The offensive line for the Cardinals was a sore spot, to put it mildly.
That soreness was often felt by Arizona’s quarterbacks who were sacked a total 58 times last season. The Cardinals finished last in rushing offense, averaging 75 yards per game.
Injuries played a big role in that poor performance. Offensive tackle Levi Brown was lost for the season with a torn triceps muscle in the preseason finale against the Denver Broncos. Center Lyle Sendlein saw his season end prematurely with a torn knee ligament in Week 12. Add in a weak first half of the season by tackle Bobby Massie and it made for a long season on the line.
With first-round pick Jonathan Cooper joining the line at a guard position, there is hope that Arizona can perform better in this key area. They need to be able to give quarterback Carson Palmer time to throw. The line also needs to open up lanes for the running backs.
The offensive line has to be better in 2013. It would be hard to be much worse than 2012.
Continuing with our positional previews for the Arizona Cardinals before they take the field in training camp, we now move to the tight ends. For many years, this position has been an afterthought. However, they will be a focal point this season because Bruce Arians loves to run two-tight end sets because of the flexibility it gives and because it does not make it as obvious the type of play that the offense will be running.
The requirements? Tight ends that can play in-line, out wide and in the backfield. Typically one is more of the receiving type and one is more proficient at blocking. Ideally, one could be good at both.
Here is what the roster look like:
Kyle Auffray, undrafted rookie 2013
Jim Dray, 2010 seventh round draft pick
Alex Gottlieb, free agent signee 2013
Rob Housler, 2011 third round draft pick
D.C. Jefferson, 2013 seventh round draft pick
Jeff King, 2011 free agent signee, signed through 2013
Kory Sperry, 2012 late season pickup, signed through 2013
Offense: Top running backs
Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams have combined for one ruptured patella tendon (Williams), one torn ACL (Mendenhall) and one shoulder surgery (Williams) during the past two seasons. Williams has played five games in two seasons. Mendenhall missed 10 games last season (one to suspension) after returning from his knee injury. So while new quarterback Carson Palmer rightly commands much of the attention heading into camp, the running backs deserve our attention as well.
Defense: Coaching change
The coaching change from Ken Whisenhunt to Bruce Arians cost the Cardinals their defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, just as the defense was gaining momentum. Arizona ranked third behind Chicago and Denver in defensive EPA last season. New coordinator Todd Bowles comes to Arizona after a difficult 2012 season with Philadelphia. Can the Cardinals sustain their recent defensive success under new leadership?
Wild card: Kitchens’ health
Quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens underwent emergency heart surgery in early June after experiencing chest pain during practice. Last we heard, Kitchens was recuperating and expected to return sometime during camp, perhaps on a limited basis at first. Kitchens’ health is a leading issue for the Cardinals even though the team has enough depth on its coaching staff to cover for him.