Arizona Cardinals: 10 Bold Offseason Predictions
It sure was nice to get a Christmas present like a win over the Cowboys wasn't it? Not only that, but the way the game was won was very encouraging.
But now, in the aftermath, questions remain as we look towards next season:
Is John Skelton the QB of the future? Will the defense improve? Who should the Cardinals take with their first round pick?
It's exciting to think about, as the Cardinals will be back in the thick of things next season. They lost several games this year by close margins that could have put them on top of the West this season.
So to get you ready for 2011, here are 10 bold off-season predictions:
1. John Skelton Will Not Be the Team's Starting QB
I love John. I really do. I think the guy could in time be an NFL QB.
But there is a reason he was a fifth-rounder.
Now granted, Tom Brady was a sixth-rounder, and I could be wrong here with Skelton.
But the offense hasn't done a ton better under Skelton than under Derek Anderson or Max Hall. His accuracy on many throws is lacking (although the Cards have dropped several of his passes), and the coaching staff has been forced to simplify the offense.
Comparing this to what a first round pick did on Sunday (Tim Tebow threw for over 300 yards), Skelton (11-25, 181 yards against the 28th-rated pass defense) has some more work to do.
I think personally that Skelton will be the second-stringer, but that's just an opinion.
So who will the starter be? More on that later.
2. Clark Haggans (or Joey Porter) Will Be Let Go
The Cardinals' pass rush has been atrocious this year, let's face it.
But Saturday night we saw some hope as the Cards ran a base 4-3 set rather than their usual 3-4.
With O'Brien Schofield starting for the injured Joey Porter, the Cardinals shook up the formation, and it worked as they sacked the Cowboys QB's a total of five times.
Schofield had one of those sacks, and Darnell Dockett, who looked dangerous all game, had two.
Haggans too had a sack. But he isn't getting any younger, and the team more than likely will let one of these guys go in order to let younger guys like Schofield play.
Speaking of defense...
3. The Defense Will Be a 4-3, Not a 3-4
As was just mentioned, the Cardinals did quite well from a 4-3 base against the Cowboys.
Granted, some of that is due to the ineptness of the Cowboys offensive line, but the scheme looks and fits better for Arizona.
For example, if the previous slide was true, I can see the four down lineman as Schofield, Dockett, Calais Campbell and Dan Williams, who's done quite well as of late.
And the linebackers? Daryl Washington, Paris Lenon and maybe Joey Porter or Reggie Walker (or a rookie).
The Cardinals have enough depth inside to play the 4-3 and it seemed to create a better pass rush on Saturday.
4. The Cardinals Will Get a Better Tight End
A couple of the terrible drops that Skelton had to deal with were from our tight ends on Saturday night.
Before the season, I was excited to see what the group could do. Stephen Spach made a few big catches while Warner was the QB, but has underperformed this year.
Same with Ben Patrick, who has great hands, but is a rather poor blocker.
Jim Dray, The rookie from Stanford, excited me honestly. But while Dray is a good special teams player and good blocker, he doesn't have great hands.
Some of this is due to inconsistency at the QB position. But inconsistency has nothing really to do with drops, and if I remember correctly, every tight end dropped a pass against Dallas.
I'm not sure who the Cardinals will get, whether they go after a good free agent or they go to the draft, but I believe they'll get someone who could be a safety valve for whomever plays QB next season.
5. Ken Whisenhunt Will Not Be Calling Plays
I love Ken Whisenhunt, but his play calling has been a little suspect this year. Granted, it was easier with a QB like Warner.
But it's plays like calling a pass against Tampa Bay with a lot of time on the clock when the team needed just a field goal.
Or calling a run on second-and-15. And a pass on third-and-1.
I know you try to keep the defense off-balance, but these seem a bit absurd.
Arizona will find some sort of offensive coordinator to call plays next year.
6. The Cardinals Will Sign a Big-Name Defensive Player
As bad as the offense has been this year, if the team had a better situation at QB, that problem could be solved.
The defense? Now that's just a mystery.
As many big names are on the defense, it's played rather poorly this year.
It's many different factors, but look for the Cardinals to invest something again in their front seven. They almost brought in Larry Foote this off-season, and ended up getting Joey Porter and Kerry Rhodes.
So maybe they get a young emerging linebacker like David Harris? Or maybe they find a talented player that a team is unhappy with (a la Kerry Rhodes last season)?
7. Arizona Will Let Early Doucet Go
Doucet is due to be a free agent this offseason.
And while the Cardinals were worried about receiver depth in the offseason with the loss of several receivers, there doesn't seem to be a huge reason to keep Doucet, other than his upside.
The reason they will probably let him go? He's never healthy.
We've barely seem him this season and it seems like every time he plays, he gets injured.
And with the emergence of the rookie Roberts, and even some good play from Max Komar, I imagine that it makes the oft-injured Doucet expendable.
8. Beanie Wells Will Gain a Bigger Role Next Season
Two weeks ago, I thought the opposite.
After Tim Hightower's great game against Denver, I thought that maybe Beanie Wells's time might be coming to an end in the desert.
But just two weeks later, it was Wells who received a majority of the hand-offs from John Skelton against Dallas and not Tim Hightower.
Wells also seems to fit what the Cardinals want to do with their run game better. He's more north-south, unlike the shifty Hightower.
Granted, Wells has not had a good season, but then again, he, like Doucet, has been hampered by injuries.
But then again, these are bold predictions, aren't they?
9. The Cardinals Will Win the NFC West Next Season
You want bold? This is bold.
Why am I so confident? Because they could've done it this season, as bad as it's been.
Think about it. You give us the wins against Tampa Bay and Minnesota, and we are 7-8 right now, which is good enough for the division lead.
We play better against Carolina and Seattle, and well, there you go.
As low as this season has gotten, the fact is the Cardinals were a couple of big plays away from being division champs yet again.
And if they get a couple of key pieces in the off-season, they'll do it right next year.
10. The Cardinals Will Take a QB in the First Round
Given the recent success of QBs drafted in the first round (Vince Young notwithstanding), the Cardinals would be foolish to not try to get their franchise QB in the draft.
Sure, they could try to get someone like Donovan McNabb or Kevin Kolb, but more than likely they won't be so fortunate.
I wish I could say that the Cards will get Andrew Luck, but he will likely be gone in the first five picks.
Arizona should still have a top-10 pick.
And unlike another writer, I'm not going to even suggest they take Jake Locker (did he watch a minute of college football this year?).
Some good possibilities are Ryan Mallett and hometown hero Nick Foles.