FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- The Cardinals might not know who will start at quarterback for Arizona this weekend at New England. But to the Patriots, it doesn’t much matter.
John Skelton? Kevin Kolb? Either way, the Patriots have a challenge in front of them.
"He’s a good quarterback, let’s get that understood right now," New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork said of Kolb, the favorite for Sunday. "But that whole offense, they have weapons -- from the backs to the tight ends to the receivers. Up front, they know what they’re doing."
After a strong finish last year, Skelton beat out Kolb for the starting spot in preseason, but left Arizona’s season opener Sunday against Seattle in the fourth quarter with a sprained right ankle. Kolb came off the bench and orchestrated an 80-yard drive, going 6 of 8 for 66 yards, including the game-winning 6-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts with 4:59 to play.
Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt Wednesday wouldn’t confirm the swirling speculation surrounding his starter, though it appears Kolb has the inside track.
"We still have some days before we play. John is continuing to improve. We were lucky that it was a low ankle sprain and he’s getting better. We’ll see how it goes as the week progresses," Whisenhunt said. "It doesn’t matter who plays. They have to be ready."
So, too, do the Patriots. New England, trying to shake a
The Patriots have put in preparations for both Skelton and Kolb, knowing they’ll have their hands full with either. Especially considering one of them will be throwing to All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
"They’re both good players and they’ve won with both players and we’ll have to be ready for whoever they put in there. We can’t control that," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "I think their skillsets are a little bit different, but the offense is the same and certainly when Kolb came in last week, they didn’t change their offense. They continued to do what they do. We have to defend the other 10 guys as well as the quarterback."
Spending time during the week studying a pair of quarterbacks can take away from other important defensive areas. And the preparation becomes even more daunting before a game against an unfamiliar opponent. The Patriots and Cardinals haven’t met since 2008, when Arizona lost 47-7.
"At the end of the day, you have to go out there and play the game," New England linebacker Jerod Mayo said. "And whoever’s playing, we’ll be ready for." New England offensive line has tough act to follow
There was plenty of uncertainty surrounding the New England Patriots offensive line before the season began.
Familiar faces were gone. Others were injured. Youth was taking over.
After a season-opening win over Tennessee last week, one thing is now certain. The New England line sure can block.
Amid questions and concern, the line spearheaded an explosive rushing attack, paving the way for Stevan Ridley and the rest of the Patriots running backs to rack up 162 yards on 35 carries.
Not to mention quarterback Tom Brady was hit just four times, including one sack.
"The guys that were in there last weekend competed extremely hard for the entire game. I thought they performed great," Brady said. "I had a lot of time back there to make my reads and make my throws. Communication was great, especially playing on the road in your first game.
"I have a ton of confidence in those guys. I always have."
Ridley likely does now, too. The second-year running back had career highs of 21 carries and 125 yards and also scored a touchdown, igniting the Patriots’ best rushing performance since totaling 183 yards in a win over Oakland on Oct. 2, 2011. New England’s offensive line now hopes to carry the momentum into Sunday’s home opener against the Cardinals and their blitz-heavy pass rush, led by three-time Pro Bowl tackle Darnell Dockett.
"Every yard we get this week is going to be really earned," left guard Logan Mankins said. "It’s going to be a tough challenge."
It may be more difficult than usual.
Right guard Dan Connelly left Sunday’s game with a head injury and did not practice Wednesday. He returned to the practice field for limited participation on Thursday and his status for Sunday’s game is up in the air. If Connelly can’t play, Donald Thomas may fill in, which is nothing new to the fifth-year guard.
"With my situation, just starting to play center and getting used to that and being able to fill in where I can in the interior line, you just never know what can happen each week. You’ve got to be ready to go," he said. "I think we all understand that and we all know we can play multiple positions."
Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, may be trying to contain the 31-year-old Dockett, who had five tackles in the Arizona’s Week 1 win over Seattle.
With a 6-foot-4, 290-pound frame, Dockett boasts the strength and speed to wreak havoc in New England’s backfield.
"He’s fast, he can move, he’s strong," Thomas said. "He has a good combination of size and speed and I think that’s what makes him such an elite player."
Mankins, coming off offseason surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, said he’s "surviving" and is making progress week by week. As for which is more fun for an offensive lineman -- pass or run blocking -- Mankins served up a response typical of New England’s locker room.
"Anytime you win, it’s fun," he said. "So we’re willing to do whatever it takes to win."