When the Rams last met the Arizona Cardinals, the birds stood atop the NFC West with a surprising 4-0 record. However, when we talked to Seth Cox of TSHQ at the time, he was not yet ready to start opening champagne bottles.
As it turns out, he was right to put the celebrations on hold. Since that Thursday night primetime matchup, the Cardinals have lost six games and two quarterbacks, and now limp back to the desert to host the Rams with a rookie under center and a lot of question marks about what the rest of the season has left.
At the same time, that 17-3 win for the Rams marked a high point on the season, and our team has a five-game winless streak of its own to worry about.
We come back to Seth for his perspective on this matchup, and what to expect from the last quarter of the season.
RamsHerd: With John Skelton benched and Kevin Kolb well past the manufacturer’s warranty, is Ryan Lindley the answer?
TSHQ: Lindley is definitely a tools guy, who I had thought we would see around week 10 because of injury and/or ineffectiveness by the aforementioned Kolb and Skelton.
He has a great arm, can make all the throws, and could be a guy that surprises a lot of people… but he was drafted in the sixth round for a reason.
For every Tom Brady, there’s ten Keith Null’s, I know Rams fans remember that name. I don’t mind Lindley playing, but I think even if he has a good game, which will be keyed by the answer to the next question, you can’t say, he’s the future.
All that being said, I don’t think Lindley is the long term answer, but I wouldn’t mind being wrong about that.
RamsHerd: The Cardinals offensive line was badly overmatched against Robert Quinn and Chris Long in their first matchup, as the Rams racked up nine sacks. How might the Cardinals gameplan differently to prevent this from happening again?
TSHQ: Ummm… unfortunately I don’t see changes scheme wise, just the small change in personnel of Nate Potter starting in place of the horrid D’Anthony Batiste.
Potter has been passably average in his 6+ quarters of play, and isn’t as susceptible to the speed rush that Quinn will employ against him.
Massie on the other hand is steadily improving in his pass blocking, but let’s be honest he couldn’t get much worse than his Miami/St. Louis duo of stink, and this will be interesting to see where he is versus Chris Long this weekend.
Again, schematically I don’t see much changing, that’s kind of Whisenhunt’s way, but I think you will see an improvement in the pass blocking.
RamsHerd: Beanie Wells returns this week after a long injury absence, but Larod Stephens-Howling has been providing a spark for the offense in the last few weeks. What kind of workload do you expect for both backs?
TSHQ: We all know the Beanie numbers last year versus a bad Rams team, but this Rams defense, and scheme is different, so I don’t see Beanie getting a heavy dose of action, unless he does something early to show he can handle the load.
Stephens-Howling meanwhile has had a good run, no pun intended, the last 3 weeks, but those numbers are a bit deceiving.
He is getting some big runs, and then getting stacked up a lot more often than he is really grinding out 4-5 yards a play.
I see a 70-30 type split, with most of Beanie’s carries being in short yardage and goal line situations.
RamsHerd: Despite being stuck on the field more than they should, Ray Horton’s defense is holding up fairly well, ranking 7th in scoring defense and total defense. Do you expect him to test the head coaching market this offseason?
TSHQ:The only saving grace on the Horton front may be the fact that this team may not win many games.
Horton I think would have been an excellent back up plan if Fisher fell through for the Rams last off season, so I would expect he gets a strong look, and likely will be gone after this season.
Here’s one last wild eyed scenario that could come up, if the Cardinals lose out the remainder of the 2012 season, and that is the Cardinals promoting Horton to the head coaching position. It is dreaming, and I don’t think it has any chance of happening, so I am just preparing myself for the post Horton defense era.
RamsHerd: After six consecutive losses and a third string quarterback, how have you revised your expectations for the season? What would make a “successful” season at this point?
TSHQ: Well over at TSHQ.co I did predict the Cardinals for a 6-10 record, and this was one of the 6 wins I had penciled in to begin the season, so they are still on their way to meeting my expectations for the season.
For this season to be a success though, I want either Nate Potter to step up and solidify a position of need, or Ryan Lindley or Kevin Kolb to take control of the quarterback situation and stake their claim to be the starter next season.
Wins and losses can’t really measure the success of the rest of the season for me, unless they miraculously win out, I want to see improvement along the offensive line, and from either Lindley or Kolb, when/if he comes back healthy, and this team getting a clear picture of their needs going into the 2013 off season and NFL Draft, where they can fill some of the missing pieces, that are really holding them back from being a potential playoff team.
As an aside: As someone who deals a lot in the NFL Draft, I want to say something that I have been saying a lot of about the Arizona Cardinals and Kevin Kolb.
I am an admitted non believer in Sam Bradford, but much like Kolb, he has never been given the tools to succeed at the pro level and even I can admit that you can’t adequately grade him on his performance.
With two picks in the likely in the top 15, and needs along the offensive line and in the WR corps, I would love to see what Bradford can do with a full tool box finally before I can finally give him a no or yes as a franchise changer.
Good luck the rest of the way, after Sunday of course, but I got it going:
Our thanks to Seth Cox for helping us out again. You can find NFL and fantasy football insights and much more at The Sports Headquarters.