Continuing in the NFC West, we have Jess Root from the Cardinals SBN site - Revenge of the Birds. He was nice enough to answer a few questions of mine about the Cardinals and gave some good information on his team. So please be nice, and wash your hands (and behind your ears) for Jess Root.
Jon: After Kurt Warner's retirement, what were your expectations for the 2010 season?
Jess: Warner's retirement was a crushing blow to the team, but not totally unexpected. No one expected the team to be a Super Bowl contender in 2010, but I personally expected the team to contend for NFC West title, being the favorite. Matt Leinart was set to take over and the running game was ideally going to be featured more. Many expected to see a change in offensive philosophy. That did not really happen.
But even with Warner retiring, along with Bertand Berry, and the loss of Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby, because the division was not expected to be good, almost all Cardinals fans expected a trip to the playoffs again.
Jon: What were the Cardinals main problems in 2010?
Jess: This is an over-simplification, but it basically came down to quarterback play. The inability to complete passes consistently when needed stalled the offense. The running game on paper was effective, but the playcalling was shoddy in that respect. Falling behind early and lack of patience with the running backs led to more throwing and more stalled offense. Exacerbating the QB play was the fact that Arizona had terrible play for their offensive tackles, both statistically being among the worst in the league at pass protection. When the offense could not stay on the field, the defense played too much and would get beaten up. The defense was able to create turnovers and score points off of them, but they were inconsistent.
There was little threat in the pass-rush. Calais Campbell did not step up the way he was expected to. Darnell Dockett suffered with a shoulder injury for part of the season, and that limited his effectiveness. Joey Porter looked old, slow and at times disinterested. Adrian Wilson looked slower, played worse in coverage, and missed more tackles than in the past. He was disappointing (even though when a guy makes it to the Pro Bowl it sounds silly to say that he disappointed). Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a down year.
Jon: What are your feelings on the rookie QBs Skelton and Hall?
Jess: Max Hall earned rock-star status when he started his first game and got a win over the defending champions. However, he did very little to win that game himself. Ken Whisenhunt thinks there is something to him, but he did not show the physical talent to be able to be a good QB in the league. But, hey, he is likeable, his is fiery and has a ton of moxie. He might return in 2011, but will have to battle for number three status.
John Skelton showed just enough to make some people think he will be good. The size and arm strength is there. He showed some ability to respond to pressure and avoid it, but he did not complete passes consistently. He was the victim of several dropped passes, but he is raw. He was not supposed to play last year and only did because Leinart was shipped out and both Derek Anderson and Max Hall were injured. He should not play this year. If he does, it will have been a wildly disappointing offseason. He might develop into a decent QB, but he is nowhere hear it yet.
Jon: Of all the "QB to Arizona" rumors floating around, which is the most likely and which would you prefer?
Jess: We have heard all the rumors. It is Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton, Marc Bulger, Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb and even Vince Young on any given day. Based on some hints that Ken Whisenhunt has given, I think the team leans towards Kolb, but may be turned away because of the price. I think the team probably has the QBs in the following order of preference -- Kolb, Orton, Bulger, Hasselbeck, Skelton, McNabb, Young.
My money is on a Kolb trade, and he is the guy I prefer. I buy into the hype that he will become very, very good. Am I worried about giving up too much? Yes, but ultimately I think the team has to do it.
Jon: What are your feelings on the Cardinals 2011 draft class?
Jess: The Cardinals draft class is solid. They got perhaps the best player in the draft in Patrick Peterson. They may have gotten the best running back. Robert Housler could be the best pass-catching tight end in the draft. In Sam Acho and Quan Sturdivant they have potentially great value. Anthony Sherman probably is the best fullback and special teams player in the draft. The one really big elephant in the room is the fact that Arizona, for the second year in a row, did not draft an offensive lineman. The offensive line happens to be a very big need.
Of the class, I would expect to see Peterson, Acho, Sherman and perhaps Housler starting at some point in the season.
Jon: What are the Cardinals free agency needs?
Jess: If we are going to include potential trades in free agency, then we will add quarterback. The Cardinals need a starting quarterback and maybe even a backup. They need offensive line help. Only one starter is under contract. They need depth on the defensive line, as they have only their starters under contract. They need a run-stopping inside linebacker and perhaps a veteran pass-rusher, but that is unlikely. The team is set at RB, TE and the secondary.
Jon: Finally, what do the Cardinals need to do in 2011 to win the NFC West?
Jess: Considering the quality of the teams in the division, really the only thing that separates the Cardinals from the playoffs is decent QB play. If they had had this last season, they would have been there. But it goes a little deeper. The defense needs to play better and the offensive line has to do a better job of protecting whomever will be the starting QB. But mainly it is the QB play. If they get a guy who performs at even an average level, they should be probably at least co-favorites to take the NFC West.
I would like to thank Jess Root for taking the time to do this. And for more on the Cardinals, check out Revenge of the Birds.