Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie (Getty)
The Arizona Cardinals were hoping to pick up where they left off last season but have been unable to sustain any consistency so far in 2009. There are several areas of concern that must be addressed during the bye week in all facets of the game. Brad Wilbricht dissects which problem areas are most critical and where the Cardinals must improve in order to get back on track following the week off.
Outside of a dominating road win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Arizona Cardinals have experienced little success thus far during the 2009 campaign. Home losses against the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts have exploited Arizona’s short comings and have provided a blueprint for the rest of the league. While the finger can be pointed across the board, the Cardinals’ performance along the offensive line and in the secondary is arguably the most alarming.
Arizona’s run game continues to be non-existent for the most part as the team is averaging a mere 61 yards per contest. Rookie RB Chris Wells has failed to make an impact through the first three games of the season and second-year RB Tim Hightower has been a bigger threat as a receiver out of the backfield. While it’s easy to blame the Cardinals’ running backs for the continuous problems on the ground, the offensive line could be the main culprit.
Even more disturbing for Arizona’s offensive line has been its inability to provide QB Kurt Warner with time in the pocket. Warner must assume a portion of the blame but there’s no doubt the Cardinals’ have struggled in the trenches offensively. Warner has already been sacked seven times and seemingly picks himself off the ground on every play. On the perimeter, LT Mike Gandy and RT Levi Brown must right the ship quickly or Arizona’s run to the Super Bowl last season will quickly become a distant memory.
In the secondary, many projected CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to develop into a shutdown corner sooner rather than later. However, Rodgers-Cromartie’s progress has taken a step back early during his second NFL season. Rodgers-Cromartie was burned sporadically during preseason action but the Cardinal faithful were hoping his play would be rectified come the regular season. Unfortunately, his struggles are still present and DRC has now become a target of opposing offenses.
As a whole, Arizona is allowing 280 yards per game through the air and was recently shredded by QB Peyton Manning and the Colts’ banged up receiving corps. The Cardinals’ set out to improve their pass rush during the offseason and they’ve managed to accomplish that goal accumulating eight sacks and 18 tackles for a loss. The improved performance of the pass-rushing unit was expected to translate to similar results in the secondary but that hasn’t been the case.
Arizona has clearly lacked focus and determination during early season action and the bye week could certainly help head coach Ken Whisenhunt regain control of his team and the remainder of the season. The Cardinals got off to a fast start a year ago and experienced a mid-season swoon before catching fire late in the season. Now, the roles are reversed and the defending NFC champions will need to overcome a slow start and begin to pick things up following a 1-2 start.
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