VAVEL USA's 2016 NFL Guide: Arizona Cardinals team preview
VAVEL USA's 2016 NFL Guide: Arizona Cardinals team preview

“Every year in the NFL it is a new team. As far as goals go we have one. Putting a ring on our finger. Not a Super Bowl. Super Bowl ring.”Bruce Arians

The 2015 season was a season full of success for the Arizona Cardinals. They lead the NFL in total offense per game and were in the top five in many of the offensive categories while on the road to the NFC Championship game.

Their journey to the Super Bowl came to an end after they were defeated by the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game. A game that has left a bad taste in the mouth of the Cardinals organization.

As the 2016 season approaches, the Cardinals hope to repeat their success in hope of winning the first Super Bowl team history.

Offense will look very similar

Larry Fitzgerald celebrates after scoring agains the Green Bay Packers during the 2016 NFL Divisional playoff game | Source: Ross D. Franklin - AP
Larry Fitzgerald celebrates after scoring against the Green Bay Packers during the 2016 NFL Divisional playoff game | Source: Ross D. Franklin - AP

On the offensive side of the ball, nine of the 11 starters have returned. MVP candidate Carson Palmer looks to lead an offense that features Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson, Michael Floyd, and John Brown.

Tight end Jermaine Gresham and running back Chris Johnson both passed on bigger contracts elsewhere to re-sign with the Cardinals in hopes of reaching the Super Bowl.

Veteran guard Evan Mathis was signed to solidify the right guard spot. Second-year tackle D.J. Humphries looks to be the starting right tackle, replacing Bobby Massie. With a solid offensive line second year running back David Johnson looks to have a breakout season.

Pass rush improved and depth increases

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Tyrann Mathieu embrace after a big play in a game against the Atlanta Falcons at University of Phoenix Stadium| Source: Michael Chow - azcentral sports
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Tyrann Mathieu embrace after a big play in a game against the Atlanta Falcons at University of Phoenix Stadium | Source: Michael Chow - azcentral sports

The offseason was a success for the Cardinals. The Cardinals traded for linebacker Chandler Jones, sending guard Jonathan Cooper and a second round pick to the New England Patriots. With their first pick in the draft the Cardinals drafted defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche out of Ole Miss. These two should help a pass rush that includes Calais Campbell, Alex Okafor, and Corey Peters.

The Cardinals secondary took the biggest hit during free agency. Rashad Johnson and Jerraud Powers both signed with new teams. Justin Bethel looked to be the starter going into camp but as camp progressed rookie Brandon Williams made a name for himself, earning the starting job. Another name to watch is recently acquired, Marcus Cooper. Athletic veteran Tyvon Branch was signed to replace Johnson.

Tyrann Mathieu’s health will be something to watch in 2016. Towards the end of training camp, the “Honey Badger” began practicing with his sights set on week one. Mathieu has been adamant that he wants to play in all 16 regular season games. If there are any setbacks or Mathieu gets hurt, Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger can step in and contribute.

Key Matchups

The Cardinals will open the season Sunday, September 11th against the New England Patriots. The Cardinals offenses will go up against one of the top rated defenses in the NFL. Tom Brady will be absent due to suspension.

Both matchups against the Seattle Seahawks will be key. These games may be the deciding factor in which team wins the division. The teams split the two games last season, with the home team suffering the loss in both games.

One game that fans are circling on the calendar is the rematch against the Carolina Panthers in week eight. This game could determine playoff seeding for the two teams fighting for a home-field advantage for the playoffs. Both teams will be at full health, adding more intrigue to the matchup.

Another key matchup with a potential NFC playoff opponent will be against the Minnesota Vikings. Though the Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater for the season, the Vikings defense will look to give the Cardinals offense problems like it did last season when the two teams went head-to-head. 

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