Arizona Cardinals Continue in Tight Situation

Leonard Pope (Getty)

Not much about his offense has disappointed Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt this year, but the tight end position is an exception. It's been a continuing source of concern, partly because of injuries and partly because of poor performances. An indication of this year's troubles is that the starter last Sunday against the Giants was Stephen Spach, who was signed on Oct. 28.

Leonard Pope, last year's starter, was inactive, as was Jerame Tuman, a 10-year veteran who was supposed to provide blocking skills.

Pope hasn't appeared to be the same since suffering a dislocated ankle and leg fracture near the end of the 2007 season. He has been battling ankle problems for most of the year and it has affected his mobility.

His backup, Ben Patrick, missed five games with a knee injury and was active on Sunday for the first time since Oct. 5.

Spach, who spent the first two weeks of the season with New England, has proven to be a competent blocker, which is the No. 1 job of a tight end in this offense.

The Cardinals are a passing team mainly because of the talents of Kurt Warner and receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. But the lack of production at tight end has played a part too.

The Cardinals haven't been good enough blocking at the edge of their formations, and that's especially hurt them in short-yardage situations. Spach has been a pleasant surprise, especially for a guy who was on the street in late October.

The offensive production has been steady all season, but the Cardinals need consistency at tight end. Improved blocking from that spot could help them close out games in the fourth quarter, as well as convert on short-yardage and goal-line situations.

Neither tight end caught a pass against the Giants and they didn't play a ton as the Cardinals used a lot of their four-receiver formation.

The Cardinals aren't getting much out of their running game and they probably won't against the Eagles on Thursday, either. Running back Tim Hightower gained just 21 yards on 11 carries and rarely had room to run.

"I don't think we're far away from rushing (well) right now," said Hightower, a rookie. "We're going with our strengths right now. I don't want to say we're struggling to run the ball, by no means. We're doing what works and we're going with it and trying to win."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think this right here will leave a bad taste in our mouths. Both teams will be getting ready in three days, and I think us, coming off a loss against arguably the best team in the NFL, it's going to do nothing but prepare us to do more and fight harder, even in practice this week." -- DE Antonio Smith.

LINEUP WATCH: Rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has played well for two weeks straight now. He had two interceptions a week ago against Seattle, and he broke up four passes on Sunday against the Giants, who tried to take advantage of him deep. Rodgers-Cromartie still can be fooled by double moves, but he has improved greatly since the start of the season.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--WR Larry Fitzgerald, 25, caught his 400th career pass last Sunday. He is the youngest player in NFL history to reach that milestone.

--QB Kurt Warner has passed for more than 40,000 yards if you include his entire professional career, including stints in Europe and the Arena League.

--SS Adrian Wilson suffered a shoulder sprain and missed the final minutes of Sunday's game. His status for the Philadelphia game is unknown.

--S Matt Ware had all three of the team's penalties against the Giants. He was called for a facemask, an offsides and a block in the back.

--K Neil Rackers had made 15 straight field goals until he missed a 68-yard fair-catch kick at the end of the half.

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