The ball pops out of the arms of Texans running back Steve Slaton on the Cards' goal-line stand Saturday night, with Daryl Washington recovering the fumble on the play.
Daryl Washington still is technically third-string, but the rookie inside linebacker might not be there for long.
The Cardinals' second-round pick was all over the field during the Cardinals' 19-16 preseason opener Saturday night. He was credited with a game-high 13 tackles, but more importantly, seemed at ease in a defense that could use his speed sooner rather than later.
"He showed up," Whisenhunt said. "There were a couple of times I noticed he got stuck on some blocks. He's going to have an adjustment to the speed of this game and going against some of the bigger guys. When you have the speed he has and can make plays, it's all about getting him reps."
At one point, Washington blitzed on consecutive plays, creating an intentional grounding penalty on the first and forcing a hurried incompletion on the second.
"You have to love when a blitz is called, and you have to act like you are free," Washington said. "That's what I try to do. I just want to get to the quarterback – get to the quarterback."
Monty Beisel and Paris Lenon were the starters inside Saturday for the Cardinals, although that could change as the preseason goes. All along, Whisenhunt said Washington will likely be used in certain packages once the regular season starts but it might take longer to get into the starting lineup.
Maybe Washington can begin to change that timetable.
"I love the game of football and I want to live up to my expectations, not just the organization's," Washington said. "I just want to play my hardest and hope my teammates feed off me."
WELCOME TO THE NFL, BRANDON
On the Cardinals' first series, right tackle Brandon Keith – who has only briefly played in four NFL regular-season games in two years – got crossed up in his footwork and was run over by Texans defensive end Mario Williams, surrendering a sack.
It was an embarrassing moment for Keith, but he said it actually was good it happened.
"That hasn't happened to me since I was a sophomore in high school," Keith said. "The saddest thing about it … yes he's a good football player, but I should've trusted my sets from the get-go instead of (overthinking it)."
Keith said the play "woke him up."
"I know my lesson now," Keith said. "Just because a guy is a speed rusher doesn't mean he won't bull you, and just because he's a bull-rusher doesn't mean he won't run past you."
Whisenhunt called it a "learning experience."
"We try to get those things simulated in practice but you're going against a good guy in Mario," Whisenhunt said. "The thing I like about (Brandon) is that he was mad and he came back and he knew exactly why he had the problem."
Whisenhunt said he was only going to leave backup quarterback Derek Anderson in for the start of the third quarter after the offense had so few first-half plays. But Whisenhunt ended up leaving Anderson in deep into the fourth quarter, allowing the first-year Cardinal to throw 22 passes by the end of the game. Anderson's final pass was a two-yard TD throw to running back Beanie Wells.
"I just wanted to keep him in there until I felt he was getting into a bit of a rhythm," Whisenhunt said. "Obviously that drive down for a touchdown was a good litmus test to see how he would respond to that."
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald hurt his right knee but he said he would be fine. Whisenhunt said the Cards will be cautious. The team reported no other injuries. …
Stephen Spach was the starting tight end with Ben Patrick (knee) out. …
Saturday night's win was Whisenhunt's first preseason victory at home – which the coach noted off the top of his head before beginning his press conference.
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