In 2013, the Arizona Cardinals finished 10-6 but were held out of the playoffs because of the tough competition in the NFC West division. Things were looking great for the Cards in 2014 though: head coach Bruce Arians infused a winning attitude into the team, the roster was strong and healthy, and they had a chance to be the first team to play in a Super Bowl on their home field, University of Phoenix Stadium.
Things started out fantastic for the Cardinals. Three good wins over the San Diego Chargers, New York Giants, and division rival San Francisco 49ers put the Cardinals at 3-0. The Cards dropped their Week 5 matchup against the Denver Broncos, but then they really went to work winning their next six games in a row. That’s right, the Cardinals started the season 9-1. Unfortunately, on the way to their great start they lost their starting quarterback Carson Palmer to an ACL injury.
After the 9-1 start things went downhill quickly for the Cardinals. The Cardinals dropped their next two against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and the struggling Atlanta Falcons and finished their season with two more consecutive losses against the Seahawks again and the 49ers to finish 11-5.
The Cardinals were not able to win their division despite leading it for the majority of the season, but they still did qualify for the playoffs with the top Wild Card spot in the NFC. The Cardinals went on the road to play the NFC South division champion Carolina Panthers. Some people were upset that the Panthers got to host a playoff game at 7-8-1, but they pulled off the upset and sent the Cardinals home early. A disappointing end to a season with such a fantastic start.
With Carson Palmer back, Bruce Arians will try and lead his team to an even better record in 2015. In fact, if the Cards can bring in the right players from the draft, they may even be able to knock off the Seahawks and win the NFC West. If the Cardinals can address their needs this offseason and stay healthy in 2015 they may be able to pull off a deep run in the playoffs. Here are the Arizona Cardinals biggest needs for the 2015 NFL Draft:
Defensive Line: The Cardinals defensive line was not safe from injury this season; and the Cardinals key defensive lineman, Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, both sat out most of the season with injuries. The Cardinals backups proved unable to provide the same spark to the defense that their Pro Bowlers did, and the line was worse overall. The Cardinals certainly won’t be able to draft anyone better than Dockett and Campbell, but it never hurts to bring in some solid backups. Look for the Cardinals to spend a mid-round selection or two on some suitable backups for their superstar linemen.
Linebacker: The Cardinals already have a great backer in Daryl Washington, and Larry Foote was a great addition to the roster in 2014; but Foote is 34, a free agent, and considering retirement. If the Cards want to keep their high profile defense in 2015, they will need to find a good replacement for Foote in the draft. If Arizona spends a first or second round pick on a new linebacker for their defensive front they could really improve their defense. On top of that, the rookie will have Washington to help him learn the ropes of the defensive scheme and possibly become the Cardinals defensive leader in the near future.