Grading the Cardinals


Posted Nov 14, 2006


Dennis Green plans to 'push the envelope' in the final seven weeks, let's hope the envelope is more mobile than Leonard Davis; ALSO: Position and coaching grades for Sunday's game vs. the Cowboys; Notes and Quotes

INSIDE SLANT
The Cardinals are desperate for something positive to happen, and coach Dennis Green plans to take some calculated risks in the final seven games.
On Sunday, he twice went for first downs on fourth-and-short. The Cardinals converted both of them, but they still managed to score only 10 points.
"There's no doubt about that," Green said when asked if he is coaching differently than he would if the team had a winning record. "You're constantly pushing the envelope, trying to be aggressive, trying not to be frustrated.
"We'll try to do what's necessary to win the game, which means we'll try not to put our defense in a situation that they can't handle, and we would take the same approach on offense and special teams."
On Monday, Green invoked a baseball metaphor, saying his team was in a slump and had to break out of it by swinging away.
"We'll try to take our cuts and be aggressive in taking our cuts, recognizing that we're probably not going get the fastball we want right down the middle. We're going to have to hit the ball that's thrown to you."
In the past three games, the Cardinals have been outscored 51-13 in the first half and averaged 245 yards of total offense.
Quarterback Matt Leinart has been shaky in his past three starts, completing less than 50 percent of his passes with five interceptions and one touchdown.
"The big thing is he's very competitive," Green said. "He's always determined to come back out and play better, and I think that's what he'll do this week."

NOTES, QUOTES
--QB Matt Leinart has played poorly in the past three games. He blames himself, but he also knew that the learning curve for a rookie quarterback could be steep.
"It's not just going to happen overnight," he said. "I'm not going to be fricking Peyton Manning in two weeks and just be tearing apart defenses. It's just not how the game is. It's a tough game."
--The Cardinals' eight-game losing streak is their longest since 1991, and the 1-8 start is their worst since 1978 when Bud Wilkinson was coach. The final seven games will be a test of character, according to DT Darnell Dockett.
"You've find out some of the character we have on this team," Dockett said. "Hopefully, Coach Green did a good job of getting character guys."
--The team held a players-only meeting Nov. 6 and vowed to play hard throughout the rest of the season. They did play harder against the Cowboys, but not better.
After the Dallas game, the players were in no mood to discuss what impact the meeting might have had.
"I mean, I don't really want to get into that," DE Bertrand Berry said. "That situation is over. That has nothing to do with today. Today, we just didn't play well."

PLAYER NOTES
--WR Larry Fitzgerald aggravated his injured hamstring but is expected to play Sunday against Detroit.
--G Milford Brown is expected to return to the starting lineup against the Lions after playing a reserve role the past two weeks. Brown missed three games with an ankle injury, losing his starting right guard job to Deuce Lutui. Brown likely will replace Chris Liwienski on the left side.
--RB Marcel Shipp has moved into the backup role to Edgerrin James, replacing J.J. Arrington, whose does little more than return kicks.
--RB Edgerrin James has yet to gain 100 yards in a game, but he had more daylight Sunday against the Cowboys than he had in recent weeks. The Cardinals went to more three-receiver sets in order to spread out the defense. James had 52 yards at halftime but finished with only 68 because the team had to abandon the run in the second half.
--S Aaron Francisco is playing an increased role as a nickel defender on defense. SS Adrian Wilson moves up near scrimmage and Francisco plays safety in a two-deep coverage.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. COWBOYS
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- QB Matt Leinart struggled for a third consecutive game. He was sacked only once, but too many of his passes sailed high. He also had two interceptions.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The run game was actually effective at times, but the club fell behind and couldn't stick with it.
PASSING DEFENSE: D -- Dallas QB Tony Romo passed for 308 yards and two touchdowns and wasn't sacked. He was able to pick apart the Cardinals secondary.
RUSHING DEFENSE: B -- The Cardinals stopped the run for most of the day, but the defense eventually wore down, giving up a total of 126 yards. The return of NT Kendrick Clancy helped immensely.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- They didn't do anything to impact the game, either positively or negatively. The coverage teams were better, but the return teams still aren't producing.
COACHING: C -- At least the effort was there this week, unlike the previous two games. Coach Dennis Green showed some daring by going for it on two fourth-down situations. The offense appears to have no direction, however.
 



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