Can Arizona Cardinals Compete in Suddenly Loaded NFC West?

By Mark Donatiello
Kyle Terada – US PRESSWIRE

The Arizona Cardinals have a lot of issues to address, but the core of a successful team may be hidden on a roster that lost 10 of their final 11 games last season.  Bruce Arians has his work cut out for him, but the Arizona Cardinals have a solid defense, one of the best receivers in the NFL, and one of the best coaching acquisitions of the offseason.  Still, it seems unlikely the  Cardinals will be able to complete a full-scale turnaround this year.

The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks emerged as legitimate contenders last season, with the Niners making it all the way to the Super Bowl.  Both franchises had eleven wins last year, narrowly removed from a season when the NFC West was represented in the playoffs by a team under .500.  Given the caliber of talent in the NFC East, a competitive schedule is going to make a sudden rebuilding effort extremely challenging.

Additionally, the Cardinals have too many holes offensively to compete with the stout defenses within their division and throughout the conference.

The Cardinals must decide between two mediocre quarterbacking options, or bring in someone new, to begin the Bruce Arians era in Arizona.  Either way, both have struggled at times in the NFL, and neither is a great option.  In a division marked by mediocre quarterbacks, the Cardinals’ dilemma isn’t particularly disconcerting, but the fact that neither quarterback has been able to establish chemistry with all-world wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is troubling.

The rushing attack does little to open the passing game, and Fitzgerald is frequently double covered because of the lack of weapons lined up alongside him.  The Cardinals offense is inept on all fronts, and until they can generate consistent ball possession the defense will continue to struggle.  Ranked in the bottom tier of most major offensive categories, the Cardinals struggles in the second half of the season were unsurprising.

The Cardinals can certainly make moves to become contenders in the division, but with the roster as it is currently constructed Arizona will not compete in a loaded NFC West this year.  With uncertainty behind center, a weak running game, and a lack of offensive depth, the Arizona Cardinals are more likely to finish last in the division in 2013 than first.  The Cards need additional receiving options, a better running game, and effective quarterback play before they can be considered in the same class as the Seahawks and 49ers.  They’re not far off, in a parity driven NFL, but they’re not ready to compete yet.

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