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Tall tales from the Northwest(?)

Posted by Darren Urban on May 4, 2012 – 3:10 pm

OK, I couldn’t let this one go: Seattle-based ESPN West blogger Mike Sando tweeted out today that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said new guard and former Card Deuce Lutui is now a vegan.

Sando admitted he didn’t believe it at first — Carroll did say Lutui had reported at 208 pounds, so obviously the coach was having some fun — but that when asked to clarify, Carroll stuck to his vegan claim. (Mike’s full take can be found here.) I told one person down in the Cardinals’ locker room today that out of every player I have ever covered with the team in 10-plus years, Deuce would be the last guess to go vegan. The idea was met with a raised eyebrow or two from a couple of the players to which I mentioned it.

Carroll said Lutui’s weight is “way down.” Good for Deuce. Maybe he finally gets it. He always insisted he could play heavier, a belief that clearly made it tough for him to accept what the coaching staff wanted from him weight-wise. Maybe last year’s deal with the Bengals and issues in Arizona got through to him. It’s just too bad it took so long, and watching how his season progresses in Seattle will definitely be something with which to pay attention.

UPDATE: Well, his agent confirms Lutui is, in fact, a vegan. Wow. And now Deuce himself is talking.


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Deuce heads to Seattle

Posted by Darren Urban on April 6, 2012 – 9:31 pm

Stop if you’ve heard this before, but guard Deuce Lutui has left the Cardinals as a free agent. This time, it’s going to stick.

Lutui signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks, ending his six-year tenure with the Cards, the last couple of which were weighted down with issues about Lutui’s girth. It looked like the lockout last year was going to take care of the end of Lutui in Arizona. Deuce had taken a good offer from the Bengals — but then he didn’t pass his physical because he was overweight. He came back to the Cards needing to lose weight and never could find his way back into the lineup. His lone play on the offensive line all season came, ironically enough, in Cincinnati late in the season.

The crazy way he went and yet was denied in Cincy last year was unique because of the lockout and the speed in which players had to be signed. Lutui agreed to a deal before taking his physical. This year, Lutui already visited Seattle recently. I’m guessing the Seahawks already know what they are getting with Deuce.

The door hadn’t been closed on Lutui in Arizona, but I didn’t see him starting again here. He may not in Seattle, but he reunites with his college coach, Pete Carroll, and the Cards will get a chance to see him again.


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Offensive line options

Posted by Darren Urban on April 4, 2012 – 4:33 pm

With the news Demetress Bell (I find it really weird he “fixed” the spelling problem but his Twitter account, which he controls, still says “Demetrius”) signed with the Eagles, the Cardinals move to the next step with the offensive line.

First, a word from offensive line coach Russ Grimm about free agent signee and versatile lineman Adam Snyder. “He was tops on our free agent list as far as offensive line was concerned,” Grimm said. “He’s a big physical guy, he’s smart, he has played a number of positions. Right now we have him penciled in at right guard but if we have to move it around before camp we’ll move it around.”

Snyder could play right tackle, but I’m thinking the Cards would rather keep him where he is. Bell would have worked in that regard, with Levi Brown being the other tackle. From here, the Cards can still draft a tackle — Reilly Reiff if he’s there, or Cordy Glenn, or maybe Jonathan Martin — and fill that spot. David DeCastro still is possible, but that would mean moving Snyder for sure. (They could go tackle (or guard) in a round later than the first.) I’m not sure free agency, with Bell gone, is a focus. For all those asking about Marcus McNeill, I’ve never got the sense they were interested, and his neck injury is a red flag.

The Cardinals also haven’t closed the door on a pair of their own free agents, right guard Deuce Lutui and/or right tackle Brandon Keith. Both of those players may end up on hold until after the draft, depending on who is chosen. At this point, it’s pretty clear that Brown/Daryn Colledge/Snyder/Lyle Sendlein will be four of the five starters. Obviously, who the other is will determine the landing spots for Brown and Snyder.

(It’s been pointed out that Jeremy Bridges has and can play right tackle, and if the season started today, Bridges would indeed play there. I expect the Cards to make a change there, however.)


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Whither Deuce?

Posted by Darren Urban on February 27, 2012 – 12:52 pm

General manager Rod Graves talked last week about the Cards hoping to sign some of their own free agents back, and obviously, there has been a lot of speculation about how the Cards might/could/should draft offensive line in the first round. One of the mysteries the Cards must clear up is free-agent-to-be Deuce Lutui, who sat all last season as a backup after starting each of his first five seasons.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he can see a Cards’ future with Lutui in it.

“It’s up to Deuce,” Whisenhunt said. “We’d like to have him back but one of the things we have to get worked out with Deuce is with his weight. We had to struggle with him the last couple of years. The bottom line is that Deuce hasn’t played as well when he has been heavy. We would love to see Deuce come back, get in shape and play well for us and we’d love to have him under those conditions. But we can’t afford to not give someone else a chance if Deuce is going to come in overweight.”

Lutui, who nearly left as a free agent last year to Cincinnati before his weight undercut that and sent him back to Arizona, insisted at the end of the season he had turned a corner with his mindset. Maybe, but he only got on the field for an extended period at guard for one half all last season, replacing Rex Hadnot in (ironically) Cincinnati. Daryn Colledge is going to be the left guard; some suggest the Cards could take Stanford guard David DeCastro in the first round and any OL first-round pick would likely be a starter. Lutui wants to start. What kind of market will be there for him is the biggest question.

Actually, the biggest question will be Lutui’s weight. I suppose that hasn’t changed.


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The questions of the offensive line

Posted by Darren Urban on January 4, 2012 – 10:47 am

Aside from the quarterback situation — which will always have top offseason billing unless you have an established stud in place — the spotlight would seem to fall brightest the next on the offensive line as the Cards plan for 2012.

The Cards were already going to have to figure out what to do with their starting tackles, and that was a given even before taking their performance into account. Right tackle Brandon Keith, ravaged by injuries the past two years, is an unrestricted free agent. Left tackle Levi Brown isn’t a free agent, but something will have to be done about his contract, which will slide up to a $16.9 million salary cap number in March. You figure center Lyle Sendlein and left guard Daryn Colledge are set, but do the Cards leave Rex Hadnot at right guard? Is there a chance Deuce Lutui comes back and gets that job? Or could they sign someone else?

The tackles, however, are the most important storyline. Jeremy Bridges filled in for Keith when Keith’s knee and ankle didn’t allow him to play, and  Bridges will return. Whether Bridges is a guy they want to make a full-time starter is another question. The Cards have always liked Keith’s raw potential, but he has not reached it, whether that’s because of injuries or otherwise.

Brown is the more famous question mark. The website profootballfocus.com, which studies such things, said that Brown, through 10 games, had allowed 10 sacks, five quarterback hits and 32 quarterback hurries. Over the last six games, Brown allowed one sack and eight hurries. That aligns with the thoughts of coach Ken Whisenhunt, who had noted Brown played well down the stretch. Does playing better the second half of the season create enough interest/comfort to bring Brown back? If the Cards did, might he move back to right tackle and a new left tackle found?

FootballOutsiders.com has compiled a list of “notable” free agents on offense and defense, including linemen. The tackles list is sparse: Jeff Backus, Max Starks, Vernon Carey, Sean Locklear, Stephon Heyer, Jared Gaither and Demetrius Bell. The Cards have to figure out if someone else is an upgrade (or draft a player). If Levi hits the open market, he’d probably be considered as “notable” as anyone else in this group. The Joe Thomases of the world aren’t available.


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Bengals aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 24, 2011 – 6:27 pm

It’s Christmas Eve, 30,000 feet above Missouri according to the “moving map” in the seatback in front of me, and at this point, it’s tough to not think more about my kids and the next 24 hours than the Cardinals.

That’s what happens when the finish doesn’t go the Cards’ way – a Cardiac Cards game in reverse. All the components were there for another amazing rally. I have no doubt, frankly, that had Early Doucet caught that ball, or the Cards had been able to find their way to a tying score, that they would have won in overtime. But that didn’t happen, and after so many of the late breaks that went their way over the past month, the tangling of feet just seemed bound to happen. The law of averages and all that.

The Cardinals are done, and now the game against the Seahawks next week is about the chance to finish .500 – still a feat given the start to the season – and taking second place in the NFC West.

First, a shorter (I say that as I start out) aftermath, since Christmas is on the mind:

– John Skelton, the ultimate Jekyll-and-Hyde. How does the guy who did what he did in the first three quarters do what he did in the final quarter? The pressure is off? A switch is flipped? Through three quarters, his passing rating was 18.0. Forced interceptions, overthrows, inaccurate throws.

In the fourth quarter, his passing rating was 112.8. What you saw is the reason you can’t go all-in with him. Not yet, anyway. The defense works without a net when Skelton plays like that, and he has yet to not play like that, really. I’m sure he’d love to know why too, but he doesn’t. I’ve never seen such a dramatic difference in how a guy plays. Make no mistake – the pass to Doucet was a good read and good throw. He would have had another TD pass. It’s why he’s so hard to bench. Because that streak always seems to come.

– Calais Campbell set a career-high with his eighth sack, and forced that last fumble that looked like it would get the Cards the tie.

– Safety Kerry Rhodes was back as a playmaker too – he recovered both Bengals fumbles.

– Safety Adrian Wilson forced a fumble, but the big play was his roughing the passer call that seemed iffy. Some have said the right replay showed helmet-to-helmet. I just didn’t see it, and it stole a big play from the Cards.

– A.J. Jefferson was the kickoff returner, so that LaRod Stephens-Howling – dealing with a sore hamstring – could concentrate on his offensive packages. Jefferson struggled, averaging just 17.3 yards a return.

– The Cardinals finally put Deuce Lutui in on offense. He took over at right guard in the second half. No way to know how he graded out yet, but since Lutui will be a free agent after the season, it’s interesting. You wonder if there will be some evaluating going on.

– On the play before Doucet’s miss, the Cards ran a screen to Larry Fitzgerald. It was set up well – but tight end Todd Heap missed a block, and that was the man who made the tackle. It only gained two yards, and probably should have gained more. Not that it mattered much, since the Cards needed to convert the Doucet pass, but worth noting.

– The Cardinals have played an NFL-high 12 games decided by seven points or less. That they added to the total Saturday is simply crazy.

– It was a weary Ken Whisenhunt who talked after the game. There was no anger. He mentioned the frustration many times, and he was asked if that was partly because he thought the Cards were past playing like that. A tired smile crossed his face. “I never thought we were past playing like that,” he said.

He knew his team didn’t play well enough. But he wasn’t in the mood to complain much. Maybe it was the Christmas spirit.

“It’s not any fun when it starts like that,” Whisenhunt said. “But I do have a lot of respect for our players for the way they didn’t quit. It didn’t look good there in the fourth quarter. We fought all the way back. We had chances to make plays, we just didn’t get it done. It’s disappointing from that aspect, especially as hard as we fought this year to get back to where we were.”

OK, big props to anyone actually reading this tonight. I’m taking tomorrow off, if everyone doesn’t mind. Merry Christmas.

 


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Kolb out, Beanie and Heap playing, Deuce sits

Posted by Darren Urban on November 6, 2011 – 12:52 pm

QB Kevin Kolb is officially inactive today against the Rams with his turf toe, meaning John Skelton — as everyone thought — will play. RB Beanie Wells and TE Todd Heap are active however, helping out the offense. The one surprise on the inactive list: G Deuce Lutui. I would guess, since D’Anthony Batiste can play both guard and tackle, the versatility will mean something, expecially if at some point Jeremy Bridges goes in to play right tackle.

Besides Lutui, the only other healthy inactive is WR Stephen Williams. The rest of the inactive list is because of injuries:

  • S Kerry Rhodes (foot)
  • FB Anthony Sherman (ankle)
  • LB Joey Porter (knee)
  • TE Rob Housler (groin)

For the Rams, QB Sam Bradford is active after missing two games with an ankle sprain. He is expected to start.


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Vikings aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 9, 2011 – 8:12 pm

Beanie Wells came around the corner, looked at Vikings cornerback Cedric Griffin, lowered his shoulder and blew Griffin up.

Griffin’s helmet and skullcap went flying. Wells picked up nine yards. It was an angry run, and why wouldn’t it have been? The Vikings were already ahead, 28-3. There was no reason to be anything but upset if you were a Cardinal.

“I don’t know what it was,” Wells said, with a disappointed chuckle. “I was just trying to run the plays.”

It was fitting in some ways, Wells’ run. It came in the middle of the Cards’ longest drive of the day, one that ultimately ended with a punt after QB Kevin Kolb couldn’t connect with tight end Rob Housler for a touchdown, and then Kolb being sacked for a 17-yard loss.

A play such as Beanie’s is an exclamation point after a win. When the Cards lose like they did, it feels like a waste. There is no great analysis after Sunday. The Cardinals are playing poorly, and it caught up to them against the Vikings.

– Perhaps the most interesting thing postgame was the way coach Ken Whisenhunt flowed in a simple eight-minute press conference. Clearly steam when he first came out, he reset himself a few questions in and softened his approach.

“I will say this: I was angry starting out (talking) and I am still angry, but I do believe we have some good players on this football team,” Whisenhunt said. “I haven’t lost any confidence in our players or our team. We are going to look at what we are doing and we are going to put (players) in the best situations not to make those mistakes.”

When there was a follow-up to the idea Whisenhunt could make some changes, he said “It’s hard in season. Let me be clear, when I first said those things, there is a lot of emotion that goes into that. I am disappointed because I thought we were past this as a football team. But I want to be clear, we have a chance to have good football players.”

– I did think it was interesting when quarterback Kevin Kolb noted postgame about the need to work on details. “It starts with meetings, it starts with showing up to work on time getting in early and getting your work done, all the stuff professionals are supposed to do,” Kolb said. You have to wonder to whom that is referring.

– Kolb did stand in the pocket a couple of times until his receiver got open and delivered the pass. That was a good sign. He did have four passes hit at the line of scrimmage – one was intercepted – but Whisenhunt said he didn’t want to tinker with Kolb’s release.

“I don’t think you try to change the arm angle,” Whisenhunt said. “This team is known for that. Some throws Kevin made later in the game he was trying to throw it around the rush. That’s tough.”

Said Kolb, “Some of the balls later in the game I was dropping my arm trying to throw it underneath some of the guys that were running in there.  That’s another thing, just having to change a little bit here and there, making adjustments. The quick passing game, those (defenders) know it, and they are big and tall.”

– Early Doucet was the go-to guy Sunday. He had a career-high eight receptions for 92 yards, and the Cards targeted him 16 times. Doucet, by the way, already has a career-high in yards with 309, and if he hadn’t lost a touchdown catch because of a Jeremy Bridges penalty, he would have had his second 100-yard game of the season. Technically, Andre Roberts is the other starting receiver, but clearly Doucet is the No. 2.

– Everyone waiting for Deuce Lutui to play is probably going to have to wait to see if Rex Hadnot gets hurt. Hadnot has been solid, so Lutui isn’t going to surpass him that way. And when Daryn Colledge suffered a concussion Sunday, it was D’Anthony Batiste subbing in at left guard. Clearly, Lutui is seen as a right guard only – although if Colledge missed significant time, it’d be interesting to see if they’d stick with Batiste, try Lutui on the left, or maybe move Hadnot over there.

– Jeremy Bridges started in place of Brandon Keith at right tackle. I don’t think Bridges had his best game, but then again, who did?

– There was more Sam Acho-for-Joey Porter at linebacker than O’Brien Schofield. It says something about Acho. And probably Schofield too.

That’s all for now. The beauty of an early game in Minnesota is getting back home before the kids go to bed. What else is there to say, anyway?


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Peterson enters season as starter

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2011 – 10:37 am

For most of training camp, a debate among the Cards’ depth chart was whether rookie and No. 1 pick Patrick Peterson would start the opening game. He was behind Greg Toler and A.J. Jefferson, and, all things staying the same, I think Peterson would have come off the bench in the beginning.

But obviously all things didn’t stay the same. Toler got injured and is out for the season. So Peterson has now been elevated — above veteran Richard Marshall — to the starting lineup. He was there in the preseason finale and he is there again today when the Cards officially released the first depth chart of the season. Peterson is a starter at right cornerback, ahead of Marshall and newcomer Crezdon Butler. Jefferson is the left-side starter in front of Michael Adams and the other newcomer, Korey Lindsey. (Peterson is also listed as the No. 1 punt returner.)

The rest of the depth chart remains the same as it has through training camp. Rex Hadnot is the right guard, ahead of Deuce Lutui. And Paris Lenon, who has just impressed coaches time and time again since he arrived last year, remains a starter at inside linebacker ahead of Stewart Bradley. John Skelton is still listed as the No. 2 QB, ahead of Rich Bartel.


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Broncos aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 1, 2011 – 11:37 pm

It will mean nothing in the official statistics of the NFL, or in all likelihood, with the Cards’ roster decisions. Undrafted rookie running  back William Powell — cut a few days into camp, mind you, and brought back only because Ryan Williams was lost for the season — had 29 carries Thursday night against Denver in a stat line that crystallizes what the fourth preseason game is all about. Powell gained just 60 yards, and he actually had six more carries than he did in his entire (JC-shortened two-year) stint at Kansas State in college.

More carries in one game than two years in college? “I’m awake now,” Powell said. “All them carries, I am wide awake. I wanted to be out there as much as possible, get as many carries as I can, show my talent and quickness and put as much on tape as I could.”

The Cardinals did what they needed to get out of the preseason. No major injuries. A win. Some nice plays (although the Broncos didn’t play their starters and clearly are hurting in the depth category). Coach Ken Whisenhunt has a press conference tomorrow at 2 p.m., and I expect most, if not all, the Cards’ cuts to be announced. That’s how it has worked on Fridays in the past under Whiz.

– Guard Deuce Lutui was still playing late in the fourth quarter. It’s not a shock, given his battle of the bulge. “When you get down to the last preseason game, you don’t have a lot of offensive linemen,” Whisenhunt said. “This was a game he had to show us something. It’s been a battle the whole time and we knew the whole time he needed to lose weight in order to play like we thought he could play. It will be good to look at the tape and see where he is.”

– Rookie defensive lineman David Carter, who had been playing backup nose tackle most of camp, spent a good chunk of time at defensive end Thursday. “We are trying to push him, see what he can do,” Whisenhunt said. “No question he has had an outstanding preseason. The more things you can do, the better value you have on game day.”

– It will be interesting to see if the left pectoral strain of tight end Jim Dray impacts the decision on the roster, assuming he indeed was battling Stephen Spach for a spot. Speaking of battles, Reagan Maui’a continues to show up at fullback. I still think Anthony Sherman makes the team, but Maui’a has made it a very difficult choice.

– Safety Hamza Abdullah I think has made the team, but he made a couple of big hits out there. Don’t confuse him as just the nice-guy-who-visits-the-President. “You have to let them know you’re out there,” he said.

– The Cards watched the Broncos miss a field goal despite only having, after a couple guys sprinted off the field thinking they weren’t supposed to be out there, eight men on the field. “You know what, as I was biting my tongue as it was happening, I was thinking, ‘It’s the fourth quarter of the fourth preseason game,’ ” Whisenhunt said. (Actually it was the end of the third). “(The Broncos) didn’t know what they were doing (either). It was tough but we’ll let it slide.”

– Whatever happens with “final cuts,” this roster is going to be fluid to a point. I expect another running back. Some guys who make the roster probably shouldn’t breathe easy, since they could still be on the move.

– Finally, quarterback Rich Bartel looked impressive again. He wasn’t perfect, as he said himself, but he looked very good — again. Is he the No. 2? Is it Skelton? I think Bartel has made a strong case for himself. In all honesty, let’s hope Kevin Kolb stays healthy and the No. 2 is a moot point.

And with that, time to head home. We will have news tomorrow afternoon. And then, the regular season begins.


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