If you hadn't watched every snap of the Cardinals season as I did and only caught their playoff performance, you might surmise that their defense is awful. To be sure, Arizona's season ended on a sour note at the hands of a very good football team.
Nothing went Arizona's way: I mean let's face it, it is hard enough to stop the No.1 ranked offense with a full, healthy roster. With LB Gerald Hayes (arguably the Cardinals best run-stuffing backer) already having been declared inactive for the game, after Pro Bowl CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (the Cardinals' only true cover DB) and Pro Bowl alternate Safety Antrel Rolle were both injured early, and it was game on for the Saints.
The 3-4 defense only works if pressure is applied to the QB, and the Cardinals had no rush whatsoever. At that point, instead of game on it was more like game over.Its really a shame for Bill Davis' defensive unit, since the team made strides during the regular season and were in fact a new and improved Arizona defense. Not perfect by any stretch, but better. It is also ironic and anticlimactic that in Davis' first year as Defensive Coordinator though they progressed overall, they played worse than Clancy Pendergast's defense did the previous year in the postseason, which wasn't enough to save Pendergast's job.
Let me take a moment to briefly reflect on some possible changes going into the offseason.
There is uneasiness about Russ Grimm's future as O-line coach. He has been a top candidate for a head coaching position for several years now, and this could be his farewell. In my mind that may be the biggest question mark heading into next season. Grimm has solidified Arizona's offensive trenches, and if mammoth twins Brandon Keith and Herman Johnson continue to develop it is conceivable the Cardinals could be pretty scary in that department.
Will Kurt Warner retire? I don't think he will but let's say he does. I am not sold on Matt Leinart as the answer but he has enough going his way that the Cardinals would make him the No.1 QB. The offense would likely become more of a running team and would be less explosive vertically, but that doesn't necessarily mean they couldn't win. It would be a different approach, and perhaps in time Leinart would find his stride.
Jerheme Urban has had his chances, and I think he may have just had his last one. That fumble against the Saints changed the complexity of the game. It is too bad because Urban worked so hard to get where he is, coming from a tiny college and going undrafted, and has great size and speed. The mistakes have caught up with him though and that can't be denied.
Ben Patrick has performed well on the big stage. If he can stay healthy and continue to improve his blocking maybe the Cardinals will choose to roll with him instead of addressing this position.
With a young NT, Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell are the only bookends a team needs. Assuming Dockett is on the team next season, the Cardinals would be wise to in the very least give aging Bryan Robinson and inconsistent Gabe Watson some competition.
Clark Haggans, Chike Okeafor, Gerald Hayes and Bertrand Berry are aging to the point where any or all of them could be off the roster by next Fall. Karlos Dansby may sign on with another team. Monty Beisel is a stop-gap, not a long term solution. Linebacker may be the Cardinals' biggest area of need.
Osi Umenyiora anyone? He is no spring chicken himself, but if he has enough left in the tank, could be converted to LB, and it appears he is unhappy in New York.
Antrel Rolle and Adrian Wilson are the best linebackers playing DB in the league.
Hopefully, promising Matt Ware comes back healthy and Rashad Johnson and Michael Adams continue to develop. Newcomer Hamza Abdullah is a possibility to remain, and if nothing else offers good size at the position.
Don't fret Cardinals fans. It was a great year. We made it to the Elite 8, and were an improved regular season team.