Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cards Fans On the Defensive?

by: Mike Parker

It would appear that Cardinal fans have gone on the offensive with regards to their impending Super Bowl hangover season. Mike Sando's recent mailbag had reader Brad from New York writing in to make a case that Seahawk Nation is going to vehemently disagree with:

Brad from New York writes: I find it quite amusing that Rams, Seahawks and 49ers fans comment on the lack of Cardinals-related questions. As a "life-long" Cardinals fan [who grew up in NYC and lived through more Giant beatdowns than you can imagine], allow me to help these disgruntled fans better understand the reality of the NFC West.

1) There is no team in the division that can stop our offense, period. Break it down all you want, but the Cardinals will never be out of a game.

2) The Cards have a playmaking defense. Do they give up a lot of points and suffer from mind-lapses? Yes. But again, no team in the division can match the pick-6 ability that the Cards employ, not to mention their ability to force fumbles. These abilities can not be underestimated.

3) The Cardinals are the only team with a solidified coach in Ken Whisenhunt. All three other coaches are either new, fill-ins or inexperienced. The Cardinals know what to expect and how to handle their business.

These points add up to a single premise -- the Cardinals will barely be challenged for the 2009 NFC West crown. We don't really have a lot of questions. Sorry, guys.
Sando replied with the following:
Barely be challenged? That was last season. Here's hoping we have a division race to analyze come December.
I think Brad here is conveniently leaving out a slew of question marks in Cardinal-ville, including the fact that their offensive coordinator took a head coaching job in Kansas City. I'm predicting his absence will be felt, especially in light of the comments Kurt Warner made just after his departure about the chemistry they had. Plus, Warner's ability to perform at such a high level as last year remains a point of speculation. In a year where all the QB question marks seem to be thrown at Hasselbeck and his health, (which are admittedly valid for now), no one seems to be mentioning anything about Warner pushing 40 and working with a brand-new offensive coordinator.

Also, there were times last year when the Cardinals' defense just fell asleep at the wheel. The blowouts at the hands of the Vikings and Patriots that wound down the Cards' 2008 season are direct examples of this suspect area of the team. No Cards fan can make the argument that Leinart's two fumbles under center in the snow at New England were to blame -- allowing 47 points with a secondary featuring Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and Adrian Wilson just should not happen.

And let's not forget about Anquan Boldin's and Karlos Dansby's contract-related issues the Cardinals still causing drama. Boldin has said he wants a trade and hasn't reported to any of Arizona's offseason activities thus far.

Furthermore, while Ken Whisenhunt may be the only returning head coach in the NFC West this year, the entire coaching staff beneath him basically conducted a mass exodus after the season was over. I realize the Seahawks are in the same category here, as special teams coach Bruce DeHaven is one of the only remaining pieces of the Holmgren-era regime still active with the team, so this situation could go either way for either team. But it depends on chemistry, morale and a heap of other issues that will take shape as the season goes on. I'd give the advantage here to Jim Mora & company, simply because he's brought former cohorts such as Greg Knapp to Seattle.

All in all, I think Sando's right when he says this season's NFC West crown could be a much tougher race than it has in years past. The Cards are undoubtedly a good team on paper, as are the Seahawks. The 49ers also seem to have something resembling a pulse now that Mike Singletary is at the helm, but the Rams are still looking at a long road back to credibility.

Either way, I presume the Cardinals will not "barely be challenged" in 2009.