While being declared an offseason winner does not necessarily man a team will pile up victories in the regular season, it surely is better than the alternative.
So, when the Arizona Cardinals repeatedly get recognized for what they’ve done since losing to the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 27-13 in Week 17 of last season, it’s tough not to feel good about things.
First, ESPN’s scout Matt Williamson praised the team’s offseason, and now ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., in an Insider piece, has done the same, saying the Cardinals had one of the five best offseasons in the NFL.
Kiper praises the selection of guard Jonathan Cooper with their first-round pick, saying he’s the player that “has the best chance to go to a Pro Bowl as a rookie.”
Jonathan Cooper isn’t going to maul defenders in the run game, but he’s a complete guard who further strengthens an offensive line that quietly made huge strides down the stretch last season.
Besides drafting Cooper, Kiper also thinks highly of the team’s move to trade for quarterback Carson Palmer.
Palmer still makes decisions that don’t live up to his talent profile, but if you protect him and give him any kind of running game, he’s a big step forward from what the Cardinals had. It’s not really a debate. And they basically paid nothing in terms of draft value and simply have to write Palmer his sizable checks.
He later goes on to note that the biggest question remaining for the team is how well it can protect Palmer, but says the growth of right tackle Bobby Massie last year was no fluke because the player was talented, if still a bit raw.
Bottom line: The Cardinals could compete to win other divisions. Like the Rams, though, they could be cast as a noncompetitor in the NFC West. This defense has a chance to be really tough, and I don’t think any team will come to Arizona this year and assume a road victory.
Well, that part isn’t as exciting, but things could be plenty worse for the Cards.