Aaron Francisco gave up a 60-yard touchdown pass to Robert Meachem in the Cardinals preseason opener last weekend.
He’ll need to make plays or Cardinals will be sans Francisco
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. » The mistake was a glaring one and the kind that hurts a player trying to avoid the Turk.
"Everyone is out to test you and, in this league, you better be prepared."
Arizona Cardinals safety
Arizona Cardinals free safety Aaron Francisco of Kahuku is the first to admit and recognize the cumulative effect. At first glance, the play in question was buried late in the Cardinals' preseason opener against New Orleans. Francisco was beaten badly when the Saints' Robert Meachem out-leaped the 6-foot-2 graduate of Kahuku High School, and converted the pass from Tyler Palko into a 60-yard touchdown.
Fighting not only to retain a spot on the Cardinals special teams, as well as compete for a starting position in a crowded secondary, the mistake was an obvious one. Francisco acknowledged that the mistake was conspicuous, but easily corrected. Because of the traffic jam at free safety in the Cardinals camp, one mistake, especially this early in the preseason, is magnified.
"That was a situation where you need to leap for the ball, and we don't practice the jump ball all that often," Francisco said from Cardinals training at Northern Arizona. "It's a priority now, and something I'm working on."
Right now, Francisco is in a battle to gain attention at free safety. As training camp rolls along, he's in the mix with Antrel Rolle, who moved from corner to safety this year, and Matt Ware.
Veteran Adrian Wilson, named to the 2006 Pro Bowl, returns at strong safety. Rolle is penciled in as the starter, but he injured a knee returning a punt in the New Orleans game and missed practices earlier this week.
Cards defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast put Francisco in with the first unit, and how long he stays there will depend on his play. He had two tackles in last night's game against the Chiefs.
Francisco is coming off a compromised 2007 season in which he missed six games with a knee injury, including five straight from early November into December. Now, Francisco reports his knee is 100 percent, but he remains occupied with getting the attention of the coaching staff.
"You have to make plays and that's how you catch their eye," he said. "It's that simple. I know what happened in the New Orleans game and I just need to get better. Everyone is out to test you and, in this league, you better be prepared."
Though Francisco is aware of the mistake and possible ramifications, he is getting support from the coaching staff.
"I'm sure it was disappointing for Aaron," head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "At this point, he needs to be ready to jump up and knock the ball away from the receiver. Going forward, I'm confident he'll play better."