Ken Whisenhunt: “Players are getting excited about the opportunity to make some plays and erase the 5-11 season from our mindset.September 9, 2011 – 9:00 am by Steven Cuce
It’s out with the old and in with the new for Ken Whisenhunt and the Arizona Cardinals as Arizona tries to erase the memory of their dismal 5-11 season in the putrid NFC West last season. It sure didn’t help that the Cardinals had some real poor play at the quarterback position. Rod Graves went out and aggressively tried to correct that problem by trading for Kevin Kolb. The jury is still out on whether Kolb can lead a football team, but the Whis is extremely happy about his team’s play in the preseason. He is confident Kolb can take on this challenge and is encouraged by his enthusiasm.
We’ll see how excited the Cardinals are to start a new season when they take on the Carolina Panthers this Sunday. This game is being dubbed as the safest pick in any survivor pool if you partake in that sort of thing. It’s hard to envision Cam Newton leading the Panthers to a victory in his first start, but this is the NFL. Whisenhunt is faced with a tough challenge in preparing for a team with a whole new coaching staff and a rookie quarterback meaning there’s no tape to study on his opponent.
Ken Whisenhunt joined KTAR in Phoenix with Doug and Wolf to discuss what Chester Taylor brings to the Arizona Cardinals offense, where the Cardinals offense stands before the first regular season game, game planning against the Carolina Panthers with a new head coach in John Fox and a rookie quarterback in Cam Newton, his first impressions of Cam Newton and the feeling in the Cardinals locker-room at the start of the 2011 regular season.
What does Chester Taylor bring to this team?
“Well he’s a veteran that has been very successful in the league in a number of different roles. That is what we needed. I mean we got some young guys and obviously when Ryan Williams got injured it created a little bit of a void from that standpoint. We still feel good about where Alfonso Smith is, but to have the opportunity to get a veteran presence in here that can help us in a number of different areas whether it is first or second down carries or as a third down back or in a rotational style situation. He is a known quantity from my perspective, from what we have seen of him and I think it is a good fit for us.
Where do you feel the offense is right now after no OTA’s or off-season workouts?
“Well I guess we will find out Sunday? I think we have a new quarterback. We’ve got a number of missed practices that we don’t have that we usually have been able to get extra reps or implement more of our schemes, but I like the feel that we have with this group of guys. I like…the thing that I am really encouraged about is the number of plays we made in the preseason. That’s exciting because it’s a number of different guys. I think we are going to be an offense…this game is going to be difficult from the standpoint that we don’t really know what we are going to get a bit like preseason. Even though we are game planning you don’t know specifically what to game plan for, but I think we are going to grow and I think we are going to grow rapidly. I hope there is a situation in this game that we make some plays early and get some confidence and continue to build our group, but I like our offense. I think that we are going to be a good offense and that’s exciting after the struggles we had last season.”
How do you game plan against a new head coach, defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator and a rookie quarterback?
“There’s one thing you have to be careful about and that’s chasing ghosts. You go back and you look at other teams that these coaches were with and the schemes that they ran and you look at what they did in preseason in the second and third games and try to see is it similar? Is it the same type of philosophy? Just try to get an idea of what they are going to do and then you just draw on your knowledge or your experience in what you expect to face in the first game, so there’s a lot of different variables you are looking at. There is no known evidence of what they are going to do in a regular season game, which most of the time you play your first game and you don’t ever know for sure, but a lot of times you’ll at least have experience with a staff or with a player that you would know what they did the year before and we don’t have that. It’s going to be a little bit of an experimentation of trying to find out or things we are going to have to adjust to in the game, but that’s all part of it. We’ve experienced that before. I think the one thing is we got some veteran players. We have been able to this whole period of 4 or 5 weeks. We’ve been together and it has been one big adjustment for our team. We have been fighting through that for a number of weeks. I think that will help prepare us for this first game.”
What do you see when you look at Cam Newton?
“I think he’s a guy you gotta make sure you understand he can hurt you with his feet. As far as a guy who’s going to drop back and throw the football and win games for them right now like you see some of the veteran quarterbacks? That’s tough. That’s tough for a young player, but when things break down he can move in the pocket and he can chew up some yardage getting down the field. You’ve seen that in preseason games, so I think he’s a guy you gotta make sure you are very disciplined in your rush lanes, in your contain and understand you don’t want to let him create big plays with his feet and try to make beat you by playing a normal quarterback game. He’s a good football player. There’s a reason he was taken with the first pick in the draft and there’s going to be an adjustment for a young player just like there is with all young players and it’ll be an interesting chess match this first game.”
What’s the feeling in the locker-room right now? Can you even gauge that?
“Well I sense that there is an excitement about our team. I sense that from our fans, which is fabulous. The attendance we had in the pre-season games and that atmosphere you could see that building and that’s really exciting, but from our players I sense an excitement about the group of guys that we have. I think there is some confidence. Like I said when you hit an 80-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald, when you hit a 34-yard reverse for a touchdown, when Kevin Kolb comes in here and has the type of confidence that carries over to the defense. Then you have defensive guys making players like Patrick Peterson’s interception return or some the sacks we got whether it was Darnell Dockett or Calais Campbell or a O’Brien Schofield or some of those plays. I think those players are getting excited about the opportunity to make some plays and erase the 5-11 season from our mindset. From that standpoint that is my gauge. How solid that feeling is? How can we weather some of the down times? Every seasons has its ups-and-downs. It’s not always easy, but I feel like we have a pretty strong group as far as believing in themselves and hopefully that’ll translate into playing well Sunday.”