10 questions as cardinals open camp

BY foxsports • July 25, 2013

The Cardinals will open training camp Friday with 48 news players, 18 new coaches and a whole lot of questions. But some questions are bigger than others; some will define the season. 
Here are our top 10.  
10. How will the secondary respond to a virtual gutting this offseason?Safeties Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, James Sanders and cornerbacks Greg Toler, Michael Adams and William Gay are gone, taking with them a lot of leadership, experience and play-making ability. The Cards are counting on Yeremiah Bell to fill Wilson’s big shoes in the short term, but that is a tall task, even when you consider Wilson’s diminishing skills over the past couple of seasons. Rashad Johnson and Tyrann Mathieu will vie for time at safety while free-agent signings Jerraud Powers and Antoine Cason will man the cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson, with Javier Arenas, Justin Bethel and Jamell Fleming adding depth. Time will tell, but it is hard to escape the belief that this unit has taken a step backward as it builds with youth.
9. Will Patrick Peterson solidify his place as one of the NFL’s elite talents?Peterson had a terrific season as a cornerback in 2013, earning a Pro Bowl spot. But his punt returning performance – the skill that got him noticed in his rookie season when he tied an NFL record with four TDs – slipped as teams began to scheme for him or avoid him altogether. Peterson said 2013 is about putting the whole package together and becoming one of the NFL’s marquee names -- or as the LSU product phrased it: “Putting everything in one pot and the recipe is going to be some gumbo.”
8. Who are the leaders on defense with captains Adrian Wilson and Paris Lenon gone? Daryl Washington was a logical choice until his four-game suspension and subsequent legal troubles. Darnell Dockett is a powerful voice, but not necessarily the one you want guiding your team (it’s notable that he did not earn defensive captaincy last season). Maybe newcomers Karlos Dasby and Yeremiah Bell can fill that role, but they don’t have the lengthy, local streed cred to help them so perhaps it’s time for young guns Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson to assert their voices.
7. Can Michael Floyd and Dan Williams justify their draft status? Floyd (13th overall in 2012) never had much of a shot last season as a rookie playing in an awful offense with awful QB play. But the Cards would desperately like to see him take a step forward this season to relieve some pressure and attention on Larry Fitzgerald. Williams (26th overall, 2010) has had weight issues in the past, but Arians said he was in shape in the offseason. Now the Cards would like to see him plugging the middle of the line and getting upfield at times to disrupt plays.
6. Can RBs Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams restore a long absent ground game? Mendenhall is coming off an ACL tear 16 months ago, an Achilles injury that limited him in 2012 and a tiff with his coach (Mike Tomlin) that led to his suspension late last season for conduct detrimental to the team. Williams is coming off his second straight season-ending injury, has a reconstructed knee that took more than a year to heal and has played just five games since his selection in the second round (38th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft. Mendenhall was a productive, if not spectacular back when he played for Bruce Arians in Pittsburgh, topping 900 yards in three straight seasons. He’s only 26 and hasn’t logged a lot of carries so there should be plenty of mileage left on the tires. Williams has shown flashes of electric play-making ability and shares a Virginia Tech pedigree with Arians. Is the injury bug behind them?
5. Who will provide the pass rush? The Cardinals posted 38 sacks in 2012 to tie for 11th in the NFL. But the number is deceiving because many of those came via defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s beloved blitzes, which exposed the defense on the back end. The Cards drafted Alex Okafor and added free agents Lorenzo Alexander and Matt Shaughnessy to play outside linebacker, but top sacker, Daryl Washington (9 sacks), is suspended for the first four games (and maybe longer). Maybe defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett will benefit from defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ system which both profess to like more than the previous system. Maybe outside backers Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield can take the aforementioned leap forward, but at this point, there are no obvious answers. The Cards had veteran end John Abraham in for a visit this week. 
4. How will the defense handle Daryl Washington’s absence?Bringing Karlos Dansby back likely eased the minds of the fan base and the coaching staff. He knows his way around this locker room, he’s fast, long and possesses the leadership skills this unit may need after losing captains Adrian Wilson and Paris Lenon in the offseason. On the flip side, Washington is an elite NFL talent not easily replaced. In the short term, it will be up to Dansby, Jasper Brinkley and Kevin Minter to mask his absence. 
3. Has the offensive line really improved?Getting Levi Brown back at left tackle should help as much for his presence in the huddle as his play, but reports are he needs to show the coaching staff more and has been asked to lose weight. Drafting left guard Jonathan Cooper will also help, although the rookie will experience some growing pains along the way. If right tackle Bobby Massie can continue the upward progression he showed over the second half of last season and Daryn Colledge can make a seamless shift to right guard, there is hope for improvement. The Cardinals added some insurance by signing veteran tackle Eric Winston to a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum with incentives. He will push the others and there could be a surprising cut by the end of camp if he impresses.
2. Can Bruce Arians succeed calling the shots?In his one season as interim coach in Indianapolis, Arians inherited somebody else’s staff and players. He’s had a big hand in choosing both in Arizona, with 17 new assistants and 48 new players on the current camp roster. We’ll find out over the next couple of seasons how well he evaluates, tutors and manages talent. We’ll also find out if he can maintain his player-friendly style now that he’s the decision-maker. He’s vowed to stay true to who he is, but many promoted assistants have said the same, only to realize that the head coach’s chair doesn’t allow it.
1. Is Carson Palmer a big enough upgrade at QB?Bringing Karlos Dansby back likely eased the minds of the fan base and the coaching staff. He knows his way around this locker room, he’s fast, long and possesses the leadership skills this unit may need after losing captains Adrian Wilson and Paris Lenon in the offseason. On the flip side, Washington is an elite NFL talent not easily replaced. In the short term, it will be up to Dansby, Jasper Brinkley and Kevin Minter to mask his absence.

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