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Blogs

Campbell still hurting, Heap will sit too

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2012 – 12:56 pm

Injuries will keep defensive end Calais Campbell (calf) and wide receiver Early Doucet (ribs) as inactive today against the Rams, but it would seem that it is a coach’s decision that will keep tight end Todd Heap inactive once again. Heap practiced full all week and was probable for the game, but after missing every game since Week 2 with knee issues, coach Ken Whisenhunt warned that Heap being active on game day would depend on the rest of the 46-man game day roster. With Rob Housler playing a bigger role, Heap just isn’t as crucial at this point.

With Doucet down, rookie Michael Floyd will have to perform, and it means LaRon Byrd is active too.

Besides Heap, Doucet and Campbell, the rest of the inactives:

– QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)

– RB Alfonso Smith (with Beanie back and LaRod Stephens-Howling playing despite sore ribs, Smith must sit)

– G Senio Kelemete

– T Pat McQuistan


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Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2012 – 4:34 pm

So I engaged in a Twitter discussion today with a fan with whom I have traded many tweets with in the past. He was frustrated with something coach Ken Whisenhunt said today about the challenge flags after the debacle of Jim Schwartz in Detroit yesterday (I’ll have Whiz’s thoughts in a moment). The fan’s problem was that Whiz was even talking about it, instead of, apparently, his job performance.

It seemed to be a good time to bring this up, because it’s not the first time someone is upset with a) what a coach or a player is talking about and b) the media not hounding coaches or players into some sort of bloodletting in front of the cameras.

Almost every quote you hear or read from these guys is prompted by a question. Whiz wasn’t talking about, in this case, the challenge flags, out of the blue. It was asked. He answered. It’s timely. Players always are answering questions. We’re all trying to generate interesting things to talk about. It’s not always about the status of job security.

That leads to the second point. I’m not sure what fans are expecting. Coaches and players tend to have a personality with their media interaction. Spend enough time around them, you know what they are going to get. Everyone seems to be waiting for Whisenhunt to change course now and that’s not going to happen. And guess what – it doesn’t matter. Whisenhunt isn’t saying anything different or handling anything different than when the Cards were winning, and no one had a problem with it then. Andy Reid stands up and says mea culpa every week in Philly and everyone still wants him fired because he’s not winning. The message doesn’t matter as much as results. Whisenhunt isn’t oblivious to the outside world. He knows what is going on. Yet this notion that if he talks about anything but, say, his future or the quarterbacks or the offensive line issue is just pointless, well, I don’t get it. Those things are important, but there are other things to talk about too.

Lemme get off the soap box now to hit some other points heading into the Rams’ game:

– Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald would like to have a big game. He’s not saying it, but you know he’s feeling it. Winning, though, is still his priority, he insisted. “We won in New England when I had one catch for four yards,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s possible to be done. If that’s what it takes that’s what it takes.”

When it was pointed out he’d prefer to win with a lot more catches and some touchdowns, Fitz laughed. “I prefer a lot of things,” Fitzgerald said. “But hey, it’s the way it is.”

– It’s so hard to predict what Fitz might do this week, but I’d be surprised if newbie Ryan Lindley doesn’t try to get him the ball. A Pro Bowl wide receiver can be a nice security blanket for a rookie QB.

– Whiz said he isn’t planning on scaling back the offense because Lindley is playing. He just wants his offense to do what they already can do better.

– Whisenhunt noted that the last time the Cards played the Rams, Darnell Dockett was limited. Actually he was very limited, making almost no impact because of the hamstring injury bothering him at the time. Dockett is good now. He created a lot of havoc last week in Atlanta – “You see his explosiveness,” Whisenhunt said – and will be a new factor with which the Rams must deal.

– It’s a tradeoff, because Rams running back Steven Jackson is looking better than he has in a couple of years. That may be because he is healthier than he has been in a couple of years (he has 182 yards over the past two games, averaging more than five yards a carry.)

“He’s the unsung NFL MVP,” Cardinals linebacker Quentin Groves said. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it shows the Cards’ respect for Jackson.

– Jackson will be even more important with the news Rams receiver Danny Amendola is doubtful with a foot injury. Amendola didn’t practice all week, yet he was the one guy – along with Jackson – Cardinals players kept mentioning. Amendola was also the receiver that was shredding the Cards in the first meeting before he got hurt early. His absence would be a boon to the Cards.

– About Whisenhunt and the challenge flags. Lions coach Jim Schwartz screwed up on Thanksgiving. He threw his flag when an 81-yard TD run by Texans RB Justin Forsett that should have been called down wasn’t, which is a no-no – Forsett ran for a TD, and all scoring plays, like turnover, are automatically reviewed. Throwing your flag before the review is officially called for not only is a 15-yard penalty, it wipes out the review itself. The Cards watched the Falcons do the same exact thing less than a week ago.

“They warn you every game,” Whisenhunt said. “They make a point before every game of telling you on turnovers and scoring plays, you can’t throw the flag.”

Is the rule just? That’s debatable. It’ll be looked at in the offseason, I’m sure. But Whisenhunt was blunt in answering whether it is fair. “That’s the rule,” he said.

– I think we’ll see Calais Campbell play this weekend. How much I’m not sure. Will it be Dockett limited from the first Rams’ game? Maybe. Maybe he’ll play more. David Carter did a nice job last week as a fill-in, so that works.

– Tight end Todd Heap has practiced full all week with his knee issue. He is probable for the first time. Yet Whiz said whether Heap plays depends on the 46-man game day roster. If Heap isn’t active Sunday, it’ll be a coach’s decision. Will Heap’s long stint on the shelf cost him a chance to play going forward, barring an injury to a tight end? I don’t know if you take reps from Rob Housler for Heap. Then again, if you think Heap can make that much of an impact, I don’t know if you can afford to sit him either.

– With LaRod Stephens-Howling limited with a rib problem – technically he is questionable — it will be interesting to see if that will impact Beanie Wells’ workload in his return. Whiz has seemed to be warning off a heavy game for Beanie since he is just coming back.

– One final thought, as the Cards head into the final six games of the season, from linebacker Daryl Washington.

“If we can lose six games in a row, we can win six games (in a row) too,” he said. “That’s tough in the NFL but I believe we can do it. It would take a lot of effort, a lot of hard work. In the meantime, we have to focus on one at a time.”


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“It is not a right, it is a privilege”

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2012 – 1:41 pm

There weren’t a lot of specifics defensive coordinator Ray Horton was giving Friday when asked about veteran safety Adrian Wilson’s role, after Wilson was taken out of nickel situations last week in favor of Rashad Johnson and James Sanders.

“Hopefully the message being sent by everyone is the most important thing is to do your job and do your job well,” Horton said. “When you are in there, it is not a right, it is a privilege to play defense. We’re just trying to tweak some things and get some guys some opportunities. Where does (Adrian) fit in? Right where he has always been, as one of the leaders of our team.”

Horton talked once again about defensive depth. Giving Sanders and Johnson more chances to play was important to him. At this point, the reserves have been playing well when they get a chance, and Horton wants to cultivate that.

“(Depth) is a security blanket for me with the defense,” Horton said. “I don’t care who is in the game, I haven’t seen anyone really perform poorly in a substitute role. With (linebacker) Quentin (Groves) and he dominates against New England, James Sanders picked up the fumble (against the Eagles), guys continue to make plays. Guys tend to take advantage of the opportunities they get.”

So Horton — who used Reggie Walker more at outside linebacker last week with the season-ending injury to O’Brien Schofield, as another example — will continue to move pieces around. And we’ll watch the role of someone like Wilson evolve.


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Acho sees the bigger picture

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2012 – 9:50 am

Linebacker Sam Acho is a key part of the Cardinals’ defense and one of the young players the team wants to build around going forward. Not only is he talented, but he is smart, always a benefit on the field.

That’s a benefit off the field as well, and the man gives as much of himself to charity as he does to football. Together with his family — his parents, who came here from Nigeria, are American success stories and have worked hard to give back to their native land — Acho is holding a charity auction Monday night to raise money for his family’s Living Hope Ministries. Acho’s family is going to build a needed hospital in Nigeria, and the money raised at the event at the Ritz-Carlton here in Phoenix will be the base to that fund-raising drive.

Here are some of the auction items/events Acho has collected in order to pick up some needed cash at the first “Hope For Life” event:

– WR Larry Fitzgerald takes your child to school and attends the first class of the day with him or her;

– A 30-minute “shopping experience” with S Adrian Wilson at his store, High Point Shoes, in Scottsdale;

– Baking cupcakes with CB Patrick Peterson;

– A one-on-one basketball game with DE Calais Campbell (all 6-foot-8 of him);

– A movie night with RB Beanie Wells;

– Visiting Acho at practice, and then getting field passes before a game;

– Dancing lessons with LB Quentin Groves;

– Bass guitar lessons/jam session with DL Nick Eason;

– Cooking “experience” with LB Stewart Bradley;

– Golfing with QB Kevin Kolb and P Dave Zastudil;

– A Segway tour of South Mountain with the offensive line;

– Bowling with RB William Powell;

– Your kids playing the video soccer game FIFA with T Ricky Lumpkin and LB Colin Parker;

– Pitching with Diamondbacks reliever J.J. Putz before a game, in addition to four game tickets and the chance to be on the field during batting practice;

– A 30-minute hitting lesson with Minnesota Twins star Justin Morneau at Fischer Sports in Phoenix.

There will be a bunch more silent auction items as well (I think Acho got tired of texting me all the possibilities. It was quite the list.) If you are interested, visit livinghopeministries.us for more information, call  602-710-4281 or e-mail events@ybarracommunityengagement.com. Click here for a brochure about the night.


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So now Lindley starts …

Posted by Darren Urban on November 22, 2012 – 1:15 pm

The news that came out yesterday that Ryan Lindley is going to start at quarterback this weekend really can’t be a surprise. Kevin Kolb isn’t healthy. John Skelton just was pulled out early in the Atlanta game in favor of Lindley, and I’m not sure anything could have happened over the past few days that would change coach Ken Whisenhunt’s mind to go back. Had he gone back to Skelton, it would have made what happened in Atlanta a real head-scratcher (yes, I am aware there are many of you who already see it that way.)

The interesting scenario will be when and if Kolb can return to play. It will partly depend on how Lindley does, I would think, in the meantime, but let’s say he doesn’t dominate. What then? Do the Cardinals go back to Kolb? Does Lindley play it out? Is it tied to the outcomes over the next few games?

I said before the season if Lindley played this season it probably wouldn’t bode well for where the Cardinals’ season was headed. It was hard to see it happening after the 4-0 start, but obviously, the offense hasn’t produced of late and the Kolb injury — there is no doubt if Kolb was healthy, he’d be playing — threw things into flux.

Since watching Lindley when he came in, particularly in training camp, I do see a guy who can be accurate (an issue with Skelton) and who has the size to stand tall in the pocket. Personally, my expectations aren’t high. That’s nothing against Lindley, but a rookie quarterback has more downs than ups and this is a guy who was drafted in the sixth round. Yes, guys like Andrew Luck and RGIII have had quick success, but they were the first two picks in the draft and the first two picks for a reason.

The Cards have to find more consistency in the passing game. They have to find a way to get Larry Fitzgerald the ball more often. Whether Lindley is the guy who can deliver that, we will have to see. But we are going to see. Quarterback is going to be at the top of the to-do list in the offseason — at least, reevaluating the position will be — and the Cards do need to find out where Lindley fits or doesn’t fit. Whisenhunt could have waited longer to do so, but he clearly didn’t see why he should wait.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving.


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Beanie officially activated, Westerman cut

Posted by Darren Urban on November 21, 2012 – 9:17 am

Since coach Ken Whisenhunt basically announced it Monday, it’s no surprise that running back Beanie Wells was activated to the roster this morning from the injured reserve-able to return list and he is on schedule to play Sunday against the Rams. Will he start? That’s a big question and I am not sure Whisenhunt will be willing to answer before the game. But certainly, a healthy Wells — and he told me yesterday his knee indeed was not right early in the season before he went down with the toe injury, but now it’s good — will help the Cardinals’ struggling offense.

To make room for Wells on the roster, the Cardinals cut linebacker Jamaal Westerman, not a surprise either after he was surpassed on the depth chart by undrafted rookie Zack Nash. That leaves just one “official” backup outside linebacker, although backup ILB Reggie Walker was playing there some in Atlanta and fellow backup ILB Stewart Bradley can do the same.


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Hyphen up for award, and Pro Bowl possibilities

Posted by Darren Urban on November 20, 2012 – 9:51 pm

As Pro Bowl voting continues, the folks over at profootballfocus.com are prompting readers to pick three Cardinals as Pro Bowl worthy. Two are the same as their last list, with linebacker Daryl Washington and defensive end Calais Campbell getting the nod. The third was safety Kerry Rhodes, who has been having a solid bounce-back season after injuries wrecked 2011. Rhodes had an interception in Atlanta this past weekend.

– Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, after his 127 yards rushing in Atlanta, is up for the FedEx Ground player of the week. You can vote here until Friday. He’s up against the Bengals’ Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis and the Buccaneers’ Doug Martin.

– Speaking of Stephens-Howling, he will be the guest on the Thanksgiving week edition of Kerry Rhodes’ Big Red Rage, which will be held Wednesday night because of the holiday. The show starts at 6 p.m. as usual at Majerle’s Sports Grill in Chandler.


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A new role for A-Dub

Posted by Darren Urban on November 20, 2012 – 10:34 am

Back when training camp opened, before the players had even settled into their dorms, Pro Bowl strong safety Adrian Wilson was the story after agreeing to restructure his contract and taking a paycut. Such was the price to stick around the Cardinals, and that was something that was very important to Wilson. “I’m in it for the legacy,” he said. Flash forward to this past week, when Wilson — who had played all but one of the 542 defensive snaps the Cardinals had his first eight games of the season (he didn’t play in the Philadelphia game because of an ankle injury) — was taken out of certain packages.

The coaches decided to use Rashad Johnson and James Sanders, the duo that had replaced Wilson and did pretty well in that Eagles game, in nickel-type packages. Wilson still played the majority of the game, finishing up playing 41 of the Cards’ 73 defensive snaps in Atlanta (and celebrating William Gay’s interception, pictured below.) Sanders played just 17 snaps, Johnson a mere 12. But it was Johnson who noticeably was the starter in the game because the Cards opened in the nickel and that got even more attention when Johnson grabbed a tipped pass on the game’s first play for an interception.

The explanation for Wilson’s demotion was simple and not specific for coach Ken Whisenhunt. Whiz noted after the game the move “worked pretty well,” adding “It was consistent with our message to the team and I think our team rallied behind that.” Monday, Whiz complemented Wilson’s ability to deal with the change. “It’s never easy, but Adrian’s a real pro and he handled it well.” Whisenhunt praised the play of Johnson and Sanders against the Eagles, and also against the Falcons. “We’re trying to win games,” Whisenhunt said. “We’re trying to get better and those guys played well (in Atlanta).”

(Defensive coordinator Ray Horton doesn’t talk until Fridays and I’m sure the question will be raised about Wilson’s role then.)

As for Wilson, he has handled it well. He doesn’t have much to say about it, saying only “That’s a head coach question” when asked about the move. But it’s not like he is snapping at reporters trying to ask. Is he happy? I’m sure not. A-Dub is a proud man. He’s never been shy to criticize himself when playing poorly but that doesn’t mean he is OK with it or even that he agrees all the time that he is playing poorly. He certainly wants to be on the field as much as he can (Wilson played the most defensive snaps in the NFL last season.) This situation is a little more difficult, since his new restructured deal includes incentives that are, by definition, harder to reach if he is playing less. With the way the defense performed, I don’t expect the Cards to change back, at least not this week.

Yet I can’t see Wilson doing anything but making it work. “I can’t put my heart into another team like I have this team,” he said in July, and that investment is more than a decade in the making.


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No QB announcement, but a bunch of other news

Posted by Darren Urban on November 19, 2012 – 11:41 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn’t naming a starting quarterback for this week yet. Evaluation is still coming. Kevin Kolb is working to get back, and Whiz said Ryan Lindley did OK. He also said Lindley had impressed him at practice over the weeks. He never considered started Lindley in Atlanta after John Skelton had a good game in Green Bay, but said watching Skelton miss too many opportunities early in Atlanta led him to make the change. Much more on this later in a homepage story.

– Whiz on safety Adrian Wilson dealing with his demotion: “It’s never easy but Adrian is a real pro and he handled it well. But that’s where we are as a team. James (Sanders) and Rashad (Johnson) deserved a chance. We are trying to get better.”

– Running back Beanie Wells will be activated off injured reserve this week, Whiz said, and the Cards expect him to play Sunday.

– Regarding rookie left tackle Nate Potter’s first NFL start: “He fought and I think he’s going to be OK out there.”

– Nothing new on cornerback Patrick Peterson. He left the game briefly with a hamstring problem. Whiz said Peterson told him it was cramps.

– Whiz said that given the Cards’ problems, he’d have to at least consider changes within the duties of the coaching staff. One example suggested to Whiz was play-calling. The coach certainly didn’t commit to doing that, but “that’s something that you look at.”

– Rookie receiver Michael Floyd was benched after lining up wrong, but Whisenhunt said Floyd also had come out of a route wrong earlier, leading to an incompletion. With the Cards’ margin for error slim to none, that wasn’t going to work. “When you are where we are offensively, you have to create a sense of urgency to make plays and be held accountable for that,” Whisenhunt said.

– On dealing with the six-game losing streak: “It’s tough. It’s tough. Don’t think for a second it doesn’t burn a hole in my gut or in the players’ bellies. … We’ve been in the games. I’m not defending it, but in my career, if you have a team that’s in a lot of games, it shows you are making progress. We’ve had some setbacks with injuries and we are trying to fight through that. I know it’s not easy. We’re not happy about it and I appreciate the support of our fans.

“Ultimately our goal is to make our fans proud. I know we’ve done that when we went to the Super Bowl and the playoffs and we haven’t forgotten that, and we have a lot of young players in here that understand that.”


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Falcons aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 18, 2012 – 7:32 pm

Larry Fitzgerald is always going to say the right things. But it’d be interesting to crawl into his head right now and find out his true feelings about where the Cardinals and their offense are right now. Maybe he indeed is absorbing it all rationally. Of course, if he was, I’d start to wonder if he was human. When Fitz was trying to find the right way to explain Sunday’s loss despite the Cards making play after play defensively, you had to feel for him. One catch for 11 yards isn’t what you need from your star, your Pro Bowler. Then again, had he been able to pull down that last pass – and, standing just 20 yards or so away, I thought he was going to make it – he’d have been the hero and I believe the Cards would have punched in the game-winning points.

That didn’t happen.

Where from here? You can’t ask for much more from the defense. Daryl Washington may say the defense has to do more, but I’m not sure that’s possible. If the Cards just get one more touchdown – and the Cards had the ball at the Falcons’ 35 or closer four times without being able to make that happen – they win.

– At this point, I don’t know who will be the quarterback against the Rams next week. As I sit here on the charter flight home, you could see a scenario where it could be any one of the three guys on the roster. Next week will be six weeks since Kevin Kolb got hurt. I still don’t see Kolb, who was throwing some but not practicing last week, coming back yet. John Skelton could start. Ryan Lindley could.

– Was I surprised Lindley went in? Yes and no. The Cardinals were up 13-0 and, at least at that point, what they would get from Skelton was probably a known quantity, especially with his teammates. Then again, Skelton missing Fitzgerald in the end zone, that wasn’t the first time that kind of thing had happened. And I do agree with Whiz when he said if people are going to be held accountable, that has to include the quarterback.

Whisenhunt acknowledged he made the decision after Skelton missed Fitz for that TD.

“We had a play that’s open (and) you’ve got to make that throw,” Whisenhunt said.

– Let me head off a couple of questions I will inevitably get. Yes, I think the Cards will chase someone new at quarterback this offseason. No, I don’t know who, and right now, I just see that as a discussion for another day. It’s Kolb/Skelton/Lindley the rest of this season, regardless.

– Here’s another question I want to head off (and I’m not saying you can’t pontificate on this in the comments, just that I don’t plan on answering it again): No, I don’t think Whiz will be fired now. I don’t think there will be any coaching changes in season. After the season, once all the games are played, yes, there will probably be changes going in this direction. No, I don’t think it will be Whisenhunt. As I have said many times, I expect him to be coaching here in 2013.

– Adrian Wilson didn’t have much to say about being what turned out to be benched, kind of. Wilson still played in the base defense, but since the Cards started in nickel, he didn’t start. I’m sure he’s not happy – the man has played in four straight Pro Bowls, then was asked to take a pay cut and now this – but today, after the defense forced six turnovers, it’s hard to argue with the decision-making on that side of the ball. UPDATE: Wilson still played 41 of 73 total defensive snaps — 56 percent.

– Patrick Peterson did come back in the game after hurting his hamstring, but that will be something to watch this week.

– Apparently, according to ESPN’s research, Matt Ryan was the first QB to throw five interceptions in a game without a touchdown and win a game since the Packers’ Bart Starr did it in 1967.

– Fifth-round pick Senio Kelemete, who was inactive today, was the only player in the seven-man draft class not to play today. Didn’t see that coming during the 4-0 start.

– If there was any déjà vu involved while watching today’s game, there was reason. The Cardinals have been crazy playmaking productive on defense in the recent past and somehow lost before – the Monday Night Meltdown game in 2006. Rex Grossman had four picks and two lost fumbles.

Well, I certainly can’t complain, coming off the bye, of a lack of things to talk about this week. There will be plenty on which to chew before the Rams’ game. Signing off for now.


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