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Each New Season Is Dependent On Health No Matter The Sport, But For The Arizona Cardinals, Tight End, O-Line And Safety Are Glaring Concerns; Also, Suns And Bledsoe Still Have Not Reached Agreement


By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

July 22, 2014 — As preseason creeps closer and closer, the Cardinals still have some serious question marks that will have to be answered prior to the season. The team is loaded with talent and should contend for a playoff spot, but the performances at these key positions will affect the degree of success.

Perhaps the most important spot will be tight end. The Cardinals have had a hole at tight end for even longer than they’ve had a hole at quarterback. The team just can’t seem to find the right guy to fit the mold. Look for Troy Niklas to take over the position if he’s healthy. He’s the type of big blocking tight end with receiving skills that Head Coach Bruce Arians loves. If he’s not healthy, that opens up the position for Jake Ballard or John Carlson to shine. They both have the physique and blocking ability to go with plus receiving skills. If Niklas is healthy and productive, those two will have to fight the second spot in Arians’ oft-favored two tight end sets.

I think the Rob Housler era is almost over in Arizona. He’s super athletic with some upside as a receiver, but he just hasn’t shown he can be consistent and he doesn’t have the blocking skills that Arians likes. I don’t expect the Cardinals to carry four tight ends on the roster, and he could be the odd man out.

The left side of the line is solid as a rock — almost literally — if tackle Jared Veldheer and guard Jonathan Cooper can stay healthy. Center Lyle Sendlein is also a solid contributor that the team can count on.

There are questions, however, on the right the side of the line, where no one has a clear hold on the job. It will be up to guards Earl Watford and tackles Bobby Massie and Bradley Sowell to prove they are ready to produce. I expect the Cardinals to bring in some players to compete with Watford at guard. He’s got a lot of upside, but hasn’t proven it yet.

At strong safety, the Cardinals are going to rely heavily on rookie Deone Bucannon. Incumbent Rashad Johnson is a serviceable starter with great grit (just look at how many fingers he has) but Arizona drafted Bucannon to make an impact immediately.

On the other side, Tyrann Mathieu is recovering from a serious knee injury, so he will be a question mark until we see whether he can as explosive as he was prior to the injury in his great rookie season.

Phoenix Suns
The Suns are still trying to re-sign restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe. While it once appeared inevitable that the team would bring him back, the water is a little murkier now. Reports indicate the Suns offered Bledsoe a 4 year, $48 million contract, but he is seeking a 5 year, $80 million max contract. That’s quite a gap. — about $4 million a year if you're counting.

However, that doesn’t mean all is lost. Other teams appear hesitant to offer a sheet to Bledsoe, because they still think the Suns are still going to match. That would make it a waste of time that would only serve to lockup their money for a few days while the last players in the free-agent class sign elsewhere.

Also, no team appears willing to give Bledsoe the max. He is a player with obvious athletic ability and plus skills, but he also has an injury history that isn’t unblemished and has had serious knee surgery.

Odds are a desperate team like Milwaukee extends an offer sheet to Bledsoe that slightly overpays him (though not a max contract) and Phoenix matches to bring Bledsoe back into the fold.

It looks like the old “change of scenery” explanation may have actually worked. Both Brandon McCarthy and Vidal Nuno have pitched well since the Diamondbacks and Yankees swapped the statistically similar (and mediocre) pitchers a few weeks back. Granted, the Yankees have gotten the better end of the deal as McCarthy has been lights out. But, Nuno hasn’t been bad either.

McCarthy has been simply dominant in two starts since coming to New York

Brandon McCarthy 2014 Pitching Stats
Nuno pitched well in his first start, but faltered against the Giants after a strong start to the game in his last outing.

Vidal Nuno 2014 Pitching Stats

Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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