Jan. 1, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver (11) Larry Fitzgerald makes a one handed catch in overtime against the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium. With the reception Fitzgerald became the fourth receiver to record four 1400 yard seasons. The Cardinals defeated the Seahawks 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

For Better or for Worse: Measuring Franchise Development

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The Arizona Cardinals were a team in transition in 2011. They had a new QB in Kevin Kolb and an improving defense.

This year so far as OTAs and mini camps are concluding, things don’t look much clearer than they did at the end of last season. On the last day of mini camp, fans are traditionally let in to see the team. Kolb took the field to the boos of some 12,000+ fans who have long memories.

I have mixed feelings on the unlikely QB controversy. When Skelton started, they went 5-2. With Kolb starting, they won 1 game in 3. However, statistically speaking Kolb was the better player – except in the “win” column.

The much-maligned OL should have a whole new starting right sight and depth at both guard spots has been reinforced with mostly journeymen in the offseason. Two young running backs are coming off injuries, and rookie Michael Floyd’s role in the offense has yet to be discovered.

Lots of issues with the offense here.

The team’s best player, WR Larry Fitzgerald, has said the tight end position is a strength on the offense and he’s probably correct. They’ve got 3 with different skill sets and any one or two of which would probably start or see a lot of playing time in sub-packages for most teams. They’ve got depth and breadth there. Otherwise with a shaky, overpaid and fragile QB starting (Kolb – he’s making the money so he’s starting), a revamped OL, and rookies to work in, the Cardinal offense played like a confused team for much of minicamp.

Coach Whisenhunt said he began to see progress at the end, but what coach preaches doom and gloom at this point in the season? They all have to be upbeat whether they truly feel that way or not…unless things just look like a total disaster and motivation is the reason behind badmouthing your own squad. Certainly, a Head Coach doesn’t want anyone feeling complacent and constantly is looking for ways to motivate players, but things just weren’t pretty offensively.

No, the smart thing is to handle the issues with calm confidence, which is exactly how the team is handling it and that’s a good thing for organizational stability. For the defense’s part, it seems to be picking up somewhat from where they left off at the end of last season – an improving unit.

So where does this leave the Cardinals compared to last season’s team?

I think they’re taking a bit of a step backwards early but should wind up better for it in mid-late season. How they do out of the gate should dictate their chances at a wild card spot (49’ers will win the division again easily) as they learn to play together and anticipate better. I do think they’ve improved their overall talent and depth in most places they needed to.

Look for them to be an up-and-down team this year. I see no real improvement overall as the QB situation hasn’t gotten any clearer with Kolb’s shaky minicamp but a true offseason should only help his understanding and stats. If Kolb can grow into the QB they thought they were getting, they could have fits and starts of being dangerous with a lot of good weapons on offense.

Since the QB position is by far the most important, that’ll be the key here. Kolb nor Skelton are exactly Brady or Manning, but a lot can be achieved if everyone else on the offense picks things up.

A difficult team to project, I’ll play it a bit safe and say they should be about the same as last season with some chance of improvement. 10% chance of a playoff spot or Whisenhunt could find himself on the hotseat after another .500-ish season. They finished well last year and would be well served to carry that over to this one, but it isn’t showing up on the field yet.

They’ve still got a lot of work to do.

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