I watched yesterday's game with a heavy heart that my beloved Cardinals played so average yesterday especially the offense. We have a very good defense and great playmakers but we are becoming a joke almost every Sunday.
However, I would like majority of our fans to be patient and only judge the team after 10 games played to know where we stand. I firmly believe were it not for the key injuries suffered earlier this season, We would be 5-1 or 6-1 like the Seahawks or even 4-3 at this point. Losing LG Jonathan Cooper was a major blow especially to Carson Palmer. Cooper looked great in pre-season and was teh key to our running game and pass protection as he would have helped with the inside pressure that Carson gets each game.
I am going to break things down and point our a few suggestions of what the team especially Steve Keim should think about doing between now and next season.
We are not going to win the Superbowl this year, heck even we will not be able to go playoffs this year ( we might but that depends on winning all 3 division games we have next including the late December game in Seattle)
Arizona Cardinals have a very good defense and one of the best at creating turnovers and is on the verge of being an Elite Defense like the 2000 Ravens and 2005-2008 Steelers Defense. Losing ROLB Sam Acho was a a big blow because he started to get pressure and was on verge on becoming better with his pass rush. Our Defense is great and there are two positions it is missing in my opinion from being an ELITE Defense. Those are an OLB and SS.
OLB- This is a position that Steve Keim must upgrade in offseason to take this Defense to elite status because all the elite teams have one. 49ers have Aldon Smith and Core Lemonier ( they have two studs when Smith comes back), Chiefs have two great pass rushing OLB's in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston ( The best two pure rushers in my book), Broncos have Von Miller , The Rams have Quinn and Long as their great book ends. Our defense with the addition of a pass rusher would have the best linebacking corps in the league since I belive D-Wash, Dansby ( replaced by Minter eventually) would become the two best duo's in the league by next season. Acho will become the best run stopping OLB and a pass rusher that can get you 10 sacks and not more than that. to get 15 to 20 sacks, we need to draft one of this exciting talents next year even if it means trading up to get him ( would explain that later)
SS- This is the one error I feel Steve Keim made in cutting Adrian Wilson. Wilson is still a great player and even though he is declining, and on IR now with patriots, he is better than Jeremiah Bell. J Bell is a great run stopping safety but he is a mismatch in coverage and constantly getting best by TE's. We need to draft a safety that can do both in mold of a Kenny Vaccaro, a hitter and someone that can run with TE and break up passes.
The offense continues to be a great disappointment and this season thereatens to be like last season. Carson Palmer has played very badly and a majority of his INT's are bad decisions. This link -http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1814419-how-carson-palmer-can-turn-around-his-underwhelming-season-with-the-arizona-card breaks down how his bad decisions has lead to loss of games. He has been trying to force the ball to Larry Fitzgerald ( who is having an ok season due to hamstring issues and not being 100% healthy and Palmer knows this ). there are open receivers but Palmer is not playing smart and is trying to hard. He wants the media to talk about how Palmer to Fitz combo is lighting up the league but he should know Fitz will be double and even triple teamed on most plays ( i.e carolina int). Palmer needs to wake up and throw to open receiver on a given play since its a long season and Fitz will get his numbers in due time .. just don't force feed him the ball too much when he is triple covered and he needs to learn to throw to sideline when fit is in double coverage.
Palmer needs to start playing smart football and actually going through his reads because he has had time and the O-line has improved with exception of yesterday to a point that they were on pace for just 34 sacks before last night they gave up 7 so don't know what the current pace will be now like 40+. Carson Palmer is just a STOP-GAP QB at the moment since we gave up just a 6th rounder for him and have not heavily invested in him. He is making the opportunity go by him, and this is his best chance at a shot to win Super bowl but I do not see it happening unless he turns the season round and get this team to playoffs by playing smart football and stop forcing balls in coverage.
With that said, this Offense is 3 positions away from being a good offense and they are: LT, QB and HB.
LT- I believe that the LT is the third most important position on a football field with the first being a QB ( the Offense goes through him and you need one to win in this league) and the second is MLB ( A great MLB can influence a defense to be great such as RAY LEWIS). Elite LT gives you a great chance to win but you do need at least a prowl bowl LT to win in this league. An above average LT is good enough if your QB is elite like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan ( I know his team is 1-4 but thats more due to their defense inability to protect leads). You can also win with a young QB if he is mobile and you have an above average LT like Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson.
on the other hand, a QB like Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco needs a great system around them to win and a good to great defense to win. I still believe Tom Brady won three Superbowls due to having a great defense and a great offensive line. Tom Brady have always had a good offensive line infront of him but Manning hasn't had that and Manning never had even a good defense and when he did, he won the Superbowl in 2006. I believe Broncos will win Superbowl 48.
QB- I believe Arizona Cardinals can still win with Palmer in next two to three seasons but that depends on some factors. IF Arizona wants to win a superbowl in next 2 season i.e superbowl 50 as outlined in Keim's recent interview about the 3 year plan, they would need to draft a top 10 LT to pair with LG J. Cooper even if it means trading up in the draft to get him.
Otherwise Arizona needs to draft a QB next draft. If we are picking in top 10 again, we go for QB and LT in second round as I believe that combo gives you an elite QB and above average LT.
HB - Rashard Medenhall is done as a HB since he does not have the same burst and speed he had couple of seasons ago. I believe its time to give Ryan Williams a shot and see if he can ignite the running game since Andre Ellington is great but I don't believe he is a 3- down back. He is a Sproles type and change of pace back. Williams and Ellington can form a potent 1-2 punch and if not draft a HB that can pair up with Ellington or try Stephan Taylor.
Back to the topic, I believe Steve Keim and his front Office needs to make a decision especially come draft and free agency time from March - May on which of the two strategies to take to build an Elite team.
I believe the cardinals are three positions from being a playoff team and that is OLB- pass rusher specialist, LT - very good pass protector since Cooper will power the run game and QB- Only if Carson Palmer can't turn it around and is basically done. I still believe He can return to being one of the best in the league but for him to get there are three things:
1. draft top 10 elite LT tackle - either Jake Matthews or Taylor Lewan - I personally prefer Lewan as he is a good pass blocker and great run-blocker and nasty as they comes plus he is from ARZ which means he would love it out here.
2. Coach Carson Palmer hard- I believe Arians need to mentally re-train him to read coverage and make the correct throw. Most of his INT's have been bad decisions and have led to losses as I believe without the INT's we would be 4-4 and would have beaten the 49ers since Palmer gave them 10 points free with terrible picks.
3. Draft and sign Quality O-lien depth- good back ups that can step-up and win you games.
IF I WAS GM of the Cardinals, I would ride the season out with Carson and in offseason would let him know that he has one more chance in 2014 season to get us to playoffs and play like as close to Elite as possible or we woon't renew his contract. This is what I would do in 2014 draft:
1st Round - If we are picking in top 10 again, I would draft an elite LT - Taylor Lewan is my pick and would trade up to get him if I have to. I would make this pick based on the assumption that Palmer would step- up and play well if improved pass protection. If He cannot win games behind an O-line consisting of :
RT- Massie/Winston RG - Daryn Collegde C- Lyle Sendlein LG- Jonathan Cooper LT- Taylor Lewan ( Lewan is 6'8 and a beast of a LT)
even if we do not pick in top 10, I would trade up to get Lewan so solidify the line once and for all.
2nd Round - Find a pass rusher, I would be looking for an OLB who slips into second round and all they can do is rush the QB.
3rd Round - SS we found Adrian Wilson here so we can find another type like him..
after that i dunno how our season would be !!!!