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Stanton more than just a backup

Posted by Darren Urban on August 7, 2013 – 10:04 am

Drew Stanton spent last season working with Bruce Arians and his offense in Indianapolis, so he’s been ahead of the curve when it comes to learning the playbook. Arians also likes how Stanton (below with assistant head coach Tom Moore) has been able to help out starter Carson Palmer, with the coach noting he has long used a reserve quarterback as a coaching aid. Charlie Batch, the long-time third-stringer in Pittsburgh, was that guy for Arians when he was with the Steelers.

“Sometimes as a coach you can tell a guy over and over and over,” Arians said. “But when a player tells him, they get it. I saw that with Charlie Batch and Ben (Roethlisberger). Whenever I wanted Ben to get something, I said, ‘Charlie, tell him to do this.’ I’d always cuss Charlie out for Ben. So Drew, he’s used to it too.”

Stanton laughed when told Arians might have him absorb some of the coach’s wrath for another player’s sake. Sometimes, that’s the role you play.

“I think it starts with BA wearing a lot of different hats and he has a lot of different responsibilities on his plate,” Stanton said. “But I think being in the system last year, I kind of already know what he wants, what he expects out of certain things. Especially me being out there and being able to still see it, I can see it through Carson’s eyes. So when we talk we’re speaking the same language as well. If I can relate one thing, flip one thing and relate it to a different protection or something, I think it allows (Carson) to digest it easier.”

Stanton could have a lot riding on him this season. Not only is he helping decipher the offense, he might be the only thing between the Cardinals and Patrick Peterson at quarterback should Palmer get hurt if Arians goes with only two QBs.

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Delving into the first Arians minicamp

Posted by Darren Urban on April 23, 2013 – 4:42 pm

The Cardinals are done with the first day of their three-day voluntary minicamp. The tempo for the almost two-hour work in the afternoon was crisp. Coach Bruce Arians said there were fewer mistakes than might have been anticipated. The only player not there was Larry Fitzgerald, but Arians knew that he wouldn’t be and said Fitz would be back on Wednesday. A couple other tidbits:

– T Levi Brown and LB O’Brien Schofield weren’t taking part as they continue their rehab from 2012 injuries. Arians said there was no reason to push it. Schofield should be back soon. Arians just wants to make sure Brown is available by the Fall. Arians said he might consider putting Nate Potter at guard at some point, but there is plenty of time to figure that out. Arians said a player should be able to play either guard or tackle on the same side.

– QB Carson Palmer said 75 percent of the offense has been introduced to the players, although there is a long way to go to make it work in practice. This is the teaching/learning phase, clearly, although the pace of the workout was noticeably quick.

– With Schofield out (and for all we know, even if Schofield was available) it was free agent linebacker Lorenzo Alexander lining up on the outside with Sam Acho. Daryl Washington and Jasper Brinkley were the inside linebackers. The first string secondary was Jerraud Powers with Patrick Peterson at cornerback and Rashad Johnson and Yeremiah Bell at safety.

– Washington obviously won’t be able to play the first four games because of his suspension. Arians said it was too early to know who will be the starter in Washington’s absence. “We will get Daryl ready to start just like I did with Ben Roethlisberger (before his suspension in 2010) and whoever was taking his place in September was more than ready to,” Arians said.

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Rough out there for a QB

Posted by Darren Urban on November 13, 2012 – 10:20 am

When Ken Whisenhunt first named John Skelton his starting quarterback to begin the season, he noted that Kevin Kolb would stay ready, because the way the NFL goes, the Cardinals would need both their quarterbacks. That, of course, turned out to be true, with Kolb subbing for an injured Skelton in the very first game and then playing well enough to hold down the starting role until getting hurt himself when his ribs detached from his sternum on a hit against Buffalo.

Kolb had promised himself he was going to try and play through any injury after being sidelined so much last season. This time around he just couldn’t. This weekend, with the Cards coincidentally on a bye, the NFL showed exactly how difficult it can be to stay healthy as a quarterback in this league.

Three starters — the Eagles’ Michael Vick, the Bears’ Jay Cutler and the 49ers’ Alex Smith — had to leave their respective games because of concussions (which, of course, Kolb had to do last season.) The Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, the king of playing through any and all injuries it seems, had to leave Monday night’s game after hurting his throwing shoulder. As of this moment, it’s being called a sprain but no one really knows how much time it could cost him. As for the concussed QBs, well, Kolb missed a lot of time because of his and at the very least, it’ll be a little surprising if the trio can return the very next week, given the concussion concern around the league these days.

Bottom line (even as obvious as it is)? That backup QB is always just a play away, and the odds are good he’s going to be forced into some playing time at some point. This isn’t about fragility. It’s about fast, 275-pound bodies colliding with or twisting oddly the guy who has the ball in his hands more than anyone.

As for Kolb, he continues to throw it around at practice (like Monday, below) although his progress keeps his status in a kind of limbo. He still doesn’t sound like his return is around the corner.


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Avoiding sacks

Posted by Darren Urban on June 7, 2011 – 9:29 am

The website ProFootballFocus.com posted a study yesterday about different ways teams handled pass-rush pressure last year and how it broke down in terms of “blame” for the offensive line, other skill positions when blocking and on the quarterback (Kent Somers broke it down further in terms of the Cardinals here.) The Cardinals actually weren’t as low as some might expect — 22nd in terms of pressure per play in the NFL, 23rd with the offensive line allowing pressure per play and, somewhat surprisingly, only 10th when it came to “QB-invited” pressures. It’s worth noting that the worst team in the NFL in allowing pressures per play was Pittsburgh at more than 50 percent of the time. The Steelers, who just happened to make the Super Bowl.

It goes to show that a) Ben Roethlisberger probably makes more plays with his feet than anything and b) a good quarterback changes the equation with things like this.

That’s why today’s PFF post about the percentage of times a team allowed pressure to become a sack becomes even more relevant. Is it any surprise that the best two teams in the league when it comes to making sure pressure doesn’t become a killer sack have quarterbacks named Manning? Eli and the Giants are first, Peyton and the Colts are second. Roethlisberger still takes too many sacks — the Steelers were 27th — but his percentage was still a tick better than the 28th-ranked Cardinals, who at 17.86 percent were 28th in the NFL. The Bears, Seahawks, Ravens and Panthers were worse.

I’d be curious to know what the Cards’ percentage was in 2009 when Kurt Warner was still QB.


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Revisionist History: McCown produces Fitz

Posted by Darren Urban on June 1, 2011 – 11:04 am

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

The Cardinals were sitting with the third overall pick in a draft heavy with quality quarterback options, so when the just-hired Dennis Green decided to cut incumbent veteran Jeff Blake in early February of 2004, it didn’t really raise any eyebrows (although it did lead to one of the greatest quotes I have ever collected, from Blake when talking about his career: “It’s not like I’ve played bad ball. I’ve just been on bad teams.”)

That changed quickly. So too did the future of the Cardinals.

Less than a week later, I happened to be at the Cards’ facility when Green was going to give what was expected to be an innocuous TV interview. No other reporters were there. Denny proceeded to say odds were “slim” the Cards would take a quarterback in the first three rounds of the draft.

“Josh McCown, I think he is going to be a great one,” Green said. Wait … what? I was stunned.

(So were a couple of other print reporters, who worked around their absence by coming the next day in an attempt to get Denny to repeat himself. He wouldn’t – not as strongly. At one point one reporter said, “We’re trying to get you to say what you told Darren yesterday.” Denny’s response was classic Denny: “That was yesterday.”)

McCown’s résumé wasn’t long. He had made the miracle pass to beat the Vikings in the season finale of 2003. He had five touchdowns and six interceptions in a three-game starting stint, but with a new coach, it just seemed like the Cards would nab someone like Philip Rivers or Ben Roethlisberger.

The new coach was Green, however. As became evident soon, his belief in Pitt wideout Larry Fitzgerald – with whom Green was also close personally – was strong enough to make Fitz the Cards’ target. Clearly, Fitz was talented, and Green’s thoughts on what Fitzgerald could be have definitely played out over the years. Yet quarterback is always important, and regardless of how talented Fitzgerald would be, was it worth passing on what was available? You have to wonder, did it color Green’s evaluation of McCown? Because the only way the Cards could really justify taking Fitz at the time was the knowledge McCown could play. Green never was big with the draft smokescreens. I remember at the Scouting combine in 2005 he all but announced he wanted J.J. Arrington. In 2004, it was obvious he wanted Fitzgerald.

Draft weekend was a memorable couple of days. Pat Tillman’s death came to light on Friday, the day before the draft, overshadowing football. Then, as expected, the weeks of Green talking up McCown was capped when the Cards took Fitzgerald. (Green also kept to his word about the first three rounds, taking non-QBs Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett in one heck of a first-day draft haul. John Navarre was the QB selected, in the seventh round.) McCown was the Cardinals’ guy.

I believe the Cards would have taken Roethlisberger if they had decided on a quarterback. How different would things have been for so many connected to the Cards? Big Ben and no Fitz in Arizona probably would have meant Anquan staying and Kurt never coming. Would the Steelers – with offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt – won a Super Bowl after the 2005 season? Would Whiz still have ended up with the Cards?

In the long term, it worked out well for the Cards. Warner and Whisenhunt did come to the desert, a combination that led to a Super Bowl appearance. McCown – one of the greatest guys ever to come through the Cards’ locker room – didn’t work out. But without him, there was no way the Cards take Fitzgerald, a potential Hall of Famer.


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Taking the thought process wide

Posted by Darren Urban on April 7, 2011 – 3:29 pm

Took part in a mock draft (it’ll be on Patriots.com sooner rather than later) today and got another version of the top four. I wasn’t told who took who, but by the time my “pick” came up, these were the four gone — Cam Newton, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus and Blaine Gabbert.

(That was the order listed too; it’d be interesting to see if that matches the teams. Miller to Denver? Dareus to Buffalo? Gabbert to Cincy?)

I stayed chalk with my thought process in that regard. I stuck with defense and went with cornerback Patrick Peterson. But … obviously, wide receiver A.J. Green remains on the board in that scenario. Anyone reading my stuff knows I think receiver here is highly unlikely. Highly unlikely. The Cards already have a top receiver in Larry Fitzgerald and they clearly want/expect him to be here long-term. Bringing in a second such playmaker at that position — especially when you very well should  be able to find a playmaker at another position (like Peterson, for instance) — makes little sense to me. You aren’t even sure you have a QB who can get it to Fitz yet, much less to two such guys.

That being said, there are those who’d like to see it (I’m looking at you, Georgiebird) and there are arguments that can be made, as long as you operate under the assumption the Cardinals see Green as an exceptional, off-the-charts talent. (I’m not saying they do, and there are those who don’t even think Green is better than fellow draftee-to-be Julio Jones). For the moment, let’s make that assumption.

The Cardinals aren’t sure if they can keep Fitzgerald, whose contract runs out after the 2011 season, long-term. He needs to sign an extension, and while both he and the team have said many times they want it to happen, Fitz has also made plain his desire to win, and that involves the fluid situation of finding a QB. Even if Fitz is a lifetime Card, the rest of the receiving corps is still in question. Steve Breaston doesn’t have a contract. Early Doucet hasn’t proven he can stay healthy. Andre Roberts, as well as he finished the season, hasn’t proven he will succeed.

Then there is the idea — again, depending on the grades we won’t know — that Green would be the best player available, too good to pass up. We’ve played this game before, back in 2007, when it was Levi over Peterson when Edge was around. Need was above “best player,” and maybe this year the need — other than QB — lies on the defense.

(But even then it’s not always cut-and-dried even when it works. Cards went BPA in 2004, because Fitz was the BPA. Would the Cards, who already had star-in-the-making Anquan Boldin, been better off with a top three class of Roethlisberger, Dansby and Dockett instead? Sure, Kurt Warner came along a year later, but it’s interesting food for thought).

I reiterate, I think the Cards go defense. I think Peterson would be the pick over Green. But there’s always room to speculate.


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A predictor of Leinart’s success

Posted by Darren Urban on July 8, 2010 – 1:57 pm

We’ve analyzed and dissected what it means for the Cards to have Matt Leinart starting at quarterback this season a bunch of times already, and training camp hasn’t even arrived yet.

But hey, it’s the summer. The players are gone. So here’s another thought.

SI.com has a story posted today about the “Rule of 26-27-60″ as a guide (although not a guarantee) of NFL quarterbacking success. And, according to the rule, Leinart should work out. The idea? If a guy scored at least a 26 on the infamous Wonderlic exam at the combine, had at least 27 college starts and completed at least 60 percent of his collegiate passes, usually, it means the guy can succeed on the NFL level.

Leinart scored a 35 on the Wonderlic. He started 39 games in college. And he completed 64.8 percent of his passes. Check. Check. Check.

Among current names that also accomplished all three parts of the “rule?” Both Mannings, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Drew Brees. Among the names that fell short in at least one category? Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Tim Couch, David Carr, Joey Harrington, JaMarcus Russell.

Now, there are always exceptions. Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Donovan McNabb and Brett Favre have all done pretty well. And you may not be printing Super Bowl tickets if Ryan Fitzpatrick or Kyle Orton (both of whom reached all three benchmarks in college) is your QB.

But it’s a talking point, and one to consider. Until gets a chance to wed significant playing time with his acknowledged more mature preparation methods, we won’t know for sure either way. UPDATE FOR THOSE WONDERING: Here are the numbers for the other QBs on the roster, again with the caveat that this “rule” isn’t the end-all-be-all. Derek Anderson 19-38-50.7, John Skelton 24-41-58.8, Max Hall 38-39-65.3.


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Whiz on Big Ben rumors

Posted by Darren Urban on April 22, 2010 – 9:39 am

Given the issues of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and all the reports he might get traded, I suppose it’s no surprise to see the Cardinals linked to at least a phone call to the Steelers, which ESPN’s John Clayton did this morning on Sports 620 KTAR. Clayton said the Cards “made communication” with the Steelers about Roethlisberger.

I managed to catch up with coach Ken Whisenhunt to ask him to comment, which is never easy in this case because to talk about a player under contract with another team — even if it is to deny interest — could technically be considered tampering (and why Whisenhunt has delicately maneuvered around the subject the few previous times he has been asked about the subject).

“It seems like you’d be hard-pressed to find a team that hasn’t been linked to (Roethlisberger interest),” Whisenhunt said. “At this time of year there’s no shortage of information and misinformation flying around; who teams are interested in drafting, who they’re not, who’s gonna be traded, etc. From our standpoint, it doesn’t seem to make sense to publicly comment on which rumors are fact and which are fiction but I can tell you there’s a fair amount of each.”

That was as specific as Whiz wanted to get. But as I have noted to many fans over the last couple of days before this report even surfaced, bringing Big Ben to Arizona makes little sense. Forget the price it would cost in terms of draft picks. The baggage itself is troubling. I can’t see the Steelers trading Roethlisberger if this incident — as bad as it has been — was all there was. If the Cards weren’t going to chase Donovan McNabb (who is squeaky clean) why Roethlisberger?

You worry about what else is there. As I have mentioned when teams trade good young players — the Ravens trying to trade T Jared Gaither, for instance, the Chargers dumping CB Antonio Cromartie earlier this offseason, the Steelers trading WR Santonio Holmes — it raises red flags. Either the player isn’t quite the player everyone thinks he is, or there are off-field issues. Either way, a team needs to be careful. Otherwise, why would the players be traded in the first place?


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Some Tuesday thoughts

Posted by Darren Urban on April 13, 2010 – 12:46 pm

It feels like the calm before the storm. The Cardinals’ braintrust — general manager Rod Graves, head coach Ken Whisenhunt, the rest of the coaching staff and the scouts — continue their work building the draft board here at the end of the hall in the war room. Workouts continue downstairs (one co-worker remarked how amazing the consistent turnout of players was for the voluntary stuff, noting how dead the weight room was back in the Denny Green days). With that as a backdrop, a couple of brief talking points:

– The news the Dolphins might trade WR Ted Ginn is intriguing, at least at face value. The Cardinals could always use a dynamic return man (although Ginn hasn’t been a full-time punt returner since his 2007 rookie year) and could use a burner as a fourth receiver. That said, Ginn is due too much money for a fourth wideout (about $1 million in 2010, $1.4 M in 2011 and $1.8 M in 2012). If Santonio Holmes is only worth a fifth-rounder (and yes, he has had off-field troubles which Ginn has not), than the Dolphins can’t possibly ask for more than a sixth-rounder for Ginn.

– I don’t know if Stevie Baggs will pan out at outside linebacker, but if he sticks around, he certainly has a personality that would make him a fan favorite in my opinion. Even though he came out of college in 2004, he is practice-squad eligible. That could always come into play for a work-in-progress, although if Baggs doesn’t flash something significant in the preseason, it’ll be tough to keep an older player, even on the practice squad.

– More tomorrow, but that live chat I asked about? I am planning on it being Friday, probably late morning.

– I don’t see how Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t get suspended a game or two. What will be interesting is whether it comes from the league or the team, and how it impacts (if at all) the opening part of the Steelers’ schedule.


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