Carson Palmer is the best deep passer he's ever seen. The Cardinals quarterback situation was as good as any other in the NFL. Running back Rashard Mendenhall is good enough to carry a team to the Super Bowl. The receiving corps was the best he ever inherited.
And on and on.
So it was interesting this week when Arians said the performance of his offense in recent OTAs was lacking.
"Right now, our defense is way outplaying our offense, and our offense needs to pick it up," Arians said. "We're behind where I'd like to be right now."
The Cardinals entered the second week of OTAs knowing their offense needed considerable work. But Tuesday was not a good day. Quarterback Carson Palmer and his receivers had trouble connecting on deep passes. Backup Drew Stanton has not looked good, and coaches have ranted about the number of mental mistakes.
Overall, the struggles are not unexpected. The entire team is undergoing great changes and this is only the second week of practices with the full team.
What irritated Arians, however, is that players didn't learn from the mistakes they made last week.
"Learning," Arians replied when asked what the biggest problem was. "We're just not picking it up fast enough, still not picking it up the way I'd like to, at all positions. It's a little bit easier to put in a defense than an offense."
The biggest problem seems to be at receiver. After all, these practices involve no contact so it's impossible to judge offensive linemen, the run game or pass protection.
But you can tell when a receiver runs the wrong route, or a poor one. You can tell when they don't use proper technique, like "squeezing" a defender to create more space for a catch, or when they drop passes. Or when the quarterback makes a poor read.
While Arians placed fault at all positions, he later singled out receivers as being guilty of not learning quickly enough from mistakes.
"I really don't like mental mistakes, especially if you made the same one last week. That should be corrected and in the books by now. Our receivers are not getting that done."
There is plenty of time to correct the mistakes. The Cardinals have two more practices this week, break for a week, then return for two weeks of OTAs in June.
They might not be on the same page by then, but maybe they will at least be in the same library. That would be progress.
And there is a positive way to look at the team's performance so far. The defense has looked good, Arians said.
--Coming off his most disappointing season in the NFL, Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has a positive attitude towards the team's numerous changes.
After all, if things weren't working, change may be a good thing. And for a receiver, perhaps the most important change is the one at quarterback, where the Cardinals traded to get Carson Palmer from the Oakland Raiders.
And Fitzgerald likes what he sees in Palmer.
Fitzgerald is clearly tired of answering questions about the team's problems on offense the past three years. He's weary of making promises and expressing excitement about any changes, because he knows such comments mean nothing until the Cardinals prove their offensive problems have been addressed.
"I'm just older and have been through a lot of ups and downs over these last three years," Fitzgerald said via text. "So I'm just focusing in on what I can control and that's my attitude, preparation and commitment."
So Fitzgerald is embracing the changes, from the hiring of coach Bruce Arians, the promotion of Steve Keim to general manager and the trade that brought Palmer aboard.
He already likes Palmer's take-charge attitude that reflects veteran experience.
"It does instill confidence knowing the leader of your offense is into it and wants to see everyone play at a high level," Fitzgerald said of Palmer.
Palmer, who is equally excited to work with Fitzgerald, said the star wide receiver is "exactly what I expected."
"He's working as hard in practice as he was in games," Palmer said. "He's a perfectionist. He wants to do things right every single time. He and I will get along great because I am the same way.
"It's been a great offseason so far," he said. "Learning the new system has been fun and a nice change-up. So I'm excited and looking forward to the season."
There has been speculation that Fitzgerald might ask to be traded if the Cardinals continue to struggle. He would never admit that publicly if it were true, and the Cardinals have steadfastly said that Fitzgerald is not going anywhere.
But the star receiver's frustration is evident. And a fourth consecutive season out of the playoffs might be enough to make him push for an exit play.
That's a long way off, however. For now, Fitzgerald is saying, or texting, all the right things.
Tight end Jeff King hasn't practiced in OTAs yet after undergoing knee surgery this off-season. The Cardinals are hopeful that he can participate in June's OTAs.
Defensive end Darnell Dockett didn't adapt well to the system installed by former defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Dockett's statistics plunged as he was asked to two-gap and free linebackers to make tackles. In Todd Bowles' system, Dockett will do more one-gapping, which better suits his skills, he said.
"They want us to create penetration," end Calais Campbell said of he and Dockett. "They want us to shove them (offensive linemen) back two yards, three yards deep and be able to shed blocks quicker and make tackles in the backfield, which I think Dockett and myself would be very, very good at. You know, we're very athletic."
The Cardinals announced a restructuring of their scouting department. They added a net of three scouts, giving them a total of five additional hires over the past two years. General manager Steve Keim credited the expansion for helping the team have a successful draft.
"It allows you to be very dominant up front and be a physical force and not take on two or three people, just sitting pretty much like a hitting bag. This right here allows us to be a hammer and let other people be the nail."—DE Darnell Dockett on the team's defensive scheme.
A closer look at the Cardinals' picks:
Round 1/7 - Jonathan Cooper, 6-2, 311, G, North Carolina
The Cardinals ranked him as the top guard in the draft. They love his athleticism, comparing him to former Steelers great Alan Faneca. Cooper is athletic enough not only to pull but also to hit someone when he does. He can change directions to block defenders. He's smart and he started 47 games in four seasons. The Cardinals haven't decided which side he will play.
Round 2/45 - Kevin Minter, ILB, 6-0, 246, Louisiana State
The Cardinals traded down from 38 to 45, picking up a fourth=-round pick from the Chargers. The Cardinals passed on Manti Te'o because they thought Minter was a better player. He is short but Minter packs a punch. He could play right away because starter Daryl Washington is suspended for the first month.
Round 3/69 - Tyrann Mathieu, FS, 5-9, 186, Louisiana State
The Cardinals gambled here. Mathieu has a history of troubles, mostly with marijuana. The Cardinals think Mathieu is sincere about changing his life, and they expect his former LSU teammate, Patrick Peterson, to be a mentor. Mathieu will start his NFL career as a free safety. He doesn't have ideal speed for cornerback, and playing safety will give him a chance to roam the field and make plays on the ball, his strength. He also will return punts, along with Peterson.
Round 4/103 - Alex Okafor, DE/OLB, 6-4, 261, Texas
Two years ago, the Cardinals took Texas outside linebacker Acho in the same spot: fourth round, 103rd overall. Acho became a starter as a rookie, so that worked out well. Okafor could fill a need. The team needs to improve its outside pass rush and its depth at defensive end. Okafor was productive in college, recording 12.5 sacks last season.
Round 4/116 - Earl Watford, G, 6-4, 300, James Madison
The Cardinals traded down six spots, receiving the Giants sixth-round pick in return. They took their second guard in the draft, a sign that they weren't pleased with their interior line play last season.
Round 5/140 - Stepfan Taylor, RB, 5-9, 214, Stanford
Taylor is Stanford's all-time leading rusher and could contribute immediately. Rashard Mendenhall is the starter and the backup, Ryan Williams, has suffered serious injuries in both of his NFL seasons.
Round 6/174 - Ryan Swope, WR, 6-0, 204, Texas A&M
He adds speed to the wide receiver group. He was timed in the 40 in 4.34 seconds at the scouting combine. But he has a history of concussions, and that caused him to fall in the draft. The Cardinals were looking to add speed to the position.
Round 6/187 - Andre Ellington, RB, 5-11, 199, Clemson
The second running back taken in three selections, Ellington joins what is now a crowded backfield situation. He could contend for time as a third-down back because he has good hands and is a decent pass protector.
Round 7/219 - D.C. Jefferson, TE, 6-6, 262, Rutgers
A high school quarterback who had a productive college career. Jefferson suffered a pectoral injury at the combine but says he has recovered and is ready to practice.
CB Michael Adams is an excellent special teams player and can fill a role in dime coverage. Adams is small but there aren't many players better in coverage on special teams.
T D'Anthony Batiste played poorly as the starter on the left side last year, losing his job midway through the year. The team has some depth so it's hard to see how he returns.
DE Nick Eason is a versatile backup who can play both end and tackle. He's a great veteran presence in the locker room and as a former Steeler, he's familiar with coach Bruce Arians. It would make sense to re-sign him.
DE Vonnie Holliday turned 37 in December so everything is year to year with him. Holliday could be done, even though he did well as a spot player the last two seasons.
LB Paris Lenon is smart and former coordinator Ray Horton loved him. But Lenon is 35. Re-signing him won't be a priority, although the team is thin at the position.
T Pat McQuistan played decently in limited opportunities last season. He can play both guard and tackle, but he won't contend for a starting job. That makes re-signing him a low priority.
S James Sanders is a smart, veteran backup and decent special teams contributor. Isn't expected to return, and was suspended April 19 for first four games of 2013 season.
(not tendered offers)
C Ryan Bartholomew (not tendered as ERFA).
RB Javarris James (not tendered as ERFA).
LB Brandon Williams (not tendered as RFA).
LB Kevin Minter (2/45): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
RB Stepfan Taylor (5/140): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
WR Ryan Swope (6/174): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
RB Andre Ellington (6/187): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
TE D.C. Jefferson (7/219): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
S Rashad Johnson: Potential UFA; $4.8M/3 yrs, $1M SB.
RB William Powell: ERFA; $480,000/1 yr.
RB Alfonso Smith: ERFA; $555,000/1 yr.
DE Ronald Talley: ERFA; $555,000/1 yr.
LB Lorenzo Alexander: UFA Redskins; $9.5M/3 yrs, $3M guaranteed.
S Jonathon Amaya: Not tendered as RFA by Dolphins; 1 yr, terms unknown.
S Yeremiah Bell: UFA Jets; $905,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
LB Jasper Brinkley: UFA Vikings; $3.5M/2 yrs, $400,000 SB.
CB Antoine Cason: UFA Chargers; $1.5M/1 yr, $600,000 SB/$1M guaranteed.
LB Karlos Dansby: FA Dolphins; terms unknown.
WR Jarett Dillard: FA; terms unknown.
T Paul Fanaika: FA; terms unknown.
CB Bryan McCann: Not tendered as RFA by Dolphins; 1 yr, terms unknown.
RB Rashard Mendenhall: UFA Steelers; $2.5M/1 yr.
QB Carson Palmer (trade Raiders).
CB Jerraud Powers: UFA Colts; $10.5M/3 yrs, $3M SB.
G Chilo Rachal: UFA Bears; 1 yr, terms unknown.
DE Frostee Rucker: FA Bengals; 1 yr, terms unknown.
DE Matt Shaughnessy: UFA Raiders; 1M/1 yr.
QB Drew Stanton: UFA Colts; $8.2M/3 yrs, $3M guaranteed.
S Curtis Taylor: FA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
LB Stewart Bradley (released).
WR Early Doucet (released).
CB William Gay (released).
LB Quentin Groves: UFA Browns; $2.4M/2 yrs.
QB Brian Hoyer (released; had been re-signed AS RFA).
QB Kevin Kolb (released).
G Rich Ohrnberger: UFA Chargers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
S Kerry Rhodes (released).
QB Kevin Kolb (released).
QB John Skelton (released).
G Adam Snyder (released).
RB LaRod Stephens-Howling: UFA Steelers; terms unknown.
CB Greg Toler: UFA Cardinals; $14.25M/3 yrs, $5M guaranteed.
RB Beanie Wells (released).
S Adrian Wilson (released).