The Arizona Cardinals won just once of their final 12 games a year ago, fired their head coach, and completely revamped their front office. The bookies don’t feel they are ready to compete for a Super Bowl, but the team feels that three key changes could lead to a potential playoff berth. Arizona will have its work cut out for them in the talented NFC West with the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and St. Louis Rams all capable of making the playoffs, and it will be up to head coach Bruce Arians to navigate his team through some rough waters.
2013 Super Bowl Odds: + 10,000
Notable Change #1: Reigning NFL Coach Of The Year Takes Over In Arians
The Cardinals made NFL history by becoming the first franchise to add a reigning NFL Coach of the Year, and Arians’ arrival will have an instant impact. The fact that it took this long for Arians to get his first head coaching job is somewhat surprising, but he wouldn’t be denied after the masterful job with the Indianapolis Colts a year ago both in terms of his offense and the leadership he showed during trying times for that franchise. Arians is considered one of the game’s leading offensive minds and understands how to put his quarterbacks in the best possible position to succeed. He also brought with him veteran defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, and assistant head coach Tom Moore to help turn things around.
Notable Change #2: Fitzgerald Finally Gets A Quarterback In Palmer
One of the biggest problems with last year’s team is that the Cardinals didn’t have a quarterback that could get the ball downfield consistently, relying on Kevin Kolb and John Skelton to do a job they weren’t capable of handling. Both Kolb and Skelton are gone, and Arians brought in veteran Carson Palmer to lead his offense. Arians’ endorsement is enough to believe that Palmer is capable of guiding this offense, and nobody will be happier than Larry Fitzgerald, who finally gets a passer that can get him the ball downfield. Arizona has a strong cast of receivers including Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, and Michael Floyd, and Palmer will help all of them reach their potential.
Notable Change #3: Defense Solidified Through Draft, Free Agency
The defense was strong last season despite wearing down at times when the Cardinals couldn’t keep possession for stretches at a time, and they will also benefit from the offense being better overall. Arizona also did a good job solidifying its defense by taking inside linebacker Kevin Minter in the second round, cornerback Tyrann Mathieu in the third round, and then outside linebacker Alex Okafor in the fourth, and all three should be able to contribute immediately. The Cardinals also added free agent Jasper Brinkley to solidify its linebacker core, and the additions as well as the balance should make Arizona’s defense better this season.
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