Thursday, September 1, 2011

NFL 32 in 32: Arizona Cardinals

The NFC Champions from 2008, and two time NFC West champions from 2008-2009, took a harsh step backwards last season because of major QB problems. Now, those QB problems have been fixed, so can the Cardinals get back to the form of a few years ago, where they were one of the most potent teams in the NFL?

What's New: Along with Philadelphia, this team may have the most major changes on it stemming from this offseason. It all starts with the major acquisition, QB Kevin Kolb. He gives the Cardinals a young(ish) QB; one which they desperately needed after last season. He is the kind of QB that can get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald with ease, and make everything easier for the offense. Also on offense, the Cardinals added some new pieces, the main one being TE Todd Heap from Baltimore, but they also added WR Chansi Stuckey from Cleveland, G Floyd Womack also from Cleveland, and G Daryn Colledge from Green Bay. These additions should help perk up the offense, especially the offensive line, which did have some issues last season, but should be rectified. On defense, their biggest addition was CB Patrick Peterson, the standout rookie from LSU, who becomes the #1 corner in the Cardinals secondary. He'll replace Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who went to Philadelphia in the Kevin Kolb trade. Also coming to the Cardinals defense are LB Stewart Bradley from Philly, CB Richard Marshall from Carolina and DE Nick Eason from Pittsburgh.

Biggest Strength: Now that the Cardinals have a QB that can get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald early and often, the offense should return to it's pre-2010 state. Todd Heap should also play a major role in the passing game. The running game is going to be interesting, as it has a good talent in Beanie Wells, but it is unproven, and needs to improve. The offense line is good, and with the additions made, the improvement should be noticeable. On defense, the Cardinals have a good pass rush with guys like Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett,  and Vonnie Holliday, and a good linebacking corps behind it. The secondary has talent too, and it is making improvements every day.

Biggest Weakness: There is not a lot of depth at the skill positions on offense. There is very little depth behind Larry Fitzgerald at wideout, and almost no depth at running back. New and unheralded players will need to make huge impacts in order to make their mark on offense, especially at wideout with the loss of Steve Breaston to Kansas City. On defense, there isn't an amazing amount of depth at the linebacker position, and there are problems in the secondary with depth as well. The issues aren't major on defense, but they will be noticeable.

Outlook: What may be holding them back from winning the NFC West is likely Kevin Kolb. Even though he has great talent, he is relatively unproven, as he didn't have much playing time in Philadelphia behind Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb. He is firmly under the spotlight now, and he needs to play well in order to make the trade seem worth it. He doesn't have a boatload of talent to work with now, so that will hold the Cardinals back from winning the NFC West this year.

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