Behind Enemy Lines Part II: AZ @ WAS

The Cardinals have said that they are cautious about over-confidence in Week 3, but they are off to a 2-0 start. The Cardinals head to Washington where they could get their first real test of the season. WarPathInsider.com's John Keim has five questions for Amberly Richardson about the Week 3 contest that can set the tone for the rest of '08.

John Keim: How much of it is how well Arizona is playing and how much of it stems from who the Cardinals have played?

Amberly Richardson: The Cardinals early season success has to do with both. In Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers it was a tale of two halves. The team that showed up in the first half was a .500 team at best, but the Cardinals turned the game around with some defensive measures, which gave Arizona the ball for quite a while in the second half. Kurt Warner was able to find his target, Anquan Boldin, and the Cardinals pulled out the victory.

The Cardinals have worked on being a better second half team. They struggled to close out close games, so the opportunity to win a game against a team in their division and win on the road was huge for the Cardinals.

Week 2 was a game that Arizona knew it had to win. If the Cardinals loss to a team that has won just one game in more than 20 showings, the confidence level would have plummeted. Arizona also finished 6-2 at home last season, so losing at home could have popped its bubble all together. The Redskins will be the first real test for the Cardinals.

JK: What does Kurt Warner give them that Matt Leinart doesn't?

AR: Warner gives the Cardinals their best opportunity to win. Warner's veteran experience is invaluable. I hope I don't drop the "C" word too much, but Warner brings confidence to the field. He has confidence in himself and in his receivers. He knows that when he throws the ball downfield, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin or Steve Breaston will bring the ball home. All of which helps Warner get a perfect quarterback rating.

With Leinart, when he throws you hold your breath. He had some unlucky breaks when receivers were out of place in the Oakland Raiders preseason game when he was picked off three times. Leinart still boasts pinpoint accuracy, but it's always something on the other end that gets fudged. He threw a touchdown pass to TE Leonard Pope in the last preseason game, and Leinart was the first down field to embrace Pope. The pressure that was released with that pass was pretty emotional. Who knew a Heisman Trophy winner would be an underdog to root for?

JK: Where are the Cardinals better this season and how good can they be?

AR: The Cardinals are better in terms of depth. Last year the defensive front-seven were on the field too much, which didn't allow the players to give 100 percent. The depth that the Cardinals picked up makes the difference between a starter and a non-starter not very distinct.

It's possible for the Cardinals to make the playoffs this year. Their biggest NFC West competition, the Seattle Seahawks, have no air game in a passing division. Their receivers are dropping like flies. Arizona wasn't too far off from missing the boat last year.

JK: Where are the Cardinals most vulnerable? AR: The offensive line is the most vulnerable. Although, the big guys up front made the most strides last season, a couple injuries could wipe it clean. The continuity the line is building was tested when Center Al Johnson was placed on injured reserve, but Lyle Sendlein has done an admirable job in his place.

The Cardinals led the league in penalties last season, and the whistle blows are still happening.

JK: The Fitzgerald-Boldin combination is one of the NFL's best; how do they complement one another and where does each one excel?

AR: Boldin has an unmatched physicality as a receiver. When coach Whisenhunt put first-round 2008 draft pick, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, in on offense, Boldin told Whisenhunt he wouldn't mind playing as a safety. Whisenhunt said they weren't going to get too crazy, but Boldin has the physical tools necessary for the job. He plows through the secondary and is astonishing after the catch.

The Cardinals would like to see Fitzgerald do the same. In Week 2 against the Dolphins, he made several receptions in traffic and bulldozed through his defenders and looked Boldin like. Fitzgerald's speed is some of the best MPH in the league.

The tandem gives Warner many options. Fitzgerald has seen impossible coverage, which allows Warner to look for Boldin.


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