The window for the Arizona Cardinals to win a Super Bowl is closing quickly. With Carson Palmer close to the end of his career, and the future at quarterback unplanned for, the 2017 season might be the last chance in the immediate future for them to get a ring.
After making the NFC Championship game last season, many thought they’d be contenders this season. That hasn’t happened. In 2017, they’ll try again, with Palmer back under center. Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t decided yet, but it’s easy to see him returning for one last push with the veteran QB. There will be some retooling at other spots, but the biggest adjustment needed will be with the offense as a whole.
The Cardinals were one of the most unbalanced offenses in the NFL in 2016, having thrown it 604 times to just 375 rushing attempts. This dichotomy looks strange considering they have one of the league’s best running backs in David Johnson. Johnson was second in the NFL in carries this season, but when he’s out of the game, they simply don’t run it much.
After Johnson’s 288 carries, the next highest number of runs was by Andre Ellington, who had just 27. The other running backs combined for just 62 carries overall. Head coach Bruce Arians will need to turn this around next year.
It’s unclear who the backups to Johnson will be next season. Ellington, Chris Johnson, and Stepfan Taylor are all free agents after this year. This leaves Kerwynn Williams as the only backup running back on the roster with any carries in 2016. They’ll likely look to re-sign one of their free agents, and could draft another back as well.
Of the 13 teams still in real contention for the playoffs, only two have a higher percentage of plays that were passes, and those teams (Detroit Lions and Green Back Packers) are quarterbacked by MVP candidates. The Cardinals have Palmer, who is good, but at 37 years old, isn’t going to carry his team.
Arians loves to get the ball down the field in the passing game. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if they want to give Palmer and Fitzgerald one last chance to win a championship, they have to have a better balance to the offense. If not, 2017 might wind up looking like 2016, and nobody wants that.