Arizona quarterback John Skelton has made a believer of Seahawks
John Skelton beat out Kevin Kolb to win the Cardinals' quarterback job. Skelton was 5-2 as Arizona's starter last season, including a victory over Seattle in the season finale.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle @ Arizona, 1:25 p.m., Ch. 13
John Skelton is the man at quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, having beaten out last year's flavor of the day, Kevin Kolb, in a rather lackluster preseason competition.
On the surface, it seems similar to the scenario played out in Seattle, where rookie Russell Wilson prevailed at QB over free-agent signee Matt Flynn, the higher-priced, and higher-profile, candidate.
The difference, however, is that Skelton, no matter how unheralded he might seem, actually has an NFL track record. Not only that, he has a very recent history of success against the Seahawks — guiding the Cardinals to an overtime victory over Seattle in the final game of the 2011 season.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is well aware of the Skelton portfolio — a 5-2 record as a starter last year in place of the injured Kolb (6-2 if you include a Cardinals win over San Francisco in which Skelton played all but one offensive series), and a 5-0 record at home.
"We have a lot of respect for him because of the way he played against us last season," Carroll said. "We do know who he is. You respect his way of managing the pocket. He's very, very good at it."
In fact, the 6-foot-6 Skelton, a fifth-round draft pick in 2010 out of Fordham — that notable football hotbed — has been compared to Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger in his ability to keep a play alive. It is a comparison, and reputation, that pleases him.
"I'm not the fastest guy. I'm not the quickest guy," Skelton said in a conference call with Seattle reporters. "No one is going to confuse me for a speed guy, but at the same time, as far as moving in the pocket, stepping up in the pocket, making one guy miss and keeping plays alive, that's something I do pride myself on.
"I think a lot of guys in our offense kind of feel that even if the play doesn't go exactly as drawn up, there is still a chance of someone getting loose in the secondary or a back getting loose and making someone miss."
Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor believes that elusive quality distinguishes Skelton from Kolb. Skelton had more interceptions last year (14) than touchdown passes (11), but he has led six game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime in his past 10 games (nine starts).
"Skelton does a better job of keeping the ball alive," Chancellor said. "When Kolb was in trouble, he'd take a sack. He was easier to bring down. Skelton is a big guy, and it's harder to bring him down. He'll break a tackle."
With that in mind, Chancellor added, "I know we have to stay with our man at all times."
That goes especially for the peerless wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, whom Skelton calls "about as good a security blanket as you can have. There's times they tell me, 'If you're ever in doubt, go to Larry, and he'll make a play for you.' "
Skelton and Fitzgerald hooked up for nine passes, good for 149 yards, in last season's finale against the Seahawks. Fitzgerald has five 100-yard games against Seattle, including four in the past eight meetings.
"He's been targeted quite a bit, so we have to have great awareness for him," Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. "But it really starts with their run game. If they get their run game going where you have to bring another guy in the box to defend it, now that opens it up for Larry."
Running back Beanie Wells, who saw limited action in exhibition games after undergoing an offseason knee procedure, is expected to play Sunday. He is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. Wells' backup, Ryan Williams, missed all last year as a rookie with a knee injury after being taken in the second round out of Virginia Tech.
Skelton and his backs will be working behind an offensive line missing stalwart Levi Brown (torn triceps). The Cardinals will start two tackles — D'Anthony Batiste (left) and rookie Bobby Massie (right) — who have never started an NFL game at their positions. The line was a sore point last year, when Arizona allowed 54 sacks, second-most in the league.
"We have some new guys and we're shuffling some new guys in, but ultimately, I think we'll be fine," Skelton said.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org