Arizona Cardinals 2018 Season Preview

Arizona Cardinals 2018 Season Preview


Giving my season preview for the Arizona Cardinals 2018 NFL Season including my win-loss record prediction, bold predictions, statistical projections and analysis of the team’s strengths, weaknesses, and key players Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson, and Patrick Peterson. Will the Cardinals succeed with Steve Wilks and Josh Rosen?

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NBA Rookie Mini Scouting Reports and Stat Predictions: Picks 45-31

NBA Rookie Mini Scouting Reports and Stat Predictions: Picks 45-31

Now that Summer League has passed, rosters are being filled out and roles are being competed for as we get closer to training camp. How will each rookie drafted in June produce and who has the potential to become a star in the NBA?

 

 

45. Hamidou Diallo – Oklahoma City Thunder

Diallo after a play for Kentucky.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

After only one year at Kentucky, Diallo comes to Oklahoma City with a chance to grab some rookie minutes at the shooting guard position. With the Thunder’s two stars at the point and small forward, this puts 3 or 4 of their young players in position to compete for minutes at the 2. Diallo might have what it takes to become the future shooting guard for Oklahoma City with his athleticism and defensive potential, however his offensive game is very raw and he’ll likely struggle shooting the ball early in his career.

PPG: 4.2   RPG: 2.1   APG: 1.3   SPG: 1.1    BPG: 0.6

NBA Comparison: Frank Ntilikina

 

 

44. Issuf Sanon – Washington Wizards

Sanon in the Euro League.

Photo Credit/eurohoops.net

 

Sanon is another late round draft-and-stash and will spend the 2018-19 season in Slovenia. The 6’4″ combo guard would likely see almost no playing time with Wall and Beal occupying minutes with the Wizards. The Ukranian is still young and may come over to Washington in a year or two, but with the guard depth in Washington his rights may be traded away.

PPG: N/A   RPG: N/A   APG: N/A   SPG: N/A   BPG: N/A

NBA Comparison: Jonathon Simmons

 

 

43. Justin Jackson – Orlando Magic

Jackson still at Maryland.

Photo Credit/dbknews.com

 

After two years at Maryland, Jackson comes to a rebuilding squad in Orlando. The 21-year old forward is coming off of an injury in his last season in college and did not play in Summer League for Orlando. He had a far more promising freshman year for the Terps and it seems Orlando is hoping they have a steal if he returns to that form. His defensive potential is as big as can be with a 7’3″ wingspan, but if he continues his shooting struggles he’ll likely spend this year in the G-League.

PPG: 2.3   RPG: 2.1   APG: 0.9   SPG: 0.8   BPG: 0.7

NBA Comparison: Trevor Ariza

 

 

42. Bruce Brown – Detroit Pistons

Brown during a dead ball for Miami.

Photo Credit/bostonherald.com

 

The Pistons bring in another young shooting guard in this draft after taking Luke Kennard last year. After letting go of both Avery Bradley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit is looking for a guard to compliment its star front court. While Kennard had a promising rookie year, there’s plenty of room for Brown to make his way to some court time this season.

PPG: 5.1   RPG: 1.9   APG: 1.7   SPG: 0.7   BPG: 0.4

NBA Comparison: Shabazz Napier

 

 

41. Jarred Vanderbilt – Denver Nuggets

Vanderbilt dribbling up the court for Kentucky.

Photo Credit/seccountry.com

 

Out of star-studded Kentucky, Vanderbilt will struggle to find playing time on a Nuggets team looking to get back in the playoffs for the first time since their Ty Lawson days. Will Barton, Torrey Craig, and fellow rookie Michael Porter Jr. will occupy almost all the minutes at the small forward position leaving Vanderbilt off the court for most of the season. The 19-year old swingman has promising playmaking ability and the length to guard multiple positions on defense someday, but his shooting struggles and the depth of Denver’s roster will prevent him from showcasing this just yet. His talent gives him starter potential.

PPG: 3.6   RPG: 2.9   APG: 1.8   SPG: 0.7   BPG: 0.4

NBA Comparison: Jae Crowder

 

 

 

40. Rodions Kurucs – Brooklyn Nets

Kurucs for Barcelona.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Kurucs was one of the few international players signed to an NBA team in this draft after agreeing to a 4-year deal with the Nets. He’s a winger with a solid jumper and a good feel on the other side of the ball, however his playmaking ability has been disappointing. The 20-year old Latvian has the athleticism and jumpshot to develop into a nice bench option for Brooklyn.

PPG: 4.3   RPG: 1.7   APG: 0.8   SPG: 0.9   BPG: 0.2

NBA Comparison: Joe Harris

 

 

39. Isaac Bonga – Los Angeles Lakers

Bonga practicing for LA.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Bonga was traded to LA after being selected 39th by Philadelphia. The 6’9″ German is a forward/center with guard skills who’ll learn perfectly from LeBron James. He’s extremely raw at only 18-years old but his talent is evident early on. His feel and vision are tremendous at his size. While his shooting must be fixed to get him significant minutes on the Lakers his unique skill set could make him a steal.

PPG: 2.3   RPG: 2.2   APG: 1.9   SPG: 0.8   BPG: 0.6

NBA Comparison: Ben Simmons

 

 

38. Khyri Thomas – Detroit Pistons

Thomas in college.

Photo Credit/omaha.com

 

Coming out of Creighton, Thomas had a very solid Summer League for Detroit. The 22-year old shooting guard is one of the best long-range shooters in the draft shooting at a mark of 41% for the Bluejays this past year. With several other young shooting guards on the team we’ll see if Thomas can carve out some minutes in the Detroit lineup.

PPG: 4.9   RPG: 1.8   APG: 1.0   SPG: 0.7   BPG: 0.1

NBA Comparison: Gary Harris

 

 

37. Gary Trent Jr. – Portland Trail Blazers

Trent Jr. shooting at Duke.

Photo Credit/goduke.com

 

Trent Jr. could end up being one of the steals of the draft. A highly touted prospect out of high school, his shooting ability could be very valuable to the Blazers this year. It’s possible we see them play Trent at the 3 if he shows he’s capable of ample playing time early on. To get a high potential, young shooter in the second round is rare and Portland should give him time to blossom before moving on.

PPG: 7.2   RPG: 2.7   APG: 1.3   SPG: 0.9   BPG: 0.3

NBA Comparison: Jeremy Lamb

 

 

36. Mitchell Robinson – New York Knicks

Robinson dunking in an NBA Summer League game.

Photo Credit/sny.tv

 

Robinson looks to be another second round steal as he’s part of a terrific summer by New York. The 7-footer has unbelievable potential as an athlete and defender, putting on a blocking spree in Summer League. He’s extremely raw and needs to put on weight and develop an offensive game but he has all the tools to be the Knicks starting center for the next decade. He’ll see some extra playing time early in the year as KP nurses his injury.

PPG: 5.3   RPG: 4.1   APG: 0.7   SPG: 0.3   BPG: 1.8

NBA Comparison: Tyson Chandler

 

 

35. Melvin Frazier – Orlando Magic

Frazier at Tulane.

Photo Credit/nbcsports.com

 

After 3 years at Tulane, Frazier is another wing added to the handful of youthful swingmen in Orlando. Frazier is the prototypical modern NBA shooting guard as a 6’6″ 3-and-D guy. The 21-year old should get a shot at the court this year, depending on what the Magic intend to do with Evan Fournier. It’s unlikely he’ll ever be a top scorer on a team but a bench player who can fill in in the starting lineup when needed is attainable with his potential.

PPG: 5.2   RPG: 2.3   APG: 1.1   SPG: 1.2   BPG: 0.5

NBA Comparison: Josh Richardson

 

 

34. Devonte’ Graham – Charlotte Hornets

Graham for the Jayhawks.

Photo Credit/kshb.com

 

After one of the most successful careers ever at Kansas, Graham comes home to North Carolina to back up Kemba Walker. With Michael Carter-Williams leaving for Houston it leaves court time for Graham. The 23-year old is an experienced player with a great shooting stroke. His leadership qualities will transition over to the NBA and benefit the Charlotte second unit.

PPG: 6.1   RPG: 1.9   APG: 3.2   SPG: 0.7   BPG: 0.1

NBA Comparison: Fred VanVleet

 

 

33. Jalen Brunson – Dallas Mavericks

Brunson for Villanova.

Photo Credit/cbssports.com

 

Another very successful college guard taken in the second round, Brunson could be a valuable bench player for Dallas this year. With Dennis Smith Jr. likely to retain his starting point guard spot, barring where the team decides to play Luka Doncic, Brunson could see backup PG minutes. His leadership and shooting ability will be reliable for the Mavs as they try to build back into contention.

PPG: 4.7   RPG: 1.8   APG: 2.2   SPG: 1.1   BPG: 0.2

NBA Comparison: D.J. Augustin

 

 

32. Jevon Carter – Memphis Grizzlies

Carter at a Grizzlies press conference.

Photo Credit/commercialappeal.com

 

The first of 3 straight veteran college guards, Carter looks to fit perfectly with the Griz after a career at scrappy West Virginia. His defensive toughness is exactly what Memphis is known for and his energy off the bench will relieve Mike Conley and give the team a boost when their stars are off the floor. The Grizzlies won’t be contending this year but Carter is another piece that can help them get back to the postseason.

PPG: 4.3   RPG: 2.4   APG: 2.1   SPG: 1.7   BPG: 0.8

NBA Comparison: Patrick Beverley

 

 

31. Elie Okobo – Phoenix Suns

Okobo overseas.

Photo Credit/brightsideofthesun.

 

The first pick of the second round, Okobo comes from France to the Suns bringing athleticism and a creative offensive repertoire. He’s able to create shots on his own and facilitate the pick-and-roll well. If he picks up his defensive intensity and polishes his all-around game he’s in the running to be the second part of a backcourt pair with star Devin Booker.

PPG: 5.7   RPG: 1.8   APG: 2.6   SPG: 0.8   BPG: 0.3

NBA Comparison: Tyus Jones

 

 

 

Click Here: Picks 60-46

NBA Rookie Mini Scouting Reports and Stat Predictions: Picks 60-46

NBA Rookie Mini Scouting Reports and Stat Predictions: Picks 60-46

Now that Summer League has passed, rosters are being filled out and roles are being competed for as we get closer to training camp. How will each rookie drafted in June produce and who has the potential to become a star in the NBA?

 

 

60Kostas Antetokounmpo – Dallas Mavericks

Kostas playing for Dallas in the NBA Summer League.

Photo Credit/theundefeated.com

 

The younger brother of NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo was Mr. Irrelevant in this year’s draft after he was taken 60th overall and acquired by the Dallas Mavericks. The 20-year old has length and athleticism giving him some defensive potential, but he’s far from ready to contribute very much for the Mavs. While it seems like a long shot, his older brother came in with the same build and skillset, which could be an encouraging sign for Dallas.

PPG: 2.2   RPG: 1.3   APG: 0.7   SPG: 0.5   BPG: 0.8

NBA Comparison: Giannis Antetokounmpo

 

 

59. George King – Phoenix Suns 

King being introduced as a Sun.

Photo Credit/brightsideofthesun.com

 

59th pick King just recently signed a two-way deal with Phoenix. The G/F out of Colorado is a little older, already being 24 years old, but he’s well developed defensively and could potentially be a solid 3 and D option for the Suns soon. His skillset is similar to two other young forwards on the team, Josh Jackson and Mikal Bridges, so King may not see much playing time with Phoenix, however he could carve out a career on another team if he shows well in the G-League and in small stints with the Suns early in his career.

PPG: 3.1   RPG: 1.9   APG: 0.8   SPG: 0.9   BPG: 0.6

NBA Comparison: P.J. Tucker

 

 

58. Thomas Welsh – Denver Nuggets

Welsh after making a play for UCLA.

Photo Credit/bruinsnation.com

 

Welsh is another one of the late picks that will spend most of their first pro season in the G-League. The 22-year old out of UCLA has a solid mid-range game and interior defensive ability, but he’ll be a career bench player if he makes it in the league. His lack of athleticism lowers his potential quite a bit and it’d be hard for him to keep up with the strength and quickness of other centers in the NBA.

PPG: 2.7   RPG. 2.2   APG: 0.3   SPG: 0.4   BPG: 0.9

NBA Comparison: Zydrunas Ilgauskas

 

 

57. Kevin Hervey – Oklahoma City Thunder

Hervey dribbling up the court in college.

Photo Credit/midmajormadness.com

 

Coming out of a less prestigious university in Arlington, Texas, Hervey joins an OKC team currently contending in the West after resigning Paul George. After losing Carmelo Anthony, the Thunder need someone to come in and be an offensive option at the 4, which is exactly what they get with Hervey. He’s got size at 6’8″ and is a great spot up shooter having been a top scorer in college. His shot creation and defense are sub-par but a less ball-dominant, younger Melo-Type player could be what OKC needs to get home court advantage in the Western Conference again. While he may not be the most talented or youngest in the draft, Hervey is a great fit for the Thunder.

PPG: 6.2   RPG: 2.9   APG: 0.8   SPG: 0.7   BPG: 0.3

NBA Comparison: T.J. Warren

 

 

56. Ray Spalding – Dallas Mavericks

Spalding hyping up the crowd after a play.

Photo Credit/thecardinalconnect.com

 

Out of troubled Louisville, Spalding comes to Dallas in the Philadelphia trade involving Kostas Antetokounmpo. Both players have similar builds as Spalding is 6’11” with a reported weight of 215 ibs. The 21-year old will have to put on weight and get stronger to get substantial minutes with the Mavs. He should get some playing time in rebuilding Dallas but he’s not one of the focal young Mavericks just yet.

PPG: 4.6   RPG: 2.1. APG: 0.4   SPG: 0.2   BPG: 0.8

NBA Comparison: Deyonta Davis

 

 

55. Arnoldas Kulboka – Charlotte Hornets

Kulboka dribbling up the court.

Photo Credit/therunsports.com

 

Kulboka is a Lithuanian small forward with size at 6’10” who’s rights are currently to the Charlotte Hornets. He’s a talent overseas and is still young at 20 years old, however he’s a prototypical draft and stash and won’t be coming over to the states this year.

PPG: N/A   RPG: N/A   APG: N/A   SPG: N/A   BPG: N/A

NBA Comparison: Mindaugas Kuzminskas

 

 

54. Shake Milton – Philadelphia 76ers

Milton still with SMU.

Photo Credit/denverstiffs.com

 

Milton has also signed a two-way deal with Philly and the point guard should see almost all season in the G-League with T.J. McConnell coming back to back up Ben Simmons. Where the SMU product separates himself from other PG’s in the draft is his size. Only Doncic and Gilgeous-Alexander can compete with his height. If Milton has good year in the G-League it wouldn’t be surprising to see Milton behind Ben Simmons on the depth chart in a few years to back up size with shooting and size.

PPG: 2.1   RPG: 1.3   APG: 1.7   SPG: 0.8   BPG: 0.2

NBA Comparison: Isaiah Whitehead

 

 

53. Devon Hall – Oklahoma City Thunder

Hall on offense at Virginia.

Photo Credit/streakingthelawn.com

 

Out of Virginia, 23-year old Hall is in an interesting situation to start out his career. With OKC starting 2 Andre Roberson going down for the year last season, his recovery and shooting struggles could open up playing time at the position. The versatile 6’6″ rookie Hall will likely compete with Terrance Ferguson for minutes at shooting guard and should win out as he’s currently more developed defensively and as a shooter. If things fall his way, Hall could see several opportunities in his rookie year with the Thunder.

PPG: 5.1   RPG: 2.3   APG: 1.6   SPG: 1.0   BPG: 0.5

NBA Comparison: Josh Hart

 

 

52. Vince Edwards – Houston Rockets

Edwards driving to the rim in college.

Photo Credit/purduesports.com

 

Acquired by the Rockets from Utah on draft night, Purdue product Edwards may see a bigger role this year than previously expected. After Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute moved on to different teams in free agency, Houston is looking grim on the wing, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Edwards is 6’8″ with a wingspan upwards of 7’0″ who can guard multiple positions. With the addition of Carmelo Anthony, the Rockets will need some defensive relief from Melo and could bring in Edwards for Anthony to provide for that. If Melo isn’t shooting well to start the season, don’t be surprised to see Vince Edwards take over the minutes for Anthony, barring a James Johnson trade.

PPG: 4.1   RPG: 2.2   APG: 0.9   SPG: 0.8   BPG: 0.5

NBA Comparison: Trevor Ariza

 

 

51. Tony Carr – New Orleans Pelicans

Carr dribbling up the court for Penn State.

Photo Credit/yardbarker.com

 

After New Orleans took Penn State guard Tony Carr with the 51st pick, the raw 20-year old has signed a contract to play overseas in Italy to begin his career. He won’t be playing for the Pelicans this season.

PPG: N/A   RPG: N/A    APG: N/A   SPG: N/A   BPG: N/A

NBA Comparison: Jordan Crawford

 

 

50. Alize Johnson – Indiana Pacers

Johnson in NBA Summer League for the Pacers.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

The Pacers take Missouri State forward Alize Johnson with the 50th pick in the draft. Jimmy Butler look-alike-Johnson is a big energy guy with potential to be versatile and tough on defense which is perfect for Indiana right now. With a scorer in a Oladipo and rim protector in Myles Turner, the team needed a strong, defense wing to complement the two. Johnson could be a steal for the Pacers and possible replacement for the aging Thaddeus Young.

PPG: 4.3   RPG: 4.0   APG: 0.6   SPG: 0.9   BPG: 0.8

NBA Comparison: JaMychal Green

 

 

49. Chimezie Metu – San Antonio Spurs

Metu after a play.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

Out of Los Angeles, Metu has explosive athleticism for a big man which San Antonio is lacking greatly. At 6’10”, Metu could develop into a solid defender with a good, energetic inside game. He’ll begin his career behind Aldridge and Bertans for the Spurs. He’ll contrast the older, less athletic big men on the roster well.

PPG: 3.3   RPG: 2.7   APG: 0.6   SPG: 0.4   BPG: 1.1

NBA Comparison: Noah Vonleh

 

48. Keita Bates-Diop – Minnesota Timberwolves

Bates-Diop for Ohio State.

Photo Credit/landof10.com

 

After entering the draft post-huge year at Ohio State, Bates-Diop had a monster Summer League, starring for the Wolves. The 22-year old could be the backup small forward for Minnesota this year. As Andrew Wiggins continues to struggle shooting the ball, it’ll be interesting to see what the Timberwolves can do with Bates-Diop’s defensive potential and 7’3″ wingspan.

PPG: 7.1   RPG: 3.4   APG: 1.2   SPG: 0.7   BPG: 0.9

NBA Comparison: Trevor Ariza

 

 

47. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk – Los Angeles Lakers

Mykhailiuk during NBA Summer League.

Photo Credit/silverscreenandroll.com

 

Mykhailiuk had a great summer league with the Lakers after being taken 47th out of Kansas. The 21-year old Ukrainian can play the 2 or 3 and could challenge KCP and Josh Hart for minutes. Mykhailiuk will surely get an opportunity as the beginning of the season will be a feeling out period for LeBron and the Lakers.

PPG: 3.7   RPG: 1.3   APG: 0.9   SPG: 0.4   BPG: 0.3

NBA Comparison: Tony Snell

 

 

46. De’Anthony Melton – Houston Rockets

Melton shooting a layup for USC.

Photo Credit/247sports.com

 

Melton is a raw point guard out of USC at 20 years old. With Houston currently chasing Golden State in the West, it’s likely we won’t see too much of Melton to start out his career as he’ll be behind Chris Paul on the depth chart, however the young guard has loads of potential and is a rare young piece on the Rockets roster.

PPG: 2.4   RPG: 1.1   APG: 1.6   SPG: 0.7   BPG: 0.2

NBA Comparison: Tyus Jones

 

 

 

Click Here: The Raptors Need To Blow it Up

NBA Draft Scouting Profile: DeAndre Ayton

DeAndre Ayton may just be the first pick in this year’s NBA draft and with so many young teams aching for talent at center, what would the Arizona big man bring to the table in the pros?

 

 

DeAndre Ayton

Ayton during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/espn.com

 

Height: 7’1″

Weight: 260 ibs.

Wingspan: 7’6″

Position: Center

College: Arizona

Class: Freshman

Hometown: Nassau, Bahamas

 

 

Analysis:

Ayton screaming after a play.

Photo Credit/ncaa.com

 

After just one season at Arizona, Ayton has shown he’s clearly the top player in this year’s draft. He’s massive at well over 7 feet tall and won’t have to worry about building strength early on as his body’s ready to take on bigs in the NBA. As far as shooting is concerned, Ayton already has a solid turn around jumper and can even knock down a three on occasion, shooting it in the mid thirties on the year. With his size and strength down low, it’s unlikely teams would utilize him on the perimeter very much, but knowing he can hit a long range shot will affect defenses and space the floor. Ayton’s defense, however, was poor throughout the year and he showed a general lack of effort on that side of the ball. It’ll be even tougher for him to keep up with skilled bigs and slashing guards once he gets to the league. He was able to put up around 2 blocks a game for the Wildcats this year but with his height and length, that should be expected. Where the Bahaman big man could also improve is his skill down low. Though he was able to get around Pac-12 centers easily this season, he’ll run into lockdown defenders in the NBA. Ayton utilized his spin move and turn around well this year but he’ll need to be quicker to transform Into a top professional center.

 

 

NBA Comparison:

Robinson during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/poundingtherock.com

 

With his size and potential it’s possible Ayton becomes one of the best to ever play, but who can we compare him to to measure how he’ll fair in the league? With his athleticism, it’s easy to see a little of young Dwight Howard in him, but for a more recent pick I would go with Karl-Anthony Towns. Ayton’s height, shooting ability, and offensive awareness make him comparable to Towns who’s already established himself as one of the best big men in the NBA. While Ayton would have to work on moving his jumper a little farther out and becoming smoother in one-on-one situations inside, he can certainly be a better defender than Towns early on due to his strength. After averaging a double-double in a power-5 conference and showing clear signs of All-Star potential it’s hard to imagine Ayton’s floor being any lower than a Rockets version of Dwight, but there’s a chance he could even be as great as a legend like David Robinson. He’s much less aware on defense as Robinson was but they match up perfectly size and strength wise and with Ayton’s athletic ability he has a chance to get to that level.

 

 

Best Team Fit:

Booker dribbling up court.

Photo Credit/valleyofthesuns.com

 

If things go right for Phoenix in the lottery they’d be crazy to not take Ayton with the first pick and keep him in Arizona. There’s been recent talk of Ayton’s desire to be in Phoenix with Devin Booker and possibly create a similar version of the early 2000’s partnership of Shaq and Kobe. The offensive firepower of both these two young stars would be unstoppable for future teams and with Tyson Chandler still a member of the Suns frontcourt, Phoenix would have a perfect defensive mentor for Ayton. The Suns are the team for him.

 

 

 

First Round Rookie Grades Here:

 

Digging Deeper with Daniel: 7/31-8/6 The Dog Days

Football is Back…..sort of

NFL football is back with the preseason kicking off at the Hall of Fame game between the Cardinals and the Cowboys on Thursday. The Cowboys won, but this is preseason so it doesn’t truly matter. The important thing is that football is back and we can all stop playing Madden to get our football fix.

Football is back, and so is the hype on C-Mac

A lot of hype has been swirling around Christian McCaffery in training camp. Certain mainstream media sources have even been comparing him to Zeke in terms of his rookie production. This is an absurd statement because they are vastly different players, but I believe that McCaffery could surpass Zeke’s 1600 yards across rushing, receiving, and passing (yes passing). McCaffery looks to have bulked up enough to take the NFL punishment without affecting his play. The eighth overall pick has been making highlight after highlight against the league’s best linebacking core, but has also been playing very well outside of the highlight jukes. This may be early, but McCaffery looks phenomenal in training camp and the Panthers have been using him in every way imaginable, including the wildcat with Cam Newton out wide (hence the passing). McCaffery looks to have the quality and situation to have a big rookie season.

*Fantasy Note: McCaffery could be a steal in any fantasy league, especially in PPR leagues.

NFL Training Camp injuries

Injuries are plaguing NFL teams in training camp with players such as Forrest Lamp for the Chargers and Ryan Tannehill for the Dolphins going down for the season from practice injuries. Watch out for your favorite players in practice.

NBA Trade Rumors

Rumors continue to swirl around a Kyrie Irving trade, including the Suns and the Pistons. For more on these rumors, see other NBA articles on this website.

Image Credit to nflspinzone.com

32 Teams in 32 Days: Arizona Cardinals

32 Teams in 32 Days: Arizona Cardinals

 

Getting Back to 2015

When evaluating the Cardinals, it is easy to forget this team went 13-3 in 2015, winning a playoff game and displaying one of the most dynamic offenses we’ve seen in recent years. Last season, they could not duplicate the offense and were inconsistent on defense, resulting in a 7-8-1 record. There is still Pro-Bowl talent almost everywhere on the field in Arizona and beret-wearing head coach Bruce Arians has had success in the league so a turnaround is very possible. Hopefully Arians will be able to coach the full season after having surgery for kidney cancer in the offseason.

The biggest key to the Cardinals’ season will be the health and production of QB Carson Palmer. The quarterback whisperer Arians will have to bring out the 2015 Palmer to make a serious run into the postseason. The offensive line also must limit the hits on Palmer and give him more time to throw. This will allow Palmer to utilize the vertical passing game that he was so successful with in 2015. Losing Calais Campbell to free agency doesn’t help, but the defense should still be top 10 in the league. They will need to find that aggressiveness and play with a chip on their shoulder like their 2015 defense did. This is a playoff team on paper but they’ll need to put it all together again to return to the postseason.

 

The Offense

QB- As I explained previously, Carson Palmer when healthy and given time in the pocket can pick defenses apart. The offensive line needs to play well in pass protection to keep him on the field. If Drew Stanton or Blaine Gabbert has to come in, they don’t have any chance of a playoff push. When healthy, I think Palmer at 37 years old is still a top 12 -15 quarterback.

RB- David Johnson has solidified himself as not only the Cardinals’ featured running back, but a top three back in the NFL. He can hurt you on the ground and after the catch with power and speed. The team also re-signed Chris Johnson as the backup when DJ needs a rest.

Receivers- Larry Fitzgerald is beating father time, producing 1000 yard seasons year in year out. He will be 34 by the start of the season and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Behind Fitz are a slew of downfield receivers in John Brown, J.J. Nelson, and Jaron Brown. Tight Ends Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas are both decent receiving options in the short passing game and redzone.

 

The Defense  

Defensive Line- Arizona’s biggest subtraction this offseason was Defensive End Calais Campbell who signed with Jacksonville. Robert Nkemdiche will look to prove he can be an every down player in place of Campbell in the 3-4 defensive scheme. Opposite from him will be Frostee Rucker who didn’t record a sack last season. He will need to be disruptive along with Nkemdiche and Nose Tackle Corey Peters.

Linebackers- The Cardinals have a pair of elite pass-rushers in Chandler Jones and Markus Golden who both eclipsed 11.0 sacks last season. This tandem disrupted the quarterback arguably more than any other tandem in the NFL a year ago. First-round rookie Haason Reddick looks to step in at an inside linebacker spot next season and veteran Deone Bucannon rounds out the group.

Secondary- Patrick Peterson is considered a top 3-5 corner in the league and can easily shut down most teams’ best wideout. On the other side is Justin Bethel who will be tested constantly when teams target him over Peterson. At safety, Antoine Bethea should be the starter at strong safety and 2nd round pick Budda Baker, who I am extremely high on will likely be a backup. Perhaps the best news the Cardinals will get is the return of Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu. He should be back to 2015 form this season and ready to create turnovers.

 

 

Team Schedule and Season Outlook

Best Case Scenario: 13-3 

Carson Palmer locks in like he did two seasons ago and picks apart defenses along with the defense forcing turnovers at a high rate. If one unit doesn’t have it, the other will pick it up and grind out a win. Arizona eases through the division and doesn’t look back.

Worst Case Scenario: 6-10

Even though this is one of the most complete teams in football, the spectrum is still very wide. Palmer could play ineffectively any year with his age and the defense could miss Calais Campbell’s production and leadership. If this happens, there could potentially be problems for the Cardinals.  

My Predictions

Week 1: @ Detroit 

Result: (1-0)

Week 2: @ Indianapolis 

Result: (2-0)

Week 3: vs Dallas 

Result: (2-1)

Week 4: vs San Fransisco 

Result: (3-1)

Week 5: @ Philadelphia 

Result: (3-2)

Week 6: vs Tampa Bay 

Result:(3-3)

Week 7: @ Los Angeles Rams 

Result: (3-4)

Week 8: BYE 

Week 9: @ San Fransisco 

Result: (4-4)

Week 10: vs Seattle 

Result: (5-4)

Week 11: @ Houston 

Result: (6-4)

Week 12: vs Jacksonville 

Result: (7-4)

Week 13: vs Los Angeles Rams 

Result: (8-4)

Week 14: vs Tennessee  

Result: (8-5)

Week 15: @ Washington 

Result: (9-5)

Week 16: vs New York Giants 

Result: (9-6)

Week 17: @ Seattle 

Result: (9-7)

The NFC West doesn’t look as talented as it did a few years ago. Although, all four teams are physical and battle in the trenches. Division games are sometimes toss ups which is why I have the Cardinals losing a couple. I have them also losing to what I think are also complete teams that can match up well with them. A five game win-streak after the bye get the Cardinals back into contention. Although, they lose three of the last four including Week 17 for the division crown to finish 9-7. I believe they narrowly miss the playoffs with the Cowboys and Bucs as Wild Cards. 

 

 

 

 

   

   

 

  

Living Legend Continues: Larry Fitzgerald

Living Legend Continues: Larry Fitzgerald

Father Time does not have Larry Fitzgerald’s address

Arizona Cardinal WR Larry Fitzgerald has remained a constant as one of the most productive receivers in the NFL for the past 13 seasons. In 8 of those seasons, Fitzgerald went over 1,000 yards. In 2006 he was 54 yards shy of the thousand mark. In 2013, just 46 yards shy. After two consecutive 1,000 yard years, it’s safe to say that Fitzgerald isn’t slowing down.

Fitzgerald1

Photo Credit/ AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

His production hasn’t suddenly declined. On Sundays, Larry is still lining up, catching balls, making plays, and scoring points. The fire and desire for the game is still there. Throughout his illustrious career, Fitzgerald has managed to record multiple 1,000 yard campaigns with multiple QBs at the helm. And he’s done so quietly.

That is what makes him one of the greats.

Under 1,000

In his rookie year, he had QB Josh McCown throwing him the ball. QBs Shaun King and John Navarre also threw the ball a few times that season. King is memorable (mostly for his time with the Bucs). Not many can cite big games produced by Navarre. Fitzgerald finished the season with 780 yards/ 8 touchdowns.

The 2006 season had rookie QB Matt Leinart and QB Kurt Warner leading the Bird Gang. Leinart would start after Warner struggled. Fitzgerald would get close to a thousand this season – finishing with 946 yards/6 touchdowns.

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Photo Credit/Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

Fitzgerald would go 5 consecutive seasons as a premiere player in the Cardinals offense. He had one trip to the Super Bowl. The NFL was put on notice that no matter who was throwing the football in Arizona, number 11 was going to do work.

In 2012, Larry put up 798 yards/4 touchdowns. QBs Brian Hoyer, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley, and John Skelton in a rotation that did not benefit Fitzgerald. Arizona struggled to build on chemistry between QB-WR, and despite a 4-0 start, this season would be a disappointment.

The following season, the Cardinals were led by new Head Coach Bruce Arians. Fitzgerald’s numbers improved from a year prior. Veteran QB Carson Palmer provided stability to the position, and Larry was within striking distance of a thousand yards. He would total a 954 yard/10 touchdown year. A week 17 loss ended playoff hopes despite finishing the season 10-6.

The 2014 season Cardinals were one of the hottest teams in the league. Fitzgerald did not have monstrous numbers – but the team was winning, and it didn’t matter. Larry played his part and was unselfish – a classic attribute he’s displayed every season. He had 784 yards/2 touchdowns. The Cardinals were in the playoffs – and Fitzgerald was looking to help his team finish the NFL season hosting the Season Finale in the desert. Palmer went down in November. QBs Drew Stanton and Lindley wouldn’t be enough to keep the team functioning at a high level. They were eliminated in the first round. Fitzgerald’s drop in productivity had some wondering if they’d witnessed the last of Larry.

How did he respond? In classic Fitzgerald fashion. He remained professional. He was honest with the uncertainty of his NFL Career. Ultimately, he would decide he’s not going out like that and would make another run at a championship. He racked up back-to-back seasons of 1,000 over the next two years.

Class Personified

Fitzgerald was one of my favorite players during his college years in Pittsburgh. Tennessee had no chance in drafting him in 2004 as they didn’t have a 1st round pick. I would have traded every single pick they had that year to acquire Larry Fitzgerald – none of the picks they chose came close to matching the productivity of Larry the Legend.

fitt

Photo Credit/Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America

I still followed Fitzgerald as a fan and on Sundays found myself pulling for the Cardinals a lot, only because of number 11. I felt the electricity when Fitzgerald took it to the house in the Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Every eye that watched that moment could feel just how bad Larry wanted that ring. He deserved it. He came so close. Santonio Holmes’ heartbreaking toe-tap at the end of the game was not only crushing to Cardinals’ fans – but to supporters of Fitzgerald.

A personal aspect to Larry Fitzgerald’s character is observed by all he does working with charities off the field. His work in raising cancer awareness has been amazing. Anyone who knows anything about Fitzgerald knows about the loss of his mother to cancer. When my grandfather passed in 2012, I reached out to Fitzgerald via Twitter. He response was genuine and helped lift my spirits. I wanted to screenshot the Tweet from October 2012 that helped me get through a rough time, but couldn’t go back that far. But I know it happened. And if Larry ever reads this, just know that you made a bigger difference than you know.

My son is 4 – and he’s rocking the number 11 in both soccer and t-ball. He’ll probably carry this number heading into football. This season, the Titans travel to Arizona in December. My family is planning on making the trip to Arizona to watch not only the Titans – but to watch Larry do his thing on the field. I’ll enjoy seeing him score – albeit against my team – just to say I witnessed a Fitzgerald touchdown live. If he scores, I’ll watch him – in classic Fitzgerald-fashion – toss the ball to the ref because he’s been there before.

The Legend Continues

Fitzgerald is going to catch footballs in 2017. It doesn’t matter who the other receivers are on the roster – if you throw it to number 11, he’s going to come down with the ball often. He’ll head into this season looking to three-peat a thousand yards, compete for the division crown, and hope to make a playoff run coming out of the winnable NFC West.

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Photo Credit/ Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

A playoff appearance won’t influence whether Fitzgerald comes back next season. He will. He will know if his body can withstand another season. He will know if he is still capable of producing on the field. Fitzgerald will know when he’s played his last down. It doesn’t appear to be anytime soon.

Fitzgerald’s 10 Pro Bowls (two in the past two season), 14,389 yards, 104 touchdowns, and the fact that he’s played in 202 out of 208 regular season games means he doesn’t need anyone’s approval.

And for that, I’m excited to see how many more seasons Fitz has left flying with the Bird Gang.


Follow Me on Twitter @bmo54bmo54

Stats referenced at nfl.com and pro-football-reference.com