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Getting Defensive

Notebook: Unit tries to rebound from poor Atlanta showing; Beanie should be ready

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The Cardinals' defensive players have their own huddle at the end of Friday's practice.




Adrian Wilson was, as teammate Clark Haggans likes to say, a little salty.

When the Cardinals' Pro Bowl safety met with reporters after practice Thursday, he kept his words to a minimum. A poor defensive showing will do that to a defensive leader.

"I don't really have anything nice to say," Wilson said. "We got whupped. We didn't even put up a fight, so it's hard for me to even say anything right now. Anything I say is going to be negative, so I don't want to go that way."

But Wilson has a radio show to do Thursday nights, and with an hour to fill, he was forced to be a little more expansive – and he was.

"If you get into a fight, you at least want to scratch the guy," Wilson said on his Big Red Rage show. "We didn't even scratch the guy, black his eye, bloody his nose, anything. The temperature right now is a little warm."

The Cardinals' defense was on the field for 81 plays against St. Louis, partly because the Cards' offense couldn't sustain a lot of drives. Against Atlanta, the defense played 78, although this time, the defense simply had a hard time keeping the Falcons off the field.

"That's a lot of plays," safety Matt Ware said.

The defense then held a defensive players-only meeting in which Wilson said only three players spoke (he didn't specify who) and the point got across that such performances can't happen again.

"It wasn't the coaches, it was a players," Wilson said. "They gave us the plan and we didn't execute it. That's something you have to face as a player and a man."

Wilson said he believes the Cardinals are a "defensive football team," meaning it has to be the defense that drives the season. Obviously, that isn't going to happen if the Cards' NFL ranks of the 27th defense overall and 31st against the run – skewed because of the small sample this early in the season, but still not inspiring – remain there.

The Cardinals are playing the third-ranked rushing offense Sunday against the Raiders, but as coach Ken Whisenhunt said, "I feel we have a talented enough defense that we shouldn't give up that many yards or that many points."

The Cards hope so, but in the aftermath of last week and then the Joey Porter-called meeting, the defense again huddled up on their own after Friday's practice, after Whisenhunt had finished speaking with the team and dismissed them to the locker room.

It isn't hard to guess the theme of what the group might have been discussing.

"We need to have people stop telling us we are talented or we are good, because we haven't showed it," Wilson said.

AFTER SURGERY, HOPING BEANIE IS READY


Turns out running back Beanie Wells had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus, making a couple weeks away from practice understandable. Whisenhunt said the surgery was minor enough that it made Wells' status a week-to-week proposition.

Wells is expected to play Sunday, although he was still limited Friday and is listed as questionable, the same as last week. Guard Alan Faneca was also added to the injury list Friday as questionable after a bad back limited his work for the first time this week. Linebacker Will Davis (head) and wide receiver Steve Breaston (knee) were also still limited Friday and listed as questionable. Breaston is expected to play.

For the Raiders, starting guard Robert Gallery remains out with a bad hamstring. Two other noteable Raiders, Defensive tackle Richard Seymour (hamstring) and running back Michael Bush (thumb), are both listed as probable.

TOLER GETS PHYSICAL


Cornerback Greg Toler is still working on his all-around game as a starter, but he has shown a physical side that has encouraged the Cardinals.

Toler has been credited with 17 tackles in two games, second on the team to the 19 of linebacker Paris Lenon. Toler led the team in tackles in the season opener.

"I try to bring anything I can to the table, whether it is being physical or covering a guy or executing my assignment," Toler said. "I feel I am physical and the last two games showed it."

Toler's play was emphasized when he decked Falcons receiver Harry Douglas in Atlanta, a play in which Toler was penalized for unnecessary roughness even though he didn't leave his feet and contacted Douglas' upper body with his shoulder. The Cardinals feel certain it was a clean play.
Whisenhunt even noted such this week, talking about how "discouraging" such a penalty was. "It's 15 yards when he is trying to play it the right way," Whisenhunt said. "It demoralizes your team to a degree."

Toler said he was just being aggressive.

"I'm not trying to hurt anyone and I'm not trying to hurt myself," he said. "I knew he was coming and he wasn't looking. I intentionally tried not to leave my feet, square up and give him my shoulder pad."

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