Buccaneers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 31, 2010 – 11:07 pm

Like everyone else, I flinched when Derek Anderson threw his final interception Sunday. At that point, I had been convinced that, despite the up-and-down nature of the game and the disaster of the first 2-and-a-half quarters, that the Cards were going to find a way to pull it out of their a…. er, pull it out of the fire.

But they didn’t.

I know everyone wants to talk about the end of the game. First down, on the Tampa 20. Cards are without LaRod Stephens-Howling, whose ribs just took a shot. Beanie Wells wasn’t in the game after hurting his back, and besides, he doesn’t play in the two-minute package. So the Cards have Tim Hightower, who already lost his starting role after having fumbling issues. Did that affect the play call, why it wasn’t a run? Perhaps. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the package had been moving the ball down the field through the air. You can’t argue that. And on the play in which Anderson threw the pick, the Cards ran double slants against the Bucs’ zone and Early Doucet was open on the play on the inner slant. The problem is Anderson decided to throw to Larry Fitzgerald. Interception. Game over.

Of course, if Max Hall doesn’t give up two TDs on picks, it would have been moot. Or if the defense had been able to hold after Anderson had led the Cards to the go-ahead touchdown instead of allowing the Bucs to go right back at re-take the lead.

The best thing the Cards can do to avoid such a problem? Don’t put yourself in that situation in the first place. Don’t turn the ball over so much, then everyone can have their beloved 28-carry Beanie game, etc., etc.

— More and more, you can see why the Cards loved Stephens-Howling. The Hyphen is a playmaker, whether it’s returning kicks, covering kicks (he grabbed that muffed punt today) or running the ball (his TD scamper was impressive).

— BTW, Larry Fitzgerald not only scored twice today, he was great blocking and finishing the block on the Hyphen’s TD run.

— Steve Breaston had three catches of at least 30 yards. The Cards had only one pass play of at least 30 yards in their first six games – which also went to Breaston, in the season opener.

— Adrian Wilson lost an interception today because he was called for pass interference. The lone replay Fox showed was terrible (high above the play) but it sure didn’t look like A-Dub did much of anything. That cost the Cards at least three points (and probably more, since the Cards would have been in scoring range before the half).

— Whisenhunt said Hightower’s playing time was affected by the flow of the game and nothing else. Yet it sure had a feel of a message being sent after the fumbles. That and a chance to showcase the Hyphen a little.

— Have I mentioned I am burned out on talking about the quarterback situation?

— Vikings QB Brett Favre left today’s game against the Patriots after a blow to the chest/head, but he said “I should be able to play next week.” That would mean the Cardinals.

— Hmm, I guess I could be in a spot to have to write about the Vikings’ quarterback every week.

— I’m spending way too much time tweeting. I should’ve finished this an hour ago. Goodnight.

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No surprises on inactive list

Posted by Darren Urban on October 31, 2010 – 11:44 am

As expected, linebacker Clark Haggans will sit today with his bad groin, and the remaining group doesn’t contain any shocks either, including wide receiver Max Komar as the odd man out after all the wideouts returned to health. The rest of the Cards’ inactives:

  • QB John Skelton
  • CB A.J. Jefferson
  • S Hamza Abdullah
  • LB Reggie Walker
  • C Ben Claxton
  • NT Gabe Watson

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Hayes, Schofield activated

Posted by Darren Urban on October 30, 2010 – 11:12 am

The Cardinals have decided to activate linebackers Gerald Hayes and rookie O’Brien Schofield off the PUP and reserve/non-football injury lists, respectively. Hayes is not a surprise, Schofield is a little — and still an amazing story given that he blew out his knee in mid-January and will now be available for more than half the season.

To make room on the roster, the Cardinals have released wide receiver Onrea Jones and linebacker Alex Hall. Neither are surprises. Jones was unnecessary given the health of the other six receivers on the roster, while Hall was always just keeping a seat warm until the Cards were sure Schofield would be able to contribute this season. Schofield is in an important spot; with the injury to Clark Haggans, Schofield will be the Cards’ lone pure reserve OLB in this game (although I am expecting the Cards to scheme up ways to work around that depth issue, including using three-safety sets and getting Adrian Wilson in the box).

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Friday before the Bucs

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2010 – 4:55 pm

At first, John Skelton thought I was joking. He came off the field Friday and I asked him if he had a minute, and he never thought the request was serious. But it was. He’s a popular guy these days with many fans and with the quarterback roller-coaster the Cards have been on.

Still, the fifth-round quarterback with the big arm and Fordham pedigree seems far removed from playing anytime soon, with fellow rookie Max Hall getting his chance and veteran Derek Anderson sitting in the No. 2 spot.

“Before the season started, (QB coach) Chris Miller and (passing game coordinator) Mike Miller each told me to prepare like I was going to be the starter,” Skelton said. “Pay attention like I was going to play, and that’s what I have been doing since the beginning.

“I really don’t listen to what the fans say or the media says. I am just trying to keep my head down and keep working.”

And what if he did have to play this season? I suppose it wouldn’t be a surprise if I said Skelton wouldn’t be worried if he did (and even though coaches have seen him as a long-term project and not 2010-ready).

“I think as far as mentally knowing everything, I think I’d be fine,” Skelton said. “But it’s the same thing Max faced when he first went in, your first go-round with no experience, so … we’ll see what happens if I ever do get that call.”

I don’t think he will. Not this season, barring disaster. No offense to John, but I’m kinda hoping that doesn’t happen.

— So Beanie is the starter. What will it mean? Well, if Beanie gets real hot early, he could be in the 30-carry range assuming the Cards have success. If there is a normal rhythm to the offense/game, Tim Hightower is still going to be a solid part of the game plan.

— By the way, for those complaining that Wells’ stats are skewed because of eight men in the box defensively when he goes in the game, he wasn’t using that as an excuse. “We’re running the ball successfully with the 8-man boxes, so I don’t see it as a big issue,” Beanie said.

— I find it interesting that, given the Cards’ offensive woes, they are tied with the Buccaneers – Sunday’s opponent – for 29th in the NFL with 16.3 points per game. And neither of these teams have a losing record.

— The Bucs don’t have a lot of sacks, so maybe that can bode well for Max Hall this week. Then again, the Bucs are so porous with the run defense, teams aren’t throwing against them much. Can Beanie ball make that work?

— It comes down to turnovers, in all likelihood. The Cards can’t give the ball away. That’s why they lost in Seattle, regardless of how poorly Hall played. Beanie needs to hold on to the ball. This is his moment to shine, I think.

— I have no idea why, especially since a) the passing game is struggling and b) there seems to be this probability the Cards work the run game. But I have this feeling Fitz has his first 100-yard game Sunday (and if it turns out to be Steve Breaston instead, I’m OK with that).

— Darnell Dockett was fined $15,000 for his fourth-quarter late hit in Seattle (the one that extended a late drive and basically nailed the Cards’ coffin). There were no fines levied on the the Seahawks who looked like they might have hit Hall with a helmet-to-helmet shot.

Well, the Cardinals haven’t lost back-to-back games since 2008. They have shifted the running back depth chart. Hall should be in a better place now that he’s at home. The defense is coming around (and playing an offense that isn’t exactly the Greatest Show on Turf, although they are the best team in the NFC). Plus, the Cards have got the black unis for Halloween. Just don’t let things get any more scary than they need to — right Beanie?

Until Sunday …

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Beanie Wells named starting RB

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2010 – 2:41 pm

Earlier in the week, coach Ken Whisenhunt said he wasn’t making any announcements about his running back depth chart. That changed Friday, when he announced — not surprisingly — that Beanie Wells will get his first start Sunday against Tampa Bay, replacing Tim Hightower.

Whisenhunt declined to detail the reasons why, but after Hightower lost his third crucial fumble of the season in Seattle last week, Whisenhunt had said Hightower’s playing time could be curtailed.

“Tim is still going to get carries and be involved in all aspects of the offense,” Whisenhunt said. “He’s not going to just be a third-down back. … But (Beanie starting) is the way we’re going to go.”

Beanie was already getting most of the carries, but with the struggles of rookie quarterback Max Hall, it is assumed the Cards will be leaning heavier on the running game. Wells has made no secret of his desire to get a heavy workload in games.

Beanie’s ascension to the  starting job has been long anticipated since he was made the Cards’ No. 1 draft pick in 2009. But he couldn’t get past Hightower, who still supplies the Cards with solid ability catching the ball and pass blocking (and has averaged 5.7 yards a carry this season as well).

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Haggans doubtful for Halloween

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2010 – 12:42 pm

The Cardinals are expected to have one linebacker back and be missing another Sunday against the Bucs. Linebacker Clark Haggans is doubtful for Sunday because of his bad groin (Will Davis will start in his place). Meanwhile, it looks like Gerald Hayes will be back, although coach Ken Whisenhunt still wouldn’t 100 percent commit to it quite yet (Hayes has to be placed on the active roster, necessitating someone else being released).

— Hayes said he is just happy about the little things he can do in life — like bend over to tie his shoes — that were made difficult or impossible before he had his back surgery. Playing football again was important, but not the only important thing.

“I”m just happy I am healthy,” Hayes said. “Everyday things I am thankful for. … In the back of your mind you worry about (having it the rest of your life). But like any other gladiator, any other player out there, you go out and push through it and let the chips fall where they fall.”

— Hayes said it was up to the coaches how much he would play. Whisenhunt said Hayes wouldn’t play 60 plays or anything like that, but Hayes said he will prepare like he would play the whole game.

— O’Brien Schofield is still mentally “swimming” a bit, Whisenhunt said, noting the Cards had to re-run a play in practice today because Schofield didn’t do it right. But that’s to be expected, the coach added.

— LB Will Davis was added to the injury report with a sore knee and is questionable, but he is expected to play.

— Whisenhunt also said he didn’t have a favorite costume for Halloween.  “I’m scary enough without a costume,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s what my daughter’s boyfriends say.”

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Back in black

Posted by Darren Urban on October 28, 2010 – 4:55 pm

In case you are living under a rock – or at least, not reading the stuff on this site, in which case you probably wouldn’t be reading this either – the Cardinals will be breaking out the black alternate jerseys Sunday for the Halloween game against the Buccaneers.

So, you know, wear black if you are coming (and don’t already have one of the black jerseys.

“Aw, man, it’s going to be blackout crazy,” wide receiver Steve Breaston said. “I can see the fans now, get a little Oakland Raider-type masks in the crowd. I can see it rockin’ — if everything goes as planned.”

“It’s good to see the black jerseys. It’s a cool time to have it, on Halloween.”

The Cards first wore the jerseys for the preseason finale against the Redskins. They can wear them twice in the regular season. The other game has not yet been announced, although it seems like the Monday night home game against the 49ers would be strong possibility.

“You wish you could wear them more than three times,” Breaston said. “I like to switch it up. Like I’ve said, any time you can go to something new, you’re excited about it, right?”

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Where there’s a Will …

Posted by Darren Urban on October 28, 2010 – 2:20 pm

Will Davis was a defensive end in college at Illinois. He’s been a linebacker since the Cards took him in the sixth round of the 2009 draft. His days as a D-end are long over. Kind of.

“I am out of that world,” Davis said, laughing. Then he reconsidered. “It’s kind of a rush end, it’s an end with sugar on top. That’s how I consider it.”

Davis will start if veteran Clark Haggans can’t go. And Haggans, who hurt his groin, doesn’t seem likely, although coach Ken Whisenhunt said Haggans has played in the defense long enough he could go without practicing all week. Not that Whiz has a problem turning to Davis.

“Will played 24 snaps in last week’s game and he played well,” Whisenhunt said. “That gives you confidence. Last year, when he got banged up (with a knee injury) at the end of the year, he was playing well then. So I have seen it twice. I think the light has come on for him.”

Davis said that when he got to the league, “I had never really heard about routes and things like that,. Now, the way game has slowed down for him is “crazy. Like night and day. Coach (Matt) Raich said he sees me evolving.”

“I feel like I am better equipped to start because of Raich getting with me to watch film,” Davis added. “I always practice like I am going to start. I am always trying to push Joey (Porter) and Clark.”

— Whisenhunt said WR Steve Breaston looks good and should play this week. LB Gerald Hayes also has a couple packages put in for him and “he’s pretty close to being ready to go.” Even with the injury to Haggans, Whisenhunt sounded less certain about activating LB O’Brien Schofield, because he is a rookie and hasn’t played yet. If either Hayes or Schofield are activated, however, that also means the Cards must make a corresponding cut on the roster.

— DE Alan Branch was added to the injury report with a sore back, and he was limited Thursday. He still should be available, I’d think. The rest of the Cards’ injury report stayed the same. Haggans was out and four guys besides Branch were limited: Breaston (knee), WR Early Doucet (groin), CB Greg Toler (back) and Porter (groin). I’d think all will be able to go.

— The Buccaneers’ injury report is long. C Jeff Faine (quad) is already out. Fellow offensive linemen Jeremy Trueblood (knee) and Keydrick Vincent (back) sat out again, although CB Aqib Talib (calf) went from sitting out Wednesday to practicing fully Thursday. DE Kyle Moore (shoulder), LB Geno Hayes (knee), WR Preston Parker (knee) and DT Brian Price (pelvis) also sat out.

— The game Sunday is officially a sellout, so the game will be televised on local TV. And don’t forget the Cards will be wearing for the first time in the regular season their alternate black jerseys.

— The Big Red Rage will be tape delayed on Sports 620 KTAR tonight because of the Suns broadcast, but it will be live at Marjerle’s at Chandler mall beginning at 6 p.m. as usual. Adrian Wilson’s guest will be Branch.

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Fitz manages his feelings

Posted by Darren Urban on October 27, 2010 – 4:13 pm

Larry Fitzgerald’s statistics aren’t what they have been or what the Cardinals counted on this season, in large part because of the quarterback issues the team has endured already in six games. The Pro Bowl wide receiver doesn’t like to talk about it, but it’s hard not to notice his numbers (29 catches, 331 yards, two touchdowns) are on a pace well below recent standards (They extrapolate to 77-883-5).

While Fitz acknowledges there have been times he has shown a little frustration during a game — “I am human,” he said — he tries not to let it linger.

“I want to be successful,” Fitzgerald said. “I have a burning desire to be great, not only as a player but as a team. Sometimes my emotions flow over but as a captain, I have to keep an even keel. I don’t want to give bad body language so my teammates don’t think I’m on the same page as them.”

Fitz said he tries to “look at the glass half-full rather than half-empty” and with a new quarterback in the lineup, the offensive ups and downs are just part of the growing process.

“I have a job I love to do and I am around a lot of good guys and good coaches,” Fitzgerald said. “I know we didn’t win last week, but I try to look at things positively.”

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the Cards will continue to try to get the ball to Fitz although it’s “not something I think you can force.”

Whisenhunt also said he hasn’t sensed lingering frustration from his star wideout. “Not in my discussions with Larry,” Whisenhunt said. “We’re all frustrated that we haven’t played better offensively but I think to a man, if you ask him, you can see we’re working on it.”

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Hall tries to rebound at practice

Posted by Darren Urban on October 27, 2010 – 2:15 pm

QB Max Hall said he was feeling fine today after coming back to practice after his concussion. He said he wasn’t worried about it despite two blows to the head in two games, and said he’s never had a concussion in the past.

He also said he wasn’t happy with how he played, which is obviously the focus in practice. “There are things I can fix, though, excited to prove I am better than that,” Hall said.

— Hall said he is considering gloves, although made it sound like it would be for bad weather games and not all the time.

— Linebacker Clark Haggans (groin) was the only player to not practice. WRs Steve Breaston (knee) and Early Doucet (groin), LB Joey Porter (groin) and CB Greg Toler (back) were limited.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t make any announcements about the running back position, other than to say he expects both backs to be productive. “There are things that each guy does well,” Whisenhunt said. “As long as we are running the ball successfully, to me, that’s what is important.” He also said he didn’t think Tim Hightower had lost any confidence despite his fumbling issues.

More on the home page ASAP.

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