Starter Jake Plummer didn't post huge numbers and finished 20th in the NFL in passer rating. His sophomore campaign was a success because he developed into a tremendous leader for this franchise. Despite all his great physical attributes, Jake-the Snake led the Cardinals to the their first playoff victory in decades mainly because he made better decisions under pressure. Dave Brown attempted just five passes all season and seems destined to return as an insurance policy backup in the Valley of the Sun.
Adrian Murrell lacks home run ability but he had his third-straight 1,000+yard season despite running behind a shaky OL. Bates was an effective short-yardage guy scoring 6 touchdowns. Rookie Pittman had a solid preseason but never really fulfilled the third down role that the Cards' envisioned for him. Expect the Cards to spend a mid-round pick or shop for a nickel RB in free agency. FB Centers' picked up his production from '97 but Plummer's downfield vision has reduced his offensive impact.
Frank Sanders and Rob Moore are one of the top complimentary duos in the league. Both players are comfortable going over the middle and adept at making the tough catch, but they lack big play ability and neither is a major red zone threat. Eric Metcalf was added in hopes of adding a spark but was disappointing. Young players such as Fred Brock, Ronnie Anderson, and Chad Carpenter appear to be nothing more than projects at this point. Adding a speed WR to stretch the defense would improve this offense immensely.
Starter Johnny McWilliams' receptions improved dramatically but the Cards are still looking for more from a guy that has great measurables. Backup Chris Gedney is a competent blocker and capable enough receiver to pose a threat in double TE formations. Fifth round pick Terry Hardy is strictly a blocker and will be No.3.
The Cards have overrated their young OL talent for several years and now they realize that they must upgrade this group. Clement moves from ROT to LOT to replace the departed Lomas Brown. If they can get two new starters at ROG and ROT in the off-season they may have a nucleus of a promising group. Until they become more physical and better run blockers, the Cards will not be a complete offensive football team. .
When healthy, this is the best young unit in the league. LDE Andre Wadsworth began to display outstanding pass rush ability opposite RDE Simeon Rice. In his third season, Rice improved vastly against the run and teams could no longer take advantage of his inability to shed blocks. Despite the skeptics, Swann remains one of the most dominant inside forces in the game. If Eric Swann can return to pre-injury form, he will pair with young RDT Mark Smith to form an imposing duo inside. Utility man Brad Ottis, who can play both DT and DE, returns from injury and Rashod Swinger, who responded well in relief, provide the Cards depth.
OLB Jamir Miller, who remains unsigned, and MLB Ronald McKinnon combined for 206 tackles. Re-signing Miller should be a top priority but the Cards inked ex-Lion Rob Fredrickson as insurance. OLB Tony McCombs started 14 games and provided the Cards with an intense speed guy that plays bigger than his size. McCombs and Patrick Sapp are good depth guys but Arizona will probably look to upgrade. Pending Miller's status, Arizona may be forced to add a FA OLB or make it a draft prioty.
This unit developed a late season chemistry, giving much promise for the future. LDC Aeneas Williams is an All-Pro. Rookie Corey Chavous found a home at DC and appears to be the long-term solution. Former No.1 pick DC Tom Knight returns at nickel back. SS Tommy Bennett, the enforcer of the secondary, is a playmaker that supports the run extremely well. After leading the NFC with 8 INT's, FS Kwamie Lassiter, turned down better money in order to keep the secondary in tact. Seventh round pick Pat Tillman was a positive surprise and Malone will figure in the mix after spending all of last season on IR.
Arizona will surely look to make the kicking jobs a competitive situation in training camp. They must choose between Joe Nedney and late-season hero Chris Jacke to handle the placekicking duties. Nedney is in jeopardy of losing his job because his big leg isn't accurate enough. P Scott Player was a miserable replacement for Jeff Feagles. RS Eric Metcalf had a poor season as a big play threat in the return game and must return to form to give Arizona a chance to go to the next level with productive special teams.