Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Getty)
The Arizona Cardinals return home this week, where they are 1-2, to face the Carolina Panthers who are 2-4 overall. The Panthers have been losing the turnover battle and have plenty of quarterback issues. The Cardinals look to extend their three game winning streak and pick up another NFC win, but will the Cardinals have all their secondary weapons in place?
The Arizona Cardinals win over the New York Giants came down to the Cardinals defense making big plays. One of the big plays came from second-year cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who by the end of the game was sidelined with a sprained right ankle that kept him out of the game for the majority of the fourth quarter.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt says it's a wait-and-see game.
"It's an ankle and there's not anything fractured or broken in it so the big thing will be to see how he recovers from that," Whisenhunt said.
Rodgers-Cromartie's injury is the same ailment that Anquan Boldin suffered the week before. While Boldin suited up against the Giants, he was limited and by the second half his injury started to become bothersome.
Whisenhunt said the decision to play Boldin at all was tight.
"We said it was going to be a game-time decision during the week and certainly it is a great credit for him that he was ready to go and he made a big play for us right before the half," Whisenhunt said. "That was huge. He was struggling a little bit at the end so we just cut his reps and put some other guys in as well."
The Cardinals will likely follow the same course with Rodgers-Cromartie who will be replaced by Michael Adams if he is limited or a no-go on Sunday.
Adams received praise from Whisenhunt following his performance last week when he stepped in for the injured Rodgers-Cromartie.
"Michael Adams has worked his tail off for us, he's been a good special teams member, and he got to play a lot of defense tonight when Dominique [Rogers-Cromartie] hurt his ankle, so he stepped up."
Adams will face a much weaker offense on Sunday. The Panthers are in the bottom half of the league in total offense.
Additionally, the Panthers starting quarterback Jake Delhomme could be benched for his increasing turnover count (15) and two lost fumbles. Matt Moore or A.J. Feeley could be the starter instead.
The Cardinals can only capitalize on the Panthers struggles. With Rodgers-Cromartie likely limited, the Panthers make for a good matchup this week.
Antrel Rolle isn't 100 percent either. But it wasn't evident last Sunday against the Giants. he played through an injury to the arch of his foot. Rolle was a pivotal reason the Cardinals success on the East Coast.
He ended the Giants possible game-tying drive with an interception to end the game in the Cardinals favor.
Rolle explained that the pick was the result of great communication between him and the nickel back.
"I told the nickel back that I know Steve Smith was the guy, and I told him to lean toward number 12," Rolle said. "So I did just that and I told Mike that if runs vertical just carry him all the way because I'm going to play outside. So he gave me the out-cut and I was able to jump all over it."
The common theme for the defense's solid showing was continuity.
"It just came down to getting out to the balls and making plays," Rolle said. "Most of all, I know we're playing for each other out here. Nothing makes me happier than to see [Adrian] Wilson go out and get an interception, and Dominique get an interception. It makes me feel good and I'm sure it makes our coaches feel good. We're going out there and playing for each other, and that's the bottom line."
The Cardinals confidence appears to be stronger, but Darnell Dockett said it's a combination of factors that has the defense mirroring last season's post-season run.
"I think we are just sticking together," Dockett said. "We are fighting and we know that we know how to win. We've just got to keep playing together. Our team is special and we have a lot of ways to get better, and the guys are dedicated to working. That alone, and we are also trying our best to stay healthy."