Much will be made as we get nearer to the regular season, about how good certain players have looked throughout the offseason. Last offseason, Bruce Arians commended how well Troy Niklas had performed. And while he did look very good in the very short period we were able to see him, Niklas sustained yet another injury, and left fans disappointed.
This offseason is much the same. Arians has been hyping up the rookies, and once again has hyped up Troy Niklas. The fanbase is still not sold, but he has found a way to get their hopes up for the oft injured second round selection.
There are plenty of players the Cardinals will need to help them reach their ultimate goal in 2017. But there are five guys, who the Cardinals will need to perform in order for them to have success.
Niklas has been a guy who is constantly hyped up, fans get excited, and he ultimately crushes their excitement. Niklas has once again been talked up by Bruce Arians this offseason, so we will see if we will be let down. Niklas will be crucial due to the lack of depth at the tight end position. Behind Jermaine Gresham, is a wealth of talent, but none of it has been able to find the field. Ifyeani Momah has suffered injuries in his last two seasons. Hakeem Valles is barely in year two, and had drop issues in 2016. Niklas is the most talented tight end on the team, so him staying healthy in 2017 will be crucial.
This may be odd considering his 2015 campaign, but the inability of Brown to remain healthy last year was one of the numerous reasons the Cardinals struggled in 2016. Brown appears to have found a way to maintain his sickle cell, so the Cardinals have an opportunity to have a deadly passing attack in 2017. With Brown’s speed, the Cardinals will have the ability to stretch the field, and make defenses fear that aspect of their game.
Mathieu makes this list because we love him on the field. Yet he has not played a full 16 game slate yet. This won’t be a make or break season for Mathieu. He already has his extension down. Yet this will be the season Mathieu has to have in order to silence his critics. If he can play all 16 games he’ll be able to shed the “injury prone” label, and instead assert himself as the dominant “Honey Badger” we see 10-13 games a season. The Defense will need him if they look to rebound from a weak 2016.
I have never been a huge fan of Nkemdiche. I was not a fan of the pick last season. I am not naming Nkemdiche on this list because he is a “bust”. It is far too early. Nkemdiche makes this list because he will be relied upon to help fill the shoes of Calais Campbells departure. He was drafted to be a dominant player on the Defensive Line, and now in year two, he will have to become that dominant player he needs to be.
Humphries did fine in 2016. He was solid once he settled into the right tackle role. He was exceptional once the team asked him to shift to the left side of the line. He was so exceptional that the team made the move permanent. Humphries is not learning a new position. Left Tackle is his natural position. That will be crucial to the protection of Carson Palmer. Humphries missed the final three games on 2016, at that point the Cardinals playoff dreams were dashed. If the Cardinals want a successful 2017, Humphries will have to show the switch was the right decision.