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Michael Bidwill on passing of Bills owner Ralph Wilson

Posted by Darren Urban on March 25, 2014 – 12:46 pm

Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, one of the founding members of the American Football League and a Pro Football Hall of Fame member, died today at the age of 95. The Cardinals released a statement from team president Michael Bidwill.

“At a critical juncture in the National Football League’s history, Ralph Wilson provided a level of leadership and vision that helped make the NFL what it is today,” Bidwill said. “He not only recognized the sport’s potential popularity and success but was pivotal in helping to achieve it. Our hearts go out to his wife Mary, the Bills organization and everyone in Western New York on their tremendous loss.”


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Fitz’s comments on changes, and Whiz’s future

Posted by Darren Urban on January 1, 2013 – 9:48 am

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald put out a statement in regards to the firings Monday of coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves:

“We all shoulder the blame for a disappointing season which began with such promise. A unique relationship with all of my coaches past and present is a valued life experience. I would like to thank them all, especially Coach Ken Whisenhunt and General Manager Rod Graves who gave me the opportunity to live my dream in the NFL.

“Even in the midst of a tumultuous season, it was still a pleasure to work for the staff we served under, and for that, we remain grateful. Their professionalism will provide for renewed accomplishments in different environs. We all, to a man, thank them and wish them the best.”

Fitz hadn’t been available in the locker room Monday, but after the game Sunday, he was asked about if he ever would give his input to the team going into offseason.

“Yeah, in opportune times I speak up, but I don’t think you should air your dirty laundry either,” Fitzgerald said. “This is a close-knit group. We have a great relationship with each other and I think it’s best done in house and I’ve always believed that.”

Fitz, however, added — again — it doesn’t really come up. “If they ask me any questions I’ll be always open to talk and give them my opinion, but it hasn’t happened in nine years so I don’t expect it to happen any time soon,” he said. ” I’ll be ready when my numbers’ called.”

There is little question this move has a potential huge impact on Fitz. The offensive issues killed his season. How Fitz would fit with whatever the new offense will look like — and who would be throwing him the ball — will be one of the top storylines.

– It’s no surprise Ken Whisenhunt is in search of another head coaching job at this point. Kevin Acee reported Whiz was interested in the Chargers job (although no word that the Chargers were actually interested in him.) Tim Graham said the Bills will probably be interested in Whiz, and interestingly, one of the other two known candidates is Cards’ DC Ray Horton. Whiz apparently had contract language with the Cards that means any new job salary he gets comes off the $5.5 million they owe him. That would allow a new team, in theory, to get him cheap in 2013 (since Whiz will get $5.5M regardless) but at the same time, would save the Cards at least some money as opposed to if Whiz just sits out this next season.


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Bills aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 14, 2012 – 7:28 pm

With everything that happened – and in terms of writing about a game, that’s one in which everything before the five-minute-left mark of regulation is virtually immaterial – I can’t get past the dropped screen pass to LaRod Stephens-Howling in overtime, the play before John Skelton’s interception. Ken Whisenhunt was sure it was set up for significant yardage, and from my spot down on the sideline at that point in the game, that’s how it looked to me too. Even if it only picks up eight or nine yards, the Cards are in a totally different spot.

Maybe Skelton still throws a pick on the drive, maybe not. It’s just hard to feel, the way the game was playing out (and the way the Bills were calling plays) that the Bills weren’t going to drive for a score. Hindsight and all that, I suppose. But Sunday was a gut-wrencher.

It’s really classic NFL reaction, I guess. Jay Feely’s kick goes through at the end of regulation, or if the Cards find a way to win in OT, and it’s all good, relatively speaking. Instead, you fight the feeling that the sky is falling. I do think this – that game in Minnesota next week might be the tipping point for either one of the two upstart teams, whoever loses.

– I guess we’re going to be back talking about who is the starting quarterback again. I’m assuming we won’t know much more tomorrow about the status of Kevin Kolb’s ribs, unless it’s some devastating injury that ends his season (which I don’t think it will be.) So then we’ll see if Skelton is back under center. Skelton looked rusty when he came in, completing just 2-of-10 throws. He’ll get more practice time this week. It’s the story that just never quite goes away though.

– Larry Fitzgerald had a very good game, when they could get him the ball. There was no cheesy stat-padding today. Every one of his six catches seemed to hold importance (and that one-handed sideline grab that didn’t count because it was out of bounds still is highlight-worthy — check out the photo below.) The grab he made to keep the Cards alive on fourth down before Feely’s 61-yarder was amazing.

Plus he surpassed the 10,000-yard mark for his career. Not that he cared. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been at home and not won so it still hasn’t registered to me, really,” Fitz said. “I’m just disappointed we didn’t come out and protect home field. That’s bothering me right now.”

– Speaking of Feely’s kick, it was blocked. Not enough to knock it all the way down, but enough to cause problems. Alex Carrington, a Bills defensive lineman got it, and I suppose given all the times the Cards have used a blocked kick to save a game, it’s a painful reminder the Cardinals do not have the market cornered on such crucial saves.

– Props to Feely, though, on the 61-yarder. It destroyed his career-high of 55 yards. I didn’t think he had it in him. I guess that was foolish.

– The Cards had 182 yards rushing. Yes, 24 of it came on a fake punt and 66 of it was Kolb’s on scrambles. Yes, it came against a defense that struggles against the run. But still, 182 yards is 182 yards, easily the best of the season. William Powell looked OK, didn’t he? To get 70 yards on 13 carries was impressive. I’m guessing the Cards will be willing to ride this for now.

– If you watched the game on TV, you saw Whiz light into fullback Reagan Maui’a for his post-play spike after a key eight-yard reception. It cost the Cards five of those yards on a delay of game and virtually stopped that drive, which looked good up until that point. Tight end Jeff King false-started after that and everything got backward quickly. “You can’t do that,” Whiz said. “It’s just stupidity.” It’s also never a good thing for a player who is always on the verge of being released anyway, as starter Anthony Sherman tries to return to health.

– Safety Kerry Rhodes left with a back injury and Rhodes was walking like it in the locker room. Bad backs can be tricky. It also looked like a Bills player hit Rhodes low in the leg (kind of cheap-looking, although I’d like to see another replay) before he was carried off, so let’s hope there isn’t anything besides the back to complicate things.

– Safety Rashad Johnson, who ran the 24 yards as the up back on the fake punt, actually walked on at the University of Alabama as a running back before he was switched to safety. “I played running back for two years there,” Johnson said. “Anytime I can get the opportunity to do that – anything to get the offense an extra possession, maybe get points, I’ll lobby for it again.”

Bottom line today: These are the games the Cardinals play. It finally bit them back.


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Friday before the Bills

Posted by Darren Urban on October 12, 2012 – 4:03 pm

There will be many things that people will be waiting to see Sunday when the Cards finally kick off against the Bills – how the Cards’ run game looks, whether the Bills have recovered from a couple of historical beat-downs – but from the Cardinals’ side of the fence, it’ll be Arizona’s first few pass plays that will be under the microscope. The Bills won’t have (struggling) defensive end Mark Anderson, although they do have (struggling) defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and (struggling) defensive end Mario Williams. There has been plenty of talk not surprisingly, from the Buffalo perspective that their pass rush can get healthy against the Cards. It’s vice versa for the Cards, who count on righting the pass-protection ship after surrendering 17 sacks the past two games.

“If you go into the game thinking that you are going to do that just because, you could be in for a rude awakening,” Mario Williams said. “If we go out and think, ‘Oh well, it’s going to be easy because the last two teams did this,’ we could be in for a rude awakening.”

Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb spoke again this week about how there were many facets in the pas game that need to do better to improve the pass protection. Someone suggested more three-step drops for Kolb, which the quarterback dismissed. “You can’t just go to three-step drops,” Kolb said. “That’s not the way the game is.”

You can’t just do a lot of anything. Pro teams – and pro coaches – figure that out soon enough. Leave more guys in to block? OK, but that’s fewer people in pass routes, and fewer options for which Kolb to pass. Coach Ken Whisenhunt knows he needs better technique from his blockers, better protection schemes and better overall play. There’s will have been 10 days to try and iron some of this out.

– There are two banged-up teams going out to play. With cornerbacks Greg Toler and Michael Adams doubtful, it sure sounds like rookie Jamell Fleming will be thrust back into a prominent defensive role. And kind-of-newcomer Crezdon Butler may be active right off the bat after being away from the team since being cut at the end of the preseason. The Bills, meanwhile, are missing a pair of starting offensive linemen themselves.

– Cornerback William Gay, who stands to start across from Patrick Peterson again Sunday, has struggled at times. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said it is technique issues with Gay, and along those lines, Gay’s role was reduced against the Rams. “Obviously, he’s capable,” Horton said. “He had a good week of practice. We reduced his role and message sent, I believe. Now, whether message was received or not, we’ll find out.”

– The Bills have allowed 97 points the last two games, to the Patriots and 49ers. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Cardinals will suddenly break out, but if the Cards’ offense is going to have a chance to improve, this is a matchup you want.

– Quarterback John Skelton is listed as probable for the first time since his ankle injury. I fully expect Kolb to start – who wouldn’t? – but Skelton, I would guess, would be the backup. After that, I don’t know if we are going to have any big announcement or not. The Cards are going to go through the gauntlet on the schedule after this game, at Minnesota, home against the Niners, at Green Bay and at Atlanta, which will be rough on whoever is playing QB.

– Today is Adrian Wilson’s birthday. He turned 33. His biceps don’t look a day over 27.

– Yes, I used that on Twitter.

– Speaking of birthdays, analyst and Cardinals Underground compatriot Ron Wolfley turns 50 Sunday, with the Cards playing against his hometown team. How great is that?

– The Cards are wearing black Sunday, as a reminder. And pink. This is the annual Breast Cancer Awareness game, in case you are still putting together your gameday outfit.

– It probably saved an interception return for a touchdown – and it wasn’t even flagged at the time – but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was dinged for a $7,850 fine from the NFL after grabbing cornerback Janoris Jenkins’ facemask on a play against the Rams. The Rams didn’t escape fines for their play, though. Two players were nailed for roughing up Kevin Kolb – defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo was fined $7,875 for roughing the passer when he ripped Kolb’s helmet off, while defensive end Robert Quinn was fined $15,750 for hitting Kolb helmet-to-helmet.

– Fitz needs 48 receiving yards to reach 10,000 in his career.

– Fitz, by the way, wasn’t about to pop off about the Bills’ struggles. “I always remember my grandfather said, you let a sleeping dog lie,” he said. “We just don’t want to ruffle any feathers and try to sneak out of here with a ‘W’ without getting anyone upset.”

It seems like it’s been forever since the Cards last played.


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Getting offensive against the Bills

Posted by Darren Urban on October 11, 2012 – 10:50 am

The Cardinals have had their offensive issues. The statistics say they could benefit Sunday by playing the Bills.

The Bills have given up more than 1,200 yards the past two games against the Patriots and 49ers. The 49ers became the first team ever to pass for 300 yards and rush for 300 yards in a single game. “It stinks right now,” defensive tackle Kyle Williams told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “We stink. We have stunk the past two weeks.” The Bills are allowing almost 172 rushing yards a game. The Cardinals are only rushing for 63 yards a game, and will rely on three running backs who won’t supposed to be a major part of the equation.

Add into the equation the Bills are playing on the road — in a place where the Cardinals have been very successful against AFC teams — and the Cards have some things in their favor.

Obviously, the Cardinals can’t take anything for granted. They have struggled to protect quarterback Kevin Kolb (17 sacks the past two games) but in both the last two games there were openings to win regardless. “I’m sure we’ll both play with chips on our shoulder, but for us it’s all about winning,” Kolb said. “I don’t care if it’s 6-3 or 60-53. I really don’t care. At this point in my career, I want to win football games, regardless of how it looks.”

Wherever the Cardinals are mentally — and at 4-1, it sure seems OK to me, despite all the things said about this team following the loss to the Rams — it’s a better place than the Bills. It is Buffalo which has a bigger hurdle to clear in that regard, especially after looking at the beatdowns of the last two games and hearing coach Chan Gailey talk about how his team has to overcome the “hurt.”

“I mean your soul is hurt,” Gailey said. “You hurt in your heart. You hurt in your brain. You hurt everywhere when you do not play well.”


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The AFC at UoP with Whiz

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2012 – 10:21 am

Ken Whisenhunt coached in Pittsburgh for six seasons before coming to the Cardinals and knew what he’d be seeing when the AFC teams played his new team in Arizona. That’s worked out well.

The Cardinals have been a good home team since Whisenhunt’s arrival in 2007, and no place does that show up more than when AFC teams come to visit, like will happen Sunday when the Buffalo Bills will be the opponent. It’s the second and final AFC visitor of the season, and of the 11 previous AFC teams to come to town, the Cardinals have beaten nine of them and will be the favorite Sunday against the reeling Bills.

The only two home AFC losses in Whiz’s tenure came in 2009, when the powerful Colts beat up the Cards on “Sunday Night Football” and last year, when the Steelers caught the Cardinals at arguably their lowest point in the season in a 32-20 Pittsburgh win. Because of the way the schedule has worked out, the Cards have seen repeat AFC visitors in that time. The Cards have beaten Miami twice, Cleveland twice, along with a then-undefeated Buffalo (when Adrian Wilson knocked QB Trent Edwards out of the game, below), Houston (late goal-line stand), Oakland (Janikowski’s shocking missed field goal) and Denver (the Jay Feely score-a-thon.)

Next season, the AFC teams who will visit Arizona are the Texans and Colts again.


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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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The Top Five

Posted by Darren Urban on March 30, 2011 – 1:54 pm

No, we’re not talking former Cardinals cornerback Robert “Top Five” Tate, who used to put together top five lists all the time — including football lists, which inevitably included himself. Instead, we’re talking about the guys who will be considered for the top five picks in the draft. It sure seems like this is the list:

  • QB Cam Newton
  • QB Blaine Gabbert
  • DT Marcell Dareus
  • WR A.J. Green
  • DE Da’Quan Bowers
  • LB Von Miller
  • CB Patrick Peterson

I don’t include DT Nick Fairley anymore because it doesn’t seem like anyone else is either. It leaves us with seven names, and the all-powerful quarterback situation. In Carolina, my man Darin Gantt believes there are only three legit possibilities for the No. 1 pick, and he has long believed it will end up being Cam Newton. For Denver, the pull has been strong for Dareus, since a) John Fox has always been a guy who likes to build up front; b) the Broncos were so porous and c) they have Elvis Dumervil coming back from injury so Miller might not be as necessary. Although Miller and Peterson have been mentioned (It has to be defense in Denver, right?).

Buffalo could use a QB, but Chan Gailey seems to want defense, so Miller has been a popular possibility for a team that uses the 3-4 and needs a pass rush. If the Cards want Miller, it seems the Bills will be the key. The Bengals figure to go offense, whether a QB or WR. The Cards, who have hinted many times they aren’t necessarily looking QB early, still don’t seem to make sense with a pick like that. Here’s the question, assuming Miller is gone: Could you make Bowers work in your defense? Is Peterson good enough? Do you reach outside the above list of names? By the time we get to the draft, would my list above change?

I wonder what Top Five Tate’s list would look like?


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Breaking down draft order, 2011 schedule

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2010 – 9:38 am

With one game left — and the Cards safely out of the playoff picture — it’s a lot easier to narrow down some key portions of 2011 concerning both draft position and the schedule.

– As for the draft, the Cardinals have four teams with worse records than their own 5-10 mark. Arizona is one of seven teams with five wins. But as of right now, the Cardinals are fifth overall in the draft and “first” among those seven teams because of the Cards’ weak strength of schedule (Draft position is not broken by head-to-head or various playoff-type tiebreakers but instead the inverse — the weaker the opponents you played were, the higher pick, because the thought process is if your record is the same against weaker opponents, you are considered the weaker team and in need of a higher pick).

The Cardinals’ strength-of-schedule is so weak, in fact, that no matter any team(s) they end up tied with in the draft position, they will be choosing higher. So, for instance, even if the Cards beat the 49ers this weekend and the Seahawks lose and both the Cards and Seahawks finish with six wins, the Cards will be slotted higher in the draft. (Of course, beating the 49ers will mean the Cards end up with a better record than San Francisco, meaning the Niners will of course be ahead in the order).

Looking over the standings, the “lowest” the Cardinals will be picking will be 11th in the draft. If the Cardinals beat San Francisco, the Niners would be “ahead” of the Cards, while of the other five teams who have five wins, four could lose (two of the five-win teams play each other, Minnesota at Detroit, and I am assuming the Vikings lose in Philadelphia tomorrow night). Cleveland (hosting Pittsburgh), Dallas (at Philly) and Houston (hosting Jacksonville) are the other five-win teams.

If the Cards lose to the 49ers, they could still in theory have as high as the No. 2 pick in the draft, but that would mean Denver (hosting San Diego), Cincinnati (at Baltimore) and Buffalo (at the Jets) all won this weekend. Carolina has already clinched Andrew Lu, errr, the No. 1 pick overall.

– As for the schedule, that is always all but set. In cement are home games against the three NFC West foes, Dallas, the Giants, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The Cardinals will go on the road to the three NFC West opponents, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore and Cincinnati.

The remaining road/home games set up like this: If the Cards win, they will host Tampa Bay again. (UPDATE: My mistake — if the Saints lose tonight and then the Buccaneers beat the Saints next week, the Cards would host the Saints again next year in this scenario). If they lose, the extra home game will be Carolina.

For the final road game, a Cardinal win means the Cards will play at the winner of this weekend’s Minnesota-Detroit game. A loss in San Francisco means they will travel to the loser of the Vikings-Lions.

– UPDATE II: For those confused about why the schedule, for instance, has the Cards hosting Pittsburgh again after the Steelers came in 2007 and the Cards last went to Pittsburgh in 2003, here was the info I received on the subject from the league:

“You need to look at the scheduling formula on a larger scale. it’s not as simple as just alternating the home games for every opponent – the math would not work out that way. The formula is set so that you’ll play all non-division conference opponents at least one every three years and at home at least once every six years. Also, keep in mind for non-division opponents in the conference, you’re rotating three divisions over a period of time, so if you take the original eight-year rotation, the math doesn’t work out so that it’s a straight alternating system. So by just taking selective end points and asking about ’04, ’07 and ’10, you’re not looking at a complete picture.”

Under the formula, every team within a division plays 16 games as follows:

  • Home and away against its three division opponents (6 games).
  • The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (4 games).
  • The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (4 games).
  • Two intraconference games based on the prior year’s standings (2 games).  These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season.  The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.

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Report: Modkins to Bills as OC

Posted by Darren Urban on January 23, 2010 – 3:25 pm

Well, it turns out the Cardinals are losing an assistant coach to the Bills — it just turns out to be running backs coach Curtis Modkins instead of Russ Grimm. XTRA’s Mike Jurecki is reporting Modkins will become Buffalo’s offensive coordinator and work under new head coach Chan Gailey. The two worked together in Kansas City a couple of years ago before Todd Haley took over there. Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt was hoping to keep in coaching staff intact; instead, the Cards will have to find a third running backs coach in three seasons (Modkins basically swapped places with Maurice Carthon last year, after Carthon decided to join Haley in Kansas City rather than stay with the Cards).


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