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Glancing at the 2015 opponents

Posted by Darren Urban on July 14, 2014 – 2:46 pm

You know that it’s the dead of the offseason — real dead — when it comes to mind to point out who will be on the Cardinals’ schedule for 2015.

But here we are, inside of two weeks before training camp begins and a week away from the quarterbacks and a handful of other players reporting for a couple of days of “quarterback school” prior to the opening of camp. It’s the last hurrah for time off for both coaches and players. It doesn’t leave a lot to discuss right now. That’s all coming. But as I flipped through the new edition of the NFL Record and Fact Book, I came across the 2015 opponents for the Cardinals. So I thought I’d point them out.

As always, there are the home-and-away games against the NFC West opponents. The teams visiting University of Phoenix Stadium include the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings, the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals and then an NFC South team that ends up inhabiting the same position in their division that the Cardinals do in the NFC West by the time the 2014 season is over.

Road trips in 2015 for the Cardinals include the Chicago Bears, the Detroit Lions, the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the corresponding NFC East team.

FitzInChicagoBLOG

 


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Adrian Wilson is back (with Bears)

Posted by Darren Urban on June 23, 2014 – 1:24 pm

Many have asked me this offseason if Adrian Wilson was going to possibly re-sign with the Cardinals. He was not going to come back here, but I mentioned a couple of times he was not done playing and was still trying to find a job. Now, he has one. The Chicago Bears signed Wilson Monday. Wilson has tweeted a few times about his rehab from Achilles surgery and generally his prep for playing again in 2014. He hasn’t played in a game since doing it with the Cardinals at the end of the 2012 season, when his stint with the Patriots last season was cut short when he was hurt in the preseason finale.

I’ve been told Wilson is in fantastic shape (as usual — who would doubt him there?) and we will see if he can nail down a roster spot in Chicago. Last year’s starter at strong safety, Major Wright, went to the Buccaneers in free agency. They drafted Brock Vereen in the fourth round, although he’s more of a free safety. Veterans Chris Conte, M.D. Jennings and Ryan Mundy are also in the mix. It’s hard to know exactly where Wilson stands. Signing this late, he won’t get on the field with the Bears until training camp opens. Last season, Patriots observers believed Wilson was on the bubble to make the team before his injury.

But Wilson will get his chance, which is all that he ever wanted. At some point, the end will come (and he will go into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor) but that’s on hold. Wilson didn’t want his career to end yet, he certainly didn’t want it to end after a season-long injury, and now, it doesn’t have to. (Too bad the Bears are not on the Cardinals’ schedule this year.)

So, do the Bears remember this classic A-Dub primal scream?

BearsDubYell


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Chip trip narrows openings to Cards, Jags

Posted by Darren Urban on January 16, 2013 – 11:46 am

The shocking news Wednesday that Oregon coach Chip Kelly — who had long been thought of as the Eagles’ top choice for head coach but who seemingly made it clear he wasn’t leaving Oregon last week — was indeed going to be Philly’s new coach means there are two open head coaching spots left. Jacksonville and Arizona. (The Bears officially hired one-time Cardinals offensive coordinator Marc Trestman earlier in the morning.)

Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is interviewing with the Cards today. The Cards are reportedly trying to get permission/set up an interview with Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. The other known candidates are Ray Horton, Todd Haley and Jay Gruden, and that doesn’t preclude that there might have been unknown candidates at some point.

The Jaguars’ known list is Jay Gruden, Bevell, in-house defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, Seahawks DC Gus Bradley and Rams OC Brian Schottenheimer. They are also expected to wait for and talk to 49ers OC Greg Roman — untouchable until San Francisco’s season is over — who is close with new general manager Dave Caldwell.

In the meantime, we wait.

– Ken Whisenhunt missed out again. Just when it looked like he again was making a push to be a head coach — this time with the Eagles — the Kelly bombshell dropped. Whiz was apparently in the mix in Buffalo, Cleveland and Philly (he also talked with the Chargers) but instead, it seems likely that if he coaches this year, it will be as an assistant. The idea that he could end up in Denver as offensive coordinator with Peyton Manning seems to be gaining steam. He’s not going to be on Jacksonville’s HC list.


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Bevell to join coaching candidates

Posted by Darren Urban on January 15, 2013 – 7:06 pm

On a day when Mike McCoy chose to take the San Diego job, the Cardinals added a new name to their list of candidates. Multiple reports have the Cards hoping to interview Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Bevell not only worked with Russell Wilson this year but was a long-time coordinator/QB coach with Green Bay and Minnesota while Brett Favre was playing in those cities. He also happens to be a local product, having gone to Scottsdale Chaparral High School, playing QB there for his father and coach, Jim Bevell.

Bevell is a finalist for the Bears job and the Jaguars also want to include him on their search. Kent Somers reported the interview is scheduled for Wednesday. There hasn’t been any official word from the Cards yet.

Besides Bevell, Steelers OC Todd Haley, Bengals OC Jay Gruden and Cards DC Ray Horton are the known available candidates for the Cards.

UPDATE: And during the night, it came out that the Cards had requested permission to talk to Colts OC Bruce Arians too.


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With Broncos out, path cleared for Cards’ decision

Posted by Darren Urban on January 12, 2013 – 7:28 pm

With the Broncos losing (an admittedly amazing entertaining playoff game) Saturday night to Baltimore, it means their season is over and it means offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is now available to negotiate for a head coaching deal. It also would seem like the Cardinals would be in position to figure out their head coaching situation sometime this coming week.

Now, I’m not saying the Cards want McCoy for sure. But none of their candidates — at least, the ones we know of — are impeded from talking contract now. Cards defensive coordinator Ray Horton, McCoy and Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden (and Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley?) are all fully available. There’s been a lot of talk the Cards want McCoy, but that’s assumption rather than anything based on fact. Last week was filled with interviews anyway, so nothing was coming down last week regardless of McCoy’s situation.

We’ll see how it plays out. McCoy has interviewed with the Eagles and Bears already as well as the Cards. All of them were in Denver, so I’d expect a second interview with anybody to come in that city. Gruden has upcoming interviews with the Eagles and Jaguars. There is a report the Jags would like to talk to McCoy. Horton also interviewed with the Bills and Browns, although both spots have already been filled.

Will the Cards have a coach this week? Perhaps. President Michael Bidwill has maintained the whole process he had no set timeline in place and I don’t think there is a rush to get this done. But again, if all the candidates can be hired, it makes sense this moves forward in the coming days.

 


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Licht shines in personnel department

Posted by Darren Urban on January 10, 2013 – 10:44 am

Before the end of the regular season, it wasn’t just Steve Keim in the Cardinals’ personnel department that found his way into the rumormill of potential general manager hires around the league. It was also Jason Licht (pronounced “light”, so you see what I did in the headline there). Licht is the Cardinals’ director of player personnel. It was Licht, after all, who was a finalist for the Bears’ general manager job last year (it went to Phil Emery) before returning to the Cards’ front office after three seasons in New England.

Licht worked in Philadephia before the Cardinals hired him for the 2008 season, and after he made an impact and took the Super Bowl ride with the organization, he got the job with the Patriots. Keim loved the chemistry he had working with Licht that one season, however, and worked to find a way to get Licht back in Arizona. The way the jobs are filling up, it doesn’t look — despite that end-of-the-season conjecture — that Licht (below, left, with Keim) will be getting a general manager promotion anywhere. That means he will continue to work with the Cards’ new GM, Keim (perhaps, and this is conjecture too, with a promotion of his own) and that makes the Cards’ new boss very happy.

“I think if we have our say so he will be here,” Keim said. “Jason is a huge asset for us. Obviously we all know that he was the runner-up for the Bears GM job last year. I see him as a GM in his own right. I lean on Jason daily on a lot of different things. He is a talented, talented evaluator. He has got strong opinions.

“Sometimes he and I get in his office, we look at our roster, we look at our board and we don’t quite get into a full MMA match, but we have some disagreements. But I think that is a good thing, he is not afraid to tell me his opinion and I am not afraid to tell him mine. I think it is good to have some variances in grades and, like I said, at the end of the day when you have variances of opinion, it helps shake things out in the end and it is productive.”

Jason isn’t a small man, but I don’t know if I’d want to get into an MMA match with Keim. That said, it’s a good relationship that should benefit the Cardinals as they embark in this new version of the front office.

KeimLichtUSE


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Gruden planned as coaching candidate

Posted by Darren Urban on January 6, 2013 – 6:44 pm

The Cardinals confirmed Sunday they plan to interview Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden this week for their vacant head coaching position. Gruden had success grooming second-round 2011 pick Andy Dalton at quarterback, as the Bengals made the playoffs in each of Dalton’s first two seasons. The Bengals’ offense did struggle Saturday in its playoff loss at Houston, although the Texans do have a tough defense.

(Again, no confusion here: This is Jay Gruden, not ESPN announcer/former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, who is, in fact, Jay’s brother.)

Gruden becomes the fourth known candidate (fifth total, although Andy Reid never interviewed). Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was Saturday’s interview. Todd Haley still is on the radar, although no known interview has been set up as yet. And there is Ray Horton.

McCoy did spend Sunday with lengthy interviews with the Eagles and Bears. Reportedly, the Eagles want to talk to Gruden. Horton remains a candidate with the Browns, who reportedly have moved on from trying to get Oregon coach Chip Kelly.

The Cards are still looking for a general manager. They have already interviewed in-house candidate Steve Keim and the Redskins’ Morocco Brown. I’d think that decision would come sooner rather than later. We will see.

For perspective on the coach search, let’s look at the last time the Cards hired a coach. Denny Green was fired Jan. 1, 2007. Ken Whisenhunt was hired Jan. 13.


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Bears aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 23, 2012 – 8:25 pm

One more to go. No more at home. And as I write this the 49ers-Seahawks game is on in the background, and the Seahawks continue to look like the real deal –while the Niners are, one way or the other, going to need that game next week against the Cardinals. Once there was thought it could be about resting. Not anymore. That’s going to make it even more of a difficult finale for the Cards.

Who will coach Ken Whisenhunt go with at quarterback? My money is on Brian Hoyer but since it’s not really my money, who knows. I thought Hoyer looked decent and surprisingly comfortable out there, although he didn’t produce any points and still threw an interception. No one is sitting there saying he’s the answer and the likelihood he’s a long-term solution is small, but again, it’s about looking at every option because, well, why wouldn’t you?

– Seems like forever ago the Cards last blocked a field goal, and then Adrian Wilson got one that Justin Bethel turned into points (below). Fitting that it came at the end of Wilson’s game, which could be his final one at UoP? Well, Wilson wasn’t in the mood to go there. Not really.

Wilson was asked about that final game. “I haven’t thought about it one bit, until (the media) continuously bring it up,” Wilson said. “If they make a decision, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be pretty quick. If they don’t, OK. Either way I go, I’m a good player. We’ll see what happens.”

– Whisenhunt noted that the pick-6s are really hurting the Cards. After Sunday’s TD by the Bears’ Charles Tillman, the Cards have given up five of them this season – way too many. As for trying to find a QB, “it’s not fun, but we keep working at it,” Whisenhunt said.

– The relationship between Whiz and running back Beanie Wells probably wasn’t helped by Beanie’s fumble on his own 1-yard line, which was recovered by the Bears for a touchdown. Beanie slipped – that happens – but he dropped the ball as he slipped without being hit. He got a talking-to by Whisenhunt afterward.

Whiz said he couldn’t explain it. “From what I saw, obviously you can’t put the ball on the ground, especially not there,” Whisenhunt said. Beanie said he didn’t get hurt on the play, and as for what Whiz told him, “It is what it is,” Wells said. “Who knows how it’s going to turn out from here.”

– How it turned out Sunday was that Wells got exactly one more carry the rest of the game as the Cards instead used LaRod Stephens-Howling and William Powell at running back. Beanie noted that everyone on the Cards is “fighting for jobs, whether it’s going to be here or somewhere else.” Wells is under contract for 2013 and with a lot of uncertainty (Ryan Williams health, Stephens-Howling free agency) the Cards wouldn’t just let him go even if they wanted to make a change. But it’s fair to wonder about Wells’ future.

– Given the Cards’ offense, I really didn’t have an issue trying a fake punt. Not sure I’d be comfortable with Feely rolling left, but really, with that offense, you aren’t expecting many points. Field goals weren’t going to do it.

– I know ultimately it came too little too late, but it was nice to see Fitz get more than 100 yards, and it was nice to see some accurate passes thrown in his direction.

– Dave Zastudil, current NFL record holder. Can he hold on to his two-punts-downed-inside-the-20 lead over Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt and keep that record? Who says there won’t be Week 17 suspense?

OK. A normal Monday coming up, even if it is Christmas Eve. We’ll be working it, and then enjoying the holiday. Hope you all do too. One more to go in the 2012 season.

BearsAfterUSE


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Friday before the Bears

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2012 – 3:52 pm

Here’s one benefit of playing the Lions and Bears in back-to-back weeks: The blueprint was already there for the defense, after covering Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, to deal with the Bears’ Brandon Marshall. Johnson has been a beast this season, no question, but Marshall has been fairly beastly himself, with 107 catches, 1,398 yards and 10 touchdowns already himself.

Now, that doesn’t mean the Cards will necessarily give Marshall the “vice” look they gave Johnson at times last week – when Johnson was in the slot, safety Kerry Rhodes and cornerback William Gay would basically double-team him at the line, like Johnson was a gunner on punt coverage. But who knows? We could see it again. It’ll be fun to watch this defense regardless, against a struggling offensive line and against a quarterback who has shown he can be harassed into bad decisions.

– We do know we’ll see Patrick Peterson on Marshall , as Peterson keeps making his late-season push. I don’t think he’s getting double-digit picks, but he’s closer than I thought he’d get earlier in the season. He also talked a little this week about his confidence which is obvious.

“All the good corners have confidence in their ability to go out and make plays for their team,” Peterson said. “I believe the confidence started in high school. It was something my Dad always instilled in me growing up – ‘Always be confident in your ability, confident in what you are doing at all times.’ Not cocky. There is definitely a difference.

“I’m not a guy who’s going to go out and boast and brag about my ability, but if I feel like I am doing something better than another guy or doing something at the top level, I’ll definitely let you guys know.”

Peterson added, in a question about whether he was the best in the game, “I believe I am playing at a top level right now.”

– Both Rashad Johnson (hamstring) and James Sanders (calf) returned to practice on a limited basis Friday for the first time this week. Both are questionable. I would guess at least one will play Sunday, if not both, but starter Adrian Wilson could get more playing time, defensive coordinator Ray Horton said.

“There’s never been a question of Adrian’s ability,” said Horton, although Wilson has lost snaps since the bye. Horton said Friday part of the reason for that was to reward the good play of Johnson and Sanders.

Nevertheless, Wilson understands – as do many – there is a chance this could be Wilson’s final home game Sunday, with his future with the team murky right now. Horton was asked about calling the blitz last weekend that got Wilson the sack he needed to reach the 25-25 club.

“I was aware of where he was in the (historical rankings) in the league and it was a perfect opportunity to do it,” Horton said. “It was kind of called for him.”

– If the Cardinals win Sunday, it will be Ken Whisenhunt’s 50th victory as Cardinals’ head coach including playoffs.

– Given the problems with the Bears’ offensive line and the way the 49ers play offense, this might be the week linebacker Daryl Washington wants to get that elusive 10th sack of the season. Time is running out for him to his double-digits.

– Nothing official, but yes, I expect the roof open Sunday.

– Don’t know what’s going to happen with quarterback Brian Hoyer. I still think he ends up active in one of the final two games, if not both. Does that mean he plays? Not necessarily. Whisenhunt made it plain he wouldn’t change things up and jeopardize winning just to look at Hoyer, so my guess would be if a game got out of hand, then he might be willing to test-drive the new guy. But again, he’s got to be active for that to happen. Which likely means John Skelton would be made inactive.

– While Sunday’s game doesn’t kick off until 2:25 p.m., the plaza at University of Phoenix Stadium will open early, at 10:45 a.m., so fans can get through screening. The stadium still does not open until 90 minutes prior to kickoff for non-premium seat holders, but food and beverage options will be available on the plaza, in addition to entertainment at Gate 2. Anyone with food or beverage purchased on the plaza can bring it into the stadium when the doors open.

We come to the end of another home schedule. Seems like we were just showing up for that Seahawks game in early September. Back then, Ryan Williams, Kevin Kolb and Lyle Sendlein were still around (playing, I mean) and so were hopes for the season. Now the Cards just want to finish above  .500 at UoP.

Bearsb4blogUSE


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Punt return royalty seeks to regain shine

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2012 – 1:28 pm

Two of the four players in NFL history who have four punt return touchdowns in a season will be returning punts Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“I think it’s going to be fun, having Devin Hester on one end and Patrick Peterson on the other,” Peterson said. “I believe that calls for a good show.”

Whether it actually produces anything remains to be seen. Both Peterson and Hester have been quiet this season on punt returns. Hester has averaged just nine yards on 34 tries, with a long of 44. His average is well below his career average of 12.3 yards a return. Peterson, of course, has also been slowed. He has an average of 8.6 yards on 47 tries (and has lost three fumbles). Neither Peterson or Hester has a touchdown this season.

Peterson has talked a few times about trying to break out on punt returns. But he is playing well at cornerback, and the always confident Peterson will not sway from his belief the big punt return will still come.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Peterson said. “At the end of the day the Arizona Cardinals drafted me to be a defensive back. The punt returns are a plus. When my opportunities comes, I will try my best and I want to break one. But teams now are so dialed in, when (number) 21 has the ball in his hands, bottle him up on the sideline and if you don’t, have all 11 hats to the ball.”

– Wide receiver Early Doucet (concussion) and newcomer offensive lineman Mike Gibson (calf) — who apparently got hurt in practice this week after re-signing — are both out Sunday. The Cardinals have a bunch of players questionable, although both safeties Rashad Johnson and James Sanders were upgraded to limited Friday. In addition to those two, the questionable list includes T Nate Potter, FB Anthony Sherman, LB Quentin Groves, TE Rob Housler, DE Ronald Talley and NT Dan Williams.

The Bears will be without LB Brian Urlacher. DT Henry Melton is doubtful. Questionable are NFL interceptions leader Tim Jennings, LB Blake Costanzo, WR Earl Bennett and T Jonathan Scott.

PPPuntReturnUSE

 


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