PFF writer on ESPN: Cardinals have NFL’s eighth-best roster

Jun 6, 2016, 11:09 AM | Updated: 11:51 am
Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watches his team run drills during a team practice, Tuesd...
Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watches his team run drills during a team practice, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

The Arizona Cardinals won 13 regular season games last season and reached the NFC Championship Game, and in the process seem to have established themselves as one of the NFL’s best teams.

They have received high marks for their efforts over the offseason, with the majority feeling like they upgraded their roster with the additions of linebacker Chandler Jones, guard Evan Mathis and safety Tyvon Branch, along with their draft class.

Sure, no one knows what it will all lead to. But for the most part, it’s fair to say that as their roster stands right now, it is one of the best in the NFL.

However, that is not an opinion Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson shares.

In an Insider piece for ESPN.com ranking the rosters of all 32 NFL teams, Monson has the Cardinals listed eighth.

He writes that their top five players are DB Tyrann Mathieu, DE Calais Campbell, QB Carson Palmer, Mathis and WR Larry Fitzgerald, while starters who should be upgraded are TE Jermaine Gresham, LB Kevin Minter and CB Justin Bethel.

This Arizona roster is peppered with elite players, but there are issues with depth. Mathieu is a game-changer in the secondary, as is Patrick Peterson, allowing the Cardinals to match up against some of the best receiving weapons in the game. Fitzgerald turned back the years, and Palmer had a ludicrous season before his playoff implosion. Campbell remains an excellent player on the inside of the defense. Adding Mathis to the O-line gives them another potentially elite player to add to those already mentioned, but their stud players have to overcome some depth issues elsewhere.

Linebacker has been an issue since losing Daryl Washington to suspension and the cornerback depth chart looks bare outside of Peterson. The tight ends — Gresham and Darren Fells — do not inspire confidence, while the offensive line has some potential weak links at center and right tackle, in particular.

No doubt, the Cardinals have if not holes, some question marks. Bethel is unproven as a starting cornerback, presumptive right tackle D.J. Humphries has never received an NFL snap, and the team is set to have a new starter at center.

However, placing them behind the Patriots, Packers, Panthers, Steelers, Eagles, Bengals and Raiders is likely to be met with some skepticism, perhaps from some of Monson’s own colleagues. Just last week, ProFootballFocus.com listed the Cardinals atop the NFC in their first 2016 projection, and a good many national pundits have Arizona among the NFL’s elite.

Heading into last season, Monson had the Cardinals with the 24th best roster in the NFL, and the year before they were ranked ninth.

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