The Cardinals brought Kevin Kolb in expecting him to be the answer at quarterback. He wasn't.
Kolb struggled to pick up the system and went 3-6 as a starter while missing seven games with foot and concussion problems.
The Cards' finished with an 8-8 record, missing the playoffs, but good enough for second in a weak NFC West division.
Important Additions: G Adam Snyder, CB William Gay, S James Sanders
Important Losses: G Rex Hadnot, CB Richard Marshall, WR Chansi Stuckey.
Reasons to Believe
1. Defensive Building Blocks - The Cardinals defence showed a lot of improvement as last season went along. Yes, they finished 18th in total defence, but they were best in the NFL when it came to third-down defence. They also have some solid young talent to build around like linebackers Sam Acho and Daryl Washington, corner Patrick Peterson and defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett. This is a unit that has potential.
|Will John Skelton wind up as the Cardinals starter this year? Kevin Kolb has been less then impressive and his time may be running out in Arizona.
2. Call Me Fitz - With the exception of Calvin Johnson, is there a better receiver in football than Larry Fitzgerald? He has gone for over 1,000 yards in each of the last five seasons. Despite middling quarterback play, he is a nightmare for opposing defences who have to roll coverages his way, which in turn should open up opportunities for the Cards to run the ball.
3. Many Happy Returns - Patrick Peterson and LaRod Stephens-Howling are as good of a return tandem as you will find in the NFL. Both can score from anywhere and opposing teams are gun shy about kicking the ball their way. This generally means better field position for the Cardinals to work with.
Reasons to Doubt
1. Quarterback Conundrum - Has there been a worse signing over the last few years than Kevin Kolb in Arizona? Kolb was supposed to be the saviour in the desert but has yet to deliver on any of the promise he had shown in Philadelphia. John Skelton meanwhile has a big arm going for him, but not much else. Skelton has mechanics issues and is likely not the long-term answer for the Cardinals either.
2. Run For Your Life - Making matters worse for Arizona's quarterbacks is the amount of time they have to spend running for their lives after opposing pass-rushers bull their way through. The Cardinals were fourth-worst in the NFL last season in sacks given up per play. Adding to their pass-protection woes, starting left-tackle Levi Brown is lost for the year after suffering a torn-biceps during the pre-season.
3. Balky Running Back Knees - Beanie Wells actually has his first 1,000 yard rushing season last year but that line is deceptive. After a strong start, he did basically nothing for two months before padding his stats with a 228 yard day against the awful Rams. He also missed two games with knee issues that forced him to have off-season surgery. Ryan Williams, the Cardinals 2011 first round pick, was lost for the year after tearing his patellar tendon. He is back this season but having to rely on two guys with a history of knee problems and durability issues is not a recipe for success.
What to Expect
The Cardinals shouldn't challenge San Francisco for the NFC West crown this season. The Kolb-Skelton not-so-dynamic duo just isn't good enough to contend in the NFL. Throw in the fact that the Cardinals project to face the eighth-most difficult schedule this year and a winning season is unlikely. That said, their defence should give them a chance to win a few games and they do still have the benefit of playing four games against St. Louis and Seattle. If they can sweep the Rams and Seahawks, get any sort of consistent quarterback play and keep their running backs healthy a . 500 record might be attainable.