A big thank you goes out to JoeCB1991 for taking the time to answer questions on behalf of Revenge of the Birds. You all are well-aquainted with Joe through his interaction here at WCG, and now we get the insights for this week's game against the Cardinals from a guy who knows both teams very well.
1- No need to avoid discussing it: Matt Leinart. Is he the guy to replace Warner? If not, can he be dealt, or most likely straight up cut?
ROTB: With Leinart, I don't think he will put up the kind of numbers that Warner put up, but I think he can have success in the NFL. The offense would have to be more balanced with him in the offense, instead of throwing over 600 times a year like they have been with Warner. Now, if he is going to have a good season this year, I think he would have a year similar to what Kyle Orton had with the Broncos last season. But if he fails, I don't know how much trade value he has. His old coach from USC might try to trade for him, but he is the only person I see doing it, and if Leinart has a bad year the Cardinals will let him go because of how his contract shoots up in 2011.
Looking back at 2006, he didn't exactly have a bad year, 2500 yards, 11 TDs and 12 Picks over 11 or 12 games on what was a pretty bad team overall with no running game and a bad offensive line [Fitzgerald also missed 3 and a half of the games he played], and his struggles in 2007 were while he was trying to learn a whole new offense in his second year and competing with Warner after the guy revived his career. The problems that he has are probably more mental than physical right now.
2- How are the rookies doing this preseason? Anyone for us to keep an eye out for?
ROTB: Out of all the rookies, Daryl Washington is probably the guy you want to look out for. The plan is for him to fill the role that Karlos Dansby had last season, and in the first preseason game he looked great. Washington had 13 tackles [9 solo], a pass deflection, and he recovered a fumble in the endzone. He also has great speed [in an interview, he said his fastest time in the 40 yard dash was 4.41] and some great reaction time, but he is smaller than a 3-4 Middle Linebacker usually is. He looks more like a Safety than a Linebacker. He was a part of the depth chart shuffle that was done for this weekends game, and he will be in the starting lineup.
With some of the other guys, Dan Williams looks like he can be a dominant Nose Tackle. Andre Roberts runs good routes but he has been dropping a lot of balls and he has a shoulder injury right now. O'Brien Schofield is going to be on the PUP list because he tore his ACL before the senior bowl, he was projected as a 1st or 2nd round pick, but the injury dropped him to the 4th round. John Skelton had a great game against Houston when he came into the game during the 4th quarter, but he has also struggled in practice at times, and he is a Quarterback from a small school. The other Quarterback Max Hall has shown a good command of the offense too, but he is undersized for a Quarterback.
3- What about a player currently under the radar that is likely to surprise people this year?
ROTB: Stephen Williams. You guys have already talked about him, 6'5 receiver with good hands and sub 4.50 speed. It looks like he will be the #4 receiver this year too. I'd also look out for Early Doucet who is going to take over the role that Boldin had, and Greg Toler who is similar to DRC and he has a chance of being a solid man-to-man cover corner.
4- Being familiar with both the Bears and the Cards, what advantage do you see the Cards having, and what advantage might the Bears have?
ROTB: I'd say both teams have a very solid Defensive Line right now, and with the struggles the Cardinals' offensive line have gone through in the first two games, and all the sacks that Cutler has taken, I think that both of these defensive lines have the edge over the offensive lines. The Bears have a big edge at Tight End and Linebacker too. I'd say the Cardinals have an edge in the secondary with DRC, Adrian Wilson, and Kerry Rhodes [who I viewed as an upgrade over Rolle], and they still have a better receiving corps than most teams even without Boldin.
5- What is the feeling from the fanbase regarding the coaching/management of the team, and what direction do you see them going in in the next few seasons?
ROTB: The fans have a ton of faith in Whisenhunt. Some of us don't really understand the Leinart/Anderson thing, and from what I have been hearing Leinart has looked better than Anderson throughout training camp. I'd say that since Whisenhunt came here the fanbase feels like the Cardinals are a contender every year, and he is building up the team through the draft and creating more depth at every position like he was taught during his time with the Steelers. Even if there is an off year, the general feeling is that he can get the team back to winning the division or making the playoffs shortly after that.
Again, a big thanks to Joe for taking the time to give such well thought out answers. If you've got any questions for him, I have a sneaking suspicion that he'll be around here to answer them.