Larry Fitzgerald hauls in a John Skelton pass Sunday against Denver.
John Skelton called his first start "a good starting point." Then he went basic in the self-analysis.
The main improvement he wants to make is in accuracy – more specifically, "just completions" – after a game in which he completed just 15-of-37 passes, including an 0-for-7 start that he acknowledged Wednesday he hadn't he realized he had.
"A lot of times guys were running wide open," Skelton said. "I just didn't put the ball on them. A lot of times (it's) on third down, not converting, not making an easy throw when I should've. … That is something I am capable of doing and hopefully I can get it right."
One of those plays came early in the game, when Skelton – needing five yards for a first down at the Denver 18-yard line – was pushed right under pressure and appeared to have running back Tim Hightower wide open for a first down. Instead, Skelton held it and threw a lower-percentage pass that fell incomplete.
The Cardinals aren't the only one trying to break in a rookie. Carolina, where the Cards visit Sunday, have Jimmy Clausen at quarterback. Like Skelton, Panthers coach John Fox probably wouldn't have played Clausen if he could have helped it. "You're playing against the best in the world and I think that is tough for anybody, not just Jimmy Clausen," Fox said.
That's why Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said he wants to be extra careful with Skelton in terms of adding to the play sheet this weekend.
"It was obvious today that he was a little bit more comfortable with what we were doing," Whisenhunt said. "I think that you have to be very careful about thinking that you can give him too much. Last week the best thing that he did was the way he handled himself, not turning the ball over, and you don't want to give him too much so that you affect that first and foremost."
CAREFUL USE OF THE HYPHEN
When running back Tim Hightower fumbled early in the fourth quarter and with Beanie Wells ill and out of the game, Whisenhunt turned to LaRod Stephens-Howling as his running back. The opportunity was important – but after returning the kickoff and then getting the ball via run or pass on six straight plays, he was torched and Whisenhunt was forced to put Hightower back in.
It's a fine line to walk with Stephens-Howling, Whisenhunt said, since he is so versatile but can then get tired quickly in so many roles (and is only 5-foot-8 to begin with).
"You've got to make sure to track how many plays he's been getting," Whisenhunt said. "You don't want to lose him."
Stephens-Howling admitted that sometimes, the extra duties can be difficult, but "I gut it out as long as I can." As for the sequence Sunday, "it was rough."
"But that's what I want," Stephens-Howling said. "I can't come out and say I'm tired, that's my opportunity to get the ball."
GRAHAM LEADS PRO BOWL VOTING
For a second straight year, Ben Graham leads all NFC punters in fan Pro Bowl voting. Of course, that didn't help him last year when San Francisco's Andy Lee still was ultimately chosen to go. But that doesn't mean he doesn't appreciate the effort.
"I think it's awesome to know I have that many fans out there, that much support," Graham said. "It means a lot. … To be the leading vote-getter, it's a bit of an honor in itself."
With Pro Bowl fan voting set to close Monday, five other Cardinals are in the top five in the NFC at their respective positions: strong safety Adrian Wilson (second), cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (fourth), defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (fifth), guard Alan Faneca (fourth) and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (fourth).
The Pro Bowl rosters will be announced Dec. 28.
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