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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For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 14, 2010 – 4:10 pm

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.

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Calling plays and OTA bakery

Posted by Darren Urban on June 3, 2010 – 1:23 pm

Coach Ken Whisenhunt certainly noticed the spike in temperature Thursday: “We went from pre-heat to bake,” he joked. But he did say he was impressed with his team bringing up its level of play during the 11-on-11 session despite it all.

He also talked a little bit about his job of playcalling, quipping, “What I took away from last season was I can’t let Russ (Grimm) and Mike (Miller) call all those bad plays.”

“You lose a little touch with that when you are not involved with the playcalling,” he said. “There is a lot going on on game days, and it was nice to get back into that routine. It’s fun when you (call plays). You have to put a lot of work into it and a lot of preparation, and we have had guys here that have been good in helping with that.

“I enjoyed it last year, obviously because of some of the games where we were productive offensively. You think back to Chicago, you think back of the first half against Houston, even Green Bay, that’s rewarding. … It makes you feel like you contributed. And it is a rush. It’s as close as you can get to playing and being back on the field.”

Among other tidbits:

— Whisenhunt noted CB Trumaine McBride has “shown up” in offseason work and will be in the mix at the position.

–Speaking of defensive backs, safety Hamza Abdullah was active Thursday, making two interceptions, dropping a third and making a nice play to break up a pass to Andre Roberts. Abdullah was signed late last season when Antrel Rolle was banged up and Matt Ware was already on IR, and was forced to play a lot when he probably wasn’t ready, given his short shelf life on the roster. “It’s difficult anytime a guy comes in late in the season and he was thrown to the wolves like he was,” Whisenhunt said. “I respected the way he worked. There were no excuses. But he has stepped it up. It makes you think he has a chance to contribute to our team and I think, because of the way he came in and worked, you pull for him.”

— Injury update: G Rex Hadnot was on the bike after tweaking his knee Wednesday, but Whisenhunt said the injury wasn’t serious and Hadnot may return next week. The same goes for LB Gerald Hayes (back), who Whisenhunt said wanted to work out today but was kept out. Hayes will try it next week. “He’s made dramatic improvement.” DL Alan Branch has also been sitting with his back. Later, on the subject of injuries, Whisenhunt smiled and said, “I think they’re all out for the game this weekend.”

— WR Larry Fitzgerald, as he is prone to do, chucked a pass at me after making one of his own in early drills. Fortunately, I caught it. The Republic’s Kent Somers wasn’t as lucky, reaching up with one hand (Kent was holding his notepad in the other) and having a Fitz pass bounce off, leading to this exchange:

Fitz: “Comon, Kent!”

Kent: “I only had one hand!”

Fitz: “I catch it with one hand all the time.”

Kent” “But you can’t write.”

Fitz: “I wrote my paper for the University of Phoenix last night!”

Fitz is always thinking on his feet.

— DRC cut off the other side of his hair, making him look normal again (sorry, I didn’t snap a photo).

— It looks like I’ll have Steve Breaston on for a Tuesday afternoon chat next week, so keep that on the radar.

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No comp draft picks

Posted by Darren Urban on March 22, 2010 – 3:40 pm

The NFL released the compensatory picks for the 2010 draft today and the Cardinals did not get one. While there had been a lot of talk earlier about possibly getting one after losing defensive end Antonio Smith last offseason, I guess it was offset by signings like cornerback Bryant McFadden, to the point where comp pick guru AdamJT13 had already guessed the Cards were out of the loop (that link, by the way, explains well how the comp pick formula basically works).

The picks announced today, again, were based on last offseason. This month’s free agency transitions will affect the 2011 draft. In short, the Cards could come out ahead — possibly. Players have to be actual free agents (the contracts expiring) and not released, meaning the loss of Antrel Rolle won’t help but the signings of Joey Porter and Derek Anderson won’t hurt either. For now, the Cards’ 2011 comp formula will be Karlos Dansby/Jerheme Urban vs. Paris Lenon/Rex Hadnot.

UPDATE: Here is AdamJT13’s explanation on the Cards’ situation for this draft: “Arizona signed two qualifying players and lost two qualifying players, so the best the Cardinals could hope for was a net value pick, but as I projected, the difference in values was not enough to warrant one. Had the Cardinals not signed Jason Wright, they would have received a third-round pick for Antonio Smith.” I believe the players were McFadden/Wright vs. Smith/Terrelle Smith.

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The best safeties and Urban to K.C.

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2010 – 7:35 am

A few odds and ends early on a Thursday:

— Not sure if you saw, after Antrel Rolle signed with the Giants, that he talked about re-teaming with college teammate Kenny Phillips and that the two of them could be “the best (safety tandem) in the league. Hands down.” Didn’t see that? Adrian Wilson did. We were wrapping up our conversation the other day, A-Dub suddenly  brought it up unprompted. “Best safety tandem?” he said, showing that look you get from your dad when you’re a kid acting like you know everything when you really don’t. “Hold on there now. Just hold on a minute.”

That’s all he needed to say. I’d guess Wilson is looking forward to working with Kerry Rhodes and seeing if the Cards can, you know, get into the equation.

— Wide receiver Jerheme Urban is signing with the Chiefs. No surprise. Urban was inactive a lot late in the season, he wasn’t tendered as a restricted free agent and I’m not sure — even if he made the team — he’d get to play much. Besides, the main reason he came to the Cards in the first place was because then-offensive coordinator Todd Haley liked him from Urban’s and Haley’s days together in Dallas. Now Urban is reunited with Haley. (Of course, on a personal note, my two young sons are going to be bummed. It’s not often as a kid you have a guy on a team who shares your surname and then you get to meet that guy. I know fans had mixed feelings about Jerheme the player, but you won’t find a better person).

— In case you’re looking for one free-agency clearinghouse when it comes to the Cards, go to our free agency page, which we will continue to keep track of the comings and goings as guys sign.

— Another big day today for the Cards, as they finish up free-agent visits with linebackers Larry Foote and Joey Porter.

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Some good news: Rhodes coming to Arizona

Posted by Darren Urban on March 6, 2010 – 5:11 pm

Everyone looking for good news has this: The Cards are getting Kerry Rhodes from the Jets in a trade to replace Antrel Rolle. ESPN is reporting it, and I have heard similar things — the Cards will give up a fourth-round pick in 2010 and a seventh-rounder in 2011. That was a quick and (relatively) painless quick turnaround after losing Rolle last night when he signed with the Giants. I’ll have a full story in a bit, hopefully. The Cards still haven’t officially announced anything.

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A long day in Tempe

Posted by Darren Urban on March 5, 2010 – 10:49 pm

I have written more than I care to on the subject of the trio of departures today. I have barely been away from my computer since 3:30 (and I was at work all day too) and now we are headed toward 11 p.m. In reality, nothing happened today that was unexpected. The Anquan Boldin trade was long a question of when rather than if (I will have more on Boldin tomorrow, both in his reaction and a blog retrospective).

Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle were always possible to leave, especially Dansby. The Cards offered big money to both, and both passed. Somewhat strange, and in the end, we’ll never be exactly sure why each made the decisions they did.

What does it mean for 2010? Well, right now, the Cards aren’t as good as they were yesterday. That’s obvious, and no one is arguing. But as I have written, the Cards need to get through free agency and the draft before knowing exactly what they will have for the season. They are going to play the 2010 season and the Cards have to show up every week. No reason to give up now; they are still going to make them play.

I leave you with Darnell Dockett, the man who watched his team shift dramatically and let us know his raw emotions all day via Twitter. Dock clearly wasn’t happy. But then, after Rolle made his call to finish the 3-for-3, Dockett had this to say: “And people don’t think just because we lost some key guys that we aint gone bust heads yall trippn we coming even harder and yeah “I SAID IT.”

The season will go on.

But I won’t, at least tonight. Time for bed.

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Dockett says Rolle picks Giants UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on March 5, 2010 – 8:09 pm

Darnell Dockett is breaking news: He just tweeted Antrel Rolle is signing with the Giants.

“I talk to antrell rolle and I’m happy for him and his family! He will be a giant, I wish him sucess and healt to the fullest that my dawg!” Dockett said.

I suppose it’s the perfect ending to a rough day for the Cards. Not one of the three moves are a surprise. To have them all happen in one day … Yikes.

ESPN is reporting Rolle got five years, $37 million, including $15 million guaranteed. That’s a lot of money for Rolle, and Adam Schefter said it makes Rolle the highest-paid safety in NFL history — so take that for what it’s worth. UPDATE: And I am hearing, as crazy as it sounds, the Cards were offering basically the same deal. Rolle just chose New York.

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Possible precursor to Rolle as Dolphin

Posted by Darren Urban on March 5, 2010 – 10:10 am

So I listened to Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland say at the combine this of free safety Gibril Wilson, who struggled last season: “We have our evaluation of Gibril Wilson. We know what kind of player he’s capable of being. I think he’s going to be a very good player for the future. He was disappointed in his play last year. I think he can play better. We’ll just have to see. I think he will.”

Sounded like a guy who was going to get another chance. Um, nope. His agent tweeted Wilson is being released today.

What does that mean for the Cards? Well, it makes me think the Dolphins are confident they have a shot at Antrel Rolle. And that Ireland apparently thought Wilson would be a “very good player” somewhere besides Miami.

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