We have a Floyd sighting

Posted by Darren Urban on September 25, 2012 – 11:49 am

From the outset, people have been waiting to see Michael Floyd make an impact. It was natural, given his status as a No. 1 draft pick. But it was also natural that Floyd’s impact wasn’t going to be dramatic. Too many factors: The learning curve for a rookie receiver, veterans already playing receiver like Andre Roberts and Early Doucet, fewer passes thrown a game as the Cards lean more on the defense, more multi-tight end packages in part to aid pass protection.

But Floyd popped out Sunday against Philly, even though he had just one catch, his first in the NFL. It was a doozy, concentrating in traffic on a ball that could have been picked off, for an eight-yard touchdown.

“You have to make sure you concentrate on the ball, plus make sure you don’t get that big-time hit on you,” Floyd said.

Floyd isn’t going to pontificate about his situation. He says he’s getting more comfortable, and his blocking has been pretty good already (plus he got Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to strike back for a post-play penalty after the two tussled during a run play.) Certainly he wants more catches, but like anyone in his situation, there are stages to go through and it can’t be forgotten that the Cardinals are 3-0 doing it the way they are currently doing it.

“When you don’t get a lot of balls thrown your way, you get frustrated,” Floyd said. “I held in there and got the job done.”

Floyd’s play was lost with everything else going on Sunday, and it doesn’t mean Floyd is suddenly going to dominate the stat sheet. But maybe quality will conquer quantity for Floyd this season. If the Cards get touchdowns like that (he’s becoming a master of the spectacular score, right?) they’ll take it.

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D-Wash uses speed to (help) score

Posted by Darren Urban on September 24, 2012 – 5:07 pm

Daryl Washington’s speed helped him harass Eagles quarterback Michael Vick all game Sunday. It was the reason he notched a pair of sacks. But nowhere was Washington’s speed more apparent than the final play of the first half not as a defender, but a blocker.

Safety James Sanders scooped up the fumble at his own 7-yard line and had a convoy (as you can see in the video below). But Eagles running back LeSean “Shady” McCoy had the angle, and there was no way Sanders was going to score — and he had to score, since time for the half expired on the play — without some help.

“As I saw McCoy, I’m thinking, ‘This could be a big play,’ ” Washington said. “So I hustled my butt. I’m tired. But it’s a hustle play.”

Washington ran a 4.51 at his pro day before he was drafted, but you watch the video, it looked like he was running faster than that. “I had people texting me that I was running like a corner,” Washington said with a smile. “I take pride in my speed.”

Washington raced up as if he was blasted out of a chute. No discredit to linebacker Paris Lenon or defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, who both tried to keep up with Sanders, but Washington ended up necessary.

“I saw Paris and a couple guys, but I didn’t see D-Wash,” Sanders said. “I was trying to slow up a little bit to see if Paris and those other guys could get  McCoy out of the way. Then I saw 58 flying out of nowhere. I thought, ‘I’ll follow this stallion to the end zone.’ He went ahead and threw Shady out of the way and made it a lot easier for me.

“I knew it was a matter of time to get that last guy out of the way.”

(All I could think about was the Oregon kid I had seen on ESPN who also had a convoy on an interception but his teammates provided an epic fail. Thank goodness Washington was more on top of the situation.)

“James had four or five guys who could make the block, but I thought, ‘If I can get there before them …,’ ” Washington said. “You need the one guy to make the block. I knew it’d be a huge play. Just killed their whole spirit.”

Here’s what was really impressive. The Cards’ defense had been on the field for an intense 73-yard, 11-play drive just before the fumble. Exhaustion was setting in. “I ain’t going to lie, I was really tired on that play,” Lenon said. “I’m like for real. That (play) was great.” Washington felt it, but knew he needed to make one final push. The locker room awaited one way or the other.

“I thought, ‘Thank God it’s halftime,’ ” Washington said. ” ‘I’m not running in. I’m not jogging. I’m walking.’ ”


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About the QB — Don’t worry about it

Posted by Darren Urban on September 24, 2012 – 11:37 am

The question is going to come up every week, and coach Ken Whisenhunt knows it. The message, though, isn’t going to change.

“I don’t want to sound like a broken record,” Whisenhunt said, “but until John (Skelton) is ready to play again, there’s nothing really new there, nothing to talk about.”

Whisenhunt is playing the quarterback situation this year the same as he did last season. He sees no reason to tip his hand, or create a firestorm, if he can help it. Clearly he feels this is the best course of action. And it doesn’t hurt that Skelton is not 100 percent right now. Skelton did practice with the team later last week but on a limited basis.

“But I have to see him step and drive, do it in practice with guys around him,” Whisenhunt said.

At this point, you’d think there’s no way Kevin Kolb would come out of the lineup. His passer rating is over 100. The Cards are 3-0. I wouldn’t think — and this is my opinion — the Cardinals or Whisenhunt would want to tinker with that right now. Whisenhunt certainly isn’t tipping his hand. Asked about his thought process when Skelton does get healthy, Whiz wasn’t biting. “I guess when he gets to that point we’ll see.”

— No new injury updates on RB Beanie Wells (toe) or DT Darnell Dockett (hamstring). Whiz did say he thought TE Todd Heap (knee) and S Adrian Wilson (groin) were close to playing Sunday. The hope is that both can be back against the Dolphins.

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Eagles aftermath, with a Kolb topper

Posted by Darren Urban on September 23, 2012 – 7:46 pm

The defense is dominant. But before we get too far away from one of the key storylines from today’s game, here’s a nod to Kevin Kolb. The quarterback keeps downplaying what it meant today to beat the Eagles, but the man is human. You can only imagine, with everything he’s been through – the guy wasn’t even going to be playing two weeks ago.

“We wanted to come out and play hard for him because we knew what it meant for him,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “He made the throws, he scrambled when he needed to and he did a great job commanding the huddle. In the huddle, he was very demonstrative. He really wanted it. He was calling guys to reach down and dig deep and make plays. He really doesn’t talk all that much in the huddle, but today, you could tell he was actually trying to motivate.”

Someone wanted Kolb to reflect on the past three games. He wouldn’t bite. “I want to stay focused,” Kolb said. “Because I’ve done it in the past, you know, tried to foresee the future and every time it comes up and knocks my legs out from under me.”

The questions are going to be there and no, I don’t know what happens at quarterback. You’d have to think Kolb will stay as the starter even if John Skelton’s ankle is healthy. I don’t anticipate any big announcement – that’s not really coach Ken Whisenhunt’s style – but that’s my guess tonight.

— There was a lot of preseason concern about how much pressure the Cards could get with their outside linebackers. O’Brien Schofield and Quentin Groves each had a sack, Sam Acho had a play that would’ve been a sack if Michael Vick hadn’t decided to intentionally ground the ball, and the three totaled six QB hits. Not a bad day’s work.

— Safety Kerry Rhodes has had two excellent games in a row. Played well in New England, and then today he looked like, since Adrian Wilson was sitting out, he was going to suddenly take up the mantle as the guy who drilled everyone. He did it back-to-back plays on tight end Brent Celek, and later tagged Vick for the James Sanders fumble return.

“Everyone else is making plays, so why not me?” Rhodes said. “I have to make a couple myself.”.

— James Sanders and Rashad Johnson stepped up in Wilson’s absence. Reminded me of last year when Johnson and Richard Marshall filled in well for Rhodes

— Daryl Washington won’t win NFC defensive player of the week, I don’t think, because Calais Campbell won it last week. But he’d have an argument after his two sacks and the way he harassed Michael Vick all day. So I’ll say this: Has a team ever looked better in a two-week stretch of re-signing two players to big contract extensions. No worries about either one flaking out after getting paid.

— The PatCat got a snap Sunday. Four-yard Patrick Peterson running loss. It can’t always be productive, I guess.

— Kolb has played two games plus the end of the other without an interception. “With our defense and our style of play, not turning the ball over is a big key,” Kolb said. “It’s OK to punt. We don’t like it, it’s never been in my game, but to have that mentality, sometimes it’s OK.”

— It was so important for Ryan Williams to bounce back like he did. Not only did his 83 yards on 13 carries look good, but it softens the blow if Beanie Wells is out. We’ll see how Wells’ toe is this week. Williams does, as Whisenhunt noted, need to grab that 3rd-and-1 pitch and just drive upfield and make sure he gets the one yard, rather than look for a big play and get stuffed.

— Speaking of stuffed, I felt back for LaRod Stephens-Howling. He was in the game with Wells down and Williams suffering from cramps, and the Eagles knew the Cards just wanted to run it into the line late and burn clock, and the Hyphen’s stats took a beating. Eight carries, minus-14 yards. Talk about taking one for the team.

— Darnell Dockett said his hamstring will be OK, but jeez, that would be a tough loss if he were to miss a game. Dockett shrugged. “Every now and then, even the Hulk gets wounded.”

— Long snapper Mike Leach recovered the Eagles’ fumble punt today, which is why you need someone athletic enough to get down in coverage at that position. It’s not just about putting your head between your legs and throwing.

— Michael Floyd, welcome to the NFL. A highlight-worthy TD catch and drawing a 15-yard penalty on DRC? Nice production.

— Fitz had a good game, but what does he tell Andre Roberts about the 50 yards Roberts lost on Fitz’s block in the back penalty that Roberts may not have even needed. Roberts ended up with a 29-yard reception instead. “I cost my closest friend on the team a 70-yard play,” Fitz lamented. Ah, after all that time Roberts spent with Fitz’s jet skis on the lake this summer, I’m sure Roberts will forgive him.

I had just turned 4 the last time the Cards were 3-0. I wasn’t living in Arizona yet, even though I’ve lived here most of my life, and their move to the Valley was a long way away. At some point, the Cardinals were going to get to 3-0 again. Raise your hand if, on Sept. 8, you thought it was going to be this season.

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Adrian Wilson inactive, as are Heap, Skelton

Posted by Darren Urban on September 23, 2012 – 11:30 am

This one is a blow to the Cardinals: Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson, who had been listed as questionable for the game with ankle and groin issues, is inactive for today’s game against the Eagles. The ankle had already had Wilson on the list but the groin problem cropped up sometime this week in practice. Rashad Johnson starts in Wilson’s place. Tight end Todd Heap (knee) is also out for today.

Kevin Kolb is starting at quarterback today. John Skelton (ankle) remains inactive, and for those wondering, Kolb’s wife is not expected to give birth today so Kolb shouldn’t be going anywhere either.

The rest of the inactives:

— WR LaRon Byrd

— RB William Powell

— G Senio Kelemete

— T Pat McQuistan

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Friday before the Eagles

Posted by Darren Urban on September 21, 2012 – 4:56 pm

A fan (@AzCardsGM) linked on Twitter today a video of the Cardinals’ dramatic late win in Philadelphia back in 2001, when Jake Plummer hit MarTay Jenkins for a long TD with 35 seconds left – what an improbable win, I remember thinking as I stood in the chill of the sideline that day – and mentioned that he wanted the same result Sunday when the Eagles visited University of Phoenix Stadium. Just without the drama.

Sorry. Drama is included with every season ticket these days, it seems.

“History tells us we might as well get ready for another two-minute drive to see who wins the game,” quarterback Kevin Kolb half-joked this week. OK, maybe not half. He’s probably 94.6 percent dead serious.

In 1976, the franchise earned the nickname “Cardiac Cards” because they won eight games by seven points or fewer. Well, since the beginning of last season – 18 games all told – 15 have been decided by seven points or fewer for the Cardinals. The Cards have won 10 of those. The Cards last 11 wins, in fact, have come by no more than seven points. During their current nine-wins-in-11-tries stretch, the margin of victory in those nine wins has been 2, 4, 7, 6, 4, 3, 6, 2 and 3 points.

“As long as we get the ‘W’s,’ I really don’t care,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I think you can turn the highlights on every week and you see a bunch of games that come down to the wire. We’ve been involved in a lot of those games but you have to learn how to win and you have to win the tough games and our guys have done that. It’s definitely stressful, but our guys have gotten mentally tougher because of it.”

The Cards may have gotten mentally tough, but I’m willing to say it – the constant close games are mentally taxing.

— Don’t forget the Cards are wearing the black uniforms Sunday.

— Defensive coordinator Ray Horton has come through with some strong statements of late – last week, Tom Brady was the best NFL player in history – and this week, it was his praise for his defense that got the nod.

“This was our best week of practice ever,” Horton said. “The guys came in, they had attention to detail, the focus, the practice, the talk, and that’s how I knew was the talk. By far our best week of practice since I’ve been here.”

— The Cards will need it. They face an Eagles’ offense that leads the NFL in yards per game at 471, a stunningly high total (the Cards, by comparison, are 30th in the league with their 249 yards a game). Yet the Eagles have scored only one more total point than the Cards. Why? Turnovers. Mike Vick and crew have already turned it over nine times, making their 2-0 record impressive in a backhanded way.

“If we can eliminate the turnovers, our offense can accomplish great things,” Vick said. Added Eagles coach Andy Reid, “(Michael) has never been a turnover guy. He’s started out with a few, but that hasn’t been throughout his career what he’s done.”

The Cards did pick off Vick twice last season in their win at Philly. Clearly, how the Cards’ defense handles Vick and company will be the story of the game.

— Horton’s defense has been on a field a lot already. After playing the most defensive snaps in 2011, the Cards already have played 163 total defensive snaps in two games (the Cards have a total of 129 offensive snaps).

“We are always concerned about that,” Horton said, noting that his unit needs to generate more turnovers. “That gets you off the field. No matter how you get on the field, you can’t control that. You can control how you get off the field.”

— Because of the scheme the Cards played last week, starting nose tackle Dan Williams played just seven of 82 snaps, backup nose tackle David Carter just three.

“After missing six games last season it was definitely hard,” Williams said. “Talking to Dave, we have to do what is best for the team. If we only have two big guys in there, can’t complain because it is Calais (Campbell) and (Darnell) Dockett in there, two great player. Dave and I, we understand. As a football player, you want to play but the team is bigger than ourselves.”

— The NFL announced it suspended Cardinals practice squad wide receiver Gerell Robinson. Multiple reports have it for four games for violating the agreement against performance-enhancing drugs. No official word from the team as of yet.

— It will be crucial to see how the Cards’ offensive line, particularly tackles D’Anthony Batiste and Bobby Massie, handle outside pass rushers Jason Babin and Trent Cole. The Cards have only given up two sacks in two games. The vibe from Philly is that Babin and Cole are expecting big games. Keeping Kolb clean will be so important.

The Cards have to find a way to run the ball better. Larry Fitzgerald emphasized that Friday. That will help slow those pass rushers too. But Fitz has to have more than one catch. “We’ve got to feed him,” Kolb said. There’s a fine line between risk and reward, but Fitz needs to make an impact, get in the end zone.

— Ryan Williams has to bounce back. Quickly.

— Fitzgerald had high praise for former teammate and current Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, returning to Arizona for the first time.

“I’ve said it all along, DRC, he’s the most, from a physical standpoint, talented guy I’ve ever been around,” Fitzgerald said. “Dude is (running a) 4.3, (has a) 40-plus vertical, his quickness is unbelievable. I was teasing him this week, I’ve got to put my hands on him. He’s still only 172 pounds.”

— Just like the Cards need to protect Kolb in the pocket, the defense needs to take advantage of Philly’s backup left tackle and center. The Cards have multiple sacks in eight straight games, and the way Vick plays, they really should be able to extend that streak.

— Horton, on how his defense is handling success: “We haven’t had any success yet. We started off 1-6 last year and we still talk about that. I don’t think they think we’ve had success yet.”

— The Cardinals haven’t started a season 3-0 since 1974. We’ll see if they can update that. As far as the last time they started 2-0, well, that season included an Eagles’ trip to Arizona too.

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Skelton questionable and Kolb’s family question

Posted by Darren Urban on September 21, 2012 – 1:16 pm

Quarterback John Skelton was limited again Friday with his sore ankle and will be questionable for the game. Kevin Kolb figures to start against the Eagles — the only reason I say “figures” is because coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t actually declare it to be true — but even he has a factor involved in his playing. Kolb’s wife is due with their third child Oct. 4, but at this point, you never know when a baby will come. It’s possible it could come on a Sunday, and Kolb is very aware of it.

“I’m just hoping it doesn’t present itself, let’s put it that way,” Kolb said. “I don’t want to have to make that decision. I care about both obviously. I would have to lean toward seeing my baby be born, but that’s a long shot (having a conflict) so hopefully it doesn’t present itself.”

Asked the perfect scenario of the birth, Kolb smiled. “The perfect scenario is right after meetings Monday, so I have a day-and-a-half off. But I don’t make the rules, God does. We’ll see what happens.”

Interestingly, the Cards have a game on Oct. 4, a Thursday. That’s the night they play in St. Louis on NFL Network. But by then, Skelton figures to be much healthier too.

— Speaking of Skelton getting healthier and the reoccurring question of this time — who will start at QB when Skelton is healthy again — coach Ken Whisenhunt told “NFL AM” that “it’s going to be the same thing we always do, we’re going to go with the player that we think gives us the best chance to win. Kevin has done exactly what we expected him to do, and that’s come in and played well. I don’t have any expectation of John than wanting to get back healthy and compete for the job. Once we get to that point, we’ll make that decision.”

— Besides Skelton, the Cards have a handful of other players questionable: TE Todd Heap, G Adam Snyder, S James Sanders, S Adrian Wilson and S Rashad Johnson.

— Speaking of Heap, Patriots safety Steve Gregory was fined $7,875 for the late hit on Heap that caused Heap’s knee injury. Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo was fined $21,000 for hitting a defenseless receiver in the head/neck area, after he blasted Early Doucet last weekend. Doucet hung on to the ball. Mayo didn’t launch himself on the play, keeping his feet on the ground, but he definitely got Doucet high (I remember thinking that at the time.) Mayo was not penalized. Gregory was.

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DRC makes his return

Posted by Darren Urban on September 21, 2012 – 9:39 am

The headlines this weekend begin with Kevin Kolb (probably) facing the Eagles for the first time since they traded him away. But it’s also the first chance for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie — the other player in that trade — to return to Arizona for the first time. Kolb may have been hurt last year when the teams played in Philadelphia, but DRC was there, at least at first. DRC hurt his ankle returning the opening kickoff of the second half and missed the Cards’ rally that day.

“They’re the ones who gave me the opportunity to be in the National Football League, so you always want to thank them for that,” DRC told “I had fun times (in Arizona); there are no hard feelings.”

DRC never really seemed to be a hard-feelings kind of guy. He was/is talented, and showed, especially in 2009, why the Cards made him a first-round pick in 2008. He made the Pro Bowl and seemed headed for great things. But he wasn’t good in 2010 — few were for the Cards that season — and even he knew it. When the Cardinals hired Ray Horton to be defensive coordinator, Horton talked about having “little guys who could hit,” and anyone who watched DRC had to wonder if DRC fit that bill.

(Although I will say this — Horton has made it clear to me that if a guy is a good enough cover corner, other issues can be overlooked.)

When the Eagles were willing to trade Kolb, and on the lookout for a cornerback knowing their time with Asante Samuel was likely coming to an end, DRC ended up being the piece the Cards surrendered. DRC struggled a bit last season as the nickel corner while the Eagles started Nnamdi Asomugha and Samuel started. “The way he handled that was phenomenal,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “My hat’s off to that kid just for that alone. It was new to him. He attacked it the best he could attack it. We were blessed with three real good corners, so one of them had to sit. He was the one and he was awesome with that, but he’s playing well now.”

DRC admits he was surprised at the trade, but he’s moved on. The locker room certainly hasn’t been the same. Close friend Michael Adams (tackling DRC on DRC’s first-half kickoff return last year) and DRC often did a lot of talking, bantering, arguing. It’s hard to forget DRC’s sometimes painted toenails, his Toy Story kids backpack, how he talked about his love for sandwiches he “cooked” with an iron on the ironing board, or the time he wore old-school footie pajamas into work when the Cards had to practice on a holiday. He was one-of-a-kind.

He and Fitz had some practice battles — the ones Patrick Peterson took over after DRC left — and considering DRC played just three seasons in Arizona, he left a mark. It’ll be interesting how his homecoming goes Sunday.

“I’m just looking at it like another game,” DRC said. “I know a lot of people are probably looking at (the trade angle), but I’m just going in there facing an Arizona team that’s on the rise.”

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Stuff your sorries in a sack

Posted by Darren Urban on September 20, 2012 – 12:48 pm

The Cardinals don’t have that one pass rusher, a la Bertrand Berry 2004, that piles up the sacks. For that reason, many have wondered about the Cards’ ability to get pressure on the passer. But as they proved last season — when they finished seventh in the NFL in sacks, despite their leading sack guy, Calais Campbell, having just eight — they are faring just fine in that regard. The Cards, in one fell swoop, took control of the NFL’s longest active streak of games with multiple sacks.

The Cardinals have done it eight games in a row, supplanting the Patriots, who had done it nine games in a row before the Cards made sure they got just one last weekend. Tom Brady, on the other hand, was sacked four times. The Cardinals already have seven sacks this season after posting 42 last season, with two each for Campbell and linebacker Paris Lenon. Next up is Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who can be had (the Cards sacked him twice last season).

It’s not always about the sack. Sometimes pressure is enough, or even better, depending on what you’re trying to do. But clearly the team is finding a way to get to the quarterback. Given that they rarely blitzed last week, it’s also a good sign they can generate sacks with just four rushers.

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Ryan Williams: “I hit rock bottom”

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2012 – 3:53 pm

After Sunday’s game was over, Ryan Williams shut off his phone. He felt bad enough about the fumble that almost cost the Cardinals a win. He didn’t need to hear from anyone about it, even if it was words of encouragement.

He turned the phone back on Monday morning. Ten minutes later, he got the call that his grandfather – who had been sick – had passed away.

“The best way I can describe it, I hit rock bottom, on and off the field,” Williams told Wednesday. “It was a tough thing to swallow.

“I sat back and thought, ‘Is this really happening?’ ”

It did happen. The Cardinals got their win, but Williams was sick about his fumble – his second in two games – and then was hammered with the news about his grandfather.

“When I look at what’s going on, the football fumble doesn’t even amount to what me and my family have been going through the past couple of days,” Williams said. “But me personally, I have to deal with it. That’s been the tough part, having to deal with both, because I’m the one that fumbled.

“It’s something that will make me stronger. My grandfather was so proud of what I accomplished, and I’m going to keep working to make him proud.”

Whether the loss of his family member changed Williams’ perspective given the timing, no one will know. Williams is clearly still haunted by the fact he fumbled. He’s been through hard times before in his life, however, and he is counting on being resilient again.

“Man, look, I came back from a (potentially) career-ending injury,” said Williams (pictured below coming off the field following his turnover). “It’s sad to say I’ve been having this fumbling problem, and I haven’t been playing like myself. It’s hard to go out there and play like yourself at times after that injury. I haven’t really been playing fast and instinctively like I want to, because as soon as some contact comes, sometimes the first thing I think about is ‘Is my leg going to be OK?’ I’m not thinking, ‘Play fast,’ it’s ‘When I get hit, I need to lay myself down so my leg isn’t caught up in some crazy mess.’

“It’s been a lot but the past couple of days, they’ve got to be gone and they will be gone. For me to be me, I can’t play like that. This team expects a lot out of me. We’ve got good teams coming up and a lot of plays need to be made and they need to be made out of the backfield. I’m going to get it done. I’m going to get it done.”

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