The regular season has arrived. And frankly, it’s impossible to know what the next four months holds for this team.
There can be no opponent/road trip better for a team in transition to play/go than the St. Louis Rams. Yet there can be no opponent/road trip worse. This feels like a no-win in some ways; if the Cards dominate, the thought will linger, “Yeah, but who was it against?” If they somehow lose … ugh.
Of course, I’m probably overthinking things. If the Cards play well Sunday, I am sure there will be a collective sigh of relief more than anything. As Adrian Wilson once said in his famously deep voice during an infamous radio interview the morning after the Monday Night Meltdown, “It’s hard to win in the NFL.” (There might have been an expletive thrown in there, but that’s a tale for another day). It is hard to win, and the Rams have some positive vibes with their new quarterback Sam Bradford.
But the Rams also have 14 rookies on their team and frankly, I am probably selling short this Cards’ defense, which is anxious to have a crack at a rookie in his first game. Bradford is a rookie. By the end of the season, who knows, maybe he does become another Matt Ryan in his first year. He’s just starting out though. No better time to get him than right out of the box.
(Ryan may be a bad example. In his first game, he was 9-of-13 for 161 yards and a touchdown. I’m thinking – and the Cards are thinking – more like Matt Stafford’s 16-for-37, 205-yard, three-interception showing.)
That’d make for a fun afternoon, wouldn’t it?
— I know Larry Fitzgerald told Sports 620 KTAR, in defense of himself in the whole Matt Leinart-was-cut scenario, that he hadn’t even taken any snaps with the newbie, Derek Anderson. Technically that’s true in the preseason-game sense of the situation. But as coach Ken Whisenhunt pointed out Friday, the two did work together sometimes in OTAs and in training camp.
“We said we were going to get Derek some reps with the ones just so he could get a feel for those guys,” Whisenhunt said. “Obviously you’d like to have more reps than we have, but I don’t see it as a situation where we haven’t gotten reps. We’ll see how it plays out Sunday.”
I think Fitz will be just fine, as long as Anderson gets the ball near him.
— Speaking of that, Whisenhunt said earlier this week the Cards have worked hard on Anderson’s footwork, which in turn is supposed to aid his accuracy. Whiz said he has seen results. That’s key. Missing out on chances – like the errant throw to a wide-open Early Doucet in the Chicago preseason game – can’t happen too often.
— I can’t see Beanie Wells playing with his bad knee. But Tim Hightower has been itching to have the load on his shoulders and now it will be, although I’d expect a heaping helping of Hyphen with no Beanie. LaRod Stephens-Howling should be a bigger part of the offense this year anyway, and they’ll need him if/when Beanie is sidelined. Looking forward, it’s hard to tell if there should be long-term Beanie concern. Which, if you think about it, is how Whiz likes it (the part about being hard to tell, not that there could be concern about Beanie).
— The wait to see who returns punts will happen game day. We’ll likely know by who is active; I am betting on Max Komar as the fifth receiver, with Andre Roberts inactive for now.
— I expect Calais Campbell to have a big season, and this game would seem to be a good starting point, with Bradford and everything.
— The Cards have to stop Steven Jackson, although they know that. Since Whisenhunt has taken over, Jackson has missed two of the six meetings, had one 100-yard game, and has averaged 63 yards rushing against the Cardinals. Yes, the Cards need more of that.
It always seems harder to “preview” the opening game because it seems, in some ways, that training camp and the preseason has been one long preview. There really doesn’t feel like much to say here, not until a game is played for real and the play of some of the new guys filters out. It will be strange going back to St. Louis without the Kurt Warner subplot (OK, let’s be honest, the game always felt like the subplot to Warner’s return – and then he’d rip up his old team).
It’s time to go, though. Finally. (P.S. Here’s a video to inspire you for the weekend.)
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Andre Roberts, Derek Anderson, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Max Komar, Rams, Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson, Tim Hightower
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