At this time last year, the Cardinals were fortunate to draw 5,000 fans for an entire week at training camp. Now they get that many (and sometimes more) in a single day at Northern Arizona University.
Such are the spoils when you're coming off a season in which you advance to the Super Bowl. Apathy becomes excitement. Fans line the boundaries of the practice fields and cheer the most routine accomplishments and call out to players as if they are rock stars.
Their commitment was obvious from the start. To wit: For the first time since coach
Whisenhunt changed coordinators in the offseason, replacing
In 2008, the Cardinals ranked 28th in points allowed (26.6 per game) and red-zone touchdowns allowed (63.6 percent) and tied for 21st in third-down percentage (41.9). If the unit can improve, even marginally, in those areas, Davis and Whisenhunt believe it could be a huge boon because they expect the offense to continue to put up points.
The key could be limiting big plays. Arizona surrendered 59 plays of 20 or more yards last season, trying for 10th most. It also allowed opponents to convert on third-and-long 30.7 percent of the time, 10th-highest in the league. Improve in those areas and, the staff believes, more wins will follow. For Whisenhunt it's all about consistency.
McFadden is regarded as a tough, physical player. The hope is that his presence will rub off on the secondary, which in previous seasons was viewed as soft, the exception being strong safety
The Cardinals used their first-round pick on Ohio State running back
Regardless, the team has big hopes for Wells and released
It was hard to miss 6-foot-4, 285-pound defensive tackle
Dockett is one of the team's hardest workers, though that sometimes gets lost because of his outspokenness (check out his Twitter page,
By the way, did you know that Dockett's 13 sacks over the last two seasons is only 1.5 fewer than Washington's
2. Offensive coordinator
He believes in balance but says he'll adjust his playcalling to his personnel. If you don't believe him, think back to the 2005 season when he was Pittsburgh's coordinator. Everyone thought the Steelers would play smashmouth football in the postseason, but Whisenhunt used the pass early in games to set up the run. In fact,
3. Warner has a hip that's giving him problems, but he says it's not bad enough to sideline him from a game. Among other injury news, wideout
5. This team has a lot of talent and excellent coaches. I initially was concerned about a post Super Bowl letdown, but not after watching how they go about their work. They've got a good mix of youth and experience, and leaders who won't tolerate distractions. Look for them to repeat as division champs and make a run in the playoffs, provided Warner stays healthy.