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NFL Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals: The 5 Biggest Red Flags Heading Into 2014

Arizona Cardinals: The 5 Biggest Red Flags Entering 2014

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
Mark J. Rebilas - USA Today Sports

The Arizona Cardinals completed a surprising 10-6 season under the leadership of head coach Bruce Arians and veteran quarterback Carson Palmer. Although the Cardinals are a solid team with a top-10 defense, they'll be hard-pressed to repeat that kind of success in 2014. Here are the five biggest red flags for the Cardinals entering 2014.

5. Andre Ellington As The Team's No. 1 Running Back

ANDRE ELLINGTON
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5. Andre Ellington As The Team's No. 1 Running Back

ANDRE ELLINGTON
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Andre Ellington is a supremely talented running back entering his second season in the NFL. Ellington led the NFL in yards per attempt when he ran for 5.53 yards per attempt on 118 carries. However, Ellington enters 2014 as Arizona's No. 1 running back. The now-departed Rashard Mendenhall was the Cards' No. 1 RB in 2013 when he carried the football 212 times. It remains to be seen how Ellington holds up at his 5-foot-9, 199-pound frame.

4. New Faces Along The Offensive Line

Jared Veldheer Oakland Raiders
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4. New Faces Along The Offensive Line

Jared Veldheer Oakland Raiders
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There will be as many as four new starting offensive linemen for the Cardinals in 2014, with no bigger new face than Jared Veldheer. In 2013, Carson Palmer was the eighth-most sacked quarterback in the NFL. Part of that was due to Palmer's propensity to hold the football too long, and part of that was due to the mediocrity of the offensive line. With the leadership of left tackle Veldheer, the Cardinals hope 2014 will be an improvement.

3. Can The Cardinals Compete Head-To-Head In The NFC West?

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks
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3. Can The Cardinals Compete Head-To-Head In The NFC West?

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks
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The Cardinals may have finished 10-6 last season, but they were just 2-4 against their divisional rivals. They were swept by the San Francisco 49ers, split with the Seattle Seahawks and split with the 7-9 St. Louis Rams. If the Cardinals hope to advance to the postseason for the first time in five years, they will have to achieve a winning record versus their NFC West counterparts.

2. Carson Palmer As The Team's Franchise Quarterback

QB Carson Palmer (1)
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2. Carson Palmer As The Team's Franchise Quarterback

QB Carson Palmer (1)
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Carson Palmer becomes the first Cardinals quarterback to start back-to-back seasons since Kurt Warner five years ago. That is an achievement as far as stability for the franchise, but is it really stability when considering Palmer's performance in 2013? The 11-year veteran threw 22 interceptions versus 24 touchdowns. His interception total was the second-highest in the NFL and his quarterback rating was a mere 83.9 rating.

1. The San Francisco 49ers And The Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers
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1. The San Francisco 49ers And The Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers
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The NFC West is the toughest division in all of football. Every team within the division is well-coached and have tough defenses to show for it. But the biggest issue facing the Cardinals is not from within, it's the fact that the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks are two of the best teams in the NFL. It doesn't matter how solid the Cardinals are across the board, they simply can't match the 49ers and Seahawks with their personnel.