QB just 1 of the avalanche of woes for Cardinals

Sure, the Cardinals miss Kurt Warner. Everybody knows that.

Yet quarterback is only the most obvious of the plentiful

problems – running back Tim Hightower prefers to call them

”football issues” – in Arizona. Remember, Anquan Boldin, Karlos

Dansby and Antrel Rolle are gone, too, from the team that won the

last two NFC West titles.

These rebuilt Cardinals are struggling on offense and worse on

defense. Of the three teams that have scored more than 40 points in

a game this season, two of them did it against Arizona.

Through four weeks of the season, the Cardinals rank 29th in

total defense, 30th in run defense and 31st in total offense.

Against that backdrop, with rookie quarterback Max Hall thrust

into his first NFL start, the Cardinals play the Super Bowl

champion New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

”I think that we have a number of guys who have a lot of pride

and they are disappointed in the way they’ve played,” coach Ken

Whisenhunt said. ”I think that is all you can do. Some of our best

players haven’t played as well as they need to play. We’ve made

that point.”

Whisenhunt didn’t name names but safety Adrian Wilson and

defensive tackle Darnell Dockett are likely suspects.

Wilson has acknowledged he needs to play better. Dockett, the

defensive team captain who didn’t have a tackle in last Sunday’s

41-10 loss at San Diego, isn’t talking to reporters during the week

anymore. Why? ”Because I don’t want to,” he said after Thursday’s

practice.

Despite the ugly statistics, Arizona is 2-2 and tied for the

lead in the weak-as-ever NFC West. The victories came with a late

touchdown drive to win at St. Louis in the season opener 17-13 and

a 24-23 squeaker over Oakland when the Raiders’ Sebastian

Janikowski missed a 32-yard field goal as the game ended. The

losses, both on the road, were 41-7 against Atlanta and 41-10

against the Chargers. For those counting, that’s an 82-17

margin.

The Cardinals trace their defensive woes to a lack of

discipline, with too many players trying to make a big play instead

of sticking to their assignments.

”That’s exactly what our problems are. Everybody’s so eager

that they try to do more than their job,” defensive end Calais

Campbell said. ”If we go out there and do our job, make the plays

that we’re supposed to, we’ll do just fine.”

The newcomers, for the most part, have not been the biggest

culprits. The Cardinals have been pleasantly surprised by the play

of NFL nomad Paris Lenon in Dansby’s inside linebacker position.

While the team also misses inside linebacker Gerald Hayes, out

while recovering from back surgery, rookie Daryl Washington brings

speed and talent in his place.

At safety, Kerry Rhodes has been steady in Rolle’s spot. Outside

linebackers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans haven’t been as

disruptive as pass rushers as they could be, largely because

Arizona has been especially generous against the run.

When Atlanta’s top two backs were out with injuries,

third-stringer Jason Snelling ran for a career-best 129 yards. The

following week, Oakland’s Darren McFadden rushed for 105. Last

week, San Diego’s Mike Tolbert had his first 100-yard rushing

day.

”We’ve got to get better,” Porter said. ”To stop the run is a

want-to attitude. It’s all 11 guys wanting to tackle and wanting to

get a guy on the ground. That’s all it is.”

The lone bright aspect of the Cardinals’ game has been on the

ground, where the team is averaging 5.4 yards per carry. But they

have had only 74 running plays to their opponents’ 140, a fact that

led Beanie Wells to complain publicly about a lack of carries this

week. But when a team falls behind by three touchdowns or more, the

running game is abandoned.

That happened last week, and Arizona quarterbacks were sacked

nine times.

Whisenhunt finally had seen enough of quarterback Derek

Anderson’s errant throws and has replaced him with Hall, the rookie

out of BYU.

Like Warner, Hall was not drafted. He inherits a passing game

that is rated 30th out of 32 teams. To make matters worse, injuries

to Steve Breaston and Early Doucet have left three rookies, two of

them undrafted, in the spots behind No. 1 receiver Larry

Fitzgerald, who talks like a ”glass half-full” kind of guy.

”We’re leading the NFC West division right now, that’s where we

are,” Fitzgerald said. ”Obviously we’re not playing the kind of

football we’re capable of, but things could be a lot worse. We all

understand that.”