With a 10-6 record, the Arizona Cardinals finished third in the NFC West behind the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.
Half of the Cardinals’ losses came via the ‘Hawks and Niners, though Arizona did become the first road team to win in Seattle in nearly two years when they knocked off the NFC’s Super Bowl representative 17-10 in December.
So, it’s probably fair to wonder just how far back the Cardinals are of the teams they are chasing after year one of the Bruce Arians era.
“I don’t think they have a lot of work to do, but I worry about the timeline,” Sports Illustrated NFL insider Jim Trotter told the Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday from Radio Row in New York. “But I worry about the timeline because they’ve got some guys now who are getting up there in age.
“This league is not very kind when you start to get older.”
Many of the team’s key contributors are on the wrong side of 30, but none showed any serious decline in 2013.
On defense, 35-year-old John Abraham collected 11.5 sacks while being selected for the Pro Bowl, while 32-year-old Darnell Dockett had 46 tackles and 4.5 sacks and linebacker Karlos Dansby, also 32, had a career-best season with 122 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 4 interceptions.
And on offense, only four starters were in their third decade of life, but neither Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Eric Winston or Daryn Colledge had what would be described as down seasons, as Palmer set franchise passing records, Fitz reached double-digit touchdowns and the linemen held their own throughout the season.
Of course, that does not mean a decline isn’t coming at some point, possibly soon.
“When you look at Seattle, really young team. When you look at St. Louis, really young team,” Trotter said. “When you look at San Francisco, it’s right in between; they’ve got some young talent but they’ve got some older guys they’re going to have to look to replace.
“When you look at Arizona, for me, I start to think about it as an older team where pretty soon here you’re going to have to start replacing parts. So to me, Arizona’s window is now. You’ve got to start doing it.”
No doubt folks in Arizona are not against the idea of the Cardinals winning big now, but then the question remains of whether or not they will have enough to get past the monsters already in the division and win it.
“Can they? Yes,” he said. “Will they? I don’t think so.
“I think that Seattle and San Francisco are clearly better teams right now, but I thought that was impressive that they would go up to Seattle and win the way they did.”