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Sports Illustrated: Cardinals receive ‘C’ grade for offseason moves

(AP Photo/Matt York)

As the NFL season draws closer, the Cardinals prepare for their first season under first-year head coach Steve Wilks.

This year’s Cardinals team will feature many new faces as the Cardinals made numerous changes to the league’s oldest roster a season ago. Gone are Tyrann Mathieu, Carson Palmer, Jared Veldheer and Justin Bethel as the Cardinals try to get younger while remaining competitive in the division.

Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit gave the Cardinals offseason moves a C grade.

The Cardinals really struggled in protecting Carson Palmer the last two seasons; it will be important to try and keep Sam Bradford or Josh Rosen upright and healthy. One of the biggest improvements was the addition of right guard Justin Pugh, who will look to improve the team’s interior pass protection which has been a sore spot the last few seasons.

Yes, that’s a narrowly defined improvement, but having former Giant Justin Pugh inside not only gives the Cardinals a mobile-enough interior run-blocker, but it also boosts their interior pass protection, which has been spotty at best the past few years. When a team has pass-blocking deficiencies inside, it becomes especially prone to designer pass-rushing tactics like stunts, twists and disguised blitzes. The hope is that the addition of Pugh in free agency, and a long overdue recalibration from Mike Iupati, Arizona’s big free-agent signing of three years ago, will allow for a more consistent passing game.

While the offensive line has improved, the Cardinals receivers don’t rank highly in Benoit’s view. The team lost both John and Jaron Brown, and will replace them with a group that includes Brice Butler and second-round pick Christian Kirk.

Larry Fitzgerald is back for another season (possibly his last?), but his veteran leadership can only do so much. The Cardinals will replace them a with group that includes second-round pick Christian Kirk and last-year’s third-rounder Chad Williams, to become regular contributors. If the team can make it work, J.J. Nelson can stay in a speed specialist role, making for a deeper receiving corps for whichever quarterback–Sam Bradford, Mike Glennon and first-round pick Josh Rosen are on the roster–wins the starting job.

The Cardinals find themselves in a tricky situation, with many NFL experts viewing their roster as the weakest in the division. With a defense that features a lot of big names and talent like Chandler Jones and Patrick Peterson, it will be up to the offense to determine if the Cardinals can improve on an 8-8 2017 season.

Benoit gave the defending division champion Rams a B+ and the upstart 49ers received a B grade for the offseason, while the Seahawks were given the same grade as the Cardinals finishing with a C.

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