Training camp is just around the corner, and with off-season additions just about complete and rosters almost set, we preview the opponents the San Diego Chargers will be facing this season. Each team has made different moves in order to improve their roster, and this series will help you become more familiar with each opponent.
In other words, KNOW YOUR ENEMY...
The 2013 Arizona Cardinals were a team that many considered to have been a great team; one that won 10 games and barely missed the play-offs, in large part due to the division they play in, the NFC West. However, this was also the only team to go into Seattle and snap the eventual Super Bowl champions’ Seahawks home-game winning streak. With some offseason additions and improvements to their roster, this is a team that could very well make the play-offs next year, and possibly even unseat the 49ers and Seahawks from atop the division.
Defensively, the Cardinals are a very complete team, with one of the best corner-backs in the game, Patrick Peterson, manning the "No Fly Zone" secondary that also boosts the always-dangerous Tyrann Mathieu. Losing Karlos Dansby in free-agency and Daryl Washington for the year due to suspension will hurt, but they are banking on second-year player Kevin Minter to step into the vacated role. Last year, their run-defense was best in the league, holding opponents to an average of 84.4 yards per game, and their secondary having 20 interceptions on the year, according to Pro Football Reference.
Offensively, they still have Larry Fitzgerald and the expected emergence of third-year reciever Michael Floyd will help this offense put up some points. The retirement of Rashard Mendenhall leaves some questions in the backfield, as second-year player Andre Ellington will get the chance to be the feature back with Jonathan Dwyer and Stepfan Taylor competing for back-up duties. Carson Palmer is good at the helm, and Bruce Arians is known to engineer a good offense, however, last season they ranked 16th in the league in points scored, and 12th in total yards, so this unit must show improvement to help compliment the defense.
Losses: LB Karlos Dansby, TE Jim Dray, WR Andre Roberts, LB Jasper Brinkley (cut), CB Javier Arenas, CB Antoine Cason, LB Dontay Moch.
Replacing Antoine Cason with Antonio Cromartie will only help this secondary flourish and become one that could rival the one the "Legion of Boom" has. Adding Jared Veldheer will help solidify the offensive line, one that saw last year’s first-round pick Jonathan Cooper go down for the season in training camp. Bringing in Ted Ginn Jr to help with the return game could be key, especially with the tough defenses they have on their schedule this year.
27. Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
52. Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
84. Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
91. John Brown, WR, Pittsburgh State
120. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
160. Ed Stinson, DE, Alabama
196. Walt Powell, WR, Murray State
Even though many experts thought Deone Bucannon was a reach in the first round, this pick could really take this defense over the top by adding a physical presence to this secondary. The team seems excited about what they have seen from their third-round pick, John Brown, a speedy wide receiver out of Division II Pittsburgh State. Troy Niklas has a broken hand and is out until training camp, but he is also recovering from hernia surgery. The intrigue that Logan Thomas brings, a 6-foot-6 athletic QB, can help this offense down the road, however, it’s quite unlikely Thomas will be able to unseat Palmer this season.
The scenario that the Chargers have been put in, facing the Cardinals two weeks in a row (the final pre-season game and the first week of the season), could help the Bolts. The Cardinals started 2013 slow, losing 4 out of their first 7 games before going on a 7-2 run to end the season. Before their great run last year, the Cardinals defense was surrendering 23 points per game through their first 7 games. With Mathieu questionable for the beginning of the season because of knee surgery, and both Dansby and Washington not in a Cardinal uniform, this defense might struggle to begin the season once again, which might force them to rely on an improved offense.
If the San Diego Chargers can continue the success they had on offense this year, and the additions to the defensive side of the ball click in training camp, the Bolts could have an advantage heading into this game. However, with the Cardinals losing only 2 games at home last year, to the Seahawks and 49ers, the Chargers will have their work cut out for them to start the year.