NFL: What the Arizona Cardinals Need to Fly Again in the NFC West
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The Arizona Cardinals are team that has gone from the heights of being in the Super Bowl, in 2009, to the bottom of the NFL. At 9-7 in the 2008 regular season, the team got hot in the playoffs and rode into Super Bowl XLIII on the arm of Kurt Warner.
Now the team is in free-fall on both sides of the ball and needs real help to turn the ship around. Fortunately for the Cardinals, they play in the weakest division in the NFL, the NFC West.
Winning the division won't be that difficult, even for a team that finished at 5-11 - just 2 games out of first place in 2010. But looking at the Cardinal’s offensive ranking at No. 32 overall with just 19 touchdowns and a defense ranked at No.29; where do you start?
On the defensive side of the ball the team has a need for a pass rusher as they finished with only 33 sacks in 2010. Von Miller is the consensus first round pick at No, 9 as the needed upgrade at the outside linebacker position. With Joey Porter on the downside of his career, and the team lacking a pass rush from that position, this is the obvious selection.
The team also needs to add an inside linebacker this year. Casey Matthews could be that pick in the third round. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with ability. He can slip blockers and closes well on running plays.
Matthews reads the pass well and is solid in zone coverage. If he bulks up, than he would be a good addition to the team as he comes from a football family with high intellect.
Do the Cardinals need QB or O-line help first?
The secondary was the strength of the defense last year snagging 17 interceptions to finish No. 11 in the league in that category. The team has a need to add a solid corner opposite Rogers-Cromartie.
Devon House from New Mexico St. may be what Arizona needs in the fourth round. The kid is big and physical with the speed to stay with the elite receivers.
He closes well on the ball in the air and has good anticipation in jumping routes in zone coverage. Though House's aggressive style can result in laundry on the field, he would still be a quality pick here.
Just looking at statistics, you have to say the offensive line needs an upgrade after giving up 50 sacks last season. Levi Brown gave up seven sacks and will need to improve in this area after making the move to left tackle from the right side.
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt is currently happy with Brown’s production and with Russ Grimm coaching him up, he should only improve.
The team must address interior line play especially at left guard as Al Faneca is getting up in age at 34. Mike Pouncey of Florida would be a good choice with the second round pick, if available. He has a high football IQ and has a great understanding of play at guard and center.
If Pouncey is off the board, then Wisconsin’s Greg Wisnieski would be a solid choice here. He can play all three inside line positions and is another player from an NFL football family who knows how to play the game.
Can the Cardinals bounce back and win the NFC West?
Another addition would be to draft Chris Hairston from Clemson in the fifth round. This would be a solid pick as Hairston has the size to handle the pass rush and blocks well in the run.
As the best performer in the bench press at the NFL combine, his strength would be a benefit when fending off defensive linemen. This pick could prove to be the diamond in the rough for Arizona as Hairston has the ability to become a starter at right tackle.
That leaves the last two picks. The team can use these to draft a kicker as Jay Feely will be 35 this year or an athletic player for special teams. These will probably be used for trade purposes though during the draft as Arizona positions itself to get as many of the players on their board as possible.
With that, I’ll just say one thing about the quarterback situation. Based on some reports, it appears that the coaching staff is content to go forward with John Skelton as the starter.
With few quality quarterbacks in the draft a free agent veteran may be in order here - Alex Smith comes to mind as he is currently not under contract with the 49ers. Additionally, there are plenty of trade rumors placing multiple quarterbacks in the Arizona backfield.
On this one we’ll just have to wait and see how it all shakes out. To tell you the truth, I don’t think even the Cardinals know what they are going to do here yet.
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