Kolb inactive, Heap to play, Bridges starts

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2011 – 9:31 am

Quarterback Kevin Kolb will remain inactive another week with his toe/foot injuries, so — as expected — John Skelton will start with Rich Bartel as the backup. The Cardinals will have tight end Todd Heap back, although how much will have to be seen. He was active the last game against the Rams and only played a couple of plays. Fellow tight end Rob Housler remains out. Tackle Brandon Keith is active, but after his concussion, it will be veteran Jeremy Bridges starting on the right side.

Fullback Anthony Sherman finally returns to the starting lineup, with Reagan Maui’a inactive.

Besides Kolb, Housler and Maui’a, the rest of the Cards’ inactives today:

  • WR Stephen Williams
  • S Kerry Rhodes (foot)
  • LB Joey Porter (knee)
  • T D’Anthony Batiste

One other good nugget: Fox play-by-play man Sam Rosen is working his fourth Cards’ game of the year today. In each of the previous three, Patrick Peterson has a punt return for a touchdown. So take that for what it’s worth (which is coincidence, but still, a fun fact.)

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Kolb’s football flow and Thanksgiving notes

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2011 – 1:29 pm

Quarterback Kevin Kolb was “a little sore” in practice today after his most extensive work Wednesday since getting hurt, but that was to be expected, coach Ken Whisenhunt said following Thanksgiving practice.

“It’s just a thing where he has to warm it up,” Whisenhunt said, pointing out Kolb didn’t have any setback. “He has to get back into the flow of football.”

— The Cardinals did get Jeremy Bridges back for practice today — he missed Wednesday for personal reasons — which is good, since starting right tackle Brandon Keith has yet to pass his concussion test. Whisenhunt said the hope is that Keith will pass all the tests by tomorrow and be able to practice, but that’s TBD.

— Other than Bridges, the injury report was unchanged from Wednesday.

— Adam Schefter reported 49ers safety Dashon Goldson was fined $25,000 for his ejection in the Early Doucet scuffle from Sunday. Doucet, meanwhile, was fined $10,000 for his role in the fight.

— The players got a chance to bail out after practice, with no afternoon meetings so they could get to their holiday. Whiz did have a message for them before that, though.

“You can’t forget, we have practice (Friday),” Whisenhunt said. “The point you have to make with the players is that it’s great we don’t have meetings and you get to spend time with the family, but we have to come back and work tomorrow, clean up the things we made mistakes on today.”

Whiz and the coaches still had to prep for Friday, but then, their own families waited. “Eat a little, not a lot,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s the goal.”

A good goal to have. With props to Jimmy O for helping me out and letting me have my own family time, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

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Dan Williams breaks arm, out for season

Posted by Darren Urban on November 20, 2011 – 7:42 pm

Nose tackle Dan Williams broke his left arm Sunday in the game against the 49ers. No official word on how long he is out, but with six games left, you figure it’s going to be tough — and probably not worth it — to come back. That means rookie David Carter will move into the starting lineup, and probably means Nick Eason will get more work at the position.

UPDATE: Coach Ken Whisenhunt said on his post game radio show Williams was indeed done for the season.

Right tackle Brandon Keith also suffered a concussion during the game and his status will be evaluated this week.

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Friday before the Niners

Posted by Darren Urban on November 18, 2011 – 5:19 pm

I’ll be honest: I didn’t think the 49ers would do this. I didn’t think they could keep the same quarterback and win; I didn’t think they could bring in a brand-new coaching staff and win. I’m not sure just how they are, or how much it says about Jim Harbaugh (or what it says about Mike Singletary for that matter).

In some ways, it mirrors the Cardinals when Ken Whisenhunt came aboard. Obviously, the Cards didn’t start 8-1 in Whiz’s first season, but Whisenhunt, like Harbaugh, took essentially the same players Denny Green had and won with them.

Where the 49ers go will be interesting; they don’t have as good of a quarterback as the Cards had, but overall they have a better defense. And, given the way the last couple games have gone, I am very, very curious to see how the Cards match up.

As for other stuff to consider:

— I don’t know why I found the need to notice this, but Larry Fitzgerald made some unbelievable catches at practice Friday. One-handed, over the head, in traffic. A lot of them. No, it’s not surprising. No, it’s not out of the ordinary, unless we are talking about sheer volume. I know Fitz said the other day he didn’t necessarily feel he was in a zone in Philadelphia, but man, he sure looks like he’s there right now.

— If you haven’t had a chance to read my piece on linebacker Daryl Washington … well … why not? Regardless, it’s clear Washington has surged ahead as one of the key components of this defense. His speed makes a difference. Heck, so too does the speed of Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield. I am sure there are still some bumpy times ahead for this D (although, if they can deal with the Niners’ running game, maybe not this weekend)  but given the flashes from the linebackers, from Calais Campbell, from Patrick Peterson and yes, even A.J. Jefferson, there is hope.

— As for an assessment of the defense by coordinator Ray Horton in the Philadelphia game: “The results obviously were an ‘A’ but getting there we were a ‘C,’ ” Horton said. “We left a lot of plays out there. Missed tackles dropped interceptions, called-back interceptions, penalties. We are a work in progress, but to hold such an explosive offense to half their production was a good start.”

— The Cardinals have dealt with a lot of bad field position the past two games, although “it seems like we have been fighting that quite a bit this year,” Whisenhunt said. The Cards’ average start in Philadelphia was Arizona’s own 18-yard line. Against the Rams, the Cards were trapped back far enough that QB John Skelton was swarmed twice for safeties. It speaks to the sputtering offense in part; while Skelton has led some great late drives, the Cards did have six drives that ended in three plays or less. Now comes a game against a team with great special teams. Punter Andy Lee has been awesome (averaging better than 50 yards a punt).

— I think the Levi Brown conversation has been hashed out enough that everyone knows it by heart. But the other side of that is the other side of the line. If Brown doesn’t return next year, does right tackle Brandon Keith? He hasn’t played consistently, but Whisenhunt said he has played better and believe if Keith can just get healthy, the Cards might have something.

The problem is he isn’t healthy and has rarely been healthy. He tore his meniscus in Week One of 2010 and played with it up until his hamstring gave out midway through the season, ending his season. His knee hasn’t totally rallied; he has had to come out a few times because of knee issues; Keith said if he tweaks it the wrong way “it feels like the whole leg is on fire.”

“It is frustrating, because you don’t like to come out,” Keith said. “People on the outside want to know, ‘Why is he out?’ People are saying, ‘If he is hurt, why is he playing?’ I’m actually playing better, as crazy as that sounds. The messed up part you just hate it. (if I get hit), I’m not going to do anyone any good on one leg.”

— He was tamed last week, but the accolades continue for Peterson nationally. This, from Bill Barnwell of, noting Peterson’s three punt returns for touchdowns: “There are only 33 players in NFL history who have run back more than three punts for touchdowns during their entire career. Peterson’s tied for 34th on the all-time list after nine games. That’s just freakish.”

Adds Barnwell, “(Devin) Hester is having a monster season and is building a Hall of Fame résumé as a return man, but if we were looking for someone to compete with him over the next few years, we found that man in Patrick Peterson.”

— The 49ers are going to be ready for Beanie Wells. So Skelton better be ready for the Niners. He has to be more efficient early, complete more passes.

— Will we see Adrian Wilson vs. Vernon Davis? That used to be a heavyweight battle. I’m not sure it will be a matchup anymore, although the Cards have to watch the Niners’ tight ends. This is Harbaugh football, after all.

— Any chance the Niners overlook the Cards, since they have to play Baltimore Thanksgiving night, in a Harbaugh v Harbaugh game?

Probably not.

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Talking QB, Feely, Keith

Posted by Darren Urban on November 14, 2011 – 9:14 pm

Wrapping up the night with some quick thoughts that I meant to get to earlier:

–I’ve written this quite a few times, but so many are asking (and continue to ask) I’ll just throw some of my personal thoughts on the QB situation. (That way, next time someone asks, I can just post this link.) I think John Skelton has played some good football. I think he is the first to admit he hasn’t played good football. He did a series of interviews today and said, over and over, he believes Kevin Kolb is still the starter and certainly, coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn’t said any different.

Kolb hasn’t even practiced. He could this week, but I want to see it first. Even if he does, here is what I would do (DISCLAIMER: My opinion here): Skelton would start in San Francisco. All due respect to the Rams and Eagles, dealing with the 49ers’ defense would be a major test. One of the great hypotheticals out there right now in this whole debate, in my head, is how Kolb would have done against St. Louis and Philly, and on the flip, how Skelton would have done against the highly ranked defenses of Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

Former Cards QB Kurt Warner went on the radio today — XTRA 910 — and reiterated yet again that, in Whiz’s offense, it takes at least a year in which to become comfy. Skelton had that year (although he is still learning). Kolb obviously has not. Again, my opinion, I want to give Kolb that year. Skelton isn’t going anywhere. It’s not like you can’t afford to keep both around, regardless of who is starting. You can’t afford not to.

— Whisenhunt said he was “disappointed” that kicker Jay Feely missed two field goals Sunday. In case you weren’t sure, just watch the video — after the second one, Whiz clearly let Feely know of his disappointment. But Monday, Whisenhunt said “I’m not worried about Jay.” The game would have been less stressful with the makes, Whiz added, but “I’m not down on Jay.”

— That same knee that right tackle Brandon Keith had repaired last season is continually giving him trouble. Whisenhunt said Keith will get checked out, but that’s a few times Keith has had to leave the game with that knee issue. He’s struggled and it’d be interesting to know how much could be attributed to the injury.

— Texans QB Matt Schaub has a lis franc injury, possibly ending his season. What does that mean? Matt Leinart will take over the reins of a 7-3 team that is in control of its division. The Texans have a favorable schedule, a great run game and a good defense. I was surprised Leinart passed up a chance to sign with Seattle this offseason and possibly become the starter. It worked out for him. It will be interesting to see how life in Houston plays out with Leinart as QB.

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Whiz: Until Kolb healthy, “nothing to discuss” with QB

Posted by Darren Urban on November 14, 2011 – 11:46 am

Ken Whisenhunt knew the questions were coming and will be coming. It’s the quarterback position, and certainly, after last year, he’s dealt with the who-should-be-the-starter talk a few times. So it came up again Monday, given the two straight wins by John Skelton, whether Skelton or Kevin Kolb should be the starter.

For Whisenhunt, it’s easy to answer, because of Kolb’s injury situation. Kolb continues to battle turf toe and a bone bruise on the outside of the same foot. He hasn’t practiced since before the Baltimore game and still has not been cleared to practice, Whisenhunt said. “There is really nothing to discuss right now.”

“John has done exactly what we expected him to do: He’s come in, he’s managed the offense, he’s made some good plays, and he’s made some not-so-good plays,” Whisenhunt said. “He’s learning and growing. That’s what you have to do. … Until something changes, there’s really nothing to discuss.”

Whisenhunt said he understands why it is a point of discussion and a topic many wonder about. “But where we are right now, it doesn’t matter, until we get Kevin back out there and practicing.”

Whisenhunt did like how Skelton played in the fourth quarter and he praised Skelton again for his resiliency after making a couple of crucial interceptions. “He is what we expected him to be,” Whisenhunt said. “There are going to be ups and downs. But I think he is getting a little more comfortable with the offense.”

Skelton missed Larry Fitzgerald on a slant that should have been a huge play in the fourth quarter, but he came back with those passes to LaRod Stephens-Howling and Fitz on the game-winning drive. “He learned from that,” Whisenhunt added.

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Kolb’s turf toe and other day after notes

Posted by Darren Urban on October 31, 2011 – 11:41 am

As usual, there is only so much injury info available Monday morning. Coach Ken Whisenhunt reiterated quarterback Kevin Kolb has turf toe, and while it is black and blue and swollen, what that means to Kolb’s availability for practice and/or the game is yet to be determined. He did play the whole game with it yesterday, so that’s been proven.

Fullback Anthony Sherman (ankle) and tight end Rob Housler (groin) remain as the other question marks coming out of the game. Tight end Todd Heap (hamstring) was “close” but Whisenhunt — while hopeful Heap can play against the Rams — certainly wasn’t saying it was going to happen for sure. As for safety Kerry Rhodes (foot surgery), he remains out indefinitely. It still sounds like it’ll be another couple of games.

— The sacks Kolb took (six in all) were a combination of protection and Kolb holding the ball, Whisenhunt said. Already, it was out there that Brandon Keith and Jeremy Bridges will battle this week to be the starting right tackle. D’Anthony Batiste is the left tackle option, and Whisenhunt did leave the door open for a change with Levi Brown (although I still expect Brown to remain left tackle.)

— On cornerback A.J. Jefferson’s struggles: “He’s essentially like a rookie who is playing. Sometimes, whether you are a veteran or a rookie, you go through stretches like that and it is tough. That’s why it is so tough to play that position, not only from a physical standpoint but from a confidence standpoint. .. We have to continue to work him through this. It’s tough, when you are going against good players and they make good plays. That happens in this league, and we have to work at getting his confidence back.”

— Tuesday (tomorrow) at 5 p.m. Az time the NFL Network will replay yesterday’s game with enhanced replays and interviews. Obviously, not the rally you want to watch if you are a Cards’ fan. But maybe take a look at the first half? Just wanted to pass along the info.

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Ravens aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 30, 2011 – 6:22 pm

I’ll start with Beanie.

You could see it, every time he tried to bounce it outside, that his right knee was trouble. He had no burst of speed. He couldn’t get the corner. And a few times after he was hit, the Ravens blasted him on the leg. He couldn’t get as many carries as he normally would have. Physically he couldn’t do it.

Yet there he was, plowing into the line. There he was, going over the top for a touchdown. There he was, probably needing to come out of the game after being blasted by Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata on a third-and-1 but insisting to the sideline he wanted to stay in for a crucial fourth down and cracking off a four-yard rush on the next play.

The Cardinals didn’t win, but I – and anyone else watching – had to be impressed by Wells. That is one of those tangible things you see when anyone asks about the team shutting it down during this losing streak.

Of course, that doesn’t make the losing easier. Not the way it happened Sunday. For a half, it felt like a corner had been turned. There were things that helped, with Ravens’ turnovers and Patrick Peterson’s electric punt return, of course. Kevin Kolb didn’t have exciting numbers in the first half (other than the 66-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald) but he did look more comfortable.

From there, though, the offense stumbled and the defense couldn’t stop Anquan Boldin. Hard loss.

— Larry Fitzgerald only had three receptions, for 98 yards. He was only targeted on five passes total, much too low of a number. Fitzgerald, however, said the Cards called his number “six or seven times” in the second half.

“It’s not like they’re not calling my number,” Fitzgerald said. “The ball has to go where the ball needs to be depending on the coverage. If Kevin forces the ball and (Ravens safety) Ed Reed is over the top of me, time and time again, Ed Reed makes people pay for those types of mistakes. The calls were there.”

Fair enough. The Cards have to find a way though.

— The Ravens’ defense harasses quarterbacks better than any defense in the NFL, but Kolb has to complete more passes. Under 50 percent for a game in today’s NFL – where you really need to be at least at 60 percent to be better than average – isn’t going to get it done.

— The Cards had a defensive sub-package that had Richard Marshall at safety instead of Rashad Johnson. After A.J. Jefferson’s tough game – he was the one covering Boldin most of the time when Boldin went off — Marshall took Jefferson’s spot on the last drive when Jefferson was kept on the sideline. Marshall still gave up the bomb that sealed the Cards’ fate.

— Jefferson, meanwhile, tweeted this out afterward: “Only so many people actually know the schemes n game. I do what I’m told, If I had it my way… Well it’d be my way. #ItisWhatItis ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”

— One last cornerbacks thought: Peterson likes playing physical, but in the NFL, it’s going to get you penalties more often than not. That’s going to be part of his learning curve – until/if he becomes a star and they let him get away with it more often.

— Right tackle Brandon Keith was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of Jeremy Bridges. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he didn’t know if it’d be permanent. “We made a move because we had, obviously, given up two plays there and weren’t getting the job done,” Whisenhunt said. “We’ll work this week and whoever practices better will be the guy that plays there.”

— Boldin insisted again after the game playing the Cardinals meant nothing extra. No, I don’t believe him either.

— Linebacker Terrell Suggs, the ASU product from Chandler who everyone thought was going to be drafted by the Cards until the Cards traded on draft day, 2003, was the opposite. He admitted it does mean something to go against the Cards. He played like it – 13 tackles, a sack, four tackles for loss.

— I don’t know if Sam Acho or O’Brien Schofield will ever get to that level, but they each got a sack in the first game Joey Porter missed. Acho has two sacks, one more than Porter, in much less playing time.

— If FB Anthony Sherman’s left ankle injury is a lingering problem, it’ll be interesting to see what the Cards do at the position. There are no other fullbacks. And with Todd Heap and now Rob Housler gimpy, they are short on tight ends too.

— I don’t know how bad the Kolb foot injury is. (UPDATE: I have been alerted Whisenhunt said on the postgame radio show Kolb has turf toe.) He played the whole game, and even had that gutsy first-down scramble late in the game, prior to the Cards’ final punt. Between that and Beanie’s injury – and Wells thinks his knee is going to be an issue the rest of the season – ouch.

— Of course, that’s what the day was too.


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Second-half storylines

Posted by Darren Urban on October 17, 2011 – 9:52 am

OK, so the Cards aren’t to the second-half of the season yet, but the bye not only gives the team a chance to recalibrate where it is heading into the rest of the year but also a chance to assess what will fall under the microscope for the balance of 2011.

The play of Kevin Kolb: Obviously the Cards have made a long-term commitment to the QB. Long-term is relative in the NFL, but he’s so early in his tenure he isn’t (and shouldn’t be) going anywhere anytime soon. That said, NFL teams lean on their quarterbacks. He doesn’t have to be Tom Brady, but the Cards were counting on more.

How Beanie’s year unfolds: RB Beanie Wells has been, thus far, the back everyone hoped he would be when he was drafted. If he can continue that, it’d be a major step forward offensively.

Tackling the tackles: Who will be the tackles? Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges? Brandon Keith? Kent Somers broke down why Brown probably won’t be around next season. Looking around the league, there are a lot of teams hurting at the position (the Steelers, who visit Sunday, among them). Clearly, though — and obviously, this isn’t out of the box thinking — the Cards have to get more consistency out there.

The linebacker transition: The Cards are still trying to find a way to make Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield work on defense, instead of riding veterans Joey Porter and Clark Haggans. This one may just end up dictated by how the wins and losses play out. If the season further gets away from the Cards — and having the 49ers at 5-1 already doesn’t help — you’d think youth will be served.

Clearly, there will be other spots to watch and evaluate (which is good, since I still need subjects to write about the rest of the season). Given the first outcome against Seattle earlier this season, I am also very curious how the Cards play in the five games remaining against the NFC West. And how the team performs on the road — where they will be for four of five weeks following the Pittsburgh game Sunday.

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Vikings aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 9, 2011 – 8:12 pm

Beanie Wells came around the corner, looked at Vikings cornerback Cedric Griffin, lowered his shoulder and blew Griffin up.

Griffin’s helmet and skullcap went flying. Wells picked up nine yards. It was an angry run, and why wouldn’t it have been? The Vikings were already ahead, 28-3. There was no reason to be anything but upset if you were a Cardinal.

“I don’t know what it was,” Wells said, with a disappointed chuckle. “I was just trying to run the plays.”

It was fitting in some ways, Wells’ run. It came in the middle of the Cards’ longest drive of the day, one that ultimately ended with a punt after QB Kevin Kolb couldn’t connect with tight end Rob Housler for a touchdown, and then Kolb being sacked for a 17-yard loss.

A play such as Beanie’s is an exclamation point after a win. When the Cards lose like they did, it feels like a waste. There is no great analysis after Sunday. The Cardinals are playing poorly, and it caught up to them against the Vikings.

— Perhaps the most interesting thing postgame was the way coach Ken Whisenhunt flowed in a simple eight-minute press conference. Clearly steam when he first came out, he reset himself a few questions in and softened his approach.

“I will say this: I was angry starting out (talking) and I am still angry, but I do believe we have some good players on this football team,” Whisenhunt said. “I haven’t lost any confidence in our players or our team. We are going to look at what we are doing and we are going to put (players) in the best situations not to make those mistakes.”

When there was a follow-up to the idea Whisenhunt could make some changes, he said “It’s hard in season. Let me be clear, when I first said those things, there is a lot of emotion that goes into that. I am disappointed because I thought we were past this as a football team. But I want to be clear, we have a chance to have good football players.”

— I did think it was interesting when quarterback Kevin Kolb noted postgame about the need to work on details. “It starts with meetings, it starts with showing up to work on time getting in early and getting your work done, all the stuff professionals are supposed to do,” Kolb said. You have to wonder to whom that is referring.

— Kolb did stand in the pocket a couple of times until his receiver got open and delivered the pass. That was a good sign. He did have four passes hit at the line of scrimmage – one was intercepted – but Whisenhunt said he didn’t want to tinker with Kolb’s release.

“I don’t think you try to change the arm angle,” Whisenhunt said. “This team is known for that. Some throws Kevin made later in the game he was trying to throw it around the rush. That’s tough.”

Said Kolb, “Some of the balls later in the game I was dropping my arm trying to throw it underneath some of the guys that were running in there.  That’s another thing, just having to change a little bit here and there, making adjustments. The quick passing game, those (defenders) know it, and they are big and tall.”

— Early Doucet was the go-to guy Sunday. He had a career-high eight receptions for 92 yards, and the Cards targeted him 16 times. Doucet, by the way, already has a career-high in yards with 309, and if he hadn’t lost a touchdown catch because of a Jeremy Bridges penalty, he would have had his second 100-yard game of the season. Technically, Andre Roberts is the other starting receiver, but clearly Doucet is the No. 2.

— Everyone waiting for Deuce Lutui to play is probably going to have to wait to see if Rex Hadnot gets hurt. Hadnot has been solid, so Lutui isn’t going to surpass him that way. And when Daryn Colledge suffered a concussion Sunday, it was D’Anthony Batiste subbing in at left guard. Clearly, Lutui is seen as a right guard only – although if Colledge missed significant time, it’d be interesting to see if they’d stick with Batiste, try Lutui on the left, or maybe move Hadnot over there.

— Jeremy Bridges started in place of Brandon Keith at right tackle. I don’t think Bridges had his best game, but then again, who did?

— There was more Sam Acho-for-Joey Porter at linebacker than O’Brien Schofield. It says something about Acho. And probably Schofield too.

That’s all for now. The beauty of an early game in Minnesota is getting back home before the kids go to bed. What else is there to say, anyway?

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