The Arizona Cardinals for the past few seasons have been a reliable fantasy juggernaut. Mostly in the passing game have the fantasy points poured in but last season the rushing game came around also to provide some gems. What changes have occurred over the last few months to the Cardinals offense? Is there a cause for concern regarding the high flying passing game of the Cardinals? Did they add any intriguing draft picks to watch out for? Let's look at what the Cardinals have lost offensively since the end of their season and then what new pieces have been added.
The Cards could not have had a bigger loss than Kurt Warner. Here was a quarterback who changed the face of the franchise. They were no longer the laughing stock of the NFL. They almost won Super Bowl 43, if not for an amazing catch by Santonio Holmes. It was not as if his retirement was unforeseen. Warner almost retired last off-season, coming back for one last kick at the can. No more will the locker room or the huddle have the experience and confidence that Warner provided, to lead them to victory. Stepping in will be former first round draft choice Matt Leinart. We got a taste of what the future would bring, during Leinart's week 12 start against Tennessee and three other games where he played extensively (at St. Louis, vs. Green Bay, at New Orleans). He showed pretty good accuracy but did not throw any TD's. It was a completely different team when he was behind center. Leinart started the majority of 2006 and the first few games of 2007, so it's not a completely new experience for the 27 year old. Expect about 16 TD's, 16 Int's and 3000 yards.
Another key part of the passing game moved on when the Cardinals traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the Baltimore Ravens. Boldin joined the Cards in 2003 and was really a nice fit in their offense. He led the team only twice in receiving yards because the year after he joined the club, they drafted Larry Fitzgerald. Also, injuries limited him to two full 16 game seasons. Stepping up to replace him will likely be Steve Breaston, who has really impressed the last two seasons. Even though he was only their third WR, he already has a 1000 yard season on his resume. Look for probably the same number he had last year, 50 catches, 700 yards and 3 TD's.
The Cardinals also let go of their two kickers in Neil Rackers and Mike Nugent. Rackers had a really good run over the last seven years kicking for the Cards but he was injured close to the end of last season. Likewise, his accuracy has left something to be desired from longer than 50 yards. Mike Nugent was a fill in for two games and will not be missed. We'll talk about their replacement in the Additions.
The Cardinals picked up QB Derek Anderson to give Matt Leinart some competition and have a safety net in case he falters. That net though contains a few holes. Anderson impressed in 2007 with his 29 TD's and 3787 yards. He looked like a fantasy stud but over the last two years he's been a fantasy dud. His TD:INT ratio has been 12:18. If Leinart falters, he might be interesting but I really don't see him being that reliable (ever again).
At kicker, Arizona grabbed Jay Feely. He's not too much different from the man he replaces. He should have a really good season because of kicking indoors at home and the unpredictibility of the Cardinals offense. I would say 109 points with 31 XP and 26 FG.
In the draft, the Cardinals chose WR Andre Roberts from The Citadel in the third round. He will probably be the smallest of the WR's on the Cards roster but should get some playing time as their punt returner and in four WR sets. Roberts is athletic and speedy. Keep an eye on him for the future. Going small school again, in the fifth round they chose QB John Skelton of Fordham. He's a big QB, who improved each year in college and is quite mobile for his size. He could make the roster as their 3rd QB. Lastly, they drafted TE Jim Dray from Stanford. He's known more for his blocking, so it's much wiser to look elsewhere.
Arizona wants to see what they have in Leinart. Last year, he barely won the backup job. Boldin was a head case but he caused real headaches for the opposition. He will be missed, especially by Leinart. Their additions certainly don't equal their losses. It could be a long season in the desert.