GLENDALE — Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell believes his team, which lost to the Chicago Bears by a score of 28-13 Sunday, is not far off from being on the other side scoreboard most games.
“We’re a couple pieces away from the puzzle to be a great team, a really good team,” he said after the game. “We have all the potential in the world but it’s just one piece there, one piece there.
“We fix that and this team can be great.”
Campbell admitted it may be tough to believe because the team’s record “doesn’t really show it”, but that there is a sense the Cardinals are closer to being a playoff contender than one might think.
It would be nice to be able to believe him.
The Cardinals did, after all, start the season with a perfect 4-0 record. Arizona also has one of the NFL’s best defenses, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. And oh yeah, Larry Fitzgerald is still there to catch passes on offense, which he showed he’s still capable of doing with his eight-catch, 111-yard performance Sunday.
Yet the Cardinals, assuming they lose at San Francisco next week, are still going to end this season with a 5-11 record — their second such mark in three years — with questions at both quarterback and head coach.
The current head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, took a stab at maybe finding out the answer Sunday when he replaced an ineffective Ryan Lindley in the third quarter with what was ultimately a moderately less ineffective Brian Hoyer.
Signed a couple weeks ago off of waivers, Hoyer completed 11-of-19 passes for 105 yards and an interception. The man he replaced, Lindley, was 17-of-30 for 141 yards and a pick.
“I thought he did a nice job,” Whisenhunt said of Hoyer, noting that the interception was not so good. “He got put in as tough a deal as he could be being down with them having a good defensive front that were in pass rush mode.”
The signal callers combined to throw 49 passes Sunday; perhaps there should have been a bit more of an emphasis on the run?
It probably didn’t matter anyway.
If we learned anything Sunday it’s that the Cardinals are, unfortunately, who we thought they were. A team with an outstanding defense and an offense held back by a poor running game and quarterbacks who can only dream of mediocrity.
Needless to say, it looks like Hoyer — like Lindley, John Skelton, Max Hall, Derek Anderson and probably Kevin Kolb before him — is not the answer.
“It’s tough, isn’t it,” Whisenhunt asked when addressing the struggles at quarterback. “I said it before, we’re not getting the production out of that position and it’s hard to win in this league if you don’t do better from that standpoint.”
Hard? Yes, but the Cardinals are making it seem damn near impossible.
Think about it: the Cardinals began their home slate with John Skelton under center and ended it with Hoyer taking snaps.
Where they go from here is anyone’s guess. There’s one game left on the docket, and after that the organization will have some decisions to make, some of which will undoubtedly be difficult and controversial.
And maybe Campbell is right about his team when he says they’re not far off from being where they want to be. The Cardinals could be just a couple pieces away getting back to the level that saw them win their first four games rather than the one that has seen them lose 10 of their last 11.
But as the post-Kurt Warner Cardinals have taught us, finding a quarterback is much easier said than done. And until that happens, it would appear the good things the team can do will all be for naught.