For the residents of the state of Arizona, Week 1 signifies the end of those brutal summer months and potentially the beginning of a new era for their Cardinals.
Coming off the heels of Arizona’s 28-21 victory over the Carolina Panthers, those expectations are sure to be placed into overdrive.
Here are the five things we learned:
1. The Kevin Kolb acquisition is already beginning to return dividends.
The much-ballyhooed addition of Kolb has been fodder for conversation and debate over the past several months. While he was only acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles on July 28, it seems as though he has been a part of the Cardinals organization for a far greater period.
Sunday marked his first regular season appearance for Arizona, and ultimately his first true test when facing live artillery rounds from across the line of scrimmage. If in fact this contest were to mark his first true test, it looked as though he may have been given the answers to questions prior to sitting down for the three-and-a-half hour exam.
With an impressive statistical performance (18/27, 309 yards, 2 TD, 130 QB rating) and tremendous amount of command of the offense throughout the game, he helped to further reinforce what the Cardinal brain trust had banked on when they paid King Reid‘s ransom back in July.
Using the Cold, Hard Football Facts' Passing Yards Per Attempt Quality Stat, Kolb posted a PYPA of 10.17. When compared against Cam Newton’s 9.83 PYPA, Kolb’s performance also helps to reinforce the CHFF assertion that the team that outperforms in this comparison tends to more often than not walk away from the tilt with a W in their back pocket. For example, teams that won the Passing YPA battle in 2010 went 189-67 (.738). In 2009, Passing YPA winners went an awesome 204-52 (.797).
Remember, CHFF's Passing YPA indicator takes into account sacks. So those numbers for each team, 10.17 and 9.83 PYPA, are both incredible. Remember, Arizona was 31st in Passing YPA last year (an abysmal 4.76 YPA). Carolina was the only team worse (4.29 YPA). So both teams saw significant upgrades, at least through Week 1.
2. Welcome to Arizona, Beanie Wells.
Yeah, he’s been here; but he has also managed to become overshadowed by every running back that has been on the roster since he entered the league.
This offseason, when the free agency period opened up, the Cardinals did not pursue incumbent starter Tim Hightower, all but signaling their commitment to Beanie Wells as their featured running back… or did they?
They eventually moved forward and selected Ryan Williams in the 2nd round of this year's entry draft, indirectly indicating that while they were handing over the keys to the car, they also felt like they needed a designated driver on hand in case behavior were to spin out of control.
Williams has since suffered a season-ending injury, and with that injury, the backup contingency plan or running-back-by-committee theory also took a backseat.
So, how would Wells respond in the featured role? On Sunday, Wells rumbled his way to a very productive afternoon, compiling 112 total yards and a score. The conviction and determination that he showed while carrying the ball brought back flashes of the way in which he used to burst through the line of scrimmage while still an undergraduate back in Columbus, Ohio.
The 90 yards generated on the ground amount to the third-highest total of his three-year NFL career. Continuing to churn out productive and effective performances on the ground will surely help to lessen the load offensively for Kolb and company. However, one cause for concern for Darnell Jefferson, I mean Beanie Wells, is his penchant to put the ball on the carpet; this needs to be addressed, and quickly.
3. The Offensive Hogs held up their part of the bargain.
While the performances of both Kolb and Wells were encouraging, it's important to note that Russ Grimm’s troops played a key role in their success.
There has been a lot of speculation and discussion regarding the line's ineffectiveness over the past few years due to their continual inability to protect the quarterback and create holes for their running game. Those concerns, if even just for the moment, have been shelved.
When assessing the overall ability of an offensive line, you want to ensure not only that they keep their quarterback in the upright position but also help to convert 3rd downs. On Sunday, the Cardinals converted 41 percent of their 3rd down attempts while only surrendering two sacks. Last season, they ranked dead last in the league in 3rd down efficiency, converting only 28 percent of the time. Moving the chains means extending the drive, which either leads to additional scoring opportunities or equates to additional rest for your defense. It’s a remedial breakdown, but there’s beauty in the simplistic approach.
4. The defensive secondary has a lot of ‘splaining to do.
Either Cam Newton is better than every “pundit” (aside from Trent Dilfer) has indicated, or the Cardinals secondary is just that bad.
Newton and Steve Smith alone torched the secondary for 178 yards and two scores. There was applied pressure throughout the day by the defensive front seven, so the blame rests squarely on the backfield's inability to cover their assignments.
Yes, they lost defensive starter Greg Toler to injury, and a learning curve is expected with the reduced offseason training; however, their youth and inexperience at the cornerback position could prove to be the Achilles' heel for this defensive unit moving forward.
5. Patrick Peterson is ready for “Prime Time.”
After an electrifying 89-yard punt return for a touchdown, which proved to be the go-ahead score for the Cardinals during Sunday’s victory, it was hard to temper emotions when beginning to wonder what the future holds for the talented rookie cornerback.
Peterson’s return for a score, and high-stepping ability, immediately helped to conjure up memories of another highly regarded draft pick out of the class of 1989 who had also returned a punt for a touchdown in his first NFL game… Deion Sanders. Granted it’s just a tad too early to begin fitting the young man for his Hall of Fame sportcoat, but there’s no question he’s going to be fun to watch.