Arizona Cardinals – Counterparts to be Counted On – 2016

“Counterparts to be counted on” is a 32-part series where we the “Front Office” of analyzes both side of the ball on each team and determine which individual or position group MUST have a particularly strong season in 2016 for their respective teams to have a successful 2016 campaign. The Cardinals ran into a buzz-saw in Carolina last season. What, rather who is going to take for Arizona to break through and bring a Championship to the desert?

Michael Floyd – When it comes to the Arizona Cardinals offense they have explosive players all over the depth chart. Running back David Johnson looks to be a future stud, the receiver core consist of burners John Brown, J.J. Nelson and Jaron Brown and we can’t forget about the ageless all-time Cardinal great Larry Fitzgerald still getting it done. However the most important player on the offense is none other than Michael Floyd.

The 6’2 220 pound receiver enters his contract year in Arizona with plenty to prove after putting up four mediocre seasons thus far in his career. Floyd has averaged 52 catches 823 yards and fewer than 5 touchdowns for his career while playing in a dynamic passing offense under head coach Bruce Arians‘ in three of his four seasons.

The former first round pick possess a skill set that no other player has on the roster, a big bodied red zone threat receiver that has the speed and strength to make plays on the outside (no disrespect to Fitz but he mans the slot now). He is a number 1 receiver in the making but needs to start acting like one and consistently get it done this season for the Cardinals to have a shot at winning the Super Bowl.

Last year many thought that the breakout was coming but Floyd dislocated three fingers and started slowly out of the gates catching only 8 passes for 104 yards in the first five weeks of the season. In the last 10 games however he finally displayed what we all thought he had the potential to do when he left Notre Dame and entered the NFL. He caught 5 touchdowns in a four game span in Weeks 6-10 and had five 100 yard receiving games out of seven from Weeks 8-16.

While we will never see the WR1 numbers like a Dez Bryant, Julio Jones or A.J. Green because of the plethora of talent surrounding Floyd on the Cardinals roster, I do expect him to take a fifth year leap and cash in this off-season. His maturation and reliability this season will go a long way for the Cardinals success. If he is hitting on all cylinders then opposing teams will have no choice but to put Richard Sherman, Darrelle Revis, Josh Norman and any other number 1 corner in coverage against him which will free up everyone else on the team to do work. Ladies and gentleman your Arizona Cardinals offensive counterpart to be counted on is Michael Floyd.

Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones – The Arizona Cardinals boast top flight talent on every level of the defense; the underrated and underappreciated mammoth on the defensive line Calais Campbell, the newly converted safety turned linebacker Deone Bucannon, Mr. Lockdown himself Patrick Peterson, and the NFL highest paid most versatile safety Tyrann Mathieu. However, one statistical category that the Cardinals didn’t accumulate last season was sacks.

The Cardinals ranked 20th in the NFL totaling 36 sacks in 2015 with eight of them coming in their Week 16 dominance of the Green Bay Packers. How can a team who plays the game so aggressive with constant blitzing get so few sacks? They didn’t have a guy who can consistently beat man-to-man blocking like Chandler Jones.

Can you guess who led the Cardinals in sacks last season? Spoiler Alert, it was the 35-year-old pass rusher Dwight Freeney who by the way is no longer with the team. Freeney joined the team 5 games into the season and played as a rotational guy along the front seven. The Cardinals had a huge need at the OLB position in their 3-4 defense and filled it quite well pulling off a blockbuster trade with the New England Patriots, acquiring Jones in exchange for OG Jonathan Cooper and a second round draft pick. Cooper was a highly touted interior offensive lineman out of North Carolina who hasn’t quite lived up to his first round (7th overall) draft status in 2013 due to injuries and inconsistent play. There were many factors as to why the Patriots moved such a talented pass rusher in the prime of his career, money they would of have to pay Jones who is in a contract season and an offensive line need, but the Cardinals got away with larceny by adding such a dynamic playmaker who gives them a key corner stone in competing for a title.

Speaking of Super Bowl titles, Jones was a part of the Patriots Super Bowl championship in 2014 and brings over a championship mentality to the rest of the Cardinals defense. The 26-year-old ranked 5th in the NFL last season with 12.5 sacks and is one of three players since 2012 to have at least 200 tackles, 36 sacks, and 10 forced fumbles. The other two are you may have heard of him before J.J. Watt and Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan.

If the Cardinals weren’t Super Bowl favorites in 2016, the addition of Jones makes them in my opinion the best team in football. The blitz happy Cardinals often times leave their cornerbacks on an island down the field. I know Peterson can hold his own out there but on the opposite side rookie corner Brandon Williams and Justin Bethel, who is coming off a foot injury, will be battling for number two duties. The Cardinals defensive counterpart gives them a dynamic pass rusher who can get to the quarterback without sending the house which helps the defensive backs against the elite passing offenses in this league.

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