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From no QBs to now: Draft aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2018 – 5:18 pm

The question was about how he and General Manager Steve Keim felt Saturday, two days later, about the ability to trade up and draft potential quarterback-of-the-future Josh Rosen, and Steve Wilks took the opportunity to flash back to January, when he was first hired.

“When you go back to January 22nd, when I was hired, there were questions,” Wilks said. “Here’s a guy with no head coaching experience, you have no quarterback on the roster, the offensive line has a lot of holes, there are a lot of questions about this team. And I would say this: Sight is totally different than vision. Sometimes you have to see past the difficulties. We had a plan. We had a vision.”

Wilks noted the additions on the offensive line, with Justin Pugh and Andre Smith. He noted signing quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. He reiterated the oft-used “aggressive” phrase the Cardinals have used in relation to the first-round trade and the Rosen pick.

“To be sitting in this situation now, to have what could be a future franchise quarterback for many years, you’ve got a dynamic running back who I consider to be the best in the league in David Johnson, we continue to build that offensive line, dynamic receiver (Christian Kirk) who will learn and grow from one of the best in the league in Larry Fitzgerald, so we got better,” Wilks said. “Going back and looking at it now, we’re in a great situation.”

Whether the draft class pans out is TBD. Keim has been excited about every draft class he’s had on the Saturday of the draft. Then, inevitably, some guys don’t work out. That happen with every team. But Wilks does have a point — the roster, particularly the quarterbacks, looked bleak a few months ago. Suddenly, not so much. That’s not to say Rosen — or Bradford — is a lock to star in Arizona. But they could. And if Kirk becomes the wideout the Cards want and need, if Chris Campbell fleshes out as one of Wilks’ late-round developmental gems in the secondary … yes, there are “ifs.” But the Cards are in a much different spot than they were.

— As for Keim and his Rosen reflection, he admitted “it’s a little bit of a relief” to have that future QB around. Finally.

“But at the same time, (I want) to have a little fun and watch how this thing plays out,” Keim said. “I don’t forget my evaluation on Sam Bradford, and if he can stay healthy, you could be talking about a guy who could potentially be the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. I feel that strongly about how he can throw the football.”

— The Cards are in the process of agreeing with undrafted rookies. The official list won’t be out until Monday at the earliest, but I’ll probably retweet some names on Twitter if you want to look there. The official list always ends up a little different — those guys still have to pass physicals, and sometimes, players tweet out they are “signing” with a team even when they are only invited on a tryout basis.

— Last season, then-rookie safety Budda Baker missed all the offseason work other than the rookie minicamp because of an arcane NFL rule that prevented rookies from taking part until after graduation of their school. (The rule was in place to make sure guys could graduate without the pressure of having to miss time, although the reality is guys who are drafted most of the time are ready to go play football anyway.) There were a handful of schools that are on quarter systems and don’t graduate until mid-June. UCLA is one, meaning Rosen normally would have been out like Baker was. But the NFL changed the rule last fall, and Rosen will be able to be around.

“We all know you can’t get that time back,” Wilks said.


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Another coaching opening (and more all-pros)

Posted by Darren Urban on January 15, 2018 – 3:01 pm

The Cardinals, Giants, Lions and Colts still have coaching vacancies, but this morning, the Titans added themselves to the list when they and coach Mike Mularkey agreed to part ways. The rules say coaches still in the postseason can only interview again next week if they had been interviewed once already, but Ian Rapoport tweeted that meant any coach who had been interviewed period, not just by the Titans. So they have a small window for the Super Bowl coaches. Obviously, by next week, there will be only two teams left playing.

Also Monday came a bunch of reports of coaches heading places, none official yet but certainly more strong than previously. With those reports, Pats DC Matt Patricia will coach the Lions, the Giants have Pat Shurmur as their frontrunner and the Colts would get Josh McDaniels. There have been no such reports on the Cards (or the Titans, obviously). Patricia and Shurmur were both on the Cards’ candidate list and it was reported that the Cards like Shurmur. It will be interesting to see if the Cards get any more clarity this week.

— The Pro Football Writers of America released its all-pro team today, and like the Associated Press all-pro team, linebacker Chandler Jones and special teamer Budda Baker made it for the Cardinals.


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Jones, Baker top positions in NFC Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Darren Urban on December 16, 2017 – 1:46 pm

Fan voting — which accounts for a third of the Pro Bowl vote — ended this week, and the Cardinals had a pair of players that ended up with the most votes at their position in the NFC. Both Chandler Jones at outside linebacker and Budda Baker on special teams got more votes than anyone else in the conference, which usually is a pretty good harbinger of Pro Bowl status.

We will see — the coaches get another third of the vote and the players the final third, so there is a still a chance for it to go drastically different, especially on special teams when only one player per conference is chosen. In all, the Cardinals had five players to finish in the top 10 at their position in the fans’ Pro Bowl vote. The Cards’ complete list:

— OLB Chandler Jones (fourth in voting in the NFL, first in the NFC)
— ST Budda Baker (1,1)
— WR Larry Fitzgerald (5,3)
— CB Patrick Peterson (7,4)
— FS Tyrann Mathieu (7,4)

The Pro Bowl rosters will be announced Tuesday at 6 p.m. Arizona time. The game will be played Jan. 28.


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Five Cards hold steady in Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Darren Urban on December 7, 2017 – 9:40 am

With a week left in the Pro Bowl voting, the Cardinals still have five players among the top 10 at their positions, and are still led by rookie Budda Baker’s second-place overall among special teams players (and Baker is also second among NFC vote-getters, with Philly’s Kamu Grugier-Hill atop the standings.) What is a little surprising is that Patrick Peterson is eighth among cornerbacks and only fifth among NFC cornerbacks. Peterson certainly is deserving of Pro Bowl recognition this season.

Besides Peterson and Baker, the other Cardinals in the hunt are:

— WR Larry Fitzgerald (fifth overall, third in NFC)
— FS Tyrann Mathieu (eighth overall, fourth in NFC)
— OLB Chandler Jones (fourth overall, first in NFC)

The fan vote is only part of the equation for Pro Bowl selections, of course. The vote of both the players and the coaches is heavily weighted, but it sure seems like the Cards will be in line for a handful of selections. Voting goes through Dec. 14 and you can vote by clicking here.

 


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Dansby, chasing history, and his drops

Posted by Darren Urban on December 6, 2017 – 12:38 pm

Karlos Dansby is still chasing help for his legacy, even if he felt he became a “legend” when he made his 20th career interception in San Francisco in early November. He is hyper-aware of all the sack and interception totals of the other fellows who comprise the 40-20 club in NFL history (40 sacks, 20 picks), and the linebacker would love to top all of them in both categories. It’s become harder as he gets older of course, and his place in 2018 is murky — Dansby will be a free agent after the season, and the Cardinals, with Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick and a surging Josh Bynes (also an UFA-to-be), could very well look to build their ILB corps differently next season.

But this is the here and now. Dansby has 20 picks, but the argument can be made Dansby should have 23, because there were three other near-misses this season. The most recent was the most painful, a tipped pass against the Rams last weekend that looked tailor-made to be grabbed –until Los couldn’t hold on.

Dansby also could’ve had one against the Jaguars the week before (which would’ve been tough, but in this context, possible), and in the home game against the 49ers on Oct. 1 (In his hands, down the middle, in the fourth quarter). Those obviously would have buoyed his total.

What gets lost too is during his magnificent 2013 season with the Cardinals — a year Dansby should have earned that Pro Bowl berth he so desperately wants  —  there were missed picks then too. Dansby reminded everyone of that a couple of weeks ago on the Big Red Rage, which he co-hosts. Rookie safety Budda Baker was lamenting a dropped interception of his own, against Seattle in the Thursday night game.

“Budda, I’m going to make you feel a little bit better,” Dansby said. “In ’13, I dropped six. That’s why I said I can catch these guys (ahead of him). I know I can. I have confidence in what I am doing and how I am doing it. … Eventually, they are going to have to come to me, and they are going to have to come right to me.”

I’ll admit, I can’t remember six dropped picks from 2013. That’s a long time ago (Dansby, in 2013, had four interceptions, so 10 for a linebacker would’ve been … well, along with his 6 1/2 sacks, he would’ve been Defensive Player of the Year.) But let’s say he did have six and got them all, that’s nine more picks Dansby could have on his total.


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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 3, 2017 – 7:54 pm

The past few years, when the Cardinals had been good and the Rams not so much, the Cardinals would go on the road and beat the Rams. Period. And now, the script has been flipped. The Cardinals are not as good as they once were, and the Rams most certainly are good, and that’s how you end up with results like Sunday. The Cardinals were better than London. It wasn’t 33-0, even though it started like it might have been. But 16 points – which is what the Cards finished with – isn’t enough to win most games and it definitely isn’t enough to beat a Rams team that even on a day where they weren’t completely clicking offensively, they still put up 32.

Blaine Gabbert will remain the starting quarterback, Bruce Arians said, and that, as last week, makes sense. It was a terrible start to the game for Gabbert Sunday, with two early picks. Gabbert said he needs to look at the film on the first throw, and on the second, he said the Rams went against what they had always shown on film in that formation – usually LB Alec Ogletree rushed and didn’t drop – and so Gabbert didn’t expect him there.

Gabbert settled down, and you can see the difference a running game makes. True for any QB, I suppose. There is a lot to take it. Gabbert now has thrown five interceptions in three games. The Cardinals will have to continue to evaluate where he might be as a QB candidate for 2018.

That’s what a lot of this must be. Arians talked about the young players Sunday, making plays and, understandably, making some mistakes. Evaluations are ongoing for everyone with four games left.

— There is no way to say how impressive it was to see Kerwynn Williams play the way he did, knowing his has broken ribs. I loved his response when he was asked if he was experiencing pain during the game: “I feel like everybody is in pain,” Williams said, and it just felt like the opening lyric of a very personal song rather than a postgame quote. It would’ve been nice to get him to 100 yards, given that he had 86 at halftime. All that guy does is produce whenever he is thrust into the lineup.

— With a decent day next week, Larry Fitzgerald is going to surpass Randy Moss for third-place all-time in NFL receiving yards. He needs 26 yards to do so.

— Back and forth with the Cardinals linebackers on picks. Karlos Dansby dropped one he should’ve had, and it cost the Cards at least three points, since the Rams went on to kick a field goal. “We didn’t make the plays that we needed to make, me included,” Dansby said. “I’ve got to make that play. That changed the whole dynamic of the game.”

Then there was the athletic pick by linebacker Kareem Martin, which short-circuited a Rams drive (although Gabbert threw a pick-six a couple of plays later.) “We work on screen drills a lot,” Martin said. “I pretty much just pressed off him to attempt to go pursue. By the time I was about to turn around, I see the ball.”

— There was some wondering how the Rams could go through the long snapper Justin Drescher for the blocked field goal. The rules don’t say you cannot hit the long snapper. You cannot line up over him when the snap happens. As long as you do not, and then go against him after the ball is snapped, contact with the long snapper is legal.

— For the most part, I thought the Cards did a good job on Todd Gurley when Gurley ran the football. The problem was, and this is what defenses must deal with against David Johnson, is that Gurley was so dangerous catching the ball. He had 84 yards receiving (compared to 74 rushing).

— Arians noted the young players. Ricky Seals-Jones dropped one, but he had a couple of nice catches and would’ve had a TD on a good throw from Gabbert on one play. Budda Baker continues to be all over the field, getting eight more tackles defensively (and maybe should’ve had a fumble recovery on the opening kickoff, if there had been Sunday Night Football-type cameras.)


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Budda now second in Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2017 – 9:25 am

Budda is now second.

A week after the rookie surprisingly led all NFL players in votes for the Pro Bowl special teams spot, Budda Baker dropped to second behind Philadelphia’s Kamu Grugier-Hill. You have to wonder if Grugier-Hill’s emergency turn as kicker — quite a sight on national TV for a 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker who looks even bigger — made an impact. Still Baker is in good shape, even if he shrugs off the current standings.

“It feels good but I don’t really pay attention to any of it,” Baker said. “I didn’t really even know about that. Chandler (Jones) told me about it. It’s cool, but it’s still early.”

A quick rundown on the rest of the Cardinals currently among the top 10 vote-getters at their position in the NFL:

— WR Larry Fitzgerald (fifth overall, third in NFC)
— OLB Chandler Jones (fifth overall, first in NFC)
— CB Patrick Peterson (eighth overall, fifth in NFC)
— FS Tyrann Mathieu (ninth overall, fifth in NFC)

Again, the voting goes through Dec. 14. Click here for a ballot.


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Budda leads Pro Bowl voting at special teams

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2017 – 10:43 am

The Cardinals haven’t had the kind of season they want record-wise, but they still have a handful of players who have appeared in the top 10 in Pro Bowl voting thus far. That’s led by Budda Baker among special teamers — a surprise given that he is a rookie, but deserved the way Baker has played special teams this season. Baker has the most votes of anyone in the NFL in the special teams category.

Four other Cardinals are in the top 10 at their positions. Larry Fitzgerald is fourth among wide receivers and second among NFC wideouts (behind Julio Jones). Chandler Jones is fourth among outside linebackers, but the leading vote-getter in the NFC. Patrick Peterson is eighth among cornerbacks, fifth among NFC corners (Jaguars cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, whom the Cards will face Sunday, are first and second.) At safety, Tyrann Mathieu is ninth, and sixth in the NFC.

Voting goes through Dec. 14. Click here to vote.


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Keim: Looking at receivers, and Gabbert praise

Posted by Darren Urban on November 20, 2017 – 8:13 am

Bruce Arians said after the game Sunday he would be looking at different receivers potentially going forward. GM Steve Keim echoed that sentiment Monday during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7.

“We’ve been looking at wide receivers in a lot of different scenarios,” Keim said, noting that the current group — outside of Larry Fitzgerald — haven’t made the plays they had made in the past. That includes consideration of signing guys off the street, Keim said, as well as potentially poaching one from another team’s practice squad.

Who is catching the ball is one of the storylines going forward, as is who is throwing it. Keim praised Blaine Gabbert’s play —  calling him decisive, saying he got the ball out quick and was accurate “for the most part” — as one of three players who really jumped out to him on a positive note. (The other two, of course, were Budda Baker and Ricky Seals-Jones.) He said Gabbert wasn’t helped by a lack of run game or the drops. (A quick aside: Pro Football Focus said the Cardinals only dropped two passes but it’s clear Arians and Keim thought it was more. Keim said six in his interview. I’d have to go back and watch, but at first glance I didn’t not think Sunday was as bad as the Seahawks game.)

Keim gave no hints on who might start at quarterback this coming week. He did say Drew Stanton’s knee was healing quicker than expected. He also said the quarterback decision would be made by Arians, but “we’ll talk it through and it’ll be a team decision.” (In my opinion, it sounded like Keim would lean to giving Gabbert another start. We will see.)

— The inability to run the football is getting under Keim’s skin. “Some of it is getting our tail whipped at the point of attack, some of it is fundamentals,” he said. Keim was disappointed in the blocking from the tight ends, and it the ability to block at the second level.

— Baker is “fun to watch. He plays at a different speed.” Keim loves both his explosive movement, his physical play and how much ground he can cover. He is “fantastic” in pass coverage, Keim added.

— Asked about the fourth down call, Keim said “I have a lot of faith in Coach.” Noted that Arians did drop passes, miss tackles or get dominated on the line of scrimmage, all of which were issues Sunday.

— Keim was asked about, with a 4-6 record, he was now going to focus on the future in terms of roster building and also perhaps how the Cardinals determine playing time. Keim said he’s looking at every scenario as always, scanning practice squads for other players, scouting college players, combining a look at the future as well as now. In terms of playing time, he used the Seals-Jones example of giving a guy a shot who also in term makes things better short-term. “If other guys aren’t getting it done, give other guys an opportunity,” Keim said.


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Texans aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 19, 2017 – 4:25 pm

The focus going in to Sunday’s game was the quarterback. That made sense. The Cardinals were on their third one of the season and it is the most important position on the team. And for the most part, Blaine Gabbert acquitted himself pretty well. There were the two picks late, and you can’t have those, but the Cards were chasing 10 points by then.

No, it was the issues that have been around all season that doomed the Cards in Houston. A running game that has echoed the struggles of the pre-Adrian Peterson ground game. A defense that makes some plays but just can’t clamp down when the team desperately needs it. An offense that needs to find more consistency overall.

— Drew Stanton was healthy enough to be the backup Sunday. Could that mean he’s healthy enough to start next week – and does Bruce Arians drop him right back in? (I know the public-at-large’s answer.) Gabbert did look very comfortable, and he clearly has some chemistry with rookie tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. That makes sense, because Seals-Jones and Gabbert have been working together on third team since the offseason. We’ll see. It’s fair to point out the Texans secondary has struggled quite a bit against the passers it has seen, and next week’s game against the Jaguars will feature one of the better secondaries the Cardinals have seen.

— Speaking of secondary, the Cardinals sure look like they have a star-in-the-making back there with rookie safety Budda Baker. He was everywhere Sunday. He was great on defense and continues to play so well on special teams – I repeat that he deserves (heavy) consideration for the NFC’s Pro Bowl special teams spot.

— Bruce Arians opened his press conference by taking the blame on the failed fourth down. I’ll admit I was on the move when the play happened, seeing it on the TV screen as I made my way down to the field. But I agree that the Cards had been stuffed all day inside. There wasn’t much to get, but the Texans made it obvious the wanted Gabbert to try and beat them. It was going to be tough sledding for Adrian Peterson on every run play, and the fourth-down try was only the one in the spotlight.

–Peterson ended up with 13 yards on 12 carries after his first two totes gained six and seven yards.

— I do think the absent D.J. Humphries makes a big difference when it comes to the run game.

— The Patrick Peterson vs. DeAndre Hopkins battle was exactly how it was expected to go. Peterson did give up the back-to-back big plays, finishing with Hopkins’ TD. But he broke up/defended a bunch of other tries, and nearly got a second interception late in the game with perfect technique. It’s funny that his first pick was on a pass that wasn’t even thrown to Hopkins or at Peterson. A deflection, and the right place, right time.

— Speaking of missed chances on turnovers, the Cards were there. There were a couple of other fumbles on the ground by the Texans that the Cards just couldn’t fall on, in addition to Peterson’s near-pick. Tyrann Mathieu also dropped a deep pass that could’ve been an interception, although the play was wiped out by an Arizona penalty. The Cards need all the turnovers they can get. At least they converted their two short-fields into TDs.

— Arians said he’d be going to different receivers this next week. That would seem to me that Chad Williams has a chance to be active, but other than that, I’m not sure where you turn. Maybe more Brittan Golden? I don’t see them bringing up Carlton Agudosi from the practice squad, but who knows.

— As much as Tom Savage had struggled this season, it hurts to give up a 97.1 passer rating to him, and 31 points to the Houston offense without the aid of turnovers.

— Fitz was asked about playing in 2018. He did not answer, one way or the other, and wouldn’t even say if he’s still thinking about it. So he leaves everyone in suspense – and makes sure the questions keep coming probably more often than not the rest of the season.


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