Behind Enemy Lines: Vikings @ Arizona, Part I

Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner are the Cardinals bread and butter but Fitzgerald has struggled to go deep this season and Warner may not play against the Vikings. How will the Cardinals cope without this duo? What is the deal with the Cardinals struggling defense? Tim Yotter of VikingUpdate.com asks and Amberly Dressler of AZRedReport.com answers, in Part I of this week's Behind Enemy Lines.

Tim Yotter: What is the prognosis for Kurt Warner playing on Sunday and how different is the offense without him?

Amberly Dressler: Warner will not play if he has any lingering concussion symptoms. This week, he dealt with foggy vision. Last week, it was a sore neck that kept him on the sidelines. The Cardinals are watching him closely and having Matt Leinart take increased snaps in case any more symptoms pop up or stick around. That said, the Cardinals offense is night and day without Warner. Coach Ken Whisenhunt, who does the play calling, doesn't have as much trust in Leinart. With Leinart in the wheelhouse, Whisenhunt called conservative plays last week against the Titans. The Vikings will face a much different Cardinals team if Leinart leads the huddle.

TY: It appears that the Cardinals aren't committed to the running game. If that's the case, is it because of ineffectiveness or just superior confidence in the passing game when Warner is in there?

Beanie Wells
Getty

AD: Warner would rather pass the ball on every play than hand it off. Why wouldn't he? He has a stacked receiving corps. But Whisenhunt has said since last season that he wants to find a closer pass-rush ratio. Whisenhunt put a premium on this goal when the Cardinals drafted RB Beanie Wells in the first round of last year's draft. Wells is starting to show signs of greatness and starter RB Tim Hightower continues to surprise. The Cardinals are starting to reach Whisenhunt's goal. Their ground game has inched from dead last to out of the bottom five. Arizona is taking baby steps, but its rushing game is improving.

TY: Has the team been sending Larry Fitzgerald Jr. deep as often? I see that Anquan Boldin actually has a higher average per catch than Fitzgerald, as do Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin for the Vikings.

AD: The Cardinals have struggled to get Fitzgerald involved in big plays. His longest play of the season is 27 yards. There are a few different reasons for the anomaly. While the Cardinals offensive line has improved two-fold since the early games of this season, pressure on Warner has been a big reason for Fitzgerald's lack of lengthy plays. Another reasons is Warner's diplomacy with the ball. Warner doesn't care what number is on a player's jersey or where they sit on the depth chart. He is going to throw the ball to whoever is open and expect that player to make a play. With a target on his back, Fitzgerald is rarely open. But last season, even if he was double-teamed he would get the ball. But Warner has more trust in all of his weapons. The emergence of Hightower as a receiver has reduced Fitzgerald's catches as well.

TY: Defensively, the Cardinals have been struggling. What have been the main issues there?

AD: The Cardinals biggest issue is inconsistency. In last week's game against Vince Young and his Titans, the Cardinals defense was energized and unstoppable. Its efforts could have won the game. Then comes a last minute 99-yard game-winning touchdown drive by Young. He converted fourth down after fourth down. The Cardinals defense, especially the secondary, was nowhere to be seen. Erasing inconsistency has been the theme all season because when the Cardinals defense is focused, its one of the best groups in the league. The Cardinals boast playmakers Adrian Wilson, Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and more.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Getty

TY: Besides Warner and the passing game, what else might undo the Vikings in the desert if the Cardinals were able to knock them off?

AD: If the Cardinals defense brings its lunch pail and goes to work for all four quarters, the Vikings will have a fight on their hands. This defense is special when it's clicking on all cylinders. The Cardinals special teams has also surfaced as a way to slow down opposing teams. Unknown rookie returner LaRod Stephens-Howling has the burst to give the Cardinals a short field to work on. On the flip side, he can give the Vikings a long field to march down. Young had to go 99 yards because the rookie downed a punt at the 1. The Cardinals know they will have to bring their whole bag of tricks against the Brett Favre led offense and the Jared Allen led defense.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of the Viking Update. Amberly Dressler is the publisher of AZ Red Report.

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