The Arizona Cardinals begin a rebuild of their franchise with a new quarterback and head coach in place for the 2018 campaign.
The Cardinals reached the end of the road with Bruce Arians, who opted to retire at the end of the 2017 season along with quarterback Carson Palmer.
Both men had been instrumental in the resurgence of Arizona after a difficult period under Ken Whisenhunt and an array of poor quarterbacks.
The high point was reaching the 2015 NFC Championship Game where they were beaten by the Carolina Panthers. They were unable to climb to the NFC summit once again, petering out last term.
Arizona hired Steve Wilks from the Panthers to replace Arians, while the club signed Sam Bradford on a short-term deal along with selecting Josh Rosen in the first round of the 2018 Draft.
There’s time for Rosen to sit behind Bradford, although considering the injury history of the veteran, the rookie’s time may come sooner rather than later.
Wilks inherits a defense with quality, including standout players such as Chandler Jones and Patrick Peterson, although Tyrann Mathieu’s time with the team came to an end.
There’s talent on the team, but Wilks faces a massive challenge to keep his team competitive with the elite sides in the NFC Conference.
If the Cardinals get solid production from the quarterback positions there’s hope that they could contend for the NFC West crown. It was the issue last season due to Palmer’s injury problems, while All-Pro running back David Johnson also missed the majority of the term. Bradford has had a lot of issues staying on the field, which could bring the Rosen era forward.
Rosen was tipped to be the first quarterback taken off the board, although he ultimately fell behind Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. The Cardinals would have been delighted to see the quarterback fall to them at number 10 in the first round of the draft. He was touted as being the most prepared for life in the NFL as a result of playing in a pro-style offense at the UCLA Bruins. With Bradford, at least at first, he will have time to learn under a savvy veteran before being exposed to the rigours of the league.
Johnson’s form will be vital. The Cardinals were lost without his services last season as he suffered a wrist injury in the first game of the 2017 campaign. At his best, the 26-year-old is the best running back in the NFL. He’s electric running between the tackles and catching passes out of the backfield. Johnson amassed over 2,000 total yards and 20 touchdowns in the 2016 season. Mike McCoy is the man charged with getting that level out of Johnson once again. Chase Edmonds selection in the 2018 Draft will ease the burden on Johnson, but he has to bear the brunt of the workload.
The Cardinals are squeezing every last ounce out of the career of Larry Fitzgerald. He remains a crafty operator in the slot, although he has lost his express pace. Christian Kirk’s arrival offers a prospect for the future after he was selected in the second round of the draft. Along with Brice Butler, Jermaine Gresham and Ricky Seals-Jones, there’s enough talent for the Cardinals to put up points.
The defense begin with Jones on the defensive line. He was unstoppable last season, notching a career-high 17 sacks. Arizona acquired Jones from the New England Patriots and he has not disappointing in his role, thriving without the responsibility of multiple duties. He played outside linebacker in a 3-4 system under Todd Betcher, but under new defensive coordinator Al Holcomb expect him to drop back into defensive end. Jones was forced to play last season without his partner in crime Markus Golden on the opposite flank. Golden had 12.5 sacks in the 2016 season, but injuries limited him to just four matches last term. Getting those two players working in tandem will be vital for Holcomb given the deficiencies elsewhere on the defense.
Haason Reddick has to make significant progress in his development from his rookie season. The Cardinals selected the linebacker in the first round of the 2017 Draft. He was solid in a limited role, although more will be asked for the 24-year-old this time around. Reddick has to become a leader in the middle of the field and be ready to play all three downs. Josh Bynes struggled at times last term, therefore Reddick needs to use his athleticism to take control of the defense. Deone Bucannon’s role will have to expand next term as a result of Mathieu’s move to the Houston Texans, although he is currently dealing with an injury problem.
The secondary revolves around Peterson. He is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL. Peterson has the ability to lock down one side of the field, although the Cardinals have had huge issues protecting the other flank. The arrival of Jamar Taylor could make a difference, but there will be concerns over the safety and cornerback positions heading into the season.
The Cardinals were 8-8 last season, but since then the San Francisco 49ers have made a dramatic improvement, while the Los Angeles Rams are heading on an upward trajectory. As a result, the NFC West crown looks to beyond them this term, although stranger things have happened.
Therefore they could be worth a value only punt at odds of +2400 with TopBet to win the division, although that’s as good as it will get for them in a deep NFC Conference. Arizona will be floating in and around the range of the six-win mark therefore take the odds of +100 with 888Sport for them to triumph under six matches, and not to reach the playoffs at -1200 .
Jones was in the running to win the defensive player of the year award last season. He remains in the prime of his career and a similar campaign could see him secure the prize at odds of +3000 with Bookmaker. Should Rosen break into the team he could have a real chance at winning offensive rookie of the year award. He has solid weapons and should have a seamless transition into the pro game given his college experience. Back him to win the award at odds of +812 .
Johnson’s return will be massive for the Cardinals. He recorded 1,200 rushing yards in 2016 so he should be in line for a similar season now that he is fully healthy. Take him to record over 950 yards at -115 and over nine touchdowns at -125 with BetOnline.
Arizona Cardinals To Win NFC West
Arizona Cardinals To Win Under Six Matches
Chandler Jones To Win Defensive Player Of The Year
Josh Rosen To Win Offensive Rookie Of The Year
David Johnson To Rush For Over 950 Yards
David Johnson To Score Over Nine Touchdowns