QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Kevin Kolb. Backups -- John Skelton, Rich Bartel.
The trade for Kolb hasn't worked out yet for the Cardinals, but they retain hope that it will. He's expected to enter the offseason as the starter, but Skelton has closed the gap. He looked good in some starts last season, but was shaky at other times. Bartel is very smart and has a future in coaching one day. First, he'd like to make it as a player.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Beanie Wells, FB Anthony Sherman. Backups -- RB Ryan Williams, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB Alfonso Smith, RB Chester Taylor.
Wells played through a knee injury for most of the season and still gained more than 1,000 yards. But he likely will have to share more carries with Williams in 2012. Williams missed the season with a knee injury but if he's healthy, he's a big-play threat. Stephens-Howling is a situational player who excels in the open field. Smith has great speed and intriguing ability. Taylor likely won't return.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Levi Brown, LG Daryn Colledge, C Lyle Sendlein, RG Rex Hadnot, RT Brandon Keith. Backups -- G/T Jeremy Bridges, G Deuce Lutui, G/T D'Anthony Batiste, T D.J. Young.
The Cardinals need improvement, especially on the edges. Brown played better over the second half of the season, but he's been inconsistent for most of his five seasons, if such a thing is even possible. Keith isn't developing as hoped. Young spent most of the season on the practice squad so he's probably not ready to challenge. Batiste is intriguing. He played well in his only chance at extended action. Hadnot was average at right guard, and it's questionable if Lutui returns. Bridges could play there, but he's a better right tackle. Colledge and Sendlein might be the only starters to return in their same jobs. The Cardinals haven't drafted an offensive lineman in the past two years.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LE Darnell Dockett, NT Dan Williams, RE Calais Campbell. Backups -- NT David Carter, DE/NT Nick Eason, DE Vonnie Holliday, DE Ronald Talley.
Dockett and Campbell are elite players who should be together for some time. Williams could be a solid nose tackle if he got into shape and stayed there. That's been a problem. Carter is an excellent backup, and Eason is valuable because he can play too spots. Holliday could retire. Talley is a young player with minimal experience. Depth at this position needs to be addressed.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- LOLB Clark Haggans, SILB Paris Lenon, WILB Daryl Washington, ROLB Sam Acho. Backups -- ILB Reggie Walker, ILB/OLB Stewart Bradley, OLB O'Brien Schofield, OLB Brandon Williams.
Haggans will be 34, so Schofield could take his starting spot. Bradley will push Lenon, so that should be a position of strength. Washington is becoming an elite player, and Acho played like a veteran, not a rookie. This area has been upgraded greatly over the past two years. The team could still use more young OLBs.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Richard Marshall, RCB Patrick Peterson, SS Adrian Wilson, FS Kerry Rhodes. Backups -- CB Greg Toler, CB Michael Adams, CB Marshay Green, CB A.J. Jefferson, S Rashad Johnson, S Sean Considine, S Hamza Abdullah.
The cornerback position should be a strength if Marshall is re-signed. Peterson is an elite talent who has the skills to be as good as any corner. Marshall is versatile and has ability to play safety. Jefferson was given ample chances to start this year, but never showed much improvement. Toler could move into the starting lineup after missing the season with a knee injury. Johnson has value as a backup, as does Abdullah. Considine is a great special teams player.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Jay Feely, P Dave Zastudil, KOR LaRod Stephens-Howling, PR Patrick Peterson, LS Mike Leach.
Leach (35), Zastudil (33) and Feely (35)are not under contract. All had solid seasons so they could return. Or the team could try to upgrade. At their age, it would be surprised if they faced competition. Peterson returned four punts for touchdowns, tying an NFL record. Stephens-Howling didn't do much as a kick returner, but he didn't have much help from his blockers, either.
Cardinals: Unit-By-Unit Analysis
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