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HOMER’S NFL ODYSSEY(1): Arizona Cardinals

Welcome to Homer’s NFL Odyssey! Like the original hero Odysseus we will journey from NFL shore to NFL shore. Casting a light on each NFL squad and their 2015 fortunes from the perspective of a “Homer”. An upbeat tale of NFL fandom illuminating the chances of the your favorite team in a completely favorable light. This is the ultimate guide to your favorite team told from the perspective of a “Homer”.

 

ARIZONA CARDINALS

QB: Carson Palmer is an elite talent in this league. 100% recovered from the season ending injury that ended his 2014 in week 10. The mental ability, size and accuracy combo Palmer brings to the table puts Arizona in an excellent position to challenge for a trip to the Super Bowl. Few other teams in the NFL can trot out a signal caller matching Palmer’s metrics. 6’5″ 235 pounds. Entering his 13th season as NFL signal caller puts him in an even more exclusive company among NFL QBs.  If Palmer were to face any difficulty or missed time the Cardinals find themselves well protected with Drew Stanton and 2014 4th round pick Logan Thomas. Thomas is a strong armed 6’6″ 250 pound behemoth pressing Stanton for backup duties.

RB: Andre Ellington is an ideal RB in a pass heavy offense like the Arizona scheme. Agile, quick and aware Elly takes advantage of any space left in the opposing defensive scheme whether by run or reception. Injured in week 12 2014 Elly returns to 2015 healthy and ready to impact the game in a way only a two-way threat like Elly can. Elly will also benefut from the addition of 2015 3rd round pick David Johnson. The 6’1″ 224 pound Johnson was drafted to take some of the thumps and to provide breathers to the starter Elly. Planning on some interior usage from his 224lb frame the Cardinals aim to lessen Elly’s workload and free him up for greater health subsequently leading to a full season of availability and a more productive per touch rate. The rook Johnson will take some of the goalline touches sparing Elly the rigors of short yardage pounding. However this rook is a very capable runner towards the edges and pass receiving out of the backfield may be his greatest strength. With this tandem of Ellington and Johnson Arizona has as much versatility in the backfield as any team in the league.

WR/TE: This is the position where the Arizona Cardinals can create separation from most other teams in the NFL. Loaded at this position the Cardinals boast future Hall of Fame receiver and 2004 1st round pick Larry Fitzgerald at 6’3″ 218 pounds. Larry Fitzgerald is one of the most physically talented WRs in the NFL. Ebtering his 12th season few WRs can boast his awareness and grasp of NFL defensive schemes. The man across the field from him is another physical freak in 2012 1st round pick Michael Floyd at 6’3″ 225 pounds. A thick strong, big bodied WR who can dominate in one on one situations. The ideal compliment to the unwavering consistency of Fitzgerald. The third piece of this fantastic trio is John Brown. A 2014 3rd round speedster Brown measures in at a mortal 5’10” 180 pounds. His speed however is a thing legends are made of.  Brown provides a spark in the slot and the return game alike. A versatile and dynamic young talent Brown compliments his receiving brethren perfectly. Add in the presence of 2014 2nd round pick TE Troy Niklas as another interior target and you have a receiving core ready to lead a team to great heights in 2015.

OL: In 2015 the Arizona Cardinals will field what could amount to be one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Anchored by veterans Jared Veldheer at LT and newly acquired Mike Lupati at LG. A young rising star at RG in 2013 1st round pick Jonathan Cooper. Adding to the talent on the offensive line with 2015 1st round pick OT DJ Humphries. The O line also features the steady presence of both Ted Larsen at C and 4th year man Bobby Massie at RT.  This unit has the firepower to not only protect Palmer but create some large lanes for the RBs. Few NFL teams can boast such a talented crew up front.

 

Defense: The Arizona Cardinals defense is poised to be a dangerous and multifaceted attack in 2015. Featuring a Blitz friendly 3-4 attack with veterans Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker, 2015 2nd round pick Markus Golden and Corey Peters manning the defensive front. These 3 will lay the ground work. A highly talented LB group will be creating impact off that groundwork.  Hoping on the eventual return of superstar Daryl Washington who will make a great group even better.  Until then led by new arrival Sean Weatherspoon and 2013 2nd round pick Kevin Minter on the inside. Highly talented thumpers with the ability to stuff the run, blitz and drop into coverage. Joining them on the outside in the 3-4 scheme is a versatile group consisting of Alex Okafor, LaMarr Woodley and Matt Shaughnessy. This LB group has the ability to push the envelope and create a lot of big play opportunities for one of the best secondaries in the NFL.  Led by Superstar Patrick Peterson at CB. Also touting the likes of Tyrann Mathieu, Jerraud Powers, Rashad Johnson and 2014 1st round pick Deone Bucannon. A hawking style defensive backfield capable of showing multiple looks and coverages on every snap. Versatile, fast and aware. This is one of the best secondaries in all of football. The heart of the Cardinal defense.

 

Coaching: There is no question that Arizona served itself well by signing Bruce Arians in 2013 fresh off an interim HC playoff run. Prior to Indy Arians spent 5 seaons as the Offensive Coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers while playing a huge hand in the development of Ben Roethlisberger. A proven offensive guru Arians has led the Cardinals back from obscurity in his first two seasons in Arizona. Joined by Assistant HC Tom Moore and Offensive Coordinator Harold Goodwin among others the Cardinals present a coaching staff as impressive as any in the league.

 

Division Outlook:

SEATTLE: Any division featuring Seattle will provide stiff competition. But not a competitor that cannot be overcome. The Arizona Cardinals have improved their stock from 2014 while some of their main division foes have been affected negatively. Looking first at the Super Bowl losing Seattle Seahawks we can detect some noticeable losses in personnel. If we look at the trend Seattle has taken with their defensive line since 2013 we see a depleted group towards the end of 2014 and a lesser version of the dominant defense posted by Seattle in 2013. Seattle did not do much to alleviate that lack of depth. The only additions of note are Ahtyba Rubin replacing Kevin Williams and 2nd round pick Frank Clark joining the lot of less than outstanding linemen. Nothing I would consider a solution to what ailed Seattle in 2014. In addition the contract squabbles with Bruce Irvin could lead to on field cohesion issues. The departure of Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith an important role player. Richard Sherman is coming off an injury riddled campaign and may still be dealing with the effects of that injury. Byron Maxwell was lost to free agency and the club opted for Cary Williams as a replacement. Some drop off can be expected in this secondary even with the return of Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas.  The loss of Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn to the Atlanta Falcons could prove to have the largest impact. This is an altered unit and a drop off can be expected.

Turning to the Seattle Offense the first thing we take notice of is the addition of Jimmy Graham at TE. Providing a large athletic field stretcher for Russel Wilson. You cannot deny the validity of Graham as a downfield weapon. What can be debated is whether Russel Wilson’s play style is capable of fully taking advantage of any receiver. I do not believe his abilities translate to a high powered aerial attack. Too short IN THE POCKET Wilson must move away from the big bodies to create throwing lanes and complete passes. When forced to remain in the pocket we see an erratic passer who develops tentative mannerisms. Wilson’s play suffers and so does the Seattle offense. Marshawn Lynch is a beast but he is a 29 year old beast and some slowing can be expected very soon. The wide receivers are less than an impressive bunch. The OLine is great but no better than Arizona in that regard.  Seattle is still mostly a one dimensional offense and a great defensive unit like Arizona’s can shut them down with scheme.

SAN FRANCISCO: If one team should be destined for a downfall slide in 2015 based on off-season roster turnover it is the 49ers. Offensive changes are immense including the departure in free agency of G Mike Lupati too division rival Arizona. The loss of workhorse RB Frank Gore. Michael Crabtree moving to Oakland. The retirements of LB Patrick Willis, LB Chris Borland, DT Justin Smith and LT Anthony Davis.  The 49ers also said goodbye to starting corners Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox.  DE Ray McDonald left for the Bears and then left the NFL.  A very good coaching staff led by Jim Harbaugh is gone as well. If you ask a 49er fan if there will be significant drop off they will defiantly state no as they rattle off the players that will attempt to replace the former starters.  Underwhelming Torrey Smith taking over for Crabtree at WR. Yet unproven Carlos Hyde taking over for Gore at RB. Alex Boone is the only OLine addition of any note.  The additions of Arik Armstead DE and Desmond Bishop are not about to cure the defensive losses. The return of a healthy Navarro Bowman will stop some of the bleeding but the 49er defense will be a far cry from it’s former elite level.   If you ask anyone in tune with reality they will tell you a significant drop off is an extremely probable concern. For Cardinal fans it is merely blood in the water.

ST. LOUIS: Jettisoning one injury prone QB for a different injury prone QB may sit well with fans in St. Louis but health is still an issue. Production is not a given. Most people will see it as a lateral move. Drafting a RB coming off a very serious knee injury also seems like a less than ideal solution for that position in 2015.  Todd Gurley may prove to be a factor-back one day. Until then he remains unproven in the NFL. The receivers are still the less than spectacular group from 2014. A passable offensive line at best will struggle to slow down the Cardinal Defense. St. Louis boasts one of the most overrated Defenses in the NFL. Plenty of name power but yet the D still under-performs. Susceptibility to vertical passing makes STL an easy target for the AZ Cardinal WRs.

 

2015 OUTLOOK:

The Arizona Cardinals have put together a great team from front office to field. In a prime position to usurp the Super Bowl losing Seattle Seahawks. Seattle loses personnel and Arizona adds personnel. Same can be said for San Francisco. From a cohesion stand point Arizona comes in ahead of their division foes. Seattle will drop off with a SB slant pass hangover. SF is beginning a rebuilding process, whether they believe it or not. STL is far from a dominant club. Leaving Arizona as the 2015 division winner. Finishing at 12-4 while earning a 1st playoff round bye. Once in the playoffs anything can happen. A Super Bowl winning 2015 is a reasonable prognostication for the Arizona Cardinals.

 

 

 

 

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