32 Questions in 32 Days: Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer
Aug 9 2013 Green Bay WI USA Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer 3 throws a pass during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field Jeff Hanisch USA TODAY Sports

As we count down to the NFL season, Sports Jerks will be bringing you 32 questions in 32 days. Each day, we’ll feature one of the most important questions for a different NFL team heading into the opening weekend of the league.

Today’s feature team and question?

The Arizona Cardinals – Will recent additions help the struggling offense?

Despite having one of the league’s top wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, the Arizona Cardinals were historically bad on offense last season. The franchise was dead last in rushing averaging a meager 75.3 yards per game on the ground and nearly as bad through the air with 187.8 yards per contest.

Four games into the season, the Cardinals looked anything but woeful, though. Arizona was a perfect 4-0, quarterback Kevin Kolb had already posted a 324-yard passing game, and both Fitzgerald and fellow receiver Andre Roberts had 100-yard games under their belts. What’s more is that they had beaten some pretty strong teams along the way, winning games against the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. The Cardinals had high hopes after that start, but things didn’t last.

Arizona bumbled the rest of the season, promptly losing 11 of their 12 remaining games. The offense, inexplicably, reached the 20-point mark only one time in that stretch in a 38-10 win over the Detroit Lions. Based on the hot start, what happened exactly?

First, the Cardinals had no real option at quarteback after Kolb went out with a rib injury in Week six against the Buffalo Bills. Arizona tried three other quarterbacks afterwards in John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, and Brian Hoyer, but all failed to revive the struggling offense.

Arizona also had no threat of a running game, putting even more pressure on the offense. Beanie Wells sat out several games last season due to injury, forcing backups LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell, and Ryan Williams into bigger roles. None were equipped to handle a starting job and the running backs put together only two 100-yard games the entire season, both coming from Stephens-Howling.

After such a disastrous season, there’s nowhere to go but up. With a new quarterback and running back taking command, the question is how much can the team improve offensively? If the team stays free of injuries, things should be significantly better in Arizona in 2013.

The Cardinals completely revamped both positions for this year. Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton were both brought in at quarterback and should provide an upgrade over Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. Palmer has been named the starter and will get first crack at upgrading the offense. He brings a lot of experience to the table and at 33, still has plenty left in the tank. In 2012 in Oakland, the quarterback threw for 4,018 yards, falling just short of his career-high 4,131 back in 2007. Palmer still throws as many interceptions as a lot of rookie quarterbacks, but he also knows how to move teams up and down the field. There will be moments when fans want to claw their eyes out, but in the end, adding Palmer’s arm should result in more points.

Arizona also took a stab at retooling the running backs unit. Gone are Wells and Stephens-Howling and in their place is former Pittsburgh Steelers’ rusher Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall played sparingly in 2012 after an ACL injury in the previous season. He fell out of favor in Pittsburgh after inconsistent play, but averaged over 1,000 yards per season in each of the prior three years. If healthy, Mendenhall will be an easy upgrade over a stagnant running game last season.

There’s no telling how good the offense will be in 2013, but with some key additions, things should be markedly better than last year.

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Anson Whaley
Anson Whaley is a freelance writer with more than 16 years of experience. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and a current member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). Mr. Whaley has also been a credentialed member of the media for various events. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+'://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');