Hello and welcome to our first edition of GiveMeSport's NFL season preview series.
Over the next month or so, we will be taking a look at every single team in the league, recapping how last season went, looking ahead to the challenges that 2018 will bring, as well as providing a fans opinion on the big topics surrounding each franchise as we inch closer to the new season.
So let's get started. And it's a great place to kick off, with the Arizona Cardinals.
The rebuild was going to need to come at some point, and it looks like in 2017 the clock finally counted down to zero. It all started with David Johnson's broken wrist in Week 1. That put him out for the entire year and his replacement - Adrian Peterson - didn't exactly shine, to say the very least.
And then came Week 7. Carson Palmer broke his arm in a 33-0 whitewash against the LA Rams in Twickenham, England and the season was doomed from thereon out.
There were good moments. A shock win against the Jaguars with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, as well as beating the Giants and Seahawks to close out the season brought the Cards to 8-8 and a semblance of respectability. It took a lot of close wins just to get to .500 though, and their -66 point differential on the season shows it.
At the end of the campaign, Palmer retired and so did Bruce Arians. The end of an era in Arizona. Now's the time for a new-look Cardinals.
Free Agency Moves
The Cardinals brought in two quarterbacks to fill Carson Palmer's shoes. Matt Glennon came in from the Bucs while Sam Bradford arrived as the de facto starter from the Vikings. Meanwhile, Andre Smith and Justin Pugh will hopefully bolster the offensive line and provide running lanes for David Johnson and a decent pocket for whoever wins the QB battle.
The biggest change on defense is an outgoing, with Tyrann Mathieu no longer in red after he was allowed to head to the Houston Texans with cap space hard to come by following Bradford's arrival. The secondary took two more hits with Tyvon Branch and Tramon Willaims leaving as well.
Also among the more high-profile departures are Jared Veldheer (Broncos), John Brown (Ravens) and Xavier Williams (Chiefs).
Josh Rosen - QB, UCLA. 1st round, 10th overall.
Christian Kirk - WR, Texas A&M. 2nd round, 47th overall.
Mason Cole - C, Michigan. 3rd round, 97th overall.
Chase Edmonds - RB, Fordham. 4th round, 134 overall.
Chris Campbell - CB, Penn State. 6th round, 182 overall.
Korey Cunningham - OG, Cincinnati. 7th round, 254th overall.
Fans Eye View
We spoke to Tom Donlon from British Birdgang, the home of Arizona Cardinals fans in the UK, to get his take on all things Cards. Check them out at britishbirdgang.co.uk and @BritishBirdgang on Twitter. Thanks, Tom!
GMS: How would you describe the Cards' offseason?
Eventful. Kicked off with the retirement of Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer and then the hire of replacement Steve Wilks.
Having GM Steve Keim suspended for several weeks as season preparations are being made not exactly ideal, but at least he was able to deliver Josh Rosen in the 2018 NFL Draft and give the fanbase something to look forward to at the QB position.
GMS: What's the general opinion of the head coach right now?
Hard to say at the moment given that this is Wilks’ first season in the job. Certainly saying the right kind of things in the media, so hoping that translates into success on the field. Brought in a few players with knowledge of his defensive scheme, so that should help the holdovers acclimate to it a bit easier. We’ll save judgement until the games begin.
GMS: What are your thoughts on the state of the offense?
Out with Arians’ scheme, in with the Mike McCoy-led system. A brand new Quarterback room was needed given the retirement of Palmer and the allowing of Drew Stanton and Matt Barkley to spread their disappointing play around some other unfortunate franchise.
Big fan of Sam Bradford’s since his days at Oklahoma so excited to see what he brings. Almost as excited as I am to see the league’s best running back, David Johnson, return to the field after an injury-hit 2017.
GMS: How's the defense looking?
Again, a new coach brings with it a brand new scheme. James Bettcher impressed me last year but he’s now with the New York Giants, so it’s down to new defensive coordinator Al Holcomb to deliver the goods.
Switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defence may have some early growing pains, but with the NFL’s sack leader from a year ago, the league’s top cornerback and rising stars like Deone Bucannon and Budda Baker, the defence should hopefully not miss a step and continue to be amongst the very best in the entire league.
GMS: What's your deepest concern for 2018?
I hate to sound like a broken record but it’s Sam Bradford’s health. You can’t go a single moment in Season Previews for the 2018 Arizona Cardinals without Sam Bradford’s availability being questioned - and this is sadly no different.
It’s a legitimate concern but, with a ‘plan’ in place to keep him fresh for the rigours of an NFL season, hopefully, one that will mean he completes the whole season. If not, well then I guess it’ll be time for Josh Rosen to step up and bring the future into the now.
GMS: Give us a name to watch out for?
All off-season there has been one name that has been attracting rave reviews in the race to be the Cardinals WR2 behind Larry Fitzgerald. That name is Chad Williams.
It’s fair to say that Williams didn’t get many opportunities in his rookie year but working with NFL veteran Chad Ochocinco in the offseason seems to have helped polish his route-running and it’ll hopefully see him impress over preseason and earn that starting role.
GMS: And finally...your crystal ball prediction for the season?
Would it be too optimistic to say a Superbowl win for the Arizona Cardinals for the first time in the franchise’s history? Well, I won’t be saying that.
Ultimately, this is a team that can be competitive in an increasingly-tough NFC West division but may just miss out on a Wildcard berth because the NFC is stacked with talented teams at this moment in time.
If we could finish .500, I’ll take that for a first season under Steve Wilks. Anything more, I’ll be ecstatic.
Week 1: vs Redskins
Week 2: @ Rams
Week 3: vs Bears
Week 4: vs Seahawks
Week 5: @ 49ers
Week 6: @ Vikings
Week 7: vs Broncos
Week 8: vs 49ers
Week 9: Bye Week
Week 10: @ Chiefs
Week 11: vs Raiders
Week 12: @ Chargers
Week 13: @ Packers
Week 14: vs Lions
Week 15: @ Falcons
Week 16: vs Rams
Week 17: @ Seahawks
The Fantasy Outlook
David Johnson is back and should be a top-4 pick. If he falls to fifth or later in your league then snatch him up quicker than you can say "he injured his wrist, dummies." Sam Bradford isn't draftable, but one man I'm desperate to get on my team is Larry Legend. Fitz is a stud, the perfect no.2 receiver to have on your roster and very gettable at his current ADP of 5.03 (standard scoring).
Our Cardinals fan is excited by the prospect of WR Chad Williams and he remains one to watch through the preseason. Currently going undrafted, along with Christian Kirk, keep an eye out on the Cardinals warmup games to see who's given the most snaps. A 15th rounder on a potential WR2, sign me up.
Tom was hoping for 8-8 but I can see some regression coming, sorry Cardinals fans. Talent has been lost and it's going to be a season of uncertainty in Arizona. With Bradford's health and a new-look secondary both concerns, I'm going with the Cardinals to finish 6-10.
What do you think about the Cardinals' chances this season? Let us know either in the comments below or on Twitter, where you can find us @GMS_NFL.
Tomorrow's Preview: The Baltimore Ravens.News Now - Sport News