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Cardinals' Defense Sees Another Rookie

Posted Sep 28, 2012

Notebook: Dockett doubtful; Kolb welcomes his baby daughter; Zastudil's impact

Linebacker O'Brien Schofield (50) and the rest of the Cardinals' defense will follow up their mastery of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick with a chance to take on Dolphins rookie QB Ryan Tannehill.

This season, the Cardinals have either drawn a superstar quarterback, or a rookie quarterback.

They’ve treated everyone just the same.

The Cards started the season against Seattle’s rookie Russell Wilson, who was followed New England’s Tom Brady and Philadelphia’s Michael Vick. Add Miami rookie Ryan Tannehill to that list this weekend. The Cardinals’ 10th-ranked defense won’t mind. It’ll still pressure him all the same.

“From the past (defensive coordinator Ray Horton likes) to pressure young quarterbacks but at the same time, the things Miami does, they do a lot of things to keep the pressure off of the young guy,” defensive tackle Dan Williams said.

The same defense that beat rookie quarterbacks in three straight season openers has been complimentary of Tannehill. They’re either truly impressed or sweetening up the young quarterback.

“He makes the right throws,” Horton said. “He’s mobile. He appears to be smart. It’s not too big for him. He does exactly what they want him to do, give them a chance to win the game. I’ve been impressed by him.”

Added Williams: “He makes some great decisions and he definitely gets rid of the ball quick.”

The feeling is mutual, especially when it comes to the Cardinals’ pressure, Tannehill said.

The Cardinals’ defense is the only unit in the league to allow just two touchdowns this year, a statistic that’s drawn double takes around the league. But not from Horton.

“4-0 is the more impressive stat,” he said Friday.

Then he was informed his team was only 3-0.

“Oh, ask me Sunday night then.”

Miami is averaging 21.7 points per game while the Cardinals are surrendering 13.3, second best in the NFL.

“Last year, when we were on the run, we were good at scoring in the red zone and we were good keeping guys from scoring in the red zone,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “If you can do that you got a chance to win games.”

DOCKETT LISTED AS DOUBTFUL

Maybe Horton should be a doctor.

After practice Friday, he was asked if defensive tackle Darnell Dockett could be ready to play against the Dolphins by kickoff Sunday. Horton didn’t shy away from giving his prognosis.

“I’m not the doctor, I don’t think he could play. He hasn’t taken a snap (in practice),” Horton said.  “Hypothetically, if he could play, sure he would play.”

About an hour after Horton’s prognostication, Dockett, who suffered a strained hamstring against the Eagles and hasn’t practiced all week, was ruled doubtful for Sunday and will likely miss the second game of his career. The first was Nov. 14, 2010 against the Seattle Seahawks.

Whisenhunt said Dockett, tight end Todd Heap (knee) and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (hip) will be game-time decisions. Tight end Jim Dray was also listed as doubtful. Six Cardinals, including safety Adrian Wilson, are listed as questionable.

For the full injury report, click here.

Running back Reggie Bush and former Cardinal Richard Marshall, now a Miami defensive back, are also listed as questionable.

KOLB WELCOMES THIRD DAUGHTER

Kevin Kolb left the Cardinals’ training facility after practice Thursday and headed straight for the hospital. The quarterback didn’t have to wait long to welcome his third daughter, Saylor.

Saylor weighed in at 8 pounds, 11 ounces and was 20 ½ inches long.

“Good sized baby,” Kolb said Friday. “Another power forward for the Kolb family.”

Kolb reported that his wife, Whitney, and new daughter were doing well. But Kolb was surprised at the amount of attention Saylor’s birth was gaining across the football landscape.

“I just saw it on the ticker on NFL Network,” Kolb said. “I was just like, ‘What just happened?’ I got to keep things more private. You guys are killing me.”

Whitney’s original due date was Oct. 4, the date the Cardinals were scheduled to play in St. Louis. Kolb said he would’ve missed a game for the birth but all he missed was a 30-minute meeting Thursday.

“This is our third one, so we’re seasoned vets,” Kolb said, noting his other daughters Kamryn (3½ years old) and Atley (2½).

ZASTUDIL LEADS FIELD-POSITION BATTLE

With the NFL’s new kickoff rules in place, punter Dave Zastudil’s role has become more important this season.

With kickoffs moved up to the 35-yard-line, the likelihood of touchbacks have increased. Through Week 3, 47.4 percent of kickoffs across the league were downed in the end zone. With more teams starting at the 20, the punter has more of an opportunity to control field position. On three of Zastudil’s six punts against the Eagles on Sunday, Philadelphia started its drives on the 9-, 5- and 20-yard-lines. The Eagles’ average starting position Sunday was their 22.

“He was a big part of the game last week as far as keeping field position in our favor,” Whisenhunt said. “He has punted the ball extremely well. Our coverage teams have done a nice job with the exception of the Seattle game that one play. He has been a big addition to our (special) teams this year.”

The Dolphins come to Arizona with the fourth-ranked punt return unit, led by Marcus Thigpen’s 17.7 yards per return. Zastudil said he is keenly aware of Thigpen, but wouldn’t reveal the Cardinals’ game plan for kicking to him. With 17 punts this season, Zastudil is tied for fifth-most in the league and has six kicks that landed inside the 20.

“My goal is to go 10-yard-line or in,” he said. “I understand that every time I’m on the field, I can help control the field-position battle. I’m very aware of how important it is.”


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