NFL Preview '11: Arizona Cardinals
After a successful two year run the Arizona Cardinals sunk to the bottom of the NFC West in 2010. The Cardinals were caught flat-footed after the retirement of quarterback Kurt Warner. The revolving door at quarterback in 2010 forced the Cardinals to pull the trigger on one of the biggest offseason trades in an attempt to jumpstart the offense.
The high octane offense of 2008-2009 evaporated without Warner as the Cardinals used four quarterbacks in 2010 but could not find a solution in any of them. As a result Arizona finished 31st in total offense and 26th in scoring. So after the lockout ended the Cardinals traded for Philadelphia quarterback Kevin Kolb. During their Super Bowl run in 2008 the Cardinals were loaded with receiving threats. To be sure, Kolb will still have Larry Fitzgerald to throw to but Steve Breaston is gone as is Tim Hightower, one of the best pass catching running backs in the NFL. Arizona will likely struggle with running the ball again. After finishing last in rushing last year the Cardinals will rely heavily on Beanie Wells especially after the season ending injury to rookie Ryan Williams. Also in focus is Arizona's offensive line, which gave up the second highest sack total last year. To shore up the line the Cardinals signed former Packers guard Daryn Colledge.
As part of the Kolb trade the Cardinals departed with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, thinning out a secondary that ranked 23rd in pass defense. In DRC's place the Cards are banking on first round pick Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals added some beef at inside linebacker with the free agent signing of Stewart Bradley. However up front does not appear to be much better. While the Cardinals have been adequate at rushing the quarterback, stopping the run should be a sore spot again. Arizona finished 30th against the run last year and did not address the defensive line in either the draft or free agency.
Arizona's offense should get a boost from the presence of Kolb but once again winning will be predicated on the success of the offensive line. Defense will be problematic again if the Cardinals cannot stop the run. In a weak NFC West it's conceivable to think Arizona could still factor into the divisional race well into December but a return to the playoffs might be asking a bit much.