Brownie Points: Cardinals problems run deep but start with O-line - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Brownie Points: Cardinals problems run deep but start with O-line

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Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. Contact him at jbrown5548@aol.com

Posted: Saturday, October 15, 2011 4:04 pm

Kurt Warner was not only one of the most talented NFL quarterbacks of his era - he reached three Super Bowls with two franchises (the Rams and Cardinals) who had been to only one between them before with no signs of returning since - but he was also one of the smartest.

So during the 2009 season, when he slipped back into the shotgun and saw Larry Fitzgerald to his left, Anquan Boldin to his right and Steve Breaston in the slot, Warner still had to look straight ahead of him and see a patchwork offensive line that was giving up too many shots at his aging body and threatening his prospects of thinking clearly and playing with his children moving forward.

So he retired. Smart man, that Warner.

Two years and four quarterbacks later - well, five if you count Matt Leinart, but let's not even go there - the Cardinals have defensive problems, their receiver corps has no depth, the running game has never given the team a solid base and the head coach credited with leading this franchise out of the wilderness is suddenly not the most popular guy in town.

If it sounds like I'm laying this 1-4 start at the feet of Kevin Kolb, I'm not. I'm not sure if Kolb is the answer for the Cardinals, but there is no way to tell right now. And I don't think anyone this side of Warner - with his computer-mind, poise in the pocket and Arena Football-trained slingshot - could do much better given what Kolb has to work with.

Beyond Larry Fitzgerald, who is blanketed without fear of reprisal by enemy defenses, where are the dependable receivers on this team? Did anyone think Andre Roberts and the rest would fill the void? With Beanie Wells still running hot and cold, the preseason loss of rookie Ryan Williams, who looked like a real game-breaker, robbed Kolb of a huge weapon. Todd Heap is a great local hero, but his best days, as the Baltimore Ravens surmised, appear behind him.

The Cardinals offensive line problems that continue unabated like a defensive end speeding around Levi Brown, remains the single biggest deterrent to success for this team. They are making Kolb look like a bad quarterback, Ken Whisenhunt look like a bad coach and the Cardinals - who aren't three games worse than the 49ers - look like a bad team.

Russ Grimm is the highest-paid offensive line coach in the league. He was on the short list for many head coaching positions, although that certainly quieted down during the offseason. Game film of the Arizona offensive line will do that.

Watching Adrian Peterson dance through the Cardinals and to the end zone three times in the first quarter last week reminded me that I was among those who said the Cardinals needed Brown more than Peterson prior to that ill-fated 2007 draft.

I still stand by that opinion in that Arizona needed a franchise left tackle more than a star running back, but I couldn't have been more wrong about what Brown was. With another year still left on that $62 million contract he signed, he's apparently going to continue to play and enemy pass rushers will continue to fly past him, sending Kolb on the run.

It's not all Brown. Brandon Keith and Jeremy Bridges have struggled on the other side. Guard Daryn Colledge hasn't had the impact hoped. Deuce Lutui ... don't get me started.

The Cardinals haven't selected an offensive lineman - not a single one - in either of the last two drafts. That's not all GM Rod Graves. Whisenhunt has had more input on player personnel decision than any Cardinal coach since Buddy Ryan and must take as much heat as anyone. And while I understand Levi Brown can make you gun shy, at some point you have to take the plunge again.

I still think Kolb, with the right weapons and a chance to breathe, can be a good quarterback in this system. Of course, I thought it was a good idea to draft Brown, so what do I know?

Quick hitters

•Unless his next goal is part of his first hat trick, Coyotes captain Shane Doan will become only the second player in NHL history (joining Scott Mellanby) to reach 300 career goals without getting at least three in one game. Doan's two-goal game in last Saturday's season-opener in San Jose was the 38th of his career, tying Peter Sykora for the most two-goal games without a hat trick in NHL history.

•Whoever comes out of the National League Championship Series is going to be the victim of the first Texas Rangers world championship.

•Amazing how inside stories of discourse in the Red Sox clubhouse always seem to get quickly leaked to the Boston press to take pressure off ownership and management. At least the Yankees know how to close ranks when they choke.

Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at jbrown5548@aol.com

 

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