NFL 2018 power rankings countdown No. 22: Arizona Cardinals

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 03: Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals catches a touchdown ahead of cornerback Kayvon Webster #21 of the Los Angeles Rams during the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. The Rams defeated the Cardinals 32-16. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 03: Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals catches a touchdown ahead of cornerback Kayvon Webster #21 of the Los Angeles Rams during the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. The Rams defeated the Cardinals 32-16. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

A preview of the Arizona Cardinals ahead of the 2018 season.

Check back every day for a new 2018 team preview in this year’s NFL power rankings countdown.

Today’s team is the Arizona Cardinals.

22. Arizona Cardinals

Keegan’s highest rated player: David Johnson, running back, and Patrick Peterson, cornerback

Biggest strength: Running back

Biggest weakness: Tight end

Best offseason move: Drafting Josh Rosen

Worst offseason move: Not finding a long-term option at the tight end position

Game to circle on calendar: Week 8, vs. San Francisco

Breakout candidate: Budda Baker, safety

Key players in contract years: Sam Bradford, David Johnson, Derrick Coleman, Larry Fitzgerald, J.J. Nelson, Ricky Seals-Jones, A.Q. Shipley, Deone Bucannon, Markus Golden, Bene’ Benwikere and Phil Dawson

Offensive preview

The biggest question mark with this offense will be who wins the quarterback competition between Josh Rosen and Sam Bradford. The Cardinals will be able to win games with both of these quarterbacks, but Rosen may have the upper hand in this competition.

The best thing about this offense will be a healthy David Johnson. If he plays all 16 games this year, he could be in serious contention for both offensive player of the year and comeback player of the year. The rest of the Cardinals backfield lacks depth, but don’t be surprised if Chase Edmonds becomes the number two back in Arizona soon.

Losing Jaron and John Brown won’t help this receiving corps, but the Cardinals made a good decision pouncing on Christian Kirk in the second round of this year’s draft. Kirk is a speedy receiver who will be the top downfield threat for the team in 2018. The Brice Butler signing was a good move as well. He is a tough, physical receiver who was under-utilized in Dallas. Of course, the Cardinals still have Larry Fitzgerald — expect him to dominate once again.

The Cardinals need to improve the tight end position. Jermaine Gresham is a decent veteran tight end, but Ricky Seals-Jones is not a viable long-term option at the position. The Cardinals’ tight ends will not be good in the red zone this year.

A strength for this offense is the interior offensive line, which features three established veterans in Mike Iupati, A.Q. Shipley, and Justin Pugh. Pugh was one of the most underrated free agent signings this offseason, since it added a versatile player who can swing to right tackle while also addressing a need for this offense.

The Cardinals are not as strong at the tackle position. DJ Humphries would be better suited to play right tackle than left tackle, and I don’t see Andre Smith as a starting offensive lineman in this league.

This offense will have strong veteran leadership, but the fact their starting quarterback will either be an injury-prone veteran or a rookie increases the odds that there could be some struggles on this side of the ball in 2018.

Defensive preview

The Cardinals’ defense still has a lot of potential, but they have lost some difference-makers over the past few years. The Cardinals will need some of their younger players to step up if they want to have any chance to stop the tough quarterbacks in their division.

Chandler Jones and Olsen Pierre will make this defensive line decent, but outside of that it will be weak, especially if Markus Golden is isn’t ready to start the season. The defensive line hasn’t been the same since Calais Campbell left.

This linebacking corps will have some potential in 2018 with Deone Bucannon (who helped modernize NFL defenses) and Haason Reddick, who was one of the best defensive prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft. One underrated player on this defense is linebacker Scooby Wright, who was one of the best collegiate linebackers. Don’t be surprised if you see improvement from him this season.

This secondary will be able to dominate a lot of games, mostly because of Patrick Peterson, who is one of the only true shutdown cornerbacks in football right now. The Cardinals lack depth at the rest of the cornerback position, and probably should have drafted one.

Expect Budda Baker to improve in his second season, but the Cardinals lack depth at safety. Cutting Tyrann Mathieu was a huge mistake; he is still one of the most versatile defensive players in football and his passion is rare. Hopefully veteran safety Antoine Bethea helps rectify this loss, but it will still leave a few marks on this defense.

This defense has talent, but the Cardinals have lost two real difference-makers in Campbell and Mathieu in recent years. The loss of Campbell has already had an impact on this defense, and losing Mathieu won’t make the situation much better.

Coaching staff/front office preview

The Cardinals hired Steve Wilks as their head coach this offseason after the retirement of Bruce Arians. Arizona will be moving from an offensively-oriented coach in Arians to a defensive-minded coach in Wilks. The hire looks like a good move, as long as the offense doesn’t downgrade as a result.

Steve Keim assembled a good roster in the mid-2000s, and the Carson Palmer trade was one of the most underrated trades of this decade, but the roster has been on the decline over the past year or two.

Keim will hopefully be able to turn this team around, but his DUI arrest is not something you want to see from a general manager (or anyone for that matter). This is not a good distraction to have headed into a season with a quarterback controversy.

Overall outlook for 2018

This roster has a lot of holes that the Cardinals have created on their own, but the veteran leadership on this team will hopefully mitigate some of these problems. Arizona will likely be starting a rookie quarterback for most of the season (even if Sam Bradford is the Week 1 starter), and this could make it harder for the Cardinals in a loaded NFC.

Next. Predictions for every NFL division, playoff game in 2018. dark

Previous teams:

23. Chicago Bears
24. Oakland Raiders
25. Baltimore Ravens
26. Washington Redskins
27. Cleveland Browns
28. Buffalo Bills
29. New York Jets
30. Cincinnati Bengals
31. Miami Dolphins
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers