Coach displeased as Cardinals resume training camp

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FLAGSTAFF, ARIZ. (AP) - Coach Ken Whisenhunt had some strong criticism for his starters’ performance _ between the ears _ as the Arizona Cardinals began their final week of training camp.

His displeasure stemmed from Saturday night’s preseason opener against Houston, when the Cardinals fell behind 16-0 before backups rallied the team to a 19-16 victory. He said the two-time defending NFC West champions need “more of a sense of urgency from the mental standpoint of our game.”

“There were a couple of times in the first half offensively that it was a joke, to be quite honest with you,” Whisenhunt said on Monday. “Plays that we have run 25 times in two weeks, it looked like it was the first time we had run them.”

The coach lamented players who lined up wrong on offense or were in the wrong alignment on defense. The offense drew most of his ire.

“I was disappointed that we were not more effective in the first half and I was certainly not pleased that we put the ball on the ground the second play,” Whisenhunt said. “That to me is unacceptable.”

Quarterback Matt Leinart stumbled after the snap and the result was a botched handoff to Tim Hightower that lost 11 yards.

Whisenhunt acknowledged that a lineman stepped on Leinart’s foot, but noted that Kurt Warner often survived such situations.

“A lot of times you’ll see that happen, the center steps on the quarterback’s foot,” Whisenhunt said. “But I don’t take that as an excuse. They’re good enough athletes that if that happens we can still get the ball off. I mean, how many times did we see Kurt falling down, especially near the goal line, and still getting the ball out. And Kurt was not as athletically gifted as some of the guys out there now. That’s the standard we expect, we expect them to get the ball handed off.”

It’s not the first nor will it be the last time that Leinart is compared with Warner, who finished his career with two spectacular years for Arizona before retiring after last season.

Matt, unfortunately, had to go through some mistakes by other teammates,” Whisenhunt said. “That affected the way we played, but quarterbacks have to overcome that. … It wasn’t good enough. That wasn’t a reflection of a player individually as much as it was our team. When you don’t have success offensively it falls on the quarterback, much like when you do have success, they get credit for it.”

Leinart, on the other hand, was far less critical of himself.

“I thought I did OK,” he said. “I was confident in the huddle and comfortable.”

Leinart completed six of seven passes for 49 yards but was sacked twice by Mario Williams.

After the team’s miserable first possession, Leinart directed the Cardinals from their 21 to the Houston 32 but new kicker Jay Feeley missed a 50-yard field goal. The team went three-and-out in Leinart’s final series.

“We’ll have to watch the film and really dissect and learn from it and just clean it up,” he said. “But like I said it’s the first preseason game and we’re going to get better. I don’t think we’re worried about that. We’ve just got to build off that. You don’t want to go backwards.”

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