Arizona Cardinals: Cardinals Chatter

Jul 28, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle Paul Fanaika (74) looks on during training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

2013 preview: Arizona Cardinals.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

2012 Record: 5-11. Missed Playoffs.

What is the team’s biggest obstacle?

This is simple: The Arizona Cardinals had possibly the worst offensive line in league history last season as they ranked dead last in yards per rush as well as sacks given up per pass attempt. There was only one other team in the past 30 years that ranked last in those two categories and that was the first-year expansion Houston Texans, who basically ended David Carr’s career before it even started. It’s no surprise that such a horrendous line burned through four different starting quarterbacks and ruined Kevin Kolb, who just two years earlier was the most sought-after free-agent quarterback on the market. The Cardinals’ two starting tackles, D’Anthony Batiste and Bobby Massie were Nos. 1 and 2 in sacks given up, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Massie got markedly better by season’s end and the team selected arguably the best player in the entire draft, Jonathan Cooper, to secure the interior of the line. In addition to the improving Massie, Levi Brown will return after missing all of 2012 with a torn triceps and while there are no guarantees he will be at full strength, anything he can give will be better than Batiste. As an insurance policy, the Cardinals were wise to sign Eric Winston, who can spot start on either side and provide much-needed depth. Other than his remarks about crowd booing in Kansas City, Winston had a very forgettable season last year, but it wasn’t long ago that he was road-grading lanes for leading rusher Arian Foster in 2010.

This is a much-improved unit from last year, but that group was so bad in 2012 that they will have to prove themselves over and over again before I say they are anything more than the weakest link on this team.

Taylor Jones, Fox Sports.

Paul Fanaika taking advantage of opportunity in Arizona Cardinals camp.

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians has a saying — when you get an opportunity, you’re either going to get exposure or you’re going to get exposed.

So far, guard Paul Fanaika has had all his clothes on. Filling in at right guard while starter Daryn Colledge deals with a leg injury, Fanaika has opened some eyes through the first week of training camp.

“He’s done a great job with his exposure,” Arians said. “He’s played extremely solid. I can’t say enough what he has done with his chance.”

It’s not as if the Cardinals are without other options to fill that spot, either. Behind Fanaika on the current depth chart are the likes of Chilo Rachal, a six-year veteran, and the team’s 2013 fourth-round pick, Earl Watford.

When asked whether Fanaika could even challenge Colledge, Arians suggested he could.

“I think any time you get the exposure he’s gotten and do that well with it, the guy behind you that’s hurt, he needs to get back out there,” Arians said.

Zach Buchanan, azcentral.com.

Cardinals’ big-play philosophy, continued.

The way Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer sees things, his team will need big plays in the absence of extended drives to compete against rugged NFC West defenses.

“If they make a mistake, hold the ball and chuck it for a 60-yard gain,” Palmer said from training camp recently when explaining coach Bruce Arians’ mindset. “Don’t take the checkdown, checkdown, checkdown. In this division especially, you can’t go seven or eight drives a game trying to get 12- to 14-play drives. The defenses are too good.”

Arians points to 15 yards for runs and 25 yards for passes as parameters for “explosive” plays.

Last season, NFL teams averaged 0.7 points per drive without an explosive play and 3.8 yards per drive with at least one of them (using Arians’ parameters). The chart, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information, breaks down the averages by NFC West defenses.

“I have been so ingrained to get completions, get completions, get completions,” Palmer said. “[Arians] is more, ‘Let’s take shots when we can. Let’s take advantage of those mistakes, guys being a little bit out of practice, a guy not quite getting to the hash or a guy not quite getting outside the numbers. If he stays inside the numbers, let’s take this opportunity. Play offense.’ ”

Can the Cardinals strike for big plays in the passing game without taking too many quarterback hits or sacks? We’ve heard from Arians on the matter, and from Palmer. Their philosophy will be a frequent reference point for Cardinals-related analysis this season.

Mike Sando, ESPN.

Topics: Arizona Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald, Paul Fanaika

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