Arizona Cardinals beat writer Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic joined Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com for an exclusive interview to preview Sunday's clash between the Texans (2-2) and Cardinals (1-2). Somers has covered the Cardinals since the mid-1990's.
Scurfield: Regarding Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald…what do you think of this matchup?
Somers: It's going to be a lot of fun to watch these two guys, obviously. They might be the two best receivers in the game and certainly two of the best younger receivers in the game. Fitzgerald is only 26, I think Andre's only 28. They've both been to three Pro Bowls. Both are big guys who can get down the field. I think Johnson's probably a little more explosive and a little faster, and nobody catches the ball better than Larry Fitzgerald. So it's going to be interesting to see how each of these defenses tries to control these guys.
Scurfield: Do you think it's been tougher for Fitzgerald after the postseason run he had? Does it seem like teams are scheming more this year against him?
Somers: I don't know that they're doing it anymore, but certainly they're doing everything they can to take him away. He's seeing double coverage, bracketed, safety over the top. They're rolling everything toward him and the Cardinals have struggled a little bit in their offense because of that. Early in the season the two other receivers Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston were banged up and not a hundred percent, so teams were able to get by with doing that. The running game hasn't been very good so the play action pass hasn't been a very effective part of their scheme. Larry Fitzgerald's longest catch of the season has been 25 yards, so they're having trouble getting the ball downfield to him. They're going to have to work a lot of shorter stuff. They're really hoping to get a running game going, at least to achieve a mediocre running game to keep it a threat. That's how they were so successful in the playoffs last year. Teams at least had to worry a little bit about the run, and then they were able to get the ball deep to Fitzgerald.
Scurfield: Kurt Warner, aside from that great game he had at Jacksonville, he's had some struggles this year. He's been hit a lot through three games. Do you think he's starting to show his age a little bit?
Somers: You can tell he's a 38-year old quarterback. No question about it. The problem in their two losses at home to the 49ers and the Colts is those teams were able to get to him without blitzing. The 49ers did it with their defensive end Justin Smith and their outside linebacker Harris Harrelson and of course the Colts with Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, they got a couple scores ahead and those guys teed off. I really think where Warner excels is if that offensive line can hold up against a conventional rush and force teams to blitz. He's deadly against the blitz and almost welcomes it. So that will be a real key. First of all, is Mario Williams going to play? How does left tackle Mike Gandy handle him? How does the other tackle Levi Brown handle Antonio Smith and other pass rushers? If the Cardinals can give Kurt Warner time, he'll put up games occasionally like he did in Jacksonville where he was very hot. They've just had problems doing that so far this season.
Scurfield: You mentioned Antonio Smith. Of course a former Cardinal, and he said he's very excited about getting a chance to go after Kurt Warner, even though they're very close friends in Arizona. Texans fans haven't gotten a chance to know Antonio too much just yet. What can you tell us about the type of player he is and the type of person he is off the field as well?
Somers: He's a wonderful guy. He was always great with us. Almost always upbeat and happy. I think they really miss him here. He became an impact player really late in the year. He was a real key to their playoff run. They really miss him more in the locker room. He was a guy that kept everybody loose and was always having fun and he's got a tremendous motor. He plays hard all the time. You really have to admire the way he's made himself into a player. Sometimes you see guys get paid and think they don't deserve it. I think Antonio did deserve what the Texans gave him last year. You're talking about a guy drafted in the low rounds and was cut by this team. Had to go to NFL Europe and come back. So he's taken the long route and finally got rewarded. So good for Antonio. He's a good guy and a pretty good player.
For more of Somers' perspective on the matchup with the Cardinals, click here to visit Podcast Central to listen to the full interview.