Cards confident as regular season approaches

The Arizona Cardinals have made several keys moves this offseason and feel confident heading into the 2011 regular season.

The Cardinals opened training camp with so many new players that coaches didn't even recognize some. That led coach Ken Whisenhunt to order names to be placed on the front of helmets.

The tape came off after a couple of weeks, and while the Cardinals have a better idea of who they are, it's fair to wonder what exactly they will become in 2011.

They should contend for an NFC West title for two reasons: they are much better at quarterback than they were in 2010, and there appear to be no dominant teams in the division.

Quarterback Kevin Kolb couldn't practice until Aug. 4, but he quickly made an impression on teammates. He blended easily into the locker room, and he's smart enough and talented enough to get the ball to receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

That sounds like a simple thing, but the Cardinals had trouble doing it in 2010, which contributed to their 5-11 record. That was the first losing season in Whisenhunt's four years.

Money also played a part in last year's struggles, which came after winning two consecutive division titles. With a lockout looming, ownership tightened the budget, and the product suffered.

That certainly wasn't the only reason, however. Most of the key defensive players had disappointing seasons, too, and the club never recovered from the retirement of Kurt Warner.

Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves think they've addressed the team's major needs.

The quarterback position is upgraded. The team has its best group of tight ends in decades. Left guard Daryn Colledge should help solidify an offensive line. A handful of key returning players, including Fitzgerald and center Lyle Sendlein, signed multi-year deals.

"I think the bright point of this training camp is they are guys making plays all over the place," Kolb said. "We have some things to clean up, but we have playmakers. When you have that, guys who can step up on 3rd and 15 and make plays, then the other stuff you can fix. Now, it's just our job to fix it."

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