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A “minicamp” plan of sorts, and other stuff

Posted by Darren Urban on June 21, 2011 – 9:49 am

Kent Somers has some comments from safety Adrian Wilson this morning about Cards vets — notably Wilson and Larry Fitzgerald, but including guys like Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges — trying to organize a three-day “minicamp” for the players as they wait out what is hopefully the final stretch of the labor impasse.

“We’re trying to get three days in, or three practices in, depending on what guys have to do,” Wilson told Somers. “We’re not trying to take up guys’ time but we are trying to get better as a team, get better as individual units.”

There is only so much the Cards can do, assuming Wilson and Fitz can gather the troops. There are only so many troops to gather (do potential free agents like Steve Breaston and Deuce Lutui, for example, take part?) and with the knowledge the probable starting quarterback isn’t even on the roster yet makes for an interesting dynamic. Then again, it doesn’t surprise me that Wilson, etc., don’t want to sit idly by.

– The news came down yesterday that because Qwest is being merged into CenturyLink, the Seahawks’ home field is no longer Qwest Field but CenturyLink Field. I re-tweeted this info yesterday, leading follower @ethanpoulsen to say “False Start Field was it’s name before…and always will be it’s name.”

As I noted on Twitter, however, the Cards have done a good job with that. The Cards have only been nailed for five false starts total in the last three visits to Seattle, and none last year (despite a bad, bad game offensively). Two other ones came from tight ends, both in 2008, by Stephen Spach and Leonard Pope. The other three were in 2009 — two by RT Levi Brown and one from LT Mike Gandy.

– Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. breaks down the Cards’ receivers. He has interesting takes on both Breaston and Andre Roberts.


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A-Dub emerges, and some other stuff

Posted by Darren Urban on June 13, 2011 – 5:53 pm

Figures on a day where I escaped up to Flagstaff with family to visit a life-long friend, there have been a smattering of news and notes from the Cards that I feel the need to string together in a post:

– The biggest news of the day? Adrian Wilson is on Twitter (@adrian_wilson24, and his avatar is priceless as he tries to get the point across that it is indeed his account and not a fake). When I talked to Adrian last offseason about the Twitter back-and-forth between Darnell Dockett and Vernon Davis, it was an arena he swore he’d never be a part of. Things change.

– OK, maybe that wasn’t the biggest news. It was the newest news. But Wilson also did an interview with XTRA 910’s Mike Jurecki, talking about that abductor injury he suffered last season and its affect on his 2010 season. The Pro Bowl safety said he suffered the injury “probably at the middle to the end of October” but, as expected, refused to blame the injury for any troubles he might have had on the field. That said, he noted a couple of times, “I’m a pretty good player” as an answer to the notion he was losing a step.

“It wasn’t as bad as it first happened as it was as the season went on. I’m not making excuses for the type of season I had because it was definitely unacceptable from my standards, coach (Ken) Whisenhunt’s standards and definitely the fans’ standards. I understand the fans’ frustrations … I’m not out to really to prove anyone wrong. I am a star in this league, period, so there is no question about what I can do. I am just staying focus and trying not to listen to what everyone is saying. The injury had nothing to do with the type of season I had, to be honest with you. I decided to play on it and that was my decision. At the end of the day I had to go out and produce and I didn’t produce.”

He added he will use it as motivation. “One bad season isn’t going to erase all the good things I’ve done,” Wilson said.

– By the way, USA Today rated A-Dub the fifth-best safety in the NFL, behind Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, Nick Collins and Eric Berry.

– Wide receiver Steve Breaston, hitting it big last week with his poem about the lockout (the man is flat-talented as a writer and he can deliver a poem too), went on ESPN’s “First Take” to talk about “A League Deferred.” “Stevie Phantom” said he was frustrated with the labor situation and wanted “to get some emotions out.” About his poetry, Breaston said he’s been writing since seventh grade and performed some spoken word in New York recently. “It helps me express my feelings and is a stress reliever.”

– Former Cards tight end Leonard Pope, now with the Chiefs, saved a child from drowning.

– Former Cards defensive tackle Mao Tosi — now we are going way, way back — was featured on the “Today Show” for founding “Alaska Pride,” which raises money to help kids in need reach their potential. Tosi is from Alaska. It’s great Mao has gotten to this point in his life. I remember him as the big defensive tackle in the “crazy name” draft of 2000 (Jabari Issa? Sekou Sanyika?) and the fact he broke his tooth on Thanksgiving one year while having dinner at teammate Russell Davis’ house, and Davis made sure everyone knew it was coincidence and not his wife’s cooking that caused the dental damage.


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Finding another Freddie

Posted by Darren Urban on May 13, 2011 – 11:36 am

In 2002, the Cardinals signed tight end Freddie Jones as a free agent. He had a good start to his NFL career while in San Diego, and he was an upgrade at the position. Turns out he was necessary that season too, because starting receivers Frank Sanders and David Boston each suffered injuries (as did MarTay Jenkins and Bryan Gilmore, the No. 3 and 4 guys) and with green wideouts like Jason McAddley and Nate Poole forced to play, a tight end was incredibly important.

So, for the one and only time since the Cardinals moved to Arizona, a tight end – Jones – was the team’s leading pass catcher in a season. Jones had 44 receptions for 358 yards and one touchdown that season. Jones was even better the next season, with 55 receptions for 517 yards (that was Anquan Boldin’s rookie year, though, with 101 catches). And in 2004, Jones had 45 receptions for 426 yards.

By 2005, though, Jones was gone. And the Cards have been searching for a tight end since.

As of now, that hope rests with third-round pick Rob Housler out of Florida Atlantic, a speedy 6-foot-5 H-back type who should be able to stretch the field. His blocking needs work, something he admitted already, but it would help to have a quality receiving option in that spot.

Since Jones left, it’s been a lot about hope unfulfilled. The undrafted tandem of Eric Edwards and Troy Bienemann was the first attempt. Then Leonard Pope was drafted, and while he flashed a couple of times, it was clear after 2007 and coach Ken Whisenhunt’s first season he wouldn’t be the answer. Ben Patrick – whose contract is expiring — also flashed a few times as a seventh-rounder (especially with his TD catch in the Super Bowl) but he never has made a huge impact and never had more than 15 catches in a season.

Granted, in the Warner years, using three- and four-wideouts made more sense, especially when the wideouts had the talent that the Cardinals did. Whisenhunt made clear Housler could be split wide at times and create mismatches, however. And, as many fans have pointed out, when you are breaking in a younger quarterback, the safety valve of a quality tight end can help with the learning curve.

Housler will get a chance to show what he has, and there is a chance the Cards also look in free agency. Jim Dray should be back, and Stephen Spach could be too; Patrick may be more iffy depending on who else is signed. The Cards will have at least four tight ends in training camp.

We’ll see if any of them can, at the very least, echo Freddie Jones.


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One possible 53

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2009 – 6:44 pm

In a couple of days, the Cards and coach Ken Whisenhunt will make their final decisions on an opening day roster (or close to it), trimming another 22 players from the current squad to 53. So that means I make my annual guesstimate on who is in, who is out, and who is truly on the bubble. This is never a foolproof thing; if there is a guy or two who pops available on the waiver wire the Cards want it changes the dynamics of what can happen, and that initial 22 can grow by a name or two to bring in newbies. That certainly happened on the practice squad last year, when the Cards went shopping for new names who weren’t around during training camp.

Again, this is my opinion, based on what I have seen and heard but still my opinion. And it doesn’t factor in what happens in Denver and if a guy wows a coach or two. Or if a guy gets hurt. It’s also just about the 53; for instance, undrafted rookie LB Reggie Walker doesn’t look like he will make the 53-man roster but he’s a guy who should end up on the practice squad. (Speaking of which, * will designate some PS candidates):

QUARTERBACKS
IN
Kurt Warner
Matt Leinart
Brian St. Pierre
OUT
Tyler Palko

WIDE RECEIVERS
IN

Larry Fitzgerald
Anquan Boldin
Steve Breaston
Jerheme Urban
Sean Morey
BUBBLE
Early Doucet
Lance Long*
OUT
Onrea Jones*
Ed Gant
Steve Sanders

RUNNING BACKS/FULLBACKS
IN

Tim Hightower
Beanie Wells
Jason Wright
Dan Kreider
BUBBLE
LaRod Stephens-Howling*
Tim Castille
OUT
Reagan Maui’a
Chris Vincent

TIGHT ENDS
IN

Stephen Spach
Ben Patrick (doesn’t count against the 53 during 4-game suspension)
BUBBLE
Anthony Becht
Leonard Pope
Dominique Byrd

OFFENSIVE LINE
IN

Lyle Sendlein
Reggie Wells
Mike Gandy
Levi Brown
Deuce Lutui
Brandon Keith
Herman Johnson
Melvin Fowler
BUBBLE
Oliver Ross
OUT
Elton Brown
Ben Claxton
Carlton Medder
Trevor Canfield*

DEFENSIVE LINE
IN
Darnell Dockett
Bryan Robinson
Calais Campbell
Kenny Iwebema
Gabe Watson
BUBBLE
Alan Branch
Keilen Dykes*
Rodney Leisle
OUT
Alex Field

LINEBACKERS
IN
Chike Okeafor
Bertrand Berry
Clark Haggans
Karlos Dansby
Gerald Hayes
Will Davis
Victor Hobson
BUBBLE
Ali Highsmith
OUT
Reggie Walker*
David Holloway*
Chase Bullock

CORNERBACKS/SAFETIES
IN
Adrian Wilson
Antrel Rolle
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Bryant McFadden
Greg Toler
Rashad Johnson
Aaron Francisco
Ralph Brown
BUBBLE
Matt Ware
Michael Adams
OUT
Jameel Dowling
Wilrey Fontenot*

SPECIALISTS
IN
Mike Leach
Neil Rackers
Ben Graham


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Whiz sees growth in Leinart

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2009 – 10:49 am

One more post on the backup quarterback situation (Hey, it’s the preseason – this is when you talk about the backups, because there will be plenty of Kurt Warner analysis once the regular season starts). There have been plenty who have speculated, because Matt Leinart couldn’t hold on to the starting job once upon a time and because he was drafted before coach Ken Whisenhunt arrived, that Whisenhunt isn’t a “Leinart guy.”

Frankly, I have never gotten that impression. Whisenhunt talked this week about Leinart’s maturation process, an “evolution” all quarterbacks must undergo. He even turned toward that horrific preseason game Leinart had in Oakland last season to create a tangible example.

Whisenhunt noted that last year – with two interceptions already thrown against the Raiders – Leinart was stuck in a second-and-11 on his own 4-yard line. Leinart faced some pressure and decided to chuck up a ball for Anquan Boldin which never had a chance and he was interception. Whisenhunt compared that to Leinart’s situation last weekend, when Leinart came into the game with the ball resting on his own 1. This time, Whisenhunt said, Leinart didn’t get flustered against the pressure, instead staying calm in the pocket and calmly throwing a 25-yard strike to tight end Leonard Pope (Full disclosure: Leinart was facing the backup Chargers defense as opposed to the Raiders starters). The contrast in plays from the two games helped show Whisenhunt there has been “great growth in Matt.”

Leinart clearly has become a better quarterback compared to this time last year. And as I said, he seems to have belief from his coach.

“Now he understands more what he has to do,” Whisenhunt said. “It is never easy to accept the type of role Matt has had to accept. It is easy to say one day it will pay off for him, but I really believe, when he plays, and it is coming, he is really going to do well.”

LeinartBetterBlog


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