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Wolf: Apocalypse Cardinals

Apocalypse, literally translated, means the unveiling. And it is the perfect word to describe the fortunes of the Arizona Cardinals in 2010. But lifting the veil has little to do with Big Red quarterbacks.

I am concerned about the quarterback play of the Arizona Cardinals but I am more concerned with the play of their offensive line. Whether Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, Max Hall or John Skelton are playing quarterback, there will be a bad moon rising if Big Red can’t run the football effectively.

These quarterbacks are not Kurt Warner and nobody expects them to be Old Greybeard. Warner loved to spread the field with four wide-receivers and go hot protection (with everybody out in the route), throwing the ball with impunity, daring you to blitz him, begging you to come after him. He wanted to throw the ball on every play, every down, every distance. He was the guru of the forward pass, the sensei of special.

This offensive line needs to be special if the Cardinals hope to collect their third consecutive NFC West title. They need to bludgeon the line-of-scrimmage and afford any of the quarterbacks the opportunity to operate within a balanced offense. The Cards will need to run it, throw it, and act like they’re going to run and then throw it. They need to throw the ball in a three-dimensional offense. This will give them the best chance to succeed in their quest to replace Warner.

I am hopeful. There is no reason to believe the Cardinals will not be able to run the ball.

Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower are an excellent tandem, a one-two-punch uniquely skilled to run the ball in a gap/power scheme. The Cards have offensive lineman that should flourish in a scheme that features down-blocks, pulling lineman, kick-out blocks and angles. Levi Brown, Alan Faneca, Lyle Sendlein, Reggie Wells (Deuce Lutui) and Brandon Keith have the potential to punch holes in defensive fronts.

Although nothing’s impossible for those who don’t have to do it, the possibilities of the 2010 season rests on the broad shoulders of these five men. Run the ball well and the Cardinals offense will be okay; get stuffed at the point-of-attack and this offense will struggle to move the chains, let alone score points.

The offensive line is usually the final phase of offensive maturity and development in training camp. Five men must operate as a single entity, a synchronized pile of DNA acting as a living, breathing, drive you into the ground thing. Patience is needed.

But the facts remain: in two preseason games the offensive line has not played well. And the whispers from the dark corners are growing louder.

The Cardinals don’t have to be one of the best running teams in the league to win games, but if they can’t run it effectively their apocalypse will be apparent to all: not four horseman, but five.