*As the Washington Redskins get closer to the start of another season, Redskins.com will preview all 16 of the team's regular season games. Today is the Week 15 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. *
*The Redskins take on the Cardinals for the second consecutive season, but do so at home for the first time since 2011, aiming to avenge a December loss in the desert.
Arizona's Key Additions: Signed S Antoine Bethea (Colts), LB Karlos Dansby (Bengals), signed K Phil Dawson (49ers), signed QB Blaine Gabbert (49ers), signed OLB Jarvis Jones (Steelers), drafted LB Haason Reddick (Temple), drafted S Budda Baker (Washington), drafted WR Chad Williams (Grambling State).
Arizona's Key Subtractions: DE Calais Campbell, TE Darren Fells, S Tony Jefferson, LB Kevin Minter, OLB Alex Okafor, S D.J. Swearinger, LB Daryl Washington.
The Redskins return home after their final trip out west to Los Angeles and welcome in the Arizona Cardinals, looking to avenge their loss last season in the desert.
With a prime opportunity to take control of their playoff destiny last December, the Redskins squandered a lead in the second half. Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 271 yards and a touchdown but a costly fumble and interception late proved to be the difference.
The defense struggled to contain Carson Palmer, who threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns and they had little answer for wider receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who provided 78 receiving yards, or the versatile running back David Johnson, who ran for 84 yards and a touchdown while catching nine passes for 91 yards and a score.
Johnson will figure to play another healthy role for the Cardinals' offense again this season, which will still be supplemented by a Hall-of-Fame bound Fitzgerald and led once more by Palmer. The only major additions to the offense came from the draft, namely wide receiver Chad Williams, offensive guard Dorian Johnson and offensive tackle Will Holden.
But the most significant changes this offseason came on defense, a place where the most questions now lie.
The Cardinals let go of some major parts of the last couple of seasons. First they released defensive end stalwart Calais Campbell, who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars after a 53-tackle, eight-sack season last year. Head coach Bruce Arians will rely on Rodney Gunter and Robert Nkemdiche to fill his void.
Then there is safety, which saw two key contributors leave. Tony Jefferson, who combined for close to 100 tackles and two sacks, joined the Baltimore Ravens, while D.J. Swearinger signed with the Redskins to be their starting free safety after collecting a career-high three interceptions and eight passes defensed.
Check out the top images from the Washington Redskins' offense in their 2016 Week 13 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals Dec. 4, 2016, at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Arizona has a little more faith in their replacements, the ex-Colts safety Antoine Bethea and much-hyped rookie from the University of Washington Budda Baker. Both of them will join Tyrann Mathieu at safety to form a continually strong secondary that will lean on Patrick Peterson as the No. 1 cornerback.
As of now, it seems like there will be a lot of mixing and matching within the unit, as Mathieu could be groomed to play more of a slot cornerback hybrid role, as well as Baker, using their versatile traits that the Cardinals feel like they can exploit to give them more options on defense, much like teir use of Deone Buchannon, one of the first players to start the trend of drafting linebacker/safety hybrids.
If Palmer suffers an injury or doesn't play up to the level he has exhibited the past couple of years, the team will rely on Blaine Gabbert, whom they acquired in the offseason, as a backup.
By Week 15, the Cardinals' defensive rotation and offensive output will be well-documented, but for now, there seems to be more question marks than sure answers about returning to the playoffs. In other words, this third to final game could have serious implications.
2017 Season Previews: