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Today: The Arizona Cardinals
Last Year: 10-6 (3rd place in NFC West)
There might not be a player who I genuinely feel worse for than Larry Fitzgerald. Sure, he’s been to the Super Bowl. He’s made millions and millions of dollars. He’s regarded as one of the best receivers in the game. But can you imagine the kind of numbers he’d be putting up if he had a somewhat decent starting quarterback? I mean, if the Cardinals hadn’t lucked into a couple of years with Kurt Warner then Fitzgerald’s best quarterback would be … Carson Palmer? Seriously. Look at the quarterbacks who have started for the Cardinals during Fitzgerald’s 10 years:
- Josh McCown
- Shaun King
- John Navarre
- Kurt Warner (yay!)
- Matt Leinart
- Derek Anderson
- John Skelton
- Max Hall
- Kevin Kolb
- Ryan Lindley
- Brian Hoyer
- Carson Palmer
Ooooiiii. Despite that pretty pathetic list, Fitzgerald has managed to catch 846 passes for 11,367 yards and 87 touchdowns.
But hey! Last year wasn’t so bad for Fitzgerald’s team. The Cardinals, despite not making the playoffs, still won 10 games. This was, of course, mainly due to the Cardinals’ defense, which came in first in the league against the run and seventh in points surrendered. If not for a crowded NFC and playing in the loaded NFC West, the Cardinals would’ve been a dangerous team in the postseason. Instead, they missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
Still, the future is bright for the Cardinals. Winning 10 games with a new head coach (Bruce Arians) and a quarterback (Carson Palmer) who managed to throw 22 interceptions can only be described as an achievement.
Remember when the Cardinals traded for Kevin Kolb? Remember when Derek Anderson flipped out at reporters?
Remember when the Cardinals were seriously debating between Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner? Remember when the quarterback competition was between John Skelton and Ryan Lindley? Or was it some other guy? I forget.
Anyways, the point is that the Cardinals are no longer a laughing stock. They are, however, stuck in the NFC West.
Last Year’s Stud: Patrick Peterson
Peterson was rewarded with a five-year contract extension this offseason, and the Cardinals had good reason to do so. Peterson is regarded as one of the best cornerbacks in the game — right up there with Richard Sherman — and last season had 13 passes defended and three picks.
Runner-up: Calais Campbell
Last Year’s Surprise: Michael Floyd
He’s a first-round pick, but in his first season he only caught 45 passes for 562 yards. Floyd improved massively in year two, bringing in 65 catches and over 1,000 receiving yards.
Runner-up: Andre Ellington
Last Year’s Disappointment: Carson Palmer
It’s not that Palmer doesn’t throw for a lot of yards — he does. It’s just that he threw 22 interceptions last season. Still, Palmer will always be the king of garbage time, an act he mastered during his stint with the Oakland Raiders.
Runner-up: Rashard Mendenhall
The Cardinals decided to add to their already-stellar defense by drafting safety Deone Bucannon out of Washington State. He’s a tackling machine — he registered 384 in his college career — and had six interceptions in his last season at WSU.
Other notable pick: Kareem Martin
Martin might have a bigger role now that Darnell Dockett will be forced to miss the season with a torn ACL.
This Year’s Stud: Patrick Peterson
Look at the arm on him!
Runner-up: Larry Fitzgerald
This Year’s Surprise: Ed Stinson
Sixth-round picks aren’t usually expected to contribute immediately, but because of Stinson’s ability to stop the run and because of Dockett’s injury, Stinson could have a chance to make himself heard in his rookie season.
Runner-up: Kareem Martin
This Year’s Disappointment: Ted Ginn Jr.
I’m not sure Ginn is worth his three-year deal. Ginn will primarily be the kick and punt returner, but will also be asked to fit in alongside Fitzgerald and Floyd.
Runner-up: Carson Palmer
Draft early: Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
Good value in the middle rounds: Carson Palmer, Andre Ellington
Don’t draft: Troy Niklas
What Vegas Is Saying (LVH Sports Book): 7.5 wins
What We’re Saying: 8-8 (4th place in NFC West)
I have the Cardinals in the same boat as the Rams. They’re both capable of reaching the postseason if their quarterback play improves, but because they play in the NFC West, the playoffs probably aren’t happening. Arizona’s defense should give it a chance in most games, but Palmer is going to have to limit his interception count and Andre Ellington is going to have to match his firepower from last year in a more extensive role this season.
Again, because of the stacked division, I just don’t see Arizona making the leap to the postseason.
[genericon icon=twitter] Follow Sean Wagner-McGough on Twitter @seanjwagner