Key Losses: RB Edgerrin James (Seahawks), DE Antonio Smith (Texans), RB J.J. Arrington (Broncos, now FA), FB Terrelle Smith (Lions), LB Monty Beisel (Chiefs), TE Leonard Pope (Cut), S Aaron Francisco (Cut), LB Victor Hobson (Cut), FB Tim Castille (Cut).
Draft: RB Chris Wells (1st), DE/LB Cody Brown (2nd), S Rashad Johnson (3rd), CB Greg Toler (4th), OT Herman Johnson (5th), DE/LB Will Davis (6th), RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (7th), OG Trevor Canfield (7th).
In 2008 the Arizona Cardinals shocked the world by winning their division, dominating in the playoffs, and coming within 2 minutes of winning the Super Bowl. Despite doubters who thought that the Cardinals were not a legitimate playoff team, the Red Birds put together three playoff victories and were within two minutes of winning Super Bowl 43. The same doubters are now describing last season, and especially last January, as a "fluke" or claiming that the Cardinals will be another team to fall victim to the dreaded "Super Bowl curse." These are the type of comments that the team thrived on in the playoffs and they hope they can use it to their advantage this season.
After the Super Bowl loss there were some key areas that the Cards hoped to address this off season that plagued them throughout the year last year. Anquan Boldin, Darnell Dockett (or Nine-0), Karlos Dansby, Adrian Wilson, and Kurt Warner all wanted or needed new contracts. They took care of three of those five mentioned, Warner got a two year deal, Dansby was franchised, and Wilson got a five year deal. Q and Nine-0 were told they won't talk contract until they are in the final year of their deals. Other areas of need were upgrading were the rushing attack, the secondary, and special teams. They added to each group by drafting RB Beanie Wells, signing Jason Wright (a beast on special teams), and signing DB Bryant McFadden. They hope that these new additions will upgrade their respective units.
The 2008 offense that dominated so much returns with just a few changes this season and more experience. The team lost their most productive RB in a long time by cutting Edge and replacing him with Wells. Wells was a monster tail back for Ohio State and he hopes to have the same success in the NFL. So far though he has been injured but from the two games he has played in he has shown enough that Cardinals fans are already asking for him to start the opener against the Niners. That starting job will go to Tim Hightower who has lost body fat and put on more muscle to prove that he can be a reliable back in this league. This unit also replaced RB J.J. Arrington, our 3rd down back and kick returner, with Hyphen (Howling) whom they hope can be just as elusive and fast as JJ was on kick returns.
The rest of the offense is virtually the same with the exception of Anthony Becht, who was added to the tight ends mix, and receiver Lance Long. The starting 5 on the OL return and should be better having another year under Russ Grimm and backups like Brandon Keith and Elton Brown. Keith looking especially promising and could be a future starter. All in all this offense still has all the potential to look just as good as last year and if they all stay healthy they should be among the best again.
The defensive unit is loaded with talent, just like the offense, but their problem is actually doing their job every week on a consistent basis. One week the can get constant pressure on a QB, no matter how good the OL is, and they win the turnover battle. The next week they won't do either of those and allow several touchdowns. The problem is that they are already showing these problems again in preseason play, playing very well in the first two games and than doing the opposite in the last two. There is no doubt that if this team wants to continue the success they had last year the defense will have to perform as they did in January. They can't make stupid mistakes and they need to play hard every down, which some players have a hard time doing unless on a national stage game that puts them in the spotlight (Darnell Dockett).
The strength of this team on defense has to be the secondary with Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle manning the safety positions and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and newly acquired Byrant McFadden manning the corners. Although they have struggled in preseason this unit is considered by many to be one of the top secondaries in the league, something they were far from last season.
The weakest part of the defense has to be the front seven (LB and DL). They lack a whole lot of depth at these positions, which we need since Clark Haggans, Bertrand Berry, and Chike Okeafor are all over 30. Calais Campbell is trying to replace Antonio Smith, who was very important to this team in the playoffs. They have Gerald Hayes and Karlos Dansby at ILB but if one of them goes down we don't have a whole lot behind them to step in with udrafted rookie Reggie Walker and 2nd year player Ali Highsmith. The DT position doesn't have much depth either with Gabe Watson coming off of knee surgery, Bryan Robinson being over 30, and Alan Branch still not doing what the first pick in the 2nd round is supposed to be doing. Definitely tons of questions on the defense but still lots of promise if they can stay healthy and play hard.
This is definitely going to be an interesting year for the Cards coming off a season in which they had so much success. They will have an up hill battle again this season though as everyone thinks they are a one year wonder and will fall back into oblivion again this year. If the Cards want to prove those naysayers wrong they are going to have to be consistent on offense, consistent defense, and stay healthy. It's certainly shaping up to be an interesting year as the Cards look to "Shock the World" again.
Record for 2009: 10-6
Record Vs the NFC West: 5-1