The 2016 Cardinals had a below average offense, a strong defense, and a bad special teams unit. Put it all together and Arizona finished with a 7-8-1 record just one year after going to the NFC Championship Game.
Like the Eagles last year, the Cardinals may have been a little better than their record indicates. Arizona finished with the seventh best point differential in the NFL (+56), which is the highest total of any team that didn’t make the playoffs.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Cardinals be a formidable team in 2017. They still have a number of talented players on their roster. Running back David Johnson is one of the best offensive weapons in the league right now due to his ability to contribute as both a runner and receiver. Arizona’s defense is still strong and features the likes of Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Chandler Jones, Deone Buccannon, etc. Though I don’t like to admit it because he’s annoying, Bruce Arians is a good coach who gives his team a chance to win more often than not.
With all that said, Carson Palmer is a big x-factor for this team. He regressed in 2016 after having an MVP-worthy season two years ago. Palmer turns 38 this season so he’s reaching the end of his career. He reportedly gave thought to retiring this offseason before ultimately deciding to come back.
This game has the potential to be tough for the Eagles. The Cardinals should be beatable away from their home stadium, though, especially if Palmer isn’t playing up to snuff.
Here’s a more in-depth look at the Cardinals from our SB Nation associates over at Revenge Of The Birds.
Notable free agent additions:
Antoine Bethea, Jarvis Jones, Karlos Dansby,
Notable free agent departures:
Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson, D.J. Swearinger, Marcus Cooper, Kevin Minter
Traded 2nd and 4th picks in 2017 NFL Draft for Budda Baker. Traded 3rd round pick in 2017 NFL Draft for late 3rd (Chad Williams) and 4th (Dorian Johnson) round pick in 2017 NFL Draft.
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:
Haason Reddick, LB, Round 1 - Drafted 13th overall, Reddick has been thrust into the starting lineup with the offseason surgery for Deone Bucannon. Even before the injuries, Reddick was expected to be a key contributor on third downs as a pass rusher or blitzing from the linebacker position.
Budda Baker, DB, Round 2 - Baker is going to be on the field all over the secondary. One of the things Arizona loves to do is to use versatile players in different ways, giving them a matchup advantage on defense. Baker will be another chess piece, similar to Tyrann Mathieu, that can be moved from a single high safety, to an in the box player, to lining up in the slot as a corner.
T.J. Logan, RB, Round 5 - Logan is expected to be the return man on kickoffs at minimum for the Arizona Cardinals, who were dreadful in this area last season. Logan is a dynamic player with an ability to make things happen in the return game for the Cardinals.
Chad Williams, WR, Round 3 - While Williams is not expected to contribute much in year one, the Cardinals wide receiver corps had to deal with a lot of injuries and ineffective play in 2016. If that carries over into 2017, Williams could be the beneficiary of an extended look in a passing game that needs his physicality.
Biggest offseason addition:
Reddick and Baker - While the Cardinals didn’t necessarily need either player, both young defenders add a dimension of athleticism to the defense that they lacked at times last year. They also provide young depth at positions that was lacking in 2016.
The real biggest addition for this team is health. They had a lot of injuries to key players that didn’t get talked about, Mike Iupati, A.Q. Shipley, Justin Bethel and Deone Bucannon all played through injuries in 2016. If they can get right, that will be a huge boost to the 2017 Cardinals.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp:
Carson Palmer and the offense. While there are more questions about the defense, Palmer and the offense will make this team a contender or a pretender. If they can find an early rhythm in the season and the offensive line can keep Palmer clean, they will buy enough time for the defense to figure it out. If the offense stumbles out of the gate again, they’ll likely be headed for another mediocre season as the defense will not be ready to win games that early.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp:
What’s the limit for David Johnson? He was spectacular in his sophomore season, but only a handful of players have been used like he was in 2016 and then produced again the following year. Is he inline with some notable Hall of Famers like Marshall Faulk and LaDanian Tomlinson, or will his star shine bright and burn out quickly?
Notable injuries heading into training camp:
Deone Bucannon - May miss beginning of season. A.Q. Shipley - Likely to be ready for start of season.