Kolb’s arrival boosts Arizona in weak NFL West

What a difference a quarterback can make.

The arrival of Kevin Kolb has the Arizona Cardinals talking NFC

West title one year after a miserable 5-11 season left them in the

basement of the NFL’s weakest division. The mood shift has been

palpable throughout the team.

”If we had somebody else last year who could run that offense a

little better and get some first downs here and there, maybe the

defense is better,” safety Kerry Rhodes said. ”Everything ties in

with that trigger man, when you get a man that can come in – when

you have a bad game or the team has a bad game – he can make a play

for you and win a game for you. He’s that type of guy.”

The Cardinals sent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a

second-round draft pick to Philadelphia to acquire Kolb, then

signed him to a five-year, $63 million contract, with $21 million

guaranteed. The pressure to turn around the franchise that won two

NFC West titles and made it to the Super Bowl with Kurt Warner at

the controls rests on the shoulders of a quarterback with just

seven career starts.

”That comes with that position,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

”Like it or not, that’s what that position is all about. He comes

in here with a lot of speculation about that position and where he

is and he’s handled it beautifully. That’s one of the things I like

about him.”

Kolb wanted Arizona as badly as Arizona wanted him.

”I told my wife this. I don’t want to be anywhere else. I want

to retire here,” he said. ”This is the place I want to be for a

long time, so I want to make sure I do all I can to make those

hopes and dreams come true.”

Kolb has quickly learned that throwing to Larry Fitzgerald is a

good idea, whether he’s open or not.

Fitzgerald, with a new contract that could pay him $120 million

over eight seasons, with nearly $50 million guaranteed, has been

spectacular in the few weeks he’s had to work with his new

quarterback.

”I’m just going to try to build his confidence up,” Fitzgerald

said, ”let him know that I’m going to try to make every

play.”

With the departure of Steve Breaston to Kansas City via free

agency, youngsters Andre Roberts and Early Doucet are the other

wide receivers, but the Cardinals landed tight end Todd Heap, along

with Jeff King, to greatly bolster that position.

”I don’t know about the favorite thing,” Whisenhunt said. ”I

think that we’re a 5-11 team that was last in our division. We’re

trying to improve and get better. It was important to address the

quarterback position and we feel like we did. That’s an important

position, but we’ve got a lot of things on this team that have got

to come together.”

The offensive line remains a question mark, with the lone change

the arrival of Daryn Colledge from Green Bay to replace the retired

Alan Fanaca at left guard.

Guard Deuce Lutui, who lost millions of dollars when he failed a

physical with Cincinnati, returns and once he gets into shape

probably will get his job back at right guard. Lyle Sendlein

returns at center, with Levi Brown at left tackle and Brandon Keith

at right tackle.

Their performance will determine whether Beanie Wells, slowed by

a knee injury last year, will finally have that breakthrough

seasons so many have expected. The Cardinals will try to use

slippery but small LaRod Stephens-Howling more in the offense but

had counted on rookie Ryan Williams to back up Wells in the

traditional running back role. Williams, though, is out for the

season after undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured patella tendon

in his right knee.

Then there’s the defense, which ranked 29th overall a year ago.

There were a few personnel changes, the addition inside linebacker

Stewart Bradley and defensive end Vonnie Holliday, and first-round

draft pick Patrick Peterson eventually could fill the void left by

Rodgers-Cromartie’s departure at cornerback.

But mostly it’s the same personnel, with a pair of 34-year-olds

– Joey Porter and Clark Haggans – holding down the outside

linebacker positions while the Cardinals try to develop second-year

pro O’Brien Schofield and rookie Sam Acho at the position.

Expect more and unpredictable blitzes from Ray Horton, the third

defensive coordinator in Whisenhunt’s five seasons, who has

installed the Pittsburgh Steelers’ scheme. He believes the front

three of Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams and Calais Campbell is the

defense’s strength.

Safety Adrian Wilson, trying to avoid surgery, has sat out the

entire training camp with a torn right biceps tendon.

Whisenhunt had a humbling experience in 2010. He thought the

franchise had moved past those days of ineptitude.

”It was very difficult, just because of the standards that we

set,” he said. ”I felt like we let our fans down.”