Cardinals: Week 16 News & Notes
(Getty)
(Getty)

Posted Dec 23, 2010


Arizona is set to battle America's team in front of a national audience on Christmas night.

--Coach Ken Whisenhunt thinks his team has the talent to be much better than its 4-10 record.

"If we were in a situation where we didn't have opportunities to make plays, then I would think differently," he said. "But there are different times in the game where you see us have success when we do it right.

"We saw a little bit of it (against) Denver, where we did make some plays early. We built off that confidence, and by the end of the game, we were playing better. I was hoping that would carry over into this past week."

--Larry Fitzgerald, 27, became the team's all-time leading receiver this year. And last week he surpassed the 8,000-yard mark in receiving. Only Randy Moss did it a younger age.

Fitzgerald's eighth catch last week was the 600th of his career. He's the youngest player in NFL history to reach that mark.

"There's another milestone I hit," said Fitzgerald, referring to the team's 10th loss. "The worst I've been is (5-11). I just want to win two more ballgames. That's my focus at this point. It's been a rough year."

--It's been a disappointing season for the defense, but strangely, it's been one of the best units when it comes to yielding touchdowns in the red zone. The Cardinals have allowed just 3.88 points per trip to the red zone, the fewest in the NFL.

--WR Early Doucet was placed on injured reserve Wednesday after suffering a hip flexor injury last week. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing season for Doucet, who was hoping to have a breakout season.

Instead, Doucet will finish the year by missing his fifth and sixth games because of injuries. He had just 26 catches for 291 yards and touchdown. More was expected. With Anquan Boldin being traded to Baltimore, Doucet moved up the depth chart to third receiver, but he was a victim of the team's offensive failures and misfortune. A sports hernia caused him to miss four games early in the season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 10 -- Return touchdowns for the Cardinals this season, a franchise record.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's been a very painful year for all of us." -- Coach Ken Whisenhunt.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Cardinals continue to play as many young players as possible. OLB O'Brien Schofield should start this week, the fifth rookie to crack the starting lineup this season. QB John Skelton, a fifth-round pick, is expected to start his third consecutive game.

Last week, the Cardinals went to a 4-3 look on defense occasionally in order to stop the Panthers run game. That likely was just a game plan for a single game, not a shift in philosophy.

PLAYER NOTES

--DE Calais Campbell struggled through most of the season but has played better lately. He had 11 tackles last week in Carolina, including a sack and three others for losses.

--WR Andre Roberts might be the most improved player on the team. He had trouble with ball security early in the year, dropping passes and muffing punts. Those troubles appear to be behind him, and Roberts has shown an ability to run after the catch.

--OLB Joey Porter might not play because of a triceps injury. Porter has five sacks this season and none in the last six games. He needs two sacks to hit 100 for his career.

--DE Darnell Dockett, DE Calais Campbell and T Jeremy Bridges all sponsored charity events that benefitted underprivileged kids. All took kids on shopping sprees this week.

--NT Dan Williams has earned more playing time over the last month. With the team going nowhere, Williams has taken some snaps away from Bryan Robinson, and Williams has earned additional time by improving his play against the run.

GAME PLAN: Coach Ken Whisenhunt has relinquished some of the play-calling duties to Mike Miller, the passing game coordinator. Whisenhunt said that has been the plan all along, but frustration has something to do with it, too. The Cardinals' quarterback play has been so poor this season that it's been difficult to call plays with any success. The defense has played better over the past three weeks, but it will need to find some way to pressure Jon Kitna. The Cowboys have had no trouble scoring points, and their passing game should give the Cardinals some trouble. That might mean using strong safety Adrian Wilson more on the blitz.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs. Cowboys WR Miles Austin. These are two of the most explosive players in the league. Rodgers-Cromartie has been inconsistent but has played better over the past two weeks. The Cardinals are starting to match him up against the opponent's best receiver, and for the Cowboys, that's Austin.

DT Darnell Dockett vs. Cowboys guard Leonard Davis. Former teammates, Davis and Dockett are among the most powerful men at their positions. Dockett is considerably smaller than Davis, so he needs to use his explosiveness to negate Davis' edge in size.

LT Levi Brown vs. Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware. Ware is one of the NFL's elite pass rushers, and Brown has been average in protection this season but better over the past month. If Ware brings consistent pressure, the Cardinals are in trouble, because rookie QB John Skelton is still learning to read defenses.

INJURY IMPACT: WR Early Doucet was placed on injured reserve this week after suffering a hip flexor injury last Sunday. Andre Roberts will move up to No. 3, with Stephen Williams or Max Komar serving as the fourth receiver. It's not a big loss because Doucet wasn't making an impact.

--OLB Joey Porter has a right triceps strain, and it's questionable if he will be able to play Saturday. O'Brien Schofield would start if Porter can't.

--QB Derek Anderson practiced Wednesday for the first time in more than two weeks. Anderson was cleared to practice after suffering a concussion, and how he reacts to practice will determine his availability for Saturday's game.

--RB LaRod Stephens-Howling aggravated a hamstring injury last week, and it appears doubtful he'll play against the Cowboys. Coaches are hopeful that Stephens-Howling will be able to play the following week against the 49ers.



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