Brandon Chillar; Larry Fitzgerald (Getty)
If the third preseason game is a test of a team's readiness for the season open, the Cardinals failed it miserably Aug. 28 against Green Bay. The Packers' starters dominated the Cardinals' starters in every way and departed the game at halftime with a 38-10 lead. What is most troublesome for the Cardinals is they appeared disinterested in playing.
The blowout was reminiscent of the three they suffered late last season to the Eagles, Vikings and Patriots. They had the NFC West title sewn up, then and played like a team that had lost its motivation.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt hoped his team had matured during its run to the Super Bowl. All offseason, he's looked for signs of a Super Bowl hangover, for indications that his team thought that last year's success would automatically carry over to this season.
He hadn't seen any signs of that until last week against the Packers. His first-team offense gave up two sacks, two fumbles and had an interception. The Packers shredded the defense with numerous long passes.
The Packers might well be a better team than the Cardinals; they certainly were more motivated in the preseason game.
"They were prepared," Whisenhunt said, "and they were on a mission to accomplish exactly what they did. That was to come in here and set a tone. I'm disappointed that we're not a more mature team that we could raise our level to meet that."
Quarterback Kurt Warner is not in "full panic mode" yet. The offense has been basic during the preseason, and the first-team hasn't yet run the no-huddle, spread attack that was so successful last year.
Two of the team's top three receivers, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston, didn't play because of injuries. The starting offense has moved the ball, yet has only one touchdown in the preseason.
The problem is in the details, Warner said, things that can be corrected in practice. But, he added, the Cardinals had better start correcting them.
"You get to the point where there really needs to be a sense of urgency," Warner said. "Everybody has got to feel it, and everybody has got to understand, and everybody has to take it upon themselves not to let it happen again."
--Coming out of college, there were questions about Wells' toughness and durability. But after the third preseason game, quarterback Kurt Warner said the rest of the team should learn from Wells' performance.
"He played like a guy who had a little bit of a chip on his shoulder and wanted to prove something. We all need to take a little something from that," Warner said.
--Warner knows the challenges of building upon the success of a magical season; he did it with the Rams. The key, he said, is being diligent in practice.
"You hope guys aren't getting a little complacent after the success of last year and thinking we can just turn it on when we step on the field," he said. "Because it doesn't work that way."
--Whisenhunt played 9 years in the NFL, and for most of that time he was always on the edge of being cut. So he knows what the next two weeks are like for those on the fringe of making the club.
"I have about five or six years of it coming down to cuts, wondering, waiting for that other shoe to drop," he said. "It's tough, because you've invested a lot of blood, sweat and tears."
--The depth at linebacker is becoming a concern because of injuries. Rookie outside linebacker Cody Brown is out for the season with a dislocated wrist that required surgery. He was going to be a backup and special teams player. Reserve inside linebacker Pago Togafau suffered a fractured bone in his right foot against Green Bay and was waived/injured. The Cardinals are especially thin at inside linebacker, although Victor Hobson, who has been playing outside, could cross-train at inside linebacker.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Matt Leinart has secured the No. 2 job behind Warner with an excellent preseason performance. Leinart completed 24 of 38 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns in the second half against the Packers. Brian St. Pierre, who was given a chance to compete for the job, didn't play because of back trouble. In two appearances, St. Pierre struggled, completing 10 of 25 for 121 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Running back Beanie Wells, the 31st overall pick in the draft, practiced all week for the first time. He suffered a right ankle sprain on his first day of practice at training camp and missed nearly a month of work. He's still not 100 percent but he was impressive in his preseason debut. He gained 46 yards on seven carries, including a 20-yard touchdown. And Wells said he's not yet 100 percent.
-- WR Early Doucet (fractured ribs) is expected to miss at least a few weeks, according to the Arizona Republic.
-- WR Steve Breaston (leg) practiced Monday, according to CBSSports.com.
--RB LaRod Stephens-Howling suffered a concussion against the Packers, but he's not expected to miss the season opener, provided he makes the team.
--IL B Pago Togafau (foot) was waived/injured by the Cardinals.
--LT Mike Gandy left the Packers' game early because of tightness in a groin muscle. He is expected to be fine.
--OLB Cody Brown, the club's second-round pick, was placed on injured reserve after suffering a dislocated wrist in the second preseason game. Several bones were displaced and Brown is due to have surgery to repair ligament damage.
--CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a gifted player, but the Packers burned him twice for touchdowns. Rodgers-Cromartie, in his second year, still has plenty of room for growth and maturing.
--CB Ralph Brown has struggled when he's had to replace starter Bryant McFadden because of injury. Michael Adams could push Brown for the No. 3 corner job.
--QB Kurt Warner has been average this preseason. He's completed 22 of 39 passes for 272 yards and two interceptions. He has not thrown for a touchdown, he's been sacked three times and fumbled twice.
-- WR Michael Ray Garvin (knee) was waived/injured by the Colts.
-- OT Brandon Pearce was released by the Cardinals.
-- SS Keith Lewis was released by the Cardinals.