There will be many things that people will be waiting to see Sunday when the Cards finally kick off against the Bills – how the Cards’ run game looks, whether the Bills have recovered from a couple of historical beat-downs – but from the Cardinals’ side of the fence, it’ll be Arizona’s first few pass plays that will be under the microscope. The Bills won’t have (struggling) defensive end Mark Anderson, although they do have (struggling) defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and (struggling) defensive end Mario Williams. There has been plenty of talk not surprisingly, from the Buffalo perspective that their pass rush can get healthy against the Cards. It’s vice versa for the Cards, who count on righting the pass-protection ship after surrendering 17 sacks the past two games.
“If you go into the game thinking that you are going to do that just because, you could be in for a rude awakening,” Mario Williams said. “If we go out and think, ‘Oh well, it’s going to be easy because the last two teams did this,’ we could be in for a rude awakening.”
Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb spoke again this week about how there were many facets in the pas game that need to do better to improve the pass protection. Someone suggested more three-step drops for Kolb, which the quarterback dismissed. “You can’t just go to three-step drops,” Kolb said. “That’s not the way the game is.”
You can’t just do a lot of anything. Pro teams – and pro coaches – figure that out soon enough. Leave more guys in to block? OK, but that’s fewer people in pass routes, and fewer options for which Kolb to pass. Coach Ken Whisenhunt knows he needs better technique from his blockers, better protection schemes and better overall play. There’s will have been 10 days to try and iron some of this out.
— There are two banged-up teams going out to play. With cornerbacks Greg Toler and Michael Adams doubtful, it sure sounds like rookie Jamell Fleming will be thrust back into a prominent defensive role. And kind-of-newcomer Crezdon Butler may be active right off the bat after being away from the team since being cut at the end of the preseason. The Bills, meanwhile, are missing a pair of starting offensive linemen themselves.
— Cornerback William Gay, who stands to start across from Patrick Peterson again Sunday, has struggled at times. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said it is technique issues with Gay, and along those lines, Gay’s role was reduced against the Rams. “Obviously, he’s capable,” Horton said. “He had a good week of practice. We reduced his role and message sent, I believe. Now, whether message was received or not, we’ll find out.”
— The Bills have allowed 97 points the last two games, to the Patriots and 49ers. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Cardinals will suddenly break out, but if the Cards’ offense is going to have a chance to improve, this is a matchup you want.
— Quarterback John Skelton is listed as probable for the first time since his ankle injury. I fully expect Kolb to start – who wouldn’t? – but Skelton, I would guess, would be the backup. After that, I don’t know if we are going to have any big announcement or not. The Cards are going to go through the gauntlet on the schedule after this game, at Minnesota, home against the Niners, at Green Bay and at Atlanta, which will be rough on whoever is playing QB.
— Today is Adrian Wilson’s birthday. He turned 33. His biceps don’t look a day over 27.
— Yes, I used that on Twitter.
— Speaking of birthdays, analyst and Cardinals Underground compatriot Ron Wolfley turns 50 Sunday, with the Cards playing against his hometown team. How great is that?
— The Cards are wearing black Sunday, as a reminder. And pink. This is the annual Breast Cancer Awareness game, in case you are still putting together your gameday outfit.
— It probably saved an interception return for a touchdown – and it wasn’t even flagged at the time – but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was dinged for a $7,850 fine from the NFL after grabbing cornerback Janoris Jenkins’ facemask on a play against the Rams. The Rams didn’t escape fines for their play, though. Two players were nailed for roughing up Kevin Kolb – defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo was fined $7,875 for roughing the passer when he ripped Kolb’s helmet off, while defensive end Robert Quinn was fined $15,750 for hitting Kolb helmet-to-helmet.
— Fitz needs 48 receiving yards to reach 10,000 in his career.
— Fitz, by the way, wasn’t about to pop off about the Bills’ struggles. “I always remember my grandfather said, you let a sleeping dog lie,” he said. “We just don’t want to ruffle any feathers and try to sneak out of here with a ‘W’ without getting anyone upset.”
It seems like it’s been forever since the Cards last played.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bills, Greg Toler, Jamell Fleming, Janoris Jenkins, Jermelle Cudjo, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Michael Adams, Rams, Ray Horton, Robert Quinn, Ron Wolfley, William Gay
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The talk about grabbing a “safe” pick high in the draft has been used for a long time now. As I have responded to a few people in blog post comments over the past month or so, there really isn’t such a thing as a “safe” pick. Now ESPN’s John Clayton has written a really good column on the subject, and the reality of going “safe.”
Clayton uses the example of the Dolphins going with tackle Jake Long (three Pro Bowls in three seasons already) and then taking QB Chad Henne in the second round, instead of taking QB Matt Ryan over Long. Henne isn’t working. They are still looking for a QB. Long was “safe” and he has been excellent. But was the pick for the best?
That’s why there is so much hair-pulling (figuratively, of course) about Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, and what they could mean. If you are the Bills, for instance, and you go with Von Miller over Gabbert, and Gabbert turns into Matt Ryan — even if Miller is another, say, Clay Matthews — did Buffalo make the right call? (The same argument can be made for the Cards, for instance, for taking Larry Fitzgerald over Ben Roethlisberger). It’s why the Panthers seem likely to take Cam Newton No. 1 overall, because no matter how “safe” a Patrick Peterson or Marcell Dareus might be, they can’t trump the impact of a franchise QB.
Then again, you don’t know if that QB is going to be a franchise guy (see Leinart, Matt — among others). Another concept: Is it better to take a QB who might wash out or end up with a position player who washes out? The upside of impact usually rests with the most important position. It’s another reason why making the decisions on draft day are never simple, even when sometimes they look that way.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Chad Henne, Clay Matthews, draft, Jake Long, Larry Fitzgerald, Marcell Dareus, Matt Leinart, Matt Ryan, Patrick Peterson, Von Miller
Posted in Blog | 73 Comments »
Took part in a mock draft (it’ll be on Patriots.com sooner rather than later) today and got another version of the top four. I wasn’t told who took who, but by the time my “pick” came up, these were the four gone — Cam Newton, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus and Blaine Gabbert.
(That was the order listed too; it’d be interesting to see if that matches the teams. Miller to Denver? Dareus to Buffalo? Gabbert to Cincy?)
I stayed chalk with my thought process in that regard. I stuck with defense and went with cornerback Patrick Peterson. But … obviously, wide receiver A.J. Green remains on the board in that scenario. Anyone reading my stuff knows I think receiver here is highly unlikely. Highly unlikely. The Cards already have a top receiver in Larry Fitzgerald and they clearly want/expect him to be here long-term. Bringing in a second such playmaker at that position — especially when you very well should be able to find a playmaker at another position (like Peterson, for instance) — makes little sense to me. You aren’t even sure you have a QB who can get it to Fitz yet, much less to two such guys.
That being said, there are those who’d like to see it (I’m looking at you, Georgiebird) and there are arguments that can be made, as long as you operate under the assumption the Cardinals see Green as an exceptional, off-the-charts talent. (I’m not saying they do, and there are those who don’t even think Green is better than fellow draftee-to-be Julio Jones). For the moment, let’s make that assumption.
The Cardinals aren’t sure if they can keep Fitzgerald, whose contract runs out after the 2011 season, long-term. He needs to sign an extension, and while both he and the team have said many times they want it to happen, Fitz has also made plain his desire to win, and that involves the fluid situation of finding a QB. Even if Fitz is a lifetime Card, the rest of the receiving corps is still in question. Steve Breaston doesn’t have a contract. Early Doucet hasn’t proven he can stay healthy. Andre Roberts, as well as he finished the season, hasn’t proven he will succeed.
Then there is the idea — again, depending on the grades we won’t know — that Green would be the best player available, too good to pass up. We’ve played this game before, back in 2007, when it was Levi over Peterson when Edge was around. Need was above “best player,” and maybe this year the need — other than QB — lies on the defense.
(But even then it’s not always cut-and-dried even when it works. Cards went BPA in 2004, because Fitz was the BPA. Would the Cards, who already had star-in-the-making Anquan Boldin, been better off with a top three class of Roethlisberger, Dansby and Dockett instead? Sure, Kurt Warner came along a year later, but it’s interesting food for thought).
I reiterate, I think the Cards go defense. I think Peterson would be the pick over Green. But there’s always room to speculate.
Tags: A.J. Green, Andre Roberts, Anquan Boldin, Ben Roethlisberger, Bengals, Bills, Blaine Gabbert, Broncos, Cam Newton, Darnell Dockett, draft, Early Doucet, Julio Jones, Karlos Dansby, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Marcell Dareus, Patrick Peterson, Steve Breaston, Von Miller
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No, we’re not talking former Cardinals cornerback Robert “Top Five” Tate, who used to put together top five lists all the time — including football lists, which inevitably included himself. Instead, we’re talking about the guys who will be considered for the top five picks in the draft. It sure seems like this is the list:
- QB Cam Newton
- QB Blaine Gabbert
- DT Marcell Dareus
- WR A.J. Green
- DE Da’Quan Bowers
- LB Von Miller
- CB Patrick Peterson
I don’t include DT Nick Fairley anymore because it doesn’t seem like anyone else is either. It leaves us with seven names, and the all-powerful quarterback situation. In Carolina, my man Darin Gantt believes there are only three legit possibilities for the No. 1 pick, and he has long believed it will end up being Cam Newton. For Denver, the pull has been strong for Dareus, since a) John Fox has always been a guy who likes to build up front; b) the Broncos were so porous and c) they have Elvis Dumervil coming back from injury so Miller might not be as necessary. Although Miller and Peterson have been mentioned (It has to be defense in Denver, right?).
Buffalo could use a QB, but Chan Gailey seems to want defense, so Miller has been a popular possibility for a team that uses the 3-4 and needs a pass rush. If the Cards want Miller, it seems the Bills will be the key. The Bengals figure to go offense, whether a QB or WR. The Cards, who have hinted many times they aren’t necessarily looking QB early, still don’t seem to make sense with a pick like that. Here’s the question, assuming Miller is gone: Could you make Bowers work in your defense? Is Peterson good enough? Do you reach outside the above list of names? By the time we get to the draft, would my list above change?
I wonder what Top Five Tate’s list would look like?
Tags: A.J. Green, Bengals, Bills, Blaine Gabbert, Broncos, Cam Newton, Da'Quan Bowers, Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, Panthers, Patrick Peterson, Robert Tate, Von Miller
Posted in Blog | 58 Comments »
I know people love to look at mock drafts but they seem rather silly to me, especially more than a few days out — so much can still change (the Cards, for instance, haven’t even started to build their draft board) and it’s usually an exercise in futility anyway.
That said, it is fun to talk about and debate, and NFL.com has been doing a video mock the past few years, getting someone who covers the team to make a pick for that team and explain some of the reasoning behind it. I did that last week, and now the top eight picks are posted on NFL.com. The way it works is they come to you and let you know what players are gone and you move from there. In this mock, the top four picks before the Cards were on the clock looked like this:
- Carolina — QB Cam Newton, Auburn
- Denver — DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama
- Buffalo — LB Von Miller, Texas A&M
- Cincinnati — WR A.J. Green, Georgia
Obviously, Miller being off the board takes away a player many link to the Cards right now. It leaves two names that have floated around consistently in QB Blaine Gabbert and CB Patrick Peterson.
In this instance, as you can see in the video, I went with Peterson.
I am not saying I feel sure about such a pick. Peterson is expected to be one of the best, if not the best, players available. As I noted in my explanation, however, there seem to be a lot of parallels to Antrel Rolle that would at least make me hesitate. It’s also possible Gabbert is impressing the Cards when they get a chance to talk to him. Some, at this point, think Gabbert would be impossible for the Cards to pass up. And maybe the need for a pass rusher goes beyond keying on Miller, too.
As has been said many times, the quarterbacks hold the key to the top five. If Newton and Gabbert are both chosen, it looks so much different than if they are not. Realistically, all five teams need a QB — or at least it can be said that none are sure they have their long-term quarterback currently.
In this case, Peterson seems to be an impact player on the defense, which the Cards could use (yes, I do have concerns about a low Wonderlic score; it’s not the end-all, be-all, but it can’t be ignored either). I think impacting the defense is important. Would they go with him over say, Gabbert, if this is how it plays out? I guess we won’t know unless this is how it plays out.
P.S. By the way, just in case anyone wasn’t sure …
Tags: A.J. Green, Antrel Rolle, Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, draft, Marcell Dareus, Patrick Peterson, Von Miller
Posted in Blog | 55 Comments »
The Cardinals have a handful of decision-makers — including head coach Ken Whisenhunt — attending Auburn’s pro day today, as colleges begin to host their home-cooking workouts. Obviously Auburn has a pair of potential top five picks in QB Cam Newton and DT Nick Fairley. Arkansas also has it’s pro day today; is it notable Whisenhunt chose to go where Newton is and not Ryan Mallett? Maybe. Maybe he already has seen what he wants to see from Mallett. Maybe the Cards will schedule Mallett for a one-on-one workout. The point is I don’t think you can make assumptions based on today’s choice.
At this point, the general feeling is that Newton and Misouri’s Blaine Gabbert (who, after not throwing at the combine, has his pro day March 17) are the top two QBs available. So to me, choosing to watch Newton over Mallett is logical. Doesn’t mean the Cards will take a quarterback.
Which leads me to this point: So many people are wondering if the Cards will take a QB first. What if Newton and Gabbert are both off the board in the top four picks? It may be a moot point for the Cards in the end.
My friend Darin Gantt, who covers the Panthers, told Bengals.com he thinks (at least on March 8th) that Newton will be the Panthers’ pick after losing out on Andrew Luck. That’d be a surprise. But I also remember about this time last year when everyone was just starting to talk about Sam Bradford going to the Rams No. 1 after he was hurt almost his entire final season in college. Everyone at first didn’t think Bradford would be the pick. Then he was, and it turned out pretty well for St. Louis.
That same top-three mock has Denver taking Von Miller at No. 2 and Alabama DT Marcell Dareus going to Buffalo at No. 3. That’d leave Cincinnati before Arizona. But all four teams in front of the Cardinals could conceivably be looking for a quarterback of the future. Would it really be a stunner to see both Newton and Gabbert off the board that early? I don’t think so.
We will see. In the meantime, the Cards will continue checking out the pro days (general manager Rod Graves is scheduled to attend the pro days of TCU, LSU and Texas A&M over the next six days) and doing due diligence. There can only be four players taken before the Cards go. Someone high-profile is going to be sitting there at 5. Who that is, however, remains vague.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, draft, Ken Whisenhunt, Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, pro days, Rod Graves, Ryan Mallett, Sam Bradford, Von Miller
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