Arizona Cardinals

Stadium: University of Phoenix Stadium | Coach: Bruce Arians
Team RankingOverallRushingPassing
Offense12th96.2 (23rd)250.1 (11th)
Defense5th84.4 (2nd)233.0 (14th)

Cardinals report: Strategy and personnel

The Sports Xchange
 
Strategy and personnel · Notes, quotes · Inside slant
 

Kurt Warner's retirement decision was the biggest news of the offseason, but the Cardinals have issues to address elsewhere, too.

Left tackle Mike Gandy is an unrestricted free agent and the club is interested in re-signing him at a moderate price, certainly less than the $5 million he made in 2009.

Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby also will be unrestricted. It's doubtful the club will use the franchise tag on him again because it would guarantee him $14 million in 2010. They would like to have Dansby back, but he's dreaming of a deal comparable to DeMarcus Ware. The Cardinals won't pay him that much.

Free safety Antrel Rolle is due to make $8 million in salary in 2010, so the club will try to restructure his contract. That could get sticky, and the Cardinals won't break the bank to bring Rolle back.

A handful of coach Ken Whisenhunt's assistants must be re-signed, too. They balked earlier this season at the team's two-year extension offer because it didn't spell out how much they would be paid, or if they would be paid, in the event of a lockout in 2011.

--DE Bertrand Berry announced his retirement after 12 NFL season. He recorded 65 career sacks. "I've been playing football since I was 9 years old, 25 years, and with it coming to an end there is a little bit of sadness but at the same time it means there is a new beginning," Berry said. "It's been a great ride."

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACKS
Starter -- Matt Leinart. Backups -- Brian St. Pierre.

At 38, Kurt Warner had another excellent season, but chose to retire. Leinart becomes the starter. He was inconsistent in extended appearances this season, but coach Ken Whisenhunt still believes in him. The Cardinals want to see Leinart immerse himself in the game. St. Pierre is a decent No. 3 quarterback but he has herniated discs in his back. He suffered all season and there's a question if he will return. The Cardinals likely will need to draft a quarterback.

RUNNING BACKS
Starters -- RB Tim Hightower, FB Dan Kreider. Backups - RB Beanie Wells, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB-FB Jason Wright. Hightower is a versatile player who is excellent at picking up the blitz. But it will be hard for him to hold off Wells, who is more talented. Wells has big-play ability and is a physical runner. Stephens-Howling has a chance to become a productive third-down back and is great on special teams. Wright can also play some fullback and is a good special teams player.

TIGHT ENDS
Starter -- Ben Patrick. Backups -- Anthony Becht, Stephen Spach.

Patrick is a solid all-around tight end but is prone to injury. Becht is a smart veteran and a good blocker. Spach has some skills but has been injured a lot, too.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Starters -- Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin. Backups -- Steve Breaston, Early Doucet, Jerheme Urban, Sean Morey.

Fitzgerald turned in another 1,000-yard receiving season but he averaged 4 yards less per catch than previous seasons. He just wasn't able to get deep because coverages were designed to stop him. Boldin produced 1,000 yards, too, despite playing with nagging injuries. He didn't appear to be as quick as before and had trouble beating defenders one-on-one. He has one year left on his contract and could be traded. The Cardinals feel comfortable with Breaston starting and Doucet being the third receiver. Urban is an unrestricted free agent and won't return. He dropped too many passes and fumbled in critical situations. The club could add a receiver in the later rounds.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Starters -- LT Mike Gandy, LG Reggie Wells, C Lyle Sendlein, RG Deuce Lutui, RT Levi Brown. Backups -- G/T Jeremy Bridges, G Herman Johnson, T Brandon Keith, C Ben Claxton.

Sendlein played well this season and should be the starter for years. Lutui is a powerful run blocker who is getting better. Brown was the team's most consistent lineman but still gives up too many sacks. Wells didn't play up to his normal level this season, and coaches would like to see him improve his agility and conditioning. Gandy is an unrestricted free agent who played fair. It's questionable if he will be re-signed. If he leaves, the first option is to move Brown to left tackle and play Keith at right tackle. Coaches are high on Keith's potential. Claxton is nothing special, so the club might want to get a center in the draft or free agency.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Starters -- LDE Darnell Dockett, NT Bryan Robinson, RDE Calais Campbell. Backups -- DE/NT Alan Branch, DE Kenny Iwebema, NT Gabe Watson.

Dockett is an elite player and very disruptive, and Campbell produced seven sacks in his first season as a starter. They are solid starters. Robinson, at 35, could be replaced at nose tackle, but Watson is injury prone, and Branch has proven to be a better end. Branch still needs to lose 20 pounds or so. Iwebema is often injured, so the club could use some depth here.

LINEBACKERS
Starters -- LOLB Clark Haggans, ILB Gerald Hayes, ILB Karlos Dansby, ROLB Chike Okeafor. Backups -- OLB Will Davis, ILB Reggie Walker, ILB Monty Beisel, OLB Mark Washington. Injured reserve -- Cody Brown.

Haggans played very consistently, as did Dansby -- though the Cardinals would like more big plays from Dansby, who is an unrestricted free agent and might want too much money. Okeafor wasn't very good this season and won't be re-signed. Davis showed some pass rush skills, and Brown has a good future but suffered a wrist injury in camp. Walker has the coaches excited about his future, as does Washington, who was on the practice squad late in the season.

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Starters -- LCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, RCB Bryant McFadden, SS Adrian Wilson, FS Antrel Rolle. Backups -- CB/S Ralph Brown, CB Greg Toler, S Rashad Johnson, S Hamza Abdullah. Injured reserve -- S Matt Ware.

Rodgers-Cromartie is a lockdown corner with excellent coverage skills. He's not a willing tackler but he is an elite corner. McFadden was a disappointment as a free agent: He was beaten too often and missed too many tackles in the open field. Wilson is an elite safety who is better when he plays close to scrimmage. Rolle showed great improvement in his second year after moving from cornerback. Brown is a savvy veteran who is a stabilizing force for younger players. Toler has great athletic ability and should be able to compete with McFadden for the starting job. Johnson struggled as a rookie but coaches haven't given up on him. Ware was an important part of the pass defense until he suffered a knee injury in December. If Rolle's contract can't be re-worked, Ware could become the starter.

SPECIAL TEAMS
PK Neil Rackers, P Ben Graham, KR LaRod Stephens-Howling, PR Steve Breaston, LS Mike Leach.

Rackers was enjoying a good season until he suffered a torn groin muscle late. He's an unrestricted free agent and the team wants him back at the right price. Graham had a Pro Bowl-caliber season and was uncanny at pinning teams inside the 10. Stephens-Howling was solid as a kick returner, but Breaston doesn't get them much as a punt returner, though he is sure-handed. Leach was an excellent long snapper and decent in punt coverage.

Copyright (C) 2010 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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