INDIANAPOLIS -- Bruce Arians faces two critical questions at the quarterback position as he settles in as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
Who is his quarterback? And, perhaps more important, how does Arizona stop the exciting young dual threats in its own division -- San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick and Seattle's Russell Wilson -- who account for a quarter of the Cardinals' schedule every year.
Kevin Kolb signed with the Cardinals two years ago, but has only been able to make 15 starts due to a variety of issues -- the most concerning being a history of head injuries. His contract calls for a $2 million roster bonus this year and a $9 million salary.
John Skelton admittedly failed to capitalize on three opportunities to take over the starting job, and Ryan Lindley proved to be a long way from being ready to effectively run an NFL offense in limited playing time as a rookie.
"The hardest thing is you can't talk to them right now. We have some tough decisions to make," Arians said, making a direct reference to roster bonuses.
One target who could be added to the mix is Indianapolis Colts backup Drew Stanton, who worked with Arians last season and will become a free agent March 12.
Just as pressing is getting the Cardinals' defense prepared to face Kaepernick and Wilson for years to come. And admitted traditionalist when it comes to the quarterback position, Arians believes defensive coordinators around the league will devise counter measures now that they have a body of work to study from the likes of Kaepernick, Wilson and the Washington Redskins' Robert Griffin III.
"They'll have time to study this new trend," Arians said. "I give the defensive coordinators credit. That will be the emphasis in everyone's room this offseason."
Arians hired Todd Bowles as their defensive coordinator, and added Nick Rapone to coach the defensive backs. Rapone has been on the college level since 1981, and Arians sees NFL teams continuing to pluck defensive minds from the college ranks to bring fresh approaches to combating today's dual-threat quarterbacks.
"Everyone is going to be going to the colleges, rather than the colleges coming to the pros, to get some information on it," Arians predicted.
So is a dual-threat quarterback in the Cardinals' future?
"I'm not a believer in putting your quarterback in harm's way," he said.
Arians said the top quarterbacks in this year's draft, including West Virginia's Geno Smith and Southern Cal's Matt Barkley, have a great body of work to review on film from college. He's not as interested in what they have to say during the "rehearsed" interviews at the scouting combine this week, and is more interested in getting to know the quarterbacks on a more personal basis.
"We'll get all the heights, weights and that stuff. But the two most important muscles you need as a quarterback are the brain and the heart."
--On the Cardinals' offensive line, Arians said: "It's not near the dire straits everyone wants to make it out to be." He noted offensive tackle Levi Brown will be ready for next season, the team was able to give several youngsters a trial by fire in 2012 and that this year's draft is "loaded on both sides of the line."
--Arians confirmed cornerback Patrick Peterson will be the Cardinals' punt returner next season, and "wouldn't say it's out of the question" that he could see some snaps on offense.