With a 7-9 record, the Saints were dreadful last season. But last season is so last season. Hello 2015, how are you doing? We hope you bring us much NFL joy. The joy (or the agony) will start in Arizona this year, as the Saints face the Cardinals to open their campaign. Who are the Cards? What are their strengths? Should we be shaking in our boots? Or is there a chance? A tiny little small one?
We spoke with Jess Root of Revenge of the Birds to get a bit more acquainted with New Orleans' first opponent of the season.
1. The Cardinals narrowly missed getting into the playoffs in 2013 then lost in the first round in 2014. Does 2015 feel like the year Arizona wins its first playoff game since a 51-45 victory over Green Bay in the Wild Card round in 2009? And if so, why?
It does. Carson Palmer is back healthy and the defense looks very good like it did the first half of the season. Last season feels like a "what if" season because it ended up being wasted on Ryan Lindley. At 9-1 to start the year, all the stars were in place. That is why. There are offensive improvements and increased depth on the defense. Anything less than a postseason berth for the Cardinals would be a disappointment.
2. Quarterback Carson Palmer played in only six games in 2014 due to injuries, something that also happened to him in 2012. How healthy is Palmer and how has he looked in camp and in the preseason?
Palmer looked great all offseason. Only one game did he look shaky and that was when Khalil Mack was in his face.
The Saints secondary looks like trash.-Jess Root
3. Arizona was ranked 7th in Total Defense by Football Outsiders last year, only 23rd in total Offense. How has the defense looked so far and do you expect them to carry the team once again in 2015?
The short answer is yes. However, with Year 3 in the offense beginning, the expectation is that the offense be able to at least carry its load. The starting defense, though, has looked really good. It plays fast and aggressive. It looks like it will be right near the top in stopping the run. The question then becomes whether they can generate enough of a pass rush.
4. If you were New Orleans' head coach and offensive play-caller Sean Payton, how would you attack Arizona's defense? On the other side of the ball, if you were Saints' defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, what would you do to best counter the Cardinals' offensive arsenal?
Short passing game -- RB dumpoffs and TE throws in the middle of the field before taking shots down the field. Use the tight end as much as you can. On offense, do anything possible to get pressure quickly on Palmer.
5. The season opener is almost here: how do you see this one between the Saints and the Cardinals going? Who wins and why?
Arizona is 8-1 in its last nine home openers. Palmer is 13-3 in his last 16 starts. The Saints secondary looks like trash. I expect a Cardinals win because they play so well at home and because it looks like New Orleans still needs to improve on defense.
Many thanks to Jess Root for taking the time to answer a few questions and for not mincing his words about the Saints' secondary! :-)