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Scouting report: Arizona Cardinals


Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are a dynamic duo at receiver for the Arizona Cardinals

The Texans (2-2) travel to Glendale on Sunday for a Week 5 showdown with the Arizona Cardinals (1-2) at 3 p.m. CT.
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt and the Cardinals were off in Week 4 after getting drummed 31-10 by the Colts in Week 3. Their lone victory of the season was a Week 2 triumph at Jacksonville.

Whisenhunt is in his third season as head coach of the Cardinals. In his first year in Arizona, Whisenhunt led the Cardinals to an 8-8 mark in 2007, and 2008 was even better as Arizona secured the franchise's first postseason appearance since 1998 with a 9-7 mark. It ended with the team's first-ever conference title and Super Bowl appearance.

OFFENSE Quarterback: Starter Kurt Warner is in his 12th NFL season and fifth in Arizona. The last time out, Warner was 30-of-52 for 332 yards and a touchdown against Indianapolis. But he also tossed a pair of interceptions and was sacked four times in the loss, finishing up with a passer rating of 67.2. It was a stark contrast from his Week 2 performance at Jacksonville, when he set the NFL record for completion percentage in a single game as he connected on 24 of his 26 passes (92.3 percent), including his first 15 in a row. Warner's thrown four touchdown passes on the season, but he has added four interceptions as well.

In 2008, Warner established the Cardinals regular season franchise records for attempts (598), completions (401), completion percentage (67.1), passer rating (96.9), touchdown passes (30) and consecutive games with a touchdown pass (22). He also passed for 4,583 yards, the second-highest total in franchise history.

Running back: The Cardinals ranked last in the league in rushing last year. Through the first three games of 2009, they're struggling again.

Tim Hightower leads the way on the ground with 109 yards on 32 attempts. His best game of the young season came in the victory over the Jaguars, when he carried 15 times for 72 yards and a touchdown. Hightower has the only Cardinals rushing score of the season.

Hightower is a weapon catching the football and showed his skills in the season opener by catching 12 passes for a whopping 121 yards versus the 49ers. In all, he's caught a team-best 20 passes for 172 yards this year. In 2008, Hightower gained 399 yards on 143 attempts with 10 touchdowns.

The Cardinals used their first-round draft selection on running back Beanie Wells out of Ohio State, and the rookie ball-carrier has picked up 71 yards on 16 carries. In his three seasons as a Buckeye, Wells carried the ball 585 times for 3,382 yards (5.8 avg.) and 30 TDs.

Wide receiver: Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are two of the top wide receivers in the league and are the Cardinals' biggest offensive threats.

Fitzgerald has logged a team-high 181 receiving yards courtesy of 17 catches, two of which have been touchdowns. In the two Cardinals' losses, the former Pittsburgh Panther notched 70-plus yards receiving. He tallied just 34 yards in the victory against the Jaguars.

In 2008, Fitzgerald led the NFC in both receptions and receiving yards, hauling in 96 balls for a career-high 1,431 yards. He also established a career-high with 12 touchdown receptions during the regular season. As good as his regular season was, it was just a glimpse of what was to come as Fitzgerald had one of the best postseasons of any player in NFL history during the Cardinals' run to Super Bowl XLIII, shattering the NFL single-postseason record for receptions (30), receiving yards (546) and receiving touchdowns (7).

Boldin has 16 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown in 2009. His best game so far came against the Colts, when he grabbed six catches for 83 yards.

Boldin became the fastest player to reach 500 receptions last year, when the former Florida State Seminole hauled in number 500 in only his 80th NFL game. That was nine games faster than the previous record held by Denver Broncos receiver Lionel Taylor, which had stood for 43 years. Boldin has eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark in four of the six previous seasons.

After being inactive in Week 1 because of a knee injury, Steve Breaston returned to the field with an 83-yard receiving afternoon against Jacksonville, and a 94-yard performance against the Colts. The former Michigan Wolverine has yet to find the end zone this season. In 2008, Breaston finished with 1,008 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

Tight end: Anthony Becht leads all Cardinals tight ends with 27 yards, while Stephen Spach has 16 yards. Neither has scored a touchdown. Becht is a 10-year veteran and played in all 16 games each of his first nine seasons in the NFL, starting 119 games during that span.

Offensive line: Up front, the Cardinals have allowed seven sacks in 2009, and all of those came in their two losses. From left to right, Mike Gandy lines up at tackle, Reggie Wells is the guard, former Texas Longhorn Lyle Sendlein is the center, and Deuce Lutui and Levi Brown round out the line. All five players started every game of the 2008 campaign.

DEFENSE Defensive line: The Cardinals employ a 3-4 defense and feature Calais Campbell at defensive end and Darnell Dockett and Bryan Robinson as defensive tackles.

Dockett has a sack and eight total tackles so far in 2009. Last year, for the fourth straight season he started all 16 games and all four postseason contests. Dockett also registered a team-high 13 quarterback hits and led all defensive linemen with 55 tackles and a career-best three fumble recoveries (tied for second-most in the NFC) during the regular season. He emerged as a 15-game starter for the Cardinals in his rookie season, and his current run of 65 consecutive starts is the longest active streak on the team. Dockett was named to the Pro Bowl following the 2007 season and was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2008.

Robinson is a 13-year veteran of the NFL. He has four total tackles through the first three games. Last year, in his first season as a Cardinal, Robinson registered 15 starts in 16 regular season games and earned his first playoff victory while starting all four postseason contests.

Campbell has tallied 11 total tackles in 2009. The the departure of Antonio Smith to the Texans provided Campbell the opportunity to compete for a starting job in 2009. As a rookie in 2008, he played in all 16 regular season games and four postseason games as a reserve defensive end and special teams contributor, finishing fourth on the team with 16 special teams tackles during the regular season.

Linebacker: Outside linebacker Chike Okeafor has been bothered with a shoulder injury the last two games and hasn't registered any statistics since Week 1, when he was extremely active with seven tackles and a sack against San Francisco.

After missing all of 2007 with a biceps injury, Okeafor came back in 2008 and started all 20 games, recording a career-high 76 tackles during the regular season in his first full year at linebacker Okeafor was originally picked by the 49ers in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft (89th overall).

Middle linebacker Karlos Dansby has 21 tackles in the first three games, along with half of a sack. Against the Colts in Week 3, he notched nine tackles.

Last season, Dansby established a career-high with 128 tackles, leading the team in that category for the second consecutive season and recording his third 100-tackle campaign in his five NFL seasons. He also started all 20 games played in 2008, marking the first time in his career he played in all 16 regular season games. Dansby was named defensive team captain prior to the season opener and recorded a team-high 37 tackles and six tackles for loss during the postseason.

The other starter at middle linebacker is Gerald Hayes, and he has 22 total tackles in 2009. He tallied 10 in the opener against the 49ers. In 2008, he started 14 of 16 games and all four postseason contests, recording his third straight 100-plus tackle season. Hayes finished third on the team with 107 tackles during the regular season and set a career-high with four forced fumbles. In 2006, Hayes led the team in tackles (111) despite missing the final two games.

Outside linebacker Clark Haggans has 13 total tackles this season. He saw his first season in Arizona cut short after 11 games due to an injured left foot, marking the fewest games played since his rookie year of 2000. He did make one of the biggest defensive plays of the 2008 season, stopping 49ers running Michael Robinson at the two-yard line on a goal-line stand as time ran out during the Cardinals 29-24 victory over San Francisco on Monday Night Football in Week 10.

Secondary: Strong safety Adrian Wilson, free safety Antrel Rolle and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie make for a very talented defensive backfield. Rodgers-Cromartie led the team in interceptions in 2008 with four, including one that he returned 99yards for a touchdown vs. St. Louis.

So far in 2009, Rodgers-Cromartie has picked off one pass, which came at Jacksonville. He also has tallied 12 total tackles and forced a fumble.

He had a standout rookie year, starting 11 of 16 games played during the regular season and all four postseason contests. Rodgers-Cromartie registered two interceptions at Seattle in Week 11 to become the first Cardinals rookie since cornerback Aeneas Williams in 1991 to have two interceptions in a game.

Wilson has 11 total tackles through three games, along with half of a sack and a forced fumble. Last year, he started 14 of 15 games played during the regular season and all four postseason games and earned his second trip to the Pro Bowl. Wilson is the longest-tenured Cardinal and enters 2009 with 118 career games played, 651 total tackles,18 career interceptions,18.5 career sacks and four touchdowns.

In the month of September, Rolle was very much a playmaker as he tallied 13 total tackles, intercepted a Peyton Manning pass and returned it 28 yards and forced a fumble against Jacksonville. The former cornerback started all 16 regular season games for the second time in his career last season, as well as all four postseason contests. He finished second on the team with a career-high 119 tackles during the regular season.

Special teams: Neil Rackers enters his seventh season kicking for the Cardinals after spending his first three years with Cincinnati. Rackers totaled 119 points a year ago, connecting on 89.3 percent (25-of-28) of his field goals including a long of 54 yards. Ben Graham punted in four games for the Cardinals last year and currently has the fourth highest punting average in the NFL at 50.3 yards through three games.

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