WEEK 9: vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS
Date: Sunday, Nov. 4. Time: noon. TV: Fox.
2011 record: 8-8. Points scored: 312 (24th). Points against: 348 (17th).
Noteworthy: The Cardinals paid a heavy price for Kevin Kolb — six years for $65 million, plus a second-round pick and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. For that, Kolb produced a 3-6 record. John Skelton, a fifth-round pick out of Fordham in 2010, led the team to a 5-2 mark. All of the wins came in come-from-behind fashion. How's this: The Cardinals have been outscored in 30 of their last 35 seasons. The series: The Packers are 13-5 in games before their bye, including wins in each of the last four seasons.
TRAINING CAMP GOALS
1. Pick a starting quarterback. Kurt Warner retired more than two years ago, but the Cardinals are still trying to replace him. The major storyline of this training camp will be the competition between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. Kolb should have the edge, given the Cardinals have paid him $19 million already and gave up a considerable amount in trade to get him. But Kolb's first season in Arizona was marked by injuries (foot, concussion) and poor performances. Skelton showed moxie and the ability to play well in the fourth quarter. But he also had the advantage of starting late in the season when the defense started improving. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has said he would like for Kolb to be the starter, but that Skelton earned a shot at the job with his performance last season.
2. Improve offensive line performance. The right side of the offensive line could feature two new starters. Adam Snyder, a free agent from the 49ers, is expected to hold down the right guard job. Bobby Massie, a fourth-round pick, is going to get every opportunity to earn the right tackle job. He'll have to beat out veteran Jeremy Bridges. The offensive line has taken a lot of heat in Whisenhunt's five seasons. Some of it has been justified, some not. The biggest target has been left tackle Levi Brown, the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft. Brown's performance has been underwhelming overall, yet the team signed him to a new deal this season. The Cardinals did that based on two things: the free-agent market for left tackles was shallow, and Brown played the best football of his career over the last half of the season.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Tight end Rob Housler, a third-round pick in 2011, has the skills to be an impact player. He runs a 4.5 40-yard dash and catches the ball well, although injuries limited his playing time as a rookie. Housler was impressive in offseason drills, and it appears the Cardinals want to make him a big part of the offense. If Housler and veteran Todd Heap are healthy, the Cardinals think they have a dangerous combo that will present many problems for defenses. The team tried to use the tight end more last season, but Kolb and Skelton both had trouble hitting them when they were open. Jeff King remains the team's best all-around tight end, but Housler could emerge as a dangerous threat down the seam.
ON THE HOT SEAT
No one is feeling more heat on his rear end than quarterback Kevin Kolb. He missed seven games last season with injuries: a fractured foot and a concussion. The concussion symptoms didn't subside for nearly two months, including a month after the season ended. Kolb has handled the criticism well and is determined to prove the Cardinals made a wise decision in trading for him last summer. But many fans seemed to have turned against him, and Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves have been criticized for the trade and for paying Kolb so much money. Kolb is facing competition from John Skelton, but it's clearly Kolb's job to lose. Whisenhunt has shown before he'll make a surprise choice at the position. (Kurt Warner over Matt Leinart in 2008).
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