Five things I noticed when watching the Arizona Cardinals' 34-10 defeat at Minnesota in their most recent game (Week 5):
Setting tone early matters. The pass Larry Fitzgerald dropped early in the game recalled the field goal try St. Louis missed on its first drive against Green Bay last week. Struggling teams need to get something positive going early. Fitzgerald almost never drops passes. This one hurt.
About those batted passes. Quarterback Kevin Kolb has had too many passes batted near the line of scrimmage this season. One apparently batted pass against the Vikings actually clanked off defensive tackle Kevin Williams' helmet. That's a pretty good indication the quarterback threw too low. Kolb's accuracy seemed wildly inconsistent in this game. That must change. He threw an early pick off a batted pass and a late one when he badly overthrew his receiver after scrambling.
Early Doucet is playing hungry. The third-year receiver becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season. He looks like a guy playing for a new contract. Kolb targeted Doucet 16 times in this game, twice as many times as he targeted any other Arizona player, including Fitzgerald. Kolb targeted Doucet seven times on third down, completing five of them for 57 yards and four first downs. Kolb never targeted Fitzgerald on third down. Doucet is making effort plays. He dove along the sideline and extended the ball in an effort to get a first down, gaining 11 yards on the third-and-12 play. He blocked his man aggressively through the whistle during a special-teams return.
Wilson not really enforcing much. At his best, strong safety Adrian Wilson plays the role of enforcer, dealing out big hits and making quarterbacks pay when they scramble. He made no physically dominant plays in this game, as far as I could tell. The Vikings were ready for Wilson when he blitzed. They didn't have to worry about Wilson lighting up anyone on runs along the sideline. Might Wilson get more pass-rushing opportunities under new coordinator Ray Horton? He has no sacks this season and only 6.5 since 2007. He had 13 over the 2005-06 seasons.
The little things matter. Andre Roberts has made little impact as a starting receiver opposite Fitzgerald. Some of that is understandable. The team loaded up on tight ends this season. Fitzgerald leads the team in targets overall. Doucet has seized third down. One play by Roberts caught my attention even though he wasn't the intended receiver. One play after Doucet's diving extension of the ball gained 11 yards on third-and-12, the Cardinals tried to fool the Vikings with a handoff to Beanie Wells from the shotgun. Roberts tried to block cornerback Asher Allen, but couldn't quite get enough of him. Allen affected Wells just enough to help the Vikings make a stop. Sometimes the Cardinals miss Anquan Boldin more as a blocker than as a receiver.
This item nearly got away from me. Figured it was time to get it posted before Arizona played another game. I'll have an easier time getting to these earlier in the week because I'm not traveling Monday. The plan is to watch games from my home office this weekend.