The Arizona Cardinals finally appear ready to board the NFL merry-go-round that ensures every team will have a winning season every so often. And that's saying something, given this franchise's history.
No coach has ever won more than 42 games; that includes Hall of Fame coach Curly Lambeau. He managed only a 7-15 mark in the 1950s.
This year's team relies on its defense. Defensive end Bertrand Berry led the NFC with 14.5 sacks last year; he is a dominant player who has enough speed that he returned kickoffs and punts in high school. The other end, Chike Okeafor, had 81/2 sacks for Seattle.
"We stop the run and that is our meal," Okeafor said. "But when you get that quarterback [for a sack], that's your dessert."
The Cardinals actually struggled against the run last year. They gave up 176, 172 and 194 yards rushing in the first three games, then gave up 215 in a loss to Detroit on Dec. 5. They are hoping defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and newly acquired linebacker Orlando Huff (51 tackles with Seattle last year) will help.
The offense could use some help, too. The Cardinals went through four starting centers in two weeks in the preseason because of injuries. Coach Dennis Green is hoping for a resurgence from quarterback Kurt Warner, who is just 5-11 in his last 16 starts.
Having wide receivers Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Bryant Johnson will help; all are former first-round draft picks. Running back J.J. Arrington appears to be the starter ahead of Marcel Shipp.