Arizona Cardinals: Grading the Strength of Every Position Unit Heading into Camp

Andrew NordmeierContributor IIIJuly 24, 2013

Arizona Cardinals: Grading the Strength of Every Position Unit Heading into Camp

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    The Arizona Cardinals open training camp at the end of the week. With camp opening, it's time to take a look at and grade each positional unit.

    There has been plenty of change on the roster, so training camp will show Arizona what it truly has. 

    The grades are representative of the overall unit. Individual positions such as offensive tackle and offensive guard won't be separated out. 

    Start the slideshow and see how the Cardinals grade out before camp. 

Quarterbacks

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    Carson Palmer is going to be the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. Drew Stanton will back him up and Ryan Lindley is likely to be the third quarterback on the depth chart. 

    The positional grade revolves around Palmer. It's hard to say right now how well he will perform in head coach Bruce Arians' system. Palmer will have to shoulder the load at quarterback since his backups are inexperienced. 

    Arizona should expect improved quarterback play over last season's performance. 

    Grade: C

Running Backs

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    Arizona's running back situation has been dismal for years. The Cardinals have finished last in rushing three of the last five seasons. 

    Rashard Mendenhall is expected to be the lead running back. Ryan Williams (pictured) has played only five of 32 games in his two years in the league. After that it's a pair of rookies and not much else for depth. 

    Grade: C-

Wide Receivers

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    Larry Fitzgerald leads the Arizona receiving corps, Michael Floyd is poised for a breakout season and Andre Roberts should seize the role as the slot receiver. 

    Arizona has its strength in the passing game. The receivers are looking to rebound from a dismal 2012 season that saw them work with four ineffective quarterbacks. 

    With Palmer under center, the group should perform better in 2013. 

    Grade: B

Tight Ends

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    Rob Housler leads Arizona's tight ends. The second tight end spot will be up for grabs through training camp. Housler should also get time split wide of the formation in addition to the natural tight end position. 

    Arizona has been one of the league's worst teams when it comes to utilizing its tight ends, scoring just 11 touchdowns over the last five seasons from that position. 

    Palmer favored his tight end last season in Oakland and that could carry over to this season for Arizona. 

    Grade: C

     

Offensive Line

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    The Cardinals offensive line has been the worst in the league over the last three seasons. The line has allowed more than 50 sacks each season. The unit bottomed out with a league-worst 58 sacks allowed last season. 

    The good news is that tackle Levi Brown (pictured) should be back. Brown missed 2012 with a torn triceps he suffered in the preseason. Add in first-round pick Jonathan Cooper at guard and Arizona's line should be improved in 2013. 

    Brown, center Lyle Sendlein and guard Daryn Colledge will be called on to guide a relatively young offensive line. How well they perform is a guess, at best. 

    Grade: C-

Defensive Line

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    The Arizona defensive line was one of the better parts of the team last season. Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett (pictured) led the line, which put some pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Campbell picked up 6.5 sacks to lead all defensive linemen on the team. 

    Arizona's defensive line is primarily intact compared to last season's roster, which is a plus at this position. 

    The downside is that the team was ravaged by the run game in 2012. The defensive front will need to improve to drive up its grade here. 

    Grade: C+

Linebackers

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    The Arizona linebackers are going to have a different feel to them in 2013. 

    Pro Bowler Daryl Washington will miss the first four games of the season after violating the league's substance abuse policy. He led the team with 134 total tackles and nine sacks in 2012. They lost Paris Lenon and his 103 total tackles in free agency. 

    It's going to leave the position open to players like Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield on the outside positions. Karlos Dansby and Jasper Brinkley will shore up the inside linebacker positions and bring pressure.

    Grade: B-

Defensive Backs

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    Arizona's defensive backs have also undergone an overhaul since last season. Patrick Peterson leads the way and is becoming one of the best cover cornerbacks in the league. 

    Peterson is the key player remaining in the backfield. Antoine Cason and Jerraud Powers will battle for another cornerback spot opposite Peterson. Javier Arenas came over from Kansas City in a trade. 

    Yeremiah Bell is the only safety on the roster with more than five years of experience. Rashad Johnson will also be expected to perform at safety. Tyrann Mathieu will compete for playing time.

    Grade: B 

Special Teams

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    Punter Dave Zastudil (left) and place kicker Jay Feely will be the key players on special teams for the Cardinals. 

    Feely converted 25-of-28 field goals and all 25 extra-point conversions last season. Feely hit a career-best 61-yard field goal against Buffalo last season. 

    Zastudil was busy last season as the Arizona offense consistently stalled out. He averaged 46.5 yards per punt on 112 punts in 2012. He did his part to bail out a sluggish offense as he dropped 46 punts inside the opposition's 20-yard line. 

    Grade:B+