As I was driving to work this morning, it occurred to me that there can’t be too many times when a team undergoes the kind of score swing from one week to the next that the Cardinals had these past two weeks. After losing in Seattle, 58-0, they beat the Lions, 38-10. That’s a swing margin of 86 points. So, with a hat tip to media relations stats guru Mike Helm, Elias was able to confirm that it was the biggest swing from week to week since 1968.
That year, the Lions opened the season with a 59-13 loss in Dallas and then followed up with a 42-0 home win over the Bears — a swing of 88 points. From blown out to blowout. The first part of that isn’t ideal, but better than back-to-back losses. (It actually happens more than I thought. The Giants blew out the Saints, 52-27, last week and then lost, 34-0, to the Falcons this week. Not in the same points ballpark, but the same concept.)
– Speaking of media relations mavens, VP Mark Dalton noted the last time safety Rashad Johnson scored a touchdown before Sunday was when he returned an interception for a 54-yard score while playing for Alabama Nov. 8, 2008 in a win at LSU. You know who also had a pick-6 in that game? LSU freshman Patrick Peterson. Too bad Peterson could complete the circle of life when he stumbled at the end of his interception return Sunday.
– Punter Dave Zastudil has 38 punts downed inside the 20-yard line with two games to go. He is on pace to eclipse the NFL record of 42, held by three players, including the Cards’ Ben Graham in 2009. Zastudil has been fantastic this season. Of course, he isn’t even leading the league, since Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt already has 41 downed inside the 20. It’s a race to the finish!
– The 25.5 sacks of defensive end Calais Campbell in his career already puts him in the top 10 in franchise history. I don’t know if he’s ever going to reach the top — Freddie Joe Nunn’s 66 is a long way away, especially for a 3-4 end — but if he stays consistent there is no reason to think Campbell doesn’t at least double his total over the next three seasons.
– The Cards flip-flopped their Saturday roster move, releasing defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin — they must expect Dan Williams and/or Ronald Talley back this week — and re-signing guard/center Mike Gibson.
Tags: Ben Graham, Calais Campbell, Dave Zastudil, Dustin Colquitt, Mark Dalton, Mike Gibson, Mike Helm, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Ricky Lumpkin
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The Cardinals have brought punter Ben Graham back, although it’s because the man who replaced him, Dave Zastudil, is suffering from some inflammation of the knee that cropped up late in the Giants’ game. The Cards want to make sure they have a healthy punter available this week in case Zastudil can’t go.
Zastudil’s issues Sunday were well-chronicled — his final punt was a line-drive 40-yarder that was returned 18 yards, helping set up the Giants’ game-winning drive, although his knee (the Cards didn’t say which) may have been bothering him by then. Zastudil did have his right knee surgically repaired during the 2009 season and he ended up missing all of the 2010 season because it wasn’t quite ready (leading to his leaving his howmtown Browns). Zastudil averaged 45 yards a kick Sunday and is averaging 44.5 yards for the season (with a 36.0 net average).
Graham was released in final cuts in favor of Zastudil, who had been signed late in training camp. To make room for Graham, the Cardinals released cornerback Korey Lindsey, who was re-signed to the practice squad. To make room there, the Cards released safety Mark LeGree.
I know many have been hoping Graham would come back. But this figures to be short-term until Zastudil’s return to health. I’m sure we will have a chance to catch up with Ben after practice (as well as coach Ken Whisenhunt). We can hear Graham’s thoughts on the business of the NFL.
Tags: Ben Graham, Dave Zastudil, Korey Lindsey
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You know what I thought of when I watched Kevin Kolb launch one down the field and connect perfectly with Larry Fitzgerald for that 80-yard touchdown bomb Saturday night? Not the Super Bowl catch (comon — no matter how pretty, the stakes were so dramatically different. There weren’t stakes in this game). Not even the one-time Kurt Warner-to-Fitz combo — Kurt liked to spread it around so much.
No, what I thought of was this entire last month. If we have learned anything about Kolb since he arrived it’s that he understands that a) Fitz likes the ball; b) Fitz can get the ball most of the time if it is anywhere close; and c) good things tend to happen when Fitz has the ball. We will see what happens when teams start gameplanning more to defend Fitz, but it’s hard to think that, assuming both Kolb and Fitz are healthy, Fitz is going to have anything but a monster year statistically.
Offensively, the Cards showed some pop. Beanie Wells is running as well as he did late in his rookie season. That’s a good thing, because that’s when I thought he was about to be a 1,200-yard back. The line is giving Kolb some protection. There’s a long way to go, but it’s easy to see how this team could score some points when it finally clicks — because at this point, they say they are not.
“I know we had some incompletions early, but a few of them were miscommunications,” Kolb said. “That’s going to happen … The biggest thing is starting early and then when we get in that red zone, making it count. That’s still an issue of ours going forward.”
– All this concern about stretching the field. Fitzgerald looked pretty fast on that 80-yard catch and then No. 2 Andre Roberts split the seam pretty well on that 34-yard reverse for a touchdown (shown below). “I want people to respect my speed,” Roberts said with a grin. “They call me slow. Maybe plays like that will help it out a little bit.”
– Funny how people were wondering about Patrick Peterson and his lack of impact and then he gets a Pick-6. Make no mistake, he’s a work-in-progress. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the Chargers were kind of picking on him later in the half, Peterson insisted “it wasn’t pick-on-Peterson night.” Whatever the case, he is still learning. He insists he isn’t frustrated with how he is being handled. I’ll say this: He sure sounds like he has the perfect attitude. At some point — sooner rather than later — he is going to be a star. I really believe that.
– The Cards may need him sooner, depending on how bad the sprain is of starter Greg Toler. That could hurt in the short-term, and just ratchets up the importance of how A.J. Jefferson has played.
– I still think Dan Williams will be the starting nose tackle. But rookie David Carter is going to push for that job. Both have to play anyway. Whiz said Carter got cut blocked on Ryan Mathews’ 48-yard run and he has to find a way to plug the middle. But overall Carter is making a strong push. At this rate, he will be the pleasant surprise of camp.
– Speaking of making pushes, Rich Bartel is pushing John Skelton as backup QB. Bartel talked the other day about seizing opportunity. Then he completes 8-of-10 passes and tosses a TD. Save for that one bad INT in Green Bay, he seems to have made every other decision the right way this preseason.
– Kolb threw a block on Roberts’ run. I’m not sure that’s a smart thing. The coaches don’t think so, apparently. “My job is what I call ‘Push and pester,’ ” Kolb said. “I’m just trying to get in the way of somebody.” Just, please, stay safe when doing it.
– Peterson looked good on a punt return. Whiz said PP was back there because Roberts has a sore thumb. The way Peterson runs them back, it may be hard to not have him back there, even if Roberts’ thumb is golden.
– Ben Graham was the only Card to punt. He sure seemed to respond well to the signing of Dave Zastudil. Graham averaged 41.3 yards on four punts, dropping three inside the San Diego 20 and netting 48 yards on his other kick. He’s not going anywhere if he performs like that.
– Would’ve liked to see running back Alfonso Smith. Hamstring soreness kept him out. I’ll be curious to know if he can play in the fourth game at all.
OK, it’s late — very late — and I’m tired. Time to wrap this up. Short week before the Broncos come in Thursday. First cuts — from 90 to 80 — have to be done by Tuesday. I’d expect Monday. Then the final cut to 53 comes next weekend sometime. It will be interesting.
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Andre Roberts, Beanie Wells, Ben Graham, Chargers, Dan Williams, Dave Zastudil, David Carter, Greg Toler, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Richard Bartel
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The Cardinals wanted Brodie Croyle at quarterback because he did come from Todd Haley’s system, and there are similarities with that and what the Cards run. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the Cards waived-injured Max Hall because it was the only way they could have any chance of bringing Hall back this season. They can injury settle with Hall and then re-sign him down the road. Will it happen/be necessary? Well, if there is an injury, I could see wanting to turn back to Hall. Otherwise, I’m not sure it would happen.
As for Croyle, with two games in five days (the Cards play Saturday and again Thursday), they need someone who didn’t come in completely cold. It’s not like they are bringing him in just because of that, Whisenhunt said, but it was a major factor. “We did have good grades on him coming out,” Whiz said.
Croyle (pictured below at his first practice this morning) doesn’t know what to expect. “I will come in and hopefully play well and we will see what happens,” Croyle said, adding that he hopes to see some time against the Chargers Saturday. “I’d like to but we will see. It wouldn’t be the ideal situation, but you play when you can. I’ll take reps when I can get them.”
Starting quarterback Kevin Kolb was asked about seeing the Chargers this weekend and then the Panthers — who are led by new head coach and former San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera — opening weekend, and whether he can glean anything from it. Kolb actually weaved in the arrival of Croyle, and the Haley tie. “We said to Brodie, ‘Is this pretty similar?’ And he’s like, ‘Ehhh …’ ” Kolb said. “Coaches want to change their stuff. You can’t get caught up thinking you’ll be seeing the same things.”
– Whisenhunt said it was “competition” for incumbent punter Ben Graham as to why the Cards signed veteran Dave Zastudil. Punting, Whisenhunt said, was one of many areas that needed to be improved from 2010. In 2009, Graham was fantastic, but the team played to his strengths — the offense gained so many yards they were often near or beyond the 50, able to let Graham pin teams deep. When the offense struggles and Graham is forced to kick deep, he can drive it long, but the hang time allows for bigger returns.
– Kolb avoided a high-speed accident Tuesday night — he swerved on his Segway so he didn’t hit a skunk. That would have been a disaster. Whisenhunt said he’s dodged a few skunks in camp himself.
– Someone asked Kolb if he would get butterflies before his first home game. He said he gets butterflies before practice. “I take this game serious,” he said, and it was hard not to flash back to the Cardinals quarterback of last season. “I get amped up and ready to go, practice, preseason whatever it is,” Kolb added.
– Kolb said he was going to play into the third quarter. Whisenhunt would not commit to that, but did say it was a possibility. Playing into the third would allow Kolb to come out and play after halftime, which is always good for the starter to go through. Kolb joked that that was a big reason to look forward to this game, learning stuff like that. He doesn’t even know where the stadium is yet.
– S Adrian Wilson will not be pushed to come back. If anything, the Cards will be conservative with him. But it was good to get him back on the field, Whisenhunt said. “The common phrase for defensive players is ‘Getting their eyes right,’ ” Whiz said. “Getting in there with the speed of the game and in the right position. You can stand back and watch, but it is different when things are full-speed and you’re the one on the hook.”
– Tight end Stephen Spach (calf) and quarterback John Skelton (ankle) are making “good progress.” What that means practice-wise or game-wise is TBD.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Ben Graham, Brodie Croyle, Dave Zastudil, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Max Hall, Stephen Spach
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The debate over whether Max Hall could make it back to the Cardinals’ roster is over for this year. After suffering a subluxed left shoulder in practice Monday, Hall was waived-injured Wednesday. If Hall clears waivers, he ends up on injured reserve.
The Cardinals did end up signing veteran quarterback Brodie Croyle to fill the third quarterback spot, with John Skelton still sidelined with a right ankle sprain. They also signed veteran punter Dave Zastudil to battle Ben Graham. The other move to make roster room was to release undrafted rookie free agent tackle Jake Vermiglio.
Zastudil kicked for the Ravens and Browns from 2002-2009, missing all of last season with — coincidentally, given the events with running back Ryan Williams — a torn patella tendon in his plant leg. Zastudil has averaged 42.7 yards a punt in his career.
As for Croyle, I wouldn’t expect him to be able to beat out Rich Bartel or Skelton. He’ll be around for the balance of camp. Maybe he can show something in the final two weeks, but it will be difficult.
Tags: Ben Graham, Brodie Croyle, Dave Zastudil, John Skelton, Max Hall, Rich Bartel, Ryan Williams
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Second-round pick Ryan Williams agreed to his rookie contract today, a four-year deal for the running back that gets all the rookies finally signed. I would guess running back Tim Hightower is going to sign his tender offer sooner rather than later too.
– Multiple reports have put the name of WR Braylon Edwards back on the radar screen for the Cards. His name has surfaced and resurfaced a couple of times. He definitely isn’t going back to the Jets after Plaxico Burress signed. Edwards has former teammates like Jay Feely, Kerry Rhodes and Ben Graham here, he’s got a stud receiver in Larry Fitzgerald to take the heat off him, and, let’s face it, the market clearly hasn’t been what he thought it would be for him. To sign Edwards would continue the drastic revamping of the offense in just a matter of days (although let’s be clear — Edwards-to-Arizona is no sure thing).
– We are unveiling part of the camp coverage video-wise today with “Camp Unfiltered.” Here’s how the concept was explained to me: “A ‘raw’ inside look at different aspects of practice and the team.” The first installment puts the spotlight on catching punts.
– A happy birthday to owner Bill Bidwill, who turned 80 today. And while we are on the subject of birthdays — indulge me for a moment — I wanted to note my grandfather, Ray Urban, turned 100 yesterday, and I was lucky enough to be there.
Tags: Ben Graham, Bill Bidwill, Jay Feely, Kerry Rhodes, Larry Fitzgerald, Plaxico Burress
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Slowly, information has come out on a handful of Cards’ early moves here in this tiny 2011 offseason. Again, because contracts can’t be signed until Friday afternoon, no official announcements are being made on free agents. But through multiple reports, it came out that the Cards had agreed to a deal with former Carolina tight end Jeff King, a good blocker who fits well the mold of what coach Ken Whisenhunt wants in a tight end. Stephen Spach is also expected to return, so with draft pick Rob Housler and holdover Jim Dray, we know what the position is going to look like in camp (and it doesn’t include Todd Heap or Zach Miller).
Kicker Jay Feely also reported on Twitter that punter Ben Graham has agreed to re-sign, although I expect the Cards to bring in another punter to compete with Graham in camp.
As for the QB situation, news is still on hold. Reports have Denver’s Kyle Orton possibly to going to Miami. With Matt Hasselbeck going to Tennessee, it seems it will be an upset if Kevin Kolb doesn’t end up in Arizona. For what price, it is uncertain. The song for QB musical chairs is about to stop however.
P.S. A quick training camp note: The Walkup Skydome is in the middle of renovations in Flagstaff, and while the Cardinals will still be able to practice inside if there is rain, fans will not be able to go in to watch practice. Something to keep in mind.
Tags: Ben Graham, free agency, Jay Feely, Jeff King, Jim Dray, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton, Matt Hasselbeck, Rob Housler, Stephen Spach
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Regardless of the status of the CBA, the Cardinals have a chunk of players whose contracts will expire whenever the league year ends. What that means for free agency is uncertain because the CBA will address those rules. But as an FYI, here is a list of the current Cardinals who will have their contract run out this offseason. If a player has an asterisk, he has at least four accrued seasons in the NFL:
- FB Nehemiah Broughton
- RB Tim Hightower
- FB Reagan Maui’a
- RB Jason Wright*
- WR Max Komar
- WR Steve Breaston*
- WR Early Doucet
- TE Ben Patrick
- TE Stephen Spach
- T D’Anthony Batiste
- C Ben Claxton
- G Alan Faneca*
- T Brandon Keith
- G Deuce Lutui*
- C Lyle Sendlein*
- DL Alan Branch*
- DL Keilen Dykes
- DE Kenny Iwebema
- DL Bryan Robinson*
- DT Gabe Watson*
- LB Curtis Gatewood
- LB Cyril Obiozor
- LB Reggie Walker
- S Hamza Abdullah
- CB Michael Adams
- CB Trumaine McBride
- S Matt Ware*
- P Ben Graham*
Tags: Alan Branch, Alan Faneca, Ben Claxton, Ben Graham, Ben Patrick, Brandon Keith, Bryan Robinson, Curtis Gatewood, Cyril Obiozor, D'Anthony Batiste, Deuce Lutui, Early Doucet, free agency, Gabe Watson, Hamza Abdullah, Jason Wright, Keilen Dykes, Kenny Iwebema, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Ware, Max Komar, Michael Adams, Nehemiah Broughton, Reagan Maui'a, Reggie Walker, Stephen Spach, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower, Trumaine McBride
Posted in Blog | 61 Comments »
The penalty flag was thrown, and suddenly, I thought of Leonard Davis. No, not because big Len was on the other sideline for the Cowboys. Because I remember a sweaty September day at Sun Devil Stadium in 2005, when the Cards had reached the Rams’ 5-yard line down five points in the waning seconds. A comeback win was within reach – except Davis was called for a false start with seven seconds left. The Cards had no timeouts left, and by rule, that meant a 10-second runoff. It meant a very difficult way to lose a chance to win.
So that’s what I was thinking when the flag came out Saturday night, when the Cards had finally made it to the Dallas 25-yard line down two points. A spike, a penalty, oh God. I wasn’t the only one. Players were headed to the locker room, for goodness sake.
QB John Skelton said he didn’t know what was going on, deferring to center Lyle Sendlein, who was already barking at the officials. Sendlein said he didn’t have anything to offer other than insist there were more than the 10 seconds that were displayed on the stadium clock. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was planning to argue the same.
You can’t hear anything down on the field, although I did hear “10-second runoff.” Turns out all the ref was saying was that there would not be a runoff. Since all the players were set on the illegal formation (and not, in Davis’ long-ago case, a false start) it just cost the Cards five yards. The runoff is to prevent a team from having a penalty in order to stop the clock. Since the Cards did pull off a proper spike – again, with everyone set, even if they weren’t in the right spots – it didn’t cost them time.
And for Jay Feely, what’s another five yards?
– Holder Ben Graham did a great job pulling down a slightly high snap on the game-winning field goal.
– If you would’ve told me the Cards would win when Larry Fitzgerald would have one catch and Steve Breaston none, I’d have laughed. Fitz insisted he wasn’t frustrated. Hmmm. I am going to guess he was trying to be nice when he said that. That said, I know he was thrilled to get the win and the frustration eased considerably when Feely’s field goal split the uprights.
– Watching the replay of the game right now, the most amazing part of Fitz’s late catch is that he was drilled – helmet to helmet? – on a first-down incompletion three plays earlier and cameras caught Fitz blinking his eyes and shaking his head, as if to clear cobwebs.
– In terms of Breaston, a very odd situation. I thought there was a chance he was hurt at some point, enough so that they limited his snaps. But no. Whisenhunt said he used rookie Andre Roberts more because of blocking schemes and “we try to spell (Breaston)” more, but again, it was odd to see Breaston on the sideline and Roberts in. Roberts had a very good game, but again, just struck me as odd. The free-agent-to-be didn’t have one pass thrown his way.
– The Cardinals had a season-high five sacks, getting a decent amount of pressure when they just rushed four. For a second straight game, they used a lot of four-down linemen. It was generally effective. I’m sure it was in part because Joey Porter was out and the team didn’t have a plethora of trustworthy linebackers for a 3-4 alignment, so they tinkered. But it worked.
– Here’s a stat I heard on the radio on the way home tonight: Since 2008, there had been 75 pass plays in the NFL on fourth down needing at least 15 yards for a first down. The number of conversions? Eight. Kinda glad John Skelton didn’t know that before throwing the dart to Fitz.
– I mentioned this a couple of times on Twitter, but given the grief running back Beanie Wells has gotten for his blocking, the excellent blitz pickup he provided on the 74-yard TD pass from Skelton to Roberts was key.
– That was the Cards’ ninth TD pass. They have nine non-offensive return TDs. The battle will go down to the final game.
– DRC and Greg Toler get Pick-6s. Amazing. It’s been simple this year really. Five wins – at St. Louis, Oakland, New Orleans, Denver, Dallas. Except for the Rams game, and in that one the defense forced a bunch of turnovers, the Cards win because of those return TDs.
That’s enough. It’s 1:30 a.m. I’ve outlasted Christmas. But what a Christmas for the Cards.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Beanie Wells, Ben Graham, Cowboys, DRC, Greg Toler, Jay Feely, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Leonard Davis, Lyle Sendlein, Steve Breaston
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Some Cardinals stuff to keep you entertained over the next few days that wasn’t created by me (although make sure you keep reading my work … no slacking):
– The Big Red Rage is tonight at Majerle’s at Chandler Fashion Center at 6 p.m. Adrian Wilson’s guest is fellow safety Kerry Rhodes, who has been on a hot streak (and is making plays, which happens to be the subject of my story on the homepage later today). You can attend live, or listen live on Sports 620 KTAR.
– foxsportsarizona.com’s Craig Morgan wrote a good story on LB Joey Porter and his lack of impact thus far (a subject I know many of you have been, let’s say, noticing). Porter: “Trust me, I’m beating myself up every day because I watch myself on film. I’m so used to being in a position to make plays. It’s what I’ve done my whole career, so when you go through a stretch like this where you haven’t been able to make impact plays, you start to wonder ‘What are you doing wrong?’ ”
– As promised, ESPN.com’s Elizabeth Merrill has her own detailed account of quarterback Max Hall, with some good anecdotes from his college days.
– The new Cardinals Underground podcast was posted yesterday.
– This week’s edition of Maximum Cardinals, which will air on Ch. 12 (KPNX/NBC) Saturday after the Notre Dame game (approximately 3:15/3:30 p.m.) at 4 p.m. (thanks, Nate) and again Sunday morning at 6:30, features a piece on punter Ben Graham and a conversation about Hall I had with his uncle, former NFL quarterback Danny White, while White watched a practice earlier this week.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Ben Graham, Big Red Rage, Danny White, Joey Porter, Kerry Rhodes, Max Hall
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