- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - A 10-win season is usually enough to get a team into the playoffs.

Not last year. Not when you’re playing in the NFC West.

Coach Bruce Arians, in his first year in the desert, directed the Cardinals to just their second 10-win season in the 26 years they’ve been in Arizona. And all that got them was third place in the toughest division in football.

Confidence is palpable in the Cardinals’ locker room as the new season approaches, but the players know last year’s 2-4 record against NFC West foes has to improve.

Quarterback Carson Palmer calls this “by far the most talented team I’ve ever been on, top to bottom.”

Arizona added speed in Ted Ginn Jr. and rookie sensation John Brown, then bolstered an already good secondary by signing free agent cornerback Antonio Cromartie and drafting hard-hitting safety Deone Bucannon out of Washington State in the first round.

The Cardinals filled their biggest need on offense by signing massive Jerad Veldheer to play left tackle.

But a defection, a suspension and an injury created trouble up the middle of a defense that ranked sixth last season, second against the run.

Inside linebackers Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington are gone. Dansby left for Cleveland as a free agent, Washington is suspended for a year for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Then in practice last week, tackle Darnell Dockett tore his ACL and is out for the season.

Larry Foote will try to prove he still has it at age 34 at one inside linebacker spot. Second-year pro Kevin Minter, who took one defensive snap last season, is supposed to fill the other spot, although he was slowed by a pectoral muscle injury in preseason. At tackle, Frostee Rucker has had a strong camp, but behind him are two rookies and two players the Cardinals just brought in the past few days.

Palmer, who says he’s comfortable in Arians’ system after struggling last season, said the offense needs to become “the backbone” of the team.

Safety Tyrann Mathieu, the versatile, disruptive “Honey Badger” who recovered from a severe knee injury much quicker than anticipated, says the deep, talented secondary needs to pick up the slack.

“That pass rush might not be there this year,” he said. “We may have to cover a bit longer.”

Here are some things to look for with the Cardinals this season:

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