Since reaching the NFC title game in 2015, the Arizona Cardinals have yet to get back to the playoffs. How can they help reverse their recent misfortunes?
It wasn’t that long ago that the Arizona Cardinals were enjoying a banner year. The team won the NFC West in 2015 with a 13-3 record, setting a franchise record for victories in a season. A scintillating overtime playoff win over the Green Bay Packers was followed by a lopsided loss to the Carolina Panthers in the conference title game. Nevertheless, this Bruce Arians-led team was on the rise.
But things haven’t gone so smoothly since. The Cards are a combined 15-16-1 these last two seasons and neither resulted in a winning campaign. And now Arians has retired, with former Panthers’ defensive coordinator Steve Wilks the team’s newest head coach.
It’s safe to say that general manager Steve Keim has his work cut out for himself. So what five areas must this club focus on to get back into playoff contention?
5. Look for running back depth
All told, 2016 Pro Bowler David Johnson’s 2017 season lasted one game. He touched the ball a combined 17 times for 90 yards in a Week 1 loss at Detroit. One year earlier, the talented running back led the league with 2,118 total yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns. He ran for 1,236 yards that season. This past year, the Cardinals rushed for 1,386 yards as a team. Only the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals gained fewer yards on the ground in ’17.
Johnson returns and veteran Adrian Peterson is still under contract as well. The team picked him up from the New Orleans Saints after Week 1 but he played in just six games for Arizona. He led the club with 448 rushing yards. The 11-year pro was followed by Kerwynn Williams (426 yards on 120 carries, 1 touchdown) but he’s scheduled to test the free-agent market.
It was backfield by mega-committee for this team. Veteran Chris Johnson enjoyed a four-game stint with the club but was let go in October. Be it via free agency or the draft, the Cardinals need to find a reliable backup to Johnson and avoid letting disaster strike again.