The Arizona Cardinals received a lot of attention last season after capturing the NFC Championship in surprising fashion. The Cardinals posted a mediocre regular season finishing at 9-7 and winning the NFC West which was the weakest division in the conference.
However, Arizona caught fire in the playoffs as veteran quarterback Kurt Warner and WR Larry Fitzgerald took over the offense posting big numbers. The Cardinals had tip toed through the regular season before all the pieces came together.
The defense struggled throughout the year giving up a ton of points. Arizona ranked in the bottom five scoring defenses in the NFL allowing 26.6 points per game. However, much like the offense, the defense come on towards the end of the season as well.
The Cardinals were underdogs in all three NFC games, but overcame small odds to win the NFC Championship. Larry Fitzgerald was perhaps the most dominant wide receiver on the planet catching at least 100 yards in all four postseason games while adding an amazing seven touchdowns.
Still, with all the success, Arizona came up a few points shy of winning their first Super Bowl. The Cardinals will return much of the same team this season and try to make another run at repeating as NFC Champions.
Arizona had a ton off worries heading into the offseason after last year’s breakout season. Quarterback Kurt Warner contract had expired, and wide receiver Anquan Boldin was also feared to possibly leave town. H
owever, the Cardinals were able to bring back both playmakers and also re-sign inside linebacker Karlos Dansby to keep most of their key guys intact.
The Cardinals had a few areas on interest heading into the off season that they targeting during the draft. Arizona took care of their need at running back with their first round pick when they selected former Buckeyes running back Chris “Beenie” Wells.
The Cardinals lost Edgerrin James at the end of the season so there was a big need for talent at the position. Wells is an explosive back who is much faster than many perceive. Wells should likely get playing time right away sharing touches with Tim Hightower.
The Cardinals selected linebacker Cody Brown with their second round pick. Brown may not be the immediate help that Arizona needs on defense, but could develop into the player they need.
However, Arizona still lacks a real big playmaker on defense. Brown should work his way onto the playing field, but will likely not start anytime soon. Arizona also sought after some youthful talent in the pitiful secondary adding safety Rashad Johnson (Alabama) and Gregory Toler (St. Paul) in the next few rounds.
Hopefully one of these guys can find a way to help out a secondary that allowed over 220 yards per game last season.
There are many people who believe that last year’s campaign was a fluke and are not giving the Cardinals any chances in 2009. However, the offense can still be a lethal threat every Sunday. We would not expect QB Kurt Warner to put up another 4,500 yard season, but there are simply too many great wide receivers on offense for them to not be good.
Fitzgerald, Boldin, and Steve Breaston all eclipsed the 1,000 yard plateau receiving last season so it’s not like there is just one main target. Defensively, Arizona must play better. We mentioned that the linebackers have not been great and not much should change unless someone steps up.
The pass defense looks to be headed down another rough road and the defensive unit will just need to find a way to turn things around. Unfortunately, the defense could take some of the momentum out of the offense if things continue to go south.
The Cardinals may have had a down season if they were not in the NFC West. However, the division simply looks to weak for their regular season to go any worse that last year. Arizona could take advantage of the soft schedule if they can get the offense rolling early in the season.
Although they will not be as good of a team from last year, they will have a better regular season. However, the magic will likely not return when the playoffs roll around.
Pick: First in NFC West (10-6)