NFL: The Arizona Cardinals Are Ready to Take the Next Step

It’s been some miserable times for the Arizona Cardinals and their fan base. I’ve been watching football for a long time, and I can only remember the Cardinals in the playoffs once. Things may change this upcoming season. Dennis Green will be entering his third year as the Cardinals head coach. The Front office was fortunate enough to get all-pro running back Edgerrin James from the Indianapolis Colts and draft Matt Leinart in the first round of the NFL Draft. Arizona has a pair of stud receivers in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald that can stretch the field and make big plays in the passing game. You can call me crazy, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Arizona Cardinals in the 2006-2007 NFC playoffs.

Let’s take a look at this young and talented team from the west.

OFFENSE

The heavenly skies shined on the Arizona Cardinals on the day of the NFL draft when Matt Leinart dropped down to the 10th pick of the first. Clearly when a player is drafted that high, he will be proclaimed the future of the franchise. That may be the case for Leinart, but he will have to sit a year and watch Kurt Warner direct the offense. Warner isn’t what he used to be when he was tossing the pig skin around so easily in St. Louis a few years back, but protection from the offensive line will give Warner time to light up the score board. The o-line was very disappointing in 2005; mainly because of injuries. Not one of the starting five linemen played every single game last year. It will be important for this unit to have some continuity to ensure that Warner stays on his feet and that running back Edgerrin James has lots of running room. James has rushed for 9,226 yards and 64 touchdowns in the seven years he played with the Indianapolis Colts. Now in Arizona, James will be looking to continue his success. He has reliable back-ups in JJ Arrington and Marcel Shipp who combined for 800 yards in 2005. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin may be the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL. In 2005, Boldin and Fitzgerald had identical numbers combining for 205 receptions, 2811 receiving yards, and 17 touchdowns.

DEFENSE

On the defensive line, ends Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor combined for 13.5 sacks in 2005, but could’ve had more if Berry didn’t go down due to injury midway thru the season. If both defensive ends can stay healthy this season, opposing offenses will be in lots of trouble.

The linebacker corps looks to be in disarray with the exception Karlos Dansby who had a monster year in 2005 with four sacks, three interception, two fumble recoveries, and two touchdowns.

Safety Adrian Wilson was the leader in the secondary last year, leading the team with 109 tackles and 8 sacks. Cornerback Antrel Rolle will be entering his 2nd season in the NFL and with the Cardinals. However, Rolle only played in 5 games last season due to injury. Rolle can be a shut down corner and the Cardinals hope he can become one. He will need to remain healthy to give the Cardinals more help in the secondary backfield.

A LOOK AT THE 2006 SCHEDULE

The Cardinals open up against the San Francisco 49ners at their new beautiful stadium on September 10th. Their next seven games will include teams like the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, and the Oakland Raiders. The Cards will need to come out of the weak NFC West division with a winning record in order to have a shot at the NFC playoffs. The Seattle Seahawks will be the toughest team that the Cardinals will face this season, but fortunately they will have two chances to beat them.

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