Bruce Arians has built a formidable power in the desert.
The Arizona Cardinals’ head coach has created a culture that players want to be a part of, thanks in large part to a 34-13 record he’s compiled over the last three seasons.
The next step for the Cardinals is the biggest one – advancing to the Super Bowl. Last year’s season ended with a disappointing 49-15 loss to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game.
The core of the Cardinals returns in 2016 to take another run at the big game.
The Buffalo News continues its look at the Bills’ opponents in 2016 with a closer look at the Cardinals, who visit Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week Three.
Additions: SS Tyvon Branch (previously with Kansas City), RG Evan Mathis (Denver), DE Chandler Jones (via trade with New England).
Analysis: Jones is the biggest addition by far. Arizona’s biggest problem last season was rushing the paper, and he’s got the proven ability to get 10 sacks a year. Arizona blitzed on nearly 50 percent of plays last season to generate a pass rush – the only team in the NFL to do so more than 40 percent of the time. The addition of Jones should lessen that need. … Mathis won a Super Bowl with the Broncos and is a top run blocker. He’s on the back end of his career, but should be an upgrade this season. … Branch brings good speed and coverage ability to the safety position.
Subtractions: OT Bobby Massie (signed with Chicago), S Rashad Johnson (Tennessee), CB Jerraud Powers (Baltimore), G Ted Larsen (Chicago), CB Corey White (Buffalo), LB Sean Weatherspoon (Atlanta), G Jonathan Cooper (via trade with New England).
Analysis: Massie will be replaced by 2015 first-round draft pick D.J. Humphries . … Cooper was a bust as a first-round pick. … Johnson was a productive member of the secondary, with nine interceptions the past two seasons. He’ll be missed. … Powers likewise gave Arizona good production the past three years, with 36 passes defensed.
Draft report: Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche (first round), Texas A&M CB Brandon Williams (third round), Missouri C Evan Boehm (fourth round).
Analysis: The Cardinals traded their second-round pick to New England as part of the deal to acquire Jones. … Nkemdiche is a top-10 talent who slipped to the bottom of the first round because of character concerns. If the Cardinals can keep him on the straight and narrow the way they did Tyrann Mathieu, he could be a steal. … Boehm will push A.Q. Shipley for the starting job at center. … The rest of the Cardinals’ class will likely play reserve roles, a good sign of the team’s depth.
Returning Pro Bowlers: QB Carson Palmer, WR Larry Fitzgerald, G Mike Iupati, DT Calais Campbell, CB Patrick Peterson, ST Justin Bethel, Mathieu.
Biggest question: Will Mathieu be 100 percent after suffering his second torn ACL last season? Entering the final year of his rookie contract, he’s attempting to come back from multiple knee injuries to land a big second contract. Mathieu has developed into one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL with Arizona and his presence will be needed after the other departures in the secondary.