The first month of the season is the softest for the Cardinals, who face the difficult task of winning while finding out exactly what they have in a revamped roster.
That was evident in Week 1, on all sides of the ball. The Cardinals beat the Panthers but didn't look great doing it. The offense made critical mistakes early. The defense gave up 422 yards passing to Cam Newton, who was playing in his first NFL game.
The Cardinals won, which is an improvement of their performance in similar circumstances last season. But they are going to have to play much better in the coming weeks.
The opportunity is there to continue a fast start. The Cardinals play at Washington Sunday, a team that's also breaking in a quarterback, Rex Grossman.
The Redskins have beaten the Cardinals seven consecutive times and nine of the last 10. The Cardinals have lost six consecutive games on the road against the Redskins, last beating them in Washington in 1998.
The Cardinals, however, played in the first week much like they did in the preseason. There were indications that this can be an explosive offense. But the Cardinals also are still making mistakes that limit production.
Perhaps that's a function of a lack of an offseason and six new starters. Quarterback Kevin Kolb appears to be the least of the team's concerns.
He passed for 309 yards and two touchdowns in his first start with the Cardinals, completing 18 of 27. Kolb made good decisions and beat the blitz on both touchdown throws.
But penalties and other miscues continue to limit the offense. In the first half last week, they had three possessions inside the Panthers 10 yet came away with only seven points.
That's not going to cut it against better teams. The Redskins don't appear to be great, but they are better than the Panthers, and they are playing at home.
"We've got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot," coach Ken Whisenhunt said of his offense. "Defensively, we were close but we didn't make enough plays. That is one of the hardest things you have to do as a defense, is work together, and we're going to improve."
Cards win, but much improvement still needed
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