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Arizona Cardinals

3 Cardinals primed to decline in 2017

Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire

The Arizona Cardinals went three straight seasons with double-digit victories before taking a step back to 7-8-1 in 2016. Now, they look to turn the tide again and use a dynamic group of playmakers to get back to the postseason. While names like David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are sure to have success, other players may hit a decline. These three Cardinals are likely candidates to fall off in 2017 after producing to some extent last season.

Carson Palmer, QB

This one has to lead the list, and if he falls off, that will hurt the Cardinals the most in 2017. While on paper Palmer’s numbers last season didn’t look bad, he certainly didn’t look like the player who was dominant just one year prior.

He finished 2016 with a completion percentage of 61 and threw for 4,233 yards, 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. His 87.2 quarterback rating was his second-worst since joining the Cardinals. In turn, we could very well see a mediocre Palmer who solely focuses on getting the ball to either Johnson or Fitzgerald on short passes.

Palmer’s career seems to be winding down, and it makes sense that h would decline as the offensive focus goes more to Johnson.

Justin Bethel and Brandon Williams, DBs

We’ll give a pairing here because there’s reason to believe that both Bethel and Williams will decline some in 2017. While the decline won’t be drastic, because neither was excellent last season, there’s still real reason to believe that it’ll happen.

The key part of that belief has to do with second-round draft pick Budda Baker, for whom the team traded up. Baker is capable of playing multiple positions, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he takes away serious playing time for Bethel or Williams at corner.

Last season, Bethel played just 25 percent of defensive snaps, while Williams tallied 22.3 percent, according to Football Outsiders. This is why the two are grouped together here, and the numbers for both should decline. Bethel totaled 39 tackles, six passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one interception, while Williams had 26 tackles and three passes defensed.

J.J. Nelson, WR

This could be a total swing and miss, but it’s a prediction worth taking a flier on. Nelson’s deep-threat role in the offense could take a hit in 2017 for a few reasons.

First, it might be hard to rely on Palmer to hit the deep ball consistently. He might prove doubters wrong, but if he doesn’t then the 568 receiving yards and six touchdowns we saw from Nelson (both career bests in his second season) could take a bit of a hit.

Another reason pointing to a possible decline for Nelson is the addition of third-round pick Chad Williams out of Grambling. While it may take a season for Williams to really make an impact, we shouldn’t throw in the towel on him producing in Year 1. He has a rare combination of size and speed (ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash). That type of deep threat is dangerous in the NFL, so he could push Nelson for playing time.

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