NFL writer Bill Barnwell gave the Arizona Cardinals a B-plus grade in his NFC West report card, a nod to general manager Steve Keim’s aggressive action when it came to fixing the team’s biggest flaws.
But a few issues remain, keeping Arizona from earning an A.
What helped Bruce Arians’ crew earn a solid grade is pretty obvious.
The Cardinals bolstered the defensive line by drafting Robert Nkemdiche and, more importantly, trading for a proven pass rusher in Chandler Jones. Even if the Cardinals don’t re-sign Jones after sending a second-round pick and guard Jonathan Cooper to New England, Barnwell believes it’s still a “good deal.”
Bringing in veteran offensive lineman Evan Mathis helped cover the loss of Cooper, as well.
But what kept Barnwell from rounding that B-plus up to an A-minus?
He finds it concerning that guard D.J. Humphries, after not playing a year ago, is going to see significant playing time.
The fact he’s got little competition is a more telling issue. Across the Cardinals’ entire offensive line, one injury could cause big problems.
It’s certainly defensible to trot out those options for starting jobs, but there’s precious little behind that trio.
Then there’s the issue of the secondary.
Based on their DNA, don’t expect Arians and defensive coordinator James Bettcher to dial back the percentage of blitzes, even if they have the upgrades in pass-rushing situations. That will test the secondary.
With safety Tyrann Mathieu maybe not at 100 percent due to his ACL injury from last season combined with the loss of Jerraud Powers at the cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson, there are obvious concerns.
Arizona also moved on from Jerraud Powers, leaving the Cards with Justin Bethel starting across from Peterson. Teams abused Bethel, known more for his special-teams ability, when he entered the starting lineup at the end of 2015.
Third-round pick Brandon Williams is very raw and has played only one season in college at corner, so he’s not likely to have an immediate impact.
Barnwell suggests the Cardinals give Antonio Cromartie a call.
If the roster stands as is, the answer to the secondary question-marks sits solely on Bethel improving from last season — or rookies like Williams, safety Marqui Christian and cornerback Harlan Miller stepping up.
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