Quarterback Max Hall gets instructions from quarterbacks coach Chris Miller.
Max Hall needs to gain experience and develop chemistry with his receivers, and he'll have to have success without the prototypical size or arm strength for an NFL quarterback.
One thing the rookie doesn't have to be worried about is being prepared, because that's an area in which he will never cheat himself. Hall spends plenty of time in the video room, studying.
But there is a learning curve there as well.
"As with a lot of the young guys, learning how to study the most advantageous way is a process," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "It's accelerated because there is a difference between a backup and a starter. You like to think there's not but obviously you are getting more reps so you have a better understanding.
"His study habits have gotten more intense because they've had to. Not because he wasn't before, but there is a different sense of urgency when you are the starter – as there should be – on how you study, what to look for, what he is thinking about, plays (because) he has more input on what he likes and dislikes. All those things require film study, playbook study. He's improving."
Hall said ball security is at the top of his to-do list, obviously something he can't fix by watching video. But some of the other aspects he wants to improve upon – his reads and his progressions, understanding defenses – are a direct result of such studying.
"I'm just keeping my head down, working as hard as I can," Hall said.
One area where Hall will benefit is having Whisenhunt, said the veteran who will be taking snaps for the Seahawks Sunday.
"It's tough for a rookie quarterback to come in and play, period," Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "I really don't know anything about the (Cards') quarterback situation but I do know coach Whisenhunt is a really good coach. … When you know who's in charge and the message is consistent from your head coach, it makes it a lot easier as a player to go out with confidence and play free."
MANY HAPPY RETURNS
The Cardinals and the Seahawks are both part of the NFL renaissance in the return game. Seattle return man Leon Washington has two kickoff returns for touchdowns and a league-leading 37.0-yard average, while the Cards' LaRod Stephens-Howling has his own impressive 26.3 average and a touchdown (and had a second touchdown called back).
The three TDs are among the NFL's 14 total kickoff/punt return touchdowns already this season (10 on kickoffs, four on punts), which is a record-setting pace.
"They got rid of the wedge (blocking on kickoffs) so you'd think it'd go the other way," Cardinals special teams captain Jason Wright said. "It's a testament to how the talent level rises in the league. You have great returners and you have guys on special teams who are very talented football players as well."
The question is how each side will deal with the other's return game. It's possible each team could decline to kick it deep, but there is also the idea that – since each team is successful returning kickoffs – each team knows how to stop it.
"You know what can beat a team, but it comes down to execution," Wright said. "Knowing it is one thing, executing it is another. Playing a returner like Leon and their unit, it makes you play it straight. You have to play your reads, play your fundamentals, and trust the scheme. You can't be out there wildcatting."
A RAIN GAME
The forecast for Seattle is with a 70 percent chance of rain Sunday and a high of 53 degrees, which caught the attention of running back Tim Hightower – figuring that with rain comes less passing.
"It'll be a grind-it-out game for a running back," Hightower said.
The wetness will force him and Beanie Wells to be "more sound" holding on to the ball, however, especially given their past issues with fumbles.
"Sometimes you want to start pumping your arms and make the big run, but it's ball security first," Hightower said. "Even catching the ball, everything is so much more detailing playing in the rain."
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