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Arizona Cardinals Quarterback Picture: Who Could Lead Cards to Victory in 2011

Luke BungerCorrespondent IIIDecember 18, 2010

Arizona Cardinals Quarterback Picture: Who Could Lead Cards to Victory in 2011

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    In the space of one season, the Arizona Cardinals have gone from being one of the premiere passing teams in the NFL, to one of the worst.

    Of course, few teams would stand to lose a future Hall of Fame quarterback like Kurt Warner, and Pro Bowl wide receiver, such as Anquan Boldin in one season and not be affected.

    And yet, the level to which the Cardinals have suffered has taken practically everyone by surprise.

    Without a doubt, Arizona's primary target in the offseason should be a quarterback, but who that will be is likely to be one of the most oft-debated topics in Arizona between now and the time a new quarterback is paraded in front of the media.

    And while we can be confident who will not start for Arizona in 2011, Derek Anderson will not be a Cardinal, and Max Hall is a very long way away from starting in the NFL. Who will start instead is pure speculation at this point.

    So, let's speculate, shall we, about whom the Cardinals may target to lead them into 2011.

John Skelton: Cardinals Young Rookie Could Earn Permanent Starter Spot by 2011

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    The Cardinals had high hopes for John Skelton when they selected him with their fifth-round pick in 2010, however, Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt did not see enough in the preseason, nor regular season practices to suggest that he was ready to start in the NFL yet. Reports suggested that he was a two to three-year project in Arizona, projected to take over by around 2014.

    However, in Week 13 of 2010, injuries to starter Derek Anderson and fellow rookie Max Hall forced Coach Whisenhunt's hand, and Skelton was handed the reigns of the team.

    A decent performance to close out this game and a lingering injury to Anderson was enough to secure his starting job for Week 14, and his winning performance against the Broncos was enough to keep him under center for, apparently, the remainder of the season.

    As I have previously written, Skelton has shown enough potential to stand a chance of winning the starting job permanently going forward.

    While he is still raw and nothing should be taken for granted yet, at this point, it appears that the job is now his to lose.

    Unfortunately for Skelton, the same was also true of Max Hall and Derek Anderson before him, and both managed to throw away their chances too.

    If the Cardinals do opt to start Skelton next year, he cannot be their sole passer, and they should aim to target a mid-to-late round quarterback in the 2011 draft, as well as seek out the services of a proven, if not elite, free agent.

    Someone like Tarvaris Jackson who will become a free agent following the 2010 season or a QB like Greg McElroy would fit the bill, but there are plenty of other options available.

Donovan McNabb: Former Eagles Great To Be the Next Kurt Warner for Cards?

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Few names have been linked more with the Cardinals than that of Donovan McNabb.

    Of course, the reasons for doing so are obvious.

    McNabb owns a home less than 30 minutes from the Cardinals Stadium, spends the offseason training in Arizona and has personal ties to several Cardinals players, including Cards wideout Larry Fitzgerald (pictured.)

    In spite of a surprise contract extension earlier in the season, McNabb's time as a Redskin now seems to be over, following his recent, and widely reported, benching in favour of Rex Grossman.

    Many fans, and reporters, have called for Arizona to make a play for McNabb as soon as he is, inevitably, released by Washington. Indeed, in many ways, he seems like the perfect, missing piece for the Cards.

    McNabb is a veteran, who is known for his accuracy and excellent turnover differential and has maybe two more years as a starter.

    He would not be outside of the Cardinals' budget and could help transition the Cardinals to a more balanced offense, something they desperately need to do. Most importantly, he is a hard worker with a good attitude, who can help mentor a young quarterback, be it John Skelton, or a draft pick.

    Some, including Kent Somers, of the Arizona Republic, have publicly questioned whether the Cardinals have any intention of seeking out his services, and Somers is known for having close contact with officials at Arizona. However, with the sheer levels of fan dissatisfaction with Anderson and Hall in Arizona and the fans apparent love for McNabb, it means it would be remiss of the Cardinals not to at least consider him.

First-Round Draft Pick: Luck, Mallett, Newton or Locker Could Make an Impact.

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    There is no doubt, the 2011 draft is quarterback heavy.

    As many as four quarterbacks are predicted to go off the board in the first round of the upcoming draft, with all of them, at one point or another, being considered top five picks.

    According to current predictions, only Andrew Luck of Stanford and possibly Ryan Mallett of Arkansas are expected to go off the board in the top ten, but Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and Washington's Jake Locker are still both considered mid-to-late first-rounders, with both being taken at the very latest, early in the second round.

    All four names have been suggested by one source or another, as targets for the Cardinals, who look set to pick between fifth and seventh overall.

    Many fans have called for the Cardinals to mortgage their future to trade up and take Andrew Luck, who has been called the most exciting, NFL-ready qb prospect in a generation. Luck is expected to be taken first overall, and the Cardinals now appear out of the running to take him without trading up for him. 

    Others believe that Mallett, Locker or Newton, are all viable starters in Arizona for 2011. 

    Personally, my feeling is this, assuming Luck is out of the question, only Mallett could walk in and start for Arizona next season.

    While Newton has a ton of talent and potential, he also looks very raw, a little immature and will take one or two seasons to develop into a starter, with Locker becoming an NFL mainstay in three to four seasons' time.

    However, the draft is a craps shoot, and all of these players could develop much quicker than expected, or equally, could end up looking like Ryan Leaf or JaMarcus Russell and never step up from college level.

    It's a gamble, for sure, but any of these four players could start as early as 2011 for the Cardinals.

Kyle Orton: Bonus Fourth Option for the Cardinals?

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    In 2010 Kyle Orton has, to the surprise of many, developed into one of the NFL's most productive quarterbacks.

    Unfortunately for Orton, this has not translated into wins, and former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels has already faced the axe.

    Due to a rib injury, Tim Tebow has been handed the starting job for Week 15 in Denver, and, barring any major meltdowns on his part, Tebow looks set to keep the job for the remainder of the season.

    Unfortunately for Orton, it appears that he may be traded or even cut, as soon as a new permenant head coach is named by the Broncos.

    You know what they say, new coach, new qb.

    And, as much as I don't like it, Many fans are already speculating that Josh McDaniels could be brought in as the Cardinals offensive coordinator and chief offensive play caller in 2011, and if this happens, Kyle Orton could follow hot on his heels.

    McDaniels and Orton have developed a rapport this year, and if McDaniels joined the Cardinals and, if Orton was cut or shopped, few would be surprised to hear that the Cardinals was a potential home for him.

    I must admit, I like Orton, I had him in my fantasy lineup this year, and he was by far my most dependable player.

    I like his ability to complete tough passes and spread the ball around, and, even with the loss of Anquan Boldin, few teams have as much depth at receiver as the Arizona Cardinals.

    He is not a perfect fit, by any means.

    Like Derek Anderson, he has been known for turning over the ball a little too often, and the Cardinals have not proven that they yet have the strength of character to overcome unexpected changes of momentum.

    What's more, in spite of his good stats, with the Broncos, who are arguably a more well-rounded team than Arizona, Orton was unable to turn the team around, and they now look set to finish 2010 with even fewer wins than the Cardinals.

    However, as far as bonus options go, I think he's a pretty good one.

    So, what do you think? Who do you want to see starting in Arizona in 2011? 

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