Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and RB Beanie Wells conducted conference calls with the New Orleans media today. Whisenhunt discussed the play of his defense, his decision to insert QB Max Hall into the starting lineup on Sunday against New Orleans and the difficulties of repeating as experienced when the Cardinals made Super Bowl XLIII as well as when he was a Super Bowl championship offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh. Wells discussed the quarterback change as well as what his unit has been doing to be more productive.
Is there anything you've seen change with the Saints offense as to why they haven't been as prolific this year?
"I don't see anything. They still look like a pretty successful offense to me. When you have a guy like Drew Brees pulling the trigger, you're always concerned about their ability to make plays. It seems like anytime they need to have something, they'll find a way to get it done."
Looking at the final scores of some of your road games you see some high point totals. But is not completely defensive breakdowns?
"I don't think there's any question it's a little like what happened to us last year in New Orleans. We started off good, we're in the game. We turn it over, give up a couple scores, give up a score on a punt return. That's kind of what happened to us even last week in San Diego. We had two opportunities early in the game to score touchdowns. We had a penalty on one and we threw an interception on another play and we missed a guy open for a touchdown on another one and then we got sacked out of field goal range. You can't afford to do that when you're playing good football teams. That puts us down a little bit and then we're throwing an interception for a touchdown. We had a stripped sack that put them in the territory again. Those kinds of things, they add up and that's what happened to us in Atlanta. We had an interception. We had turnovers. It seems like we've shot ourselves in the foot a number of times and it's been unfortunate. Regardless of that, we haven't played as good defensively as we need to play and it's been our focus on trying to get that fixed."
Can you talk about the quarterback situations in that a matter of months you've gone from a future hall of famer to an undrafted rookie? Does it show that there aren't a lot out there?
"I think that's why so many teams put a premium on that position at finding one. I think that's why you've seen teams give up a lot in trades to get one. That's why teams pick them in the first pick of the draft because they're hard to find. We were very fortunate to have a quarterback that played at an extremely high level for two and a half years for us and when you have to make a change, there's going to be some drop-off, just because of the time and the adjustments you have to make with him. We know there was going to be a little bit of a change. We're working our way through that. It's never easy I don't think to replace a quarterback like that, so we're doing that."
Is the report that you're going to start Max Hall accurate?
"That is accurate. We are going to start Max in this game."
What does he bring and what did you see from him in training camp to make the switch right now?
"There are a number of factors that go into making this decision. I don't want to get into those specifically. Max is a guy that's mature. He's a little bit older than normal rookies are. He's had success at college at a high level. He has confidence in what he's trying to get done. He's done a good job of managing the game, reading what the defenses are giving you and making good, accurate throws. I certainly understand that he hasn't started in a regular season game and going against this defense is probably not the best defense to start a young quarterback against. We're trying to improve as a football team and this is one of the areas where we feel like it's going to help us."
Everybody was wondering if the Saints were going to have rust going into a season after a Super Bowl. I'm sure you heard that question a bunch last year. Is that something you found you did have to combat in the year after the Super Bowl season as well as when you were in Pittsburgh?
"I don't know if rust was the right answer. I think anytime you play in a Super Bowl you have changes in your team and have a number of distractions that you have to overcome. They're 3-1. They're obviously doing a good job of that. That's what's important. Last time at this year we were 2-2. Last year we started the season 1-2. It was difficult because of the expectations for your team and the distractions you face. Each team handles it differently and obviously the Saints are doing a good job of it because at this point they're 3-1 and obviously if they made that kick against Atlanta they'd be 4-0, which is not that easy to do."
You must be pleased with how your team rebounded later in the season. Did things settle down?
"I think we were a team that never had success before and part of the adjustment was dealing with that. I think things did settle down. We relaxed a little bit. We quit pressing trying to be perfect or trying to be that team that everybody (had) the expectations for us and played our game and won some games, which was good for us. We're hoping that we can do that again this year. This is a tough league. Change is always tough. Trying to get everybody on the same page and working as a team is always a challenge, but it's an exciting challenge. I think we have some good young players. Hopefully we'll continue to make progress, even if it doesn't appear that in a couple of games we've made much."
RB Beanie Wells
You guys have had a lot of success over the past two years but this year probably hasn't started the way you guys wanted it to. Does that speak to how tough the NFL is each year?
"Yes but you have to take into account that we are only through the first quarter of the season. We have played four games and we are 2-2, so we are not terrible (laughter) by any means. We still have a lot more season to play and a lot more games to get better at."
There have been some reports that some of the Arizona players aren't happy with the way things are going right now. How is the mental mood in the locker room?
"Personally, I am doing fine. I think we have a locker room full of competitors and competitors want to go out there and win football games and contribute. When we don't do that, frustration starts to build up and sometimes guys, like myself, say things that you shouldn't say. It happens and we are all competitors and we all want to go out there and win."
It was reported that QB Max Hall will get the start for you guys this week. What can you tell us about what he brings to the team?
"Max is definitely a vocal leader. For him to be such a young guy, he still commands the huddle. I am sure he will do well if he gets the opportunity to start this weekend."
The Saints have struggled against the run this season. What can you and running back Tim Hightower do to take advantage of that this weekend?
"We have to stick to our game plan and work hard in practice. If there are opportunities in the run game we have to take advantage of them. We definitely have to stick to our game plan and not do anything out of the ordinary for us. Larry (Fitzgerald) is right here next to me and he says he wants the rock."
Do you guys feel you are still able to present a balanced attack with the changes you guys have had at quarterback and the loss of Anquan Boldin?
"I defiantly think so but it is something that is going to take time. We have to develop a type of chemistry with the changes at quarterback but I think we will be fine. Like I said before, it's a long season and we have time to progress, get better and get comfortable in our positions. I think we will be alright."
Coach Payton and Drew Brees said today that Arizona has a successful system and that they prepare for the system and philosophy that you guys have shown. Do you agree with that?
"In a way but we really can't compare what I agree with or what somebody else says. We have to stick to what we do best and our job and continue to get better in the progress."
I take it from your answer that you guys are still confident in the offensive scheme that you guys are running?
"Definitely - without a doubt. Our coaches do a great job and we have had success in the past and we had our bumps in the road so far but I think we will be alright."
Playing in the Superdome everybody knows that the big advantage is the crowd noise for the home team. Is there any significant advantage for you guys playing at home?
"I definitely hope so this weekend. I am hoping our fans will be riled up at the stadium and cheering us on."
Are you more motivated to win this game knowing it is against the defending Super Bowl Champions?
"I don't think we take it that way. We just want to go out there, play hard and come out with a victory because we haven't done that for a full game this year. Play great from start to finish. That is something we want to accomplish this weekend."
How about playing the team that knocked you guys out of the playoffs this season, does that give you more of an edge?
"Some guys may say it definitely does but not for me. I am taking every game the same. I want to go out there and win regardless of who it is."