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Friday before the Bears – not shopping

Posted by Darren Urban on September 18, 2015 – 4:12 pm

Two franchises remain from the original NFL that was created in 1920: The Cardinals and the Bears. The Cardinals, by the way, were named for the color of their original jerseys and not the bird. As long as we were talking history, I thought I’d throw that out. All that, of course, was long before now, long before the Cards moved to Arizona and long before any of the players in Sunday’s game were born. Long before their parents were born.

This is about 2015, of course, and the Cardinals’ first road trip of the season.

“We’re not going to shop on Michigan Avenue,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We’re going to play the Bears.”

— On paper, the Cardinals should win this game. Those odds should get better if the Bears are without wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and linebacker BearsCardsUSEPernell McPhee, who both could miss the game. Yes, the Cardinals are without Andre Ellington, but they are actually fairly well equipped to weather that issue.

— Could they weather the absence of safeties Tony Jefferson and Deone Bucannon? Both those guys are game-day decisions with a bad hamstring and groin, respectively. I think they’ll give it a go, but we’ll see how they feel. The way the Cards’ defense works these days, those top four safeties are crucial.

— Then again, if Bucannon can’t go, maybe that means more work for Sean Weatherspoon, since Bucannon plays so much linebacker. No Jefferson, and that could mean more Justin Bethel or more Chris Clemons.

— That picture to the right is from a Bears-Cardinals game in November of 1959. It’s Soldier Field – you can tell by the columns – but the Cardinals were actually the home team in the photo (which is courtesy of the Chicago History Museum; J. Johnson, Jr., photographer.)

— Cornerback or not for Bethel, he will still play special teams, which he did for 26 snaps in the first game – even if he wasn’t happy enough with his key downed punt late in last week’s game.

“The special teams stuff is something I know I still need to do and make plays on,” Bethel said. “I wish I would’ve made a tackle or two. I hate when I go a game and don’t have a tackle, it makes me feel like I had a bad game.”

— The short pass/screen game didn’t go all that well for the Cards’ defense last week. Now they run into a running back in Matt Forte who is the centerpiece of the Bears’ offense. For defensive coordinator James Bettcher, he was confident in the correctable mistakes the Cards made – one cover was on linebacker Alex Okafor, a miss the linebacker insists won’t happen again –and that should start this week.

“Teams are going to get plays,” Bettcher said. “We understand that. When they do, it’s tackle (them) and go on to the next down.”

Said cornerback Patrick Peterson, “We have to get all 11 hats to whoever has the ball.”

— Bettcher did rave about Okafor’s first game, and not because of his two sacks. “I thought there were a couple snaps where he was so violent setting the edge (against the run),” Bettcher said. “You can see that. That’s the first thing that stood out watching the film.”

— Best quote of the week, at least from the Bears locker room: Cornerback Alan Ball, after watching the Cardinals-Saints game, said in total earnestness that Carson Palmer “is at his best moving.”

Palmer’s playing at a high level. That’s not a debate. But I don’t know if I’d say he’s at his best on the move. Palmer made sure he heard correctly when I brought it up. “Frightening,” he said. Even Carson understands a clean pocket is the way for him to go.

— The Bears have moved to a 3-4 defensive alignment this season. It’s going to be weird to see veteran Jared Allen as an outside linebacker.

— Arians decided to weigh in on the proposed Larry Fitzgerald-Darren Fells one-on-one basketball showdown. “I’ve never seen either one of them play, but I could probably take them both,” Arians said with a smile.

“But I ain’t playing for no checks.”

— The last time the Cards were in Chicago for a regular-season game: It was the 2009 season. Kurt Warner threw for five touchdown passes, including a pair to Fitzgerald (Nine catches for 123 yards that day). The Cards dominated.

We’ll see how it plays out Sunday.

BeforeBearsBlogUSE


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Bruce Arians, near-Bears coach

Posted by Darren Urban on September 16, 2015 – 9:49 am

It’s fairly well known by now that Bruce Arians, who was the last coach hired in the hiring-coaches round of 2013, nearly became the Bears’ head coach before he even interviewed with the Cardinals. But the Bears decided to go with Marc Trestman. That obviously turned out well for the Cards and not so well for the Bears, who fired Trestman after last season and have moved on to John Fox.

Arians, of course, has won 21 games in two years with the Cardinals (even without his starting quarterback for 10 games last season) and won Coach of the Year in 2014. Since the two teams are playing each other Sunday, it’s not hard to see why this might be brought up in Chicago, and Arians was asked about it this morning by the Chicago media.

“They were the first ones to put paperwork in for me, first ones I gave an interview to, and I felt very comfortable,” Arians said. “(The Bears) were great. It was a day I thought went very well. They made a decision and I went on with it.”

Asked if he was surprised about not getting an offer from the Bears, Arians acknowledged he had been.

“When I left, I thought I don’t think anything could have been any better throughout the whole day,” Arians said. “I didn’t look back thinking I did anything wrong. It was just their decision.”

Arians said he never did hear from the Bears why they went with Trestman. But he also chuckled when it was pointed out that things have worked out pretty well for Arians.

“I’m just happy they said no,” Arians said to the Arizona media later Wednesday.

BABearsuse

 


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Sam Acho heads to Bears

Posted by Darren Urban on April 1, 2015 – 11:20 am

It was becoming pretty clear the Cardinals were going to move on from linebacker Sam Acho once he hit free agency, but that became official Wednesday when Acho signed a one-year contract with the Bears. Acho flashed as a rookie in 2011 with seven sacks, although never quite found that pass-rush level again. His 2013 was cut way short after he broke his leg. Last season he had 46 tackles and one sack — in the finale — in a reserve role.

There is little question about Acho the human being, however. A better person you won’t find. Any interaction with a fan — and he made sure to do that plenty — led to that fan being his fan. It was nearly impossible to do otherwise. I happened to talk with him a bit at a Suns’ game last month and at the time — right after the initial binge of free agency — Acho said he was probably going to lay low for a bit. At that point, it seemed like his time as a Cardinal had passed, unless he might return post-draft had the team not found a replacement. Now, the Cardinals need to work on building their outside linebacking corps, with the only ones under contract right now Lorenzo Alexander, Alex Okafor, Matt Shaughnessy and LaMarr Woodley. Kareem Martin will also get work there this offseason, but taking one with in the first round of the draft remains a strong possibility.

You can read the farewell statement Acho wrote right here.

Acho, meanwhile, will leave a lot of happy memories with fans in Arizona, like this little girl after a Flagstaff training camp practice in 2012.


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Bowles will be busy this week

Posted by Darren Urban on January 5, 2015 – 2:59 pm

Now that the Cardinals’ season is over, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can begin interviewing with various teams for their head coaching spots. And it sounds like that will make this a busy week.

Multiple reports have Bowles interviewing with the Jets on Wednesday, the Falcons Thursday, the 49ers on Friday and the Bears on Saturday. There are still rumblings that the Bills and Raiders could still ask to interview too. Either way, Bowles would seem to be a good chance to be promoted before too long, but after he signed his extension (which gave him a hefty raise) Bowles can afford to be choosy — which he was always going to be anyway. That’s just who Bowles is.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed both ways,” coach Bruce Arians joked Monday, on one hand hoping his friend and former player gets a head coaching gig and on the other hoping he stays in place.

We still don’t know who would be Arians’ choice to succeed Bowles as defensive coordinator (on staff, could it be Mike Caldwell? James Bettcher? Someone else?) but Arians has said a plan is in place. Now we wait for Bowles to go through the interview process.

Bowlesblogupdate


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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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