Oct 25 2012
Well, after a disappointing trip to the north, the Cardinals returned home on a three game losing skid that has quickly erased the undefeated first month of regular season play. For those who listened to the birdgang podcast this week, you already took a somber look back at the good times we had way back in September. So somber in fact, that I expected Bette Midler’s “wind beneath my wings” to play at any time as the mood was almost funeral-like.
But, I am choosing to look forward today. Although the Cardinals now stand at 4-3, crisis can still be averted. A good showing on Monday Night Football and a win can catapult them back into a first place tie with the 49ers and rejuvenate a Birdgang fanbase desperate to get back on track. 5-3 at the midway point of the season would be not so bad.
Many, including myself, have been dwelling on what has gone wrong recently. However, not all is bad. What have we learned? What has gone right?
I believe we have solved the quarterback mystery…for now anyway. Even if Whiz will not acknowledge it, Kolb is the starter. He did not look comfortable in the preseason at all but I think his confidence in his reads and the offense has improved and he has shown enough that he can win in the NFL. I think he can be the guy going forward. The effort has got to be build a line around him via free agency. There is no time to build through the draft, we have enough project lineman.
We now know what we thought we knew…the defense is legit. If the Cardinals end up with a winning record and get some positive publicity down the stretch, I think there could be potentially five pro bowlers on D (Dockett, Campbell, Washington, Peterson, Wilson). With the decline of Urlacher and Ray Lewis, Daryl Washington is quickly emerging as the dominant middle linebacker in the game. He can take over a game as few can.
Across the board, the defense seems to be understanding and working within the system…trusting their teammates on gap assignments and containment. They have a number of play makers on defense which is exactly what is needed to win with this team. The offense cannot outscore anyone so it is going to have to get done with turnovers, big plays and a short field. There is no other way right now.
The running game is not right. Myself, I expected Ryan Williams to blow up this year and pass Beanie as the feature back. I still see tons of talent there but with the injury to Wells, a huge opportunity was missed there. You have to wonder about his mental state after his second straight year of season-ending injury. So, for now, we go forward with Powell and Stephens-Howling. Neither is a feature back but both have good moves in space and can be effective in certain scenarios. The running game will need to be revisted at year’s end to fully evaluate the direction of the position on this team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wells move on.
I still don’t love the offense. At times, it can be effective but the stubbornness to run plays that it does not appear the Cardinals have the personnel for has been frustrating. However, there is a lot of talent at the skill positions. Andre Roberts has improved immensely…so much so that Michael Floyd cannot get on the field. I have been very disappointed with Floyd who I still think can be good but has made no impact really at all. Doucet has been pretty bad I must say. I see flashes…but the drops have been all too common and probably not something that can be fixed at this point.
The coaching staff is what it is. I think Ray Horton will be a head coach very soon and will be a huge loss when he goes ( I think he could end up in Philadelphia next year if they do not make the playoffs). Russ Grimm, as with many great players…is not a great coach. While it is true, you can’t polish a turd…we should still see some improvement with the players we do have on the offensive line. Did anyone ever think they would miss the days of Levi Brown or Leonard Davis?
The Cardinals typically do not play well in nationally-televised games (which does not help the perception of the Cardinals). However, home games are different and emotion plays a big part in football. If you can’t get up for the 49ers, who can you get excited about? The players don’t like each other and that is fine by me. I like when the defense plays angry…because I don’t like the 49ers either. I don’t even know really know why…but they are without a doubt, the enemy.
I expect a low-scoring game and I think defense and special teams will be the difference. Offenses both will be ineffective and a long punt or kick return I think decides this one…hopefully in the Cards favor. 13-10.