Monday, August 9, 2010

2010 Preview: Arizona Cardinals

2009 Record: 10-6

2009 Rankings:
Total Offense - 14
Run Offense - 28
Pass Offense - 12
Scoring Offense - 11
Total Defense - 20
Run Defense - 17
Pass Defense - 23
Scoring Defense - 14

Anyone claiming to have a grip on the pulse of this Arizona Cardinals team needs to have their head examined. Their offense, once entirely reliant on Kurt Warner's arm, is now in the hands of Matt Leinart and a running game ranked at the bottom of the league. Fitz is still the best receiver in the league, but one has to wonder how effective he'll be with Leinart throwing him the ball and no proven #2 on the other side to take coverage away. Steve Breaston has a lot of talent and could very well fill the role vacated by Anquan Boldin, but we still come back to the point of Matt Leinart under center. Leinart has a 7-10 record as a starter in his four year career. However, the more disconcerting statistic might be his 57.1 completion percentage or his 14-to-20 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In his last three seasons, Leinart has thrown 3 TDs and 8 interceptions. Those aren't exactly awe-inspiring statistics.

Maybe Cards fans wouldn't be as worried about their offense if their running game was in more capable hands. Granted, the Cardinals were dead last in the league in rushing attempts last season. Tim Hightower is a capable short-yardage back, but one has to wonder if the oft-injured Beanie Wells can stay healthy for the whole season. The Cardinals are going to have to run the ball more, but with the Whiz and Russ Grimm behind the wheel, coupled with the acquisition of Alan Faneca to bolster the line, they'll be able to put a solid gameplan together.

On defense, the Cardinals lost half of their secondary and their leading tackler. The Cards brought in safety Kerry Rhodes to fill Antrel Rolle's spot, but the bigger concern for fans in the desert should be the linebacking corps. On the outside, they are the cast-offs of the mid-2000s Steelers with Clark Haggans and Joey Porter. The biggest loss was ILB Karlos Dansby, whose spot might be filled by either Paris Lenon, a pickup from the St. Louis Rams, or rookie Daryl Washington. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is an anchor at cornerback, but the Cardinals traded Bryant McFadden back to the Steelers, creating a hole at the other corner position.

Without Kurt Warner in the backfield, Arizona isn't going to win any shootouts and is going to have to rely on clock control and defense if they want to make their way back to the playoffs. To be honest, there is a lot of talent on this team, but one has to wonder how all the new additions to the starting lineup will hurt the team. No team lost more than Arizona did this free agency season. This team has mediocre written all over it, but in the worst division in football, they're still in the hunt to win it.

Ian's Prediction: 8-8

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