Depth Will Be Tested Sunday At Home

The Cardinals had better figure out a way to rush the passer or they will be in for a very, very long season.They had a decent pass rush in the first two games, but that's when defensive end Bertrand Berry was healthy. He had three sacks in the first three games but is going to miss a few weeks at least with a torn groin muscle.

Against the Jets last Sunday, the Cardinals could never put pressure on Brett Favre. They sacked him twice, but only after he had plenty of time to throw.

The Cardinals thought they had enough depth on defense to compensate for any injuries. And that depth will be tested now. Defensive end/outside linebacker Travis LaBoy, who starts ahead of Berry, was shut down by the Jets. So were outside linebackers Clark Haggans and Chike Okeafor.

Defensive ends Antonio Smith and Darnell Dockett aren't getting much of a rush, either, although Dockett has been disruptive at times.

Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast isn't blitzing as much, and many of the blitzes he's using are being picked up.

The Cardinals defense talked a lot this off-season about all the playmakers they had. Well, many of them haven't made plays. Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby hasn't made much of an impact. Strong safety Adrian Wilson missed the Jets game with a sore hamstring. Dockett, who made the Pro Bowl a year ago, is coping with double-teams.

What hurts more are the mental breakdowns the team has suffered at times. There have been some blown gap assignments and coverage mistakes. If the Cardinals are going to make the playoffs this year, they had better become a more dangerous, and more efficient, defensive unit.

SERIES HISTORY: 9th meeting. The Bills lead, 5-3. The Bills have won the last four, dating to 1986. The teams have met in Arizona just once before, in 1999. They last played in 2004 in Buffalo, a game the Bills won, 38-14. The Cardinals haven't beaten the Bills since 1984. The Cardinals won three of the first four meetings with Buffalo.

NOTES, QUOTES --The Cardinals are thrilled to be home after losing consecutive road games. In two seasons under Whisenhunt, they are 3-8 on the road and 7-2 at home.

--While practicing in Washington, D.C., last week, the Cardinals visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Quarterback Kurt Warner went outside to throw passes to a few soldiers. One soldier with a prosthetic leg jumped to make a catch and broke his prosthesis when he landed. Warner ended up signing his autograph on the broken prosthesis.

--The Cardinals stayed over in northern Virginia after the Redskins game in order to avoid the rigors of traveling home and back. The goal was to get off to a faster start. It didn't work, as they were outscored, 34-0. On top of that, they had to watch one of their best players, receiver Anquan Boldin, be carted off the field after a hit late in the game.

"I'm ready to get home, man, it hasn't been a good two weeks," cornerback Eric Green said. "We got to go home and we got to get our heads together."

--Coach Ken Whisenhunt doesn't regret making the trip, however.

"If I had the opportunity, I think I would do it again," Whisenhunt said. "When we went into the game (Sunday), we felt much better physically. I know it didn't appear that we started off faster than maybe we had in the past, but I still look to the fact that we got them three-and-out defensively (to open the game). Offensively, we had a nice drive the first series and had the mistakes."

--QB Kurt Warner committed six turnovers in the game, three fumbles and three interceptions. He was more concerned about the health of Boldin, and felt some guilt about throwing the pass in such a tight space. Boldin caught it but then was hit helmet-to-helmet by safety Eric Smith. Smith has been suspended for one game and fined $50,000.

"It's a game," Warner said. "I didn't play well. I'll bounce back and play better, but bottom line, end of the day, that's all it is, is a game. No matter how bad you play, you just want to walk off healthy. I want all my teammates to walk off healthy."

BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Number of times the Cardinals have had a winning record after four games since moving to Arizona in 1988. The best they've done is 2-2.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have to address some (expletive) and get it right, straight up." -- Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby on the team's defensive problems.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

NT Gabe Watson will be a big addition, provided he plays this week. Coaches are hopeful that Watson will make his season debut after suffering a fractured kneecap over the summer. Nose tackle has been a weakness this year, and Watson is the best player the club has there.

OT Levi Brown needs to play much better than he did last week when he was beaten four times for sacks, which resulted in a couple of fumbles. Brown has trouble with speed rushers, and the Bills will try to exploit the matchup.

PLAYER NOTES --FS Antrel Rolle didn't play one of his better games last week. He missed tackles and he's yet to make the sort of game-changing plays the Cardinals had hoped he would provide when he moved from cornerback.

--CB Eric Green has one interception in his four-year NFL career. He just doesn't make enough plays, and coaches might have to look at starting rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

--DE Antonio Smith needs to start making some plays. Like cornerback Eric Green, Smith is in the final year of his contract. He hasn't made much of an impact so far.

--CB Rod Hood is the team's best cover cornerback. He made a few excellent plays against the Jets, and was about the only cornerback who held up against the Jets attack.

GAME PLAN: Offensively, the Cardinals need to take advantage of a Bills secondary that's suffering some injuries.

The key to that will be protecting quarterback Kurt Warner, which was a problem last week against the Jets. That led to Warner committing six turnovers, which cost the team the game.

Defensively, the Cardinals simply need to get tougher. They wilted in the fourth quarter of a loss at Washington, and their pass defense was horrible last week.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bills LT Jason Peters vs. Cardinals DE/OLB Travis LaBoy -- Bertrand Berry is out with a groin tear, and LaBoy needs to produce. He didn't do much last week against the Jets. Peters is one of the best in the game, so this will be a difficult task for LaBoy, but it's the reason the Cardinals signed him in free agency.

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Bills CB Leodis McKelvin: A rookie, McKelvin is starting in place of the injured Terrence McGee, the Bills best cornerback. Fitzgerald is big, strong and a handful. He'll be the main target because WR Anquan Boldin likely will be questionable for this game.

Fitzgerald has been more effective this season at running routes across the middle and deep down the seams. In the past, he's done most of his damage on the sidelines, where he is very good at "squeezing" a cornerback off from the ball.

Bills RB Marshawn Lynch vs. Cardinals ILBs Karlos Dansby and Gerald Hayes: The Cardinals defense is designed to free up Hayes and especially Dansby to make tackles against the run. Both have had their productive moments, but they've also missed runners at times. They can't afford to do that against Lynch, who is both tough and fast. Dansby, the team's franchise player, wants a big-money contract, but he's going to have to start making plays to earn it.

INJURY IMPACT: WR Anquan Boldin (head, neck) probably won't play after suffering a vicious hit last week against the Jets. Boldin was knocked out so he will have to prove he is past the head injury before he plays.

--DE/OLB Bertrand Berry (groin) is out and SS Adrian Wilson (hamstring) missed last week's game. They are a big part of the team's pressure game. Without them, it's hard to put heat on the passer.

--NT Gabe Watson (kneecap) might make his season debut. That should help because the position has been a weakness.

--TE Jerame Tuman (hamstring) hasn't played yet this season.


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