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Arizona Cardinals defensive regression 'seems inevitable,' says SI

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Can the offense step up?

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

There is a dirty word in football and all sports when dealing with statistics -- regression.

According to Doug Farrar, writing for SI.com, the Arizona Cardinals defense is in position to regress in 2014.

He writes that "regression in this case is inevitable," citing the loss of Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington, the addition of an aging Larry Foote and untested Kevin Minter, the acquisition of the "inconsistent" Antonio Cromartie and the recovery of Tyrann Mathieu.

Farrar raises the question:

Who on the other side of the ball will pick up the slack? At quarterback, Palmer is what he is -- a stat collector who swings between good and bad too often, and although Ellington is a real spark plug, he'll need to show that he can maintain his production with more carries than the 118 he had last year. Arians has penciled Ellington in for 25-30 touches per game in the 2014 season, which would be a major increase. The receiver corps is solid, the offensive line has improved and Arians' reputation as an offensive mind and motivator is well-deserved. Still, as much as Keim has improved the team's depth over the last few years, it's hard to place the Cards in the playoffs in this Murderers' Row of a division. Maybe secession is the best plan, after all.

While the national media see major concerns for the Cardinals defensively, they did add depth to the defensive line, return players from injury at outside linebacker, add talent in the defensive backfield and are working in Year 2 of Todd Bowles' system.

They still have a goal to have the league's best defense.

But the truth is that, with a defense that was ranked so highly in 2013, regression is natural. It doesn't mean they will go from sixth overall to 20th, but they might slip a few slots. To withstand that, the offense should be much improved with talent added on the offensive line and skill positions, in addition to the fact that the offensive unit will have familiarity with the system.

The "looming question" that Farrar poses is the big one. Will the defense regress, and will the offense be able to make up for it? Perhaps an even bigger question is this -- even if the team improves, will it even be enough to get into the postseason?

We won't know the answer to those questions for a while.