Cardinals: Inside the Numbers

Find out what numbers will make or break the Cardinals' quest to repeat as NFC West champions.

93: Led by the developing tandem of Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells, the Cardinals averaged 93 yards per game rushing a year ago. While that number is far from overwhelming, it proved to be a significant improvement from past years. It was Arizona's highest output on the ground since 2004 when Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith was wrapping up his career. Over the past four years, the Cardinals' rushing attack has managed less than 80 yards per contest. With Wells expected to emerge as one of the top running backs in the NFC along with Hightower's ability to pickup tough yardage, look for that number to break the century mark in 2010.

234: Arizona's pass defense has struggled in recent years and its deficiencies continued last season. The Cardinals allowed 234 yards per game through the air and the team's secondary proved to be a liability throughout the year. Despite the struggles, there is hope for improvement. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is closer to becoming a shut-down corner and Greg Toler has potential on the other side of the field. Meanwhile, Arizona's upgraded pass rush should help return the team's pass defense to respectability. The Cardinals have allowed over 220 yards per game passing in each of the past three campaigns but will need to inch closer to the 200-yard mark this year.

Larry Fitzgerald
(AP Photo)

36.3: Even with veteran Kurt Warner under center the Arizona offense struggled on third downs. The Cardinals converted on just 36.3 percent of their third down attempts in 2009. With Warner and Pro Bowl wideout Anquan Boldin no longer in the desert, it will be extremely difficult to advance this number during the upcoming season. Matt Leinart will be given a second chance to lead Arizona's offense but his consistency has fluctuated up to this point in his career. Furthermore, with Boldin gone, Larry Fitzgerald will encounter more attention from opposing defenses. The one aspect working in the Cardinals' favor here is an enhanced running game.

886: While an abundance of penalties didn't necessarily translate to losing in 2009, it's clearly an area where Arizona needs to display better discipline. The Cardinals racked up 886 penalty yards on 108 infractions, both ranking near the bottom of the NFL. Since head coach Ken Whisenhunt arrived in the desert, limiting penalties has arguably been his main nemesis. Arizona led the league in penalties during Whisenhunt's first season in 2007 after being flagged an astounding 137 times for 1,128 yards. With several key contributors gone, the Cardinals have a smaller margin for error and must limit penalties to sustain their recent success.

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