Did the Arizona Cardinals get worse this offseason?
May 24, 2017, 9:04 AM | Updated: May 25, 2017, 6:18 pm
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Fans of the Arizona Cardinals are still reeling from a 2016 season that started with Super Bowl dreams and ended with a losing record.
That was followed by an offseason that saw the Cardinals lose five key players from their defense, including veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who cashed in on a massive free agent contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
General manager Steve Keim pulled off his normal wheeling and dealing during last month’s draft, netting two players who should make an immediate defensive impact in Temple linebacker Haason Reddick and Washington safety Budda Baker with the team’s first two picks.
But the question remains: are the Cardinals closer to the 2015 team that won 13 games and played for a trip to the Super Bowl or the 2016 version that stumbled out of the gates and won only seven times?
That question, of course, won’t be answered until September, but that hasn’t stopped ESPN’s NFL insiders from speculating.
In an Insider piece, writers were asked to name which team they believe got measurably worse this offseason. Four of the six panelists chose the Washington Redskins, but one — Mike Sando — named the Cardinals, but added an interesting caveat.
The Arizona Cardinals seemed to get measurably worse on defense. Losing Calais Campbell is especially going to hurt. Despite the talent exodus, Arizona could actually improve in the standings. The 2016 team lost so many games through special-teams miscues that are unlikely to recur.
In addition to Campbell, Arizona also lost safety Tony Jefferson to Baltimore, cornerback Marcus Cooper to Chicago, linebacker Kevin Minter to Cincinnati, safety D.J. Swearinger to Washington and linebacker Alex Okafor to New Orleans. All but Okafor played at least 76 percent of the Cardinals’ defensive snaps last season.
But Sando’s point on special teams figures to be true. Arizona missed out on several opportunities for wins last season — notably against New England, Buffalo and Seattle — due to special teams miscues.