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2005 preview: Cardinals

Charles Robinson
Yahoo Sports
NFC West predictions
1. Arizona
2. Seattle
3. St. Louis
4. San Francisco
Arizona Cardinals
Head coach: Dennis Green, second season
2004 record: 6-10
2004 rankings: Offense, 27th (284.4 yards/game); Defense, 12th (321.3 yards/game)
2005 strength of schedule: 28th
From SportingNews.com: NFC West overview

The Cardinals improved in 2004, but most people will remember the season for Dennis Green's revolving door at quarterback, where he started Josh McCown, Shaun King and John Navarre.

Arizona's 6-10 campaign really should be recognized as a year it put together a surprisingly stiff defense while carefully probing the weaknesses on its own offense.

Truthfully, Green's quick hook of McCown basically destroyed whatever chance the offense had of making significant improvements. But one thing Green did walk away with was a clear picture of the unit's problem areas – with running back, quarterback and right tackle topping the list.

OFFENSE

Quarterback Kurt Warner has looked very, very sharp in training camp and the preseason, and he appears to have already found a rhythm with the young receiving corps. While he may not be able to return to MVP form, there is a chance he could at least elevate himself into the upper third of the league’s quarterbacks. There's a slim chance Warner could post huge numbers one more time, but Green does want him to throw deep.

His top three wide receivers – Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Bryant Johnson – have looked superb. Johnson has two touchdown catches in two years, but he became more productive last season. This year, he’ll need to be a bigger factor in the red zone.

Green really was disenchanted with tackle L.J. Shelton. He cut him loose and replaced him with Oliver Ross, a free agent who was overshadowed by his Pro Bowl teammates in Pittsburgh but who should be a quality addition for the Cardinals. He and Leonard Davis will need to play well to keep the pressure off inexperienced interior linemen.

Rookie running back J.J. Arrington will be hard to find behind that line, and Green thinks the former University of California star has loads of potential. Marcel Shipp still has a slight chance to win the starting job, but it's unlikely.

DEFENSE

Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast got creative with his formations last season, doing whatever he could to confound opposing offenses. It worked wonders at times, but the team wanted to upgrade the talent so it wouldn't have to resort to confusion.

The defensive line has a chance to be dominant this season. Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is on the verge of becoming one of the league's top defensive tackles. He'll be surrounded by two quality defensive ends in Pro Bowler Bertrand Berry and free agent Chike Okeafor.

The linebackers are solid, and they got a boost in depth with the signing of outside linebacker Orlando Huff and the drafting of Darryl Blackstock. The secondary lost Duane Starks, but it gained rookie Antrel Rolle, who has the goods to be the No. 1 cornerback immediately. David Macklin is mediocre at the other corner spot, but he's not likely to get pushed by rookie Eric Green or veteran Robert Tate.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Punter Scott Player is top notch, while kicker Neil Rackers has been serviceable. The return men will be sorted out in the preseason.

PREDICTION

The Cardinals will finish 9-7 and first in the NFC West.

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