The Cardinals official site continues their Coaches Corner series with head coach Ken Whisenhunt. It's a good time to get his thoughts considering he's entering his second training camp with what looks like, on paper anyways, as the best Cardinal team in quite some time. Here's a few of the questions that intrigued me:
Q: Brooke Georgetti asked, How do you feel Matt Leinart is progressing after missing most of last season?
A: "It has been a very good spring for Matt. Physically he looks very good. He is strong and throwing the ball well. He is suffering no ill effects from his shoulder and I think he has worked diligently in the strength and conditioning program with John Lott so he is bigger, stronger and is moving around very well. I think from that standpoint he is much further along. I have also been very pleased with his mental preparation and his growth in that area. This started when he was injured last year and the amount of time he put in during the season. The thing I really like is you see confidence in him on the field because he is more comfortable with the system and when he steps into the huddle and calls the plays there is a different presence about him now. Now we still have to translate that into games but I’ve been very encouraged."
Q: Brad Jensen asked, What is the biggest change you see in your team this year, compared to last year at this time?
A: "Confidence. Confidence in the system but also in themselves. I think last year I felt like we had good players but didn’t know how they were going to respond in different situations. Another good example is how our team came back in games early in the season like
Baltimore, like , where we trailed and came back and had a chance at the end of the game. I think our team now believes, especially because of winning the last two at home and getting to 8-8, believes that we can win the way we are doing it." Washington
These were my two favorites questions because obviously Leinart's progression as an NFL quarterback is a key not only to the Cardinals success in 2008 but also for the extended future. The second question also stood out because confidence seemed like something that was seriously lacking in 2007 and so far through off season workouts, that doesn't seem to be the case at all. Reports have been that practices were crisp and players seemed more comfortable with the coaches and drills. While talk doesn't mean much in June, it's encouraging to hear the head coach sound....well for lack of a better term, confident in his team. What did you think?
(To read more of the questions and answers, click below)
Q: Michel Wall asked, I know there are so many things a head coach of a NFL team is responsible for but what do you think is the single most important duty that your are responsible for?
A: “Managing the team, as far as eliminating distractions with your team and probably the biggest thing is getting your team on the same page and believing in what you are doing. I feel like we made big strides in that last year. We got to 8-8 doing it the way we believed we could do it as a coaching staff. The players believe that because we did have success. If you can get the group working together with one mission, believing in what you are doing and how you do it that is your toughest challenge as a coach because you have a number of different personalities.”
Q: John Baker, season ticket holder since year one in Arizona, asked, Do you really need four preseason games to get the team ready for the regular season? Would you be in favor of a shorter preseason?
A: “I personally prefer the four preseason games because we use it as a tool to evaluate our young players. A lot of times with your starters you still want to get them in the flow of a game, so they do play some in the games but it is a great opportunity for us to evaluate guys like a Steve Breaston, who we think is going to be a good player for us. There is only so much you can get out of a practice atmosphere. You really need some competition against other NFL players that are not on your team.”
Q: Baily99 asked, You've got the best core of coaches and players I've seen on this team in over a decade. What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the current roster?
A: “The biggest strength is we have better depth overall with our football team as opposed to where we were a year ago. Right now our biggest weakness is probably we’re going to count on some young guys to play for us. Their transition into being good football players, I don’t know how long that is going to take and if we have to count on some of those guys early in the season that sometimes is difficult.”
Q: David Corcoran, Dublin, Republic of Ireland asked, What was the most valuable lesson you learned from your rookie campaign as a head coach last year, and how does it influence you going forward?
A: “The most valuable lesson I learned is that there is a lot more that goes into this job than just football and managing a game from a standpoint of you’re dealing with the entire game; offense, defense, special teams. As I go into the second year I think I’ll be much better as the overall manager of the game. Just being better prepared for situations, not so much from the standpoint of football situations because I think we did a pretty good job of that, more so with things that are going on off the field like travel. When are we going to leave when we play on the East Coast? What to expect of our team when we have injuries? Things like that.”