Preseason Lowdown : Arizona Cardinals

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What’s the story? 

The Cardinals are starting to show some signs of life again. They hired Bruce Arians on the cusp of his Coach of the Year performance as an interim head coach with the Colts and brought in Carson Palmer to resolve their woes at quarterback. Cardinals fans may want to get more excited about the former than they do the latter, but either way, it’s good to see the Cardinals making their way back into contention again.

Leader and commander:

Bruce Arians, who, as mentioned above, earned Coach of the Year status with his outstanding job of coaching the Indianapolis Colts while Chuck Pagano underwent treatment for cancer. This isn’t BA’s first trip to the rodeo – he’s been coaching in the NFL, off and on, since 1989 – but it is his first head coaching job. Many believe he should have been hired as a head coach years ago, so it’ll be great to see what he does with this Cardinals team now that he is leading the charge.

New kid on the block:

Carson Palmer, of Bengals fame and Raiders semi-bust. Having Palmer behind center is a definite step up from the Cardinals other quarterback options, but he will need to return the Carson Palmer of days gone by to lead this team to a winning record.

Last year was…

…a fast start and a painfully slow finish. After winning their first 4 games, the Cardinals lost 11 of their next 12 to finish the season at 5-11. The only thing I remember from their 2012 season was that gauge-your-eyes-out-in-self-preservation Week 13 game against the Jets, which they lost, but really, both teams should have lost due to Crimes Against Football.

Survey says:

Any improvement would be a gain over the train wreck that was 2012, and the Cardinals look like they could make several. However, no matter how many advances are made, it might not be enough to contend with the NFC West, which has literally gone from worst to first as a division over the past few years. The Rams, Seahawks, and Niners have all had semi-recent head coaching changes and are all over the adjustment stage and moving onto the prospering stage. The Cardinals have the potential to emulate the same story as their fellow NFC West rivals. But for now they are still back at the start line, adjusting to new leadership, which is why they are currently ranked 26th in the preseason power rankings.

Divisional Breakdown : NFC West Teams

Hello, NFC West Teams! Today we’re going to visit with you.

The Arizona Cardinals

History: The Cardinals are the oldest existing team in the NFL. They were founded all the way back in 1898 in Chicago. They’ve since moved to St. Louis (1960) and Arizona (1988). For reasons known only to the NFL, they remained in the NFC East Division until 2002. The Cardinals most recent success came with their Super Bowl season in 2008, which they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Current Players to Know: Kevin Kolb/John Skelton at QB. Skelton won the position in training camp but was injured in the first game and Kolb has taken over to great success – a 3-0 start. Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best wide receivers in the history of the game; he can literally catch anything. Vonnie Holliday is a veteran defensive end.

Head Coach: Ken Whisenhunt

2011 Regular Season Record: 8-8

What to Watch For in 2012: The Arizona Cardinals are undefeated. And not by the grace of an easy schedule – they’ve beaten legit teams, the Patriots among them. And they don’t look like they’re about to slow down anytime soon. It will be interesting to see what happens when John Skelton is able to return from injury (any week now) – whether the Cards stick with Kolb or switch back to Skelton.

The San Francisco 49ers

History: The 49ers were founded in 1946. The name “49ers” came from those who flocked to California during the Gold Rush of 1849. They own the distinct privilege of winning every Super Bowl they’ve ever played in (five total). In the 80’s and 90’s they were a super power, home to iconic football figures Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice.

Current Players to Know: QB Alex Smith was the first player taken in the 2004 NFL Draft, but had yet to live up those expectations until the past two seasons under the mentoring of head coach Jim Harbaugh. Vernon Davis has also flourished under coach Harbaugh at tight end. Patrick Willis is a constant threat at Linebacker.

Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh

2011 Regular Season Record: 13-3

What to Watch For in 2012: The 49ers are good…a fact which, as a Packers fan, I know all too well. The 49ers beat the Packers decisively in the first week of the season. They trampled all over the Lions in Week 2, but were dealt a surprising loss by the Vikings last Sunday. Make no mistake, though – the 49ers are as good as they come, especially on defense.

The Seattle Seahawks

History: The Seahawks were founded in 1974 and played their first season in 1976. They were originally an NFC team, then became an AFC team in 1977, then switched back to the NFC in 2002. The Seahawks played in their first Super Bowl in 2005.

Current Players to Know: Russell Wilson is a surprise. He’s the shortest quarterback in the league (5’10”) and beat out the highly-sought-after free agent Matt Flynn for the starting job. Marshawn Lynch is a beast of a running back. Brandon Browner is troublesome at cornerback.

Head Coach: Pete Carroll

2011 Regular Season Record: 7-9

What to Watch For in 2012: The Seahawks just won a controversial game…which is a nice way of saying they were awarded a win for a game they had lost. But, controversial or not, the Seahawks are playing well this year, and they’re especially hard to beat at home. The continued development of Russell Wilson should be an asset for the Seahawks.

The St. Louis Rams

History: The Rams started out in Cleveland and lived there for about 10 years before moving to Los Angeles. They moved to St. Louis in 1995. In 1999 the Rams won the Super Bowl with “the Greatest Show on Turf” – a lethal combination of Hall of Fame talent: Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Tory Holt among them.

Current Players to Know: Quarterback Sam Bradford was the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Steven Jackson could run through a brick wall…or ten. Danny Amendola is having a break-out year at wide receiver.

Head Coach: Jeff Fisher

2011 Regular Season Record: 2-14

What to Watch For in 2012: Coach Fisher had a long and successful tenure as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans. This is his first season with the Rams, and all signs point to him having a better season than last year’s 2-14 record. The Rams are definitely in a rebuilding phase, but with Coach Fisher at the helm, they’re likely to improve quickly.