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49ers-Cardinals: A Q&A with Revenge of the Birds

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As some of you may have noticed during the preseason we mixed in some Q&As with opposing bloggers.  The best way to find out about an opposing team is to check in with one of their bloggers.  Fortunately SB Nation has NFL bloggers covering every single team.  So, for the 2009 season we'll have a Q&A every single week.

For this week, we welcome cgolden from Revenge of the Birds.  He's already posted a FanPost answering your questions, but I wanted to get some specific answers out to the front page.  Enjoy.

Fooch: Obviously a team's preseason record should be taken with a huge grain of salt (see last season's 4-0 Lions).  At the same time, struggles in the preseason tend to raise concerns among the fanbase.  The Cardinals finished 0-4 with the worst point differential in the NFL.  How are the fans taking it and do you have any idea why the team struggled?

CG: Well the reaction has been pretty mixed so far despite the poor play by the Cardinals. I've said it a million times that I couldn't care less what the final score of preseason game is but the poor, sloppy play by the first team offense and defense is something that concerns quite a few fans, including myself. Cardinals players and coaches have thrown a couple of excuses out there such as a lack of game planning for opponents and the inability to muster the same fire and passion that they showed during the playoffs. The game planning is pretty much a given, although every team could also use that excuse, but the lack of fire and passion is somewhat concerning. Several of the players have hinted that they just could get their heads wrapped around going full bore for a preseason game after tasting playoff success. I'd also expect that the injuries at the receiver position (Boldin, Breaston and Doucet have all missed time) have also played a significant role in the lack of offensive production.

Fooch: Along the same lines (and feel free to combine these questions together if you want), is there concern of a Super Bowl hangover that often afflicts the loser of the big game?

CG: Concern probably depends on who you ask but the idea of the Super Bowl loser being the only team that falters is a bit of an overblown theory, in my opinion. One thing that rarely mentioned is that since the 2002 Super Bowl, the winner has also failed to make the playoffs the following season three times (in seven years). In my mind there are two main concerns for the Cardinals as they enter 2009, the first being health. The Cardinals were fortunate that they sustained very few injuries last year and they didn't have to send a single starter to the injured reserve the entire season. Injuries have a way of playing back into the law of averages so we'll see if the team can be as fortunate as they were last year. The second concern for them is that they have to decide whether they are the team that faltered down the stretch in 2008 or the team that ran through the NFC playoffs en route to the Super Bowl.

After the jump we check in with cgolden on Kurt Warner, the Cardinals rushing game, their 2009 defense and potential break-out players...

Fooch: Are the Cardinals (and their fans) confident riding the arm of Kurt Warner in spite of his age?  Would Leinart be ready to take over if Warner went down with an injury?

CG: Confident....yes. How confident is probably the better question. Old man Warner had hip surgery in the off season (funny picture) and as recently as the second preseason game he was still walking gingerly and noticeably uncomfortable. He's said that he actually feels better moving around instead of standing still or slowly walking but his hip has gotten quite a bit of press as he's stumbled to a 47.4 QB rating in the preseason. One thing that I think we're all still confident about is that Warner can still get the job done at a Pro Bowl level and once his receivers and the game plan are installed, I think we'll see him return to form. If he were to get injured, I feel that Matt Leinart is quite capable of leading this team to wins. The offense might lean a little more on the running game but Leinart is looking more and more like a capable NFL quarterback every time he steps on the field.

Fooch: What can we expect from the Cardinals rushing attack now that Edgerrin James is out of the picture?  According to Football Outsiders, the Arizona rushing game finished 28th in the NFL.  Can Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower rectify that?

CG: Wow 28th? I've been touting them as the league's worst rushing attack for seven months now. In all honesty though, the Cardinals rushing attack was putrid last season and they can only go one direction this season. The addition of Beanie and subtraction of Edge means that we've gained potential and lost production. Some might consider that a wash but I give a slight edge (pun intended) to Beanie being an upgrade. That combined with the new slim and trim Tim Hightower has some thinking that the Cardinals could actually move the ball on the ground somewhat effectively this season. Just to put a cherry on top the weakest link in the Cards offensive line, Lyle Sendlien, also had off season shoulder surgery and has looked much stronger this preseason despite facing mammoth nose tackles Casey Hampton, Jamal Williams and B.J. Raji.

Fooch: The defense wasn't exactly stellar in 2008.  What kind of changes can we expect in 2009?

CG: Changes?!? You want changes?!? We've got plenty of changes for you, including the front seven finally scraping the Clancy Pendergast "hybrid" look and committing to a more traditional 3-4 front. The defense as a whole will have three new starters, Clark Haggans (OLB), Calais Campbell (DE) and free agent signee Bryant McFadden (CB) and a much more aggressive style of play. The new defensive coordinator (whom you guys are very familiar with) Bill Davis has said that he'll incorporate a much more extensive blitz package than Pendergast ever carried. That of course will put some pressure on the secondary but there are hopes that the secondary, which allowed the most passing TD's last season, will be much improved. McFadden is a clear upgrade over Roderick Hood and DRC should continue to grown with every game. Both cornerbacks have good size and are a perfect compliment to each other considering that DRC is the uber-athletic burner and McFadden is the physical run stopper. The Cardinals also hope that Antrel Rolle settles into the free safety spot this year along with third round pick Rashad Johnson and that the duo can limit opposing offenses from breaking off big plays.

Fooch: Aside from Beanie Wells, who do you think is a good candidate to be a young break-out player in 2009 for the Cardinals?

CG: To be honest, I don't think Beanie is going to have the kind of breakout season that some expect, but that's not because he doesn't have the ability. I think that Hightower is going to hold onto the starting job longer than most expect and that carries will be split very evenly by the end of the season. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if neither back approached 1,000 yards but combined they had some where close to 1,600. A guy who is a legitimate breakout candidate though is Calais Campbell. Defensive ends in a 3-4 don't traditionally rack up stats but Campbell has shown some outstanding ability for a second year player in the preseason against the run and as a pass rusher. I wouldn't be surprised if he racked up a handful of sacks and close to 50 tackles (both very good numbers for a 3-4 DE).