Perhaps the most overlooked won-loss stat of the 2011 season was Arizona’s 7-2 record in the final nine games. The Cardinals’ defense stiffened, allowing an average of just 18.3 points per contest. Ken Whisenhunt still must fix his offense, though, and Arizona’s problems begin up front.
Offensive line: Quarterback Kevin Kolb senses pressure that isn’t there, but he might feel more comfort in the pocket if the Cardinals could cobble together sustained pass protection. Look for Arizona to use its first-round pick either on Stanford right guard David DeCastro or Georgia tackle/guard Cordy Glenn. Position coach Russ Grimm prefers thickly built linemen who can be maulers in the running game. He won’t fall for Stanford’s Jonathan Martin or Ohio State’s Mike Adams.
Wide receiver: Larry Fitzgerald remains a top-three NFL wideout going on age 29, and slot guy Early Doucet runs physically after the catch. The Cardinals lack a complementary outside receiver capable of exploiting man coverage downfield. They’ve shown interest in Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd and Arizona’s Juron Criner ahead of the draft.
Outside linebacker: Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield are potential-ridden young outside ‘backers, but neither is proven as a 16-game starter and the Cardinals have zero depth behind them. You can never have too many pass rushers.
Quarterback: John Skelton won a bunch of games last year and the Cardinals are paying Kolb a lot of money, but there’s little or no long-term stability at this position. Whisenhunt runs a historically vertical offense and will eye young signal callers with downfield passing ability. NFL Films guru Greg Cosell has pegged Ryan Lindley of San Diego State as a potential late-round sleeper. Lindley can make all of the throws, stands a strapping 6-foot-4, and scored high on his Wonderlic exam.