May 14, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) runs drills during organized team activities at the Cardinals Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals: Can They Contend in 2013?

Some people believe that Arizona Cardinals are on the verge of contending with their new roster. Others believe that nothing will be better for the Cardinals.

New head coach Bruce Arians uses a simple playbook that’s user-friendly, and when I hear that I think of is Denzel Washington as Coach Boone in the movie Remember the Titans when he says “I run six plays, split veer. It’s like Novocain, just give it time, it always works.” We all know the rest of that story.

So, maybe it won’t work out like that. But it’s worth noting that Arians went 9-3 with the young Indianapolis Colts after taking over midseason.

New general manager Steve Keim and the front office traded for quarterback Carson Palmer, who can still play and put up good numbers (he was 16th in passer rating in 2012 and averaged 8.39 yards per pass attempt in 2011). If Rashard Mendenhall, another free agent pickup, and Ryan Williams can stay healthy they should make a good one-two punch with Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor settling in.

The Cardinals have depth at running back, and it’s realistic to expect one of the players to break out and carry the ground game. With all of them competing for a roster spot, it’s only going to bring out the best in all of them.

We all know about the receiving corps, so I won’t waste any time talking about that area besides the addition of Ryan Swope, who could end up being a more athletic Brandon Stokley. Stokley was rated the best slot receiver in the NFL (via Pro Football Focus, subscription required), so if Swope can perform that well, he will help the Cardinals. Swope will join a receiving corps consisting of Andre Roberts and Larry Fitzgerald, who, despite horrific quarterback play, combined for 135 receptions and nine touchdowns in 2012.

When it comes to tight end, I know Bruce Arians wants two that can catch and block, so I’m not sure who the staff is going to keep on board. If Swope can work his way into the regular receiver rotation, the Cardinals will likely use just one tight end.

As for the offensive line, the Cardinals could sign Max Starks, move Levi Brown to right guard and Daryn Colledge to right guard (unless some can steal his roster spot. Lyle Sendlein would start at center, and Jonathan Cooper would start at left guard. If they can stay healthy that should be a nice line to open holes and keep Carson Palmer clean and up right. Plus, even with an injury, Bobby Massie could step in.

Now for the defense. In the box is Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams, Calais Campbell, Sam Acho, Daryl Washington (not going to play the first month), Karlos Dansby, and O’Brien Schofield. As long as Washington doesn’t do any jail time, they should have good depth to keep everyone fresh. Arizona will likely run a 3-4 defense, which will allow Acho and Alex Okafor to start at outside linebacker and Dansby and Jasper Brinkley to start Week 1 at middle linebacker.

Alex Okafor is best as a 4-3 defensive end, but I expect defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to utilize his skillset by sending him on blitzes and not forcing him to play in pass coverage much. Acho is a better fit as a 4-3 defensive end, but he should be fine making the transition as well.

For the defensive backs, I’m sure Bruce Arians has a group of guys itching to prove their worth to secure playing time and make their mark on the NFL. Don’t be surprised if you see a no-name in the backfield at the beginning of the season, but also don’t be surprised if someone like Antoine Cason steps up and does a great job complementing Patrick Peterson.

With Patrick Peterson, who has returned four punts for 80 yards or more during his two-year career, special teams will be fine. It has always been good and can win games so there isn’t much Bruce Arians needs to do to make them great.

Now, can the Arizona Cardinals contend in 2013? I don’t see why not as long as they come together as a team and a “family.” The team has the talent, and things have been going well. As long as everyone does their job, there’s no reason not to believe in the Cardinals. Hey, the NFC West went from the worst division in the league to the strongest, so who’s to say Arizona can’t be good.

Just a few years ago, when Arizona was in the midst of its magical Super Bowl run, people said the Cardinals shouldn’t even be in the playoffs. Then, they went to the Super Bowl. This hints the saying, “Anything can happen on any given Sunday.” All the players have to do is believe.

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Tags: 2013 Nfl Offseason 2013 Season Arizona Cardinals Bruce Arians Carson Palmer Larry Fitzgerald

  • Bill Doerr

    Great Article!! Only thing I don’t agree with is the talk of Darren College competing if they sign Max Starks and Bobby Massie sitting out. Even though Levi Brown was drafted in 2007 as a top right tackle , and was drafted to protect leinart’s blindside being that he was a lefty and back then was projected to be a Future top NFL QB. We all know how that worked out. Bobby Massie did very well last year , after he settled in , He gave up Zero sacks in the 2nd half of the season after the Bye. He was rated by the NFL and PFF as a top 3 NFL OT. With him being so young, and the fact most players just keep on getting better, I don’t see Brown starting over massie at RT. Being Brown has slower feet, Massive upper body strength, and a Big Body size he would be perfect at RG. If we sign Starks he will play LT, Cooper LG, Sendlein C, Brown RG, Massie RT . That OL would be very good in Pass Protection and would be a monster run blocking line. If we don’t sign starks , we will still have a good OL. Brown is Above Average in pass protection , and a Monster n Run Blocking , having the best LG to come outta the draft in years next to him in J. Cooper will only help Brown and shore up the Left Side. College is a average OG and will be a adequate RG, having a Top RT like massie will help college. A QB like Palmer who is as good as any in reading Defense’s and making last second adjustments helps the OL tremendously . Palmer is the Kind of QB that makes a good OL look Elite, the fact he ranked 6th in the league in sacks per drop back proves it , He didn’t have a very good OL in Oakland, and historically doesn’t take a lot of sacks.

    Having a good QB like Carson Palmer who puts up Playoff Caliber QB stats every year he plays , Will definitely light this offense on fire. He has the best group of WRs he has ever had , and the best WRs in the NFC west. Now that the #2 WR coming into the 2012 draft, and AZs 2012 1st round Pick M. Floyd , and NFL future Hall of Famer and Arizona Cardinal Larry Fitzgerald have a real QB under center they should be set for a very Big Season. Palmer also has a Slot Receiver like Roberts , who is very explosive to throw to. Ryan Swope, Who ran a 4.34 40 at the combine, second fastest time tieing with Tavon Austin, but is not a Midget like Austin at 6ft tall will benefit greatly from Palmer and will definitely get his share of Snaps. This guy was Manziels and Tannehills favorite WR before tannehill went to the Dolphins. He set records in Receptions , Receptions yards and TDs at Texas A&M. BA loves using T.E’s , Rob Housler @ 6’5 250 pounds is a huge target with great hands , He needs to work on his Blocking , he is still a good blocker but better at Catching. You will definitely see him shine. The Cardinals are Stacked at RB and all 4 starters are very talented . The Cards shouldn’t have a problem running the ball. I definitely see this squad contending this year . I don’t know if they can win the west, but I definitely see them winning a WC. Once their in the post season who knows what happens , every year the team that is favored to win it all , Doesn’t.

    • Baily Deeter

      Agree. I think Massie will started as he dominated at the end of the 2012 season. All of the offensive holes were filled.

      • Bill Doerr

        It will be interesting to watch this year. Carson Palmer is a QB that historically doesn’t take a lot of sacks , he ranked 6th in the league in sacks per drop back last year behind a bad line Oakland because he reads defenses very well and gets the ball out Quick. With Brown- Cooper – Lyle – College – Massie , pretty good protection for palmer and the fact Palmer has one of the better WR units in the NFL , it will be very interesting to see how far he can take this offense, in a playbook that was made for a QB with the skill set of Palmer’s .

        • Baily Deeter

          Agree. It surprises me when I see how people think Palmer won’t hold up behind the line. I think it’s actually one of the better units in the NFL.