Quarterback Matt Leinart hands the ball off to running back Tim Hightower Saturday night.
FLAGSTAFF – There are things to fix, and yet 75 percent of the preseason left to fix them.
That was the message from coach Ken Whisenhunt Monday, as the Cardinals came back to Flagstaff for a final week of training camp and after he had had a chance to break down the video from Saturday's preseason opening win over Houston.
Whisenhunt's voice was even keeled as always recounting the highs and lows of the first game. On one hand, he was clearly irritated – "There were a couple times in the first half offensively where it as a joke, to be quite honest with you, plays we had run 25 times in two weeks and it was like the first time we had run them," he said -- and yet, there were reassurances it was early.
"We are rough around the edges," Whisenhunt said. "I'm not down on our team whatsoever."
The topic of his quarterbacks was, of course, first up, and on the subject of both Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson Whisenhunt simply said "it wasn't good enough."
"It will be on our quarterbacks to make sure we are more efficient," Whisenhunt said.
But the coach expanded that thought, bringing in the whole offense. He was disappointed in the turnovers, happy with the play physically but unhappy with mental errors. Players lining up in the wrong spots doesn't set well with the coach. Mistakes like center Lyle Sendlein accidentally stepping on Leinart's foot might happen – that was the play in which Leinart stumbled, leading to a fumbled handoff – but Whisenhunt expects both Leinart and running back Tim Hightower to make such a play work anyway, at least to avoid a fumble.
Details like letting the double move of Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson work – a point of emphasis for the defense last week – can't be forgotten, after Johnson scored on a long pass. Whisenhunt also noted a couple of times when running backs bounced outside instead of finding big holes inside that the coach felt might have turned into long touchdown runs.
"There is room for improvement, small detail stuff," Leinart said. "We will look at the film, dissect it, just clean it up. We will get better. I'm not worried about it. You just have to build off it. You don't want to go backward."
Just as there is caution in overreacting to errors, so too will there be caution for the good players. It was hard not to notice the stellar game from rookie quarterback John Skelton (perfect passer rating, two TD drives) but Whisenhunt wasn't going overboard.
"It's one game and it's in the fourth quarter of the first preseason game," Whisenhunt said. "Now, if he has a repeat performance this week, then it is something we have to take a look at."
(Whisenhunt said he hopes to get fourth quarterback Max Hall some playing time this week but "we have to make sure we are buttoned up with our first two guys before we can really devote a lot of time to the other two.")
The Cardinals have a full week of work – camp doesn't break until after a Saturday morning practice – because the next game is on "Monday Night Football" in Tennessee. That's when Whisenhunt believes a more polished offense will be on display.
As for the Houston game, it had a happy ending at least.
"We settled down and found a way to come back," Whisenhunt said. "That's a great sign for this team."
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