They were the last NFL team to lose a game in 2021. And although the Arizona Cardinals reached the playoffs, the late-season slump is reason for concern.
They were one of the NFL’s biggest stories seven weeks into the season. Kliff Kingbury’s Arizona Cardinals owned a 7-0 record one year after finishing 8-8. The team dominated opponents, scoring 31-plus points in six of those games while winning five of those contests by double digits.
But a funny thing happened in Arizona’s quest for its first division title since 2015. The team dropped six of its final 10 contests and wound up settling for a wild card berth. But Kingsbury’s team was one and done after a 34-11 loss to the Rams at Los Angeles.
This is a talented team that has come a long way since finishing an NFL-worst 3-13 in 2018. What are some things the Cards can work on this offseason?
3. Arizona Cardinals must bolster the defensive front-seven
A year ago, outside linebacker Chandler Jones missed the vast majority of the season, Hasson Reddick filled the void and the Cardinals finished with 48 sacks. The latter signed with Carolina this offseason, Jones (10.5 sacks) returned to his star form and he and Markus Golden (11) combined for just over half of Arizona’s 41 quarterback traps. The Cards also came up with a more-than-respectable 27 takeaways in 17 regular-season outings.
But coordinator Vance Joseph’s unit finished 20th in the league against the run. And that unit gave up 140 yards rushing in the wild card loss to the Rams. Veteran J.J. Watt missed the final 10 regular-season games but returned for the playoffs.
General manager Steve Keim has used his last two first-round picks on linebackers Isaiah Simmons (2020) and Zaven Collins (2021) but more help is needed here.