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It’s about the video, not the workouts

Posted by Darren Urban on April 19, 2013 – 3:52 pm

General Manager Steve Keim mentioned yesterday about the fine line evaluating players and, more specifically, not wanting to overevaluate them. With so much time between the end of the season and the draft, that is a concern.

But both he and coach Bruce Arians agree it is the play on the college football field above all else that should be driving these player grades.

“I don’t grade anybody down at the (Scouting) combine,” Arians said. “The tape doesn’t lie. If a guy plays football fast and doesn’t run fast at the combine, that means he carries his pads pretty well. … I don’t believe in working out in shorts because the game is not played in shorts.”

Keim, not surprisingly, referred back to Anquan Boldin — he of the relatively slow 40 time when he was at the combine in 2003 (the 4.7 range) — and yet became a Pro Bowl receiver from his first game in the NFL.

“As much as combine numbers mean to you, and sometimes our guys will get enamored with a guy who ran a (tremendous) 6.55 three-cone, you have to remind them, unfortunately, at 1 o’clock on Sunday, we don’t get to run a three-cone drill,” Keim said, adding that the evaluator has to ask, “What are his compensating abilities” for whatever shortcomings he might have.

That doesn’t mean someone with an impressive combine gets thrown out, even if his stats weren’t great in college. Again, the evaluation is about what the team sees on video. Production counts but it isn’t the whole picture. The player had to have shown something in real games. It sounds simple. But every team doesn’t always adhere to it.

– Really good read from Josh Weinfuss collecting an oral history of various Cardinals players from their time around the draft.

– Safety James Sanders, who wasn’t going to return this year after his one year on the Cardinals, has been suspended the first four games of the NFL season.

– And with that, I am headed to this evening’s Tweetup with SI’s Peter King, Arians, Keim and a host of players downtown at Tom’s Tavern as we raise funds for a Tillman Foundation scholarship. Tomorrow, I’ll be running in Pat’s Run at ASU. Hope to see some of you.


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Free agents list and comp picks

Posted by Darren Urban on February 27, 2013 – 6:05 pm

Free agency is still a couple weeks away — March 12 for those who have forgotten — but for those who want to keep track of the Cardinals’ comings and goings, here is the page to do so. On it you can see the Cards’ own unrestricted and exclusive free agents going into the offseason. I ran into free agent safety Rashad Johnson today. He sounded upbeat about his status with the Cards but he wasn’t there to sign a new deal or anything. Those deals, I would think, will be deadline-driven probably. The Cards have talked to many of the agents for free agents, but again, I don’t think anything is about to pop.

The Alex Smith trade — or the reported trade that is going to happen — to the Chiefs will give the 49ers another draft pick this season. That, along with the anticipated compensatory picks the 49ers will get for losing free agents last offseason, will give San Francisco 15 draft picks for April. The day has been littered with speculation over what the Niners will do with all those picks. It’s too many to draft. No way 15 rookies make the team. So the Niners might as well trade some of them for players (Revis? Harvin?) or to move up and get a better pick or two or nab a rookie they really want.

Speaking of comp picks, I don’t expect the Cards to have any. They lost cornerback Richard Marshall to the Dolphins (to a pretty big contract) but signed free agents like William Gay, Adam Snyder and James Sanders. So that means the Cards will likely have only their seven picks — none in the seventh round and two in the sixth round. The official list of compensatory picks usually is released during the March owners’ meetings, which this year happen to be in Arizona.


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Hoyer active as backup QB; Rashad sits

Posted by Darren Urban on December 23, 2012 – 12:59 pm

Brian Hoyer is active as the backup quarterback today with John Skelton inactive against the Bears. Ryan Lindley starts, but Hoyer will be available if coach Ken Whisenhunt wants to play him. It’s not a surprise, but for Skelton to open the season as starter and now be inactive with Kevin Kolb also out is an amazing journey.

Safety Rashad Johnson (hamstring) will sit out, meaning Adrian Wilson could get extended time beyond his play in the base defense, although James Sanders is available. This, again, could end up being Wilson’s final home game with the Cards depending on what the Cards do with him this offseason.

Others inactive:

– G Senio Kelemete

– OL Mike Gibson (calf)

– TE Kory Sperry

– WR Early Doucet (concussion)

– DE Ronald Talley (ankle)


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Friday before the Bears

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2012 – 3:52 pm

Here’s one benefit of playing the Lions and Bears in back-to-back weeks: The blueprint was already there for the defense, after covering Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, to deal with the Bears’ Brandon Marshall. Johnson has been a beast this season, no question, but Marshall has been fairly beastly himself, with 107 catches, 1,398 yards and 10 touchdowns already himself.

Now, that doesn’t mean the Cards will necessarily give Marshall the “vice” look they gave Johnson at times last week – when Johnson was in the slot, safety Kerry Rhodes and cornerback William Gay would basically double-team him at the line, like Johnson was a gunner on punt coverage. But who knows? We could see it again. It’ll be fun to watch this defense regardless, against a struggling offensive line and against a quarterback who has shown he can be harassed into bad decisions.

– We do know we’ll see Patrick Peterson on Marshall , as Peterson keeps making his late-season push. I don’t think he’s getting double-digit picks, but he’s closer than I thought he’d get earlier in the season. He also talked a little this week about his confidence which is obvious.

“All the good corners have confidence in their ability to go out and make plays for their team,” Peterson said. “I believe the confidence started in high school. It was something my Dad always instilled in me growing up – ‘Always be confident in your ability, confident in what you are doing at all times.’ Not cocky. There is definitely a difference.

“I’m not a guy who’s going to go out and boast and brag about my ability, but if I feel like I am doing something better than another guy or doing something at the top level, I’ll definitely let you guys know.”

Peterson added, in a question about whether he was the best in the game, “I believe I am playing at a top level right now.”

– Both Rashad Johnson (hamstring) and James Sanders (calf) returned to practice on a limited basis Friday for the first time this week. Both are questionable. I would guess at least one will play Sunday, if not both, but starter Adrian Wilson could get more playing time, defensive coordinator Ray Horton said.

“There’s never been a question of Adrian’s ability,” said Horton, although Wilson has lost snaps since the bye. Horton said Friday part of the reason for that was to reward the good play of Johnson and Sanders.

Nevertheless, Wilson understands – as do many – there is a chance this could be Wilson’s final home game Sunday, with his future with the team murky right now. Horton was asked about calling the blitz last weekend that got Wilson the sack he needed to reach the 25-25 club.

“I was aware of where he was in the (historical rankings) in the league and it was a perfect opportunity to do it,” Horton said. “It was kind of called for him.”

– If the Cardinals win Sunday, it will be Ken Whisenhunt’s 50th victory as Cardinals’ head coach including playoffs.

– Given the problems with the Bears’ offensive line and the way the 49ers play offense, this might be the week linebacker Daryl Washington wants to get that elusive 10th sack of the season. Time is running out for him to his double-digits.

– Nothing official, but yes, I expect the roof open Sunday.

– Don’t know what’s going to happen with quarterback Brian Hoyer. I still think he ends up active in one of the final two games, if not both. Does that mean he plays? Not necessarily. Whisenhunt made it plain he wouldn’t change things up and jeopardize winning just to look at Hoyer, so my guess would be if a game got out of hand, then he might be willing to test-drive the new guy. But again, he’s got to be active for that to happen. Which likely means John Skelton would be made inactive.

– While Sunday’s game doesn’t kick off until 2:25 p.m., the plaza at University of Phoenix Stadium will open early, at 10:45 a.m., so fans can get through screening. The stadium still does not open until 90 minutes prior to kickoff for non-premium seat holders, but food and beverage options will be available on the plaza, in addition to entertainment at Gate 2. Anyone with food or beverage purchased on the plaza can bring it into the stadium when the doors open.

We come to the end of another home schedule. Seems like we were just showing up for that Seahawks game in early September. Back then, Ryan Williams, Kevin Kolb and Lyle Sendlein were still around (playing, I mean) and so were hopes for the season. Now the Cards just want to finish above  .500 at UoP.

Bearsb4blogUSE


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Punt return royalty seeks to regain shine

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2012 – 1:28 pm

Two of the four players in NFL history who have four punt return touchdowns in a season will be returning punts Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“I think it’s going to be fun, having Devin Hester on one end and Patrick Peterson on the other,” Peterson said. “I believe that calls for a good show.”

Whether it actually produces anything remains to be seen. Both Peterson and Hester have been quiet this season on punt returns. Hester has averaged just nine yards on 34 tries, with a long of 44. His average is well below his career average of 12.3 yards a return. Peterson, of course, has also been slowed. He has an average of 8.6 yards on 47 tries (and has lost three fumbles). Neither Peterson or Hester has a touchdown this season.

Peterson has talked a few times about trying to break out on punt returns. But he is playing well at cornerback, and the always confident Peterson will not sway from his belief the big punt return will still come.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Peterson said. “At the end of the day the Arizona Cardinals drafted me to be a defensive back. The punt returns are a plus. When my opportunities comes, I will try my best and I want to break one. But teams now are so dialed in, when (number) 21 has the ball in his hands, bottle him up on the sideline and if you don’t, have all 11 hats to the ball.”

– Wide receiver Early Doucet (concussion) and newcomer offensive lineman Mike Gibson (calf) — who apparently got hurt in practice this week after re-signing — are both out Sunday. The Cardinals have a bunch of players questionable, although both safeties Rashad Johnson and James Sanders were upgraded to limited Friday. In addition to those two, the questionable list includes T Nate Potter, FB Anthony Sherman, LB Quentin Groves, TE Rob Housler, DE Ronald Talley and NT Dan Williams.

The Bears will be without LB Brian Urlacher. DT Henry Melton is doubtful. Questionable are NFL interceptions leader Tim Jennings, LB Blake Costanzo, WR Earl Bennett and T Jonathan Scott.

PPPuntReturnUSE

 


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Dan Williams sits out, Hoyer inactive

Posted by Darren Urban on December 16, 2012 – 12:43 pm

The Cardinals will still be without nose tackle Dan Williams today against the Lions. David Carter should will get the start in his place. It hurts the run defense, which has struggled anyway, but the Lions do not have a great running game anyway. Tight end Rob Housler is active, so that helps — he is a favorite target of rookie starting QB Ryan Lindley. Speaking of quarterbacks, newcomer Brian Hoyer is, as expected, inactive. John Skelton will back up Lindley.

The other inactives:

– S James Sanders (calf)

– WR Early Doucet (concussion)

– TE Kory Sperry

– DE Ronald Talley (ankle)

– G Senio Kelemete


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“It is not a right, it is a privilege”

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2012 – 1:41 pm

There weren’t a lot of specifics defensive coordinator Ray Horton was giving Friday when asked about veteran safety Adrian Wilson’s role, after Wilson was taken out of nickel situations last week in favor of Rashad Johnson and James Sanders.

“Hopefully the message being sent by everyone is the most important thing is to do your job and do your job well,” Horton said. “When you are in there, it is not a right, it is a privilege to play defense. We’re just trying to tweak some things and get some guys some opportunities. Where does (Adrian) fit in? Right where he has always been, as one of the leaders of our team.”

Horton talked once again about defensive depth. Giving Sanders and Johnson more chances to play was important to him. At this point, the reserves have been playing well when they get a chance, and Horton wants to cultivate that.

“(Depth) is a security blanket for me with the defense,” Horton said. “I don’t care who is in the game, I haven’t seen anyone really perform poorly in a substitute role. With (linebacker) Quentin (Groves) and he dominates against New England, James Sanders picked up the fumble (against the Eagles), guys continue to make plays. Guys tend to take advantage of the opportunities they get.”

So Horton — who used Reggie Walker more at outside linebacker last week with the season-ending injury to O’Brien Schofield, as another example — will continue to move pieces around. And we’ll watch the role of someone like Wilson evolve.


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A new role for A-Dub

Posted by Darren Urban on November 20, 2012 – 10:34 am

Back when training camp opened, before the players had even settled into their dorms, Pro Bowl strong safety Adrian Wilson was the story after agreeing to restructure his contract and taking a paycut. Such was the price to stick around the Cardinals, and that was something that was very important to Wilson. “I’m in it for the legacy,” he said. Flash forward to this past week, when Wilson — who had played all but one of the 542 defensive snaps the Cardinals had his first eight games of the season (he didn’t play in the Philadelphia game because of an ankle injury) — was taken out of certain packages.

The coaches decided to use Rashad Johnson and James Sanders, the duo that had replaced Wilson and did pretty well in that Eagles game, in nickel-type packages. Wilson still played the majority of the game, finishing up playing 41 of the Cards’ 73 defensive snaps in Atlanta (and celebrating William Gay’s interception, pictured below.) Sanders played just 17 snaps, Johnson a mere 12. But it was Johnson who noticeably was the starter in the game because the Cards opened in the nickel and that got even more attention when Johnson grabbed a tipped pass on the game’s first play for an interception.

The explanation for Wilson’s demotion was simple and not specific for coach Ken Whisenhunt. Whiz noted after the game the move “worked pretty well,” adding “It was consistent with our message to the team and I think our team rallied behind that.” Monday, Whiz complemented Wilson’s ability to deal with the change. “It’s never easy, but Adrian’s a real pro and he handled it well.” Whisenhunt praised the play of Johnson and Sanders against the Eagles, and also against the Falcons. “We’re trying to win games,” Whisenhunt said. “We’re trying to get better and those guys played well (in Atlanta).”

(Defensive coordinator Ray Horton doesn’t talk until Fridays and I’m sure the question will be raised about Wilson’s role then.)

As for Wilson, he has handled it well. He doesn’t have much to say about it, saying only “That’s a head coach question” when asked about the move. But it’s not like he is snapping at reporters trying to ask. Is he happy? I’m sure not. A-Dub is a proud man. He’s never been shy to criticize himself when playing poorly but that doesn’t mean he is OK with it or even that he agrees all the time that he is playing poorly. He certainly wants to be on the field as much as he can (Wilson played the most defensive snaps in the NFL last season.) This situation is a little more difficult, since his new restructured deal includes incentives that are, by definition, harder to reach if he is playing less. With the way the defense performed, I don’t expect the Cards to change back, at least not this week.

Yet I can’t see Wilson doing anything but making it work. “I can’t put my heart into another team like I have this team,” he said in July, and that investment is more than a decade in the making.


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D-Wash uses speed to (help) score

Posted by Darren Urban on September 24, 2012 – 5:07 pm

Daryl Washington’s speed helped him harass Eagles quarterback Michael Vick all game Sunday. It was the reason he notched a pair of sacks. But nowhere was Washington’s speed more apparent than the final play of the first half not as a defender, but a blocker.

Safety James Sanders scooped up the fumble at his own 7-yard line and had a convoy (as you can see in the video below). But Eagles running back LeSean “Shady” McCoy had the angle, and there was no way Sanders was going to score — and he had to score, since time for the half expired on the play — without some help.

“As I saw McCoy, I’m thinking, ‘This could be a big play,’ ” Washington said. “So I hustled my butt. I’m tired. But it’s a hustle play.”

Washington ran a 4.51 at his pro day before he was drafted, but you watch the video, it looked like he was running faster than that. “I had people texting me that I was running like a corner,” Washington said with a smile. “I take pride in my speed.”

Washington raced up as if he was blasted out of a chute. No discredit to linebacker Paris Lenon or defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, who both tried to keep up with Sanders, but Washington ended up necessary.

“I saw Paris and a couple guys, but I didn’t see D-Wash,” Sanders said. “I was trying to slow up a little bit to see if Paris and those other guys could get  McCoy out of the way. Then I saw 58 flying out of nowhere. I thought, ‘I’ll follow this stallion to the end zone.’ He went ahead and threw Shady out of the way and made it a lot easier for me.

“I knew it was a matter of time to get that last guy out of the way.”

(All I could think about was the Oregon kid I had seen on ESPN who also had a convoy on an interception but his teammates provided an epic fail. Thank goodness Washington was more on top of the situation.)

“James had four or five guys who could make the block, but I thought, ‘If I can get there before them …,’ ” Washington said. “You need the one guy to make the block. I knew it’d be a huge play. Just killed their whole spirit.”

Here’s what was really impressive. The Cards’ defense had been on the field for an intense 73-yard, 11-play drive just before the fumble. Exhaustion was setting in. “I ain’t going to lie, I was really tired on that play,” Lenon said. “I’m like for real. That (play) was great.” Washington felt it, but knew he needed to make one final push. The locker room awaited one way or the other.

“I thought, ‘Thank God it’s halftime,’ ” Washington said. ” ‘I’m not running in. I’m not jogging. I’m walking.’ “

 


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Eagles aftermath, with a Kolb topper

Posted by Darren Urban on September 23, 2012 – 7:46 pm

The defense is dominant. But before we get too far away from one of the key storylines from today’s game, here’s a nod to Kevin Kolb. The quarterback keeps downplaying what it meant today to beat the Eagles, but the man is human. You can only imagine, with everything he’s been through – the guy wasn’t even going to be playing two weeks ago.

“We wanted to come out and play hard for him because we knew what it meant for him,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “He made the throws, he scrambled when he needed to and he did a great job commanding the huddle. In the huddle, he was very demonstrative. He really wanted it. He was calling guys to reach down and dig deep and make plays. He really doesn’t talk all that much in the huddle, but today, you could tell he was actually trying to motivate.”

Someone wanted Kolb to reflect on the past three games. He wouldn’t bite. “I want to stay focused,” Kolb said. “Because I’ve done it in the past, you know, tried to foresee the future and every time it comes up and knocks my legs out from under me.”

The questions are going to be there and no, I don’t know what happens at quarterback. You’d have to think Kolb will stay as the starter even if John Skelton’s ankle is healthy. I don’t anticipate any big announcement – that’s not really coach Ken Whisenhunt’s style – but that’s my guess tonight.

– There was a lot of preseason concern about how much pressure the Cards could get with their outside linebackers. O’Brien Schofield and Quentin Groves each had a sack, Sam Acho had a play that would’ve been a sack if Michael Vick hadn’t decided to intentionally ground the ball, and the three totaled six QB hits. Not a bad day’s work.

– Safety Kerry Rhodes has had two excellent games in a row. Played well in New England, and then today he looked like, since Adrian Wilson was sitting out, he was going to suddenly take up the mantle as the guy who drilled everyone. He did it back-to-back plays on tight end Brent Celek, and later tagged Vick for the James Sanders fumble return.

“Everyone else is making plays, so why not me?” Rhodes said. “I have to make a couple myself.”.

– James Sanders and Rashad Johnson stepped up in Wilson’s absence. Reminded me of last year when Johnson and Richard Marshall filled in well for Rhodes

– Daryl Washington won’t win NFC defensive player of the week, I don’t think, because Calais Campbell won it last week. But he’d have an argument after his two sacks and the way he harassed Michael Vick all day. So I’ll say this: Has a team ever looked better in a two-week stretch of re-signing two players to big contract extensions. No worries about either one flaking out after getting paid.

– The PatCat got a snap Sunday. Four-yard Patrick Peterson running loss. It can’t always be productive, I guess.

– Kolb has played two games plus the end of the other without an interception. “With our defense and our style of play, not turning the ball over is a big key,” Kolb said. “It’s OK to punt. We don’t like it, it’s never been in my game, but to have that mentality, sometimes it’s OK.”

– It was so important for Ryan Williams to bounce back like he did. Not only did his 83 yards on 13 carries look good, but it softens the blow if Beanie Wells is out. We’ll see how Wells’ toe is this week. Williams does, as Whisenhunt noted, need to grab that 3rd-and-1 pitch and just drive upfield and make sure he gets the one yard, rather than look for a big play and get stuffed.

– Speaking of stuffed, I felt back for LaRod Stephens-Howling. He was in the game with Wells down and Williams suffering from cramps, and the Eagles knew the Cards just wanted to run it into the line late and burn clock, and the Hyphen’s stats took a beating. Eight carries, minus-14 yards. Talk about taking one for the team.

– Darnell Dockett said his hamstring will be OK, but jeez, that would be a tough loss if he were to miss a game. Dockett shrugged. “Every now and then, even the Hulk gets wounded.”

– Long snapper Mike Leach recovered the Eagles’ fumble punt today, which is why you need someone athletic enough to get down in coverage at that position. It’s not just about putting your head between your legs and throwing.

– Michael Floyd, welcome to the NFL. A highlight-worthy TD catch and drawing a 15-yard penalty on DRC? Nice production.

– Fitz had a good game, but what does he tell Andre Roberts about the 50 yards Roberts lost on Fitz’s block in the back penalty that Roberts may not have even needed. Roberts ended up with a 29-yard reception instead. “I cost my closest friend on the team a 70-yard play,” Fitz lamented. Ah, after all that time Roberts spent with Fitz’s jet skis on the lake this summer, I’m sure Roberts will forgive him.

I had just turned 4 the last time the Cards were 3-0. I wasn’t living in Arizona yet, even though I’ve lived here most of my life, and their move to the Valley was a long way away. At some point, the Cardinals were going to get to 3-0 again. Raise your hand if, on Sept. 8, you thought it was going to be this season.


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