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Peterson’s plea for five

Posted by Darren Urban on January 31, 2012 – 1:39 pm

It didn’t take long for Patrick Peterson’s teammates to realize he was something special as a punt return man. As fellow DB and punt return blocker Richard Marshall noted, “Pat P is the man.” Yet the oft-repeated mantra of Peterson’s, the one in which he just told his teammates to “give me five yards”? Peterson admitted now, it wasn’t so easy to deliver that message.

“Honestly, I was scared to tell those guys at the beginning of the season,” Peterson said. “That’s the same thing I told the guys (in college) at LSU but I was a veteran at LSU. As a rookie, I didn’t want it to come off the wrong way, ‘This guy is too cocky.’ I asked coach Spence (special teams coach Kevin Spencer) if I approached the punt return team, because I feel I can make something special every time I touch the ball.”

So in a meeting the week after the game in Washington — the second game of the season — Peterson made his plea.

“From that day on, I asked the guys and a lot of times they gave me more (room), and we tied the NFL record,” Peterson said. “They took heed in it, and without those guys, I wouldn’t be in this position.”

Peterson knows now, there will be plenty of weeks where kickers don’t even try to kick it his way, eschewing the chance at deep punts to avoid him. That’s what he always expected, and it doesn’t faze him.

“I have to make them pay,” Peterson said. “If they have 10 kicks and they want all 10 away from me, they will miss one of them. And that will be my opportunity.”

Speaking of opportunity, there was one for him to hold the punt-return touchdown record all to himself in the season finale. Peterson looked like he was about to get his fifth of the season, only to have Seahawks punter Jon Ryan barely catch his foot and trip up Peterson. With a smile, Peterson acknowledged the play still haunts him.

“I was actually was stumbling into the cut,” Peterson said. “I wanted to come all the way to my left. I saw a linebacker coming into my blind spot, and I did something unusual. Normally I get back to the sideline and all my blocking was on the sideline. Rashad (Johnson) was coming to pick up the punter and I just saw it too late. It was uncharacteristic. It hurt me to my stomach each and every time I watched it.”


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As Super Week commences, quiet at home

Posted by Darren Urban on January 30, 2012 – 4:42 pm

With the focus of the NFL world on Indianapolis, there isn’t a whole lot going on here in Tempe. I am guessing the Cards will fill their vacant spot on the coaching staff sooner rather than later, but that doesn’t necessarily mean this week (and for all those who keep asking, I do not expect it to be Todd Haley, even if he isn’t hired elsewhere.) I don’t have names, but I know the Cards have talked to candidates beyond those who have been discussed publicly.

There will be just the one spot to fill.Earlier in the day, the New York Times was saying Cardinals wide receivers coach John McNulty was a possibility to get the Rutgers head coaching spot, but interim boss Kyle Flood was hired. The Cards don’t want to let McNulty get away, after the Bucs were interesting in him.

Speaking of interest, at some point it sounds like Cards director of player personnel Steve Keim will still get his interview for general manager of the Rams, although it hasn’t happened yet. One point of clarification that I was mistaken on earlier — should Keim be the Rams’ choice, he could go immediately (a GM, rules-wise, is like getting asked to be head coach in the front-office world) and not have to wait. But if he wanted to bring anyone from Arizona’s personnel department with him, it would have to come after contracts run out, which is typically after the draft. The Rams have said, however, they aren’t in a big hurry to fill that job because of those restrictions. Since head coach Jeff Fisher would seem to have a heavy say in personnel going forward, the Rams may not need that in place.


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The business of football

Posted by Darren Urban on January 27, 2012 – 11:49 am

I remember one time talking to a player about relationships with coaches, and — being a younger guy, only in the league a couple of years — he was disappointed he couldn’t/didn’t have the same kind of relationship with his NFL coaches that he had in college. The trust level wasn’t the same, and that was realized with a lack of playing time and the reality of guys getting cut.

But that’s how it is. That’s pro sports, and that’s the NFL. The problem, of course, is that — regardless of both that reality and the fantasy football world many fans seem to view their teams — the sport is still inhabited by humans with human emotion.

That’s what I think of when watching how the whole Colts-Peyton Manning thing has developed, coming to a kind of head yesterday, a few days after Manning talked about how it was tough to get healthy in Indy because of the vibe of change and then owner Jim Irsay responded and then Manning responded again. They are now trying to say the right things and desperately not have this be another Packers-Favre melodrama, but is that even possible?

Clearly, Manning wants to play again. He probably wants nothing to do with a star-in-the-making replacement like Andrew Luck (I remember talking to Kurt Warner a couple weeks before the Leinart-Young-Cutler draft, when the Cards seemed sure to take a QB if one was there, and he calmly but firmly kept insisting the Cards didn’t need to take a quarterback.) Certainly it didn’t work well with Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Warner and Leinart was better, but then again, Warner is a different kind of guy.

All this reinforces the human element in this game. Feelings get hurt. Guys get angry, feel things are unfair. Winning always lessens the issues, but make no mistake, someone is always disgruntled. Nature of the beast. And the business.


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Whether Tampa’s move can affect Cards UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on January 26, 2012 – 9:58 pm

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired — seemingly out of the blue — Rutgers coach Greg Schiano to be their next head coach, the Cardinals suddenly had a chance to be affected.

Maybe.

Cardinals wide receivers coach John McNulty was Schiano’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for three seasons at Rutgers (and on his staff for five seasons) before McNulty was hired by coach Ken Whisenhunt in 2009. In a business where friends and former co-workers are the first people coaches turn to when building staffs, some not-so-difficult-dot-connecting would say the McNulty could be someone Schiano would like as an offensive coordinator. McNulty has extensive background in the NFL — he worked for Bill Parcells in Dallas and for Jacksonville before he was at Rutgers — and is a smart guy.

UPDATE: The Cards denied permission, according to Kent Somers.

The Bucs would have to ask permission to talk to/hire McNulty, however. McNulty is under contract, and because the NFL’s view of coaching positions has just two levels — head coach and assistant coach — such a move would not be considered a promotion in the NFL’s eyes. Teams can’t block assistant coaches under contract from interviewing/taking head coaching jobs, but they can prevent lateral moves.

There is no way to know right now if a) the Bucs and Schiano will even ask for permission to talk to McNulty or b) what the Cards would say. (Contrary to one report out of Tampa tonight, I don’t believe anyone has asked for permission yet and no one has reported such in Arizona). Given that McNulty has coached quarterbacks before, there is still a chance he could take the Cards’ vacant QB coach position and the Cards would instead hire a new receivers coach. In an interesting coincidence, McNulty is actually in Hawaii right now for Pro Bowl weekend, a guest of one of his star pupils — wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.


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Improved defense by the numbers

Posted by Darren Urban on January 26, 2012 – 1:33 pm

Everyone could see how the Cards’ defense improved the second half of the season, especially since it was the defense that was the backbone of the final 7-2 record down the stretch. But I’ve been asked about actually statistical proof, and there was that too.

Breaking down the defense into their NFL rankings from Weeks 1-8 (when the Cards played seven games and were 1-6) and then from Weeks 9-17 (the aforementioned 7-2 finish) shows a stark contrast:

Statistic 1-8 (Rank) 9-17 (Rank)
Games  7 9
TDs Allowed 20 (T26th) 12 (3rd)
Rush TD Allowed 11 (T31st) 4 (T4th)
Pass TD Allowed 9 (7th) 8 (5th)
3rd Down Efficiency 37.8 (17th) 27.2 (1st)
Avg. 1st Downs Allowed 24.2 (31st) 18.1 (T10th)
Avg. Yards Allowed 390.7 (24th) 327.4 (13th)
Sacks 16 (T16th) 26 (T3rd)
Yards Per Pass Att. 7.9 (24th) 6.1 (2nd)
Red Zone TD Pct. 51.7 (14th) 27.6 (1st)

 
Over the final nine games, 64 percent of the drives by Cards’ opponents (76 of 118) were five plays or less and 59 percent (70) covered 25 yards or less. Of the 12 touchdowns the Cards allowed, four came on drives that began on the Cards’ side of the 50-yard line.

Obviously, the Cardinals need to stay that stout over the course of the season, although their consistency over a more-than-two-month period (the Cards didn’t score more than 23 points in a game in any of those last nine games) was not only remarkable, but crucial for the team’s win-loss mark. Carrying that consistency into 2012 — and, in theory, adding pieces and more layers of the scheme — is what coach Ken Whisenhunt and defensive coordinator Ray Horton are aiming for over the offseason.


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Finally, an OB offseason

Posted by Darren Urban on January 25, 2012 – 4:47 pm

There was a lot made about not having an offseason for many of the Cardinals last season because of the lockout. Then there is linebacker O’Brien Schofield, who is going into his third season without yet having had an offseason of work. The odd confluence of events — Schofield ripping up his knee in January before the 2010 draft, which cost him that summer, and then the aforementioned work stoppage — sure would seem to have dealt him a blow.

This isn’t about excuses for Schofield. The college defensive end had to watch Sam Acho make the same adjustment without offseason work. But there is reason to think at least one of those offseasons could have made a big difference. Schofield had 4.5 sacks and 29 tackles in a role that still had him playing much fewer snaps than veteran Clark Haggans.

“From a standpoint of seriously working on technique, actually on the field and doing football stuff, that’s where I haven’t had a chance to improve,” Schofield said.

Schofield only got a couple of weeks of practice in 2010 before he was used around midseason, thrust into defensive work late. This past season, Schofield had his bumpy times in training camp. The Cards were busy learning the defense at that point. The time to work on technique and fundamentals is the summer.

“It didn’t dawn on me until the season when we were working scout (team),” Schofield said. “That’s when you want to work on it but at the same time you want to go through it with your coach. Then you know exactly what he wants.”

Schofield wasn’t complaining (I was talking to him about another story and brought up the subject that he had never had an offseason). He’s been getting treatment for a bad left shoulder that he first hurt in the Green Bay preseason game but kept to himself as he tried to find his place on defense. NFL teams will have less time for offseason work this year because of the new rules of the collective bargaining agreement — the conditioning program will start in mid-April instead of late-March and on-the-field work has been reduced from 14 to 10 organized team activities, plus a minicamp — but anything is better than the nothing Schofield has had.

“I am very excited to get better,” Schofield said. “Last year was about the expectations and I’m not sure my expectations were as high as everyone else’s. I feel like the way I am learning the defense … I’m going to come back next year and be ready. Next year is my year to put everything together.”

 


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Keim still in play for St. Louis

Posted by Darren Urban on January 25, 2012 – 10:49 am

It’s been under the radar, but the news that Cardinals director of player personnel Steve Keim is supposed to interview for the Rams’ vacant general manager job Saturday means the Cards could still be heavily impacted with all these league moves going on beyond their own search for a quarterbacks coach. When Jeff Fisher was hired as head coach, conventional wisdom said his former cohort in Tennessee, Lake Dawson, had an upper hand. But as Jim Thomas, esteemed Rams beat writer, notes, Dawson just was promoted by the Titans since his St. Louis interview and that usually doesn’t happen for a guy who is about to leave.

The Rams also interviewed Ryan Grigson — brother of Cards’ scout Dru — for the job, but then Ryan Grigson was hired as Indy’s GM. Les Snead, who works for Atlanta, was also previously interviewed, and the Rams’ original list of candidates is shrinking. Recently, though, the Rams said they will look at candidates they hadn’t already asked to talk to, so that could change the Keim dynamic.

Regardless, Keim (below center, talking to long snapper Mike Leach and football administrator Justin Casey) plays a huge role in the Cards come draft time and it would affect the organization if he were to leave.

UPDATE: As “D” in the comments points out, league rules prohibit those working in personnel to be able to move between teams until after the draft. Turns out that there are rules in place for personnel men, but not for those being promoted to general manager. Keim could leave right away.


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Beanie has surgery, and a coach candidate UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on January 24, 2012 – 9:30 am

While Beanie Wells said the day after the season he wasn’t sure he would need surgery to repair his gimpy knee, it seemed more likely than not, and this morning, the running back tweeted out what looked like a surgical announcement: “Time to go under the knife wish me luck !!! These Meds are gonna be lovely lol.”

Beanie doesn’t say the procedure is for the knee, but it would seem to be a logical conclusion. UPDATE: Wells indeed had arthroscopic surgery on his knee today. It was done by Dr. James Andrews in Florida. There’s no timetable for Wells’ return, but I don’t think there’s going to be any problem for Beanie to be ready for off-season work.

Neither coach Ken Whisenhunt or Wells ever did clarify exactly what was wrong with Wells’ right knee, but it was enough of a problem to limit him in practice ever since first getting hurt against Pittsburgh Oct. 23 and forcing Wells to play at less than 100 percent the rest of the season. Whisenhunt did acknowledge at first the fear had been torn ligaments before the team realized Wells would still be able to play. So it figures to be something less serious.

– In other news/speculation, former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who announced his retirement last week, did an interview now saying he wasn’t going to be brought back by Pittsburgh anyway. The retirement might not last long. Connecting the dots, Arians would be a prime candidate for the Cards’ vacant QB coach position if he were interested  — NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora already reported the Cards had reached out — since Arians was the QB wide receivers coach in Pittsburgh when Whisenhunt was offensive coordinator there and there was speculation Whiz had been interested in bringing Arians with him to Arizona before Mike Tomlin made Arians his OC.

Whisenhunt and the rest of the coaching staff is in Mobile, Ala., this week scouting Senior Bowl practices. Whisenhunt was expected to conduct interviews for his open spot on the coaching staff there.


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Working with Wilson and his traps

Posted by Darren Urban on January 23, 2012 – 4:50 pm

You’d think at some point Adrian Wilson would have earned his way into ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue” but alas, the safety has not. But that didn’t stop E.T.M. from flying the Cards’ Pro Bowl safety out last week to put together a photo shoot and this video about A-Dub’s workouts, philosophy and unreal traps. (I mean, seriously, his trapezius muscles almost don’t look real).

I saw Wilson down in the locker room briefly today. I am guessing he was headed out to Hawaii and the Pro Bowl sooner rather than later. He did say he expected the photos to be in the magazine in the next week or two.


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Campbell’s potential game of tag

Posted by Darren Urban on January 23, 2012 – 2:09 pm

Defensive end Calais Campbell has not gotten a new contract yet. I’m guessing everyone realizes that, since it’d be big homepage news if he had and it clearly has not been news yet. The waiting game continues.

He is scheduled to become a free agent March 13, but no one believes that will happen. Either he will have a new contract by then, or the Cardinals are expected to use their franchise tag to buy time to get that new contract done. Campbell was in today, coming in to get in some work with the trainers, and he said he has thought “a little bit” about ending up with the tag.

“I mean, if that’s the worst-case scenario, it’s not too bad,” Campbell said. “The only thing that kind of sucks about it is that you don’t have security for the future. But I am one of those guys who kind of takes it as it comes. Whatever happens, happens. A long-term deal would be nice, if we can see eye-to-eye. But if it comes to the franchise tag, I really feel like it’s good. I’m still able to play football, I’m still living the dream.”

The franchise tag would be worth about $10.6 million in salary for Campbell in 2012 (down from the $13M defensive ends got last season if tagged, and $12.4M in 2010.) It’s a healthy jump from $600,000 in salary Campbell made this season, but a far cry from what would be the guaranteed money on a new deal, which would figure to be in the same $25M-$30M range of teammate Darnell Dockett got in 2010.

Still, the seven weeks between now and March 13 is an eternity in NFL terms. Much can still be accomplished before the tag comes into play. We wait to see if “eye-to-eye” can be reached.


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