In weeks like this – a Monday game, in which the Saturday before becomes a normal Friday, at least in the regimented world of the NFL – the time after the final practice is oddly quiet. The offices are closed, so while the team is going about normal business, the rest of the building is shut down. Media coverage is even lighter than normal. And this week, it gave coach Ken Whisenhunt a chance to be a little more introspective after the camera (there was only one, from azcardinals.com) was off.
Whiz was asked if, around the holidays right now, he was finding any chance of relaxing away from the game. He had already mentioned to us previously that night time – when there wasn’t any work left to be done and he was alone in his thoughts to mull what was going on – was the hardest.
Not surprisingly, Whiz said no.
“It’s hard,” Whisenhunt said. “I am disappointed. I want to win. It doesn’t sit in your gut right. You think about a million things that could have gone differently or been done differently. It’s not easy. That’s the way it is.”
Whiz hasn’t been through this as a head coach, although he mentioned a similar season he dealt with in Pittsburgh (which I noted earlier this week). There, however, Whiz was an assistant. And that doesn’t compare to living with it as a head coach.
“I feel like, ‘You let everybody down,’ ” Whisenhunt said. “You’re working hard, you’re trying to do it right, you want to have success. But you’re not. And it’s hard.”
– So the Cards will be on the national TV stage trying to break a five-game losing streak. Whisenhunt made it clear this week that while technically the Cards are still in the NFC West race, it was folly to think about such things until the Cards won a game (or two or three) and he’s right. The reality, however, is this: The Cards will know by the time they play what Seattle and St. Louis have done this week. If they have both lost, the winner of this Monday game is better off than any 4-7 team deserves.
– This is the fourth straight game the Cards are playing a team that is coming off a beatdown the previous week. The Vikings, Seahawks and Chiefs all had suffered multiple bad games in a row before beating the Cards. The Cards have to make that fact work in their favor for once.
– San Francisco QB Troy Smith is a wild card here – Beanie Wells has been swearing by his former Ohio State teammate all season, insisting he was the best the Niners had – but maybe the Bucs showed a blueprint of how to deal with Smith last week.
– That said, I have seen two Niners – Frank Gore and Vernon Davis – be particular pains-in-the-rear to the Cards over the years. Those two, I think, are the keys to the game. Gore especially seems to just kill the Cards. They have to contain him.
– If you missed it, this is a great video on former-Cards-receiver-turned-team-mentor Anthony Edwards.
– Steve Breaston talked about scoring touchdowns. The Cards have to find a way. The offense has scored more than one touchdown in just four of 10 games this season.
– No official word on the roof being open, but given that it is a night game and a national telecast, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the sky. We already know we’re going to see the black uniforms.
– It would be cool for Larry Fitzgerald to get the nine receptions he needs to become the franchise’s all-time leader in catches (he is eight behind Anquan Boldin’s 586). Then again, it’s not like he won’t be breaking the mark at home, with three straight home games.
– The last time both the Cards and 49ers used the same starting quarterbacks for both regular-season matchups was 2003, when Jeff Blake faced off against Jeff Garcia twice. Since then, one or both of the teams has used two different starting QBs. The chances both Derek Anderson and Troy Smith still will be starting in the regular-season finale Jan. 2? I’m just sayin’ …
– Jon Gruden took Fitzgerald on to the “Monday Night Football” bus this afternoon to talk a little and go over some video. I squeezed in to the tight hallway to snap a picture of Gruden and Fitz – Fitz was admiring Gruden’s Super Bowl ring. And if you notice on the screen in the background (sorry about the flash), cued up on the video is the moment right before Fitz broke his 64-yard Super Bowl touchdown.
Ahh, good times. But time to live in the now. It’s on to Monday night.
Tags: 49ers, Anquan Boldin, Anthony Edwards, Beanie Wells, Derek Anderson, Frank Gore, Jon Gruden, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Troy Smith, Vernon Davis
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The Sporting News has put up their annual list of the top 100 NFL players and the Cardinals have three guys in the top 50: wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is fourth in the entire league (behind Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Chris Johnson), while defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is 47th and safety Adrian Wilson is 48th (and former Card Anquan Boldin is 92nd). The 49ers, by the way, have two three on the list: linebacker Patrick Willis is 12th, running back Frank Gore is 55th and tight end Vernon Davis is 69th. Wonder if Dockett will let Davis know via Twitter. Or whether Wilson will when the teams actually play.
Speaking of Wilson, he is hosting the first regular-season Big Red Rage tonight at 6 p.m. at Majerle’s Sports Grill in Chandler. Special guest? Quarterback Derek Anderson, who can talk about his college buddy, Rams running back Steven Jackson. It’ll be on live on Sports 620 KTAR if you can’t make it there.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Big Red Rage, Darnell Dockett, Derek Anderson, Frank Gore, Larry Fitzgerald, Vernon Davis
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OK kids. Here is part two – The Final Chapter — of my starting lineup blog guesses. Today is the offense, after I offered up the defense yesterday. There seems to be less in flux on the offensive side of the ball, so these are my thoughts of who will be on the field when the Cards go against the Rams in St. Louis Sept. 12:
WR – Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz had a big year with touchdowns but his yardage shrunk. With Anquan Boldin gone, I’d expect Fitz to look for more of everything.
WR – Steve Breaston. Breaston has proven he can be a good receiver in this league. Assuming Early Doucet stays healthy, the Cardinals will still be in good shape at wideout.
FB – Nehemiah Broughton. The position is open, but the Cards liked what they saw from Broughton late last season once they signed him. They will need a bruiser to help in what is expected to be a more prominent run game.
RB – Tim Hightower. Ahh, the most “controversial” of the starting calls. Will I be shocked if Beanie Wells is starting in St. Louis? No. Could Hightower start Game One and then have Wells move in? Sure. Might they stay Hightower-Wells all season as last year? Yes. Have I mentioned before it doesn’t matter? I am feeling pretty good in saying Beanie will have more carries and be the leading rusher. The other details are window dressing.
TE – Ben Patrick. This is a hunch. They like how Anthony Becht blocks, and I believe Becht will again play a role. I think Patrick would have been in a better spot last season had he not been suspended to start the regular schedule. Patrick can catch, Becht can block. A better, pretty interesting question is whether Dominique Byrd, Stephen Spach or even Jim Dray can find a way into the mix. But that’s for a blog on another day.
LT – Levi Brown. Since the day he arrived, Levi said he felt better at left tackle. Now he gets his chance to show it. Along with more running – the part of the game he is better at – the Cards hope Brown really blossoms.
LG – Alan Faneca. I know coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t guarantee anything when Faneca signed, but he’s going to be in the lineup and he’s going to be at left guard. The guy has made nine straight Pro Bowls.
C – Lyle Sendlein. I don’t know if Rex Hadnot can slip in here, but Hadnot was playing guard this offseason with Ben Claxton running second team. Again, Sendlein has always been a favorite of Russ Grimm. I think that makes an impact.
RG – Deuce Lutui. Here is the upset pick (and remember, this is my gut – not necessarily because I know it to be true). Reggie Wells will have a good chance to hold on to this spot and Lutui must prove he is a) in decent shape and b) not too far behind after missing all the offseason work. But Lutui is a guy this team wants around long-term and someone they were pleased with the second half of the season.
RT – Brandon Keith. This is what they have been grooming Keith for the past two seasons. Herman Johnson may have a spot on the line in the future, but this is where they see if Keith is ready. Considering how little Keith has played, I think that confidence level is remarkably high.
QB – Matt Leinart. Derek Anderson may be sitting in the background (yes, I’m playing off the photo below) but this is Leinart’s job to lose and his team to lead. No reason to hash and re-hash everything we’ve already said. We’ll see what happens. But Leinart will get his chance to show what he can do after his Warner tutelage.
OK, that’s wraps it up. Catch you all in a couple weeks.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Anthony Becht, Beanie Wells, Ben Claxton, Ben Patrick, Brandon Keith, Derek Anderson, Deuce Lutui, Dominique Byrd, Early Doucet, Herman Johnson, Jim Dray, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Leinart, Nehemiah Broughton, Reggie Wells, Rex Hadnot, Russ Grimm, Stephen Spach, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower
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So the second week of OTAs opened today with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the sidelines. And that’s not even what grabbed your attention with DRC. No, it was his hairstyle, which once again seemed DRC-unique. He had shaved off half his hair. His beard remained, but half his skull was clean (as you can see below). “They call me Two-Face around here,” DRC said later. “They say they never know what you’re gonna get. So I wanted to give them a look.”
Batman did not attend the voluntary workout.
Some other things that happened:
– I thought tight end Dominique Byrd made a few nice plays today. Obviously he isn’t quite the blocker that the Cards might want at the position, but he definitely can catch the ball and he’s nifty after the catch. He snared a Derek Anderson bullet on one play that was particularly noticeable.
– Safety Kerry Rhodes made an interception on 7-on-7 (I didn’t see who threw it) but DRC, watching on the sideline, good-naturedly warned Rhodes not to celebrate too much. “They don’t count right now,” DRC bellowed.
– Anderson threw a nice bomb to Early Doucet, and Max Hall found Stephen Williams on a deep out pattern among the other passes I noticed.
– Speaking of Doucet, during wide receiver drills, he’d usually go first and then peel off to make a couple throws to his teammates during the same drill, giving special-teams coach Kevin Spencer — the normal “QB” for such drills — a break. “Q’s gone,” Doucet said with a smile, noting the absence of former receiver-who-once-was-a-college-QB Anquan Boldin. “I’m just letting them see my potential if they want to draw something up.” UPDATE: For some sights and sounds from receivers and a glimpse of a Doucet throw, check out today’s video here.
– A handful of players besides DRC were sidelined with various dings, including linebacker Gerald Hayes (back), who was absent last week.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Derek Anderson, Dominique Byrd, DRC, Early Doucet, Gerald Hayes, Kerry Rhodes, Max Hall, Stephen Williams
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When a team deals a player away like Anquan Boldin, the first thought is what happens going forward. Clearly, the Cards (who also lost Jerheme Urban to free agency) aren’t quite as deep at the position as before. But it’s hard to look at the Cards’ receiving corps at the top and not still have serious confidence.
Matt Williamson of Scouts, Inc., wrote a piece (it’s under the Insider paywall, FYI) breaking down the receiving groups of a handful of teams, including the Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald is a great starting point of course, and he’s clearly bullish on Early Doucet — not only calling Doucet a possible breakout player but even going as far to say Steve Breaston is better suited for the No. 3 role and implying Doucet could be No. 2 (I don’t necessarily agree; I think Breaston’s toughness is underrated). In Williamson’s estimation, Doucet is an ideal Boldin replacement, which wouldn’t make him the first person to view Early that way.
Here is also what Williamson said about the rest of the pass-catching situation: “I also love the draft pick of Andre Roberts in the third round. Although he is from the Citadel, his game is polished and he should quickly assert himself as one of the best No. 4 wideouts in this league. Surely Boldin’s loss will be felt and Arizona’s tight ends are glorified offensive tackles, but I don’t have any worries about the wide receiver position.”
I feel the same way at this point. Again, guys have to stay healthy (and it wouldn’t hurt to find another young guy to develop besides Roberts) but the Cards are in good shape out wide.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Anquan Boldin, Early Doucet, Jerheme Urban, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston
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If you haven’t had a chance to check out the rookie-reporting video, it’s a pretty good look of behind-the-scenes. The best part to me was when the camera caught veteran nose tackle Bryan Robinson meeting rookie nose tackle and first-round pick Dan Williams for the first time.
“You’re the guy I came back to mentor,” Robinson said to Williams. “You’re the guy that’s going to take my spot — and I want you to do that. I really do. I’m going to help you as much as I can.”
Those words have to be music to the ears of coach Ken Whisenhunt.
– As a P.S. for anyone coming out to Fan Fest Saturday (gates open at the Tempe complex at 9 a.m., practice is at 10:45), in addition to the normal Cards’ gear on sale, there will also be a special “historical” store for anyone interested. All proceeds will go to Cardinals Charities, so if you’re looking for, say, an Emmitt Smith autographed football (that’s been scanned with WeTrak, Emmitt’s own authentication system) or maybe an Anquan Boldin authentic jersey, those will be available.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Bryan Robinson, Dan Williams, Emmitt Smith
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The locker room was buzzing this morning. Certainly, I wasn’t going to do any entire run-down of the roster — and rookies have yet to arrive — but it looked like everyone else was there for John Lott’s final workout before minicamp starts Friday (players are off Wednesday, and have pre-camp physicals Thursday).
That group included Pro Bowl defensive tackle Darnell Dockett for the first time this offseason. Dockett, looking in shape and knocking back a homemade berry smoothie following his workout, said he plans to be around from this point forward. We’ll see how that turns out — other than the minicamp, everything else is voluntary and given his desire for a new contract, Dockett has been scarce the last couple of years for voluntary work — but he looks like he’ll be healthy for this weekend’s work.
He reflected on the changes the Cards have been through since he last spoke back the day after the season.
“We lost a lot of people who had been through big experiences with us, that started from the bottom up,” Dockett said. “A lot of people you can’t replace in terms of leadership ability and toughness, like Anquan (Boldin) … As far as the other guys they got into dream situations as free agents. Karlos (Dansby), we were together since we came in. That’s tough. But the show has got to move on. We can base our success on a few guys. The guys (filling in) know the level those guys played at. They know there are big shoes to fill.”
As for the idea Dockett will have more pressure on him in terms of a leadership role, “I think I’ll have to be more vocal and push myself to the next level. But I don’t think I have to create the will. I think we have guys who know what it takes to win. Maybe I need to be more vocal, but I can led by the way I play. That alone speaks louder than words. We have Adrian, Fitz, we just have to continue to do what we have been doing.
“We’ll have a good team. A lot of people are counting us out early and that’s OK. I think when we fight adversity it makes it better while we fly under the radar.”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, minicamp
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The Cardinals went with a receiver in the third round, taking Andre Roberts of the Citadel. He’s 5-foot-11 but he ran a 4.46 40. He can return punts, averaging 15.5 yards a return this past season, which is a big deal since Steve Breaston will likely lose that role as he moves up to the No. 2 wideout. He also is a two-time team captain.
“I believe I am explosive, quick and elusive (on punt returns),” Roberts said, adding he has returned punts since his freshman year of high school. “I feel like I have gotten it down. … I do believe I have sure hands.”
He averaged 19 yards a return as a junior.
Roberts realizes it was the Senior Bowl and combine that jumped his stock. The Cards are looking for a No. 4 receiver after losing Anquan Boldin and Jerheme Urban this offseason.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Anquan Boldin, draft, Jerheme Urban, Steve Breaston
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With the owners’ meetings wrapping up today and the pace of free agency slowing down, it may be a good time to look at where the Cardinals’ roster stands — and where there are holes that need to be filled by the time minicamp begins April 30.
This topic crossed my mind after writing yesterday about the signing of wide receiver Darren Mougey, who may or may not pan out but certainly isn’t been seen (at least as of now) as a replacement, whether it’d be Anquan Boldin or even Jerheme Urban. He’s just one of many receivers that will be on the roster this summer. Today, the Cardinals officially have 60 61 players on the roster, leaving 19 spots to be filled by the draft/undrafted rookies (which figures to total between 14 to 16, depending) and then some free-agent spots. There are seven veterans un-signed who could still return: LB Monty Beisel, FB Dan Kreider, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware, K Neil Rackers, DT Bryan Robinson and WR Sean Morey (although I think Morey is more likely to end up in Seattle right now).
(On my 60-man count, I am including all the restricted and exclusive rights free agents who have yet to sign their tenders, because they eventually will.)
What spots need shoring up? The Cards need at least one more quarterback, and even if St. Pierre comes back, they need someone young, at least for camp. They need another receiver or two, although I am guessing whether they chase a veteran may depend on what happens in the draft. Remember, at that spot, a fourth receiver would likely need to play special teams and guys like Kevin Curtis or Torry Holt tend not to want to do such things.
The Cards definitely need to look at nose tackle, especially if Robinson doesn’t return. They need inside linebackers even if Beisel comes back (which I expect). They probably could use another young pass rusher at outside linebacker without knowing exactly what Cody Brown/Mark Washington/Stevie Baggs brings to the table. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get another cornerback — you can never have too many — and a return man is also needed if Steve Breaston is going to be the No. 2 wideout.
Numbers-wise, here is the current 61-man breakdown by position:
- QB 2
- RB 4
- FB 2
- WR 6
- OL 11
- TE 4
- DL 9
- OLB 6
- MLB 4
- CB 6
- S 5
- Specialists 2
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Brian St. Pierre, Bryan Robinson, Cody Brown, Dan Kreider, Darren Mougey, draft, free agency, Jerheme Urban, Kevin Curtis, Mark Washington, Matt Ware, Monty Beisel, Neil Rackers, Roster, Sean Morey, Steve Breaston, Stevie Baggs, Torry Holt
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And now, we take a brief breather on free-agency debate …
The NFL and NFL.com are putting together, for the draft, the greatest 75 draft picks of all time, with fans getting a chance to vote. Each of the 32 franchises had 10 players selected as nominees, which not only had to be good players but bring value to whatever round they were chosen (so does, for example Aeneas Williams in the third round mean more than Peyton Manning first overall?). The list coincides with the 75th NFL draft.
The 10 best Cardinals’ draft picks chosen were (in alphabetical order): wide receiver Anquan Boldin, tackle Dan Dierdorf (pictured below blocking for Jim Ottis), wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, wide receiver/defensive back Roy Green, safety Tim McDonald, tight end Jackie Smith, running back Charlie Trippi, cornerback Roger Wehrli, Williams, and safety Larry Wilson.
Players are pitted, randomly, in head-to-head matchups and fans vote (through April 18th). Picks 11 through 75 will be unveiled on NFL.com and the NFL Network from April 19-22, with the top 10 unveiled in the network’s draft coverage April 22. Don’t forget the draft is over three days this year. The first round is Thursday night, April 22. The second and third rounds are on Friday night, April 23. And the final four rounds are Saturday, April 24.
Tags: Aeneas Williams, Anquan Boldin, Charlie Trippi, Dan Dierdorf, draft, Jackie Smith, Larry Fitzgerald, Larry Wilson, Roy Green, Tim McDonald
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