Tale Of The Tape: Arizona Cardinals At St. Louis Rams
- QuarterbackDoes Bruce Arians know what he has gotten himself into with the Cardinals? His team is in the tough NFC West. He is banking on Carson Palmer giving the offense a lift, and that’s far from a sure thing. Palmer is going to have a hard time getting away from pressure, but if he does get decent protection he should be able to get the ball to WR’s Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.The first year of the Jeff Fisher regime brought a new level of professionalism to the Rams that had been missing for years. Fisher developed a solid relationship with quarterback Sam Bradford, who delivers the ball accurately and plays with intelligence and toughness. If the Rams are going to have any chance this year, they must keep Bradford upright for 16 games.
- OffenseFitzgerald remains one of the best receivers in the league, and he is expecting to have a big year in working with the strong-armed Palmer. Fitzgerald caught 71 passes for 798 yards and 4 TDs last year, and he would like to increase his yardage and TD totals. Floyd is fast and physical and he should be a solid complement to Fitzgerald. Rashard Mendenhall (knee) will try to give the Cardinals a credible running game.The biggest problem the Rams will have this year is a lack of explosiveness on offense. Veteran RB Steven Jackson has moved on to Atlanta and Daryl Richardson does not look like an adequate replacement. Chris Givens can get open and catch the ball, but he is not a gamebreaker. Speedy rookie Tavon Austin must show he can make the jump from West Virginia to the NFL.
- DefenseThe Cardinals know that they should be competitive on defense after finishing fifth against the pass in 2012. Look for DE Calais Campbell to have a huge year because of his athletic ability, long reach and instincts. LB Karlos Dansby is a big hitter and a solid tackler who finished with 133 stops last year. CB Patrick Peterson is one of the best cover men in the league and he is looking to build off the seven interceptions he had last season.The Rams are putting together an impressive defense. They are strongest at the DE position where Chris Long and Robert Quinn combined for 22 sacks last year. Long is a relentless pass rusher while Quinn can get around the corner. Linebacker James Laurinaitis had 142 tackles last year and has excellent instincts. Cortland Finnegan is one of the most physical cornerbacks in the league.
- Special TeamsThe Cardinals have a chance to rank at the top of the special teams rankings this year. PK Jay Feely made 25-of-28 FG attempts last year. P Dave Zastudil is an excellent directional kicker. Peterson is an explosive punt returner and Javier Arenas can take kickoffs back a long way.The Rams went with a pair of rookies last year in PK Greg Zuerlein and P Johnny Hekker. Zuerlein may have the strongest leg in the league, but he needs to improve his consistency after making 23-of-31 FG attempts last year. Hekker averaged 45.8 yards per punt and he placed 22 punts inside the opponents’ 20 yard line.
Bruce Arians did an excellent job last year when he was asked to fill in for Chuck Pagano last year with the Colts. He brings creativity and energy to the Cardinals. While the Cardinals will respond to him, the Rams have the edge in this game with the underrated Bradford at quarterback. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor