Many New Faces At The Arizona Cardinals This Season
The Arizona Cardinals are coming off a 1st place finish in the NFC West (which they won by two games) and a pretty deep playoff run. They won the wild card game over Green Bay in a high-scoring overtime thriller, but lost in the divisional round game to eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans.
New look Cards: The Cardinals will look like a pretty different ball club in terms of big names. Gone are long-time veterans Kurt Warner (who retired after about 40 years in the league and 39 comebacks), Karlos Dansby, Anquan Boldin, Bertrand Berry, and Antrel Rolle. Enter quarterback Derek Anderson, Alan Faneca, Justin Miller, and Joey Porter. Porter is the biggest name they obtained in the off-season; he comes over from Pittsburgh and joins his long-time friend (from Colorado State then from the Steelers) Clark Haggans on defense. This seems like a zero-sum game: the Cardinals lost about what they gained, so no significant changes in talent.
All quiet on the western front: Draft days were pretty quiet for the Cards, as they didn’t pick up any flashy, big-name rookies. Dan Williams, the defensive tackle from Tennessee, is a strong pick-up in the first round, and SEC followers will tell you that he has the potential to be dominant at this level. They then selected Daryl Washington, an inside linebacker from TCU and Andre Roberts, a 5’11” wide receiver from the Citadel.
It’s all about Matt: With the retirement of Kurt Warner and the unlikelihood that Derek Anderson will compete for the starting job, it is Matt Leinert’s job to either be successful or not. The quarterbacks coach has been working with both him and Derek Anderson in the off-season trying to fix whatever quirk causes both of these players to overthrow receivers, regardless of how wide open they are. According to careful analysis done by the coaching staff, both are tall (which you can’t fix) and they tend to overstride when they step (which is fixable). Hopefully, they can get that worked out, because the only other quarterback around is rookie draftee John Skelton.
The schedule puts Arizona on the road early, at St. Louis, Atlanta, San Diego, and Seattle. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Cards come out of these road games at 3-1. They also play Oakland, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay at home early on, which should roughly translate to 2-1. Luckily for the Cardinals, the early road warrior work means they play four of their last six games at home, when the playoffs are on the line. If they can stay healthy, the Cardinals may improve on last year’s record, going 11-5 and picking up at least one playoff win.