By Justin Toscano
After playing in the NFC Championship Game just two seasons ago, the somewhat aging Arizona Cardinals are now riddled with uncertainties.
The Cards are looking to flip the script after going 7-8-1 in a season filled with high expectations. But doing so may be more difficult than ever for a multitude of reasons.
“I know that at least entering the season, they’re a middle-of-the-pack team,” SI.com Senior NFL Writer Peter King said in a Skype interview with Sports360AZ’s Brad Cesmat. “When you’re an aging team like they are at key positions, and of your three most important positions, two of them might be heading into their last year. It’s hard to tell where exactly there are.”
The window of opportunity may be quickly closing. Quarterback Carson Palmer is 37 years old and no one knows how much longer he’ll play. When he retires, the team will have to find a new franchise quarterback.
Additionally, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, age 33, recently said at head coach Bruce Arians’ charity event that he will only discuss his future at one point this season: the first day of Cardinals’ training camp.
“When I heard him say that, what I honestly thought he meant was, ‘I have not decided what I’m going to do and I’m not going to talk about this until the day after the season ends,’” King said. “In my opinion, if I were him, that’s exactly how I would handle it because the last thing Bruce Arians wants, the last thing anybody in this organization wants, is a constant drumbeat of WWLD, What Will Larry Do?”
There may be a unique balance to this year’s Cardinals offense. Running back David Johnson is a bright spot amidst the uncertainty of other key positions on the unit.
2016 @DavidJohnson31: 15 straight games with 100+ scrimmage yards (t-most in NFL history)
2017 David Johnson: 🤔 pic.twitter.com/TXhVSU9dwi
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) May 21, 2017
Johnson was on the field for 87 percent of the offense’s snaps last year, King said. Now, the challenge becomes maximizing the final years with Fitzgerald and Palmer while still being cautious of Johnson, the building block of the future.
“You look at it, and you say, ‘Well geez, you don’t want him touching the ball very much more,’” King said. “But on the other hand, you also say that, ‘Look, it could be that 2018 is going to be the start of a rebuilding year.’ You just don’t know.”
News broke Tuesday that the NFL owners approved a rule change that would shorten the overtime period to 10 minutes instead of the previous 15-minute period.
Don’t tweak the NFL overtime rule, fix it https://t.co/McfYyxIJWk
— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) May 24, 2017
There has been much debate on this topic as some people feel the overtime period is still flawed because it still lacks competitive balance.
But for now, King said he believes the NFL may just leave it at the one minor time change.
“I think they’re going to see what happens,” he said. “If half the tie games at the end of regulation end in a tie, then maybe they do something else. Maybe eliminate overtime or put it back to 15 minutes.”