The ups and downs of DRC

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2009 – 4:50 pm

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a talented, young player. That was evident last season. But right now, the cornerback is just that – talented and young. He has yet to reach a Pro Bowl, and while he seemingly knows what he has left to do, that doesn’t mean he is immune to games like he had against the Packers Friday. He was burned on a couple of deep passes – the 76-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson the worst-looking one, but there was also a 32-yard pass allowed to James Jones – and even on a good play, coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn’t doling kudos. DRC was on Donald Driver on an attempted bomb during the second play from scrimmage, and while he knocked it away, he should have had the interception – something Whisenhunt noted Monday. An interception there, the coach said, and the game may have changed because the Cards would have gotten a spark it desperately needed.

“I wouldn’t say he is freelancing, I would say he’s a young player that at times is undisciplined, and it is our job and our defensive leaders’ job to get on the same page,” Whisenhunt said. “He was disappointed in the way he played, embarrassed, and he worked in practice a lot better. We’ll see.”

For his part, DRC – using the phrase of the week, apparently – called it his “wake-up call.”

“That’s a ball I want thrown,” DRC said of the Nelson pass, “and it finally came, and I wasn’t prepared.

“It’s just another chapter. It’s all about preparation. I should have had a better week of practice, I had my ups and downs in practice, and it showed in the game. That’s what you learn from.”


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Doucet’s ribs and the first practice back

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2009 – 2:18 pm

Turns out Early Doucet fractured some ribs earlier in the game against the Packers, which is why he was sitting at practice today (and perhaps why he could reach up to bring down the two-point conversion at the end of the game). Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he didn’t know how much time that will cost Doucet from the field. Quarterback Matt Leinart sat out with a sore shoulder; Whisenhunt downplayed that situation in terms of seriousness. QB Brian St. Pierre remains limited with his bad back and WR Anquan Boldin is getting better with his hamstring, but still sits.

In the meantime, the first practice back was not a fun one. Whisenhunt said the players were stewing about the performance against Green Bay and the mood of the team (not helped by the heat) wasn’t exactly chipper. Whisenhunt reiterated he wasn’t sure how much he was going to play the starters Thursday but that today — while he was still mad — probably wasn’t a good day to make the decision.

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Boldin still sitting; Breaston back

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2009 – 11:54 am

We’re early in practice, but wide receiver Steve Breaston looks like he is back at practice for the first time since hurting his knee against Pittsburgh Aug. 13. It’s possible he will be limited, but it’s a step in the right direction. Fellow receiver Anquan Boldin, who is dealing with a sore hamstring, remains sidelined. Not surprisingly, that is probably a reason why, despite a large number of wideouts still on the roster, none were cut today (Michael Ray Garvin, already injured, was the lone wideout on the list).

UPDATE: It looks like WR Early Doucet is sitting out today as well.

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Lewis cut; Garvin, Togafau waived

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2009 – 11:24 am

The Cardinals officially made their roster moves to get from 80 players to 75, including the release of safety/special teamer Keith Lewis. Undrafted rookie tackle Brandon Pearce was the only other straight release. Linebacker Cody Brown, as expected, was placed on injured reserve, ending his season, while two players were waived/injured: LB Pago Togafau, who broke his foot against the Packers Friday, and kick returner Michael Ray Garvin, who is recovering from knee surgery.

Both Togafau and Garvin could in theory eventually be brought back to the practice squad once they have healed (assuming they aren’t picked up by another team). Lewis’ departure isn’t a shock; the Cards were overloaded with reserve safeties. They still have rookie Rashad Johnson, Matt Ware and Aaron Francisco and there remains a chance either Francisco or Ware could be among the casualties of the final cuts at the end of the week (Johnson, as a third-round pick, isn’t going anywhere). CLARIFICATION: I had a couple questions about bringing someone like Garvin back. The Cards could bring him back to the practice squad or the roster, if he actually gets an injury settlement in the next five days. In that case, he would sit however long the injury settlement is (for example, two weeks of regular-season pay) plus another six weeks. Then Garvin could be brought back.

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Starters will play Thursday

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2009 – 8:58 am

Just in case anyone wasn’t sure — even QB Kurt Warner sounded on the fence on the subject Friday night after the Packers game — coach Ken Whisenhunt said this morning during his “In The Red Zone” segment on Sports 620 KTAR (which will be posted on later today) that the starters will play in the preseason finale in Denver. He even joked that, given that he wasn’t all that happy with his starters’ play against Green Bay, he may want to play them a lot. But he also said he’d be smart about it, so I’d figure a series or two. Whize definitely wants them to play so that the players aren’t left with the bitter taste of the Packers performance lingering heading into the regular season.

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Packers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2009 – 11:51 am

Never has an “aftermath” blog entry seemed so apropos, with the way that game went last night. Considering it was just a preseason game, it left quite an imprint in a lot of areas, and because of that first half, much of it wasn’t a good feeling. This much is true – there are plenty of those who, because of the recent history of Super Bowl losers, believe the Cards are primed to take a fall. A performance from the starters, like the one against the Packers, well, that just makes it that much easier to doubt. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was hoping it was a wake-up call. We’ll see. Since the final preseason game means less than all the others, and since the starters will not play much if at all, we won’t know what this means until the Sept. 13 season opener.

On to the more specific aftermath.

— Defensively, it was just scary. The group looked solid in the first two games, and then transformed for a night into something that looked like the worst in the NFL. But in some ways, that may be a positive. Had the Cards given up, say, three touchdowns in the first half, I actually might have been a little more concerned. Things got so off the rails it felt a lot more like a one-time meltdown rather than an overall weak unit. More disturbing were a couple of the comments after, like when Darnell Dockett noted how some players were playing hard, and some just weren’t. He didn’t name names, of course, but preseason or not, that simply can’t happen.

— Interesting comment from Whisenhunt when it came to the receivers: “We found out a bunch of guys tonight and unfortunately, some of that wasn’t good.” The Cards went almost the whole game with Jerheme Urban, Lance Long and Early Doucet. Urban (who had 103 yards) for a moment felt like he was undoing a lot of the good he did in camp when he fumbled after a catch and then dropped one he should have had. But he also made a nice 27-yard catch the play after the drop, and I would guess he is OK.

Long and Doucet could have shown more. Long had just one catch and needs to hold on to the final catch he could have had in the end zone (the play was ruled incomplete not because he didn’t get his feet down but because he lost the ball when he hit the ground). Doucet had five catches for nearly 100 yards, but he absolutely has to make the two-point conversion catch at the end of the game. “It’s just disappointing that when we had opportunities to step up tonight we didn’t,” Whisenhunt said.

— If that’s Beanie at not-100-percent, wow. A very impressive initial showing from Wells, and don’t forget Tim Hightower averaged more than six yards a carry too. In a night filled with things that made you shake your head, the running game actually have reason to smile.

— Same with Matt Leinart, for that matter. Yes, he was going against backups, but his rally was important. There’s no way he isn’t No. 2, and if something should happen to Kurt Warner, I don’t see how Whisenhunt wouldn’t be comfortable with Leinart taking over.

— Is it me, or have there been a heck of a lot of blows to the head on Cardinals’ offensive players already this preseason? It’s happened to Long three or four times (one was called last night), it seemed like the play that gave LaRod Stephens-Howling a concussion was close and Sean Morey may have absorbed one late.

— The Cards are off for a couple of days. The cuts of five come by Tuesday, but Whisenhunt will likely deliver the news Monday before practice. LB Cody Brown needs to go to injured reserve, so the team only has to let four guys go.


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The Hyphen has a concussion

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2009 – 9:36 pm

Rookie RB LaRod Stephens-Howling — who I found out is apparently being called “The Hyphen” by his teammates — suffered a concussion when he was drilled in what looked to be a questionable shot to the head earlier this drive. He won’t be back tonight.

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No Q or St. Pierre tonight

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2009 – 5:33 pm

There is no official inactive list in the preseason, but the Cards still list those not expected to play because of injury. The players are no surprise to tonight given how the week went. WRs Anquan Boldin (hamstring) and Steve Breaston (knee) aren’t going to play, and neither will QB Brian St. Pierre (back). Also sitting will be DL Keilen Dykes (quad), LB Ali Highsmith (ankle), WR Michael Ray Garvin (knee surgery) and LB Cody Brown (wrist).

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Whiz sees growth in Leinart

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2009 – 10:49 am

One more post on the backup quarterback situation (Hey, it’s the preseason – this is when you talk about the backups, because there will be plenty of Kurt Warner analysis once the regular season starts). There have been plenty who have speculated, because Matt Leinart couldn’t hold on to the starting job once upon a time and because he was drafted before coach Ken Whisenhunt arrived, that Whisenhunt isn’t a “Leinart guy.”

Frankly, I have never gotten that impression. Whisenhunt talked this week about Leinart’s maturation process, an “evolution” all quarterbacks must undergo. He even turned toward that horrific preseason game Leinart had in Oakland last season to create a tangible example.

Whisenhunt noted that last year – with two interceptions already thrown against the Raiders – Leinart was stuck in a second-and-11 on his own 4-yard line. Leinart faced some pressure and decided to chuck up a ball for Anquan Boldin which never had a chance and he was interception. Whisenhunt compared that to Leinart’s situation last weekend, when Leinart came into the game with the ball resting on his own 1. This time, Whisenhunt said, Leinart didn’t get flustered against the pressure, instead staying calm in the pocket and calmly throwing a 25-yard strike to tight end Leonard Pope (Full disclosure: Leinart was facing the backup Chargers defense as opposed to the Raiders starters). The contrast in plays from the two games helped show Whisenhunt there has been “great growth in Matt.”

Leinart clearly has become a better quarterback compared to this time last year. And as I said, he seems to have belief from his coach.

“Now he understands more what he has to do,” Whisenhunt said. “It is never easy to accept the type of role Matt has had to accept. It is easy to say one day it will pay off for him, but I really believe, when he plays, and it is coming, he is really going to do well.”


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Sorting through the backup QBs

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2009 – 11:11 am

While the talk of the backup quarterback battle seems to have subsided – while coach Ken Whisenhunt said this week he wouldn’t finalize the depth chart until after the last preseason game, it would certainly seem that Matt Leinart has fended off Brian St. Pierre – there will still be choices to be made with the No. 3 QB.

I’ve gotten questions about Tyler Palko beating out St. Pierre. I’ve gotten questions about St. Pierre’s possible move to the practice squad. And in theory, all of these things are possible.

St. Pierre is in his seventh NFL season, but because of loopholes in the rules (and showing how unique his career has been) he could still be put on the practice squad despite his ability to be an unrestricted free agent this past season. St. Pierre has five “accrued” seasons in the NFL, something he gained because he was on the roster despite being inactive almost every game. But in terms of the practice squad, a player must have been inactive for less than nine games in an accrued season – meaning St. Pierre could indeed be a candidate.

Now, that isn’t going to happen. St. Pierre’s salary for 2009 is $800,000, or a tad over $47,000 per paycheck for the season. Practice squad players get about $5,200 a week (although the option is there to pay practice squad players more). Since St. Pierre would be a free agent if he was cut (the only way to move him to the practice squad), I would guess he would try and find a job elsewhere. Even the minimum salary would be much better than practice squad pay.

Besides, he remains a veteran who has the trust of coach Ken Whisenhunt, something Palko likely has not yet earned. Palko would have to be truly impressive these next couple of preseason games. He did OK in the Steelers’ game, but again, he is going against the end of the bench defense, so it’s always harder to evaluate. Palko, of course, could be on the practice squad, but Whisenhunt isn’t a fan of having four quarterbacks around because it is hard enough getting practice reps with three guys.


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