Focus On the Future: Offense vs. Defense

Few could argue against the claim that the Arizona Cardinals have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL today. With pro bowl talent at the skill positions and a young offensive line, this team seems poised to put up big points for at least the next three years. Don’t think so, well think about these statistics:

- The Cards led the league in Points off of Turnovers with 127

- They had the second best % of TDs / trip to the Red Zone in the league, second only to New England

- They had the 5th ranked Passing attack in the league

- RB Edgerrin James tallied his second straight 1000+ yard season with over 1200 yards from scrimmage

As evidenced during their 48-19 trouncing of the St Louis Rams in the season finale, a victory which gave the club its first non-losing season in 9 years and only the thrid since coming to AZ, the offense under Ken Whisenhunt and Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley is really hitting its stride.

But there were obvious deficencies in the ground game, preventing Edge from having a much bigger role in the offense. After blowing open holes in the first three contests, the O-Line struggled to find its toughness and looked overmatched at times on the road against teams like Seattle, New Orleans and Baltimore, whose speed on the D-Line was too much for the Cards young O-Line to handle. But a second year under Russ Grimm and a returning group of starters with experience playing a season together should only aid to improve this unit.

Ken Whisenhunt has acknowledged that there are things to shore up on the offensive side of the ball, but it was the deficencies on defense and the lack of depth in the secondary that really killed this team’s chance at the playoffs. Injuries to Adrian Wilson and starting CB Eric Green as well as free agent bust Terrance Holt added to the secondary’s woes.

So as the 2008 NFL Draft looms large on the horizon, the Cards sit with the 16th pick overall. There are several areas to address, and several questions to answer:

1. The Cards are still in desparate need of a lock down CB, as 2005 first round pick Antrel Rolle seems destined to play safety. Do the Cards gamble on a CB in the first round or do they try to stretch their pocketbooks and pick up a big time free agent in the offseason (DeAngelo Hall and Asante Samuel come to mind)?

2. While DT Darnell Dockett had a career year and DE Antonio Smith was solid all season long, the Cards still struggled to generate a consistent pass rush. This was also due to the injuries sustained by Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor. However, both are aging and Berry’s consistent injuries are starting to add up. Do you go after Calais Campbell from University of Miami in the draft, or do you go after DE Jason Taylor, from the Miami Dolphins? Veteran or rookie?

3. Edgerrin James looked great this year, but he will be turning 30 this offseason, and the Cards have no apparent heir to his spot on the depth chart. Marcel Shipp is a great special teamer, but he is a career backup. JJ Arrington has developed into a great receiver out of the backfield, but he is not an every down type of back. So what do you do? Do you try to pick up a speedster now to compliment Edge in a 2 Back system, or do you focus on Defense?

There are alot of questions to have answered prior to April’s draft, and a lot of what the Cards are going to do is dependant upon the contract negotiations with soon-to-be Unrestricted Free Agents Karlos Dansby and Calvin Pace. But this team has that core element to make some playoff runs over the next couple of years, and with the offense finishing as strongly as they did in 2007 set to return at full force in 2008, I think the DEFENSE is going to see the biggest upgrades.


Mike Duggan

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