FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — 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 poor season defensively last year, is off to a good start. The Patriots held Tennessee to 284 yards and 16 first downs in a 34-13 win in Week 1.
“We see a lot of things on film that he poses a threat to,” Wilfork said of Kolb. “So, we’re going to have to do a real good job defensively trying to slow him down.”
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.”
Mayo is impressed with Kolb, especially after last week’s winning drive.
“He has starter skills,” Mayo said. “He can make all the throws, he can run around, throw on the run. He’s a dangerous player.”
NOTES: Former wide receiver Troy Brown will become the 19th member inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame prior to Sunday’s game. One of the most versatile players in franchise history, Brown also played on special teams and defensive back. He finished second on the team with three interceptions. He was a key member of all three of New England’s Super Bowl winning teams. … New England won its home opener last year, 35-21 over San Diego.