Coach Ken Whisenhunt had his first lunchtime press meeting. Not a whole lot new — the Cards haven’t even practiced yet. Everyone passed the run test (video here). Some quick notes:
– Nose tackle Dan Williams passed the run test for the first time. More on this later, but Williams said he weighed in at 314 pounds, which is a great sign.
– Whisenhunt didn’t think much of the comments by Willie McGinest when McGinest said he had talked to “buddies” on the Cards and it “seems” like they were gravitating toward Skelton. “When you get second-hand information like that, I don’t know how much stock you put into that.”
– The Cards will have their first padded practice Thursday. Today’s work will be in shells.
Tags: Dan Williams, Ken Whisenhunt
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Football Outsiders, via the ESPN Insider area, has put together NFL rankings of the 32 teams based on the quality of players each team has of players 25 years old and younger. The list does have influences beyond just age, among them whether the young players starting last season were doing so out of talent or just being an injury replacement, how much those young players impact the passing game (because that’s where the league is headed) and if a team has a talented young quarterback.
The Patriots are No. 1, the Lions No. 2 (two teams the Cards play this season). The Cardinals are 17th on the list. Unfortunately, NFC West rivals are higher. The 49ers are 15th, the Seahawks 12th. (The Rams are 24th.) As always, these are subjective opinions, but the analysis of the Cards reads:
“This all starts with CB Patrick Peterson. It’s not often you find a player with the talent to both cover No. 1 receivers and return punts at a high level, and we nudged Arizona up accordingly. With LBs Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield having another year of NFL experience under their belt, odds are the Cardinals will generate a better pass rush than they did last season. Dan Williams had a down year, but he’s still one of the more physically gifted nose tackles in the game. The offense isn’t as settled, but what’s impressive is the sheer number of NFL-caliber players they can throw at you: QB John Skelton, WR Andre Roberts, WR Michael Floyd, TE Rob Housler and RBs Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling. We have to reward that quantity, even if most of that group hasn’t made a huge impact yet.”
Building through youth and the draft is the only way to really create any kind of sustained long-term success in this league. I am shocked, to be honest, that LB Daryl Washington — still 25 — is not on the list. Out of every young player the Cards have, I’d put Washington right below Peterson.
Schofield is also 14th on an accompanying list of under-the-radar top prospect list (players drafted in the third round or later.)
Tags: 49ers, Andre Roberts, Beanie Wells, Dan Williams, John Skelton, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Lions, Michael Floyd, O'Brien Schofield, Patrick Peterson, Patriots, Rams, Rob Housler, Sam Acho, Seahawks
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This time of year, everyone is always asking me, among other things, what player do I think is going to break out during whatever season is approaching.
(And when I say everyone, it’s mostly when I am doing radio interviews, although some fans will ask from time to time.)
There’s always the matter of defining just who can be a breakout candidate. To me, it’s a guy who has only been in the league a short time. Usually it’s a guy who just completed his rookie season, although it could be a player who has been around a bit longer. There was a point early on when Adrian Wilson was my pick a couple of seasons in a row. Alan Branch was a popular choice. This year, it’s tough to get away from a couple of potentials: tight end Rob Housler and running back Ryan Williams. Williams, of course, has to prove himself healthy. Housler has to battle a lot of guys at tight end to make sure he gets playing time.
But others are intriguing. Sure, Patrick Peterson is a Pro Bowl punt returner, but he still has to prove a lot at cornerback — and having him take a big step forward there is certainly possible this year. The Cards wouldn’t mind if either Dan Williams or David Carter really established themselves at nose tackle.
It’s not always simple, though, not like Steve Breaston going from eight catches in 2007 to a 1,000-yard receiver in 2008. Still, this is the time of year when you mull such possibilities.
P.S. I will be doing a pre-camp live chat tomorrow — Tuesday — at 11 a.m. Arizona time (that’s 2 p.m. in the East) right here. We can talk breakout guys or whatever you might want. We’re only a week away.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Dan Williams, David Carter, Patrick Peterson, Rob Housler, Ryan Williams, Steve Breaston, training camp
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Listening to the radio this morning on the way to the gym, I heard about some of the NBA player moves and how one guy got crossways with a coach because he didn’t come into training camp this past season in shape. The player thought training camp was when you should get in shape. The coach, obviously, thought camp was time to practice and that being in shape when a guy showed up was a given.
That’s certainly how it is in the NFL these days.
Once, the preseason was six games long and teams would spend weeks on end at camp. I remember talking to some of the long-time athletic trainers with the Cards and them talking about spending eight weeks at training camp. Ugh. But in those days, players often had offseason jobs to make enough money and camp was indeed to get in shape. These days, players make enough — even the guys on the fringe of the roster — to be able to dedicate themselves year-round to staying in shape. It’s a must.
(There’s a tough grey area for the guys who are on the bubble every year — no guaranteed salaries, remember, and you only get paid the significant money during the regular season, not camp — but they have to grin and bear it to have a chance to make it in the league.)
It’s not easy all the time. Dedication is a must, and you have to do it the right way. I was mulling it over, and off the top of my head, I could recall nose tackle Dan Williams, defensive lineman Nick Eason and wide receiver Stephen Williams all admitting they were out of shape in one way or another heading into camp last year after the lockout. We won’t get into ex-Cardinal Deuce Lutui.
Look, it’s not rocket science to figure out that the coaching staff would love to have the players around more than they are in the offseason. That’s how coaches are. The collective bargaining agreement says otherwise. But when most guys are driving forward on their own — Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts acknowledged the other day at Larry Fitzgerald’s camp that guys know “this is a year-round thing” — anyone doing otherwise won’t be in a good place once it’s time to go to Flagstaff.
Which, by the way, is only eight days away.
P.S. Speaking of workouts, click here for some pictures I shot in Minnesota of the Fitz camp.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Dan Williams, Nick Eason, Stephen Williams, training camp
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It was a simple response to a Twitter comment yesterday, and somewhat open-ended at that, although it ended up generating a couple hours of Twitdebate. I wouldn’t say I expected wide receiver Michael Floyd to start “from Day One.” I’ve already covered that, actually. But it goes to a larger component — nothing surprising — with coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff. Bottom line, he prefers to ease his top picks into the lineup, and earn their way.
Let’s look at the Cardinals’ No. 1 picks through the Whisenhunt era, and when they started for the first time:
– 2007: T Levi Brown. Started at right tackle Week 1. Brown was the fifth overall pick. The Cardinals had no holdover at right tackle that made sense to plug in for Whisenhunt’s first year. Heck, Mike Gandy was signed as a free agent just to play left tackle. When Brown hurt his ankle in the third game of the season, Elton Brown — a natural guard — was forced to start for a few weeks. You want to plug-and-play a top five offensive lineman, but Levi’s ascension was as much about need as anything else. (UPDATE: And as “footballguru80″ pointed out in the comments — which I had forgotten — Oliver Ross was running at RT before going down with a season-ending triceps injury in the preseason. Ross likely would have started the opener, I’m thinking, given history.)
– 2008: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: Started at right cornerback Week 9. DRC was coming from Tennessee State and his learning curve was steeper than some. His natural talents were undeniable. But Eric Green started instead. DRC came in midseason (Green fell so quickly he was inactive every postseason game) and did a very good job. But he wasn’t ready at the outset and definitely was a player who needed to earn his time.
– 2009: RB Beanie Wells: Started at running back Week 7, 2010.Wells actually had just one start his first two seasons, playing behind Tim Hightower (and I’m not so sure Wells would have gotten that start had Hightower not had his fumbling issues, leading the coaching staff to try and make a point to Hightower.) Wells was obviously “The Man” last year but he continues to be challenged to work to keep that spot.
– 2010: NT Dan Williams. Started at the nose Week 1, 2011. Here’s another No. 1 pick who didn’t start as a rookie. He played, like Wells, but battled his weight and needed to show the coaches he deserved to get that honor. He couldn’t supplant veteran Bryan Robinson in 2010. It’s probably not a coincidence the two top picks who took the longest to crack the starting lineup were also the guys drafted latest in the first round, with Wells at pick No. 31 after the Super Bowl and Williams No. 26 after the Cards’ second straight division title.
– 2011: CB Patrick Peterson. Started at right cornerback Week 1. Peterson, the fifth pick, had an argument that he should have started right away. But I don’t think it would have happened if Greg Toler hadn’t shredded his knee in the preseason; Peterson was running second team at that point and I really have no doubt he would have been there when the regular season started if Toler had stayed healthy.
With all this in mind, and with Andre Roberts (who was, after all, a third-round pick; it’s not like he was an undrafted free agent) growing last year, I don’t know why my thought that Floyd will start the regular season as a reserve is so shocking. Will Floyd be a part of the offense? Of course. At least he should. But start? I don’t think so. Not from Day One.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Dan Williams, DRC, Ken Whisenhunt, Levi Brown, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson
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OK, so I missed a year (darn the lockout!) but with the end of offseason work and with my time off finally arriving, it’s that time. The proper sendoff into that dead area prior to training camp is my educated guesstimate for the starting lineups come Sept. 9 when Seattle visits University of Phoenix Stadium. Defense today, offense tomorrow. We’ll see if these choices come to fruition, although there is a long, long way to go. A lot can change. So, as always, remember this is just an exhibition and not a competition, so please, no wagering:
DE – Darnell Dockett. I’m anxious to see how he performs with a full season of knowing what he’s doing in Ray Horton’s scheme.
NT – Dan Williams. He was playing better when he got hurt. David Carter was solid as a rookie, but Williams is the key here. He needs more consistency. He knows that.
DE – Calais Campbell. New contract in hand, time to build on what he started.
ROLB – Sam Acho. He was better than anyone could have expected as a rookie.
SILB – Paris Lenon. Maybe Stewart Bradley emerges at some point, but Bradley’s time on the bench has been as much about Lenon’s incredibly solid play as Bradley’s own play. Lenon just won’t let anyone dislodge him.
WILB – Daryl Washington. Hard not to see him as emerging star.
LOLB — O’Brien Schofield. He’s itching to be a starter and to prove he belongs. Now’s his chance. He wants to have the same impact Acho did, and the Cards need him to do just that.
RCB – Greg Toler. Yes, William Gay was there this offseason and yes, Gay has a good chance to be the starter. But for some reason, I think Toler finds his way there. Both are going to play regardless.
LCB – Patrick Peterson. Pro Bowl status as return man. Now he needs to make it so as cover guy.
FS – Kerry Rhodes. Remember how Adrian Wilson burned so much in camp last year – before he got hurt – to make up for his struggles the year before? That’s the sense I get from Rhodes, who is still frustrated from last years’ broken foot and I think wants to show everyone how good he can be.
SS – Wilson. One thing you never have to worry about from Wilson is motivation. The boulder on his shoulder draws from different places, but it never goes away. Horton thinks Wilson will be even better this year now that he’s comfortable in the defense.
Offense is up tomorrow.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Greg Toler, Kerry Rhodes, Paris Lenon, Patrick Peterson, Ray Horton, Sam Acho, Stewart Bradley, William Gay
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Once, the end of offseason work for the Cardinals wasn’t just a beginning but a much bigger deal, specifically when coach Dennis Green used it in his first season as a time to announce his starting lineup for the season. (That was a crazy time. It really was.)
Now, coach Ken Whisenhunt emphasizes competition and ongoing competition. Nothing up for grabs was going to be settled in a month’s worth of work in May and June. But there was one thing settled that is a significant step for the Cardinals — every draft pick was signed before the work ended. Michael Floyd and Jamell Fleming (below) signed on the dotted line, and just like that, a headache that had shrunk in recent years (yet still existed) was gone.
It’ll be league-wide, and it’s thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement. No longer will players be holding out. I’ve never thought, if a player missed a day or two of camp, it was a huge deal, but looking at the last 10 years and the number of picks that have missed at least some time in camp, this is a welcome change:
– 2011 Patrick Peterson, missed 1 day
– 2010 Dan Williams, 3 days
– 2009 Beanie Wells, 3 days
– 2008 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 2 days
– 2007 Levi Brown, 6 days
– 2006 Matt Leinart, 15 days
– 2005 Antrel Rolle, 8 days
– 2004 Larry Fitzgerald, 1 day
– 2003 Calvin Pace, 3 days; Bryant Johnson 4 days
– 2002 Wendell Bryant, all of training camp and two weeks of the regular season
“Knowing the first day of training camp you will have everyone there is a big deal,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “When they miss those first couple of days, it seems like they are always playing catch-up. It’s good we had all our guys here. It’ll be good to have everyone there from Day One. It’s great that our organization, (president) Michael (Bidwill) and (general manager) Rod (Graves), have been so proactive.”
Tags: Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, Bryant Johnson, Calvin Pace, contracts, Dan Williams, DRC, Jamell Fleming, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Matt Leinart, Michael Bidwill, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Rod Graves, Wendell Bryant
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This time of year, strolling through the locker room means mostly a snapshot of guys rehabbing from injury, and — as I had a chance to talk last week to nose tackle Dan Williams about his broken arm — I thought about what that means today compared to when I first started covering the team more than a decade ago. Obviously, a broken arm will heal long before training camp, and it shouldn’t impact Williams in 2012. Same with the arthoscopic knee work done on running back Beanie Wells, who was downstairs today.
The return from more serious injuries, however, seems to have changed, at least a little. That crossed my mind recently when I was mentioning how the Cardinals let Kyle Vanden Bosch leave via free agency. Back in April of 2005, Vanden Bosch’s exit to sign a one-year contract with Tennessee merited just a sentence after Vanden Bosch had suffered two ACL tears in his first three seasons and then had just 15 tackles in 16 games in 2004 as a backup. Vanden Bosch later became a Pro Bowler as a Titan — starring in 2005, in fact — as his knee finally returned to health, but at the time, no one could have guessed that. Contrast that to linebacker O’Brien Schofield, who ripped up his knee in mid-January of 2010 before he was drafted and yet was back on the field by October flashing some of the skills that had impressed so many before his injury.
The Cardinals hope, for instance, running back Ryan Williams (torn patella tendon) and cornerback Greg Toler (ACL tear) both can make significant contributions this season. They are both at the facility most days, rabidly rehabbing. Both are highly optimistic at the way things are going for them. There’s no guarantee they can make an impact — no way to know until they get on the field — but certainly, the possibility is greater than it once was. Medical advances can be a wonderful thing.
Tags: Dan Williams, Greg Toler, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ryan Williams
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Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged Friday that, when Kevin Kolb got hurt originally, as bad as it looked, “you knew at that time there would be a time period to come back.” And there has been. Kolb did some work this week, but Whiz said Friday his next test would be the plane flight to St. Louis.
“Getting the rust off was what was important this week,” Whisenhunt said. “Seeing if he could play from the standpoint of practicing one day and see how it reacted the next day.”
What does this all mean? I suppose we could see Kolb Sunday. He is questionable after all. But Whiz also emphasized how important feet are to a quarterback – you can’t have him be a sitting duck back there – and given that he was limited all week after not practicing at all the previous three weeks, signs again seem to point to a John Skelton start.
That would be good for Skelton, to be honest. No way you want a young quarterback’s last taste during a season to be what transpired in San Francisco. That kind of ugliness – and how it noticeably affected Skelton, compared to how he usually is – needs to be flushed. Besides, if you are unsure of where Kolb is, what’s waiting one more week?
(Just in time for the pass rushes of the Cowboys and 49ers the next two games, by the way, albeit at home.)
We’ll see. Otherwise, it’s Rams Part II:
– Larry Fitzgerald tends to avoid talking specific criticisms, but he was blunt in calling the offense’s third-down conversions a “problem.” The Cards converted just one of 11 tries in San Francisco and “that’s unacceptable,” Fitzgerald said. “The plays are there, we have to be able to execute them.”
Overall, the Cards have converted a shade more than 30 percent of their third downs this season. Their last four games, it is 11-for-46, or 24 percent.
– You never want key cogs to go down with season-ending injuries (Everyone would have liked to see what the offense would have looked like with running back Ryan Williams or the defense with cornerback Greg Toler), but with nose tackle Dan Williams out, I would like to see how well rookie David Carter does. Veteran Nick Eason will be the starter, but Carter is the intriguing one, after pushing Williams in camp.
– That said, defensive coordinator Ray Horton liked what Williams was doing before he got hurt. Williams needs to keep his weight in check. Next year will be a big one for him, especially with Horton needing an anchor in the middle.
– The Cards can’t complain to the Rams about injuries, that’s for sure. Friday, tackle Jason Brown and receiver Mark Clayton were put on injured reserve – the 12th and 13th guys on that list for the Rams (and that doesn’t include a couple of injury settlements).
– The Cards have blocked four field goals this season, three by defensive end Calais Campbell alone. It’s the highest total for an NFL team since the Bears in 2007. “If you want to judge a team, watch that unit,” Whisenhunt said. “No matter what the score or where in the game it is, those guys are working hard. It’s just an effort play. It’s pretty amazing.”
– Quietly, wide receiver Early Doucet is on pace for 67 catches for 817 yards this season, decent numbers considering the inconsistent play at quarterback and in the passing game.
The Cards have won six straight games in St. Louis. I used to think it was a Kurt Warner-revenge thing. Nope. They’ve done it without him too.
Tags: Dan Williams, David Carter, Early Doucet, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Rams
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After breaking his arm Sunday, nose tackle Dan Williams was officially put on injured reserve Tuesday, ending his season. To replace him on the roster, the Cardinals promoted defensive end Ronald Talley from the practice squad.
The Cardinals actually made multiple moves on the practice squad. Filling Talley’s spot, the Cards brought back nose tackle Ricky Lumpkin. The Cardinals also released tight end Steve Skelton from the practice squad and replaced him with linebacker Brandon Williams, who was drafted by Dallas in 2009 before tearing his ACL in preseason of that year.
Tags: Brandon Williams, Dan Williams, practice squad, Ricky Lumpkin, Ronald Talley, Steve Skelton
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