2 Arizona Cardinals

Amazing but true: There are almost no changes in the Valley of the Sun—except, the team hopes, in the standings
August 31, 2008

ANQUAN BOLDIN haswitnessed so many changes in coaches and personnel during his career with theCardinals that he pauses, rolls his eyes and chuckles before trying to recountthem.

"Let'ssee," the receiver says after a late-afternoon practice during trainingcamp. "I'm in my sixth year and I've had three head coaches, probably fiveor six coordinators, six quarterbacks and new O-linemen every week."

About the onlychange he hasn't witnessed is in the team's fortunes. Arizona remainsfootball's version of purgatory: The Cardinals have not had a winning seasonsince 1998, the only time they finished above .500 in the last 24 years.Constant turnover has been a prime culprit. The franchise has had eight coachessince moving from St. Louis in 1988—only the Raiders (nine) have had moreduring that span—and its 12 coaching changes since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970are tied with Buffalo for the most among franchises that have been incontinuous existence since then.

If the teamwasn't making a move at the top—going from Vince Tobin to Dave McGinnis toDennis Green to Ken Whisenhunt in this decade alone—it was making the quick-fixreach for fading stars in free agency. The notables include NFL career rushingleader Emmitt Smith and reigning Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson in 2003, formerleague and Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner in '05 and Colts star Edgerrin James in'06.

This year,however, the theme is continuity. For the first time in recent memory, theCardinals have brought back the same coaching staff, the same playbooks and,basically, the same roster from the previous season. While some teams takethose things for granted, such constancy is looked upon with wonder inArizona.

"For us to gointo a season under the same system, under the same head coach, with prettymuch the same players means a lot," Boldin says. "I thought we showedflashes last year—especially toward the end of the year—of how good we can be.Right now we're picking up where we left off."

If true, theCardinals might finally live up to their annual billing as a potential sleeper,an expectation they've failed to justify the last several seasons. But a 5--3finish over the second half of 2007—with two of the defeats by a touchdown orless—has them believing they're ready to be winners at last. The continuitycould begin with the quarterback who directed that solid finish. After takingover for the injured Matt Leinart in Week 6 last year, Warner had his bestseason since 2001 (27 TDs, 17 INTs) and looked ready to win the competition forthe job. On the line, all five starters return at the same positions—only thesecond time in 20 years that the Cardinals could make that statement.

"As anoffense, the more you play together, the better you're going to be," saysJames, who in his first seven years in the league, with the Colts, played forone coordinator (Tom Moore) and lined up behind one starting quarterback(Peyton Manning). Indy ranked in the top four in scoring six times in thatspan. "You've got to have the core intact, and once you have the coreintact you can plug people in," James says. "But until you get thatcore together, it's kind of complicated. You're kind of freestyling."

There areplaymakers at wideout in Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, a blend of experience(James) and youth (rookie Tim Hightower from Richmond) at running back, a savvySuper Bowl winner at quarterback (Warner) and a defense that gets back threepotential impact players who missed a total of 30 games in '07 because ofinjuries: safety Adrian Wilson, linebacker Chike Okeafor and end-linebackerBertrand Berry.

"We can beunstoppable with the guys we have on this field, on both sides of theball," Boldin says. "Look at the weapons we have on offense. Look atthe speed and the athleticism we have on defense. The sky's the limit."This time, he doesn't roll his eyes.

PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP WITH 2007 STATISTICS COACH KEN WHISENHUNT (8--8 in NFL), secondseason with Cardinals

OFFENSE

LarryFITZGERALD
POS WR
REC 100
YARDS 1,409
TD 10

Levi BROWN
POS RT
HT 6'5"
WT 322
G 13

Edgerrin JAMES
POS RB
ATT 324
YARDS 1,222
AVG 3.8
REC 24
YARDS 204
AVG 8.5
TD 7

Deuce LUTUI
POS RG
HT 6'4"
WT 328
G 15

Kurt WARNER
POS QB
ATT 451
COMP 281
PCT 62.3
YARDS 3,417
TD 27
INT 17
RATING 89.8

Al JOHNSON
POS C
HT 6'5"
WT 305
G 14

Terrelle SMITH
POS FB
ATT 1
YARDS 3
AVG 3
REC 7
YARDS 59
AVG 8.4
TD 0

Reggie WELLS
POS LG
HT 6'4"
WT 305
G 16

Anquan BOLDIN
POS WR
REC 71
YARDS 853
TD 9

Mike GANDY
POS LT
HT 6'4"
WT 310
G 16

Neil RACKERS
POS K
FG 21--30
POINTS 110

Leonard POPE
POS TE
REC 23
YARDS 238
TD 5

DEFENSE

Chike OKEAFOR*
POS OLB
TACKLES 54
SACKS 8 1/2
INT 0

Roderick HOOD
POS CB
TACKLES 57
INT 5

Antonio SMITH
POS LE
TACKLES 44
SACKS 5 1/2

Antrel ROLLE
POS FS
TACKLES 57
SACKS 0
INT 5

Gabe WATSON
POS NT
TACKLES 34
SACKS 0

Gerald HAYES
POS ILB
TACKLES 98
SACKS 4
INT 1

DarnellDOCKETT
POS RE
TACKLES 58
SACKS 9

Karlos DANSBY
POS ILB
TACKLES 99
SACKS 3 1/2
INT 3

Bertrand BERRY
POS OLB
TACKLES 21
SACKS 2 1/2
INT 0

Adrian WILSON
POS SS
TACKLES 44
SACKS 0
INT 2

Dirk JOHNSON
POS P
PUNTS 4
AVG 49.8

Eric GREEN
POS CB
TACKLES 51
INT 0

NewACQUISITION
*2006 Stats

2007 RECORD 8--8NFL RANK (Rush/Pass/Total): OFFENSE 29/5/12 DEFENSE 9/28/17

SEPTEMBER
7 at San Francisco
14 MIAMI
21 at Washington
28 at N.Y. Jets

OCTOBER
5 BUFFALO
12 DALLAs
19 Bye
26 at Carolina

NOVEMBER
2 at St. Louis
10 SAN FRANCISCO (M)
16 at Seattle
23 N.Y. GIANTS
27 at Philadelphia (T)

DECEMBER
7 ST. LOUIS
14 MINNESOTA
21 at New England
28 SEATTLE

(M) Monday (T) Thursday

SCHEDULE STRENGTH
NFL Rank: 21
Opponents' 2007 winning percentage: .465
Games against playoff teams: 6

UNIT GRADES

SI.com's NFL personnel expert Michael Lombardievaluates the Cardinals' units.

QB C
Will Matt Leinart ever emerge as the clear No. 1?

RB C
James is 30 and on the decline; very little behind him.

WR A
Boldin, Fitzgerald are elite; fine prospect in Early Doucet.

TE C
Area of renewed emphasis; Pope must come through in '08.

OL B
Line has been building for some time; one of the team's strengths.

DL B
Two young tackles, Watson and Alan Branch, must mature.

LB C
Health of oft-injured Okeafor and Dansby is major concern.

DB C
Questions at corner; Wilson a hard-hitting playmaker.

ST B
Rackers must rediscover the form he showed in '06.

SPOTLIGHT

Antrel Rolle
FREE SAFETY

A corner since he was All-America at Miami, Rolle hasbeen moved to a new position. Arizona wants to capitalize on his good range andball skills (five interceptions in 2007, three returned for touchdowns). IfRolle makes a smooth transition, he and Adrian Wilson give the Cardinals one ofthe league's top safety tandems.

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SI VAULT

EXCERPTED FROM SI
October 7, 1957

MATSON SAT up on the edge of the cot and rubbed a shingently. His leg is pocked and scarred with the stigmata of the trade of arunning back in the National Football League, and he explored the scars gentlywith the tips of surprisingly slender fingers. "This is a very roughgame," he said. "But it has never been rougher on me because of myrace."
--Tex Maule

SI.com/vault
Free access to all CARDINALS stories and photographs from the SI archives, plusvideo clips.

PHOTOSCOTT CUNNINGHAM/GETTY IMAGESBOLD HAND Star wideout Boldin sees the Cards finally cashing in on all that talent. PHOTOMARK J. REBILAS/US PRESSWIRE PHOTOJOHN G. ZIMMERMAN (COVER) PHOTO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)