Calvin Pryor remains a Cardinal. #KRM
Since that dreadful 2010 season, the one where the NFC West put their 7-9 division champ in the playoffs, the 49ers decided not to be so dreadful any more. Eventually, the Seahawks and Cardinals decided to follow suit, and you have to imagine the Rams aren’t far behind either.6 So, there are no easy wins in the once-forgotten division that has represented the NFC in the Super Bowl in each of the last two seasons.
You need to go back a few years more to get to the place where the Arizona Cardinals reached the Super Bowl, a game that’s being played in their house next February, but they’d obviously like to get back there sooner rather than later. The reality is that they probably aren’t that far away: they won ten games last year, despite being able to make their tee times the day after the regular season ended. Truthfully, they could have won eleven games and would not have had the help they needed to get in the tournament a year ago, but playoffs or not playoffs, that December win in Seattle was awe-inspiring.
It wasn’t just awe-inspiring because they did something that no one had done in 15 tries at Century Link Field since the start of the 2012 season, but because they did it with a fair share of holes on the roster and came oh-so-close to being that team that no one wanted any part of in the post-season. They now have the coach in Bruce Arians that’s taken over last place teams, leading each to double-digit win seasons, and a GM in Steve Keim that’s had more hits than misses with personnel in short time at the helm, most notably pulling the once-retired Carson Palmer off the “left for dead” scrap heap.
However, the past is the past and the focus has to be the future. It started with free agency, hitting a potential home run with Jared Veldheer to protect the quarterback’s blind side, but it must continue on May 7th in New York. They lost Andre Roberts and Rashard Mendenhall to free agency and retirement respectively, but seemed to plug those holes pretty well with Ted Ginn and Jonathan Dwyer, another former Steeler familiar with Arians. Regarding departures, losing Karlos Dansby to free agency for a second time hurts the most because you need a little more than a warm body to accompany budding star Daryl Washington at Inside Linebacker.
Age raises some concern on both sides of the ball, since Carson Palmer and John Abraham are well north of 30, even if they’re capable this season, who knows what 2015 holds for both of them? In other areas, the concern is talent. Do they trust Bobby Massie to start every game at Right Tackle? How about the prospect of Tony Jefferson, the undrafted free agent from a year ago, to play safety next to Tyrann Mathieu? Kevin Minter was a second-round pick out of LSU a year ago, and I don’t think they know if he can fill Dansby’s shoes at Inside Linebacker or not. Needless to say, they have a lot of Plan B types that will start at positions that cannot or will not be addressed in the draft.
There’s something to be said, and you can cross over into other sports with this, about Phoenix being a fountain of youth for athletes on the mend or considered washed-up. We’ve seen it with Grant Hill and Kurt Warner, and I’d think Carson Palmer would be included on this list if he weren’t a steaming pile of feces to begin with. Much congratulations are in order for Arians and Tom Moore for getting a single season out of him, but you can upgrade here.
Plan B: Ride Palmer until he expires, then take him out behind the barn and put him out of his misery. Then, either see what you have in Ryan Lindley or tread water with Drew Stanton until you’re having a conversation about the 2015 Draft Class.
Plan A: I have AJ McCarron penciled in here, because word is the Cardinals really like him a lot, but he doesn’t project to be a first round pick. Forget about him being a “winner;” we all know how you can be a product of your environment, playing for Saban in Tuscaloosa. He’s mobile enough and can make most of the throws. Ditto for Derek Carr, except I’m not sure playing for Tim DeRuyter in Fresno carries that same pedigree. You don’t like putting too much on one game, but the way both performed under pressure from Oklahoma and USC in their bowl games scares me from taking either here.7 McCarron is much more likely to be sitting there at 20 in the second round than Carr though, and that might be the way they go.
Plan B: There have been a lot of swings and misses at the tight end position in Arizona, going back to when they brought in Freddie Jones, but I think they like what they have in Rob Housler and John Carlson, who they signed from the Vikings this off-season. They both block well and that might be all that matters when you’re talking about a receiving corps made up of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and Ginn.
Plan A: The only reason I even mention tight end here is because Jace Amaro from Texas Tech is still on the board. In the same breath that I believe the aforementioned quarterback prospects are hurt by their bowl performance, I think Amaro’s performance against Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl had to have boosted his stock, but when you check the game logs, his great night in San Diego was only his fifth-best game of 2013. In the end, there are more pressing needs for Keim at #20, but I think about taking the Texas Tech Tight End for more than a brief moment.
Plan B: Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles has spoken highly of Kevin Minter, though he acknowledges that Minter is not Dansby. Minter is more of a thumper, a guy that wants to take on guards and get physical, whereas Dansby was more the “ball hawk” type. Another consideration, call it Plan C, is moving Lorenzo Alexander inside, but Bowles has somewhat dismissed that rumor.
Plan A: CJ Mosley is far and away the best player available at this position, and while it might not be a great idea to have two alpha-dogs (considering the rising star of Washington) playing basically the same position on the field, who better for Moseley to learn the NFL and the 3-4 than an established veteran with a Pro-Bowl under his belt? Plusses include good open-field tackling and a good awareness on the field, but it might be off-set by medical concerns.
Plan B: Bobby Massie, the fourth-round pick of the Cardinals in 2012 was thrown to the wolves as a rookie and it showed, most especially in a nationally televised Thursday night game in St. Louis. He improved as time went on, but knowing the former Ole Miss Offensive Tackle wasn’t ready, the team went with Eric Winston in 2013. Now, it’s time to see what they’ve got in Massie. He will be 25 when the season starts, and could very well be the future of this team on the right side of the line.
Plan A: If Massie isn’t the guy, maybe you want someone in Training Camp to challenge him. He’s signed through the 2015 season, but at that point, this cannot be a strictly financial decision. Cyrus Kouandijo from Alabama is there, but unlike Moseley, his Crimson Tide teammate, the drop-off at this postion isn’t that drastic. Kouandijo also struggled against smaller athletic ends in the Iron Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, small athletic rushers that he would see from twice a year from each NFC West opponent. Cameron Fleming from Stanford or Michael Schofield from Michigan will likely be available in the later rounds, and are probably better bang for the buck, especially given the uncertainty of Massie.
Plan B: To be clear, this is about the “Will” or weakside OLB. Jon Abraham is great, fantastic even, but you know that he just isn’t going to be around forever. Our old friend Marcus Benard might be able to handle the duties, but it might be best to see if you can find a serious pass-rusher to compliment Calais Campbell, who is locked up long-term.
Plan A: Missouri’s Kony Ealy and Auburn’s Dee Ford are worth considering, perhaps they’d be worth more consideration if this was an immediate and more pressing need for the Birds here. The reservation you have on these guys is that they’re likely better off as 4-3 defensive ends, especially Ealy with his ability to get off the line.
Plan B: No matter how much Bowles claims to like Tony Jefferson and former Buckeye Orhian Johnson, this secondary deserves better. Maybe Rashad Johnson, yet another Alabama guy, can play next to the Honey Badger, given how the line is becoming more and more blurred between the free and strong safety distinction, but that’s a risk since this Johnson isn’t of much value beyond Special Teams. This corps of safeties is a long cry from what they were with the likes of Adrian Wilson, Antrel Rolle, and even Kerry Rhodes.
Plan A: The pick is Calvin Pryor, the safety from Louisville, and it’s pretty much a no-brainer. I’m a little surprised he’s still on the board after St. Louis, Chicago, and Baltimore picked, but I’m sure the Cardinals would be thrilled if he lands here. He’s a hard hitter that should be a natural fit in this secondary as a run-stopper that can play in coverage over the middle. He’s almost a fourth linebacker with his physicality, though he’s not top-notch in coverage. He doesn’t have a lot of raw speed, and his 40 time reflects it, but he plays faster than he is, if that makes sense. Playing in this secondary, on this defense, would be a match made in heaven for Pryor. Bowles should be so lucky as to have a Charlie Strong coached player with Pryor’s skill-set available to him.
That’s why the Cardinals select Calvin Pryor with the 20th pick. That’s the ultimate Plan A.
As always, great stuff Jeff. Find more Jeff at CFBRoundtable.com.
Next up is ClevTA for the Packers.
- I enjoy Skog’s twitter takes. [back]
- But I agree with Jeff on the college athlete unionization question and take issue with the arguments that view, say, OSU football as revenue generators without taking into account all college athletics and how football funds, say, the track programs. My two kids are racking up costs north of $100K/year currently. Don’t tell me college scholarships aren’t (significant) compensation. And the scam that is the current college education industry is a ‘Niagara Falls’ type issue for me also but that’s another story. [back]
- Jeff’s stance on this, by the way, is much more fleshed out and on-point than mine is. [back]
- Money quote: “I’m not sure Cain Kolter goes to Northwestern if he doesn’t play football.” [back]
- Oh HEY! EMBED CODE! Here’s the Rich/Skog podcast:
- Ed: NFC West looks like the SEC of the NFL. [back]
- Nodding. [back]