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Arizona Cardinals, Week 17: Injury Report, Defensive Changes, John Skelton

The Arizona Cardinals play their final game of the season this Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17. As of right now, Arizona is getting healthier. There was only one injury that happened in the game against the Dallas Cowboys -- tight end Ben Patrick hurt his hamstring. Since the Cardinals have not yet practiced this week, there is no official injury report, but linebacker Joey Porter and kick returner/running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, who both missed the Christmas game due to injuries, may be able to return for the game in San Francisco.

The past two weeks, Arizona has been playing more with a four-man defensive line. There are many who believe that this would suit the defensive personnel better, but it is not likely to change. It was pretty effective when it was used but was more a case of injuries than philosophical changes.

The defensive line has been healthy. The linebacking corps has not. Joey Porter was out. Clark Haggans has played with an injury. Reggie Walker is on injured reserve. Those are three of the top six linebackers in depth.

When asked at the Monday press conference if this was a change that could happen, Ken Whisenhunt said, "If you make that kind of change, you've got to make sure you've got the right personnel to do it. I think you can flip in and out but as far as making a wholesale change, that's not something I even want to consider right now."

So basically, it probably will not happen. Anyway, while the personnel looks suited now, three defensive lineman are not under contract beyond this season -- Bryant Robinson, Alan Branch and Gabe Watson.

Fans already have jumped aboard the John Skelton bandwagon. While he has shown some positive things, we should note that he still is struggling at very important things. Whisenhunt describes that Skelton still has a lot to work on in calling the right plays in the huddle, communication on offense and making the right reads.

He has shown poise, mobility and decent accuracy. But let us not get carried away with the idea that he will be the starter next year. If that is the case, likely plans did not go well. The plan is to seek a veteran and to draft a QB, hopefully a potential franchise guy. If there is a work stoppage, he will not be able to work with the coaching staff in the offseason and he will be starting over again once an agreement is reached.

He has gained valuable experience, but let us hope that he is a backup to a solid veteran, a la Marc Bulger, Kevin Kolb, Matt Hasselback or Kyle Orton. He still has a ways to go before he will be quality starting material. After all, he only threw three times to Larry Fitzgerald and not once to Steve Breaston, the two best receivers on the team.

I personally am cautiously optimistic that Skelton could be the future of the team at quarterback, but that it should be at least two more seasons away if that is the case. I don't see him as terrible. I think he has been better than all other options this season, but he is still far from being ready to lead a team to the postseason.