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Friday before the 49ers, humble edition

Posted by Darren Urban on September 25, 2015 – 4:30 pm

Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin was blunt talking about rookie running back David Johnson.

“He could be special,” Goodwin said. “Very special.”

That’s an easy conclusion to reach after three touchdowns on just nine NFL touches, including a 55-yard touchdown reception and a 108-yard kickoff return. One thing coaches and teammates love about him isn’t his talent – although, yes, they love his talent – but his ability to be humble. Of course, he does have to absorb some grief.

“I don’t believe no one in this locker room is really reading their press clippings,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “Well, maybe David. David is probably reading his.” Mathieu chuckled. “I’d be reading them too.”

Johnson chuckled himself when he heard Mathieu’s comments. “It was a little harder this week,” Johnson said, “but the coaches made sure I stayed grounded, and the players around me reminded me it’s a long season.”

It is going to be a long season. That’s why almost everyone around the Cardinals followed Bruce Arians’ lead this week in brushing off the 2-0 start. Playing the 49ers Sunday is both a step up in opponent and a foray into the NFC West, and the Cards understand both cannot be underestimated.

— No word on the offensive line as of yet. The fact Mike Iupati still has not been able to practice fully any one day has to raise a red flag, but we’ll see if he’s able to go against his former team Sunday. As for right tackle, Arians said Bobby Massie is better at pass protection and Earl Watford is better in run blocking. He’s also noted Watford has given up too many quarterback hits. The Cards like to the throw the ball. We’ll see if that impacts the decision.

— The 49ers are a grind-it-out team. That makes sense because a) they have a talented running back in Carlos Hyde and b) quarterback Colin Kaepernick, while he has made strides as a passer, still isn’t someone you’ll lean on the majority of the time.

Then there is Kaepernick’s ability to run himself, which will force the Cardinals to be on top of things while he scrambles around back there.

“From an awareness standpoint, I think our guys have to know that any down, any distance, he could tuck the ball and run with it,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said.

— Goodwin, talking about the Bears game Thursday: “Last week there were a lot of things I didn’t agree with in terms of hitting the quarterback, a couple of shots he took. (Carson Palmer) is going to get hit. We just have to minimize it.”

Friday, Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee was fined $17,363 for his low hit on Palmer on the flea-flicker touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald. McPhee was flagged for a personal foul on the play.

Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson was also fined $17,363 for his hit to the helmet of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Johnson did not draw a flag on the play.

— Don’t forget Adrian Wilson will be inducted into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor at halftime of Sunday’s game. What was behind Wilson growing into one of the best players in franchise history? Take a look back at my “Making of A-Dub” piece from 2010.

— Bettcher said the defensive line has a “great rotation” right now, and that includes some snaps for Calais Campbell at nose tackle. In reality, the Cards don’t really use a true nose tackle – Xavier Williams has been inactive, and starter Rodney Gunter (whom Bettcher said is doing well) is more like a Campbell. Again, the Cards were going for versatile on the line this season.

— Campbell makes it on Sports Science.

— Will Larry Fitzgerald go off again this week? Who knows? Arians is always coming up with different things. Even Fitz knows things can change.

“Coach Arians is like a mad scientist,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s always finding ways to get guys involved, to create mismatches for his playmakers.”

— Anquan Boldin gets another chance at his former team. He’s said in the past playing the Cardinals is just another game, but frankly, I don’t believe him. Q is too intense along those lines to have it be otherwise.

“He’s a physical receiver,” Mathieu said. “He’s 100 percent for 4 quarters. I’ll be matched up with him so I have to bring my big boy pads.”


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49ers let Dockett go

Posted by Darren Urban on September 4, 2015 – 9:12 am

It was shocking for many when the Cardinals cut Darnell Dockett earlier this offseason (at this point, it seems like two years ago) because he was set to make too much money. Then, in a fashion that was perhaps fitting with the defensive lineman, an inability to come to terms on a lower-priced deal with the Cards ended with Dockett signing with the division rival 49ers and Darnell promising a huge battle when he returned to University of Phoenix Stadium.

Except it’s not going to happen. Dockett, despite getting $2 million guaranteed from the Niners, is being released, so that might just say where Dockett is in his playing form. It’s tough for Dockett, who after ripping up his knee in the 2014 preseason has only played a little in the preseason after missing all last year. He’s currently dealing with a rib injury.

The first thing many wonder — and I know, because I was bombarded on Twitter — is whether the Cards might bring him back. No, I don’t see that happening. There is a reason the Cardinals were willing to release him in the first place. They wanted to get younger (Dockett is 34) at the position, and they have done that with Ed Stinson (who was basically drafted as a Dockett replacement) and Xavier Williams and Rodney Gunter and maybe even Josh Mauro. Maybe Dockett has just reached the end of the line. It happens, no matter how frustrating that can be for player or fans. To a much lesser extent, Dockett’s guns blazing going out the door — he didn’t have too many good things to say about the situation, in complete opposite of how Adrian Wilson handled his release once upon a time — doesn’t help.

UPDATE: Asked if the Cards might have interest, Bruce Arians said “not at this point.”

It’ll be interesting to see if he gets picked up, where and even when. At this point, Dockett may be the veteran who has to wait until after Week 1 to sign so that a team wouldn’t have to guarantee his salary for the season — so that if they feel he wasn’t working out, they could cut him. It’s the harsh reality.

Darnell Docket

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Adrian Wilson ROH ceremony comes against Niners

Posted by Darren Urban on July 20, 2015 – 11:15 am

It’s been known for a long time that Adrian Wilson would be going into the team’s Ring of Honor — not just from when he retired earlier this offseason, but from the day the team released him in 2013 — but now we know exactly when. Wilson’s ceremony will come at halftime of this season’s home game against the 49ers on Sept. 27.

Unlike the two previous ROH inductees in Kurt Warner and Aeneas Williams, Wilson is already constantly around the team. No official job has been announced, but Wilson was at every day of the summer OTAs and minicamp helping out with the secondary and learning from General Manager Steve Keim.

Wilson will be the 15th member of the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor. The other 14: Warner, Williams, owner Charles W. Bidwill, Sr., coach Jimmy Conzelman, tackle Dan Dierdorf,  halfback John “Paddy” Driscoll, halfback/defensive back Marshall Goldberg, cornerback Dick “Night Train” Lane, halfback Ollie Matson, halfback Ernie Nevers, safety Pat Tillman, halfback Charley Trippi, cornerback Roger Wehrli, and safety Larry Wilson.


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Wilson helps coach the coaches

Posted by Darren Urban on July 9, 2015 – 10:49 am

High school coaches play a huge role in the lives of football players — and former Cardinal Adrian Wilson is going to be the keynote speaker in a first-time summit at University of Phoenix Stadium working to teach those coaches how to best guide those kids.

The event, which will be held Friday, was put together by the Arizona Foundation for Women and the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. The pilot program, called “Coaching UP,” puts in place a framework to teach healthy relationships, how to confront peer pressures, the detrimental impacts of underage drinking and substance abuse, and the trauma of head injuries sustained on the field. Coaches, athletic directors, principals and counselors from various high schools around the state will participate.

Wilson, who had his own tough times growing up before eventually making it to the NFL, makes sense as someone who can speak on the subject of making the right decisions. Not only did Wilson have a Ring-of-Honor-type career with the Cardinals, he has also become a successful businessman outside of football.

“Whenever I get the chance to speak with high school coaches, I always stress to them the importance of being a positive role model in their student-athlete’s lives, both on and off the field, as well as the importance of education,” Wilson said in a statement. “What their players will learn in the classroom can take them a lot further in life than playing sports.”



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A rookie weekend and other stuff

Posted by Darren Urban on May 9, 2015 – 7:03 am

The Cardinals are going through rookie minicamp this weekend. They started Friday, it goes through Sunday, and it’s a chance for the draft class and the undrafted rookies to get some work on their own before being thrown in with the veterans. That’s a good thing — it was hard to go through two consecutive plays Friday without having a coach at some position verbally blister a player for a mistake. The Cards will come together as an entire team next week. There is one more week of Phase 2 work, and then OTAs start May 18.

— There are a lot of questions about Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly. Kelly is here as one of the quarterbacks (as is Phillip Sims of Winston-Salem State) because to have a practice you have to have quarterbacks. But both are only here on a tryout basis and I do not expect Kelly to be with the Cards beyond this rookie weekend.

Click here for the entire rookie minicamp roster. You can see who is here on a tryout basis.

— It was interesting to hear Bruce Arians say first-round draft pick D.J. Humphries would be a backup as a rookie “in a perfect world.” It’s certainly a possibility with veteran Bobby Massie around at right tackle. We’ll see how this plays out.

— Arians praised cornerback Jimmy Legree on the first day. For those who don’t know Legree, he actually spent last season on the practice squad after making the roster through just this process — he was a tryout player at the 2014 rookie minicamp. So it can happen. Arians even thinks Legree has a chance to be in the mix at cornerback, although we’ll see what opportunity is there once the Cards figure out where, how and if Alfonzo Dennard fits.

— He may not have made any official decisions on his future, but Adrian Wilson was at practice Friday helping coach the safeties.


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Friday draft aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on May 1, 2015 – 9:26 pm

Day Two is in the books. Some quick notes and thoughts before I call it a night:

— After the trade Friday with the Ravens, the Cardinals have six picks on Saturday. There is a chance they won’t still have six by the time they draft Mr. Irrelevant to end the whole thing. GM Steve Keim said the trades might not be done. He mentioned a trade up possibility twice, so it’s on his mind.

“There are still a lot of guys (left) that Coach and I like,” Keim said. “We’ve had some conversations about going up (in a trade.) We will be active and aggressive. If there is someone we think that can help us, we will certainly make a jump at them.”

— As I noted in my story, Keim had Markus Golden on the brain Friday morning, long before the Cards were on the clock. That doesn’t mean they would’ve taken him no matter what, but they definitely feel good about the pick. Can he turn into James Harrison, as Bruce Arians suggested in who Golden reminded him of, well, we will see.

— The addition of RB David Johnson from Northern Iowa will help, but he’s got a long way to go to battle for the title of best Cardinal to come from Northern Iowa. That happens to be a quarterback who directed the team to the Super Bowl.

— Johnson will be in the mix for kickoff returns. “Yes indeed,” Arians said. “He and anybody else who can catch it,”

— Keim acknowledged the Cards were headed toward taking another offensive lineman Friday because of how their board fell. He made the point that another pass rusher or offensive lineman could end up another pick on Saturday.

— Nice job by Adrian Wilson making the announcement of the Golden pick. “Go Birdgang.” He’s a natural.

Adrian Wilson

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Adrian Wilson gets a job for draft

Posted by Darren Urban on April 23, 2015 – 9:53 am

Former safety Adrian Wilson, who retired earlier this week, will indeed have a job for the Cardinals on draft weekend. No, he hasn’t accepted a role in the front office. (Not yet, anyway.) But he will be among an impressive group of former NFL stars on hand at the draft in Chicago to announce their former team’s second-round picks on Friday night.

Friday’s second and third round of the draft begins at 4 p.m. Arizona time.

This continues a theme of the last couple of years, having former players announce selections. This is the fifth year of the program. The Cardinals currently hold the the 55th overall selection (23rd in the second round), although you never know what can happen with GM Steve Keim’s potential wheeling and dealing.

Wilson, meanwhile, is expected at some point to join the organization in some capacity. He is close with Keim, with a relationship that dates back to Wilson’s freshman year at North Carolina State. While I don’t see him as a full-time coach, I could see Wilson helping with the defensive backs, and/or helping the front office in scouting or personnel. Wilson wasn’t committing to anything yet.

“I kind of want to take my time on that,” Wilson said. Monday. “There’s really no set timeframe in answering that question.”


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Adrian Wilson’s goodbye and his Pat Tillman help

Posted by Darren Urban on April 20, 2015 – 5:21 pm

This is when you feel the legacy, on the day in which Adrian Wilson officially retires and when he talks about the guys who helped him when he got into the league, Pat Tillman comes up. It’s fitting this time of year, when the anniversary of Tillman’s death draws near. It’s easy to forget how important Tillman was to Wilson that one season they played together, in 2001.

“I didn’t know the first thing about the playbook,” Wilson said of his rookie season. “(Defensive coordinator) Larry Marmie’s playbook was so complicated, I couldn’t understand it. Pat sat me down for hours upon hours just going through the playbook just to go to practice the next day. It was that complicated for me. I owe big dividend to Pat.”

To think, Wilson was there to essentially replace Tillman.

(Wilson thanked other “old-time” Cardinals Corey Chavous, Kwamie Lassiter, Rob Fredrickson and Ron McKinnon for their help when he was starting out too.)

— When Wilson was released back in 2013, I covered a lot of the instant emotions and thoughts I had of his career in this post. But his retirement Monday brought some closure and, perhaps sooner rather than later, maybe bring Wilson back into the building on a consistent basis. He shrugged off his future right now, saying he wanted to “take my time on that.” He’s got four young kids. That’s his focus now, although there is little question GM Steve Keim likes having him in the mix. Team president Michael Bidwill noted that before the press conference, Wilson had his mock draft around, drawing a grin from Wilson.

“He’s made some improvements from his first mock that he showed me,” Keim said. “I think I sent him back to the film room.”

— Not only was Wilson’s family there, but his two buddies from North Carolina from when he was 10 years old, Adrian Mack and Anthony Johnson, were there Monday and it took me back to 2010 when Wilson invited me back to High Point to cover his high school retiring his jersey number and I was able to meet Mack and Johnson and do a big story on who Wilson really was as a person. Looking back on that article, through the prism of today, this quote stands out, about Wilson desperately wanting to leave a legacy.

“Nobody in my family has one and I’ll be the first,” Wilson said. “That’s something I think is more important to me than anything – leaving that right mark. I want to lay a foundation down where it doesn’t matter what generation you come from, you’ve got to respect what I did.”

— Bidwill will have Wilson go in the Ring of Honor, but that date is TBD. The schedule comes out tomorrow, and then the team must figure out what home games have which events, like Breast Cancer Awareness or Salute to Service, for example.

— Wilson admits he thinks about the Hall of Fame. I’ll have a separate post on that tomorrow, but it’s been tough sledding for safeties in Canton.

— There was a good group of former teammates on hand for Wilson today: Fitz, Patrick Peterson, Justin Bethel, Rashad Johnson, Calais Campbell, Bertrand Berry, Quentin Harris, Damien Anderson, Rolando Cantu. Peterson even took the mic during the press conference to deliver a statement in front of everyone. Wilson was an important part of this franchise. He still should be.


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Players return, and time to talk football

Posted by Darren Urban on April 20, 2015 – 9:17 am

One of the things that frustrates Bruce Arians is the inability to talk football with players during certain parts of the offseason. It’s reality, though, under the current collective bargaining agreement. Today, those shackles come off.

The players have returned to begin Phase I of the offseason work. (It’s voluntary, don’t forget, although one player here was Patrick Peterson, as you can see below.) The big part of that is the strength and conditioning program, but it also includes meetings. Players can be around for four hours total (90 minutes on the field) so Arians and his coaches can finally start discussing the playbook. The new free agents can start getting the information about their duties. New defensive coordinator James Bettcher can start explaining his system and its tweaks from what Todd Bowles did.

The 2015 is here.

— The full NFL schedule will be released at 5 p.m. Arizona time on Tuesday.

— Meanwhile, the return of the players isn’t the biggest news of the day here at the team facility. There is a 1 p.m. press conference with Adrian Wilson, team president Michael Bidwill and GM Steve Keim. No official word on what it’s about.


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Larry Fitzgerald, his contract and “it takes two”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 12, 2015 – 1:45 pm

Back in 2008, Bertrand Berry was asked to take a pay cut to remain with the Cardinals. He decided to do so. In 2012, Adrian Wilson was asked to take a pay cut to remain with the Cardinals. He did so (and that didn’t save him from being released after the season.) The only leverage either player had was to say, “I’ll leave” if they didn’t like the offer. It’s not ideal, but it was reality.

That’s where we are with Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals. This is not a surprise, not with a $23.6 million salary cap number, an actual payout of a scheduled $8M salary and another $8M roster bonus due in about a month. Not with the Cardinals, even with a carryover of $4.2M from last year’s cap to tag on to a projected $140M salary cap for 2015, around $11M over the cap at this point (according to ESPN) and needing to get to at least even by March 10. Regardless of specific numbers, the Cards need to slice some cap money.

Again, none of this is new.

I’ll be honest – I listened to Michael Bidwill’s interview Wednesday morning on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 and nothing stood out. When he talked about bringing Fitzgerald back and working out a contract, it was the things you’d expect to hear.

At one point, Bidwill did say “it takes two” to reach a deal. That raised eyebrows. But should it? At some point, the Cardinals and General Manager Steve Keim were going to want to harness the salary cap, and that was going to start with Fitz’s current deal. I thought for a while that might come last offseason, but instead, the Cards — and Fitz — kicked the can down the road a season with a simple restructure to buy cap space. We have come to the rip-the-band-aid-clean-off stage of this thing.

There are 10 wide receivers right now averaging at least $9M on their contracts. Only three — Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson and maybe Vincent Jackson, given all the Buccaneers’ cap space — aren’t serious candidates to renegotiate/restructure/get released this offseason (and Johnson, as good as he is, is headed that way in the next year or two himself, given his cap numbers.) Fitzgerald’s situation, especially at his position, is not unique.

Like Berry, like Wilson, the ball will be in Fitz’s court, basically. Yes, there are salary numbers to figure out — as always — but the Cards aren’t going to change their thought process. Carson Palmer was asked to do something similar in Oakland; he declined and was traded to Arizona. Maybe that’s what Fitz will want to do. Maybe a new deal will work for him, and maybe the other benefits of being in Arizona on a personal level make it worth an agreement. Maybe a different opportunity is more intriguing, or maybe the numbers just won’t be good enough, and Fitz uses what leverage he has. But there are really no new angles that can come out on this thing. It’s not hard to analyze.


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