Grading the Cards: Offense

In his first year as coach of the Cardinals, Ken Whisenhunt failed to get his team to the playoffs. This marked the ninth straight season the club claimed this distinction; however, it did post its best record (8-8) since 1998. Here is our offensive position analysis for the 2007 season, as well as our grades for how each unit fared.

Quarterbacks

Matt Leinart was tagged as the starting quarterback entering last season. However, after leading the team to a 1-1 record, he began splitting time with backup Kurt Warner. Leinart's play was inconsistent in the games he started, which prompted Whisenhunt to make the move.

In Week 5, the second-year man suffered a broken collarbone and was lost for the season. He finished the year completing 60 of 112 passes for 647 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.

The 36-year-old Warner ended the season with 3,417 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, and a passer rating of 89.8.

Leinart has been named the starter again for 2008. It remains to be seen whether it will stay that way.

Grade: B+

Running Backs

Edgerrin James appeared to bounce back from his somewhat lackluster performance in 2006. The feature back rushed for 1,222 yards and crossed the goal line seven times. However, his 324 attempts netted him a modest 3.8-yard per-carry average.

J.J. Arrington has been unsuccessful in making the transition to the NFL and there is talk that he might need a change of scenery in order to realize his potential. He had 78 yards on 26 carries and no touchdowns.

Marcel Shipp has seemingly grown accustomed to being a goal-line back and special teams player. However, he didn't manage to do much in these roles in 2007, carrying the ball 15 times for 41 yards and one touchdown.

Fullback Terrelle Smith, while only getting one carry for 3 yards, did what a true blocking fullback is bred for: opening holes for James and doing a good job in pass protection.

With only nine touchdowns coming on running plays (one of those on a QB sneak), it might be time for the team to look at alternative backups to James.

Grade: B-


WR Anquan Boldin
Chris McGrath/Getty

Wide Receivers

Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin combined for 171 catches for 2,262 yards and 19 touchdowns. They constitute the best one-two receiving tandem in the league.

Third-string receiver Bryant Johnson chipped in 46 catches for 528 yards and two scores but might be leaving via free agency. Johnson could be a starter on another team.

Rookie phenomenon Steve Breaston, while primarily a kick and punt returner, caught nine passes for 92 yards and might be the odds on favorite to replace Johnson. He needs to work on his route running if he hopes to increase his role in the offense.

The receiving corps is rounded out by fourth-year man Jerheme Urban (22 catches, 329 yards) and sixth-year veteran Sean Morey (eight catches, 131 yards). Both players are solid but not spectacular.

Grade: A

Tight Ends

Leonard Pope, drafted in the third round of the 2006 draft, was supposed to be the team's savior at tight end. He has failed to make the impact the club had hoped for, and last year's season-ending injury didn't help matters, nor did his sub-par run blocking.

The second-year man hauled in 23 passes for 238 yards and five touchdowns. Still, the club would like added production from this spot, especially with Boldin and Fitzgerald garnering so much attention outside the hashes.

Rookie Ben Patrick was called up from the practice squad after Pope's season was cut short in Week 14. Patrick managed to catch seven passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns.

Fellow rookie Troy Bienemann fleshes out the tight ends. He contributed seven receptions for 46 yards and one touchdown. He should compete with Patrick to back up Pope in training camp.

Grade: C

Offensive Line

Whisenhunt brought with him line coach Russ Grimm in his move from Pittsburgh and it paid dividends. Grimm provided the tenacity and hard-nosed approach the team had been missing.

The line allowed 36 sacks, two less then the 2006 season; however, there was a considerable increase in pass protection, run blocking and overall effectiveness.

Levi Brown was solid and manned the right tackle position well when starter Oliver Ross was lost to injury in the preseason.

Guards Reggie Wells and Duece Letiui solidified the interior line, giving Warner a clean pocket to step into. The free agent signings of Mike Gandy and Al Johnson proved to be immense upgrades at left tackle and center, respectively.

Elton Brown and free agent rookie Lyle Sendlein provided the line with good depth, although the team may take a tackle in the draft to provide competition and continue to improve this area.

Grade: B+

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