Saints aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2010 – 10:47 pm

Let’s just say the bye week is going to be much more enjoyable than expected.

The Cards don’t have a game for two weeks but know they will go to Seattle Oct. 24 no worse than tied for first place in the NFC West, and reside there by themselves tonight. The Rams and 49ers both lost Sunday (the Niners 0-5? Wow) and the Cards are where they should be.

All the ills aren’t cured. It’d be easy to say rookie quarterback Max Hall could have had four turnovers and not just one, since the Cards fell on two fumbles and Hall was fortunate his end zone pass right before his infamous fumble-TD-to-Levi-Brown was picked off.

But you can play that game all day. You think the Saints aren’t sitting back saying, “If we just hadn’t fumbled that ball that Kerry Rhodes returned …” etc, etc? This is football. The bounces sometimes have to go your way.

— Kurt Warner, moments before Rhodes had his game-changing fumble return for a TD, was asked by play-by-play guy Chris Rose about the Cards nursing a 16-13 lead in the fourth quarter. “I’m definitely surprised,” Warner admitted. Me too. But in a good way.

— With two big TD fumble returns in two weeks (and a long INT return in the season opener) for Rhodes, who says the Cards lost the ability to have a playmaking free safety with the ball in his hands when Antrel Rolle left?

He doesn’t do flips in the end zone, but I noticed he brought a little Lambeau Leap action to the north end zone crowd.

— Rhodes is the first Cardinal to have two fumble returns for a TD in one season since the great Leo Sugar in 1957. No, can’t say I knew of him either.

— Running back Beanie Wells wore a wide smile when he walked off the field. “Today,” he said, “we ran it.” Beanie only had 35 yards but he had a career-high 20 carries (compared to four for Tim Hightower). I asked coach Ken Whisenhunt if there was a reason the Cards went so heavy with Beanie today and Whiz said “Not really,” but obviously Beanie was thrilled.

— Wells had a fumble Sunday that wasn’t noticed much. It was his last carry on the drive in which Jay Feely booted his final field goal for a 16-13 lead. The ball bounced right back to him, but it was could have been disaster.

— I’m sure I’ll be writing about Hall – again – this week. But let’s say it was a good start. He wasn’t going to rip it up. But everyone can see why he engenders such confidence by the way he played. Was he a little crazy to barrel in toward the end zone on the play in which he was drilled and knocked woozy? I mean, didn’t he see Michael Vick get hurt on the same kind of play?

You know what? I still liked it. So did TD-scorer Levi Brown. “He’s a tough little guy,” Brown said. “He’s trying to gain respect of the team and I think he has it now. He doesn’t need to do that anymore. But he’s trying to make plays.”

— Here are some stats for the Cards’ defense to put on the résumé: The Saints had 13 snaps in the red zone Sunday. They gained 22 yards. Drew Brees threw eight passes, completing just three for all of two yards. And there was a false start in there.

— Cards are 3-2 under Whisenhunt for a fourth straight year. They have never been 2-3 under Whiz. And that’s nine straight times the Cards have followed a loss with a win.

— I feel bad special teams didn’t get more props today. The Hyphen has 60- and 48-yard kickoff returns to start, punter Ben Graham pinned the Saints deep a few times (including the effort by Michael Adams to down it at the 1 just before the Paris Lenon interception) and Andre Roberts looked solid on punt returns. Feely simply kicked all his field goals. A great day for Kevin Spencer’s charges.

— Special teams killed the Saints, especially the miss of the 29-yard field goal by veteran John Carney. That was the Saints’ last chance to lead (it was 13-13 at the time). After the Sebastian Janikowski easy miss last home game, maybe there is a such thing as field-goal defense even without a block.

“It gave us momentum when they missed the field goal, gives you that spark,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “The big thing, it was getting pressure, getting a push. The kicker he sees us and maybe he adjusts his kick a little bit if we get our hands up. I think our crowd gets in the heads a little bit. They are loud. That was I thought as loud as I’ve heard it since the NFC Championship game.”

— DRC must love Breast Cancer Awareness games. His last two INT returns for TDs came in that game – sporting pink today and last year too in his game-winning pick-6 at UoP Stadium against Houston.

— Larry Fitzgerald had his best game today of the season (seven catches for 93 yards, including a spectacular grab over the middle while being facemasked) but take away the catches and Fitz was just as clutch. Fitz was the one who broke up the near-interception by Malcolm Jenkins in the first half to give Levi his chance, Fitz grabbed the Saints’ try at an onside kick, and he also saved the Cards when Ben Patrick fumbled in the last few moments and the Saints managed to keep it from going out of bounds.

OK, that’s plenty. I write this while watching the game on DVR (Fitz is just getting the onside kick now). A big win. A lot of season to go. But at the bye, 3-2 sounds pretty good.

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Whiz the day after

Posted by Darren Urban on September 20, 2010 – 12:52 pm

The message coming from Ken Whisenhunt a day after the loss to Atlanta is even-keeled, so if you’re looking for the fire-and-brimstone attack, ain’t happening.

— There were no significant injuries in the game, he said, at least none that will cause any missed time.

— On RB Beanie Wells playing this week: “I can’t say I am confident he will play. I am certainly optimistic he will play, but he has to show me in practice this week.” Wells has done very little football-wise since hurting his knee in the preseason finale Sept. 2.

— Whisenhunt still thinks QB Derek Anderson is improving. And he insists the problems in the passing game are not even close to being only the fault of the quarterback. He pointed out the missed seam throw to TE Ben Patrick came when Anderson had a pass rusher around his legs.

— He said rookie NT Dan Williams had a couple alignment errors but that he is pleased with Williams thus far.

— It was Kenny Iwebema on the hold on the Hyphen’s KOR for a touchdown. It was away from the play and probably didn’t impact the runback, Whisenhunt said, but that it was clearly a hold and a good call.

— Using Steve Breaston as a punt returner was a decision based on the matchup. Falcons punter Michael Koenen is famous for high hang time with little return yardage, so Whisenhunt simply wanted someone who could safely catch the ball in the dome since there wouldn’t be much chance for returns. It’ll be interesting to see who is back there for the Raiders’ game, since Oakland just has the best punter in the league — Shane Lechler.

— Larry Fitzgerald “looked strong,” a very good sign as Fitz comes back from the knee injury. Fitzgerald obviously looked better than Week One.

— As for the 0-for-8 on third downs, “on every one I could point to someone different,” Whisenhunt said. For example, there was a pass to an open Hyphen but Hyphen didn’t get his head around fast enough and the ball bounced off him.

I’ll have more in a story in a bit.

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Falcons aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2010 – 9:58 pm

Well, at least no one got hurt.

There are bumps and bruises, I am sure – Derek Anderson owns a handful, I’d guess – but the last thing the Cards wanted to come out Sunday’s loss was injury to go with their insult. This team avoided the road blowouts last year. Didn’t happen this year.

But that’s the thing today. Are the Cards going to make this a fluky weekend? Or is there a chance we are going to see this again? The Cards want to believe the former. They will get a chance to prove it.

— I’ll be honest – with the Cards’ defensive line, I didn’t think they could get torn up on the ground the way they did. What was more surprising is that once Michael Turner got hurt, Jason Snelling – essentially the Falcons’ third-string back – piled up the yards. Obviously, that can’t happen. Neither Calais Campbell or Darnell Dockett were their normal disruptive selves. The tackling by the defense wasn’t the best either.

— Of the eight third-down instances the Cards had Sunday – they didn’t convert any – three were needing double-digit yards: 14 (an 11-yard pass to tight end Ben Patrick), 11 (incomplete) and 16 (incomplete). The other five instances were shorter – two of six yards, four yards, three yards, and one yard (one interception and four incompletions).

”It was probably a bunch of everything,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We had some mistakes on the routes, we didn’t protect as well as we needed to at times, and we didn’t make some throws. It’s an area we have been pretty good. We will continue to work at it.”

— Anderson took a few more hellacious hits. The Cards know that’s going to keep coming, but it’s hard to think he’s going to be able to last the season at this rate. He’s incredibly tough – he proven that already – but the human body is what it is. Opposing teams are going to blitz until they get burned through the air.

— The penalties were obviously a major story – some were poor decisions or errors by the Cards, some were just hard to understand on who or why they were called. No one Card may have been affected by the officials more than LaRod Stephens-Howling. The Hyphen not only lost out on his 98-yard touchdown (let me know when you find out who actually did the hold), but later in the game, LSH wasn’t totally sure he could come out of the end zone. He looked over to the official, who shook his head, and Stephens-Howling took that to mean he couldn’t stay in the end zone.

— The one bright spot was Tim Hightower. It’s funny; when Beanie Wells was drafted, there was a lot of talk about how Wells finally gave the Cards a back who could take it to the house. Well, in the Cards’ last three games Hightower has a 70-yard TD run and an 80-yard TD run.

— Anderson still completed only 55 percent of his passes, but at least he and Larry Fitzgerald had better cohesion – seven catches, many as Fitz got loose in the middle. Max Hall got his first chance and had a welcome-to-the-NFL moment with an interception on his second pass. The Cards have long felt Hall isn’t ready yet; he may turn into a solid NFL QB but he’s not a savior. Rookie quarterbacks never are.

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Captains named as Rams loom

Posted by Darren Urban on September 8, 2010 – 1:53 pm

The Cardinals have their team captains for the 2010 season, based on votes of the players. Offense is WR Larry Fitzgerald and C Lyle Sendlein, defense is DT Darnell Dockett and S Adrian Wilson, and special teams are P Ben Graham and the ever-present RB Jason Wright. Sendlein is an interesting choice but it says a lot of how far the guy has come since being undrafted in 2007.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt also said RB Beanie Wells didn’t practice today with a knee bruise, but neither he or Beanie sounded overly concerned. I still think Beanie plays (and the same goes for Wright, who has had a bad toe). LB Joey Porter was limited with a sore back, but he too sounded like a guy who will be there when game times arrives.

Fitzgerald (knee) and TE Ben Patrick (knee) both practiced fully. The full injury report is here.

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After practice, No QB decision yet

Posted by Darren Urban on August 30, 2010 – 1:15 pm

The Cards just had their first practice back after coming home from Chicago. No, coach Ken Whisenhunt did not announce a starting quarterback yet. He said both will play in the preseason finale against Washington “unless something changes” (and no, that isn’t some hint to a trade or something). Whiz has no timeline on his announcement and said that a few times. Whiz also reiterated that the offense wasn’t playing well in the first two games of the preseason and he changed things up to see what would happen. Obviously, something worked.

Matt Leinart said after practice “I really want an explanation” for the situation, but acknowledged he has yet to approach Whiz to discuss the subject.Leinart also said he has “outplayed the competition” in camp. Derek Anderson, meanwhile, continues to be low-key in talking about the situation. I will have a bigger story in a bit.

In other news:

— Whiz did say it is “always dicey” to have a rookie as a backup, should something happen and the Cards decide to move one of their veterans. But he did say both Max Hall and John Skelton have impressed him and he feels more comfortable about such a possibility than he did before camp.

— TE Ben Patrick (knee) was back at practice, slowly getting back into the groove. WR Andre Roberts (shoulder) remains out, while RBs Jason Wright (toe) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (concussion) were out. Both aren’t expected to be long-term injuries; the Hyphen rode a bike yesterday and did OK and was getting further tests today.

— WR Larry Fitzgerald is wearing a smaller knee brace but he will not play Thursday.

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Doucet to play

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2010 – 4:25 pm

The Cardinals will use wide receiver Early Doucet tonight on about 10 plays as he works back from his abdomen injury, and the inactive players are expected: WR Andre Roberts (shoulder), WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee), WR Darren Mougey (hand), TE Ben Patrick (knee), LB Gerald Hayes (PUP-back) and LB O’Brien Schofield (PUP-knee).

Stephen Williams is still starting for Fitz, while LB Daryl Washington and CB Greg Toler will officially start.

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Over at the Titans’ facility …

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2010 – 4:48 pm

Just got back from the Cards’ practice with the Titans. There will be a story up in a bit, but I have to say, it was cleaner than I expected — no scuffles at all. But it was still interesting. Unfortunately, with three fields, each team’s offense was taking on the opposing defense simultaneously on the two outside fields, so you had to pick and choose what battles to watch. Given the circumstances, I watched more of the Cards’ offense. The offensive line versus the Titans’ defensive line was fun to see. It’s clear the Cards have some nasty cusses on the second unit — Rex Hadnot (pictured below in a one-on-one battle), Deuce Lutui and Jeremy Bridges — who like to stir things up. That always lends itself to intensity.

Some quick other notes from today:

— The injury list was expected — WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee), WR Early Doucet (abdomen), LB O’Brien Schofield (knee-PUP), LB Gerald Hayes (back-PUP), TE Ben Patrick (knee) and WR Andre Roberts (shoulder). LB Will Davis left during practice after aggravating his right knee bruise, but coach Ken Whisenhunt said he will be OK.

— Greg Toler was running with the first unit at CB with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and he had told me earlier in the day there would be some shuffling. Whether that is “permanent” (which is a term that must be used loosely this time of year) or not, we will see. I also notice rookie NT Dan Williams getting a couple of first-unit snaps, but I didn’t see enough of the defense to know if that meant anything, or if it was just a sub-package or maybe veteran Bryan Robinson was just getting a blow.

— Max Hall did run with the second unit at the end of the two-minute drill, but only after Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson each got some work. Hall could have (should have?) had a TD pass at the end, but a pass was slightly tipped, changing trajectory a little for WR Ed Gant, who had the ball bounce off his upper chest. Hall threw a nice long TD earlier to Stephen Williams during 7-on-7.

— No, during my time watching the QBs, I didn’t see anything much noteworthy from Leinart or Anderson, not to add to the chaos of a story right now.

— The Cards practice one more time tomorrow at Vanderbilt, and fly to Chicago Friday.

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Walker out; Williams starts

Posted by Darren Urban on August 23, 2010 – 4:30 pm

Linebacker Reggie Walker (hamstring) isn’t going to play again today, after being limited all week in practice. The injury is hurting his chances to move up the depth chart before the regular season starts. As expected, undrafted rookie Stephen Williams is starting in place of the injured Larry Fitzgerald (knee). Tight end Ben Patrick (knee), wide receiver Early Doucet (abdomen), linebacker Gerald Hayes (PUP-back) and linebacker O’Brien Schofield (PUP-knee) are all sitting out.

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Fitz running well before the game

Posted by Darren Urban on August 23, 2010 – 3:16 pm

As I noted earlier on Twitter (if you’re not hooked up to, do it!), wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was running the length of the field and cutting, and catching some passes after running a route. In other words, he seems to be heading in the right direction to be ready for the regular-season opener in St. Louis. Not that there should have been any doubt, but it’s always good to see the best player on the roster looking good a week after getting hurt. Wide receiver Early Doucet (abdomen) and tight end Ben Patrick (knee) were also out running, cutting and catching. I have no doubt Doucet could play if needed tonight (which he is not). Patrick looks a little further away, but we still have a few weeks before it matters.

P.S. Fitz is even going through the pre-game, not-in-uniform-yet drills with the rest of the receivers.

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A 45-yard garbage can bomb and no morning practice

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2010 – 7:00 pm

Yeah, it might be getting to the end of camp. It might be getting to the end of camp because, while I watched practice today — cornerback Greg Toler made a pick at one point — nothing in particular caught my eye until the quarterbacks started doing the garbage-can toss from 45 yards out after practice had ended and most players had retreated to the locker room. It was windy too, so you had to account for that, which made Matt Leinart’s rainbow that dropped into the can at one point pretty impressive. Leinart took a bow, Derek Anderson gave him good-natured grief and said “Act like you’ve been there before.”

Alas kicker Jay Feely and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald were involved and by the time the competition was over — three points for in the bucket, two for hitting the rim, one for hitting anywhere on the can — Feely had won. “It’s all luck,” Leinart said afterward. How many points did Feely get? He just grinned. “The most,” he said.

— ALERT for anyone coming to Flagstaff Friday to watch the Cards. Coach Ken Whisenhunt decided to cancel the morning practice. There will still be an afternoon workout, but there will be no morning workout. He surprised the players with the news at tonight’s meetings.

— Veterans Alan Faneca, Adrian Wilson, Joey Porter and Bryan Robinson had a courtesy veterans’ day off. The injured guys remained the same: PUP linebackers Gerald Hayes and O’Brien Schofield (back and knee, respectively), Fitz (knee), WR Early Doucet (abdomen) and TE Ben Patrick (knee).

— Whisenhunt talked about a couple of young defenders today. Linebacker Cody Brown, last year’s second-round pick, hasn’t shown enough yet to make the Cards know he is ready to be a heir apparent for Porter or Clark Haggans. That’s what the rest of the preseason is for.

— As for undrafted rookie CB Marshay Green, “he’s probably earned the right to play more in these preseason games,” Whisenhunt said. To me Green is a 53-man roster darkhorse, although the practice squad may still be his most likely destination.

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