We continue our “Scouting the Enemy” series with a look at the Atlanta Falcons’ Week 12 opponent, the Arizona Cardinals.
To make the playoffs this year, the Atlanta Falcons will have to navigate through a particularly tough schedule. Of the most challenging opponents are the Arizona Cardinals, who enter the Georgia Dome in Week 12.
The Cardinals boasted arguably the most balanced roster in all of football last season. Carson Palmer was in MVP-form leading a high-powered offense, and their defense was able to match the intensity. The Falcons will need to be significantly better than they were a year ago to secure a Thanksgiving victory.
To get a closer look at the Cardinals’ offseason and outlook for 2016, I spoke with Scott Allen, editor at Raising Zona.
FB: What’s your take on the Cardinals offseason so far? What have they done well, not so well?
SA: The Cardinals have not had to do much tinkering to be honest. They had a couple of areas they needed to address but for the most part what you saw in 2015 you will see in 2016. The biggest change is of course the addition of linebacker/defensive end Chandler Jones. Getting him in a trade with the New England Patriots back in March was by far the best offseason move to date.
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The one area the Cardinals haven’t settled yet is their secondary. A couple of weeks ago they were looking at former Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Leon Hall but nothing has come of that so far. The Cardinals did not re-sign cornerback Jerraud Powers and safety Rashad Johnson departed for Tennessee.
FB: What were the biggest needs entering the offseason, and how have these been addressed?
SA: Well, I think the first question answered most of this. The secondary, where they got torched in the playoffs last season, needed to be addressed. They needed to get taller, younger, and quicker (one of the reasons the Cardinals allowed Rashad Johnson to leave). I still look for the Cardinals to make a move or two in the secondary. The pass rush was another area and that was greatly improved with the addition of Chandler Jones.
FB: Can Carson Palmer play at the same level again this year?
SA: Absolutely. There is no reason to believe there will be much drop off at all. His finger was likely bothering him more in the playoffs than he wanted to lead on. He never made any excuses though and Palmer has been working on his game since day one of the offseason. I would expect 30+ TD’s again this season. He has a lot of targets to throw to.
FB: What are the key storylines entering training camp for the Cardinals?
SA: The biggest ones have to do with the weaknesses that lead up to the beating in the NFC Championship Game. Are the Cardinals going to be able to produce a strong pass rush now? The other big storyline is on the offense. With David Johnson now the likely starting running back, what will Chris Johnson’s role look like as he returns from a season-ending injury last November.
FB: What are realistic expectations this season?
SA: Realistically, despite the tougher schedule, the Cardinals still match up well with most teams on their schedule. I think 13-3 is achievable again however I believe with the tough schedule 12-4 or 11-5 is more realistic this season. The goal remains the same. Win the Super Bowl. Anything less is a huge disappointment. I know the Cardinals will consider the season a failure if they don’t win it all, not just getting to the Super Bowl.
We’d like to thank Scott Allen for taking the time to talk to us. Be sure to check out Raising Zona for great coverage of the Arizona Cardinals.