Raise your hand if you think the Cardinals look better on paper in 2014 than they did in 2013? (Alright, put your hands down)
There’s little doubt that the Cardinals have done plenty to improve their status heading into the 2014 season.
Franchise left tackle, well for them, two first round picks, because Jonathan Cooper is essentially a rookie this year and Ted Ginn giving them the speed to take the top off the defense, when he catches the ball.
On top of that, Carson Palmer, Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald head into year two of playing together, and Andre Ellington will have an expanded role in the Cardinals offense, likely as a pass catcher, but he’s going to get more touches, which is what matters.
There’s something though, a cause for pause… or concern if you will, with the strategy that’s being deployed by the Cardinals as they head towards the 2014 season.
While the defense could see a slight decline in play, it’s hard to expect a second year linebacker to produce in the same manner as a veteran all-pro, the Cardinals have added to their offense to have even more fire in the passing game.
That’s where the concern comes into play.
The Cardinals went 2-4 in 2013 within the NFC West, the best division in the NFL, and finished two wins, technically, out of the playoffs.
They won what ended up being the most important non-playoff game for the Seahawks, as it refocused them for the playoff run, and put an exclamation point on the good of the Cardinals 2013 season.
The Cardinals have a mountain to climb within the division if they want to make it to the playoffs, and they seem to be looking to climb that mountain by throwing the football.
Bruce Arians has long been known for his love of throwing the ball all over the field, and while he ratcheted down his deep ball game in 2013, because of his offensive line, his quarterback, or a combination of both, and while he didn’t throw as much as in Indy, he still liked to spin the ball around.
The Cardinals were 6-0, including their win in Seattle, when Carson Palmer threw the ball 32 times in a game or less in 2013.
In games where Palmer threw the ball over 32 times the Cardinals obviously finished 4-6.
In their 10 wins, the Cardinals ran the ball for an average of 105.6 yards per game, in their losses, only 80.7 yards per game.
While those numbers aren’t staggering, if they averaged 105 per game they wouldn’t have improved overall in the run game more than one spot on the season, it shows the importance of being able to establish some sort of rushing attack.
The Seahawks and 49ers have built their recent success on running the ball and allowing the defense to make plays.
Seattle asked Russell Wilson to only throw the ball 25 times a game; he still finished with 26 touchdowns on the season.
In fact, Wilson didn’t throw the ball more than 33 times in any game during the entire season, playoffs included.
In his three losses, Wilson only threw the ball 31 times, 27 times and 25 times.
San Francisco asked Colin Kaepernick to throw the ball 26 times a game; he finished with 21 touchdowns on the season.
On the season, Kaepernick only threw more than 35 times once, in a week one win over Green Bay.
The two combined only threw 17 interceptions on the season, or Carson Palmer’s career average interceptions by season, he averages 17.1 interceptions per season.
The question becomes, is getting Carson Palmer more weapons, and likely using them more often, the right way to win in a division that is so run and defensive heavy?
Is combating the run heavy styles with an aerial assault going to get the Cardinals to the promise land?
In Arians we trust… right?