Thursday, August 9, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Arizona Cardinals


2011 Record: 8-8-0 (2nd in NFC West) 

HEAD COACH: Ken Whisenhunt

Key Additions: CB William Gay; DB James Sanders; OL Adam Snyder

Key Losses: WR Chansi Stuckey; CB Richard Marshall; DB Sean Considine; OL Rex Hadnot

Offense: There's a quarterback dilemma in Arizona as the 2012 season looms.
Kevin Kolb (1,955 passing yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions) was the big priced free agent signee last season, but missed time with injuries and was 2-6 as the starting quarterback. The other QB, John Skelton was 6-2 in his starting role.
On top of that, Kolb was shaken up in the pre-season opener last week, paving the way for Skelton to lead the offense once again. Skelton passed for 1,913 yards last year and had 11 TD passes and threw 14 picks.
So, it appears Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt will have a decision to make prior to the season opener against Seattle in one month.
The running game is all about Beanie Wells, who had his best season as a pro in 2011, going for 1,047 yards (4.3 ypc average) and scored ten touchdowns. LaRod Stephens-Howling is a good two-back, who rushed for 167 yards in limited action to go with 13 receptions for 234 yards and two touchdowns. The fullback is Anthony Sherman.
The star of the offense is wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who had another big season, with 80 receptions for 1,411 yards (17.6 average) and eight TD grabs.
Along with Fitzgerald is first round draft choice Michael Floyd (Notre Dame) as the other wide out, along with veterans Andre Roberts (51, 586 yards, two TD), Early Doucet (54, 689, 5 TD) and tight end Todd Heap, who made 24 catches for 283 yards and a score while battling injuries last season.
The offensive line, which must do a better job in pass protection after allowing 54 QB sacks a year ago, is anchored by center Lyle Sendlein. The guards are Daryn Colledge and Adam Snyder and the tackles are Levi Brown and rookie Bob Massie. Two other rookie draft picks, Senio Kelemete and Nate Potter, will get a look in pre-season while Ryan Bartholomew, D'Anthony Batiste and Jeremy Bridges are also available up front.
The Cardinals ranked 19th in the NFL in offense last year, averaging 325 yards per game with 223 passing per game, which was 17th in the league. The running game had 102 yards per game and finished 24th overall.

Defense: The Cardinals employ the 3-4 look and have Dan Williams at nose tackle. The ends are Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, who led the team with eight QB sacks a year ago.
The linebackers will be Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington (five sacks and two interceptions) on the inside with Sam Acho (seven sacks) and O'Brien Schofield on the outside. Reggie Walker and Antonio Coleman will back up at linebacker.
The safeties are Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes while the corners will be Greg Toler and Patrick Peterson, who made two interceptions in his rookie season while also returning FOUR punts for touchdowns, which tied an NFL record. In addition, Peterson also set a new league record by having four 80-plus yard punt returns.
William Gay comes over from Pittsburgh to help at a corner spot and James Sanders provides depth at safety.
The Arizona defense picked it up in the second half of the 2011 season, which saw them finish 18th overall, giving up an average of 355 yards per game. The Cardinals allowed 231 yards passing per game and 124 yards rushing.

OUTLOOK: After a slow start, the team got it going as the defense improved and reserve QB John Skelton seemed to help spark the offense, especially during the final eight games, when the Cardinals routinely pulled off exciting wins, including four overtime victories.
But that was last year and the Cards cannot expect to continue to live "on the edge" and keep winning in that manner.
More consistency is needed, especially playing against the San Francisco 49ers twice as well as the NFC North and the AFC East teams this year.
A decent pass rush should be the norm once again (Arizona had 42 sacks last year) and if the secondary can come up with more interceptions after getting only ten last season, that would be a big plus for the team.
Whether it's Skelton or Kolb lining up under center is uncertain at this point, but the Cardinals do have some weapons with Fitzgerald and company to throw to and Peterson is always a threat to break one off on kick returns.
A lot has to go right for Arizona to contend with San Francisco in the NFC West, but don't count on that happening this season as the team would do well to finish at .500 once again. An 8-8 finish is the best this team should do this season as they attempt to continue to improve.

Week 1- vs. Seattle
Week 2- at New England
Week 3- vs. Philadelphia
Week 4- vs. Miami
Week 5- at St. Louis
Week 6- vs. Buffalo
Week 7- at Minnesota
Week 8- vs. San Francisco
Week 9- at Green Bay
Week 10- BYE
Week 11- at Atlanta
Week 12- vs. St. Louis
Week 13- at NY Jets
Week 14- at Seattle
Week 15- vs. Detroit
Week 16- vs. Chicago
Week 17- at San Francisco

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