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Uniform choices and the flex barrier

Posted by Darren Urban on October 21, 2014 – 4:45 pm

It never fails that I get requests often to say which uniforms the Cardinals will wear on a given Sunday, especially at home when the black tops are in play. You can count me as one who doesn’t understand the big deal about the uniform (other than I get fans wanting to wear matching gear to their team) but people want to know. At this point, the black alternates are no longer available. The NFL doesn’t like allowing alternate jerseys once flex scheduling starts, and this year, flex scheduling began back in Week 5, earlier than before.

The decisions to pick what uniforms to wear was broken down quite well in this Sports Business Journal story from a year ago (h/t to @PhilHecken). Included in the story is this passage explaining the alternate jersey rules:

 In 2002, the league began regulating when teams could wear their third uniforms, which some teams made throwbacks and others made an entirely new jersey with alternate colors. The initial rules said that they could wear the third jerseys only twice a year, but those rules have become more prescriptive over time.

The league wants national TV audiences to see teams in their primary uniforms, so teams are allowed to wear third uniforms only in regular-season games on Sunday afternoons before the start of the league’s flex schedule. The NFL will grant exceptions on some occasions when teams make a formal request.

The Cardinals, by the way, will wear red uniforms with the white pants Sunday against the Eagles. No sign of red-on-red yet, although it is possible for later games.

FitzUniformUSE


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Cardinals go black for Niners game

Posted by Darren Urban on September 16, 2014 – 12:05 pm

The Cardinals will be wearing their black alternate uniforms Sunday against the 49ers. I’m not sure how many times they are going to use them — the rule was that the alternate unis couldn’t be used once games started being flexed, and the flex schedule starts early this season, as soon as the Cardinals come off their bye. It will be interesting to see the color scheme at University of Phoenix Stadium. The 49ers, who had a ton of fans in Dallas for the regular-season opener, are trying hard to do the same in Arizona this coming weekend. Cardinals fans will be under the microscope to make sure the game has a home-field advantage for the actual home team.

(Although it’s funny — by all accounts, new Levi’s Stadium where the 49ers now play, was not very loud in Sunday night’s 49ers-Bears game and the twitterverse seems to believe it never really will be given the cost of tickets and the demographic of who is going to games — fewer die-hards and more there just for the event.)

BlackBloguse


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Friday before the Texans

Posted by Darren Urban on November 8, 2013 – 3:53 pm

“I don’t know how they are 2 and 6.”

Larry Fitzgerald said that about the Texans this week. Coach Bruce Arians said something similar. Normally, eh. Players and coaches are always going to say nice things about the opponent, lest bulletin board material be uttered. But this is a week where that seems to make a little sense. The Texans have the top-ranked defense in the NFL. They have the top-ranked pass defense. They have a top 10 offense. Those things don’t usually add up to 2-6 as a record.

But it is the cracks in the armor that put the Cards in a good position coming off the bye. Those stats don’t translate into wins because the Texans don’t generate a lot of turnovers. They have a hard time stopping teams from scoring touchdowns once they get into the red zone. They’ve managed to give up a lot of points when they are playing offense (although a quarterback change has helped that) and their special teams aren’t very good.

Add in a missing head coach who also happens to be the team’s play caller, and the Cardinals seem to be set up for an opportunity coming off the bye.

– Texans quarterback Case Keenum has played very well since taking over for Matt Schaub. But for an inexperienced guy, it just feels like there will be a bump coming sooner rather than later. That could be Sunday. The Cards do a nice job against the run and tend (unless you have an athletic tight end) not to get beat deep. Keenum likes to throw the deep ball. I just have this feeling that will get him into trouble this week.

– That will obviously mean Patrick Peterson will be on display, especially since he will be chasing Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson much of the game. Johnson went off for 229 yards and three touchdowns last week. The spotlight will be on both. Peterson hasn’t given up a touchdown pass since Week 3 in New Orleans, when he was beat late on a Jimmy Graham slant. Profootballfocus.com says that Peterson has been targeted 48 times in eight games by opposing passes, and he has allowed a completion on only 50 percent of those throws.

– Cardinals tackle Eric Winston not only played with Johnson in Houston, but also in college at Miami. “Andre is that specimen-athlete-type guy,” Winston said. “He looks at a weight and he puts on weight. At Miami we made him stop coming to the weight room because he got too heavy. He ate McDonalds every day and had two percent body fat.”

– Jake Ballard will be active this week. I do not expect him to be a revelation at tight end, but the Cards hope he can show a little bit as he works back into the game following so much time off.

– Rashard Mendenhall will start. Not a big deal. Andre Ellington should get his touches. That is a big deal.

– I expect Bradley Sowell to start at left tackle. Watching how the Cardinals deal with J.J. Watt, however, is going to be a line-wide job. Can they hold him off? That run game (the Texans are just 18th against the run) is going to be so important in making that pass rush hesitate at least a little.

– Saw Jonathan Cooper this morning in the weight room. The rookie guard still has a boot on his foot but was doing some dumbbell work. A good sign as he slowly progresses in his rehab.

– Heads up for anyone going to the game Sunday. Not only is the football game going on, but there is a concert at Jobing.com Arena and then the annual NASCAR November race at PIR. Traffic is expected to be heavier than normal on the 101 and around the stadium. Be prepared and give yourself extra time. Parking lots open at 10 a.m. – remember, with the rest of the country changing clocks, kickoff this weekend is now 2:25 p.m.

– And in case you missed it, the Cardinals will be wearing their black jerseys.

– As we wrap this up, I found this Karlos Dansby video very entertaining (now the world sees what I have known for a while, how Los repeats your question.) His one comment might be the quote of the year: “Batman, man, he’s gonna have problems. He’s gonna have issues.”

See you Sunday.


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Friday before the Panthers

Posted by Darren Urban on October 4, 2013 – 3:50 pm

The Panthers, for a while, seemed to be on the Cardinals’ schedule every season.

But there is something about this game that makes it hard to think about any Carolina-Arizona matchup other than the one two years ago – the last time the teams met, which, like Sunday, also happened to be at University of Phoenix Stadium. It was the lockout season, football had ramped up to 100 miles an hour in no time, and the Cardinals had a massive player overhaul that hadn’t really started until the lockout ended. That meant a roster upheaval that had been a month in the making.

But mostly, there were three players that stood out that day, three guys who should once again play a big role Sunday. On Carolina’s side, there is quarterback Cam Newton, who threw for 422 yards (although it was against a defense that didn’t really know what it was doing under new DC Ray Horton after the lockout, and it showed) and proved quickly he was worthy of the No. 1 overall pick.

On the Cards’ side, linebacker Daryl Washington had a huge game. It was the first time Washington really flashed his star potential. It’s fitting that it’s the Panthers against whom he will return this season after his four-game suspension. The Cards need that star once again.

And then there was Patrick Peterson, who won the game with an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown and, like Newton, showed right away that a star was born. It’s been a while since Peterson has made any waves as a punt returner, but as he showed last week, two interceptions that basically won the game for the Cards.

If the Cards can have the same equation of players stand out again Sunday, they should end up above .500 for the first time this season.

– I would expect Larry Fitzgerald to be targeted a few times in the first half Sunday. I don’t see the Cards getting locked into another situation where the halftime adjustments include making sure you start throwing to the top offensive weapon.

– Because practice is closed, and because Bradley Sowell didn’t join the team until after training camp – and thusly, after practices were closed – I have zero idea how he might hold up at left tackle. Obviously Steve Keim and Bruce Arians don’t make the move on Levi Brown unless they had someone they felt they could turn to. It’s not like last year when Brown got hurt and the Cards were forced to make a change. My guess is they took a month to not only assess Brown but also Sowell.

– All that said, like Keim noted Wednesday, Sowell is going to give up some plays. But the offensive line has to pick it up as does the offense. Whatever the unit’s issues are, the current level of play is not going to have a chance against all the playoff teams coming up on the schedule.

– Don’t forget about the bag policy. It should be in everyone’s head by now, but just in case …

– The Cardinals will be wearing their black uniforms. That’s good, because it’s also the breast cancer awareness game and frankly, the pink goes much better with black than red.

– I think Daryn Colledge finds a way to start at left guard with his shin injury. But Earl Watford is now working as Colledge’s backup now that Brown is gone, Sowell was promoted and Nate Potter was moved back to work more at left tackle as backup.

– With as much as the Cardinals have struggled on third downs, does that ever become a mental hurdle for the unit, a “here we go again” issue? Fitzgerald couldn’t say no fast enough.

“You can’t ever allow doubt to slip into your mind,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s how you have to be wired to play this game.”

– The Panthers have the third-ranked rushing offense. The Cards have the second-ranked rush defense. Something is going to give. I know that the Cards’ defenders take great pride in that ranking.

– If something happened to Newton – not that anyone wishes such – the Panthers would turn to backup Derek Anderson. That would be interesting. You know he takes this, um, stuff serious.

Then again, who doesn’t? See you Sunday.


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Talking trade, and blacking out

Posted by Darren Urban on October 9, 2012 – 5:06 pm

There are a lot of questions I am getting about trades when it comes to a running back. If the Cards go get another running back, I think it will be the free-agent route. That way you don’t surrender a draft pick at a position that you need short-term help with. It’s tough when people start throwing out names like Chris Johnson or Maurice Jones-Drew or even Mark Ingram, all of whom apparently have been suggested as targets. Stop. Those aren’t going to happen for a multitude of reasons.

The one trade name that does make some sense to me is Chris Ivory in New Orleans. He’s shown before he can perform and he is buried deep, deep on the Saints’ bench behind Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. But the Saints know the Cards need a back, and they might just hold up the Cards for a higher pick. Frankly, in this day and age where backs have become more and more disposable, it’s hard to think that’s a good idea. Ivory was undrafted and has shown well — maybe William Powell can do the same for the Cards.

Free agency makes more sense to me, if and only if the Cards decide they need someone. That’s no sure thing right now.

As for available free agents, well, the name that comes up over and over is Tim Hightower. He knows the team and the offense. But Hightower isn’t healthy right now. The Redskins, who cut him in camp, thought about bringing him back when Roy Helu went down for the season and not only is Hightower still coming back from an ACL tear, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said he had a setback and was having an arthroscopic procedure on his knee. That was a couple weeks ago. (The Redskins signed Ryan Grant instead.) Could Hightower be in the mix down the road if he heals up? Maybe. But the Cards have had their fill of injured backs. They don’t need another so they would have to be sure where Hightower stands health-wise before that could be explored.

– If you missed it, check out this story of defensive lineman Nick Eason, his mom , and why this month of pink in the NFL is so meaningful to him.

– The Cardinals, in case you missed it on Twitter yesterday, will be wearing their black uniforms again Sunday against Buffalo. Because of the various NFL rules in place for alternate uniforms — you can’t wear them in nationally televised games, you can’t wear them after flex scheduling starts — this is the last opportunity for the Cards to do so.

– The Big Red Rage has been moved to Wednesday night because of ASU football, so anyone heading to Majerle’s — special guest Vonnie Holliday — make sure you adjust your schedules accordingly. Same time (6 p.m.), same place (Chandler Fashion Mall).


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Friday before the Eagles

Posted by Darren Urban on September 21, 2012 – 4:56 pm

A fan (@AzCardsGM) linked on Twitter today a video of the Cardinals’ dramatic late win in Philadelphia back in 2001, when Jake Plummer hit MarTay Jenkins for a long TD with 35 seconds left – what an improbable win, I remember thinking as I stood in the chill of the sideline that day – and mentioned that he wanted the same result Sunday when the Eagles visited University of Phoenix Stadium. Just without the drama.

Sorry. Drama is included with every season ticket these days, it seems.

“History tells us we might as well get ready for another two-minute drive to see who wins the game,” quarterback Kevin Kolb half-joked this week. OK, maybe not half. He’s probably 94.6 percent dead serious.

In 1976, the franchise earned the nickname “Cardiac Cards” because they won eight games by seven points or fewer. Well, since the beginning of last season – 18 games all told – 15 have been decided by seven points or fewer for the Cardinals. The Cards have won 10 of those. The Cards last 11 wins, in fact, have come by no more than seven points. During their current nine-wins-in-11-tries stretch, the margin of victory in those nine wins has been 2, 4, 7, 6, 4, 3, 6, 2 and 3 points.

“As long as we get the ‘W’s,’ I really don’t care,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I think you can turn the highlights on every week and you see a bunch of games that come down to the wire. We’ve been involved in a lot of those games but you have to learn how to win and you have to win the tough games and our guys have done that. It’s definitely stressful, but our guys have gotten mentally tougher because of it.”

The Cards may have gotten mentally tough, but I’m willing to say it – the constant close games are mentally taxing.

– Don’t forget the Cards are wearing the black uniforms Sunday.

– Defensive coordinator Ray Horton has come through with some strong statements of late – last week, Tom Brady was the best NFL player in history – and this week, it was his praise for his defense that got the nod.

“This was our best week of practice ever,” Horton said. “The guys came in, they had attention to detail, the focus, the practice, the talk, and that’s how I knew was the talk. By far our best week of practice since I’ve been here.”

– The Cards will need it. They face an Eagles’ offense that leads the NFL in yards per game at 471, a stunningly high total (the Cards, by comparison, are 30th in the league with their 249 yards a game). Yet the Eagles have scored only one more total point than the Cards. Why? Turnovers. Mike Vick and crew have already turned it over nine times, making their 2-0 record impressive in a backhanded way.

“If we can eliminate the turnovers, our offense can accomplish great things,” Vick said. Added Eagles coach Andy Reid, “(Michael) has never been a turnover guy. He’s started out with a few, but that hasn’t been throughout his career what he’s done.”

The Cards did pick off Vick twice last season in their win at Philly. Clearly, how the Cards’ defense handles Vick and company will be the story of the game.

– Horton’s defense has been on a field a lot already. After playing the most defensive snaps in 2011, the Cards already have played 163 total defensive snaps in two games (the Cards have a total of 129 offensive snaps).

“We are always concerned about that,” Horton said, noting that his unit needs to generate more turnovers. “That gets you off the field. No matter how you get on the field, you can’t control that. You can control how you get off the field.”

– Because of the scheme the Cards played last week, starting nose tackle Dan Williams played just seven of 82 snaps, backup nose tackle David Carter just three.

“After missing six games last season it was definitely hard,” Williams said. “Talking to Dave, we have to do what is best for the team. If we only have two big guys in there, can’t complain because it is Calais (Campbell) and (Darnell) Dockett in there, two great player. Dave and I, we understand. As a football player, you want to play but the team is bigger than ourselves.”

– The NFL announced it suspended Cardinals practice squad wide receiver Gerell Robinson. Multiple reports have it for four games for violating the agreement against performance-enhancing drugs. No official word from the team as of yet.

– It will be crucial to see how the Cards’ offensive line, particularly tackles D’Anthony Batiste and Bobby Massie, handle outside pass rushers Jason Babin and Trent Cole. The Cards have only given up two sacks in two games. The vibe from Philly is that Babin and Cole are expecting big games. Keeping Kolb clean will be so important.

The Cards have to find a way to run the ball better. Larry Fitzgerald emphasized that Friday. That will help slow those pass rushers too. But Fitz has to have more than one catch. “We’ve got to feed him,” Kolb said. There’s a fine line between risk and reward, but Fitz needs to make an impact, get in the end zone.

– Ryan Williams has to bounce back. Quickly.

– Fitzgerald had high praise for former teammate and current Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, returning to Arizona for the first time.

“I’ve said it all along, DRC, he’s the most, from a physical standpoint, talented guy I’ve ever been around,” Fitzgerald said. “Dude is (running a) 4.3, (has a) 40-plus vertical, his quickness is unbelievable. I was teasing him this week, I’ve got to put my hands on him. He’s still only 172 pounds.”

– Just like the Cards need to protect Kolb in the pocket, the defense needs to take advantage of Philly’s backup left tackle and center. The Cards have multiple sacks in eight straight games, and the way Vick plays, they really should be able to extend that streak.

– Horton, on how his defense is handling success: “We haven’t had any success yet. We started off 1-6 last year and we still talk about that. I don’t think they think we’ve had success yet.”

– The Cardinals haven’t started a season 3-0 since 1974. We’ll see if they can update that. As far as the last time they started 2-0, well, that season included an Eagles’ trip to Arizona too.


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Back in black, and a linkfest

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2012 – 1:08 pm

The Cardinals will wear their black uniforms Sunday against the Eagles, the first time this season. I’m not sure when the other black-uniform date will be or if there will be one, but teams can’t wear their alternate third jersey on national TV (which rules out the Monday night game against the 49ers) nor can they wear them after the flex scheduling starts after the Cardinals’ bye week Nov. 11. So that obviously narrows the choices. Feels like it might be the Bills?

Some other news and notes:

– The Cardinals’ win in New England was nominated for the GMC “Never Say Never” moment award for the week. It’s a fan-vote thing, so you can vote here.

– I had some fans asking about seeing video of the PatCat formation. So here you go.

– And for some entertaining audio, (no, I wasn’t referring to Cardinals Underground, although that’s pretty good too) here are Dave Pasch and Ron Wolfley in the final moments in New England.

– If you want to rub shoulders with all the Cardinals and even bowl a little, check out the upcoming Kingpin Challenge Oct. 8 held for Cardinals Charities. All the details are here.


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Black shirts return Sunday

Posted by Darren Urban on November 2, 2011 – 10:04 am

It’s not a huge surprise, since NFL rules dictate that this is the last opportunity the Cardinals have to wear their alternate third jersey, but the Cardinals will wear their black uniforms for a second and final time Sunday against the Rams. New NFL guidelines say those uniforms can’t be worn after flex scheduling begins, and that starts next week. Since the Cards had only four home games with which to choose the alternate jersey — and one was against the normally-black-clad Steelers, and the other was the season opener, which seems to ask for traditional colors — that left the Giants and the Rams games.

 


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Black is back Sunday

Posted by Darren Urban on September 26, 2011 – 2:54 pm

For everyone who has been asking — and it seems like I have been asked quite a bit — the Cardinals will be wearing their black jerseys again Sunday against the Giants. The Cards are trying to get into the win column with the third alternate jersey, having fallen while wearing them last year against the Bucs and 49ers.

A quick refresher: Black came on board in part because players for the longest time had wanted to wear the color. The rules for the third alternate jerseys were altered this season. No longer can they be worn in preseason, and they have to be worn (a max of twice) before the flexible scheduling begins in mid-November, so the timeframe to pick them obviously is a lot shorter.


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Back in black

Posted by Darren Urban on October 28, 2010 – 4:55 pm

In case you are living under a rock – or at least, not reading the stuff on this site, in which case you probably wouldn’t be reading this either – the Cardinals will be breaking out the black alternate jerseys Sunday for the Halloween game against the Buccaneers.

So, you know, wear black if you are coming (and don’t already have one of the black jerseys.

“Aw, man, it’s going to be blackout crazy,” wide receiver Steve Breaston said. “I can see the fans now, get a little Oakland Raider-type masks in the crowd. I can see it rockin’ — if everything goes as planned.”

“It’s good to see the black jerseys. It’s a cool time to have it, on Halloween.”

The Cards first wore the jerseys for the preseason finale against the Redskins. They can wear them twice in the regular season. The other game has not yet been announced, although it seems like the Monday night home game against the 49ers would be strong possibility.

“You wish you could wear them more than three times,” Breaston said. “I like to switch it up. Like I’ve said, any time you can go to something new, you’re excited about it, right?”


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