I had to wait before the season opener against Seattle to write about the Arizona Cardinals. The long Quarterback battle is settled with John Skelton getting the starting job over Kevin Kolb. That was a slam dunk choice for Coach Ken Whisenhunt, who probably made the decision in game one of the preseason when Kolb was slammed down in the Hall of Fame Game by the Saints. In a Cardinals uniform, Kolb has never looked poised in the pocket. As far as Skelton, he possesses great poise. His accuracy and decision making? Debatable. But, he went five and two as a starter in 2011 and has a chance to lead the team in 2012. That’s if he makes it through the season. Stay loose Kevin, stay loose. Rookie Ryan Lindley turned some heads in the preseason. You never know, he might see game action this year.
I feel bad for both because the Offensive Line is not in good shape. Levi Brown was lost for the year with a torn triceps muscle. So D’Anthony Batiste will start at Left Tackle, while rookie Bobby Massie will start at Right Tackle. But you have to remember, this O-line has given up over a hundred sacks the last two years. Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach Russ Grimm was a Hall of Fame Caliber player. But, so far he hasn’t produced one Pro Bowl Offensive Linemen. But in fairness to Grimm, he hasn’t had a lot to work with. A matter of fact, the last time the Cardinals had a Pro Bowl Offensive Linemen was Lomas Brown in 1996. This is really disappointing under Coach Whisenhunt. Because as a former Assistant with the Steelers, Whiz saw firsthand the quality O-line play Pittsburgh had. But, that hasn’t translated to the Valley. My O-line concern for the Cardinlas would be defcon two.
The Cardinals are blessed with Receiver Larry Fitzgerald. He’s a great athlete and person. Too many times in the preseason Fitz looked stunned and frustrated. Bad Quarterback and O-line Play can do that to even the most gifted player. Can Skelton/Kolb get Larry the ball? Well, as bad as the Cardinals Quarterback play was last year, Fitz still managed to catch 80 passes for over 14-hundred yards with eight touchdowns. So yes. Fitz will get the ball. But not as much as a great receiver should. What could help Fitz is first round pick Michael Floyd. He has great hands and seems to be still learning the offense. But, he should be starting. You don’t draft him in the first round and have him on the second team. I don’t understand that. Put him in, have him learn and make mistakes like Patrick Peterson did last year. That turned out pretty well didn’t it?
The Cardinals have like a Thousand Tightends, veteran Todd Heap is the most reliable, when he’s healthy. Rob Housler has speed, but sometimes you don’t know what to expect. The Runningback Corp is solid with Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams returning from knee injuries. Beanie has a history of knee problems so I doubt he’ll play in all sixteen games. Williams looked great in the preseason and could be the explosive back to help ease the load. Larod Stephens-Howling is a great third down back and William Powell had a great camp and adds quality depth. With a suspect passing game, the Cardinals need the backs to produce.
The Defense has star power across the Board. Defensive Tackle Darnell Dockett, Defensive End Calais Campbell, Safety Adrian Wilson, Safety Kerry Rhodes, Linebacker Daryl Washington, Linebacker O’brien Schoefield, Linebacker Sam Acho and Cornerback Patrick Peterson, all I can say is wow. The defense came on strong at the end of last year and should be one of the best in the league this year. Give the credit to Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton. He was the best Coach on the team last year and he’ll be the best Coach on the team this year. Horton and his unit will give the team a chance every Sunday.
Specials teams are special because Patrick Peterson is instant dynamite. In his rookie season, he tied an NFL record with four Punt returns for touchdowns. He’s the team’s best open field runner and is determined to be one of the elite shutdown corners in the league. P2 is a great kid and has an amazing attitude. LSH, aka Larod Stephens-Howling is great kick-off return specialist. The kicker game is rock solid with Jay Feeley and Punter Dave Zastudil. If the offense struggles the Defense and Special Teams could be a big factor for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals have to play better on the road. Last year, the team was only two and six on the road and is historically bad outside of Arizona especially on the east coast. The Cardinals schedule is not easy by any means. Their road schedule is brutal with games at New England, Green Bay, Atlanta and San Francisco, four powerhouse teams that will be fighting for the playoffs.
So how will the Cardinals be in 2012? It boils down to their Quarterbacks and the O-line. If the Quarterbacks fail the blame falls on Whisenhunt’s inability to develop a young quarterback. Let me explain. He couldn’t develop Matt Leinart and so far Skelton and Kolb have been mediocre at best. The Cardinals didn’t really address the O-line in Free Agency and waited late in the draft to address it. Good Luck. The O-line scares me. I truly feel they’ll give up over fifty sacks again. I love the defense and the big play abilities of Fitzgerald and Peterson. But the O-line is regressing and the Quarterbacks don’t look better. Cardinals go 7 and 9 and miss the playoffs for a third straight year. Joe Pequeno over and out.