The 5: The biggest concern for the Valley’s five biggest teams

Aug 24, 2017, 10:39 AM | Updated: Aug 25, 2017, 11:24 am

Arizona Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham (84), tackle Jared Veldheer (68) and guard Evan Boehm ...

Arizona Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham (84), tackle Jared Veldheer (68) and guard Evan Boehm (70) move on the snap to block defenders during NFL football training camp Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

If you’re a Valley sports fan, you feel angst. Your teams have combined for one championship in their collective histories, they have suffered long stretches of leanness and they have endured a collection of gut-wrenching disappointments from Santonio Holmes’ catch to Joe Germaine’s drive to John Paxson’s shot.

What is most concerning about your present-day teams? We took a shot at answering that question. There are arguments to be made for other areas, and these concerns may shift as circumstances change, but for now, we identified these as the biggest concerns for each of the Valley’s five major teams.

Cardinals: The offensive line

When training camp opened, replacing defensive lineman Calais Campbell, filling the cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson, keeping John Brown healthy and Carson Palmer’s aging body were the biggest concerns. They’ll remain concerns until the season dispels them, but if the offensive line isn’t up to snuff, Palmer’s offseason arm management won’t matter because he’ll be running for his life. Jared Veldheer has struggled in his move to right tackle after so many years and so much muscle memory on the opposite side. Left guard Mike Iupati has been uneven, and now he’s hurt. Right guard Evan Boehm and left tackle D.J. Humphries are unknown commodities, and center A.Q. Shipley is just too small. It’s not fair to judge this unit entirely off the preseason and camp, but there are visible red flags.

Diamondbacks: An epic collapse

At the midpoint of their season on June 30, the Diamondbacks were 50-31. They held a two and a half-game lead over the Rockies for the top wild card spot, a nine and a half-game lead over the Cubs for the remaining wild card spot and fans were lamenting the fact that Arizona did not play in the National League Central where it would have a comfortable division lead. Less than two months later, the Diamondbacks have slipped to 69-58 (before Thursday’s game), they had a half-game lead on Colorado, a three and a half-game lead on the Brewers (the Cubs lead the NL Central and have a better winning percentage than Arizona) and there is widespread panic that they will somehow miss the postseason. Fortunately for Arizona, Milwaukee has played just .500 baseball since June 30, Colorado is 20-24 since then and the Diamondbacks still have time to right the ship.

Suns: No superstars

Former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni simplified the formula for winning NBA championships. “You either have the best players or you don’t win.” To put it more simply, you either have one of the league’s seven or eight best players or you don’t win. It’s been that way at least since the Michael Jordan era. The Bulls had Jordan, the Rockets had Hakeem Olajuwon, the Lakers had Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, the Spurs had Tim Duncan, the Celtics had Kevin Garnett, the Mavericks had Dirk Nowitzki, the Heat and Cavs had LeBron James, and the Warriors had Stephen Curry and now Kevin Durant. The Suns don’t have one of the league’s top 10 players. Don’t kid yourself that they do. Maybe simply making it back to the playoffs after a seven-year hiatus should be the first goal, but what then? Maybe the more prudent move is to keep losing until they get that guy.

Coyotes: Right wings

Jakob Chychrun’s injury has cast a damper over the defense, but there was no guarantee Chychrun was going to be ready to move into the second pairing this season. He’s still just 19 years old. The Coyotes can survive by keeping Alex Goligoski on the left side and sliding either Luke Schenn or Adam Clendening alongside him. It’s unclear what the plan is at right wing after the team elected to move on from Radim Vrbata. It sounds like general manager John Chayka wanted to make one more deal in his busy summer of reshaping the roster. That hasn’t happened yet, so the Coyotes have a depth chart of Anthony Duclair, Tobias Rieder, Christian Fischer and maybe Nick Cousins, a left-wing transplant or even Emerson Etem. Duclair, a restricted free agent, hasn’t signed yet and he’s coming off a five-goal season. Rieder is a converted left wing and Fischer is the only right-handed shot. This group needs some more tinkering.

Sun Devil football: The secondary

By now, everyone knows the details. Arizona State finished with the worst passing defense in the nation last season. Phil Bennett replaced Keith Patterson as defensive coordinator, and the underperforming unit was further decimated by the losses of safety Armand Perry (retired for health reasons) and cornerback Kareem Orr (transferred to Tennessee-Chattanooga). ASU will go to battle this season with a young and inexperienced defensive backfield against a Pac-12 schedule that features quarterbacks Sam Darnold (USC), Jake Browning (Washington) and Josh Rosen (UCLA), whom most publications rank among the nation’s 10 best QBs.

Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

The 5

Zaven Collins #25 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts after recovering an onside kick during the fourth...

Arizona Sports

The 5: Arizona Cardinals’ most recent Monday Night Football matchups

A look at the Arizona Cardinals' five most recent appearances ahead of the Monday Night Football battle in Mexico City.

2 years ago

Dario Saric #20 of the Phoenix Suns puts up a shot over Ivica Zubac #40 of the LA Clippers during t...

Kevin Zimmerman

Draft days for GM James Jones have shown Suns’ direction

The success has been hit-or-miss but one thing is certain: Draft day can tell us a lot about any new direction the Suns will be going.

2 years ago

Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) and New York Knicks forward Julius Randle are separated b...

Wills Rice

The 5: Phoenix Suns’ best moments of the 2021-22 season

Let's take a look at some of the Phoenix Suns' best moments on and off the court from this historic 2021-22 season.

2 years ago

Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL football scouting combine in Ind...

Arizona Sports

The 5: Cardinals NFL Combine 40-yard dash stars drafted by Steve Keim

From Rondale Moore to John Brown, here are five notable NFL Draft Combine stars the Arizona Cardinals ended up selecting under GM Steve Keim.

2 years ago

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) signals first down after his catch against the...

Kevin Zimmerman

The 5: Which Cardinals can step up in DeAndre Hopkins’ absence?

Antoine Wesley, Christian Kirk and the tight ends will get more run with DeAndre Hopkins sidelined due to a knee injury.

2 years ago

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) tries to elude Los Angeles Rams defensive back David...

Tyler Drake

The 5: Things that stood out in Arizona Cardinals’ MNF loss to Rams

The Cardinals failed to play a complete game and were on the losing end of Monday's matchup against the Rams. A look at what stood out:

2 years ago

The 5: The biggest concern for the Valley’s five biggest teams