The Los Angeles Rams are Super Bowl champs and as tough as that reality may be for Cardinals fans, there is an opportunity to learn from it. Its not that trading first round picks is the only way to postseason success, instead I found three important lessons the Arizona Cardinals would be wise to take from the Rams conquering the rest of the football world:
1. Injuries are a bump in the road not a brick wall
- The Los Angeles Rams played 17 regular season games without their top running back, Cam Akers. They lost Robert Woods for the year in mid November. Then they lost Tyler Higbee in the NFC Championship game before watching Odell Beckham Jr tear his ACL in the first quarter of the Super Bowl. The Rams are Super Bowl Champions. The Arizona Cardinals lost DeAndre Hopkins missed seven games, including the final four games of the year and the Cardinals never recovered. Whether its a scheme issue or organizational culture that tolerates excuses, the Cardinals get let a single injury on offense cause a total collapse of their season.
2. The Cardinals must keep Chandler Jones
- Other than having a quarterback, nothing matters more in the NFL than disrupting a quarterback. The Rams could've been content with Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd but just to be sure traded for Von Miller. They ended up needing all three to become the champs. Your supply of pass rushers is kind of like your gas tank - its better to be sure that you have enough than regretting not filling up. Is Chandler Jones at his peak? No, but he's still a player that demands attention from the offense, has an uncanny knack for strip sacks and can get double digit sacks in a down year. There's no way the Cardinals are a better defense next year if they don't have Chandler Jones. If the franchise wants to contend next year, and all signs point to their belief they can, Chandler Jones has to be retained. If they franchise tag him, they'll be overpaying but just for a year. If they try and sign him long term, they'll likely pay him more than they want. His market will be bigger than you want to believe because he's a proven pass rusher. The Cardinals needs to make sure they keep him.
3. The Cardinals can't overpay for James Conner or Chase Edmonds.
- The Rams ran for less than two yards per carry in the Super Bowl on 23 attempts an won. In their entire postseason, Los Angeles averaged just 2.7 yards per carry over four playoff wins. Every where you look in the NFL are flashing neon signs begging you not to overpay for running back talent, the Cardinals would be wise to heed those messages. James Conner was a very productive red zone back last year for Arizona but still averaged less than four yards per carry and continued to be plagued with an inability to play an entire season. A one year deal in Melvin Gordon territory would be a gross overpay for the Cardinals. If Conner wants to run it back on a one year deal for three million bucks, welcome back James. If not the draft, the free agent market and the veteran scrapheap would be enough for the Cardinals to get by at a position that is becoming less important each year.