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Rookie Hazing

Posted Oct 9, 2010

Saints likely to go after Hall as Cards break in their new QB

Quarterback Max Hall (left) was sacked six times against the Chargers last week.


Just a few weeks ago, the Cardinals were planning on the other side of the equation.

Sam Bradford, a rookie quarterback, was preparing for his first NFL start. And the Cardinals, while tempered in their comments, made it clear their job was to make Bradford’s life a confusing mess.

A month later, the Saints come to town, hoping to do the same things to Max Hall.

“If we don’t want the quarterback to get comfortable and our blitzes are effective, we’ll get after him,” Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. “If not, we’ll sit back, drop seven guys … eight guys, sit back in coverage and hope he throws it to one of them.”

In other words, chaos.

Hall must find a way to overcome that despite his inexperience. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt wouldn’t allow that his team must allow Hall to make mistakes, given that the Cards making mistakes are what have put them in this position in the first place.

“My expectations for him are that he has to play that position,” Whisenhunt said. “We’re going to get a chance to see how he handles it.”

Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is infamous for an aggressive look. New Orleans isn’t going to stone a lot of offenses cold, but they will take the ball away better than perhaps any other team. It’s what drove the Saints (along with quarterback Drew Brees) to last year’s Super Bowl.

“Gregg Williams is going to bring everything at Max Hall,” Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “He’d bring everything if Kurt (Warner) was back there. That’s the kind of defensive coordinator he is.”

In fact, that is what the Saints did to Warner last year in the playoffs, a conference semifinal game in New Orleans that turned out to be Warner’s final NFL appearance. The Saints blew the Cards out that day, although Saints coach Sean Payton said “it seems like that game was three years ago.”

“You look at the tape of the playoff game and it’s like, ‘When was that game?’ ” Whisenhunt said. “It’s hard to remember. From our perspective, as far as Kurt retiring and all the changes we have had and all the offseason changes and training camp, there has been a lot that has gone on.”

Not the least of which being the quarterback shuffle. If Matt Leinart is considered a starter this season – and he held that role through the offseason and through two preseason games – Hall is the third guy to man the position already after Warner.

He is a confident rookie, but still a rookie.

“They’re the Super Bowl champs for a reason,” Hall said. “They’re a very good football team and they are very good defensively. I have a really tough task ahead of me. I’m going to study them. I’m going to prepare for them like crazy and give it my best shot. I’m going to make mistakes but I am going to give it everything I’ve have.”

It would help if the Cardinals’ defense can contain Brees and the Saints. New Orleans has had issues in the red zone and is missing its top two running backs – Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush -- to injury.

Defensive players, however, are more concerned about doing their job for their job’s sake, not just because of Hall.

“I could care less who starts at quarterback,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “That's not my decision. I don't have to block for him, I don't have to take a handoff from him. My emphasis is playing defense and that’s the only thing I worry about.”

Playing in a division in which no team is likely to pull away, the Cardinals are in a unique situation to test-drive Hall and still find a way to three-peat in the NFC West.

That also means going to be a bumpy ride, for both Hall and the Cards.

“We understand this team is going to go through some struggles,” Whisenhunt said. “All we can do is continue to work.

“It is frustrating for us, it is frustrating for our fans, because we have had two games where we didn’t play well, so we have to correct that. But if we can win this game and get to 3-2 at the bye, I think we would all feel a lot better.”
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