Some will tell you that the Kevin Kolb era is about to begin in Arizona, while others might prefer to call it the Patrick Peterson era. Some might even insist that the Larry Fitzgerald era is continuing following a few tweaks.
Kolb, who was acquired from Philadelphia in the offseason, takes over at quarterback for a franchise that has been desperate for a veteran pivot since Kurt Warner walked away after the 2009 season. Peterson, who was selected with the No. 5 overall pick in April’s draft, is the most hyped defensive back prospect the league has had since Charles Woodson circa 1998.
Kolb will be counted on to make extreme improvements to an offense that ranked 31st out of 32 and converted an NFL-low 28 percent of its third downs in 2010.
Peterson will be asked to emerge as a shutdown corner and playmaker for a defense that ranked 29th out of 32 and gave up an ugly 27.1 points per game despite playing a weak schedule in 2010.
But the transition to the two new era(s) won’t be fast or easy. Kolb and Peterson are learning new systems in short time frames, and they aren’t exactly supported by great complementary pieces.
2010 in a nutshell: After winning three of their first five games they lose seven straight and nine of their last 11, finishing dead last in the worst division in football.
Three predictions for 2011:
1. Kevin Kolb will take a lot of sacks: The Cards surrendered 50 sacks in 2010, which was the second-highest total in the league. Kolb gave up 15 sacks on just 189 pass attempts in 2010 and has already developed a reputation as a quarterback who doesn’t perform well under pressure. Left tackle Levi Brown is awful and right tackle Brandon Keith is coming off of knee surgery, which doesn’t bode well for Kolb’s chances this season. At least in Philadelphia Kolb had a lot of options to get the ball to quickly. But in Arizona, who does he have beyond Fitzgerald, especially now that Steve Breaston is gone?
2. The run defense will improve: That isn’t saying a lot, but I’m trying to find some positives here. This is a unit that was gashed much of last year, finishing 30th against the run. But there’s a good chance linebacker Daryl Washington really steps it up in his second season. They also added veteran field general Stewart Bradley in free agency, and 2010 first-round pick Dan Williams should only get better.
3. The running game will continue to suck: They did add Daryn Colledge and Floyd Womack while re-signing Lyle Sendlein to shore up a solid interior offensive line, but Tim Hightower is gone and rookie running back Ryan Williams is out for the year, leaving the unproven (and rather disappointing) Beanie Wells to do everything on his own. The Cards’ run game ranked dead last in the league last year — I can’t see it improving drastically with Beanie going solo in 2011.
The final word(s): Kolb will be an upgrade and Ray Horton’s defense will be more effective as the players become acclimated to the new system, but this is a team that is at least a year away from competing, even in the awful NFC West. I’m giving them six wins.