Breaking Down the 2009 Arizona Cardinals

Cameron MasonContributor IAugust 11, 2009

The Cardinals lost both their offensive and defensive coordinators, but Ken Whisenhunt has promoted from within which could maintain cohesiveness within the team and playbook.


New defensive coordinator Bill Davis plans to implement more of the 3-4 schemes to a defense which struggled both on stopping the run and consistently providing a pass rush.


The Cardinals drafted according to their needs as with the first two selections running back Chris Wells and tweener DE-OLB Cody Brown can assist the team immediately with their skill sets.


Overall, the Cardinals improved in many areas and can possibly recreate their 2008 Super Bowl run.





Under the veteran play and leadership of Kurt Warner the air-attack of the Cardinals will be prevalent once again. Warner brings accuracy and situational leadership to the team.


Although Matt Leinart has been waiting for three seasons to prove himself within the professional ranks, he does not possess the intangible dynamics that Warner harnesses.


Look for Warner to continue to break down the deep cover two and three defenses and also find his mismatch within the one-on-one coverage. (9.1)

Running backs


Through the selection of Chris “Beanie” Wells the Cardinals added another strong inside running back. Throughout college Wells was hindered with injuries which hampered his supposed Heisman junior year performance.


With a 6’1", 235 lbs frame Wells possesses the size and quickness to cause defenses to avoid too many nickel and dime packages for the pass. Breakout rookie Tim Hightower also returns to the line-up which could assist Wells in staying healthy throughout the season.


The addition of free agent Jason Wright and seventh round draft pick LaRod Stephens-Howling will also give the Cardinals outside running options and out of the backfield receiving options. (7.9)



Wide Receivers


This is by far one of the most dominant position groups on the team and one of the top in the league.


With all the contract and trade talks, Anquan Boldin still appeared on time to training camp which was a blessing to Warner. Last season Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, and Steve Breaston each surpassed the 1,000 yard receiving mark.


Fitzgerald is already in discussion as one of the top receivers within the league, while Boldin’s size and athleticism gives him a unique skill set used in numerous ways by the Cardinals. Breaston has developed into a great third option receiver, along with Jerheme Urban and Early Doucet who hold down the fourth and fifth spots respectfully.


Once tight-ends Leonard Pope and Ben Patrick are added to the mix the Cardinal receiving corps is amongst the top in the NFL. (9.9)

Offensive Line


One of the most under-appreciated position groups on many teams. The Cardinal Offensive line did a good job last season protecting Warner from the pass rush, and making holes when necessary for the running game.


Warner was seldom sacked last season and the offensive line pushed the pile specifically in short yardage and goal-line situations for Hightower. Levi Brown proved his worth as his 6’5", 322 lbs frame was solid both in the pass protection and the rushing game.


Although the Cardinals’ offensive line has showed significant progress of improvement throughout the years they must still become more dominant in opening up running lanes for a young backfield. (8.1)



Defensive Line


The Cardinals defensive line lacks the physical ability to continually prosper throughout a sixteen game season. Outside of Darnell Dockett, the Cardinals have veteran leadership within the position unit, but lack athletic ability, size, and are injury prone.


With Antonio Smith leaving for the Texans, ends Bryan Robinson and Bertrand Berry must stay healthy and stand their ground in the new 3-4 defense for the Cardinals specifically against the run.


If Darnell Dockett continues to be a force—both against the run and pass—teams will need to game plan around him, which could lead to Robinson, Berry, and some of the backers having big years. (7.4)





The Cardinals struggled against the run last season, partly because of the smaller defensive line; however the lack of sack production could be blamed on the linebackers.


Karlos Dansby was used successfully on the blitz as his force caused confusion on the run, which assisted fellow backer Gerald Hayes in causing fumbles.


With the lack in pass rush and the Cardinals mixing in a 3-4 scheme, the selection of tweener DE-OLB Cody Brown of Connecticut could produce more pass rush off the edge with Chike Okeafor. (8.3)

Defensive Backs


Last year’s defensive standout Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie provided great pass coverage as his top-end speed is unique, and can be used to keep up with elite receivers on deep routes.


Through wise free agency management, the Cardinals were able to release Rod Hood and gain some youth and more ability with Bryant McFadden from the Steelers. The backbone of the secondary Pro Bowler, Adrian Wilson returns as he possesses a unique skill set. Wilson can provide run support, sufficient pass coverage, and can also blitz/rush the quarterback. Antrel Rolle also has the ability to provide decent run support and with his field vision he has the ability to cause turnovers in the pass game.


Overall, the Cardinals secondary has improved tremendously and with the leadership of Wilson and athleticism of Rolle and Rodgers-Cromartie they have a chance to cause numerous turnovers throughout the season. (8.7)



Special Teams


The Cardinals have one of the most accurate kickers within the league in Neil Rackers, but do not have a long distant punter in Ben Graham. The Cardinals’ offensive must play off Graham’s strength in providing enough spin and touch on the ball to land inside the 20.


If the offense and defense can control field position, the team can capitalize from Graham’s precision. Last season J.J Arrington handled most of the team’s returns, but with Arrington leaving via free agency the Cardinals must fill the hole with another speedy, agile, player.


The duties could transfer to the third receiver Steve Breston, safety Antrel Rolle, or another athlete during the preseason. (7.6)


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