Cornerback signs with tie to Wilks

Posted by Darren Urban on February 12, 2018 – 2:52 pm

The Cardinals signed a cornerback Monday — Lou Young, who has been around since 2014 and has had stints with the Panthers, Broncos, Ravens, Redskins and Jaguars. Much of the time was spent on practice squads, and he was with Washington in the 2017 preseason before he was released and did not play anywhere else during the season.

But Young did play six games for Carolina in 2016, when Steve Wilks was the defensive backs coach, and he was with Carolina in 2015 as well. And his arrival is a reminder of how chunks of the roster often look when a new coach arrives — it’s never a surprise to see a few friendly faces brought in. It’s a natural move. When possible, coaches want to know what they are working with.

When Dennis Green was hired, one-time Vikings like cornerback Robert Tate, offensive lineman Everett Lindsay and wide receiver Chris Collins all spent at least some time in Arizona that first season. Ken Whisenhunt had guys like wide receiver Sean Morey, punter Mike Barr and tight end Tim Euhus. Bruce Arians had Drew Stanton and Jerraud Powers.

Again, it’s not necessarily a big chunk of the roster, and it doesn’t mean the Cardinals will chase lesser players just because they have a tie to a coach on staff. But as with most places of work, familiarity helps.

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 50 Comments »

McCoy knows it’s about the players

Posted by Darren Urban on January 29, 2018 – 4:52 pm

Mike McCoy was blunt, when asked if his offensive playcalling was about scheme or matchups.

“Players,” he said, and that’s always the ultimate answer.

As an incoming coordinator, McCoy was probably never going to have a lot of specifics. He was just hired, and even if there was a quarterback in place, a change in head coach usually means a change in the roster anyway. Besides, he still has to evaluate the guys who are on the roster in the first place. Then you add in all the uncertainty on that side of the ball, because of impending free agency with so many (and the question of Larry Fitzgerald’s future, although more on that in a moment) and McCoy didn’t have the specifics I’m sure many wanted to hear. It isn’t feasible yet.

But it always comes down to players.

That can get lost, and yes, coaching matters. McCoy’s best time as an OC came when Peyton Manning was in his Denver heyday in 2012, but that shouldn’t be a negative. It’s a fact, just like Bruce Arians was at his best offensively when Carson Palmer had his best season in 2015 or that Ken Whisenhunt had his best offense when Kurt Warner stepped forward in 2008-09.

It’s impossible to know what the Cardinals’ offensive personnel might be. McCoy talked about wanting to win, regardless of how pretty it might look. He did that in 2011 with a Broncos offense using Tim Tebow(!) to win a playoff game and leading the NFL in rushing. He threw plenty with Manning and Philip Rivers. The Cardinals have one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league in David Johnson and I’m guessing he’ll do a lot of both — because why wouldn’t he? McCoy is smart enough to know what he has.

Speaking of which, McCoy sure sounded like a guy who expects Fitzgerald to play, which continues to be the guesstimate put out by those closest to Fitz, like his dad or Warner. “We might shift some things we wanted to be our core, then we’ll go the other way,” McCoy said. ” ‘We’re better at this.’ ‘David likes these runs.’ ‘The quarterbacks like these plays.’ ‘Larry, this is what he loves. This is what he’s good at it.’ We’ve got to learn a lot about the players too.” That sounds like a guy thinking Fitz will be around.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 32 Comments »

Arians: “Too much to live for to die on the sideline”

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2018 – 10:16 pm

Bruce Arians was doing the media tour Tuesday, talking with both Rich Eisen and Colin Cowherd a week after retiring and mentioning he’d like to get into the media business. I can’t imagine someone won’t be willing to give him a chance. During his appearance on the “Rich Eisen Show,” Arians talked again about retirement, touching on familiar subjects with some more detail.

— He admitted his 2016 health scares “were eye opening.” He didn’t want cancer to drive him out of the game, and he was able to return. But there was concern for both himself and his wife, Chris.

“The stress of being a coach’s wife, of watching my health go up and down with wins and losses,” Arians said. “I knew I was done too, I was, ‘Yeah, you’re right, there’s too much to live for to die on the sideline.”

— He reiterated he knew he was done in the last game in Seattle when Phil Dawson made his field goal and then Blair Walsh missed. But he acknowledged the family had talked about it as far back as the weekend after the Thursday night home loss to Seattle. “My wife, she was done,” Arians said. “God bless her, 47 years in this business is enough.” (Arians had previously written he was considering staying one more year and renting an apartment if his wife went back to their “forever home” in Georgia.)

— He remains bullish on the Cardinals being a contender, and that GM Steve Keim will find the right coach and make the right roster moves. “I think the Cardinals can win a championship,” he said. “The talent is here.”

— That said, he admitted he was hoping defensive coordinator James Bettcher (who interviewed last week for the head coach opening) was the one who ends up with the job. Calling himself “selfish,” Arians said “I want to be able to go back and be a small part of it” and apparently he feels that would be the case if Bettcher was his replacement.

— As for Larry Fitzgerald, Arians said he thinks he will come back “with the right situation.” It isn’t a surprise that it would include the right coach and system, and the right quarterback.


Tags: ,
Posted in Blog | 33 Comments »

Coach patience, and the dates of hire

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2018 – 11:41 am

Michael Bidwill said he isn’t in any rush to hire a new coach, nor did he want to be. It’s not so much about going slow as much as not speeding into the wrong decision. Since I started covering the Cardinals full-time (at the time, the Tribune) back in 2000, this will be the fifth head-coaching hire. Vince Tobin was in place when I got the beat covering the team. He didn’t even last until mid-season before he was let go and Dave McGinnis was made interim boss. Here are the dates on which the hires of the four previous head coaches were official:

— McGinnis, Dec. 19, 2000 (He had the interim tag removed before season’s end.)

— Dennis Green, Jan. 7, 2004

— Ken Whisenhunt, Jan. 14, 2007

— Bruce Arians, Jan. 17, 2013

Every search is different, obviously. Of that list, only Arians was coming off a staff that had made the playoffs — and the Colts had lost Wild Card weekend — so they were all available fairly quickly. Of the current list of coaches the Cardinals have talked to, most (as of today) are still in the playoffs, and it’s possible the desired choice will remain in the postseason beyond this weekend. One interesting date to consider coming up: Senior Bowl week begins Jan. 22. Will there be Cardinals’ coaches there, or just scouts?

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 16 Comments »

As he leaves, Bruce Arians aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on January 1, 2018 – 7:00 pm

Bruce Arians was the Cardinals’ coach for a day or two when I happened to be in his office as he taped a video for a banquet back in his home state of Pennsylvania. I don’t recall who it was for, but I do recall that Arians got choked up delivering the lines. He admitted he was an emotional sort. It was not only an explanation, but it turned into a promise. And there he was Monday, in his final press conference, choking up again. In between, there was plenty of emotion — tears and otherwise.

B.A. had confidence. Whether he would’ve been like that 10 years ago as a coach (I suspect yes) or if it was the fact it had taken so long to get a head coaching job right as he got to the end of his career, he always was going to do it the way he wanted. That’s who the Cards hired. He won games that way, he made gutsy calls, he did things that frustrated fans. Oh, and he was incredibly entertaining all the while.

Just the other day he was talking about how close he had been in Pittsburgh with fellow Steelers assistant Ken Whisenhunt — the man he just happened to surpass as the Cardinals’ all-time winningest coach, and the man who tried to hire Arians on his Cardinals’ staff at one point — and how much he liked to trash talk the Steelers defense in practice. That carried over. When Arians stepped to the podium Sunday night and said with that crooked smile he’d often have, “Thanks for coming to my house,” that was the essence of Arians.

In an article B.A. co-wrote for The Athletic with Lars Anderson — the author of B.A.’s book — he noted he considered many different options for 2018, including coaching:

“I feel like we have so much unfinished business here with the Cardinals—the last two seasons have been major disappointments because we’ve failed to make the playoffs—and I considered renting an apartment next year in Phoenix, living alone, and making one final charge at the Super Bowl.”

Instead, the pull of family, and his grandchildren, were too much, and choosing to retire is a very human thing to do. So many coaches leave jobs claiming family when, in the end, they are just looking for a different job. In this case, it was family that truly pulled Arians from the game.

On a personal level, I have covered and interviewed many coaches (on many levels, in many sports) over the 27 years or so I’ve been writing sports. Some have been difficult, many have been good to work with. But, especially on the professional level, anyone covering B.A. understands it will never get any better. You could ask Arians any question. He may or may not answer or be detailed, although most of the time, he was very good.

In the end, Arians won. The last two years were not what he or anyone in the organization wanted. But that the Cards finished 8-8 given their injuries was remarkable, and it also says something about where the Cardinals are when .500 (or 7-8-1) is such a disappointment. GM Steve Keim said today he expects to make a couple of moves and still compete in 2018. He’s got to hope he brings in a coach that can be as good as his last hire.

Posted in Blog | 55 Comments »

Seahawks — and the season — aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 31, 2017 – 7:59 pm

It was late in Sunday’s game, right after Phil Dawson kicked his field goal to put the Cardinals ahead by two with a little more than two minutes left, when offensive coordinator/O-line coach Harold Goodwin found someone on the sideline and exclaimed, “We’ve got no linemen left.”

Goodwin smiled, because the reality was that he was right and that the Cardinals had also somehow made it work well enough to win – again – in the one place they want to win more than any other. It was also fitting given how the year unfolded. The Cardinals very well could have had issues even if everyone had played this year. But they wouldn’t be convinced they wouldn’t have overcome it and found a way into the postseason, not after getting eight wins despite their starting offensive line getting all of eight snaps together and their MVP-type running back playing less than a game and their quarterback less than half a season.

“It’s really hard to walk away from this,” Bruce Arians said. “It wasn’t hard to walk away four weeks ago, when you looked at what we were playing with. But to win three out of four, it’s very hard to walk away from that.”

Arians insisted he hasn’t made a decision. We’ll know soon enough. But for all the ups and downs of the season, it is remarkable they went 8-8.

“We’re just happy we finished the way we did,” defensive lineman Frostee Rucker said. “We didn’t want to finish 7-9. We wanted to finish 8-8.”

— The Cardinals, after all that, were the only 8-8 team in the league. They will draft 15th in the first round – unless, of course, they make a trade.

— Kerwynn Williams set a career-best with 23 carries (for 75 yards) and Elijhaa Penny added 39 yards and a touchdown. The Cards, even with all the offensive line issues, ran the ball decently. They struggled late, but it was enough. Penny was huge on the winning field-goal drive.

— There probably wasn’t a better place for Chandler Jones to try and get two sacks to break the franchise record, but there it was – and Jones missed out on a couple more, losing one on a facemask and having another near-miss. To get 17 sacks in a season is impressive. To have Jones do it in the first year of his new contract bodes very well. That trade couldn’t have worked out better.

— After the first half, it looked like Larry Fitzgerald was going to have a good shot at the NFL receptions title for a second straight season. Eight catches in the first half, but none in the second – although he was targeted. He and Drew Stanton just couldn’t connect. Fitz needed just one catch to set a career-high in a season, and instead he had 109, tying his big 2015 season.

Whether he gives it another try in 2018, well, that too is up in the air. But you knew that.

— You can argue about Drew Stanton’s ceiling but he did go 3-1 as a starter and Fitz tweeted he was playing on a torn ACL. I’m not sure how much medical background Fitz has, but that says a lot about Stanton. UPDATE: Stanton said it was not an ACL, but a bone bruise.

— Dawson bounced back so well this season. When Arians mentions winning three of the last four, he was a big reason why. He made 22 of his final 24 field goals, and one of those was blocked. It’s interesting that the Cardinals have won two games in a row in Seattle thanks to field goals.

— The Seahawks’ big second half cost the Cards’ defense a chance to be top five in the rankings. They finished sixth.

— It’s New Year’s Day tomorrow, but certainly no holiday, not for the Cardinals. Exit interviews await, as well as, well, a lot of stuff. One way or another.

“There are a ton of decisions this offseason,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “Steve Keim has his work cut out for him.”

— Time to fly home. The offseason is here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 66 Comments »

A playoff, sort of, Friday before the Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2017 – 2:45 pm

One game left, and for one team, so much is on the line. “We’re anticipating by far their best game of the year,” Bruce Arians said about the Seahawks. “It’s a playoff game for them.” This is true. The Seahawks have to win and have the Falcons lose at home against the Panthers to make it to the playoffs for a sixth straight season.

The Cardinals could spoil that. We’ll see how it goes.

“I keep telling our guys it’s a playoff game for us but I didn’t really feel a playoff this week for us,” Arians said. “I think we’re ready to play, but the playoffs are so different.”

The Cards have never really had a problem getting up for the game in Seattle. I mean, last year, the Cards were already eliminated and they still went out and played well – woefully undermanned on the offensive line – and beat the Seahawks. But the Seahawks knew they were already going to win the division. There was no urgency on their part. That’ll be different. It could have an impact.

— The Cards, however, did win last year. Their offensive line, to jog your memory, was John Wetzel at left tackle, Mike Iupati at left guard, A.Q. Shipley at center, Taylor Boggs at right guard and Earl Watford at right tackle. Boggs even got hurt, forcing rookie center Evan Boehm to fill in.

This year, it’s rookie Will Holden-Alex Boone-Shipley-Boehm-Wetzel (unless Watford is healthy enough to come back and start.) So what does last year’s win mean?

“Just to let them know it can be done,” Arians said. “It’s just a matter of going out and beating your guy one-on-one.”

— The secondary was torn up last year too, with Tony Jefferson getting hurt early and Marcus Cooper down (and Tyrann Mathieu already on IR), so Brandon Williams was playing cornerback and Justin Bethel and Harlan Miller were out there. Looking back, it was indeed an impressive performance – knowing, of course, the offense had both Carson Palmer and David Johnson. Those two are on IR this year, so …

— As of right now, the Cardinals are picking 13th – right where they were choosing in the first round last year. My cursory math says they could pick as high as 11 (if they lose and a couple of other teams win), and as low as 18 (with a win and certain teams lose), but likely somewhere in between. We’ll see how that turns out.

— As for next year’s opponents, those are already set. The Cardinals have – of course, judging in December of 2017, long before next year’s rosters are set and injuries happen – a rough road schedule next year.

— Of all the records and plateaus Larry Fitzgerald has reached this season, there isn’t really anything out there in this game – save for his catch streak, which will reach 211 games and equal Tony Gonzalez for the second-longest ever. Fitz has a chance to lead the league in catches for a second straight season, however. He has 101 receptions, which trails Miami’s Jarvis Landry by two. Landry and the Dolphins play at home against Buffalo, which is trying to make the playoffs.

— A win, and Arians becomes the all-time winningest coach in franchise history, snapping the tie he has with former coach Ken Whisenhunt. Before Whisenhunt was hired by the Cardinals, he was close with Arians – Whisenhunt was the Steelers’ offensive coordinator, Arians was the quarterbacks coach. They lived in the same neighborhood, played a lot of golf together. Whisenhunt tried to hire Arians on his Cardinals’ staff at one point.

Both have 49 total wins – Arians 48 in the regular season, one in the playoffs, with Whisenhunt’s split at 45-4.

“To say I played for the all-time winningest coach and the second all-time winningest coach, that’s not really that good but it’s saying I was part of the best era in Cardinals history,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s pretty cool.”

— A lot could happen this offseason. But first, we go to Seattle.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 17 Comments »

The pursuit of happiness (for Smokey Brown)

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2017 – 12:47 pm

Here’s the thing about John Brown. He is well-liked. You could see it in the reaction after he scored his touchdown Sunday against the Giants — Drew Stanton ran into the end zone dancing, Larry Fitzgerald delivered a patented Fitz-tackle, and then Fitz and Jermaine Gresham picked Smoke up and carried him a bit in celebration. And then you heard it after the game:

“It’s great to see John come back and get that touchdown,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s still not full speed, but it meant a lot to him to get out there and play. It meant a lot to me to see him play.”

“It’s a lot of fun when you see good things happen to those guys,” Fitzgerald said. “Smoke needed that, we needed that, and hopefully, we can get a little bit more done next week.”

That’s another reason why Brown’s status is so interesting heading into the offseason. No, the fact his teammates and his coach want him to do well isn’t why, unto itself, you bring a guy back. Brown’s market — such that it will be, after two years of injury-impacted struggles, including a disappointing 21-299-3 line this season — doesn’t figure to be intense or expensive. He is light years from his first two seasons, in which he had a 1,000 yards in 2015 and multiple huge plays as a rookie in 2014. Will the Cardinals bring him back as a potential piece, a wild card bonus if he can stay healthy? Given his health history, the Cards can’t pencil him in (if he came back) high on the depth chart. But the guy, when he has been right, has proven he can make plays.

And that makes everyone happy.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Blog | 21 Comments »

TDs on the wish list, Friday before the Giants

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2017 – 3:04 pm

Who wouldn’t want a touchdown for Christmas?

The Cardinals certainly do. They’d like for the move to Drew Stanton to mean a TD on their first possession. They’d like to break that paydirt drought that has grown to more than 10 quarters. It’s gonna be Christmas Eve, after all. Are the Cards ready to do that? Bruce Arians hopes so, but he can’t predict it.

“You don’t know until you get in a game,” Arians said. “It’s totally different than practice. (Red zone) is one of the looks that’s hard to get from the scout team.”

Of course, it doesn’t have to be in the red zone. They’d take a 50-yard Stanton-to-J.J. Nelson bomb. They’d take a one-yard Elijhaa Penny plunge. They’d take another Ricky Seals-Jones end zone sighting. They’d certainly take a Fitz fade.

“B.A. talks about it, I talk about it, it’s simple execution,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “You go back to last week (in Washington), there are plays there to be made. Ball is a little high or (tackle) Will Holden gives up a sack, little things. Many opportunities, and we didn’t get it done. I kick myself all the time, we score one touchdown, we probably win that game.”

We know what’s on the Cardinals’ wish list.

— The roof at University of Phoenix Stadium will be open Sunday for the game. Temperatures are supposed to be in the upper 60s, so dress accordingly.

— When Carson Palmer went down, the Cardinals knew they were going to have to rely on their defense. The defense knew this, and they have basically played like it. Starting with the Seahawks game in Week 10 (the Cards still only allowed 10 points the game before against the 49ers), the Cardinals are the No. 1 defense in the NFL. They haven’t been perfect, but if the offense had been able to do a little more against the Seahawks, Texans and Redskins, the Cards would be in a different place, even with all the injuries.

— Linebacker Chandler Jones said he’s happy with his 15 sacks so far because it accomplishes his goal – which is an improvement over the previous season. “It was always to do better than last year,” Jone said.

The bar is going to be pretty high for 2018, then.

“Exactly,” Jones said. “Because I know next year around training camp, you guys are going to be asking me, ‘What’s your goal?’ And I’ll say,  ‘Better than last year, uhhhhh.’ ”

— In what could be Larry Fitzgerald’s final home game, he needs eight catches for 100 on the season and 18 yards for 1,000. It would be fitting for him to get both.

— The Giants have three players from near the Cardinals’ practice facility. Defensive end Avery Moss played at Tempe Corona del Sol, linebacker Devon Kennard played across the freeway at Desert Vista in Ahwatukee, and running back Paul Perkins is from Chandler High School.

— Karlos Dansby likely will play Sunday, but with Josh Bynes out, rookie Haason Reddick has a chance to play some inside linebacker for the first time since moving outside following Markus Golden’s season-ending injury. That would be good. Reddick’s future is inside in this defense.

— A better draft pick awaits if the Cardinals lose out, but the players would like to climb back to 8-8 (especially because it would mean beating the Seahawks in Seattle.), Besides, “you don’t want to put bad things on tape,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “We have great guys in this locker room that understand that.”

— For all you seeking a retro look, the Cardinals will finally be wearing their red pants with their red jerseys Sunday. It’s a festive look after all.

See you Christmas Eve.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 20 Comments »

Waiting on Nkemdiche

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2017 – 12:53 pm

Robert Nkemdiche, who hurt his wrist last weekend, was back on the field for the open portion of practice today, so he seems to be trending toward getting ready to play against the Giants. That’s always a good thing for the former No. 1 draft pick who has battled injuries and has yet to really make a mark as he comes to the end of his second NFL season.

“I think Robert can be a heck of a player,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s just got to learn that this is the NFL, not college. He does well in practice, and then he goes a little rogue in games and just thinks he’s going to ‘out-athlete’ everybody. And he has to use his technique, but the talent is there.”

The Cardinals would like to see something more soon from Nkemdiche, who will be this week’s guest on the Big Red Rage with Karlos Dansby tonight at 6 p.m. He has yet to record a sack in the pros, and has been credited with 10 tackles in 10 games this season. He played 10 snaps before getting hurt against Washington. In the previous two games he played 20 and 14, respectively. It is  — obviously — not what a team wants to get out of a first-round pick. Arians clearly has optimism. Nkemdiche is the one who has to make sure he puts to better use what he is learning.

UPDATE: Nkemdiche speaking on the Big Red Rage, said injuries have undercut his progress. “Once I find my groove, I’ll be dominant.” He said he will play Sunday. “I feel like overall I’ve had a season that, to me, is inconsistent,” he added. “I haven’t been on the field enough and doing things in the right perspective to be consistent. … I don’t think I’m where I want to be.”



Tags: ,
Posted in Blog | 18 Comments »