That was among their major maladies last season, when they accumulated
eye-popping passing yardage, and then, because they couldn't run the ball,
almost always settled for three points instead of seven. The only thing positive
to be said for that is that it made a record-breaking field-goal kicker out of
But the offense has come away with red-zone touchdowns in preseason outings
against Pittsburgh and Chicago, yet still failed miserably at New England. It's
a barometer of their improvement, but also a reminder that they still aren't
quite where they need to be.
Acquiring right tackle Brandon Gorin in a trade Aug. 22 may make them better
yet. Starter Oliver Ross is recovering from knee surgery after his initial
campaign with the Cardinals in 2005 was thwarted by a series of injuries.
Gorin, a three-year starter for New England, hasn't yet won the job in his first
week with his new team, but it appears to be only a matter of time -- and
perhaps as soon as this week, when the team hosts Denver in the closing
The Cardinals acknowledge that the first step in improving the rushing game, and
with it their red-zone efficiency, is making a commitment to it. Too often too
early they gave up on the run in 2005. Consequently, it wasn't there when they
needed it. But in their latest preseason outing against the Bears, who have a
playoff-caliber defense, the Cardinals rushed 38 times for 127 yards.
At the very least the Cardinals hope to present enough of a rushing threat to
give opposing defensive coordinators pause before automatically playing zone
coverage in the red zone, a luxury they had last year knowing they needed only
to commit minimal personnel to stopping the Cardinals' run. In the process,
those zone coverages took away passing lanes.
The threat of the run should give new life to the play-action series.
Running back J.J. Arrington has received the bulk of the preseason work with the
first offense while the team allows Edgerrin James to save himself. Arrington is
beginning to run like a confident NFL back. As a rookie in 2005, he was handed
the starting job and then lost it to Marcel Shipp, now the No. 3 back, because
Arrington too often had that deer-in-the-headlights look and froze.
"Our first offense can move the ball and I think we can score points, but I just
don't think we have enough talented depth to play against the people we are
playing against," coach Dennis Green said. "But I'm not concerned about the
first offense and the players who will be playing for us when we go against San
Francisco, St. Louis and Seattle."
--DE Bertrand Berry, the right-side starter, will miss the final preseason game
after suffering a left knee injury. The move is largely precautionary for the
team's leading sack man. An MRI was negative for major structural damage.
--DE A.J. Schable has gotten extensive work with starter Bertrand Berry (knee
bruise) and backup Kenny King (hand surgery) out, and coaches have been
pleasantly surprised. The opportunity probably enabled Schable to earn a roster
--RB Edgerrin James, who doesn't care to play in preseason games, is getting a
free ride from the Cardinals despite his being new to them, and at a time when
they are attempting to improve the league's worst rushing attack. Through three
preseason games, James has carried seven times for 1 yard. Backup J.J.
Arrington, getting most of the work with the first unit, through three weeks has
67 yards on 20 carries. "Everything I've seen, I've liked," James said. "I know
we're going to be all right."
--QB Matt Leinart is solidifying his position as the No. 2 quarterback ahead of
John Navarre. During one stretch, Leinart completed 12 successive passes against
the Bears, who had most of their first unit on the field.
--RT Oliver Ross, the starter, is back in Tempe doing rehab on his right knee
after surgery on the meniscus. He is expected to return in the first three weeks
of the season, although he remains a long-shot to make it back for the opener.
When he returns, he will face a formidable new challenger for his job: Brandon
Gorin, the New England Patriots starter the past three seasons, who was acquired
in trade after Ross had surgery.
--RT Brandon Gorin (6-6, 308), a New England Patriots starter the past three
seasons, was acquired in a trade and, with starter Oliver Ross recovering from
knee surgery, immediately becomes a strong candidate to win the starting job
with his new team. A tag-team of Jeremy Bridges and Fred Wakefield has been
playing RT since Ross went down.
--OLB Karlos Dansby, the strong-side starter, continues to irritate management
and coaches with his series of injuries that have caused him to sit out training
camp and preseason games. Dansby is recovering from a left toe injury that he
says precludes him from pushing off and has caused issues with his leg muscles.
He was evaluated in Alabama two weeks ago, and no surgery was recommended. But,
said Dansby, who is now back in Tempe, "It's a serious injury. They say (it
could be a) career-ending injury." Dansby had three interceptions -- two of
which were returned for touchdowns, and four quarterback sacks in a breakout
2005 season. He appears to have lost his job to Calvin Pace, and there has been
talk that when Dansby returns he will be moved to the weak side.
--OLB Calvin Pace is one of the team's success stories of preseason and has all
but wrapped up the starting strong-side starting job. Pace, a first-round pick
at DE in 2003, was a huge disappointment as a rookie, posting one sack in 16
starts. He lost the job in 2004 to free agent Bertrand Berry. Last year, Pace
nearly lost his position on the roster after he suffered a season-ending
non-football injury during the bye week. Coaches asked him to make the position
change in the spring, he was receptive, and he has dazzled them with his
performance. The job was open because Karlos Dansby has had an assortment of
injuries -- thumb surgery, strained groin, toe injury -- that slowed his
off-season work and precluded him from doing anything since the team went to
--MLB Gerald Hayes, the projected starter a year ago before a knee injury
sidelined him, is working with the first unit, started vs. Chicago, and appears
to have won the job from veteran James Darling, who moved to the middle a year
--LB James Darling, the starter in the middle a year ago when Gerald Hayes was
out (knee surgery), has been moved to the weak side to compete with Orlando Huff
and Darryl Blackstock. Darling is a fierce competitor, a veteran leader who has
played outside before. The team was not happy with Huff a year ago and first
moved Blackstock from the strong side to compete. Darling becomes a strong
candidate to dislodge Huff.
--CB Antrel Rolle, the team's 2005 first-round pick who missed most of his
rookie year to a knee injury, is coming back strong. He had an interception to
set up a touchdown in a preseason game at Chicago. Rolle said later he thought
the Bears were testing him.
--TE Leonard Pope (6-8, 265), a rookie third-round pick, each week gets more
playing time, and while still listed third on the depth chart, has closed the
gap with Eric Edwards and Adam Bergen. Pope caught a TD pass in the goal-line
offense vs. the Bears.
--FB James Hodgins, who has battled an assortment of injuries that have kept him
off the field for most of two years (shoulder, 2004; knee, 2005), was activated
from physically unable to perform. He saw his first action at Chicago. Hodgins
is a big body (6-1, 275) and was Marshall Faulk's lead blocker in St. Louis when
the Rams won the Super Bowl. While the role of the fullback is limited in
Cardinals' three-wideout sets, the role is invaluable in short-yardage and
goal-line situations. There is a spot on the roster for a blocking fullback.
Converted TE John Bronson has been filling it. Hodgins was the Cardinals starter
in 2003. Starting FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo is more of a receiving/third-down back
and not known as a strong lead blocker.