With the Packers and Cardinals playing this Friday evening, I got in touch with Tyler Nickel of Revenge of the Birds to get his take on the Cardinals and their upcoming season. I couldn't limit myself to just four questions though, so like this game in 1990 that helped Colorado to the national championship, I decided to take a 5th down. Enjoy.
APC: Of course, I have to ask about Kevin Kolb. What's the perception of him in the Cardinals' fan base, and what was the general reaction to the trade for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Kolb's ensuing giant contract?
RotB: I would say that the Kolb trade has produced a lot of mixed feelings. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, affectionately known as DRC, had a down year last season, but he is still young and many regarded him as a future shutdown corner. Parting with him, along with a second-round pick definitely was not easy for the Cardinals front office or the fans, but everyone knows that you need a QB to win in this league, so the Cardinals went out and got their #1 guy. The contract was also pretty steep, but after further review of the numbers and how his contract plays out, it occurred to me that he could realistically be cut after this season without a ton of financial loss. He received a $10 million dollar signing bonus and he is only due to make $3 million in base salary over the next two seasons of his 5-year $63 million contract. The team could decide to part ways with him, but this is especially doubtful considering what they gave up to acquire him.
APC: What's the state of the Cardinals' running game? Will Beanie Wells ever turn into the bruising runner that Big Ten defenses feared, or do you see Ryan Williams taking the job?
RotB: As always, it is expected that this will be the year Beanie Wells breaks out. I was up at Cardinals training camp a couple of weeks ago and the guy just looks like he finally gets it. Also, he is healthy now, whereas he has not had favorable health during his career. Aside from a goal line mishap in the first preseason game against the Raiders, Beanie looks ready to grab and retain the starting running back job. I do not foresee Williams taking the starting role from him, but he will still be a big part of the offense for his ability to receive out of the backfield and make dynamic plays.
APC: How have the major new additions to the team (Kolb, Patrick Peterson, Todd Heap, etc) been performing thus far? And just how excited was the fan base about seeing Peterson slip down to the Cardinals with the 5th overall draft pick?
RotB: Kolb has done everything expected of him so far. Coach Ken Whisenhunt repeatedly praises his work ethic and drive to learn and be great, so that's always a good sign. He made some good throws vs. the Raiders, so hopefully he can continue to show his understanding of the offense and thrive throughout the preseason. Patrick Peterson is still working with the second team for now, but many expect him to work his way up to becoming a starter sometime during the season, possibly even by week one. He has to continue to show consistency and he will get there; he's just too talented to be a backup. Also, he could be an option as punt returner with his amazing speed and vision. Todd Heap suffered a sprained left thumb against the Raiders, but being that it is a minor injury he will play through it. He will be a huge safety net for Kolb this season and the offense will flourish with him in the lineup. Expect to see him featured in a lot of two tight end sets for the Cardinals this season. I do not foresee them using the 4 WR sets nearly as often as they did last year and during the Kurt Warner era.
APC: Give me your best-case, worst-case, and most likely scenarios that could play out for the Cardinals this season.
RotB: Best-case, the Cardinals win the division and make a deep playoff run. Their defense will have to be able to rush the passer and stop the run game (two things they have notoriously struggled with), but it can be done.
Worst-case, they end up with a top 5 draft pick again and select a really good pass rusher or offensive tackle.
Likely scenario: I honestly believe that the Cardinals will win the division and make it back to the playoffs this year. Barring injuries, this team is just too talented and they feature some of the best players in the game (Fitzgerald, Adrian Wilson when healthy, etc.) Once they get to the playoffs, it will depend on matchups, home field advantage, etc. but they could make another Cinderella run.
Bonus question: Obviously, one of our authors is madly in love with O'Brien Schofield from his time at Wisconsin. We're not all as obsessed as he is, but we certainly like to keep up with our former Badgers. What's OB's role expected to be this season, and how has he been perceived in Arizona?
RotB: The Cardinals coaching staff expects O'Brien Schofield to take over the reigns at the ROLB position from Joey Porter. Porter finished the season last year with only 5 sacks, but at the age of 34, he played 99% of the snaps. Obviously, putting that much wear on his body was not beneficial to the team, so the hope is that Schofield can take some if not most of those downs. He is a dominant pass rusher and with Ray Horton's new defensive scheme, the future looks bright for the young playmaker.
Thanks again to Tyler for his gracious interview.