The Cardinals' special teams, led by captain Jason Wright (right, with Jim Dray making a tackle) hope to gain the advantage against the Chargers this weekend.
The Cardinals have returned two kickoffs for touchdowns the past two weeks (although the first was called back by penalty). The Chargers surrendered two kickoff returns for touchdowns in Seattle last game, and were burned for a 94-yard punt return in their opening game.
Considering the Cards are dealing with offensive issues right now, gaining an advantage in special teams seems crucial in a quest to win in San Diego this week.
"We hang our hat on special teams," said safety and key special teamer Rashad Johnson. "We are doing a good job in practice, and we know that's an area we need to win.
"There is a confidence. A lot of guys are comfortable, and everyone is stepping up and doing their job and being individual leaders. It's not just one leader in the unit, it's individual guys."
Chargers coach Norv Turner said his team needed to fix some personnel issues. San Diego had been playing a couple of rookies on their coverage units, he said, and after the problems last week, the Chargers made some changes. San Diego was also missing key special teams players with injuries last week, and Turner said they will be back.
The Chargers also lost Pro Bowler Kassim Osgood as a free agent over the offseason, which has not helped.
"We have to get things cleaned up," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. "Special teams are the easy ones to see on SportsCenter and the big highlights, but from an offensive standpoint, we have turned the ball over too much."
The Cards know the Chargers might not be as sloppy with the ball, so getting a boost in the so-called transition game will become more important.
"Special teams can help the offense immensely," quarterback Derek Anderson said. "Special teams can help the defense. But you don't want to rely solely on the fact we have to make LaRod (Stephens-Howling) take a kick to the house every time."
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he wasn't ruling out the idea wide receiver Steve Breaston – who underwent surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee Tuesday – could still return after missing just this week in San Diego.
Still, it seems likely Breaston will miss at least two games, and then, with the bye coming after that for the Cardinals, perhaps return afterward.
"We'll see how it reacts," Whisenhunt said. "It's certainly a day-to-day thing. He's moving around well. Hopefully sooner rather than later."
Running back Beanie Wells (knee) and guard Alan Faneca (back) were both limited Wednesday, but at this point, both should play Sunday.
The Cards practiced at Arizona State's bubble Wednesday, but after they returned on the bus – and with all his teammates inside the locker room eating or lifting weights – rookie punt returner Andre Roberts went out in the heat to catch extra punts.
Catching punts isn't as important as improving communication, Whisenhunt said, after two punts hit the ground against the Raiders and hit Cardinals' blockers, leading to turnovers.
"You have a young player that was in a situation for the first time and unfortunately it happened twice," Whisenhunt said. "I don't foresee it being an issue as we go forward."
CARDS' BIG TV DAY
The Cardinals' game against the Raiders set a record for the highest-rated Week Three game ever for the team. With a 26.0 rating and 48 share, it was the Valley's most watched TV show for the week. Through three games, the Cards have averaged a 22.1 rating and 42 share with an average of 414,000 homes locally, a six percent increase over the record-setting 2009 season.
Wednesday, Sep 29, 2010 09:14 AM