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Down To Third

Notebook: Cards want to improve conversions; Beanie expects to play Sunday


Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and the offense have to improve on third-down conversions.

Larry Fitzgerald didn't even take a moment to think about what he thinks is most important for the Cardinals to improve this week.

The Pro Bowl wide receiver knows his team has to convert more third downs.

"Oh-for-8 is absolutely embarrassing," Fitzgerald said. "If we want to be the football team we are capable of being, let's get first downs on first down and second down, and we don't even have to deal with third downs. That's one way to look at it.

"But when we are on third down, let's get it to be third down-and-manageable – third down and five, third down and four, third down and three, something you can have the run-pass option on."

In Atlanta, the Cards misfired on their eight third-down chances in a multitude of situations. Even quarterback Derek Anderson noted the way the Cards put themselves in third-and-long situations, except that on five of the eight third downs, the Cards needed six yards or less.

"It takes all 11 guys on the execution part of that," Anderson said. "In order to convert third downs and extend drives and score touchdowns that's what we have to do."


Technically, running back Beanie Wells was limited in practice Wednesday on the knee injury that certainly seems to be something more than the simple bruise mentioned a couple of weeks back. But there seems to be more optimism Wells will indeed return Sunday for his first regular-season appearance in 2010.

"I didn't do team (part of practice) just because they didn't want to pound on me too much but we plan to increase a bit more each day," Wells said, adding he was "good."

"It seems like it's a broken record now," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We're saying the same thing (as last week) but I think he'll do a lot more in practice (Thursday) if there's not any swelling or reaction to what he did today. He did more today than he's ever done (the past few weeks). I expect him to be more integrated into practice (Thursday) if we don't have a setback."

Whisenhunt cautioned things can always change, but Wells sounded confident he'd play against the Raiders.

"I think this offense can go through me, definitely," Wells said.


New right tackle Brandon Keith caught Whisenhunt's eye with his edge blocking during Tim Hightower's 80-yard run – Keith belted Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton to help spring Hightower – and it's those kinds of plays that Whisenhunt factors in while Keith learns his position.

"He is about where we'd thought he'd be," Whisenhunt said. "He had  couple plays in the game that were rookie mistakes, and our expectations are for him not to do that. If he cleans those things up he'll be playing at a good level. He has to continue to work on his sets and continue to not make the one or two footwork mistakes that have hurt us in games."


Raiders coach Tom Cable announced Wednesday his starting quarterback will be Bruce Gradkowski, who started the season as the backup to Jason Campbell. …

Besides Wells, the Cardinals limited in practice were LB Will Davis (head) and WR Steve Breaston (knee), both of which aren't considered serious. Breaston sat as a precaution after banging his knee in Atlanta.

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