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Blogs

No new running backs and lunch notes

Posted by Darren Urban on August 12, 2013 – 12:31 pm

The running back health is improving. Rashard Mendenhall is back to practicing fully and Andre Ellington (concussion) has been cleared but will be worked back in slowly. Ryan Williams, said Bruce Arians, remains day-to-day with his knee issues. One thing is for certain: Arians said the Cardinals are not considering bringing in another running back, so the concern for numbers there (Alfonso Smith and Stepfan Taylor are the only ones to have avoided dings) can’t be that great.

Other stuff from Arians’ presser:

– WR Jarrett Dillard has a concussion. He’s out until he’s cleared. G Daryn Colledge (leg) will practice limited today and is expected to practice fully starting Tuesday. He is champing at the bit to return after serving as Twitter analyst watching the Green Bay game from home. “That was a tough spot to be in,” Colledge said. “It was hard. I want to be out there next week against Dallas.”

– Arians said he expects DT Dan WIlliams (ankle) and TE Kory Sperry (ankle) back next week, so neither sounds possible for the game against Dallas. TE Jeff King (knee) is day-to-day.

– Is the 5-foot-9 Tyrann Mathieu big enough to play free safety in the base defense? “No doubt,” Arians said. “He plays bigger than he is and plays faster than he is.”

– Arians said rookie linebacker Kevin Minter played “extremely well.” “Sideline to sideline he was better than I anticipated,” Arians said. “He’s a thumper, exactly what we are looking for as a middle linebacker. Really bright.”

– The young receivers made mistakes about 50 percent of the time, Arians estimated. Because of that, nothing has been sorted out yet there.

– Arians had the same thoughts on the close cornerback battle, even mentioning solid play not only from Justin Bethel but Bryan McCann. It’s why Jamell Fleming, who was finally back at practice Sunday following a hamstring injury, needs to get on the field, he said.

– Arians wants to play his starters at least 20 plays against the Cowboys, but he doesn’t want them to go the full first half. He also is happy to have the Cardinals going up against a 4-3 defense for the first time after spending an offseason and a first preseason game against mostly 3-4 looks.

– As for the many mental errors, Arians admitted he was disappointed in part because he thought many would be avoided after the Cardinals essentially had the young players with their second-field practice during the offseason just so they’d get reps. “I would have bought into some of these mental errors had they not got all that practice time,” Arians said.


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As the coaching info turns

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2013 – 11:47 am

With Steve Keim in place as general manager, the Cardinals now need to find a head coach. That is ongoing, and there was some spark thrown into Wednesday morning with conflicting reports about the Cardinals and Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Some reported there was an interview happening, others said no. (Or absolutely no.) What we know is that the Cards have talked to Ray Horton and Mike McCoy and are going to talk to Jay Gruden Thursday. President Michael Bidwill said all those things Tuesday. The team has been pretty transparent with all their interviews once they are lined up. Then again, Haley might want this kept quiet (which doesn’t necessarily prevent leaks, not when it is fellow coaches apparently saying what is going on.)

The Cards, in the Haley case, are not commenting.

(UPDATE: Steelers president Art Rooney said Haley is interviewing. Feels like a solid source.)

Regardless, nothing has changed with the hiring time frame, which was that there was no time frame. Bidwill reiterated that notion. “The timetable is the timetable that gets us the right coach and the right decision for the team to move us forward,” team president Michael Bidwill said during Steve Keim’s introductory press conference Tuesday.

One final interesting note, which comes via Geoff Mosher from CSN Philadelphia, via tweets that make me think he too has been hit with many questions from concerned fans about no head coach yet hired, in his case with the Eagles.

“KC was first NFL team last year to hire HC, on Jan. 9. Chiefs went 2-14, fired Crennel. Colts hired Chuck Pagano on Jan. 25. Made playoffs”

Mosher makes the point of various successful coaches over the years and their hire dates: Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin Jan. 22 (’07); Baltimore’s John Harbaugh Jan. 19 (’08); Denver’s John Fox Jan. 13 (’11); Atlanta’s Mike Smith Jan. 24 (’08); and Seattle’s Pete Carroll Jan. 11 (’10). Again, I’m not trying to say every coach hired is the right one, or that waiting always is a benefit. But clearly, it’s not like taking time crushes chances for success. Of the seven teams that need new coaches, only two have hired new coaches, and that doesn’t include the possibility Jacksonville could change coaches now that they have a new GM.

– One final outlier here: After the Cowboys fired DC Rob Ryan Tuesday it became popular — driven by media speculation — that Horton could be a candidate to replace him. Horton was wooed by Jason Garrett to be on staff two years ago as Horton was coming to Arizona as DC. Here’s the problem: If the Cards don’t hire Horton has head coach, I’m pretty sure they want him to stay as defensive coordinator. Now, that can always change depending on who the head coach is, but with Horton still under contract for another season, he can’t go anywhere (except as a head coach) if the Cards don’t want him to. And I just don’t see the Cards allowing a lateral move, even if Horton did (of which I’m not sure either).


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A little extra to spend

Posted by Darren Urban on March 12, 2012 – 5:12 pm

The NFL announced Monday,with free agency so close, that they were hitting the Redskins and Cowboys with removal of cap space this year and next because of violations when the league was uncapped in 2011. The details aren’t as important for the Cards except for the part where the league is giving that extra cap space to 28 other teams (the Saints and Raiders had minor infractions so they don’t get extra space, but they aren’t docked either.)

The extra space is $1.6 million, according to ESPN. At this point, any little bit helps for the Cards. The next day or so, when teams must comply with the cap and begin free agency, could be busy across the league and have results like today when the Texans surprisingly cut right tackle Eric Winston for cap reasons.

Wow, a post that didn’t mention Pey … dang it!


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Lincoln/Kennedy has nothing on Cards’ OT games

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2011 – 4:53 pm

Remember the eerie coincidences between the assassinations of President Lincoln and President Kennedy? Yeah, pretty much not true or not so eerie.

You want eerie coincidences, you go to the Cardinals, which, by coincidence, have two people nicknamed Whiz: Head coach Ken Whisenhunt and media relations coordinator Mike Helm (You know why Whiz is Whiz; Helm became Whiz during the Denny Green administration because he was the guy holding up, in poor weather, the backdrop outside behind Green during press conference. The man behind the curtain. Wizard of Oz. Get it?)

Anyway, Little Whiz, as we now refer to Helm, is in charge of the postgame factoids, and he came up with some doozies comparing the doppelganger overtime 19-13 wins over the past two home games, beyond just the final score or the extra time needed, or that the winning TDs and subsequent celebrations ended up in the same corner of the south end zone after a play going right in front of the Cards’ bench.

In both the Nov. 6 win over the Rams and the Dec. 4 win over the Cowboys:

  • The Cardinals scored three points in the first quarter, zero points in the second quarter, three points in the third quarter, seven points in the fourth quarter and six points in overtime
  • The Cardinals trailed 13-6 entering the fourth quarter.
  • Both the Rams and the Cowboys had chances to win the game with field goals at the end of regulation. Against the Rams, kicker Josh Brown’s 42-yard field-goal attempt was blocked. Sunday against Dallas, kicker Dan Bailey missed wide left on a 49-yard attempt
  • Both games ended on touchdowns of more than 50 yards the first time the Cardinals had possession of the ball
  • The Cardinals had exactly 16 first downs — five rushing, 10 passing and one by penalty.
  • The two games are the only ones this season in which the Cardinals committed no turnovers.
  • Of the nine OT games in the NFL this season, the two 19-13 victories by the Cardinals are the only ones that were decided by touchdowns. The seven others were all decided by field goals.

Snopes.com can’t touch this.


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Negotiating the icy road of field-goal attempts

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2011 – 11:50 am

By now, the timeout called by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett moments before Dan Bailey’s field-goal attempt is (in)famous, because he essentially iced his own kicker.

(Although it’s worth noting, it’s not like Bailey was in the process of kicking when the whistle blew. The timeout was called, everyone stood up, and then the center snapped and Bailey got a practice kick. It wasn’t like he was interrupted.)

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was thinking about calling timeout himself. Maybe. Sort of.

“Was I ready to? Yes. I was thinking about it,” Whisenhunt said. “But I’ll be honest, if you remember the last time we played them in an overtime game, you remember what I did then? I iced the kicker, and he had missed it, and then he made it after the timeout. So when the timeout was called and he made the kick, there was no way I was going to ice him at that point. I figured the karma had to turn around. Now, I was faking I was calling it. And they called timeout before I had to make that decision.”

In the 2008 game, Cowboys kicker Nick Folk actually had his first try blocked as Whiz called timeout, although again, half the Cowboys’ protection heard the whistle and let up, making the block much easier (in other words, I’m not sure the Cards block the kick without the timeout call). Then, after the timeout, Folk drilled the 52-yard field goal to send the game to overtime.

This field goal would have lost the game for the Cards. But “faking” calling a timeout?

“It’s funny, but you go up to the official — and I actually told him this — I said, ‘I’m not going to call timeout, but I am going to fake like I am going to,’ ” Whisenhunt said. “So he’s looking at you like you are going call timeout and you don’t.” He briefly paused, before adding, “It’s an art form,” a smile across his face.

Whisenhunt does think other teams are thinking about the Cards’ kick-blocking abilities — he said Patrick Peterson almost ran past the ball on the Cowboys’ lone extra point, nearly blocking it — and it makes an impact too.

– Otherwise, not a ton coming out of Whiz’s press conference of a newsy nature. No significant injuries coming out of the game. There will be no talk of postseason chances yet either. With the win, players are officially off today, so no interview availability. Whiz did say TE Todd Heap sat because of his hamstring Sunday, but believes Heap should be OK going forward.


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Cowboys aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 4, 2011 – 11:02 pm

After LaRod Stephens-Howling did his primal scream after his touchdown and then was mobbed by his teammates – and it was a serious mob – linebacker O’Brien Schofield grabbed The Hyphen and tossed him over his shoulder like he was his little brother.

He carried him “probably, like, 15 yards,” Schofield said. “I was so happy. It was one of those moments where you gotta pick him up. He put the team on his back on that play.”

What exactly are the odds of two straight home games ending in a Cardinals’ 19-13 overtime win? Astronomical, obviously. Suddenly, a .500 record – remember, one goal at a time – is reasonable, with the Cards back to 5-7. This team was 1-6 and Kolb had just gotten injured. That seems like a long time ago.

The difference has been the defense. “You don’t see guys laying around talking about, ‘Woulda, shoulda,’ ” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said, and while that’s a good sign, a better sign is simply how you see the Cards playing. They are getting more pressure because they can handle coverage when they blitz and they are simply making more plays. Patrick Peterson flashed against Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant – after missing a tackle on his very first chance of the game – and Tony Romo never got in a rhythm. Dallas’ running game certainly never did.

That was good enough until Kevin Kolb and the offense came around, and then the Cards got a little luck with the late missed field goal.

– Kolb’s return looked very shaky when he started. The one that stuck out was his third-down pass to tight end Rob Housler right before the Cards’ first field goal. Housler was wide-open, and Kolb’s pass went diving into the turf as he looked like he aimed it instead of throwing it.

“It’s just disappointment,” Kolb said. “I got caught in between trying to take off and trying to make the throw. Wow, what a bad play. Thank God we came back and won it.”

– Kolb might have had a comeback in regulation. He made a fantastic laser throw against his body on third down that picked up a first down with three minutes left in the fourth quarter – except Early Doucet dropped the pass. Sure, the drive could have stalled right away, but the Cowboys may not have had a chance to drive for a field goal. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Doucet, but I’d guess he was very, very happy with the way it turned out.

– No Peterson punt return fun today. Cowboys punter Mat McBriar is one of the best directional punters in the game, and he killed it on this day. Of his five punts, Peterson field just one that he tried to return, and that was so tight up against the sideline that Peterson grabbed it and basically fell out of bounds for a one-yard play.

“I knew that was going to happen,” Peterson said. “They didn’t want me to attempt to break the record in my backyard. That’s what four touchdowns come with – pinning me out of bounds, giving me a coffin kick, and not giving me an opportunity.”

– Everyone wanted to know why the Cards wanted Dave Zastudil to be the punter. Today was why. He had some booming kicks, averaged better than 50 yards a punt, and rescued the Cards from some very poor field position.

– When the Cards were struggling on offense, Dockett was asked, what was the defense thinking? Dock pondered it for a moment. “We got a running style-team,” Dockett said. “I don’t know how y’all look at it, but me, we’ve got some bulldogs up front. Run the ball. It wears them down. So me, I was just like, ‘Give it to 2-6.’ ”

Beanie Wells wasn’t great but he was good. He had 67 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. In the end, the Cards ran it 25 times and threw it 25 times. Even if you count two of Kolb’s three rushes as passes that turned to scrambles, it was still 23-27. Pretty balanced.

– The Hyphen scoring in Spanish, or the Hyphen scoring in Pasch-accented English? (Links fixed now. Sorry about that.)

– When the Cards played the 49ers, nearly-automatic kicker David Akers missed more field goals that day (three) than he had all season in 25 previous attempts (two). Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey had made 26 straight field goals coming into Sunday, before missing two of his four tries.

– Here’s your walk-off quote for a Cowboys game. Kolb, when he was asked if beating the Cowboys meant more to him since he is a Texas native: “Before today, that would be a no, but after today, absolutely. All my friends probably had Dallas jerseys on. They’re die-hard, so I’ll be happy to slap them in the face whenever I see them.”

I promise, The Hyphen is somewhere under that pile of teammates.


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Friday before the Cowboys

Posted by Darren Urban on December 2, 2011 – 4:35 pm

With the toe or foot be a problem for Kevin Kolb Sunday? He doesn’t think so.

“It won’t hold me down too bad,” Kolb said. “I’m sure DeMarcus Ware would probably disagree.” Kolb chuckled. “When you are running from fear, you run faster and you don’t worry about your foot.”

(And it was a joke people. Save the jabs about Kolb and running.)

But here we are, to Kolb’s return after more than a month away from a game, with Ware – the NFL’s sack leader — set to face left tackle Levi Brown, who has played better of late, especially when the Cards have run the ball. How will it all wash out? The Cowboys are playing well, but they aren’t the Packers or even the Saints. And the Cards will be at home. Yes, I expect a good amount of Dallas fans. But not the majority.

Kolb seems like he has regained some confidence with this time away. I think it actually may have helped him, as was speculated by many it could. If the Cards can keep Beanie churning away, I think the offense can be OK.

– On the other side of the ball, there is also intrigue. Kolb hasn’t played with this version of the defense yet. Not with Sam Acho coming along and the scheme under control. The Eagles’ offense was actually playing pretty well at the point the Cards got to it and the Cardinals came out pretty good in that game. You’d hope they could do the same against the Cowboys, and turn the QB into the “bad” Tony Romo he can be sometimes.

– Completely unrealistic to think Beanie Wells will break out for another 200 yards. But I don’t think 100 is an unfair goal. The Cowboys do have a good run defense (10th in the league) but the Cards believe they have found a ground game.

“It was the commitment to the run game (last week),” fullback Anthony Sherman said. “Even if we didn’t get much we kept going to the same style of run plays and it worked.”

– Interesting take on Patrick Peterson’s progress as a cornerback from defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Horton reiterated that he thinks, eventually, Peterson will get respect from the officials despite being physical. He said Peterson is “right on pace” to develop as a corner.

Then he talked about what, in his view, was Peterson’s biggest problem early in the season.

“He assumed, if he had good coverage, they wouldn’t throw the ball at him,” Horton said. “You remember, Carolina, they threw the touchdown pass. He just stopped. Against the Giants, the same thing. Now he understands, ‘Just because I’m Patrick Peterson, they’ll still throw the ball at me.’ ”

– These are the games where Darnell Dockett really seems to pop. He had a very good game last week against the Rams – no sacks, but incredibly disruptive – and said it was simply because the game plan “gave me more opportunities.”

“They put a lot more on the D-line,” Dockett said, although he bristled just a bit at the idea he was playing harder. “Every time I step on the field, I’m going 110 miles an hour.”

– Safety Kerry Rhodes, out since the Vikings game Oct. 9 with his broken foot, got back out on the practice field Friday. I’d think he would still be at least a couple games away, but we will see how he does with his recovery.

– Over the last four games, the Cardinals have forced the opposition to punt 25 times. Only Atlanta (26) has forced more punts.

– Fans voted Beanie the “FedEx Ground player of the week” this week after his 228-yard game.

– There are going to be new security procedures for those coming to the games going forward, with handheld metal detectors instead of a patdown. Not every entry point will use this as of yet, but click here for all the details.

– Fitz needs 112 yards receiving to reach 1,000. For some reason, I think he gets it Sunday.

OK, then. Bring on the Cowboys.


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Revisionist History: A playoff pounding in Dallas

Posted by Darren Urban on July 15, 2011 – 2:46 pm

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

When all that noise cropped up around the Cardinals in January of 2009 – the stuff about that team being the worst in playoff history, etc., etc., — I remember thinking, “This team is better than the last Cardinal playoff team.”

Turned out both squads ended up shocking the world. Back in 1998, it might have been an even bigger deal.

The Cards barely squeezed into the playoffs as a wild card (remember, the 2008 Cards clinched the division relatively early). Their first playoff game in years would come in Dallas, against the NFC East rival Cowboys – a team that had beaten the Cards 16 of the previous 17 meetings and who had crushed the Cards, 38-10, in Dallas to open the 1998 season. Forget Cris Collinsworth. The general feeling of the Cards was as a team lucky to be in the playoffs, and probable to fall to the Cowboys – a once-great team that was very ordinary by this time.

The numbers added fuel to the critics’ fire, especially the weakness of the Cards’ schedule (Arizona’s opponents had a .395 winning percentage). On the other side, there was a young team with so much future potential, like rookie defensive end Andre Wadsworth, who at that point was improving after his crazy debut in Dallas earlier in the year (Oh, what could have been). Jake Plummer was the quarterback who was definitely a winner. Cornerback Aeneas Williams was a Pro Bowler who was one of the few in the NFL who had proven he could handle star Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin.

The Cards, at that point, hadn’t won a playoff game since 1947 – the year they won the NFL championship. “My Dad wasn’t even born yet,” guard Chris Dishman said. They had history against them, and a still-potent Emmitt Smith (if you would have suggested then that Smith would eventually be a Cardinal …), but the Cards had played the Cowboys close at Sun Devil Stadium late in the year.

Foreshadowing? Not really. Not after the Cowboys scored 38 and 35 on the Cards in the two regular-season games, only to be shut down for seven points in the playoff game. The Cardinals stunned the Cowboys in a 20-7 win, and that Dallas touchdown came late, with the game all but decided. The cornerback tandem of Corey Chavous and Williams had three interceptions, and safety Tommy Bennett added one in the final seconds for emphasis. Wide receiver Frank Sanders hauled in a 59-yard Plummer pass to set up a score and running back Adrian Murrell broke off a 74-yard run to set up another.

That was all the Cards really needed, the way the defense performed. Slaying the Cowboys was about the present but it was also about unloading on the pre-game disrespect. It was about a fan base starving for success.

It was also short-lived.

The Cards turned their attention to the powerful Vikings for the following week, but that didn’t end well. In the offseason, the Cards lost key players like Larry Centers, Lomas Brown and Jamir Miller and never did battle again for a playoff spot until the magical season a decade later –with the 2008 team that supposedly had too many warts itself. That ride lasted a lot longer.

But for those moments in 1998, when it seemed like the Cards were never going to have any success, the Dallas domination was something to savor.


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Cards top 30 in world’s most valuable sports teams

Posted by Darren Urban on July 13, 2011 – 9:57 am

Forbes.com has come out with a list of the 50 most valuable sports teams in the world, and the Cardinals rank 30th, with a Forbes-estimated value of $919 million. That’s third in the NFC West, with the Seahawks at No. 25 ($989 million) and the 49ers at No. 29 ($925 million). The Rams are 40th ($779 million). Not shockingly, all 32 NFL teams made it into the top 50.

The top 10 teams in the world? Soccer’s Manchester United is No. 1, valued at $1.86 billion. They are followed by the Dallas Cowboys ($1.81 billion), New York Yankees ($1.7 billion), Washington Redskins ($1.55 billion), soccer’s Real Madrid $1.45 billion), New England Patriots ($1.37 billion), soccer’s Arsenal ($1.19 billion), New York Giants ($1.18 billion), then somewhat surprisingly the Houston Texans ($1.17 billion), and, rounding out the top 10, the New York Jets ($1.14 billion).


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Some room for “The Plan”

Posted by Darren Urban on June 27, 2011 – 2:23 pm

Several times this offseason both general manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt (and president Michael Bidwill, for that matter) have talked about the plan the team has in place once the offseason starts. Both Whisenhunt and Bidwill have used the term “aggressive” when it comes to free agency, and that will help given the situation that the Cards have a lot of work to do to firm up a roster in what figures to be a short time period.

It’s impossible to know what is “aggressive” and how the plan will play out (and part of that includes the moving parts once everything is able to begin; for instance, a trade for a quarterback complicates/affects things more than a straight free-agent signing of a QB would). The Cardinals will have some room to maneuver, however. ESPN’s John Clayton, in fact, thinks the Cards are one of the teams best suited to get things done given their potential salary-cap room (and every labor report seems to believe there indeed will be a salary cap once football resumes).

Writes Clayton, “The Cardinals are in great position to be players in free agency and the trade market. They have $37.38 million of cap room along with a current payroll of $85.76 million. They have the fourth most cap room of any team in football, giving them plenty of incentive to trade for quarterback Kevin Kolb and give him a huge long-term contract.”

The other teams in good shape, according to Clayton are the Redskins, Seahawks, Panthers and Eagles. The teams not in such good shape? Bengals, Bucs, Raiders, Cowboys and Jets — although it’s funny, the Bucs and Bengals land on the list not because they have poor cap room but actually because they may have too much, given their current roster situations.


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