TEMPE, Ariz. -- Losing three starters on defense can change the perception of a team, even if a second elite corner was added. The Arizona Cardinals finished last season ranked eighth in ESPN.com’s NFL Power Rankings after barely missing the playoffs with a 10-6 record and the No. 1-ranked defense against the run.
Then linebacker Karlos Dansby left in free agency, linebacker Daryl Washington was suspended for a year and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was lost for the year with a torn ACL. Couple that with issues at left guard and the Cardinals dropped in the first Power Rankings of 2014, debuting at No. 14.
Considering who the Cardinals lost, it’s a fair assessment to start the season.
There are a number of questions that surround this team, which was one of the surprises of 2013 in Bruce Arians’ first year as head coach. If the offense truly is “light years” ahead of where it was last season, as so many players have said it was and the defense can show Monday night that it hasn't missed too many beats without Dansby, Washington and Dockett, then the Cardinals could – and should – leap into the top 10.
Until then, the Cardinals need to prove they’re worthy of being ranked higher. This isn’t a team or a franchise that will often be given the benefit of the doubt.