Arizona Cardinals: A New Standard
The Cardinals reaching the Super Bowl was one of the more far-fetched playoff runs that we have seen in recent memory. Who knew a team that seemed so unbalanced on offense and flawed on defense would be one drive away from becoming Super Bowl champs?
This year, the Cards aren’t sneaking up on anybody. Now it’s time for them to prove to the doubters that last season wasn’t a fluke.
A high-flying passing game is what the Cardinals are known for. They have the best pair of wide receivers in the league in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Add in Steve Breaston, and you have a trio of 1,000-yard receivers that a re-signed Kurt Warner can throw to.
It only gets worse for opposing defenses, as the Cardinals drafted a talented young running back to cure an ailing running game that was last in the NFL. First round selection Chris “Beanie” Wells will be taking the bulk of the carries and is expected to balance and add to an already potent offense.
Wells' role might be even more important than expected. Boldin is chanting for more money or a trade, and if the latter comes to fruition, Wells' big play ability will have even more of an impact.
If the Cardinals expect to have anything close to the season they had last year, the defense will have to take a big step forward.
In his second stint as defensive coordinator, Bill Davis will be looking to add on to the turnover-creating defense displayed in their improbable playoff run. The Cardinals did add free agent corner Bryant McFadden as well as pass rush specialist Cody Brown, safety Rashad Johnson, and corner Greg Toler via the draft.
The Cards haven’t made any major additions to the defense, but will play to their players' strengths. If the defense can cut 10 points off of what they allowed per game last year (26.6), the Cardinals will be in good shape.
Defense is a concern, but the biggest problems could come from some discontented players.
Boldin has been unhappy with his contract since Fitz got his pay day. He still has issues with the front office, and people are wondering if Boldin will go the soldier route and fall in line or become a disruptive force throughout training camp and the season if he doesn’t get his money.
Negotiations for a new deal are still in the workings, but there’s no telling if both parties will reach a compromise or heal the fragile relationship between Boldin and the organization.
Defensive tackle and Super Bowl standout Darnell Dockett has also been looking for a new deal. Dockett has already asked to be traded twice, knowing that the Cardinals have no interest in giving him more money since he inked a $22 million dollar extension in 2006.
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt and the organization have done a good job of addressing contracts and not giving in to the beckoning of their disgruntled players. Expect Dockett to keep wearing the Cardinal red for at least one more year.
Overall, the Cards seem poised for another successful season, albeit a much more difficult path. They will no longer be underestimated, and their division has improved. The Seattle Seahawks will be on top of them the entire season, but if the defense can at least be mediocre, their offense will take care of the rest. An 11-5 season and consecutive NFC West titles are within reach.
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