TEMPE, Ariz. -- You can’t touch momentum.
It’s not tangible, like speed or muscles.
It's abstract, like adrenaline. You can't see it, but you can feel it.
Throughout the second half of the Arizona Cardinals 2013 season, they could feel the momentum building. Each win led to a better week of practice, which led -- six times out of their final eight games -- to a win. Even after a season-ending loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Cardinals finished the year with a bit of momentum still left, only to pack up their lockers the following Monday.
Among the laundry list of questions coming out of the season one will be about that same momentum: Will Arizona be able to carry it into 2014?
It all depends on who you ask.
"Absolutely," Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said. "There's always turnover and there's turnover on every team and you can definitely hang your hat on momentum, whether it’s in a game, in a season or from year-to-year. You go into a new year coming off a year where you win four games, and then going into a year where you’re not sure what you are, and now coming off a season where we won 10, there’s much higher expectations placed on us from the outside and also from the inside.”
But how often have we seen momentum fade away as time passes, especially in the NFL?
Roster turnover will have a lot to do with whether the Cardinals can carry over the progress they made from 2013 in ’14. And there was significant improvement in areas like the offense in the second half of the season, but it’s likely the offensive line will go through another overhaul, Andre Roberts won’t return, the tight ends will be different and the running back duties could be handed to Andre Ellington.
But, yet, Palmer’s optimistic.
Others, however, aren’t.
“You have to build it every year,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “The locker room will not be the same. You like to keep the components, the major components, which we should be able to do. If you can keep selfishness out and selflessness in, you’re OK.”
Even that may not help Arizona carry over to next season.
Veteran linebacker John Abraham called 2013 a building block for the Cardinals, but he doesn’t believe in momentum carrying from one season to the next. It doesn’t matter how much progress was made. When this past season began, Abraham, who was signed to a two-year deal at the beginning of training camp, said the Cards were an immature bunch. The turmoil of learning Arians’ offense didn’t lend to a productive first half. But as the season wore on, and the players learned each other and the offense, they began to mature, Abraham said.
That’s the kind of foundation Arizona built, but he still doesn’t think it carries to next year.
“No, not at all,” he said. “I don’t believe in that because I’ve been on teams that’ve been this close.”
Case in point: The 2012 Atlanta Falcons.
They came within one win of the Super Bowl with Abraham patrolling the edge. The Falcons went from 13-3 to 4-12 in 2013, primarily because their roster was depleted thanks to injuries to a few key components. But Abraham felt whatever momentum that team built in 2012 was stopped dead in its tracks this year.
And that could happen to the Cardinals. Only time will tell.
“I promise you, from last year looking at this team this year, you wouldn’t think we did what we did this year,” Abraham said.
“I never believe in (momentum). The only thing I know (is) I know we have possibilities and I believe we can do it. But we got to have the same mentality next year when we come in. We got to do like we’re always on the bottom. I love being on the bottom. Everybody keep saying, ‘Oh we’re the underdog.’ I like that. I like being the underdog. I’ve been the underdog my whole life. I like that.”