Arizona Cardinals (1-0) at Seattle Seahawks (1-0)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
SERIES: 15th meeting. Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks are tied 7-7 in series that dates to 1976. But Seahawks have won past three and six of past seven, and Cardinals Coach Dennis Green is 1-4 vs. them in his career. A year ago, the Seahawks swept the series with routs of 33-19 and 37-12.
2006 RANKINGS: Cardinals: offense 6th (25th rush, 4th pass); defense 30th (20th rush, 30th pass). Seahawks: offense 23rd (18th rush, 18th pass); defense 8th (3rd rush, 20th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: Arizona's receivers enjoy a significant height advantage on Seattle's corners, and the Cardinals would do themselves a huge favor by getting an early lead in the Seahawks' home opener in loud Qwest Field. Seattle's offense has yet to find any rhythm, with the offensive line struggling to gel following the loss of LG Steve Hutchinson. RB Shaun Alexander torched the Cardinals for a combined 313 yards on the ground in two meetings last season, and Arizona's run defense looked shaky in the opener. If Alexander is able to set up the play-action pass, Seattle's offense could click quickly against a Cardinals secondary that is still a major area of concern.
FAST FACTS: Cardinals: James needs 109 rushing yards to pass Earl Campbell (9,407) for 19th-most all-time. ... Seek first 2-0 start since 1991. ... Seahawks: Alexander's six rushing touchdowns against Arizona last season were three times as many as the entire Cardinals team had for the season. ... Have a 10-game home winning streak.
--RB Edgerrin James thinks the rushing attack isn't as dismal as it seemed last week, when he gained 73 yards on 26 carries. James had two runs for a total of 24 yards called back because of penalties.
--QB Kurt Warner fumbled three times in the opener, losing one. Only one fumble was Warner's fault. He tried to make a play while being sacked. The other two were caused by hits resulting from poor protection.
--OLB Orlando Huff played well through the preseason and looked good last Sunday. He forced a fumble, defended a pass and had four tackles.
--TE Adam Bergen isn't listed as the starter but he is receiving more playing time than rookie Leonard Pope. Bergen is an excellent receiver who has improved as a blocker.
--RB J.J. Arrington isn't likely to get much playing time behind Edgerrin James, who rarely comes off the field. James is a solid block and an excellent receiver, which makes him able to play in any situation.
--LB Leroy Hill practiced with the starters on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The team upgraded him from questionable to probable on Thursday. Hill missed the opener as a precaution after a stinger injury deprived him of needed strength in his shoulder. He looks likely to play this Sunday.
--RB Shaun Alexander has a history of strong games against the Cardinals. "It's because we know since their defense allows them to do so many different things it has to be a max effort, so everybody comes relaxed and ready to play as hard as they can to make whatever needs to happen happen," Alexander said. "It's been really good for us the last couple of times we played them."
--QB Matt Hasselbeck has learned a lot since he tossed four interceptions against Arizona a couple years back. The Cardinals show more looks than most defenses. The difference now is that Hasselbeck recognizes more of what he sees. "You play a team like Dallas, or a team like last week (Detroit), there's their defense," coach Mike Holmgren said. "When you play Arizona, they give you a bunch of different looks. Like five defensive linemen, here you might have three. They are constantly doing that kind of stuff. So you really have to be heads-up on recognition. If you can recognize, then we've had some success. If they confuse you and you don't what you are supposed to do, then it can get ugly, then they've got you pretty good."
--K Josh Brown will have to get used to a new snapper now that J.P. Darche is on injured reserve. Darche had been the Seahawks' only snapper since 2000. Seattle was fortunate to find a veteran snapper in Derek Rackley, formerly of the Falcons. Rackley played in 96 consecutive games for Atlanta before this season.
--LS Derek Rackley made a positive impression with the Seahawks in his first couple days with the team. He's a veteran snapper who played in 96 consecutive games for Atlanta until this season. Rackley also knows Jim Zorn, the Seahawks' QB coach. Rackley was a quarterback at Minnesota when Zorn coached the position there. Rackley subsequently converted to tight end.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Every player on the roster practiced Thursday, which should allow coach Dennis Green an uncommon luxury on Sunday. It likely will mark the first time Green hasn't deactivated a player because of injury since he came to Arizona in 2004.
Outside linebacker Karlos Dansby and offensive tackle Oliver Ross returned to practice Wednesday after getting little or no work in training camp. What roles they will play Sunday are unknown, because Green isn't saying. Ross suffered torn a meniscus in his right knee on the second day of camp and underwent surgery. He's reported no problems the past two days, but it doesn't seem likely he'll start. He will play, however, but it probably will be somewhere between 10 and 20 plays.
The starter could be Chris Liwienski or Reggie Wells, who normally plays left guard. If Wells moves over, Liwienski could take his spot. Dansby, the starter on the strong side the past two years, appears sufficiently recovered from a toe injury to make a contribution. Calvin Pace is the starter, and it's possible Dansby could be moved to the weak side to challenge Orlando Huff.
Deion Branch has practiced at full speed since joining the Seahawks this week, giving him a chance to play Sunday. Coach Mike Holmgren is intrigued at the thought of including Branch in four-receiver sets featuring Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson, with D.J. Hackett as a wild card.
The team has yet to decide whether Branch will suit up against the Cardinals, but there appears to be no reason to keep him out. "I haven't made a decision," coach Mike Holmgren said. "We'll go right down to the wire on that one." On Friday, Holmgren elabroated on the dicision. “We’re going to talk about it. I said earlier in the week, I think it’s a little unrealistic for anybody to come in with a couple days of practice and play after not having played for a long time, but he’s a special kid," the coach said. If anyone could do it, he could do it. We’ll make that decision tomorrow at the last second. I’ve been going back and forth with it to be honest with you.”
“He’s lobbying for it certainly. He’s that type of young man. I appreciate the fact he said it was my call.”
Holmgren's inclination would be to have Branch sit out this first week. Branch is a different type of player, however, in that he keeps himself in phenomenally good shape even when he isn't practicing. "Players are usually not in football shape because they weren't in training camp," Holmgren said, "and it's unfair to the player.
Branch skipped training camp with New England. The Patriots traded him to Seattle this week. Holmgren and his staff are devising ways to take advantage of Branch's ability to get downfield.
"I have to see him in our offense," Holmgren said. "I think he's going to be a great fit. That was my feeling in playing against him and watching him play.
“He seems to be in fairly good shape. The only negative is that he hasn’t really practiced enough to put him on the field with two days of practice, while he’s spinning, learning what we do. That’s a little bit unfair to the athlete. I could stick him out there and run a couple plays with him I’m sure. Then you have to weigh the advantage of that over someone who has practiced with us a lot and knows our stuff.”
Holmgren has liked everything he's seen of his newest player in practice. “You like everything. There’s not much not to like. He is quick. He is a very willing guy. He came in early and studied every morning with Matt (Hasselbeck). He’s just what you want. He’s got real great quickness. I think his coming off the line of scrimmage is a real strength for him and he’s got good speed.”
Holmgren capped off Friday's practice by giving game balls to guard Chris Gray, cornerback Kelly Herndon and kicker Josh Brown. “I was not particularly pleased how we did in that game up front (the offensive line) except for Chris (Gray). He battled and he’s a veteran, and is very deserving of that ball. Herndon had his best game as a Seahawk. I was very encouraged by that because he’s been under the gun a little bit, and I thought he responded beautifully. On special teams, Josh kicked the winner, so that was a logical choice there.”