Cardinals: Plenty to Look for at Combine

Nick Fairley (AP Photo)

With the NFL Scouting Combine taking place this weekend, the Cardinals have the luxury of looking at every position in order to get better.

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A quick look at the Cardinals' stat line from 2010 makes it painfully obvious that several areas need to be addressed this offseason. When dissecting the draft, Arizona will have plenty of players to choose from when attempting to improve the roster for next year.

The Cardinals' pass game ranked 31st in the league, compiling only 183 yards per contest. Of course, this area will hopefully be addressed with a new quarterback, but help at wide receiver and tight end could also come in handy.

The long-term status of Larry Fitzgerald has come under question as have the short-term statuses of Steve Breaston and Early Doucet. While it would be surprising if all three eventually wound up leaving the desert, it wouldn't be a total shocker.

Because of that possibility, investing a high pick on a wideout is a realistic possibility. Should CB Patrick Peterson of LSU and Texas A&M OLB Von Miller be off the board at pick No. 5 – assuming Arizona doesn't trade down – securing Georgia WR A.J. Green might be the team's best option, providing he's still available. The Cardinals could also look to fill the potential voids later in the draft but the list of true difference makers at the receiver position will decline as the draft progresses.

Tight end has been a forgotten position during the Ken Whisenhunt era and the stopgap known as Ben Patrick looks to be on his way out. Finding a capable tight end is generally considered easier than at wide receiver, and the Cardinals may look to free agency rather than draft. Former Arizona St. standout Zach Miller, who could be destined to end his tenure with the Oakland Raiders, is a logical target.

While it's hard to believe, Arizona's running game was even worse than an inept passing attack in 2010 (at least statistically) finishing dead last in the NFL. The Cardinals managed only 87 yards per game on the ground in a season that was supposed to bring back true balance to the offensive side of the ball.

Levi Brown

That scenario didn't pan out, and while the duo of Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower must also improve, the onus falls on the offensive line. The offensive line failed to gain any kind of momentum and could be in store for a complete makeover.

Veteran Alan Faneca is pondering retirement and Deuce Lutui is an unrestricted free agent. The group of expected returning starters – Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein and Brandon Keith – isn't a reason for overwhelming confidence in the trenches.

If the Cardinals are able to upgrade the offensive line through the draft, they'll need to either hold off until the conclusion of Round 1 or trade down to find adequate value. Waiting until Round 2 is probably the most likely scenario and there could be some good options still on the board. Boston College's Anthony Castonzo comes to mind, along with Derek Sherrod of Mississippi St. and Benjamin Ijalana, a potential sleeper out of Villanova.

Moving to the defensive side of the ball, things don't get much better. Arizona ranked 23rd in passing yards allowed and 30th in rushing yards allowed. Ideally a combo linebacker that could contribute in both areas would be ideal but that prospect isn't out there this year. Miller is the closest to fit the bill, but his skill set looks to be more on the pass rushing side, rather than someone able to hold up in coverage in the 3-4 defense.

If not Miller, Justin Houston, another prospect from Georgia, North Carolina's Bruce Carter or Kelvin Sheppard of LSU would be considered in the second round.

Depending on how the draft board shakes out, a top tier defensive lineman could fall to the fifth pick, leaving Arizona no choice but to go with value. Defensive line is one of the team's biggest strengths but a versatile prospect able to play multiple positions would be considered.

While it might be a long shot for Auburn's Nick Fairley or Marcell Dareus of Alabama to slide that far, the Cardinals could be forced to pull the trigger if they do – even with more pressing areas of need.

No team wants to be in the position the Cardinals are in – coming off a 5-11 season with a top five pick in the draft – but one advantage Arizona has is the ability to deploy a true best player available strategy. That strategy starts this weekend by keeping an open mind and scouting as many players as possible in Indianapolis.

Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at

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