Cardinals' Playoff Hopes All But Over

Beanie Wells (Bruce Yeung / Yeung Photography)

With the Cardinals playoff hopes all but over following a 19-6 loss to St. Louis, will the younger players see an expanded role?

The Cardinals' hopes of a third consecutive playoff appearance are dim, but coach Ken Whisenhunt isn't going to go out of his way to look at young players in the final month of the season.

At least that's what he said last week. Sunday's loss to the Rams might have changed all that.

Quarterback Derek Anderson played poorly and might have a concussion. Backup Max Hall suffered a dislocated left shoulder and might miss the rest of the season.

Whisenhunt said something needs to change at the position. Does that mean he'll go with John Skelton, a fifth-round pick out of Fordham?

It would take a leap of faith. Skelton has taken only eight practice snaps with the starters all season, and those reps came Friday when Hall called in sick.

Whisenhunt might not want to play all of his young players down the stretch, but there might not be a choice.

There are risks and rewards for each approach. Winning down the stretch would help this team's confidence, as well as provide a positive atmosphere at the team headquarters.

Whisenhunt wants to win more than anything, but it's questionable if starting veterans at certain positions is the smartest thing to do down the stretch.

The Cardinals have lost eight consecutive games, all with Anderson at quarterback. While Anderson has reduced his number of mistakes, he's also not making plays that win games.

It's highly doubtful will be the team's starter next season, and it seems even unlikely that he will be on the roster. So playing Skelton, might be the way to go.

The Cardinals are losing with a lame-duck quarterback starting. They might as well do the same with a youngster who could contribute next season.

But the flip side is that Skelton is ill prepared to play right now. He doesn't know enough about changing protections, route alterations, throwing to hot receivers. Skelton is bright and diligent, but the learning curve he faces is huge.

Whisenhunt could look at young players elsewhere. Gerald Hayes is starting at one inside linebacker spot, and it's questionable if the eight-year veteran will be back next year.

Daryl Washington, a second round pick in 2010, has been on the bench since Hayes returned to the starting lineup in game eight, after spending six weeks on the PUP list.

At 230 pounds, Washington has to play the weak inside spot, which would force Paris Lenon to the strong side, where he played the first two months.

Washington is among the fastest linebackers in the league. While he struggled to shed blocks in the first couple of months, he should improve with more playing time.

No one is expecting Whisenhunt to make wholesale changes for the sake of evaluating young players. Many of the highest draft picks and other key youngsters already are playing.

But quarterback and linebacker are a couple of positions where he could go with youngsters and probably suffer minimal consequences.

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