Arizona Cardinals: The Shootout Specialists

Steven SmithCorrespondent IMay 27, 2009

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Quarterback Kurt Warner #13 of the Arizona Cardinals looks on against the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Expectations couldn’t be higher this season for fans of the Arizona Cardinals. Last year, teams knew the attack was coming by air, but more often than not, they couldn’t stop the onslaught.

This year will be more of the same, but they will add in something the Cards haven’t had in a long time—a running game. Here’s a look at the possible changes Cardinal fans could be seeing on the field.

The return of Kurt Warner assures that the offense will be in top condition. I mean, who could retire when they have three play making 1,000 yard receivers to throw to?

Offensively, we should be seeing more of the same aggressive, attack-style passing game that caused defenses so many problems last year, but don’t expect for Warner to throw for over 4,000 yards with nearly 600 attempts. First round pick Chris “Beanie” Wells adds a downhill running game that was nonexistent in last year's regular season.

All of a sudden, the offense is looking like a bigger, stronger version of “The Greatest Show On Turf.” Wells and Tim Hightower will get plenty of seven man fronts for fear of the long ball. Wells will also be a great passing option coming out of the backfield.

This course of action can be derailed, though, depending on how the front office decides to deal with Anquan Boldin. If for some reason they decided to deal Boldin away, the Cards lose an important part of this year's game plan.

One of the Cardinals' biggest advantages on offense was their ability to move all three of their 1,000 yard receivers around to create matchup problems. With Boldin gone, it would limit the number of matchups the team would be able to exploit. Breaston would move into the No. 2 spot, and either Jerheme Urban or Early Doucet would take the slot.

Possibly one of the reasons why the Cardinals are taking their time on Boldin’s contract is to see how their wide receivers are progressing. There has been some buzz about Early Doucet and his play during the OTAs. Doucet has been the most impressive receiver in practice behind Larry Fitzgerald.

It’s still early, but that’s an encouraging sign if things go sour with Boldin. The team is confident that Doucet could have a big year like Breaston last season, but that’s only if he can get the playing time.

The Cardinals defense has slowly been transferring to the 3-4, and Bill Davis is now at the helm. Davis has a lot of experience being an assistant coach in the NFL for 16 years, but in his short two-year shift as defensive coordinator for the 49ers, he had awful results.

Davis was responsible of heading the changeover of the 49ers defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. In that time, Davis’ defense allowed an average of 391 yards per game and gave up 428 points in 2005—one point higher than what the Cardinals offense scored last season (427).  

This time around should bode better results, as the personnel conversion process is already well in hand. The Cardinals' specialty on defense is causing turnovers and rushing the passer. Davis needs to keep those elements in place while having the defense not give up so many points and yards. If he can't get the defense up to speed, expect more of the same shootouts we saw last season.

Cardinal fans have a lot to look forward to, which has been rare. University of Phoenix Stadium will be booming with more high-flying catches and jaw dropping plays offensively.

The question still remains whether the defense can play with the same consistency.

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