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Sending Washington after the quarterback

Posted by Darren Urban on June 29, 2012 – 2:34 pm

An interesting article this week from profootballfocus.com about linebackers pressuring the quarterback. They weren’t counting outside guys in the 3-4 alignments — only true linebackers. But the man at the top of the NFL over the past three seasons based on percentage of pressures compared to number of rushes? Arizona’s Daryl Washington.

PFF explains its math this way: “The formula, for those who like a bit of math, involves weighing hits and hurries as worth three quarters that of a sack, dividing that number by the number of snaps they spent rushing the passer and then multiplying by 100. Just like that you have Pass Rushing Productivity.”

They have charted Washington with 165 pass rush tries over two seasons and 35 QB pressures, with a “PRP” of 16.97. Second on the list is the 14.23 from Green Bay’s Desmond Bishop. Washington has a lot less rushes than some, partly because he’s only played two years, partly because of how he is used. Houston’s Brian Cushing, third on the list and who has played all three years, has rushed 462 times in that span.

What it does is confirm again that Washington is effective in a lot of areas, and has a chance to be a star. He certainly wants to make more impact plays this year. His effectiveness going after the passer (he had five sacks last year) could increase his sack total with more chances. Then again, the way DC Ray Horton schemes things up, I’m not sure there is a position on the defense that wouldn’t blitz the passer at any given time.


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Officially, Cards to spend practice week in K.C.

Posted by Darren Urban on June 28, 2012 – 2:31 pm

The speculation has come true: The Cardinals will indeed practice against the Kansas City Chiefs the week of Aug. 6, in between the Hall of Fame game against the Saints Aug. 5 and the preseason game in Kansas City Aug. 10. That was confirmed Thursday. The workouts will be at the Chiefs’ training camp home of Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo.

“There are many benefits to this arrangement and we appreciate Coach (Romeo) Crennel and the Chiefs working to make this happen,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.  “Logistically it makes a lot of sense since we play Sunday night in Canton and then Friday night at Kansas City but I’ve always found there’s also great value in getting work against another team in a setting like this. We’re looking forward to it.”

The actual dates and times of the combined practices are still to be determined.

“Training camp is about us continuing our development and evaluating our players,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. “We are very excited to be hosting another NFL team for competitive practices. This will give us another opportunity to further evaluate our team under a different set of circumstances before we get into our preseason schedule.”

The move just made sense. The Cards would have had to fly home in the dead of night after the Hall of Fame game and trek up to Flagstaff the next afternoon for what would have amounted to two days of work before driving back down to fly out for the Chiefs game. Going right to Kansas City made sense, much like the Cards’ trip to Nashville back in 2010.

“We could not be happier to host two NFL franchises this year at Missouri Western,” said Missouri Western State University athletics director Kurt McGuffin. “There is a buzz in the air about camp this summer, and with the addition of the Cardinals, the interest is elevated around St. Joseph and beyond. We would like to thank the Chiefs for bringing us this opportunity.”

The Cardinals’ full training camp schedule has yet to be released, but it is expected out very soon now that the details of the Kansas City week have been finalized.


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Late kickoff times change this season

Posted by Darren Urban on June 28, 2012 – 9:18 am

The afternoon football games will be a little later this season.

The NFL announced Thursday morning that all the second games on TV doubleheaders that were to start at 15 minutes past the hour will now start at 25 past the hour, to make sure the kickoffs of those games don’t come before the early games have ended.

From the NFL press release: “In researching the kickoff time shift, the NFL analyzed games from the 2009-11 seasons and found that 44 games required part of the audience to be switched to a mandatory doubleheader game kickoff. With a 4:25 PM ET kickoff time, that number that would have been reduced by 66 percent to only 15 games.”

For the Cardinals, that means the kickoff times of five games — three at home, two on the road — are impacted. (All times are Arizona.):

– Sept. 9, Seattle at Arizona, is now a 1:25 p.m. kickoff;

– Nov. 25, St. Louis at Arizona, now a 2:25 p.m. kickoff;

– Dec. 23, Chicago at Arizona, now a 2:25 p.m. kickoff;

– Dec. 9, Arizona at Seattle, now a 2:25 p.m. kickoff;

– Dec. 30, Arizona at San Francisco, now a 2:25 p.m. kickoff.

The games slated to start at 1:05 p.m. or 2:05 p.m. are not affected (and as always, the last seven weeks of the season are subject to flex scheduling, should the Cardinals play themselves into a race.)

 


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As Fitz is declared top 10 (seventh, actually)

Posted by Darren Urban on June 27, 2012 – 3:24 pm

The NFL Network’s summer tour of the top 100 players — as chosen by a vote of players — wraps up tonight. Somewhere in the final 10, Larry Fitzgerald will have his named called.

(The show airs at 5 p.m. Arizona time. And I am sure we will have Fitz’s segment available on the site soon after. … And here it is.)

Last year, Fitz was No. 14. Where will he be in a couple of hours? Don’t know. Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson and Patrick Willis remain. I will be interested where Fitz is in relation to Johnson. Something tells me that could get the fans riled up. I already know — since I watched it unfold on Twitter — that people aren’t thrilled Calais Campbell/Adrian Wilson/Darnell Dockett didn’t make the list. Only Patrick Peterson will join Fitz.

Is Campbell or one of the others one of the current 100 best players in the league? An argument can be made, sure. I don’t know how many players participated in the voting, but someone came up with this list. (I mean, is Eli Manning really only the 31st best player? Worse than James Harrison? Or Wes Welker? Um, no.) This is about talking about the NFL in the deadest time of the NFL calendar, however. Don’t ever forget that. Lists are popular to make because they generate such conversation. And we are certainly talking about it, right?

UPDATE: Fitz was seventh. Calvin Johnson was third, behind Rodgers and Brees. Said Fitz on Twitter, “Honored 2 b voted a top 10 player by my peers. Congrats 2 all others. I will continue striving 4 perfection. 6 spots 2 go. #FaithFocusFinish

UPDATE, THE SEQUEL: Fitz had an even longer — and poignant — response on Facebook:

“Having been voted a Top 10 NFL player for the 2012 season is a cherished honor because the selection was made by my peers, and a player can have no greater accolade nor satisfaction than knowing that those he lines up against for 60 minutes every week value to the highest degree his talent, competitiveness, effort, productivity and achievement.

“I’ve completed 8 NFL seasons, & while I am somewhat satisfied with personal achievements, I have come close only once to achieving the ultimate team goal.

“Being a productive WR is no longer enough. I’ve grown into a position of leadership as a Cardinals team captain and have tried to expand my role as a mentor and example for our core of young players.

“My sincere hope is that we can get back to the playoffs on a regular basis and become Super Bowl Champions.

“Our team was 2minutes away from that goal on February 4, 2009, and similarly, my 7th rank of NFL top players leaves room for improvement.

“I will strive as always to expand my role and contributions to team success, be as productive as possible,and win a Championship…..”


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Rookies in Canton, and Berman’s debut with Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on June 27, 2012 – 9:30 am

A couple of tidbits as I return from some time off:

The NFL’s draftees are in Canton this week for the annual rookie symposium, a plan last in place back in 2008. A brainchild of Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, who thought it was important young players understand the history of the league, the draftees get to see the Hall of Fame while attending seminars how to deal with life as a pro athlete. Below is a picture of some Cards’ rookies looking at a Hall display (that’s Nate Potter on the left, Michael Floyd on the right). There’s also a shot of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, who grew up in a military family, checking out the Pat Tillman display. (A photo gallery is here.)

– In other news, longtime ESPN anchor Chris Berman, who has been the face of that network’s TV coverage, will finally get a chance to do a couple games of play-by-play in the NFL this season. The network trumpeted his placement on the second “Monday Night Football” game of opening weekend — Chargers at Raiders — with the annual doubleheader that night, working with Trent Dilfer. But Berman’s actual debut in the booth for play-by-play will be a couple weeks earlier, calling the Cardinals’ preseason game in Tennessee that will be televised nationally on ESPN.

“That’s great news,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said on Berman’s move to the booth. “I don’t know if there’s anyone who brings more enthusiasm and passion to his job than Chris Berman.  For a lot of fans and people involved with the game, Chris is synonymous with the big time NFL events so this it’s exciting that he’s doing our preseason game against the Titans.”


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Breathing (cap) space for Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on June 22, 2012 – 7:17 pm

Now that the roster for training camp is (virtually) set with 90 players, the Cardinals are in a decent place with their salary cap space. Thanks to a list from profootballtalk.com, we know the Cards have about $4.55 million in cap space right now. It’s not a ton, but 13 teams have less and since the Cards have signed all their draft picks, it is a reasonable amount of space heading to Flagstaff.

Even if the Cards don’t make another move, the cap space will change depending on their final roster. Right now the number is the top 51 cap numbers on the roster; when the regular season starts that will include all 53 on the roster as well as anyone on injured reserve and the practice squad.


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For what it’s worth in June, offensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 19, 2012 – 8:35 am

Welcome to Part II of Offseason Lineup Guessing, where speculating is sport. While we already tackled the defense, the offense is today’s target. Again, these are just my thoughts on who will be in the starting lineup Sept. 9 against the Seahawks. So much can change between then and now, with injuries or great/poor play in training camp. So before I sign off for a while for vacation, here we go:

WRLarry Fitzgerald. I’m not sure what else I can even say at this point.

WRAndre Roberts. I think Michael Floyd will play an important role for this team, and Early Doucet will play. But if you don’t know by now the level of confidence the coaching staff has in Roberts with his play after last season, you haven’t been paying attention.

TETodd Heap. Jeff King’s injury changed the dynamic here, and I do think Rob Housler is going to get a lot of time. But right now, I picture Heap as the starter. I also picture it changing as Housler emerges and King gets healthy.

LTLevi Brown. This was set in stone the moment the Cards decided to bring him back after they could have let him float away once they cut him. How he performs will be one of the intriguing storylines of the season.

LGDaryn Colledge. His chemistry off the field with interior linemates Adam Snyder and Lyle Sendlein is undeniable. Hopefully that carries over to the field.

C – Sendlein. Not only the anchor of the line, but has matured into true leader.

RG – Snyder. Cards confident he fits perfectly into what they are trying to do.

RTJeremy Bridges. Will Bobby Massie start this season? I can definitely see it. Will it be for the opener? I just think Bridges won’t make it easy. Let the debate begin.

FBAnthony Sherman. He has the right temperament for the position. This spot will also be used for a second tight end, in which case, I’d say King.

RBBeanie Wells. There is really no disputing this one, although Beanie needs to get healthy quickly. Ryan Williams is going to play a major role, though.

QB – The $64,000 question, isn’t it. Right now, I’m going with Kevin Kolb. As I have said many times, I totally can see a scenario where John Skelton starts. Anything now is a pure guess, because it’s going to come down to preseason games. But Kolb is my thought for now.

That’s it for now. It’s something to chew on for a month. Training camp will be here before we know it.


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For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 18, 2012 – 8:31 am

OK, so I missed a year (darn the lockout!) but with the end of offseason work and with my time off finally arriving, it’s that time. The proper sendoff into that dead area prior to training camp is my educated guesstimate for the starting lineups come Sept. 9 when Seattle visits University of Phoenix Stadium. Defense today, offense tomorrow. We’ll see if these choices come to fruition, although there is a long, long way to go. A lot can change. So, as always, remember this is just an exhibition and not a competition, so please, no wagering:

DEDarnell Dockett. I’m anxious to see how he performs with a full season of knowing what he’s doing in Ray Horton’s scheme.

NTDan Williams. He was playing better when he got hurt. David Carter was solid as a rookie, but Williams is the key here. He needs more consistency. He knows that.

DECalais Campbell. New contract in hand, time to build on what he started.

ROLBSam Acho. He was better than anyone could have expected as a rookie.

SILBParis Lenon. Maybe Stewart Bradley emerges at some point, but Bradley’s time on the bench has been as much about Lenon’s incredibly solid play as Bradley’s own play. Lenon just won’t let anyone dislodge him.

WILBDaryl Washington. Hard not to see him as emerging star.

LOLBO’Brien Schofield. He’s itching to be a starter and to prove he belongs. Now’s his chance. He wants to have the same impact Acho did, and the Cards need him to do just that.

RCBGreg Toler. Yes, William Gay was there this offseason and yes, Gay has a good chance to be the starter. But for some reason, I think Toler finds his way there. Both are going to play regardless.

LCBPatrick Peterson. Pro Bowl status as return man. Now he needs to make it so as cover guy.

FSKerry Rhodes. Remember how Adrian Wilson burned so much in camp last year – before he got hurt – to make up for his struggles the year before? That’s the sense I get from Rhodes, who is still frustrated from last years’ broken foot and I think wants to show everyone how good he can be.

SS – Wilson. One thing you never have to worry about from Wilson is motivation. The boulder on his shoulder draws from different places, but it never goes away. Horton thinks Wilson will be even better this year now that he’s comfortable in the defense.

Offense is up tomorrow.


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Missing rookies no longer an issue

Posted by Darren Urban on June 15, 2012 – 10:45 am

Once, the end of offseason work for the Cardinals wasn’t just a beginning but a much bigger deal, specifically when coach Dennis Green used it in his first season as a time to announce his starting lineup for the season. (That was a crazy time. It really was.)

Now, coach Ken Whisenhunt emphasizes competition and ongoing competition. Nothing up for grabs was going to be settled in a month’s worth of work in May and June. But there was one thing settled that is a significant step for the Cardinals — every draft pick was signed before the work ended. Michael Floyd and Jamell Fleming (below) signed on the dotted line, and just like that, a headache that had shrunk in recent years (yet still existed) was gone.

It’ll be league-wide, and it’s thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement. No longer will players be holding out. I’ve never thought, if a player missed a day or two of camp, it was a huge deal, but looking at the last 10 years and the number of picks that have missed at least some time in camp, this is a welcome change:

– 2011 Patrick Peterson, missed 1 day

– 2010 Dan Williams, 3 days

– 2009 Beanie Wells, 3 days

– 2008 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 2 days

– 2007 Levi Brown, 6 days

– 2006 Matt Leinart, 15 days

– 2005 Antrel Rolle, 8 days

– 2004 Larry Fitzgerald, 1 day

– 2003 Calvin Pace, 3 days; Bryant Johnson 4 days

– 2002 Wendell Bryant, all of training camp and two weeks of the regular season

“Knowing the first day of training camp you will have everyone there is a big deal,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “When they miss those first couple of days, it seems like they are always playing catch-up. It’s good we had all our guys here. It’ll be good to have everyone there from Day One. It’s great that our organization, (president) Michael (Bidwill) and (general manager) Rod (Graves), have been so proactive.”


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And then it was over

Posted by Darren Urban on June 14, 2012 – 12:30 pm

The Cardinals finished up minicamp — and the entirety of their offseason on-field work — today a little early, with coach Ken Whisenhunt giving his players the added bonus of calling off the final gassers just as they lined up to run them.

“I am excited to start in training camp and picking up where we left off,” Whisenhunt said.

The message to the team? Don’t go backwards. “We’ve made progress,” Whisenhunt told the players. “I don’t know how much progress, and we still have a ways to go, but the important thing is that we don’t take a step backwards.”

There will be players around working out, but many will scatter for their chunk of off-time. Training camp report day is July 24.

– Whisenhunt said he fully expects RB Ryan Williams (patella tendon) to be ready for the start of training camp although the team will be smart about it. RB Beanie Wells (knee) hopefully will be ready too. “He’s got to work himself back to being ready,” Whisenhunt said of Wells. “We’ve done the right thing with Beanie as far as the offseason and making sure he is healthy. He’s got to bust his tail the next few weeks to be ready for training camp because some guys have looked good there.”

Whiz said he isn’t concerned about his rehabbing runners, though.

– TE Jeff King (partial quad tear) will probably be handled with kid gloves even if he is cleared for the start of camp. “But don’t tell him that,” Whisenhunt quipped.

– Whisenhunt said the Cards focused on their offensive system during the offseason work, as opposed to tweaking it a lot. “It was up and down the first couple of weeks of OTAs, but you really started to see it the last couple of weeks and especially last night,” he said.


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