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Dan Williams a Raider, and Cro’s likely departure

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2015 – 10:30 am

The Cardinals now have some official free agent additions, with Mike Iupati, Sean Weatherspoon and Corey Peters. (#asexpected). But they will also have some departures from that defense that played so very well in 2014.

Nose tackle Dan Williams played very well last season, and it was becoming clear his future might not be in Arizona because he’d find free agent riches elsewhere. Turns out those riches were in Oakland. Williams will get, according to Kent Somers, about $15 million guaranteed and an average of $6 million a season, which is a lot more than the Cardinals were ever going to give him. Once the Cards turned to Peters, it was pretty clear that was going to be the sign Williams would exit.

Meanwhile, all signs out of New York continue to point to cornerback Antonio Cromartie getting something done with the Jets, where he can be reunited all at once with fellow cornerback Darrelle Revis and new coach and former Cards defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. If he gets Cro, Bowles will go from Patrick Peterson and Cro as his cornerbacks to Revis and Cro. That’s the way to run a defense.

As for the Cardinals, their own defensive overhaul continues. Peters and Weatherspoon are here, the Cardinals are trying to get deals done with Colts defensive end Cory Redding and perhaps Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo and Broncos linebacker Nate Irving. The front seven could look a lot different this season (especially if Daryl Washington is reinstated) and these are all the moving pieces with which new coordinator James Bettcher must work.

WilliamsLeaveblog


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Cromartie keeping options open

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2015 – 9:53 am

Cardinals cornerback Antonio Cromartie has been a natural go-to guy the last few days to talk about Todd Bowles as the new New York Jets coach, since Cromartie just played for Bowles and since he still has a lot of media relationships with New York media after playing so many years with the Jets. He went on NFL Network to talk about Bowles — and also about his future given his impending free agency.

During his Bowles’ analysis, Cromartie noted “$50 million in cap space” the Jets have to work with. That probably wasn’t a coincidence, especially from a guy who didn’t really want to leave the Jets last year in the first place.

“I’m leaving the door open,” Cromartie said. “Right now, until the Super Bowl is over, I’m still an Arizona Cardinal. Until they come to me about a conteact, I’m still an Arizona Cardinal. Once March 10 at 4 o’clock hits, March 12 at 9 a.m. hits, and no one’s offered me a contract, then I’m free game. And I’m open to anything to go out and try to win a championship and help any organization.”

(Free agency does indeed start March 10 at 2 p.m. Arizona time, which will be 4 p.m. Eastern.)

Cromartie made $3.5 million on a one-year contract this season. He had a good season and is a Pro Bowl alternate. But his signing, and his season, has long played out as a parallel to the one linebacker Karlos Dansby had in 2013 for the Cardinals. Dansby, like Cromartie, signed with the Cardinals for one year when the free agent market did not play out the way they wanted. Dansby, like Cromartie, had a good season (Dansby actually had an excellent season, even better than Cro’s.) But both are on the wrong side of 30 in a league that values youth. There has always been a good chance Cromartie’s situation plays out just like Dansby’s did — I expect the Cardinals to make a solid offer, although it may only be for two or three years. And it’s easy to see another team swooping in to offer more years/more money. The Browns did that with Dansby, and maybe the Jets — or the Bills, who now have Cro’s former coach, Rex Ryan — will do the same with Cromartie.

Cromartie, as he said, is open to everything.

CroBlog


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Bowles will be busy this week

Posted by Darren Urban on January 5, 2015 – 2:59 pm

Now that the Cardinals’ season is over, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can begin interviewing with various teams for their head coaching spots. And it sounds like that will make this a busy week.

Multiple reports have Bowles interviewing with the Jets on Wednesday, the Falcons Thursday, the 49ers on Friday and the Bears on Saturday. There are still rumblings that the Bills and Raiders could still ask to interview too. Either way, Bowles would seem to be a good chance to be promoted before too long, but after he signed his extension (which gave him a hefty raise) Bowles can afford to be choosy — which he was always going to be anyway. That’s just who Bowles is.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed both ways,” coach Bruce Arians joked Monday, on one hand hoping his friend and former player gets a head coaching gig and on the other hoping he stays in place.

We still don’t know who would be Arians’ choice to succeed Bowles as defensive coordinator (on staff, could it be Mike Caldwell? James Bettcher? Someone else?) but Arians has said a plan is in place. Now we wait for Bowles to go through the interview process.

Bowlesblogupdate


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Fitz visits Revis Island

Posted by Darren Urban on September 26, 2013 – 3:04 pm

The last time — the only time — Larry Fitzgerald went to Revis Island, it wasn’t even an island yet. It was still just young, promising cornerback Darrelle Revis, like Fitzgerald a University of Pittsburgh product and No. 1 pick of the New York Jets. Fitz had eight catches for 122 yards that day in New York, but Revis had two interceptions of Kurt Warner — returning one for a touchdown — and two pass deflections. The Jets took a 34-0 lead at halftime and ended up with a 56-35 win. Revis’ first pick was intended for tight end Ben Patrick. His second was on the final play of the game, a pass thrown to Fitz that had little meaning behind it since just a few moments before, Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin had had his jaw shattered.

Fitz and Revis hadn’t had a chance to see each other since. Last year in New York, Revis had long been down with his torn knee ligament, and it’s not like the Jets’ defense needed help on Fitz given the Cards’ bad quarterback situation. The Cards scored just six points that day.

So now Fitzgerald gets a real chance at Revis Island when the Cards visit Tampa Bay, Revis’ new home, Sunday.

“This is the best defense in general we have faced all season,” Fitzgerald said. “Darelle is playing at an elite level as always. I don’t see any difference in his play.”

Revis has played since the opener coming off his knee surgery. He plays a Fitzgerald who is practicing fully this week after suffering his hamstring pull. Fitz had a team-best five catches and 64 yards in New Orleans, but certainly, it wouldn’t hurt if the Cards could use him more and surely, Fitz would like that himself.

“I know Larry very well,” Revis said. “I know him personally and it’s cool, it’s competition, I’ve played him before, a couple years ago. I’m excited he’s healthy and I’m excited he’s back (from injury), so it’s going to be fun. Whoever I line up on — You never know, I might not line up on Larry — but whatever the game plan is and what we’re doing is for us to execute a winning game.”

One interesting coincidence: The last time Fitzgerald and Revis played against each other? It came at the end of the Cardinals spending a week away from Arizona between games on the East coast — just like this week.

RevisIslandUSE


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How those draft choices could fit

Posted by Darren Urban on June 10, 2013 – 9:46 am

It’s still way early. Bruce Arians won’t even commit to starting positions — which isn’t a surprise — and training camp will sort through players much better than any of this summer stuff. Players can’t even hit right now, and so this isn’t really football, as the coaches will be quick to point out. But this team will be much different than the past few years, when rookies had a climb akin to Mount Everest to jump into the fray from the outset. Arians wants to use young players and this team wants to, philosophically, grow from a younger base.

That said, what exactly can be expected from this draft class sitting here in June (and with minicamp starting tomorrow, with the long anticipated Fan Fest Tuesday night)? We know, barring a shocking development, first-round pick Jonathan Cooper is going to be the starter at left guard. The only other player that seems to be a lock for significant playing time at this juncture is third-round pick Tyrann Mathieu, and part of that has to do with his skill set and the existing roster situation at safety. Mathieu is getting his reps, and last week spent more time on the main field with the veterans (whereas he had been starting out on the second field with the inexperienced players — and yes, I’m trying really hard not to call it the JV field.)

The only other draft pick who has been working mostly on the main field has been second-round linebacker Kevin Minter. Minter is an interesting guy to keep an eye on. Second-round picks are supposed to step in right away and do something. But the Cards, who signed Jasper Brinkley and Karlos Dansby and still have Daryl Washington, all of a sudden have a ton of options at inside linebacker (and that doesn’t even include veteran Reggie Walker, who has found himself on the second field this summer looking very much out of place.) Inside linebacker will be one of those places where the spotlight will shine in camp, because they all can’t play.

The rest of the draft class is working on the second field and have a steeper hill to climb. That said, I can totally see a scenario where outside linebacker Alex Okafor, guard Earl Watford and running back Stepfan Taylor find their way into the mix. Arians made it clear he wanted his depth to be such that the Cards didn’t have to rely on a rookie, and that gives those three some room to breath (and since Taylor has basically been absent so far because of school, he has some ground to make up.) It’s easy to see Watford’s time being a year away. Okafor could step in, but with Matt Shaughnessy pretty clearly playing OLB and not DE, along with Sam Acho, O’Brien Schofield and Lorenzo Alexander at OLB, Okafor has to get through some guys on the depth chart.

The last three draft picks have a harder row to hoe. Wide receiver Ryan Swope needs to get back on the field first. Running back Andre Ellington has a lot of competition. Tight end D.C. Jefferson could make inroads given the lineup at his position, but he remains fairly raw. The biggest thing in all their favor? Arians seems willing to live with growing live with inexperience, which wasn’t there before.

— Apropos of nothing, the Jets hired former Cardinals GM Rod Graves as their senior director of football administration under their GM John Idzik. The move was long anticipated. Graves and Idzik have known each other from their youth when they both worked as Eagles ballboys as their fathers worked for Philly. Idzik worked under Graves with the Cardinals in the Denny Green era as the Cards’ cap guy.

RookieBlogTyrann


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Putting a cap on it

Posted by Darren Urban on January 8, 2013 – 1:00 pm

While the reports are out there that VP of player personnel Steve Keim is negotiating to become the next Cardinals’ general manager, the next GM — whether it was going to be Keim or someone else — will have some work to do.

According to figures reported by John Clayton, the Cards are currently set to come in around $720,000 above the 2013 salary cap. That means at the very least there will be some restructuring to do. To have any flexibility for free agents or the like will take some paperwork. That’s why, beyond Kevin Kolb’s injuries, it will be important to try and restructure his deal (his cap number is around $13 million this coming season), or extend safety Kerry Rhodes ($6M), or make a call on linebacker Stewart Bradley ($6.5M). The cap numbers of Larry Fitzgerald (more than $10M), Darnell Dockett ($7.7M) and Adrian Wilson (more than $5M) also could be looked at in some way, shape or form.

Cap space can be found quickly if necessary, and it doesn’t have to be at the cost of losing a player outright, necessarily. Sometimes it just is a matter of shifting contract language. But there is little question there is work to be done.

Most cap space to come, according to Clayton? The Bengals, with more than $55 million. The least? The Jets, at more than $19M on the negative side.

 


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Jets aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 2, 2012 – 6:30 pm

I don’t think it’s out of line to think the most interesting question of the week will be who the Cardinals start at quarterback in Seattle next weekend. (Yes, I am aware of the understatement there.) Seattle has never been a particularly easy place to play for any Cardinals QB – I remember some rough games for Kurt Warner – and the last two years, Max Hall and Kevin Kolb have had trouble putting up points.

So after Sunday, when rookie Ryan Lindley had so much difficulty in production, will coach Ken Whisenhunt go back to him again? There’s no way to know if Kolb will be ready this week, but if he isn’t, Lindley is in the middle of six quarters of play he isn’t going to file among his NFL memories.

Whiz noted there were some poor routes/adjustments by receivers – one time, it seemed Michael Floyd just slowed up on a deep pattern, and the ball ended up well over his head – but Lindley knew he struggled. To have 10 three-and-outs as an offense (one ended on an interception), plus a four-and-out when the Cards couldn’t pick up a first on fourth down, was just devastating. When you lose a game by a single point, it’s that much more magnified.

“We just have to play better,” Lindley said. “I have to play better.”

— There is no need to belabor the point. I know there were plenty asking if/when Whiz was going to put in John Skelton. Was I surprised a change wasn’t made? I guess I was. Whisenhunt said he stuck with Lindley because he understood the scheme and what needed to be done. That’s got to translate into the game play, though.

I’m sure the comments below will be dominated by this subject.

— What a day for Kerry Rhodes. He promised on the Big Red Rage “I’m going to make plays, don’t worry about that one” when asked about his return to New York. It was Rhodes’ first chance to go against the Jets and coach Rex Ryan, who ripped Rhodes pretty good after Rhodes was traded away. Had the Cards won,’ Rhodes’ two interceptions and forced fumble would have been the perfect narrative. Losing takes the luster off, for sure, but you have to think Rhodes made his point while continuing to have a good season. Officially, Rhodes had six tackles and three passes defensed too.

— The interception by Patrick Peterson was a heck of an athletic play. It looked like he was definitely beaten, yet he not only made up the ground but grabbed the pick.

— Crazy how Jets kicker Nick Folk hit both the left upright and right upright on a pair of missed field goals. The Jets weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut out there. Some of that was the Cards’ defense, but some of that is the Jets’ issues too.

— Running back Beanie Wells had only 22 yards on 15 carries. There weren’t a lot of holes for him to hit for sure, but watching him run he just doesn’t look totally right with the knee, which did limit him in practice last week. I know that when his two straight runs on third- and fourth-and-1 early in the game that the Cards couldn’t convert hurt. The Jets have a good defense, but an absence of a run game shows up when the QB struggles. Then again, the Jets could tee off on the run because they weren’t concerned about Lindley beating them.

— Punter Dave Zastudil tied his career-high with 10 punts which makes sense in context.

— It was a weird game because the Jets’ crowd wasn’t happy with their team much of the game and let them know it. To have Greg McElroy come in to play quarterback and get the kind of cheer he did just shows how much the fan base doesn’t have faith in Mark Sanchez. McElroy didn’t do anything special. But he was the lone QB with a TD drive.

— Dan Williams was just talking about taking advantage of more playing time if he got the chance, and Sunday, he got the chance with the Jets playing a lot of run-first offense. The nose tackle responded with a team-high 10 tackles.

I wish I had a lot more to touch on but I do not. The QB thing is going to overshadow everything I’m sure.

AfterJetsBlogUSE


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Friday before the Jets

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2012 – 3:40 pm

Dan Williams likes to joke with defensive line coach Ron Aiken from time to time, letting Aiken know “I am always ready to rush the passer if they need me.” The big nose tackle isn’t going to get that chance often, not playing in obvious passing situations. The folks at profootballfocus.com noted the big nose tackle has been playing well and that it’s unfortunate he doesn’t get to play more because of the current state of the game.

Williams shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know if I am a generation too late,” Williams said. “That’s what they brought me in here to do, to stop the run. When teams go to the extra receivers, they bring the extra DB in.”

That’s when Williams comes out. He sees himself as capable if needed in those spots. He sees nose tackles like New England’s Vince Wilfork and Green Bay’s B.J. Raji in such situations and believes he is as talented. He’s a long way from the weight-issue storyline that dominated his career – “Just for the record, I only missed weight one time and I think it was blown out of proportion,” he said – and, as noted, his play has been solid.

“If they try to throw the ball when we are in base, I am going to try to take advantage of that,” Williams said.

The Cardinals haven’t stopped the run as effectively as they have liked this season, but some of that has to do with the pass-defense-first packages they have used. This week, against the struggling Jets, the run would seem to be New York’s weapon of choice. Williams will be needed.

As for some other New York-is-next topics:

— Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was plain in his desire to get after Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. “We sacked (Aaron Rodgers) on the first play, and I think he had one of his worst statistical games,” Horton said. “We hit Matt Ryan on the first third down and he didn’t have a very good game. It’s something we do anyway … when you hit the quarterback early, it gets in their mind a little bit.”

— It’s no surprise the Jets are struggling, but offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo was not happy during a rare press conference this week, including making the point he was being forced to use Vlad Ducasse every third series at left guard instead of the preferred Matt Slauson. (Ducasse, you may remember, has been a bust of a second-round pick best known for the man blocking O’Brien Schofield in the Senior Bowl practice in which Schofield blew out his knee.)

Horton noticed. “I saw their offensive line coach complaining a little bit about who makes the decision on who plays,” Horton said. “We hope there is a little confusion, disarray, uncertainty there we can take advantage of.”

— Rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley was matter-of-fact talking about his four-interception starting debut last week. He wasn’t about to declare it a disaster.

“This is a results-driven game,” Lindley said. “We lost the game, I gave up 14 points myself. So it wasn’t a good game. But there were things I can look at, move forward from, and gain confidence from to take into this week.”

Lindley can make up a lot of ground if he can respond well, on the road, against the aggressive Jets. Whether he can actually pull that off, with a new starting center in Rich Ohrnberger on top of it, remains a big question mark.

— The last time the Cardinals took on a Rex Ryan defense, coach Ken Whisenhunt unveiled the no-huddle offense. That was in Baltimore in 2007, when the Cards got way behind and starting QB Matt Leinart looked very bad. Kurt Warner came in and lit up the Ravens, who were still able to pull off a win at the end.

This is an entirely different situation, starting with the reality that Kurt Warner isn’t walking through that door. As for the chance the Cards could use the no-huddle, Whisenhunt didn’t exactly sound optimistic.

“Is it something you could do? Yes,” Whisenhunt said. “Is it something you can do with a rookie quarterback? Depends on the rookie. He’s done it, worked on it in practice. It could be part of the gameplan.”

— Tight end Todd Heap wasn’t active last week, Whiz said, because he didn’t get enough reps in practice and “you have to get ready to play and that’s part of it.” Heap did practice full all last week, however, just like this week. If I had to guess, I’d think Heap plays this week, but you never know. He was officially moved down the depth chart this week. Jeff King was already ahead of him, but Rob Housler now is too.

— Some TV shows this weekend. On this week’s “Season In Focus” Saturday morning at 7 a.m. on ABC-15, cornerback Michael Adams is featured on the “Wired” segment, and there is a “Zoom” episode on running back LaRod Stephens-Howling – including The Hyphen listening to his emotional draft-day phone interview for the first time. On “Flight Plan” Saturday night at midnight on Ch. 12 NBC, Whisenhunt breaks down some video of Lindley’s first start and he and Ron Wolfley preview the Jets game.

— Horton was asked if cornerback Patrick Peterson had reached the level of Jets corners Darrelle Revis (who is out for the season) and Antonio Cromartie.

“Patrick is past one of them already,” Horton said, referring to Cromartie. “He is approaching Revis with everything he does on and off the field.”

— Rams defensive end Chris Long was fined $15,750 for hitting Lindley in the head during last weekend’s game. Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar was not fined for his hit on Cardinals receiver LaRon Byrd.

— Punter Dave Zastudil has 27 punts inside the 20 this season. Only Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt (31) has more.

— One more sack by Daryl Washington and he ties the team record of 10 by a linebacker, set first by Ken Harvey. Maybe he finds Sanchez twice on Sunday.

BeeforeJetsBlogUSE


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A chance to miss on Tebow once again

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2012 – 4:20 pm

The last time the Cardinals played against a Tim Tebow team in the regular season, they probably should have seen him play — but he didn’t.

You remember that game, at the end of the disastrous 2010 season. The Cardinals crushed the Broncos, 43-13, in rookie quarterback John Skelton’s first start. Skelton didn’t play well (15-for-37, 146 yards) but he didn’t turn the ball over, and the game was dominated by kicker Jay Feely (25 points, including a touchdown run on a fake field goal) and running back Tim Hightower’s 148 yards rushing on only 18 carries.

(Looking back on my story, I forgot about then-rookie Daryl Washington pulling a Leon Lett. Oops.)

Anyway, not only did the Broncos get throttled but quarterback Kyle Orton was bad, completing just 19-of-41 passes for 166 yards and three interceptions. The Broncos were going nowhere. Kind of seemed like a natural time to give backup QB Tim Tebow a chance to play. But interim coach Eric Studesville decided against it.

Flash forward to Sunday, when the Cardinals play the Jets, and Tebow again is the backup. Tebow is dealing with bad ribs, bad enough to the point where third-stringer Greg McElroy may be the wiser choice to have as Mark Sanchez’s reserve option. Coach Rex Ryan isn’t committing to anything, although he said he thinks Tebow will be able to be active Sunday. Tebow playing, in some way, would certainly add a storyline to a game that could use an extra boost. Clearly Sanchez isn’t going anywhere as the starter.

The Cardinals aren’t taking chances. “You have to prepare for (Tebow),” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Whether he plays or not, we’ll see. But you’ve got to be prepared for him. When he’s in the game, it’s different.”

Another side note: That win against the struggling Tebow team also snapped a seven-game losing streak. Maybe history has a chance to repeat itself Sunday against another struggling Tebow team.


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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2012 – 8:25 pm

The Cardinals know the criticism is coming, know it has been coming, know what’s being said. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was acknowledging speculation on his job security was “part of the business.” Linebacker Quentin Groves, meanwhile, was saying the Cards have to pull together because that’s their only option.

“We’re all we got,” Groves said. “We have to stick together as a family, as a team and then just say we’re all we got. The fans turn on you, the media turns on you, and at the same time those 62 guys in the locker room (it’s 61, counting practice squad, to be accurate) have to band together with the coaches as well as say we’re all we got, and go out and play.”

There isn’t much more to say on that. Obviously I’ve been through these losing streaks the last couple of years (and yes, so too have you) and I know what’s coming from you and in the comments below. No need to rehash them weekly. Sunday was a bad loss, especially after building early leads. Two road games are coming, in New York and in Seattle. Nothing simple about breaking the streak in either place.

Anyway, on to some game specifics:

— Ryan Lindley looked so … solid on that first drive. He was accurate. He was smart. And then it went off the rails. The interceptions, save for the last one (which I didn’t get a good look at), all looked like throws a rookie quarterback would make. The last pick-6, trying to throw something deep off a back foot, that looked particularly like a rookie. Doesn’t make it OK, but it wasn’t surprising.

The question is what now? Whiz acknowledged he thought about  taking Lindley out but didn’t. It’s tough for a team, though, knowing Lindley was in there two weeks in a row with a lead and the job could not be finished. The Rams didn’t come after Lindley right away. You have to wonder, with a Jets team reeling and with nothing to lose, what Rex Ryan might unleash on an inexperienced QB.

— Somehow, the Cards lost two games to the Rams this season when quarterback Sam Bradford completed a total of 15 passes in two games. Never thought that’d be possible.

— Having Beanie Wells made a difference early, but it felt like the Rams finally said defensively they wanted to make Lindley beat them, and he couldn’t, and that was that.

— Daryl Washington got his ninth sack and Patrick Peterson his fourth interception, and both were nice plays and helpful at the time. But defensively, the Cards let the Rams flip field position too many times. The big plays, like the first time against the Rams, bit the Cards. So too did Steven Jackson’s 139 yards rushing.

— Interesting that the game in which Todd Heap is essentially a healthy scratch, Rob Housler ends up with his best game so far (8 catches for 82 yards). Whether it was the defensive scheme or not, Lindley seemed to have a comfort level with Housler.

— Clearly, LaRod Stephens-Howling was having issues with his sore ribs. So William Powell got more time and chipped in six catches for 63 yards in that third-down back role.

— The question of the week will be Kevin Kolb’s health and Lindley’s status. As of now I’d assume Lindley is staying in there if Kolb isn’t healthy, but to be honest, Whisenhunt didn’t say that. The Jets will have extra time to prepare, but they’ve been pretty bad. Next week will be interesting. I don’t have much more to say about this week.


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