The Arizona Cardinals were 5-11 last year, instilling a resolve to change the team this offseason, and they sure followed through. The team made additions at a couple key positions and there is definitely reason for optimism in the desert.
Even though the Cardinals lost a couple valuable players so far, things still look positive, and playing in a weak NFC West certainly helps.
Read on for five keys to a successful season for the Arizona Cardinals, and hopefully some postseason play.
Kevin Kolb was acquired for CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft choice, and he was automatically dubbed the starting QB for a long time with a five-year contract extension. Last year, Arizona used an awful trio of Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton, and teams fed off the lack of talent at the position.
Of the trio, only Skelton is still with the team.
The fact that teams could blitz without fear of a big play hurt the offense and allowed for opposing defenses to take a lot of chances. If Kolb can make opposing teams pay for blitzing, the pressure will be much less on the offensive line and the offense will improve greatly.
It appears the Cards gave up a lot for Kolb, but if he performs like an elite-level QB it will be well worth it. I expect Kolb to play like a starting-caliber QB and it will end up being a good deal for the Cards.
The Cardinals had serious issues rushing the QB last year and it was a huge area of concern for the team entering this season. They signed linebacker Stewart Bradley and added him to the current linebacker corps of Joey Porter, Daryl Washington, Clark Haggans, Paris Lenon and O'Brien Schofield.
Now the Cards have a solid linebackers corps on paper, but they're going to have to do more than have decent players on paper. Arizona could really use good years from Porter, Bradley and Haggans, and breakout years from Schofield and Washington.
Look for the pass rush to be much improved from last year and for Washington to have a big year.
The offensive line was absolutely horrendous last season, and when partnered with bad QB play it led to a whole lot of dysfunction and a very bad offense. This year, the line is a little more healthy, has added Daryn Colledge from the Green Bay Packers and the line should be better overall.
That doesn't mean the line will be a lot better, but it will be good enough to protect Kevin Kolb adequately.
If the line can stay healthy, there is a good chance the running game will be much improved also. A healthy Beanie Wells will dramatically improve the running game and help the overall balance of the team.
When Adrian Wilson was reported to have torn his right biceps tendon, Arizona Cardinal fans everywhere shuddered and feared his season was lost (myself included). When the news came out he would play through the injury, I felt it might be better for him to have the surgery and come back fully healed after. What if he injures it again or gets another injury on the same arm (since he is going to have overcompensate with his other muscles)?
Regardless of how much he plays, he certainly won't be as effective as normal, and it will hurt the team against the pass. So far, Rashad Johnson looks to be his replacement but hasn't looked good at all during the preseason. The team really doesn't have any other in house replacements for Wilson and it will probably take a replacement-by-committee. Look for Johnson, Matt Ware and Hamza Abdullah to be the main players of that committee.
Last season, there were games where the team looked good but almost all the games were awful. In the good games, Arizona looked like it could hang with some tough teams, but the bad games were the polar opposite. It's almost impossible for a team to be successful and not have consistency, and the Cards need to focus on playing the same week in and week out.
The talent is there—maybe not as much as other teams, but enough to make noise in the division and maybe a first-round playoff upset. As long as the guys believe and go out with confidence every game, the consistency will come and hopefully their record will reflect that.