Cardinals’ 10-6 season builds confidence, momentum
A 10-6 record wasn’t good enough to get the Arizona Cardinals
into the playoffs.
It did, however, generate a locker room bursting with confidence
after one season under coach Bruce Arians.
The Cardinals, a woeful 5-11 a year ago, won seven of their last
nine, impressive but not quite enough in the tough NFC West.
Arizona went 2-4 against teams in its division, with the biggest
win two weeks ago at Seattle.
That victory and Sunday’s 23-20 near miss against San Francisco
have the Cardinals believing they can go toe-to-toe with the two
”The sky’s the limit,” quarterback Carson Palmer said as he
cleaned out his locker Monday.
The 61-year-old Arians, 9-3 as interim head coach at
Indianapolis last year, and his staff developed a team that
steadily got better.
Some players called Arians a father figure.
”I don’t like that,” he said. ”I’m the cool uncle that
everybody wants to have a drink with.”
Well, ”Uncle Bruce” meshed a roster that, at season’s end, had
28 players in their first year with the team, including half of the
starters, as the Cardinals compiled just their third 10-win season
since 1976. Along the way, the team made 192 roster moves.
”You have to build belief,” Arians said. ”I don’t think
there’s a guy in that room right now that doesn’t believe we can
walk out in any stadium in the NFL right now and compete, and
compete for 60 minutes and have a chance to win.”
But significant personnel challenges loom.
Sixteen players have expiring contracts. Six of them are
starters- inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, running back Rashard
Mendenhall, right tackle Eric Winston, outside linebacker Matt
Shaughnessy, safety Yeremiah Bell and tight end Jim Dray.
”We’ll do everything we can as an organization to keep the
pieces we think that are important,” Arians said.
One of those pieces is Dansby, who resurrected his career with
an outstanding season.
Dansby returned to his former team on a one-year deal and
finished among the league leaders in solo tackles with 119. He also
had 6 1/2 sacks and four interceptions – two returned for
”We definitely want to keep Karlos here,” Arians said.
”(General manager) Steve (Keim) has already started talking to
him. As a coach, you don’t want to lose that guy for sure.”
To make the moves they want to make, Arizona could try to
restructure Larry Fitzgerald’s contract, which counts a whopping
$18 million against next year’s salary cap.
The Cardinals also have a March deadline to decide whether to
pay the $10 million roster bonus due inside linebacker Daryl
Washington. Washington, one of the best in the league at his
position, was suspended the first four games of the season for
violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He also faces assault
and criminal trespass charges from an incident involving his former
”I think that’s all going to be taken care of,” Washington
said. ”I’m praying and hoping everything gets behind me and I
don’t miss any more games next season. I’m very confident as where
I stand in this organization, that I’m a good enough player and a
good enough person on and off the field to come back next
Keim also said he would like to talk to cornerback Patrick
Peterson about a new contract, which is bound to mean big
Peterson, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Tyrann Mathieu, John
Abraham, probably Washington and perhaps Dansby will be back on a
defense that ranked sixth in the league.
On offense, after a slow start, Palmer threw for 4,274 yards,
ranking third on the franchise list. He became the first in NFL
history to top 4,000 yards passing for three teams and his 362
completion and 572 attempts were second on the franchise list only
to Kurt Warner’s 401 completions and 572 attempts in the 2008 Super
Bowl season. Palmer played every game, throwing for 24 touchdowns
but was intercepted 22 times.
Michael Floyd had a breakout year in his second NFL season
despite lingering injuries, catching 65 passes for 1,041 yards.
Fitzgerald had 82 catches for 972 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Then there’s dynamic rookie running back Andre Ellington.
”The future is very bright,” Palmer said. ”I think we have a
lot of very key pieces.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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