NFL 2013: Arians looks to reverse Cards fortunes
The Arizona Cardinals had the worst offense in the NFL a year
After a 4-0 start, the team lost 11 of 12 to finish 5-11,
leading to the firing of coach Ken Whisenhunt after six seasons
that included a run to the Super Bowl in 2008.
Enter Bruce Arians, the 60-year-old veteran of two decades as an
NFL assistant who parlayed his successful stint as interim coach
last year in Indianapolis into a full-time head coaching gig in
Arians and new general manager Steve Keim, promoted after Rod
Graves was fired, overhauled the roster, bringing in quarterback
Carson Palmer, running back Rashard Mendenhall and a host of
Arians joked about teaming with the 33-year-old Palmer.
”This is a cowboy movie,” he said, ”with two old guys, this
is our last rodeo in the desert.”
Arians has an impressive pedigree when it comes to quarterbacks,
working with the likes of Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and
Andrew Luck in his years as an NFL assistant.
Now he will try to improve the fortunes of Palmer, who put up
big numbers a year ago for Oakland but many of those yards came
with the Raiders trying to come from behind in games en route to a
Arians has placed his stamp on the team already, calling out
players publicly at times, lacing his critiques to players with
profanity and making clear his lack of tolerance for mental
He has an ”accountability sheet” that lists players who made
mistakes or otherwise ran afoul of the coach and shows it to the
entire team. No one, not even star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald,
Still, rebuilding is no easy task, especially in the tough NFC
Here are five issues facing the Cardinals:
1. CAN PALMER BE A WINNER? Carson Palmer has put up some
impressive numbers in his 10-year NFL career. Last season, the
former No. 1 draft pick threw for 4,018 yards with Oakland, but
many of those yards came with his team trying to come back in
games, and the result was a 3-13 season. It was the third time
Palmer has topped 4,000 yards passing, but his team didn’t have a
winning record in any of those seasons. In fact, Palmer is 54-68 as
Palmer is well aware that any success for the Cardinals is tied
to what he does.
”That’s the game in this league,” he said. ”I’m used to that.
I’ve been playing quarterback my whole life so I’m used to the
pressures that come with the position, the good, the bad. Obviously
the quarterback plays an integral part of every team’s
Arizona had four players start at quarterback last season.
Palmer has called Arians’ offense the most challenging he’s had,
and he repeatedly has touted his receivers – Fitzgerald, Andre
Roberts, Michael Floyd and Rob Housler.
”We have smart football players on this offense,” Palmer said.
”Combine that with athleticism and speed and experience. You look
at a guy like Larry’s experience and his catches and his touches in
games, I’m as excited and as optimistic as ever.”
2. KEEPING CARSON UPRIGHT: The Cardinals gave up an NFL-worst 58
sacks last season, and Palmer isn’t exactly the most mobile of
If he goes down to injury, the job would fall to Drew Stanton,
who hasn’t thrown a pass in an NFL game since 2010. Suffice it to
say, keeping Palmer upright is very important.
Plans for an improved offensive line took a major hit when
first-round draft pick Jonathan Cooper, the starting left guard,
broke his left leg in the third preseason game. Cooper might be
able to come back late in the season, but in the meantime Arizona
will shift Daryn Colledge back to left guard after planning to move
him to the right side. Paul Fanaika, out of the league last season,
is tentatively scheduled to start at right guard.
Levi Brown, out all of last season with torn triceps, is the
left tackle, with late signee Eric Winston on the right side. Lyle
Sendlein is back at center.
”It’s a big setback because we all feel bad for Cooper,”
Colledge said of the injury, ”but the guys in this locker room are
going to say it’s no setback because we want to plug a guy in and
3. MULTI-PURPOSE PETERSON: The more that Arians saw what kind of
athlete Patrick Peterson was, the more he wanted to use the
cornerback and punt returner on offense, too.
Peterson says that interest has grown to some 60 plays in the
preseason. If Peterson doesn’t get the ball on a handoff, he’ll
catch a pass, maybe even throw one or at the very least be a decoy
that opponents must have to worry about.
Peterson said people shouldn’t worry about him getting too much
to do. He says he’s the best-conditioned athlete on the team and no
one is going to argue with him. He also says that he’s a cornerback
first and foremost.
But, as Arians said, ”He’s an ascending offensive player.”
4. CHANGES ON DEFENSE: Defense was a bright spot for the
Cardinals through their misery a year ago, and coordinator Ray
Horton (now with Cleveland) was a finalist to replace
But there have been plenty of personnel changes on the defensive
side, especially with Pro Bowl inside linebacker Daryl Washington
suspended for the first four games for violating the league’s
substance abuse policy.
Karlos Dansby returned to his former team to play at one inside
linebacker spot, with Jasper Brinkley the other and second-round
draft pick Kevin Minter a backup as well as a player on special
Jerraud Powers will play opposite Peterson at cornerback. Both
safeties, longtime Cardinal Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes, are
gone. Rashad Johnson, who started much of the time a year ago, is
at strong safety with Yeremiah Bell coming in at the other.
Up front, the Cardinals are unchanged with Calais Campbell,
Darnell Dockett and Dan Williams. Sam Acho is back at outside
linebacker. Lorenzo Alexander and John Abraham, the active leader
in career sacks with a whopping 122 including 10 last season, will
play the other outside spot.
5. HOW SWEET IS THE HONEY BADGER? The Cardinals took a chance on
Tyrann Mathieu and drafted him in the third round. Mathieu, out of
football last season after being kicked off the LSU team due to
marijuana troubles, has impressed the coaches.
He figures to see plenty of action in the Cardinals
Arians calls him ”a lovable kid.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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