Behind Enemy Lines:Patriots/Cardinals, Part I

In Part I of an exclusive four-part series, Patriotsinsider.com's Jon Scott and AZRedReport.com's Amberly Richardson begin a back-and-forth interaction with six questions from Jon to Amberly.Starting with oldies but goodies: How did Kurt Warner beat out Matt Leinart, followed by what has Ken Whisenhunt done differently in Arizona? Plus how are the former Patriots doing in red? This and much more.

Jon Scott, Publisher Patriotsinsider.com: Kurt Warner started off the season fighting for a role on the team with Matt Leinart, what happened in that battle which ended with the former first round pick (Leinart) on the bench and the former cast off (Warner) starting for the Cardinals?

Amberly Richardson, Publisher AZRedReport.com: The Cardinals felt that Warner gave them the best opportunity to win. Coach Ken Whisenhunt didn't draft Leinart, so Whisenhunt didn't have to sit through another re-building year with Leinart as a starter. Whisenhunt had nothing to prove in regards to Leinart.

Despite this, the notion that there was a training camp battle between the two wasn't an idea that wasn't believed by most. Leinart was the future of the franchise. The Cardinals repeated over and over that he was their starter, and Leinart would not lose his starting role due to injury.

That said Warner did believe it was a competition. He showed up every day ready to win the job. Warner wanted to show the Cardinals organization that he could still bring something special each and every time he stepped on the field.

Leinart showed a lot of improvement and focus in training camp, but didn't bring the same veteran ability and leadership that Warner continued to display in Leinart's absence.

JS: Since Denny Green left the Cardinals, and Ken Wisenhunt arrived, what has changed in Arizona?

AR: Everything. Whisenhunt has successfully changed the culture in Arizona. He came in with ideas. Two years later, everyone is on board. The ownership believes in Whisenhunt, and the staff he arranged from his winning past,with teams such as the Super Bowl Pittsburgh Steelers.

Whisenhunt has a calm presence, but tries to whip the Cardinals into a more focused team. Early on, he benched players for penalties. Whisenhunt sits non-producers as well.

JS: The Cardinals made the playoffs this year doing something they haven't done in 10 years. How big of a deal is that for Arizona fans, and what is the expectation level now that they've made it?

AR: Clinching a playoff spot is a huge deal for Cardinals fans. Arizona has more depth than in any recent year. Missing a post-season appearance was not an option for fans, the team and the franchise.

The Cardinals did get a huge break when fellow NFC West rival the Seattle Seahawks started piling on the injuries. The Seahawks very well could have given the Cardinals a much more difficult time.

If the Cardinals couldn't get the job done this year, then the 2009-2010 season would present a bigger problem. Karlos Dansby, Anquan Boldin, Darnell Dockett and Kurt Warner all want new contracts. It's possible the Cardinals won't be able to retain half next year. In 2008, they had the means and put it to good use.

JS: The Cardinals signed a pair of former Patriots in TE Stephen Spach and LB Monty Beisel. How have they done since arriving in Arizona and what roles are they expected play in this week's matchup?

AR: Arizona tight ends, Leonard Pope and Ben Patrick, were injured when the Cardinals signed Spach. The tight end corps has been a continual problem for Arizona. Spach is now in a starting role, but don't expect to see much.

Beisel sits behind Gerald Hayes, who is as solid as they come, on the depth charts. Beisel gets a few tackles here and there, but is used primarly on special teams.

JS: The Cardinals are an organization, which has taken a lot of criticism for the way it's run. When they left St. Louis, many negative things were said and written about the team. Do you think that the fallout from that move has affected the team's success and what is the organization doing now to get fans to support the team?

AR: The Cardinals are a welcome addition to Arizona. After moving to the desert, they made a playoff appearance in 1998 when they played at ASU's Sun Devil Stadium. The Cardinals were able to get their own beautiful brand new stadium. The votes were about split, but there was plenty of support for the Cardinals.

The team being stellar at home is a good way to fight off criticism. With the last two games aside, fans can go to University of Phoenix Stadium and expect a win.

JS:: Which player has been the biggest surprise for the Cardinals this season?

AR: Tim Hightower. Scout.com's own Tom Marino labeled him the best steal of the 2008 draft when I interviewed Marino prior to training camp. Hightower has hit the rookie slump in the past few games, but he has a nose for the end zone.

I would have put everything on RB Chris Johnson being picked by the Cardinals in the second round. But the Tennessee Titans didn't gamble with the soon-to-be star and nabbed him in the first round. When Hightower was picked, it was like "who?" But he's proved his worth 10 touchdowns over.


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