Breaking Down the Cardinals Offense Heading Into Training Camp

I recently wrote a post regarding the Cardinals’ projected 2010 defense in relation to their 2009 squad.  Here’s the other half of the picture concerning the hotly debated Cardinals offense.  I have the Cardinals regressing at quarterback, wide receiver, and fullback.  They’re progressing at running back, tight end, guard, and tackle.  Finally, they push at center with Lyle Sendlein.  Let’s take a closer look.

Quarterback (-)

2009:  Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre

2010:  Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, John Skelton

We all know that the Cards lost a lot when Warner retired.  Just how much is the real question.  It’s a question, unfortunately, that can’t be answered until we see Leinart in action.  I’m just as anxious as anyone to see Leinart succeed, but until he does he’s not going to get the benefit of the doubt from too many people.  Lingering and renewed suspicion’s about Leinart’s arm strength and accuracy haven’t helped him out, either.

Wide Receiver (-)

2009:  Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston, Early Doucet

2010:  Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaton, Early Doucet, Andre Roberts

Although it’s a close call, I believe the Cardinals lost more “right now” talent than they gained.  In other words, I don’t feel that the maturation of Early Doucet counterbalances the loss of Anquan Boldin, yet.  It may at some point during this season or maybe even next season, especially if Boldin misses significant time for the Ravens due to injury.  At this point, however, the Cardinals would have been stronger with Boldin than without him.  Fitzgerald, Breaston, and Doucet, however, still form a formidable trio of receivers.  This position is still a strength for the Cards, even if their overall talent level dipped a bit.

Running Back (+)

2009:  Tim Hightower, Beanie Wells, Jason Wright, LaRod Stephens-Howling

2010:  Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower, Jason Wright, LaRod Stephens-Howling

Except for the fumbles, both Hightower and Wells had great seasons.  Hightower has either plateaued or is very close in terms of development.  Tim will likely be limited to third down as a true pass catching threat and able blocker.  Beanie Wells’ development is just beginning and he is on the verge of legitimate stardom in the NFL.  With the inevitable shift to run first throw second, the time is right for Wells to show the NFL everything he has.  Wright and Stephens-Howling are also good contributors on third down.  Overall, the unit got stronger; good thing, too.

Fullback (-)

2009:  Dan Kreider, Nehemia Broughton

2010:  Nehemia Broughton, Charles Ali

Losing Dan Kreider may be a bigger deal than most Cardinals fans realize.  Krieder constantly opened up holes for both Wells and Hightower.  It’s up to speculation whether Broughton or Ali will end up with the starting job, but it will be a drop off from the veteran Kreider either way.

Tight End (+)

2009:  Ben Patrick, Anthony Becht, Steven Spach

2010:  Ben Patrick, Anthony Becht, Jim Dray

This year is the best chance for the Cardinals to actually develop a pass catching threat from the tight end position.  If it’s going to happen, it has to be Patrick.  In any event, I see this group improving because Patrick may flourish if the play calling pays him some attention.  Becht will continue to provide well above average blocking and Dray adds some fresh blood into the mix.

Tackle (+)

2009: Levi Brown, Mike Gandy, Keith Bridges

2010: Levi Brown, Brandon Keith, Reggie Wells

Anything other than Gandy would be an improvement this year.   The big question mark is whether 3rd-year man Brandon Keith is ready to start in the NFL.  I believe he is and he’ll have a better season than Gandy did in 2009.  In addition, Brown is moving back to his natural position on the left side.

Guard (+)

2009: Deuce Lutui, Reggie Wells

2010: Alan Faneca, Deuce Lutui, Reggie Wells

Lutui and Wells combined to provide adequate performance for the Cardinals at guard.  The two were maulers in the run game, but shaky protecting Warner.  Although there’s doubt as to whether Faneca is anywhere close to his old Pro Bowl form, his talent and veteran presence is an improvement for this position.

Center (push)

2009: Lyle Sendlein

2010: Lyle Sendlein

Reliable ‘ole Lyle will likely turn in the above average performance we’ve become accustomed to over the past few seasons.  He’s the anchor of the line.  Nothing new here.

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