Arizona Cardinals 2017 Off-Season: Top 3 Needs

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 01: Quarterback Carson Palmer #3 of the Arizona Cardinals throws a pass in the fourth quarter against the rush of defensive end William Hayes #95 of the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Cardinals fell well short of their objectives for last season. Finishing 7-8-1 overall and second in the NFC West standings behind the Seattle Seahawks (after beating them handily in Seattle, in front of their own home crowd) did nothing to curb the discontentment of the fans, and surely the players feel the same way. How does it taste? It tastes like losing.

Before the snowball starts rolling downhill again, addressing these issues during the off-season and getting ahead of the proverbial avalanche, is as good a time as any. Breaking down the biggest, the most glaring issues from last season, we’ve come up with what is likely the top three needs the Cardinals most need to address.

Arizona Cardinals 2017 Off-Season: Top 3 Needs

“There is no question your name has to be put on a young quarterback at some point,” said Cardinals GM Steve Keim. “I challenge myself everyday, because if you look around the league, you’re not a GM for long if you don’t find a quarterback. I have to do a better job with my staff and my coaching staff. We have to identify the right guy and put this organization in position to have success for years to come.”

Addressing The Offense

The Cardinals hold the #13 pick overall in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Who they choose will be crucial to the future of the team, especially for next season. Knowing already that quarterback Carson Palmer is limited to maybe one more year of football (this will be his final year), finding a successor to Palmer is a very important task going forward.

Having the veteran leader for one more season does maybe give the team a little leeway and a little more time to fully evaluate their options. The Cardinals should pass on picking a quarterback with their first round selection and go, perhaps, in a different direction. Mind you, Tom Brady was selected 199th overall in the 2000 NFL draft. How’s he doing?

The Cardinals should concentrate more importantly on the offensive line. Protecting Palmer is essential next season. Finding the right players for the job is probably the Cardinals most imperative concern for this off-season and for the draft. Looking at the young talent available, most teams have their eye on the kid from Wisconsin, OT Ryan Ramcyzk. Ramcyzk had hip surgery over this off-season, so his availability could be limited.

Moving up from number two to number one in most top 20 pre-draft projections for offensive lineman, with the 13th pick in the 2017 NFL draft, the Cardinals should select OT Cam Robinson. A big kid, at 6’6” and 326 lbs, Robinson’s size and strength could make an impact from the start. At Alabama, Robinson showed the ability to remain stout against the blitz, open holes for the run game, and cut off defenders from the edge. Robinson would do well in a Cardinals uniform.

Concentrating On Defense

The Cardinals defense was solid against the running attack last season. The frontline held their own and managed to hold opponent running backs consistently under a hundred yards per game. Having healthy defensive backs Marcus Cooper, Deone Bucannon, and Tony Jefferson, and maybe defensive tackle Calais Campbell scheduled to return (maybe), the Cardinals are in a great position to continue where they left off last season. Of course, having defensive backs Marcus Cooper and D.J. Swearinger only reinforces an already heavy frontline.

Where the team appears to be lacking most is in the secondary. The performance of cornerback Patrick Peterson was mediocre at best last season and he was torched on several occasions as the season progressed. On the other side of the field, with safety/cornerback Tyrann Mathieu injured more often than not, the Cardinals relied on “the next man up” approach through most of the season. Opposing teams had little to no trouble at all finding open receivers down the field and the end result for the Cardinals, 7-8-1. Either through free agency trading or through the draft, this issue must be addressed during the off-season and well before the start of next season.

Concerns With Special Teams

Perhaps the most glaring flaw for the Cardinals last season was the performance of the special teams (or lack there of). Missed opportunities in at least three, winnable match ups resulted in a loss because of special teams play. As the season progressed so did the restlessness of the fans (need there be a reminder) and the blame needed to be attached to someone. Somebody’s head needed to be on a stick.

Finally, a decision was made to fire punter Drew Butler. Whether this was the proper decision or not going forward is still yet to be determined as the decision wasn’t made until later on in the season, and much too late for decisions like these to be made. Butler was quickly replaced by punter Matt Wile.

Realistically, the top three needs for the Cardinals could be made on special teams alone. Some writers have suggested maybe it is special teams coordinator Amos Jones who needs to go. In his defense, the problems on special teams, the missed blocks, the missed field goals, the short field yardage punts, and the many other bloops and blunders that occurred throughout the season, were made by the players on the field. Coach Jones can only prepare his team, the performance of the team is solely the duty of the players.