The schedule this year is a tough one. The Cardinals have done nothing special in the free agent market. There's a new defensive coordinator and offensive coordinator in town.
Still, the core of a very good team remains, and this draft looks to be a good one for the red birds.
Five reasons they might just go back to the Super Bowl this season.
1) Kurt Warner
A no brainer. If this guy can stay healthy this year, there's no reason Arizona can't make it back to the big game. Some things are going to need to happen though.
The old man needs some protection. After the Cards draft a running back with their first pick in the draft, they need to address some better O-line protection for Kurt. He's tough as nails, but he got knocked down way to many times last year.
I hate to say it, because I am still big on Matt Leinhart, but if Warner goes down, the season is in major jeopardy. Not because of any deficiency in Leinhart, but because any hiccup at all during the transition from Warner to the former Trojan quarterbac is going to put the Cards out of a winning season.
The Birds could go 11-5 this year with Warner. If Leinhart has to step in, look for 8-8 or 9-7 (which, incidentally, was good enough for the playoffs last year).
2) Larry Fitzgerald
Last year Fitz and Warner finally clicked. It was coached into Warner that Fitzgerald didn't have to be open to be thrown to. Larry could go up and get the ball. Warner had to learn this, because it wasn't his style, but once he did, Fitzgerald transformed into the best receiver in football. Expect big things this year.
3) The first-round draft pick: Running Back
Arizona's running game ranked DEAD LAST in the NFL last year. And yet still they went to the Super Bowl. Imagine a running game mixed in with this potent offense. Even if the Cards rise from 32nd to say 20th in the ranking of rushing, that'll be a tangible improvement.
Ederign James needs to go away; his days are numbered.
Tim Hightower is a great goal line back, in fact outstanding, and he's a decent receiving option out of the backfield; he never developed as an every down back however.
Arrington went to Denver (he's going to thrive in McDaniel's system).
The birds need to snag a running back. A bona-fide 20 carries per game running back will take a lot of pressure off Warner, and make this team a much more well rounded one.
4) Trading Boldin for draft picks
Boldin is arguably the toughest receiver in the NFL at present. He's not afraid to go over the middle and take a pop. Unfortunately he's also not afraid to mix it up on the sidelines with his offensive coordinator. Or storm out of the locker room after WINNING the NFC Championship game. He chose not to celebrate the win with his teammates.
He wants to be traded.
This guy is gone.
The Cards can probably get a first-round draft pick and a second-round pick for him (maybe even a third thrown in). If so, they can use the first-round picks for a running back and a linebacker. The additional picks will allow them a little wiggle room in trying to shore up the O-line and some other defensive issues.
5) Coach Ken Whisenhunt
Talk about the real deal. Finally. Cards fans have suffered for many, many years.
What Whisenhunt brings to the table:
Excellent play calling and well-crafted plays.
A sense for using the strength of a team instead of trying to bend it into something it is not.
The complete and 100 percent respect of his players.
The ability to use trick plays at the right moment. His timing is impeccable.
Very good decisions about personnel placement and use, both with coaches and players.
He doesn't choke, and doesn't see any reason why the "lowly" Arizona Cardinals can't go out and win each and every year.