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Monday, June 27, 2011
Where Cardinals' problems start, not end

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

A potentially embarrassing confession: I spent a good chunk of my Sunday night taking a closer look at the Arizona Cardinals' forgettable, regrettable 19-12 defeat at Carolina in Week 15 last season.

The seemingly dreary experience beat just about anything this NFL offseason has offered up since the draft.

Watching football is fun. Watching bad football is more fun than watching a lockout.

Enduring this particular matchup made sense for me because it was the one Arizona game I hadn't yet charted from last season. The takeaway: While fixing the quarterback situation would do more for the Cardinals than any other single move the team could make this offseason, watching Arizona against Carolina served as a reminder that the team's problems do not end with the man behind center.

Beanie Wells, Early Doucet, Stephen Spach, Tim Hightower and Steve Breaston dropped passes in that game. The Arizona defense watched Jimmy Clausen post a career-best 107.6 rating while ending a seven-game losing streak as a starter to open his career (he is 1-9).

More consistency at quarterback should be enough for Arizona to contend again within an NFC West that remains in transition. The Cardinals will naturally exhale in relief when they finally do acquire a veteran quarterback this offseason. They aren't likely to find another Kurt Warner, however, and that means the supporting cast must carry more of the load.

Skelton will return, presumably in the No. 2 role. He showed enough athleticism and playmaking ability to factor into the longer-term equation. The comeback he led against Dallas in particular helps his cause. In general, Skelton was not ready to function when forced into obvious passing situations.

The chart breaks down Skelton's 2010 production by down and personnel group, based on information I track for NFC West teams.

Skelton completed 75 percent of his passes with a 119.8 rating when the Cardinals used pass-oriented personnel (four receivers) on a run-oriented down (first). He averaged only 2.7 yards per attempt with a 54.7 rating when Arizona used the same personnel on third down, when opponents knew the Cardinals would pass.

The Cardinals' new look on offense will go beyond quarterback in 2011. Using early draft choices for running back Ryan Williams and tight end Rob Housler was telling. The Cardinals know they need more than quarterback help on offense.