On the Clock: Arizona Cardinals

4/16/2007 - Arizona Cardinals

Through April 20, "SportsCenter" will put every NFL team "On The Clock." Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering.

After a 5-11 season, the Cardinals' ownership brought in Ken Whisenhunt to lead their franchise, which has struggled mightily in recent years. Arizona found its franchise quarterback in last year's draft and has a fantastic group of weapons for Whisenhunt to utilize, as long as the team can get ample blocking up front. The defense has some playmakers, and with a little tweaking, should be able to at least keep games close. There are some pieces in place in Arizona, but changing the losing mentality will be a monumental task for the new staff.

Key additions
Whisenhunt is a key addition in his own right and should help the development of second-year QB Matt Leinart, much as he did in Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger. Whisenhunt also brought one of the best offensive line coaches in the league over with him from Pittsburgh in Russ Grimm. Arizona's front five surely can benefit from his coaching. Terrelle Smith was signed to be a pure lead-blocking fullback. The Cardinals signed two offensive linemen, Mike Gandy and Al Johnson, to compete for playing time and provide depth. Gandy, who should be a starter at guard or tackle, is beginning
minicamps at right tackle. Terrence Holt, Ralph Brown and Roderick Hood were also brought in to battle for playing time. All three should see a lot of action in Arizona's very thin secondary.

Key losses
It isn't a secret that the Cardinals' offensive line wasn't up to par last year or in previous seasons, so the loss of starting LT Leonard Davis to Dallas and C Alex Stepanovich to Cincinnati shouldn't be that substantial. The Cardinals don't have great linemen to step in their places, but it was also obvious that the line wasn't good enough with both these players in the lineup. Davis, an underachiever since joining the league, was paid a king's ransom by Dallas due to the lack of quality offensive linemen on the market and the major increase in salary-cap room across the league. To put it mildly, he wasn't worth it, even though he probably can play every position on the offensive line with the exception of center. He is best suited to play guard, though, but was forced to play on the edge in Arizona due to the lack of true tackles on the roster. Stepanovich had some starting experience for the Cardinals, but is very replaceable.

Remaining questions:
A pure offensive tackle is clearly the Cardinals' top need and they need to find someone who can play right away in this draft, which isn't such an easy chore. Even if they do land a tackle who is capable of starting, another developmental big man up front also should be considered for Grimm to mold. Arizona also really could use an outside linebacker to challenge for a starting spot and another cornerback to compete for playing time. A run-stuffing defensive tackle would be helpful, and the Cards could use another defensive end to add to the rotation and provide insurance in case the injury-prone Bertrand Berry isn't able to play a full season.