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Whisenhunt gets second chance

Posted by Darren Urban on January 14, 2014 – 8:02 am

Ken Whisenhunt gets his second chance. The news came down Monday evening that the Titans had hired the Chargers offensive coordinator and former Cardinals head coach to be their new head coach. It was a surprise on a lot of levels, not the least of which that so many reports came out linking Whisenhunt with the Detroit opening and the fact the Lions are the lone team with a (more or less) established quarterback in place. It’s impossible to know if Whiz chose Tennessee over Detroit or if the Lions never really were that interested in Whiz. It doesn’t mean much now.

It will be interesting however to see how Whisenhunt works with QB Jake Locker. Can Whiz develop Locker, who thus far has not shown enough signs of being a long-term answer? Clearly, the inability for Whisenhunt (and to be fair, General Manager Rod Graves) to figure out the post-Kurt Warner QB situation in Arizona killed his tenure here.

What really struck me about the hire when I first heard it was the link between Nashville, the Titans, Whiz and the Cardinals. That too goes back to the QB problems Whiz had in the desert. Back in the preseason of 2010 — that first go-round of football after Warner retired — the Cardinals had Matt Leinart as the starter, Derek Anderson as the backup and back-to-back exhibition games in Tennessee and in Chicago. In between, there was a few days in Nashville, a joint practice versus the Titans and then a final practice at Vanderbilt.

The relationship between Whisenhunt and Leinart was already fraying. In the joint practice, Leinart struggled against the Titans — at the time, Titans defenders started noticing how quickly Leinart went to his checkdown receiver — and the next day at Vandy, Whisenhunt shocked everyone by giving Anderson first-team snaps. Afterward, it became official that Anderson would be starting in Chicago. Leinart was angry. And things devolved from there.

Now Whisenhunt starts it over. Whiz had a very good run in Arizona, getting the franchise to places they had never been. He also made mistakes. It will be interesting to see if Whisenhunt learned from those missteps and apply that with the Titans.

– There is a lot of speculation about Whiz and if he would reach out to try and bring over current Cardinals strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott. It wouldn’t surprise me, but we’ll see how that develops.

– There are still job openings in Detroit, Minnesota and Cleveland, the latter two of which have interviewed Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. But I am guessing Bowles stays put in Arizona.

WhizBlogUSE


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The fine line of finding a quarterback

Posted by Darren Urban on January 6, 2014 – 11:39 am

So if you are the Cincinnati Bengals, what are you thinking about with Andy Dalton? And what does it say about “finding” your long-term quarterback?

These questions are not easily answered. The Cardinals have been looking for their “long-term” quarterback since, well, since they moved to Arizona. There were the Kurt Warner years, but the time where Warner was both the unquestioned and winning (a key adjective) quarterback for this franchise was less than three seasons: A few games into the 2007 season through 2009. Carson Palmer has come along, and was 10-6 in his first season, and likely is the Cards’ starter in 2014, but how long does he have?

Again, finding the young replacement isn’t simple. Look at Dalton. He has won nine, 10 and 11 games in his three seasons in Cincinnati. The Bengals have made the playoffs every single season. It’s a foundation many teams — even the Cards — would love to have with a quarterback after he was drafted. He threw for almost 4,300 yards this season and already has 80 TD passes in his young career. It’s the definition of finding a long-term guy … right?

Yet the Bengals have lost all three playoff games Dalton has quarterbacked, and he has not played well in any of them. He is, not surprisingly, getting hammered about it again and there are some who think the Bengals should look elsewhere. Now, there are QB-needy teams across the league who would probably love to have Dalton. Yet his situation underscores the minefield that is filling that position.

Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton have worked well. It looks like Colin Kaepernick has too (although I think he still tends to be more up and down than you’d like at this early stage) and Nick Foles flourished in Chip Kelly’s offense. Side note, you look at the playoff teams and the winners and it drives home the point this league is about good quarterback play.

Is Matthew Stafford the answer, even with all his gaudy stats? (Ken Whisenhunt may be hired soon to find out.) Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder were not. Sam Bradford? It’s no wonder Steve Keim says he has to fall in love with a QB to want to draft him, because let’s face it, if you do draft one early, you are married to him for a few years to see if he works out.

And, in the case of someone like Dalton, you still may be wondering if he is working out even when it seems like he is.

DaltonBlogUSE


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In a rush to find a draft pick

Posted by Darren Urban on April 11, 2011 – 1:32 pm

A couple of odds and ends as the draft draws closer and — as we are apt to do this time of year — we all continue to analyze and over-analyze all things draft:

– NFL.com had a blog entry about why pass rushers may be becoming more valuable, noting that NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock has nine defensive ends going in the first round. The reasoning? It’s becoming harder to sack the quarterback in the first place. QBs are getting the ball out quicker than ever before and the pass plays are often designed to make sure pressure is avoiding, not to mention an actual takedown.

“Notice that quarterbacks were sacked 1.7 percent less in 2010 (6.1 percent) than they were in 1982 (7.8 percent),” the post by Elliott Harrison states. “That translates to a difference of about two sacks per 100 dropbacks. Considering we’ve seen how much one sack can alter a season – think of Troy Polamalu’s strip-sack of Joe Flacco last year — that’s a sizable difference. It’s also a factor in why so many teams are looking at defensive ends in the draft.”

OK, so the Cards won’t necessarily be looking at a defensive end. But pass rusher is what we are talking about here.

– Speaking of Mayock, he was on The Chuck and Vince Show Friday on KDUS (1060 AM) and talked about the quarterbacks. He said four quarterbacks — Newton, Gabbert, Mallett, Locker – have first-round ability. “The problem is that they all have holes,” Mayock said. “It’s a tough one. It’s the hardest quarterback class I have ever evaluated.”

Asked what he thought the Cardinals should do at No. 5, Mayock was blunt. “If the quarterback Gabbert is there, I think they sprint to the podium. In today’s NFL, if you don’t have one of those franchise guys, you have no shot. Arizona is a model franchise for that (theory). The minute Kurt Warner retires, it’s the same offense and defense, basically, and they can’t play a lick anymore.”

Do I have to mention I don’t think that’s how it goes? But I can tell you, many, many, many people (in the media or making these predictions) believe that’s what will happen.


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A chance to mock, and the schedule

Posted by Darren Urban on April 6, 2011 – 4:23 pm

All this talk about mocks, it’s only fair you get a chance to do one if you want to. So you can click right here and take part in the mock contest from Chevron and azcardinals.com. Give yourself a chance to win an autographed jersey of whomever the No. 1 draft choice is — do you go with Miller? Peterson? Gabbert? Oh, the possibilities are endless (your chances to win might not be if, say, you put Jake Locker as the fifth overall pick, but hey, it’s your mock).

As for the other part of football we can talk about these days, the 2011 interactive schedule is posted, although the “when” part of the schedule remains under wraps. That will be released later this month — I am guessing the week before draft week (last year, it was April 20). But in the meantime, you can check out the opponents, air miles to be traveled and this somewhat surprising stat given the slate of other teams — the Cards, thanks to their division and off years last season by the Cowboys and Vikings, for instance, will for a second straight season face the NFL’s weakest schedule based on 2010 results.


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It only takes one

Posted by Darren Urban on April 1, 2011 – 11:02 am

Yesterday, I had a Twitter follower by the name of Mykael C. Wright ask me to explain the confusing aspect of all this drafting-a-quarterback talk.

“Is game film (20%), pro day (30%), & potential (50%) to put #’s on draft grade? I don’t get qb movement NOW.” he wrote.

What everyone should understand about player “movement” in draft speculation is that there really isn’t any “movement.” The lists people refer to are not a team list; as I have mentioned a few times the Cardinals have not even started to put together their draft board (The draft room is on the third floor just a short walk from my desk and is a shortcut to the bathroom; trust me, once that path gets shut down to protect the secrets of the process, I am well aware). The lists are educated speculation from pundits like Mel Kiper or Todd McShay or one of hundreds of mock drafts that come out seemingly more often than ever these days.

Realistically, however, you can’t have movement until you talk to a player. The “lists” before the Scouting combine are based on what has been done on the field but also what scouts have let leak during the college season. In the end, though, scouts only have so much of a say, and in the case of the top quarterbacks, no one really has had a chance to interview them until Indianapolis. Those interviews are crucial to the process, since coaches want to see those guys stand in front of a white board and diagram a play or two and explain how to attack a certain defense (I was fortunate enough to sit in for one quarterback’s interview when I was in Indy; fascinating stuff).

So that’s really the first time teams and coaches can fully understand a QB, and opinions morph. And, as those opinions leak, QBs “move” on the lists. More “movement” might happen again after a pro day or private workouts as these teams further scrutinize a player. The background checks are in full swing, and again, that could reveal something to affect opinion. Don’t underestimate reverse physiology either. Are, for example, Andy Dalton (below) or Christian Ponder that good? Or have Gabbert/Newton/Mallett/Locker taken so many broadsides of criticism that to be not one of those guys alone make you more attractive?

Going back to Mykael’s original question though, I’d think game film is still 50 percent of the thought process. Pro day? Maybe 2 percent from on the field (assuming he was at the combine already). The pro day is more important as to talking to the people (trainers, equipment guys, coaches) that had been around the kid. Potential is a huge part of it too, especially for underclassmen like Newton or Gabbert who don’t have a long résumé. So to is fit to what you want to do, and of course, the personal interviews.

“Movement” is a mirage, in many ways. And remember, it only takes one team to love you. If, for instance, the Panthers take Cam Newton first overall, does it matter if the rest of the NFL wouldn’t risk a first-round pick on him?

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Indy doesn’t provide all the answers

Posted by Darren Urban on February 27, 2011 – 10:01 pm

As the combine wraps up – at least my portion of it – I think about watching Cam Newton’s workouts today.

Not live. I was there but not there, watching it on TV screens just like you did, if, you know, you watch such things. Then, after Newton ran and he threw, everyone tried to say it was really disappointing or really not. At the airport this evening, I was talking to an assistant coach (not from the Cardinals) and a fellow writer about Cam-mania and taking a risk on him — or any quarterback.

So much was written and tweeted today about the quarterback workouts, Newton and otherwise. People say Ryan Mallett was the best or Jake Locker or Christian Ponder. On the other side, Newton didn’t particularly throw well today. Not that it really matters. Newton’s physical gifts don’t change even if his throwing was errant today and Mallett’s off-field issues can’t be answered by some impressive passes. Somebody on Twitter pointed out the poor 40 times of one running back at the combine a couple years ago – in the 4.55 range – and noted it was Texans back Arian Foster. Foster just happened to lead the NFL in rushing this past season.

In the end, the combine is a piece of the puzzle but only a piece and, in most cases, only a small piece. It’s getting verified numbers in the bench press or the 40 rather than using hearsay. Is any team – say, for instance, the Cardinals – closer to making draft day decisions on any of these players? Maybe a little bit. But that doesn’t mean any team is thinking, “Oh, that’s the QB I want.” Not yet.

Two months until the draft. Still a long way to go.


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Chatting from a room with a view

Posted by Darren Urban on February 23, 2011 – 4:41 pm

Indianapolis is the anti-Dallas — meaning it’s cold, but no snow. You can see Lucas Oil Stadium from my hotel room (proof below). And speaking of my room, that’s where the computer will be hooked up for tomorrow’s live chat with general manager Rod Graves and director of player personnel Steve Keim (the link is here), which will begin a little after 1 p.m. Arizona time. As you can imagine, time is precious here in Indy, but we will have some combination of 15- or 20-minute chats each or one bigger one for about 30-40 minutes. Obviously we will get to as many questions as we can (and try to be realistic; Don’t bother asking flat out if the Cards will take a QB with the first pick, for instance. They don’t know yet and even if they did, I don’t see it being revealed on a live chat in February).

Before then, I’ll be over at the stadium as the first wave of players, coaches and GMs come through the media area. Because so many athletes train at the Valley’s Athletes Performance, our flight today had a heavy NFL-bent — among those I saw on the plane were Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert, Washington QB Jake Locker and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, along with Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator Mike Miller and special teams coach Kevin Spencer.

Welcome to Indy 2011.


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