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2016 Arizona Cardinals Offseason Positional Needs


Chris Lehman
Boasting one of the NFL's top-ranked offenses and defenses, the Arizona Cardinals are one of the few true contenders in the league. After coming up short in 2015, here's what they need to do to improve next season. | Photo Credit: RevengeoftheBirds.com

Arizona Cardinals Team Needs

After finishing the 2015 season with the NFL’s second-best record, the Arizona Cardinals must advance with cautious optimism. Optimism, because the team won 13 games and dethroned the Seattle Seahawks to reclaim the NFC West crown for the first time since 2009. Caution, because this defensive unit that ranked in the top eight in points, total yards, rushing yards and passing yards, got absolutely torched by the Carolina Panthers in the Conference Championship.

While this unit is filled with both youthful, and experienced talent on both sides of the ball, there certainly are some needs that must be addressed.

After winning 13 games last season, the Cardinals proved they are a legitimate contender. With that, the front office should be more focused on filling gaps, as opposed to securing replacements for aging stars such as Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and Calais Campbell. This team is poised to win now, assuming these voids are filled:

1. Cornerback

It may seem odd for the team that allowed the 8th-fewest passing yards to target a cornerback in the upcoming offseason – But that’s exactly what the Cardinals should do. In early January, Pro Football Focus released their list of top cornerbacks in the league. To no surprise, Tyrann Mathieu ranked first and Patrick Peterson came in ninth. With Mathieu playing primarily out of the slot, however, this means there’s another cornerback on the field.

Jerraud Powers, who ranked 75th on the list, served as the Cardinals’ starter opposite Peterson, while Justin Bethel, ranked as the 63rd best cornerback, is slated as Powers’ backup. Any time a team has a dominant cornerback, opposing quarterbacks tend to avoid that side of the field, meaning the team’s other starter will see a lot of throws. While Powers certainly is a serviceable player, Arizona would be wise to find another highly ranked corner to play alongside Peterson and Mathieu, especially as Powers’ contract is set to expire this offseason.

2. Offensive Tackle/Guard

Let’s face it, Carson Palmer isn’t getting any younger – that would be weird. Although, between Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and Chris Johnson, this offense looks like a Madden 2009 dream team. But if this trio of aging stars is going to keep drinking whatever is in the Arizona water, this offensive line must improve. On Palmer’s blind side, Jared Veldheer is about as good as it gets, ranking among Pro Football Focus’ top-10 offensive tackles. Bobby Massie, on the other side, is a liability. While the Cardinals only allowed 27 sacks, the fifth-fewest in the league, Palmer was hit 103 times, the 10th-most. It’s safe to assume Palmer can’t maintain his elite level of play (ranked as 2015’s top quarterback by both Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus), if the pressure continues to get to him.

As for the interior line, this is where the Cardinals must improve their ground game. As a team, Arizona ranked 8th in rushing yards. When running to either the right or left, the Cardinals ranked in the top 10 in preventing negative plays. When going up the middle, however, Arizona was dead last with 20 rushes for negative yards, according to NFL.com. While part of this is due to the fact that none of Arizona’s running backs are highly adept at running up the middle, it’s still not a good sign that there is no interior push. Since Second-Team All Pro guard, Mike Iupati, likely isn’t the issue, Arizona must look to sign or draft an answer at center or right guard to help create more space in the ground game.

3. Tight End

Where does Darren Fells fall within this offense? Entering his third season in the NFL, but set to reach 30 years old in April, Fells is quite the head-scratcher. At times, he has looked like a potentially elite pass-catching tight end, and even ranked third on Football Outsiders’ list of top tight ends of 2015. While Fells caught 75 percent of his targets, the third highest mark among tight ends receiving at least 25 targets, the 6’7” pass-catcher failed to carve out a significant enough role in this offense to make a legitimate impact.

With a plethora of outside receivers for Palmer to work with in this offense, it would set this passing attack over the top to add a go-to tight end to lessen the burden on Fitzgerald to continue going over the middle.

Chris Lehman is a Pro Foootball SPOT Analyst, covering Fantasy Football, The New Orleans Saints and the Arizona Cardinals. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisBreezy91 , on Google+, and have your questions answered via email at CLehman91@gmail.com


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Arizona was such a strong team all year, which makes that NFC Championship debacle so shocking. I couldn't even watch the second half. To stay as a top contender, they have to retool that defense that Carolina so thoroughly torched. Mathieu is great, but he is injury prone. Got to get a solid third option, who can step up if Mathieu gets hurt again.

Tight end is a big need too. It seems like it's been years since Arizona has had a top tier tight end. Even during their Super Bowl run seven years ago, I don't recall them having any sort of threat from the position. Their receivers are scary good, but their offense would be even more well-rounded if they can upgrade the tight end position. No way Gresham is the answer anymore. I'm also skeptical on Fells.

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^Couldn't agree more. Off the top of my head, I think their tight end was that 6'8" guy, King?

Oh man, that's far back lol. I didn't even play fantasy football back in 2008. But I looked it up and it looks like Ben Patrick was their most productive tight end that season. They also had Leonard Pope make some plays. So not great tight ends by any means lol.

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On 3/25/2016 at 6:55 PM, Ali Siddiqui said:

I think the Cardinals, Panthers and Vikings could be the top 3 seeds again. Will be interesting to see who comes out on top

I actually disagree with this, with the utmost respect of course. The year to year turnover in the NFL is just insane. I mean, the Vikings went from 7-9 and third in their division to being an 11-5 #3 seed in just one year. I feel confident at least two of these three teams are going to have down seasons. Especially when you consider that the Packers and Seahawks have the potential to improve on their respective 10-6 records. 

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On 3/30/2016 at 9:03 PM, Ali Siddiqui said:

The Vikes got a great coach and lots of young talent. If they stay healthy they could be pretty good.

Still think they have to play second fiddle to Seattle, Carolina, Arizona, and GB

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2 hours ago, Jonathan Rodriguez said:

Still think they have to play second fiddle to Seattle, Carolina, Arizona, and GB

They did better than GB last year. We'll see though. Alot of ppl had them going 9-7 instead of 11-5. The NFL is so unpredictable. 

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They did better than GB last year. We'll see though. Alot of ppl had them going 9-7 instead of 11-5. The NFL is so unpredictable. 

True, but GB to me is a more stable franchise because of Rodgers. Not sure how much Palmer can take the franchise especially at his age. But yea NFL is unpredictable, who saw Carolina doing what they did this past year prior to the season starting?

Sent from my VS980 4G using the Pro Football Spot App

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Yeah, Carolina did better without Benjamin. The Packers get Nelson back, but the Vikes added some pieces to the offensive line and the D should keep getting better. Hopefully they have another solid draft. 

Again, we'll see what happens. Keeping my fingers crossed over my Vikings. SKOL!

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