Blogs

Cornerback signs with tie to Wilks

Posted by Darren Urban on February 12, 2018 – 2:52 pm

The Cardinals signed a cornerback Monday — Lou Young, who has been around since 2014 and has had stints with the Panthers, Broncos, Ravens, Redskins and Jaguars. Much of the time was spent on practice squads, and he was with Washington in the 2017 preseason before he was released and did not play anywhere else during the season.

But Young did play six games for Carolina in 2016, when Steve Wilks was the defensive backs coach, and he was with Carolina in 2015 as well. And his arrival is a reminder of how chunks of the roster often look when a new coach arrives — it’s never a surprise to see a few friendly faces brought in. It’s a natural move. When possible, coaches want to know what they are working with.

When Dennis Green was hired, one-time Vikings like cornerback Robert Tate, offensive lineman Everett Lindsay and wide receiver Chris Collins all spent at least some time in Arizona that first season. Ken Whisenhunt had guys like wide receiver Sean Morey, punter Mike Barr and tight end Tim Euhus. Bruce Arians had Drew Stanton and Jerraud Powers.

Again, it’s not necessarily a big chunk of the roster, and it doesn’t mean the Cardinals will chase lesser players just because they have a tie to a coach on staff. But as with most places of work, familiarity helps.


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McCoy knows it’s about the players

Posted by Darren Urban on January 29, 2018 – 4:52 pm

Mike McCoy was blunt, when asked if his offensive playcalling was about scheme or matchups.

“Players,” he said, and that’s always the ultimate answer.

As an incoming coordinator, McCoy was probably never going to have a lot of specifics. He was just hired, and even if there was a quarterback in place, a change in head coach usually means a change in the roster anyway. Besides, he still has to evaluate the guys who are on the roster in the first place. Then you add in all the uncertainty on that side of the ball, because of impending free agency with so many (and the question of Larry Fitzgerald’s future, although more on that in a moment) and McCoy didn’t have the specifics I’m sure many wanted to hear. It isn’t feasible yet.

But it always comes down to players.

That can get lost, and yes, coaching matters. McCoy’s best time as an OC came when Peyton Manning was in his Denver heyday in 2012, but that shouldn’t be a negative. It’s a fact, just like Bruce Arians was at his best offensively when Carson Palmer had his best season in 2015 or that Ken Whisenhunt had his best offense when Kurt Warner stepped forward in 2008-09.

It’s impossible to know what the Cardinals’ offensive personnel might be. McCoy talked about wanting to win, regardless of how pretty it might look. He did that in 2011 with a Broncos offense using Tim Tebow(!) to win a playoff game and leading the NFL in rushing. He threw plenty with Manning and Philip Rivers. The Cardinals have one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league in David Johnson and I’m guessing he’ll do a lot of both — because why wouldn’t he? McCoy is smart enough to know what he has.

Speaking of which, McCoy sure sounded like a guy who expects Fitzgerald to play, which continues to be the guesstimate put out by those closest to Fitz, like his dad or Warner. “We might shift some things we wanted to be our core, then we’ll go the other way,” McCoy said. ” ‘We’re better at this.’ ‘David likes these runs.’ ‘The quarterbacks like these plays.’ ‘Larry, this is what he loves. This is what he’s good at it.’ We’ve got to learn a lot about the players too.” That sounds like a guy thinking Fitz will be around.

 


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Coach patience, and the dates of hire

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2018 – 11:41 am

Michael Bidwill said he isn’t in any rush to hire a new coach, nor did he want to be. It’s not so much about going slow as much as not speeding into the wrong decision. Since I started covering the Cardinals full-time (at the time, the Tribune) back in 2000, this will be the fifth head-coaching hire. Vince Tobin was in place when I got the beat covering the team. He didn’t even last until mid-season before he was let go and Dave McGinnis was made interim boss. Here are the dates on which the hires of the four previous head coaches were official:

— McGinnis, Dec. 19, 2000 (He had the interim tag removed before season’s end.)

— Dennis Green, Jan. 7, 2004

— Ken Whisenhunt, Jan. 14, 2007

— Bruce Arians, Jan. 17, 2013

Every search is different, obviously. Of that list, only Arians was coming off a staff that had made the playoffs — and the Colts had lost Wild Card weekend — so they were all available fairly quickly. Of the current list of coaches the Cardinals have talked to, most (as of today) are still in the playoffs, and it’s possible the desired choice will remain in the postseason beyond this weekend. One interesting date to consider coming up: Senior Bowl week begins Jan. 22. Will there be Cardinals’ coaches there, or just scouts?


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A playoff, sort of, Friday before the Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2017 – 2:45 pm

One game left, and for one team, so much is on the line. “We’re anticipating by far their best game of the year,” Bruce Arians said about the Seahawks. “It’s a playoff game for them.” This is true. The Seahawks have to win and have the Falcons lose at home against the Panthers to make it to the playoffs for a sixth straight season.

The Cardinals could spoil that. We’ll see how it goes.

“I keep telling our guys it’s a playoff game for us but I didn’t really feel a playoff this week for us,” Arians said. “I think we’re ready to play, but the playoffs are so different.”

The Cards have never really had a problem getting up for the game in Seattle. I mean, last year, the Cards were already eliminated and they still went out and played well – woefully undermanned on the offensive line – and beat the Seahawks. But the Seahawks knew they were already going to win the division. There was no urgency on their part. That’ll be different. It could have an impact.

— The Cards, however, did win last year. Their offensive line, to jog your memory, was John Wetzel at left tackle, Mike Iupati at left guard, A.Q. Shipley at center, Taylor Boggs at right guard and Earl Watford at right tackle. Boggs even got hurt, forcing rookie center Evan Boehm to fill in.

This year, it’s rookie Will Holden-Alex Boone-Shipley-Boehm-Wetzel (unless Watford is healthy enough to come back and start.) So what does last year’s win mean?

“Just to let them know it can be done,” Arians said. “It’s just a matter of going out and beating your guy one-on-one.”

— The secondary was torn up last year too, with Tony Jefferson getting hurt early and Marcus Cooper down (and Tyrann Mathieu already on IR), so Brandon Williams was playing cornerback and Justin Bethel and Harlan Miller were out there. Looking back, it was indeed an impressive performance – knowing, of course, the offense had both Carson Palmer and David Johnson. Those two are on IR this year, so …

— As of right now, the Cardinals are picking 13th – right where they were choosing in the first round last year. My cursory math says they could pick as high as 11 (if they lose and a couple of other teams win), and as low as 18 (with a win and certain teams lose), but likely somewhere in between. We’ll see how that turns out.

— As for next year’s opponents, those are already set. The Cardinals have – of course, judging in December of 2017, long before next year’s rosters are set and injuries happen – a rough road schedule next year.

— Of all the records and plateaus Larry Fitzgerald has reached this season, there isn’t really anything out there in this game – save for his catch streak, which will reach 211 games and equal Tony Gonzalez for the second-longest ever. Fitz has a chance to lead the league in catches for a second straight season, however. He has 101 receptions, which trails Miami’s Jarvis Landry by two. Landry and the Dolphins play at home against Buffalo, which is trying to make the playoffs.

— A win, and Arians becomes the all-time winningest coach in franchise history, snapping the tie he has with former coach Ken Whisenhunt. Before Whisenhunt was hired by the Cardinals, he was close with Arians – Whisenhunt was the Steelers’ offensive coordinator, Arians was the quarterbacks coach. They lived in the same neighborhood, played a lot of golf together. Whisenhunt tried to hire Arians on his Cardinals’ staff at one point.

Both have 49 total wins – Arians 48 in the regular season, one in the playoffs, with Whisenhunt’s split at 45-4.

“To say I played for the all-time winningest coach and the second all-time winningest coach, that’s not really that good but it’s saying I was part of the best era in Cardinals history,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s pretty cool.”

— A lot could happen this offseason. But first, we go to Seattle.


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Darnell Dockett’s thin line, and “moments”

Posted by Darren Urban on July 26, 2016 – 9:20 am

One last thing about Darnell Dockett as his retirement settles in: Dockett talked about walking a thin line, but never really crossing it. “That’s just my personality,” he told Bertrand Berry on Berry’s radio show. “I was determined to create funny and hilarious moments my entire career.”

That’s something to keep in mind when people think back to much of the stirring up he did on social media. Yes, he showed himself taking a shower on UStream to win a wager. But all those other things? The day he tweeted while at jury duty, that didn’t really happen. Much to PETA’s chagrin, those times when he suggested he was going to get/he got a pet alligator or pet tiger? Even his traffic stops he tweeted about? Think very carefully about the source — Dock often just wanted to create a “moment.”

“In my next 20 years it’s going to be the same thing, it’ll just be more exciting because I don’t have rules,” Dockett said. “I won’t let people down, I won’t have to go talk to (VP of media relations) Mark Dalton every Monday morning before practice.

“You’re talking about a guy who walked a thin line but never got in trouble. I never got arrested, I never got suspended for games, besides the Whisenhunt thing, but that don’t count though. I don’t count that as a suspension. That was just somebody getting mad.”

(“The Whisenhunt thing” was the benching in Seattle following a sideline confrontation with then-teammate Kerry Rhodes. Whisenhunt was definitely mad after that one.)

“That’s what people fail to realize,” Dockett said. “People say Darnell la-la-la, but I never got in trouble. Never been on the news for anything bad, always Darnell is living his damn life — through an NFL career where they want you to be caged.”

That’s why, when Adrian Wilson said “There are heroes, there are villains, and there’s Dockett,” everyone who had been around Darnell just nodded in agreement. It was an apt description.

BlogDock


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Peyton’s place wasn’t with Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on February 2, 2016 – 3:30 pm

Peyton Manning insists he hasn’t decided whether he will retire after the Super Bowl despite whatever he whispered to Bill Belichick. The Broncos quarterback doesn’t have the same arm he once did — he admitted it hasn’t been the same since his neck injury a few years ago — and to this, everybody nods their heads already having seen it on the field.

But Act II of Manning’s career has been fantastic even with his uneven end. No matter what the issues, he’s helped lead the Broncos to the Super BowlPeyton Manning twice, and it was just a couple of years ago Manning was flinging 55 touchdown passes (and he had 39 last year when everyone wondered if he was going south then.) Now he readies himself to take down the team that just sent the Cardinals to their unwanted end.

And for a moment, you think back to that few days in March of 2012 when Manning was released from the Colts and actually had the Cardinals on his short list of teams for which he wanted to play. So much would have been different.

There were logistical problems with Manning coming to the Cardinals from jump, not the least of which being a tight salary cap that could have been adjusted to get him on the roster but likely would have made it tough to put people around him. The offensive line at the time was not as good as now (although I maintained at the time and still believe that Manning alone makes any offensive line better with how quickly he delivers the ball and how he knows where to go with it every time.)

Manning liked then-coach Ken Whisenhunt. He insisted after he picked the Broncos that the notion he didn’t want to be in the NFC because of his brother being in the conference was incorrect. He did have Larry Fitzgerald, who was coming off a 1,400-yard season and, as you can see below when the two met after a preseason game, liked him some Peyton Manning.

Manning visited the Cards’ Tempe facility (pictured above right) and then in the next week chose the Broncos and the Cards stuck with Kevin Kolb. Whether it was ever serious or not, the decision changed a lot of things in Arizona. Whisenhunt’s team got off to a 4-0 start behind Kolb that season but lost 11 of their last 12 and the Cards changed both GM and coach. New GM Steve Keim traded for Carson Palmer, re-energizing both Palmer and the franchise. Bruce Arians, who was Manning’s first quarterbacks coach in the NFL and remains close to Manning, likely would never had gotten his one and only chance to be a head coach if Manning had picked the Cardinals.

It’s worked out well for Manning in Denver (and better if he can win Sunday.) It’s turned out pretty good for the Cardinals in the long run, although it’s fair to wonder what would have happened if Manning had made a different decision.

Peyton Manning, Larry Fitzgerald


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Whisenhunt’s “great memories” of time with Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on March 24, 2015 – 2:07 pm

Ken Whisenhunt returned to Arizona for the first time as a head coach since the Cardinals fired him after the 2012 season, and at Tuesday’s AFC Coaches breakfast, the current Titans boss talked about the “great memories” he has from his six years at the helm of the Cardinals.

“It’s good to come back,” Whisenhunt said. “The people, even in the short time I’ve been here (for the meetings) have been great. Lot of special memories about this place.”

Whisenhunt said Bruce Arians — whom Whisenhunt looked into hiring for his Cardinals staff — has done a “great job” as his replacement as head coach.

“I’m happy for him, I’m happy for the players, I’m happy for the fans,” Whisenhunt said. “To see the excitement around this team and what they are doing … this is a great area, it’s a great fanbase, and University of Phoenix Stadium, when it’s rocking, it’s a great environment. I’ve always enjoyed that.”

 Titans Jaguars Football


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B.A. + draft = playing time

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2014 – 11:47 am

One of the reasons Steve Keim liked hiring Bruce Arians as head coach was because Arians was so blunt in proclaiming his ability to go young. Young, in this league, often means inexperienced and with the potential for mistakes, and that’s not always a coach’s favorite thing. Of all the ways Arians and predecessor Ken Whisenhunt are different, it is the use of the inexperienced that stands out the most.

Last year, first-round pick Jonathan Cooper and third-round pick Tyrann Mathieu each were inserted into the starting lineup (although Cooper’s injury sidelined him). Andre Ellington got more and more time as the season went on. It’s not as if Whisenhunt didn’t play rookies, but looking at first-round picks alone — the guys you would think would play a lot from the outset — Whiz clearly moved them in slowly. Patrick Peterson was an anomaly (and don’t forget, if it wasn’t for a Greg Toler injury, even PP might’ve started the year on the bench.) Michael Floyd, Dan Williams, Beanie Wells, DRC all were slow to be worked in. Levi Brown needed Oliver Ross’ injury.

Meanwhile, Arians doesn’t bat an eye to go to a Mathieu, or to stick a Bradley Sowell in at left tackle when Brown fails. It leads you to a couple of thoughts. One, whomever is drafted May 8-10 could make an immediate impact. It’ll depend on who it is and what position they play, but even though Arians has repeatedly said this team could go play the season as is and it would work, I’m guessing there will be draft picks that make a difference a la Mathieu and Ellington. The other is that if you are a young player upon whom this staff hesitates, you clearly need to ramp it up, for example, Bobby Massie. It’s not age alone that will provide hesitation in getting you on the field.

CoopBAuse

 


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Bright lights, big schedule for 2014

Posted by Darren Urban on April 23, 2014 – 6:05 pm

The Cardinals know when they are playing their games and they know people will be watching. The 2014 schedule has been announced and it includes the prime-time games that the Cards have been pining for. Monday night to open the season at home? Bruce Arians couldn’t have drawn it up any better. And while the Dec. 11 Thursday night game in St. Louis is no picnic, at least the Cards are coming off a home game against Kansas City. Plus, it will give the Cards an extra few days before hosting Seattle in “Sunday Night Football” on Dec. 21.

There is little reason to completely analyze a schedule because, frankly, it can mean little when the games are played months from now. Still, there are takeaways to note (and here is a schedule you can print/download):

— Cool to open on Monday night in a home game. Last time the Cards opened on a Monday night, it was Ken Whisenhunt’s debut in 2007 in San Francisco. Could’ve been a win if Eric Green had just fallen on the ball.

— Strange, however, to open with a team you just closed the preseason with. My guess is that the starters might not even play in the preseason finale now, as opposed to their usual one series.

— Season closes with three straight division games. Given this era of the NFC Best, perhaps that’s only fitting.

— Bye week in Week 4. Early. Too early? Well, given that it is after what figures to be a rough-and-tumble 49ers game and gives the Cards two weeks to prep for Peyton Manning, maybe it’s just right.

— No more than two straight weeks either at home or on the road. Can’t complain there.

— It could be chilly in Seattle in late November. Maybe SF in late December too, although Santa Clara will be warmer than the ‘stick. But New York in September is perfect, Denver in early October … weather should not be a factor.

But now that the schedule is out, I guess it’s time for the draft. It’s always something, right?


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Cardinals let John Lott go

Posted by Darren Urban on February 28, 2014 – 2:09 pm

The Cardinals parted ways with strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott Friday, a little bit of a surprise. The Cards confirmed the move in a statement.

“Coach (Bruce) Arians let John know this morning that he’s making a change and going in a different direction in that role. Everyone at the team is certainly grateful to John for his contributions and wish him nothing but the best moving forward. The search for a replacement is underway.”

Lott still has two years remaining on his contract, so financially he’s got time to search for a landing spot. Lott was just at the Scouting combine, reprising his role as the guy bellowing at prospects to encourage extra reps, after not going there in 2013. Lott was a holdover from the Ken Whisenhunt regime and didn’t have any ties to Arians, which made him different than say, Freddie Kitchens (who played for Arians in college). Lott’s profile shrunk this year as well. Normally out front at the beginning of practice at before games leading stretching, that duty was eliminated with Arians’ belief players needed to prep on their own and not stretch as a team. There was chatter earlier in the offseason Lott could end up with Whisenhunt in Tennessee after Whiz got the Titans job. The Titans, though, retained long-time strength coach Steve Watterson.

Assistant strength and conditioning coach Pete Alosi remains in place. The Cardinals don’t officially begin their offseason conditioning program until April 21.

CombineJLUSE


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