One call for three Cards Pro Bowlers — including A-Dub

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2011 – 12:40 pm

The guys at watch all the games every week and grade and break down all the players. So it makes sense they would have a big-picture view of those worthy for the Pro Bowl and today, site founder Neil Hornsby put together a list of who he feels should make the Pro Bowl thus far, based on the totality of the work.

The Cards may be 4-7, but Hornsby put three Cards on the NFC squad, all as starters: Patrick Peterson as a return man, Larry Fitzgerald as a wide receiver and, wait for it … Adrian Wilson at safety.

It’s been a quiet year for A-Dub since the regular season started, in more ways than one. He was playing with his biceps injury, and he had a big red-zone interception the second game against Washington. He, like the entire defense, took some time to find a comfort zone in Ray Horton’s new scheme, and the communications issues in the secondary — along with the oft-painful growing pains of cornerbacks Peterson and A.J. Jefferson — didn’t reflect well. With the team losing games too, Wilson has often been a ghost when the media is around too. It’s not hard to see he has been frustrated.

Clearly, though, Wilson has put together a solid season as it has progressed, and video analysis has shown it.

Hornsby didn’t analyze Wilson in the web story, so I asked him to do it for me. Wilson has had a “very consistent, very balanced all-round performance with underneath coverage being a strong suit,” Hornsby wrote in an e-mail. “Giving up less than 50% completions when thrown at and has a passer rating of 66.8 into his coverage. Areas to work on: Cutting back on penalties and getting better value than two hits and four pressures from his 46 blitzes.”

Wilson has 45 tackles this season, with five tackles for loss, the pick, three quarterback pressures and 10 pass deflections.

Hornsby also noted he really, really likes the play of defensive end Calais Campbell and linebacker Daryl Washington, and the only reason they aren’t on the list is because of the talent depth at the positions in the NFC.

By the way, here is Hornsby’s take on Fitz, whose catches are way down (51) but he already has 888 yards and six touchdowns with five games to go: “(Calvin) Johnson is an awesome specimen but surely the best receiver in football is Fitzgerald. With what he’s had thrown at him the last couple of years most players would have crumbled, but he’s done more to impress me in this period than he did when the great Kurt Warner was his teammate – and he was brilliant then.”

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For Peterson, shoes are Hall-worthy

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2011 – 4:53 pm

First, Patrick Peterson achieves NFL history. Then his shoes are immortalized.

The shoes the rookie wore during his 99-yard overtime winning touchdown punt return Nov. 6 against the Rams have been sent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and are on display in Canton. And the request to put the shoes was even before Peterson’s NFL-record-tying fourth TD return this past weekend.

“When I heard the Hall of Fame called, I was obviously extremely flattered,” Peterson told the Hall of Fame website. “To have your name mentioned alongside some of the best players ever to play the game is humbling.”

(The picture of the display with the shoes is below, in the bottom right of the case. They are alongside a pair of mementos from the 2010 season: A jersey of Jaguars receiver Mike Thomas worn when he caught the Hail Mary deflected game-winner against the Texans, and a jersey of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick from the game in which he became the first player to pass for 300 yards, run for 50, throw for four touchdown passes and run for two TDs in a single game.)

I remember the last time the Hall came calling for something.

A quick thought on Peterson: It’s amazing to me that, as much as he dominated college, he’s been a better punt returner in the pros thus far. He averaged 16.1 yards a return with two touchdowns last year at LSU. This year, it’s 18.0 and four touchdowns.

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Cards cut FB Maui’a, promote WR Johnson

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2011 – 11:22 am

With fullback Anthony Sherman back to health, the Cardinals released fullback Reagan Maui’a today. That was expected once Sherman had recovered from his ankle injury. To fill Maui’a’s spot on the roster, the Cardinals have promoted wide receiver Jaymar Johnson from the practice squad — interesting in the fact the Cardinals already had six receivers on the active roster and one — Stephen Williams — is a healthy scratch every week. Johnson has speed and has spent time with the Vikings. We’ll see if he gets a chance to play on Sundays.

Filling Johnson’s spot on the practice squad will be tight end Steve Skelton, who was brought back for a third time this season.

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Peterson, Beanie nominated — and a playoff scenario

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2011 – 9:56 am

Big games in wins mean possible awards. So when Beanie Wells and Patrick Peterson do what they did, they earn their way into the weekly voting. Beanie, after rushing for a team-record 228 yards against the Rams, is up for the FedEx ground player of the week, vs. the Bengals’ Cedric Benson (106 yards rushing and one TD) and the Titans’ Chris Johnson (190 yards). You can vote for Beanie right here.

Peterson, meanwhile, is up for the Pepsi rookie of the week award after his fourth punt return for a touchdown this season. He’s up against Texans DE J.J. Watt, Panthers QB Cam Newton, Bengals QB Andy Dalton and Redskins RB Roy Helu. You can vote for Peterson right here.

— Now this is what you call a true fan. Writer Will Leitch, who founded the website and now works for Yahoo! and New York magazine, is also a huge Cardinals fan. He tweeted out last night he spent 45 minutes on the playoff situation simulator on just to come up with a scenario where the Cards got in. And he finally did. Check it out. The Cards would have to win out, of course (and no, I am not endorsing its probability. I don’t need a lecture from Jim Mora).

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Whiz passes a mentor

Posted by Darren Urban on November 28, 2011 – 7:02 pm

When Ken Whisenhunt was playing in the NFL, Jim Hanifan was one of his coaches. The two were close, and Hanifan liked to tell his big H-back, “Someday, you’ll wind up the Governor of the state of Georgia.”

“I knew he’d be a tremendous success in whatever he did,” Hanifan said Sunday, when he just so happened to be at the same game as Whisenhunt. Hanifan, in fact, was one of the most successful head coaches in Cardinals’ franchise history, totaling 39 wins from 1980-85. It was coincidence, of course – Hanifan was taking part in the Cards’ annual alumni reunion every time they have a road trip in St. Louis – but Whisenhunt’s win against the Rams broke his tie with Hanifan on the team’s all-time wins list. Whisenhunt now has 40 victories.

Whisenhunt wasn’t much in the mood — with a 4-7 record — to be talking about his place on the wins list. Don Coryell is the franchise’s all-time leader with 42, and the Cards have five games remaining.

“To be honest with you, I haven’t really thought about that,” Whisenhunt said. “We’re not doing what we want to do record-wise, and that’s what’s more important to me. I feel very lucky to have this group of men and be in this town with our fans, and I know it’s been a tough year for all of us, but that’s something to talk about another day. I’m not really too concerned about that right now.”

Hanifan said he was “proud” of the work Whisenhunt had done at coach and was happy to be passed on the wins chart by his former student.

“It’s funny,” Whisenhunt said. “I am glad I got a chance to see him on the field before the game. I know he is happy about that and it was ironic, but also kind of special.”

As for the politics, Whisenhunt said he’d probably pass, although he chuckled at the memory of Hanifan’s predictions once upon a time.

“I think he said that because he felt sorry for me because I had to do all those wham blocks, lead blocking on the nose tackles,” Whisenhunt said. “He was a very good coach who really helped me in my career and it means a lot to me he would say those kinds of things. You look at people who have influenced you in your career and he was certainly one of those.”

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Beanie sore but not out; Kolb should return

Posted by Darren Urban on November 28, 2011 – 12:09 pm

Not too many news nuggets came out of Ken Whisenhunt’s presser today, which is probably a good thing. Other than running back Beanie Wells, whom Whiz said was “sore” and had a “little swelling” with his knee, the Cards came out fairly unscathed. It’ll be wait and see how much Wells can do at practice Wednesday, but there didn’t sound like any concern he would be ready for Dallas.

“When he got his knee bent back, it looked horrible,” Whisenhunt said. “I’m sure at that point most of us thought that was it and he was done, because he was already fighting the knee. But to his credit, he fought it and came back in and had some big runs. Kudos to Beanie. When you talk about trying to get players to understand the mentality of what it takes, it’s great to see a young guy like Beanie make that progress.”

As for quarterback Kevin Kolb, it sure sounds like he will finally be able to make his return this game.

“I think we are certainly a lot more optimistic about him being able to go this week,” Whisenhunt said. “It will depend on where he is Wednesday, but he made enough progress last week that you feel good about him being able to do it.”

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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2011 – 8:49 pm

Adrian Wilson was on the field and the Cardinals were about to use the victory/kneel-down formation at the end of Sunday’s game. But with Beanie Wells having a chance at history – to himself – the Cards took a delay of game and then Wells got his record-breaking run, a 14-yarder that put the exclamation point on a 228-yard day.

It was a fantastic show by Beanie, and a necessary one. The Cards need to get Kevin Kolb back on the field at quarterback, odd in some ways to say after John Skelton went 3-1 as a starter, but the passing offense has grinded to a halt. You don’t want to get anything confused – the Rams’ after all, do have the NFL’s worst run defense and have dealt with 200-yard rushers earlier this season, after Dallas’ DeMarco Murray ran for a league-high 253 yards – but Beanie played well and to match his career-high in carries with 27 speaks to fighting through his knee soreness.

— The Cards used a few more jumbo-type packages to just out-physical the Rams. Beanie looked comfortable doing those things. Now Wells just needs to hold up – he looked beat up the way he was walking around the locker room – and the Cards need to feed the Bean.

— Speaking of that knee, the way Beanie got twisted around in the fourth quarter looked ugly at first (and his lost fumble could have been disaster). But he broke off a 53-yard run the next time he got back in the game. And that led Larry Fitzgerald to tag Beanie with the Paul Pierce award.

“Past recipients have been Greg Toler (and) Eric Green,” Fitzgerald quipped. “I think Beanie is a candidate but we are glad to have him on the team.”

Pierce, of course, is the star of the NBA’s Boston Celtics who left a 2008 Finals game looking like he wrecked his knee horribly, only to return later in the game like nothing had happened. It’s all in good fun – Fitzgerald nabbed Green back after the Jets game in 2008, when Green came up lame after getting burned for a touchdown and Fitzgerald insisted his injury “changed” to a different part of the body after Green came to the sideline.

It was all in good fun, although after the ups and downs Wells has been through given his injury situations – and what outside people tend to see with Wells when he gets hurt – it was kinda close to home.

“You know what it goes to show you Beanie has grown up a little bit, a tough-minded guy,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That’s what you need. That’s what we have been striving to get Beanie to get to do for a couple years now. It’s great to see.”

— Beanie has a career-high 849 yards rushing already with five games remaining. He now has a career high in touchdowns too, with eight.

— It meant something that rookie fullback Anthony Sherman was in there blocking for Beanie. Sherman is good at his job already. Plus, Beanie seems to be the kind of back who likes having a lead back blocking for him.

— Fitz was quiet again (3 catches, 55 yards) but that’s what happens when the quarterback struggles so. “I am just happy to get a win honestly,” Fitzgerald said. “I would love to have 100 yards and a couple touchdowns, but I know that’s not going to happen every week.”

Fair. But the Cards need Fitz and more importantly, need to find a way to get him the ball. That’s probably been mentioned before.

— Sam Acho isn’t going to say much about himself. He doesn’t like to do it if he can help it, preferring to shower the entire team with praise. I asked him on the plane if he was going to be a little more forthcoming. Nope. “Go ahead and put me down for all the clichés,” he said. That’s fine. We will stick with simple analysis: Acho has been very impressive. He already has five sacks as a rookie, and he barely played defense before the seventh game of the season. Is he a Pro Bowler? No. Not even polished. But a very good start, and needed at that position.

— No, I don’t know if Sam Rosen will be calling any more games involving the Cardinals on Fox this season.

— Patrick Peterson said on the radio after the game he wants to get to six punt-return TDs this season. If he gets five, it’s a season for the ages as a special teamer. One at a time.

— Hope Rosen wouldn’t have to fill in for the Cards’ own radio play-by-play guy, Dave Pasch. Pasch’s neck was hurting enough before the game he had to get a shot from the trainers of the “blue juice” Ron Wolfley recalls so fondly from his playing days. To be honest, it was a little freaky how jacked up Wolf got with the idea Pasch had to take the needle. Pasch indeed gutted out the game. He’s officially probable for next Sunday against Dallas.

— Tight end Todd Heap finally played a full game, but ended up as only a blocker. He was not targeted for a pass (although Jeff King was three times as a tight end, catching two).

— The down side of Beanie’s two big runs: In six subsequent downs right after the 71- and 53-yarders, one after first-and-10 at the Rams 11-yard line and one after first-and-goal at the Rams 9, the Cards gained all of five yards (two runs for no gain, three incompletions, and a five-yard pass to Fitz). They had to kick two field goals.

That was on the mind of guard Daryn Colledge when it was suggested the Cards found something by leaning on the run Sunday. “We’re going to run the plays that are called,” Colledge said. “We’re not concerned if they are run or pass. We want production. That’s important coming out of this game: We need more production in the red zone.”

— Two wildcat playcalls this season with Peterson at QB. The first time, the Cards had to call timeout before the snap because of a formation problem. Sunday, Peterson fumbled the snap. Maybe next time we’ll actually see what Peterson is supposed to do.

— Skelton said his first interception was simply a bad read and he should have thrown it to the dump-down guy. His other high throws was an issue of trying to get it up and over underneath coverage. “It’s something I have to work on,” Skelton said.

That’s good for now. Game ball, Beanie.

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Kolb inactive, Heap to play, Bridges starts

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2011 – 9:31 am

Quarterback Kevin Kolb will remain inactive another week with his toe/foot injuries, so — as expected — John Skelton will start with Rich Bartel as the backup. The Cardinals will have tight end Todd Heap back, although how much will have to be seen. He was active the last game against the Rams and only played a couple of plays. Fellow tight end Rob Housler remains out. Tackle Brandon Keith is active, but after his concussion, it will be veteran Jeremy Bridges starting on the right side.

Fullback Anthony Sherman finally returns to the starting lineup, with Reagan Maui’a inactive.

Besides Kolb, Housler and Maui’a, the rest of the Cards’ inactives today:

  • WR Stephen Williams
  • S Kerry Rhodes (foot)
  • LB Joey Porter (knee)
  • T D’Anthony Batiste

One other good nugget: Fox play-by-play man Sam Rosen is working his fourth Cards’ game of the year today. In each of the previous three, Patrick Peterson has a punt return for a touchdown. So take that for what it’s worth (which is coincidence, but still, a fun fact.)

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Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2011 – 3:52 pm

Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged Friday that, when Kevin Kolb got hurt originally, as bad as it looked, “you knew at that time there would be a time period to come back.” And there has been. Kolb did some work this week, but Whiz said Friday his next test would be the plane flight to St. Louis.

“Getting the rust off was what was important this week,” Whisenhunt said. “Seeing if he could play from the standpoint of practicing one day and see how it reacted the next day.”

What does this all mean? I suppose we could see Kolb Sunday. He is questionable after all. But Whiz also emphasized how important feet are to a quarterback – you can’t have him be a sitting duck back there – and given that he was limited all week after not practicing at all the previous three weeks, signs again seem to point to a John Skelton start.

That would be good for Skelton, to be honest. No way you want a young quarterback’s last taste during a season to be what transpired in San Francisco. That kind of ugliness – and how it noticeably affected Skelton, compared to how he usually is – needs to be flushed. Besides, if you are unsure of where Kolb is, what’s waiting one more week?

(Just in time for the pass rushes of the Cowboys and 49ers the next two games, by the way, albeit at home.)

We’ll see. Otherwise, it’s Rams Part II:

— Larry Fitzgerald tends to avoid talking specific criticisms, but he was blunt in calling the offense’s third-down conversions a “problem.” The Cards converted just one of 11 tries in San Francisco and “that’s unacceptable,” Fitzgerald said. “The plays are there, we have to be able to execute them.”

Overall, the Cards have converted a shade more than 30 percent of their third downs this season. Their last four games, it is 11-for-46, or 24 percent.

— You never want key cogs to go down with season-ending injuries (Everyone would have liked to see what the offense would have looked like with running back Ryan Williams or the defense with cornerback Greg Toler), but with nose tackle Dan Williams out, I would like to see how well rookie David Carter does. Veteran Nick Eason will be the starter, but Carter is the intriguing one, after pushing Williams in camp.

— That said, defensive coordinator Ray Horton liked what Williams was doing before he got hurt. Williams needs to keep his weight in check. Next year will be a big one for him, especially with Horton needing an anchor in the middle.

— The Cards can’t complain to the Rams about injuries, that’s for sure. Friday, tackle Jason Brown and receiver Mark Clayton were put on injured reserve – the 12th and 13th guys on that list for the Rams (and that doesn’t include a couple of injury settlements).

— The Cards have blocked four field goals this season, three by defensive end Calais Campbell alone. It’s the highest total for an NFL team since the Bears in 2007. “If you want to judge a team, watch that unit,” Whisenhunt said. “No matter what the score or where in the game it is, those guys are working hard. It’s just an effort play. It’s pretty amazing.”

— Quietly, wide receiver Early Doucet is on pace for 67 catches for 817 yards this season, decent numbers considering the inconsistent play at quarterback and in the passing game.

The Cards have won six straight games in St. Louis. I used to think it was a Kurt Warner-revenge thing. Nope. They’ve done it without him too.

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Kolb’s football flow and Thanksgiving notes

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2011 – 1:29 pm

Quarterback Kevin Kolb was “a little sore” in practice today after his most extensive work Wednesday since getting hurt, but that was to be expected, coach Ken Whisenhunt said following Thanksgiving practice.

“It’s just a thing where he has to warm it up,” Whisenhunt said, pointing out Kolb didn’t have any setback. “He has to get back into the flow of football.”

— The Cardinals did get Jeremy Bridges back for practice today — he missed Wednesday for personal reasons — which is good, since starting right tackle Brandon Keith has yet to pass his concussion test. Whisenhunt said the hope is that Keith will pass all the tests by tomorrow and be able to practice, but that’s TBD.

— Other than Bridges, the injury report was unchanged from Wednesday.

— Adam Schefter reported 49ers safety Dashon Goldson was fined $25,000 for his ejection in the Early Doucet scuffle from Sunday. Doucet, meanwhile, was fined $10,000 for his role in the fight.

— The players got a chance to bail out after practice, with no afternoon meetings so they could get to their holiday. Whiz did have a message for them before that, though.

“You can’t forget, we have practice (Friday),” Whisenhunt said. “The point you have to make with the players is that it’s great we don’t have meetings and you get to spend time with the family, but we have to come back and work tomorrow, clean up the things we made mistakes on today.”

Whiz and the coaches still had to prep for Friday, but then, their own families waited. “Eat a little, not a lot,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s the goal.”

A good goal to have. With props to Jimmy O for helping me out and letting me have my own family time, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

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