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Leinart released UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on September 4, 2010 – 11:24 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt just told quarterback Matt Leinart Leinart is getting released. Whisenhunt is meeting with the media at noon. I’m sure that will be the news of the day, along with the long-expected news Derek Anderson will be starting. I’m also guessing Max Hall is going to be the backup, at least for now. I suppose there is a chance the Cardinals will look for a veteran backup quarterback, but the coaches really like what they’ve seen from Hall, and they may just stand pat for the time being.

UPDATE: Whisenhunt said Max Hall will be the backup –“He’s definitely not afraid,” Whisenhunt said — and that the Cards won’t be looking for a veteran to add. John Skelton will be the No. 3 QB. Whiz also praised Leinart for being so professional. They tried to trade him but nothing ever really got close.

“To be honest, for both parties, I think this was the best direction to go,” Whisenhunt said.

I am writing a full story for the site.

The other two players released today were LB Chris Johnson and RB Alfonso Smith.


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On a chilly night at Coconino

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2010 – 9:42 pm

The Cards just finished up their last night practice of camp. The crowd at Coconino High School wasn’t as big as the first night practice. The intensity wasn’t quite at the same level either. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said at lunch what he wanted to see fewer mistakes and some plays made. There were plays made, mostly by the defense. Cornerback Marshay Green picked off Derek Anderson in the end zone to finish the practice. There were a handful of “sacks” too (remember, no tackling).

Wide receiver Max Komar stood out, and quarterback Max Hall did drill a 15-yard TD pass to tight end Dominique Byrd through defenders LB Chris Johnson and S Rashad Johnson, but for the most part it was a defensive night. Rookie John Skelton also  had a tough sequence, as he twice turned the opposite way of the running back in one drive, botching both handoffs.

LB Reggie Walker (hamstring) was back in uniform but limited. LB Will Davis sat out to “calm down” some right knee soreness. The rest of the injury list was short: WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee), TE Ben Patrick (knee), WR Early Doucet (abdomen), LB Gerald Hayes (PUP-back) and LB O’Brien Schofield (PUP-knee).


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Cards add two to roster

Posted by Darren Urban on May 17, 2010 – 2:13 pm

With OTAs beginning tomorrow, the Cardinals have added a couple of undrafted rookies to the roster by signing them Monday. One is wide receiver Deryn Bowser, who took part in minicamp on a tryout basis. The other is linebacker Chris Johnson, who told his hometown paper a couple weeks ago he was coming to Arizona after spending minicamp with the Bears on a tryout basis.

That gives the Cards 85 possible players to come for the voluntary OTAs (plus one unsigned restricted free agent — guard Deuce Lutui).


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Stuff to chew on

Posted by Darren Urban on May 7, 2010 – 9:56 am

Most of the coaches are off, and most of the players are scarce for a long weekend, so not a whole lot going on.

But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to talk about.

– Perhaps the most stunning news of the day when it comes to this team. According to Darren Rovell, Bodog has released odds on where jettisoned quarterback JaMarcus Russell will land now that the Raiders dumped him. Bodog’s most likely landing spot, at 3-to-1 odds? The Cardinals. To which I say, what?!?!? If the Cardinals aren’t going to chase Marc Bulger, who makes so much more sense considering the circumstances, why the heck would they take a flyer on the overweight, massively underachieving, unmotivated-because-of-all-his-money Russell?

Bodog has Russell being a 10-to-1 shot to go to the CFL. Right now, I think I’d swap the Cards and the CFL’s odds (although the Cards’ odds should be a much longer shot, really. Some NFL team will give Russell a chance. But not the Cards).

–If you haven’t seen it, I’d like to think the story I posted yesterday about coming back from ACL tears is pretty interesting. The stories of tight end Stephen Spach and new draftee O’Brien Schofield are chronicled. When you listen to head athletic trainer Tom Reed, it’s easy to understand why the Cards were willing to take a chance on Schofield and his upside. One of the most telling parts was Schofield’s outlook on 2010: “They would like for me to play this year but they don’t need me to play this year,” he said. “That is what I am considering.” You hear that (and, looking at the Cards’ linebacker situation, see the truth in it) and it’s not hard to envision Schofield taking that “redshirt” year on PUP/IR when it’s all said and done. We’ll see though.

– Bill Williamson, who covers the AFC West for ESPN.com, posted the first round of the 2007 draft just for comparison’s sake after Russell was cut. For the Cards, that was the infamous Levi Brown-before-Adrian Peterson draft, and probably will remain that way. But, just for a second, take a look at the first round without AP in mind. The Cards ended up with Brown, who has been relatively solid and with whom the coaches are happy (Yes, many will argue, but those are the internal facts). Considering many of the picks in the first round, especially the top 10, the Cards actually are one of the teams that came out OK.

Gaines Adams? LaRon Landry? Jamaal Anderson? Ted Ginn? Adam Carriker?

Yes, there are superstars. Peterson. Patrick Willis. Darrelle Revis. But the Cards are in better shape than most. Especially the Raiders.

– The Cardinals are apparently going to be signing undrafted South Dakota State linebacker Chris Johnson, according to Johnson in this Iowa newspaper story.


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Vikings aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 7, 2009 – 2:38 am

Just as I sat at my kitchen table a week ago considering the rubble of the last-second loss in Tennessee changing where the Cardinals stood, a week later, a trademark victory for the season once again shifts the landscape.

The Cards’ 30-17 win – one for which the cliché “not as close as the final score indicates” was created – was so important on so many levels. The sting of the Titans’ loss is gone. The fear of other things, like Kurt Warner’s post-concussion deal or how Jeremy Bridges would hold up, that’s gone too.

Just to put this out there: I always thought the Cards would be ready for that Monday night game in San Francisco. If there is a word to describe how the Cards collectively feel about that loss to open the season, it was &*%$@$!, you know, if that was a word. “We owe those guys a little something for what they did to us earlier this year,” safety Adrian Wilson said. Uh, yeah.

But before we move on to the Niners, here are some thoughts on Sunday night:

– Warner said he pretty much knew Friday he was going to be able to play. And boy, did he play. He looked great, picking up where he left off. The only concern was the significant limp he had afterward because he took a shot on that hip. It’ll be very interesting to see how he feels this week, although the Cards don’t practice until Thursday because of the Monday night game, so he has an extra day to heal.

– Scary to see Tim Hightower fumble early. That could have been disaster. But the Cards hung in there, and Hightower almost looked like he was trying to make up for it on that late 32-yard run – the play on which Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson broke his leg – by trying to barrel into the end zone.

– I was at the Fiesta Bowl between Ohio State and Miami when Willis McGahee blew out his knee and when I watched the play with E.J. Henderson, that was the first thing I thought of.

– Nice to see the Cards bomb away for Larry Fitzgerald. It didn’t work out as often as Fitz would have liked, but it’s obviously something with which the Cards should stick.

– Wilson tried to downplay what the Cards did to Adrian Peterson – “Don’t mistake it. He’s the best back in football, so let’s not get too full of ourselves,” he said – but that was a great showing to control him, especially after what Chris Johnson did to them the week before. The game was close much of Sunday night, so it wasn’t like the Vikings had pass every play. At least at first.

– Brandon Keith got into his first game and actually played for a snap at guard when Deuce Lutui got hurt. Probably not enough of a sample to judge Keith as an o-lineman yet.

– The Cards averaged 4.5 yards a carry again on the ground. The evolution of the ground game may turn out to be the underlying story of the season.

– Special teams continue to be huge. Breaston’s 64-yard punt return was the highlight this time. Special teams coach Kevin Spencer should be (and is) like a proud papa.

– When Fitz fought through six Vikings to turn an eight-yard gain into a 15-yard gain early in the second quarter, that was impressive. By the way, didn’t I say the Minnesota boy was going to play a big role? Eight catches, 143 yards. It’s his 23rd 100-yard game, a few behind Anquan Boldin (who had 98 yards at the half but couldn’t get one more catch to crack 100).

– I absolutely love Antrel Rolle as wildcat quarterback. Rolle was trying to throw deep to Breaston on his one play, but smartly pulled it down and then used his amazing scat-quicks to avoid defenders and gain nine yards on a rush.

– Alan Branch had another nice game. He’s become a force on the line, which, as a unit, has been impressive.

– Four left – at SF, at Detroit, home against the Rams, home against the Packers. 12-4 anyone? It’s possible, after the Cardinals’ greybeard outclassed the Vikings’ greybeard.


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Titans aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2009 – 1:12 am

Late, late, late. You get talking with cohorts like Ron Wolfley and Paul Calvisi on the flight home and suddenly, there’s not quite enough time to do all your work and you’re writing the aftermath blog entry past midnight at the kitchen table. Certainly there’s been enough time to absorb everything. I thought for sure, once the Cards held for three downs on that final sequence near their goal line, that they’d hold for one more. Great play by Vince Young, but to give up three fourth-down plays … ouch.

So on to some thoughts:

– Obviously quarterback was the big story. Matt Leinart played above average. He didn’t do enough in the first half; he was much better in the second as his confidence clearly grew (I could see it all the way from the press box). He needs to play better, sure. Is it unfair to compare him to Kurt Warner, sure. Warner set the bar high; even if Leinart becomes a star, it’s unlikely he’d ever post the passing numbers Warner does. That’s reality.

– Warner still is doing the “day-to-day” thing. He certainly didn’t come out and declare himself ready to play against the Vikings. The week off helps but it may not be an exact parallel to Anquan Boldin taking a week and then being perfect. What’s concerning is that no tests are saying anything is wrong with Warner, so it’s a matter of when he feels right. It’s a tough way to run a team. I can’t see Leinart being ready for the 10-1 Vikings if he doesn’t get more practice time than last week.

– Leinart wore a glove in practice last week to get a better grip and then —  lookee here!  — he wore it in the game. The subject brought a smile to his face after. “I told Kurt I am doomed, because I am still young in my career and I liked it,” Leinart said, given that Warner permanently wears gloves in games. “We’ll see what happens. But I was comfortable with it.”

– It proved moot, but the Titans have to be thanking their lucky stars the Darnell Dockett sack on the last play of the half – the play where Vince Young suffered brain lock and scrambled around to waste all eight seconds instead of preserving time for a field goal – didn’t come back to kill them. Another three points would have changed so much in the fourth quarter. Props to Dockett on that play too, since Calais Campbell should have had the sack and inexplicably didn’t wrap up (he did the same thing to David Garrard earlier this season). Dockett never stopped coming, and eventually got Young.

– Dockett is playing as well as any defensive lineman in the league. Period. He has to finish strong, but right now, it’d be a crime if he wasn’t a Pro Bowler.

– Ditto on that for punter Ben Graham. Lemme get this straight: Six punts, a gross average of 49.7 yards, a net of 48, five dropped inside the 20-yard line and three of those at the 5, 2 and 1? There isn’t an NFC punter having a finer season.

– Rookies rarely get Pro Bowl nods unless they are at a glamour position, but LaRod Stephens-Howling is deserving of consideration too. He’s been great in coverage on kicks and as a gunner on punts, and now he has a 99-yard kickoff return. He may have had, as an overall showing, the greatest special-teams day I’ve ever seen. He and Graham work magic together.

– Who says Beanie can’t catch? That was a pretty nice grab of the impressive Leinart throw down the sideline. More importantly, that play got Beanie and Tim Hightower on the field together, which will cause matchup concerns for any defense.

– I heard from a couple fans about the Cards not going for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 45 in the fourth quarter (I noticed Hightower asking for the same thing at the time). I say, why? Graham pinned them deep, and at that point, the only touchdown the Cards had given up was Chris Johnson’s 85-yard run. It was the right move and, in hindsight, proved to be the right move.

– That said, the two-yard run by Beanie on third-and-1 on the TD drive may have been the hardest run I’ve ever seen for two yards.

– There were three shots by Leinart down the field I thought should have come closer to working. Twice he tried to find Steve Breaston but the lack of practice time between Breaston and Leinart showed, with Leinart looking long and Breaston cutting off his route with a defender behind him both times. There was also a bomb to Anquan Boldin in which Boldin would have had a one-on-one jump ball – except Boldin didn’t see the ball coming and slowed up, never giving himself a chance.

– Big, big, big hitting going on down there. You could tell from afar but you could really tell down on the sideline. It was intense Sunday and a nice playoff preview.

– Finally, everyone knows how important this game was to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who played college ball at Tennessee State and trained in the offseason with many Titans, including Chris Johnson, whom DRC talked to at one point Sunday (as seen in the photo below). “I holler at him whenever I can,” DRC said, apparently including game days. He almost caught Johnson on Johnson’s 85-yard run. “I didn’t think he was gonna break,” DRC said. “But then he got past ’Los (Karlos Dansby) and I’m like, ‘Here we go.’ ” (Johnson broke free, by the way, because it looked like linebacker Gerald Hayes over pursued and didn’t protect the cutback lane).

DRC played pretty well against the Titans, making a couple of pass breakups and creating the lone turnover of the day, coming from behind to force what was at the time a crucial fumble that was recovered by fellow cornerback Bryant McFadden. DRC thought he’d have bragging rights. And then he didn’t.

“That was hard,” DRC said, “because I’m going to hear about all offseason.”


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Hanging in at the half

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2009 – 3:40 pm

The Cardinals finally got points behind a Matt Leinart drive — a Neil Rackers 41-yard field goal — and a mistake in clock management by Titans quarterback Vince Young cost Tennessee a chance at three points right before the half. Leinart seemed to find a more comfortable rhythm as the half progressed. If the Cards can continue to handle the running of Chris Johnson and keep Tennessee out of the end zone, I think Leinart can generate enough in the second half to pull one out. The Titans get the ball first, so the defense has a big opportunity right away.


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Friday before the Titans

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2009 – 4:40 pm

Thanksgiving came and went and, as usual, the holiday seemed like a blur. There is a lot to like about this job but that’s one of the downsides – the traditional holidays this time of year flash then disappear in the grind of the season.

But it does give us a chance to hear the thoughts of defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who has continued to slide his desire for a new contract out once in a while never in a snit but instead with a little humor. The message is never lost, though. This week, Dockett said his family wasn’t coming out for Thanksgiving in part because the team leaves Saturday morning for Tennessee and he was saving their trip for the following week for Minnesota weekend. He just doesn’t have the cash to afford to fly his family out from Maryland more than once in a while.

“We don’t have no Albert Haynesworth money,” Dockett deadpanned. “If I am able to get off minimum wages I would definitely take my family out to all the home games because I know they’d be happy about that.”

Yeah, I’d guess Darnell would be happy about it too. Haynesworth, the Redskins’ defensive tackle, got some $40-plus million in guarantees from Washington last offseason. Dockett is making $3.5 million this season and is scheduled to make $3.75 M in 2010 and $4 M in 2011. I can only hope his family can handle their time apart.

Nevertheless, there’s a game against the Titans up first:

– Dockett did give big props to Tennessee’s running game and talked about what a huge boost to the confidence it would be for the defense if they could slow the Titans on the ground. And to think, Tennessee running back Chris Johnson, currently the NFL’s leading rusher, could have been a teammate. The Cardinals absolutely loved him going into the 2008 draft. They loved Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie too, and cornerback was perhaps a more crucial position at the time. I think there was hope Johnson may slide all the way to their second-round pick, or at least into the second round where the Cards could trade up (a la Alan Branch in 2007). But the Titans grabbed Johnson in the first round. It seemed a bit premature at the time. Uh, not so much. He’s clearly one of the best already.

– Speaking of running games, the Cardinals are 27th in the NFL. But over the past three weeks, this is how the NFL’s top rushing teams shake out: 1. Carolina (183 yards a game); 2. Tennessee (182.7); 3. Arizona 162.3.

– Say what you want about the guy, but Dockett is productive and playing well. He has a sack in three straight games and is making a strong Pro Bowl push.

– Perfect weather planned for Sunday: 64 degrees and only a slight chance of rain. Could the Cards have had any better weather this season? Heck, even in the postseason, it looks like it will be all domes.

– Kurt Warner is going to play, barring something crazy. Hopefully the Cards can protect him well enough to avoid a replay of his St. Louis hit, but Warner is going to get tagged a couple times. That’s just the game.

– Warner’s 89 straight passes without an interception was the longest active string in the league for starting quarterbacks before Thanksgiving. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers surpassed him Thursday and is at 125 attempts. Two other guys have longer active streaks than Warner but neither plays: Washington’s Todd Collins (222) and Kansas City’s Brodie Croyle (96).

– So that’s where the offense was …  in the first seven games, the most yards the Cards generated was 383. They have surpassed 400 each of the past three games, the first time since 1969 the team has had more than 400 yards in three straight games.

– Getting LB Monty Beisel back was crucial. It didn’t hurt that Beisel wanted to come back all along, but his knowledge of the defense will allow them to drop him in right away. He can play both inside and outside and most importantly, fill Will Davis’ spot on special teams. The Davis injury hurts. He was playing well and earning more and more time on defense. The ability to get him back before the playoffs, I think, is important.

– Watching Vince Young throw, that passing game doesn’t frighten me. He can complete some passes, but he can’t beat you that way. Now, if he starts to scramble, and you defense gets out of position and then he finds a way to throw it, that can beat you. It’ll start on the early downs for the Cards. They can’t let Young or Johnson rip off too many big runs (I don’t think you can realistically say “any big runs.” That’s unfair). And the Cards have to move the ball and score points. The Titans can’t score with the Cards.

– It’s week two of the Does-Adrian-Wilson-get-his-20th-career-sack watch. Not going to be easy with Young running around. Young has only been sacked once this season.

– The Cards need to win at least one of their next two games, both for confidence’s sake and to put the 49ers out of the picture.

That’s about it. We’re off to the Music City tomorrow. Hard to believe we’re about to hit December. As well as the Titans have played, the Cards again are giving off good vibes before this one. Having Warner healthy helps. So does an undefeated road record. Can it pay off into another win? The Titans are hot, but so are the Cardinals. It’s going to be fun to watch it unfold.


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Titans will keep DRC’s attention

Posted by Darren Urban on November 26, 2009 – 9:48 pm

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t want to use the word “bored,” which is a good thing. But the Cardinals’ second-year cornerback was bluntly honest that his mind wanders during games.

“There just isn’t that much action and you find yourself looking around,” DRC said.

His teammates try to keep him focused. Linebacker Karlos Dansby, in fact, head-butted DRC during the game against the Rams just for that purpose. “He was saying, ‘You just didn’t look like you were in the game,’ ” DRC said.

OK, admittedly, that’s something you hope Rodgers-Cromartie will grow out of at some point. But for now, you have a little concern. Take this weekend for instance, when the Cardinals play the Titans – a team that has a decidedly run-first-run-often bent. It might be tough to keep interested, right DRC?

“Oh no, it’s Tennessee,” DRC said, suddenly very animated. “I went to TSU and this is homecoming.  Oh no, I’m in this game, yes sir. I’ve got this game on my calendar. I got 65 tickets. I’m ready.”

Indeed, DRC went to Tennessee State. Not only are all his friends there but he often worked out with some of the Titans in the offseason. He and Titans star running back Chris Johnson are close, and DRC insisted “I need this one this week.”

“I might have to head butt me a few people, I’m so ready for this game,” DRC said.


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