Coach Ken Whisenhunt wants to take his time to evaluate his team for 2010.
Quick judgments don't interest Ken Whisenhunt.
They can't. There are too many new pieces for the head coach of the Cardinals. They shouldn't. Training camp lasts a month and four preseason games, so there is no reason to rush.
"Last year we knew we'd be able to operate a certain way offensively," said Whisenhunt, who with his team heads up to Flagstaff Friday for camp, with practice beginning Saturday afternoon. "We had an idea we'd be better in our scheme defensively because of some of our adjustments. This year, we don't know that, so we have to keep an open mind."
Whisenhunt hears, for example, everyone saying the Cards will be run-first, run-often this season with Matt Leinart instead of Kurt Warner at quarterback. That is an option, of course. But the coach refuses to lock himself into it just yet.
"A lot of people have said we can't throw the football like we have," Whisenhunt said. "I'm not [ready to necessarily say that because we have to see what our guys can do. That's all part of the intrigue.
"Defensively, we have a number of new players. Are we going to be better in pass defense? Are we going to be able to stop the run? Those are all things that will take time to find out – what our strengths are going to be, what we need to work on."
Much has changed since the Cards last were in Flagstaff. Last year the Cards were coming off a Super Bowl appearance and kept the base of their roster intact. This year, significant players have come and gone with a team that won 10 games and a second straight division title.
For a coach, there could be a certain thrill in restructuring what is on hand – especially one like Whisenhunt who signed a lucrative contract extension in March, solidifying his job security. But Whisenhunt grins slightly when asked if there is a certain thrill with trying to rebuild on the fly.
"That's a tough question," he said. "It's not a thrill because there are a lot of guys who have made a lot of contributions to our overall success the last couple of years that aren't here and that is tough. On the flip side, you have a lot invested in some young guys and you are excited to see how they handle their new role.
"I think we are a better team than we were three-and-a-half years ago. We are deeper, our younger guys are better prepared to play, and there is excitement to see what they do. The thing you are nervous about but also what you are excited about is how is this team going to come together? What's our identity going to be?"
Whisenhunt is encouraged by what he has to work with, however. He likes the young players that are being home-grown to replace departed stars. He likes that the team has a whole has been through some difficult situations the past two seasons that will help it when new problems arise. He likes the veterans brought in – like linebacker Joey Porter and guard Alan Faneca – who he has seen first-hand perform well under pressure.
Whisenhunt knows there are questions swirling around his team. He's got some himself. But he thinks about winning four of six postseason games the past two seasons and believes that means something when wed with the talent that remains in the locker room.
"It establishes a belief that, no matter what division you play in, you are a pretty good team," Whisenhunt said. "It's not so much about people not picking us to win our division but about who we are and what we believe we can do. Our guys believe we can win. What matters is how we play together."
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