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Cardinals' Offense: Improved or In Trouble in 2008?

Now that we've looked at how the offensive depth chart breaks down for the Cardinals in 2008, I started wondering will the Cardinals offense be better or worse in 2008? The offense was a clear cut Jekyll & Hyde case in 2007. The passing game was among league leaders with 254.1 yards per game (5th), but the running game left quite a bit to be desired with just 90 yards per game (29th). Overall the offense ranked 12th in total yards (344.1 yards per game) and 7th in points (404). For the sake of simplicity we'll look at these two aspects separately then tie them together at the conclusion.

Running Game: First we'll lay the bad news on you. The Cardinals were in the bottom five in yards per rush (3.6),  runs that resulted in first downs (70) and fumbles. They didn't have a single rush over 30 yards for the second consecutive season and they're leading rusher for the past two seasons (Edgerrin James) hasn't had one since October 23rd, 2005 when he was a member of the Colts.  The problem isn't just with Edge though because the Cards didn't have a running back average over 3.8 yards per carry in 2007. The good news though is that Edge was much better in 2007 than he was in 2006. He raised his yards per carry by nearly half a yard and had four carries of at least 20 yards (his long was 18 in 2006). Edge's bounce back year is at least partially related to a revamped offensive line that included three new starters and to make things even better those same five starters will be back in 2007. Edge will turn 30 years old shortly before the season starts and that's got to have something to do with the drafting of power back Tim Hightower. Hopefully Hightower can flash some skills in the preseason and take some of the load off of Edge, especially in short yardage and goal line situations. The bottom line is that it may seem like a bad sign that the same starters are coming back from a season in which the running game finished 29th in the league but with a more experienced offensive line and a back to keep Edge fresh, they might have just enough fire power to keep this offense balanced.

Passing Game: Well in my mind I was going to start with the negatives of the passing game but it's hard to find too many problems with the unit that ranked in the top five of the league in passing yards and touchdowns. They were also above league average in completion percentage and sacks allowed. Couple all those stats with the idea that each and every receiver hasn't reached their peak level of production in this league yet and it's hard not to image this unit not striking fear into opposing defenses. Ok, now I'll put down my Cardinal Kool-Aid and mention what everyone is thinking, what about the quarterback? Leinart will be the starter from day one even though he took a huge step back from his rookie season last year. His "sophomore slump" season was made even worse by a injury that ended his season just five games into it. Some mention should also be made that he was a young quarterback trying to learn and adjust to a new system in just his second season. He has the tools to succeed in this league and with an entire year and a half to learn and grow in this system, I expect a much better season in 2008. If all else fails and Matt stumbles out of the gate and the coaching staff gives up on him, they have arguably the best #2 QB in the league in Kurt Warner. Warner had his best season since his day in St Louis in 2007 and even with his age, he should be able to take over for another season if need be.The bottom line, in my opinion, is that while there may be some debate over who the starting QB should be, it should play itself out and one of them will prove capable of leading this unit to another successful season.

Offense as a whole: It seems a bit odd to talk about how great the offense of the Arizona Cardinals can be but the weapons at the skill positions are impressive. The offensive line should be improved and the wide receivers are still on the upswing of their respective careers. Injuries are the major area of concern, in my opinion. I shutter to think what would happen to this offense if Edge went down with a significant injury. If he had to miss significant games, the rushing attack would be left to JJ Arrington (467 yards for 3.1 avg in three seasons), Shipp (3 straight seasons below 3 yards per carry) and 5th round rookie Tim Hightower. I'm not even sure who I'd want to get the workload out of those three. When healthy though, this offense has the mix of experience and explosiveness to make some noise in the NFC West.