Arizona Cardinals continue falling down the Power Rankings
After a relatively quiet offseason, the Arizona Cardinals are now at No. 19 in ESPN’s updated NFL Power Rankings.
Immediately after the end of the 2021 season, the panelists at ESPN professed a good deal of confidence in the Arizona Cardinals who, just weeks earlier, had suffered an embarrassing blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
On February 13, Arizona showed up at No. 10 on ESPN’s Way-Too-Early rankings. Comments from Josh Weinfuss, their in-house Cardinals reporter, boiled down to encouraging the front office to take any steps necessary to prevent another second-half collapse.
Fast-forward to May 16, and the Cardinals have slipped all the way to No. 19 after a fairly underwhelming free agency period and a draft that cannot by consensus be declared either a victory or loss.
Why have the rankings for the Arizona Cardinals slipped so far?
The Cardinals entered free agency with four positions of urgent need; interior defense, interior offensive line, cornerback, and pass rusher.
Early in the offseason, former Minnesota Viking Jeff Gladney, a first-round pick from 2020, was added to the cornerback room, and signs are pointing toward him being considered for a starting role in 2022.
The Cardinals followed by taking care of in-house players and re-signed vital offensive players such as James Conner, Zach Ertz, Maxx Williams, and A.J. Green.
Former Giants offensive lineman, Will Hernandez, was added to compete for the right guard position, and most recently, DL Kingsley Keke was signed to reinforce the defensive line group.
Although there were no splash signings in free agency comparable to last offseason’s addition of three-time DPOY J.J. Watt, the Arizona Cardinals shocked the NFL world with a draft-night trade of the 23rd pick for Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown.
The most straightforward explanation for this slide down the rankings boils down to two things.
- The media does not believe the free agency and draft significantly improved the Arizona Cardinals roster.
- The losses of key players in free agency will result in a less talented roster in 2022.
The Cardinals lost Chandler Jones, Christian Kirk, Chase Edmonds, and Max Garcia in free agency.
Kirk was replaced by “Hollywood” Brown, and Garcia was replaced by Will Hernandez, but there are questions at pass rusher and RB2 after the losses of Jones and Edmonds.
Two pass-rushers were drafted in the third round and Steve Keim has mentioned that both Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders will be playing at OLB. However, whether or not they are capable of replacing the production of a player like Chandler Jones is still up in the air.
Keaontay Ingram, running back from USC, was drafted in the 6th round. However, it is still unclear whether he or former ASU Sun Devil Eno Benjamin will take over the secondary role behind James Conner.
Overall, there are valid questions concerning the strength of the Arizona Cardinals roster going into the 2022 season.
It seems that ESPN and other national media outlets are seriously considering whether this team has improved or is moving backwards.