Coach Ken Whisenhunt has joked about his team's offensive deficiencies this offseason but in reality…
Improvement key for Cardinals offense
But Whisenhunt knows better than most that it's no laughing matter, not if the team wants to return to contending for an NFC title.
Specifically, Whisenhunt would like his offense to play better early in games. Too often in 2011, it misfired early, leading to deficits that could not be overcome.
The offense produced some late-game heroics over the last half of the season, but Whisenhunt wants to see the group capitalize on opportunities early.
It's the coaching staff's belief that the problems were in personnel and players unfamiliarity with the system. Fans tend to spread the blame wider: to Whisenhunt and his staff.
Whisenhunt and his staff could turn on video of almost any game early last season and point out big plays that were just missed. He also realizes no one wants to hear about big plays that were almost made.
"I can sit here all day and tell you what I see on tape and people are going to say, 'Well, the numbers don't back that up,'" Whisenhunt said. "And that's right, they don't. We have guys open and we have a breakdown in protection. How can you say you're close when that happens? I feel like we're on the right track and our guys are working.
"And what's more important: Do they believe we're on the right track? And I see that. Where I really saw it, was in those overtime games and the end of games last year. They really believed we could do it."
Whisenhunt said he saw signs of that in offseason practices. There was improvement from the beginning of OTAs through the final practice of minicamp, he said.
Of course, all coaches say that. And Whisenhunt was the first to point out that practices in shorts and helmets don't mean much.
In reality, the Cardinals have some issues. They don't have an established starting quarterback. Kevin Kolb and John Skelton are competing.
Their top two running backs, Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, are coming off knee injuries. The right side of the offensive line might include new players at guard (free agent Adam Snyder) and tackle (rookie Bobby Massie).
Whisenhunt, however, was encouraged that his offense seemed to keep pace with a defense that is expected to be the strength of the team.
"It was up and down the first couple weeks of OTAs, but I really started to see it (improvement) last week and into this week," he said after the final practice before training camp. "That's an indication you're making progress.
"I don't think there's any doubt we have a chance to be good defensively based on the way we finished (last season). But we got questions on offense, so to see our guys make plays against what could be a good defense, that's encouraging."
NinersDigest.com Recommended Stories
Spotlight Video: Meet the Future of Football
Updated daily! Check out hundreds of incredible profiles of the country's top football recruits in action. For all you recruiting fanatics, it doesn't get any better than this!Read More
Holiday Gift Guide: 10 Fishing Must-Haves
Selected by the team of experts at North American Fishing Club, this essential gear will ensure that you—or the angler in your life—will have a very happy 2015.Read More
2015 NFL Draft Mock 3.0
With two weeks left in the NFL regular season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the first overall pick in next spring's draft. Here's a look at the draft order and first round mock projections after 15…Read More
CFB Head Coaching Tracker
Wisconsin is the latest team in college football team searching for their next coach. (Last updated 12-19-14, 9:56 a.m.)Read More
Dakota Meyer: "Why did I Survive?"
Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer has struggled with that question since September 8, 2009, the horrible day that an ambush in Afghanistan took the lives of four of his teammates. Earlier this…Read More