Injuries, especially to David Johnson, Carson Palmer, take toll on Cardinals' season

SEATTLE -- The Arizona Cardinals ended the season with a 26-24 win to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Here's a recap of the season and what's next:

Season grade: Below average. The Cardinals finished 8-8, their second consecutive season without a winning record, thanks in large part to injuries to two pillars of their offense in their starting quarterback and running back.

Season in review: One word can define 2017 for the Cardinals: injuries. They began in Week 1 with All-Pro and All-Everything David Johnson fracturing his wrist, and they never stopped, hitting quarterback Carson Palmer, outside linebacker Markus Golden and left tackle D.J. Humphries as the season progressed. In all, 15 players went on injured reserve and 30 players combined to miss 163 games. As a result, Arizona's offense was inefficient for most of 2017. The low points came when the Cardinals were shut out by the Rams 33-0 in London. The bright spots, meanwhile, were few and far between: Adrian Peterson, whom Arizona traded for in Week 6, had two games of more than 130 yards; the Cardinals broke an 11-quarter touchdown drought with a 23-0 thumping of the New York Giants in Week 16. For as bad as the offense was this season, the defense was good -- well, it got good. After sitting 24th in overall defense through the season's first half, the defense was the NFL's best after Week 10. Overall, the Cardinals just couldn't find a rhythm, alternating wins and losses the whole season.

Biggest play of season: It was second-and-20 play with 6 minutes, 4 seconds left in the third quarter of the Cardinals' opener at the Detroit Lions. Johnson hauled in a 24-yard catch in the middle of three Lions, one of whom hit Johnson's left wrist with his helmet, fracturing it. That play and the end of Johnson's 2017 campaign all but took the life out of the Cardinals before the season could get going.

He said it: "It hasn't been the same with injuries and what not. It's been tough. It's been tough." -- defensive tackle Frostee Rucker

Key offseason questions

Biggest draft need: It's time the Cardinals draft a young quarterback to build around. The uncertainty at the position is greater than it has ever been, and with a large class of talented quarterbacks, the Cardinals can find the guy they need going forward.

Free-agency targets: Because of how ill-prepared offensive linemen typically are coming out of college, free agency is where Arizona can continue to restock that unit in the short term. The Cardinals will also have to be on the lookout for wide receivers and potentially a cornerback who can stick around for longer than a season.

Who returns for 2018? This is far and away the most significant topic heading into the Cardinals' offseason. There's a chance coach Bruce Arians, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Palmer all retire, leaving Arizona without its nucleus from the past five seasons. Until each makes a decision, the Cardinals will be hanging on their every move.

To AP or to not AP: With Peterson due to earn $3.5 million next season, his future with the team is in doubt, particularly since Johnson is expected to return healthy for 2018. Peterson had games of 134 and 159 yards, but otherwise ran for 155 yards in four games before suffering a season-ending neck injury in Week 12. The Cardinals will have to decide if Peterson is worth his hefty salary in whatever kind of backup role he'd inherit when Johnson returns.