With not much else going on, the breakdowns by sites like profootballfocus.com have been interesting reads (not that they aren’t always) and as they have gotten into pass blocking of late, some Cards have taken their lumps, most notably tackles Levi Brown and Brandon Keith (Brown was ranked as second-worstleft tackle in the NFL last season, although Jeremy Bridges’ time as pass-protecting right tackle went pretty well).
Then PFF looked at guards and centers. The Cards’ guards, in terms of pass protection, weren’t in the top 15 or the bottom 15. But center Lyle Sendlein was rated as the third-best center — behind Pro Bowlers Jeff Saturday and Matt Birk — and was caught author Khaled Elsaye’s attention enough that he noted Sendlein’s spot:
“The real surprise name near the top is Lyle Sendlein. The Cardinal isn’t surrounded by the best pass protecting talent, but he gave up just two sacks and seven total quarterback disruptions. That put him ahead of (the Jets’) Nick Mangold, who may be the best center of this generation, but finished ‘only’ sixth in this look (though how much of that can be put down to injury we’ll leave to your judgment).”
Mangold, by the way, is still in the top 10 list. I’d be curious to know how Alan Faneca — who is good friends with Mangold from their days with the Jets — would compare/contrast Mangold and Sendlein.
That said, it’s no shock the Cards have liked Sendlein so much. He is way off the radar, even though he was offensive captain this past season along with Fitz. His roughest season was 2008, and he was dealing with a shoulder injury the whole time. You can debate Brown’s status, or whether Deuce Lutui would/should be re-signed, or if Keith will make it as a right tackle. There is little question, though, the Cardinals want to keep Sendlein around (his contract has expired) and I think Sendlein would like to stick around.
Tags: Alan Faneca, Brandon Keith, Deuce Lutui, Jeff Saturday, Jeremy Bridges, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Birk, Nick Mangold, offensive line
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The Cardinals wanted guard Alan Faneca to return in 2011, but he chose to retire (already losing almost 60 pounds this offseason). It’s an option most NFL players don’t get. Assistant head coach Russ Grimm went on Sports 620 KTAR and mentioned he too could have come back for one final season during his Hall-of-Fame career with the Redskins but went the same route as Faneca, deciding he simply couldn’t play at the level he wanted to play at any longer.
(Then again, sometimes guys go out when they are still playing at that level. Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and a certain quarterback that shall go unmentioned around these parts).
“It’s unusual but I commend Alan for being able to make that decision,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I think the greatest percentage of guys that I have played with, that I have talked to during the years, always end up bitter at some point because they end up forced to leave the game before they are ready, or when their perception of themselves is different than how other people view them.
“I believe Alan can still play so I commend his values for thinking it was his time to call it quits and he went out on his own terms. It’s something not very many guys in this business get to do.”
“Unfortunately we’ve seen two guys do that in the last two years, in Alan and Kurt,” Whisenhunt added with a small smile. “From a selfish perspective, that’s not what you want to see. But you understand that’s part of the game.”
Tags: Alan Faneca, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Russ Grimm
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Kent Somers (and other outlets) is/are reporting that guard Alan Faneca has decided to retire from the NFL, something Faneca said he was heavily considering when we got to the end of the season. Faneca played the final season of his 13-year career with the Cards, after playing for the Steelers and Jets. Had things gone differently, he likely would have ended up in Arizona longer because of his relationship with offensive line coach Russ Grimm, but when he was available back in 2008 the Cards couldn’t make it work while trying to sign Larry Fitzgerald to his new deal. So the Faneca-Grimm reunion had to wait until 2010.
The Cardinals would have liked to have Faneca back this season but knew all along he would probably step away. He wasn’t the player that once made nine straight Pro Bowls but Grimm insisted he was still effective. He definitely was a good presence in the locker room, something the Cardinals will miss now that he is moving on to a different part of his life.
Given the current roster, Rex Hadnot would figure to immediately be penciled into Faneca’s left guard role, although offensive line remains unsettled given the expiring contracts of fellow starters Lyle Sendlein and Deuce Lutui and the fact free agency has yet to begin. UPDATE: Faneca went on Sirius radio saying he basically had decided a month ago he was ready to step away, but with the draft coming up, he decided to wait and allow the Cards to take someone if they wanted. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he had talked extensively to Faneca right after the season (and before the work stoppage) and knew retirement was a very real possibility. Click here to read a full story with Whisenhunt quotes.
Tags: Alan Faneca, Deuce Lutui, Ken Whisenhunt, Lyle Sendlein, Rex Hadnot, Russ Grimm
Posted in Blog | 30 Comments »
Inevitably, most of the talk with the draft and the Cardinals has been about pass rushers and quarterbacks, as it should be. Those remain the two greatest areas of need. But, as many of you have pointed out before, offensive line is a unit that cannot be ignored. How the Cardinals analyze that need could dictate how the draft plays out (assuming, right now, that there is no free agency period before the draft).
Center Lyle Sendlein and guards Alan Faneca and Deuce Lutui all have expired contracts. I think the Cards feel good about bringing Sendlein back. Faneca and Lutui are much bigger unknowns. Faneca is wanted back, but he is considering retirement. Lutui is considering a fat contract, and the fact he hasn’t gotten one in Arizona yet could ultimately lead him to take an offer elsewhere.
Without knowing what the free agent rules will be, it’s impossible to know exactly what free agents will be available. It’s safe to say Levi Brown will remain at tackle – I assume on the left side; there is no reason to think otherwise – while Brandon Keith is going to have to show he is better than veteran Jeremy Bridges at the other tackle. The reason the Cards signed Rex Hadnot to a three-year deal was for exactly this scenario, and he can step in if there ends up a guard vacancy.
(It’s weird to be talking about a potential offensive lineman depth shortage, after the Cards collected so many last year that they were forced to trade long-time starter Reggie Wells to relieve the logjam.)
The Cards aren’t going to go offensive lineman with their first pick, but after that, I could see it at any point. Finding someone to begin grooming – a la Keith – now that Herman Johnson has left seems crucial. There seems to be some line depth in the draft, especially at tackle, again with the knowledge decent interior guys can often be found later or undrafted.
Tags: Alan Faneca, Brandon Keith, Deuce Lutui, draft, Herman Johnson, Jeremy Bridges, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Rex Hadnot
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The NFL finally announced the 2011 compensatory draft picks Friday. The Cardinals ended up with a bonus seventh rounder (248th overall, and their only seventh rounder since their own pick was traded away in the Kerry Rhodes deal) right at the end of the draft and it wasn’t even because they suffered big free-agent losses. Yep — if you had been expecting the loss of LB Karlos Dansby (and K Neil Rackers) to gain the Cards a good pick, you were wrong. The Cards signed FAs Rex Hadnot, K Jay Feely and LB Paris Lenon, and I’d guess Lenon and Feely played well enough to offset Dansby and Rackers.
The reason the Cardinals got an extra pick is because the NFL wants to make sure there are 32 comp picks overall to balance out the draft, so after they doled out the picks based on teams losing key free agents (the Panthers, for example, got an extra third-rounder and sixth-rounder for losing Julius Peppers and A.J. Feeley and not signing anyone of note) there were still 11 picks needed to get to 32. So the top 11 teams in the draft order (Arizona, of course, being at No. 5) got a extra seventh at the very back of the draft.
(Don’t ask how the league comes up with the exact formula of why some free agents are more important than others. It’s not public knowledge, but it is based on contract size, playing time and postseason honors. And realize that losing Antrel Rolle didn’t count because he was cut and didn’t have his contract expire. Same reason it didn’t hurt the Cards to sign Alan Faneca, Derek Anderson,
Jay Feely and Joey Porter).
— Posted a story on the need for Fitz to get a quarterback. Yes, it sounds obvious, and on many levels it is. But Fitz’s quest for greatness means there have to be style points in his numbers (because he still had stats this season). There have to be wins and it has to matter. So in some ways, this situation is deeper than the obvious.
— Michael Bidwill was on hand Thursday afternoon to present a check for$21,250 to the Ronald McDonald House from Cardinals Charities and Albertson’s. raised through the Cards’ annual golf tourney. Valerie Slowik, the wife of quality control coach Ryan Slowik, is heavily involved in helping the House.
Tags: Alan Faneca, Antrel Rolle, draft, Jay Feely, Joey Porter, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Neil Rackers, Paris Lenon, Rex Hadnot
Posted in Blog | 43 Comments »
Regardless of the status of the CBA, the Cardinals have a chunk of players whose contracts will expire whenever the league year ends. What that means for free agency is uncertain because the CBA will address those rules. But as an FYI, here is a list of the current Cardinals who will have their contract run out this offseason. If a player has an asterisk, he has at least four accrued seasons in the NFL:
- FB Nehemiah Broughton
- RB Tim Hightower
- FB Reagan Maui’a
- RB Jason Wright*
- WR Max Komar
- WR Steve Breaston*
- WR Early Doucet
- TE Ben Patrick
- TE Stephen Spach
- T D’Anthony Batiste
- C Ben Claxton
- G Alan Faneca*
- T Brandon Keith
- G Deuce Lutui*
- C Lyle Sendlein*
- DL Alan Branch*
- DL Keilen Dykes
- DE Kenny Iwebema
- DL Bryan Robinson*
- DT Gabe Watson*
- LB Curtis Gatewood
- LB Cyril Obiozor
- LB Reggie Walker
- S Hamza Abdullah
- CB Michael Adams
- CB Trumaine McBride
- S Matt Ware*
- P Ben Graham*
Tags: Alan Branch, Alan Faneca, Ben Claxton, Ben Graham, Ben Patrick, Brandon Keith, Bryan Robinson, Curtis Gatewood, Cyril Obiozor, D'Anthony Batiste, Deuce Lutui, Early Doucet, free agency, Gabe Watson, Hamza Abdullah, Jason Wright, Keilen Dykes, Kenny Iwebema, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Ware, Max Komar, Michael Adams, Nehemiah Broughton, Reagan Maui'a, Reggie Walker, Stephen Spach, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower, Trumaine McBride
Posted in Blog | 61 Comments »
It seemed like the question to ask, so I was asking it. Is it a relief to have this season over?
The answers were measured. Alan Faneca talked about the one plus was that the Cards were back to 0-0 moving forward. Tim Hightower talked about the wish it wasn’t over, and yet end of the nightmare that was.
“Not really a relief, but we are glad it’s over from the standpoint of all the negative that happened to this group,” cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “Now we get a fresh start.”
No question a fresh start is needed. I’m not going to get into everything right now – gotta have something to write about in the coming days – but after a 5-11 season, changes are needed, and changes are coming. That’s for sure.
“I learned a lot this year myself,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said, and I am sure everyone is curious to know how that will manifest itself.
Whisenhunt wouldn’t talk about the possibility of changes on the coaching staff. Not sure he will tomorrow morning at his season-ending presser either. I am sure he will be asked again tomorrow however, and unless he comes out and says specifically there will be no changes, I would think there’s a good chance something will happen.
— Some comments by team president Michael Bidwill during a pre-game radio interview Sunday:
On the season overall: “We did not expect to go in and have the losing streak we had, to have the offense struggle, to have the defense break down at times. I think this offseason will be dedicated to how we get better. What are the types of players we build around? What are some of the other things we can do? (We need to) make sure we provide the best Cardinal football we can.”
On specific problems: “We’ve got some areas to shore up. Obviously quarterback play was a big issue for us this year. We’ve got to get more out of our running game, we’ve got to get more out of our defense. Our defense has got to be able to stop opposing offenses on third down.”
Bidwill said the coaches will evaluate the whole roster in the next few days and then the decision-makers will meet later in the week to determine the path of the offseason.
— Not a good day for DRC. Three penalties (one was declined) and he gave up three passes of at least 20 yards. “You’re always frustrated when someone catches a ball on you,” he said. “They played well. They came out fired up, and they wanted it more bad than we did.” Rodgers-Cromartie already acknowledged his year hasn’t been the best. He needs a big rebound performance in 2011.
— Larry Fitzgerald only had 79 catches coming into the game. It’s stunning he got to 90 for the season – becoming the first player in NFL history to have at least 90 catches in five of his first seven seasons. Fitz is one of only four players in NFL history to have at least four straight seasons of 90-plus catches, joining Torry Holt (6), Marvin Harrison (5) and Jerry Rice (4).
— About not throwing to Fitz … 17 targets? They started throwing to him despite double-coverage. And he made several Fitz catches. Shades of his 2008 playoff run, I thought.
— TE Stephen Spach said his calf injury was just something that would keep him out a couple of weeks. So nothing huge, but incredibly bad timing.
— Faneca said he hasn’t made any retirement decisions. “I’m going to step away and think about things and talk with the wife, the boss and figure things out.”
— That’s it for tonight. The Cards have one final locker room availability tomorrow morning, then a meeting, then Whisenhunt will meet the media. Then an offseason of overhaul.
I’ll cover it all, so stay tuned.
Tags: 49ers, Alan Faneca, DRC, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Stephen Spach, Tim Hightower
Posted in Blog | 51 Comments »
No reason to draw this edition of “Friday before” out. It’s New Year’s Eve, you’re all waiting to bring in a new year tonight and I’m in the same boat. I suppose if this game was to crown the division champ that’d be something else, but it’s not.
As for the importance of winning this game in particular, well, I’ll let coach Ken Whisenhunt speak for the team.
“Some people want us to do bad so we will do better in the draft — I don’t know,” Whisenhunt said. “I think for a football team, for us, it’s important you finish well. That’s something we have made strides in doing. Just like in the ’07 season propelled us into the offseason, and the next year we went to the playoffs.
“I’m not saying that going to the playoffs or having a great season is tied into how we play this game. But I think there’s no question, winning the game against Dallas has been tremendous for us, our young players, our organization to show right mindset what we have to do it week in and week out.”
— The fact the 49ers are willing to start Alex Smith this week means to me that offensive coordinator Mike Johnson is calling the shots on that side of the ball. Smith was always the guy Johnson leaned toward to execute the offense he wanted to put out there after he replaced Jimmy Raye.
— Who said it: “It makes it difficult when you’re changing quarterbacks because you have to build that chemistry with your quarterback. You want to know the guy you’re going to be up with because at the end of the day, you’re going to have to be on the same page.”
Steve Breaston? Larry Fitzgerald? Try 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. Once again, underscoring the issues any team has when it doesn’t really know about its most important position.
— One final QB note for this game. Amazingly, the Cards-49ers meetings still can’t get a matching quarterback battle. Since the teams joined the same division in 2002, the last time both teams had the same quarterback start in both games during the season was 2003 (Blake v Garcia). This year, neither team can pull it off (Anderson v Troy Smith a month ago, Skelton v Alex Smith this Sunday).
— Now is when we talk possible retirements after the season. Safety Kerry Rhodes tweeted a strong hint today that defensive lineman Bryan Robinson will be done after the season, although B-Rob later told Kent Somers he hasn’t made a final decision yet. Guard Alan Faneca is mulling the end too and it’s something a lot of players pause to consider (although usually only briefly) as a rough season ends.
— Since the last three Cards-49ers games have been basically lousy, I’m hoping for something better Sunday. The 49ers beat up the Cards the last two games and that 2009 season opener – a SF win – was a testament to uneven opening-game play.
— With star linebacker Patrick Willis out, the Cards should benefit. Willis has been a pain to the Cards. Maybe Beanie and/or Hightower can go off.
— After failing to target Breaston and only throwing towards Fitzgerald three times last week, I expect John Skelton to switch that up. And frankly, I think that’s important for the Cards and both players. I don’t think Fitz can make two TD catches to avoid his career-low, but maybe he can get his first since Kansas City Nov. 21. He’s not going to get the 18 catches he needs to equal last years’ 97, but he can get 80 more yards to match his 2009 yardage total.
— It’s been a long year for everyone around the Cards. “I think we found our identity,” Faneca said, and then paused to consider. “It just didn’t translate.”
Unfortunately, no. Talk to you in San Francisco. Happy New Year everyone.
Tags: 49ers, Alan Faneca, Beanie Wells, Bryan Robinson, Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Willis, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower
Posted in Blog | 47 Comments »
Wednesday, the Cardinals were forced to practice in the rain. Thursday, it was some serious wind, which combined with the drop in temperatures made it darn cold. How cold? Cold enough that coach Ken Whisenhunt, who always wears shorts out to practice (even yesterday in the chilly wetness) went with sweatpants today. It isn’t exactly conducive to practicing a passing game.
“I don’t know what the speeds of the winds were, but some of the passes were what you’d expect,” Whisenhunt said. “It was a little like when we played in Kansas City. I am hopeful it won’t be quite that windy in Candlestick Park. But we made some good throws.
“The wind is usually harder to work in because it disrupts the ball so much in the air, especially in the longer throws. If you think about how tight the windows are that you have to fit the ball into sometimes, when you add in the wind you are talking about it makes it more difficult. When it is wet, you can always attempt to get a dry ball in there. That compensates for things a little bit.”
— There was no change on the injury report. Linebacker Joey Porter sat out again with his bad tricep and it’s looking more and more likely he won’t be able to make it back for the finale (although I am sure it’ll end up being a game-day decision). Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (hamstring), tight end Ben Patrick (hamstring) and linebacker Clark Haggans (groin) remain limited, but I am guessing they will be OK to play.
— Whisenhunt talked a little more about the impact of guard Alan Faneca, who has been the subject of much debate this season. With his professionalism, Whisenhunt said, “you can’t have enough of those guys on your team.” Whiz said that while Faneca isn’t the player he once was, he is still a good player, and thinks the judgments of Faneca early (especially training camp) were often premature. “I think he’s done a good job for us this year,” Whisenhunt said.
Tags: Alan Faneca, Ben Patrick, Clark Haggans, Joey Porter, Ken Whisenhunt, LaRod Stephens-Howling
Posted in Blog | 25 Comments »
Where to begin … I write this about 10:30 p.m., with already some 90 comments on the blog waiting for approval/answers. I haven’t read them quite yet. I can imagine what most say. There will be talk about the quarterback, I’d guess, thank goodness Whiz went to Max Hall, etc. There will be rants about the defense – and honestly, I didn’t see their troubles coming – and the offensive line.
The answers aren’t coming tonight. There are some significant issues to fix (and doing it the week of the Saints game seems a difficult chore). “It’s a bitter taste and no one around here really likes it,” linebacker Joey Porter said. “Now it’s, what do you do to respond?”
— I don’t know what coach Ken Whisenhunt does at QB. As I mentioned a couple of times, I think he’ll tip toward Max Hall. I’m not sure he is convinced Hall is the guy that can win enough to secure a very winnable division, just because Hall is inexperienced and rookies don’t usually perform that way. But as I mentioned in my column, Whiz has talked too many times about missing on big plays (when Anderson was QB) that to see it happen again Sunday on the errant Stephen Williams throw is tough to take.
— The other question is, does Whiz make a decision public before the end of the week? Maybe he does. If he doesn’t, that’d make for one interesting week in front of the media for both players.
— After all that talk about rookie receivers, and they turned out to be kind of moot Sunday because of the quarterback situation and the defensive woes. Max Komar made a big 16-yard catch on the very first drive. Williams got open on the aforementioned bomb attempt but dropped a ball right in his hands later. Again, a mixed bag without much to grade.
— Have to be impressed with how physical of a tackler cornerback Greg Toler is, after he forced the fumble. Much better than I expected him to be.
— Had one offensive lineman ask me, “So, what did you see?” with the play today. No way to know. I know on one of Shaun Phillips’ four sacks, he timed his rush perfect (he was moving as the snap came back) and tackle Brandon Keith – in my opinion – had zero chance to block him. The rest of the sacks, I’d have to look. Guard Alan Faneca looked like he got beat on one, but again, I haven’t broken down any film. When it was as bad as Sunday, I would guess there are multiple issues. And when you are behind big and have no threat to run, that’s a really, really bad way to be judging your pass protection (And no, I am not excusing the line play, before you jump my case).
— Defensive coordinator Bill Davis talked about making changes if need be, and so did Whisenhunt. It’s always a little scary when a player – Darnell Dockett in this case – says the defensive problems were about “want-to.”
“The game is simple,” Dockett added. “The same plays they ran, we practiced. Again, when you practice, you got to put it out there, it’s simple. It’s simple as hell.”
— Did you notice Andre Roberts caught the one punt booted to him? And he returned it 19 yards? So there’s that.
I don’t have much else to add. More tomorrow.
Tags: Alan Faneca, Andre Roberts, Bill Davis, Brandon Keith, Chargers, Darnell Dockett, Derek Anderson, Greg Toler, Ken Whisenhunt, Max Hall, Max Komar, Shaun Phillips, Stephen Williams
Posted in Blog | 101 Comments »