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The need for speed and that first draft pick

Posted by Darren Urban on March 26, 2015 – 11:28 am

The Cardinals may or may not sign another noteworthy free agent (although knowing the history of Steve Keim, it’s likely they will at some point.) But there is little question, with the draft just about a month away, the Cards are going to be turning their attention there. Bruce Arians left little doubt what he wanted to see when the Cards use their eight picks.

“In the draft, it’s still speed,” Arians said. “Speed at running back, speed at receiver, speed at linebacker, another interior player.” (I’m guessing the speed isn’t as important for that last one.)

At this point, assuming no significant changes to the roster pre-draft, I would guess there is a chance the Cardinals could take a running back with their first pick. I still think that’s unlikely, although it’s so hard to predict anything when you are talking about the 24th overall pick. So many different options could be there. I still think the Cards would like to get that edge pass rusher in the first round. If he’s not there, would anyone be surprised if Keim tried to trade down? Maybe a young cornerback could be the pick (at this point, both Justin Bethel and Jerraud Powers are scheduled to be free agents after the season.)

The running back will be the position that draws the attention. Nothing has happened to change my mind about a certain potential trade for a vet running back. Paying a running back who has been in the league a ton of money doesn’t make a lot of sense in the grand scheme of things. Not when the Cardinals could take a running back on a rookie contract and pair him with Andre Ellington.

“This might be the best group (of running backs) top to bottom that I’ve seen in about 10 years,” Arians said. “There’s some teams in college running the ball and not just at the top two or four guys but all the way down. There are 15 really quality running backs in this draft.”

Bruce Arians, Steve Keim


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The speculation on Adrian Peterson

Posted by Darren Urban on March 16, 2015 – 10:09 am

It was quite the weekend, with free agency around the league slowing down and some tidbits floated here and there about the Cardinals and Adrian Peterson. No, I don’t think anything is imminent and I continue to hold to my original thought — that the Vikings will find a way to keep him. Keeping him, even at his salary, to help with young QB Teddy Bridgewater, is in my opinion the best football decision for the Vikings. Maybe Peterson is unhappy and doesn’t want to stay. But I don’t see them just cutting him, and the reality is, Peterson only has so much leverage. What’s he going to do — sit out a second straight season in his prime? That doesn’t make sense to me.

As for some of the other stuff that’s been said:

— Peter King is saying the Cardinals haven’t even had any discussions with the Vikings.

— Charles Robinson, who certainly seems to be talking someone in Peterson’s camp, keeps saying Peterson wants $25 million guaranteed over three years. OK. If you are just doing the guaranteed money, that’s a little more than $8M a year, but it’d be all guaranteed. Most deals have money beyond guaranteed too. Do you do that for a guy who will be 30 next week? Yes, it’s less than what he’s making, but …

— Robinson says Peterson is willing to restructure. What Carson Palmer did was restructure. Is Peterson willing to take a pay cut? If so, how much?

The draft is full of prospects. Cheap prospects. If you still like Andre Ellington — and there is no reason to think the Cardinals do not — the Cards could pick up a good between-the-tackles guy in the first or second round and pair him with Ellington and still be left with cap room.

— Everyone assumed the Palmer restructure was a harbinger of something. It still could be. But the Cards might have just been getting low on cap space — they have, according to the NFLPA, about $9.9 million in space, and Palmer’s move created about $7M — and if they were going to do something with Palmer’s deal they had to when they did because his bonus was due last week. It might’ve been as simple as that. The Cards need around $4 million in cap space to bring in their top draft picks. Without Palmer’s move, they had about $3 million.

Fitz isn’t being traded. Period. Forget the logistics or cap hit or anything. Ownership wanted Larry Fitzgerald in a Cardinals uniform. He is an important face of the franchise, and that’s why this new deal was done. The Cardinals aren’t going to let him go.

Again, I’m not saying a Peterson trade could not happen. But there are so many moving parts, between what his contract would be, what the Vikings might want in trade, whether the Vikings would even want to part with him, and what other teams around the league might offer (just because Peterson says he wants to go to this team or that doesn’t mean the Vikings have to accommodate him) it’s tough to get a true handle where this will go.

As far as “going for it,” I just keep coming back to this thought from GM Steve Keim, who has said a version of this to me many times: “You always have to think about the long-term health of the organization.” He’s talking in terms of the salary cap. Keim often mentions “sustained success.” That doesn’t mean you can’t add a veteran who costs some money. But any undertaking will have some deep thought, and deep research, behind it.

Adrian Peterson, Richard Marshall


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Saving the running backs – or at least, their market

Posted by Darren Urban on March 9, 2015 – 3:25 pm

Long-time running back Steven Jackson was cut by the Falcons and is looking for work, and in this day and age where multi-back-backfields are in vogue and few teams want to spend a lot of money on a running back, I came across this Jackson creation: Savetherunningback.org. The video is something else. It feels like a “Saturday Night Live” digital short. I kept waiting to hear laughter in the background.

Jackson’s point, tongue-in-cheek as it might be, still is made. It’s worth having an every-down back, in his humble opinion. It’s just that most NFL teams disagree, and certainly, even if you use a guy every down, you don’t want a lot of money sunk into that guy because his shelf life isn’t extended.

Bruce Arians said when he walked in the door in Arizona he prefers having one main back. Andre Ellington was mostly that guy last season, before he broke down. The Cardinals, meanwhile, continue to be linked with two of those high-priced, every-down backs that are (or could be) available: DeMarco Murray, who will be a free agent tomorrow, and Adrian Peterson, who for now remains locked up under a contract with the Vikings — although multiple reports suggest he could be available in trade. Peterson reportedly would choose Arizona as his preferred destination; another report suggested he’d like $25 million guaranteed in a new contract. Murray reportedly is hoping for $8 million a season.

It will be fascinating to see how this all plays out. Marshawn Lynch got more money from the Seahawks for (at least) one more season. The Cowboys supposedly don’t want to have to pay Murray the kind of money he probably can find somewhere else. As for Peterson, his trade value and his contract are gigantic logistical issues if he were to leave Minnesota. Murray and Peterson will get paid, they just might have to go somewhere they didn’t plan on going to get that money. The Cardinals are in the market for a running back and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they considered Peterson, but again, do you sink that much money into the position? In the end, maybe it shouldn’t be about saving the running back as much as saving up for one.

saveRBSblog

 

 


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The notion of Adrian Peterson

Posted by Darren Urban on February 27, 2015 – 10:26 am

I’m always hesitant to bring up Adrian Peterson in any context with this team because of the emotions it evokes. The story has been told countless times, how the Cardinals, picking fifth in 2007, passed up the chance to draft Adrian Peterson and instead took tackle Levi Brown. We all know how that worked out for both sides. The Cardinals had allowed Leonard Davis to leave in free agency and needed a left tackle. And Edgerrin James was coming off his first season in Arizona. Plus, new coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm felt the Cardinals had to upgrade their offensive line because without that, it didn’t matter who might be behind that line carrying the ball.

Yeah, it didn’t quite work out. Did I mention that?

The other part of that story is that, while Whiz and Grimm ruled the day getting the tackle they wanted in that draft, that then-director of college scouting Steve Keim wanted to take Peterson. He felt Peterson was a difference maker.

(It’s fun to look back at that 2007 draft. Tampa could have had Peterson at No. 4, they went DE Gaines Adams. The just-cut Ted Ginn went ninth to the Dolphins. Meanwhile the Niners got Patrick Willis at 11 and Buffalo took Marshawn Lynch at 12. That seems so long ago.)

So we flash forward to 2015, and yesterday’s news that Peterson’s ongoing suspension, or whatever it might be, has been bounced back to an arbitrator after a judge ruled his ongoing punishment for last year’s issues with child discipline went too far. Peterson’s situation has not been resolved. That’s the most important part of this right now. It’s also important to note that a) Peterson is under contract with the Vikings and b) the Vikings continue to say they want Peterson on their team in 2015. So any speculation about him being anywhere but Minnesota this season is just that — speculation and guesswork.

There was a report that Peterson’s agent and someone from the Vikings got into a heated discussion at the Scouting combine and that Peterson’s agent wasn’t keen on Peterson staying a Viking. Then Peterson’s dad came out and said Peterson isn’t trying to leave Minnesota, although there is a chance the Vikings could part ways with him. Peterson does have three years left on his current contract (he turns 30 in a couple of weeks) and is due to make $12.75 million, $14.75 million and $16.75 million. Those numbers would seem to me to make a trade for Peterson for many teams cost-prohibitive without a significant restructuring and/or pay cut.

Someone suggested to me yesterday that Nelson Peterson (the father) said the Colts, Cowboys and Cardinals would be on Adrian’s short list if he left the Vikings. I haven’t seen that. The elder Peterson merely mentioned to the St. Paul Pioneer Press he had heard those teams as rumored destinations — and this time of year is king for NFL rumors.

But it was interesting to see Nelson Peterson go into some depth about the Cardinals and their near-miss on Peterson in 2007.

“Arizona had the opportunity to draft him and they didn’t,’’ said Nelson Peterson. “They had an opportunity to take him in 2007 with the No. (5) pick and they went and picked Levi Brown. If they would have taken Adrian Peterson, then (quarterback) Kurt Warner would probably still be playing and they probably would have numerous Super Bowls.

“Can you imagine (Peterson) with Kurt Warner and with Larry Fitzgerald in his prime? Oh, man, Arizona would probably have a couple of Super Bowls by now.’’

Keim is still around, although now he’s calling the shots. It’d make sense he probably still likes Peterson as a player. It’s not like he can comment on the possibility — that’s tampering — although I’ve heard him asked in a couple of interview situations. Until free agency starts though, such ideas are going to be bounced around. I’ve been bombarded with the question: Could I see Peterson as a Cardinal? Maybe, although there sure seem to be a lot of moving parts here. I will say this, with all the players around the league getting cut and with a free agent class with a lot of names in the first place — plus issues like Peterson’s future playing out — it’s going to be an interesting month of March.

Adrian Peterson


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Larry Fitzgerald takes part in MLB Celebrity Softball Game

Posted by since1898 on July 14, 2014 – 10:17 am

 

BACK TO #since1898


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Again, getting touchy with Ellington

Posted by Darren Urban on May 28, 2014 – 9:59 am

It seems like once Andre Ellington started playing at the beginning of last season, the amount of touches he was getting/would get/could get on a game-by-game basis was a constant theme. That hasn’t changed. And it came up again when Bruce Arians said he’d like to get Ellington 25 to 30 touches a game.

In a vacuum, a bold statement. But there are reasons to analyze this, not the least of which is that it is May and things most certainly can change by the time the season starts. (Don’t forget that at some point last offseason, the Cardinals were going to a) have Drew Stanton as a starting QB, b) use Kevin Minter as a starting linebacker with Daryl Washington, c) employ Levi Brown all year at left tackle and d) have a pretty limited role for Ellington.)

— Arians made it clear that his guesstimation for Ellington touches would depend on the number of passes Ellington would catch. Ellington’s use as a receiver is a big deal for this team going forward (and should probably be factored in when it comes to where the team stands with their receiving corps.) The Cardinals love Ellington’s pass-catching ability, they love the idea of getting him the ball in space, and they were pleasantly surprised with how effective he could be not only running routes (which he had never really done) but also catching the ball in traffic.

I’d think Arians believes a significant amount of those Ellington touches come in the passing game. And let’s face it, game-to-game, it’s difficult to know exactly how many receptions a guy might make.

— These days, no one gets 25 touches a game, much less 30. There is no bigger workhorse running back than the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. He averaged 22 touches last season. Even in his 2,000-yard rushing season of 2012, Peterson didn’t even get to 25 touches a game (24.3). Last year, Philly’s LeSean McCoy topped the league with 22.9 touches a game. Chicago’s Matt Forte was at 22.7. And it felt like McCoy got the ball all the time.

People like to compare Ellington’s size to Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles. Charles averaged 21.9 touches a game last season.

— Speaking of size, Ellington was officially listed at 5-foot-9 and 199 pounds last year. He figures to put on some muscle, but I keep thinking back to what Arians said last year when people kept wondering why Ellington didn’t touch the ball more often. You don’t want too much of the offense to be on Ellington’s shoulders, the coach reasoned, because if he did get hurt, where does that leave you? (Ellington did fear he had torn knee ligaments during the Cards’ Thanksgiving practice last year, but it turned out to only be a sprain.)

“My goal is to get out there and not take those big hits, to get down when I’m supposed to or not get hit at all,” Ellington said. “But it’s football. You’re going to get tackled. … I just have to be in the best shape so I can be full speed on every play.”

Over Ellington’s last eight appearances last season, he averaged 13.6 touches a game. He had a season-high 17 touches in a game twice. He did not have more than 15 carries in a game. It will be interesting to see how his use morphs this season, and whether or not Ellington really does hover around a 25-touch-per-game average.

Andre2useblog

 

 


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Vikings aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 21, 2012 – 5:34 pm

Early last week, guard Daryn Colledge talked about how the offense had to play better, but that the defense was always going to keep the Cardinals in the game. Then came Sunday, what may have been the harshest way to demonstrate the point.

I’m not sure what the hardest thing to handle was for the Cardinals. The first stop that led to a punt giving the Cards the ball first in Minnesota territory, only to have the drive go nowhere? The following long drive into the red zone that ended with a fumble and no points? The gift interception at the end of the first half – why on God’s green earth were the Vikings throwing at that point anyway – only to have Jay Feely’s field goal miss? The pick-6 to start the second half that made it a two-score game?

“The plays that were there to be made were being made earlier in the year,” quarterback John Skelton said. “Now we are missing.”

It’s going to be hard not to re-play what could have been in the collective minds tonight.

— The Cardinals have now lost two games this season in which the opposing quarterback had fewer than 10 pass completions (the Rams’ game was the other.) That’s unheard of in today’s NFL. The Vikings ended up with a net of 43 passing yards.

— Those 43 net passing yards – and Christian Ponder’s 58 gross – were the fewest allowed in an NFL game this season, by the way. The Cards hadn’t allowed so few in a game since giving up 37 net passing yards to the Ravens in December of 2000 – a game the Cards also lost, 13-7, to the Trent Dilferific Super Bowl-bound bunch.

– The Cards had the ball for more than 10 minutes more than the Vikings, including holding the ball for more than 11 minutes of the 15-minute third quarter.

— LaRod Stephens-Howling had been off to the worst start of his career running the ball, but he was back on track Sunday. Yes, it was partly due to the Vikings’ defensive alignment, but that doesn’t diminish the accomplishment of his first 100-yard game. You figure next week’s game against the 49ers will be much more difficult, but considering where the Cards were when they lost both Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, it’s a start.

— Guard Adam Snyder was limping around pretty good because of the quad contusion that sent him out of the game and brought Rich Ohrnberger in for relief. You know Snyder is going to badly want to play against his former teammates a week from tomorrow. We’ll see if he can recover in time.

— Adrian Peterson sure didn’t look like a guy who had ACL surgery less than a year ago. He looked like 2008 Adrian Peterson with his 153 yards on just 23 carries, ramping up to full speed seemingly as soon as he was handed the ball in the backfield.

— Larry Fitzgerald called the offense’s overall lack of production scoring “disheartening.” It seems like the Cards have had more issues this year getting Fitz freed up than ever before. The offense is missing that kind of playmaking.

— I know the TD came late, but Andre Roberts quietly had a productive day (7 catches, 103 yards).

— The one thing Kevin Kolb was doing really well when the Cards were winning – and what has gotten lost a bit when the Cards ended up on the wrong side of things a couple weeks ago and then again today with John Skelton – is the turnovers. They cost at least 10 points today, with the Vikings getting seven on the interception return and the Cards losing at least three on the red-zone fumble by Skelton. Many teams can’t afford turnovers, but for the Cards, that margin is even smaller. The Cards generated a pair of turnovers themselves, but couldn’t win the turnover battle.

That’s enough from 30,000 feet. The Cards will have an extra day to regroup for the 49ers. That game was always big. Now it’s probably something that will determine where they go the balance of the season.

UPDATE: The Cardinals aren’t going to work out quarterback Vince Young, despite rumors to the contrary.


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Friday before the Vikings

Posted by Darren Urban on October 19, 2012 – 4:58 pm

Trips to Minnesota since I’ve been covering the Cardinals have frequently ended poorly. OK, not frequently. Always. My first trip there was for a 2000 preseason game, where four or five Cardinals suffered serious injuries on the one-time crappy turf, including the ACL tear for wide receiver Rob Moore. There were not very close losses in 2000 and 2006 (although the Cards were a Hail Mary away at the end to get an amazing comeback). There was the 2010 loss, which looked like it was in the bag with a two-touchdown lead with six minutes left (Favred!) and then last year, when the Cards simply melted down in the first quarter.

Year-to-year doesn’t matter – it’s a new team here, the Vikings are a new team, and for the most part, nothing carries over – but that’s at least the backdrop for the Cards this weekend. I don’t need to get into the schedule again (but if you forgot, it’s Niners, Packers, Falcons in the next three games) but this is important. The coaches know it. So do the players.

— This is an early game, kickoff 10 a.m. Arizona time. The Cards had one of those in New England, but that was after flying in on a Friday. The Cards don’t fly to Minnesota until tomorrow. They can’t afford to sleepwalk through the first quarter.

— I watched the video of Vikings defensive end Jared Allen meeting with the Minnesota media. Not surprisingly, he was asked multiple times about the Cards surrendering 22 sacks the past three games and the opportunity he had. Not surprisingly, he dodged bulletin-board material. Who knows? Maybe he actually made a good point:

“I’ve been in this league for so long, I’ve played teams where they’ve given up … I always go back to the Texans, who had given up, like, 50 sacks and we came in there like Week 10 or Week 11 (when he was with the Chiefs),” Allen said. “All we saw were bootlegs. Teams also know that. So you can’t sit there and say, ‘We’re going to lick our chops and get after the quarterback,’ because you’re going to get burned in the run.”

The Allen pass rush – he’s only got four sacks this season, below expectations — will be under the microscope Sunday, whether it is against D’Anthony Batiste or Bobby Massie.

— Linebacker Daryl Washington repeated the same message over and over: We have to stop 12 and 28. That’s Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson, in case you weren’t sure. Obvious, yes. But last year, quarterback Donovan McNabb was god-awful against the Cards (another reason why it confounds me a Cardinals fan would suggest signing McNabb) and yet the Vikings rolled. Peterson was awesome (three first-quarter TDs) and Harvin is a Swiss knife of a playmaker.

— Speaking of Peterson, it is still amazing he has returned from ACL surgery so quickly (he blew out his knee Christmas Eve 2011). He already has 499 yards rushing. “He’s not quite as bombastic in what he used to do,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton said, “but he still has our full respect.”

“He just never ever doubted,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “The only time he showed any doubt was when we were flying back from the game when he was injured in Washington. But after that it was full speed ahead from a mental standpoint and he’s never regressed.”

— The Cards are allowing just 16.2 points a game, fourth in the NFL behind the Bears, 49ers and Seahawks. Whatever the rest of the stats say, that works for Horton. “That’s the only stat that should be measured,” Horton said.

— It hurts to be missing safety Kerry Rhodes, down with the bad back. That means the Cards will have gone through a game without Rhodes, Adrian Wilson and Darnell Dockett so far. It’d be nice to have all the key pieces in place, and Rhodes is having a pretty good year. Horton more or less shrugged it off. “Hopefully we’re not built like a house of cards where one guy gets hurt it is doom and gloom,” he said. “I don’t think we are built that way.”

— In case you missed it, my visit this summer to Minnesota turned into this story about how Larry Fitzgerald loves his home state. (But don’t worry, he loves being in Arizona too.)

— Minnesota native Michael Floyd isn’t getting the kind of work he was hoping – 7 catches, 84 yards – but he’s hanging in there. “The ball doesn’t come that way often, so when it does, you have to make the play,” he said. Floyd made the spectacular catch against the Bills after failing to come down with one a couple of weeks previous. Both Ken Whisenhunt and offensive coordinator Mike Miller say Floyd is doing fine in his steps forward.

“If we were doing better offensively (overall), he’d probably be more involved, have more statistics,” Whisenhunt said.

John Skelton, you’re up.


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Some quick hits after practice

Posted by Darren Urban on October 18, 2012 – 2:13 pm

I had tweeted yesterday that tackle Chris Williams, released by the Bears this week, was on the Cardinals’ radar. Today they brought him in for a visit. He also visited the Eagles and so there’s no way to know if his signing is a slam dunk, or even if the Cards want him after seeing him live and in person. One report out of Chicago suggests he could be OK in the right environment. Clearly, with the Williams interest and the bringing back of Pat McQuistan, the Cards are considering options with struggling tackles D’Anthony Batiste and/or Bobby Massie.

— Darnell Dockett was back to practicing fully Thursday, the first time he has done so since hurting his hamstring against the Dolphins Eagles a few weeks ago. Linebacker O’Brien Schofield, who has been limited almost all season with his sore knee, was back at full for the first time Thursday as well.

— Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and defensive end Jared Allen sat out Thursday nursing ankle and groin issues, respectively, but both are expected to play against the Cardinals and reports are that some of the practice caution has to do with the fact the Vikings play the Buccaneers a week from today, so a short week is coming up.

— Running back William Powell gets some love from profootballfocus.com.


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Not all Madden choices created equal

Posted by Darren Urban on March 24, 2011 – 10:50 am

This year, EA Sports has decided to make a contest out of who will be their cover photo for this year’s version of the Madden football video game. Given the past season, I guess I assumed Aaron Rodgers was a shoo-in for Madden ’12, but no, Rodgers is just one of 32 candidates — one from every team. It’s also set up in bracket form, so we aren’t just talking about the total number of votes.

There are many cover possibilities that make sense — Rodgers, Matt Ryan, DeMarcus Ware, Patrick Willis, Adrian Peterson, Julius Peppers, Andre Johnson — and others that I look at and think, ‘A good player, but a cover?’ — guys like Peyton Hillis, Jake Long, Josh Freeman. There are repeat candidates, guys who have already been on the cover before, like Drew Brees, Michael Vick and, for the Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald.

But just when you find a couple of head-scratchers (The Bengals’ Carlos Dunlap, the Bills’ Steve Johnson, the Patriots’ Danny Woodhead, Tim Tebow?) you end up freezing on the option for Seattle. Apparently, they have no player worthy of the honor, at least none important enough to usurp “The 12th Man” — the name the Seahawks give to their crowd (which yes, can be very loud, but is generally a non-factor if the team is lousy — just like any other crowd).

The 12th Man faces the aforementioned Willis in the first round, so I’d guess Willis will be the one to advance there. But still, the Qwest crowd? Really? Not, oh, maybe Mike Williams? Marshawn Lynch?

Besides, how exactly does the Madden curse affect that group — I’d be afraid of a natural disaster on game day.


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