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Watching Wilson and Friday before the Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on November 21, 2014 – 3:52 pm

When the Cardinals beat the Seahawks last season, they took a quarterback who at times had looked like an MVP candidate with his efficiency and made him look very, very bad. Russell Wilson’s stats that day: 11-for-27, 108 yards, one touchdown, one interception. More importantly, he had just two rushing attempts (for 32 yards, including one outlier 27-yard scramble).

There aren’t many quarterbacks who throw on the run as well as Wilson. Aaron Rodgers, maybe, but his is a different style. With Wilson there is the constant fear he will take off. And he’s done that a lot this season – already Wilson has rushed for at least 100 yards in three different games – or triple the amount he had in his first two seasons.

The Cardinals would love to make sure Wilson has the same kind of game Sunday as he had against the Cards last year, but “I don’t think there is a blueprint,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “It’s catch ’em if you can.”

The top priority will be to slow Marshawn Lynch, because it always is. The Seahawks, without any real dynamic receivers, don’t have a scary passing game. If there is a way to slow Lynch and not let Wilson go off on broken plays, the Cardinals will have gone a long way toward winning another one in the Pacific Northwest.

– A player to watch in this regard: Rookie Deone Bucannon, the safety who is playing linebacker in in nickel and who has essentially replaced Wilson antidote Daryl Washington this season.

– This game, even if the Cardinals win, does not clinch the NFC West. But it goes a long way in doing so, as long as there isn’t an epic collapse down the stretch. And teams that win in Seattle and are 9-1 before that don’t collapse. A loss, and things could get interesting, especially with another game left to play with the Seahawks. The tough games do not end yet.

– As I mentioned, my gut here on a Friday is that Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t play, and as I mentioned, I’ve been wrong on Fitz before. It’s hard not to remember the obvious confidence OC Harold Goodwin showed in the rest of the receiving corps though. They want Fitz to play, of course. But if Jaron Brown and John Brown and Michael Floyd are the top three guys, the Cardinals can live with that. They are better suited to survive a short-term injury at receiver perhaps more than anywhere else.

– The Cards have to find a way to run the ball with some success, and it can’t be all Andre Ellington, Rashard Mendenhall had 21 carries in the Seahawks game in Seattle last year, Ellington 15 as the Cards had the most rushing attempts in a game in more than a decade. Yes, it was Jamaal Charles, but the Chiefs were able to run a lot and well against the Seahawks last week. Ellington plus, Step Taylor? Marion Grice? They just need to give Drew Stanton a chance.

– Stanton needs to be smart, but the Cards can’t be too cautious either. So far, the Cardinals, with Stanton, have moved the ball immediately in all his starts. It speaks to the Arians/Goodwin plans, and how much Stanton understands the offense. They just have to have it carry through the game.

– Great note pointed out to me on Twitter by @DylanCarey11. Stanton will be the sixth different starter at quarterback the Cardinals have used in Seattle the last six trips there:

2014 – Stanton
2013 – Palmer
2012 – John Skelton
2011 – Kevin Kolb
2010 – Max Hall
2009 – Kurt Warner

– As an additional note to that, the Cardinals will have used eight QBs in those six games, because Ryan Lindley played in relief of Skelton in 2012 and Derek Anderson came in for Hall in 2010. Neither time it was injury related. Just bad football.

– If you haven’t seen it, Michael Silver did a great piece on Bruce Arians and his path to Cardinals’ head coach. Some of it goes over familiar territory, but there is some good stuff, like the just-fired Ken Whisenhunt telling Arians good things about the franchise and encouraging Arians to interview for the job.

– There is also this great story by David Fleming covering the family of the donor woman who gave Carson Palmer his original ACL replacement – and the feeling after it gave out against the Rams, sidelining Palmer.

– There is also this story on the rise to GM by Steve Keim. It happens to be my work, so if you haven’t read it, just sayin’ …

– Matt Shaughnessy was back on the field this week for practice for the first time since a knee injury forced him to the IR-designated to return list. He can’t play the next two games, but he will be back for the Dec. 7 game against the Chiefs. Arians wasn’t definitive in how Shaughnessy will fit in the lineup; Shaughnessy’s replacement, Alex Okafor, is playing the best of the outside linebackers. Could it be Shaughnessy and Okafor, with Sam Acho as a reserve? Possible. Arians said he wants to see where Shaughnessy is first; there’s going to be rust that must be knocked off.

– Last year at the end of the Seahawks’ upset, a handful of defensive linemen had a snack of Skittles on the sidelines in the waning moments. Skittles, for the uninitiated, are famously the favorite treat of Lynch. There won’t be any this year, alledgedly.

“Naw,” defensive tackle Dan Williams said. “I got to cut back on calories.”

– Last year, the win in Seattle was the Cards’ 10th win of the season. Can they do that two years in a row?

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Hall nominees with Cards ties, and Keim’s story

Posted by Darren Urban on November 19, 2014 – 11:06 am

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has whittled its potential 2015 class to 26 names, and included in there are a three major contributors to the Cardinals over the years. One is coach Don Coryell, who was the man in charge of the Cards’ teams of the mid-1970s that was successful enough that every time the current team hits a win plateau or streak, it seems to date back to one of Coryell’s squads. The other two are part of the Cards’ Super Bowl team: quarterback Kurt Warner, and running back Edgerrin James.

(Cowboys safety Darren Woodson, who went to high school at Phoenix Maryvale, is also part of the group.)

James is probably a long shot to advance to the group of 15 that will be considered when the Hall selection committee gets together in Phoenix on Super Bowl eve to eventually name no more than five to the Hall of Fame. Coryell has got a better chance, I’d think, given his offensive innovations, especially coaching the Chargers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Then there is Warner, who given his resume, figures to get into the Hall at some point. It would be fitting if that was this year — Warner’s first year of eligibility — with the class being named in Arizona.

– He’s not headed to the Hall of Fame anytime soon, but Steve Keim has worked hard for a long time to reach his goal of being a general manager. If you haven’t yet, check out my story about Keim’s belief even as a little kid he’d end up running a team.

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Smokey brings Cards back into SI focus

Posted by Darren Urban on November 11, 2014 – 3:23 pm

It’s been all over social media today, but the Cardinals have made it back on to a Sports Illustrated (regional) cover this week by highlighting Smokey Brown’s fantastic touchdown catch against the Rams in a story titled — fittingly, “Next Man Up.”

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But the Cardinals have been there before in recent times. Larry Fitzgerald was the poster boy for SI as the NFL players were set to come back from the lockout in 2011, with a shot of him sitting in a locker room all serious-like. And then there were the back-to-back-to-back covers during the 2008 season playoff run, with Fitz and Kurt Warner. (Yes, technically, DBs DRC, Aaron Francisco and Ralph Brown had a cameo on the SI cover the next week, but surprisingly I don’t have a picture of the Santonio Holmes cover).

And please, no one talk about jinxes to me. I don’t buy into them. Never have. Just enjoy the picture.

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Congrats to Kurt Warner, Cardinals newest Ring of Honor member

Posted by since1898 on September 9, 2014 – 12:45 pm

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Game day for Andre and Saturday before the Chargers

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2014 – 3:02 pm

Will he or won’t he? I’m sure the last thing the Cardinals wanted going into the opener was having their key offensive piece be a game-day decision, but that’s where we are left with running back Andre Ellington and his pesky foot problem. Bruce Arians said Ellington did enough in practice Saturday (pictured right) to convince him that Ellington could possibly play Monday, so there is that.

“We can’t worry about injuries,” Arians said. “Nobody cares but us.”Andre3MAINblog

Even if he doesn’t play, the beat moves on. If you look at the key guys not playing in total that you had hoped would – Washington and Mathieu and Dockett and Cooper, aside from Ellington – it can be a daunting list. But these are things that don’t make Bruce Arians flinch. He will forever have that 2012 season with the Colts burned on his brain, when everyone seemed to get hurt for Indy (except for Andrew Luck) and they still won 11 games. That will be the memory Arians will fall back upon, and why his “Next Man Up” battle cry isn’t just lip service. Whether the Cardinals can too make it work, we’ll see. The Chargers are just the first in a tough schedule.

– Punter Dave Zastudil was added to the injury list as questionable Saturday with a groin injury. That’s not good, obviously. The Cardinals did cut linebacker Desmond Bishop Saturday, so maybe the Cardinals fill that spot with a new punter if Zastudil can’t go. (Kicker Chandler Catanzaro punted once last season in college at Clemson.)

– If I had to pick just one major key to the game Monday, I’d have to go with the pressure the Cardinals need to put on Philip Rivers. There are other important aspects, of course. The Cardinals need to show they can stop the run again, and they need to protect Carson Palmer as promised. But after the vanilla preseason, it’s important that the Cards can hurry Rivers in the pocket. Once in a while without a blitz, preferably.

– Here is not a surprise in the least: The presence of new left tackle Jared Veldheer has completely changed the tension level for offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin.

“For me, for Carson, it’s about being comfortable,” Goodwin said. “For me, I can worry about other things. I don’t have to worry about chip-help for the tackle all the time. That relieves a whole lot of stress.”

No question Veldheer gives the Cardinals something Levi Brown simply did not, and that Bradley Sowell can not. In the end, Veldheer is seen by many fans as a savior to that position, although Veldheer isn’t all that comfortable with the notion.

“I guess that’s an OK thing, but to me, the biggest thing is being accountable to the guys on the line and the offense and the team,” he said. “And that’s me doing my job.”

– Got a chance to catch up briefly with Darnell Dockett yesterday, and he was as Darnell as always. He’s already pushing himself hard on his knee, even this early.

“You put the time in, got nothing else to do,” he said. “My coaches are supporting me, they know my work so they give me the green light to do everything I can to come back faster. There can’t be a better situation other than not being in this situation in the first place.”

– I’ve had many people ask me what the ramifications might be for suspended linebacker Daryl Washington if the new drug policy – rumored to be close – is passed. The truth is, I have no idea. Part of the problem is that it hasn’t publicly been said why Washington was suspended. He said in his statement it was for marijuana, but you’d need more details than that. Let’s put it this way, first this new policy actually has to be put in place – and it hasn’t yet. I still wouldn’t hold my breath for Washington even if it does.

– It’ll be an emotional night Monday. Aside from the game itself and the knowledge it is on national television, Kurt Warner gets inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime. I’d guess there will be some well-remembered highlights played too. Don’t leave your seats.

– Carparks open at 3 p.m. Monday. Don’t forget your clear bags.

– With all the Ellington news, the possibility of Tyrann Mathieu playing has seemingly been pushed to the background. I still think the Cardinals are going to err on the side of caution and keep him out for now, but Arians said again it’ll be a game-day thing.

– Crazy to think Alameda Ta’amu is fine after tearing his ACL in the 2013 season finale, but the nose tackle should be in the defensive line rotation and his biggest issue is his stamina. “He’s full go. He runs on and off the field and gets out of gas. That’s a lot of ass to carry back and forth out there.”

So, on that note, on to Monday night.

 


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Warner in, so who’s next for Ring of Honor?

Posted by Darren Urban on June 18, 2014 – 4:37 pm

The timing made all kinds of sense for the Cardinals to put Kurt Warner in the Ring of Honor this season. There is a high-profile “Monday Night Football” game in which to do the ceremony (if you have forgotten, Aeneas Williams also went in at halftime of an MNF game) and this is the first year Warner is eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame — which would happen in downtown Phoenix the day before the Super Bowl here in Arizona, if it were to happen. In a lot of ways Warner was a supernova in Arizona considering he played just five seasons (and barely played in one of those, 2006, when Matt Leinart was trying to make his way in the league.) It was an incredible run though (as this timeline and this top 10 list of his best games says more tangibly.)

So who is next?

We already know Adrian Wilson will get there. Michael Bidwill has already said as much. First, though, Wilson has to retire, and he’s not ready to do that quite yet as he hopes to find a job somewhere in 2014. At some point, you figure Larry Fitzgerald is a lock, regardless of what happens in the future. Obviously the hope is that Fitzgerald plays out his career in Arizona, but the NFL is a business and Fitz staying is anything but a guarantee. Certainly, he’s done enough on and even off the field that he’ll be Ring-bound some day.

Beyond that, though, I don’t see any sure bets. It’s way too early to think about Patrick Peterson. Does Darnell Dockett warrant a discussion? Could Calais Campbell some day be worth it? I think Anquan Boldin was headed in that direction, but the way his tenure (and his last two seasons) ended in Arizona I’d call that a very long shot, which is too bad. He was a part of the renaissance of this franchise. I don’t know if some of the other guys from the 1998 team — a Larry Centers, a Jake Plummer — would fit.

Again, with Bidwill noting  that 11 of the 13 previous Ring members before Warner are in the Hall of Fame, that means something. They are, Bidwill said, “the best of the best” and that’s a lofty ideal. The franchise has been around since 1898, and only 14 guys have gone in. It’s not an easy honor to obtain. It is a fun subject to debate.

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Kurt Warner to be inducted into Cardinals Ring of Honor during home opener

Posted by since1898 on June 18, 2014 – 1:56 pm

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Warner and his potential Az Hall call

Posted by Darren Urban on April 8, 2014 – 1:50 pm

Aeneas Williams will kick off the 2014 season for the Cardinals, in a manner of speaking, when he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as training camps are just getting underway. Maybe the Cards will have a Hall of Fame connection as the season is wrapping up, and the NFL prepares to play the Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. That’s when Kurt Warner will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.

If Williams is the best draft pick the organization has made since the franchise moved to Arizona, then it’s probably safe to say Warner was the best free-agent signing. His time with the Cardinals had an interesting arc, from veteran stop-gap to placeholder for Matt Leinart to franchise QB, all in the span of five seasons. As weird as it was, Warner wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame discussion without his Arizona rebirth. His major personal success (his Super Bowl win and two MVPs) came with the Rams, but he arguably had his greatest accomplishments leading the Cards.

(He definitely played more games in Arizona. He finished with 61 games as a Card, compared to 53 as a Ram and 10 as a Giant.)

So, with the fifth season about to start since Warner retired, the potential Hall of Fame call comes for the first time after the season. Warner, having watched one-time teammate Williams get in, admits he already thought about that possibility.

“It’s hard not to think about it because people always want to ask you about it,” Warner said. “But I try to be realistic. One of the things with athletes, we’re not very realistic with situations. We always think we are the best. But I am realistic with the route it took me to get here and maybe some of the strikes against me, that maybe I didn’t play as certain people or had some bumps in the road. I don’t know if (the Hall of Fame) is going to happen. I don’t know what really determines it. But the great thing is, I am so completely content with what I accomplished on the football field.

“I did some things no one has ever done before. I think I played at a Hall of Fame level, at least for a period of time. Does that constitute me being put in the Hall of Fame? I have no idea. I just know I put in the work, and now it’s up to somebody else to wade through and figure out what belongs there. Obviously, from the time you are little, you want to make your mark in whatever you do. For me, it was the National Football League. To finally be here, and to have a lot of people think you will finally get there, you can’t help but think about it and how special it would be.”

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Kurt, LoZo inside and a fluid roster

Posted by Darren Urban on April 3, 2014 – 10:25 am

A little of this, a little of that …

– Kurt Warner captured by TMZ talking about Arizona vs. St. Louis. “I probably feel more allegiance to Arizona than St. Louis, just because of the fact there are a number of people that are still there, teammates or in the upper levels (of the organization), being the last place I played, I still live there, there is probably a little more allegiance there,” Warner said. “But still a huge fan of St. Louis and I thank them for everything they gave me.”

I’ve been asked before whether Warner, if and when he goes into the Hall of Fame, would go in as a Cardinal or a Ram. Moot point. Players don’t pick a team for their bust, like you do in the baseball Hall. I just like the fact Warner showed up on TMZ.

– As far back as when Lorenzo Alexander signed with the Cards Bruce Arians was talking about how he had “inside and outside capabilities” at linebacker. Last year, the Cards needed him outside. Now, they need him inside, so it’s no surprise to hear that’s where they are going to play him. It’s highly likely the Cards look at outside linebacker/pass rusher again in the draft (you keep taking those guys when you are building a 3-4 and you don’t have a dynamic, young pass rusher) and depth is needed inside. You don’t know if/how long Daryl Washington might be suspended, you don’t know if Kevin Minter will be the answer. Alexander, who has played inside earlier in his career in Washington, provides depth and a guy who can spot start.

– I’ve been asked a couple of times whether the signings of LeQuan Lewis and Eddie Whitley means the Cards would be less likely to draft a cornerback. No. I thought that when they signed and that’s just underscored with the news yesterday that both two-year deals the players signed did not include a signing bonus. In other words, they can be released without any cap penalty, and in the offseason and a fluid roster, there are often a player or two signed that don’t even get to training camp. I’m not saying that’s Lewis or Whitley, but the bottom line, they are no locks either.

– Virginia Tech tweeted out photos of Arians working out QB Logan Thomas yesterday. What does it mean? It means the Cards are doing due diligence. Beyond that, please don’t get too riled up. I’d want to see what the kid could do too, especially since he’s about as raw as they come even with his considerable physical tools. The annual workout/pre-draft visit caveat: Just because the team meets/works out a guy, it doesn’t mean they are interested. I know of past connections done specifically when they knew they didn’t like the guy just as a smokescreen. And you never know how the meeting/workout went anyway — the Cards may find out they don’t like the kid for one reason or another.


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Aeneas deserves his Hall call

Posted by Darren Urban on February 1, 2014 – 9:36 pm

It was great news Saturday when Aeneas Williams was elected to the Hall of Fame. He was deserving, and it was good to see that his talent and performance over the years wasn’t tossed aside because his teams rarely won much. I only got to cover Williams at the end of his Cardinals’ tenure, but he was a great guy. He had had it with the losing in Arizona at the end, which is why he basically forced the trade in 2000 that sent him to St. Louis. He said he was seriously thinking of retirement, and of course, he played four more seasons with the Rams. Williams, now a pastor in St. Louis, probably solidified his Hall-worthiness with that Rams’ stint. But his foundation was made with the Cardinals.

Aeneas had a ton of highlights, like locking down Michael Irvin, or his big interceptions in the 1998 playoffs — against Dallas, or even accidentally ending Steve Young’s career. But one of the big ones I remember is his NFL-record-tying 104-yard fumble return for a touchdown, sparking an improbable home win st Sun Devil Stadium over the Redskins two days before the stadium vote. The vote passed — barely — to create the bonds for University of Phoenix Stadium, and it was hard to feel like that big win didn’t have some impact.

(And some have asked, but it’s a moot point of “whether Williams goes into the Hall as a Cardinal or a Ram.” In football, the busts don’t have any team affiliation. It’s not baseball, where the bust has a hat.)

Looking ahead, there is a chance the Cardinals could have Hall of Famers in back-to-back classes.

Quarterback Kurt Warner is eligible for the first time next season, and many think Warner is a strong Hall of Fame candidate. It’d be interesting to have Warner make it in during a Super Bowl week here in Arizona, where next year’s Super Bowl will nbe held. Then again, Warner might have a tough time getting in during his first chance. There are only a maximum of five modern-era inductees put in every season. In addition to Warner here are some of the first-time eligible players next season: Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, Rams wide receiver Torry Holt, Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce, Rams tackle Orlando Pace and Colts/Cardinals running back Edgerrin James (I didn’t realize they all retired at the same time.)

That doesn’t include the guys who haven’t yet gotten in: Chiefs guard Will Shields, Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown, Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison and Steelers running back Jerome Bettis.

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