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Defense Focused On Run

Notebook: Turnaround starts on the ground; Hayes waits for return


Linebacker Joey Porter wrestles down Chargers running back Mike Tolbert last weekend.

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis was talking about it right after the Cardinals lost in San Diego last weekend, and it's a theme the struggling Cards' defense isn't about to forget.

It has to find a way to stop the run.

"That's always the philosophy," linebacker Joey Porter said. "If you can't stop the run, you can't win."

The Cards have had trouble doing that thus far. Three games in a row opposing backs have reached 100 yards – Atlanta's Jason Snelling, Oakland's Darren McFadden and San Diego's Mike Tolbert – and Arizona has fallen to 30th in the NFL against the run.

The Saints aren't great in that category, ranked 30th offensively running the ball, and their best two backs won't play with injuries: Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush.

Still, "they will still run," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "If everyone else is doing that to us, so they'll do that too until we stop it. We know that."

Campbell said the defense needs to regain trust in one another, to make sure discipline stays in place.

"The reason we are getting gashed because someone gets messed up on a play and instead of fixing that one person, everybody tries to compensate for it and do more than their job," Campbell said. "They end up getting out of their gap a little ad good teams find your mistakes and make you pay."

Added coach Ken Whisenhunt, "It's about playing a coordinated defense. That means you have to fill in the right gaps, it means being in the right alignments. That's where we have been making mistakes."

With rookie Max Hall taking over at quarterback, the defense would seem to be under more pressure to perform. Whisenhunt spoke of challenging his best players to improve their play and many of the potential targets are likely on the defensive side of the ball.

Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said he did think the group was more focused this week but that they needed to be given the predicament.

"The biggest disappointment is we are beating ourselves," Dockett said. "I don't think its teams beating on us or outcoaching us, and this is only my opinion, but I think we are beating ourselves. It's one thing to lose to a team but it's another to beat yourself.

"Every week you have a chance to rebound. It's everybody holding yourself accountable. There's too much talking and not enough playing football."

That can happen quickly, Campbell said.

"It's going back to the basics, having great technique, and having fun out here," Campbell said. "It can be a long season if you let it, but it can be a fun season if you control that too."


Linebacker Gerald Hayes is still a week away from attempting to practice – he must wait until after the bye weekend, given his status on the physically-unable-to-perform list – after back surgery this offseason.

What that means, even Hayes isn't sure yet.

"It's not a big concern, but I kind of want to hit it smokin'," Hayes said. "I'm not really concerned about it. I feel good. Once I get out there and start hitting, I don't know, but I am ready to take that chance."

Hayes believes he could help the struggling Cards' defense, a notion raised by some fans.

"I appreciate fans saying what they say, and I am confident I could help out in that middle," he said. "I will be back as fast as I can."


Both defensive end Kenny Iwebema (knee) and safety Matt Ware (ankle) will be reevaluated Sunday to see if they can play. Whisenhunt did say there was a way to activate all three nose tackles since Bryan Robinson can slide out to end. That could be an option if Iwebema can't go.

Rehabbing receivers Early Doucet (sports hernia) and Steve Breaston (knee) are out. Linebacker Paris Lenon (pelvis) and defensive lineman Alan Branch (shoulder) are probable.

For the Saints, running backs Reggie Bush (broken leg) and Pierre Thomas (ankle) and cornerback Tracy Porter (knee) are out.

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