Once, the end of offseason work for the Cardinals wasn’t just a beginning but a much bigger deal, specifically when coach Dennis Green used it in his first season as a time to announce his starting lineup for the season. (That was a crazy time. It really was.)
Now, coach Ken Whisenhunt emphasizes competition and ongoing competition. Nothing up for grabs was going to be settled in a month’s worth of work in May and June. But there was one thing settled that is a significant step for the Cardinals — every draft pick was signed before the work ended. Michael Floyd and Jamell Fleming (below) signed on the dotted line, and just like that, a headache that had shrunk in recent years (yet still existed) was gone.
It’ll be league-wide, and it’s thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement. No longer will players be holding out. I’ve never thought, if a player missed a day or two of camp, it was a huge deal, but looking at the last 10 years and the number of picks that have missed at least some time in camp, this is a welcome change:
– 2011 Patrick Peterson, missed 1 day
– 2010 Dan Williams, 3 days
– 2009 Beanie Wells, 3 days
– 2008 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 2 days
– 2007 Levi Brown, 6 days
– 2006 Matt Leinart, 15 days
– 2005 Antrel Rolle, 8 days
– 2004 Larry Fitzgerald, 1 day
– 2003 Calvin Pace, 3 days; Bryant Johnson 4 days
– 2002 Wendell Bryant, all of training camp and two weeks of the regular season
“Knowing the first day of training camp you will have everyone there is a big deal,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “When they miss those first couple of days, it seems like they are always playing catch-up. It’s good we had all our guys here. It’ll be good to have everyone there from Day One. It’s great that our organization, (president) Michael (Bidwill) and (general manager) Rod (Graves), have been so proactive.”
Tags: Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, Bryant Johnson, Calvin Pace, contracts, Dan Williams, DRC, Jamell Fleming, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Matt Leinart, Michael Bidwill, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Rod Graves, Wendell Bryant
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The Cardinals drafted Antrel Rolle a year after Larry Fitzgerald and Darnell Dockett, and all three grew up professionally in Arizona. They stayed together until after the 2009 season, when Rolle was cut thanks to a gigantic payday for the final season on his contract looming. Rolle used the resulting free agency to sign with the New York Giants, and will play his former team for the first time Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“I met a lot of friends,” Rolle said. “The people out there and the friendly atmosphere, it was just a great place to be.”
One of those friends is Fitz, who laughed Wednesday when talking about the long history he had with Rolle, dating before they became pro teammates. When the two played against each other for the first time in college — in 2002, when Rolle’s Miami Hurricanes beat Fitz’s Pitt Panthers, 28-21 — Rolle sent Fitzgerald off at one point with a bloody nose.
“He busted my nose and it was leaking all down my shirt,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s always been a running joke, the last 10 years, me telling him, ‘I’m gonna bust your nose back.’ I’m going to try and get him.”
Fitz was smiling as he said it of course, but making him bleed on national TV was something his friends wouldn’t let him forget, and he makes sure Rolle knows about the grief he caused. Just not on the field, because Fitzgerald said he won’t trash-talk with Rolle. “You know those Miami guys,” Fitzgerald said, using his hand to indicate the constant chatter. “I prefer to let the results speak for themselves.”
Fitz noted he had a TD in his “nose” game, even though Miami won.
Dockett calls Rolle “my boy” even though they played at arch-rival schools (Dockett went to Florida State). “He sent me a text message talking trash,” Dockett said. “Then he asks me for tickets.
“I miss all my boys I came in with, Karlos (Dansby), Antonio Smith, Calvin Pace. Business is business and you can’t keep them around forever, but as far as being friends, me and Antrel, we talk all the time about life issues, not about football.”
Except this week. “He talked his trash, and then he wants tickets,” Dockett added, shaking his head. So will he get them? “Yeah man. He’s my boy.”
Tags: Antrel Rolle, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald
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Patrick Peterson was blunt when asked about wanting to have an NFL “island” as a cornerback, a la Darrelle Revis. “I don’t want an island,” he said. “I want a universe.” Alrighty then. That’s a pretty big area. You have to assume, in such a universe, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would have to be part of the equation.
Just what will the Cardinals have with the DRC/PP combination – not yet forgetting Greg Toler, who won’t have the draft pedigree of the other two but arguably will be the best tackler? (We have yet to see what Peterson brings to the table in terms of tackling, but for now, keep the DRC comments to yourself.)
Because neither has been around, it’s difficult to get a feel for how the duo – or trio, including Toler – will fit together. Here’s what we know: DRC acknowledged last season he didn’t play as well as he could or should have, and he must improve (note I didn’t say “master”) the art of tackling. Toler can play physically, but he remains raw as a cornerback. Peterson has to learn the NFL game period.
The last time the Cards took a cornerback high in the draft, Antrel Rolle certainly entered a different situation. The starting cornerbacks at the time were David Macklin and Robert Tate, and with all due respect to those guys, DRC and Toler are a better duo. The year the Cards took Rolle, they also took Eric Green in the third round, which shows you how much they needed cornerbacks. Rolle was late arriving to camp but was still going to jump into the lineup sooner rather than later; this was Dennis Green as coach. He had no problem thrusting rookies in the lineup. Peterson has Ken Whisenhunt as coach, and if anything, Whisenhunt has shown he’ll slow it down for rookies and playing time if he has a feasible alternative and Toler qualifies.
(Toler, at the least, should be able to be a solid nickel cornerback in a league where three cornerbacks are often needed.)
One thing is guaranteed, and that’s the confidence both DRC and Peterson own. Perfect for their position, and necessary. As has been noted many times, whomever plays cornerback will need a steady pass rush to achieve high-profile status. But if DRC can take his 2009 season and ratchet it up, and Peterson becomes the player everyone keeps saying he should be, high expectations should be the bar the two are able to reach.
Tags: Antrel Rolle, Darrelle Revis, David Macklin, Dennis Green, DRC, Eric Green, Greg Toler, Ken Whisenhunt, Patrick Peterson, Robert Tate
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I know people love to look at mock drafts but they seem rather silly to me, especially more than a few days out — so much can still change (the Cards, for instance, haven’t even started to build their draft board) and it’s usually an exercise in futility anyway.
That said, it is fun to talk about and debate, and NFL.com has been doing a video mock the past few years, getting someone who covers the team to make a pick for that team and explain some of the reasoning behind it. I did that last week, and now the top eight picks are posted on NFL.com. The way it works is they come to you and let you know what players are gone and you move from there. In this mock, the top four picks before the Cards were on the clock looked like this:
- Carolina — QB Cam Newton, Auburn
- Denver — DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
- Buffalo — LB Von Miller, Texas A&M
- Cincinnati — WR A.J. Green, Georgia
Obviously, Miller being off the board takes away a player many link to the Cards right now. It leaves two names that have floated around consistently in QB Blaine Gabbert and CB Patrick Peterson.
In this instance, as you can see in the video, I went with Peterson.
I am not saying I feel sure about such a pick. Peterson is expected to be one of the best, if not the best, players available. As I noted in my explanation, however, there seem to be a lot of parallels to Antrel Rolle that would at least make me hesitate. It’s also possible Gabbert is impressing the Cards when they get a chance to talk to him. Some, at this point, think Gabbert would be impossible for the Cards to pass up. And maybe the need for a pass rusher goes beyond keying on Miller, too.
As has been said many times, the quarterbacks hold the key to the top five. If Newton and Gabbert are both chosen, it looks so much different than if they are not. Realistically, all five teams need a QB — or at least it can be said that none are sure they have their long-term quarterback currently.
In this case, Peterson seems to be an impact player on the defense, which the Cards could use (yes, I do have concerns about a low Wonderlic score; it’s not the end-all, be-all, but it can’t be ignored either). I think impacting the defense is important. Would they go with him over say, Gabbert, if this is how it plays out? I guess we won’t know unless this is how it plays out.
P.S. By the way, just in case anyone wasn’t sure …
Tags: A.J. Green, Antrel Rolle, Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, draft, Marcell Dareus, Patrick Peterson, Von Miller
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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
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Let me start by saying this, in the interest of full disclosure: I am a big fan of Steve Breaston, both the player and the person. Maybe more the person. Watching him create his spot in the NFL after very little was expected of him — then-OC Todd Haley admittedly didn’t think Breaston would ever be more than a return man after his fifth-round selection, and I had media friends in Michigan who were leery he could make it on this level — was impressive. I had no doubt he would fill the receiver void left when Anquan Boldin was traded, and I think, even with injuries and uneven-at-best QB play, he has.
But Breaston is scheduled to be a free agent after the season (and assuming the new CBA doesn’t drastically change the free agent process, he’ll be unrestricted). Then Breaston played much less than usual against the Cowboys in lieu of Andre Roberts, and naturally, it raised eyebrows. Kent Somers covers all the ground very well today in a story about the situation.
Breaston’s knee is a concern, clearly. He had his right knee repaired earlier this season after meniscus damage. There have been many weeks he has been limited in practice, and the Cowboys’ game was about not overworking his knee. Breaston also had a right knee issue early in 2009. These things are factors when talking about seven-figure salaries. There is a time crunch here; players can only sign extensions until March 4. That’s when either free agency will start or, if there is not a new CBA by then, free agents go into limbo and cannot sign anything. Like most free agents, the closer a guy gets to the open market, the better chance he will test that market first. CBA uncertainty — and the threat of losing football games (and income) in 2011 — does not help.
I don’t doubt the Cardinals want to keep Breaston. I’m not sure that means making sure he doesn’t test the market. That’s always a major risk; that was the situation with both Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby last year, players the Cards did make large offers to but not larger than their current teams. Breaston is the last guy who will ever spout off about such things — earlier this year, Larry Fitzgerald teased Breaston in the locker room in front of the media, trying to get Breaston to say something about his contract, and Steve had zero interest — but you can bet he knows Darnell Dockett got an extension this season and he has not.
It’s impossible to know exactly where this is headed. I know I am hoping Breaston is a Cardinal in 2011. I was hoping I’d be sure about this time of year, but in reality, no one can be.
Tags: Antrel Rolle, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Steve Breaston
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I think we all knew it wasn’t going to be easy watching this team this season. But after three games, it is turning out to be very, very hard.
Maybe hard isn’t the right word. Taxing certainly is. You feel good about Beanie Wells coming back and watching him average 5.4 yards a carry, you worry about Derek Anderson completing less than 50 percent of his passes. You feel good that the defense held up in the red zone, but understand the Raiders were able to move the ball quite a bit. You feel good the Cardinals win, but realize the other kicker isn’t missing a 32-yarder very often.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt joked about the “torture” a lot of these games will be. Whiz is right, of course. If the Cards win, it’s by any means necessary. But jeezum …
– The win was not pretty. But I’d guess the 49ers – now 0-3 – would kill to be an ugly 2-1 right now.
– If Beanie can run like that, the Cards will be in great shape. He and Tim Hightower can make some things happen. Is it enough to offset Anderson’s issues? Hopefully. “Obviously, I expect myself to play better the first three weeks,” Anderson said. “I’m doing everything I can. The coach says, ‘Hey, don’t put so much pressure on yourself’ but I want to be perfect.” Anderson completed only 12 of 26 passes for 122 yards (although it’s fair to point out his throws drew three pass interference penalties that accounted for an extra 74 yards).
– For the record, Whisenhunt was asked if there was consideration to put backup QB Max Hall in. “No, we didn’t think about that,” Whiz said.
– Larry Fitzgerald’s thoughts on the offense? “You know it could be worse, honestly,” Fitzgerald said. “I mean, if we were sitting 0-3, I’d probably be pulling my hair out.” Fitz had just two catches (out of seven targets). He was being covered by Pro Bowler Nnamdi Asomugha, but still. If the Cards were 0-3, I’m guessing Fitz would want to do much more than just pull his hair out. He wants to win, but he’s like any of those elite receivers – he wants the ball. This is got to be killing him.
– Whisenhunt said the most impressive part of the Cards’ defensive showing was their goal-line stand, and that’s true. But it may be the defense’s fourth-quarter showing period. The Raiders had possession for 12:19 of the final 15 minutes. The Cards ran exactly seven offensive plays in the final quarter for 12 yards. The Raiders ran 26 plays in the quarter. Sure, the Raiders missed two field goals in the period, but the fact the Cards held up means a lot. The Raiders ran another 70 offensive plays. This defense has been on the field a lot in three games.
– Cornerback Greg Toler is getting picked on unmercifully, but he’s holding up pretty well. That has to be a good sign for that secondary.
– Everybody did a solid job of springing LaRod Stephens-Howling on his 102-yard kickoff return but safety Rashad Johnson made sure he went all the way down the field to give the Hyphen his final block to get free. Johnson had a decent day defensively, too.
– Rookie Andre Roberts’ first game as a punt returner probably isn’t going in the scrapbook. He only returned two for six total yards, and one of those he fielded inside his own 5-yard line (returning it only to the 5), a definite no-no. Two other punts he could field before they hit the ground, and the ball bounced off teammates for turnovers. The second punt actually might have been kicked a little short and Roberts did apparently tried to signal his teammates – DRC heard/saw it, but when he stopped, the ball bounced and hit him – but it didn’t look like Roberts made the signal clear enough on the first. Those are turnovers the Cards absolutely can’t afford.
Big picture, it’s been a rough two games for Roberts and Max Komar as rookie punt return men. The Cards don’t want Steve Breaston returning punts but he definitely makes coaches feel more comfortable.
– Safety Kerry Rhodes had an excellent game. In on a ton of tackles, making a handful of pass breakups, blitzing the quarterback and getting pressure. If Rhodes plays like that, no one is going to worry about the departed Antrel Rolle. The Cards’ defense will be pretty well off too. Same if linebacker Paris Lenon – a sack, an interception – can play like that too.
Time to go to bed. Time to try and recover.
Tags: 49ers, Andre Roberts, Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, Derek Anderson, DRC, Greg Toler, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Max Hall, Nnamdi Adomugha, Paris Lenon, Raiders, Rashad Johnson, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower
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Hurting your calf on the first step of the conditioning test of training camp is never a good thing. So it’s probably not a shock the Cardinals waived-injured defensive lineman Dean Muhtadi Tuesday, the man known as the “Iron Sheik” to his teammates and the happiest man in the NFL to me. The Cardinals also cut inside linebacker Ali Highsmith, who had been running second team, and brought back yet again linebacker Pago Togafau, who has been with the Cards a few times. Finally, the team released wide receiver Deryn Bowser to sign safety Aaron Rouse, a veteran who played with the Packers and Giants last season.
The Highsmith move is a bit surprising, given the Cards’ questions at the position. But he struggled last season and apparently isn’t working out. Interesting on the signing of Rouse — who struggled a lot for the Giants, which is why they chased Antrel Rolle — but there are injuries in the secondary. Safety Hamza Abdullah was sitting out with a bad hamstring, and cornerback Rashad Barksdale has some sort of leg injury too.
Tags: Aaron Rouse, Ali Highsmith, Antrel Rolle, Dean Muhtadi, Deryn Bowser, Hamza Abdullah, Pago Togafau, Rashad Barksdale
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EA Sports just released its annual installment of its college football game this week and this year’s version of its NFL game — Madden 2011 — will be out in August. The rankings are out (HT to Mike Sando for pointing it out) and, not surprisingly, the Cardinals have taken a bit of a hit overall compared to last year’s game. The best players (ratings are on a 100 99 scale)? WR Larry Fitzgerald is a 97, G Alan Faneca is a 91, DE Darnell Dockett is a 94, S Adrian Wilson is a 96 and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a 90.
Some other key players: WR Steve Breaston is an 80 (Early Doucet is a 78); RB Beanie Wells is an 82 while Tim Hightower is a 79; QB Matt Leinart is an 75 with Derek Anderson a 67; G Reggie Wells is the second-highest offensive lineman at 80; LB Joey Porter is an 86 and LB Gerald Hayes is an 85 before a big drop-off at the position (Clark Haggans is next at 75); DE Calais Campbell is an 86; and S Kerry Rhodes is an 88 (Interestingly, Antrel Rolle is an 83 for the Giants). The whole list is here.
Of course, none of this means anything in real life, although it is fun to debate.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Alan Faneca, Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell, Clark Haggans, Darnell Dockett, Derek Anderson, Early Doucet, Gerald Hayes, Joey Porter, Kerry Rhodes, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart, Reggie Wells, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower, video games
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Back in 2007, when I was still at the East Valley Tribune and just about three months into a blog for the first time, I wanted to come up with something that could stand at the top of the blog for several days while I – gasp! – actually took some vacation time.
Guestimating the starting offensive and defensive lineups for the regular-season opener, in June, seemed to make sense, especially on the heels of the just-completed offseason work. So that’s what I have done every year and will do again the next two days. Today, we’ll hit the defense. Tomorrow’s swan song entry will be on the offense.
We’re going with the 3-4 alignment because that makes the most sense as a base, although the Cards continue to mix it up and use plenty of other sub-packages (would they really use a four-safety set this season, like we have seen at times in OTAs?). But this is how I think they’ll line up Sept. 12 in St. Louis.
DE – Darnell Dockett. He’s done all the right things this offseason. OK, except for the shower thing. But you know what I mean.
NT – Bryan Robinson. Dan Williams will get plenty of playing time this season, and he may even be starting at some point (after the bye?). But coach Ken Whisenhunt has made it clear the past three years rookies, even first-rounders, have a hard time getting playing time early. And as good as Dockett said Gabe Watson looked this offseason, it’s tough to bet against Robinson once again starting, even if he ends up with fewer plays.
DE – Calais Campbell. If anyone is poised to have a big year, it would seem to be Campbell. With his potential and what Williams can become, the Cards have to be happy with the future D-line.
ROLB – Joey Porter. No-brainer. The Cards need a pass rush upgrade off the edge. The preseason will be about narrowing down Porter’s eventual heir apparent. You figure Cody Brown, but we’ll see.
SILB – Gerald Hayes. I still think Hayes finds a way in there, although the coaches like what Reggie Walker brings and Hayes is battling the back issue.
WILB – Paris Lenon. Replacing Karlos Dansby isn’t going to be easy (Thanks, Mr. Obvious). This is eventually Daryl Washington’s spot, but maybe not this year and certainly not to start the regular season. I’ve already talked about the coaches’ aversion to giving rookies a lot of time early.
LOLB – Clark Haggans. Will Davis looked good in his pre-injury stints last season. But Haggans was pretty consistent last season. And he’s exactly what Whisenhunt likes having around the field and the locker room.
CB – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. His knee will be fine. So will his toe. I am interested to see how he handles DB coach Donnie Henderson, who can be in-your-face.
CB – Greg Toler. The Cards have moved around the candidates thus far, but Toler should find a way to win the job. He has to step it up though. And I still think there may be a veteran to be had after the other 31 teams make their cuts.
SS – Adrian Wilson. I am curious to see how he meshes with Kerry Rhodes on the field …
FS — Rhodes. … because you know everyone is going to be measuring what Rhodes does to what Antrel Rolle might have done.
OK. That’s it for the defense. I’ll close out with the offense tomorrow.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Antrel Rolle, Bryan Robinson, Calais Campbell, Clark Haggans, Cody Brown, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Donnie Henderson, DRC, Gabe Watson, Gerald Hayes, Greg Toler, Joey Porter, Karlos Dansby, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Paris Lenon, Reggie Walker, Will Davis
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