So if you are the Cincinnati Bengals, what are you thinking about with Andy Dalton? And what does it say about “finding” your long-term quarterback?
These questions are not easily answered. The Cardinals have been looking for their “long-term” quarterback since, well, since they moved to Arizona. There were the Kurt Warner years, but the time where Warner was both the unquestioned and winning (a key adjective) quarterback for this franchise was less than three seasons: A few games into the 2007 season through 2009. Carson Palmer has come along, and was 10-6 in his first season, and likely is the Cards’ starter in 2014, but how long does he have?
Again, finding the young replacement isn’t simple. Look at Dalton. He has won nine, 10 and 11 games in his three seasons in Cincinnati. The Bengals have made the playoffs every single season. It’s a foundation many teams — even the Cards — would love to have with a quarterback after he was drafted. He threw for almost 4,300 yards this season and already has 80 TD passes in his young career. It’s the definition of finding a long-term guy … right?
Yet the Bengals have lost all three playoff games Dalton has quarterbacked, and he has not played well in any of them. He is, not surprisingly, getting hammered about it again and there are some who think the Bengals should look elsewhere. Now, there are QB-needy teams across the league who would probably love to have Dalton. Yet his situation underscores the minefield that is filling that position.
Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton have worked well. It looks like Colin Kaepernick has too (although I think he still tends to be more up and down than you’d like at this early stage) and Nick Foles flourished in Chip Kelly’s offense. Side note, you look at the playoff teams and the winners and it drives home the point this league is about good quarterback play.
Is Matthew Stafford the answer, even with all his gaudy stats? (Ken Whisenhunt may be hired soon to find out.) Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder were not. Sam Bradford? It’s no wonder Steve Keim says he has to fall in love with a QB to want to draft him, because let’s face it, if you do draft one early, you are married to him for a few years to see if he works out.
And, in the case of someone like Dalton, you still may be wondering if he is working out even when it seems like he is.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Bengals, Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker, Kurt Warner, Matthew Stafford, Nick Foles, Russell Wilson, Steve Keim
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While the reports are out there that VP of player personnel Steve Keim is negotiating to become the next Cardinals’ general manager, the next GM — whether it was going to be Keim or someone else — will have some work to do.
According to figures reported by John Clayton, the Cards are currently set to come in around $720,000 above the 2013 salary cap. That means at the very least there will be some restructuring to do. To have any flexibility for free agents or the like will take some paperwork. That’s why, beyond Kevin Kolb’s injuries, it will be important to try and restructure his deal (his cap number is around $13 million this coming season), or extend safety Kerry Rhodes ($6M), or make a call on linebacker Stewart Bradley ($6.5M). The cap numbers of Larry Fitzgerald (more than $10M), Darnell Dockett ($7.7M) and Adrian Wilson (more than $5M) also could be looked at in some way, shape or form.
Cap space can be found quickly if necessary, and it doesn’t have to be at the cost of losing a player outright, necessarily. Sometimes it just is a matter of shifting contract language. But there is little question there is work to be done.
Most cap space to come, according to Clayton? The Bengals, with more than $55 million. The least? The Jets, at more than $19M on the negative side.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bengals, Darnell Dockett, Jets, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, salary cap, Stewart Bradley
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Stop if you’ve heard this before, but guard Deuce Lutui has left the Cardinals as a free agent. This time, it’s going to stick.
Lutui signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks, ending his six-year tenure with the Cards, the last couple of which were weighted down with issues about Lutui’s girth. It looked like the lockout last year was going to take care of the end of Lutui in Arizona. Deuce had taken a good offer from the Bengals — but then he didn’t pass his physical because he was overweight. He came back to the Cards needing to lose weight and never could find his way back into the lineup. His lone play on the offensive line all season came, ironically enough, in Cincinnati late in the season.
The crazy way he went and yet was denied in Cincy last year was unique because of the lockout and the speed in which players had to be signed. Lutui agreed to a deal before taking his physical. This year, Lutui already visited Seattle recently. I’m guessing the Seahawks already know what they are getting with Deuce.
The door hadn’t been closed on Lutui in Arizona, but I didn’t see him starting again here. He may not in Seattle, but he reunites with his college coach, Pete Carroll, and the Cards will get a chance to see him again.
Tags: Bengals, Deuce Lutui, Seahawks
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It’s Christmas Eve, 30,000 feet above Missouri according to the “moving map” in the seatback in front of me, and at this point, it’s tough to not think more about my kids and the next 24 hours than the Cardinals.
That’s what happens when the finish doesn’t go the Cards’ way – a Cardiac Cards game in reverse. All the components were there for another amazing rally. I have no doubt, frankly, that had Early Doucet caught that ball, or the Cards had been able to find their way to a tying score, that they would have won in overtime. But that didn’t happen, and after so many of the late breaks that went their way over the past month, the tangling of feet just seemed bound to happen. The law of averages and all that.
The Cardinals are done, and now the game against the Seahawks next week is about the chance to finish .500 – still a feat given the start to the season – and taking second place in the NFC West.
First, a shorter (I say that as I start out) aftermath, since Christmas is on the mind:
– John Skelton, the ultimate Jekyll-and-Hyde. How does the guy who did what he did in the first three quarters do what he did in the final quarter? The pressure is off? A switch is flipped? Through three quarters, his passing rating was 18.0. Forced interceptions, overthrows, inaccurate throws.
In the fourth quarter, his passing rating was 112.8. What you saw is the reason you can’t go all-in with him. Not yet, anyway. The defense works without a net when Skelton plays like that, and he has yet to not play like that, really. I’m sure he’d love to know why too, but he doesn’t. I’ve never seen such a dramatic difference in how a guy plays. Make no mistake – the pass to Doucet was a good read and good throw. He would have had another TD pass. It’s why he’s so hard to bench. Because that streak always seems to come.
– Calais Campbell set a career-high with his eighth sack, and forced that last fumble that looked like it would get the Cards the tie.
– Safety Kerry Rhodes was back as a playmaker too – he recovered both Bengals fumbles.
– Safety Adrian Wilson forced a fumble, but the big play was his roughing the passer call that seemed iffy. Some have said the right replay showed helmet-to-helmet. I just didn’t see it, and it stole a big play from the Cards.
– A.J. Jefferson was the kickoff returner, so that LaRod Stephens-Howling – dealing with a sore hamstring – could concentrate on his offensive packages. Jefferson struggled, averaging just 17.3 yards a return.
– The Cardinals finally put Deuce Lutui in on offense. He took over at right guard in the second half. No way to know how he graded out yet, but since Lutui will be a free agent after the season, it’s interesting. You wonder if there will be some evaluating going on.
– On the play before Doucet’s miss, the Cards ran a screen to Larry Fitzgerald. It was set up well – but tight end Todd Heap missed a block, and that was the man who made the tackle. It only gained two yards, and probably should have gained more. Not that it mattered much, since the Cards needed to convert the Doucet pass, but worth noting.
– The Cardinals have played an NFL-high 12 games decided by seven points or less. That they added to the total Saturday is simply crazy.
– It was a weary Ken Whisenhunt who talked after the game. There was no anger. He mentioned the frustration many times, and he was asked if that was partly because he thought the Cards were past playing like that. A tired smile crossed his face. “I never thought we were past playing like that,” he said.
He knew his team didn’t play well enough. But he wasn’t in the mood to complain much. Maybe it was the Christmas spirit.
“It’s not any fun when it starts like that,” Whisenhunt said. “But I do have a lot of respect for our players for the way they didn’t quit. It didn’t look good there in the fourth quarter. We fought all the way back. We had chances to make plays, we just didn’t get it done. It’s disappointing from that aspect, especially as hard as we fought this year to get back to where we were.”
OK, big props to anyone actually reading this tonight. I’m taking tomorrow off, if everyone doesn’t mind. Merry Christmas.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bengals, Calais Campbell, Deuce Lutui, Early Doucet, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes, Todd Heap
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I won’t have a Christmas poem this year, but I do have a representative from the North Pole.
OK, it’s North Pole, Alaska, birthplace of starting left guard Daryn Colledge, but you know it fits the theme as we head into Christmas weekend, including the Christmas Eve game tomorrow in Cincinnati. Before we get to that, though, a moment with Colledge, who would have to have a heightened sense of the holiday given his roots. Right?
“When you come from a place like North Pole, you obviously are bit by the Christmas bug at a young age,” Colledge said. “I’ve always been a Christmas guy, a winter guy, enjoy the snow and stuff, but I’ll tell you what, now that I am later in my career, I’m not crying about not having snow at the end of my football season.”
A good mindset since he has moved from playing in Green Bay to Arizona, possibly one of the farthest weather leaps you can make in the NFL, especially in December.
“You know what, I might have some people truck down some snow from Flagstaff, just to have in the yard, build a snowman for a day,” Colledge said. “I wouldn’t mind if there was a freak snowstorm around here one day, but that would be tough for everyone else around here, I don’t know if they’d be ready for it.”
Here’s one plus: The weather in Cincy should be mild, with forecasted temperatures in the mid-40s and no precipitation. Then again, as Colledge noted, the weather forecasts in the Midwest this time of year “are good for about 30 minutes.” Enough about the weather – how about the game:
– We will start, yet again, with the quarterback. No official announcement Friday. Kevin Kolb is officially listed as questionable, however, and that alone says to me John Skelton is the starter. I had that feeling as soon as Kolb was listed as limited Wednesday that would be the case – there’s no reason to turn away from Skelton if Kolb isn’t totally ready to go – and let’s face it, when Kolb has been ready to start, we all knew right away. When there has been a question, Skelton has gotten the nod.
– This opponent plays right into the type of game the Cards have been playing, because the Bengals play a similar type of game: Close, while making just enough things happen to win. The Cards have to control running back Cedric Benson, and that would go a long way toward giving them a shot tomorrow. The sexy matchup is A.J. Green versus Patrick Peterson, but it will be Benson’s production that will impact the game more.
– A win tomorrow gives the Cards a 4-0 record in December, and it would be the franchise’s first four-win month since October, 1984.
– The Cardinals lead the NFL in allowing an average of just 2.26 points on drives following their own turnovers, a big reason they have been able to start gathering wins of late.
“It’s good because we have turned it over way too much,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “One of the things you preach to your team is responding and you have to have a mentality to do that. It’s good to see our defense has done that.”
– The Cards have 27 turnovers on the season.
– Peterson needs just 21 punt return yards to set the NFL rookie record. The Steelers’ Louis Lipps holds the current mark with 656 yards.
–Tackle Levi Brown has taken his share of criticism, and it hasn’t been unwarranted, but he has been performing well of late. Check out this line from profootballfocus.com: “I’m starting to wonder if Brown may have just turned a corner.”
– Wells needs just six yards to reach 1,000 yards rushing for the season. Stop if you’ve heard this one before – Beanie was 84 yards short two games ago and has yet to cross the threshold – but it is coming in Cincinnati. There’s something fitting about that, anyway, since Beanie is from fairly-nearby Akron.
“It means so much for me because every running back in the NFL wants to hit that 1,000-yard milestone because it’s great for a team to have a 1,000-yard rusher,” Wells said. “It would mean a whole lot to me to get that in Ohio where I started playing football.”
– Whisenhunt said the mark would also mean something to the offensive line. “The line has been criticized quite a bit, but when you have a 1,000-yard rusher, especially when you go through a stretch like we did and we didn’t win a lot of games, it says a lot about the offensive squad.”
Tomorrow will be a day of waiting on the edge of the seat, and not just about Santa’s impending arrival. Assuming the Cards win – and remember, any playoff hopes start right there – the games the Cards must have break right all are later kickoffs: Chargers at Lions in the afternoon, Bears at Packers that night, and Falcons at Saints Monday night.
Here we go. And happy holidays.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Bengals, Daryn Colledge, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Levi Brown, Patrick Peterson
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I suppose, in this crazy, condensed offseason, the unexpected should be expected. So I wasn’t too surprised today to hear running back Tim Hightower was traded to the Redskins, in exchange for veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday and a sixth-round draft pick. I was, however, stunned to hear that guard Deuce Lutui flunked his physical with the Bengals, with whom he signed last week. I was also stunned to hear the Cardinals then brought him back on a one-year contract. That’s certainly not how Lutui wanted his free agency to play out. That dynamic now that he is returning, and how/if he fits into the lineup, will be very, very interesting.
As for Hightower, another good man in that locker room, it was clear when they drafted Ryan Williams that, eventually, Hightower or Beanie Wells would be moving on. I thought it might not be until after this season. Turns out it’s today. The fumbling issues really hurt Hightower. So he signed his tender and gets a shot with the Redskins (Cards at Washington, Week Two, by the way) and the Cards alleviate the crowd in the backfield and get vet depth to work along the defensive line.
Dang, I can barely keep up.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Bengals, Deuce Lutui, Redskins, Ryan Williams, Tim Hightower, Vonnie Holliday
Posted in Blog | 117 Comments »
Several times this offseason both general manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt (and president Michael Bidwill, for that matter) have talked about the plan the team has in place once the offseason starts. Both Whisenhunt and Bidwill have used the term “aggressive” when it comes to free agency, and that will help given the situation that the Cards have a lot of work to do to firm up a roster in what figures to be a short time period.
It’s impossible to know what is “aggressive” and how the plan will play out (and part of that includes the moving parts once everything is able to begin; for instance, a trade for a quarterback complicates/affects things more than a straight free-agent signing of a QB would). The Cardinals will have some room to maneuver, however. ESPN’s John Clayton, in fact, thinks the Cards are one of the teams best suited to get things done given their potential salary-cap room (and every labor report seems to believe there indeed will be a salary cap once football resumes).
Writes Clayton, “The Cardinals are in great position to be players in free agency and the trade market. They have $37.38 million of cap room along with a current payroll of $85.76 million. They have the fourth most cap room of any team in football, giving them plenty of incentive to trade for quarterback Kevin Kolb and give him a huge long-term contract.”
The other teams in good shape, according to Clayton are the Redskins, Seahawks, Panthers and Eagles. The teams not in such good shape? Bengals, Bucs, Raiders, Cowboys and Jets — although it’s funny, the Bucs and Bengals land on the list not because they have poor cap room but actually because they may have too much, given their current roster situations.
Tags: Bengals, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Eagles, free agency, Jets, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Michael Bidwill, Panthers, Raiders, Redskins, Rod Graves, salary cap, Seahawks
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Former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner appeared on The Dan Patrick Show today and the NFL Network analyst was talking, not surprisingly, about quarterbacks. He spoke about Cam Newton (he’d start him right away in Carolina given the Panthers’ QB situation, although he thinks it is better for a rookie to sit) and then was asked about the QB situation here in Arizona.
Warner said he talked to coach Ken Whisenhunt recently and Whiz asked him his opinion on some possible available QBs. Marc Bulger was one, Donovan McNabb was not (shocker!). Then Patrick asked Warner, out of Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer, McNabb and Bulger, who would Warner’s pick be for the Cardinals.
Warner said it would be Palmer (who, again, comes with the caveat that he would have to be acquired in a trade and the Bengals have said they will not trade him). Palmer still is playing at a high level, Warner said, and thought that Palmer fits Whisenhunt’s style of offense perfectly. It’s an interesting take, especially since the draft weekend rumors seemed to make Palmer’s destination Seattle if Palmer was indeed moved.
But until the labor situation is cleared up and the Cards can actually get their hands on a veteran QB, this is the kind of stuff we will be speculating about.
Tags: Bengals, Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, Kurt Warner, Marc Bulger, Seahawks
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In the middle of waiting for the labor problems to be resolved comes the news the 2011 regular-season schedule will be released tomorrow — Tuesday — at 4 p.m. Arizona time (which is 7 p.m. Eastern). I know, I know, there are some of you who feel “What’s the point” until there is a labor agreement, and clearly, the NFL has taken part of that into account. Another game in London, between the Bears and Bucs, has been scheduled for Oct. 23 — except there is a caveat that the game will move back to Tampa Bay if a new labor agreement hasn’t been reached by Aug. 1.
As a quick reminder, the Cards’ home schedule includes the NFC West teams, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Carolina, Cleveland and the New York Giants. The away schedule includes the NFC West, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Washington.
Tags: Bears, Bengals, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Panthers, Ravens, Redskins, schedule, Steelers, Vikings
Posted in Blog | 27 Comments »
It doesn’t take much to change the outcome of a game. Ray Horton has seen that a couple of times, in a couple of instances when it couldn’t have been on a bigger stage.
In doing an interview with the Cards’ new defensive coordinator the other day, the subject of the little things – and Super Bowls – came up. Don’t forget, Horton was on the defensive staff of that Steelers’ team that beat the Cards a couple of years ago. We started talking about the interception return of linebacker James Harrison right before halftime (careful, don’t throw things at the computer screen).
Afterward, Horton said, he figured the coaching staff watched that play 50 times over and over. He can tell you exactly where everyone on both teams was and ended up. Despite claims by Kurt Warner to the contrary, Horton said the Cards lined up for that play just like they had all season. But Harrison, a linebacker, decided not to blitz as called and for some reason stayed home.
(This is the stomach-punch part of the post, so if you’re faint of heart, look away now).
“You can look at each guy and think, ‘If one guy does one thing different, he doesn’t score,’ ” Horton said of Harrison’s 100-yard touchdown. “It was a dramatic play and it turned the game around. It won or lost that Super Bowl.
“Really, if James Harrison would have done what he was supposed to do … the play (the Cards called) was a perfect play and they would have scored, walked in and probably won the game. But because one guy did something different … the ramifications …”
Horton knows of ramifications. Because if you ask him what play during his 10-year NFL career sticks out, it’s a play just like that – and for Horton, it had the same painful type of result.
He was playing for the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII, the one where Montana hit John Taylor for a game-winning 10-yard touchdown with 30-some seconds to go – just barely past the outstretched fingers of a diving Horton.
The play the Bengals had called was to double-team both Taylor and Jerry Rice (who had 11 catches for 215 yards that day), the right call for the formation. But then Rice went in motion – a change-up – and Horton thought, “We’re screwed.” He thought about calling time out but didn’t, which still sticks with him.
While we talked, Horton jumped up to scribble the play on a white board to explain what happened. Safety David Fulcher was supposed to come across for Taylor. Horton was supposed to stay with Rice, but he quickly realized Rice was the diversion. He tried to jump back and make the play. He just missed the ball, and was lying in the end zone as Taylor finished off the play.
“We are sitting on the bus on the way back and David said, ‘Ray, I could’ve picked that ball, I had nothing to do,’ ” Horton remembered. “I said, ‘I know. I know.’
“It still haunts me.”
Tags: 49ers, Bengals, David Fulcher, James Harrison, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, John Taylor, Kurt Warner, Ray Horton, Steelers, Super Bowl
Posted in Blog | 37 Comments »