The Arizona Cardinals are heading into the 2015 football season with an optimistic view. Could this be that championship window that everyone talks about, or should they still be focused on the future at the same time?
Last year the Cardinals stormed out of the gates with a 9-1 record through the first ten games of the season.
The last seven games were more of a limp however as they won just two of their last six games of the regular season. Arizona also underperformed in Carolina in the Wildcard round of the playoffs and were sent home following the loss.
Granted the fact that the Cardinals dealt with injuries at the quarterback position that seemed insurmountable (and ultimately were). The losses of Carson Palmer and then Drew Stanton were really heartbreaking for Cardinals fans. Following the loss of their first two quarterbacks, the offense was never able to get a rhythm under Ryan Lindley and it was all but done from there.
The positive side: they won 11 games! Drew Stanton proved that he can step in and play at a moments notice and can perform and they finished 14th in the NFL in passing yards per game.
They have improved on their abysmal running game, finished 31st in rushing yards per game, by adding Mike Iupati from San Francisco who is known for his superb run blocking.
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Last year, before he got injured, they extended Palmer’s contract and restructured it during the offseason so that they could restructure Larry Fitzgerald’s contract to keep him as a Cardinal. Palmer, 35, has his best years behind him and Fitzgerald is not getting younger.
This is the “window of opportunity” that you hear about all of the time on sports talk shows. They have a young defense that is getting more experience. Late in the year, the defense was the only thing that kept them into games.
Offensively, if the Cardinals could stay healthy the sky is the limit. Andre Ellington had his 2014 campaign cut short due to injury, but he’ll be healthy by training camp. John Brown proved his worth as a deep-threat and number-three receiver.
The only problem, the Seahawks will still being their core back, but they are going to be dealing with a Superbowl hangover. The Rams were a game manager at quarterback away from 10 wins and they got that in Nick Foles. Who knows what the 49ers will be next year with all of the turmoil that has happened in this offseason.
The NFC west could be the Cardinals to take if things can go their way. If the Cardinals are smart they would get a quarterback that Head Coach Bruce Arians could mold into the next leader of the franchise, then maybe they could have their eye on the future. Their best chance is to try and win right now.