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Blogs

Darnell Dockett’s thin line, and “moments”

Posted by Darren Urban on July 26, 2016 – 9:20 am

One last thing about Darnell Dockett as his retirement settles in: Dockett talked about walking a thin line, but never really crossing it. “That’s just my personality,” he told Bertrand Berry on Berry’s radio show. “I was determined to create funny and hilarious moments my entire career.”

That’s something to keep in mind when people think back to much of the stirring up he did on social media. Yes, he showed himself taking a shower on UStream to win a wager. But all those other things? The day he tweeted while at jury duty, that didn’t really happen. Much to PETA’s chagrin, those times when he suggested he was going to get/he got a pet alligator or pet tiger? Even his traffic stops he tweeted about? Think very carefully about the source — Dock often just wanted to create a “moment.”

“In my next 20 years it’s going to be the same thing, it’ll just be more exciting because I don’t have rules,” Dockett said. “I won’t let people down, I won’t have to go talk to (VP of media relations) Mark Dalton every Monday morning before practice.

“You’re talking about a guy who walked a thin line but never got in trouble. I never got arrested, I never got suspended for games, besides the Whisenhunt thing, but that don’t count though. I don’t count that as a suspension. That was just somebody getting mad.”

(“The Whisenhunt thing” was the benching in Seattle following a sideline confrontation with then-teammate Kerry Rhodes. Whisenhunt was definitely mad after that one.)

“That’s what people fail to realize,” Dockett said. “People say Darnell la-la-la, but I never got in trouble. Never been on the news for anything bad, always Darnell is living his damn life — through an NFL career where they want you to be caged.”

That’s why, when Adrian Wilson said “There are heroes, there are villains, and there’s Dockett,” everyone who had been around Darnell just nodded in agreement. It was an apt description.

BlogDock


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Fitz eloquent in his thoughts on Denny Green

Posted by Darren Urban on July 25, 2016 – 9:39 am

The passing of former coach Dennis Green came as a surprise last week. It was also a little bit a surprise when Larry Fitzgerald — who had known Green much of his life — didn’t weigh in. Today, it became clear why, as Fitz was apparently working on a longer piece about his feelings for Green on The Players’ Tribune.

Green played a huge role in Fitz’s life. As Fitz notes right off the top, Green got him the only two jobs he’s had — as Vikings ballboy, and then drafting him to be a Cardinal. What struck me in the well-written article was the part where Fitz acknowledged the pressure he felt as the No. 3 overall pick, knowing the Cardinals could have instead drafted a Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers.

“I also remember that after that initial wave of excitement wore off, I felt a lot of stress,” Fitzgerald wrote. “Because I knew that I wasn’t just another player that the Cardinals were taking a chance on. I knew Coach had a big hand in having the team draft me with the No. 3 pick when they could have taken guys like Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers. The Cardinals already had a young Pro Bowl receiver in Anquan Boldin. Wide receiver wasn’t a need position for them. So my emotions went from joy to feeling a lot of pressure. I didn’t want to let Coach Green down. I knew I had to go out there and perform well so people would know that he had done that he did a good job evaluating me. All I wanted was to do right by him.”

I don’t think there’s any question Fitzgerald made Green look good with the pick. It didn’t hurt that the Cardinals and Green eventually signed Kurt Warner, too, so that helped the cause.

Having covered that team, there was never really any question the Cardinals and Green were going to target Fitz. Even now, Fitz jokes that he could have been the No. 1 overall pick if it hadn’t been for Josh McCown-to-Nate Poole. But that was only part of a relationship that started when Fitz was 9, and why last week’s news was such a blow to the future Hall of Famer.

Dennis Green, Larry Fitzgerald


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Culliver could give Cards another CB

Posted by Darren Urban on July 20, 2016 – 7:56 am

On the heels of Mike Jenkins signing, Cardinals GM Steve Keim confirmed Tuesday night that the Cards will also bring in free agent veteran cornerback Chris Culliver in for a visit next week.

“He’s a guy that’s had some success in the NFL and is coming off the ACL, so we’ll see where it goes,” Keim said.

The caveat is that Culliver is coming off an ACL and MCL tear in November, suffering the injury in a practice while playing for Washington. He was released this offseason a year into a four-year contract, although Washington GM Scot McCloughan told the Washington Post Culliver is on schedule in his rehab and should play this season. Culliver, a one-time 49ers, turns 28 in August, although knee injuries have been a constant issue with him over the years. He also tore his ACL in 2012, missing that entire season. Culliver played in only six games last season, but had four interceptions for the 49ers in 2014.

The Cardinals have to figure out (besides how much money he might want) where Culliver’s health is and how it fits into the secondary. Already, Tyrann Mathieu is coming off an ACL and his availability for the opener is still uncertain. Can the Cards afford another player like that? Does he become someone with which Jenkins battles for a spot or could the Cards sign and keep both with younger cornerbacks moved to the side?

One thing Keim made clear: There are expectations for Justin Bethel to start. “The more Justin plays the better he’ll get,” Keim said.

Chris Culliver


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Jenkins is Keim’s CB camp signing

Posted by Darren Urban on July 19, 2016 – 9:16 am

So, with training camp starting in a little more than a week, the Cardinals have signed a veteran cornerback. (With Steve Keim, did you expect anything else?) Mike Jenkins, with whom the Cardinals flirted before as a free agent back in 2014, is the one now in the defensive back mix.

You knew they would get a vet. Early in offseason there were talks with Bengals vet Leon Hall (who is still unsigned) and Jerraud Powers (who eventually signed with Baltimore). Jenkins has spent the last two years in Tampa, where he signed after nothing materialized with the Cards two years ago. At the time, the Cardinals instead signed Antonio Cromartie (who made the Pro Bowl.)

Jenkins joins a crowded secondary. There is no set starter across from Patrick Peterson. Justin Bethel has a slight edge, and Jenkins — who has started just five games the past two years in his 15 appearances — has a chance to get in the lineup. But he isn’t a lock to win a spot necessarily, either. Third-round pick Brandon Williams will join Peterson and Bethel on the roster. Draft pick Harlan Miller has a chance. Former undrafted corner Cariel Brooks has a chance. There are also a couple of guys who have been around — Asa Jackson and Shaun Prater — who have had an offseason to show themselves.

(Adam Schefter is reporting the Cardinals are scheduled to bring in vet CB Chris Culliver for a visit too. Keim confirmed the visit.)

However it plays out, Keim has made sure there is that veteran security blanket heading into camp. Maybe the Cardinals already in place will show it was unnecessary. But usually, that vet who signs now not only ends up necessary but an integral part of the upcoming season.

Corey Brown, Mike Jenkins


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Definitely no Brady versus Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on July 13, 2016 – 7:24 am

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s attempt for a new hearing for his four-game Deflategate suspension was turned down today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, meaning — again — Brady won’t be playing against the Cardinals in the regular-season opener at University of Phoenix Stadium on “Sunday Night Football.”

Brady still could appeal to the Supreme Court, but that course of action (which would likely be an attempt to at least get a stay for the suspension, pushing it perhaps to 2017) is a longer shot than the Second Circuit move.

UPDATE: Brady announced he will no longer fight the suspension, so he is definitely not playing against the Cardinals.

The Cards have been asked about Brady playing or not playing, and yes, a couple have talked about wanting to play the best — which includes facing Brady. But I thought Larry Fitzgerald was pretty honest when he was asked about whether he’d rather play against Brady in the opener or not.

“Come on, man,” Fitzgerald said. “I think that’s a pretty easy question to answer. I love Tom, that’s my man, but if he doesn’t play, I wouldn’t shed any tears.

“I’d love to see him back the next week, though.”

It wouldn’t be the next week, either.

Tom Brady


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Posted in Blog | 30 Comments »

The Rock isn’t coming, but Arians attracts

Posted by Darren Urban on July 11, 2016 – 10:10 am

So Sunday, actor, former professional wrestler and one-time college football player Dwayne Johnson — The Rock — tweeted out a video of Bruce Arians with the message “Would’ve loved to play for this man.” It got me thinking about something GM Steve Keim said about one of the benefits of having the “All or Nothing” series out there for public consumption.

It helps not only the brand, but it helps create resources you didn’t have before,” Keim said. “Sometimes, when you talk about free agency, there is a recruiting aspect to that. So when there is a perception of a team or an organization and it is good, it makes it that much easier to talk players into signing here and sometimes signing for less money, because they want to be part of something special.”

OK, The Rock isn’t signing a contract with the Cardinals (and, it should be noted, the video clip Johnson used was actually from the Arians bio “A Football Life” and not from “All or Nothing.”) But it underscores what Keim said about the Amazon series. It’s clear the biggest “star” of the whole thing is Arians. Without his personality, I’m not sure the series is as successful as it is, and that’s not to knock anyone else in the program. But the head coach is naturally going to be at the epicenter of a series like that, and — as all of us know who work with Arians on a daily basis — Arians has that kind of charisma.

Yes, he can MF you on the practice field, but players can see it’s about the football. Arians forgets about it as soon as the work is over. He can separate the player and the man. That’s why guys love to play for him. And while The Rock isn’t coming anytime soon, you can bet there are active players out there who have watched “All or Nothing” or Arians’ “A Football Life” and are thinking that they too want to play for Arians and the Cardinals. That’s a powerful tool.


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The pain of the Cardinals-Seahawks rivalry

Posted by Darren Urban on July 6, 2016 – 11:25 am

By now, there is little question about the rivalry between the Seahawks and the Cardinals of the last couple of years (if you need to see the raw emotion, at least from the Cardinals’ side, check out the episodes “The Penthouse” and “Endings and Beginnings” of the “All or Nothing series). When you look at the analytics of it, as Bill Barnwell did in this article, the question arises — is it good to have such a rivalry, or not?

It’s not so much about the rivalry itself but the fact both teams are so good. Barnwell points out, through recent historical data, that to have two powerful teams in one division — the argument can easily be made that the two are among the top four or five in the NFL going into 2016 — can cost both a significant chance at a Super Bowl win.

Again, it’s not so much that the two teams beat up on each other, which can be part of it, but the reality that home-field makes a big difference in the postseason. When two strong teams are in the same division, it’s that much harder to obtain. Still, in 2013, when the 49ers were still strong and the Cardinals had 10 wins and the Rams were still doing well in the division, the Seahawks managed to emerge as a Super Bowl champion. And during the season, these days, there is little like Seattle week for the Cardinals.

RivalrySEa


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Cardinals nearly drafted Abdullah, not Johnson

Posted by Darren Urban on June 30, 2016 – 9:31 pm

There will be some interesting parts to the Cardinals’ 2015 season revealed now that “All or Nothing” is now available to stream on Amazon video. One is there right at the outset of the first episode. The cameras take you into the Cardinals’ draft room when they are on the clock in the second round, all set to select Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah — VP of player personnel Terry McDonough is literally on the phone with Abdullah — when the Lions end up taking Abdullah the pick before Arizona. (The disappointment is palpable. It’s a scene you have to watch play out.)

How much would’ve changed last season had the Abdullah pick been made? Without the ability to draft Abdullah, the Cardinals took outside linebacker Markus Golden in the second round. And then they went with running back David Johnson in the third round. Golden has already played his way into a probable starting job following a solid rookie season, while Johnson had 13 touchdowns as a rookie and is going to be the anchor for the Cards’ running game in 2016.

Johnson, in fact, is a guy who the Cards’ decision-makers feel can be a star in the NFL. Abdullah had a solid rookie year for the Lions too, but I’d guess the Cards would have no desire to flip Johnson for Abdullah right now. Johnson showed he can run the ball and his ability to catch is fantastic (Johnson made a grab on a wheel route during OTAs that had teammates marveling. In the offseason.)

Feels like this turned out pretty well for the Cardinals.

Ameer Abdullah, Tyrann Mathieu, Deone Bucannon


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Peterson and, yes, Palmer make NFLN 100

Posted by Darren Urban on June 29, 2016 – 5:56 pm

So, in the end, Carson Palmer made it.

On the NFL Network’s annual top 100 list, the quarterback’s huge 2015 season earned him No. 12 on the rankings, joining teammate Patrick Peterson (at No. 18) in the top 20 as what I would expect to be the final two Cardinals in the countdown. The top 10 players are announced next week.

Barring a top 10 surprise, the Cardinals ended up with six players on the list: Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, Tyrann Mathieu, Larry Fitzgerald and then, of course, Palmer and Peterson.

While this list isn’t the end-all-be-all, it shows the respect the players on the Cardinals’ roster have across the league. You can argue about where the players were ranked, of course. I can’t say I’ve paid close attention to where the non-Cardinals are, although at first glance I don’t know if there are 17 players worthy of being ahead of Peterson after the season he had in 2015, but again, that’s what June and July are for — debate in the dead of the offseason. (It’s fair to wonder if Peterson was ranked too high last year.)

But it was good to see Palmer on the list. It’s his first appearance since the list came out and since he was discussed as an MVP candidate, it was kind of a no-brainer. When your quarterback is considered among the top 12 players in the league, your team is probably in pretty good shape.


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For what it’s worth in June, offensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 24, 2016 – 2:13 pm

As we maneuver through the dead of the offseason (and I finally get some time off), it’s a chance to survey the landscape of the Cardinals and make predictions about the season opening starters a couple of months from now – like I did with the defense yesterday.

Today, before I disappear for a bit, here is the offensive version, which, given the return of all the skill players, isn’t exactly an exercise in rocket science:

QB – Carson Palmer. As long as he’s healthy and productive, the Cardinals will remain a contender.

RB – David Johnson. The Cards hope that vets Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington stay healthy and contribute to Bruce Arians’ multi-pronged offense. But make no mistake, David Johnson is the running back in this offense.

WR – Larry Fitzgerald. He’s coming of a renaissance season only to be stepping into the will-he-or-won’t-he-retire last year of his contract. Still, he remains the soul of this offense.

WR – Michael Floyd. Also going into a contract year. Had a slightly slow start, but his dominance for a long stretch mid-to-late in the year showed how much of an impact he can really make. Yet another of the weapons that will make this team so hard to defend.

WR—Smokey Brown. Arians said Brown slumped late in the year, so the goal now is for Brown to carry through his talents for 16 games. Avoiding a nagging hamstring injury like the one that bothered him for a chunk of last season would be a good starting point.

TE – Darren Fells. Jermaine Gresham will get plenty of playing time, but Fells quietly had a very solid season last year, and Palmer said he’s shed 20 pounds and looks even better through the spring.

RT – D.J. Humphries. One of the few offensive question marks. All signs point to the 2015 first-round pick starting this season after learning a hard lesson as an inactive player for all 16 games as a rookie. If the Cardinals sign a veteran right tackle as camp opens, all bets are off.

RG – Evan Mathis. The Cardinals signed the Super Bowl champ to a one-year contract hoping he can not only solidify the line but also serve as a mentor – or at least give veteran help — to Humphries.

C – A.Q. Shipley. Eventually, the Cardinals want fourth-round pick Evan Boehm to win this job. But can the rookie learn enough to beat out Shipley by September? I’m guessing it takes a little longer than that.

LG – Mike Iupati. Comes to Cardinals, makes the Pro Bowl, the running game piles up almost 2,000 yards. Probably not a coincidence.

LT – Jared Veldheer. The offensive line overhaul with Steve Keim began with the Veldheer signing back in 2014. The Cards wanted a left tackle anchor. They got one.

OffenseWorth


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