Five Questions: Arizona Cardinals

Ken Whisenhunt (Christian Petersen/Getty)

What have the Arizona Cardinals been doing this offseason? Scout.com NFL analyst John Crist has another rendition of Five Questions, this time with AZRedReport.com publisher Brad Wilbricht.


The Cardinals can't honestly think that John Skelton, who completed 47.6 percent of his passes as a rookie, is going to be their starting quarterback in 2011. (Christian Peterson/Getty)

John Crist: No question about it, this team was an absolute embarrassment at the game's most important position in 2010, yet a new quarterback is still yet to make his way to the desert. A trade has to be in the works once we get back to football. Who starts under center Week 1?

Brad Wilbricht: The lockout has left a lot of uncertainly around the Cardinals' starting quarterback, but after the team passed on one in the draft, all signs point to a trade being made or a free agent being brought in. The two names that will surface on the trade market once the lockout ends are Kevin Kolb and Kyle Orton. Both Kolb and Orton would be major upgrades at the position, and one would think Arizona learned its lesson the hard way last year about not being prepared under center. Should the Cardinals opt for another bargain quarterback such as Marc Bulger, who apparently has little interest in coming to Arizona, or decide on John Skelton as the starter, 2011 will be another long season in the desert.

As of now, I'd say Kolb or Orton will be the starter, with Matt Moore and Carson Palmer -- if the Bengals trade him -- also being possibilities.

JC: Take us back to the NFL Draft. Who was your favorite of Arizona's picks? Least favorite? Did the team properly address its biggest needs and get good value with each selection? If you had been in the war room, is there anything you would have done differently?

BW: As far as the best pick, getting the talent of cornerback Patrick Peterson with the fifth pick is hard to argue with. Although he doesn't necessarily fill a need, he's a game changer on defense and special teams. The worst pick, at least until he proves otherwise, has to be running back Ryan Williams. The decision by the Cardinals' front office was a real head scratcher, not because Williams isn't a good player, but because there were so many needs elsewhere. The same can be said about tight end Rob Housler, who was taken a round later.

Clearly, the Cardinals stressed value over need in this draft, and their draft grades weren't exactly in line with the rest of the league. Selecting fullback Anthony Sherman in Round 5 seemed like another reach, but securing linebackers Sam Acho and Quan Sturdivant in Rounds 4 and 6, respectively, might make up for it.

JC: Usually we have free agency and then the draft, but this year -- eventually -- it's going to be the other way around. Now that the draft is in the rearview mirror, what position would you most like to see the Cardinals address in free agency, and who could be a possible target?

BW: Arizona's top priority will be addressing the quarterback position. There will be a handful of capable free agents available, but the Cardinals will have better luck trading for a new starting quarterback. There seems to always be room for another offensive lineman in Arizona, and this year is no different as the team is still lacking talent in the trenches. Elsewhere on offense, the wide receiver position would probably benefit from a newcomer, particularly if Steve Breaston leaves via free agency.

Defensively, linebacker is an area where an established player could really come in and make an impact. The Cardinals are sufficient along the defensive line, although depth is somewhat of an issue, and the secondary is solid, but the team's poor linebacking corps was the main culprit of the defense's struggles a year ago.

JC: On the offensive side of the football, with two rookie running backs coming to town, that can't be good news for former first-round choice Beanie Wells. I can't imagine he'd add much flavor to any sort of trade package for a QB, so could he be outright released before too long?

BW: Wells' performance was very underwhelming in 2010, but many are quick to forget about a promising rookie campaign two years ago. Wells racked up nearly 800 yards rushing during that season, and his seven touchdown runs tied for first amongst rookies. Given the problems the Cardinals had under center last year, it's hard to judge any of the players on the offensive side of the ball -- Wells included. I'd say it's too soon to give up on Wells at this point, and there should be teams willing to make a deal if he ends up on the trade market. The Eagles have reportedly expressed interest in him, meaning that we could see him in a trade that brings Kolb to Arizona.

There is little chance of the Cardinals releasing him, and even with the newcomers in the mix, they'll require adequate value in return if a trade is made.

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JC: Defensively, putting more pressure on the passer from the outside linebacker spots is a must this coming year, as free-agent additions Clark Haggans and Joey Porter only combined for 10 sacks last season. Also, is there any hope for O'Brien Schofield?

BW: There is a lot of hope for Schofield, but the fate of the Cardinals' pass rush can't be left solely in his hands. Schofield, who missed the first six games of the 2010 season rehabbing a torn ACL, is a disruptive pass rusher but will need some help. Although it seemed unlikely that Porter would be back in the latter stages of last year, the lockout might have changed that outcome. Free agents will be harder to come by, making Porter much more valuable than he would be in a typical offseason. Acho will also provide some firepower off the edge, but clearly some new blood is necessary to maintain a consistent pass rush.

Having another weapon in the secondary like Peterson will also help the team's pass rush, as will a bounce back season from former Pro Bowl corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

For all the latest news, notes and quotes on the Cardinals, visit AZRedReport.com.

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John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout.com. Brad Wilbricht is the publisher of AZRedReport.com.

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