Whether it be John Skelton, Kevin Kolb or Skelton again, the Arizona Cardinals‘ Achilles heal has undoubtedly been the quarterback position so far this season.
After a 4-0 start when the Cardinals relied on excellent defense and some composed game management from Kolb, the lack of offensive output has stalled the team’s train to the playoffs. Since beating the Miami Dolphins in Week 4, the Cardinals have lost four straight games in which they have averaged nine points. Twice, against the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams, the offense has only managed a field goal while their inability to put the ball in the end-zone more than once cost them a victory against the Buffalo Bills.
Only twice all season have the Cardinals scored at least 21 points, and while their offense lacks a consistent running game and even an adequate offensive line, they do have more talent than their output is reflecting. Larry Fitzgerald is one of the very best wide receivers in the NFL. Fitzgerald alone is a game-changer, but when surrounded by impressive talents like Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd, the whole unit becomes a potent group.
The Cardinals’ greatest problem isn’t even just a lack of production emanating from the quarterback position, it is the complete lack of talent that head coach Ken Whisenhunt has to work with. Whisenhunt has proven in the past that he can work with lesser quarterbacks to help them contribute to winning football teams. When he was the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers he managed a young Ben Roethlisberger to his first Super Bowl ring. He was somewhat able to work with Kolb, but now that he is injured, Skelton offers next to nothing as an individual talent.
Skelton is a big armed quarterback with inconsistent accuracy and mechanics. His inability to throw the football is a problem, but it is his statuesque style of pocket presence that is really hurting the offense. Behind D’Anthony Batiste and Bobby Massie, Skelton is a sitting duck on almost every single play. Massie and Batiste are dreadful tackles who should not be starting at this level. That kind of inability on the edges, coupled with a sub-par group of interior linemen has led to the Cardinals giving up 39 sacks in eight games.
Massie and Batiste have combined to allow 25 of those 39 sacks. When there is consistent pressure coming off the edges, the quarterback needs to have greater athleticism and escapability. Skelton simply has no ability to escape pressure with his feet. Kolb does bring a greater maneuverability and awareness in the pocket, but not so much that he can significantly reduce the team’s sack totals.
Even if Kolb does do enough to get the best out of his receivers, if the Cardinals wait around for him to get to full health it may be too late. No, instead the Cardinals need to take a proactive approach to their biggest problem. Instead, the Cardinals need to trade for the Baltimore Ravens‘ quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
While Taylor is just a second year player who was taken in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL draft, his skill-set is such that he would be a perfect fit in the Cardinals’ offense. A product out of Virgin Tech, Taylor proved himself to be a developmental prospect in the draft before his athleticism and passing ability allowed him to immediately become the Ravens’ backup quarterback.
Taylor’s performances in preseason last year were that of an excellent pocket passer who could escape pressure and keep his eyes down the field. All that despite his incredibly running ability in the broken field that could be used to break off big gains. So impressive has Taylor been both in preseason and practices that the Ravens don’t have another backup quarterback.
When you draft a developmental quarterback, you generally don’t make him your sole backup because he needs time to focus on his development, while the coaches wouldn’t trust him to carry the offense on Sundays. That has not been the case in Baltimore. Taylor proved more than worthy of his draft stock from the very first day and has seemingly soaked up all of the coaching from those around him in Baltimore.
At only 23 years of age, he is very much still a developmental quarterback, but a quarterback who could help the Cardinals as he continues to grow. The Cardinals would not be sacrificing a quality thrower in the form of Skelton to add athleticism under center. Taylor is largely an unknown under the bright lights of NFL Sundays, but from a sheer physical ability throwing the ball he is at least on the same level as Skelton. The probability is that he is actually an improvement.
Even if he is not an improved thrower all around, Taylor’s athleticism would alleviate the pressure on the offensive line and his strong arm would better suit the style of receivers that the Cardinals have. Each of Fitzgerald, Roberts and Floyd excel at beating coverage deep and locating the football. Even though Skelton has a strong arm, his lack of athleticism renders it less effective because he is not able to throw the ball under pressure or from different positions. That often causes his passes to float or sail high over receivers. That would not be an issue with Taylor.
Whisenhunt has the abilities to limit the mistakes of a young quarterback while putting him in better positions to show off his talents. Taylor certainly has extensively more talent than either of Skelton or Kolb, and he would definitely give the franchise a better chance of making the playoffs this year also.
At only 23 years of age, Taylor could also represent the future. That potential would make his likely third round price tag a worth while risk for both the short and long-term.
Cian Fahey writes for RantSports, Irishcentral, Balls.ie and the Guardian. You can follow him on twitter@Cianaf