The time is near.
On July 21, the Arizona Cardinals will report to training camp with their first official practice coming the following day at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
From there, the team will build the foundation for what it hopes will be a playoff-caliber campaign with a reshaped roster bouncing back from the disappointment that was 2016.
In the days leading up to the opening of camp, we thought we would ask our Arizona Sports panelists a series of questions related to the Cardinals and their prospects for 2017. There are five in total.
Before we get into today’s, here are the published editions:
What do you see as the team’s biggest strength as camp begins? Greatest weakness?
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo
Strength is the running game with David Johnson. No other team possesses that type of talent running and receiving outside of Pittsburgh when Le’Veon Bell is healthy. The biggest weakness has to be the cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson. It’s just a big unknown at this point, so we will call it a weakness until we see otherwise.
Mike Jurecki, co-host of The Blitz with B-Train and Jurecki as well as Cardinals insider
The linebacker core has a lot of depth across the board, making it the biggest strength for the team. First, Chandler Jones is under contract for the next five years and he displays good pass rushing skills and was second in sacks on the roster. Next, Markus Golden has shown the ability to be a three-down linebacker, he led the team in sacks a year
First-round pick Haason Reddick can play multiple positions and will have an opportunity to play in their sub-packages. Karlos Dansby also returns for his third stint in the desert and will provide great leadership to the locker room. Deone Bucannon is also in that group despite starting camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. They also have some depth with Alani Fua, Gabe Martin, Jarvis Jones, Scooby Wright and Kareem Martin.
The Cardinals need to identify a cornerback opposite of Peterson, which will be one of the biggest stories going into training camp and the preseason. It’s the biggest weakness of the team. It won’t come as a surprise if Steve Keim adds a veteran player to the position. In contrast to a year ago, Justin Bethel lined up as the starter in offseason workouts and could be the starter going into the season. Also in the mix at cornerback are Brandon Williams, Eli Bouka and Jumal Rolle, who is coming off an Achilles injury from last year. Harlan Miller and Rudy Ford are considered more combo defensive backs since they can play both corner and safety.
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley and Marotta
The biggest strength for this team could be the absence of expectation heading into this year. Going into last season, there was more preseason hype than ever before in the team’s Valley history. From the Week 1 loss to New England, it looked pretty obvious that the team had, to an extent, read their press clippings and didn’t deal well with adversity. Many around the league believe the Cardinals’ window has closed, and I think that’s just the situation Bruce Arians and his staff would prefer. Their biggest weakness, in my opinion, is still the cornerback spot across from Peterson. They have plenty of candidates to fill that position in Bethel, Williams and Ford, but at this point, there’s no reason to have confidence in any of them.
Craig Grialou, Arizona Sports reporter
The Cardinals may have the best outside linebacker tandem of any team in the NFL, at least in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback. Jones and Golden combined for 23.5 sacks, 45 QB hits and 33 QB pressures in 2016. On the flip side, the Cardinals have a huge question mark at cornerback. Can Bethel, Williams, Jumal Rolle or someone else (maybe not even on the roster yet) be that answer opposite Peterson?
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns and Gambo
The biggest strength is in the stars that you can count on to produce. The versatility of Johnson. The dependability of Larry Fitzgerald. And the pure ability of Peterson. The biggest weakness is the uncertainty at the other cornerback spot. It’s hard not to wonder if that position will be a revolving door all season long.
Doug Franz, co-host of Doug and Wolf
The biggest strength is understanding nothing is given since they embarrassed themselves last year.
The greatest weakness is the defensive chemistry of the team.
Adam Green, Arizona Sports reporter and co-host of Arizona Sports Saturday
In terms of depth and talent, the team’s front seven appears to be about as good as it gets. Sure, Campbell and Minter are gone, but Golden and Jones are still around, as are Corey Peters, Frostee Rucker and Josh Mauro. First-round pick Haason Reddick also figures to play a significant role, and Dansby being back in the mix is a good thing, too. On the flip side, the team’s cornerbacks after Peterson are anything but proven, and unless one of Bethel, Williams, Sojourn Shelton, Bouka or another cornerback steps up, opponents should have no problem finding open receivers.
Craig Morgan, Arizona Sports reporter and columnist
The greatest strength is the linebacker depth with Jones, Bucannon (if he’s healthy) Golden, Dansby, Reddick, Jarvis Jones and others providing depth and versatility throughout the unit. The greatest weakness remains at cornerback (tight end is a close second), where the Cardinals are still hoping Bethel can take the next step and become a starter opposite Peterson. If he can’t, Williams is the next best option with precious few reps under his belt at the position. It is still possible; even likely, that the Cardinals will add another body before training camp begins.
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