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Blogs

Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2012 – 8:25 pm

The Cardinals know the criticism is coming, know it has been coming, know what’s being said. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was acknowledging speculation on his job security was “part of the business.” Linebacker Quentin Groves, meanwhile, was saying the Cards have to pull together because that’s their only option.

“We’re all we got,” Groves said. “We have to stick together as a family, as a team and then just say we’re all we got. The fans turn on you, the media turns on you, and at the same time those 62 guys in the locker room (it’s 61, counting practice squad, to be accurate) have to band together with the coaches as well as say we’re all we got, and go out and play.”

There isn’t much more to say on that. Obviously I’ve been through these losing streaks the last couple of years (and yes, so too have you) and I know what’s coming from you and in the comments below. No need to rehash them weekly. Sunday was a bad loss, especially after building early leads. Two road games are coming, in New York and in Seattle. Nothing simple about breaking the streak in either place.

Anyway, on to some game specifics:

– Ryan Lindley looked so … solid on that first drive. He was accurate. He was smart. And then it went off the rails. The interceptions, save for the last one (which I didn’t get a good look at), all looked like throws a rookie quarterback would make. The last pick-6, trying to throw something deep off a back foot, that looked particularly like a rookie. Doesn’t make it OK, but it wasn’t surprising.

The question is what now? Whiz acknowledged he thought about  taking Lindley out but didn’t. It’s tough for a team, though, knowing Lindley was in there two weeks in a row with a lead and the job could not be finished. The Rams didn’t come after Lindley right away. You have to wonder, with a Jets team reeling and with nothing to lose, what Rex Ryan might unleash on an inexperienced QB.

– Somehow, the Cards lost two games to the Rams this season when quarterback Sam Bradford completed a total of 15 passes in two games. Never thought that’d be possible.

– Having Beanie Wells made a difference early, but it felt like the Rams finally said defensively they wanted to make Lindley beat them, and he couldn’t, and that was that.

– Daryl Washington got his ninth sack and Patrick Peterson his fourth interception, and both were nice plays and helpful at the time. But defensively, the Cards let the Rams flip field position too many times. The big plays, like the first time against the Rams, bit the Cards. So too did Steven Jackson’s 139 yards rushing.

– Interesting that the game in which Todd Heap is essentially a healthy scratch, Rob Housler ends up with his best game so far (8 catches for 82 yards). Whether it was the defensive scheme or not, Lindley seemed to have a comfort level with Housler.

– Clearly, LaRod Stephens-Howling was having issues with his sore ribs. So William Powell got more time and chipped in six catches for 63 yards in that third-down back role.

– The question of the week will be Kevin Kolb’s health and Lindley’s status. As of now I’d assume Lindley is staying in there if Kolb isn’t healthy, but to be honest, Whisenhunt didn’t say that. The Jets will have extra time to prepare, but they’ve been pretty bad. Next week will be interesting. I don’t have much more to say about this week.


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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 4, 2012 – 11:48 pm

It’s late, and I’m not sure how many will be reading this before tomorrow morning – or even before coach Ken Whisenhunt talks again. The winning streak comes to an end with a thud. It didn’t look good when the Rams went right down the field to score to open the game, but then the Cards were able to tread water for a long time. They just couldn’t put it together offensively for any consistent stretch in order to get it in the end zone.

So we get to the topic everyone seems like the want to talk about – the offensive line.

“We got beat,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We got beat on the edge a couple of times. We have to work on technique and our sets and do some things to help those guys out.”

I get there are many out there frustrated. I see on the blog and on Twitter. The reality is the Cards are playing two tackles right now they hadn’t planned on being the starters when training camp opened and there was a reason for that. The reality is if they don’t run the ball better – and yes, I know that is also in part on the offensive line – the opposition is going to have the chance at a field day rushing the quarterback.

There is no realistic option of change on the roster. I don’t see rookie Nate Potter as a possibility right now at left tackle. Do I think the Cards will look elsewhere? Maybe. I’m pretty sure they’ve been paying attention to the waiver wire ever since their injuries struck. They obviously haven’t seen a better option. Again, reality – there’re probably aren’t enough good left tackles out there period, much less when guys start to get hurt. That’s why the Cards wanted to make sure they brought back Levi Brown in the first place.

– The Cards made the pass protection manageable when Kevin Kolb’s pass attempts were in the 20s. The last two weeks he’s thrown almost 100 passes. That’s a ratio that’s tough to manage. That’s why everyone, from Whisenhunt to guard Daryn Colledge to Kolb to Ryan Williams, all brought up the need to run the ball better. Better will eventually translate into more.

– The hit on Williams was scary, but he almost looked confused why everyone thought it was a big deal after the game. “I’m straight,” he insisted, and was acting like he was fine. Which he may be. We’ll see. Obviously to lose him for even one game right now, with Beanie already down and LaRod Stephens-Howling a question, would be a killer.

– Darnell Dockett was active, but he didn’t play a ton and wasn’t a major factor. He’s one of those guys the Cards need to get all the way healthy.

– The Cards had themselves just one sack, snapping their 10-game streak of games with at least two sacks.

– The 40-yard missed field goal by Jay Feely was important not just because it would have made the game 10-6 at the half. It felt like it changed the complexion of the fourth quarter. Do the Cards go for it on fourth-and-goal inside the 10 with five minutes left when a field goal would have made it 17-9 and a one-score game? Probably not.

– Kevin Kolb missed too many receivers in the first half. There were drops definitely, and missed chances because pass catchers didn’t make a play they should have. But obviously Kolb missed on some throws he just can’t – including a bomb to a wide-open Andre Roberts, who had gotten behind the defense.

– That said, this narrative that Kolb is “made of glass” or as Tommy Kelly said in the preseason, “skittish” needs to go away. Kolb was beaten up and bloodied Thursday night and kept getting back up. Question him as a quarterback if you want to – and we all know some of you will – but please spare me the other stuff.

– Given the way these last two Thursday night games have gone – Thanksgiving in Philly in 2008 and tonight – I’m guessing Whisenhunt would love to take a pass on these outings for good if he could.

– If you would have told me Sam Bradford would complete just 7-of-21 throws and the Rams would win – rather easily, even – I’d have said you were dumb. Don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team collect more sacks (nine) than pass completions.

– Rob Housler just trucked a couple of defenders on catch-and-runs tonight. It’ll get lost, but man, you can see the potential there.

– We’ll walk off with a Daryl Washington quote: “It’s a long season. The good thing about the division is you get to see them twice. They have to come to our place.” The Cards are still in first place.


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Three straight openers against a rookie QB

Posted by Darren Urban on August 26, 2012 – 7:18 pm

With the news today that the Seahawks will start rookie third-round quarterback Russell Wilson at quarterback (over free-agent signee Matt Flynn, in a mild upset given that Wilson had been generating big buzz since the offseason), it obviously impacts the Cardinals. The regular-season opener is Sept. 9, when the Seahawks visit University of Phoenix Stadium. That will make Wilson the third straight rookie quarterback to make his debut against the Cardinals in the opener.

In 2010, the Cards opened in St. Louis, when Sam Bradford had some trouble with Adrian Wilson in his first NFL game. In 2011, Cam Newton ended up setting an NFL rookie record for passing yards in his first game. In the Cards’ favor, they ended up winning both games (17-13 against the Rams, 28-21 against the Panthers).

Now the defense will get a chance at Wilson, who, unlike Bradford and Newton, was not the first overall choice in the draft. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton will also get a chance at Wilson, who is under 6-feet tall, the reason he went in the third round. I’m sure it will be one of the storylines for the game in about a week (you know, after we get past the last preseason game, any forays into the waiver/free-agent pool by the Cards, and their own decision at quarterback.)


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While we wait …

Posted by Darren Urban on July 5, 2011 – 9:48 am

The Fourth of July has passed and that time when the lockout is creeping up on the season is coming fast. Talks are ongoing, and the hope still is that training camps won’t be delayed. Like everyone else, I am sitting back, waiting and hoping. In the meantime …

– Former NFL coach Herman Edwards was on ESPN’s SportsCenter this morning talking about his top five players to watch this season. At five was Packers LB Clay Matthews. Four was Bucs QB Josh Freeman, three was Rams QB Sam Bradford and two was Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant. And his top guy to keep an eye on? Cardinals rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson. Edwards has long been a fan of Peterson. Here’s hoping Edwards is right. Funny thing, by this time we’ve usually written and talked a ton about the first-round draft pick but because of the circumstances, he remains a relative mystery for this level. Will he jump in? Is he going to take longer to assimilate to the pro game because of no offseason (another reason it seems crazy for the Cards to deal DRC)?

– Speaking of the DRC “trade” — or more specifically, Eagles QB Kevin Kolb, some interesting stuff floating out there right now in this speculation bonanza we have. There is little question the Eagles think they can get a ransom for him right now, but who knows what that means? A Seattle radio station floated last week that the Seahawks would be willing to give up a first- and third-round pick for Kolb. That would change the dynamic of the situation, certainly.

As for Kolb’s play, Adam Caplan and Greg Cosell did an in-depth breakdown of Kolb’s five starts. It’s good stuff for anyone wanting to know more about this potential QB.

– Coach Ken Whisenhunt will be back in the U.S. soon after his trip overseas to visit military troops, a journey that took him to Kuwait and over to Iraq and eventually Baghdad and allowed him to spend Fourth of July with men and women defending the very nature of the holiday. Whiz is also scheduled to return to the American Century Championship according to the tourney. That’s the celebrity golf tournament held every year at Lake Tahoe (This year, it’s July 12-17). Cardinals linebacker Joey Porter is also on the list to play this year.

Then again, you never know what could be happening football-wise. I don’t know what a new labor agreement would immediately mean for the coaches. Hope we get to find out soon.


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Feeling familiar

Posted by Darren Urban on May 19, 2011 – 3:26 pm

While everyone waits for the league year to start — and, at its root, waits for the Cardinals to have a chance to figure out its quarterback situation — the possibilities remain open speculation. Suddenly, it begins to feel very familiar.

In fact, as I read about how NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi felt about Kevin Kolb during a Sports 620 KTAR interview this morning, and how Kolb has generated a range of believers and non-believers when it comes to his abilities and what it could mean to the Cardinals if there indeed was a trade here, it felt very deja vu. Is Kolb the right guy? What’s he worth in a trade? Is what the Eagles want and what the Cards (assuming they’d want Kolb) are willing to give up at least in the same ballpark? Hard to know, given Kolb’s relatively short career and seven NFL starts.

This is about more than Kolb, though. So many questions are flying around about Marc Bulger too, and he’s got a much longer resume. And Donovan McNabb and Kyle Orton and even Carson Palmer. I realized it reminded me so much of the ramp-up before a draft when it comes to quarterbacks. Obviously, the veterans have played in the league, but this feels a lot like how Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett, etc., were deconstructed over and over. Such as Sam Bradford last year.

It’s the position, of course. It’s the position and the importance it carries and, this offseason, its the days of dead time that allows for possible paralysis by analysis. The trade market for a player like Kolb doesn’t hurt either; unlike the draft, there is someone on the other side of the equation (the Eagles, in this case) hoping Kolb’s value is driven up during all these discussions.

Like the draft, however, it’ll be impossible to know what any of these quarterbacks could really do in a different situation until they get to a new place. Until someone gets here to Arizona. The naysayers could be right about Kolb, for instance. But like the draft, that’s why a team has scouts. They scout veteran players too. You have to assume, whichever player the Cards chase, they believe he will be successful. Why else get him?



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Pro days and the case for No. 1 Cam

Posted by Darren Urban on March 8, 2011 – 9:54 am

The Cardinals have a handful of decision-makers — including head coach Ken Whisenhunt — attending Auburn’s pro day today, as colleges begin to host their home-cooking workouts. Obviously Auburn has a pair of potential top five picks in QB Cam Newton and DT Nick Fairley. Arkansas also has it’s pro day today; is it notable Whisenhunt chose to go where Newton is and not Ryan Mallett? Maybe. Maybe he already has seen what he wants to see from Mallett. Maybe the Cards will schedule Mallett for a one-on-one workout. The point is I don’t think you can make assumptions based on today’s choice.

At this point, the general feeling is that Newton and Misouri’s Blaine Gabbert (who, after not throwing at the combine, has his pro day March 17) are the top two QBs available. So to me, choosing to watch Newton over Mallett is logical. Doesn’t mean the Cards will take a quarterback.

Which leads me to this point: So many people are wondering if the Cards will take a QB first. What if Newton and Gabbert are both off the board in the top four picks? It may be a moot point for the Cards in the end.

My friend Darin Gantt, who covers the Panthers, told Bengals.com he thinks (at least on March 8th) that Newton will be the Panthers’ pick after losing out on Andrew Luck. That’d be a surprise. But I also remember about this time last year when everyone was just starting to talk about Sam Bradford going to the Rams No. 1 after he was hurt almost his entire final season in college. Everyone at first didn’t think Bradford would be the pick. Then he was, and it turned out pretty well for St. Louis.

That same top-three mock has Denver taking Von Miller at No. 2 and Alabama DT Marcell Dareus going to Buffalo at No. 3. That’d leave Cincinnati before Arizona. But all four teams in front of the Cardinals could conceivably be looking for a quarterback of the future. Would it really be a stunner to see both Newton and Gabbert off the board that early? I don’t think so.

We will see. In the meantime, the Cards will continue checking out the pro days (general manager Rod Graves is scheduled to attend the pro days of TCU, LSU and Texas A&M over the next six days) and doing due diligence. There can only be four players taken before the Cards go. Someone high-profile is going to be sitting there at 5. Who that is, however, remains vague.


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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2010 – 10:05 pm

Less than a week ago coach Ken Whisenhunt was saying John Skelton probably wasn’t going to play this season barring an injury. Then Max Hall got hurt. And Skelton got to play Sunday.

So now we see if Skelton gets to play. He looked good on those first couple of throws – darts to Steve Breaston and then Larry Fitzgerald – and that led the crowd to go crazy. You would have thought the Cards had traded for Tom Brady at that moment, but it showed how much the fans are starved for offensive success.

Because Max Hall was sick Friday last week, Skelton actually got some first-team reps – eight in fact. That is the entirety of Skelton’s first-team reps this season. Then he had to go out and perform with them.

“I was about as nervous as a third-string quarterback going into his first-game action could be,” Skelton said. “Nothing overwhelming or anything.”

– Will he start? We will see. I think a strong case can be made for it, especially since Whisenhunt said after the game that even though Derek Anderson wasn’t right (and was being checked for a concussion) he was going to make a QB change anyway.

Something has to change, Whisenhunt said. That certainly points – to me – as the Cards trying out a third starter this season.

– XTRA’s Mike Jurecki is tweeting the Cards will sign QB Richard Bartel should Hall be out (which sounds likely). The Cards had Bartel in for a workout a few weeks ago and they had seen him already this season – he played a good chunk of the preseason finale at University of Phoenix Stadium for the Redskins. If they do sign him, he’ll be the third guy. I would expect Anderson/Skelton to be one and two in some order.

– When Hall came in, he ended up passing three straight times despite the Cards being down just 10 points and the Cards running well. The first play, a play-action call, ended in a sack. The second play was a near-sack and an incompletion, and the third was an interception. It was an inauspicious sequence, but Whisenhunt said the Rams’ constant blitzing called for such plays.

“We thought there would be easy, easy throws,” Whisenhunt said. “One of (passes) got tipped and we missed the protection. The same play we ran to start the game (an Anderson 16-yard pass to Fitzgerald), we got the same blitz. We picked it up on the first play, we didn’t pick it up on Max’s first play.”

– Kicker Jay Feely has quietly had a great season. Take away a missed 54-yard field goal (which was straight but short wide left … dang the official scorebook!) and he has made all 15 of his other attempts (and is perfect on 21 extra points). He’s also drilled 14 touchbacks. He deserves Pro Bowl consideration, although I worry the offense may not give him enough opportunities to draw attention from the rest of the league.

– Disappointing Larry Fitzgerald still hasn’t taken that franchise record for catches to himself. He is tied with Anquan Boldin after today. He was targeted 11 times, but ended up with just four catches. He would have been open on the interception thrown by Anderson; Not sure if Anderson thought Fitz would stay straight (Fitz was setting up an up-and-out break) or if he just threw it behind Fitz.

– Darnell Dockett was all over the field Sunday. It was good to see him so dominant. Kerry Rhodes was impressive too. I actually thought Sam Bradford played better in the opener than Sunday, although the Rams didn’t have to get too fancy knowing their own defense was holding down the Cards.

Four games to go.


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Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on December 3, 2010 – 5:02 pm

Today was a good Friday. Our annual third-floor potluck luck was highlighted by freshly made carne asada tostadas by Rolando Cantu. First Mexican-born NFL player, and a killer chef to boot.

Of course, I’m not sure that has any affect on Sunday’s game. I’m guessing no. But I’m trying to go glass half-full here. I am sure optimism isn’t warranted until it’s earned, and the way Sam Bradford has been playing the Rams have to be feeling confident. I mean, they might have been a crucial Steve Breaston strip away from beating the Cards the first time, and that was Bradford’s first NFL start, not his 13th.

But this team isn’t going winless the rest of the way. They just aren’t, no matter what funk they are in. Is this the weekend to snap it? Is the way they seem to have rallied around Derek Anderson after his version of the Monday Night Meltdown translate? (Oh, I am imagining the comments below already). The Rams haven’t won back-to-back road games since 2007. The Cards have beaten the Rams eight straight times.

I’m not predicting anything. The Cardinals have to play better. It is disconcerting to hear Adrian Wilson talk about guys communicating poorly on defense (and getting in the wrong spots) still, even though we are this deep in the season. The offense has never found any kind of steady rhythm all season. These are the major things working against the Cards, and again, they have to earn any kind of trust/respect/prediction right now.

– There will be a toy drive at University of Phoenix Stadium before the game. Cheerleaders and personnel from Chicanos Por La Causa will collect new unwrapped toys and monetary donations outside each stadium entrance. Donations benefit the “Angeles Del Barrio” program that distribute toys to more than 13,000 needy kids in Phoenix and San Luis.

– Linebacker O’Brien Schofield is feeling pretty good, although he wishes he could ditch the brace he must wear on his knee. “I told them they are going to see me run down the field one day and it’s going to come off like I’m Forrest Gump,” Schofield said with a laugh. He will wear it through the season, but insisted he’s going to find a way to rid himself of it in the offseason.

– That’s when Schofield plays to build up his legs, period. He weighed about 246 in college. He got down to 221 after his knee injury, and is back to 244. He wants to play between 248 and 250, weight he plans to build in his legs.

– Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, on special teams demon/kick-return star LaRod Stephens-Howling: “LaRod has been lights out. You want to pick an MVP, he’s hands down the guy.”

– It’s very clear they are waiting for John Skelton until next year and that it’s always been the plan. Hopefully, that answers everyone’s questions.

– Tackle Jeremy Bridges was fined $20,000 for an unnecessary roughness penalty Monday against the 49ers for hitting a player in the head. The league pointed out it was Bridges’ fifth such infraction since the beginning of the 2009 season (the five don’t necessarily have had to have been flagged in the game, just deemed penalties when the league looks at them later). Linebacker Clark Haggans was fined $10,000 for a blow to the head/neck area in the same game.

– In that first game against the Rams, perhaps you remember Fitzgerald being targeted 15 times but only getting four catches. Much frustration that day, although Fitz said this week his health was “about 25 percent” for that game after he hurt his knee in preseason. “I wasn’t full-go at that point.”

– Tim Hightower usually does pretty well against the Rams, so that’s something to look for.

– So does Wilson. If there was ever someone who needed a standout game, it’s A-Dub. Of course, you could say that about a lot of Cards.

 



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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 12, 2010 – 11:36 pm

Didn’t we just talk about going and getting a win in St. Louis, regardless? So that’s what the Cards did.

But there is little question, of all the big-picture items coming out of the 17-13 nailbiter, was about quarterback Derek Anderson. He completed his first six passes and 10 of his first 13. Then he missed on his next seven. On the game-winning drive, he completed 6-of-7 (and piled up 101 yards passing on that drive, because of penalties).

“We still have to find out what our strengths are going to be with Derek as far as the kinds of passes we are going to run,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “He made some good throws and he made some throws that were not so good.”

Whisenhunt insisted he was comfortable with Anderson (so everyone clamoring for Max Hall, stop). He praised Anderson for handling himself well. Perhaps Whisenhunt just understands who Anderson is and there are things a team must accept.

Anderson was impressive in taking responsibility. “I missed some throws, some easy ones I have to make,” he said. “I know that. I have to be better.” Later, he compared it to his beloved golf game (he is a scratch golfer), saying some of his incompletions “are like missing four-foot birdies.”

He missed Larry Fitzgerald on 12 of the 15 passes he threw No. 11’s way, including a seam route that Fitz was behind everyone. “I want that, I have to hit that,” Anderson said. “I will watch it tomorrow and probably be sick.”

– Whisenhunt thinks it will get better with Anderson. Both he and his quarterback wore that tired smile that comes after a win. Anytime you can make some mistakes – or in this case, have the offense stagnant for a chunk of the game – and still win, that’s the best kind of learning experience. Anderson did throw the game-winning TD after all (celebration below) and didn’t throw an interception (although the Rams dropped at least one).

– It didn’t help that Early Doucet is hurt again, straining a groin and forcing two rookies – Stephen Williams and Max Komar – into significant playing time. Whisenhunt also said Fitz’s injured knee starting bothering him late in the game too.

– Tim Hightower may have cost himself dearly with two fumbles. Hightower had fumbling issues last season and to have it crop up twice today is the fastest way to the doghouse. The last one did look like he was down, but let’s face it, the only job the running back has after that last interception by Kerry Rhodes is to not turn it over. The game is then over.

– Komar desperately needed that big 20-yard catch he made on the final TD drive. It was Komar’s lost fumble after his previous catch around the Rams’ 5-yard line cost the Cards at least three points, and he twice dropped punt returns to the turf (but recovered those). “You are both encouraged and upset” with Komar, Whisenhunt said, “but that’s this game.”

– The Cardinals, by the way, didn’t fumble seven times in a game at all from 1983 through 2008. Now they have done it twice in five games (including the Monday night debacle in San Francisco late last season).

– New cornerback Greg Toler did fairly well. He was a sound tackler with 13, while the Rams clearly went in his direction and tried to stay away from DRC.

– The 17 points scored were the fewest for the Cards in a victory since Whiz became coach.

– Definitely one of the best all-around games safety Adrian Wilson has ever played. He plays like this, he may reach that coveted 30-30 club (sacks and interceptions) yet. He now has 21½ sacks and 25 picks. (As good as he was, though, I do not expect Wilson to have 16 sacks and 32 interceptions this season. I do expect him to be NFC defensive player of the week, however).

– Anderson praised newbie Ram Sam Bradford, but he did note, “I was kind of happy we had a rookie quarterback leading them at the end.”

– Weirdest part of the game was because of the great play by Steve Breaston, the Cardinals had, essentially, a 10-play drive (plus three other plays called back because of penalty) that lasted almost five minutes of game clock. It started at the Arizona 29 and ended at the Arizona 35. “Talk about a 15-play drive to nowhere,” center Lyle Sendlein said.

Not that it matters now. Now, it’s a funny little anecdote in a win’s aftermath.


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Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on September 10, 2010 – 4:59 pm

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.)


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