Will Arizona Cardinals Add
To Super Bowl Mix In Draft?
By Rene Gomez
Modern Times Magazine
April 27, 2016 — While the regular season ended months ago following the Denver Broncos Super Bowl win, the NFL never truly sleeps and is always a flurry of activity thanks to the draft, transactions and offseason workouts. In particular, t has been a very active offseason for the Arizona Cardinals as the team has acquired several big name players and let other notable red birds leave the nest.
With the draft days away, speculation over who Arizona will pick is at an all time high. The first round will be on April 28, rounds two and three are the following day, and rounds four through seven cap off the draft weekend on Saturday.
Thanks to several savvy trades and veteran signings, the already stout Cardinals have the luxury of choosing the best player available without feeling pressured to fill a glaring need.
Arizona has the No. 29 pick in the first round, and its needs are fairly clear: get help in a weakened secondary, find help at center, bolster an already strengthened pass rush, and find Carson Palmer’s heir apparent at quarterback.
Mock drafts are a crapshoot, but they do help give some insight into where a team can go in the draft. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. likes Georgia pass rusher Leonard Floyd at 29 for the Cardinals. Todd McShay of ESPN, however, has Alabama center Ryan Kelly going first to the Cards. CBS Sports agrees with McShay as it has Kelly in the first round as well. In the mock draft for the Washington Post, Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins is the player going to Arizona.
Even though these potential first round picks help at positions of need, Cardinals fans have to wonder about the future of the quarterback position. This draft class does not offer an obvious answer, but Carson Palmer is in the twilight of his career at this point and will step down sooner rather than later. The future of the position has to be a concern, but Keim and head coach Bruce Arians don’t seem worried.
To be fair, champions don’t have to have a star or juggernaut at quarterback. Denver won with a broken Peyton Manning who had the worst statistical year of his stellar career. Joe Flacco played out of his mind to win a championship in 2012, but since then has been pedestrian. Eli Manning has never been considered an elite quarterback, but he is a two-time champion. So, with a stout defense and (hopefully) stellar running game with up-and-comer David Johnson, the Cardinals may not need the next Tom Brady to compete for years to come.
Improvements Already Evident
Even without knowing who the Cardinals will pick in the draft, we can confidently say the team has improved this offseason.
Obviously, the biggest change for the Bird Gang comes in the form of Chandler Jones. Arizona acquired its much-needed pass rusher in a trade with the New England Patriots. The Cardinals gave up former first rounder and offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper and a second round pick in the deal.
The Cardinals also resigned several key players from last year’s squad and added a few role players. Running will be back on a one year deal after leading the team in rushing in 2015 before a knee injury ended his season.
The team also managed to snag veteran Evan Mathis on one of the savvy one-year veteran “prove it” deals General Manager Steve Keim is known for. Also, the signing of safety Tyvon Branch helps fill a need in the secondary after former starting safety Rashad Johnson signed with the Titans in free agency.
Also, safety Tony Jefferson no longer has to deal with the distraction of the restricted free agent label. Jefferson’s qualifying offer will keep him in Arizona for one more year, but he does plan to pursue a better contract in 2017.
The secondary is also facing some injuries, though they seem minor. According to the team website, pro bowl defensive back Patrick Peterson had his right ankle surgically repaired and should be ready for action by late July. Apparently, the ankle was a factor in how effective Peterson felt he should have been late in the season, and there is no doubt that his health is of the utmost importance.
With his health now a concern, maybe Peterson should not be involved in the kick return game anymore. He’s just too valuable on defense and gambling with his health in the punt return game has not resulted in anything of consequence for the Cardinals since Peterson’s rookie year.
A Look Ahead At The 2016 Season
The 2016 regular season schedule was recently released, and the Cardinals will have some compelling battles ahead of them.
Bill Belichick and the Patriots come to the desert for a Sunday night matchup in Week 1, though it looks like they will be sans Tom Brady after a court upheld his Deflategate suspension.
In week six, the Cardinals will host the New York Jets and many fans will be watching the sidelines as Arians and his former defensive coordinator Todd Bowles (now the head coach of the Jets) try to outsmart each other.
Get your Halloween costumes ready for huge week eight matchup between the Cardinals and Carolina Panthers. The last time the two teams met, Carolina walloped Arizona in the NFC Championship game. The Cardinals are hoping one of their defensive stars will be the Lex Luthor to stop Cam Newton from turning into Superman.
Of course the division games have their own drama, too, but this year seems to have a little more spice after Chip Kelly moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco. The new 49ers coach always seems to bring the drama to every stop and the Cardinals will face him twice.
As always, the Seahawks pose a big threat to the Cardinals as Arizona attempts to remain atop the NFC West. Seattle is coming off a year in which it failed to make the Super Bowl after being in the previous two. The team’s head coach, Pete Carroll, will be looking to lead his Seahawks to prominence and the Cardinals will be in their crosshairs.
Lastly, the Rams have moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles, but the team isn’t quite ready to contend, and its new stadium will not be ready for 2016. That being said, the Rams always bring their A game when the Cards come to town.
All in all, the Cardinals appear to be the favorite in the division this year and can no longer fly under the radar. Thanks to recent successes, the team has a bullseye on its back and will have to bring it week in and week out to stave off competition from its rivals, who would love to unseat the Red Birds.
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