Besides the usual thumping administered to the Rams, games against the Arizona Cardinals once gave Rams fans the chance to see QB Kurt Warner, the man who helped lead the team back during those halcyon days of yore. Of course, he was the one mostly responsible for putting the hurt to the St. Louis Rams during those games, but reminders of better times were always appreciated as the franchise rotted out from neglect.
As you know all too well, replace Kurt Warner, or any player who comes to define an era, is incredibly difficult. That's where the Cardinals find themselves this year, feeling their way forward without their leader. Now these two teams find themselves at different, but unique spots. While the Cardinals begin the inevitable search for an identity, the Rams are finally coming into their own after a few seasons in the wilderness.
Ahead of this week's game, I chatted with Greg from Revenge of the Birds, SBN's Cardinals site, on how the team was coping with the post-Warner era and a sizable amount of personnel turnover elsewhere on the roster. After the jump, lots more on the Rams' week 1 opponent.
I still like the Rams chances in this game, provided they execute well and play mistake-free football. Read on...
Rams fans know all too well just how hard it is to replace Kurt Warner. Is there optimism that the QB situation there is settled and sufficient enough to win games?
Optimism is such a strong word. Forced acceptance is basically where most Cardinals fans are at right now. People may question the decision head coach Ken Whisenhunt and the front office made in cutting Matt Leinart but it was the equivalent of sinking a life boat. It forces everyone to stay on the ship and not start to look at the backup plan when things get rough. Arizona fans are now married to Derek Anderson for better or for worse.
Anderson has thrown to a group of receivers over the last two seasons that are about as effective at catching as a fishing line without a hook or bate. Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet should make him look a lot more accurate than he ever looked in Cleveland. Good wideouts make everything more forgiving.
The Cardinals offensive line looked suspect in preseason play, was that just preseason rust or a real concern?
It was a case of growing pains do to adjustment. There was a player who moved positions, Levi Brown, A first year starter, Brandon Keith. A new acquisition, pro bowler Alan Faneca and a starter working to get out of the doghouse for being fat, Deuce Lutui.
Due to all these factors the preseason looked rough. I expect a much different unit to show up in the opening game. As the season progress so will this offensive line.
The defense had some major personnel turnover, what does the new unit do well and what are it's weaknesses?
The new unit is much like the old. They are still susceptible to the big play through the air --see the Packers and Saints versus the Cardinals in the playoffs-- but they are scrappy and consistently hustle. They should stop the run a little more effectively than last year with the addition of first round pick Dan Williams and their pass rush should be improved with the addition of Joey Porter and the maturation of Calais Campbell.
While they're prone to the big play, the Cards top two corners Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Greg Toeler may both be from small schools, but they have the talent to shut down the opposition. Where the trouble in the secondary comes is when the opponent goes with three, four or five wide receiver sets. The depth just isn't there at cornerback.
What's the game plan without Beanie Wells?
Tim Hightower. Just because Beanie Wells might be out, the Cardinals still have their first string runningback in the lineup Sunday. Hightower may not have the flashy name because he went to Richmond, but he has the talent. He's had plenty of success against the Rams recording his two career 100 yard games against St. Louis.
Plus, it's the Cards. Just because Kurt Warner is gone doesn't mean they won't pass and pass often. Expect as healthy dose of Derek Anderson to Fitzgerald, Breaston, Doucet and Williams.
In January, what will be the big story line for the Cardinals 2010 season?
The success or failure of Derek Anderson. It will be the storyline after every game even. If he can keep the touchdown to interception ration close to even the Cardinals should be in a good spot. I think he has the potential with the receiving core in Arizona to do much better than that and surpass his 2007 numbers.