A dismal record and the failure of some key veterans to play well have allowed coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff to take a long look at young players this season.
Six rookies, including four draft picks, already have started. A fifth draft pick, linebacker O'Brien Schofield, would have started last week if the Cardinals had not switched alignments to a 4-3.
The only other rookie not to start is nose tackle Dan Williams, the first-round pick. He's played over the last month, however.
"We had a lot of young players play well," Whisenhunt said after Saturday's victory over the Cowboys.
The performance of the youngsters, however, shouldn't overshadow the fact that some key veterans have disappointed this season.
Defensive end Darnell Dockett has not been dominant, probably because of a shoulder stinger that has reduced his strength. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and safety Adrian Wilson, both Pro Bowlers, have played below standards, as have inside linebacker Gerald Hayes and end Calais Campbell.
Offensively, running back Beanie Wells did not have the breakthrough year expected. Tim Hightower's fumbling problems continued, and both rookie quarterbacks, Max Hall and John Skelton, had shaky outings.
The Cardinals' challenge this offseason will be to figure out if those players just had an off year, if their skills were diminished, or if motivation was lacking.
It's a tough call that will have a huge impact on the 2011 season.
Cardinals: Silver Linings in Difficult Season
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