The championship window of the Arizona Cardinals may be closing quicker than followers of the franchise may have realized
Arizona Cardinals’ wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald never looked so slow. After snagging a pass, there he was, trying to light burners that could not be ignited. For longtime followers of the future Hall of Famer, the obvious erosion of skills was painful to watch.
It would be wrong to say that “Fitz” has lost a step. In reality, the 34-year old has probably lost two or three. When Father Time comes a knockin’ there’s nothing anyone, not even the legendary Fitzgerald, can do to avoid him.
Arizona’s 35-23 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday revealed something that may have been overlooked by Cards’ fans. The squad taking the field this season has a bunch of aging pieces who’s best years may be well behind them. It’s quite possible that what they can offer the organization in ’17 will not be enough to get the Cardinals back to the postseason.
Carson Palmer is another one who appeared to be rapidly approaching the end of his career on Sunday. Granted, the quarterback faced tons of pressure all day. He seemed skittish, and after awhile looked to be seeing “ghosts”, anticipating pressure that hadn’t even yet arrived.
Palmer also displayed a lack of arm strength on a number of his passes. Despite postgame denials from head coach Bruce Arians, the velocity that the 37-year old showed as recently as last year was absent. A few of the throws meant for open pass-catchers fell painfully short of their mark.
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One of the first changes made to the roster this offseason was to the special teams. Kicker Phil Dawson was brought in to replace the much younger Chandler Catanzaro. The 42-year old brought with him a reputation for being one of the NFL’s most accurate at his position.
So what did one of the league’s most accurate kickers do in his very first game with Arizona? He proceeded to shank a 32-yard field goal, in a dome no less. When asked about Dawson’s miss during his postgame press conference, even Arians admitted he was “shocked” by it.
Obviously, it’s only one kick. But a failure from just 32 yards out, with no wind or any other kind of weather present to affect it, is still a bit alarming. And certainly not a great way for Dawson to start off his career with the Cards.
Not all of the Cardinals’ senior members played badly against the Lions. Andy Lee, the club’s 35-year old punter, averaged 46.0 yards on four punts. A couple of Arizona’s older defenders, Karlos Dansby (35) and Antoine Bethea (33), were both quite active. Dansby contributed seven tackles, while Bethea chipped in five stops and one pass defensed.
The question right now is whether or not this contingent of Redbirds can find the fountain of youth. If they can’t, we most certainly will be looking at another year without a playoff appearance. And most likely the end of some very productive careers.