Arizona a Super finalist

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2011 – 3:29 pm

After last hosting the Super Bowl back after the 2007 season, University of Phoenix Stadium and Arizona are one of two finalists for the game to be played in 2015 after the 2014 season — along with Tampa Bay. The last time Tampa hosted was after the 2008 season, when the Cardinals made it to the game against Pittsburgh. The decision will be made at the October owners meetings.

“We are delighted to receive the terrific news that Arizona is one of two finalists for the 2015 Super Bowl,”  said Mike Kennedy, Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman. “As I have always said, we are in the Super Bowl business and believe we have the best facilities and most hospitable venue in the country.”

The next three Super Bowls are schedule to be in Indianapolis, New Orleans and New York.

Tags: ,
Posted in Blog | 5 Comments »

A few final words to mock

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2011 – 8:22 am

The first round of the draft is tonight, and so, I thought I’d take a quick moment to talk about what might be going on. For the first time in a long time, I won’t have a full first-round mock. To be truthful, with the Cards picking so high, I just don’t know enough of what may be happening after, say, the 10th pick. And I’ve had some other things going on too. Anyway, on to the draft.

OK, here’s what we know:

(See what I did there?)

Here’s what we think we know, based on all the millions of bits of information floating out there, the misinformation floating out there, and the meshing of both which will leave some things happening exactly as expected and others scratching our head (google Tyson Alualu):

1) The Panthers will probably take Cam Newton. 2) The Broncos seem to be leaning to Von Miller, although they seem ready to trade out, and there is scuttlebutt the Redskins might want to trade up for Blaine Gabbert. 3) The Bills seem to be ready to take Miller, or Newton, or Marcel Dareus, depending who drops. 4) Gabbert could fall quickly. 5) The Bengals probably go offense. 6) Most teams in the top five seem willing to trade down, if someone is willing to trade up, which is always the issue. 7) There are so many quarterbacks seemingly equal in stature it looks like the teams that need them are more willing to wait until the top of round two instead of pulling the trigger on one early.

In other words, there’s uncertainty, although it’s a controlled uncertainty in many ways. Said Cardinals general manager Rod Graves, “The top 10 players are the top 10 players. We may have them out of order a little bit from team to team, but you are still talking about the same guys. Beyond that, it’s a little more dicey.” So here are my thoughts on the top five picks:

  1. Carolina: QB Cam Newton. At this point, it’d be a surprise if it wasn’t Newton, although Dareus could sneak in, I suppose. Newton is anything but a guarantee, but at the same time, it’s a swing-for-the-fences pick.
  2. Denver: LB Von Miller. Those covering the Broncos seem pretty sure about this, although I get the sense the Broncos would like to trade. Dareus would seem a definite possibility, since new coach John Fox always loved to build up front the best he can and the team is transitioning from a 3-4 to a 4-3 (and Miller doesn’t seem to fit that quite as well).
  3. Buffalo: DT Marcell Dareus. Miller and Newton have been the two teams linked to the Bills this whole pre-draft time, and in my scenario, both are gone. Would Peterson or Blaine Gabbert be possible?
  4. Cincinnati: QB Blaine Gabbert. My gut is telling me they go WR A.J. Green, but people closer to the team think they may pull the trigger on Gabbert. I think they may go Green and try and get that second-round QB. Either way, time to find out if Mike Brown is willing to call Carson Palmer’s retirement bluff (although I’m not so sure it’s a bluff).
  5. Arizona: CB Patrick Peterson. If this is the scenario, I think the Cards would look long and hard at both Peterson and Green. If this is the scenario, the Cards may have some decent trade-down options too. If Gabbert is on the board with Peterson (let’s say Green was Cincy’s pick), that will also give pause, although I personally think defense would win out.

One other thing: A handful of coaches will attend today’s draft party, starting at 4 p.m. at the Great Lawn at University of Phoenix Stadium. They will be assistant head coach Russ Grimm, new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, offensive coordinator Mike Miller and strength and conditioning coach John Lott.

P.S. I love you, Dad.

Tags: ,
Posted in Blog | 38 Comments »

Draft teaches Grimm East, not West

Posted by Darren Urban on April 27, 2011 – 4:35 pm

When Russ Grimm was drafted in the third round of the 1981 draft, he got a call from the Washington Redskins telling him he was going to be their selection.

“When they said Washington Redskins I thought, ‘OK, Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer,’ things like this,” Grimm said. “But I always in my mind had pictured that the Redskins were in the state of Washington, not the nation’s capital. So I got my ticket and they said, ‘Washington, D.C.,’ and I said, ‘Ahh, that’s not that far away.’ So it worked out pretty good.”

Grimm was from Pennsylvania. He clearly has a better grasp of the nation’s geography these days.

This and other memories are part of the draft memory video package just posted. And if you missed it yesterday, the boys in the video room also put together a good look at how the Cards put together the top 120 draft board. Soon, we will have a short video roundtable posted between myself, Ron Wolfley, Dave Pasch and Paul Calvisi over the Cards’ top pick tomorrow. (And here it is.)

The draft is almost here.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Blog | 24 Comments »

The day before with Whiz and Graves

Posted by Darren Urban on April 27, 2011 – 11:49 am

With the draft beginning tomorrow evening, had a chance to touch base with coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves for a few final thoughts as the Cards are finished – basically – with the pre-draft work.

— Whisenhunt figures the number of calls the Cards have received about the fifth pick and trading have been about the same. “You have to weed through them, because some of them are just exploratory, and some are serious,” Whisenhunt said. I can’t say there are more or less. We really won’t know until (Thursday) which are serious, because there are a couple that may get more serious when we get closer to (the draft).”

Graves said the calls have slowed over the last 24 hours. But anyone who wants to call will be heard. “What we try to do is keep our options open,” Graves said, acknowledging a trade-up is “less likely” than a trade down.

If the Cards do move, it’s got to be done smartly. “Once you start talking about moving, you just never know who is going to be there,” Whisenhunt said. “Once you talk about moving back to get a certain player, there is no guarantee. You have to have a range where you know you are looking at a couple of guys where you have to have a strategy.”

The Cards have gone through as many scenarios as they could. Sometimes, it doesn’t mean much. Last year, Whisenhunt said, “we didn’t think there was any way” nose tackle Dan Williams was going to drop to the 26th pick, but then he did. Because the Cards are picking fifth this year, the focus on a smaller group of players is “more intense” but it is still harder to get a read on how the draft will play out, even when talking the first four picks.

“Usually we have had free agency,” Whisenhunt said. “It’s a little easier to target what team’s needs are because they have addressed some things in free agency. Let’s say, if you have assessed a team’s needs at five, if they have been through free agency, they had addressed two of those. It’s different this year from that standpoint, because you don’t know what team’s priorities are as much as you might in the past.”

Graves thinks generally, the absence of free agency before the draft means teams will be more likely to draft for need. But for the Cards, he noted, “best player available will drive a lot of our thinking.”

Finally, for everyone wondering about the Cards and taking a quarterback fifth, here is Whisenhunt’s final words on the subject, emphasizing again it depends on the assessment the team has given the prospect (which, conventional wisdom says, will be Blaine Gabbert when we are talking about the fifth pick).

“There is not a cut and dried way to say, this guy can do it or this guy can’t,” Whisenhunt said. “I think we have spent a lot of time with these guys this year, looked at a lot of tape, that’s part of the assessment. Taking a player at the fifth pick, you’d like a guy to make an immediate impact and we need it after going 5-11 last year. But you also have to look at the other areas where you could address it because we have also said that’s an area that is important to address this offseason. You have to weigh those things.”

Tags: , ,
Posted in Blog | 16 Comments »

For now, still waiting

Posted by Darren Urban on April 26, 2011 – 7:07 am

I know a lot of people want to know what is going on after yesterday’s court ruling. As of now, everything seems to remain in limbo. There will be a handful of players showing up to team facilities across the league, but it’s not like, for instance, John Lott is going to be putting everyone through the paces suddenly. Every report I have read says players aren’t going to be able to work out, not until more of the legal path is traveled and further sorted.

The same goes for offseason moves. As of now, the new league year has yet to start, so there are still no trades/signings/etc. As I have said before, something had to happen in the legal arena for this process to move forward, and that’s what Monday was. So now we move forward, although it’s impossible to know what the timetable is or how quickly the labor issue will be resolved. Regardless, it is moving forward, which is a good thing.

UPDATE: As I said, we wait.

Posted in Blog | 43 Comments »

If you invite, players will come

Posted by Darren Urban on April 25, 2011 – 9:58 am

So last month there was a flash of hype about the high-ranking draftees possibly not attending the draft in New York and not shaking commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand, all because of the labor situation and the whole players-versus-league concept. That seemed to fade, but it was impossible to know how much.

Today, we know. It turns out a record 25 players will attend the draft, crushing last year’s mark of 17 attendees. The NFL just announced it via e-mailed press release. The names to attend:

Prince Amukamara CB Nebraska Corey Liuget DT Illinois
Akeem Ayers LB UCLA Von Miller LB Texas A&M
Adrian Clayborn DE Iowa Rahim Moore S UCLA
Randall Cobb WR Kentucky Cam Newton QB Auburn
Marcell Dareus DT Alabama Patrick Peterson CB Louisiana State
Nick Fairley DT Auburn Mike Pouncey G/C Florida
Blaine Gabbert QB Missouri Aldon Smith DE Missouri
AJ Green WR Georgia Tyron Smith T Southern California
Mark Herzlich LB Boston College Phil Taylor DT Baylor
Mark Ingram RB Alabama Danny Watkins G Baylor
Cameron Jordan DE California JJ Watt DE Wisconsin
Julio Jones WR Alabama Ryan Williams RB Virginia Tech
Ryan Kerrigan DE Purdue

Tags: ,
Posted in Blog | 16 Comments »

Undrafted limbo

Posted by Darren Urban on April 24, 2011 – 5:00 pm

The draft comes in a matter of days — 5 p.m. Thursday night in Arizona — and every year, hundreds of draft hopefuls wait to get a phone call. This year, because of the current lockout and the uncertainty of when it will be resolved, there might be a little more stress come Saturday in those last couple of rounds.

Everything during the draft will be normal, generally. Players will be picked, players will  be interviewed. Assuming a player is still game, a first-rounder will still do some sort of press conference. Once Mr. Irrelevant is selected, however, and the draft ends, all the players drafted fall into the same spot as all the current NFL players, and contact with teams ends until a new labor agreement is reached. That has, of course, included new contracts (which is why free agency hasn’t begun). That means no rookies can sign a contract either. That doesn’t mean much for draftees — I mean, they already know what teams they will play for.

The post-draft stampede for undrafted rookies, however, won’t be happening. At least for now.

Last year, the Cards ended up keeping a bunch of their undrafted signees. Think of all the guys who made the team in one way or another last season who were undrafted: receivers Stephen Williams and Max Komar, cornerbacks A.J. Jefferson and Marshay Green and quarterback Max Hall. All left big enough marks in the offseason work to gain a foothold for training camp. Will such guys get that chance this offseason? They won’t even know what team they are playing for for the time being.

“Once the draft is over, that’s when it becomes very strange,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. “Not signing guys, not being able to coach these guys, having them in for OTAs, getting them accustomed to the playbook, that will hurt all these rookies and all these teams counting on these rookies contributing. The undrafted free agents, not even being  able to sign those guys until it is over … it hurts the percentages of those players coming in and making an impact.”

Again, we don’t know what the summer will hold, or when things are resolved. If a labor agreement is reached soon enough, things might not end up that different, other than adjusting what month things happen. In the meantime, this year’s Stephen Williams, whomever it may be, will have to wait and see. That can’t be easy.

Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 19 Comments »

The other side of the mocks

Posted by Darren Urban on April 21, 2011 – 3:46 pm

Even the Cardinals mock draft.

It comes at the tail end of their draft meetings, after they set their top 120 board. They’ll go through as many scenarios as they can to try and guesstimate what will happen (although in the end, it’s impossible to really know; as coach Ken Whisenhunt said Thursday, “the only time you really know is when (a team) makes that pick.”

“We go through a mock draft exercise every year and I think that it is a good exercise,” general manager Rod Graves said. “It is not totally worthless.”

As for the dozens of other mocks floating out there, the ones that all have an opinion about what player is going to go where and why, the Cards look at them too — with a different perspective.

“It is always interesting,” Whisenhunt said. “Listen, there is nothing wrong with information. There are enough people that don’t agree with what we do, or the calls that I make, so it is my chance to look at something you guys do and disagree with you. ‘God, that wasn’t a very good pick.’ Although I just don’t have the forum to put it out there that you do. So yeah, it’s interesting. I do (look at them). It is kind of a guilty pleasure for me to go and look at what different guys put for their picks or their analysis of the draft.”

Tags: , , ,
Posted in Blog | 83 Comments »

One week out, Whiz and Graves talk draft

Posted by Darren Urban on April 21, 2011 – 11:59 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves held their pre-draft press conference today. No surprise — they did not announce their preferred player to be available when they select fifth overall. But some of the things they did say:

— Graves said the Cardinals have taken some phone calls from teams about the fifth pick and he expects to take more as the time to make the choice approaches. Whether the Cards actually would deal it would depend on the offer and the players available at that time.

— Whisenhunt, who earlier in interviews had said he didn’t “see a Sam Bradford” in this draft clarified to say that meant there wasn’t a top QB with a lengthy body of college work. The QBs available, among them the top candidates Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, just have a shorter resume and it makes them harder to evaluate.

— Whisenhunt also acknowledged opinions are “all over the place” on the QBs available.

— Asked about needing an impact player at No. 5, and the idea a rookie quarterback wouldn’t necessarily make that immediate impact, Whisenhunt said “I wouldn’t pigeon-hole a decision for that pick.”

— The Cards are dealing with the flip-flop of having free agency after the draft this offseason because of the lockout. Do they relish the change? Not necessarily. “We are creatures of habit,” Whisenhunt said. “This is something different. It’s something we adjust to.”

— A young quarterback can succeed but he has to have the right support around him. Do the Cards have the right people in place to support a rookie QB? Not last year, Whisenhunt said. “That’s what we’re in the process of trying to fix now.”

— Cards have hosted a bunch of players pre-draft, between 20 and 30, Whisenhunt estimated (I do believe I have run into one or two in the building).

I’ll have a story up later today.

Posted in Blog | 54 Comments »

Immediate schedule thoughts

Posted by Darren Urban on April 19, 2011 – 4:09 pm

The schedule is out (and coach Ken Whisenhunt will speak about it in a few minutes). A few quick thoughts:

— Opening with Carolina at home, only the third time the Cards have ever opened at home since coming to Arizona (I am not counting 2001, when 9/11 forced the postponement of the original opener in Washington). That’s 24 seasons.

— Three straight weeks on the road in November — at Philly Nov. 13, at San Francisco Nov. 20 and at St. Louis Nov. 27 — is followed by three straight home games — Dec. 4 vs. Dallas, Dec. 11 vs. San Francisco, Dec. 18 vs. Cleveland.

— Fun with Christmas Eve in Cincinnati (always happy that I fly charter now and we will be home that evening).

— All the major long road trips aren’t back-to-back.

— No prime-time games for the first time in a few years. Not a surprise.

— The Steelers come back to Arizona Oct. 23, after the Cards’ bye, giving the Cards a little extra time to prepare.

— Two road games at Washington and at Seattle after the home opener. Given the opponents, it’ll be a very interesting first three games and will go a long way in determining the Cards’ 2011 season, methinks.

Posted in Blog | 47 Comments »