NFL Predictions: 4 Reasons Why the Arizona Cardinals Will Win the NFC West
The Arizona Cardinals are coming off a highly disappointing 2010 season, going 5-11 and proving that change needed to be made. The team selected Patrick Peterson with the fifth overall draft choice and began the reshaping of the roster.
Thus the Arizona Cardinals were one of, if not, the most active teams in free agency to this point. The Cards went out and made significant upgrades at quarterback, tight end and offensive line, adding depth to the team. Even with all the key additions made, most people still tend to think the Cardinals will finish in the cellar of the NFC West. Read on for four reasons why the Cardinals will prove the doubters wrong and win the division.
4. Key Defensive Additions
For all the struggles by the offense, the defense was equally as bad and cost the team a couple wins. The defense took another hit when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was traded to the Eagles in the Kevin Kolb deal; but the Cardinals struck quickly to replace DRC and added more parts.
The team selected cornerback Patrick Peterson with the fifth overall draft pick, who many thought was the top overall player in the draft. They also made the key free agent signings of CB Richard Marshall and LB Stewart Bradley. All three players should have an instant impact this season and help bring about a more balanced defense.
But these players aren't even the biggest addition to the defense, new defensive coordinator Ray Horton fills that role. Horton comes to the Cards from the Pittsburgh Steelers and brings an aggressive attacking defense. The Cardinals could use a more explosive defense and Horton brings that.
3. Improved Offensive Line
The Cardinals gave up 50 sacks last year and had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season. Something had to be done. The team resigned RG Deuce Lutui, RT Brandon Keith and C Lyle Sendlein, signed G Daryn Colledge from the Green Bay Packers and signed G Floyd Womack from the Cleveland Browns.
The Cardinals now have a decent offensive line, although they are unproven as a unit. But they should be able to protect new quarterback Kevin Kolb. Protecting him will be a huge priority and the team will no doubt put more emphasis on solid offensive line play. Plus good offensive line play leads to....
2. Improved Running Game
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt knows the team has to run the ball better, and he is definitely going to make an effort to improve the running game.
Whisenhunt has stated, "There were a couple times where we're in the open field and had a chance to make a big play and got brought down, and that was unacceptable."
He must have noticed that the majority of the better teams in the NFL all have solid running games, and even the competition within the NFC West has some pretty good running backs. Look for Beanie Wells, who is finally healthy, to have a bounce-back season, and for Ryan Williams to show how dynamic he can be in the open field.
The Arizona Cardinals' running back corps will be much better, and the improved offensive line will be key in a more effective rushing game.
1. The Addition of a Competent Quarterback
When Kurt Warner retired after the 2009 season, gone was the star quarterback of a team that had just lost in the Super Bowl. With him went any semblance of a starting quarterback for the Cardinals. The team decided to move on with Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson. Leinart was released before the season and Anderson proved to be not what the Cards were looking for. After giving rookies Max Hall and John Skelton an opportunity, in addition to Leinart and Anderson, the team made a move after this year's lockout.
The team traded for their quarterback of the future in Kevin Kolb, and they quickly signed him to a five-year extension. Kolb has all the tools to succeed but has had limited chances to showcase his skills in games. Even though the team gave up a lot for Kolb (Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick), the offense needed a real quarterback. The offense was in shambles without a solid quarterback and Kolb should drastically improve the offense.
All the offensive moves by the Cards show that there's no point of having a good quarterback without capable receivers, a decent offensive line, and some kind of running game. The additions to the offensive line and running backs will give Kolb more time to look for the variety of receivers the Cards have and the recently signed tight ends.
Now Kolb can throw to Larry Fitzgerald, Early Doucet, Todd Heap, Andre Roberts, Jeff King and Chansi Stuckey. Expect Kolb to have a big season in the desert.