The Arizona Cardinals could be set to make the infamous “worst to first” leap after a highly successful offseason.
Arizona sensationally acquired All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins to give second year quarterback Kyler Murray a premier receiver. While the team bolstered the other side of the ball drafting Isaiah Simmons and signing former Buffalo Bills breakout star Jordan Phillips to a Chandler Jones-led defensive front. This could enable the Cardinals to follow the NFL’s “worst to first” theme from recent years.
A common trend the NFL has seen in recent years is that one team tends to go from worst to best. A notable example was the Chicago Bears in 2018, who were among the worst eight teams in the league in 2017.
The “worst to first” is a tag thrown around the NFL. One terrible season, combined with a excellent free agency and a strong NFL Draft can sometimes transfer into a division title the following season.
Since 2015 Dallas, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Houston and Chicago all finished fourth in their divisions and the following year all went worst to first in their division. Philadelphia and Dallas actually claimed the no.1 seed in 2017 and 2016 respectively.
The turnover in playoff teams each year is one of the exciting things the NFL has to offer. As a result, four or five teams who failed to make the postseason the season before will likely make it the next year.
However, the likelihood of a worst to first scenario likely rests with the Arizona Cardinals. Carolina, Jacksonville, Washington and Cincinnati all appear destined for another difficult year. While the Chargers are in a division led by the Chiefs and Pat Mahomes. Lastly, Miami and Detroit will have a difficult time trying to topple the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers.
Why are the Arizona Cardinals the most likely “worst to first” candidate?
Although Arizona face tough competition in the NFC West, they appear destined to breakout under Murray.
Murray threw for 3722 yards and 20 touchdowns in a promising rookie season. The Cardinals signal caller should improve further in his sophomore campaign after his arsenal of weapons expanded this offseason. Aside from the addition of Hopkins, Murray will have a number of weapons at his disposal including Larry Fitzgerald, Kenyan Drake and Christian Kirk. In a pass heavy offense, Murray will have plenty of time to use his arsenal of weapons.
The offensive line with be key to Murray’s improvement. Arizona struggled to keep the former Oklahoma man upright last season, surrendering 48 sacks, the joint most in the league. However, the addition of Josh Jones, a man who had first round talent but fell to the third.
The Cardinals defensive improvement
By adding Phillips and Simmons, the Cardinals improved the weakest parts of their roster. Aside from Chandler Jones, Arizona struggled to generate a pass rush last season. Phillips and fourth round draft pick Leki Fotu, who is known for his pass rushing, could fix that problem. If Arizona are to compete this year, they will need to give Jones some help in that department.
As for Simmons, the Cardinals hope he’ll be the man to fix one of the league’s worst linebacking corps. Simmons, a do it all Swiss Army knife will instantly fix the issues in coverage against tight ends and running backs. The former Clemson man and Jordan Hicks make a formidable middle linebacker pairing for the Cards.
Nonetheless, Arizona will need significant improvement from their cornerbacks if they’re to stop receiving options that include Tyler Lockett, George Kittle, DK Metcalf, Robert Woods and Deebo Samuel. Having Patrick Peterson available from the start of the year will help, as will Robert Alford’s return to fitness. While Byron Murphy should benefit from a full time move to the slot after struggling on the outside.
Despite the terrific offseason, overtaking all of three of their divisional rivals may be too big of a challenge. Seattle has never suffered a losing season under Russell Wilson, the 49ers represented the NFC at the Super Bowl in February. Lastly, the Rams reached the Super Bowl just a year ago, despite failing to manage the salary cap.
In any other division the Cardinals would be favourites to win. However, in the NFC West one successful offseason may not be enough to push the Cards to the top of the division.