Matt Ware’s experience on defense is limited. As a rookie in Philadelphia, he got a chunk of playing time at both cornerback and safety in the final two games of 2004 after the Eagles had clinched home field.
Last season, he was the Eagles' dime defensive back, playing when the team needed six defensive backs on the field.
But the Cardinals will give him his first start Sunday against St. Louis, playing cornerback opposite Antrel Rolle.
“It’s an opportunity I have been waiting for,” Ware said.
Normal starter Eric Green is out with a groin pull. Former starter David Macklin remains buried on the depth chart, although Macklin should be active for the Rams’ game. Robert Tate has remained the Cards’ nickel cornerback since the season began.
Like the 6-foot-1 Rolle, Ware is a big (6-2) corner.
The Cards like to use a cover 2 zone defense that allows players like Ware and Rolle to come up and use their physical nature to rough up receivers.
The Rams, meanwhile, have not had a lot of deep downfield plays yet from their top wideouts; Torry Holt’s longest catch in two games is for 23 yards.
Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck joked after playing the Cardinals that the Cards did so many crazy things on defense it was almost worthless to study film ahead of time. Rams running back Steven Jackson wouldn’t go that far, but he acknowledged defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast makes preparing for the Cards difficult.
“He’s going to make you spend times studying things he may not throw at you but you have to because he ran it,” Jackson said. “We have to take a look at what he did, and kind of be mad scientists ourselves, thinking what else he could possibly dial up.”
That clearly gives the Cardinals an advantage as long as they execute their defense.
“The element of surprise in war,” linebacker Orlando Huff said, “is always a good thing.”
SLOW TO START
In 16 games last season, the Cardinals surrendered touchdowns on the first drive of the game seven times, including the first three games.
They gave up touchdowns on the first drive of the second half eight times.
So it isn’t surprising — albeit still a problem — that the Cardinals have allowed both their opponents to drive for TDs to open the game.
“Last year . . . we always seemed to be in the wrong spot,” coach Dennis Green said. “It also has to do with whipping your man. Do that, you stop them right away, stop their momentum.”
NOT THE SAME
Quarterback Kurt Warner made his name with the Rams, but since he hasn’t played for the franchise since 2003 and got to face them twice last season with the Cards, facing his former team doesn’t carry the same weight.
“So many things have changed,” Warner said. “I don’t feel there is any stronger connection now. (Arizona) is my home, this is my team. What happened in St. Louis was a long time ago.”
Jackson, on playing in new Cardinals Stadium for the first time Sunday: “I was an architect major, so I might be checking out the dome a little too much.” . . .
Linebacker James Darling (calf) also skipped Friday’s walkthrough and won’t play Sunday. . . .
Starting Rams defensive end Anthony Hargrove, who went AWOL from practice Thursday and then missed a subsequent meeting with coach Scott Linehan, will not play Sunday. Offensive tackle Orlando Pace, who had been suffering the aftereffects of a concussion, will play.