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ESPN re-grades the Cardinals’ offseason as a B-plus

Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim watches the offense and defense during an NFL football training camp practice Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

There were a number of concerns heading into the 2016 season for the Arizona Cardinals, chief among them the lack of a consistent running game and the loss of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

Heading into the year, ESPN’s Mike Sando gave the Cardinals a B-minus for their offseason moves. Arizona hired the Bowles-mentored James Bettcher and addressed the running game with signings of guard Mike Iupati and the drafting of running back David Johnson.

So after seeing the results of the Cardinals’ 14-4 season, Sando re-graded their offseason with an improved B-plus.

Bettcher proved quite capable taking over his former boss’ gig, and Larry Fitzgerald played like his old self after restructuring his contract in the offseason. That running game proved quite capable with Johnson looking like a feature back for the Cardinals.

Plus, Arizona extended the contracts of both head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim, who again proved successful over the course of the year.

The only knock, in Sando’s eyes?

The re-grade would be higher if Arizona had been able to lift its pass rush onto a more solid long-term foundation.

The Cardinals finished the regular season tied for 20th in the NFL with just 36 total sacks, and it was midseason acquisition Dwight Freeney who accounted for eight of those sacks.

It’s no coincidence that Keim said the priority for the Cardinals’ 2016 offseason involves upgrading that pass rush.

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