It rained all morning at the Cardinals’ Tempe facility Friday, all the way through practice. Yes, the Cardinals open up at home Sunday, but since a team from Seattle is the opponent, maybe the precipitation was fitting. I know that personally, it felt odd to have a steady downpour in early September. It seemed to dovetail a little bit with the uncertainty around the Cards going into the season.
Even coach Ken Whisenhunt noted “there is a lot more unknown with our team,” between how the new offensive line will hold up to John Skelton as cemented starter for the first time (remember last year, when Kevin Kolb was healthy, he was put back in the lineup). But Whiz did say “I think everyone is always optimistic going into the first game,” and I think that’s true. There is going to be a sense of us-against-the-world right now in the locker room. A lot of teams go down that road (even good teams that aren’t criticized much) but the Cards can definitely find bulletin-board material if they so choose.
— Beanie Wells ended up on the injury report today with a hamstring issue. He told Kent Somers he’d play, but he is listed as questionable. Interestingly, Wells has just missed three games in the last 30 the Cardinals have played – and each one has been against Seattle. He sat out the meaningless finale last year in UoP, but the game he missed in Seattle – because of a hamstring – ended up being crucial when the Cards lost by three and could have used their star back.
“It was frustrating for me in that particular game having to sit back and watch, not be able to help the team,” Wells said.
Veteran Chester Taylor was Wells’ replacement and couldn’t do anything. (LaRod Stephens-Howling, who had 93 yards rushing in the second Seattle game, was injured too.) Alfonso Smith did a decent job in relief, but the Cards certainly could have used Ryan Williams. If Beanie is limited or out Sunday, Williams will be there this time.
— Talking to Wells before the hamstring problem, I asked him how his recovery from his knee was. “I am getting there,” Beanie said. “I’m not going to say I am there yet, but it is definitely coming.”
— Williams, talking about his own recovery from his patella tendon issue: “I feel like I am a couple weeks away. With this injury, you are still going to feel some lingering pinching, things of that sort, I say since the Oakland game, maybe a week before, I have been really feeling like myself. I have made some moves in practice I have just been waiting to make. I feel like I used to, making cuts, and getting my football awareness, my football sense up under me.”
— Sam Rosen is doing the play by play for Fox for this game. Why does that matter? Rosen was doing the work in each of the four games Patrick Peterson returned a punt for a touchdown – and he was in the booth the last game of the year when Seattle visited, the game in which Peterson should have had a fifth TD if Seahawks punter Jon Ryan hadn’t somehow tripped him up with a fingernail or two.
— Lot of questions about this, but don’t forget: the NFL moved a handful of kickoff times this season on late games, and this is one of them. Kickoff is at 1:25 p.m., not 1:15 p.m. Make sure you check the homepage if there are ever any kickoff time questions.
— Whisenhunt said he had addressed his team before the Hall of Fame game about awareness of the replacement officials. There has not been and won’t be a follow-up. “It’s not something you talk about,” Whisenhunt said. “You don’t want to get too wrapped up in that.”
— We’ll see how rookie right tackle Bobby Massie and new left tackle D’Anthony Batiste hold up Sunday. Batiste, remember, has just four NFL starts, all at guard, all in 2007. Nothing changes in the scheme, offensive coordinator Mike Miller said, only some of the ways the Cards will protect it. The defensive front and the looks the Cards will see more or less dictates if the Cards will give one of their tackles help. “As (offensive line coach) Russ (Grimm) always says, on each play, someone is going to have a tough block,” Miller said.
— Defensive end Calais Campbell has six sacks in six career starts against the Seahawks. Why does he do so well against them? Don’t ask him. “I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know,” Campbell said, chuckling as he struggled to find a reason. “I try my hardest every time I’m out there. I don’t know how to answer that question – but I’m looking forward to seeing if I can do it again
— Campbell also led the league with nine passes batted down at the line of scrimmage last season. Wonder if 5-foot-11 Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson knows that?
— Another guy who has always killed the Seahawks has been Larry Fitzgerald, including last year’s finale when he exploded for 149 yards on nine catches and nearly single-handedly willed the Cards’ offense to a win. Fitz needs seven receptions to reach 700 in his career, and whether he gets it this week or next, he’ll be the youngest player ever to reach that mark. For his career – 16 games total – Fitz has 102 catches for 1,371 yards against Seattle, his top marks against any one franchise.
— Speaking of Wilson, defensive coordinator Ray Horton said he has the same mobility as last year’s Seattle starter, Tarvaris Jackson, but “he gets the ball out faster.” That said, Horton said he believes the Cards’ cornerbacks have more depth than last year. One thing to watch: Who the third cornerback is in the game. William Gay might start as No. 2, but based on the last couple of preseason games, the Cards may use Gay as a nickel and get rookie Jamell Fleming on the outside.
— The Cards need to be stout on the ground, which could be harder with the scrambling ability of Wilson. In the finale last year, Marshawn Lynch had 86 yards on 19 carries, and Leon Washington added 78 on seven carries. Now they have rookie Robert Turbin in the mix. Putting Wilson into uncomfortable, long passing situations starts with slowing the run game. Lynch is questionable with a back issue, but most Seattle writers are guessing he will play Sunday.
The 2012 season is on deck.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Bobby Massie, Calais Campbell, D'Anthony Batiste, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Leon Washington, Marshawn Lynch, officials, Ray Horton, Ryan Williams, Sam Rosen, Seahawks
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Adrian Wilson was on the field and the Cardinals were about to use the victory/kneel-down formation at the end of Sunday’s game. But with Beanie Wells having a chance at history – to himself – the Cards took a delay of game and then Wells got his record-breaking run, a 14-yarder that put the exclamation point on a 228-yard day.
It was a fantastic show by Beanie, and a necessary one. The Cards need to get Kevin Kolb back on the field at quarterback, odd in some ways to say after John Skelton went 3-1 as a starter, but the passing offense has grinded to a halt. You don’t want to get anything confused – the Rams’ after all, do have the NFL’s worst run defense and have dealt with 200-yard rushers earlier this season, after Dallas’ DeMarco Murray ran for a league-high 253 yards – but Beanie played well and to match his career-high in carries with 27 speaks to fighting through his knee soreness.
— The Cards used a few more jumbo-type packages to just out-physical the Rams. Beanie looked comfortable doing those things. Now Wells just needs to hold up – he looked beat up the way he was walking around the locker room – and the Cards need to feed the Bean.
— Speaking of that knee, the way Beanie got twisted around in the fourth quarter looked ugly at first (and his lost fumble could have been disaster). But he broke off a 53-yard run the next time he got back in the game. And that led Larry Fitzgerald to tag Beanie with the Paul Pierce award.
“Past recipients have been Greg Toler (and) Eric Green,” Fitzgerald quipped. “I think Beanie is a candidate but we are glad to have him on the team.”
Pierce, of course, is the star of the NBA’s Boston Celtics who left a 2008 Finals game looking like he wrecked his knee horribly, only to return later in the game like nothing had happened. It’s all in good fun – Fitzgerald nabbed Green back after the Jets game in 2008, when Green came up lame after getting burned for a touchdown and Fitzgerald insisted his injury “changed” to a different part of the body after Green came to the sideline.
It was all in good fun, although after the ups and downs Wells has been through given his injury situations – and what outside people tend to see with Wells when he gets hurt – it was kinda close to home.
“You know what it goes to show you Beanie has grown up a little bit, a tough-minded guy,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That’s what you need. That’s what we have been striving to get Beanie to get to do for a couple years now. It’s great to see.”
— Beanie has a career-high 849 yards rushing already with five games remaining. He now has a career high in touchdowns too, with eight.
— It meant something that rookie fullback Anthony Sherman was in there blocking for Beanie. Sherman is good at his job already. Plus, Beanie seems to be the kind of back who likes having a lead back blocking for him.
— Fitz was quiet again (3 catches, 55 yards) but that’s what happens when the quarterback struggles so. “I am just happy to get a win honestly,” Fitzgerald said. “I would love to have 100 yards and a couple touchdowns, but I know that’s not going to happen every week.”
Fair. But the Cards need Fitz and more importantly, need to find a way to get him the ball. That’s probably been mentioned before.
— Sam Acho isn’t going to say much about himself. He doesn’t like to do it if he can help it, preferring to shower the entire team with praise. I asked him on the plane if he was going to be a little more forthcoming. Nope. “Go ahead and put me down for all the clichés,” he said. That’s fine. We will stick with simple analysis: Acho has been very impressive. He already has five sacks as a rookie, and he barely played defense before the seventh game of the season. Is he a Pro Bowler? No. Not even polished. But a very good start, and needed at that position.
— No, I don’t know if Sam Rosen will be calling any more games involving the Cardinals on Fox this season.
— Patrick Peterson said on the radio after the game he wants to get to six punt-return TDs this season. If he gets five, it’s a season for the ages as a special teamer. One at a time.
— Hope Rosen wouldn’t have to fill in for the Cards’ own radio play-by-play guy, Dave Pasch. Pasch’s neck was hurting enough before the game he had to get a shot from the trainers of the “blue juice” Ron Wolfley recalls so fondly from his playing days. To be honest, it was a little freaky how jacked up Wolf got with the idea Pasch had to take the needle. Pasch indeed gutted out the game. He’s officially probable for next Sunday against Dallas.
— Tight end Todd Heap finally played a full game, but ended up as only a blocker. He was not targeted for a pass (although Jeff King was three times as a tight end, catching two).
— The down side of Beanie’s two big runs: In six subsequent downs right after the 71- and 53-yarders, one after first-and-10 at the Rams 11-yard line and one after first-and-goal at the Rams 9, the Cards gained all of five yards (two runs for no gain, three incompletions, and a five-yard pass to Fitz). They had to kick two field goals.
That was on the mind of guard Daryn Colledge when it was suggested the Cards found something by leaning on the run Sunday. “We’re going to run the plays that are called,” Colledge said. “We’re not concerned if they are run or pass. We want production. That’s important coming out of this game: We need more production in the red zone.”
— Two wildcat playcalls this season with Peterson at QB. The first time, the Cards had to call timeout before the snap because of a formation problem. Sunday, Peterson fumbled the snap. Maybe next time we’ll actually see what Peterson is supposed to do.
— Skelton said his first interception was simply a bad read and he should have thrown it to the dump-down guy. His other high throws was an issue of trying to get it up and over underneath coverage. “It’s something I have to work on,” Skelton said.
That’s good for now. Game ball, Beanie.
Tags: Anthony Sherman, Beanie Wells, Daryn Colledge, Dave Pasch, John Skelton, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Rams, Ron Wolfley, Sam Acho, Sam Rosen
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