With safety Adrian Wilson playing so well, I thought it was appropriate to do a story on him this week, and he’s clearly becoming a story everywhere. Friday, he popped up on Jim Rome’s radio show, and he was A-Dub-honest. When it came to his self-assessment of his play during the first month of the season, “I was terrible. I was horrible. I didn’t like seeing myself like that on tape.”
More revealing was his comment about that play when it came to being a leader on the defense. “It hurt me emotionally the way that I was playing,” Wilson said. “I knew I wasn’t that type of player, and I knew what I was doing in games early on in the year, that wasn’t me. It hurt me inside, and I wanted to show my teammates I was still that guy, that guy they could depend on, still that playmaker. That fueled me as the season went on.”
He admitted coming back from the right biceps injury was mentally difficult, a strain that made it harder when he was already learning the defense. Wilson said he wasn’t doing a lot of interviews this season because he wanted the young players, guys like linebacker Daryl Washington and linebacker Sam Acho, to get the spotlight.
Besides, for the team, the most important thing is Wilson’s play on the field, which has been 180 degrees from “terrible.”
“Shoot, he didn’t talk to me the first two years I was here,” safety Hamza Abdullah said with a grin (and folks, that was a joke). “Between the white lines, he doesn’t care. You could be his Auntie, his next door neighbor, the guy who needs help crossing the street, if you are between the lines and wearing a different colored helmet, he is going to hit you hard, not care, push you down after the play. You want a guy like that on your team. He keeps it clean, but he’ll make you feel it at the end of the day.”
Clearly the Cardinals’ defense has played better because there are a bunch of players who understand the scheme better. But it’s not a coincidence Wilson has found a groove at the same time.
“I feel I am the emotional leader for this team,” Wilson said. “I may not say a lot during the week or do a lot of interviews but come game day being that emotional guy, being a guy who is out front, I think that’s important for the team defensively.”
On to Browns’ weekend:
– The streaking Cards’ defense runs into an offense that was struggling anyway and now must turn to backup quarterback Seneca Wallace. Good news, right? Well, perhaps the better news is the message – whomever is giving it, whether it is coach Ken Whisenhunt or defensive coordinator Ray Horton or players leaders – that the only thing that matters is the next game and not whatever success the unit is having. No one is paying attention to the growing compliments.
“One thing I know, a pat on the back is six inches from a slap in the face,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “I treat that the same. We just want to do it for each other.”
– If the Cardinals win, Whisenhunt notches his 43rd win, most in franchise history for a head coach (and yes, postseason is included).
– If the Cards win, that’s a four-game winning streak, something they haven’t done since 1999.
– Is it feast or famine for this team? The Cards do have five offensive touchdowns of more than 50 yards this season (and an NFL-leading nine, thanks to Patrick Peterson’s four punt-return scores). Big plays have become the norm.
– Beanie Wells needs 57 yards rushing to reach 1,000 for the season. You know he’d like to do it against the Browns, the team that plays about a half-hour from his Akron home – and one for he once dreamt about playing.
– Starting cornerback/nickel safety Richard Marshall has turned into a valuable piece for Horton. He’s also a guy who signed only a one-year contract as a free agent before the season (which made sense, given the high hopes with Peterson, the injured Greg Toler and A.J. Jefferson by the time they got to 2012). He would seem to be a guy the Cards want to keep around. Marshall sounded like a veteran when asked about his future in Arizona.
“I like it here,” Marshall said. “My family likes it here, it’s a great place to play. Not too far from home. We will see what happens at the end of the year. The only thing I am thinking about is these last three games.”
– Wilson was fined $7,500 for roughing the passer after he grabbed 49ers quarterback Alex Smith’s facemask as he went flying by during a play last week. Niners linebacker Larry Grant was fined $15,000 for hitting Cards QB John Skelton below the knees, although reports from San Francisco are that Grant is appealing the fine because he said he hit Skelton in the thigh area.
– There has been only one team Larry Fitzgerald has not played against in his career – the Cleveland Browns. He missed the 2007 meeting because of a groin injury.
– Speaking of Fitz, he was asked about how to deal with the offensive slow starts: “I just keep hoping our defense can keep playing well in the first half so our engine can get going in the second,” he deadpanned. “Naw, we have to play better. The first half, it’s unacceptable for us to start that slow.”
John Skelton, Sunday’s probable starter at quarterback with Kevin Kolb’s concussion issues, has a 22.4 passer rating in the first quarter this season (and 100.8 in the fourth quarter).
Fitz may have been talking tongue-in-cheek, but the way the defense is playing, his idea just might work.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Beanie Wells, Browns, Hamza Abdullah, Ken Whisenhunt, Richard Marshall
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