Ken Whisenhunt (AP Photo)
After winning their first two games of the season, there is a great deal of optimism in Arizona. However, with more competent opponents on the horizon the Cardinals must continue to improve in all aspects of the game. Brad Wilbricht breaks down the Cardinals early season performance in this AZRedReport.com exclusive.
Although the Cardinals' running game got off to a relatively slow start, the offense as a whole has been tremendous. Arizona is averaging 27 points and 365 yards per game. More importantly, the Cardinals have protected the football with their lone turnover coming on a fumble by rookie RB Tim Hightower.
QB Kurt Warner and the receivers have been outstanding. Warner has thrown for 558 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Furthermore, he’s completing over 70 percent of his passes and has a QB rating of 128.5.
Wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald continue to perform at an extremely high level. Boldin currently ranks fifth in the NFL with 14 receptions and has racked up 222 yards to go along with three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald has chipped in nine catches for 184 yards and one score.
While the running game received a boost from Hightower, they’re still averaging only 2.7 yards per carry. RB Edgerrin James continues to be the team’s workhorse, running for 155 yards on 44 carries. With a long run of only 13 yards, the Cardinals still lack game-breaking ability on the ground.
Along the offensive line, Arizona must do a better job of opening holes in the running game. If James and Hightower continue to struggle, opposing teams will game plan solely on stopping the Cardinals' potent aerial assault. While pass protection has been adequate, Russ Grimm’s unit has already allowed five sacks.
While much of the attention has been focused on the offense, the defense has been just as impressive. Arizona is allowing only 264 yards per game and is limiting its opponents to less than 12 points per contest. The lone area of concern is run defense. Although the Cardinals are holding opponents to 90 yards per game, they’re allowing 4.1 yards per rush.
The Cardinals' pass rush has been enormously disruptive and has resulted in six sacks. Bertrand Berry and Travis LaBoy are tied for the team lead with two sacks each. In addition, Chike Okeafor and Bryan Robinson both have one sack a piece. DT Darnell Dockett has been double teamed on numerous occasions but should see more opportunities as teams pay more attention to the Cardinals' edge pass rushers.
Karlos Dansby and Gerald Hayes continue to direct a solid linebacking corps. Dansby leads the Arizona defense with 15 tackles while Hayes is second with nine stops. Okeafor is effectively patrolling the outside with Clark Haggans contributing on a situational basis.
In the secondary, SS Adrian Wilson looks to have returned to his Pro Bowl form. On the season he has eight tackles, one tackle for a loss and one interception. Cornerbacks Rod Hood and Eric Green have yet to make an interception but they’ve been sufficient on the perimeter. Additionally, Antrel Rolle’s transition to free safety has been a success up to this point.
Special Teams: B
Punter Dirk Johnson struggled during the preseason, but has been terrific in the first two games of the year. He’s is averaging 42.8 yards per punt and four of his six punts have landed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Kicker Neil Rackers has looked shaky at times on kickoffs, but is 4-of-5 on field goals and has made all six extra point attempts. His season- long field goal of 45 yards came last week against the Miami Dolphins.
Steve Breaston has been a one man show in the return game. Breaston has yet to break out this season, but has been consistent and reliable. Although he’s managed only 16.5 yards on kick returns, he’s averaging 11.7 yards on three punt returns.
On kickoff coverage, Arizona is fourth in the NFC allowing 18.1 yards per return. Rookie DE Calais Campbell has been a bright spot on special teams and will continue to contribute on kick coverage as he works his way into the rotation on the defensive line.
Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org