Thursday is the beginning of it all. Almost every team is reporting or has reported for the start of the NFL season.
I have no idea what the season will bring for the Cardinals. It’s easy to assume there won’t be a trip to the playoffs, but in the NFL, there’s always a surprise team.
The Cardinals have a lot of ingredients that would normally put them in the mix as being one of the teams experts pick as a dark horse. Unfortunately, there’s one major issue keeping them from being included in any postseason discussion: the NFC West.
Rod Graves and Ken Whisenhunt did a masterful job of setting up the franchise to dominate the West at the beginning of their tenure together. But as much credit as they deserve, they made a laundry list of bad decisions coupled with stubborn attitudes to open the door for other teams in the division while erasing everything they previously accomplished. Due to those decisions, it will take quite a few lucky breaks for the Cardinals to compete for the postseason in a division where splitting games with NFC West foes would exceed expectations.
So here we are in 2013 with the positives, questions and negatives for the season.
Today we’ll start with the positives.
THE FRONT OFFICE
Michael Bidwill made an expensive but winning decision to release a head coach and some assistants while they were still under contract because there were three years of long losing streaks. Even better, one good decision didn’t lead to a cheap one. At OTAs, it appeared the Cardinals led the league in coaches. There’s a lot of manpower on the field to catch mistakes and “coach ’em up.”
Steve Keim showed how different his regime is this week. When did Rod Graves and Ken Whisenhunt bring in veteran free agents right at the start of camp? Maybe Graves didn’t put the film work in to be able to pounce on players. Obviously Keim knew he could bring in depth at his price. Maybe Whisenhunt thought it impossible for a player to really assimilate himself to the offense/defense without an offseason. Obviously, Bruce Arians is confident in his coaching ability that he can get late arrivals like Eric Winston ready to play.
THE ENERGY OF THE COACHING STAFF
Notice I didn’t say the coaching staff itself as a positive. That will be talked about Friday. It would be complete wishful thinking to say the coaches are a positive when you’re talking about a first-year head coach. You can pre-judge the positive vibe Arians and his staff brought to the team, however. It’s clear there’s a more personal connection between the head coach and his players.
I don’t need to write anything.
Peterson possesses a combination of God-given talent, hatred of failure and desire, and is now willingly accepting of a leadership position.
The return game with Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu is loaded. Jay Feely is an accurate kicker. Dave Zastudil is well-above average handling punting. Plus, don’t dismiss the quality signing of Lorenzo Alexander, an excellent kick/punt coverage special team Pro-Bowler.
There are very few negatives. Only a couple more positives than negatives. Tomorrow, the questions.