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The Short-Term and Long-Term Questions For The Arizona Cardinals
Knowing that the team is right in the midst of a transition phase, the Arizona Cardinals find themselves in a balancing act of trying to build a team that can compete for years to come, while finding players who can also compete in an increasingly difficult NFC West today.
Like everything else in football, it all started with the guy under center. Arizona said goodbye to quarterback Carson Palmer, who retired this offseason after a 15-year NFL career. With no replacement ready in the wings, the team went out and acquired two players that can at least serve as a “bridge” player to the future: veteran quarterback Sam Bradford, and journeyman backup Mike Glennon. Arizona was well aware that neither guy is the solution for the long-term, but at least provides an answer for who their quarterback is for the immediate future, considering they had no quarterbacks on their roster at one point this offseason.
Of course, to whom those quarterbacks throw the football is another question, both in the short-term and the long-term. The seemingly ageless Larry Fitzgerald is starting to see the light at the end of his professional football tunnel, and the team let wide receivers John Brown and Jaron Brown go in free agency. Opposite of Fitzgerald, the team has the largely unproven Chad Williams (a 3rd round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft), fourth-year player JJ Nelson, and Brice Butler (acquired from the Dallas Cowboys this offseason).
So, it looks like the job of keeping things close enough for the offense to score a few points and squeak out a few wins will fall on the collective shoulders of the defense of new head coach Steve Wilks, the former defensive backs coach for the Arizona Cardinals. It’s very likely that General Manager hired Wilks with an understanding that he’d have to build a defensive-minded team in the short term – similar to the one Wilks left in Carolina – while the offense retools itself.
Thankfully, the cupboard is a lot more full on the opposite side of the football, starting with a front seven that includes guys like pass rusher Chandler Jones (who led the NFL with 17 sacks last year), versatile “moneybacker” Deone Buchanon (who will transition to more of a traditional linebacker this year), and young stud talents like defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and linebacker Haason Reddick. This unit is fast, fierce, and formidable enough to dictate the nature of games by themselves.
There’s another stud that’ll be patrolling the deep part of the field behind that front seven, albeit alongside several question marks. Cornerback Patrick Peterson remains one of the very best in the game, but he lost running mate and good friend Tyrann Mathieu this offseason, as the Cardinals simply could not meet his contract demands. Thankfully, Arizona groomed defensive back Budda Baker (taken in the second round of last year’s draft) as something of a replacement for Mathieu, but the free safety spot, as well as the cornerback spot opposite Peterson (which has always seemed to be a trouble spot) still has quesiton marks.
There’s at least hope for the future in Arizona, now that the team selected quarterback Josh Rosen in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. But the team, as a whole, might find itself taking one step backwards for the foreseeable future, in order to take two steps forward.
Written by Rajan Nanavati