Quarterback John Skelton has struggled in the first quarter this season.
Admittedly, John Skelton said, after he misfires on a few of his early-game attempts "you do think about it."
Whether the second-year quarterback is overthinking things or not, getting past those slow starts is something Skelton needs to overcome.
It's an overall offensive issue – since Kevin Kolb directed the Cardinals to a touchdown on their first drive of the season, the Cardinals have scored just 22 first-quarter points this season, and don't have a touchdown since the second game of the year – and Kolb has had his share of stumbles early.
But the difference is striking with Skelton, especially since the Cardinals have managed to win four of the five games he has played. He had a very good game against San Francisco last week, with a career-high passing rating of 106.5 and completing 19-of-28. But he started 1-for-4 passing on his first couple of drives and looked like he would repeat his poor performance against the 49ers just a few weeks before.
"There really is no magic word," Skelton said. "We have to push through those early struggles."
Skelton said he can tell sometimes he is aiming his passes, not fully confident in making a throw. That comes from a lack of reps in practice, and it gets better as he gets into the flow of a game.
The statistics bear that out. In the first quarter of the five games he has played, Skelton has completed 12-of-32 passes for 116 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions for a passing rating of 22.4.
In the fourth quarter/overtime (in four games; he was benched for the fourth quarter in the game at San Francisco) Skelton has completed 26-of-42 passes for 355 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions for a passing rating of 100.8.
(By way of comparison, Kolb has a first-quarter passing rating of 76.8 and a fourth-quarter/overtime passing rating of 83.1).
To fix Skelton, "you have a good feeling about certain plays you think will be better than others," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "You make a conscious effort to try and get those plays and get something to get started positively."
Skelton said he remembers having some of the same issues in college at Fordham.
"It's something," Skelton said. "I personally need to find a way to start fast."
FINDING RHODES WORK
Safety Kerry Rhodes, who hasn't played since Oct. 9 after breaking his foot and having is surgically repaired, is back to practicing fully for the first time the past two days. He should play Sunday against Cleveland.
Rhodes isn't going to step right back into the role he left, however. Not at first.
"I don't think it's fair to throw him back in there after being out a number of weeks," Whisenhunt said. "We will see how he handles it and progress him how that goes.
"Kerry was probably playing as good as anybody when he got injured. He just hasn't had a lot of reps. You have to get back into game speed. You have to be sensitive to the fact Kerry is not only coming off an injury but hasn't played in a while."
Rhodes and Kolb – who remained limited in practice Thursday – were among the vast majority on the Cards' injury report whose status did not change. Only tight end Rob Housler (shoulder) and linebacker Clark Haggans (hamstring) were upgraded, both practicing full.
Kolb is expected to increase his work Friday but his availability for Sunday is still in doubt.
For the Browns, quarterback Colt McCoy was sent home once again because of his concussion and he is not expected to play Sunday. Wide receiver Josh Cribbs (groin) was upgraded to limited work Thursday. Safety T.J. Ward (foot – DNP) and running back Montario Hardesty (calf – limited) were both downgraded Thursday.
BROWNS GAME SOLD OUT
The Cards announced Thursday the game against the Browns is officially a sellout, making it the 62nd straight time the team has sold out the building for a game (in 62 tries) and making sure the game will be telecast locally on CBS (Ch. 5).