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Blogs

The fine line of finding a quarterback

Posted by Darren Urban on January 6, 2014 – 11:39 am

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.

DaltonBlogUSE


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Feeling familiar

Posted by Darren Urban on May 19, 2011 – 3:26 pm

While everyone waits for the league year to start — and, at its root, waits for the Cardinals to have a chance to figure out its quarterback situation — the possibilities remain open speculation. Suddenly, it begins to feel very familiar.

In fact, as I read about how NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi felt about Kevin Kolb during a Sports 620 KTAR interview this morning, and how Kolb has generated a range of believers and non-believers when it comes to his abilities and what it could mean to the Cardinals if there indeed was a trade here, it felt very deja vu. Is Kolb the right guy? What’s he worth in a trade? Is what the Eagles want and what the Cards (assuming they’d want Kolb) are willing to give up at least in the same ballpark? Hard to know, given Kolb’s relatively short career and seven NFL starts.

This is about more than Kolb, though. So many questions are flying around about Marc Bulger too, and he’s got a much longer resume. And Donovan McNabb and Kyle Orton and even Carson Palmer. I realized it reminded me so much of the ramp-up before a draft when it comes to quarterbacks. Obviously, the veterans have played in the league, but this feels a lot like how Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett, etc., were deconstructed over and over. Such as Sam Bradford last year.

It’s the position, of course. It’s the position and the importance it carries and, this offseason, its the days of dead time that allows for possible paralysis by analysis. The trade market for a player like Kolb doesn’t hurt either; unlike the draft, there is someone on the other side of the equation (the Eagles, in this case) hoping Kolb’s value is driven up during all these discussions.

Like the draft, however, it’ll be impossible to know what any of these quarterbacks could really do in a different situation until they get to a new place. Until someone gets here to Arizona. The naysayers could be right about Kolb, for instance. But like the draft, that’s why a team has scouts. They scout veteran players too. You have to assume, whichever player the Cards chase, they believe he will be successful. Why else get him?



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Playing it “safe”

Posted by Darren Urban on April 15, 2011 – 2:23 pm

The talk about grabbing a “safe” pick high in the draft has been used for a long time now. As I have responded to a few people in blog post comments over the past month or so, there really isn’t such a thing as a “safe” pick. Now ESPN’s John Clayton has written a really good column on the subject, and the reality of going “safe.”

Clayton uses the example of the Dolphins going with tackle Jake Long (three Pro Bowls in three seasons already) and then taking QB Chad Henne in the second round, instead of taking QB Matt Ryan over Long. Henne isn’t working. They are still looking for a QB. Long was “safe” and he has been excellent. But was the pick for the best?

That’s why there is so much hair-pulling (figuratively, of course) about Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, and what they could mean. If you are the Bills, for instance, and you go with Von Miller over Gabbert, and Gabbert turns into Matt Ryan — even if Miller is another, say, Clay Matthews — did Buffalo make the right call? (The same argument can be made for the Cards, for instance, for taking Larry Fitzgerald over Ben Roethlisberger). It’s why the Panthers seem likely to take Cam Newton No. 1 overall, because no matter how “safe” a Patrick Peterson or Marcell Dareus might be, they can’t trump the impact of a franchise QB.

Then again, you don’t know if that QB is going to be a franchise guy (see Leinart, Matt — among others). Another concept: Is it better to take a QB who might wash out or end up with a position player who washes out? The upside of impact usually rests with the most important position. It’s another reason why making the decisions on draft day are never simple, even when sometimes they look that way.


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All In the draft room, combine interview

Posted by Darren Urban on April 11, 2011 – 3:54 pm

So you want “All In,” here’s a chance to come pretty close – a glimpse of some of the behind-closed-doors things that go on before the draft. The latest webisode from the “All In” series is up, a riveting piece from Tim DeLaney that not only goes over some of the ins-and-outs of the pre-draft process but also gives some visuals of the Cards’ decision-makers in the draft room as the draft meetings are underway.

Oh, and I know I had mentioned I was lucky enough to be in the interview room for a couple of combine chats between the team and potential draftees. Tim was too – with the camera – and you can see some of that in the video, including a few moments with Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert (this is where I feel free to stoke the rumormill … if Ken Whisenhunt’s interaction with Cam Newton at Auburn’s pro day got everyone fired up, what about this!?!?!)

No, you’re not going to know who the Cardinals are going to pick if you watch the video. But you will get to see some things not usually on display for the world.


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In a rush to find a draft pick

Posted by Darren Urban on April 11, 2011 – 1:32 pm

A couple of odds and ends as the draft draws closer and — as we are apt to do this time of year — we all continue to analyze and over-analyze all things draft:

– NFL.com had a blog entry about why pass rushers may be becoming more valuable, noting that NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock has nine defensive ends going in the first round. The reasoning? It’s becoming harder to sack the quarterback in the first place. QBs are getting the ball out quicker than ever before and the pass plays are often designed to make sure pressure is avoiding, not to mention an actual takedown.

“Notice that quarterbacks were sacked 1.7 percent less in 2010 (6.1 percent) than they were in 1982 (7.8 percent),” the post by Elliott Harrison states. “That translates to a difference of about two sacks per 100 dropbacks. Considering we’ve seen how much one sack can alter a season – think of Troy Polamalu’s strip-sack of Joe Flacco last year — that’s a sizable difference. It’s also a factor in why so many teams are looking at defensive ends in the draft.”

OK, so the Cards won’t necessarily be looking at a defensive end. But pass rusher is what we are talking about here.

– Speaking of Mayock, he was on The Chuck and Vince Show Friday on KDUS (1060 AM) and talked about the quarterbacks. He said four quarterbacks — Newton, Gabbert, Mallett, Locker – have first-round ability. “The problem is that they all have holes,” Mayock said. “It’s a tough one. It’s the hardest quarterback class I have ever evaluated.”

Asked what he thought the Cardinals should do at No. 5, Mayock was blunt. “If the quarterback Gabbert is there, I think they sprint to the podium. In today’s NFL, if you don’t have one of those franchise guys, you have no shot. Arizona is a model franchise for that (theory). The minute Kurt Warner retires, it’s the same offense and defense, basically, and they can’t play a lick anymore.”

Do I have to mention I don’t think that’s how it goes? But I can tell you, many, many, many people (in the media or making these predictions) believe that’s what will happen.


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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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Whiz talking quarterbacks

Posted by Darren Urban on April 6, 2011 – 10:46 am

The mocks are coming fast and furious now (OK, at least at a steady pace) and with the idea Von Miller will be selected before the Cards pick is gaining steam (at this point, I also tend to believe it). The way things break down, QB Blaine Gabbert has been popular as a remaining candidate — along with Patrick Peterson — and guys like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay are saying the Cards will/should take Gabbert. I’ll stick with the idea of Peterson in such a scenario. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was on ProFootballTalk Live today and while host Mike Florio didn’t ask Whiz directly if he’d take a quarterback — smartly — Whiz did end up talking about drafting a young QB. We can talk smokescreens and such, but you can parse Whiz’s words:

– On the idea of a team taking a QB in the top 10 and the immediate success recent first-round QBs have had adding pressure to use a first-round QB right away: “It creates pressure with the fan base … well, I shouldn’t say pressure. It creates expectations. My experience in this league it is difficult for young guys to come in and have success. I think that trend has been bumped in the last couple of years because of these young guys and the success they have had. Obviously we did that with Ben (Roethlisberger) in Pittsburgh and had success. If you look at history at that position, that’s the most difficult position for young guys to come in and be successful.

“But I do think, if you take a player early in the draft, everybody is looking to what these guys have done the last few years and the expectations are that you should put him in and let him play. But the thing is, you are also expected to be successful. It’s a tough balancing act you have to face if you take a quarterback. A lot depends on your team and how well you are able to support that player.”

P.S. On the subject of Larry Fitzgerald and the idea, without a franchise QB, if the Cards can “afford” to keep around “the luxury” of a high-profile receiver: “He’s an integral part of what we are trying to get done as we move forward,” Whisenhunt said. “Our goal is to have him retire as a Cardinal one day many years from now.”


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It only takes one

Posted by Darren Urban on April 1, 2011 – 11:02 am

Yesterday, I had a Twitter follower by the name of Mykael C. Wright ask me to explain the confusing aspect of all this drafting-a-quarterback talk.

“Is game film (20%), pro day (30%), & potential (50%) to put #’s on draft grade? I don’t get qb movement NOW.” he wrote.

What everyone should understand about player “movement” in draft speculation is that there really isn’t any “movement.” The lists people refer to are not a team list; as I have mentioned a few times the Cardinals have not even started to put together their draft board (The draft room is on the third floor just a short walk from my desk and is a shortcut to the bathroom; trust me, once that path gets shut down to protect the secrets of the process, I am well aware). The lists are educated speculation from pundits like Mel Kiper or Todd McShay or one of hundreds of mock drafts that come out seemingly more often than ever these days.

Realistically, however, you can’t have movement until you talk to a player. The “lists” before the Scouting combine are based on what has been done on the field but also what scouts have let leak during the college season. In the end, though, scouts only have so much of a say, and in the case of the top quarterbacks, no one really has had a chance to interview them until Indianapolis. Those interviews are crucial to the process, since coaches want to see those guys stand in front of a white board and diagram a play or two and explain how to attack a certain defense (I was fortunate enough to sit in for one quarterback’s interview when I was in Indy; fascinating stuff).

So that’s really the first time teams and coaches can fully understand a QB, and opinions morph. And, as those opinions leak, QBs “move” on the lists. More “movement” might happen again after a pro day or private workouts as these teams further scrutinize a player. The background checks are in full swing, and again, that could reveal something to affect opinion. Don’t underestimate reverse physiology either. Are, for example, Andy Dalton (below) or Christian Ponder that good? Or have Gabbert/Newton/Mallett/Locker taken so many broadsides of criticism that to be not one of those guys alone make you more attractive?

Going back to Mykael’s original question though, I’d think game film is still 50 percent of the thought process. Pro day? Maybe 2 percent from on the field (assuming he was at the combine already). The pro day is more important as to talking to the people (trainers, equipment guys, coaches) that had been around the kid. Potential is a huge part of it too, especially for underclassmen like Newton or Gabbert who don’t have a long résumé. So to is fit to what you want to do, and of course, the personal interviews.

“Movement” is a mirage, in many ways. And remember, it only takes one team to love you. If, for instance, the Panthers take Cam Newton first overall, does it matter if the rest of the NFL wouldn’t risk a first-round pick on him?

.


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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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Mockingly, a vote for Peterson

Posted by Darren Urban on March 28, 2011 – 4:53 pm

I know people love to look at mock drafts but they seem rather silly to me, especially more than a few days out — so much can still change (the Cards, for instance, haven’t even started to build their draft board) and it’s usually an exercise in futility anyway.

That said, it is fun to talk about and debate, and NFL.com has been doing a video mock the past few years, getting someone who covers the team to make a pick for that team and explain some of the reasoning behind it. I did that last week, and now the top eight picks are posted on NFL.com. The way it works is they come to you and let you know what players are gone and you move from there. In this mock, the top four picks before the Cards were on the clock looked like this:

  • Carolina — QB Cam Newton, Auburn
  • Denver — DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
  • Buffalo — LB Von Miller, Texas A&M
  • Cincinnati — WR A.J. Green, Georgia

Obviously, Miller being off the board takes away a player many link to the Cards right now. It leaves two names that have floated around consistently in QB Blaine Gabbert and CB Patrick Peterson.

In this instance, as you can see in the video, I went with Peterson.

I am not saying I feel sure about such a pick. Peterson is expected to be one of the best, if not the best, players available. As I noted in my explanation, however, there seem to be a lot of parallels to Antrel Rolle that would at least make me hesitate. It’s also possible Gabbert is impressing the Cards when they get a chance to talk to him. Some, at this point, think Gabbert would be impossible for the Cards to pass up. And maybe the need for a pass rusher goes beyond keying on Miller, too.

As has been said many times, the quarterbacks hold the key to the top five. If Newton and Gabbert are both chosen, it looks so much different than if they are not. Realistically, all five teams need a QB — or at least it can be said that none are sure they have their long-term quarterback currently.

In this case, Peterson seems to be an impact player on the defense, which the Cards could use (yes, I do have concerns about a low Wonderlic score; it’s not the end-all, be-all, but it can’t be ignored either). I think impacting the defense is important. Would they go with him over say, Gabbert, if this is how it plays out? I guess we won’t know unless this is how it plays out.

P.S. By the way, just in case anyone wasn’t sure


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