Random thoughts while sweeping up under the cage...
No one in Cardinal-land is happy with the offensive output...or more to point, the lack thereof. Yet, the offensive line seems to have escaped scrutiny as Kurt Warner and Co. are taking the heat.
For a line that has played together under the watchful eyeball of one Russ Grimm for over 21 straight weeks, they don't appear to be consistently able to keep pressure off Warner.
True, the 49ers blitzed the right side (which enabled RB Tim Hightower to have a career day receiving), but more often than not, it was four Niner defenders that brought the heat to Warner's backside.
Maybe that wouldn't matter as much if the Cards were healthy at the WR spot, but they aren't. Sure, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin started, but the 49ers didn't have much trouble swarming Fitz while Boldin tried to get open on a clearly tender hamstring.
With third WR Steve Breaston on the inactive list, Jerhemy Urban saw a lot of passes coming his way. He caught an early 40 yarder, but dropped two passes on crucial third downs, ending drives.
That the Cards are playing with their WR group nicked up puts more pressure on the No. 4 and No. 5 receivers...but more, the offensive line. Warner is going to need an extra second or so for someone to get open. Both Mike Gandy and Levi Brown allowed themselves to be shed like a Siberian Husky in the desert. They need to hold their blocks longer.
Otherwise, average-at-best defensive backfields will keep guys like Boldin and Fitz in check. As happened Sunday.
Getting All Defensive
As noted following the game, the Cardinals defense held the Frisco offense to eight three-and-outs in 13 possessions. They allowed one big play (the 50 reception to Issac Bruce.) They seemed in my eyes to get as much pressure on 49ers QB Shaun Hill when they didn't blitz, as when they did. These are all very good signs.
It looks like Calais Campbell does, in fact, want to become a star player.
He worked very hard in the offseason and was a standout in the preseason. It carried over to game one, as he was able to slip blocks and get pressure on Hill. And he showed a quickness we didn't see last year. He also kept his motor running throughout the game, another good sign.
No one needs to ask if Darnell Dockett's motor was running the whole game. He, LB Karlos Dansby, and Safety Adrian Wilson all play that way. They may make a mistake (penalty, overshooting a play, etc...) but it's because of aggressiveness. Never because of laziness or inattention. These are solid professionals...pro-bowl players in the prime of their careers.
They are also essential to the youngsters on the squad. You see it in Campbell's play. You'll see it in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as the season goes along. Gerald Hayes is an underrated run-stuffing LB, who's quietly coming along nicely. And Chike Okeafor looked (or at least played) healthy and like his old self.
I also like the play-calling of new Defensive Coordinator Bill Davis. As predicted, he likes to blitz and will bring it from anywhere on the field. I'm a firm believer in QB pressure as being the most over-all important defensive weapon, and the Cardinals D can, and will, bring it!
I look for the Cards defense to be a top 10 defense this year.
Speaking of Adrian Wilson, it seems the Cards latest major contract extension agreed to re-work his deal in a way that will pay him the same, but give the team some much needed salary cap relief.
For years, all we heard from the media know-it-all's was how cheap the Cardinals and owner Bill Bidwill are. And how the organization didn't care about winning...just making money from the TV revenue pool. This was a theory that long time readers know I have never subscribed to.
The Cardinals were always at or near the salary cap. They just weren't in a position to add the escalators and other bonuses offered by the other 31 teams, because they were the only NFL team that paid rent at their "home field" ($2 million+ per year to Arizona State University.)
Add to that, unlike other teams, they received NO money from parking and concessions outside of Cardinals gear, etc...this made it almost impossible for the team to compete at contract time.
But the new stadium has the team able to re-work deals on quality, deserving players that are currently under contract.
The Cards are right up against this years $128 million salary cap, keeping their best players, shows veteran players like Wilson something. It makes them want to stay, and help the team, instead of getting what they can before bailing from the desert.
Anyway, Wilson's re-structuring adds about $2.4 million to the teams cap, giving them some breathing room in case someone gets hurt, and another player(s) needs to be signed.
Once again, a professional move by a consummate pro. The Cardinals are finding several of those on their roster these days.
And yes, the Bidwill's still own the team. Imagine that.
I'd Hit Dat
A final note on Wilson. The NFL said yesterday that A-dub will NOT be suspended for a hit early in Sundays game that drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Cardinals deserved every one of those penalties they received, except for this one.
Under Roger Godell, and his desire to keep players from getting hurt, the league has quietly instructed the refs to call hits that are even close to helmet-to-helmet, horse collars, blindside, etc...Yet they keep pushing the "Big Hits" in commercials and pumping out the NFL's Hardest Hits video's faster than Richard Simmons dons pink tights and runs out fat-free vids.
That may end for lack of material, if some of this weekend hits are going to be penalized. Wilsons hit was hard, but clean. A defender cant just stop in motion and wait until the ball carrier turn and looks toward/facing him.
This rule will cause a lot of controversy, especially when one of these judgement calls effects the outcome of a big game, or dare I say, a playoff game.