Photo: Rich Gray
The Arizona Cardinals officially began Training Camp on Friday. There are plenty of differences between last year’s camp and this year’s, and that’s not including the move from Flagstaff to Glendale. Here are a few things I will be keeping an eye on are Cards Camp 2013 rolls on.
1) It All Starts Up Front
The Redbirds offensive line was offensive in 2012, and not in a good way. Arizona gave up a NFL-high 58 sacks last season and was dead last in almost every rushing category (attempts, yards, average per attempt, average per game).
New General Manager Steve Keim put a major focus on upgrading the line this offseason, drafting guard Jonathan Cooper in the first round (Cooper remains unsigned) while adding Eric Winston in free agency. Levi Brown and Lyle Sendlein both return from injuries that crippled the Cardinals last year. Daryn Colledge, Nate Porter and Bobby Massie are all in the mix to start as well.
Many feel this area of weakness could be a strength for the Cardinals this year. In fact, Bruce Arians has praised the line during OTAs and mini camps. But until pads are put on, this is still the biggest question mark about the new look Cardinals.
2) Revamped in the Secondary
Arizona’s defense was the lone bright spot during last year’s 5-11 campaign. However, several familiar faces are no longer wearing Red & White. Gone are the likes of Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, Greg Toler and William Gay. The Cardinals will no rely on free agents signings Yereimah Bell and Jerraud Powers, in addtion to Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson.
The Wild Card in the entire secondary is third round pick Tyrann Mathieu. The former Honey Badger comes with a big risk off the field, but the Cardinals brass feel he is worth it. Mathieu will get his first crack in the NFL at safety, despite his size. Keim & Arains need results from Mathieu immediately, because the critics (including myself) will be ready to pounce.
3) The Washington Dilemma
Daryl Washington was in position to become the new face of the Cardinals defense. Washington lead the team in tackles and sacks last season and getting notice around the league.
Then he was hit with a suspension.
Which was followed by an arrest for assault.
Now the Cardinals will be without their best pass rusher for the first four games of the season and his future with the team in now clouded. Arians said Washington raised some red flags, and that was before Arizona brought Karlos Dansby back. Washington is due a $10 million bonus at the end of the 2014 season, but you have to wonder if he will be around long enough to see that kick in.
4) Old vs. New
Whenever a new coaching and management staff takes over, there are always some distinct changes that you will begin to notice. Sometimes that change can be a breath of fresh air for an organization. I believe that will be the case for the Cardinals in 2013.
Keim has already worked wonders in the offseason, including the latest signings of Winston on John Abraham. He has made some moves that, quite frankly, I don’t think Rob Graves would have pulled off.
There is also a noticeable difference on the field.
Ken Whisenhunt liked to make rookies prove themselves in training camp before giving them playing time. That will not be the case under Arains, who says nearly all of the 22 positions will be an open competition with the best player in camp winning the spot, regardless being a vet or a rookie.
5) No Quarterback Battle This Year (Finally!)
For the first time in what feels like ages, the Cardinals enter training camp with the quarterback position solidified.
Carson Palmer will be calling the snaps for the Redbirds. This means no more #TeamSkelton, #TeamKolb, #TeamLeinart or #TeamAnderson battles betweens fans and media. More importantly, this means the team no longer has to wonder who will be under center, which is a much-needed relief.
Can Palmer make a difference?
Many will be quick to answer that question with a yes, but I’m not quite sure. Is Palmer an upgrade from the quarterback mess in year’s past? Of course. But is Palmer a guy who can return the Redbirds to the playoffs? I have my doubts.