Aug 19, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (74) guard Evan Mathis (69) and quarterback Carson Palmer (3) walk to the line against the San Diego Chargers during the first quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Whether through fault of their own or certain circumstances, there was plenty of disappointment to go around the locker room for the Arizona Cardinals in 2016. All three phases were represented.
With high expectations heading into 2016, the Cardinals appeared almost as if a light switch could be turned on and they’d be back in the postseason to make another Super Bowl run. It was not to be.
Instead, the Cardinals are left asking themselves what could have been. The Cardinals had a hard time being consistent and had a hard time staying healthy this season. Those are things you can’t lose if you want to win in the NFL.
The Cardinals lost a few games at the end, lost control at the beginning in a couple of games, and overall just fooled themselves at other times into thinking they could play with certain teams.
Despite a huge win in Seattle last Saturday over the Seahawks, it is little consolation in the grand scheme of things. The Cardinals had goals and those goals were not met. Now it is time to turn the roster over a bit and work at making one more run at the Super Bowl in 2017.
As the Cardinals are preparing to put 2016 behind them, we look back at the five biggest disappointments this season. There were some tough calls in who made this list.
Nov 13, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (17) makes a catch against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel (28) during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals won 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
A couple of weeks ago, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians called him a “failure in progress” when a reporter asked about his progress this season. Bethel was never able to get on track.
Bethel was injured in the spring and struggled to stay healthy in training camp. The writing was on the wall. He was supposed to compete for a starting spot opposite cornerback Patrick Peterson after Jerraud Powers left.
However Bethel was constantly beat and looked lost at times at corner. Furthermore, he has struggled in special teams as times as well.
Special teams is his forte. However a couple of weeks ago, during a game just days after Arians’ comments, Bethel clearly didn’t have his head in the game. He was called for offsides three different times.
He can still make plays on special teams but now the worry is does he have the mental focus to even consistently perform there?
Oct 17, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (90) against the New York Jets at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
For the third season in a row, the Cardinals first-round draft pick turned out to not be much of anything special. Now, Robert Nkemdiche still has a chance to prove his naysayers wrong but it doesn’t look good right now.
Nkemdiche was supposed to be part of a nucleus pass rush the Cardinals were trying to improve. Instead they quickly found out Nkemdiche was not ready to be an NFL player on and off the field.
He spent a good portion of the season on the weekly inactive list, only recently getting playing time. He also arrived to the team plane one week not dressed appropriately.
Nkemdiche was not ready to be a professional football player. His preparation on the field lacked as well.
He’s not a lost cause though. Not yet. Cardinals fans need to give the young man another year to mature but if he fails to do so in 2017, he could be deemed a bust just as guard Jonathan Cooper turned out to be.
Aug 28, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Arizona Cardinals center Evan Boehm (70) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Houston won 34-24, Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
There may not have been a more talked about offensive lineman on the team back in July and August than Boehm. Many were disappointed with the job A.Q. Shipley performed in 2015.
Shipley couldn’t win the center job early on in camp in 2015, so they brought Lyle Sendlein back in for one final season. Many thought that performance would carry into 2016.
When the Cardinals drafted Boehm, some speculated he could compete for a starting spot. The rookie center from Missouri however has not played much at all. Again, another draft pick that was not NFL ready on the field.
Boehm could still turn out to be something special but there were expectations that would start in his rookie campaign. It was not to be and now we are left wondering what the Cardinals plans are for him going forward in 2017 and beyond.
Sep 18, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals tight end Darren Fells (85) catches a pass in front of Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (28) during the second quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The third-year tight end out of UC-Irvine appeared to be turning into something special in 2015. He had 21 receptions for 311-yards and three touchdowns in 2015.
All of that was from a tight end who didn’t even play college football. It was also accomplished in an offense that uses the tight end sparingly.
Instead of improving , he regressed a bit in 2016. He hasn’t caught a touchdown yet and has just 13 receptions for 117-yards.
Some of that can be attributed to the emergence of tight end Jermaine Gresham. Gresham has been more active in the offense in 2016 than he was in 2015.
Still, you have to wonder what changed with Fells? He was in Bruce Arians dog house back in training camp. He committed a number of dumb penalties in the preseason. That too did not sit well with Arians.
You would expect Fells to return in 2017 but have we seen Fells peak already? A lot will be determined by the decisions the Cardinals make on their other tight ends in the offseason, including Gresham.
Oct 23, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro (7) looks on after missing a field goal in overtime against the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
No one player is likely more self-aware of his issues than kicker Chandler Catanzaro. He certainly is a mixed bag. One moment he is killing chances of victory and in the next making an unlikely kick at the end of a game in a hostile environment.
Is it time to move on from Catanzaro? Maybe. The problem is will the Cardinals be able to find a replacement who is more consistent? There is a reason why the kickers at home right now are at home.
That being said, you have to think the Cardinals need to address the situation and at the very least bring in competition for Catanzaro in training camp. He didn’t have any this past camp.
He missed the season opening possible game winner against the New England Patriots. He missed a chip shot potential game winner against the Seahawks in October.
On the flip side he hit an incredible 60-yard field goal in Buffalo. He also hit a pressure-filled scenario having to run out onto the field with no time outs and the clock running in Seattle this past Saturday and hitting the game-winning score as time expired.
The missed extra points also continue to be a concern, however find me a kicker outside of (Baltimore Ravens kicker) Justin Tucker who has been consistent in that area. It will be an area addressed but don’t be surprised if the Cardinals stick with “Catman” going into September.