Here’s a quick pop quiz, how many teams are in the NFC West? Judging by all the attention being given to the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and St. Louis Rams, it’s understandable if you said three, but you’d be forgetting the Arizona Cardinals. It’s easy to forget the Cardinals; after all, they were one of the worst teams in the NFL last season, and they are in a division where they have almost no chance of competing in this year. But despite their bleak outlook for 2013, there are still a few reasons to pay attention to the Cardinals this season.
The first thing to pay attention to in Arizona is their new quarterback, Carson Palmer. After finishing 28th in the NFL in passing last season with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton under center, just about anybody would be an upgrade, but Palmer should offer the Cardinals significant improvement at the quarterback position, as he’s coming off a season in which he threw for over 4,000 yards on a team where he had little support. With a competent pass like Palmer, veteran Larry Fitzgerald should have a bounce back year in 2013, which should help Arizona’s passing game considerably. There is also a lot of optimism surrounding second year wide out Michael Floyd, as well as Arizona’s third wide receiver Andre Roberts, giving Arizona the potential to have a great aerial attack.
The Cardinals are also bringing in an interesting combination of veteran players and promising rookies. On the veteran front, defensive end John Abraham was a late free agent pick up and should give their pass rush an immediate upgrade. After waiting so long for a team to meet his contract demands and give him a job, Abraham has a lot to prove, which should keep him motivated all season. Arizona also signed veteran linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Karlos Dansby, as well as veteran safety Yeremiah Bell, all of whom have a chance to become starters and give the Cardinal’s defense a distinct veteran feel to it.
On the rookie front, second round pick Kevin Minter and fourth round pick Alex Okafor will be thrown into the mix of veteran linebackers the Cardinals have assembled, and both will have a chance to compete for significant playing time and possibly a starting job. Of course, the big name in Arizona among rookies is the Honey Badger himself, Tyrann Mathieu. The Cardinals took quite a risk in drafting Mathieu, but so far so good, as he’s made a good impression in training camp and he should have a chance to get on the field as a rookie, both on defense and special teams.
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Last but not least, there’s Arizona’s new head coach Bruce Arians, who should make the Cardinals far more interesting to watch than they were last year. Arians will change up the offense a bit, spreading the field with multiple wide receiver sets, and allowing Palmer to take chances down the field, which is something that should suit him. If nothing else, the offense under Arians will be more exciting to watch than the pathetic excuse for an offense the Cardinals put on the field last season.
Despite all the changes Arizona has made this offseason, there is no guarantee that it will lead to a better win total in 2013, especially in the NFL’s toughest division. However, from Palmer to Arians to Abraham to Mathieu, there are a lot of intriguing storylines in Arizona this season. While it’s easy to forget about the Cardinals and write them off as the doormat in a tough division, there’ll be plenty to pay attention to in Arizona in 2013, no matter how few games they may win.