4 Ways Arizona Cardinals Can Rebuild Franchise After Firing Whisenhunt, Graves
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The Arizona Cardinals need to revamp after splitting with Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves.
The team announced Monday that Whisenhunt and Graves had been fired. Graves' dismissal does not come as a surprise, but Whisenhunt's future seemed far more uncertain.
With that, we must sift through the immediate future and figure out how to get Larry Fitzgerald some help.
After all, the Cardinals did kick off the 2012 season in impressive fashion by going 4-0. Unfortunately, the gradual 180-degree shift for the worse took shape each subsequent week.
Finishing a disappointing 5-11, Arizona does receive the No. 7 selection in the 2013 NFL draft. Include the need of a head coach, and let's draw up a plan for the Cards to quickly rebuild.
Hire Andy Reid
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According to Vaughn Johnson of Philly.com:
It's finally official: The Andy Reid era in Philadelphia is over.
Reid was fired Monday after 14 seasons at the helm of the Eagles.
So, how about reuniting him with Kevin Kolb?
It's not the worst of ideas, as Kolb is the Cardinals' best current quarterback option. Plus, Kolb still has plenty of time left on his contract.
Factor in Reid's offensive mindset, and the Cardinals will immediately improve. His resume for one, speaks volumes after making five NFC title games and one Super Bowl.
Reid's consistency is what separated him from the average coaches in pro football. Unsurprisingly, that resulted in almost 1.5 decades at the helm in Philly. For Arizona to start its rebuilding process, getting a coach of Reid's caliber is required.
Trade Back in 2013 Draft
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Sitting in the No. 7 spot for the 2013 NFL draft, the Arizona Cardinals can go a few ways.
One viable option is to select a stud offensive lineman.
The Cardinals need better quarterback protection, and there are plenty of prospects worthy of a Round 1 selection. Well, because of the offensive line depth in the upcoming draft, trading back to stock up on picks is the best route.
In order to make a faster turnaround, the chance to select in more than one area of significant need must become available. Also, despite Arizona's desperate need for a quarterback, this draft isn't overloaded like 2012.
Unless the Cardinals want to reach for Geno Smith, Matt Barkley or Tyler Wilson, trading back and focusing on improving the trenches is the better alternative, eecause controlling the line of scrimmage in the NFC West warrants a much stronger offensive line and ground game.
Select an RB and Offensive Lineman in the 2013 Draft
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There's a lot to consider for the Arizona Cardinals at the running back position and along the offensive line.
First, William Powell (restricted), Alfonso Smith (unrestricted) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (unrestricted) are all free agents.
Secondly, Beanie Wells doesn't expect to be back in 2013.
According to Craig Grialou of Arizona Sports last week, Wells stated:
"I'm auditioning for a job somewhere else," Beanie Wells said Monday.
The former first-round pick believes his days are numbered in the desert.
"Without a doubt," said Wells. "It's inevitable."
Trading back in the draft as we previously discussed can potentially provide Arizona with an additional second- or third-round pick—on top of whatever else it can get for trading back. There, a ball carrier such as Oregon's Kenjon Barner, Alabama's Eddie Lacy, Clemson's Andre Ellington or Wisconsin's Montee Ball are just a few capable of making an immediate impact.
However, the first round is stacked with standout offensive linemen.
If the Cardinals were to trade down—depending on how far—top prospects such as Texas A&M's Jake Matthews (tackle), Central Michigan's Eric Fisher (tackle), North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper (guard) or Alabama's Barrett Jones (center) could be available.
And since Arizona gave up 58 sacks and averaged a mere 3.4 yards per rushing attempt, getting more talent to present a physical attack will take pressure away from Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald.
Sign a Free Agent Linebacker
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The Arizona Cardinals are much better defensively than given credit.
We have to remember that this is a defense that was backed by one of pro football's worst offenses.
With the quarterback's combining for 11 touchdowns to 21 picks and a dismal 55.4 completion percentage, the defense had to pick up a lot of slack. Still, Arizona managed to intercept 22 passes, rank No. 5 in pass defense and allow only a 54.3 completion percentage.
Giving up an average of 4.3 yards per rushing attempt, though, is definitely concerning.
Therefore, pursuing a free agent linebacker such as Daryl Smith is a novel approach. Smith is an unrestricted free agent and coming off an injury-stricken 2012. According to the Associated Press via ESPN.com prior to Week 16:
Smith missed the first 14 games of the season because of a groin injury. He was placed on IR on Oct. 25, with the designation to return. He returned to practice a couple of weeks ago and was cleared to play this week.
Smith may be a typical outside 'backer, but Arizona's 3-4 scheme suits him well on the edge and inside. Having recorded 311 tackles, 8.5 sacks and defending 19 passes (three picks) between 2009 and 2011, Smith's overall skill set will benefit Arizona.
Given that Paris Lenon is 35 years old and enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, Smith makes Arizona younger and better in the front seven. In short, the Cardinals become a more complete team.
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