Offensive struggles plagued Cardinals in 2011

It doesn't take hours of tape analysis to figure out why the Cardinals didn't make the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

It doesn't take hours of tape analysis to figure out why the Cardinals didn't make the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

The offense still has serious problems, specifically average to poor quarterback play.

Sure, the Cardinals have other offensive problems. They need better play from their tackles and another receiver to complement Larry Fitzgerald. A lack of depth at running back also contributed.

But inefficient quarterback play was the biggest reason the team went 8-8.

Kevin Kolb and John Skelton were upgrades over Derek Anderson, who struggled the previous season. But the trade for Kolb has yet to pay dividends.

Kolb missed seven games due to injury -- four to a foot problem and the last three games due to a concussion. That obviously hindered his development in an offense that is drastically different than that of the Eagles.

The problem going forward with Kolb is two-fold. His durability is an issue. He's had two concussions in each of his two seasons as a starter in the NFL.

Symptoms persisted for nearly a month, and Kolb is expected to take another neurological exam in late January or February.

The Cardinals don't seem concerned about his long-term prognosis, however.

The second concern with Kolb is that he didn't play well when he was healthy. He never seemed comfortable in this offense, and that showed up mostly in a lack of presence in the pocket.

He didn't move well enough in the pocket to buy more time for himself. Under pressure, he tended to retreat too often, turning 6-yard sacks into 12.

Coaches continue to profess faith in Kolb, and he did show signs he could be effective. His best half of the season came against the Cowboys the week before he suffered the concussion.

Skelton was 5-2 as a starter, but that record is deceiving. The Cardinals won seven of their last nine because the defense made great improvement. Skelton just happened to be the starting quarterback in that time.

But Skelton showed enough to make coaches optimistic about his future. He's smart, tough and resilient. He has good arm strength and a short delivery, especially for someone 6-6 and 245 pounds. He's deceptively agile, and showed he can create something positive when his blocking breaks down.

But Skelton also was shaky in the first half of most of his starts. He makes poor decisions at times, and his accuracy needs to improve, especially on short to mid-range throws.

As inconsistent as their quarterback play was in 2011, the Cardinals are expected to stick with the same trio of players in 2012: Kolb, Skelton and Rich Bartel.

Kolb likely will enter the offseason as the starter, but Skelton will be given a chance to win the job.

The Cardinals are counting on an offseason of work rectifying their shortcomings at quarterback. It's a critical gamble, but one they have to take.

They gave up too much for Kolb to bail out after one season. They will pay him a $7 million roster bonus in March and hope that his growing pains, and those caused by injuries, are gone in 2012.

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