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Blogs

Lasting thoughts from the first

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2014 – 10:54 am

The first Cardinals draft I covered as a beat guy was back in 2001, which just so happened to be the highest pick the Cards have had since I have been around the team — second overall. That’s 13 drafts overall and 14 first-round picks. As the Cards get closer to this year’s draft (jeez, is it ever going to get here?) I thought I’d hit the first-round picks I’ve seen, with both my initial thoughts at the time and what hindsight has brought.

2001: T Leonard Davis. It was a no-brainer. Davis was a sure thing, taken right after Michael Vick. He’d be the 10-year left tackle the Cardinals sought since Lomas Brown had left. Bigg (he went by the nickname “Big” and at some point, started adding an extra “g”) was just that, a mammoth man. Sure, the Cards decided to play him at guard his first season, but that was so he could get used to the game. Dave McGinnis even brought myself and Kent Somers to his office one day to show us Davis manhandling a couple of defenders. I remember him totally rag-dolling Bears safety Mike Brown on one play. Problem was, he never really panned out as a left tackle, even though Denny Green insisted on shoe-horning him there. He was a better guard, and the Cards weren’t going to break the bank on a guard, so he later got big money from the Cowboys. And made the Pro Bowl. As a guard.

2002: DT Wendell Bryant. What I really remember is hearing how then-defensive line coach Joe Greene had been so impressed with Bryant the player and the person during a workout up in Wisconsin. Uh, yeah, not so much. Bryant was a holdout until the regular season started of his rookie year, and he never climbed out of that hole. A total bust.

2003: DE Calvin Pace and WR Bryant Johnson. Ahh, the everyone-assumed-Terrell-Suggs-was-coming-to-the-Cards draft. This was the most surprising first round. The Cards traded down from No. 6 overall, thinking in part they could get DE Jerome McDougle. The Eagles jumped to No. 15 to get McDougle, and the Cards reached for Pace at 17 and then took Johnson at 18. Pace ended up a decent player, although he didn’t really hit his stride until Ken Whisenhunt showed up. This was a thank-goodness-for-Anquan-Boldin-in-the-second-round class.

2004: WR Larry Fitzgerald. And to think, if Josh McCown’s pass falls incomplete, would it have been Eli Manning? Or would Denny Green have made sure Fitz was No. 1 overall?

2005: CB Antrel Rolle. This was pretty straight-forward. Rolle was considered a top-10 talent, the Cards needed a corner. The problem was Rolle came into the league with most assuming he’d be better at safety. He was.

2006: QB Matt Leinart. Green said when the pick was made that Leinart falling to the Cards at 10 was really a “gift from heaven.” Seems really silly now. But it wasn’t at the time. (The Cards likely would have taken Jay Cutler, who went No. 11, if Leinart had been off the board.) Truth be told I thought it was a good pick, and I was convinced he would be that QB the Cards needed after his first two starts, come-from-ahead losses — but not his fault — to Kansas City and Chicago (“We let ‘em off the hook!”) Time proved I was way wrong. But it allowed Kurt Warner’s rebirth, so there’s that.

2007: T Levi Brown. The Cards wanted a left tackle. Joe Thomas was already taken. The Cards already had Edgerrin James, so Adrian Peterson didn’t make enough sense. And I’ll move on.

– 2008: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. DRC was odd. He was raw. He was good. He frustrated sometimes, going from Pro Bowl talent to a guy who wouldn’t pay attention in stretches. But it was the right call. If only he hadn’t been the price for Kevin Kolb …

– 2009: RB Beanie Wells: Beanie was never really healthy. A prime example of why teams don’t look to running backs early anymore.

– 2010: NT Dan Williams. Williams has been a starter and has improved. He forms a nice tandem with Alameda Ta’amu. Funny, the biggest thing I remember of when the Cards took him was that Tim Tebow was picked right before him — virtually eliminating any chance he was going to get mentioned on national TV broadcasts.

– 2011: CB Patrick Peterson. Yeah, a good pick. Obvious, but good.

– 2012: WR Michael Floyd. He’s turned into a good player in a short time. He wasn’t the left tackle everyone said they wanted, but he was better than the tackles on the board.

– 2013: G Jonathan Cooper. Coop should turn out to be a wise choice. If any of the big three tackles had been left at No. 7, the Cards probably would have nabbed one, but GM Steve Keim was about best players, and he believes Cooper was that.

BiggUSE

 


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Missing rookies no longer an issue

Posted by Darren Urban on June 15, 2012 – 10:45 am

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.”


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Fitz, Rolle and a busted nose (plus Dockett’s tickets)

Posted by Darren Urban on September 28, 2011 – 6:26 pm

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.”

 


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DRC/PP expectations

Posted by Darren Urban on May 18, 2011 – 3:05 pm

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.


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Mockingly, a vote for Peterson

Posted by Darren Urban on March 28, 2011 – 4:53 pm

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


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Cards get extra pick, Fitz, and giving back

Posted by Darren Urban on March 25, 2011 – 3:07 pm

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.


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Considering Breaston

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2010 – 10:24 am

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.


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Raiders aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 26, 2010 – 11:05 pm

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.


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Cutting Sheik, Highsmith among Cards’ moves

Posted by Darren Urban on August 3, 2010 – 2:36 pm

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.


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The Madden Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on July 15, 2010 – 9:35 am

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.


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