The 2017 playoff chances for the Cardinals ended in Week 1 when David Johnson broke his left wrist. Arizona finished 8-8 with their second straight missed playoff appearance. Bruce Arians returns for his sixth season as head coach. Arians has a 49-30-1 career record with two playoff appearances. Bruce has nine seasons of experience as offensive coordinator leading two leading to Super Bowl titles.
Last year Arizona scored 123 fewer points than 2016 (418) leading to the 25th ranking in points scored (295) and 22nd in offensive yards. Their failure on offensive led to Mike McCoy being rewarded with the offensive coordinator job after holding the same position for the Denver Broncos in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2017. In between, McCoy went 27-37 as the head coach for the San Diego Chargers with one playoff appearance. Mike has 18 seasons of experience coaching in the NFL.
Al Holcomb gets a promotion in job title after hold the linebacking coaching job for the Panthers from 2013 to 2017. Holcomb has nine years of NFL coaching experience. Al takes over as the offensive coordinator for the Cardinals. Over the past three seasons, Arizona had a top-six defense in the league as far as yards allowed. Unfortunately, they failed to match that success in points allowed in 2016 (362 – 14th) and 2017 (361 – 19th). Part of the decline last year was due to the poor offensive play starting with the QB position.
The most important move in the offseason for Arizona came at the quarterback position. With Carson Palmer hanging up his cleats, the Cardinals signed Sam Bradford to lead the show for the next two seasons. They added to Mike Glennon for QB depth while releasing Matt Barkley, Blaine Gabbert, and Drew Stanton. Bradford developing into an accurate game manager over is 17 games with the Vikings in 2016 and 2017.
Arizona moved on from WR Jaron Brown and WR John Brown. Of the two players, John Brown had the higher skill set. His battle with a blood issue led to two disappointing seasons in a row.
The Cardinals dumped the backend of the secondary over the winter. They released CB Tramon Williams, S Tyrann Mathieu, and CB Justin Bethel while adding CB Bene Benwikere. Williams is near the end of his career with more risk than reward. Mathieu wasn’t the same player over the last two seasons after a second torn ACL late in 2015. Early in his career, Tyrann has the look of a top player at his position. Bethel struggled last year while never being a difference maker. Benwikere has two good seasons on his resume while being a losing option in his other two years.
Arizona added T Justin Pugh and T Andre Smith to their offensive line. Both players struggled last year. Pugh started his career with four good seasons while showing the most upside in 2015 and 2016. Smith flashed strength from 2011 and 2013 before showing a decline over his last four years.
The only other two players of value lost over the winter were DE Josh Mauro and LB Kareem Martin. Mauro has never been an asset in the NFL while earning only a rotational role. Martin developed into a league average player last year with part-time snaps for the first time in his career.
In the first round, the Cardinals drafted QB Josh Rosen. He has all the tools to start in his rookie season while lacking an NFL arm. Rosen shows the ability to read defenses with the skill set to throw the ball well on timing routes. With Sam Bradford on the roster, Josh will have time to develop into a starting NFL QB.
With their pick in the second round, Arizona invested in WR Christian Kirk. His game is built to work the short areas of the field out of the slot. Kirk has strong hands with solid route running and quickness. His top end speed won’t beat the top CBs in the NFL in the deep passing game. Christian offers strength, but he needs to use it better to create space early vs. press coverage.
Arizona added two players for their offensive line in the third (Mason Cole) and seventh (Korey Cunningham) rounds.
Cole doesn’t have the base to defeat power players while his best asset is his athletic ability. He plays hard on every player with solid vision in his reads. Mason need to improve his hands to help combat losing battles after the snap.
Cunningham shows the ability to cover the area on both sides of his position, but he lacks the strength to hold his ground vs. power. When faced defeat, Korey can get caught holding. His game has some value on the move while needing to develop his base and balance to earn more playing time at the next level.
In the fourth round, the Cardinals took a swing at RB Chase Edmonds. He doesn’t project well as a north/south runner while using his speed over open field moves at the second level of the defense. His quickness plays well with improvement needed in his pass protection skills. Edmonds does offer power, but he needs better vision and explosiveness going through the line of scrimmage.
Arizona selected CB Chris Campbell in the sixth round. His game is loaded with failure risk while needing a ton of improvement in his cover skill set and strength. Campbell may develop in press coverage, but he does have risk in run support.
The Cardinals fell to 30th in rushing yards (1,386) with only six TDs and five runs over 20 yards. They averaged only 3.4 yards per carry with 25.6 attempts per game.
Arizona finished 15th in passing yards (3,640) with 21 TDs and 18 Ints. Their QBs gained 6.7 yards per pass attempt with 55 completions over 20 yards. Their offensive line allowed 52 sacks and 123 QB hits. The Cardinals had their worst line in the NFL in 2017, which wasn’t helped by the injury to David Johnson or poor QB play.
LT D.J. Humphries didn’t play a down in his first season in the NFL after Arizona selected him in the first round in the 2015 NFL Draft. Humphries is more advanced in the run game while having some risk in pass protection. He missed three games in 2016 with only three full games last year due to a knee issue.
RG Mike Iupati tends to be slightly better than a league average player with more upside as a run blocker. The 49ers drafted him in the first round in 2010. Last year Iupati missed 15 games with a triceps injury.
C A.Q. Shipley is the most consistent player on the Cardinals’ offense line, but he played at the lowest level of his career in 2017 due to injuries around him on the line and the loss of David Johnson. His resume is only league average at best after getting drafted in the seventh round in 2009 by the Steelers.
RG Justin Pugh will shift from tackle to guard in 2017. Pugh finished as the best player on the Giants’ line in 2015 and 2016, which improves his resume to four years of success. Pugh offers the most significant edge in run blocking. New York added him in the first round in 2013. In 2016, he missed five games with a knee injury that didn’t require surgery and last year Justin missed another seven games with a back issue.
RT Andre Smith started the first three games of Vikings in 2016 before suffering a triceps injury, which was similar injury as he had in 2014 with the Bengals. Cincinnati drafted him in the first round in 2009, but health continues to be his shortfall over the last four seasons which included a knee issue last year. His season of value came in 2013.
Injuries were the downfall of the Cardinals offensive play in 2017, which was the case as well on the offensive line. They dumped the right side of the line, which will be improved dramatically in at least one spot with a healthy year from Justin Pugh. The left side of the line has talent pointing to a rebound in all areas in 2018. The right tackle position has risk while the remaining core should be strong enough to push their success to better than the league average this year.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).
This information is based on 2017, which will work as our starting point for 2018. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2017 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2017.
2017 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.
2017 Adjustment is based on the 2017 league average and the 2017 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.
The Cardinals have two tough games (MIN and DEN) for their rushing offense. Their best success on the ground should come against the Redskins and the Chargers while having a favorable schedule overall.
Arizona has three below par matchups (MIN, DEN, and LAC) for their passing offense plus four other games (WAS, CHI, and SEA X 2) that rank below the league average. They only have two games (GB and DET) that look to offer a slight edge. The Cardinals have tons of risk for their passing attack.
Rather than look at last year’s failed result on offense. Let’s step back to 2016 when David Johnson was in top form.
The Cardinals ran the ball 38.1 percent of the time in 2016 partly due to game score. They played a high level of defense, but Arizona was forced to pass too many times especially with a poor pass blocking line. Their offensive line should be improved this year helping the run game become more productive.
QB Sam Bradford –After a poor start to his career over five seasons with the Rams (18-30-1 record with 58.6 percent completion rate), Bradford proved to be serviceable over the last 2+ seasons (16-15) highlighted by success with the Vikings (71.8 percent completion rate) with an excellent TD to Int ratio (23:5). In 2016, he had only two games with over 300 yards passing and two games with three TDs. In his only full game last year, Sam passed for 346 yards and three TD. The Vikings struggled to block for him in five games (4, 6, 5, 5, and four sacks) in 2016. Bradford is a former first-round draft pick (2009) with one more chance to showcase his upside. The Cardinals will throw the ball, but they don’t have an impact TE with questions in their depth at WR. This offense will flow through David Johnson requiring Sam to be a good game manager, which points to 4,000+ yards passing with just above the league average in TDs. More of QB2 with a tough passing schedule in the year.
QB Josh Rosen – Over two and half seasons at UCLA, Rosen passed for 9,340 yards with 59 TDs and 26 Ints. His running ability is minimal in rushing plays, but he can sneak a TD or even extend some drives with his legs. He played many snaps from under center where he was a much better timing passer while adding ball fakes to move the deep safeties. Josh will make good pre-snap reads while getting the ball out quickly in his dropbacks from center. At the goal line, Rosen can throw fades on the outside or challenge the middle of the field with accuracy. His arm strength is below NFL average, and he does have a history of injuries (shoulder in 2016 and two concussion in 2017). I like his pro feel, so he should improve quickly if given a starting opportunity.
Other Options: Mike Glennon, Chad Kanoff
RB David Johnson – As great as Todd Gurley was in 2017, Johnson was better in 2016. He finished with 2,118 combined yards with 20 TDs and 80 catches while averaging 23.3 touches per game. Note: Gurley only played 15 last year. David missed last season due to a left wrist injury, which won’t be a strike on his 2018 Fantasy value. In 2015 with Johnson as a part-time RB, the Cardinals had the top offense in the league while averaging 31.1 points per game. The loss of Johnson and weaker QB play led to only 18.4 points per game last year. Arizona brought Sam Bradford to upgrade the quarterback position, but the Cardinals still lack threats at WR behind Larry Fitzgerald with questions in their talent at TE. Johnson is a great player, and he can do it all. He needs a better supporting cast to create more opportunities and scoring chances. Either way, his volume of touches will lead to another high-ranking finish in 2018, and his offensive line should be improved. With 16 games played, David is going to touch the ball 375+ times leading to 2,000+ yards with double-digit TDs and 75+ catches, and I feel like I’m conservative in my outlook.
RB Chase Edmonds – Over his first three seasons at Fordham, Edmonds gained 6,061 combined yards with 69 TDs and 75 catches while averaging 6.6 yards per rush and 10.3 yards per catch. Injuries led to only seven games played in 2017 with only 706 combined yards with five TDs and 11 catches. Chase lost his explosiveness last year leading to just 4.2 yards per rush. Edmonds has a three-down skill set, but he’ll be making a huge step in competition. Player to follow this summer as he may emerge as the top handcuff to David Johnson.
RB T.J. Logan – Over four seasons at North Carolina, Logan rushed for 2,165 yards on 398 carries with 19 rushing TDs plus 76 catches for 663 yards and four more TDs. T.J. never had a season where he was the lead back in college. He runs with a home run gear, which will offer value in the return games or as a change of pace option. Logan plays well in the passing game with a higher enough skill set to pass protect. He returned five kickoffs in 77 chances with the Tar Heels. T.J. missed all of last year with a wrist injury.
Other Options: D.J. Foster, Sherman Badie
WR Larry Fitzgerald – Over the last three seasons, Fitzgerald has 325 combined catches for 3,394 yards and 21 TDs on 456 targets. He’ll enter 2018 at the age of 35, which will give Fantasy owners a reason to fade him on draft day. Larry only needs 390 yards to pass Terrell Owens for the second most all-time. He needs 102 catches to pass Tony Gonzalez for the second most catches in NFL history. With David Johnson back on the field and what looks like an upgrade at QB with the addition of Sam Bradford, Fitzgerald should have more bullets in his gun. His yards per catch (9.6 in 2016 and 10.6 in 2017) will require plenty of looks to be a competitive lead WR in 2018. Hard worker with winning opportunity, possible 90+ catches for 1,000+ yards with mid-level TDs. Over his last three seasons, his catch rate (71.3) has been phenomenal.
WR Christian Kirk – Over 39 games in three seasons at Texas A&M, Kirk caught 234 passes for 2,856 yards and 26 TDs. His game is built to play in the slot, which makes him more of a future replacement for Larry Fitzgerald than a threat on the outside in 2018. Christian plays with strength and upside in his route running while his hands grade well. His deep won’t be an edge against the top CBs in the NFL. Tough call for me this year without some training camp and preseason news. I’ll follow him closely as he may emerge as the WR2 in the Cardinals’ offense. I good starting point may be 60 catches for 700 yards and about five TDs with positive news about his progress over the summer.
WR J.J. Nelson – Twice in 2016 (8/79/2 and 3/132/1), Nelson flashed upside with one game of value in 2017 (5/120/1). Over his last 31 games, J.J. has 63 catches for 1,076 yards and eight TDs on 135 targets. His catch rate (45.7) does invite risk while finishing last year with 13 games with two catches or fewer. J.J. lacks the size (5’10” and 160 lbs.) to be a high volume WR without adding more bulk and strength. Big play receiver with his speed pointing to a WR3 in 2018 with a chance at 50+ catches.
WR Chad Williams – Over his last two seasons at Grambling, Williams caught 164 passes for 2,349 yards and 21 TDs. His skill set may be what this offense needs at WR2, but this is a huge step up in competition. Chad comes with an edge in hands and a physical style. Williams has risk in his release plus his acceleration isn’t strong enough to create a big passing window over the short areas of the field. Arizona pushed on him in the 2017 draft, so they believe in his upside. More of a project for now while respecting his talent. Last year he caught three of his seven targets for 31 yards.
Other Options: Brice Butler, Greg Little, Rashad Ross, Carlton Aqudosi, Trent Sherfield
TE Ricky Seals-Jones – In his rookie season in the NFL after signing as an undrafted free agent, Seals-Jones flashed in Week 11 (3/54/2 on five targets) and Week 12 (4/72/1 on six targets) despite only being on the field for 25 combined plays. With similar playing time over the next two games (2/44 and 1/20), Ricky failed to make an impact with defenses now playing more attention to him in their game plan. His snaps doubled in Week 15 and Week 16, but his results faded (2/11 on six targets and 0/0 on one target). In the end, RSJ caught 12 of his 28 targets for 201 yards with three TDs and five catches of 20 yards more. In college, Seals-Jones caught 120 passes for 1,358 yards and nine TDs over 33 games from 2014 to 2016. He was a high recruit out of high school as a wide receiver. His game doesn’t matchup up well to NFL CBs due to his slow release and questionable hands. The change to TE should suit him well, but Ricky needs to add more fight to his game. One defensive back coach in the SEC made this statement about him in his scouting report at NFL.com, “He looks great in that uniform, but he can’t get open. Usually, you fear guys with that kind of size when they make it down near your end zone, but he never competed hard enough down there when we played him.” His path in 2017 almost fits this comment to a tee. When overlooked, Seals-Jones can make big plays downfield. In tight coverage, he struggled to make big catches and create separation. I expect him to have success vs. linebackers who play off the ball, but a talent coverage safety should be able to neutralize him. Part-time option at TE who can turn in a winning game if given an edge in his matchup. More of a bye week cover for me unless his opportunity shows growth in 2018. I only see about 35 catches for 500 yards with a handful of TDs.
TE Jermaine Gresham – In 2017, the Cardinals completed 57 passes for 701 yards and six TDs on 94 targets to the TE position. Over 45 games in Arizona, Gresham has 88 catches for 936 yards and five TDs on 139 targets. He scored 24 TDs in his first 74 NFL games with this number fading to five TDs in his time with the Cardinals. Low upside opportunity for Jermaine while being the top option on the roster. In 2018, he’ll be in a split role with Ricky Seal-Jones point to a max of 40 catches for 400 yards and minimal value in TDs. His ability to block helps his playing time.
Other Options: Gabe Holmes, Bryce Williams, Beau Sandland, Andrew Vollert, Alec Brown
K Phil Dawson –The Cardinals’ offense struggled in 2017 while playing solid defense, which led to a career high in field goals (32) and field goal attempts (40). Dawson did miss three of his 26 extra points. In his career, Phil made 84.2 percent of his kicks with success from 50 yards or longer (42-for-59). Over the last three seasons with longer extra point tries, Dawson made 76 of 81 chances. He ranks 10th all-time in scoring in the NFL. Arizona will play better offensively in 2018, which will lead to more TDs and fewer FGs. Matchup type option with the leg to produce a top 12 opportunity even at age 43.
The Cardinals’ run defense has three mid-tier matchups (MIN and LAR X 2) with both teams having an upside RB. Their defense will hold an edge in two games (WAS and DET) while two other contests (OAK and LAC) look to be favorable.
The test for Arizona’s defense will come in the passing game. They have a weak schedule while facing 11 teams that grain better than the league average. The toughest games will come against the Chiefs, the Chargers, and the Lions. The Cardinals only one game (CHI) vs. a team with risk in their passing offense.
Arizona had the 6th best run defense (1,434 yards) in 2017 while allowing 12 TDs and nine runs over 20 yards. Ball carriers gained only 3.5 yards per rush with 25.4 runs per game.
The Cardinals slipped to 14th in passing yards allowed (3,541) with 24 TDs and 15 Ints. Their defense picked up 37 sacks while QBs gained 6.7 yards per pass attempt.
DE Chandler Jones turned into a monster in 2017 leading to a career high in sacks (17) with 59 tackles, and three defended passes. His game vs. the run ranked just about the league average. His best two years in the NFL came in Arizona. DE Markus Golden missed 12 games last year due to a knee injury. Golden delivered 51 tackles and 12.5 sacks in his sophomore season in the NFL in 2016 after being a 2nd round draft pick the previous year. Markus may not be 100 percent when the season starts.
DT Corey Peters plays well vs. the run while working a rotational player. Over his 27 games with Arizona, Peters only had one sack. His replacement is DT Robert Nkemdiche who the Cardinals added in the 1st round in 2016. Health has been an issue over his first two years in the NFL leading to 17 games and minimal snaps. DT Olsen Pierre chipped in with 30 tackles and 5.5 sacks off the bench while holding own vs. the run.
LB Haason Reddick brings speed and power to the table with the talent to play on all three downs. He’ll have plus value in coverage with some upside rushing the QB. Haason needs to add more bulk to help break free from the big boys. In his rookie season after being selected in the first round, Reddick had 36 tackles and 2.5 sacks with only part-time snaps. Haason had risk against the pass while needing growth vs. the run. LB Josh Bynes played in 14 games in 2017, but he was only on the field for 236 plays. In his two full games, Bynes had 17 tackles and one defended pass. Josh tends to be a liability. LB Deone Bucannon is another first rounder (2014), but his game has been fading over the last two years after playing well in 2015. Bucannon finished with 82 tackles, one sack, three defended passes, and one Int in 12 games. Better play at middle linebacker would help both outside options.
S Budda Baker is another player built on speed and quickness. His coverage skills have cornerback traits while offering upside in run support as well. His lack of size (5’10” and 195 lbs.) is a concern at safety with his risk coming vs. size in coverage. In his rookie season, Budda made 74 tackles with one sack, and seven defended passes while starting only eight games. His best success came in run support. S Antoine Bethea has a long career of success om the NFL with only a couple of down years. His production in tackles (57) came up short in 2017, but he made up for it with nine defended passes and five Ints. Bethea will start the year at age 34, so his best days are behind him.
CB Patrick Peterson remains one of the top cover players in the league. Last year he made 34 tackles with eight defended passes and one Int. His production tends to be lower than expected with QBs looking to avoid going his way in the passing game. Peterson struggled in run support in 2017, and his output fell below his peak 2015 season. CB Jamar Taylor handled himself well over the last two years with the Browns. In 2017, he set career highs in tackles (57), defended passes (13), and Ints (3). Taylor was a former second-round draft pick in 2013.
At the second and third levels of the defense., Arizona has five players with the potential to be better than the league average. Their most risk comes at middle linebacker. The Cardinals will struggle to rush the QB in many games especially with regression expected in the sack production by Chandler Jones. The Cardinals should defend the run while occasionally getting beat for a long run. I view them as tough start from week-to-week in the Fantasy market while ranking highly as a second defense with matchup value.
2018 NFL Team Outlooks