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Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 14, 2010 – 11:29 pm

Adrian Wilson had stripped off his uniform, towel around his waist, ready to go take a shower. Except he didn’t. He sat, head in hands, for what seemed forever. The media swarmed around the locker room, talking to other Cardinals, and Wilson barely moved.

Every player reacts differently to games and Wilson is rarely filled with glee even after big wins. But the safety was clearly despondent (he declined to talk Sunday, offering himself up tomorrow). And it will be interesting to see how this team bounces back from Sunday’s ugly loss to the Seahawks.

The numbers say the Cards aren’t out of it, but realistically, things probably got very hard given the two losses to Seattle. Not only are they essentially three games behind the Seahawks because of the tiebreaker, but with the way the Cards have played, they have to show they can win games in the first place.

But I’m sure we will gnaw on that all week. It’s late, and I am tired. I have a host of (I’m sure angry) blog comments to go through (and I await many, many more). Let me try and cut some questions off at the pass:

— The defense obviously played poorly. Guys missed assignments, including cornerback Greg Toler, and I don’t know how much that meant in the performance. That has nothing to do with tackling, though, and I am stunned it got as bad as it did.

— No, I don’t think defensive coordinator Bill Davis will be replaced in-season. It’s not coach Ken Whisenhunt’s style. I wouldn’t rule anything out, howevr. If this season gets sideways, there may be some decisions made after the year.

— Darnell Dockett just tweeted it may have been worse to sit on the sidelines watching than risking a worse shoulder injury. I can see why. (Dockett tweeted, by the way, his risk was possibly being out for the rest of the season).

— No, I don’t think Toler will be replaced long term. They think he can be the real deal. But he clearly still is in the learning stages.

— Got to be worried about running back. My wife said she happened to be watching Jason Wright through her binoculars when he was hit, and she said he looked like his body went limp before he hit the ground. He’ll go through concussion tests. LaRod Stephens-Howling pulled a hamstring. Beanie Wells is already dealing with a gimpy knee. You could see a scenario where all are ready for the Chiefs next weekend. And you could see a scenario where the only guy available would be Tim Hightower – which would take some serious roster maneuvering.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt, on saying he was not disappointed in the effort: “The guys didn’t quit. That is not even a question. I didn’t see it. If you saw something different I will be happy to talk about it with you, but I didn’t see that.”

— I’m sure this next note will get flamed pretty good by some of you, but it was noticeable when the Cards somehow kept the Seahawks out of the end zone again and again late in the game even as hope disappeared. “It shows some guys are not giving up no matter what,” nose tackle Gabe Watson said. “They could have easily scored 40 or 50 points, but for guys to keep holding up, for field goal block to keep rushing the way they did, it’s a good sign I believe.” Maybe that’s what Whisenhunt was seeing. Not sure it made up for the rest of the game, however. It would have been nice to have more stops sooner.

— I’ll be honest, I thought this team was going to be fine after that opening drive.

OK, that’s enough. Good night, all.


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“Best team in the NFC” coming to Arizona

Posted by Darren Urban on October 25, 2010 – 4:26 pm

The Buccaneers had just beaten the Rams — improbably — Sunday when head coach Raheem Morris proclaimed “We’re the best team in the NFC. Yeah, I said it.” The Bucs are a great story with a 4-2 record, and Morris — who just turned 34 in September — probably was caught up in the heat of the moment (especially since Tampa has had two blowout losses at home and remains a half-game back in its own division). Certainly, the Cardinals wish they were 4-2 and not 3-3.

Then again, it didn’t seem to matter much to the Cardinals. I don’t expect this to be stuck on the bulletin board all week (although it might end up in a pre-game speech somewhere).

“That’s his opinion,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “He’s the coach of their team and maybe that can boost his team up. We are coming off a loss and I don’t feel we are the best team in the NFC. We are trying to work. We are trying to be the best team in our division so I know I’m not going to say we are the best team in the NFC. Right now we are in second place in our division.”

Running back Jason Wright chuckled when asked if he could ever see coach Ken Whisenhunt making such a pronouncement.

“There is a difference in personality,” Wright said. “Whiz is always trying to make us better, and I think he knows if you give too much credit too early, you aren’t as likely to improve. So he’d probably wouldn’t say that, even if he felt that way.”

Wright added that players “don’t usually hear” such chatter, spending more time concerning themselves with video of the other team rather than their quotes.

Besides, at this point, there may not be a great team in the NFC. I’m sure the Falcons — the aforementioned 5-2 team ahead of the Bucs in the NFC South — would disagree, but the conference certainly has a wide-open feel.

“You really can’t tell who the best team is until February when the Super Bowl comes,” Dockett said. “That’s the best team, who represents the NFC. You just hope your words don’t come back to bite you when you say stuff like that. We’re going to stay humble and that’s our main focus.”


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Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 24, 2010 – 10:47 pm

Another airplane Aftermath, writing this one through the turbulence of the bumpiest charter flight I can remember (and it’s not all that fun, especially that drop we just endured). Heck, given the turbulence of today’s game, it makes sense that’s how we end up the night.

What have we learned after this trip to Seattle? Well, the defense of the last two games is what I expected. Not a second coming of the Steel Curtain, but pretty solid. I’m still not sure why the meltdowns in Atlanta and San Diego occurred, although it doesn’t matter much. Maybe it was just the idea they needed to figure out how to play with each other. Bottom line, they have to keep playing this way.

That’s because of the second major point to come out of Sunday, which is that Max Hall has quite a ways to go. The wet ball did affect him – that first interception, despite it being an admitted “bad decision,” slipped out of Hall’s hand – but that didn’t explain everything.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt is sticking with Hall as starter, which makes sense. If you want him to learn, pulling the rug out from under him now probably makes it a major setback. Besides, Derek Anderson looks like he can flourish in the no-pressure backup role if needed.

But if this plane ride is bumpy, it’s probably nothing compared to the ride the Cards will go on with Hall as he learns.

— Alan Branch wasn’t patting himself on the back, but he looked excellent Sunday. He is playing like a guy you would trade up in the second round to choose, even if the Cards did so back in 2007 and are just now seeing major results. Branch is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, however (as soon as a new CBA is in place), so here’s hoping this maturity and not just “Hey, I need to make sure I get a solid new contract.”

— Not sure what’s next for Tim Hightower. He disappeared, not surprisingly, after his latest fumble. He was running so well too. With one fewer carry that Beanie Wells this season (53-52), Hightower has rushed for 115 more yards (298-183). You can’t turn the ball over, though.

— Special teams captain Jason Wright is one of the smartest guys on the team. The entire NFL, I would guess. But he made a mental error Sunday. “I was supposed to let that go back to LaRod (Stephens-Howling),” Wright said of the squibbed kickoff that he tried to field at his shoetops and instead kicked it forward for yet another crucial turnover.

— The Cardinals have fumbled the ball 19 times already this season, losing 11.

— Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was picked on Sunday as Mike Williams ended up with 11 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown (although it may be time to acknowledge the Seahawks got a steal when the 6-foot-5 former 10th overall pick Williams decided to get serious, because his size makes it a bit… uh, makes it very difficult to cover him on short routes). “If they continue to throw at (DRC) I believe he will make plays for us,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s life as a cornerback.”

— DRC has to be smarter too, twice jumping offsides on field-goal tries. One negated a block (although he probably doesn’t block it without jumping) and the other gave Seattle a first down. Whisenhunt didn’t sound overly concerned, saying pressure from the field-goal block team is one of the reasons he thinks opponents have missed some this season.

(Just not Olindo Mare, who, including kicks called back because of penalty Sunday, made seven field goals in seven tries).

— Anderson said he didn’t really have internal bleeding earlier this season, contrary to a newspaper report late last week. He said a comment was “misconstrued.”

— In case you didn’t already know, the Cards will be wearing their black uniforms against Tampa Bay in a week (and seats are still available, FYI). And yes, the black uniforms-for-Tampa is official.

That’s about all for tonight. The plane has settled down as we come in for Phoenix, the depressing day in the rain up in Seattle (and game, perfectly pictured below by cornerback Greg Toler) just about over. So we leave you with some Jason Wright optimism.

“Maybe it is a blind faith thing, but I really have confidence in guys we have,” Wright said. “I really feel things will click soon.”

Let’s hope so. Nobody wants to feel queasy. It’s already been bumpy enough.


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Friday before the Saints

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2010 – 4:35 pm

It’s funny (OK, maybe not hah-hah funny, the way last week went) but funny interesting that on the week where the biggest news was that the undrafted rookie was taking over at quarterback the most important news may have been acknowledging it is the established players that need to step up their collective game.

“It’s been discussed in our group and meetings,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That’s an important thing. Our best players have to play better than they have played in order for us to be successful and there is no ambiguity in that message.”

That’s why we had a rash of “I have to worry about myself” talk in the locker room earlier this week, and why Darnell Dockett was talking about accountability (although he briefly left himself out of those who had to step up before properly recovering).

We can talk all day about Hall and what he will do (and make no mistake, he has to be at least adequate for this team to win, i.e., few rookie errors), but there are ways around that if the stars begin to shine. Some are dependent on others, like Fitz. But there is a big group of defenders like A-Dub, Dockett, Calais Campbell, DRC and Joey Porter that could allow the team to lean on them a little while (while Hall learns a bit) and give the Cards the chance to run the ball.

This defense is one of those groups that, every once in a while, turns in one of those dominant performances – like in the Monday Night Meltdown game, or against the Panthers in the playoffs or against the Vikings last year. Maybe the Saints will get the 2010 version.

— I will write more about Hall tomorrow on the homepage but – and don’t let me hear how negative I am being – keep the expectations tempered. If Hall comes out and throws a couple of TD passes and the Cards win, the coronation will happen anyway (even though it’ll be one game) and it will even happen at azcardinals.com. That’s natural. But let’s see what Hall does in the regular game all the way through first.

— Whisenhunt on the way the offensive line and defensive line looked this week, getting very physical (and working in pads Wednesday, which isn’t always the case). “That’s a good sign that our guys are trying to get it right,” Whisenhunt said.

— Fitzgerald is watching the standings in the division, just in case you were wondering. Asked where the Cards were as a team, he said “We’re leading the NFC west, that’s where we are.”

“Obviously we are not playing the kind of football of which we are capable, but things could be a heck of a lot worse, and we know that,” Fitzgerald said, adding, “anybody who says they don’t watch the other teams in their division play and hope for them all to lose is lying to you. That’s the nature of competition. We want to win it. We know we need to put together a streak of games, starting Sunday preferably, and try to take control.”

— The question now is, can Fitz continue to get the ball, even if it’s from the rookie? My guess is yes. And don’t ask Fitz about Hall’s arm strength or is Hall throws a “catchable ball” or anything like that. It’s a moot point to him. “I’ve never seen an ugly ball come in my direction in all the years I’ve been playing,” Fitz said. “Punt it to me, roll it to me, whatever you want to do, I’m going to catch it.”

Fitz does know neither a punt or a rolling ball would count as a reception, right?

— Whisenhunt was asked about handling the quarterback situation early in the offseason after Warner retired, and if the Cards should have signed a veteran now that they are down to a rookie.

“Well, we did sign a veteran,” Whisenhunt said. “We signed Derek (Anderson). If I remember, you can go back and check the timing of it, we didn’t have a lot of options available. I’ve heard a number of talks about certain quarterbacks in the league, but at the time we were in a situation when Kurt (Warner) retired and we didn’t have another quarterback, there weren’t a lot of opportunities available. We did what we thought was the right move in bringing Derek in here as a veteran player who had success in the league. At that time, we tried to make an offer for the guy in San Diego (Charlie Whitehurst) who went to Seattle. We did have a plan that we tried to execute. I don’t know what other alternatives that we had available to us at that time that you would consider us having done.”

Key to remember Matt Leinart was on board at the time too, and – regardless of what people want to think – was still a likely option at that point.

— Two appearances by Kurt Warner in two weeks. One for “Dancing With the Stars.” One for FOX and his analyst job. None for playing football for the Cardinals.

“Did I think Kurt wasn’t going to be busy with things like that? No. I know Kurt would get slammed as soon as he made that decision to come back,” Whisenhunt said. “In fact, I’ll be honest, I think Kurt sometimes wishes he was playing football again so he didn’t have so much stuff going on.”

I think Whisenhunt sometimes wishes that too.

— The Saints aren’t hitting on all cylinders as an offense. That can play to the Cards’ favor. It needs to play into their favor. I don’t see the Cards able to score with the Saints if Drew Brees comes in and puts up a 28-spot. But maybe, just maybe, the Cards get a little magic with Hall and a big defensive effort in front of the home crowd. To be 3-2 at the bye, given everything, would be a spectacular achievement.

— And so I leave with this: veteran back and brainiac Jason Wright – he went to Northwestern – on coming back after that San Diego beatdown, the second in three weeks the Cards suffered: “We need to be harder on ourselves about that loss,” he said. “You can get sucker-punched walking down the street. But if you get sucker-punched a second time, you are a sucker. That’s the reality of the situation. We have to be harder on ourselves because this is the second time around.”

We’ll see what that means against the Saints Sunday.


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Beanie, Watson inactive again

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2010 – 8:29 am

It wasn’t even close today for RB Beanie Wells. The first time he emerged from the locker room, he was in sweatpants, meaning his bad knee probably didn’t respond well this weekend. So Wells is inactive, and the Cards’ running game falls on Tim Hightower, Jason Wright and LaRod Stephens-Howling again.

The rest of the inactive list looks a lot like last week, including nose tackle Gabe Watson. The others sitting today:

  • QB John Skelton
  • CB A.J. Jefferson
  • S Hamza Abdullah (hamstring)
  • CB Brandon McDonald
  • C Ben Claxton
  • WR Early Doucet (hernia surgery)

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Friday before the Falcons

Posted by Darren Urban on September 17, 2010 – 6:04 pm

On road trips, I always write the “aftermath” blog on the plane. Not often that I’m writing the “Friday before” blog on the plane too, but that’s what happens when the team leaves a day early to make sure they are used to the time change for Sunday’s game.

Anyway, a huge chance for the Cards on this trip. To manage a 2-0 start after two road games would be tremendous (not to mention make the Monday night game where the 49ers have to host the Saints that much more pressure-filled for San Francisco).

— Beanie Wells will be a game-time decision, but like the last two weeks, he has done so little, it’s hard to believe he would be much help even if he would be able to play. Now that Jason Wright had all week to practice, however – added in with Tim Hightower and LaRod Stephens-Howling – I would think the Cards can deal with it if Beanie is a no-or-little-go.

— Wonder if Darnell Dockett thought his one-word tweet (“Amen!”) last week inside 90 minutes before kickoff (which is against the rules) would cost him $5,000, but it did. The NFL fined him (as did it did Calais Campbell, who was docked $5,000 when he landed on Rams QB Sam Bradford for a personal foul).

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Friday the Cards hope to have WR Early Doucet – who had his hernia surgery Friday morning – for 11 games. That would mean Doucet would be back after the bye, which actually is what Larry Fitzgerald said was the hope earlier this week. The procedure is normally a three-to-six-week rehab; that would give Doucet (assuming he’d be back at practice for a week) a month off the field.

— Fitz got a few plays off in practice to rest that weary knee of his. Wonder if that means less work in the game. That’s always the fine line as a coach. Is it worth using your star say, 10 or 15 less plays than normal if it means the rest of the time he’s a little bit better?

— Right tackle Brandon Keith had a battle with Rams DE Chris Long last weekend, and at times looked like a player who was starting his first NFL regular-season game. But Keith was OK with his performance. “You always wish things would have gone better as far as the way you played but I am pleased with where I am at right now,” Keith said. The Falcons have a guy who is Long-like in Kroy Biermann; it’ll be interesting to see how Keith does the second time out.

— Tim Hightower, as the esteemed Kent Somers tracked down, has had seven of his career nine fumbles in the first quarter and another early in the second quarter (Last week’s fourth-quarter fumble was the his first in the second half). Not sure there is a good reason for that, other than Hightower trying to make some things happen early in the game.

Hightower wants to make things happen. That he acknowledges. But he knows he may have to tone it down to avoid the fumbles.

“Sometimes, you may not be able to do all the jukes and spins and break all the tackles, but you get to live to see another day,” Hightower said. “You make an eight-yard gain, you give the ball back to the ref, and you still have something in you. That’s got to be the main focus. It’s not going to change who I am, how I run. I’m not going to go out there passive, I’m not going to go out there timid, I’m not going to go out there and second-guess myself. That said, it is something in practice I am trying to get better at, and that’s a guarantee.”

— Whisenhunt said he wasn’t sure yet who will return punts. I don’t know if he can put Max Komar back there again after two fumbles. I don’t know if he can be ready to use Andre Roberts back there in his first game in a while. I don’t know if he can afford to use Steve Breaston in the role knowing how important Breaston is to the receiving corps.

— There has been a lot of talk about Derek Anderson being “who he is” – as in, a 53 or 54-percent passer at best. But Whisenhunt seems sure that with enough work the Cards will be able to move Anderson’s completion percentage up. Anderson too seems confident, lamenting the short passes he didn’t convert. “Those little ones, they add up,” Anderson said. “Sixty percent (completions) is there easily. I don’t think it’s ever out of the question.”

We’ll see if it’s there this week. It’d be nice to be writing about a win on the way back.


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Beanie officially questionable

Posted by Darren Urban on September 10, 2010 – 12:35 pm

The Cardinals are done with their practice for the week and for a third straight day, running back Beanie Wells did not practice with his bad knee. He will be officially listed as questionable for the game.

“Like I said, we do have three (other) backs we feel good about,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “So even if he is in a spot role, that is something I think Beanie could do. As far as starting, I’d have concerns about that but getting in for a couple carries here and there or just contributing, that’s not as big of a factor with where he has been.”

One of those other backs is Jason Wright, who was limited again with his sore toe. He too is listed as questionable. Everyone else on the injury report practiced fully and is listed as probable. Given the fact Beanie hasn’t practiced at all, I would be surprised if he plays Sunday. Very rarely does a guy miss all three practices and play — the only one to do it in the Whisenhunt era that I can recall was Adrian Wilson, who did so against the Bills back in 2008. He did make the play of the game, knocking out Bills QB Trent Edwards, but the bottom line was Wilson still only played six snaps that day.

And so, it’s time for the Rams.


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Hightower’s cups (and the A-Dub video)

Posted by Darren Urban on September 10, 2010 – 9:47 am

So at the Kickoff Luncheon last week, running back Tim Hightower was meeting with the media at one point. I was taking pictures, so I wasn’t there at the beginning. And when I did wander over to see what Hightower might be saying, he was going on and on about the big soda cups for each person that had his likeness on them, and how much he liked the cups. To be honest, I was thinking Hightower was just deadpanning a reaction because someone asked him about it.

Then I went to talk to him yesterday for a story, and lo and behold, sitting in the back of his locker were three huge stacks of the Hightower cups, some 50 or 60 of them. And Hightower, usually a low-key sort, broke into a big smile when talking about it.

“Hey, I’ve got a collectable cup,” Hightower said. “It’s not every day in your career, in your life, that you get a cup with your name on it.”

(To which fellow running back Jason Wright, who understands he will probably never get his own cup, chimed in, “Tell me about it.”)

“That’s an important cup,” Hightower continued. “I used to have a Michael Jordan cup, when I was a kid, that was big stuff. I collected all that sports stuff. I had cards, I had cups. I’m going to enjoy my cup.”

Turns out Hightower’s mother called the Cards to ask if they could have the extras after the Washington game (a single player is featured on both the season ticket stubs and a collectable cup for each of the 10 home games). Hightower thought they’d be sent to his mom, but they were dropped off in his locker.

“I got my own cup man,” Hightower repeated, “and I am going to embrace it.”

— This has nothing to do with cups (although Adrian Wilson will be on the ticket/cup for the home opener against Oakland) but the long awaited video piece on A-Dub and his trip back to North Carolina this offseason is coming. Part one will air on Maximum Cardinals this weekend. Max Cards will be on NBC/Ch. 12 Saturday following the Michigan-Notre Dame football game (somewhere in the range of 3:30 or 4 p.m.) and then again Sunday morning on Fox Sports Arizona at 8 a.m. Part two will air the following weekend (when the Cards face Atlanta) in Maximum Cardinals. The piece will also air during the Ken Whisenhunt show, which is on Ch. 12/NBC at mindnight Saturday following Saturday Night Live.

If you get a chance, check it out.


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Beanie still sits

Posted by Darren Urban on September 9, 2010 – 1:39 pm

Running  back Beanie Wells sat out practice again Thursday. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he’s comfortable with a Tim Hightower-LaRod Stephens-Howling- Jason Wright combo in St. Louis, and more importantly, he doesn’t want to rush Wells and his bruised knee. “We will see,” Whisenhunt said, adding, “it wouldn’t be a stretch to bring Beanie to the game knowing  you can use him and if you don’t, you still have three other guys.”

“What concerns me, I don’t want this to be something in Week 12, Week 13 or Week 14 that you are having issues with,” Whisenhunt said. “If we feel Beanie has made enough progress by Sunday, he will play. If we don’t, like I said, I feel strongly about who we have at the position.”

— Whiz on linebacker Daryl Washington: “Am I surprised he’s starting? You know, probably a little bit.”

— Linebacker Joey Porter was back at work after resting his back some. Wright looks better walking around on his sore toe too. Here is the full injury report.

— Whisenhunt said he hasn’t decided on a punt returner yet. It’ll probably be a rookie, Max Komar or Andre Roberts, I would guess.

— Whiz mentioned he doesn’t want to put too much into the game plan in the first game. That got him in trouble in his first game as head coach, in 2007 at San Francisco, and he has vowed not to let it happen again.


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Captains named as Rams loom

Posted by Darren Urban on September 8, 2010 – 1:53 pm

The Cardinals have their team captains for the 2010 season, based on votes of the players. Offense is WR Larry Fitzgerald and C Lyle Sendlein, defense is DT Darnell Dockett and S Adrian Wilson, and special teams are P Ben Graham and the ever-present RB Jason Wright. Sendlein is an interesting choice but it says a lot of how far the guy has come since being undrafted in 2007.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt also said RB Beanie Wells didn’t practice today with a knee bruise, but neither he or Beanie sounded overly concerned. I still think Beanie plays (and the same goes for Wright, who has had a bad toe). LB Joey Porter was limited with a sore back, but he too sounded like a guy who will be there when game times arrives.

Fitzgerald (knee) and TE Ben Patrick (knee) both practiced fully. The full injury report is here.


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