Seattle Seahawks rival look: 6 questions about the Cardinals

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 24: Wide receiver Doug Baldwin (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 24: Wide receiver Doug Baldwin (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /

The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals appear to be the elite of the NFC West again. Seattle won the division in 2016. Arizona won in 2015. Either could win in 2017.

To find out more about the Seahawks rival far to the south, I asked Scott Allen of FanSided’s Arizona Cardinals site, Raising Zona, six questions about the Cardinals. How does he think the Cardinals will do in 2017 and beyond. Will the Seahawks and Cardinals battle for the division for years?

12th Man Rising: The common thought is the Cardinals and the Seahawks are the top end of the NFC West. The Cardinals defense is good but lost some pieces this offseason. What should Cardinals fans expect from this unit in 2017?

Scott Allen: On defense, the Cardinals are young up front but should be formidable.  They’ve got a great group of defensive tackles.  Looking good in camp is second-year lineman Robert Nkemdiche.  He had maturity problems on and off the field in 2016.  At linebacker, that is the real strength of the defense.  Markus Golden and Chandler Jones are arguably the best 1-2 tandem.  They had 23.5 sacks between them last season. The struggle will once again be at cornerback.  The Cardinals are still looking for that starter opposite Patrick Peterson.  So far it doesn’t look like anyone wants to claim it yet.  The team would like to see Justin Bethel succeed but it hasn’t happened yet.

Carson Palmer

12th Man: Carson Palmer was very good in 2015 and not as great in 2016. Why do you think this was? And which version will Arizona get in 2017?

Allen: A big part of the statistics being down were in part due to the offensive line and their injury issues.  In 2015, Palmer was sacked 25 times.  He was sacked 40 times in 2016.  His numbers weren’t too far off last season as he played great in the second half of 2016.  He finished with 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions after 35 and 11 in 2015.  However, David Johnson scored 16 times on the ground, so that took some of the passing touchdown opportunities away. I think you will see something better in 2017 but maybe not reach what was accomplished in 2015.

12th Man: What position group gives you the biggest concern this season?

Allen: Cornerback.  As I stated, it is a genuine concern.  The Cardinals are trying.  They brought in Tramon Williams for veteran help but he’s getting up in age.

12th Man: David Johnson might get 3,000 touches this year. Obviously, that’s an exaggeration, but coach Bruce Arians wants to use him even more than 2016. How much does the success for the Cardinals ride on Johnson in 2017?

Allen: The offense will go as far as Palmer and Johnson can carry them.  Johnson was a workhorse last year and they want even more from him in 2017.  Arians wants Johnson to get 30 touches a game.  It might happen once or twice but there are just too many weapons around that the ball needs to spread.  I just don’t know if the opportunity for 30 touches week in and week out is possible.

Beyond 2017

12th Man: What do the Cardinals need to do to continue the success they have mostly had beyond 2017?

Allen: Stick with the plan.  Don’t change the way business is operated.  Continue to nurture young talent and mix in some veterans for leadership.  Yes, Palmer and receiver Larry Fitzgerald are aging and this could be the last season for either or both of them.  They need to have a plan.  Sometimes it looks like they don’t but there is trust in the current front office.

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12th Man: What is your prediction for Arizona this season? How many games will they win and do they make the playoffs?

Allen: 11-5 is the prediction.  I had them at 12-4 at first view of the schedule back in April but looking at the roster now and being a little more realistic, 11 wins seems like a fair prediction.  The Cardinals are one of those teams though that could just as easily finish 10-6 or 6-10.  They must remain healthy.  11 might or might not win the West but it should get both the Cardinals and Seahawks into the playoffs somehow.