Green and White Report's Rick Laughland goes Behind Enemy Lines to get the latest scoop on the Arizona Cardinals from AZRedReport's Brad Wibricht.
It's been a rough year to say the least for both the Jets and Cardinals, although each team took a very different path to 4-7. Arizona appears to have a quarterback carousel between Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley and John Skelton. Do you think any of these players are franchise signal-callers? Who has performed the best of that trio? The worst?
Out of the Cardinals' three quarterbacks, Kolb has been head and shoulders above Lindley and Skelton. Kolb went down with a rib injury in Week 6 and while he wasn't necessarily lighting things up, he gave Arizona a much better chance to win than its other two options. The Cardinals traded for Kolb and signed him to a lucrative long-term deal prior to the 2011 season but there are still major question marks surrounding him being a franchise quarterback. As for the other two, Skelton's time in the desert is all but done following his benching in favor of Lindley. Skelton was actually named the Week 1 starter earlier this year but an injury of his own forced Kolb under center. The jury is still out on Lindley and while he performed admirably in his first career start last week, he looked like a late-round draft pick to me. Personally, I don't see a franchise quarterback on this roster, but Kolb is at least a serviceable one.
Who has been the Cardinals MVP so far this season? What game changing plays has he made to spur Arizona to victory? What piece(s) do you think the front office will build around to assemble a contender in 2013 and beyond?
It's hard to even think of an MVP in the midst of seven-game losing streak, but reflecting back to the Cardinals' 4-0 start CB Patrick Peterson would probably be my answer. While Peterson isn't a great cover cornerback at this point in his career, he is a great return man. During Arizona's hot start, Peterson was making spectacular punt returns look routine and was consistently supplying the Cardinals offense with excellent field position. Peterson's impact in the return game, however, has been limited of late and he's become a liability in coverage at times. LB Daryl Washington is also someone who comes to mind as he's quietly put together an impressive season on a defense that's been steady for most of the season. Washington leads the team in tackles (79) sacks (9.0) and is tied for first in tackles for a loss (5). Peterson and Washington are two of the main cogs the front office will attempt to build around for years to come.
The Cardinals are near the bottom of the league rushing the football at No. 30 overall. Do you see running back as the team's top offensive priority either via the draft or free agency? Or do you think there are more glaring weaknesses at other positions that need to be addressed first?
Ironically, Arizona's running game has been consistently bad for years now. It hasn't been so much the fault of the team's running backs but more of ineptness along the offensive line. The Cardinals invested a second-round draft pick in Ryan Williams two years ago and while the team is still confident about his long-term contributions, he's been unable to shake injuries so far in his NFL career. Beanie Wells was taken with a first-round pick a few years back but his success has also been restricted by injuries. Both have potential, although Wells' time in the desert could be nearing an end. I don't see the Arizona front office investing heavily in another running back via the draft or free agency, but rather looking to attract some quality offensive linemen. It didn't help that both starting tackles were lost for the season (Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges) but the offensive line has long been a problem in Arizona that the team has failed to address.
Do you think Ken Wisenhunt's job is in jeopardy? Suffering losing records the last two seasons and through the majority of this year is he truly on the hot seat? Or is his the Super Bowl berth four years ago and 2009 divisional round playoff berth still fresh in the mind of ownership?
I'm not so sure that Whisenhunt's job is in jeopardy in the eyes of the Cardinals' ownership, but I'm a firm believer that it should be. Whisenhunt has mismanaged the quarterback position since Kurt Warner retired at the conclusion of the 2009 season and has failed to address the aforementioned issues along the offensive line. Whisenhunt has more input on player personnel the most NFL coaches, leaving him to take a portion of the blame on a roster that hasn't been competitive on a consistent basis for the past three years. Whisenhunt's staff has also had a great deal of turnover as he's burned through multiple offensive and defensive coordinators. Furthermore, many would say he's employed assistant coaches like Russ Grimm longer than he should without seeing results. The Super Bowl berth from the 2008 season and another playoff run during the 2009 campaign certainly help Whisenhunt's case and he'll likely get one more year to right the ship, but things could come burning down if drastic improvements aren't made in 2013.
With the likes of Calvin Johnson, Victor Cruz, Greg Jennings (just to name a few) garnering recognition as the NFL's premier receiving targets, where do you think Larry Fitzgerald stacks up? Do you think that the Cardinals' struggles have overshadowed his great play? How has lack of stability and effectiveness at QB limited Fitzgerald's production?
It's difficult to gauge where Fitzgerald stacks up at this point. The Cardinals' quarterback situation has been dreadful for the majority of the last three seasons and Fitzgerald has arguably suffered more than anyone on the Arizona offense. Fitzgerald is no doubt a great player, and is generally considered one of the top receivers in the game today. That said, his highlight reel of spectacular plays has been slowly declining since the retirement of Warner. A brief glimpse of the quarterbacks throwing him the ball quickly tells the story. The likes of Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton, Rich Bartel, Kevin Kolb and Ryan Lindley have been under center throwing Fitzgerald the ball. While Skelton and Kolb have been respectable at times, none of the other options have any business being a starter in the league. It's amazing that Fitzgerald has been as productive as he's been the past two years (170 catches for 2,548 yards) but the poor quarterback play appears to be catching up to his stat line this season.