What is the Cardinals’ biggest concern?
A few months ago, the answer to this question was obviously everything on the offensive side of the football. The Cardinals had no legitimate starting quarterback, an unsuccessful running game, a failing offensive line, and no money to fix those things due to a few burdensome contracts.
However, a new front office and staff headed by new GM Steve Keim made decisions that fostered optimism, at least for the long-term outlook. They brought in a new head coach, acquired veterans whose careers were in need of a revival, drafted a very promising offensive guard among other good picks, and dumped several problematic contracts. The team also addressed a need for depth at key defensive positions, and did it all without drastically overpaying any of the new additions. There’s no doubt that the Cardinals have made several smart decisions this offseason.
So now, let’s revisit the question: What is the Cardinals biggest concern?
There are several ways this question could be answered. While the team should certainly be better than it was last year, they are by no means perfect. The Cardinals split up with the safety tandem of Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson, leaving a glaring need at those spots. Yeremiah Bell and Rashad Johnson are both capable replacements, but Rhodes and Wilson were important parts in the Cardinals defense. The offensive line should be at least functional now, with the return if Levi Brown and the addition of Jonathan Cooper, but it can be argued that the Cardinals did not overhaul the line enough.
Finally, there’s the uncertainty surrounding Daryl Washington, who is one of the Cardinals best players. He is already going to have to serve a four-game suspension, and he is also being charged with aggravated assault. He could be unavailable for some time, and the loss of a player if his caliber could be an issue.
These are all troubles that may hold the team back, but the biggest thing that will hurt the Cardinals success can be summed up in one word: circumstances.
There are two parts to this. First is the schedule. The Cardinals play in arguably the toughest division in the NFL. They have to play against the Seahawks, Rams, and 49ers a total of six times, and every time they will need to play their best to win. The Cardinals will also have to face the AFC South, meaning they will have to play playoff teams like the Colts and Texans. The Falcons are also in the schedule. While no game in the NFL is a sure thing, the Cardinals will be facing many elite or improving teams in the upcoming season, which will make winning more difficult.
Added to that is the unfamiliarity. The Cardinals have a new head coach, a new defensive coordinator, an almost entirely new offensive staff, and a new starting quarterback. The absence of leaders like Adrian Wilson or former DC Ray Horton further broke down team chemistry. That can certainly be rebuilt with this new group, but it will take time. The tough schedule coupled with the lack of chemistry is simply the reality of the situation the team is in. This isn’t really a failure of the team, it is just a part of the rebuilding(or retooling as Bruce Arians prefers to call it) process.
The Cardinals have had a rough time the past three seasons, and are definitely looking to reach the level of the elite teams in the NFL. They aren’t there yet, but they have certainly taken smart steps towards that goal. It is hard to imagine them failing to improve their record by at least a couple of wins. That said, the Cardinals will also have a rough moments in 2013 due to the nature of their situation.