The Cardinals enter the summer of 2013 trying to find a way to become relevant now that the NFC West appears to have quickly reversed it’s fortunes from three years ago as clearly the league’s weakest division to among the league’s best. They have a new head coach and quarterback which certainly is a good starting point.
Head coach Bruce Arians takes over for Ken Whisenhunt, after a year in which he earned NFL Coach of the Year honors as essentially a “backup,” replacing Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis as the interim head coach after he was diagnosed with cancer. The Colts had great success under Arians, and he hopes to mirror that in Arizona.
Whisenhunt was fired basically because the Cardinals quarterback situation became a giant quagmire since Kurt Warner opted to retire after the 2009 season. They now hope the veteran Carson Palmer can establish some stability at the position after cycling through bums over the past three seasons.
Palmer should work in Arians’ vertical pass attack. The very same worked well for both Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. Palmer doesn’t have quite the arm he once did, but he’s a quarterback that is not afraid to pull the trigger down the field, an essential trait to work in Arians’ offense. And unlike in Oakland, he’ll have at least one major upgrade at wide receiver.
Larry Fitzgerald has struggled to produce over the past three years mainly because the quarterbacks have struggled to get him the ball. But he’s still one of the elite receivers in the league, and Palmer isn’t going to hesitate to get him targets in 2013. How quickly they can build a rapport will be a key point of their summer and shouldn’t be a major obstacle. Fitzgerald is also expected to get reps in the slot as it worked wonders for Reggie Wayne last season, and should have a similar impact for Fitzgerald.
Lining up across from Fitzgerald will be Michael Floyd, who had a disappointing rookie season a year ago. He too is a player that if he can get on the same page with Palmer quickly, it should give Arizona two solid weapons at the position and the means to attack defenses in 2013 like they haven’t been able to since Warner’s days.
But the big key if the Cardinals offense wants to take that next step is going to be what happens up front. One of the deficiencies of Arians’ offense is the fact that it has a tendency to give up a bunch of sacks due to the deeper drops of the quarterback trying to make throws down the field. That initially doesn’t bode well for the Cardinals because they had the league’s worst offensive line in 2012. The hope is that the healthy return of Levi Brown and the selection of Jonathan Cooper at the top of the draft will provide the necessary boost.