By: Matthew McCaughan
Well, ladies and gentleman the new season is upon us. The long wait is over as NFL camps get under way. For the Arizona Cardinals however a few players will have to wait a bit longer to get out on the practice field. As they open camp, Tyrann Mathieu, Justin Bethal, Robert Nkemdiche and Frostee Rucker all were sidelined with different injury situations.
Tyrann Mathieu is only 8 months removed from a right ACL tear he suffered last season.Head coach Bruce Arians has decided to be cautious for obvious reasons as Mathieu is a big piece of that secondary and is going to need to be 100% if the Cardinals expect to be a legitimate defense again. It’s expected that Mathieu will most likely get some jogging and conditioning work going forward.
Justin Bethal is dealing with a nagging foot injury that had a setback and will come down to pain tolerance going forward in camp. Nkemdiche is listed as day to day with an ankle injury and Rucker was put on PUP list to start camp. Not exactly the way you want to start camp but plenty of time to get healed up and get ready for some preseason games to work out any rust that comes with not being able to work out in camp.
The Cardinals will be looking to build on last season, that resulted in a NFC West division title with a record of 13-3. They will also look to rebound from a tough playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers in 2015. They shouldn’t feel too concerned however because they pretty much cruised right into those 2015 Playoffs. I’m sure they will look to keep quarterback Carson Palmer upright and healthy as he was a major contributor to the offensive success. They will also look to get the ball in the hands of young rookie phenome running back David Johnson who last year showed he can certainly carry the load.
One thing Arizona won’t be worried about is that dominant defense. They just added more depth to the defensive line with the rookie addition of Nkemdiche who I think will make an immediate impact especially with the current players surrounding him on that line. They will look to get a bit more pressure to make it even easier for the secondary who don’t need much introduction as it is. With Freeney leaving they will need to replace his 8 sacks which is very possible for Nkemdiche even though the past has shown rookie lineman don’t fair very well in their rookie year when it comes to sacks.
The Cardinals will have to deal with the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams most likely as their major competition heading into this season. The San Francisco 49ers look like a team that is in full rebuild mode and I expect them to stay at the bottom of the division. Cardinals finished 4-2 in the division last year which nobody would complain about considering how good some of the defenses are in this division. They also were able to be very good on the road with a 7-1 record which they will look to repeat this year.
I’m sure Arians will have them back on top with the roster he currently has. With Larry Fitzgerald returning and Palmer at quarterback the leadership circle between those 3 should be enough to carry the offensive side of things and get enough points on the board so the defense can contain these offenses in the west.
Each team did improve in the west however and it won’t be easy to follow up a 13-3 record. Getting everyone healthy and playing through preseason without major injuries, the Cardinals in my opinion should be the favorites to win the division yet again this year. Arians will most likely be involved in the coach of the year argument again as he has done a great job with this current unit. Palmer, Fitzgerald and David Johnson will look to continue dominance on the offensive side of the ball, while Peterson, Mathieu and Daryl Washington look to anchor that defense
Should be another fun ride in 2016 and I’m sure this roster can’t wait to get out there and follow up last year’s division win except this time taking it to the Super Bowl. But as we know it won’t be easy and nobody expects it to be. But this is where it starts! The blood, sweat and tears begin now as the Cardinals look to trim the roster and build a champion in 2016.
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