The Cardinals started this season 4-0 and everyone hoped on the bandwagon. Idiots like Michael Silver put them first in their Power Rankings, overlooking their general lack offensive of talent. Apparently everyone forgot that the Bills and Redskins did a similar thing just last year before falling back down to earth. Having a strong stretch in the middle of the season usually goes unnoticed, but when you do it to begin a season apparently that means you’re for real, even if your quarterback is Kevin Kolb, you can’t run the football or pass protect and your only good offensive player is Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals fell back down to earth the following week against St. Louis, but what happened next was worse than anyone could have imagined. Kolb got hurt and didn’t play the rest of the way and things went from mediocre to just plain painful at quarterback. John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, and Brian Hoyer played the rest of the way and only the latter even looked like he belonged on an NFL field.
That trio combined to throw for 3 touchdowns to 18 interceptions, wasting Fitzgerald (71/798/4) and the Cardinals won just 1 game (a defense and special teams led effort) the rest of the way. Ryan Lindley was the worst of the trio, setting the NFL record for most career pass attempts without a touchdown (171), while concurrently throwing 3 touchdowns to the defense. John Skelton wasn’t much better, throwing 2 touchdowns to 9 interceptions, while becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to get benched for Ryan Lindley twice (including once when his team led 13-0). Skelton was also at the helm for most of the Cardinals’ 58-0 bloodbath loss in Seattle.
Ken Whisenhunt was fired for the offense’s ineptitude and, owed 11 million next season, the future of the injury prone and inconsistent Kolb remains murky at best. Whoever takes over this job will have a massive task in rebuilding this offense as they were among the worst in the NFL in all three critical areas, passing, rushing, and offensive line. They ranked 32nd in YPA, YPC, and sacks allowed and advanced offensive line statistics didn’t paint any brighter of a picture. They ranked 29th in the league in pass block efficiency and they were ProFootballFocus’ 32nd ranked run blocking offensive line. It’s a shame because they have a solid defense. If they can ever get the offense figured out, they might be able to compete.
Kevin Kolb won’t be back at his scheduled 11 million dollar salary in 2013, so the Cardinals have an obvious need at quarterback. In spite of his shortcomings and his injury history, Kolb is the only passable quarterback on their roster. They had 3 other quarterbacks start games for them this season and they combined to throw 3 touchdowns to 18 interceptions. The Cardinals may opt to bring Kolb back at a cheaper price or bring in a veteran like Alex Smith or Michael Vick, but if they don’t have a quarterback in place by draft day, expect them to take one at #7 overall. A 2nd rounder won’t be ready right away, especially in this weak quarterback class, and they don’t have anyone to function as a stopgap.
It might be best for the Cardinals to address the quarterback position before the draft so they can address the offensive line at #7. They might address the offensive line during free agency with 2008 1st round picks Jake Long, Branden Albert, Ryan Clady, and Gosder Cherilus all possibly being free agents this offseason (though they could be franchised), but it’s unclear if the Cardinals will have the cap space to get into bidding wars for those guys.
Either way, offensive tackle is a huge need for them. Their offensive line settled down a little bit when D’Anthony Baptiste was benched midseason, but they still ranked 29th in the league in pass block efficiency. They can’t feel comfortable with Nate Potter and Bobby Massie being their starting offensive tackles in 2013. They were 7th and 4th round picks respectively in 2012 and predictably struggled as rookies.
Tackle wasn’t the only issue for the Cardinals on the offensive line. Adam Snyder was ProFootballFocus’ 78th ranked guard out of 81 eligible. In 2011, with the 49ers, he was 76th out of 78. I have no idea why the Cardinals gave him a 5 year, 17.5 million dollar deal last offseason, but he’s owed a non-guaranteed 2.9 million in 2013 and even if he’s back, it shouldn’t be as a starter. This is arguably a bigger need than tackle because, unlike Massie and Potter, Snyder is not young and didn’t improve down the stretch.
I feel like I’ve been writing that Paris Lenon needs to be upgraded since he was in Detroit, but one of the league’s most marginal talents has somehow gotten starting jobs in St. Louis and Arizona since. There’s no getting rid of him. It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone as marginal as him last this long in the league. However, he’s been even worse over the last few years as he’s aged, ranking next to last among middle linebackers on ProFootballFocus in each of the last 2 years. Heading into his age 36 season in 2013, they really need a new starter inside next to Daryl Washington.
The Cardinals ranked 23rd in pass rush efficiency last season despite good play from their defensive line. O’Brien Schofield and Sam Acho ranked 25th and 30th respectively out of 34 eligible among rush linebackers on ProFootballFocus last season. They at least need some competition for the young linebackers as they also lack depth behind them and both have had some injury issues.
Kerry Rhodes revitalized his career this season, but Adrian Wilson had arguably the worst season of his career next to him. He was removed in sub packages and even admitted himself that he doesn’t expect to be back with the team next season, owed 3.5 million in his age 34 season. They could bring in a replacement for him in the starting lineup or they may opt to go forward with Rashad Johnson, who saw increased playing time down the stretch, as a starter in 2013. Either way, I think they do need to add some youth at the position as Rhodes will be a free agent heading into his age 32 season next offseason.
The Cardinals really struggled at the cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson. William Gay was terrible, while 3rd round rookie Jamell Fleming barely saw the field. They have other needs so they’ll probably give Fleming the first crack at the starting job in 2013, but it wouldn’t hurt them to add some extra competition.
Chris Wells is not expected to be back. The former 1st round pick is coming off an injury plagued season in which he averaged just 2.7 YPC and before week 17’s game he said he was auditioning for the other 31 teams in that game. He didn’t play a single snap. With Ryan Williams coming off his 2nd major injury in as many years, they could use some better insurance than La’Rod Stephens-Howling and William Powell, who were inconsistent when counted on this season. There’s a reason the Cardinals finished the year ranked dead last in YPC at 3.4.