It probably shouldn’t be that big of a surprise — Bruce Arians already said running back Andre Ellington wasn’t going to practice Wednesday — but on his weekly Sirius XM NFL appearance Tuesday night, Arians said Ellington probably won’t practice all week and will likely be a game-day decision whether he plays Sunday against Kansas City. Arians called Ellington’s hip pointer “severe” and a severe anything isn’t good. That means more Marion Grice, some Stepfan Taylor and Robert Hughes, and perhaps some Michael Bush mixed in.
(Please, no Ray Rice suggestions. Please.)
There was good news from Arians. Left tackle Jared Veldheer (ankle) should be able to practice this week. Guard Paul Fanaika (ankle) is more iffy.
And there was also the revelation that the Cardinals did inquire about trading for Alex Smith when the 49ers were looking to move him in early 2013. The 49ers quickly said no, not a surprise given the division rivalry. The Cards, of course, will face Smith Sunday when they play Kansas City.
— Alex Marvez (@alexmarvez) December 3, 2014
Tags: Alex Smith, Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians
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The idea that the Cardinals would explore the trade possibility for 49ers backup quarterback Alex Smith — as Kent Somers noted yesterday — shouldn’t be a shock (although I will admit I originally wasn’t sure if the Cards would surrender a pick for him). Nor would the idea that the Cardinals could/would/should look at a trade for Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, a speculative concept that picked up steam yesterday after Tom Brady’s extension essentially made Mallett ever playing for the Patriots (barring an injury) unlikely.
The talk reminded me of something general manager Steve Keim recently said when it came to the QB search: “We will exhaust every resource we have.”
That, Keim said, included every draftable quarterback from the first round to the last, free agency and, of course, potential trade options around the league. There is a priority list. Given what is out there in both free agency and the draft (which, right now, doesn’t seem exciting), a trade isn’t a surprise. Besides, if the Cardinals were going to spend a draft pick on a quarterback this year anyway, why not deal one for, say, Smith?
A trade with the Niners seems unlikely, just because San Francisco would seem to have options and conventional wisdom says they’d probably rather not help a division foe. The latest out of San Francisco (via Matt Barrows) is that the Niners would want at least a high fourth-round pick for Smith. If the Chiefs offer one, that’s basically a late third, given their spot at the top of the draft. UPDATE: In the seconds after I posted this, Jay Glazer reported that the trade of Alex Smith to the Chiefs was done and would happen as soon as it could March 12. So there’s one resource off the board.
Mallett, given that the Patriots don’t have another QB right now and comes cheap, is going to cost more, I’d guess. At least a third, where he was drafted in the first place (and I have to wonder what the Cardinals thought of him just a couple of years ago in 2011, when he was available and this team passed on him three different times. Besides, his accuracy is a question despite his big arm and some in New England didn’t think he outplayed Brian Hoyer last preseason even though the Pats dumped Hoyer in favor of Mallett.)
Much will be speculated on right now and there will be a level of truth to most of it, because the Cards are as Keim said exhausting every path trying to fix this problem. No trades can come down until March 12, nor can any free agents be signed. The draft is two months away. If Kevin Kolb doesn’t return, I can see a draft pick and a veteran added. The QB question won’t be answered until it’s answered.
Tags: 49ers, Alex Smith, Brian Hoyer, Kevin Kolb, Patriots, quarterbacks, Ryan Mallett, Steve Keim
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Finding an answer at quarterback is again on the agenda for the Cardinals this offseason. One potential target could be 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who is no longer needed in the Bay Area thanks to the rise of Colin Kaepernick. But Smith is under contract with the Niners, and they are going to try and get something out of him, clearly. Matt Barrows does a great job breaking down the Smith situation from the Niners’ perspective, but the Niners aren’t committing to anything. Yet.
“Are we going to trade him for sure? No, that hasn’t been decided,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said this morning here at the NFL Scouting combine.
Of course, that may mean releasing him instead, which, with my thought process, would be the probable way he’d end up in Arizona if he ever were to end up in Arizona. I don’t see the Cards trying to trade for him, not after what happened in the Kevin Kolb trade. Unless you think Smith can be your long-term answer — and as well as he was playing in SF, I don’t know how you could be confident in that — he’s going to be a short-term solution. Smith also could have other suitors, and maybe the Browns (who have Norv Turner as OC after Smith played well under Turner as OC once upon a time in San Fran) will want to deal a pick for him.
I know there are plenty of people who think Smith is a suitable choice for the Cards if the Cards could make such a move. But the QB situation remains fluid for both the Cards and the Niners and many other teams in this league. I don’t see Smith being all that thrilled being forced to be a backup next season for Kaepernick, nor do I see the Niners being thrilled with paying him some $8 million to sit. A move of some kind seems inevitable. So can San Francisco generate a trade market?
Tags: 49ers, Alex Smith, quarterbacks
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The Cardinals, for a second straight season, played three of the teams in the NFL’s final four. It helps that division brother San Francisco has made it in, and the Cardinals had their trouble with the 49ers this season, whether Alex Smith was the quarterback or Colin Kaepernick was calling signals. The games against the other two opponents that have made it to the championship games went a little bit better. The trip to Atlanta was a loss, yes, but it should have been a win with the way the defense played that day, amid the controversy of the benching-Skelton-for-Lindley situation. Obviously, the trip to New England was the Cardinals’ signature victory of the season, complete with late-game dramatics and a heart-stopping ending.
(And a game that seems like it was four years ago, not four months ago.)
It’s the same 1-3 record the Cards had against final four opponents last season. It’s hard to make a lot of comparisons with the way those teams are playing now to when the Cards met them. Even though the 49ers last game before beating up the Packers Saturday night was against Arizona, the game plan devised by the Niners with Kaepernick looked so deadly the other day. The Cards didn’t play great in that finale, but Kaepernick at least didn’t look like a Hall of Famer like he did against Green Bay. The Patriots, who lost tight end Aaron Hernandez early that day against the Cards, have clearly smoothed out the offense. The Falcons just don’t scare anyone, even in their dome, and everyone seems to agree — the Niners are road favorites against the No. 1 seed, for goodness sake.
– In the head coach search, Jay Glazer reported the Cards want to talk to Broncos OC Mike McCoy for a second interview. He was interviewed in Denver the first time so you’d figure everyone would want to get him in the building so he could actually see the physical situation.
Tags: 49ers, Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Falcons, Packers, Patriots
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When Ken Whisenhunt first named John Skelton his starting quarterback to begin the season, he noted that Kevin Kolb would stay ready, because the way the NFL goes, the Cardinals would need both their quarterbacks. That, of course, turned out to be true, with Kolb subbing for an injured Skelton in the very first game and then playing well enough to hold down the starting role until getting hurt himself when his ribs detached from his sternum on a hit against Buffalo.
Kolb had promised himself he was going to try and play through any injury after being sidelined so much last season. This time around he just couldn’t. This weekend, with the Cards coincidentally on a bye, the NFL showed exactly how difficult it can be to stay healthy as a quarterback in this league.
Three starters — the Eagles’ Michael Vick, the Bears’ Jay Cutler and the 49ers’ Alex Smith — had to leave their respective games because of concussions (which, of course, Kolb had to do last season.) The Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, the king of playing through any and all injuries it seems, had to leave Monday night’s game after hurting his throwing shoulder. As of this moment, it’s being called a sprain but no one really knows how much time it could cost him. As for the concussed QBs, well, Kolb missed a lot of time because of his and at the very least, it’ll be a little surprising if the trio can return the very next week, given the concussion concern around the league these days.
Bottom line (even as obvious as it is)? That backup QB is always just a play away, and the odds are good he’s going to be forced into some playing time at some point. This isn’t about fragility. It’s about fast, 275-pound bodies colliding with or twisting oddly the guy who has the ball in his hands more than anyone.
As for Kolb, he continues to throw it around at practice (like Monday, below) although his progress keeps his status in a kind of limbo. He still doesn’t sound like his return is around the corner.
Tags: Alex Smith, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick
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The 49ers were trying hard to get quarterback Alex Smith the NFL record for completion percentage in a game after his performance against the Cardinals — and coincidentally, the record holder is none other than former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner. To officially own the record in the NFL’s eyes, a QB has to have 20 attempts in a game. Smith went 18-for-19, so the 49ers were trying to find a way to get one more completion. The hope was that a throw at the line of scrimmage to receiver Michael Crabtree — immediately ruled a lateral/run on the field — would be reversed, but it was not and replays showed such. There was another close play to Mario Manningham that was called a pass interference on the field, so the play didn’t matter.
Regardless, Smith remains 18-for-19. A great day, but not great enough to usurp Warner.
Warner’s great day was odd in itself. Warner went 24-for-26 (92.3 percent) in a game the Cards needed to have early in the season and a week after Warner and the offense struggled against the 49ers at home in a loss. More strange was that, during the performance with which Warner eventually set NFL history, Larry Fitzgerald’s brother Marcus infamously went on Twitter criticizing Warner and complaining Larry wasn’t getting the ball enough. Steve Breaston had eight catches that day, almost as many as Fitz and Anquan Boldin had combined (9). It’s one of those record that will be tough to top — even if Smith got close.
Tags: 49ers, Alex Smith, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald
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Ken Whisenhunt called it a test, Monday night’s game. The grade was not good. The defeat was very methodical, but that’s the 49ers, isn’t it? The Niners’ run game gashed the Cards early, then when the Cards stiffened San Francisco went to the air, and it’s just too hard to score against that defense. Not when the Cards’ offense is looking for answers.
“We have to get tougher and more physical and get after them that way because at this point we aren’t doing a whole bunch of things successfully,” center Lyle Sendlein said. “We just have to start punching people in the mouth.”
There was absolutely no room to run. LaRod Stephens-Howling was swamped almost every time he carried the ball, and the run game was hurting more than it was helping. With a game in Lambeau this coming weekend against an offense that can score a lot more than the 49ers do, the Cards need to find a way to generate more points. Yes, that’s obvious. But that’s also the fact.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked if he was comfortable with the starting offense. Like Larry Fitzgerald said later, noting that the guys in the locker room were the ones who were going to be in it for the long haul, Whiz knows options are limited.
“I guess we don’t have a lot of choices,” Whisenhunt said. “We’re always looking to get better, but we have to do a better job of taking advantage of our opportunities.”
So, although the trading deadline is coming up, I’m not expecting Steven Jackson or DeAngelo Williams to come walking through that door. And certainly not Kurt Warner.
– Darnell Dockett said the first thing after the loss he thought of wasn’t the four-game losing streak. It was Whisenhunt.
“We are letting our coach down,” Dockett said. “I think Coach Whiz is very fair with us, he’s a player’s coach and I feel like as players we are not giving enough back to him. I felt that more than anything after the game. He’s really been looking out for us. He works us hard but he wants us to be more mature. I felt we let him down in the Buffalo game. He asked us to give him everything we got and I felt some of us didn’t. We didn’t last week. I can see it on his face.”
– Dockett talked about players staying professional, which is why they won’t slide off the map this season, even with things looking grim. But he said he was ready to say some things that were said first by Whisenhunt.
“Coach called out a lot of things today that I wanted to say to some guys,” Dockett said. “Guys in the training room that we need on the field. We need them. Hopefully the message rings a bell.”
– That was the first time the Cards had allowed more than 21 points in a game this season. The defense did not play well, and in a game that was supposed to be a tight, defensive affair, the early missed tackles are unacceptable. But it’s not like the Niners hung 45 on them.
– That huge hit Dashon Goldson put on Early Doucet made me think of the scuffle they got into last year. Not that it had anything to do with the hit itself, but funny how those two keep meeting. Physically.
– Niners coach Jim Harbaugh obviously didn’t like the stories about quarterback Alex Smith losing confidence or Harbaugh losing confidence in him. So, after Smith completed 18 of 19 passes and was nearly perfect, Harbaugh had his shot when asked about the showing helping Smith’s confidence.
“I don’t think there was ever a question there,” Harbaugh said. “I think it’s just a lot of gobble, gobble, turkey. Just gobble, gobble, gobble, turkey. That paints a pretty good picture. He’s a very confident guy.”
– Linebacker Daryl Washington had two sacks again. He becomes the first Cardinal to have two sacks in back-to-back games since Eric Swann did it back in 1999.
– The Cardinals are only the third team ever to start a season 4-0 and then lose their next four games. The first team to do that, the 1993 Philadelphia Eagles, finished the season 8-8. OK, not ideal. But the 2002 Oakland Raiders ended up going 11-5 and making it to the Super Bowl. Obviously, I’m not predicting that, but this losing streak does not have to be a death knell.
– Now, if the Cards can’t generate more offense, well, that could be the death knell. I can’t remember points being at such a premium for this team. But they were finding ways to score some points earlier this season. It can’t be that they have just forgotten. They’ll never be the Patriots or Packers, but it shouldn’t be like this and they know it. That’s why the frustration grows.
It’s late. It’s a short week, and I have a long drive home. We can talk more tomorrow.
Tags: 49ers, Alex Smith, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Dashon Goldson, Early Doucet, Jim Harbaugh, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Lyle Sendlein
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One of the more popular topics with the Cards has been getting the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, a subject that comes up time and again. But an offshoot of that is the Cardinals taking shots downfield period. While the progress of quarterback Kevin Kolb has also been constantly analyzed, the gentlemen at profootballfocus.com complied a “throwing deep” list this season, checking out accuracy and other stats for QBs throwing deep (by their definition, a pass 20 yards in the air or more).
Kolb has the fewest deep attempts in the NFL right now for starters. Kolb has tried only 11 deep passes this season, completing five. (And let’s be clear; throwing deep doesn’t exactly equate with win-loss record; the second-fewest attempts, 12, have come from the 49ers’ 5-1 starter Alex Smith, and he’s played in one more game than Kolb). Kolb has five completions for 205 yards, a touchdown (the bomb to Fitz in Washington) and three interceptions.
The list is fun to peruse. Carolina rookie Cam Newton has already tried 43 such passes this season.
As for the reasons Kolb hasn’t thrown deep more often, they are likely multiple, and all the ones we have gone over before. Protection not holding up, being uncomfortable in the pocket (it takes times for such routes to develop), and probably fewer playcalls to do so. There is all kinds of risk usually when you take shots downfield, whether it is a chance at a sack or getting picked off on a jump ball (like the Antrel Rolle interception in the Giants’ game). It’s a part of Kolb’s game — and the offense — that will be interesting to watch as the season moves forward.
UPDATE: The ProFootballFocus.com guys were kind enough to send along, for comparison, what Kurt Warner did deep his final two seasons in Arizona. That’s also very interesting. In 2008, Warner had the highest accuracy percentage throwing deep (58.7) but his 46 attempts (23 completions, 4 drops, 5 TD, 3 INT) were still tied for the fewest among the the full-time quarterbacks that season (JaMarcus Russell and Ben Roethlisberger were the only other two with fewer than 50 that season).
In 2009, Warner’s deep accuracy percentage dropped off the table to 32.4 percent (11-of-37, 1 drop, 3 TD, 5 INT) and again, his attempts were fewest in the league.
In both years, Warner threw deep only 7.7 percent and 7.2 percent of the time respectively (Kolb is at 6.4 percent of the time). By contrast, Derek Anderson threw deep 14.4 percent of the time last season when he was playing.
Tags: Alex Smith, Cam Newton, Kevin Kolb, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald
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It was the last Wednesday practice of the season today, and during it came a fairly steady rainfall. Afterward, some boisterous freestyle rap battles (Do not mess with Rex Hadnot).
– The only Cardinal not to practice was LB Joey Porter (tricep). He continues to rehab, but the Cards don’t want him to play and totally tear the injury, so they will be cautious. Three others — RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (hamstring), TE Ben Patrick (hamstring) and LB Clark Haggans (groin) — were limited today.
– The 49ers have already ruled LB Patrick Willis (hand) out for the game. And interim coach Jim Tomsula said Alex Smith will be his starting quarterback. Why? “Experience” was Tomsula’s one-word answer. Remember, it was Troy Smith that beat the Cards on “Monday Night Football” back on Nov. 29.
– Long snapper Mike Leach was named the team’s Walter Payton “Man of the Year” award winner, given to a player both for playing excellence and community work. Each team names a winner, and the overall league winner is announced at the Super Bowl. Wednesday, team president Michael Bidwill presented the award to Leach (who, by the way, once managed to break down exactly how he, as a long snapper, could be named Super Bowl MVP. I wish I had a transcript).
Tags: 49ers, Alex Smith, Ben Patrick, Clark Haggans, Joey Porter, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Michael Bidwill, Mike Leach, Patrick Willis, Rex Hadnot
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