Preseason Woes Carry Over to Week 1

Preseason games don't count, but they aren't meaningless. At least that's the case this year with the Cardinals. They went 0-4 in the preseason, but even more troubling was their struggles on offense. Those problems continued in their 20-16 loss to the 49ers in the season opener.

If the Cardinals don't find the remedy soon, they could find themselves at 0-3 entering their bye week. They travel to Jacksonville this week and then return home to play the Colts.

The problems aren't new. Quarterback Kurt Warner hasn't been sharp. He has three receivers who are dealing with injuries, and the offensive line performance has been inconsistent.

Throw in the six penalties called on the offense against the 49ers, and the problems are accentuated.

"You have to say it was a continuation," Warner said of the season opener. "There always seems to be something that stops us, whether it's me on one play, a receiver on another, or the o-line. Whatever it is, we just seem to be taking our turn where we can't overcome any of the things that we aren't doing right."

Future opponents likely will follow the 49ers' defensive template for stopping the Cardinals. Put your best cornerback on receiver Larry Fitzgerald and give him help with a safety over the top. Put enough pressure on Warner to make him move around the pocket and take a chance that the Cardinals running game isn't going to hurt you.

That game plan worked because of receiver Anquan Boldin's continuing hamstring problem. Boldin played against the 49ers only because the club was without Steve Breaston (knee) and Early Doucet (ribs).

Boldin, who had two catches for 19 yards, obviously wasn't 100 percent after barely practicing the past three weeks. His status for the Jaguars game is unknown but the Cardinals need him to relieve the pressure on Fitzgerald and to make room for the running game.

Warner's style relies on timing and receivers being precise with their routes. Now, he's working with guys lower down the depth chart and it's showing.

But Warner isn't without blame, either. Against the 49ers, he held on to the ball too long. One of his interceptions came when he was forced to move. Instead of throwing it away, he tried to find a receiver.

It would help, too, if right tackle Levi Brown begins playing better. He struggled in protection against the 49ers, and teams could begin lining up their best pass rushers against him.

The Cardinals aren't in panic mode, yet, but the offense has struggled for the last month or so. When asked for reasons, several players have pointed to poor performances in practice.

"You play how you practice," running back Tim Hightower said. "We just need to get better."

According to defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, the Cardinals had better do it this week.

"We can't feel sorry for ourselves, especially going down to Jacksonville," he said. "Didn't they lose, too? They're in the same situation and we're going to get their best shot."

UNDER THE RADAR: Rookie running back Beanie Wells didn't play much in the season opener but his performance merits giving him the ball more. Wells gained 29 yards on seven carries, including a 15-yard gain. He looked more explosive than starter Tim Hightower, and could give the Cardinals the big-play threat they've lacked at running back for years. Wells missed much of training camp with an ankle sprain, and he's still not 100 percent.

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