For those of you that do not know, I am a Steelers fan who lives in Arizona and therefore also root for the Cardinals. Even more so now that they have so many ties to the Steelers. I try to watch as many games as I can and do in fact watch every pre-season game of the Cardinals and try to watch at least half of their regular season games. I wanted to do this post because the Cardinals are now more than halfway through with their pre-season and it is a great time for speculation.
-This Defense Has Top 5 Potential-
I have watched every pre-season game and have seen the poor tackling and poor defensive performances that were put up in the first two preseason games. However in the third preseason game I saw some major potential. This team shut down the Raiders starters when it played disciplined gap defense along the Defensive line. It is a problem they seemed to have in the first couple games, Dockett and Campbell are playmakers but they need to realize when they are being ask to make plays and when they are ask to just do their job. The emergence of a true NT in a much more focused Dan Williams should help keep Daryl Washington clean to make plays which he is more then capable of doing. Adrian Wilson has looked very quick and far removed from that dismal 2010 performance. Kerry Rhodes is a great complement to Wilson in the defensive back field.Acho looks very good and Stweart Bradley is getting more and more comfortable in the defense. If they can play disciplined and fast lok for the Cardinals to be a top 5 defense.
-No One is Better than Petersen-
Patrick Petersen had one punt return in the third pre-season game and proved why there is no better punt returner in the league. How he sees the field and his blocks is ridiculous. Add that to the speed and quickness of a man his size and you have a dangerous combination. Petersen is going to be one of the most dangerous weapons for the Cardinals.
I know every Cardinals fan will agree with me that Anthony Sherman the Cardinals full back should have made the Pro Bowl over John Kuhn and Micheal Robinson. He is a beast at blocking, deceptively athletic receiver and a major contributor on the kick return team. Sherman is going to leading the way for this running attack.
-Ryan William is a Beast End of Discussion-
I was really excited to see the Cardinals draft Ryan Williams in the second round of the 2011 Draft. He was amazing in college. In his first pre-season game since his return from a patella tendon injury he looked to have it and more. This guy is explosive and powerful in his cuts and has great vision. Williams displays the perfect combination of size, quickness, power and balance. He is also is a professional. He is all football all the time. In his rookie year there was an article that stated he was not taking a computer, or TV to Flagstaff so that he could spend all his free time studying his play book. This is a guy that going to take the NFL by surprise and help a very dangerous 1-2 punch with Beanie Wells.
-The Cardinals are the Deepest CB team in the League-
The Cardinals have five CBs on the roster who have started at least six games in the NFL. (PP, A.J., Gay, Adams and Toler) Patrick Petersen is on the verge he is still trying to pick up some of the small things about the position but he is so close to breaking through that wall. William Gay is a solid zone and plays the scheme well. A.J. Jefferson is a length CB who started half the year for the Cardinals. I am a huge fan of his if he gets cut I hope the Steelers grab him because he is the illustration of what you want a CB to be in this scheme. Greg Toler hasn't looked to shake off the rust after coming back from an injury but he had some ability and I think he can show it. Jamel Flemming the Cardinals 3rd round corner is a good zone corner that can see the field and make plays. Then you have Mike Adams who can't seem to be cut, Crezdon Butler former Steeler another big long corner, Marshay Green almost made the roster last year and was signed to the PS.
-The Presbyterian Gem-
As soon as I saw Justin Bethel at the combine I knew this guy could be special. He was so smooth in his change of direction in DB drill which is so rare for guys his size. Then I looked up his stats. Not only was he a ball hawk with good play recognition skills but he was great on special teams. To be honest I wanted the Steelers to draft him as a FS. Instead the Cardinals took him and has not disappointed all he has done in three games is had 12 tackles, blocked 2 punts, and a extra point attempt while scoring TD.
-John Skelton the Starter-
No it is not official but it kind of is. Why is John Skelton the starter? Because he has pocket presence and is not afraid to pull the trigger. He still needs to work on his footwork and accuracy but it has improved. However Ken Whisenhunt can coach a QB like Skelton especially with a talented running game to lean on. Hell he did it in 2004 when he took a rookie Ben Roethlisberger and went 15-1 and won a Super Bowl in 2005 with a similar game plan. Skelton (who reminded me a lot of Ben coming out of the draft) just needs to make the throws when asked to and hopefully he isn't asked to much. Kolb is just too indecisive, he doesn't go through his progressions fast enough and tries too much to get out of the pocket to extend the play. When he is in rhythm he is a good QB but the problem is in the NFL a QB is rarely in rhythm.
It maybe some homerism but I think the Cardinals can do well if they rely heavy on the running game with Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams and the defense takes the projected steps. Like I said Ken Whisenhunt is no stranger to game planning for this as he did it in with Ben Roethlisberger going 15-1 in his rookie year and 11-5 with a SuperBowl win. To be honest I see a lot of comparisons to that '05 team. A one two punch in the running game (Steelers Bettis/Parker, Cards Beanie/Williams), a defense with two play making safeties (Steelers Chris Hope/Polamalu Cards Rhodes/Wilson, a couple of big play LBs( Steelers Porter/Farrior Cardinals Washington/Acho), Clark Haggans (joking but seriously he is/was on both team) and a big QB who can make all the throws and shouldn't be ask to make a lot. The only major difference I see is that '05 Steelers O-line was very good, the Cardinals have a good interior three but now that Brown is injured have one of the worst OT pairings in the league. (Hoping Massie can learn fast)