Seeing how we play each other, I figured now would be the best time to post a Q and A leading up until the game on Friday. We did a Q and A with your blogger Brandon, and he had these questions to ask.
Considering that the starting eleven has pitched a shutout so far in the preseason (six drives), it's fair to say that they've far exceeded expectations. They're getting decent pressure on the quarterback, playing the run very well and the only deep pass was thrown on the nickel corner who was starting because Bryant McFadden wasn't playing. The biggest question about the Cardinals starting defense is still, how much pressure and consistent play they can get from their OLB's. Clark Haggans and Chike Okeafor are both on the wrong side of thirty and have had problems staying healthy. To make matters worse, Cody Brown, a second round rookie and primary backup to Haggans, is due to land on IR any day now after a wrist injury against the Chargers. Depth is also an issue but I'd suspect that any defense would be in trouble if a third stringer was thrust into the starting lineup. As far as our line, I'd say so far we're virtually set with Darnell Dockett playing end and veteren DT Bryon Robinson. On the other end we have 2nd year player Calais Campbell, who's filled Antonio Smith's shoes and more so far in the preseason. He' s a 6'8" defensive end who plays with a high motor. If they can get decent play from their OLB's, this could be a very good defense, and they've already shown signs of that through limited play so far.
1. How has your new 3-4 defense looked so far in your first two preseason games?
Well yes and no. The new offensive coordinator actually has two faces, Russ Grimm (running game coordinator) and Mike Miller (passing game coordinator). Oh and they'll have a third guy, head coach Ken Whisenhunt, calling plays. So there are obviously quite a few cooks in the kitchen but the good news is that there aren't any new faces. Grimm, Miller and obviously Whisenhunt were all here last year and Whisenhunt has plenty of experience calling plays (as a former OC himself, and full time for the Cardinals in '07). If there is any change in the offense, it'll probably be a more balanced attack. That was often stated as a goal last year but when you rank 31st in yards per rush and 6th in yards per pass, it makes some sense that they ranked dead last in rushing attempts in the regular season. With the added running attempts per game go up from last year, we probably won't see 3 1,000 yard receivers this year.
2. Has your new offensive coordinator made any significant changes to
your high powered offense?
The simple answer is no. Everyone is putting on a smile and going to work, although occassionally we'll come across the story where you hear someone say "nothing has changed, I'm just focusing on what I can control and that's my play on the field." I'm sure there are still some hurt feelings and pouting behind closed doors but I think it's gotten to the point that once the season starts, we won't hear anything new until next off season. I think certain players light bulbs came on and realized it may hurt their image. Players like Dockett twittered their pleasure with the organization, while Anquan Boldin hired a new agent.
3. Is there any lingering fallout from the various holdouts/contract disputes/franchise tag/trade rumors you dealt with during the offseason?
First, it most certainly depends on Beanie's health. Obviously he can't challenge for carries if he's on the trainers table, but if there's one thing that's become pretty clear with Beanie's abcense, it's that this team is impressed with Tim Hightower. Timmy will start the season as the starter and most likely will receive most of the carries, including the goal line chances. Whiz has never been a big fan of throwing a rookie into the line of fire right away and Beanie's ankle has only slowed that process even more. One of the areas that I think Wells will reallly have to improve upon before he really challenges Hightower is catching balls out of the backfield. Hightower caught 34 balls last year as a rookie and with the Cardinals affinity for throwing the ball, that could keep him on the field more than Wells in the early goings. The best case scenerio for the Cardinals is probably that Beanie does well enough to command an even split in carries by the end of the season. Both runners are very physical with the ball and keeping them both fresh could be huge dividends for an offense that got very little from the running game last year. Even though it's only a preseason game, I'm sure you all have questions about our team, such as our Super Bowl run, Matt Leinart, Larry Fitzgerald, etc. I'll check this as frequently as possible to answer any questions...so what do you got?
4. Fantasy question: What roles do you expect for RB Beanie Wells and RB Tim Hightower this season> Running back by committee or will one win the starting job? Does it depend on Wells's health?