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Friday before the Chiefs

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2014 – 3:48 pm

It’s been a while since the Chiefs have come to Arizona. The last visit was in 2006, in the first season of University of Phoenix Stadium. It, like this Sunday’s visit, comes a week after the Cardinals made a trip to Atlanta and lost. Back then, the Chiefs’ game was the first NFL start of a first-round draft pick – quarterback Matt Leinart. This week it’s the first NFL start of first-round draft pick Jonathan Cooper.

It’s an interesting parallel even if it doesn’t relate directly to Sunday’s game. Leinart actually played well that day with a couple of touchdown passes (even though Larry Fitzgerald left with a hamstring injury that would ultimately keep him out three games, the longest down-time of his career) and should have had a third if Bryant Johnson didn’t let a throw go right between his arms.

But that was then, this is now. Game-day decision Fitzgerald should play against the Chiefs after missing the last two games – keeping that three-game stretch back in 2006 as his career-high (or low?). And Cooper’s play, while important, won’t be as important as the play of quarterback Drew Stanton, who needs to bounce back. The QB is in the crosshairs, especially with the Cardinals without running back Andre Ellington and his problem hip.

– If the Cardinals win, they remain the NFC’s top team, regardless of any other game, with three games to go. If they lose, they will no longer be the NFC’s top team regardless, because Philadelphia and Seattle play each other and a win with a Cards’ loss puts either ahead in the standings. The Cardinals don’t want that.

– One running back the Cards won’t have is Michael Bush, who was released Friday. That could be a short-term thing, but for now, the non-Ellington backfield will feature Stepfan Taylor—who will get the start in a running-back-by-committee scenario — and Marion Grice. Arians had some praise for Grice Friday. And all season, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said he saw Grice as a player who could fill the Ellington role. Now he has to.

“We have a lot of trust in him,” Goodwin said.

– This is interesting: Cardinals punter Drew Butler was fined $8,268 for facemasking Falcons punt returner Devin Hester on Hester’s 70-yard punt return for a touchdown that was called back. It was called back because Hester was flagged for facemasking Butler. Except … Hester wasn’t fined for the penalty.

– So to recap, the man who was penalized was essentially exonerated with no flag, and the man who should have been flagged wasn’t. Throw in the fine-but-no-penalty for William Moore on Cards’ wide receiver Jaron Brown, and it doesn’t seem like the officials had the best game.

– For those who want to know, the Cardinals will again wear their red pants Sunday (with the normal red home jersey.)

– The Cardinals are holding their annual toy drive Sunday at the game. Partnering with The RoomStore, volunteers will join cheerleaders to collect unwrapped toys and donations for underprivileged children outside each entrance at University of Phoenix Stadium.

– If the Cardinals win, they will have seven home victories. That would be the most for the franchise since 1925, when the Cards had 11. Eleven home wins. It helps that the Cards that year played 13 of 14 games at home (which was in Chicago at the time.)

– In 59 career games before he infamously lost the tip of his finger trying to make a tackle in New Orleans, safety Rashad Johnson had three interceptions. In 22 games since, he has seven interceptions. To be fair, Johnson didn’t start really playing a lot until the second half of the 2012 season, but still.

– Larry Fitzgerald, asked if he takes pride in his run blocking in the offense: “I take a lot more pride in catching passes.”

Fitz laughed as he said it, and he did say he does want to help with his blocking. But let’s not confuse this. Later, Fitz said “I have nothing to do with the run game. I’m a wide receiver.”

– Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said the game in Atlanta was a “bad day at the office” for his unit. Bowles said they forgot it quickly, and have to move on. The defense needs to. They will be crucial down the stretch, especially as offensive injuries mount.

– Bowles was on the staff of Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid in Reid’s final year as Eagles’ head coach. It didn’t go well – the Eagles were bad, and Bowles, who eventually took over as interim defensive coordinator, was hammered by fans and media as the defense struggled – but Reid said now Bowles was the best interview he’s ever had. Bowles returned the compliment.

“It was great working for him,” Bowles said. “I probably learned more from him in one year than I have from a lot of people over a long time.”

– Hopefully for the Cardinals, it also means Bowles learned Reid’s tendencies. The Cards need every advantage.

See you Sunday.

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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.

JackInTheADub

 


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Lasting thoughts from the first

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2014 – 10:54 am

The first Cardinals draft I covered as a beat guy was back in 2001, which just so happened to be the highest pick the Cards have had since I have been around the team — second overall. That’s 13 drafts overall and 14 first-round picks. As the Cards get closer to this year’s draft (jeez, is it ever going to get here?) I thought I’d hit the first-round picks I’ve seen, with both my initial thoughts at the time and what hindsight has brought.

2001: T Leonard Davis. It was a no-brainer. Davis was a sure thing, taken right after Michael Vick. He’d be the 10-year left tackle the Cardinals sought since Lomas Brown had left. Bigg (he went by the nickname “Big” and at some point, started adding an extra “g”) was just that, a mammoth man. Sure, the Cards decided to play him at guard his first season, but that was so he could get used to the game. Dave McGinnis even brought myself and Kent Somers to his office one day to show us Davis manhandling a couple of defenders. I remember him totally rag-dolling Bears safety Mike Brown on one play. Problem was, he never really panned out as a left tackle, even though Denny Green insisted on shoe-horning him there. He was a better guard, and the Cards weren’t going to break the bank on a guard, so he later got big money from the Cowboys. And made the Pro Bowl. As a guard.

2002: DT Wendell Bryant. What I really remember is hearing how then-defensive line coach Joe Greene had been so impressed with Bryant the player and the person during a workout up in Wisconsin. Uh, yeah, not so much. Bryant was a holdout until the regular season started of his rookie year, and he never climbed out of that hole. A total bust.

2003: DE Calvin Pace and WR Bryant Johnson. Ahh, the everyone-assumed-Terrell-Suggs-was-coming-to-the-Cards draft. This was the most surprising first round. The Cards traded down from No. 6 overall, thinking in part they could get DE Jerome McDougle. The Eagles jumped to No. 15 to get McDougle, and the Cards reached for Pace at 17 and then took Johnson at 18. Pace ended up a decent player, although he didn’t really hit his stride until Ken Whisenhunt showed up. This was a thank-goodness-for-Anquan-Boldin-in-the-second-round class.

2004: WR Larry Fitzgerald. And to think, if Josh McCown’s pass falls incomplete, would it have been Eli Manning? Or would Denny Green have made sure Fitz was No. 1 overall?

2005: CB Antrel Rolle. This was pretty straight-forward. Rolle was considered a top-10 talent, the Cards needed a corner. The problem was Rolle came into the league with most assuming he’d be better at safety. He was.

2006: QB Matt Leinart. Green said when the pick was made that Leinart falling to the Cards at 10 was really a “gift from heaven.” Seems really silly now. But it wasn’t at the time. (The Cards likely would have taken Jay Cutler, who went No. 11, if Leinart had been off the board.) Truth be told I thought it was a good pick, and I was convinced he would be that QB the Cards needed after his first two starts, come-from-ahead losses — but not his fault — to Kansas City and Chicago (“We let ‘em off the hook!”) Time proved I was way wrong. But it allowed Kurt Warner’s rebirth, so there’s that.

2007: T Levi Brown. The Cards wanted a left tackle. Joe Thomas was already taken. The Cards already had Edgerrin James, so Adrian Peterson didn’t make enough sense. And I’ll move on.

– 2008: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. DRC was odd. He was raw. He was good. He frustrated sometimes, going from Pro Bowl talent to a guy who wouldn’t pay attention in stretches. But it was the right call. If only he hadn’t been the price for Kevin Kolb …

– 2009: RB Beanie Wells: Beanie was never really healthy. A prime example of why teams don’t look to running backs early anymore.

– 2010: NT Dan Williams. Williams has been a starter and has improved. He forms a nice tandem with Alameda Ta’amu. Funny, the biggest thing I remember of when the Cards took him was that Tim Tebow was picked right before him — virtually eliminating any chance he was going to get mentioned on national TV broadcasts.

– 2011: CB Patrick Peterson. Yeah, a good pick. Obvious, but good.

– 2012: WR Michael Floyd. He’s turned into a good player in a short time. He wasn’t the left tackle everyone said they wanted, but he was better than the tackles on the board.

– 2013: G Jonathan Cooper. Coop should turn out to be a wise choice. If any of the big three tackles had been left at No. 7, the Cards probably would have nabbed one, but GM Steve Keim was about best players, and he believes Cooper was that.

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Whisenhunt gets second chance

Posted by Darren Urban on January 14, 2014 – 8:02 am

Ken Whisenhunt gets his second chance. The news came down Monday evening that the Titans had hired the Chargers offensive coordinator and former Cardinals head coach to be their new head coach. It was a surprise on a lot of levels, not the least of which that so many reports came out linking Whisenhunt with the Detroit opening and the fact the Lions are the lone team with a (more or less) established quarterback in place. It’s impossible to know if Whiz chose Tennessee over Detroit or if the Lions never really were that interested in Whiz. It doesn’t mean much now.

It will be interesting however to see how Whisenhunt works with QB Jake Locker. Can Whiz develop Locker, who thus far has not shown enough signs of being a long-term answer? Clearly, the inability for Whisenhunt (and to be fair, General Manager Rod Graves) to figure out the post-Kurt Warner QB situation in Arizona killed his tenure here.

What really struck me about the hire when I first heard it was the link between Nashville, the Titans, Whiz and the Cardinals. That too goes back to the QB problems Whiz had in the desert. Back in the preseason of 2010 — that first go-round of football after Warner retired — the Cardinals had Matt Leinart as the starter, Derek Anderson as the backup and back-to-back exhibition games in Tennessee and in Chicago. In between, there was a few days in Nashville, a joint practice versus the Titans and then a final practice at Vanderbilt.

The relationship between Whisenhunt and Leinart was already fraying. In the joint practice, Leinart struggled against the Titans — at the time, Titans defenders started noticing how quickly Leinart went to his checkdown receiver — and the next day at Vandy, Whisenhunt shocked everyone by giving Anderson first-team snaps. Afterward, it became official that Anderson would be starting in Chicago. Leinart was angry. And things devolved from there.

Now Whisenhunt starts it over. Whiz had a very good run in Arizona, getting the franchise to places they had never been. He also made mistakes. It will be interesting to see if Whisenhunt learned from those missteps and apply that with the Titans.

– There is a lot of speculation about Whiz and if he would reach out to try and bring over current Cardinals strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott. It wouldn’t surprise me, but we’ll see how that develops.

– There are still job openings in Detroit, Minnesota and Cleveland, the latter two of which have interviewed Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. But I am guessing Bowles stays put in Arizona.

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Friday before the Titans

Posted by Darren Urban on December 13, 2013 – 3:58 pm

The last time the Cardinals were on pace to win 10 games, they went to Tennessee. You remember that one don’t you? Kurt Warner was coming off a concussion and the Cards shut him down that day, putting Matt Leinart under center for what turned out to be his final time as a starter in Arizona.

(It was in Tennessee the following year in the preseason, with a game, joint practice and then benching for Derek Anderson, that essentially ended Leinart’s tenure with the Cards, but that’s a rehash for another day.)

Leinart played well enough to win, but the defense allowed Vince Young and the Titans a 99-yard touchdown drive culminating in a Kenny Britt touchdown catch on the final play of the game. It was a heartbreaker, and stopped the Cards from being 7-0 on the road at that point. They did, however, still win 10 games.

The Cardinals have to win in Tennessee this weekend to reach 10 games, you’d think. Mathematically that isn’t true, but with a road trip to Seattle and a home game against San Francisco left, this is one the Cards should get. Beyond that, they have to get it. We’ve covered the playoff situation, and while it tends to look bleak even if the Cards win all three of their remaining games, they can’t be eliminated this weekend if they win.

– Carson Palmer should play Sunday. If he did last week without throwing a pass in practice, he will this week barring something unforeseen. He was limited again this week – no one is saying if he threw some in practice or just took another week of rest – but Palmer said he didn’t like doing it last week at all.

“Completely different, kind of eerie,” Palmer said. “I didn’t enjoy it. It’s not enjoyable.  When you are practicing you are always looking at the guys that aren’t practicing, and you are jealous. But, then when you are that guy standing on the sidelines, you want to actually be out there. You kind of get stuck in that, ‘Well, I wish I wasn’t, but I wish I was.’”

– Here’s where we find out defensive life without Tyrann Mathieu. I actually think it will be a little less important against the Titans than against the final two NFC West opponents, but don’t forget that Mathieu was arguably the Cardinals’ best tackler. Now that’s gone.

– I know veteran cornerback Antoine Cason has been itching to play more defense. He’s going to get a chance now.

– If the Cards keep getting the same kind of play out of Karlos Dansby and John Abraham, the Mathieu loss can be mitigated.

– Darnell Dockett was fined $7,875 for intentionally stepping on the hand of Rams offensive lineman Chris Williams last week. Defensive end Eugene Sims (who was called for a personal foul for hitting Palmer during the Jim Dray fumble-runback-that-wasn’t), Rams defensive end Robert Quinn (who was flagged for spiking his helmet at the feet of an official) and Dansby (who was called for a personal foul) were not fined.

– With the end of the regular season in sight, it will be interesting to see if a few offensive players can reach yardage milestones. Palmer needs 542 yards passing to throw for 4,000 yards with his third different franchise. That seems doable, even with games coming against Seattle and San Francisco. Michael Floyd, gimpy ankle and all, needs 114 yards receiving to reach 1,000. That too seems reasonable.

More interesting is the case of Larry Fitzgerald, who needs 226 yards to reach 1,000, a not easy number given the Niners and Seahawks. You know Fitz wants to get there.

– Pro Bowl voting ends Dec. 26. Click here if you’d like to have your voice heard.

– The Cardinals have benefited big-time by the return of cornerback Bryan McCann, who was cut at the end of training camp. His special teams work replacing the injured Teddy Williams, especially at gunner opposite Justin Bethel has been impressive.

“You kind of got to,” McCann said. “It’s part of the business. The whole point is that you don’t have a drop off in production when the next man steps in.”

McCann said he wasn’t frustrated with getting cut when he had had a pretty good camp. “It’s the way the business goes. Can’t complain. I’m back here, I’m back working and I’m happy for it.”

– The weather is supposed to be 36 degrees and clear Sunday for the late afternoon start. We’ll see if the Cards can make sure it ends a little differently than last time.


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Ellington’s hair and some Jaguars aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 17, 2013 – 7:42 pm

That’s five years worth of hair growing on the head of Andre Ellington, so he doesn’t want to lose it. He especially doesn’t want to lose it on the football field, but he lost

some of his beloved dreadlocks Sunday, which might have been the strangest part of a strange game. The rookie running back was tackled, Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin ended up with a handful of it (right) and it ended up on the ground, only to have Cardinals defensive end Frostee Rucker rescue and return it.

“I didn’t think I was going to get it back,” Ellington said. “I was talking to (Jaguars defensive end) Andre Branch, we are pretty good friends, I told him, ‘I’m gonna get your boys, they pulled my hair out.’ But it’s all good.”

Amazingly, Ellington said he didn’t feel it, although “you don’t feel it when you are being tackled by 300-pounders.” He didn’t even realize it had happened until he saw Babin holding it up. “I was like, ‘Oh man.’ He was like, ‘It’s part of the uniform.’ I was like, ‘Alright. I’ll remember that.’ ”

Ellington later tweeted out he’d just stich back in the loose part. I didn’t really know you could do that, but hey, Rucker is a hero, apparently. Ellington did say he was just happy with the win, which is good, because not only did he have hairs yanked out (ouch, by the way) but he was held to three yards on eight carries (ouch again.)

This game had a little of everything. Big plays, bad officiating, crazy calls, a few turnovers and yet another dominant defensive showing after not exactly a bad but more of a weird start. But lookie here: The Cardinals are 6-4, reeling off three wins in a month after that Seattle loss. The schedule gets tougher, with division leaders Indy and Philly next. But the Cards are where they want to be.

– The Newark Star-Ledger reported the Cardinals game in Philly will be flexed to “Sunday Night Football.” Not a surprise. It is supposed to be Giants-Redskins, and with all the Thanksgiving games (and with Chiefs-Broncos Part II unavailable after Part I was on SNF tonight) there aren’t a ton of choices better than two potential playoff teams. It would be the Cards’ first Sunday night appearance since the Vikings game in Arizona was flexed into the spot in 2009. UPDATE: Here’s an opposing report saying it won’t happen. We’ll see this week. UPDATE II: Monday morning the NFL announced that “Sunday Night Football” was going to stay Giants-Redskins, and the Eagles-Cardinals game is staying as a 1 p.m. kickoff in Philly.

– Michael Floyd was spectacular Sunday. Forget the 91-yard play for a moment, he made a catch on the sideline for 22 yards that was incredible. He made a nice play on the long TD, too. His 193 yards are a career-high, and  that threat means a lot for the Cards going down the stretch.

– Carson Palmer did not throw an interception Sunday. (OK, he did, but it didn’t count.) First time that’s happened this season.

– Palmer looked good. He said afterward he had a clean pocket, and again, that’s the book on Carson – if you give him a comfortable place within which to throw, he will do well. That’s exactly what happened.

– The Cardinals didn’t have a turnover for the first time since the third week of last season.

– The lopsided way the Cards had their offense today – 419 yards passing, 14 yards rushing – reminded me of the 2006 game in Minnesota when Matt Leinart threw for 405 yards but the Cards just ran the ball five times. The Cards lost that game. It’s not like the Cards didn’t try Sunday, with 24 attempts, but against the worst rushing defense in the league? It was surprising, to say the least.

– Special teams did not have a good day at all. The Cards allowed 36 yards a kickoff return, Dave Zastudil looked like he didn’t hit some punts as solidly as usual and more importantly – much more importantly – there were injuries. Justin Bethel went out of the game early after an illegal blindside block left him with a possible concussion, while fellow gunner Teddy Williams was lost for the season after tearing his Achilles. It hurts to lose Williams. Bethel’s status is up in the air, but it was clear how much the special teams need him after he left the game. That’s what happens when a Pro Bowl-caliber player goes down.

– Among the special teams problems, Patrick Peterson muffed a fair catch. He got it back somehow, but punt returning has turned into such tough sledding for him.

– One of the reasons the Cards had a tough time putting the game away? Field position was rarely in their favor, at least until late. The Cards started possessions on their own 3, 16, 9, 10, 2 and 10.

– There wasn’t a big crowd. It was kind of sad. “It’s like a morgue,” Cardinals tackle Eric Winston said. “It makes a three-point lead seem like 20.”

That’s good for now. Lot of flight left, but I have some other stuff I need to get to. Tomorrow, it’s Colts week, Arians against his ex-team week. It will be fun.


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Two-quarterback roster? Maybe

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2013 – 12:26 pm

The Cardinals have four quarterbacks on the roster right now. It’s possible, Bruce Arians said, they could end up with just two.

Carson Palmer is the unquestioned starter. Drew Stanton is the unquestioned backup. And reality is Ryan Lindley is the third-stringer — Caleb TerBush isn’t really in the mix — unless Arians and the Cardinals go in another direction. Arians has been on teams “for a number of years” that have kept just two quarterbacks on the roster. He’d do it again.

“If it comes down to Ryan and another guy at another position, we’ll determine what’s more valuable to our football team at that time,” Arians said. “We’re going to keep the best 53.”

The Cardinals and Ken Whisenhunt tried it in 2007. That backfired. Matt Leinart broke his collarbone against the Rams five games into the season, and the team signed Tim Rattay to back up backup Kurt Warner. Then Warner had Julius Peppers fall on his left elbow early in the very next game, forcing Rattay on the field with just a couple of practices. Warner managed to play the rest of the season with a brace, but it was an issue that convinced Whisenhunt never to have fewer than three QBs on the roster going forward.

As for other current Cards’ news and notes:

– DT Ricky Lumpkin has a low ankle sprain, another blow to the ailing defensive line. Arians said the Cardinals will sign a defensive lineman or two, which are necessary with Lumpkin, Everrette Thompson and Dan Williams all out right now. ‘We’ll get a couple fresh bodies and coach real hard for two days,” Arians said. “We’ll see how good of a coach Buck (Brentson Bucker) is.”

– LB Daryl Washington missed the walkthrough while attending his latest court date for his assault case. He returned soon after and said nothing yet has been resolved and his next court date is set for October.

– RB Rashard Mendenhall will be back at practice. G Daryn Colledge will not play against the Packers. Arians said most injured guys are questionable. He still has hope that LB Karlos Dansby and WR Kerry Taylor (hamstrings) could play in Green Bay.

– Center Deveric Gallington,  tweeted out he was going to sign with the Cardinals. The Cards have been searching to find more center depth. Gallington was an undrafted rookie out of Texas Tech who spent some time this offseason with the Raiders.

– The Cardinals, surprisingly, haven’t had one scuffle — or even had a hint of a scuffle — all through camp. It was suggested to Arians it could be air-condition-related. Arians smiled. “I do all the scuffling,” he said. More seriously, “We have a no fighting policy,” Arians said. “We don’t play the Cardinals. Normally you still have a (fight). I would think (being) outside it would draw more of that heat.”


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A top rookie quarterback would play

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2013 – 3:55 pm

Back in 2006, when Matt Leinart was just drafted and Denny Green was in charge, the hype around the Cardinals’ freshly-minted quarterback-of-the-future was off the charts. Back then, Kurt Warner was just a guy, a placeholder for Leinart much like Warner had been for Eli Manning and the Giants back in 2004. But Green was having none of the hype. He made it plain — in a perfect scenario for 2006, Warner would play all season, and Leinart would sit and learn the whole year and not even play a single snap.

(Of course, that didn’t happen because Warner fumbled the ball all over the place and Leinart came in and it got me one of my all-time favorite quotes from Denny. I asked him, with the Cards 1-8 and Leinart struggling, what it would have meant for Leinart to have sat the entire season as the original plan, and Denny’s first reaction was, “That’s an awfully philosophical question for a Wednesday.” As opposed to saving the philosophical questions for Friday. But I digress.)

Flash forward to 2013, when the Cardinals could spend their highest pick on a QB since that season. Will it be the first round? If I am guessing, I say no. Never say never I suppose. The second round seems more likely. But unlike Green, both GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians would rather drop a first-round rookie in the fire. No reason to wait.

“My philosophy is, if you are taking a player that high, particularly at the quarterback position, I think that guy needs to be on the field and play for you,” Keim said. “To me, a player grows by being on the field and taking snaps, and I don’t think you can replicate that, whether it is the speed of the game, the timing of routes … in practice. He needs to be on the field.”

Said Arians, “I’ve never been one to sit them on the bench. You never learn on the bench. He’s not going to get any reps in practice because that’s for the starter. If you want him to develop, you give him every rep in practice and you throw him out there. Hopefully you can put enough talent around him that he can handle the downside.”

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Wednesday before the Titans

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2012 – 4:27 pm

Ah, Nashville. The last two times we were here, the story was always the quarterback. In 2009, Kurt Warner, last moment, decided his concussion wouldn’t let him play, and Matt Leinart almost had the game he needed – until Vince Young put together a 99-yard drive to finish the game and the Cardinals. The last time here was the beginning of the end for Leinart, the preseason week spent in Tennessee where Leinart was demoted from the first unit in favor of Derek Anderson and we all know how that turned out.

Some things never change. Quarterbacks are still front and center. John Skelton gets the start and ostensibly, the chance to put a stranglehold on the job. Kevin Kolb will play. Coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn’t given any indication this battle is over. This game will mean something. Ron Wolfley made a point the other day both on the podcast and his radio show that Kolb has probably been better in practice where Skelton has been better in games, which is why this is probably closer for coaches than fans (who don’t watch practice daily but watch the games.)

In any case, it looks like this game will only add to the quarterback legacy that Cards’ trips to Nashville have built.

– Watching Beanie Wells in a game for the first time will be fascinating. We’re on the precipice of the regular season. It looks like Ryan Williams is in good shape to be ready as expected. It’s time for Wells to make a similar step. It has been suggested Beanie runs with a limp. Some of that has to do with getting used to his brace and getting back on the field for the first time in a while. But those of us who have observed Beanie have always noticed what to me, at least, seems like an awkward gait when Wells walks quickly or runs half-speed, even when totally healthy. When he turns it up, it disappears.

– Larry Fitzgerald said he knew all along there probably wouldn’t be a choice at quarterback just yet. “You can’t just give guys one game. That’s not much of a competition,” he said. “We knew it would probably come down to the wire.”

– D.J. Young and D’Anthony Batiste get their chance to show what they can do at left tackle. Will one emerge? Maybe. Conventional wisdom seems to be that Batiste has a better shot than Young. There are more options than Batiste at right tackle, which could be Jeremy Bridges or even just sinking or swimming with rookie Bobby Massie (although the Massie move might be easier to deal with if Brown was still in the lineup). A savior isn’t coming, though. The Cardinals might pick someone up in free agency or the waiver wire, but again, anyone on the street is on the street for a reason. Chad Clifton is available, for instance, because he’s been injured and is 36. Anyone cut next week will be cut because there were at least two guys better than him on his previous roster. That’s reality.

(And a quick side note on the depth behind Brown, and the Cards being caught unprepared – you always want the best depth you can get on the roster, but I’m not sure you build a roster with the idea of a guy possibly going down with a season-ending injury. You’re counting on the starter to be there, especially a guy like Brown, who had played every game for the last four seasons. I think they felt Batiste/Bridges would have been fine as a Brown fill-in for a game or two.)

– Brown had his surgery, by the way. The Cardinals have to trim 15 players off the roster by Monday (although it may come as soon as Friday.) One of those moves, I would think, would be Brown’s move to injured reserve. I just don’t see them saving a roster spot for an end-of-season return. We will see.

– Left guard Daryn Colledge on losing Levi: “If anyone was (indestructible) I thought it would be Levi. Anyone who tears a triceps and just takes a knee (after the play) and talks about it, that’s a pretty studly guy to me. But anyone can go down on any play, that’s the hard part about preseason. We lose him in Week 14, that’s something, but lose him in Minus-Week 3, that’s one of the worst things that can happen.”

– Lots of questions about whether Quan Sturdivant is going to make the team, but it seems like a longshot with the way Reggie Walker has been playing. Your starters are Daryl Washington and Paris Lenon, and I think both Walker and Stewart Bradley have played well in the preseason. Four inside linebackers seems like enough. It’s been suggested that maybe the $3 million for Lenon might put him on the bubble, but the way he has performed and with his durability, I just don’t see him anywhere but the roster.

– Besides the first cuts that I mentioned earlier, final cuts must be made the day after the final preseason game, Friday the 31st.


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Raiders aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2012 – 12:31 am

Not only did the Cards win a game Friday night, but there was an awful lot going on beyond just an outcome. Some very, very good. Some potentially very bad. Whatever you want to say about Levi Brown, but if he is out for an extended period of time, it bodes poorly for the Cards. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has to look at the video, but asked specifically about tackles D’Anthony Batiste and D.J. Young after the game, the first things he thought of about both were plays on which they were beaten. Batiste, who started on the right side, would be a left tackle option. So would Jeremy Bridges. We’ll see.

– The Twitterverse was counting on the quarterback situation to be resolved tonight. Nope. Whiz made it clear he wants to see John Skelton in extended time in Tennessee first. Kevin Kolb started very well, but then it got worse. Some of that was blocking, some was field position, and I know many fans don’t care about that anymore.

– Center Lyle Sendlein was asked about the idea that Skelton seems to get a little better protection. It was awkward – I’m not sure he saw the question coming – but he answered it.

“I think it’s just pure chance,” Sendlein said. “It’s nothing done differently. We don’t block harder for one guy and not try as hard for the other guy. I think situationally we were backed up with Kevin a lot. With John we had some turnovers and short drives. It’s just pure chance.”

– Speaking of Kolb, Raiders defensive end Tommy Kelly took a shot at him after the game, calling Kolb “skittish” and “scared.” “He ain’t even trying to look at the routes no more.” Interesting analysis (although I’m not 100 percent sure how a lineman working hard getting to the QB can necessarily tell that on the field.) It’s a perception Kolb is going to be fighting going forward.

– With everything going on it felt like in my story I gave rookie Justin Bethel the short shrift. All he did was block a punt and return it for a touchdown and then block an extra point, giving him three blocked kicks this preseason already. He’s made the team. That seems a certainty.  My cohort Josh Weinfuss will have more on Bethel Sunday in a story he’s working on, but clearly, that kind of special teams production won’t be overlooked.

– Ryan Williams looked very good in his return. He took his hits, he broke off a 15-yard run, and he scored a touchdown – which, as usually happens, ended with Larry Fitzgerald making sure he got the ball. “I totally forgot about the football, because you’re not allowed to do that in college,” Williams said. “Larry grabbed me and hugged me and said, ‘I’m proud of you and I’m glad we got you back.’ ”

A great gesture. I am guessing the football from the first touchdown that counts will mean even more.

– Rookie CB Jamell Fleming had a rough night, with a unnecessary roughness call hitting a receiver (questionable) and a pass interference (questionable). But as questionable as they were, they still count against you.

– Safety Rashad Johnson was out of uniform by the time the game ended. Not sure if he got dinged or what the reason was.

– Raiders quarterback Matt Leinart’s return was cut short after he left needing stiches on a finger. He finished 5-for-8 for 66 yards. “It felt really good to be out there,” Leinart said. “It was kind of weird at first just to be back, but it felt good.”

– The first-team defense was much better. It needs to be. The turnovers were a good start. “We didn’t tackle well or play with any emotion (the first two games),” safety Kerry Rhodes said. “We wanted to come out here and be emotional, just play like a kid and have fun.”

OK, it’s late. Whiz said he hoped to have more info on Levi tomorrow (later today I guess, less than 12 hours).


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