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Preseason Watch List: NFC West

A detailed look at the key questions facing each team in the preseason

ARIZONA CARDINALS

The Cardinals fell on hard times last year, marking the first losing season (7-8-1) in Bruce Arians' tenure. The team's play declined in all facets but was hardly alarming. Offensively the Cardinals finished 6th in points scored and 9th in yards, in spite of quarterback Carson Palmer's regression. On defense, the team gave up 362 points (14th in the NFL) but remained stingy with yards allowed (2nd). Right before training camp began, Coach Arians disclosed a successful battle with kidney cancer last year. Healthy and reinvigorated, this veteran team will try to make another championship push.

Camp Details:

  • When: 7/21 (Rookies and Veterans)
  • Where: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, AZ)
  • Open to Public: Yes (See Website)

Preseason Game Schedule:

  • Aug 3 -- (HOF Game) Dallas 7:00 pm
  • Aug 12 -- Oakland 9:00 pm
  • Aug 19 -- Chicago 9:00 pm
  • Aug 26 -- @Atlanta 6:00 pm
  • Aug 31 -- @Denver 8:00 pm

What We're Watching:

  • Is Carson Palmer's play in permanent decline? -- In 2015, Carson Palmer had a career-best season and showed full mastery of Bruce Arians' system. In 2016, Palmer looked like an average quarterback. Some wonder if Palmer was injured last year, but the reality is Palmer's 2016 numbers were more in line with his career averages. 2015 was the outlier. As Palmer approaches 38 years old, does he have positive regression left? We may not find out in the preseason as Arians intends to keep Palmer healthy by giving him limited snaps.  
  • Who backs up David Johnson-- David Johnson was insanely good last year (2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns) and has set his sights on "1,000/1,000"; he wants at least 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. Regardless of Johnson's aptitude, the team needs to spell him at times, and it's unclear who shoulders that load. Arizona moved Andre Ellington back to running back after a transition to wide receiver. The coaches have expressed confidence in Kerwynn Williams, but the team re-signed Chris Johnson on the eve of training camp.
  • Is John Brown capable of stardom? -- A season ago fantasy owners were debating Michael Floyd and John Brown, but everyone thought both had star upside. Floyd was jettisoned and is now unemployed after a stint in Minnesota, while Brown regressed markedly a year ago (517 yards and two touchdowns). The good news is Brown was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, which doctors credit with his lethargic play and tight hamstrings. Now that he's treating his illness, Brown has been explosive in OTAs. If he can carry that play forward into camp, Brown has incredible fantasy upside. 
  • Can Troy Nicklas stay healthy? -- Niklas has missed 22 games in three seasons but remains one of the team's potential breakout stars. The former Golden Domer is massive (6'7", 270 lbs.) but has good hands. The team will start veteran Jermaine Gresham, but there is room for Niklas to see plenty of targets if he makes it through the preseason unscathed. 
  • Improving the inside linebacking corps -- Chandler Jones and Markus Golden are locked on the outside, but the inside linebacking corps is getting a total overhaul. Karlos Dansby is back in Arizona and should start in place of the injured Deone Bucaanon, while 1st round rookie Haason Reddick will get the nod alongside Dansby. 

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