Matt Leinart (Getty)
In the first segment of this two-part offensive analysis, Andy Bishop dissects the playmakers Arizona boasts. Even with recent loss of Anquan Boldin, the receiving group is still phenomenal. The running game is getting better, but the real questions center around Matt Leinart’s ability to be a legitimate starting QB in the NFL.
The thought of Matt Leinart holding the starting quarterback position can’t rest easy with Cardinals fans. But let’s face it; he is the team’s best option. No free agent or rookie can compete with Leinart at this point. Plus, he has worked under coach Whisenhunt’s system for three years now. And while the former Heisman winner has failed to show that he can be a high-quality starter in the league, his time on the pine may have been the necessary remedy for potential success as a starting quarterback.
Aiding Leinart in his pursuit for consistency is a solid, up-and-coming rushing attack. Beanie Wells displayed his first-round talent in 2009, and is ready for a big sophomore season. The one-two punch of Wells and Tim Hightower will be the standard for Arizona’s offense this season. The running attack improved and progressed throughout the 2009 season, and it will be used even more to protect Leinart.
“Some of the questions about Beanie when we brought him in, we didn’t encounter those,” GM Rod Graves said. “I think he will be a growing factor in our offense. I feel we are a
much better football team when we have the ability to run the ball with him and Tim Hightower. I think that will be a growing area in how we run our offense in the years to come.”
WR Larry Fitzgerald
While the Cardinals plan to have a better balance of the running game in the upcoming season, they can’t forget their weapons on the outside. Larry Fitzgerald and company are among the league’s best receiving corps. The recent loss of Anquan Boldin to Baltimore does of course rid the offense of a proven talent. But that’s why the team has been developing Steve Breaston and Early Doucet. Boldin hasn’t been happy in the desert the last couple years and you can bet Cardinals coaches have been prepared for the day when Boldin got traded. Even with the loss of Boldin, it is safe to say that Leinart still has plenty playmakers around him.
One area coaches have to stress this offseason is the long ball. Kurt Warner’s longest pass all season was 45 yards, and Fitzgerald only had a long of 34 yards. The presence of a stronger running game opens up the passing game in so many ways. The Cardinals need defenses to fear the run so that their speedy receivers can get open down field. Everyone knows the playaction pass is so effective. It will be Leinart’s best friend as he grows into his role as starter.
We all know that Arizona’s playmakers can perform when given the opportunity. But opportunities won’t exist if the offensive line can’t open up holes for the running back and protect the quarterback. Arizona offensive line is a bit of a mystery: it’s not terrible, but it’s not great. So there are definitely questions as to what the makeup of the o-line will be next year. In the second part of this series, we examine Arizona’s offensive line and how it holds the key to success for the 2010 season.
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