Saturday, November 1, 2003

Isolation booth: Hardy vs. Shipp

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Future NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith was the plum of Arizona's offseason, free agent bounty, but he is out indefinitely with a broken shoulder blade.

Arizona again has turned to Marcel Shipp, who had 35 carries for 165 yards in the Cardinals' upset last week of San Francisco.

He now has rushed for 249 yards on 55 carries in the past two games, and the Bengals will have a much easier time with the Cardinals if they can dock Shipp.

Shipp ran for 834 yards in 2002, making the acquisition of Smith a questionable one.

Arizona is ranked 24th in rush offense at 92.6 yards, just ahead of the Bengals. But the Cardinals are last in points at 14 a game.

The key to stopping Shipp, who likes to run between the tackles, is Bengals middle linebacker Kevin Hardy. There's a sense in Arizona that Shipp could have more trouble against a smart, experienced linebacker such as Hardy.

After a poor start, the Bengals' rush defense has shown some improvement. It allowed 120 and 121 yards in the past two weeks to Baltimore's Jamal Lewis and Seattle's Shaun Alexander, two of the league's top backs. But the Bengals won by forcing eight turnovers.

The rush defense was even better in the previous two games, limiting Buffalo and Cleveland to 80 and 69 yards.

Hardy and the rest of the Bengals linebackers continue to benefit from solid play from the defensive line. The line is not losing the battle for the neutral zone and is keeping offensive linemen off Bengals linebackers more often than not.

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Today's Top 25 games

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Isolation booth: Hardy vs. Shipp
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Dayton Carroll 14, McNicholas 0
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Roundup of other Kentucky games
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Today's schedule

Sports on TV, radio

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