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Less Dockett means more Dockett?

Posted by Darren Urban on March 23, 2011 – 11:34 am

A little earlier today, Darnell Dockett tweeted out this message to the world: “ONE of my weakness is I have to rotate EARLY in the game! I feel like I can’t come out but watching this film its to my advantage that I do!” It’s an interesting self-evaluation by the Pro Bowl defensive lineman, and one that speaks to the importance of depth.

While Dockett did make the Pro Bowl as an alternate, there is little question is impact was not as great in 2010 as it had been in 2009 (Dockett still had five sacks, five quarterback pressures, 11 quarterback hits and three fumble recoveries this past season). When you have a high-end player, you’d rather have him out there. And Dockett isn’t the kind of guy who wants to sit either, something I am sure probably was ramped up even more after he signed his large contract extension.

But if he can rotate out more early in games, that could make a difference late in games. Again, depth will be a factor — as of now, defensive linemen Bryan Robinson, Gabe Watson, Kenny Iwebema and Alan Branch are not under contract for 2011 — but shuffling Dockett is a good idea. The fact it came from Dockett himself might even be more important. The self-awareness to see weaknesses is always a good thing.


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More from Michael Bidwill

Posted by Darren Urban on March 22, 2011 – 10:57 am

It’s not as if team president Michael Bidwill has been hiding or trying to stay in the background of late, but I wanted to touch on a couple of the comments Bidwill made today during an interview Monday night on Sirius NFL Radio.

Bidwill said the Cards, including the coaches, were supportive of the rules to change kickoffs (the rule, passed this morning, moves the kickoffs back to the 35-yard line from the 30 but keeps touchbacks at the 20-yard line). He said the feel of these meetings during a lockout were “dialed down from the norm” compared to the usual owners’ meetings in March.

As for a couple of other specific comments, not that they are breaking news, but perhaps underscore some of the things that have been talked about on the blog:

– Asked about the Cards need on the defensive side of the ball, Bidwill said “the pass rush is critical. We’re a 3-4 defense. Our outside linebackers are a little bit older, Joey Porter and Clark Haggans. We probably need to get a little bit of youth in there.”

– As for the contract of Larry Fitzgerald, “He’s been very clear that he wants to be a Cardinal for life. We’ve been very clear that we want to take the necessary steps to make sure that happens. We’ll get it done. I’m confident of that.”


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Hoping Dan’s the man

Posted by Darren Urban on March 21, 2011 – 2:54 pm

While there is plenty of debate over who the Cardinals will take in the first round of the 2011 draft, the hope is that the first pick of the 2010 draft — nose tackle Dan Williams — will develop into the anchor of the 3-4 front the Cards so desperately need. And there’s at least one place that seems bullish on that possibility after what Williams showed as a rookie.

ProFootballFocus.com posted an article naming Williams one of their “secret superstars,” saying Williams actually had a quietly impressive rookie season based on limited playing time and effectiveness against quality competition. One quote from the article: “He has a fantastic ability to beat centers en route to making plays on the ball carrier. That skill earned him 22 defensive stops – only John Henderson finished with more while playing fewer snaps.” Another comment: “he ended with the 11th-highest run-stopping grade of all defensive tackles, and 4th-best among 3-4 nose tackles. Quite remarkable, especially given he only played 387 snaps.”

Obviously a first-round pick is counted upon to be a solid starter — if not a star — sooner rather than later. The Cards should end up with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett flanking Williams in new defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s first version of his Arizona 3-4. Williams did play well near the end of the season. He still has work to do with consistency and he will still be learning, but statistically, it sounds like Williams had a decent beginning to his career.


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Again with the quarterbacks

Posted by Darren Urban on March 21, 2011 – 10:10 am

We can say there is nothing going on NFL-wise right now as the labor issues remain unsolved, but the speculation hasn’t stopped, especially when it comes to the most important position on the field. And since the Cards are searching for a quarterback, it’s not a surprise that when SI’s Peter King weighs in on the various possible veteran quarterback moves around the league, the Cards are part of the discussion.

King notes that a team is already willing to pony up a first-round pick for Kevin Kolb but that the Eagles are hoping to get a higher first-rounder. As my cohorts Matt Maiocco and Kent Somers have already tweeted this morning, it means it can’t be the 49ers or Cards making that offer. No way Andy Reid thinks he is getting better than seventh or fifth in the draft. Besides, I don’t think there is any way either of those teams parts with that high of a pick for Kolb. Does that rule out the Cards? No. Maybe the right package of picks would be of more interest to Philly. And who knows? The team that is offering that first-rounder is unknown for now — maybe it’s just Philly saying such things to spark a market.

(A market, of course, that is only talk until there is a new CBA since no player trades can be made.)

King also talks about Marc Bulger in Arizona, a notion that is anything but new. Kurt Warner did an interview with Chuck and Vince on KDUS (1060 AM) late last week and said he thinks his former teammate still has something left to give despite not playing very well since 2006. “The thing I look at, putting guys in certain systems and how does it fit their skill set,” Warner said. “If the Cardinals want to do what we did when I was there, I think Marc fits the bill extremely well.” Warner also said the Bengals QB Carson Palmer fits.

(By the way, it was asked of me this morning about King mentioning Max Hall today in his Bulger note. King wrote “coach Ken Whisenhunt … has not totally given up hope on Max Hall.” King doesn’t mention Skelton.While I think it’s fair to say Whisenhunt “has not totally given up hope” in regards to Hall, I do think it gives the impression Hall remains ahead of Skelton in the pecking order. I do not think that is the case.)

I don’t know what it will take for Palmer to be acquired, if the Bengals even are willing to trade him and not force him to make a retirement decision. And the idea of Kyle Orton isn’t absent either, although again, until we have a better idea of when this can all happen, we won’t get a true idea of if any of these things can happen.


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The time to consider Gabbert

Posted by Darren Urban on March 17, 2011 – 1:06 pm

Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert had his pro day today, a slightly more impactful event than, say, Cam Newton’s because Gabbert didn’t throw at the combine. Reports from the workout say Gabbert generally threw well; ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said scouts are telling him he has good arm strength but not great arm strength. SI’s Don Banks tweeted the consensus he is getting is that Gabbert indeed can be a franchise QB.

The Cards were represented at the Missouri pro day by a scout and offensive coordinator Mike Miller. Some combination of team officials will meet with Gabbert again either next week or soon after.

I’m still not sure that a) the Cards would go QB with their first pick or b) that Gabbert will even be there to be picked. I do think that if the Cards took a quarterback in the first round, they’d be much more likely to go with Gabbert than Newton. There’s just something about everything that swirls around Newton off the field that I think they think Gabbert would be a safer pick.

But again, that doesn’t mean they will go QB. Gabbert means waiting, in all probability, behind a veteran (Yes, coach Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t like to play rookies right away and you can argue that will go for Patrick Peterson or Von Miller or whomever, but remember, the one time Whisenhunt had a top 10 pick here, Levi Brown started from the get-go).

We can argue that Gabbert isn’t as good as, say, Bradford or Stafford, for example, but any player is a crapshoot to a certain extent and that doubles for a quarterback. This time of year, I can’t remember a quarterback not getting picked apart when considered as a very high choice (although am I petty for thinking that wearing a backwards baseball cap while throwing today just seemed a little, I don’t know, unprofessional?).

(And in what might be my first-ever UPDATE off a parenthetical comment, it occurred to me that Gabbert does have long hair. Maybe he had to wear something on his head to keep the hair out of his eyes while throwing. Just trying to provide the benefit of the doubt.)


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Tweaking the rules

Posted by Darren Urban on March 17, 2011 – 9:45 am

Ahh, some football to talk about.

The competition committee — of which Ken Whisenhunt helps as part of the coach’s subcommittee in making rule-change recommendations — is considering a couple of changes for this season, which will be voted upon during the upcoming owners’ meetings.Committee chairman Rich McKay, GM of the Falcons, was part of a conference call yesterday talking about the issues.

The biggest one (at least in my mind) is changing the kickoff scenario. In part because of injuries being suffered on kickoffs, the spot teams kick off from would be moved back to the 35-yard line (where it used to be) from the 30. In theory, more touchbacks, right? But the rule change would also mean touchbacks would come out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20. At the same time, the wedge block (which last year was reduced so only two men could come together at one time, instead of three or four) would be eliminated altogether.

You have to wonder if that would kill off long kickoff returns, or if it would make a major difference. One thing that would help returns? Another part of the changed rule would say the coverage players couldn’t start further back than five yards of the ball, preventing a major running start (and, in theory, cutting down disastrous collisions).

The other notable change would be the use of instant replay automatically on all scoring plays, so coaches would not have to use a challenge — which is already the way college football works. If that went into effect, the other correlating change would be for coaches to lose the opportunity for a third challenge. Right now, two correct challenges earn a third, but McKay said given that the third challenge is rarely used and because so many challenge situations would be eliminated because scoring plays will be looked at, it makes sense to just cap challenges at two.

A couple other notes:

– McKay said the infamous “catch all the way through the end of the play” rule would remain, meaning the Calvin Johnsons of the world would still be dealing with an incompletion.

– NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said even with the current lockout, in terms of the 2011 schedule “the plan is to release it as we normally do in mid-April.”


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The connection of Matson and Bidwill

Posted by Darren Urban on March 16, 2011 – 1:17 pm

Last month, Hall of Famer and former Cardinal Ollie Matson passed away and as Mike Sando noted this morning, Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill sent a letter to the family offering condolences and memories. It made sense — apparently Bidwill and Matson remained close over the years, even after the Cardinals traded Matson mid-career.

Matson’s niece, Clark Hochstein, lives in Phoenix (One of his grandsons attends Arizona State as well). Hochstein said, in talking to Matson’s sons, daughters and grandsons, Bidwill used to call the Matson house every Christmas to wish them a happy holiday.

As for the letter, “It was amazing how blown away everyone was to receive this letter,” Hochstein said. “It was so personal.”

In the letter, Bidwill recalled a long ago game against the Bears and how Matson — with the Cards behind 10-0 — returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and later stripped a ballcarrier and returned the fumble for the game-winning score. “People always ask me how certain players from the past would stack up in today’s game,” Bidwill wrote. “I say this with the greatest amount of respect for the current NFL players: Ollie Matson wouldn’t just stack up, he would be a superstar.”

Hochstein said by the time she arrived at the funeral services for Matson — attended by many retired players — she noticed that her family members had shown the letter to many of the former players. “It really meant a lot,” she said. “Everyone was kind of grumbling about how the situation is (regarding labor in the NFL), and to have the letter, it was  a way to stop grumbling about what was going on and think about how it once was between players and owners.”


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Going “All In”

Posted by Darren Urban on March 15, 2011 – 3:00 pm

As we maneuver through the offseason, azcardinals.com is ready to debut Monday (March 21) a new video series. The brainchild of senior director of broadcasting Tim DeLaney, the series is titled “All In — Mission: The 2011 Season.”

As for what it will entail, well, I had Tim write up a little something detailing what’s to come:

– The series will chronicle the offseason for both the team and the cheerleaders as they prepare for the upcoming year.  The first episode follows the cheerleaders on their recent trip to visit U.S. Military Troops in Japan.  In early February, cheer director Heather Karberg and 14 team members embarked on a week-long tour of several bases, just a few weeks before the recent tragic events that have gripped Japan.  “All In” takes you along for the journey as the team experiences a new culture,  and, brings a little bit of home to our service men and women stationed abroad.

The leadership of the Cardinals will be the focus of the first football-related “All In”, debuting March 28th.  President Michael Bidwill, general manager Rod Graves, coach Ken Whisenhunt, and director of player personnel Steve Keim will explain the process of developing an off-season strategy, amongst challenging circumstances, to put the Cardinals back on top of the NFC West.

Look for a new video on azcardinals.com each Monday throughout the offseason. Future episodes will spotlight preparation for the draft, an in-depth look at the scouting staff, and what coaches are up to this time of year.  Future cheerleader episodes will highlight the second half of their trip to Japan and the upcoming tryouts for the 2011 team.

“All In – Mission: The 2011 Season” episodes will also be available for download as a podcast on iTunes by going to the Cardinals Official Podcast homepage at:  http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/arizona-cardinals-podcasts/id333230043


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A draft with no players?

Posted by Darren Urban on March 14, 2011 – 4:09 pm

No, I don’t mean there won’t be players picked.

The news came out today that the NFL Players Association has told potential draftees not to go to New York and to not take part in NFL draft festivities. It’s not like it came out of the blue — suggestions floated around as far back as February — but the NFLPA isn’t commenting on the report, which is based on “multiple league sources.” We’ve all watched the draft telecasts where players show up to Radio City Music Hall and go on stage for pictures with their new team’s jersey after being picked (the Cards’ Dan Williams — pictured below — did just that last year). It would make for an odd show without those moments, and without guys waiting backstage to hear their name called.

The idea is already being criticized here and there, and an ESPN poll shows a pretty heavy lean from fans against the plan — just about 3-to-1. There is a long time until the draft and certainly, nothing figures to be in stone right now. But at a time when both sides are watching the public relations battle carefully, you wonder if such an idea (if indeed it is an idea being considered) holds up.


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On hold

Posted by Darren Urban on March 14, 2011 – 9:36 am

As I came in this morning, I saw strength and conditioning coach John Lott lifting weights. I’m guessing there will be  a lot of that in the short term, while the powers-that-be sort out the lockout/decertification and there is a waiting game for labor resolution. To get an understanding on where this whole thing is and where it is going, this article by former Packers executive Andrew Brandt is simple and concise. (And for multiple stories and details as we go, you can check here.)

For now, there is looking forward to the draft, which is always important and may be even moreso this offseason (I will  be posting a story a bit later on what the fifth overall pick — which the Cards hold — has provided over the past 10 years). So we plug away while we wait.


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