Whiz: Floyd was seventh on the board

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2012 – 8:33 pm

Coach Ken Whisenhunt was on NFL Network today and mentioned that wide receiver Michael Floyd was the seventh-rated player on the Cards’ 120 board, and the second-rated receiver (who went unnamed, but it was undoubtedly Justin Blackmon.) Most analysts had six “elite” players at the top of the draft, and assuming the Cards had the same guys — Luck, Richardson, Blackmon, Griffin, Kalil and Claiborne — in the top six, then Floyd was the guy right after and the natural pick at No. 13 overall.

No word on what Floyd was graded. We know Patrick Peterson, the fifth pick last year, was a 90, however. In the end, you figure he had relatively lofty number. And the Cards definitely were happy to have him available.

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With the undrafteds, the better Devil?

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2012 – 2:14 pm

There was plenty of pre-draft talk about Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict and where he might land (and for those who don’t know, Burfict was the one-time first-round candidate who ended up going undrafted and signing with the Bengals.) But for all of Burfict’s hype, many thought he wasn’t even the best linebacker at ASU. That nod usually went to Colin Parker, who was one of 17 undrafted rookie free agents the Cards came to terms with:

  • WR Stanley Arukwe, Troy
  • LB Broderick Binns, Iowa
  • WR LaRon Byrd, Miami
  • G Braeden Clayson, Idaho State
  • FB Jared Crank, Purdue
  • G Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech
  • DE Tevita Finau, Utah
  • S Blake Gideon, Texas
  • WR Tre Gray, Richmond
  • LB Marcus McGraw, Houston
  • LB Zach Nash, Sacramento State
  • CB James Nixon, California (Pa.)
  • DE Conrad Obi, Colorado
  • LB Paul Vassallo, Arizona
  • C Scott Wedige, Northern Illinois
  • WR Marc Wilson, St. Anselm

And, of course, Parker from ASU.

The list is heavy on linebackers, not a shock after the team did not draft one this past weekend. The number brings the roster total to 85 86 (since apparently I can’t add 69 and 17), leaving five four spots still open for additions, whether they are veterans or otherwise. Because of the rookie minicamp in two weeks, the Cards will also be bringing in a handful of other young players for tryouts, making sure they have enough bodies to run the practices and taking a looksee at some guys.

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Gorbachev with Cards gear, and the UDFAs

Posted by Darren Urban on April 29, 2012 – 7:44 pm

As mentioned the other day, Cards president and pilot Michael Bidwill gave a ride to former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev from Phoenix to New York Sunday after Gorbachev gave a speech at the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Not only did Gorbachev get a ride, but Bidwill gave him a Cardinals shirt — which makes sense, its color being red and all. Picture below.

“I was honored to be able to do it,” Bidwill said. “I told him how grateful my generation of Americans are for all that he did to advance world peace and to improve relations between our countries. It was an incredible experience.”

Meanwhile, the Cards have started to collect undrafted free agents. To see some of the guys coming in as reported around Twitter, just check out my timeline. The Cards won’t announce their list until it is completed, and it won’t be completed until all the guys sign their contracts. Sometimes a player will agree to play for a team and then change at the last second, not yet having signed anything. So teams are reluctant to say anything until they know for sure.

One other thing about names floating out there: The Cards will bring in a few extra rookies for their rookie minicamp May 12, but they will be in on a tryout basis rather than signing official contracts. One report has Miami quarterback Jacory Harris as one of those guys.

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On the way out the draft door, some cleanup

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2012 – 5:02 pm

OK. The three-day wait-and-write of the NFL draft is finally over. Before I scoot out the door, some quick hit thoughts/nuggets to tide you over until Monday (or until the possible undrafted rookies start getting leaked):

— The Cards didn’t take a linebacker or defensive lineman in the draft. That would seem to make it much more likely for veteran linebacker Clark Haggans and/or defensive end Vonnie Holliday to come back. General manager Rod Graves acknowledged that could still happen and made clear veteran free agents will not be ignored at this point.

“There are still opportunities out there for veterans (to be signed),” Graves said.

— Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean splashy veterans, not that there are any to sign. Vets signing now are going to be minimum, one-year deal guys. And I think the Haggans/Holliday thing makes the most sense.

— With 69 players on the roster, including the unsigned/tagged Calais Campbell, the Cards need to fill 21 roster spots. The vast majority will be undrafted rookies, but whatever that total is when it is finally announced Monday (and it should be Monday, but the list will have to be complete before they do let it out) will let you know if they are keeping spots open for vets.

— The offensive line got their influx of talent on the final day. I don’t know if Bobby Massie will be the right tackle starter — we all know how things go for rookies with this staff — but Levi Brown did start as a rookie at right tackle. I wouldn’t rule it out.

— Not taking a linebacker means a lot for Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield, and in a good way. “I think they were the two high totals in sacks for our team at that position and when you have young guys doing that, you feel good,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said, who added that Brandon Williams, whom the Cards picked up late last year, as flashed some potential.

— The basically unknown Justin Bethel (you know, aside from his leaping skills) is versatile. Bethel (pictured below at the combine) said he didn’t know what position he’d play, but the Cards listed him at safety. Like Richard Marshall, I think DC Ray Horton likes guys who are able to do both anyway. As Horton mentioned, the Cards play teams like the Packers and Patriots, teams that send an armada of pass catchers out most plays. The Cards need quality DBs.

— Interesting to hear about the scouting process. Horton said he specifically wrote down during the combine interview of new CB Jamell Fleming “very smart player.” With new guard Senio Kelemete, a two-time team captain, Whisenhunt noted how he was an “intriguing interview what he’s gone through in his personal life and how he stayed focused on school and football.”

Bottom line: They keep talking about how football intelligence and character matter. Sometimes talent trumps that, but it does factor in and does matter.

— I don’t know what will happen at QB. Not sure why everyone kept banging the Kellen Moore drum — every team in the league passed on him multiple times. He won, yes. But so did Matt Leinart. It doesn’t automatically mean anything on this level, and it certainly doesn’t make it any easier to see in the pocket when you are barely 6-foot. Maybe he shocks the world. The odds say he probably won’t. You take the kid — Lindley, in this case — who has tools in which you hope you can mold.

OK, that’s enough. Time to go home. Until next draft …

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A quarterback in the mix

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2012 – 2:11 pm

The Cardinals indeed decided to go with a developmental quarterback in the draft, taking San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley — a big (6-foot-3, 232-pound) and big-armed passer who struggled with accuracy. One analysis compared him to Derek Anderson. Lindley was a four-year starter and threw for 90 touchdowns. His TD-to-INT ratio as a senior was 23-8. But he never completed more than 57 percent of his passes and that dipped to 53 percent this past year.

“A lot of that has been my footwork, which I have been working on that a ton,” Lindley said. “I am at the point where I have enough individual training where I feel I have my feet underneath me and have a good platform to throw from. In the past … I have not had great feet, and I just needed to change that up.”

Lindley did lose his best two wideouts, current Card DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown, to the NFL before 2011. And he said the receiving group was beat up from injury and academic issues, but he took responsibility for his problems. “The stuff I could have controlled is really what I didn’t do well enough,” Lindley said. “The stuff with my feet I’m talking to you guys about.”

Lindley did work with quarterback coach Steve Calhoun and former USC and San Diego State coach Ted Tollner to fix his problems. I am sure Cards QB coach John McNulty will have something to say about it.

The Cards now have the four quarterbacks they will need for training camp. Usually, coach Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t want to have four total when the regular season arrives — there’s just not enough reps to go around — so the likelihood is that either Lindley or Rich Bartel will be fighting for a spot, assuming John Skelton and Kevin Kolb will be around. And I figure both will be around.

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Sixth-round pick Bethel’s viral jump

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2012 – 1:19 pm

The Cardinals just took defensive back Justin Bethel from tiny Presbyterian College in South Carolina, a special teams ace (nine blocked kicks in his career, including one against Cal this season, in a game where he also had an interception for a touchdown) who probably will be best known for now for a 60-inch standing jump. The story, straight from Bethel:

During a “strength night” the football team was doing for fans in Clinton, S.C.,  after it was over, there were some volleyball players that had seen Bethel working out and doing box jumps before. They convinced him to try it again for the crowd.

“They just said, ‘Can you do some box jumps? We want to see you jump on something real high,’ ” Bethel said. “My strength coach set up some boxes, something I had gotten close to before. He said, ‘You think you can do this?’ I said, ‘Oh yeah.’ I didn’t even know someone was recording it until later on. My Dad told me he put it on youtube. None of it was planned, how it went viral. I never would have thought in a million years that would happen.”

(Of course, this isn’t new for a Cards’ DB, right A-Dub?)

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The fifth belongs to the offensive line

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2012 – 12:07 pm

A round after taking tackle Bobby Massie, the Cards go with Washington offensive lineman Senio Kelemete in the fifth round. Kelemete, 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, played tackle in college but projects to guard in the NFL. Kelemete was a two-time captain with the Huskies, starting 41 of 45 games and getting on the Pac-12’s second-team all-conference. He only benched 20 times at the Combine (by comparison, new cornerback Jamell Fleming had 23 reps.)

“I see myself at left guard or left tackle,” Kelemete said. “Wherever they need to plug me in.”

He also said his strengths are his attitude, and bringing out the best in the players around him. The scouting reports call him tough and competitive, a guy who will get better with NFL coaching. The Cards needed to inject some youth on the offensive line and have done so with the last couple of picks. They need to be brought along under offensive line coach Russ Grimm and Kelemete seems like an ideal prospect. On the conference call, his voice inflection sounds a lot like the guy he would likely replace on the roster, Deuce Lutui.

UPDATE: Grimm said that indeed, Kelemete is projected as a guard. “It’s nice to know he can move out to tackle if you have to.” He also said the Cards “should” have enough depth. “You always like to have eight or nine you are comfortable putting out there.”

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Cards grab tackle Massie in the fourth round

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2012 – 10:11 am

So many fans were upset when the Cards didn’t take Ole Miss tackle Bobby Massie with their third round pick, instead taking cornerback Jamell Fleming. But it worked out Saturday morning, because Massie was still on the board when the Cards had their fourth-round pick and the Cards scooped him up. Some thought Massie could go late in the second round, although a lot of the highly-rated tackle slipped to the second round, pushing him lower.

Massie said he wasn’t sure why he dropped and I’m not sure who would be. He didn’t sound thrilled about it — who would be — but wasn’t going to have any regret about coming out early. Certainly, without him setting foot in Tempe yet, Massie has a chance to be a real steal — although everyone says that about fourth-round picks, and sometimes that happens  (Sam Acho) and sometimes it doesn’t (Elton Brown.)

He’s 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds and said he’s been exclusively a right tackle in college. Interestingly, he said his strength is in pass blocking. Will he end up as a starter? He’s got a chance. I’d think this makes Brandon Keith’s return a longshot now, and Massie would have to beat out Jeremy Bridges. Levi Brown looks safe on the left side.

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Cornerback Fleming over OL in third

Posted by Darren Urban on April 27, 2012 – 7:54 pm

OK, the Cards didn’t take an offensive lineman in the third round. They stuck with the BPA, going with Oklahoma cornerback Jamell Fleming, who did 23 reps in the bench press and ran a 4.43 40 at the combine and basically was better than the offensive linemen available.

“We’re looking for an opportunity to address the offensive line but you don’t want to do it at the expense of other players that can bring more to your football team,” general manager Rod Graves said.

Graves said the draft isn’t the only place the Cards can look for offensive linemen, and there are still five picks left in the draft anyway. There definitely wasn’t a sense, from either Graves or Whisenhunt, that there was a tackle who tempted them when the pick came up — not compared to Fleming.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt likes what Fleming can bring not just to the secondary but also special teams, which is needed. Whiz also said last year’s draft was successful, and in part that was because the Cards didn’t reach. “We didn’t try and fit a perceived need as compared to finding a fit for you, and that’s what we see Jamell as.”

Certainly, Fleming doesn’t have any lack of confidence. He talked about getting here and being in the mix, and when he was asked about playing special teams, he said “I have a highlight reel just on special teams.” I’m guessing he’ll fit in well with the Cards’ group of defensive backs (although I can already picture Adrian Wilson rolling his eyes.)

Graves said this has nothing to do with Greg Toler’s rehab, and that Toler is on schedule to return. But with Patrick Peterson, William Gay, Toler, A.J. Jefferson, Michael Adams and Fleming, there might be some decisions to be made (although it is possible Fleming can play a little safety, a la Richard Marshall.)

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After the Floyd pick, and other notes

Posted by Darren Urban on April 26, 2012 – 9:06 pm

If I am Andre Roberts, there isn’t anything else I can really say but bring it on. And that’s what the Cards’ receiver did — in the right way — by embracing the Michael Floyd draft choice by calling it “a great pick.” He said on XTRA 910 that the Cards needed another receiver because “it is a passing league.” How he deals with this — or how Early Doucet does — will be one of the stories of camp. Floyd is a No. 1 draft pick. He’s not a third-rounder like Roberts and Doucet once were. He’s going to have to play. He’s supposed to play. In some ways, this feels like the wide receiving corps has come full-circle (at least potentially) since the 2008 draft, when Doucet was taken and joined Fitz, Boldin and Breaston.

But as Whiz said, “Michael Floyd hasn’t done one thing in this league as a player.” He must prove himself. And we all know how Whisenhunt prefers to deal with rookies, at least at first.

— The Cards will get a tackle at some point. Maybe even the next pick, in the third round. “I think there will be opportunities there,” general manager Rod Graves said. “We certainly hope so. We are not going to do it at the expense of other magnificent players.” In other words, we need to stick to the draft board.

— In the feedback I have gotten, some aren’t thrilled the Cards passed on T Riley Reiff to take Floyd. Here’s my analogy: It was the flip-side of Levi Brown/Adrian Peterson of 2007. You have to take the player you feel is the best, and go from there. That’s what the Cards did. You can’t take a guy for need if the other guy is rated so much better. You just can’t.

Is Fitz happy the Cards have Floyd? Yes. Did they take him for Fitz? I absolutely don’t believe that. I think they thought that much of him as a player. That the team’s star likes him is a bonus.

— I will be honest: I thought the Cards were going to end up trading. I was wrong.

— Never say never, but don’t be waiting for a second-round pick. They just don’t have the ammunition to get into the second round. “We’re not going to sit idle,” Graves said. “As it stands right now, we don’t have a second-round pick so there is not a lot we can do but wait. We will see what happens.”

— Floyd, on the plan to start from Day One: “That’s my goal. I’m going to keep working hard. That’s in my arsenal, that’s in my head that I’m a workaholic. I’m going to work hard to get in that position.”

— Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly couldn’t stop raving about Floyd’s work ethic, how he grew from his off-field problems, and how he graduated with a degree in sociology in 3 1/2 years. “You could consider Mike a raw receiver in a sense that he can get better in the technical elements of route running and things of that nature,” Kelly said. “But he is certainly a guy that attacks the football and attacks defenders. And blocking, he is an outstanding blocker.”

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