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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.

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Pro Bowl voting, over and upcoming

Posted by Darren Urban on December 20, 2012 – 11:31 am

The Pro Bowl voting is over for the fans, which counts toward one-third of trying to assemble the rosters. The other two-thirds, from the voting of players and coaches, takes place today for the Cardinals.

The Cards will need some help on that end. Only two players ended up in the top five of fan voting at their respective positions in the NFC. Linebacker Daryl Washington, with 159,407 votes, was third among NFC inside linebackers behind the San Francisco tandem of Patrick Willis and NaVarro Bowman. Cornerback Patrick Peterson was fourth among NFC cornerbacks with 154,736 votes, behind the Bears’ duo of Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman and Seattle’s Richard Sherman (although I was reminded by someone via Twitter that if Sherman fails his appeal on his PED suspension, that also means he can’t play in the Pro Bowl.)

No sign of defensive end Calais Campbell or safety Kerry Rhodes among the top five. And while it isn’t surprising given how this year has gone, it’s depressing to see that Larry Fitzgerald isn’t among the wide receivers. No one can argue he should be in there, but no one can argue he isn’t one of the top five receivers in the NFC either.

The Pro Bowl rosters are going to be announced Dec. 26.

ProBowlDwashblogUSE


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Campbell, Rhodes get one nod for Pro Bowl

Posted by Darren Urban on December 19, 2012 – 11:03 am

Pro Bowl voting for fans is over and players and coaches will soon be doing their version for the teams that will be announced next week. I know there is a lot of speculation over how many Cardinals might be able to find their way to Hawaii. Profootballfocus.com named their Pro Bowl teams — not that it means anything with the actual roster — and included defensive end Calais Campbell and safety Kerry Rhodes.

Campbell impressed the PFF guys enough to remain even though he missed a couple of games. “(I)n spite of missing a long stretch of the season Calais Campbell’s impact for the Arizona Cardinals cannot be denied as he put up strong pass rush numbers (5 Sacks, 9 Hits and 17 Hurries) and also brought a greater presence as a run defender than he mustered in 2011.”

As for Rhodes, “Kerry Rhodes has re-discovered some of his best form as a coverage defender and all round safety after missing much of the 2011 season.”

Can’t argue with either one. As for the missing, well, there are arguments to be made. The PFF guys noted they left off linebacker Daryl Washington, who has been very, very good, but apparently not good enough (in PFF’s eyes) to beat out the 49ers duo of Patrick Willis or NaVarro Bowman. And I know a lot of people have wonders about Patrick Peterson. Peterson didn’t get a mention in a group of Seattle’s Richard Sherman, Chicago’s Charles Tillman and Green Bay’s Casey Hayward. Again, we will see who actually gets the call next week, and don’t forget there are always guys who beg off — meaning replacements will be named too as the weeks go.

UPDATE: PFF owner/founder Neil Hornsby saw my post and wanted to give his thoughts on Peterson: “He’s had a very good year and was highly graded and reasonably consistent but as with most things Pro Bowl-related it’s a numbers game. Only someone who doesn’t watch much football would argue against Tillman and Sherman so it comes down to one place. The choice of Hayward was tough because he’s only played nickel so we had to think long and hard especially putting him up against Tim Jennings, Tarrell Brown and Peterson.

“The truth is though, (Hayward) has been unworldly in his 633 snaps. In that time he has only one less interception and twice as many passes defensed as Peterson and quarterbacks have a 23.5 rating throwing at him. Those numbers are not a fluke and he’s one of the few people to live in the middle with Cruz for example. Peterson was our fifth man up, after Jennings but before Brown, but most significantly was much improved on last year and will almost certainly have his day.”


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Cardinals living in Pick City

Posted by Darren Urban on December 17, 2012 – 2:58 pm

We’ve covered this before, but seriously, the interceptions keep piling up for the Cardinals. They now lead the NFL with 22 interceptions, one more than the team that comes in to visit University of Phoenix Stadium this weekend, the Chicago Bears. (The Cards, with 32 total takeaways, are fourth in the league in that department, with Chicago’s 37 topping the list.) Remember this team had only 10 interceptions all of last season.

And in all honesty, the Cardinals could have more this year. There was the one Adrian Wilson couldn’t quite hold on to against the Dolphins this year (although that would have been a spectacular effort and it certainly wouldn’t be considered a drop), and I can think of at least three that I remember in the hands of William Gay that he couldn’t quite snare. That’s just off the top of my head. Patrick Peterson gets the headlines with his seven, and deservedly so. But Kerry Rhodes has four, Gay, Rashad Johnson and Greg Toler two each.

“I wish we could lead the league in a number of different categories,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday. “Maybe that would help us be a little bit better record-wise.”

They even punctuated this weekend’s trio with 186 return yards, the fifth-most interception return yards for an NFL team since 1970 and 66 more yards than the Cards had totaled on their first 19 picks of the season. The interceptions are a big reason the Cardinals are tops in the NFL when it comes to passer rating-against (68.0) and third in the NFL in completion percentage-against with 54.5.

“When you have 22, obviously it’s not going to be one guy or otherwise he’d be defensive MVP,” Whisenhunt said. “You’ve got a number of different guys that are making those kinds of plays.

“You think about the interceptions Patrick has had, some of those acrobatic ones down the field and even (Sunday’s) was another one like that. Our guys believe in what they are doing and they’re playing hard, and it’s nice to see them making some plays.”


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Friday before the Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on December 7, 2012 – 4:45 pm

So the Cardinals head to Seattle tomorrow, and we turn to locker room sage Larry Fitzgerald – man, if you would have asked me in 2006 if I’d ever write that descriptor for Fitz, I’d have thought you were crazy – to put these last four games, the playoffs realistically if not officially out of reach, into perspective.

“It’s never to the point where you can’t improve and get better,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s top to bottom, I don’t care about your position on the team. It teaches all of us how to deal with adversity. It’s a microcosm of life. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way and you have to continue to battle.”

It doesn’t hurt that the Seahawks have a chance to make the playoffs and the Cards have a chance to crimp that possibility. It’s cliché, but I do believe playing spoiler – especially to a division rival – is motivation and I do think it is real. The Cards would love to sweep the Seahawks, even if both teams are a lot different than the teams that met at UoP Sept. 9.

— I am very interested in seeing how John Skelton reacts to this start. Seattle is not an easy place to play. He struggled against the Seahawks’ defense in the opener this season before getting hurt. But as he noted Wednesday, he gets another opportunity, one that if not for the major problems of Ryan Lindley, he probably would not have gotten.

I don’t know if there is less pressure on Skelton or more. Obviously coach Ken Whisenhunt proved he’d go to Lindley. Then again, after seeing where Lindley is in his development, it’s tough to see the Cards turning to him again. Impossible not to watch that storyline play out.

— Safety Kerry Rhodes said this week, talking about how the defensive players can’t talk bad about the offense, that until the defense holds a team to zero points and zero yards, they have to tend to their own business. Zero yards? Hyperbole. Zero points? Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was asked if that was realistic.

“That’s probably every defensive player’s mantra,” Horton said. “Is it realistic? Sometimes it is. I think it is the mentality they have which I love, that they think that way.”

— I think the Cards should have defensive end Calais Campbell back this week, a good thing because Campbell always plays well against the Seahawks. Then again, I thought Campbell was going to play in New York, so I will wait and see on that one.

— A final capper on the Kerry Rhodes-Darnell Dockett dustup, where Rhodes said it wasn’t a big deal and Dockett said he was sorry but he was never going to quit. The reference was to the unsaid-yet-out-there reason that the Cards’ decision to try and let the Jets score at the end of last week’s game – statistically, the best way (however long of a shot it was) to try and win – was at the root of the problem. So Horton was asked his philosophy about letting a team score.

“The ultimate goal is to win the game, whether you give up the safety, whether you give up a touchdown,” Horton said. “My philosophy is whatever it takes to win the game. If it means doing that I’d do it to give ourselves a chance. I asked Coach (Ken Whisenhunt) to do it for time reasons.”

(We won’t go into the details yet again of the situation. I know some of you disagree with the strategy and agree with Dockett’s take. I covered it here.)

— OK, maybe one more point: Mike Jurecki of XTRA broke the news that Dockett was fined six figures by the team and could have his playing time limited in Seattle for what went down. Whisenhunt has made it plain whatever was happening with the situation was going to be handled internally and not commented upon. Clearly, the Cardinals did not agree with Dockett’s take. (Kent Somers is now also reporting the fine and said it was because of both the fight and not heeding the coach’s call.) We’ll see on Sunday about the playing time issue.

UPDATE: Dockett tweeted out praise for the NFLPA so the assumption is, not surprisingly, Dockett is appealing the fine.

— That late personal foul call against nose tackle Dan Williams last week, the iffy one on Jets quarterback Greg McElroy on the sidelines? Williams was not fined for it. Still hurt though – it gave free yards on the Jets’ lone touchdown drive of the game in a 7-6 Jets win. Usually, if a player isn’t fined for a roughness call, it means the league disagreed that it should have been a penalty.

— With cornerback Brandon Browner out with a suspension, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman – himself facing a possible four-game suspension – will probably follow Fitz around Sunday. “I would anticipate that, if I were a betting man,” Fitzgerald said. The best on the best makes sense. It just would be nice to get Fitzgerald a handful of catches and maybe sniff 100 yards. It’s been too long. And frankly, the offense needs it.

The good news is that, after nasty forecasts earlier in the week, the rain is supposed to subside after Saturday morning in Seattle and hold off through Sunday. That’d be a plus. But the Cards have a hard game ahead to snap the losing streak. Let the fourth quarter of the season commence.

BeforeBlogSeatlex2USE


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Dockett sorry, but “I have never, ever laid down”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2012 – 2:50 pm

Darnell Dockett addressed the argument he had with teammate Kerry Rhodes at the end of Sunday’s game, getting his point across but also apologizing in the process.

While he didn’t get into specifics of why the argument happened, it was pretty clear the reported reason — that Dockett did not want to let the Jets score on purpose just so the Cardinals could get the ball back — was behind the rift.

“Me and Kerry had a very heated argument, at a very heatful time in the game and there were things between me and him,” Dockett said. “I apologized to Kerry. Kerry forgave me. That’s it. It was a situation we totally didn’t agree on. So at the end of the day we did what was best to give our team the chance to win. That’s it. I look at Kerry as one of my brothers, I respect him and we had a disagreement. We move on from that.”

As for what the argument was about, “It was something I don’t believe in, something I don’t understand,” Dockett said. “It’s frustrating at the time. At the end of the day, I have never, ever laid down and quit. I’ve been playing football for over 20 years. I’ve been, for this organization, for Florida State, for my high school, giving everything I’ve got. I play with passion and I will never, ever quit. I love what I do, and I will play to the whistle and the clock reads zero.”

Rhodes did not speak Wednesday, but Tuesday put out a statement that emphasized Dockett had not spit on him — as had been reported — and that he and Dockett had worked it out. “We’re both moving on and I’ll leave it at that,” Rhodes said.

That was certainly where Dockett saw it Wednesday. “We were just talking about it outside today. I have no issue with anyone on this team, especially with the guys on defense. We have one goal, and that’s to end up in the top five (in the defensive rankings). That’s the most important thing to me and the rest of this defense.”

Dockett said he didn’t know if he would be punished for the incident. Coach Ken Whisenhunt reiterated it was something that would be handled internally and declined to comment further. “I can’t control that,” Dockett said. “I’m here, and anytime I get on the field I will play my ass off. Whatever decision is whatever. It is out of my hands.”

DockSorryUSE

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Rhodes: Dockett did not spit

Posted by Darren Urban on December 3, 2012 – 5:15 pm

In regard to the incident between Darnell Dockett and Kerry Rhodes chronicled below, Rhodes Tuesday morning wanted to clarify some of the details floating around.

“Just to clear up what happened between Darnell and me at the end of the game Sunday and some of the reports that are out there,” Rhodes said. “Yes, we had a disagreement on the field but, no he did NOT spit in my face. Absolutely did not.  I’m not going to get into all the details because I think those are things you keep within the team. But Darnell and I talked after the game, we’re both moving on and I’ll leave it at that.”

(FROM MONDAY)

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about some sort of incident between Darnell Dockett and Kerry Rhodes at the end of Sunday’s game. I didn’t see anything nor hear anything until a couple of people asked me about it on Twitter. Today, Arizona Sports said Dockett could be disciplined but gave zero details to what the altercation was about besides it being an “on-field incident.” XTRA’s Mike Jurecki, after talking with Dockett, said only that Dockett acknowledged something had happened but didn’t want to get into details. Both Dockett and Rhodes seemed normal in the post-game locker room last night and I was on the field at the end of the game on the sideline and didn’t notice anything.

“We generally prefer to keep internal matters like that within the team and not discuss them publicly,” said coach Ken Whisenhunt during his weekly radio show Monday afternoon on Arizona Sports 620. “We will continue to do that going forward.”

UPDATE: profootballtalk.com is reporting on the details of the incident. Apparently it started with an argument about whether the Cards should let the Jets score at the end of the game to give the Cards a final chance to score.

A quick clarification by the way, since the commenters at PFT don’t seem to get it. Given the Cards lack of timeouts and the clock late in the game, the only chance the Cards were going to have to get the ball back was to let the Jets score. In fact, the Cards did try to let them score on the final running play of the Jets, but running back Shonn Greene smartly dropped at the 1-yard line. It allowed the Jets to kneel a couple times and run out the clock.


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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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Hyphen up for award, and Pro Bowl possibilities

Posted by Darren Urban on November 20, 2012 – 9:51 pm

As Pro Bowl voting continues, the folks over at profootballfocus.com are prompting readers to pick three Cardinals as Pro Bowl worthy. Two are the same as their last list, with linebacker Daryl Washington and defensive end Calais Campbell getting the nod. The third was safety Kerry Rhodes, who has been having a solid bounce-back season after injuries wrecked 2011. Rhodes had an interception in Atlanta this past weekend.

— Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, after his 127 yards rushing in Atlanta, is up for the FedEx Ground player of the week. You can vote here until Friday. He’s up against the Bengals’ Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis and the Buccaneers’ Doug Martin.

— Speaking of Stephens-Howling, he will be the guest on the Thanksgiving week edition of Kerry Rhodes’ Big Red Rage, which will be held Wednesday night because of the holiday. The show starts at 6 p.m. as usual at Majerle’s Sports Grill in Chandler.


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Heap remains inactive

Posted by Darren Urban on October 21, 2012 – 8:38 am

Tight end Todd Heap remains inactive with his bad knee today against the Vikings, on an inactive list that is filled up with injured players.

Only guard Senio Kelemete is a healthy scratch. Sitting out are QB Kevin Kolb (ribs), S Kerry Rhodes (back), CB Greg Toler (hamstring), FB Anthony Sherman (knee), and LB Reggie Walker (concussion). Rashad Johnson is starting in place of Rhodes, while Regan Maui’a is starting in place of Sherman.

The Vikings have all their key players available who were on the injury report, including RB Adrian Peterson, DE Jared Allen and WR Jerome Simpson.

— Also this morning, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that the Cardinals are expected to work out free agent QB Vince Young this week. If true — and I haven’t heard anything about it — it’s an interesting turn. Young, given his background and recent play, wouldn’t have been a guy I’d think the Cards would consider as an option.


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