Nobody is talking up the Cardinals this year... which is odd, usually, a couple guys in the media and especially in pheonix will go out on limb for the Red Birds. The last time this happened they beat the Cowboys in the Playoffs (And THE boys haven't won a playoff game since, sweet... I HATE bandwagon fans!)
This is just the calm before the storm... "the time to buy" (in stock market terms). Something is different and this organization knows it, and they are giving the word "coy" it's true meaning. The hush is almost defening and Leinart's struggles are adding another "red harring trail" away from the TRUE story... The Cardinals have a COMPLETE TEAM!
My hypothesis: this team has always had a few stars to point to among other solid complements but, weak spots always proved to be the downfall. I admit I have been taken in by the hype in the past but, with age comes wisdom and I was apprehensive to call a playoff run last year after predicting it the year before...(not pretty, although competetive).
Last year was an impressive one by the Cards in many aspects and the weaknesses were extremely simple...
Warner was hurt EARLY in the game vs Carolina and also had that OT debacle vs the 49ers... Otherwise, they would have been undefeated at home.
On the road, the Cardinals lost 5 of 6 games by less than a touchdown-- including a miracle comeback with Warner subing for leinart at Baltimore that was given away by a ridiculus roughing penalty on Adrian Wilson's (A-dub) beautiful hit on Heap. Don't forget the opening Monday Night at SF with Leinart at the helm.
This was a solid 11-5 team that was headed under a new system (Whisenhunt), with young talent, not to mention the most penalized team in the NFL.
The greatest weakness was still the O-line which Russ Grimm (former Hog) has already taken to new levels. In the off-season, Zona grabbed several solid 3-4 backers and rushers to add incredible depth to a solid but, eventually exhausted front 7. In the secondary, Rolle is finally moved to safety where he flurished in the dime last year and DRC adds a speed and virtical dimension to challenge the more talented receivers.
With the steap learning curve behind them and all weak spots strengthened... The Arizona Cardinals are the intriguing team to bet on in Vagas.
But, I keep hearing "Suspect Defense"!?! AND "NO Running Game"!?! Are you paying attention? The Cardinal Starters were almost complete last year and had some setbacks when key weapons (A-dub, Fitz, Q, Berry, Green, Okeafer, Francisco) were injured. Weaknesses at the Free safety position, late-game front seven fatigue and lame 2nd team backups presented problems but, the Cards have more than compensated this off-season...
Look at what the Cards front seven looks like now: Dockett, Watson, Branch, Smith, Campbell, Iwebema, Berry, LaBoy, Dansby, Hayes, Haggans, Harringon, Biesel, Highsmith, Tafoya, and Moore. That's Right! 16 guys, all getting time with impressive production against 1st stringers in a flexible/creative 3-4 hybrid defense that has reached an obviously supreme comfort level. It'll be hard to cut any of them and fresh, qualified legs in the fourth quarter will be terrorizing... especially with a lead; and they'll have the lead!
With A-Rolle moving to Free Safety where he belongs and DRC flashing greatness at the nickel back position... the Secondary is saturated with stars. Opposing receivers are listening for the footsteps of this cunning and hard-hitting secondary, as the Cards defense will be reguarded as THE BEST and MOST FEARED IN THE NFL; as long as A-dub stays healthy... bar none!
Now, let us throw in the newly developed running game! WOW... WATCH OUT! I'm tickled and excited with what Russ Grimm has done with the O-line and with the superior draft the Cards have had this year (everyone looks like a 1st Rounder.... I'm not kidding!) Brandon Kieth (7th Round OT) is cleaning up DEs in camp as well as pre-season. I already mentioned the 3 rookies contributing mightily to the front 7.
Anyway, look at Tim Hightower running circles around 1st team Defenses (since Edge rarely plays in pre-season) and finding the endzone like a bodily function. Look at what JJ Arington has been able to do with holes... and even Edge got in a 25 yard punishing scramble! Say good-bye to the turnovers....
Even the young Tight Ends/Full backs (Pope, Ben Patrick, and Tim Castille) are flurishing this pre-season... racking in yards by the chunks and punishing tacklers after the catch...
The pressure on Fitzy-Q is now unloaded and the young speedster, Breaston complimented by two quick possession receivers (Urban and Doucet) will frustate and decimate opponents... It will be fun to watch! Warner is the master distributor and he is focused like a historian with Hindsight imagination! If you enjoyed "The greatest show on turf"... prepare for a "face melting" oncore!
Opposing Defenses are helpless! Offenses are being swarmed to submission and the special teams is loaded with firecrakers. The only significant TD given up this pre-season was aided by about 50 penalty yards on the first possession of the 1st game.
There are no other weaknesses other than back-up QB and back-up Strong Safety! Even those are improving with St.Pierre looking sharp running the 3rd string Offense and Oliver Celestin and former CB, Ware, bulking up in the off-season.
I'll say it again... If A-dub and Warner stay healthy (with much improved protection around them), The ARIZONA CARDINALS = SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS... Vegas baby!!!!!