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Looking for answers

Posted by Darren Urban on August 26, 2010 – 3:27 pm

“You want answers?”

“I think I’m entitled.”

“You want answers?!?”

“I WANT THE TRUTH!”

“YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”

I’m not so sure that sequence (man, I love that movie) could fit any better into the place everyone is right now with the Cardinals’ quarterbacks. I know in a lot of ways my head is ready to explode.

So I got a tweet this afternoon from @mbodmer: “@Cardschatter put yourself out there. what happens week 1. 1-3 and PS qb’s. give us something real.” OK, something real. Well, reality is this – I don’t think the Cardinals know for sure what that’s going to look like 10 days from now. I’m not sure how I am supposed to figure it out.

I’m not going to lie, and anyone who has read my stuff knows this anyway: I thought all along Matt Leinart would at least start the season under center. I suppose that can still happen. He will have Beanie Wells behind him at running back for the first time in Chicago barring something unforeseen, so maybe that helps in some way. But clearly, had Leinart played the way the Cards were hoping, Derek Anderson would not be starting against the Bears. I can still see a scenario where Leinart plays against the Rams Sept. 12, and obviously, I can see Anderson playing as well.

But this has gone further than who starts. It’s also about who is on the roster.

Let’s just take today’s news/speculation and extrapolate it out. Let’s say Anderson becomes the permanent starter. Do you try to trade Leinart? Release him? It makes for easy decisions on John Skelton and Max Hall – they’d stay, of course – but where does that leave you? Let’s say Anderson falters or gets hurt. Are you riding with Hall – who was, despite looking pretty decent in camp, is still undrafted and most certainly unproven? Skelton, who is even more raw than Hall?

Another scenario is Anderson starting in front of Leinart, and keeping a young guy (and making the other young guy on the practice squad). Can Leinart handle, especially mentally, being a backup again? Can the Cards get either Hall or Skelton to the practice squad?

(Quick aside: It’s not necessarily easy to get a guy through to the practice squad, but it’s not easy to take a guy either. Don’t forget, it’s not like another team could take Hall or Skelton and put him on its practice squad. They’d have to put him on their active roster.)

Or, of course, the Cards could keep four QBs. But on a team with depth issues in spots, losing a valuable roster spot to a player who would always be inactive and would have a hard time getting practice reps with three other QBs just seems difficult to do.

The answer, for me, is that there is no answer. Not now, not with two preseason games and a couple weeks before the first game. I could be off base, but I don’t think I am. Coach Ken Whisenhunt probably wishes everything was set in stone, but he said today it wasn’t and, given the circumstances, that makes sense to me. Things change quickly — just ask this guy (below) that was at the Titans’ game. That’s the truth, whether you choose to handle it or not.


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Anderson to start at QB in Chicago

Posted by Darren Urban on August 26, 2010 – 12:10 pm

For a game at least, Derek Anderson is the starting quarterback for the Cardinals.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said that today after practice, although he emphasized this is simply flipping the script from last week – when Anderson played with the first unit after Matt Leinart came out of the game. Leinart will still be the second quarterback in, and he’ll get his first chance to run the two-minute offense at the end of the first half and then play in the third quarter.

This is about sorting through the roster – Whisenhunt is looking at other first-unit depth chart changes this weekend, like Greg Toler at cornerback and Daryl Washington at inside linebacker – and not necessarily a permanent thing. Of course, the quarterback situation will be a much, much bigger deal on the national stage and even in Arizona.

“I don’t think we have performed the way we should have on offense,” Whisenhunt said. “We’re looking at different players in different spots.”

I’ll have much more later in a story. This will be the big news of the day though. The fact Larry Fitzgerald did some work – light work – in a helmet and shells was lost in the shuffle by the end of the extra-long practice.


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Receiving corps dwindling

Posted by Darren Urban on August 26, 2010 – 8:26 am

I noted yesterday wide receiver Darren Mougey hurt his hand at practice yesterday. Kent Somers found out Mougey broke his hand, which obviously, sidelines him (and probably cost him any chance of sticking around). The Cards were already going to be without receivers Larry Fitzgerald (knee), Early Doucet (abdomen) and Andre Roberts (shoulder) against the Bears and now this. I wouldn’t think the Cards want to expose Steve Breaston too much given the circumstances, so it’ll be interesting how the playing time is divvied up in Chicago. Besides Breaston, the remaining healthy wideouts are Stephen Williams, Max Komar, Onrea Jones (pictured below), Ed Gant and Mike Jones.

Anyone looking for the quarterbacks to distinguish themselves through the air, by the way, should keep in mind that, besides Breaston, the remaining healthy receivers have a grand total of zero NFL regular-season receptions.

“It’s a good opportunity,” quarterback Matt Leinart said. “It is tough with the timing (of the passing game), but with Larry and Early out, we are building our chemistry as we go. This will be good for us in the long run, that’s the positive for these guys. They are making plays. It’s tough as you go along so it’s tough as a rookie when you are thrown in the mix.”


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Over at the Titans’ facility …

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2010 – 4:48 pm

Just got back from the Cards’ practice with the Titans. There will be a story up in a bit, but I have to say, it was cleaner than I expected — no scuffles at all. But it was still interesting. Unfortunately, with three fields, each team’s offense was taking on the opposing defense simultaneously on the two outside fields, so you had to pick and choose what battles to watch. Given the circumstances, I watched more of the Cards’ offense. The offensive line versus the Titans’ defensive line was fun to see. It’s clear the Cards have some nasty cusses on the second unit — Rex Hadnot (pictured below in a one-on-one battle), Deuce Lutui and Jeremy Bridges — who like to stir things up. That always lends itself to intensity.

Some quick other notes from today:

– The injury list was expected — WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee), WR Early Doucet (abdomen), LB O’Brien Schofield (knee-PUP), LB Gerald Hayes (back-PUP), TE Ben Patrick (knee) and WR Andre Roberts (shoulder). LB Will Davis left during practice after aggravating his right knee bruise, but coach Ken Whisenhunt said he will be OK.

– Greg Toler was running with the first unit at CB with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and he had told me earlier in the day there would be some shuffling. Whether that is “permanent” (which is a term that must be used loosely this time of year) or not, we will see. I also notice rookie NT Dan Williams getting a couple of first-unit snaps, but I didn’t see enough of the defense to know if that meant anything, or if it was just a sub-package or maybe veteran Bryan Robinson was just getting a blow.

– Max Hall did run with the second unit at the end of the two-minute drill, but only after Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson each got some work. Hall could have (should have?) had a TD pass at the end, but a pass was slightly tipped, changing trajectory a little for WR Ed Gant, who had the ball bounce off his upper chest. Hall threw a nice long TD earlier to Stephen Williams during 7-on-7.

– No, during my time watching the QBs, I didn’t see anything much noteworthy from Leinart or Anderson, not to add to the chaos of a story right now.

– The Cards practice one more time tomorrow at Vanderbilt, and fly to Chicago Friday.


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Too much, too soon from O-line?

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2010 – 12:26 pm

There was little question during the offseason the Cardinals had stockpiled good depth with their offensive linemen. If you believe Brandon Keith can play in this league — and I believe that, as do the coaches — they have a good group. But maybe everyone, at least on the outside, was expecting too much too soon.

The reality is the only person in the same spot is center Lyle Sendlein. Reggie Wells flipped from left to right guard. Levi Brown flipped from right tackle to left tackle. Alan Faneca, at left guard (and pictured below), is new to the team (if not Russ Grimm’s tactics). And Keith hasn’t played for two years other than practice. Deuce Lutui, arguably the team’s best offensive lineman by the end of last season, let his weight land him in the doghouse.

There were going to be growing pains. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said that yesterday, Brown has brought it up. There was an assumption — and I was one of the first to do it — that the summer together would allow the group to mesh well by now. But that, in addition to a lack of gameplanning at this point, has shown there is still a ways to go. I still wonder if Lutui doesn’t find his way past Wells on the depth chart by the beginning of the season, but regardless of whether it is Deuce or Reggie, the Cards’ unit may still negotiating the learning curve.

This is all so important in context of the offense. The line is crucial to everything, to running the ball to protecting the quarterback — whether it is Matt Leinart or Derek Anderson. Leinart hasn’t played well, but he was harassed Monday. I am sure the Cards want to run the ball better too. Again, none of this really matters now as long as the line works cohesively come Sept. 12 in St. Louis and forward. But it may take all of the final two-and-a-half weeks of preseason to get to that point.


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Whiz the day after

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2010 – 12:11 pm

Coach Ken Whisenhunt, because it’s a rare short week away from home, did a rare preseason-day-after meet with the small media group here in Nashville. The only injury of note from the Titans’ game was to WR Andre Roberts, who sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder and will likely be out about a week, Whisenhunt said. It shouldn’t be a concern long-term, although it’ll be interesting how the Cards handle it in Chicago. Who plays behind Breaston and Stephen Williams, because I am guessing Larry Fitzgerald (knee) and Early Doucet (abdomen) will still sit (although Doucet could return)?

Some Whiz thoughts:

– “We looked like a team that had just broken camp that obviously had its mind on breaking camp instead of playing on Monday Night Football,” he said after watching the video. “There weren’t as many mistakes as there were the first week but still there were some alignment errors, missed tackles, our offensive line didn’t block as well as I would have liked. But we got things out of it we can learn from.”

– In terms of the quarterback situation, Whisenhunt noted a couple of times about the new faces in new places on offense — the reserve receivers playing, the offensive linemen in new spots. “We have been able to operate with the same guys the last three years where they learned a lot,” Whisenhunt said. “There will be a growth process.”

– In terms of Matt Leinart specifically, “It’s not just the quarterback,” Whisenhunt said. “I wish Matt had thrown the ball better on the post, I wish he would have thrown the ball better to Stephen. But once again, the blame is not all on the quarterbacks. A lot has to do how the line played, the way we didn’t do some things that we should have done that would have made his job easier. That’s the thing you have to be careful about, making a quick judgment on the quarterback when we haven’t been as successful as we would have liked to have been.”

I am still not convinced, regardless of what happened, that Derek Anderson has been able to pick up enough ground on Leinart to surpass him on the depth chart. Anderson is still new in the system and Leinart knows what he is supposed to do. Leinart still needs to show he can execute, but this staff — going back to Leinart’s struggles as a starter in 2007 — isn’t comfortable with guys who don’t know the system.


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Titans aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 23, 2010 – 11:29 pm

Obviously, the storyline coming out of Monday night’s game is the quarterbacks. It’s always the quarterbacks.

There’s nothing I can write to convince people who already believe Leinart is an epic fail that’s it could be otherwise. He connects with Stephen Williams on that bomb down the field – and Williams was easily open – everything is different. Leinart has his one bomb, the Cards move the ball a little, etc. But that didn’t happen, and it’s fair to argue it was on Leinart to get the ball there (coach Ken Whisenhunt did note Williams didn’t run the greatest route).

So where does that leave the Cards – and by extension, us?

Probably right where we were before. My guess is the Cards will break down the tape, see the Titans bringing the house (and Leinart under heavy pressure nearly every play), see the running game providing no support, and figure with a better game plan, Leinart would have been OK. Had Derek Anderson been awesome perhaps that’d change the dynamic, but aside from Anderson’s 37-yard pass to Williams – which was a nice pass – Anderson had a lot of the same issues and Leinart.

All I know is that I’m happy there is another game relatively quickly. Nothing been decided yet, and it takes games to push that progress.

Among the other things here late in Nashville:

– The defense looked solid early, forcing two three-and-outs to start the game. They just want to continue that. “It was decent, the thing is, the coaching staff was expecting us to sustain that passion we were playing with,” safety Adrian Wilson said. “I thought we did pretty well, but we have to do it every series.”

On the next drive, safety Kerry Rhodes took a bad angle on the Titans’ first big pass play (30 yards) and CB Trumaine McBride was beat on the next play for 28 yards, setting up the first TD. Still, the Cards are probably generally happy with where the defense is right now, especially when – again – game-planning is at a minimum.

– Linebacker Daryl Washington didn’t flash as much as the first preseason game. Who did? LaRod Stephens-Howling had some nice runs and he continues to look like a Pro Bowl special teamer. I thought linebacker Stevie Baggs made some plays, and the fact he afterward was lamenting the few assignments he missed is a good sign of focusing on getting better.

– I am interested in seeing what the analysis is on the offensive line. Very difficult to see what was happening since the Titans were bringing the kitchen sink early on. I don’t know what the assignments were or who was supposed to block who, but Tim Hightower lost four yards on his first three carries. One replay showed tackle Levi Brown looking to block someone but, given the circumstances, he couldn’t get his hands on anyone. Again, as Whisenhunt said, there were opportunities but the Cards couldn’t execute.

“This is the time of year where (coaches) are going to look to see who will win the one-on-one battles,” center Lyle Sendlein said. “When they are blitzing people, us up front, everyone has a man they have to block. Outside, you have to win routes and the running backs have to pick up players and the quarterback has to get the ball out.”

– Finally, the leap of Lavelle Hawkins over cornerback Marshay Green was ESPN’s top play of the night, but man, it’s hard to get on Green. It’s not like Marshay dove at the guy’s ankles and Hawkins went over. Green actually came almost all the way up on his 5-foot-10-ish frame and Hawkins still cleared him (Sure, Green could have extended his arms for the trip, but I’m trying to stay positive here). It was just a great individual effort. And made for a nice picture.

Talk to you tomorrow. (Today?)


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Walker out; Williams starts

Posted by Darren Urban on August 23, 2010 – 4:30 pm

Linebacker Reggie Walker (hamstring) isn’t going to play again today, after being limited all week in practice. The injury is hurting his chances to move up the depth chart before the regular season starts. As expected, undrafted rookie Stephen Williams is starting in place of the injured Larry Fitzgerald (knee). Tight end Ben Patrick (knee), wide receiver Early Doucet (abdomen), linebacker Gerald Hayes (PUP-back) and linebacker O’Brien Schofield (PUP-knee) are all sitting out.


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Fitz running well before the game

Posted by Darren Urban on August 23, 2010 – 3:16 pm

As I noted earlier on Twitter (if you’re not hooked up to twitter.com/cardschatter, do it!), wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was running the length of the field and cutting, and catching some passes after running a route. In other words, he seems to be heading in the right direction to be ready for the regular-season opener in St. Louis. Not that there should have been any doubt, but it’s always good to see the best player on the roster looking good a week after getting hurt. Wide receiver Early Doucet (abdomen) and tight end Ben Patrick (knee) were also out running, cutting and catching. I have no doubt Doucet could play if needed tonight (which he is not). Patrick looks a little further away, but we still have a few weeks before it matters.

P.S. Fitz is even going through the pre-game, not-in-uniform-yet drills with the rest of the receivers.


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Cards-Titans practice should be open

Posted by Darren Urban on August 23, 2010 – 1:47 pm

I have had a few people ask me about the Cardinals’ practices in Nashville this coming week and whether the public can watch. The practice Wednesday against the Titans at the Titans’ facility at Baptist Sports Park (460 Great Circle Rd.) is expected to be open. That practice is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. local time. Now, I don’t know what form the practice will take or if the players will be signing any autographs like they had in Flagstaff, but at least it will be a chance to see them. The practice Thursday at Vanderbilt is a closed affair.


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