The Arizona Cardinals showed great improvement in 2013, narrowly missing the playoffs with a 10-6 record and boasting one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Due to various injuries and a key suspension, that top-notch defense may take a step back in 2014, according to NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was a guest Friday on Bickley & Marotta now on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, and he mentioned that between the season-long suspension of linebacker Daryl Washington, the season ending injury to defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, and the attempted comeback of cornerback Tyrann Mathieu from an ACL and LCL tear, Arizona’s defense will struggle to maintain that stifling form this year.
“I think it’s going to be a little bit of a challenge, just with some of the missing pieces on defense,” said Jeremiah. “I could make a case that Daryl Washington could be the biggest blow to a team, just because he’s so special of an athlete and can help you in the pass game, equally as he does in the run game.”
“You throw Darnell Dockett on top of that, it’s going to take a little bit for this defense to kind of gel together and cover up those holes,” Jeremiah said.
Despite the possible defensive issues, Jeremiah sees a far more promising year for the Cardinals’ offense.
“Offensively, I think they are going to be better. I think with Michael Floyd continuing to take that next step, and now you throw John Brown in the mix. Carson Palmer, another year more comfortable in this offense, I think they are going to be better.”
There may be optimism for the offense, but that side of the ball is still not without its own injuries.
Second-year running back Andre Ellington is battling a foot injury that could keep him out of Monday night’s season opener.
“I think [Ellington] is incredibly important, just because of his versatility,” Jeremiah said. “You’ve got [Jonathan] Dwyer behind him, you’ve got Stepfan Taylor. Those guys are good runners, they’re physical and they’ve got some size. But that home run ability, that ability to help out in the passing game and be kind of a dynamic element out of the backfield, you lose that if you take him out of that offense.”
Ellington ran for 652 yards and three touchdowns in his rookie year, while catching 39 balls for 371 yards and one touchdown.
The Cardinals open their season against the San Diego Chargers in Glendale on Monday night at 7:20 pm. The game can be heard on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.