The first camp of Head Coach Bruce Arians is coming. There are questions the Cards must answer as they prepare for the season out at University of Phoenix Stadium. Five of them we asked yesterday. Today, here are five more storylines that are crucial to play out as the Cardinals count down to the regular season opener Sept. 8 in St. Louis.
1. How will the defense look under Todd Bowles?
The defense was the strength of last year’s team, a unit that was likely robbed of what it could have been – and what results it could have generated – because the offense played so poorly. Then defensive coordinator Ray Horton moved on to Cleveland as Arians brought in Bowles, his one-time defensive captain at Temple and a veteran defensive coach himself. Bowles has done a good job accepting that people are going to make Horton comparisons, choosing not to get wrapped up in it and saying his scheme really isn’t that different. Guys like
2. What will the revamped secondary look like?
Patrick Peterson is a Pro Bowl cornerback and a great place to start in building a secondary. That’s good, because everything else is changed. Gone is fellow starting cornerback William Gay, which wasn’t a surprise. A path that saw the release of both starting safeties in Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes was a little more so. The Cardinals should have better depth at cornerback, bringing in
3. Who will start at running back?
It will be an upset if Rashard Mendenhall isn’t the starter, if for no other reason than both his history with Arians and the uncertainty with the other backs. Mendenhall is healthy and had his best years under Arians. And, injuries aside, he is only 26 and hasn’t had a ton of carries. Motivated by a one-year deal, the Cards believe Mendenhall can be solid. But there is also
4. Where will the pass rush come from?
It isn’t that the Cardinals couldn’t get to the quarterback last year. They were fine, with 38 sacks to tie for 11th in the league. Often though, it was pressure through blitzing, which carries with it risk. Linebacker Daryl Washington piled up nine sacks often coming from inside. Next highest on the team was defensive end Calais Campbell’s 6½. While
5. How will the defense deal with the absence of Daryl Washington?
As well as Patrick Peterson played last year, the best player on defense was Washington, who turned into a menace on the field. Then he was hit with an NFL suspension of the first four regular-season games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. While he should return for the bulk of the season (he has a pending court case for assault that could change that if it is adjudicated quickly), the Cardinals must account for his early-season departure. Signing