Published: March 5th, 2012 | Tags: Arizona Cardinals, NFL, 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 NFL Free Agency, Adrian Wilson, Arizona Cardinals, Darnell Dockett, David DeCastro, Jonatha Martin, Mike Adams, Patrick Peterson, Peyton Manning, Playbook, Riley Rieff
Adrian Wilson was lauded for being an “iron man” when it was found out that he played the most snaps of any defender in the league. It’s a lesser known fact, however, that defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, defensive end Calais Campbell and linebacker Paris Lenon led their respective positions in snaps.
Wilson’s accomplishment is admirable, but it doesn’t stand on its own; he and his Cardinals defensive teammates racked up playing time because their offense couldn’t stay on the field.
Heading into this offseason, the Cardinals must address their offensive shortcomings. Whether they shoot for the stars with Peyton Manning, or make less flashy moves with their $10 million in cap space, the offense has to be Arizona’s No. 1 priority heading into the offseason.
Priority 1A – Upgrading the offensive line
Cardinal quarterbacks were sacked 54 times last season (one short of the league-worst Rams, with 55). And the running game wasn’t much better, ranking 24th in the league at 101.6 yards per game.
Center Lyle Sendlein is a piece the Cardinals can build their offensive front around – but no one else, from guard out, is untouchable. The best place to start might be at guard, where Stanford’s David DeCastro could present great value at No. 13 overall and become Sendlein’s double-team partner.
With an improved front five, the Cardinals just need Ryan Williams or Beanie Wells to emerge as the top back. If Arizona values a tackle – and their QB’s blind side above all else – Standford’s Jonathan Martin or Ohio State’s Mike Adams are a possibility, because Iowa’s Riley Rieff probably won’t drop out of the top 10.
Priority 1B – Add more receivers
Arizona has one of the best wideouts in the game, but, beyond that, there weren’t many other options available to John Skelton or Kevin Kolb.
Moreover, it takes time for Fitzgerald’s routes to develop, which leaves the Cardinals with a need for a No. 2 receiver, or someone in the slot, who can win off the snap and be available to the quarterback with pressure coming. The Wes Welkers of the world come with a heavy price, but if you find the next one in the draft, they come cheaply.
Kendall Wright from Baylor is a potential slot talent, but he’ll be pushed up into the first round. Later in the draft, Arizona could target Arkansas’s Joe Adams and Jarius Wright, Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles and Wake Forest’s Chris Givens.
Priority 2 – Forcing turnovers
Ray Horton’s defense was an improved unit with rookies Patrick Peterson and Sam Acho playing significant roles. But these guys racked up plenty of playing time because the defense still couldn’t help itself – by forcing turnovers.
The Cardinals couldn’t get offenses off the field, either, ranking 26th in turnovers forced (19). Adding a pass rusher at outside linebacker and another corner alongside Peterson would heavily benefit their pass defense.
Aaron Maybin and Manny Lawson are two players who were drafted to be rush linebackers and could be decent reclamation projects if Arizona doesn’t want to break the bank.
At corner, Brandon Carr (Chiefs) and Terrell Thomas (Giants) are free agents under 27 years old and are an upgrade over what the Cardinals currently have on the roster.
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