NFL PREVIEW: ARIZONA CARDINALS
July 13, 2012Tri-Eastern Conference
Report by KELCI BAKER, EIHSS Sports
Last year: 8-8, 2nd in NFC West, missed playoffs
Winning seven of their last nine games in the 2011 season, the Arizona Cardinals scrounged up some hope for their future. Finishing 8-8, the expectations for this football team have grown. Winning consecutive division titles in 2008-09 has built up that expectation despite one of those titles being won on a 9-7 record. Selling out their stadium, the Cardinals are on the right track but there's still one thing they need if they want to reach their playoff dreams as they were unable to do this past season: a better quarterback.
Missing seven games due to injuries (and only half decent play when he did get into a game), Kevin Kolb wasn't the answer for the Cardinals. A concussion late in the season put hopes of Kolb leading the team to a halt, while backup John Skelton played too poorly early in games to give the Cardinals any solid ground to work off of. If there was a most improved award, it would go to the defense who turned out to be a major factor throughout the season. What the Cardinals need is a stronger offense. If they can get that, Arizona can be in the forefront for a division title.
Breaking down the offense: Coordinator Mike Miller has taken to the pro style with ties back to Don Coryell and Joe Gibbs. First round pick Michael Floyd should be able to help all-world wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. A year ago, Fitzgerald caught 80 passes for 1,411 years and 8 TD's regardless of issues with the quarterback. His stats don't show it, but it might have been his finest season to date. With Floyd, they have a big, physical receiver, who should be able to make plays against smaller cornerbacks. As for the running game, Ryan Williams missed his rookie year with a knee injury but still provides inside quickness and perhaps big-play ability. Chris "Beanie" Wells is physical while LaRod Stephens-Howling is a monster in the open field by creating matchup problems on screens and draws.
When it comes to the defensive structure of this team, defensive coordinator Ray Horton has installed a 3-4 scheme, similar to that of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The problem is it took the Cardinals defense until midseason to understand and execute, led mostly by the younger players on the team. Daryl Washington covers the sideline with his speed while end Calais Campbell became a dominant force. What's unsure is the position that will be held by Dan Williams who spent his first two seasons in the league dealing with weight and injury problems. Opposite Patrick Peterson, a cornerback slot is open and several people are in line to take it. Everything taken into consideration and with every starter returning to the lineup for the upcoming season, the defensive side of things are in tack.
Special teams have certainly been doing their job. With coordinator Kevin Spencer backing them in 2011, almost every improved, becoming a major influence in salvaging a .500 season. Four punts were returned for TDs by Peterson. Kicker Jay Freely is reliable, and punter David Zastudil, (when not injured), has performed well.
The Cardinals were put to the test when Coach Ken Whisenhurt fired quarterback coach Chris Miller and replaced him with John McNulty, the former recievers coach. It seemed the Cardinals have taken a liking to McNulty, preventing him from becoming the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Replacing him as coach of the receivers will be Frank Reich.
2012 Draft Recap
The Arizona Cardinals made it out of the 2012 draft with 7 picks overall. Their best pick is undoubtedly Bobby Massie from Mississippi who has a chance to start right away. If he earns it, Massie can gain the right tackle spot.
WR Michael Floyd. Notre Dame
First round. 13th pick overall.
Big, physical and able to make amazing catches, Floyd resembles Larry Fitzgerald in game play. These two together with time and teaching will be an amazing dynamic
CB Jamell Fleming. Oklahoma
Third round. 80th pick overall.
Although they have talent at this position and it was a shocker they picked a corner this high in the draft, Fleming is quick, strong, and able to play in space.
T Bobby Massie. Mississippi
Fourth round. 112th pick overall.
G-T Senio Kelemete. Washington
Fifth round. 151st pick overall.
The Cardinals believe he's a guard despite Kelemete playing left tackle in Washington.
CB-S Justin Bethel. Presbyterian
Sixth round. 177th pick overall.
After blocking nine kicks while he was in college and with success with corners from smaller schools, Bethel's a nice addition to the Cardinals line-up.
QB Ryan Lindley. San Diego State
Sixth round. 185th pick overall.
Even though he won't contribute to the team for a couple of years, he has a strong arm and he's a good size for a quarterback.
T Nate Porter. Boise State
Seventh round. 221st pick overall.
Another player not expected to play any time soon, but a three year starter at Boise State and a steady player, he'll certainly come in handy later.
Week 2 9/16: Arizona Cardinals vs. New England Patriots, 1 PM EST, CBS
Week 3 9/23: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 PM EST, Fox
Week 4 9/30: Miami Dolphins vs. Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 PM EST, CBS
Week 5 10/4: Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams, 8:20 PM EST, NFL Network
Week 6 10/14: Buffalo Bills vs. Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 PM EST, CBS
Week 7 10/21: Arizona Cardinals vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1 PM EST, Fox
Week 8 10/29: San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals, 8:30 PM EST, ESPN
Week 9 11/4: Arizona Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers, 1 PM EST, Fox
Week 10 11/11: BYE WEEK
Week 11 11/18: Arizona Cardinals vs. Atlanta Falcons, 1 PM EST, Fox
Week 12 11/25: St. Louis Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals, 4:15 PM EST, Fox
Week 13 12/2: Arizona Cardinals vs. New York Jets, 1 PM EST, Fox
Week 14 12/9: Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks, 4:15 PM EST, Fox
Week 15 12/16: Detroit Lions vs. Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 PM EST, Fox
Week 16 12/23: Chicago Bears vs. Arizona Cardinals, 4:15 PM EST, Fox
Week 17 12/30: Arizona Cardinals vs. San Francisco 49ers, 4:15 PM EST,
Most Pivotal Matchup: San Francisco 49ers
Both games against San Francisco will be crucial, but when the Cardinals head to Candlestick Park they have a chance to turn the tide of the division. The 49ers should come back to the pack a bit after last season's surprising run.
The Cardinals should be more competitive throughout the campaign, but their schedule will make it difficult to keep up with the 49ers unless they beat them twice. That would give them a big enough boost to remain in the mix.
Those games will have a major impact not only on the NFC West race, but the entire conference as well. They certainly fall into the must-see television category.