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Blogs

Haggans to Niners, and other comings and goings

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2012 – 9:54 am

I don’t expect any official word about who the Cards are adding to the roster until tomorrow — including practice squad — but because of the wonderful world of social media and the internet, news has leaked out about a handful of people.

– It came out yesterday that the Cards had claimed outside linebacker Jamaal Westerman on waivers after the Dolphins had released him. Westerman, 6-3 and 255 pounds, spent the first three years of his career with the Jets, and playing all 16 games last season he had 3.5 sacks. He signed with the Dolphins in March and was recently released. The Cards needed a linebacker, because they had only three outside linebackers on the roster after cutting Clark Haggans and Brandon Williams.

– The 49ers also claimed Westerman. When they didn’t get him, they are going to sign Haggans to fill their need for a reserve linebacker. That’s an interesting turn of events.

– There still isn’t any official word on the practice squad, but because of the Twitterverse, there have been a handful of names floating out there that are supposedly going to be on the Cards’ PS (which could begin to be put together yesterday). Included are former Arizona State receiver Gerell Robinson (cut by Denver), recently released defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin and linebacker Colin Parker, and offensive tackle Steven Baker, a 6-8, 310-pounder cut by the Colts. UPDATE: As AndyStandsUp pointed out in the comments, there was also a report that former University of Arizona outside linebacker Ricky Elmore will sign to the Cards’ practice squad.

UPDATE II: Tight end Steve Skelton is practice squad-bound too.

– Quarterback Rich Bartel, who had been placed on injured reserve with a bad shoulder, tweeted out he was throwing well, had passed a physical, and was actually going to be released.


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Cards cut to 53

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2012 – 4:52 pm

The key point anytime a team gets to the 53-man roster on final cuts is this: It’s never quite the final roster. That’s something to keep in mind when looking over the Cards’ cuts today, which leaves an unbalanced roster for now.

The team decided not to move tackle Levi Brown off of injured reserve, leaving 22 cuts to be made:

Injured reserve — RB Javarris James (knee), QB Rich Bartel (shoulder)

Waived-injured – LB Brandon Williams (shoulder), WR Stephen Williams (Achilles)

Released – CB Crezdon Butler, LB Antonio Coleman, S Blake Gideon, LB Clark Haggans, G Russ Hochstein, DT Ricky Lumpkin, LB Colin Parker, CB Larry Parker, WR DeMarco Sampson, TE Steve Skelton, RB Alfonso Smith, LB Quan Sturdivant, DE Ronald Talley, DE Everrette Thompson, TE Martell Webb, C Scott Wedige, WR Isaiah Williams, T D.J. Young.

So this is what we get out of this:

– The Cardinals cut Sampson and Stephen Williams, leaving five receivers and undrafted LaRon Byrd (pictured below) as No. 5.

– OLB Quentin Groves makes the cut but both Clark Haggans and Brandon Williams are out – you’d have to think another linebacker is on the way.

– Right now, the Cards have 11 defensive backs and nine offensive linemen, and you figure one or the other, if not both, will be trimmed down. All three OL draft picks are on the squad right now. The defensive backs will have to come down if you are looking for a place to cut to add at another position. In my guess at 53, I had guessed six WRs and eight OL, and the Cards took one from receiver to add to the line. And they took one of eight linebacker slots and added it to the 10 defensive back spots, so I was kind of close. We’ll see how it shakes out.

– Running back William Powell indeed makes the team too.

– This group probably won’t be the exact group that hits the practice field Monday. That’s the cold reality of the NFL.


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Broncos (and preseason) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2012 – 12:25 am

The Cardinals avoided overtime Thursday night (thank goodness). And now the fun begins.

Final cuts are in a matter of hours, coach Ken Whisenhunt will have a press conference at 2 p.m. Arizona time. So, in the interest of getting some sleep, some highlights and thoughts from the preseason finale to tide you over until the real news tomorrow (which should be cuts and possibly could include a starting QB choice):

– Injuries probably didn’t make roster picks, but they might have cemented them. Rich Bartel was 4-for-5 before leaving with a right shoulder injury, although the way rookie Ryan Lindley performed, Lindley was probably always going to be the pick. He’s got a lot of upside. If Javarris James was in the mix at all at running back, that ended when he tore his ACL on Omar Bolden’s 103-yard kickoff return. That’s just unfortunate.

– If I had to do my 53-man roster over, I might change a couple of things. Or at least seriously consider it. Now I’m finding it hard to believe outside linebacker Quentin Groves doesn’t stick around. The other backup outside linebacker choice then would come down to Clark Haggans or Brandon Williams. In the secondary, undrafted rookie Blake Gideon got a ton of playing time, and while Rashad Johnson and Adrian Wilson sat out, I start to wonder if Gideon could have a chance to slip on the roster, in place of Johnson, maybe? And there is little question there is a decision coming between A.J. Jefferson, Greg Toler and Michael Adams. There will be some drama tomorrow.

– Ryan Williams did not play as Whiz took a long look at both William Powell and Alfonso Smith as they battle for a roster spot. Powell had 18 yards on nine carries, Smith five on five, and neither really stood out Thursday (although Powell did have a nice kickoff return late.)

– I thought Beanie Wells looked very good in his start. He had 35 yards on seven carries, although he said he needs to get better. “I have to get my leg drive and get my feet under me,” Wells said.

– LaRon Byrd had a couple of nice grabs among his three catches for 47 yards and if he didn’t solidify his spot, it’ll be because the Cards only keep five receivers. But if they keep six, he’s in, I’d think.

– Michael Floyd had an amazing touchdown catch for his first in the NFL. Ball bouncing around, Floyd grabbing it while he was hanging parallel to the ground and holding on as he crashed to the turf. “That was a much more acrobatic circus catch than I ever could have made,” fellow wideout Larry Fitzgerald said. Methinks Fitz is a bit modest, but no matter. It was a great play.

– The Cards have to be thrilled with what Lindley showed, especially for a rookie and a guy they picked in the sixth round. He had a couple of clunkers (although his one interception was a mistake by receiver Isaiah Williams, who didn’t pick up a checked call at the line, and the other pick was called back with a penalty). Bhe threw the TD and threw some darts and maneuvered the Cards to a late tying drive thanks to a 56-yard bomb to Williams (pictured below). The Cards couldn’t get it in the end zone, but again, Lindley looks like he has a potential future.

– Lindley had some decent protection early with the starting offensive line (although rookie right tackle Bobby Massie did have a couple of hiccups on an early drive with a holding penalty and to get beat for sack.) Will I be surprised to see the Cards pick up an offensive lineman via waivers as teams cut? Absolutely not.

– Whisenhunt said the Cardinals haven’t ruled out using the new IR rule – which allows players with major injuries to return later in the season without taking up a roster spot – on tackle Levi Brown. The Cards will talk more about Brown’s prognosis to return. The decision has to be made by Friday afternoon.

In fact, most of the news will come down Friday afternoon. So with that, I’ll say goodnight.


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A guess at the 53

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2012 – 4:59 pm

Every NFL team must have it roster cuts in by Friday afternoon. To be exact, by 6 p.m. Arizona time. I expect the Cardinals – and coach Ken Whisenhunt – to have announced them before, since Whiz will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. that day. Until then, though, this is a guess at how this 53-man roster shakes out.

Whisenhunt made it clear the other day that this last preseason game does matter when it comes to a spot or two on the roster, and I believe that. It means trying to approximate who will be on the roster before that last game is somewhat fool’s gold. I’m certainly not Nostradamus here. Last year, for instance, I had Ben Graham holding off Dave Zastudil for the punter job. I was very wrong. And this only holds for as long as it might take for the Cards to claim/sign a guy or two over the weekend, which would obviously change things. That always happens.

But it’s fodder to chew on until Friday, speculation upon which this time of the NFL schedule is built around. So with apologies to those I miss on, and with a nod to old school Letterman, this is only an exhibition and not a competition, so please, no wagering.

QB – (3) John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley. No, we don’t know the starter yet. But it’s hard to believe that with everything Lindley has shown as a rookie he doesn’t get the nod over Rich Bartel (who is one of the best guys you’ll meet and someday will be a very good coach.)

RB – (4) Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell. This is one of the sticking points. Powell has had a good preseason, but as I have mentioned many times, I think Alfonso Smith has as well. It may come down to how Powell looks Thursday night. Will I be shocked if Smith is the choice instead of Powell? Nope.

FB – (1) Anthony Sherman. The Sherminator running unopposed. It’s like a boring political “race.”

WR – (6) Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, Michael Floyd, DeMarco Sampson, LaRon Byrd. This is a close one, in my mind. The top four are obvious. I think Sampson has had a good camp and he can play special teams. Byrd versus Stephen Williams may just be about Byrd’s upside. I’m not sure Byrd would make it to the practice squad but — given some other positional issues, like, at say, offensive line – I’m not sure either if the Cards may try and keep just five receivers and use the practice squad for relief.

TE – (4) Todd Heap, Jeff King, Rob Housler, Jim Dray. Given the injury history of, well, all of them, I think the Cards play it safe and keep four guys around again.

OL – (8) D’Anthony Batiste, Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein, Adam Snyder, Bobby Massie, Rich Ohrnberger, Jeremy Bridges, Senio Kelemete. This is a very difficult one from the outside looking in. The Cards might keep nine linemen, given their . Has Kelemete shown enough, even as a draft pick? Would Nate Potter be possible given the tackle issues? Where might a free agent or waiver claim fit in? I could see Potter, D.J. Young and/or center Scott Wedige as practice squad material too.

DL (6) – Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Vonnie Holliday, David Carter, Nick Eason. Seems fairly cut and dried at this position, one of the few like that.

LB – (8) Sam Acho, Paris Lenon, Daryl Washington, O’Brien Schofield, Stewart Bradley, Reggie Walker, Clark Haggans, Brandon Williams. This is another spot that might come down to the Denver game. The backup outside linebacker spot figures to have two places for three guys: Haggans, Williams, Quentin Groves. Groves made some plays early. Williams plays some special teams and has been higher on the depth chart.

DB (10) – Patrick Peterson, William Gay, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, Jamell Fleming, Justin Bethel, Rashad Johnson, James Sanders, Greg Toler, A.J. Jefferson. Usually, the Cards wouldn’t keep more than nine defensive backs, and that’s still possible. With 10, Bethel is a special teams keeper despite being a raw DB. Michael Adams is the odd man out there, but it will not shock me to see Adams stick around either and maybe someone like Jefferson out. Watching the reserve defensive backs closely in the finale, because I think that will be part of the equation.

ST – (3) Jay Feely (K), Dave Zastudil (P), Mike Leach (LS). Never should have doubted Leach’s return.


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A night of intensity

Posted by Darren Urban on August 1, 2012 – 9:56 pm

The night practices in Flagstaff — especially the first one, which this year means the only one — always brings with it a certain vibe. It’s usually at least a week into camp. By then, the offense and defense are tired of each other. Then coach Ken Whisenhunt pulls out the live goal line session at the end of the evening, and all heck breaks loose.

After Wednesday night’s battle, linebacker Clark Haggans was succinct: “What happens at Lumberjack Stadium stays in Lumberjack Stadium.”

It’s not so much what happens but how it unfolds, with both sides yapping at each other and trash talk of the highest order. It was heated when Kevin Kolb threw a bullet into the back of the end zone that Larry Fitzgerald and Justin Bethel each got a hand on, only to have to ball pop in the air so Fitz could grab a touchdown. It went back the defensive way when fullback Anthony Sherman, on a rare carry, had his helmet blasted off by linebacker Colin Parker. And then the emotion swung to the offense again when offensive coordinator Mike Miller and quarterback John Skelton conspired to fool the world — with Miller calling the exact same play for Sherman and telling Skelton to keep it for a naked bootleg without telling the offense.

Touchdown.

“We get the best out of each other,” said tackle Jeremy Bridges, the king of the talkers Wednesday. “We get on each other’s nerves as you can see. It’s bragging rights amongst us. But in the big scheme of things, there will be a lot of people who will feel the wrath of Birdgang this year.”

Cornerback William Gay doesn’t play in the goal line package, but he was up in the defensive unit’s face after every play, like a boxing corner man pumping up his prize fighter.

“It’s the only thing that’s fully, fully live, tackle to the ground,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Situation like that, you can’t let the other unit get the best of you.”

“No one ever wants to lose,” Skelton said. “You want to score a touchdown every time on offense and you don’t want to give up one on defense. It’s just pride.”

There was no official winner — Kolb said Whisenhunt called it a tie — but when Bridges was asked about who won, he didn’t miss a beat. “The Cardinals.”

(And yes, video will be posted later.)

– Kolb said his quad “held up fine” — he was not limited at all — but he knew everything else took a backseat to the part at the end. “The intensity was through the roof.”

– Safety Adrian Wilson and running back William Powell each came out of the practice after what looked like some sort of leg injury for each. Neither looked serious.


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The first depth chart

Posted by Darren Urban on July 30, 2012 – 9:22 am

The Cardinals put out their first official depth chart of the season today. This stuff is fluid given certain competitions, but they have to make someone No. 1 and No. 2 and so on. There are no shocking developments, but:

– Kevin Kolb is listed as the No. 1 QB right now. John Skelton is the No. 2.

– Jeremy Bridges is the No. 1 right tackle over Bobby Massie, and as I have said many many many times, I expect that to be the case for a while.

– With Jeff King still rehabbing his quad, Todd Heap is the No. 1 tight end, Rob Housler No. 2.

– Behind Fitz is DeMarco Sampson and then Stephen Williams. At the other receiver spot, it officially goes Andre Roberts, then Early Doucet, then Michael Floyd.

– William Gay is the No. 1 right cornerback across from Patrick Peterson. Greg Toler is listed as Gay’s backup, with Michael Adams listed as Peterson’s backup.

– Brandon Williams is Sam Acho’s backup, with Clark Haggans as O’Brien Schofield’s backup at OLB. Quentin Groves is behind Haggans.

– With the large roster, the only second team rookies (no starters) are LG Senio Kelemete, FB Jared Crank and Massie. (And the Cards are incredibly unlikely to keep two fullbacks.) T Nate Potter is third-string, Floyd is third-string, S Justin Bethel is third-string and, with the large amount of veteran cornerbacks, Jamell Fleming is technically fourth-string behind Gay, Toler and A.J. Jefferson (although he will be on this roster, no doubt.)

Here is the entire depth chart.


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Cards bring Haggans back

Posted by Darren Urban on June 5, 2012 – 9:50 am

With OTAs coming to a close and minicamp next week – the final on-field work for veterans before breaking up for the summer – the Cardinals brought back another veteran piece Tuesday.

The team re-signed linebacker Clark Haggans, who has spent the last four  years of his previous 12 NFL seasons with the Cards, to a one-year deal. Last year, starting all 16 games, Haggans had 54 tackles and three sacks. O’Brien Schofield is expected to replace Haggans in the starting lineup this season across from Sam Acho, but Haggans has been as valuable in the locker room as on the field, mentoring guys like Schofield and Acho.

The Cards cut undrafted rookie linebacker Broderick Binns to make room for Haggans.

The 35-year-old Haggans, who has kept himself in great shape throughout his career, was long thought to be a target to return at some point. Having played in Pittsburgh his first eight seasons, his familiarity with the defensive scheme of former Steelers assistant Ray Horton made getting to all the OTAs less important.

Haggans was leaning toward a return after the season was over, even has he understood his role could be changing and his influence on the young linebackers as important as his play. “It makes me feel a little older, like I should have a rocking chair in front of my locker, but it’s a lot of fun,” Haggans said at the time.

The Cardinals could still end up re-signing veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday as well. Both he and Haggans have remained possibilities in their free agent status despite the weeks passing in the offseason. I’ll have more from/about Haggans — who is practicing today — after the workout.


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Rookies wrap up camp

Posted by Darren Urban on May 13, 2012 – 12:20 pm

The final rookie minicamp practice of the weekend just ended. As usual, it’s too early to tell much.

“It’s hard,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Everybody looks good in shorts. You don’t want to get too excited. (At first glance), you like what you see. We had a number of guys look good. Everyone is on the same playing level today. We’ll have a better sense when they go against the veterans. But the first stage of the test, they passed.”

Whisenhunt said there was something missing without veterans, where a coach could grab a vet and have the vet show the newcomer how to execute something. But no veterans also meant more reps for the players who need it most. “It was a new experience with just rookies,” Whisenhunt said. “We’ll judge how productive it was once we get to OTAs and see how they respond.”

As for a final message for the group, Whisenhunt kept it simple. “I thanked them for their effort and their work,” Whisenhunt said. “I think for three days and five practices, we kind of knew what we were doing, so that was impressive. The credit goes to our coaches and the players. … For the guys who are going to be here, (I told them) ‘Be ready to work.’ “

– As Whisenhunt said, the draft class was noticed. Quarterback Ryan Lindley and wide receiver Michael Floyd hooked up on a nice downfield pass Friday, and both clearly looked more comfortable as the weekend went on. Cornerback Jamell Fleming had some impressive pass breakups over the days. Tackle Bobby Massie looks right, but again, so hard to tell how a lineman will really be when it counts. It’s the same for all of them really.

– You’d expect the guys who have already been in the league to stand out at least a little. A couple did, at least from my perspective. Linebacker Quan Sturdivant looked comfortable out there in his first offseason, while new tight end Martell Webb made impressions on a couple of catches, including a nice one-handed grab down the seam Sunday.

– The Cards officially have 85 on the roster. The remaining five spots should be filled before OTAs start a week from Tuesday. Linebacker Clark Haggans and defensive end Vonnie Holliday remain viable options for two of those spots.

– Whisenhunt did offer blanket Happy Mother’s Day wishes to everyone. “When you get into these camps, you can lose sight of the real world, you can forget today is Mother’s Day,” He said. “We were sure to tell the guys, ‘Be sure to call and thank your Mom.’ We wouldn’t be out here if it weren’t for our moms.’ “


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On the way out the draft door, some cleanup

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2012 – 5:02 pm

OK. The three-day wait-and-write of the NFL draft is finally over. Before I scoot out the door, some quick hit thoughts/nuggets to tide you over until Monday (or until the possible undrafted rookies start getting leaked):

– The Cards didn’t take a linebacker or defensive lineman in the draft. That would seem to make it much more likely for veteran linebacker Clark Haggans and/or defensive end Vonnie Holliday to come back. General manager Rod Graves acknowledged that could still happen and made clear veteran free agents will not be ignored at this point.

“There are still opportunities out there for veterans (to be signed),” Graves said.

– Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean splashy veterans, not that there are any to sign. Vets signing now are going to be minimum, one-year deal guys. And I think the Haggans/Holliday thing makes the most sense.

– With 69 players on the roster, including the unsigned/tagged Calais Campbell, the Cards need to fill 21 roster spots. The vast majority will be undrafted rookies, but whatever that total is when it is finally announced Monday (and it should be Monday, but the list will have to be complete before they do let it out) will let you know if they are keeping spots open for vets.

– The offensive line got their influx of talent on the final day. I don’t know if Bobby Massie will be the right tackle starter — we all know how things go for rookies with this staff — but Levi Brown did start as a rookie at right tackle. I wouldn’t rule it out.

– Not taking a linebacker means a lot for Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield, and in a good way. “I think they were the two high totals in sacks for our team at that position and when you have young guys doing that, you feel good,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said, who added that Brandon Williams, whom the Cards picked up late last year, as flashed some potential.

– The basically unknown Justin Bethel (you know, aside from his leaping skills) is versatile. Bethel (pictured below at the combine) said he didn’t know what position he’d play, but the Cards listed him at safety. Like Richard Marshall, I think DC Ray Horton likes guys who are able to do both anyway. As Horton mentioned, the Cards play teams like the Packers and Patriots, teams that send an armada of pass catchers out most plays. The Cards need quality DBs.

– Interesting to hear about the scouting process. Horton said he specifically wrote down during the combine interview of new CB Jamell Fleming “very smart player.” With new guard Senio Kelemete, a two-time team captain, Whisenhunt noted how he was an “intriguing interview what he’s gone through in his personal life and how he stayed focused on school and football.”

Bottom line: They keep talking about how football intelligence and character matter. Sometimes talent trumps that, but it does factor in and does matter.

– I don’t know what will happen at QB. Not sure why everyone kept banging the Kellen Moore drum — every team in the league passed on him multiple times. He won, yes. But so did Matt Leinart. It doesn’t automatically mean anything on this level, and it certainly doesn’t make it any easier to see in the pocket when you are barely 6-foot. Maybe he shocks the world. The odds say he probably won’t. You take the kid — Lindley, in this case — who has tools in which you hope you can mold.

OK, that’s enough. Time to go home. Until next draft …


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On Haggans and Holliday

Posted by Darren Urban on April 11, 2012 – 10:40 am

The list of the Cardinals’ own free agents is shrinking, which is what normally happens this close to the draft. Of the team’s original group of 16 unrestricted free agents (tackle Levi Brown was of course not on the original list, having been released and not technically a UFA), seven remain. Three were never going to return: linebacker Joey Porter, running back Chester Taylor and offensive lineman Pork Chop Womack. There is a still a chance safety Hamza Abdullah could come back even after the Cards signed James Sanders, and tackle Brandon Keith — given that the Cards haven’t added a tackle in free agency — is certainly still on the radar.

Then there are a pair of veteran defenders who helped on the field last season and were even more valuable in the locker room: linebacker Clark Haggans and defensive end Vonnie Holliday.

It’s tough not to think of Haggans these days because he was the one who all but lived at the facility year-round, working out every day. I have no doubt he is somewhere keeping in prime shape. It’s just not in the Cards’ weight room. He has moved past the point where you want him starting every game — this is the season O’Brien Schofield needs to take hold of that spot, across from Sam Acho, depending on who the Cards might draft — but Haggans still was and can be productive in a role on the field. Same goes for Holliday, who looked really good in the season finale when he got his most significant playing time of the season.

Again, the value to both comes as much off the field as on. I’ve mentioned this before but Holliday (and fellow vet DL Nick Eason) has the perfect temperament and attitude for what the Cards need him to be, a fill-in guy who can teach other players and be OK with that. Haggans played more last season but he too has been a good influence on the younger players. How could a guy who is constantly making sure he is prepared as possible not be?

Both players, however, fall into limbo at this point in their careers. A draft pick at either position could change a need to bring them back. Holliday hinted at retirement last year, although he said his thoughts right after the final game were that he’d want to return. I’m not sure anything gets done with either before the draft, but it’s not like you have to be worried about their commitment if you do bring them back.


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