Monday, July 2, 2012
2012 pre-camp analysis: Cardinals 'O'
By Mike Sando
Our two-day look at NFC West rosters continues with projections for the Arizona Cardinals' offense.
Average number kept since 2003: 3.0
Safest bets: Kevin Kolb, John Skelton
Leading contenders: Ryan Lindley, Rich Bartel
Longer odds: none
Comment: Coach Ken Whisenhunt was ready with a quip when asked to pinpoint when the team would like to have its quarterback competition settled. Two years ago, he said. Instead, Kolb and Skelton figure to battle deep into the exhibition season. The Cardinals have five preseason games to use for evaluation. Bartel's grip on the No. 3 job could be ending after Arizona used a sixth-round pick for Lindley.
Running backs (8)
Average number kept since 2003: 5.2
Safest bets: Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, Anthony Sherman, LaRod Stephens-Howling
Leading contenders: Alfonso Smith
Longer odds: William Powell, Javarris James, Jared Crank
Comment: The Cardinals have been banking on Wells and Williams returning from knee injuries. Neither participated fully in offseason workouts or practices. Wells' agent said the team was playing it safe with his client to maximize Wells' availability in 2012. The team did not make lineup contingency plans in case Wells or Williams isn't ready or suffers additional injuries. It's Wells and Williams or bust at this point. Sherman is developing into a first-rate fullback. Stephens-Howling has been one of the better special-teams players around. Smith also has value on special teams if the Cardinals decide to keep a fifth back in Week 1, as they have done for the past four seasons.
Wide receivers (12)
Average number kept since 2003: 6.1
Safest bets: Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet
Leading contenders: Isaiah Williams, Stephen Williams, DeMarco Sampson, Jaymar Johnson
Longer odds: LaRon Byrd, Stanley Arukwe, Tre Gray, Gino Crump
Comment: The Cardinals have never kept fewer than six wideouts on their Week 1 roster since Whisenhunt became coach. They kept seven in 2009. Arizona appears to have excellent quality through its top four options at the position. Fitzgerald is an all-time great and in his prime. His presence should help free Floyd to produce as a rookie first-round draft choice, provided the team's quarterbacks do a better job finding open receivers. Floyd's arrival signals Roberts' move to the slot, where the Cardinals think he's ideally suited. Doucet was productive from the slot on third down last season.
Tight ends (6)
Average number kept since 2003: 3.2
Safest bets: Todd Heap, Jeff King, Rob Housler
Leading contenders: Jim Dray, Steve Skelton
Longer odds: Martell Webb
Comment: This position should become a strength with Housler's expected emergence as a fast, athletic receiving threat. Again, the Cardinals are counting on Kolb and/or Skelton to find the open receivers they missed too frequently last season. Age and injury concerns follow the 32-year-old Heap into his 12th season and second with the Cardinals. His $2 million salary would not appear to put him at significant risk, provided Heap bounces back this season. King exceeded expectations as a receiver last season. The Cardinals had never kept more than three tight ends on their Week 1 roster until last season, when they kept four.
Offensive linemen (15)
Average number kept since 2003: 8.7
Safest bets: Levi Brown, Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein, Adam Snyder, Jeremy Bridges, Bobby Massie
Leading contenders: Senio Kelemete, D'Anthony Batiste, Nate Potter
Longer odds: D.J. Young, Braeden Clayson, Ryan Bartholomew, Scott Wedige, Chris Stewart, Blake DeChristopher
Comment: Sendlein and Colledge give the Cardinals two solid contributors on the perimeter. The team is counting on Brown to build upon the improvement he showed at left tackle late last season. Brown does appear determined to shake his negative reputation. Questions abound on the right side of the line. Snyder appeared headed for a backup job somewhere when the Cardinals gave him $3.5 million per season, including $5 million up front, to start at right guard. Pairing Snyder with Bridges or Massie on the right side would seem to invite trouble. Perhaps the Cardinals know something others do not. Can line coach Russ Grimm develop the young talent Arizona added through the draft?