The Arizona Cardinals were good enough early last season to win a road game against New England on their way to a 4-0 record. They were bad enough later to lose nine in a row and 11 of their final 12 overall.
Despite the rough finish, new coach Bruce Arians and staff sound more optimistic about the roster than general manager Steve Keim would have expected.
"They came in and did a nice job studying our team, looked at all the tape, and when we had our initial meeting with them to talk about our players, I was pleasantly surprised with how many of our guys they really liked," Keim told reporters at the NFL scouting combine.
The Cardinals rank tied with Jacksonville and St. Louis for 29th in total number of players with Pro Bowls on their resumes. The number is five for those teams, four for Cleveland and 9.5 on average for the other 28 teams in the NFL.
Calais Campbell and Daryl Washington are among the Arizona players in line for such honors, but two of the five that have gone in the past will be at least 32 years old this season (Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson).
Arizona, despite some promising young talent, has the NFL's eighth-oldest roster on average. Some of that stems from having older specialists such as kicker Jay Feely (36), snapper Mike Leach (36), and punter Dave Zastudil (34). Churning some of the depth along both lines would make the Cardinals younger in a hurry. Vonnie Holliday (37), Nick Eason (32), and D'Anthony Batiste (30) are veteran backups.
"Now, again, I'm not naïve," Keim said. "There are certain areas where we need to vastly improve. But at the same time, those (coaches) had a very, very optimistic outlook on our team. Whether it was the offensive linemen, some of them who were maligned throughout the year, guys like Bobby Massie, Nate Potter, who if you watch them early and watch them late, they improved considerably."