While the Cardinals are known to have some talent, they’re also fresh off a campaign in which they lost 11 of their last 12 games. Many will ultimately dismiss them as also-rans in what promises to be a highly competitive NFC West.
In August 2012, the Rams were coming off a 2-14 campaign, and expectations were low. But I got the firm sense that they were primed for a turnaround. They had a new coach in Jeff Fisher and an injection of fresh talent, and I was high on them. They went on to finish with a record of 7-8-1 — and an intra-divisional mark of 4-1-1, best in the NFC West.
The Cardinals are in a similar situation. I don’t think they’ll be able to stand above the San Francisco 49ers or Seattle Seahawks, but I definitely think they’ll be a factor and help determine who does emerge on top. Here are seven reasons why they can’t be ignored:
Gil Brandt, NFL.com
When Kevin Minter hits you, it can feel like a near-death experience. It’s not something you’d wish to relive again.
Ask Cardinals running back Alfonso Smith, who was the first teammate to endure a monstrous collision with Minter when training camp began.
“Yeah, when we first put on the pads I had to go up against him in the one-on-one drills in pass blocking and it was brutal, man,” Smith said of the rookie middle linebacker. “I mean, he brings it. He was pushing my neck back and coming at me and doing all kinds of things to me.
I had him, but he was doing everything he could to win. That’s the type of guy he is. I tell ya, he plays with some type of aggression.”
Minter’s explosive tackles earned him a reputation at an early age. In Pop Warner, he would deliver such crushing hits that other kids made sure they got out of the way.
Bob McManaman, azcentral.com.
With the 2013 NFL season rapidly approaching, we’re taking a spin around the league for a closer look at all 32 teams. Track all of our Snapshots here.
For much of the past decade, it would have been reasonable to look at the draft picks and shrewd personnel moves new general manager Steve Keim made this offseason and be bullish about the Cardinals’ chances of competing for an NFC West title. Not this year. In 2013, the NFC West is, by most accounts, the best division in football. Seattle and San Francisco are two of the league’s more promising Super Bowl contenders and the Rams made significant strides under Jeff Fisher last season. This division is good – really good.
So while it may be tempting to peg Arizona for at least a few more victories than last season’s five-win campaign, divisional competition could prevent the Cardinals’ upgraded roster from moving up the standings. That said, Arizona did address needs at several key positions, traded for a former Pro Bowl quarterback and hired last season’s Coach of the Year for the same position.
There is significant change afoot in the desert, and even if it doesn’t result in a playoff berth or a division title this season, 2013 will be an interesting year for this group under the direction of a new head coach and quarterback. The prospectus is bright.
• Biggest storyline: Can Arizona develop a deep passing game?
Chris Johnson, SI.com