I mean that loosely. Of course, I am hoping they can build chemistry during the remaining games and head into the offseason with a full head of steam. Sometimes in this league, that's easier said than done. With the Arizona Cardinals, many things have been easier said this season beginning with the quarterback situation.
So Derek Anderson hasn't panned out exactly like we and the coaching staff had hoped for -- so what. Shouldn't another man step into the role and experience moderate success? After all, he would have the benefit of throwing to the Cardinals greatest receiver of all time -- Larry Fitzgerald. Yes, I said it. Unfortunately, nailing down that Kurt Warner-quick release takes years of experience -- something a rookie just doesn't have yet.
With the final four games, and assuming Derek Anderson doesn't see many of them, rookie John Skelton can most certainly develop and learn. He has the right tools to be a successful quarterback in the NFL. He has a big arm, a big frame, and a good head on his shoulders. Two of the final four games are at home and all four contests take place against teams that are below the .500 mark. Skelton can prosper in the Cardinals offense, but dropping back behind the offensive line will make his task difficult. That is why I believe we should see more snaps in the shotgun. It gives him more time to make his reads and avoid the blitz. More quick slants and less high percentage passes are needed as well. Play actions passes are good if they are successful, and as we all know, a quarterback's best friend is a good rushing game.
One expectation that burned out as quickly as a match was a dominant rushing game. There was talk during camp that the Cardinals would be a run-first offense. In order to rush the football favorably, the defense can't fall behind early in the game. That has been an issue at times this season and it's forced Ken Whisenhunt to rely on Anderson's below-average arm. Other than the San Francisco 49ers(10th) -- the Panthers(27th), Broncos(31st), and the Cowboys(15th) have all struggled defending against the rush. I want to see more outside rushes. The middle of the Cardinals offensive line can't produce a good push against opposing defenses and I'm calling out Lyle Sendlein as the primary reason why due to his size. Beanie Wells and partner Tim Hightower produce better numbers when they bounce the ball to the outside -- it's really that simple.
Although questions continue to swirl around the quarterback and running game, the Cardinals receivers will continue to produce given the right circumstances. Nagging injuries have been the receiving game's biggest downfall this season. Early Doucet hasn't lived up to some expectations that were set, but that's a talk for another day.
As a whole, the offense could greatly stand to get on track in this next month. The spark plug of Kurt Warner's arm is greatly missed, but dwelling on it won't help. I've said all season that Ken Whisenhunt could stand to mix up the play-calling and become more creative. He did insert Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on offense last Sunday, which drew a pass-interference penalty. Unfortunately it was negated by a penalty on the offense as well. However, that creativity has been vastly missed. I for one, love it when a defender gets in the mix. I'd also like to see the wildcat let loose, or even a running back pass to catch the defense off guard. At this point, what do we really have to lose?
Don't think for one second that the defense couldn't use a lift-me-up in the final games also. The Cardinals defense has never recovered from the loss of Antrel Rolle and vocal-leader Karlos Dansby. The charisma of Darnell Dockett is missed, the toughness of Adrian Wilson is lacking, and the smack-talking Joey Porter has morphed into some sort of laid back Porter. It's a shame that the Cardinals have experienced seven straight losses, and it has clearly deflated what's left of this team. If Ken Whisenhunt is smart -- and I pray that he is -- he'll do what it takes to get the energy and soul of the defense back.
Besides the leadership on defense, the pass-rush has been sorely lacking in 2010. I'm still strongly against Bill Davis as the defensive coordinator. I believe he'll be packing his bags once University of Phoenix Stadium closes it's doors for the offseason. Until that time comes, he needs to experiment. Sacks-allowed have not been the 49ers(9th), Broncos(6th), and Panthers(3rd) strong point on defense this year. The plan against these teams should start with overloading the opponents offensive line. Generally this means that the side with less defenders needs to be guarded heavily. It also means that the blitz must be successful or a big play will be allowed. I also want Davis to add the cornerbacks to the blitz. Greg Toler or Mike Adams are the ideal candidates to rush off the edge -- anyone remember Adams in the playoffs last season? In that case, Adrian Wilson would need to drop into coverage instead of playing in the box. Of course, in the final four games, some players that we haven't seen as much should also be shuffled into play to display what they can bring to the defense next season.
The Cardinals secondary hasn't been what Cardinals fans had hoped for, but have they really been that bad? It's unrealistic to expect them to shut down every big receiver they line up against. I believe we've seen a significant reduction in big pass plays allowed to compared to the previous three seasons.
If there's one thing I desperately miss during the months between January and September, it's Arizona Cardinals-football. Yes, they've drastically became less competitive then what we've been accustomed to seeing, but if I can give you one reason to tune in on Sunday, it's to see your favorite team suit up for what's left of the season and benefit during these final four games.