I don’t want to alarm anyone, but the Arizona Cardinals might be the biggest sleeper in the NFC West in 2014.
In fact, it wouldn’t necessarily be premature to call it game over for the NFC before the regular season even starts. After all, the Cardinals all but owned the Houston Texans in their preseason opener. The high-flying offense then turned around and lost consecutive exhibition games to the likes of the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals while employing their reserves.
What does that tell you? Well, it by no means suggests that the Cardinals are fielding a subpar team this season. Quite to the contrary, The Cardinals now have the seasoned offensive intellect of Carson Palmer. If that doesn’t scare you, his weapons might. Eight-time Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro flanker Larry Fitzgerald is an invaluable wingman in the club’s wide receiving corps who, to put it in the simplest of terms, cannot be ignored. The Cardinals also drafted rookie flanker John Brown from Division II collegiate power Pittsburg State.
And the freshman wideout hasn’t balked at the opportunity to make an immediate mark in the NFL either. Brown took Cardinals training camp by storm and shattered the first-team secondary with little effort.
Speaking of immediate impressions, the Cardinals are stacked on defense compared to the rest of the division, and it really isn’t even close. Their defensive line is projected to pack a punch this season with the presence of five-time Pro Bowl and three-time All-Pro linebacker John Abraham.
The Cardinals will also be fielding arguably the most frightening secondary in the league, with shutdown corners Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie prowling center field. The two are unlikely to see the field on Thursday evening when the Cardinals face the San Diego Chargers in their preseason finale, but their regular season opponents are in line for some major headaches.
The preseason is a four-game job interview for players looking for NFL roster spots. Thursday evening’s game against the Chargers will likely feature strictly the second- and third-team reserves, giving all remaining hopefuls one final crack to showcase what they can do that others either can’t or won’t.
The Chargers are stacked through the air and boast a formidable ground game that exhibited signs last season, and the Cardinals’ second- and third-teams will more than have their work cut out for them in this one.