Geno Smith has emerged as the top quarterback prospect in this year’s NFL Draft. With the draft still more than a month away, six of the teams picking in the top 10 have expressed a high level of interest in drafting Smith.
One of those teams in high need of a quarterback is the Arizona Cardinals. They have a new head coach in Bruce Arians and released Kevin Kolb earlier this offseason. They signed Drew Stanton as a free-agent, and Arians hinted that Stanton could be their opening week starter already at the NFL owner meetings this week.
Of the 29 teams represented at WVU’s pro day, the Cardinals were not one of them. NFL Network analyst, and former NFL GM, Charley Casserly said that doesn’t tell you much. At this time of year, teams throw up smokescreens in order to hide their true intentions. Smith already met with the Cardinals at the Combine and seems likely to pay them a visit before the draft.
If Smith lands in Arizona, he’ll immediately have the advantage of throwing to one of the best receivers in the NFL, Larry Fitzgerald (yeah, that was hard to type WVU fans). The former Pitt receiver hasn’t had a quarterback with the ability to get him the ball since Kurt Warner retired.
The Cardinals offensive line is porous, and allowed three different QBs to get injured last season. It is also seen as a high need this offseason after giving up the most sacks in the league and having the lowest yards per rushing attempt. Smith’s mobility could help cover up for some of that.
Arians, a Virginia Tech alum, has a history for developing quarterbacks. He served as the Steelers offensive coordinator from 2007-11 and was essential in molding Ben Roethlisberger. From 1998-2000, he was Peyton Manning’s QB coach with the Colts.
If there is an offense in college similar to what Arians is likely to run in Arizona, Dana Holgorsen’s comes pretty close. The quarterback works mostly out of the shotgun in a spread formation. Holgorsen’s offense relies upon creating space for receivers and backs to operate, as does Arians’. He stretches defenses horizontally, by spreading out receivers before the snap, and after the snap, he combines vertical and horizontal routes for his receivers to run.
Andrew Luck adapted well to Arians’ offense because the alignments and motion made it easier for him to make the correct reads. Arians likes to keep defenses off-balanced and confused by throwing out various looks and concepts.
Smith could thrive as a rookie in this offense as he already is familiar with many of the concepts. Having Larry Fitzgerald as a target helps as well.