The 2015- 2016 season was a historic one for the Arizona Cardinals. They finished the year with a regular season record of 13-3, set team records, finished top three on both offense and defense, won the NFC West Division, and reached the NFC Championship. Unfortunately, the NFC championship is where the season came to a close. Arizona wound up getting blown out by the Carolina Panthers 49-15, leaving them one win away from Super Bowl 50.
Fast forward to the offseason: starting safety Rashad Johnson, starting cornerback Jerraud Powers, starting center Lyle Sendlein, starting right tackle Bobby Massie, and sack leader Dwight Freeney, were all lost in free agency. All players who made significant contributions during their record breaking 2015- 2016 season.
However, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim did not take long to start filling in the holes.
He started a few weeks before the draft when he completed a trade with the New England Patriots which sent former first round pick Jonathan Cooper and a 2016 second round draft pick to New England in return for 2016 Pro Bowl outside linebacker Chandler Jones.
On draft night, Kiem and the Cardinals used their first round pick on Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and their third round pick on Texas A&M cornerback Brandon Williams. According to head coach Bruce Arians, both Nkemdiche and Williams will have to mature quickly as the Cardinals are counting on them for early playing time.
Through free agency deals, Arizona brought in former Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyvon Branch to help supplement the loss of Rashad Johnson. On offense, Super Bowl 50 champion and two time Pro Bowler, Evan Mathis will fill the void at right guard left by Jonathan Cooper and with Massie gone, 2015 first round pick DJ Humphries will be counted on to start at right tackle.
As for the 2016 preseason, it may not have gone the way Cardinals fans wanted it to as the team went just 1-3, but the preseason is used as practice for the regular season.
Besides, there is reason for optimism this season as every player who gained a yard last year on offense is returning this season. On defense, the Cards have a new looking secondary that is a lot faster than last years, they have a new and improved pass-rush, and the young players who are coming back are only going to get better. Add in All Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is set to return week one after tearing his ACL a year ago, and the Arizona Cardinals look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders once again.
The season will kick off on Sept. 11 on Sunday Night Football against the New England Patriots at 5:30 p.m. on NBC.