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Arizona Cardinals: 2012 Offseason Breakdown


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Arizona Cardinals

Stadium: University of Phoenix Stadium

Schedule Strength : 22nd

Postseason Weather issues : at Seattle (Week 15)

Offensive Line Ranking : 30th

Head Coach – Ken Whisenhunt (Disciple of Bill Cowher)

A tight end for nine seasons, Whisenhunt began his coaching as a tight end and special teams coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was then promoted to Pittsburgh offensive coordinator in 2004 after the release of current Jacksonville head coach Mike Mularkey. Whisenhunt altered the identity of the Steelers offensive system from a “flashy trick play system” with Kordell Stewert, to more of a “Steelers brand of football” predicated upon running the football with well-timed aggression (made famous for his Antwaan Randle-El to Hines Ward call during Super Bowl XL). Now entering his fourth season in Arizona, Whisenhunt has proven that prefers a balanced run/pass offensive system (ironically his best season in Arizona was in a vertical offense with Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin).

Offensive Coordinator – Mike Miller

Miller is one of the few NFL coaches having never played college or professional football. He began his NFL career in public relations as an intern for the Pittsburgh Steelers and later the Indianapolis Colts. Earning a spot as offensive assistant for the Steelers under then-head Coach Bill Cowher, Miller worked closely with offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, eventually following Mularkey to Buffalo. Hired by Whisenhunt 2007 as the wide receivers coach, Miller would be moved up to Arizona’s offensive coordinator upon the hiring of Todd Haley by the Kansas City Chiefs. Considering Wisenhunt’s background, we know the Arizona offense will remain in the mold of the head coach as a run/pass balanced system.

QB – John Skelton, Kevin Kolb

Traded to the Cardinals in 2011 for a second-round pick along with Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Kolb looked to be the quarterback of the future for the Arizona Cardinals. Kolb started the first eight games of the 2011 season, managing a meager 15 fantasy points per game, ranking him 21st in fantasy scoring during that time period. Kolb would suffer a turf-toe injury in Week 8 against the Baltimore Ravens. He returned to play in Week 13, only to suffer a concussion early on in Week 14, causing him to miss the remainder of the season. In Kolb’s absence second-year quarterback John Skelton took over. Showing great poise and maturity for a young gunslinger, Skelton led the Cardinals to a 5-2 record. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Skelton is more the prototypical body type for an NFL quarterback with a cannon arm.  In five of the seven games Skelton started, he averaged 21.2 points per game, although the other two he averaged 2.5 points per game. Showing obvious growing pains, it was more than evident watching these two quarterbacks that Skelton is the superior player (you read that right). To supply further evidence; Larry Fitzgerald managed 13.2 points per game with Skelton under center. With Kolb as the starter, Fitzergarld’s produced 9.2 fantasy points per game, a full four-point difference. There has been a heated quarterback competition in Arizona this offseason in a “Best man for the job” mentality. Just a few years back, Whisenhunt sat first-round pick Matt Leinart to start veteran Kurt Warner, proving the most talented quarterback will start. Although I’m a proponent of Skelton, this race seems to be deadlocked as of this writing (I’m sure management is pushing for Kolb). It would be impossible to assess a player rating until a starter is declared. Hopefully that man is Skelton.

RB – Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells

Coming out of Ohio State University in 2009, many speculated if Wells had the skill set to play in the NFL, while being touted as injury prone. Surprisingly agile for a bigger running back, Wells has proven the ability to play at the pro level running through and around defenders with a knack for tough goal-line running (we’ve even witnessed a couple of Adrian Peterson-esque stiff arms). However, the injury tag that followed Wells into the NFL has proven to be correct. He has suffered through multiple knee issues, including microfracture surgery, along with a recent surgery to repair a torn meniscus.  Wells’ injury prone status is a major red flag to fantasy owners. We must also factor in the Cardinals are shaping up to become a running back by committee with the continued development of second-year player Ryan Willams. Considering an extensive injury history, along with the progression of Williams, Wells has a player rating of 7.3 entering the 2012 preseason.

RB2 – Ryan Williams

A second-round draft choice of the Arizona Cardinals in 2011, Williams ruptured his patellar tendon during a preseason game, causing him to miss the entire season. Suffering the injury early in the year has afforded Williams the required 10 months of healing time. A full participant during the Cardinals’ offseason activities also indicates Williams is well on the way to a full recovery (although the preseason will give the full insight). His status as a high draft choice means the Arizona Cardinals believe Williams has the skill set to play in the NFL and will give him plenty of opportunity to prove himself. There has even been speculation of Williams taking over as the lead back, and should Wells’ injury linger into the season, this could open up the door for Williams to emerge as a three-down running back. On the downside, turmoil at the quarterback position along with a subpar offensive line will limit the Cardinals’ running attack. Given the high value of the fantasy running back, and Wisenhunt’s priority to run the football, Williams has potential to become a valuable fantasy commodity, warranting a pre-draft player rating of 7.6, with upside.

WR – Larry Fitzgerald

Amongst the NFL’s most God-gifted wide receivers in the game today, Fitzgerald is a freakish athlete with amazing hands, excellent vertical leap, down field speed and is a red zone threat, thus making him the total package. The only concern we have is who will start at quarterback for the Cardinals in the new season. As stated above, with Kevin Kolb under center, Fitzgerald’s production declined significantly. Should John Skelton earn this job, it would certainly cause an upgrade in Fitzgerald’s preseason value. As of right now, Fitzgerald carries a player rating of 9.4 as he will surely be a high draft choice in every fantasy league.

WR – Michael Floyd

Coming out of Notre Dame, Floyd was the 13th overall choice in the 2012 NFL Draft. A 6-foot-3, 220-pound wide receiver, he presents a size and skill sets to be a productive player in the NFL. Early reports indicate that Floyd is going the extra mile, attending Larry Fitzgerald’s offseason training session. On the downside, the first knock we find is playing opposite one of the most prolific wide receivers in the NFL, leading to a lack of targets. We should further speculate if the Cardinals’ balanced offensive system will generate enough passing yards to sustain multiple wide receivers. Also, Floyd will need to pass incumbent No. 2 wide receiver Early Doucet. Finally, should Kevin Kolb start under center, expect a lack of production for all Cardinals' wide receivers, greatly influencing the forecasted value of Michael Floyd.  Entering 2012 we should anticipate a player rating of 7.3.

TE – Todd Heap

Once amongst fantasy football's better tight ends, at age 32, Heap is on the downhill side of his career. Considering that Whisenhunt played the position in college, we would expect more involvement from the Cardinals tight ends. However, that has not materialized since the hiring of Whisenhunt. We are also hearing reports that fellow tight end Rob Housler has been impressive during offseason workouts. As of this moment, no Cardinals tight end is recommended as Heap carries a player rating of 6.0.

D/ST – Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals showed improvement last season as second-year cornerback Patrick Peterson looks to be one of the leagues emerging “shutdown cornerbacks.” Arizona does have above-average talent at a number of other positions, including Darnell Docket, Calais Campbell and safety Adrian Wilson. If your league awards heavily for special teams play, Patrick Peterson is also an electric kick returner, proving last year that he is a threat to score on every kickoff. Arizona does have a number of favorable matchups on their schedule, but also faces New England, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Atlanta and Detroit. We should view the Cardinals defense as a spot start unit at best warranting a rating of 7.3.

K – Jay Feely

Feely’s major advantage is having a home stadium in the warm/dry climate of the Arizona desert. However, playing alongside a very average offense typically does not lead to quality fantasy kicker production. Feely has a mediocre player rating of 7.4, meaning better options should be available.