’s hard to imagine the line performing that poorly again. So by default one can expect the offense to fare better than it did last season. Tackle Levi Brown spent last season on IR, so his return is good news for the Cardinals. Jonathan Cooper will start next to him, meaning the left side of the line will be a vast improvement over last season. Center Lyle Sendlein returns, flanked by another rookie in Watford. Only second year player Bobby Massie returns as a starter from all 16 games at right tackle. Carson Palmer will bring stability to the quarterback position and will love throwing to Larry Fitzgerald. That will result in huge fantasy number for the pair; it remains to be seen whether or not it will convert to wins. Despite a solid defensive last core from last year, this group also went through an off-season overhaul, particularly at linebacker and in the secondary. If Mendenhall can return from injury (and attitude) to post 1,000 rushing yards, the Cardinals could be looking at an 8 or 9 win season.

Why 2013 will be worse
I’m not sold on Mendenhall as the answer at running back, and I’m really not sold on Carson Palmer. Palmer will put up big numbers for yards and will rack up some touchdowns, but he also has a knack for interceptions and lost fumbles, and has never proven to be a quarterback who can will his team to victory. He may stop the revolving the door and increase the point totals, but he’s not a guy I would stake the franchise on. The key to 2013 will once again be the defense, and as long as Palmer and the offense don’t turn the ball over with the frequency that the Cardinals’ offense did last season, the worst the Cardinals are looking at is another five win season.

Outlook
The Arizona Cardinals started off the 2012 season with four straight victories before collapsing the rest of the way, with an offense that scored 20 or more points only once in the team’s final twelve games. So it was no wonder that the Cardinals cleaned house in the offseason, on the roster as well as on the coaching staff. Palmer is an upgrade, but he’s not the answer, at least not by himself. Mendenhall has to bounce back in a big way for the Cardinals to rack up more wins, and an offensive line with two rookie guards has to find its chemistry early. Bruce Arians proved last season with the Colts that he is a tremendous coach, and it will take no less of an effort than the one he gave last season for the Cardinals to exceed six wins.

Apr 262013
 

Meat And PotatoesWell that was quite an interesting first round. One quarterback, one running back, and a whole lot of trench players were taken in last night’s first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.Offensive and defensive linemen were the top targets (nine each), followed by cornerbacks (four), wide receivers (3) and safeties (3). Two linebackers and a tight end were also taken in last night’s action.

Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel came off the board at #1 (Chiefs) and #2 (Jaguars) respectively as predicted, and then the Dolphins threw a monkey wrench in, swapping with Oakland to move up to snag defensive end Dion Jordan. The next trade came at #8, where the Rams moved up to grab wide receiver Tavon Austin to replace Danny Amendola. Oakland used the #12 pick to select the player they were prepared to grab at #3, cornerback DJ Hayden.

The first (and only) quarterback went off the board when Buffalo selected Florida State’s EJ Manuel at #16. The Bills’ smokescreen for the past several weeks was very effective, as just about every quarterback other than Manuel had been associated with the Bills. The 49ers shot up the board to #18 to grab safety Eric Reid to fill out their secondary, and then the Cowboys pulled a bit of a head scratcher at #31 with their decision to take Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, who is widely seen as a late second or early third round pick.

Atlanta swapped with St. Louis to take cornerback Desmond Trufant, a needed addition for the Falcons. The other trade of the first round came when Minnesota, who had already selected defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes jumped into New England’s 29th spot to pick up wide receiver Cordarrelle Petterson of Tennessee. New England, who was prepared to selected a player, opted for the value of grabbing Minnesota’s second, third, fourth, and seventh round picks.

Finally, former Patriots’ offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi was present to announce the Patriots’ move, and this was accompanied by a moving tribute to the first responders and victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. They also revealed a “Boston Strong” Patriots’ jersey that promises to become a future piece of wardrobe in the Ghost Rat household.

All in all, it was a solid “meat and potatoes” round for teams trying to protect the quarterback, pressure the quarterback, and defend the pass. I thought the Jets’ selection of cornerback Dee Milliner with the 9th pick was a bit dicey, particularly with DJ Hayden, Desmond Trufant, and Xavier Rhodes still available. Milliner is a great talent, but having two bad shoulders seems to be a cause of some concern. Cleveland’s landing of defensive end Barkevious Mongo at #6 was a sold selection, and seemingly safer than the Eagles’ taking defensive end Ziggy Ansah at #5, even if Ansah’s potential upside is greater. The Steelers got their man in linebacker Jarvis Jones at #17, while the Giants made absolutely the right selection at #19 in picking up tackle Justin Pugh. Bears’ fans were not thrilled with the teams’ selection of guard Kyle Long at #20, but Long promises to be a long-term starter for Chicago, who desperately need help on the offensive line.

Here are the first round picks… the ones I got right are in bold face:

1. Kansas City Chiefs – T Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – T Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
3. Miami Dolphins (trade) – DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
4. Philadelphia Eagles – T Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
5. Detroit Lions – DE Ziggy Ansah, BYU
6. Cleveland Browns – DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
7. Arizona Cardinals – G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
8. St. Louis Rams (trade) – WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia (right team, wrong spot = half credit)
9. New York Jets – CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
10. Tennessee Titans – G Chance Warmack, Alabama
11. San Diego Chargers – T DJ Fluker, Alabama
12. Oakland Raiders (trade) – CB DJ Hayden, Houston
13. New York Jets – DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
14. Carolina Panthers – DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
15. New Orleans Saints – S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
16. Buffalo Bills (trade) – QB EJ Manuel, Florida State
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
18. San Francisco 49ers (trade) – S Eric Reid, LSU
19. New York Giants – T Justin Pugh, Syracuse
20. Chicago Bears – G Kyle Long, Oregon
21. Cincinnati Bengals – TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
22. Atlanta Falcons (trade) – CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
23. Minnesota Vikings – DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
24. Indianapolis Colts – DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
25. Minnesota Vikings – CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
26. Green Bay Packers – DE Datone Jones, UCLA
27. Houston Texans – WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
28. Denver Broncos – DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
29. Minnesota Vikings (trade) – WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
30. St. Louis Rams (trade) – LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
31. Dallas Cowboys (trade) – C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
32. Baltimore Ravens – S Matt Elam, Florida