Can Larry Fitzgerald return to form in 2013?
Coach Bruce Arians will field a competitive Arizona Cardinals football team in 2013, of that we should be sure. How will the regular-season statistics end up looking? That is anyone’s guess, but we will take a stab at it to look back on in January to see how close we came.
After seeing practices at University of Phoenix Stadium and watching the Cardinals’ preseason games, there is definitely a different vibe surrounding the team.
You can say they got older at some key positions like quarterback, right tackle and cornerback. Or, you can look at it as they simply added experience. However you slice it, the team appears ready to take on any foe standing between them and victory.
Here are the predicted stats of your Cardinals players.
4,461 yards passing, 31 TD, 15 INT, 62% completion
It is possible Carson Palmer will have a career year in 2013 under Arians and his offense. His passing yards would be a career high, and it would be the second time in his career he would accrue at least 30 touchdown passes. He did so in 2005 with the Cincinnati Bengals—the year he was voted to his first Pro Bowl and the team won the AFC North with an 11-5 record.
386 yards passing, 2 TD, 2 INT, 57% completion
Palmer could start all 16 games, but there may be times when he is forced out of a game or two due to dings and bumps.
Drew Stanton has not attempted a regular-season pass since he started for the Detroit Lions Week 15 of the 2010 season. That day, he beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 23-20, while completing 23-of-37 passing for 252 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.
234 carries, 960 yards, 9 TD
Rashard Mendenhall missed about a week’s worth of training camp while nursing a sore knee. He returned last week and played in the preseason win over the Dallas Cowboys, carrying seven times for 32 yards (4.6 yards per carry).
With questions at running back beyond Mendenhall, this could be a return to glory for him. On a one-year deal and just 25 years old, that would be huge for Mendenhall’s future.
98 carries, 382 yards, 2 TD
There was a time when it was probable Ryan Williams would be the No. 2 running back for Arians. It would be surprising now to see him on the roster after missing so much time.
Enter rookie fifth-round pick Stepfan Taylor and his patient, hard-nosed running style. He is not a burner, but he will wait and wait and wait some more for that hole to open. When it does, he has enough speed to get through it quickly.
22 carries, 112 yards, 1 TD
Rookie sixth-round pick Andre Ellington has the speed, quickness and vision to make any defender miss. He is explosive and can change direction at the drop of a hat, and that is a valuable skill set in the NFL.
He would benefit from Williams’ absence, as he may not get on the field on offense at all if he were around. It is also likely Ellington will play special teams, and at some point, he may even return kicks.
25 carries, 81 yards
Williams leaving means Alfonso Smith gets a shot to play for the Cardinals this season. The talent drop-off is noticeable, but so is the will to play. No one at camp ran harder than Smith did, and though it did not translate to preseason in-game success (thanks in large part to the run blocking he received), he has earned his roster spot by showing up for work every day and not leaving until he had left everything on the field.
99 receptions, 1,292 yards, 9 TD
A return to form is in order for Larry Fitzgerald in 2013. He suffered through an average 2012 season, but with Palmer slinging passes, he should be right back to where he is expected to be.
It was painful to watch quarterbacks miss a wide-open Fitz time after time over the last three seasons, but that should not be as big an issue this season. Even if Palmer misses games due to injury (knock on wood), Stanton has shown he is capable of getting the ball out accurately to Fitzgerald and the other receivers.
68 receptions, 1,072 yards, 8 TD
Palmer-to-Floyd will be in use by commentators about as often as Palmer-to-Fitz will be in 2013. Michael Floyd has had perhaps the best camp this side of safety Tyrann Mathieu, and it looks like he is geared up for a breakout season.
36 receptions, 525 yards, 3 TD
Andre Roberts will suffer because of Floyd’s production. Gaining 525 yards as a No. 3 receiver is nothing to scoff at, but it is a large cut from the last two seasons, when he averaged 58 receptions and 673 yards per season.
16 receptions, 165 yards
A fourth receiver in Arians’ offense, while needed, will not get much action—especially with all the “12” personnel we will see (one back, two tight ends). But Kerry Taylor has a skill set coaches have to like.
While the week of camp he missed due to a hamstring issue hurt his chances, he made up for it with last week’s practice and the Cowboys game. He led the team, catching four passes for 85 yards and nearly hauled in a touchdown pass from Stanton.
3 receptions, 28 yards
It may be premature to place either Taylor or Jaron Brown on the roster, as final cuts have yet to be made. But their body of work suggests they will be there for the season opener in St. Louis. Brown will receive very little play, however, for the same reason mentioned above.
61 receptions, 862 yards, 7 TD
Along with Floyd, tight end Rob Housler could have a breakout season in 2013. This is Year 3 for Housler, and he now has a quarterback who excels at throwing over the middle. Housler found himself open over the middle multiple times the past two seasons, only to have one of a handful of inept quarterbacks misfire passes his way.
He has yet to score a professional touchdown, but he should have had a few last year alone. Accurate passes up the seam would have allowed him to be more involved. Palmer will see to it that Housler is involved in 2013.
22 receptions, 295 yards, 1 TD
Rookie seventh-round pick D.C. Jefferson had an up-and-down camp. He started out solid, looking like a real threat to Jeff King for the No. 2 tight end spot—especially with King missing time due to injury. But Jefferson regressed some in Green Bay.
He has been seen catching footballs with Fitzgerald after practices since then, so hopefully he gets it right in time for Week 1.
12 receptions, 108 yards, 1 TD
Jeff King has been a bit of a surprise in terms of the receiver he has been for Arizona. He was brought in to be primarily a blocking tight end, as per his forte throughout his career. In no way is King as athletic as Housler, nor will he create the mismatches Housler does. But as a second tight end, he has been solid.
62 total tackles, 8.5 sacks, 8 passes defended
Expectations were high after a breakout 2011 season in which Calais Campbell notched 71 total tackles, eight sacks and 10 passes defended. But Campbell missed three games due to injury, and that kept him from setting career highs in all three categories mentioned in the previous sentence.
This season, with a new coordinator promising increased pass-rushing action for his defensive ends, Campbell could be 16 games away from his first All-Pro vote.
58 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, 4 passes defended
Former defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s scheme all but eliminated Darnell Dockett’s pass-rushing ability the past two seasons. After averaging over six sacks per season from 2007-10, he totaled just five under Horton.
New coordinator Todd Bowles wants to get Dockett and Campbell into the action more, though the two still will have to do some “2-gapping,” a staple of the 3-4 defense that calls for the defensive linemen to occupy as many offensive linemen as they can in order to free up blitzing linebackers. But the fact that Bowles wants them running a “1-gap” scheme at times means both will be more successful.
For Dockett, that means a return to his Pro Bowl ways.
71 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 passes defended
In three NFL seasons, Dan Williams has shown why he was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft. He also has shown why some thought it was a mistake to take him that high. He has missed chunks of the past two seasons due to various injuries, the worst of which was the broken upper arm that ended his 2011 season.
But last season, he consistently was an apt run-stopper—rated as the eighth-best run-stopping nose tackle by ProFootballFocus (subscription required). The numbers predicted here all represent career highs (Williams has yet to record an NFL sack); if healthy, there is no reason he cannot match this production.
38 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 pass defended
Listed at nose tackle here, David Carter is more of a defensive lineman extraordinaire. He can and has played all three D-line positions during his first two NFL seasons, and that could be his role for the foreseeable future.
As versatile as he is, he can go from spelling Williams at NT one play, to moving to his right to spell Dockett at DRE, then to the other side to spell Campbell at DLE.
He is not great at anything he does, but he is good at just about everything. Carter is a defensive coordinator’s best friend.
36 total tackles, 9.5 sacks, 5 passes defended
For the first time in his 14-year career, John Abraham will stand up at the line of scrimmage more than he will have a hand in the dirt. With the move from defensive end to outside linebacker, Abraham’s role will change—but only slightly. He will be asked to drop into coverage more, but his primary objective remains to get to opposing quarterbacks. That is why Arizona signed him, and he will help provide the Cardinals’ defense with a more potent pass rush.
40 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, 4 passes defended
2013 is a big season for Sam Acho. The third-year pro out of Texas had a promising rookie year in 2011, but he regressed in 2012 and must be at his best at all times. With rookie OLB Alex Okafor and free-agent acquisition Lorenzo Alexander providing competition, his days could be numbered if he fails to impress coaches this season.
18 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 passes defended
As just mentioned, Okafor will provide competition for the other linebackers on the roster, including Acho. The rookie looked solid in his first preseason action against the Cowboys, notching a sack and providing a stout run defense. The addition of Abraham to the pass rush hurts Okafor’s chance of major early playing time. But if he continues to improve, he should find himself in a regular rotation before long.
53 total tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3 passes defended
Coming over from the Washington Redskins, Lorenzo Alexander has yet to start a full season in the NFL despite this being his seventh season. He is listed as the starting right outside linebacker. That could be a recurring theme this season, with Abraham moving from left to right as the pass-rushing specialist providing breathers to Alexander and Acho.
98 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, 6 passes defended, 1 INT
Four-year veteran Daryl Washington must serve a four-game suspension to start the 2013 campaign. Once he returns, he will be a terror to defenses, much like he was a year ago.
Given the depth Arizona added at inside linebacker, Washington could become a hybrid inside/outside guy who moves around constantly. This is merely speculation, but he could drop down and play defensive end out of a four-down linemen look; he’s likely capable.
108 total tackles, 1.0 sack, 7 passes defended, 1 INT
The return of Karlos Dansby creates a logjam of talent at inside linebacker. Washington’s suspension allows someone like Dansby to be an on-field leader for the front seven.
However, once Washington returns, there will reside an interesting predicament for Bowles and his coaches. Do you sit either Jasper Brinkley or Kevin Minter (whichever emerges as the starter opposite Dansby for the first month)? Or, do you sit Dansby, who is the closest thing to Washington that Bowles has?
This is something to watch early on.
61 total tackles, 0.5 sacks, 3 passes defended
Last year as a full-time starter for the first time, Brinkley was out of place in Minnesota’s defense. He is not a good fit running the show in a 4-3 scheme.
Because he does not have the sideline-to-sideline speed needed to man the middle of a 4-3, he is better suited for Arizona’s 3-4 scheme. There, he can play half the field as the lead guy on run plays to his side while cutting off the cutback lane when the run goes to the other side. It allows the Cardinals almost to “hide” Brinkley’s weaknesses, and for that reason, he will be solid. He just may not start after Week 4.
42 total tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 passes defended
The bruiser from LSU, Kevin Minter is the rookie who somehow fell out of Round 1 into the second, where the team traded back to get him (San Diego traded up to select fellow ILB Manti Te’o).
Minter has proved to be the right choice early on, showing up as the hard-hitting, run-stopping machine the team thought it was getting. Minter’s role may be heavy at first, but again, Washington’s return in Week 5 could reduce his on-field time.
Defense: 55 total tackles, 6 INT, 16 passes defended, 1 TD
Offense: 16 receptions, 284 yards, 3 TD; 9 carries, 106 yards, 1 TD
Special Teams: 30 punt returns, 381 yards, 1 TD
This season-long stat line from Patrick Peterson would be historic for multiple reasons.
Firstly, his six total touchdowns would be a franchise record for a defensive player and the most in the NFL since 1950, when Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame defensive end/wide receiver Pete Pihos had six.
Secondly (random stat alert), he would become only the second player in NFL history to record at least 100 rushing yards, 200 receiving yards, 300 punt return yards and an interception. The other was Chicago Bears Hall of Fame halfback/defensive back George McAfee, who did so in 1948.
Peterson is arguably the best athlete in the NFL, and his dominance will be felt weekly by the opposition in 2013.
43 total tackles, 3 INT, 9 passes defended
Jerraud Powers has been in the league since 2009 and he has yet to play a full 16-game season. He missed parts of all four seasons while with the Indianapolis Colts, but he started every game in which he played.
That says something about his ability and, unfortunately, about his inability to stay healthy throughout the rigors of an NFL season. He’s healthy now, and he played well at camp. Powers will not shine in game action, but he really doesn’t need to. He needs to be a consistently solid cornerback.
21 total tackles, 3 INT, 6 passes defended, 1 TD
Former Kansas City Chiefs corner Javier Arenas knows how to play receivers in the slot. He played the majority of his snaps with Kansas City there (51.26 percent), and it will likely be where he ends up in Arizona—unless a rookie takes his spot.
57 total tackles, 2 INT, 7 passes defended
Antoine Cason is in danger of being lost in the depths of the cornerback talent pool in Arizona without solid early-season play. Others have stepped up, and if he does not do the same, he could be benched.
Cason would replace an injured Powers, however, and given his track record of showing up on an injury report, there is a chance that he gets a bunch of playing time this season. That is why the numbers are slightly elevated for him.
62 total tackles, 2 INT, 9 passes defended, 1.0 sack
Whether at free safety or strong, four-year pro Rashad Johnson has played well and has provided the Cardinals with good depth. Now, it’s his turn to start, and he looks ready to take that proverbial next step as a player. He is good in coverage and equally adept when dropping into the box to provide help against the run. He will end up playing a lot of both safety positions this season.
78 total tackles, 1 INT, 3 passes defended, 2.5 sacks
Yeremiah Bell is 35 years old and has been in the league 10 years. He’s been around the block a time or two, and this is likely the end of the road for him.
Bell is not a ball-hawk like the next player, but he is going to provide solid run defense as the starting strong safety, and he is a good and powerful tackler who drops ball-carriers where they stand more often than not.
Defense: 71 total tackles, 4 INT, 12 passes defended, 3.0 sacks
Special Teams: 9 punt returns, 102 yards
The kid just knows how to play football. He can do anything on a field asked of him, be it covering a receiver or tight end, playing run defense, rushing the passer or playing center field as the single-high free safety.
He impressed more than anyone else did at camp, and his play during the preseason has led to Mathieu running as the starting nickel corner. Given how much teams use a third receiver, that means if it sticks, he will be on the field a lot as a rookie.
Dan Carpenter, K
28-32 FG, 45-45 XP, 129 points
Speaking the truth, if it took the Cardinals bringing in a kicker to get Jay Feely to take his job seriously, then it’s probably already too late for Feely to save his job.
Jay Feely hits the field early for Wednesday's afternoon practice. #AzCardinals— Craig Morgan (@cmorganfoxaz) August 21, 2013
Dan Carpenter is a 27-year-old, five-year veteran who can boot it from 50-plus with ease, though making 10-of-20 is not ideal. Where he excels is from inside 50 yards. The shorter kicks that will make up about 85 percent of his work are his specialty, as he has knocked through 116-of-134 (86.6 percent) throughout his career.
Dave Zastudil, P
Last season was a record-breaking one for Dave Zastudil. He downed 48 punts inside the 20, breaking San Francisco 49ers punter Andy Lee’s record of 42, set in 2007. A run at his own record likely would mean the offense has had too many issues, and that is a bad thing, so 34 is a good number.