Dolphins aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 30, 2012 – 8:01 pm

A short week starts in as good of a way as possible. Let’s put it that way.

What do you say? Even coach Ken Whisenhunt’s opening statement acknowledged there was so many areas to correct that he wasn’t going to try and hit on them all. But the Cards won. I’m not sure how – it was hard to believe the Hartline 80-yard score wasn’t a backbreaker, and the Dolphins certainly thought it would be – but it wasn’t.

Kevin Kolb had a couple of shaky moments. But being down on the field, to see that dart he threw to Andre Roberts for the game-tying touchdown, it looks even more impressive up close. On fourth down, no less … just another step forward. No he can’t throw the end-zone pick. He knows it, Whiz knows it, we all know it. But he overcame it. So did all the Cards. Unreal.


— The Cardinals missed Darnell Dockett today, sitting with an injured hamstring, but safety Adrian Wilson returned with a vengeance after missing one game. Wilson had a team-best 10 tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, a forced fumble, three pass deflections and almost had an incredible diving interception until replay stole it from him. With everything that happened today, it’d be easy to lose sight of that performance. But you can’t.

— Patrick Peterson had a miserable night returning punts. He averaged just 4.5 yards a return. He was charged with three fumbles, two on one return (although he fortunately recovered them all). He fair-caught a punt inexplicably at his own 3-yard line, and thank goodness for Dave Zastudil it didn’t hurt the Cards.

“I was pressing a little bit today, the ball was dropping a little faster,” Peterson said. “I was trying to hurry up and get the ball in my hands and try and take off. I wasn’t patient today. I definitely wasn’t myself in the punt returns, but that won’t happen again. I told the return team, that’s my fault. We’ve got 12 more games to get to the end zone and make it right.”

— The Cards got everyone involved in the passing game Sunday. Fitz was targeted 15 times – 8 catches for only 64 yards, but a score – and Michael Floyd even had four grabs. Roberts has played excellent football, with 118 yards. Now, Kolb can’t get sacked eight times. Some of that was him holding the ball, and some was the offensive line. Rookie right tackle Bobby Massie was overwhelmed by Cam Wake in the first half, although he did better in the second half (Wake still had 4½ sacks.) Mostly, though, when there is time, I still think Kolb looks pretty good in the pocket.

— That end-zone pick, though. Can’t happen. “A terrible decision, a terrible throw,” Kolb said. He understands.

— William Gay was picked on a lot at cornerback. He stayed in playing nickel, but Greg Toler was taking snaps as the guy opposite Peterson in both base and nickel. Jamell Fleming was the odd man out in nickel.

— The flip side of the pass game: Ryan Williams doesn’t look like he is part of the no-huddle package, which the Cards used a bunch Sunday. The Cards had 15 rush attempts and, with sacks added in, 56 pass plays. Williams finished with just 26 yards on 13 carries. If you would have told me that would equate to a win, I don’t think I would’ve believed you.

— Kicker Jay Feely got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a kickoff that was downed in the end zone to start the second half. It could have been bad, but the Cards forced a punt. Feely said the Cards had planned to use him to help block on a Dolphins blocker if he was used a certain way. On a kickoff, Feely is allowed to hit the player in the back if necessary. Feely did and was flagged.

“The ref said, ‘Well it’s a touchback, you shouldn’t have done that,’ ” Feely said. “I said ‘I didn’t know it was a touchback, I was running to the block.’ I was just glad they didn’t get a score.

— That’s 500 wins all-time for the franchise.

— There were mistakes, obviously, but Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill looks like the real deal to me (and yes, I’m looking at you John the Draft Guy.)

— The Cardinals, per Elias Sports Bureau, are now 10-214-1 all-time when trailing by at least 13 points at halftime. That underscores the occasion.

— The last time the Cards came back down at least 13 points at the half was Sept. 12, 1999 at Philadelphia. Heck, that was before I was covering this team. (h/t to Mark Dalton and Randall Liu for those last two goodies.)

— Brian Hartline’s 253 yards receiving was not an all-time high for a Cards’ opponent. Anthony Allen had 255 against the Cards in 1987? Don’t know Anthony Allen? Well, he was a replacement player during the 1987 strike, crossing the picket line in that game against the then St. Louis Cardinals. He was done when the regular players returned, but actually made the Redskins the following year.

— Gotta keep propping punter Dave Zastudil. Nine punts for a net of 47.3? Seriously? So, so huge.

A wild game. Now comes a trip to play the Rams where the Cards have dominated but where the Cards usually have had a week to prepare. Not as much time now – but it’s so much easier after a win.

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No shock: Dockett, Heap, Hyphen out for Dolphins

Posted by Darren Urban on September 30, 2012 – 11:34 am

The doubtful players all are sitting today for the Cardinals, which includes defensive lineman Darnell Dockett (hamstring). It also includes running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (hip), tight end Todd Heap (knee) and tight end Jim Dray (knee).

That mean safety Adrian Wilson is playing, as is fullback Anthony Sherman — although new signee Reagan Maui’a is active as well as a reserve because Dray is out.

Quarterback John Skelton (ankle) also is still out. Ryan Lindley remains Kevin Kolb’s backup.

Guard Senio Kelemete and wide receiver LaRon Byrd are the Cards’ only “healthy” scratches. Reggie Bush is playing for the Dolphins.

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Friday before the Dolphins

Posted by Darren Urban on September 28, 2012 – 4:36 pm

No Darnell Dockett. That’s the very real possibility Sunday because of his hamstring injury. As Darnell mentioned to me in the locker room after the Eagles game, “Every now and then, even the Hulk gets wounded.” The Cards’ version of the Hulk has missed exactly one game since he got into the league in 2004. That’s 135 games played in 136 opportunities, including playoffs, and he started 134 of them. (He missed a 2010 game with a shoulder problem, the Cards lost.) The Cards can overcome an absence, I’d think. They did pretty well last week when safety Adrian Wilson had to sit out.

“If that’s the case, they’ll step up. That’s kind of the mentality of that group,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. The Cards have Vonnie Holliday, Nick Eason and even David Carter who could probably play some. Besides, you never know what DC Ray Horton might cook up.

The injury situation will be interesting, not only because the Cards have a bunch of guys that could sit, but also because the Cards have a short week next week – they play Thursday night in St. Louis. Asked if the schedule might dictate how he would make inactive decisions for this game (for instance, resting a guy because he wouldn’t have as much recovery time) Whisenhunt said that hasn’t been the approach.

“I can’t say that wouldn’t change maybe as we got closer to the game,” Whisenhunt said. “I don’t anticipate it changing. We’re focused on this game and I’m not really worried about the Thursday game right now. I think that’s the way you have to approach it.”

— The spotlight will be on the Cards’ running game. The Dolphins are allowing less than three yards a carry and are third in the NFL in run defense. The Cards are averaging less than three yards a carry on offense. Ryan Williams, what say you?

— The Dolphins are also fourth in the league in rushing, not a surprise because when you have a rookie QB like Ryan Tannehill, you are going to effort to run the ball. Reggie Bush, who has broken out as a back since going to Miami, is questionable with a sore knee. Word from Miami is that Bush is expected to play. Holliday made the point earlier this week the Cards’ defense, as well as it has played, needs to do better against the run. Here’s a big chance.

— History said last week that Larry Fitzgerald always did well against the Eagles, and then he went out against the Eagles and played well again. The sample size is much smaller against the Dolphins, but the highlights are there. In 2008, Fitz, Anquan Boldin and Kurt Warner riddled Miami with shots in a 31-10 home win. Fitz ended that day with six catches for 153 yards – that was the first day the whole Todd Haley ridding the Cards of the “one-trick pony” and a guy who never got yards after the catch finally took hold. Fitz was a monster (Boldin had six for 140 too, with three touchdowns.)

The other Fitz-Miami game was less spectacular but more memorable. It was 2004, Fitz’s rookie year, and he made a two-yard jump-ball touchdown catch with 19 seconds left to beat the Dolphins, 24-23. Fitz had five catches for 92 yards that day, and the Cards snapped a 17-game road losing streak (Ah yes, those were the days). Mostly from that game I remember Fitz’s post-game presser. Those were the days when Fitz often left the locker room before reporters even got there. With the game-winner he was made to come into the interview room for what might have been the most awkward presser ever. I think Fitz delivered very few short sentence answers before it mercifully ended. He’s come a long way since then.

— Calais Campbell went to the University of Miami, although he doesn’t see facing the Dolphins as an big deal because of that (now, the Denver Broncos for the Aurora, Colorado, native is something different.) That said, Campbell has a long memory. Before the Cardinals took Campbell in the second round of the 2008 draft, the Dolphins could have taken him but instead took Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling. Merling is now in Green Bay, having washed out as a Dolphin.

“I was a little bit mad about that,” Campbell said. “I definitely want to make sure they regret the decision. I love being in Arizona, I don’t think I’d do well in Miami, but I know one thing, I want them to regret not drafting me. I’m sure they already feel that way, but I want to make them feel it even more.”

— For those wondering, Scott Green – who is the head of the referees’ union, is scheduled to officiate Sunday’s game. (He was the ref for the Cardinals-Packers wild-card playoff game in 2010 too. Karlos Dansby must be happy.)

— Speaking of Karlos, he was also a good guy. He also was one of those players that always dropped a “Know what I’m sayin’?” every third sentence. It was kind of his calling card. But the one I remember most is when I went to ask him for his reaction that then-teammate Sean Morey had agreed to donate his brain to research after his death in an effort to find out about potential brain effects that come with playing in the NFL. Karlos didn’t hesitate.

“That’s huge, man,” he said.

Indeed, it was.

— Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said stud pass rusher Cameron Wake has played very well this season and is pressuring the quarterback often. Wake, however, has yet to record a sack. The tackles will have to hold up against Wake, who could have been a Cardinal. After lighting up the CFL, Wake worked out for the Cardinals in late 2008 as a potential outside linebacker. The Cards ended up passing, and Wake didn’t latch on anywhere until Miami signed him in the offseason – and where he had notched 28 sacks in three seasons before this one.

— Since Whisenhunt arrived in 2007, the Cardinals are 27-5 in games in which they have carried a lead into the fourth quarter.

— Kevin Kolb, with a passer rating of 108.6, is the third-ranked passer in the NFL behind Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger. Raise your hand if you saw that coming.

— Congrats, by the way, to the Kolbs for the arrival of Saylor. Family time intact, and no missed games.

— The Cardinals, over their last 11 games, have allowed a mere 1.33 touchdowns per game. Wonder if Tannehill knows that.

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Dockett doubtful, Maui’a returns

Posted by Darren Urban on September 28, 2012 – 12:04 pm

Four players did not practice at all this week, and all four are doubtful to play Sunday against the Dolphins, including defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. (The other three are running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, tight end Todd Heap and tight end/fullback Jim Dray). Not having Dockett would be a blow to the defense, obviously. Coach Ken Whisenhunt called Dockett, Heap and Hyphen game-day decisions, but realistically, it’s going to be tough. “I’m not a doctor, I don’t think he could play. He hasn’t taken a snap,” defensive coordinator Ray Horton said.

Horton reiterated his unit is still leaving plays on the table. That allows the group to stay humble at this point.

— Eagles defensive end Jason Babin was fined $15,750 for his horse-collar tackle against Stephens-Howling in the game last weekend. There was no flag thrown on the play.

— The Cardinals needed a fullback with the injuries to Anthony Sherman (hamstring) and Dray (knee), so they brought in Korey Hall this week. That lasted two days.

The team announced Friday Hall has been placed on the reserved-retired list, with local favorite Regan Maui’a once again getting the call to replace him. I just saw Hall in the locker room yesterday heading to meetings, so obviously something changed to make him apparently choose to retire and/or leave after just signing.

This makes eight different times Maui’a has signed with the Cards all told, starting in 2009. Maui’a was with the Cardinals for a while in training camp last month. Maui’a played in 15 games in 2010 and three games last season for the Cards, having spent training camp with the team for all or part of 2009, 2010 and 2011.

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Nothing new for Miller, and some sack changes

Posted by Darren Urban on September 28, 2012 – 9:23 am

There’s been a lot of talk about the Cardinals adjusting their playcalling to fit with what seems to be a transitioning philosophy on offense — a little more deliberate, sticking with the run, etc. But offensive coordinator Mike Miller said nothing really has changed in what he has been dialing up on game days.

“It feels pretty much the same,” Miller said. “I haven’t really done anything differently. We’ve made adjustments in-game that come up specific to that opponent. But as far as the way we call it, I mean, we ran no-huddle in the Seattle game, mixed it up in the New England game. It’s been ‘up’ we just haven’t called it.”

Through three games, the Cardinals are fairly balanced, although not 50-50. The Cardinals have 87 pass attempts and been sacked five times, and nine of the 12 quarterback runs have been scrambles from a passing play, for 101 pass plays. With the three intentional quarterback runs, they have had 78 rushing plays. Interestingly, even though the offense needs to generate more yards and have been outgained, the Cardinals have almost even time of possession with opponents (29:46 to 30:14) and the Cardinals are one of only six teams in the NFL to score at least 20 points in each of their three games.

(They are the only team in the NFL to allow less than 20 points in each game too.)

— There were a couple of statistical changes from the Philadelphia game, affecting the sack totals of a couple of linebackers. Sam Acho had previously been credited with a tackle after a Michael Vick one-yard scramble in the second quarter, but after further review it was deemed Vick only got back to the line of scrimmage — which by definition gives Acho a sack. In the third quarter, Daryl Washington had been credited with a 12-yard sack of Vick on a first down play, but after further review it was decided Vick was a runner when Washington got to him, so instead of a sack it became a 12-yard tackle-for-loss. It means Washington now only has two sacks this season and Acho now has two himself.

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Even Kolb’s baby has worked on timing

Posted by Darren Urban on September 27, 2012 – 3:22 pm

We’ve seen the progress Kevin Kolb has made at quarterback, comfortable in the pocket, waiting for things to develop. Apparently his on-the-way-daughter is going through her progressions the right way too.

Kolb, who’s wife is expecting the couple’s third child, headed off to the hospital after practice Thursday. The baby is apparently on its way. It’s not the perfect scenario as Kolb declared it — right after Monday meetings before a Tuesday off day — but it’s close. Even if it means Kolb will miss some time Friday, he should be prepared for the Dolphins Sunday and there shouldn’t be any kind of conflict. Certainly, the official due date of Oct. 4 — next week, the day the Cards play in St. Louis — won’t be in play.

Everyone can breathe a little easier. Kolb had said he hoped he wouldn’t have to make a choice between playing and baby, and it looks like he won’t.

— A quick injury update: FB Anthony Sherman was upgraded to limited Thursday, but the other four players who sat out Wednesday were still sitting Thursday, including DT Darnell Dockett. Defensive backs Michael Adams (hamstring) and S James Sanders (calf) were added to the already lengthy report as limited. Of the six players listed as limited yesterday, the only change was P Dave Zastudil upgraded to full.

For the Dolphins, RB Reggie Bush (knee) was upgraded to limited and Dolphins beat man Ben Volin said he expects Bush to play. Former Cardinals DB Richard Marshall, battling back problems, may have a harder time getting on the field.

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The Hyphen’s rough day

Posted by Darren Urban on September 27, 2012 – 11:58 am

LaRod Stephens-Howling could only smile. What else was he going to do?

His stat line from Sunday’s game against the Eagles was, well, there is no other way to put it — it was ugly. Forced into action down the stretch after Beanie Wells went out of the game and Ryan Williams was dealing with cramps, the Hyphen was battered at the line of scrimmage running plays that probably don’t fit his skill set the best. Plus the Eagles at the end knew the Cards would run the ball and were coming to stop it. So the Hyphen’s final numbers were eight carries for minus-14 yards.

“It was rough,” Stephens-Howling said. “And it was rough waking up Monday and seeing what the stats were. But again, we all knew what we had to do, we lost Beanie and we were short running backs, so I needed to get in there and take the carries. The win makes it better than those negative-14 yards.”

The end of game doesn’t explain everything. In fact, Stephens-Howling had three first-half carries that put him in a deep hole, losing 5, 4 and 2 yards, respectively. Of his eight carries, seven lost yardage. Since 1960, a total of 20 Cardinals have had a game in which they have had at least five carries and had zero or negative yards. Nine quarterback efforts dot the list. The running back closest to Stephens-Howling for day of difficulty was merely the best running back in franchise history, Ottis Anderson, who was stoned for minus-10 yards on 11 carries in a 1985 game against Dallas.

(Here’s the funny thing: Of those 20 games where a runner couldn’t get started, the Cardinals actually have a 12-7-1 record. And the Cardinals won both the game in which Anderson struggled and of course, Stephen-Howling’s game Sunday.)

Again, Stephens-Howling,  who now has 12 total rushing attempts for a grand total of one yard on the season, took it in stride. The Cardinals won. They also actually ended up running the ball OK as a team, finishing with 99 yards on 34 tries and seeing Williams rip off a career-best 83-yard performance on just 13 carries. It was surprising from the Hyphen too, since the last couple of years he has been a threat to break a big play — and usually gets at least one — every time he touches the ball.

Going forward he will be needed to help Williams as the Cards deal with the long-term loss of Wells. Sunday the Cardinals needed carries and needed him to burn clock and hold on to the ball. He would have liked to gain yards, but the result worked out. And he’s willing to live with individual sacrifice. The Cards are, after all, 3-0.

“Hey that’s what I am here to do,” Stephens-Howling said. “I’ll take one for the team.”

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The refs are coming back

Posted by Darren Urban on September 26, 2012 – 10:02 pm

The NFL and the NFL Referees Association announced Wednesday night the two sides had finally come to an agreement and the regular officials are coming back. It won’t be ratified before Friday and Saturday, but commissioner Roger Goodell lifted the lockout so the game tomorrow night between the Browns and Ravens will be covered by the regular guys.

If nothing else, it takes away a huge distraction from the first few weeks of the season. It was inevitable after the mess Monday night in Seattle The Cardinals had been fortunate in their first three games since there really had been no major issues that affected the outcome (although the extra timeout the refs gave the Seahawks in the opener would have cost the Cards had the Seahawks won late, and imagine if Seattle was 3-0 with two wins it shouldn’t have.)

As it is, the blown call in the Seahawks-Packers game could hurt the Cardinals. The Seahawks are 2-1 and not 1-2 in the NFC West.

“Well it was upsetting, because it does affect us,” Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb said. “In my eyes, it was clearly an interception. Just like anybody else around, it’s something that doesn’t sit well with us, because it directly affects us. That’s unfortunate at this level.”

The Cardinals have been careful not to say much of anything on the subject (although Darnell Dockett did drop an expletive on Twitter Monday night — not that it mattered, because the NFL decided not to fine any players critical and Dockett wasn’t the only one to use such language.) Coach Ken Whisenhunt made sure the message was that the Cards couldn’t let it bother them, no matter who the officials were. “We just want the right calls to be made,” Kolb said.

The official press release listed these particulars for the new eight-year agreement:

The agreement includes the following key terms:

—  The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season (or until the official earns 20 years of service). The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.

—  Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement, which will have two elements:  an annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official that will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019, and a partial match on any additional contribution that an official makes to his 401(k) account.

—  Apart from their benefit package, the game officials’ compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.

— Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.

—  The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the NFL.

Those are details I’m sure most don’t care about. Most just care that the officials are back. And we’ll see how long it is before someone complains about one of the calls they make.

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Beyond Beanie

Posted by Darren Urban on September 26, 2012 – 3:01 pm

Now that Beanie Wells is out for at least eight weeks (seven games, because of the bye) after suffering a severe turf toe injury, the Cards must find a way to move on in the backfield, and they are beat up. Now only is Wells out, but LaRod Stephens-Howling (groin) and fullback Anthony Sherman (hamstring) both sat out Wednesday’s practice. Everyone waiting to see William Powell is going to get a chance, and we’re also going to see Ryan Williams with a pretty big role (I talked to Williams and will have more in a homepage story later).

I know there will be some Beanie backlash — I’ve already seen some — but if you are hurt you are hurt, and if you are hurt enough to go on IR, it’s serious. Coach Ken Whisenhunt called it a 6-to-8 week injury. It evens things out a little for the Miami game, since Reggie Bush is iffy because of his own knee injury. Wells has a torn ligament, and it’s hard to push off. There was a reason he hit the ground on his final carry. He just couldn’t go.

(Here’s a great explanation of the turf toe injury from Kent Somers.)

— Even backup fullback Jim Dray (knee) had to sit out Wednesday. The Cards are beat up a little — it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with this week, and then next week when it’s short before playing a Thursday night game in St. Louis. (Here’s the full injury report.)

— Quarterback John Skelton was limited and said he is doing much better, but still isn’t all the way back. No decisions have to be made yet.

— Whisenhunt will appear on tonight’s “Inside the NFL” show on Showtime. It begins at 9 p.m. Arizona time.

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Cards add fullback Hall

Posted by Darren Urban on September 25, 2012 – 1:02 pm

There has been no word on the status of fullback Anthony Sherman but apparently something happened, because the Cardinals Tuesday added fullback Korey Hall to the roster. Reserve guard Rich Ohrnberger played a snap at fullback at the end of Sunday’s win, so it makes sense something is up with Sherman. I’m sure it will be addressed Wednesday. Hall spent four years with the Packers and last season with the Saints before the Saints cut him at the end of camp this season. Hall not only played with guard Daryn Colledge in Green Bay, but also at Boise State.

To make room for Hall, the Cards cut tackle Pat McQuistan.

The Cards also made a practice squad move, bringing back linebacker Zach Nash, who was with the team in camp but injured most of the time, and releasing linebacker Ricky Elmore.

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