Season Preview: Arizona Cardinals

Season Preview: Arizona Cardinals
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Sports Mole takes a look at the Arizona Cardinals ahead of the 2013 NFL season.

The Arizona Cardinals have a new coaching staff for the 2013 NFL season, having finished last in the NFC West last season.

The team will open their season against the St Louis Rams on Sunday as they look to put last season behind them.

Sports Mole examines the changes that the Cardinals have made during the off-season.

Head Coach: Bruce Arians left his role as offensive coordinator with the Indianapolis Colts to replace Ken Whisenhunt in Phoenix this off-season. Last season's NFL coach of the year spent the majority of the 2012 campaign as the interim head coach for the Colts, while Chuck Pagano fought leukaemia, turning the team from the worst in the league to a playoff side.

Last Season: 5-11

Review: The Cardinals made a fantastic start to the 2012 season, winning their opening four games. However, a week five defeat to the St Louis Rams started a run of nine consecutive losses for Arizona, claiming just one further victory before the end of the season, ensuring that they finished bottom in the NFC West. The team were hit with injuries at the quarterback position, using four different starters over the course of the season.

Notable Ins: To solve the team's problems at the quarterback position, Arians sought a trade with the Oakland Raiders, bringing Carson Palmer to the Cardinals. The 33-year-old recorded over 4,000 passing yards in 2012. Palmer played in three of the Cardinals' pre-season games, completing 23 passes for 265 yards. The Cardinals also brought in former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall during free agency. Mendenhall fell out with the coaching staff in Pittsburgh, but did rush for 182 yards during his six games last season.

Notable Outs: After missing most of last season though injury, the Cardinals released quarterback Kevin Kolb when the two parties failed to agree a restructured contract. He quickly found work with the Buffalo Bills, but will miss this season after sustaining what is feared to be a career-threatening head injury. LaRod Stephens-Howling left the club as a free agent in April, penning a deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The running back and return specialist scored four touchdowns for the Cardinals last season.

Key Player Offense: Larry Fitzgerald: The wide receiver has had six 1,000 yard seasons since being drafted in 2004. Despite recording his lowest figures since his rookie season in 2012, Fitzgerald is likely to be Palmer's top target in 2013.

Key Player Defense: Daryl Washington: The inside linebacker was the workhorse of the Cardinals' defense in 2012. While the offense struggled, the team's defense remained solid throughout the season, with Washington making a team-leading 134 tackles. The 26-year-old also had nine sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception, and made 14 tackles during the team's four pre-season clashes.

Rookie to watch: Tyrann Mathieu: The safety was considered a high-risk choice in this year's Draft, having not played for over a year because of suspension, reportedly failing up to 10 drugs tests during his college career. However, the former Heisman Trophy finallist has been silencing his doubters with a series of impressive displays during pre-season, making 12 tackles and a sack during the four games. If he can maintain his discipline, he will play a big role this season.

Pre-season form: The Cardinals lost just one of their four pre-season games.

Prediction: Realistically, 2013 is all about rebuilding for the Cardinals. However, Bruce Arians has shown how quickly he can turn a side around, and the team has looked impressive during pre-season. The Cardinals have an outside chance of a wildcard place in the playoffs.

Head coach Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals leads his team against the Denver Broncos during preseason action at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 29, 2013
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