5 Questions the Arizona Cardinals Must Answer During Training Camp
When a team goes 5-11, they’re usually not expected to be very competitive the following season; that is, of course, unless they make noticeable changes.
Change; however, is what the Arizona Cardinals did. During the offseason, the Cardinals went out and found a new head coach in Bruce Arians, upgraded the quarterback position by trading for quarterback Carson Palmer and, in my opinion, had a very good draft, highlighted by the selection of offensive guard Jonathan Cooper in the first round.
Listen BirdGang, the Cardinals still have a lot of work to do in order to be championship contenders, but I truly believe that they have given themselves a chance to compete in 2013. Last season they had virtually no offense, but managed to win five games along the way.
While it’s true that this year’s schedule might be tougher than 2012’s schedule, the Cardinals will have the benefit of playing some of their tougher games at home. If you recall, in 2012, they had to go on the road to play the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons; they won in New England and should have beat the Falcons. This year they get Atlanta, the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts at home.
The Colts game should be a good one given that it’s Arians’ former team. If he can have half the success he had in Indianapolis, I think that’s a vast improvement from 2012 and definitely a step in the right direction. That’s why it’s important that the Cardinals answer these five questions during training camp.
1.) Will Rashard Mendenhall hold off Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington?
If, and it’s a big if, Mendenhall can stay healthy, he should be the clear-cut No. 1 back in Arizona. He was Arians’ guy with the Pittsburgh Steelers and knows the system, but is recovering from a torn ACL. During training camp, the Cardinals need to find out if they’re getting a fully healthy Mendenhall.
2.) Has the offensive line improved enough to keep Carson Palmer alive?
The Cardinals offensive line was horrendous last season, but they’re getting Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein and Bobby Massie back. Throw in the addition of Jonathan Cooper and it makes for a much-improved line or one would hope so. It will be crucial to Palmer’s success that the line gels during training camp.
3.) Can Carson Palmer play at a Pro Bowl level again?
Palmer is one of those quarterbacks that will look amazing in one game and come out and stink it up the next. It’s imperative that he plays better than he has for the Cardinals to be competitive once again. On the bright side, however, he’s got a good arm and should be able to revive Larry Fitzgerald’s career.
4.) Can the defense adjust to its fourth defensive coordinator in five years?
It was the Cardinals defense that was the lone bright spot in 2012. In this new 3-4 system, the defensive ends will be required to penetrate the offensive line and play the run on their way to the quarterback as opposed to last year’s 3-4 defense where the linebackers were the playmakers.
5.) With Adrian Wilson gone, who will be the defensive leader?
No surprise here as we all know just how big leadership is and can be in this league. Just look at the Baltimore Ravens who had arguably one of the best leaders in Ray Lewis and how that affected the way the defense played. Hopefully a defensive leader will emerge during training camp.