The Arizona Cardinals have a simple goal for their first game of the 2011 NFL season, execute. Winning would be nice too, but from a strategic stand point, what coach Ken Whisenhunt is looking for on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers is a high-tempo and few mistakes.
To help that along, he's limited the playbook for this week, "The biggest thing for us in the first game is being able to play fast and execute the plays, no matter what you get," Whisenhunt said. "If you have too many things it dilutes your ability to operate efficiently."
The team understands where it is now and expects to make mistakes. This the first step in the process that will hopefully result in a team that's playing in the postseason according to quarterback Kevin Kolb.
Defensively, there's a lot of respect for what Panther's quarterback Cam Newton can do. Even though this is his first NFL start, they are not taking him for granted. The Cardinals want to be a pressure-oriented defense this year and it will start on Sunday.
The young cornerback duo of A.J. Jefferson and Patrick Peterson is an area of concern for many and Whisenhunt made it clear that Peterson is only starting because of the injury to Greg Toler.
"I think Greg (Toler) got hurt. That's my thoughts on it," Whisenhunt said about Peterson being named a starter. He repeated that it's always need a question of "when" and not "if" with Peterson so now he'll just have to step up sooner.
The bigger test with Newton and the Panters will likely be on the linebackers and safeties. Newton, as we well know, likes to run the ball and is a beast in the open field. He's shown this preseason and in his college career that when he does throw, he often targets that tight ends.
That match-up works well for Arizona as it gives Peterson and Jefferson a bit less pressure in their first NFL start.
- This is only third time the Cardinals have opened the season at home in the last 24 years in Arizona.
- The Cardinals have a seven-game regular season losing streak to the Panthers and are 2-8 against them overall. The last time the Cardinals beat Carolina was in the divisional round of the 2008 playoffs
- "We're by no means there. We've got a lot of work left to do. I'm sure there will be some things in the game we have to learn from...We're not going to show up in Week 1 and be the New England Patriots that won all regular season games." -- Ken Whisenhunt
- "We've just got to get this thing started off right. After last season, after all the new faces around here, we're very excited and focused to make sure we come out on the right foot." -- Kevin Kolb