TEMPE – Arizona doesn’t have just two pass rushers honing in on opposing quarterbacks from both ends of the defense. The Cardinals have four.
Not at the same time, of course, but the team has four players who can split time at positions where pressuring quarterbacks from the edge is a prime objective.
The team brought in Travis LaBoy and Clark Haggans as free agents this season to join Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor as a formidable pass-rushing force.
“Travis said it yesterday,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “He considers Bert and himself the same guy – both No. 1s. We feel very good about that position. It’s one of our strong points.”
In last week’s 23-13 victory over San Francisco, Berry knocked the ball out of quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan’s hands and had a sack. Late in the game, LaBoy sacked Sullivan, then recovered the quarterback’s fumble. It was one of two sacks for LaBoy.
In Arizona’s defensive scheme, LaBoy and his backup, Berry, are defensive ends, while Okeafor and backup Haggans are labeled linebackers.
LaBoy was arguably the team’s biggest signing in a mostly unremarkable offseason. He came to the Cardinals after four seasons with Tennessee. Haggans signed with Arizona after eight seasons with Pittsburgh, the last four as a starter.
Berry, meanwhile, accepted a considerable pay cut to stay with the team after missing most of the past three seasons with injuries. He made the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Cardinals in 2004.
Okeafor, signed as a free agent in 2005 after two years with Seattle and four with San Francisco, missed all of last season because of a biceps injury.
So all four were essentially new to the defense this year.
They give the Cardinals a chance to rest players at a crucial position so they are fresh when it counts the most.
“The depth of our outside backers really helps us,” Whisenhunt said after the team practiced Thursday in preparation for Sunday’s home opener against Miami. “We saw evidence of that in the game (against San Francisco) because the guys were really fresh.
“We talk about being able to close out games, especially if we’re up on a team and a team has to throw the ball, we feel like we can get pressure off the edge.”
Berry said the situation benefits everyone.
“During a given game you’re going to play 60 to 70 plays. That’s too much to ask to be relentless out there on the field. You have to get that you can come out refreshed and you know the guy behind you is going to do the same thing,” Berry said. “So it’s a good situation to be in. I think we’ll be better for it as a team.”
Titans’ Young not ‘depressed’
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans quarterback Vince Young insists he never wavered in his commitment to football.
All that concern over his mental state? He says he was upset as he dealt with his first serious injury, and he didn’t realize he had to tell his mother where he was going anymore.
Then the media went overboard.
Young spoke publicly Thursday for the first time since Titans coach Jeff Fisher called police for help in locating the quarterback Monday night because of concerns over his emotional well-being.
His mother, Felicia Young, also told a local newspaper that the quarterback had indicated he didn’t want to play football anymore because of all the negativity he faced.
“I was never depressed,” Young said.
He took questions from reporters for 16 minutes after watching his teammates practice. His message? Don’t question his commitment.
“Football, this is my life. This is my dream. All I did all these years growing up to get to this point and never had an injury like this before in my life,” he said.
“It’s a hard time because I’m a competitor, and I definitely want to be out on the football field with my teammates.”
Jaguars’ Porter could play
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Receiver Jerry Porter is expected to make his Jacksonville debut Sunday, and it might come at a good time for the Jaguars.
Former Arizona Wildcat Dennis Northcutt (back injury) and Troy Williamson (thigh) missed practice Thursday, leaving the Jaguars with just three healthy receivers – Matt Jones, Reggie Williams and Mike Walker – heading into Sunday’s home opener against Buffalo.
Porter, meanwhile, has practiced on his surgically repaired hamstring without any setbacks the past two weeks.
That’s a good sign for a team desperate to find a deep threat to prevent opponents from stacking the line of scrimmage against running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.
Haynesworth going slow
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth missed a second straight practice because of a mild concussion as the Tennessee Titans stay cautious with his recovery.