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MRI shows no tear on Peterson injury

Posted by Darren Urban on December 26, 2011 – 11:43 am

Rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson was undergoing an MRI Monday morning to check out his Achilles injury, but coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was optimistic it wasn’t “too bad” and the coach also wouldn’t rule out Peterson playing in the season finale against Seattle. Whisenhunt said he wasn’t sure if it was a strain or just tendinitis, but the MRI should clear that up. Peterson was upbeat after the game — Whiz said Peterson even wanted to go back in in Cincinnati.

“We’re obviously going to be smart with it, but until we see what it says from the MRI, we don’t really know (if he can play),” Whisenhunt said.

UPDATE: The MRI revealed no tears and no surgery is needed to Peterson’s left Achilles tendon. He has some inflammation. He will take treatment and be reevaluated Wednesday as the practice week begins to see if Peterson has a chance to play in the finale.

The situation with quarterback Kevin Kolb is more sticky. He still has days when “little symptoms” come up with the concussion. “We’ve got to make sure we err to the side of caution,” Whisenhunt said. Most of the time Kolb feels good, Whiz said. But not always. Kolb “didn’t feel great” out on the field Saturday, and “that was the concern.”

One thing Whisenhunt made clear, whether it was Peterson or Kolb: Assuming health, he wouldn’t just hold a guy out against the Seahawks because it’s the last game of the season and the playoffs are no longer possible. “We wouldn’t put someone in jeopardy,” Whisenhunt said. “We never would. That doesn’t change the way you approach this game.”


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The Doucet debate

Posted by Darren Urban on December 26, 2011 – 10:45 am

In the aftermath of the TD-catch-that-wasn’t by Early Doucet — and it wasn’t a drop, in this case, because Doucet’s feet got tangled and he never got a chance to get his hands on the ball — the fourth-year wide receiver has been a popular topic of conversation this morning. Larry Fitzgerald Sr., a long-time writer and sports commentator in Minnesota, tweeted out that Doucet “bombed” this season and drops too many passes. (Mike Sando tracked Big Fitz down for a more detailed explanation). In Sando’s piece, Fitzgerald Sr. said that Doucet was invited to train with Larry Fitzgerald Jr. this offseason and didn’t come, and the elder Fitz wondered about Doucet’s work ethic.

That led former Cardinals and current Chiefs wide receiver Steve Breaston to tweet out, “Always found it funny if you ain’t working out at this place with such n such or in front of cameras you ain’t working hard….”

Here are the facts on Doucet: He has stayed healthy this season, a first. His statistics are far and away the best of his career — 53 catches, 682 yards, five touchdowns. The drops are harder to quantify — Stats Inc. has him with six, Sando said ESPN’s stat department has him with three — because that is frequently subjective. The one that sticks in my mind was the drop at the end of regulation against Dallas that cost the Cards a first down and put the defense in harm’s way. I don’t recall specifics otherwise, other than I remember they have happened.

But Doucet, as a third receiver behind Fitz Jr. and Andre Roberts, has become a key third-down target too. Both his grabs Saturday were first downs on third-down passes.

After the game, Doucet was down. But he decided to face the media when he could have left, understanding he had to take the heat. He didn’t hesitate in taking full blame, although if the offense hadn’t play so poorly as a whole most of the game, it might not have come down to that final throw.

“We’ve been through a lot this year — good and bad,” Doucet said. “We, as a team, have great character. We’re not going to let a situation like that stop us from playing hard and being a team. I had a bunch of guys come up to me on the sideline and tell me they believe in me, and that’s what you need. I’ve grown a lot through tough times, so I won’t let a situation like this bring me down. It was unfortunate, but you have to move on. It’s a part of life.”

Doucet will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. My guess is that he’ll have a chance to test the market, but I wouldn’t think the Cards are going to close the door on him returning. Generally, coaches have been happy with how Doucet has worked the last couple of years. He, like all the receivers, has been hurt by inconsistent quarterback play. Criticism is part of the business. I also wonder how Fitzgerald Jr. will handle it, because it seems inevitable he will be asked to weigh in on the subject.

UPDATE: Coach Ken Whisenhunt on Doucet Monday morning: “Early is a tremendous competitor and has fought back through things and I have tremendous respect for him … Early has made some big plays for us.”


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Bengals aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 24, 2011 – 6:27 pm

It’s Christmas Eve, 30,000 feet above Missouri according to the “moving map” in the seatback in front of me, and at this point, it’s tough to not think more about my kids and the next 24 hours than the Cardinals.

That’s what happens when the finish doesn’t go the Cards’ way – a Cardiac Cards game in reverse. All the components were there for another amazing rally. I have no doubt, frankly, that had Early Doucet caught that ball, or the Cards had been able to find their way to a tying score, that they would have won in overtime. But that didn’t happen, and after so many of the late breaks that went their way over the past month, the tangling of feet just seemed bound to happen. The law of averages and all that.

The Cardinals are done, and now the game against the Seahawks next week is about the chance to finish .500 – still a feat given the start to the season – and taking second place in the NFC West.

First, a shorter (I say that as I start out) aftermath, since Christmas is on the mind:

– John Skelton, the ultimate Jekyll-and-Hyde. How does the guy who did what he did in the first three quarters do what he did in the final quarter? The pressure is off? A switch is flipped? Through three quarters, his passing rating was 18.0. Forced interceptions, overthrows, inaccurate throws.

In the fourth quarter, his passing rating was 112.8. What you saw is the reason you can’t go all-in with him. Not yet, anyway. The defense works without a net when Skelton plays like that, and he has yet to not play like that, really. I’m sure he’d love to know why too, but he doesn’t. I’ve never seen such a dramatic difference in how a guy plays. Make no mistake – the pass to Doucet was a good read and good throw. He would have had another TD pass. It’s why he’s so hard to bench. Because that streak always seems to come.

– Calais Campbell set a career-high with his eighth sack, and forced that last fumble that looked like it would get the Cards the tie.

– Safety Kerry Rhodes was back as a playmaker too – he recovered both Bengals fumbles.

– Safety Adrian Wilson forced a fumble, but the big play was his roughing the passer call that seemed iffy. Some have said the right replay showed helmet-to-helmet. I just didn’t see it, and it stole a big play from the Cards.

– A.J. Jefferson was the kickoff returner, so that LaRod Stephens-Howling – dealing with a sore hamstring – could concentrate on his offensive packages. Jefferson struggled, averaging just 17.3 yards a return.

– The Cardinals finally put Deuce Lutui in on offense. He took over at right guard in the second half. No way to know how he graded out yet, but since Lutui will be a free agent after the season, it’s interesting. You wonder if there will be some evaluating going on.

– On the play before Doucet’s miss, the Cards ran a screen to Larry Fitzgerald. It was set up well – but tight end Todd Heap missed a block, and that was the man who made the tackle. It only gained two yards, and probably should have gained more. Not that it mattered much, since the Cards needed to convert the Doucet pass, but worth noting.

– The Cardinals have played an NFL-high 12 games decided by seven points or less. That they added to the total Saturday is simply crazy.

– It was a weary Ken Whisenhunt who talked after the game. There was no anger. He mentioned the frustration many times, and he was asked if that was partly because he thought the Cards were past playing like that. A tired smile crossed his face. “I never thought we were past playing like that,” he said.

He knew his team didn’t play well enough. But he wasn’t in the mood to complain much. Maybe it was the Christmas spirit.

“It’s not any fun when it starts like that,” Whisenhunt said. “But I do have a lot of respect for our players for the way they didn’t quit. It didn’t look good there in the fourth quarter. We fought all the way back. We had chances to make plays, we just didn’t get it done. It’s disappointing from that aspect, especially as hard as we fought this year to get back to where we were.”

OK, big props to anyone actually reading this tonight. I’m taking tomorrow off, if everyone doesn’t mind. Merry Christmas.

 


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Kolb inactive; Skelton gets the start

Posted by Darren Urban on December 24, 2011 – 9:39 am

John Skelton will start at quarterback for the Cards today, not a surprise, nor is the fact Kevin Kolb is inactive again because of his concussion. As expected, Jeremy Bridges will also start today at right tackle because Brandon Keith is out with his ankle injury. The rest of the Cards’ inactives:

  • WR Stephen Williams
  • S Sean Considine (foot)
  • LB Brandon Williams
  • WR Jaymar Johnson
  • WR DeMarco Sampson

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Friday before the Bengals

Posted by Darren Urban on December 23, 2011 – 12:02 pm

I won’t have a Christmas poem this year, but I do have a representative from the North Pole.

OK, it’s North Pole, Alaska, birthplace of starting left guard Daryn Colledge, but you know it fits the theme as we head into Christmas weekend, including the Christmas Eve game tomorrow in Cincinnati. Before we get to that, though, a moment with Colledge, who would have to have a heightened sense of the holiday given his roots. Right?

“When you come from a place like North Pole, you obviously are bit by the Christmas bug at a young age,” Colledge said. “I’ve always been a Christmas guy, a winter guy, enjoy the snow and stuff, but I’ll tell you what, now that I am later in my career, I’m not crying about not having snow at the end of my football season.”

A good mindset since he has moved from playing in Green Bay to Arizona, possibly one of the farthest weather leaps you can make in the NFL, especially in December.

“You know what, I might have some people truck down some snow from Flagstaff, just to have in the yard, build a snowman for a day,” Colledge said. “I wouldn’t mind if there was a freak snowstorm around here one day, but that would be tough for everyone else around here, I don’t know if they’d be ready for it.”

Here’s one plus: The weather in Cincy should be mild, with forecasted temperatures in the mid-40s and no precipitation. Then again, as Colledge noted, the weather forecasts in the Midwest this time of year “are good for about 30 minutes.” Enough about the weather – how about the game:

– We will start, yet again, with the quarterback. No official announcement Friday. Kevin Kolb is officially listed as questionable, however, and that alone says to me John Skelton is the starter. I had that feeling as soon as Kolb was listed as limited Wednesday that would be the case – there’s no reason to turn away from Skelton if Kolb isn’t totally ready to go – and let’s face it, when Kolb has been ready to start, we all knew right away. When there has been a question, Skelton has gotten the nod.

– This opponent plays right into the type of game the Cards have been playing, because the Bengals play a similar type of game: Close, while making just enough things happen to win. The Cards have to control running back Cedric Benson, and that would go a long way toward giving them a shot tomorrow. The sexy matchup is A.J. Green versus Patrick Peterson, but it will be Benson’s production that will impact the game more.

– A win tomorrow gives the Cards a 4-0 record in December, and it would be the franchise’s first four-win month since October, 1984.

– The Cardinals lead the NFL in allowing an average of just 2.26 points on drives following their own turnovers, a big reason they have been able to start gathering wins of late.

“It’s good because we have turned it over way too much,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “One of the things you preach to your team is responding and you have to have a mentality to do that. It’s good to see our defense has done that.”

– The Cards have 27 turnovers on the season.

– Peterson needs just 21 punt return yards to set the NFL rookie record. The Steelers’ Louis Lipps holds the current mark with 656 yards.

–Tackle Levi Brown has taken his share of criticism, and it hasn’t been unwarranted, but he  has been performing well of late. Check out this line from profootballfocus.com: “I’m starting to wonder if Brown may have just turned a corner.”

– Wells needs just six yards to reach 1,000 yards rushing for the season. Stop if you’ve heard this one before – Beanie was 84 yards short two games ago and has yet to cross the threshold – but it is coming in Cincinnati. There’s something fitting about that, anyway, since Beanie is from fairly-nearby Akron.

“It means so much for me because every running back in the NFL wants to hit that 1,000-yard milestone because it’s great for a team to have a 1,000-yard rusher,” Wells said. “It would mean a whole lot to me to get that in Ohio where I started playing football.”

– Whisenhunt said the mark would also mean something to the offensive line. “The line has been criticized quite a bit, but when you have a 1,000-yard rusher, especially when you go through a stretch like we did and we didn’t win a lot of games, it says a lot about the offensive squad.”

Tomorrow will be a day of waiting on the edge of the seat, and not just about Santa’s impending arrival. Assuming the Cards win – and remember, any playoff hopes start right there – the games the Cards must have break right all are later kickoffs: Chargers at Lions in the afternoon, Bears at Packers that night, and Falcons at Saints Monday night.

Here we go. And happy holidays.


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Whiz on starting QB: “We’ll know tonight”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 23, 2011 – 9:26 am

The Cardinals went through an early-morning half-walkthrough/half-practice Friday morning, thanks to the short week and a long plane ride to Cincinnati. Afterward, you could plug in coach Ken Whisenhunt’s comments about the starting quarterback and Kevin Kolb’s situation from any of the previous two days: Both quarterbacks looked “good,” he wants to see how Kolb (and Kolb’s concussion) respond to flying, and that they’d talk about it after landing.

“We’ll know tonight,” Whisenhunt said, although that will be officially after any media availability is over so no info — at least, no info not leaked — will be out there until we get to 90 minutes before kickoff tomorrow.

The players were on the field by 7:30 this morning, about two hours earlier than a normal Friday. “It was cold,” Whisenhunt said. “But it was good. The guys were in a good place. They came out, got their work. It’s hard, because normally this is a walkthrough and we had to do a little more today but we got through it and will watch the tape tonight in Cincinnati.”


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No (QB) news is … the news

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2011 – 1:35 pm

There was nothing different on the quarterback front Thursday as coach Ken Whisenhunt continued to play his cards close to the vest. Kevin Kolb is “making progress” but Whisenhunt wants to see how Kolb reacts Friday to the plane flight to Cincinnati.

“He’s getting reps and seeing the field and getting acclimated to the game plan,” Whisenhunt said, and when he was asked just how many reps — remember, Whiz said he’d like to get the starter more reps — the coach just smiled. “I’m not going to comment on the number of reps,” he said. “Both (quarterbacks) are getting reps and both working. We’ll make a decision at the end of the week when we see where everything is.”

Such a vague path would seem to point more toward John Skelton getting another start, since Kolb was clearly the starter the week he finally returned against Dallas. But it’s wait and see.

– Whisenhunt did say he doubts right tackle Brandon Keith, sporting a walking boot because of an ankle injury and sitting out practice for a second straight game, will be able to play in Cincinnati. That means Jeremy Bridges would get the start for the fourth time this season.


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A 3-4 doesn’t slow Campbell

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2011 – 10:03 am

One of the traits of a 3-4 defense is that it is built for the linebackers. The defensive line is set up to keep blockers off the second level, and that right defensive end spot manned in a traditional 4-3 scheme — usually the big sack guy for the team — is a lot different than the right defensive end in a 3-4 look.

That hasn’t stopped Calais Campbell, who has been exceptionally productive despite the limits of his duties.

“Its one of those things, you have to do your job and if everyone does their job, then there is no where for a running back to go and it becomes, who sheds his blocks the fastest,” Campbell said. “A lot of times, teams challenge me and run at me. I’ve made some plays.”

Campbell does acknowledge it is a “big difference” playing 4-3 defensive end versus a 3-4 defensive end.

Yet Campbell is third on the Cardinals in tackles — 65, trailing the 89 of both Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington, linebackers — an impressive feat for any defensive lineman. He leads the team in sacks with seven. His nine passes defenses (nothing like a good knockdown at the line of scrimmage) is by far the most of any player who doesn’t play in the secondary. And his 10 tackles for loss is second only to Washington’s 13.

“There have been a lot of effort plays, chasing the ball down,” Campbell said. “One of those things, you have to go after the ball. You can’t expect it to just come to you.”

That production means the Cards need to re-sign Campbell, a free-agent-to-be (although with the franchise tag, Campbell should be in Arizona regardless in 2012). And the funny thing? “I feel like I could play even better,” he said.

“There are a lot of plays I leave out there, plays I could make if I took the right step or trusted my instincts,” Campbell said. “I am having a good year, but that goes along with the scheme and the team effort, and guys around me are playing well and it makes it easier to make plays.”


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Porter to IR, future cloudy

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2011 – 11:24 am

After missing most of the season with a bad knee that required surgery, the Cardinals finally placed veteran linebacker Joey Porter on injured reserve Tuesday, ending his season and — barring a surprise — his time in Arizona. There’s a good chance the 13-year pro, a free-agent-to-be, also has played his last down in the NFL as he deals with the chronic knee issues.

Porter came into the season needing three sacks to reach 100 for his career. He notched just one before he played for a final time this season against the Steelers the sixth game of the season; the knee sidelined him since.

The Cards promoted linebacker Brandon Williams from the practice squad to take Porter’s roster spot. Running back William Powell, who was with the Cards in training camp and the preseason, was signed to the practice squad.

Porter was signed before the 2010 season in a hope he could provide some pass-rushing help, but it never materialized. He had five sacks last season and then had to take a huge paycut to stick around this season, from $5.75 million to $1.5 million. He was starting while healthy, but the Cardinals always wanted to get young linebackers more playing time and rookie replacement Sam Acho has provided a significant boost since entering the lineup in Baltimore.

To Porter’s credit, he has remained engaged at the games in which he has attended (he wasn’t traveling after surgery). But he was never able to demonstrate the same pressure off the edge that allowed him to generate 26.5 sacks in the two seasons (in Miami) before coming to Arizona.


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Playoff reality (or possibilties, depending on your view)

Posted by Darren Urban on December 20, 2011 – 9:46 pm

The Cardinals are the 10th seed in the NFC right now. Their playoff chances are very, very slim. They must win their last two games to finish 9-7 and have any measurable hope.

There are two wild card spots up for grabs. The Falcons and Lions are both 9-5, so either one need just win one of their final two games to eliminate the Cards. So one of those teams, at least, must lose both their final two games. The Seahawks won’t matter because the Cards face them head-to-head (and would have knocked them out to go 9-7).  The Cards don’t want to tie the Giants because the Giants beat them; a tie with the Cowboys is OK because the Cards beat them (in a tie for the wild card and not the NFC East title). UPDATE: As has been pointed out to me by a few people, the Cards can’t tie the Giants in a win-out situation because the Giants would win the East in that case. It boils down to the Falcons or Lions losing out (and the Bears losing at least one more).

NFC tiebreakers:
• Atlanta is the No. 5 seed ahead of Detroit based on head to head (1-0).
• Seattle finishes ahead of Chicago and N.Y. Giants based on head to head sweep (2-0).
• Chicago finishes ahead of Arizona and N.Y. Giants based on conference record (6-4 to the Cardinals’ 6-5 and the Giants’ 4-7).
• N.Y. Giants finish ahead of Arizona based on head to head (1-0).

In a nutshell, it’s the Falcons (at New Orleans, home versus a bad Tampa Bay team) and the Lions (at home against San Diego, at a Green Bay team that may not have anything to fight for) to watch.

We’ll obviously know much more after this weekend. Like whether the Seattle at Cards game will mean anything more than just second place in the NFC West.

(To view a breakdown of the NFL’s tie-breaking procedures go to http://www.nfl.com/standings/tiebreakingprocedures).


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