David Johnson was the key to the Cardinals offensive success last season. The Cardinals consolation prize after the Lions stole Ameer Abdullah out from under them has paid great dividends. Johnson had 2118 yards from scrimmage in 2016, with 1239 on the ground, and 879 in the air.
In February he told PFT live that his goal was to reach 1000 yards in both categories for the 2017 season. He will be an incredibly tough draw for the Lion’s young linebacker corp who will need to contain Johnson in order to stifle the Cardinals offense. Both Paul Worrilow and Tahir Whitehead have made NFL careers of preventing the big play from the Linebacker spot. It would not surprise me to see the veterans log a lot of snaps in week one.
The Cardinals also drafted speedy back T.J. Lang in the fifth round. Normally not much can be expected from a fifth round pick, but Lang has the speed and agility to step into a role spelling Johnson occasionally without a reduction in how dangerous he is to take any play for long yardage. Whichever running back the Lions week one opponent fields, they will need their defensive line to maintain their gap discipline in order to make the linebacker’s job possible.
The Cardinals allowed the seventh most sacks in the NFL last season, and return pretty much the same group in 2017. They drafted players in the fourth and fifth round that should build for the future. For the present however, if those players are on the field in week one, it will almost certainly be because of injuries, not improvements to overall blocking. There may be some shuffling of the lineup, but it appears that the Cardinals offensive line could get the Lions off to a good start in terms of pass rush numbers.
The Cardinals also need to utilize their Tight end as a sixth blocker in order to see success under Bruce Arians’ offensive scheme running the ball. The offensive line is decent, but not spectacular in the running game.
The Lions front seven has returned most of the key contributors and added a new Middle Linebacker to the mix. They should be able to handle the Cardinals on the ground if they are able to limit David Johnson’s big play opportunities. The Lions week one opponent are not going to pound out 15 play drives very often.