Last Years Record 10-6
Wins: Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks (x2), New York Giants, Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams (x2), Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions
Losses: Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers
Biggest Playmaker Larry Fitzgerald
WR, Pitt, Drafted #3, 7th Year
The offense’s most lethal weapon, Fitzgerald has the ability to bring down every jump ball thrown his way, and stretch a defense vertically. The versatility in his route running abilities makes him a viable threat on every point and place on a football field. The biggest area of concern I have for him, is the drop in his YPC average, which dipped 14.9 all the way to 11.3. Also another emphasis of concern may be the apparent lack of chemistry between him and new QB Matt Leinart. Through 13 career starts by Matt Leinart, in which Fitzgerald also started in, Fitzgerald has 5 TD receptions. Nevertheless Fitzgerald has 34 TDs in his last 40 games played over the past two seasons and postseasons, and looks to continue his success in 2010.
Impact Player Chris Wells
RB, Ohio State, Drafted #31, 2nd Year
During limited action in his rookie season, Wells impressed many around the league with an impressive 7 rushing touchdowns and a 4.5 YPC split. All seven rushing touchdowns came during a 9 game stretch in which Wells looked like the number one back the Cardinals drafted him to be. The first signs from Chris Wells look promising, and we will see how much he steps up his game in 2010.
Biggest Offseason Addition Alen Faneca
OG, LSU, Drafted #26, 13th Year
Adding Faneca is a great move by the Cardinals organization as he adds some grit and toughness to the line. Faneca, a Super Bowl XL Winner, 6-time All-Pro, and nine-time Pro Bowler, will vastly improve the line’s running capabilities. With the Cardinals adjusting to the loss of Warner, they will make it a point of emphasis to install a solid ground game with future stars Wells and Hightower. With a rushing attack in place, this will take some pressure off Matt Leinart and insure a smooth transition for the football team.
Biggest Offseason Loss Kurt Warner
QB, Northern Iowa, Undrafted, 12 years in NFL
How do you replace a Super Bowl Winner and MVP, Future Hall of Famer, 5 time Pro Bowler, and Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2008? You don’t. You can’t replace leadership like that, or production like that. This is the biggest concern of all Cardinals fans this year, as Leinart tries to establish himself as the franchise QB. Warner is a winner and a solid character to have in any locker room, and he will be sorely missed in 2010.
Biggest Draft Steal Dan Williams
NT, Tennessee, Drafted #26, Rookie
Williams, a pre draft top 15 draft pick, might be the steal of the entire draft. An absolute monster as a 3-4 nose tackle, Williams huge frame at 330lbs will most likely land him a starting spot from week 1. His ability to clog the middle and wreck havoc as a 3-4 nose, makes him a perfect fit for the Cardinals defense.
Biggest Draft Reach Jim Dray
TE, Stanford, Drafted #223, Rookie
Drafting Dray with the final pick in the draft just seems to me as a wasted pick, as they could have addressed other needs such as depth on the D-line. In his best season, he only hauled in a rather underwhelming 19 catches; he also is not anything more than a mediocre blocker.
Offseason Grade B
With the additions of interior linemen Hadnot and Faneca, the Cardinals look poised to have their most potent rushing attack in years. However the losses of Boldin and Warner seem irreplaceable. Couple that with the fact the defense only replaced starters lost in the offseason, rather than adding more depth and improving, and you have yourselves here an average offseason.
X-Factor Matt Leinart
QB, USC, Drafted #10, 4th Year
Leinart is my X-factor for 2010 because the success of the offense depends on whether or not he can play consistently well through the course of an entire season. Leinart is a very smart player who understands how to read defenses and make checks at the line of scrimmage; however he will need to adjust to the speed of the NFL as he noticeably could not handle the pressure in his first years in the NFL. Leinart does not have the strongest arm, however is accurate for the most part in his passing game. He is a talented young player and it will be interesting to see how he can fill Warner’s shoes in 2010.
Name You Should Know Calais Campbell
DE, Miami (Fla.), Drafted #50, 3rd Year
Campbell in his sophomore season in 2009, stormed the scene with 48 tackles,7 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. Campbell may not be a household name now, but he soon will be; at 6’8 300 lbs Campbell has the astounding size of a young Julius Peppers and is a nightmare to game plan against. Be ready to here his name more and more as he will be a force in 2010.
Rising Star Steve Breaston
WR, Michigan, Drafted #142, 4th Year
With the trading of Boldin, Breaston will be heavily involved in the Cardinals offense in 2010. In 2008-2009 Breaston showed major improvement from his rookie campaign in 2007, catching 132 passes for 1,718 yards and 6 rec. TDs. The bulk of this production coming off the bench, as he has only 15 career starts through 3 years in the league. Although his lack of experience is a cause for doubt, I believe Breaston will have a breakout 2010 season.
Offensive Outlook B+
The 2010 season has question marks abounding around young QB Leinart as he looks to replace future Hall of Famer Warner. The offensive line looks solid with new acquisitions Hadnot and Faneca, and RBs Wells and Hightower seem primed for a breakout running campaign. The offense has numerous weapons on the outside with perennial Pro Bowler Fitzgerald and young WRs Doucet and Breaston. Replacing Boldin is difficult, however I feel that Fitzgerald will shine brightly in his absence. Rookie Roberts from The Citadel also looks to make an impact in 2010.
Defensive Outlook B+
I almost put Karlos Dansby down as a second major loss in the offseason, as he has anchored the Cardinals defense in recent years. Although they lose Dansby, the Cardinals drafted ILB Daryl Washington to be his future replacement. A bonus addition this offseason, accomplished pass rusher Joey Porter should increase the intense pressure the Cardinals defense forces on opposing QBs. With newly drafted Dan Williams, ‘09 sack leaders Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, and recently acquired Joey Porter, the Cardinals have one of the most impressive defensive fronts in the NFL. Also LB Paris Lenon will serve as the immediate replacement for Dansby, and FS Kerry Rhodes will replace Antrel Rolle in the secondary. This defense has the talent to be a top 10 defense this year as the defensive front has vastly improved since 2010. I look for improvement in 2010.
Special Teams Outlook B+
Although they lost long time kicker Neil Rackers, Jay Feely provides just as much, if not more production at the PK spot. In 2009 he made 30-36 FGs including a 55 yarder. At punter, Australian native Ben Graham had a league-tying record of 42 punts inside the 20 yard line and looks to continue his success in 2010. The only question mark on this special teams unit, is who will replace Steve Breaston as a return specialist. All in all a solid unit.
Projected 2010 Record 7-9
Looking over the schedule for 2010, the Cardinals have a very difficult path to the playoffs. Playing at Atlanta, at Carolina, at San Diego, at Minnesota, and at San Francisco is no joke; and neither is playing the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16. All in all, Matt Leinart has too many questions surrounding his ability to become the franchise QB and I feel that all success and failure will be subjugated and placed upon him. Whether that is fair or not is out of the question, all Im saying is, nobody will know how good or bad this team will be until we see Leinart in action.