Expectations are a funny thing, when you have them and fail to live up to them, you are perceived as struggling or bad. When you do not have them, you are whatever your play actually deems you.
That is what is so interesting about the Arizona Cardinals.
From an objective observer, they are the definition of mediocre, yet to fans or pundits, they are one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL, if not the most, in 2016.
Expectations, they’re a bitch.
Average is what Carson Palmer has been. His highs are high still, his lows are bad, yet his numbers are basically average. He has kept the team in a number of games, he also threw them out of a couple, so it is natural that Palmer sits at a C for the season.
Unrealistic Expectations: Continuing to play at a career high level, despite only one full season in his career at that level. Don’t tell me about 2014, it is all hypothetical after the injury. What he was in 2015 was the best QB of his career, was it fair to expect the same?
Running Backs: A
Chris Johnson got hurt and Andre Ellington is an after thought, yet David Johnson makes this grade an A with a bullet. He may be the best running back in the NFL.
Unrealistic Expectations: That anyone could pose a threat to DJ’s carries or workload. Silly.
Wide Receivers: C
Larry Fitz - A
J.J. Nelson - A
Michael Floyd - D
John Brown - C (Only because of injuries or it would be worse)
This was supposed to be the strength of the team, yet Fitzgerald is still the best receiver on the team, no one knows what to expect of John Brown while he finds his health, and Michael Floyd looks... I don’t know.
Unrealistic Expectations: To expect a player in their fifth year to make a leap... finally. It is unfair. Yet, I don’t think anyone expected the weight of a contract to hamper Floyd this much.
Offensive Line: C
They have been above average to good in the run game, and average to below in pass protection. Now, they deal with changing players... again.
Unrealistic Expectations: To expect an offensive line with 3/5 new starters to be a top ten offensive line. While talent is important, continuity is king in offensive line play.
Offense Overall: C+
A lot of empty numbers, but the team itself is not terrible, they just rose the bar so high in 2015, that anything that did not match the output would be a step back. I think they have some 2015 in them still... Right?
Defensive Line: C+
There has been some good, some great and some downright ugly, and that is why they get the dreaded, slightly above average. Calais Campbell has been really good, Corey Peters has been pretty good, Frostee Rucker has been good at times, and then... Everyone else is hot and cold or inactive (hello, rook).
Unrealistic Expectations: Expecting too much from the young pups. Gunter and Nkemdiche just are not ready, at least in 2016, to take the torch from Campbell and Rucker. Which could be a problem for 2017.
Markus Golden and Chandler Jones are great. Kevin Minter has finally showed what everyone expected out of college, and while Deone Bucannon is having what seems like a “down year” I think a lot of his play is a result of the step back from the defensive line.
Unrealistic Expectations: Maybe Bucannon being a “great” inside linebacker was unrealistic expectation, but I think this is the one area, outside of David Johnson, where you have seen expectations at least met, if not surpassed.
Defensive Backs: B-
Patrick Peterson is really good. Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearingertook the next step and may be a problem of losing. Yet, everything else has been a mess of good and bad. Tyrann Mathieu seemed to be rounding into form, then another injury. Tyvon Branch was injured before he could figure it out, Brandon Williams was benched for a couple of cast offs and Justin Bethel couldn’t take the next step.
If they can figure out the second corner situation, is Cooper back and healthy, and the slot corner position without Mathieu for the next couple of weeks, and then Mathieu continues to improve, this will be an A by seasons end. Of course, that could be asking a lot.
Unrealistic Expectations: Mathieu to be himself. Tyvon Branch to be healthy. Brandon Williams to be a factor in 2016.
Defense Overall: B
A slightly above average unit seems a little high for what we have seen in games 1, 3, 4 and 8 but then you remember what they did against the Jets and Seahawks and know what they are capable of. It is frustrating, that is for sure.
Special Teams: F? D-? D?
They would be on probation in college, that is all I know. A new long snapper, a new punter and still some issues with each. You could maybe point to two games where their kicker just... choked. And don’t even get me started on the “return game” (hint: there is not one).
Unrealistic Expectations: To do their job?
Coaches and GM... Coming in a couple of hours.
What do you think?