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For Cardinals, the fullback is here again

Posted by Darren Urban on May 11, 2018 – 2:23 pm

Not that it comes as a great surprise after a) Derrick Coleman was signed as a free agent Thursday or even b) Elijhaa Penny was getting reps in Phase Two work as a lead blocker for David Johnson, but Steve Wilks and Mike McCoy have brought the fullback back to the Cardinals. If you recall, Bruce Arians made very clear he was not going to use a fullback in his tenure (although there were times when he kinda did, even if it was embodied by a lineman like A.Q. Shipley or Evan Boehm.)

Arians preferred two tight-end sets if he was going to have only two receivers on the field. Wilks and McCoy see the fullback — or an H-back, depending on the situation — as a preferred option. The Cardinals also signed undrafted rookie fullback Austin Ramesh (pictured below).

“Derrick is going to come in and give us a boost,” Wilks said. “We really didn’t have a true fullback on the roster. Going against him within that division in the (NFC) South (when Coleman was in Atlanta and Wilks Carolina), the guy has proven himself.”

“Within our system and the things we do, a fullback is a part of that offense,” Wilks added. “It’s been a part of that offense for a while with McCoy, and even the same thing with me in Carolina. We think that’s a major part of what we are doing and we want to try and bring in a guy who shores up that position for us.”


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Christian Kirk and the “new” passing game

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2018 – 10:41 am

The idea is that Christian Kirk, as a second-round pick, will be able to step in and make an impact as a receiver right away. Beyond Larry Fitzgerald, there is certainly an opening at the position. There is a lot to sort out, of course — what might the role of J.J. Nelson and Chad Williams be going forward, how much more might tight end Ricky Seals-Jones be used, will running back David Johnson slide right back in as the second-leading pass-catcher like he was in 2016. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is just now building out what he might want to do. That will take some time.

As polished as Kirk might be at this point, coming in and doing big things right away as a rookie receiver can be difficult. You need opportunity as well as skill. You also need to figure out just what the expectations would be for “making an impact.” Last year, Rams third-round pick Cooper Kupp made an impact, even if his numbers wouldn’t necessarily make him an obvious Pro Bowl candidate (62-859-5). Former third-round Cardinals pick John Brown did the same in 2014 (48-696-5). If Kirk could replicate either of those seasons, I’d guess the Cardinals would be pretty happy.

A look at every receiver drafted over the last three years by pick 47 (Kirk’s spot) or earlier finds plenty of lost rookie campaigns. Using Smokey Brown as a potential benchmark, of the 19 wideouts taken at 47 or higher, only three (Sterling Shepard, NYG, 2016; Michael Thomas, New Orleans 2016; Amari Cooper, Oakland, 2015) had as many catches as Brown as a rookie (65, 92, 72, respectively.) Only two, Thomas and Cooper, had as many yards as Brown (1,137 for Thomas, 1,070 for Cooper.) The same trio were the only ones to reach the five touchdowns of Brown (Sterling 8, Thomas 9, Cooper 6).

That’s 16 wide receivers that didn’t do a ton as a rookie (Houston’s Will Fuller did go 47-635-2 in 2016, so he was close). Again, when looking to see what Kirk might be able to have, recent perspective counts.


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Waiting to see the offensive philosophy

Posted by Darren Urban on February 21, 2018 – 9:50 am

Within a month or two of Bruce Arians taking over as coach in 2013, he made known some very specific thoughts he had on the offense: He was going to take six shots or so downfield every game, he didn’t like having a fullback, tight end was more of a blocker in his offense. As the Cardinals transition into the Steve Wilks era, those are the questions that will be interesting to see play out.

To begin with, Wilks, with his defensive background, could very well lean on offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s thoughts on whatever subject may come up. McCoy was actually asked specifically about a fullback during his press conference; he said if it fit what they were going to do with the offense, he’d have one. Ultimately, it feels like there are a lot of different ways this can go.

The reason, of course, is that the Cardinals need to find a quarterback, and that QB will help dictate the direction the Cardinals will be headed. The coaches also need to determine if, in the case of using a fullback at times, if that fits with what David Johnson can do well. Will a tight end be more involved in the passing game (or does the role Larry Fitzgerald has been playing serve as that tight end-esque spot — assuming Fitz is still used in the same way as the last few years?) These answers also could impact what kind of offensive linemen the Cardinals want to have in place.

One of the selling points the Cardinals used when looking for a new coaching staff was the ability to help figure out the next quarterback. When it comes to the offense, the QB is only the first domino.


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McCoy knows it’s about the players

Posted by Darren Urban on January 29, 2018 – 4:52 pm

Mike McCoy was blunt, when asked if his offensive playcalling was about scheme or matchups.

“Players,” he said, and that’s always the ultimate answer.

As an incoming coordinator, McCoy was probably never going to have a lot of specifics. He was just hired, and even if there was a quarterback in place, a change in head coach usually means a change in the roster anyway. Besides, he still has to evaluate the guys who are on the roster in the first place. Then you add in all the uncertainty on that side of the ball, because of impending free agency with so many (and the question of Larry Fitzgerald’s future, although more on that in a moment) and McCoy didn’t have the specifics I’m sure many wanted to hear. It isn’t feasible yet.

But it always comes down to players.

That can get lost, and yes, coaching matters. McCoy’s best time as an OC came when Peyton Manning was in his Denver heyday in 2012, but that shouldn’t be a negative. It’s a fact, just like Bruce Arians was at his best offensively when Carson Palmer had his best season in 2015 or that Ken Whisenhunt had his best offense when Kurt Warner stepped forward in 2008-09.

It’s impossible to know what the Cardinals’ offensive personnel might be. McCoy talked about wanting to win, regardless of how pretty it might look. He did that in 2011 with a Broncos offense using Tim Tebow(!) to win a playoff game and leading the NFL in rushing. He threw plenty with Manning and Philip Rivers. The Cardinals have one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league in David Johnson and I’m guessing he’ll do a lot of both — because why wouldn’t he? McCoy is smart enough to know what he has.

Speaking of which, McCoy sure sounded like a guy who expects Fitzgerald to play, which continues to be the guesstimate put out by those closest to Fitz, like his dad or Warner. “We might shift some things we wanted to be our core, then we’ll go the other way,” McCoy said. ” ‘We’re better at this.’ ‘David likes these runs.’ ‘The quarterbacks like these plays.’ ‘Larry, this is what he loves. This is what he’s good at it.’ We’ve got to learn a lot about the players too.” That sounds like a guy thinking Fitz will be around.

 


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Cards reportedly close to McCoy for OC

Posted by Darren Urban on January 25, 2018 – 6:11 pm

Ever since he was hired, Steve Wilks has been working on hiring his staff, and Thursday night came multiple reports that he’s closed in on an offensive coordinator — former Chargers head coach Mike McCoy. He was a name that has been connected to the Cardinals for a while now. McCoy was reportedly the OC choice for former Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher had Bettcher gotten the head coaching spot. McCoy was the offensive coordinator in Denver this past season before being let go in November.

UPDATE: It’s official.

There are no official announcements yet on the coaching staff beyond Wilks, although names — as they tend to do — have started to trickle out. For a few days multiple reports have Panthers linebackers coach Al Holcomb coming as defensive coordinator. The Cards are expected to keep Byron Leftwich (QB) and Larry Foote (ILB) from the previous staff with the possibility of other holdovers (Kevin Garver for WR and Steve Heiden at TE). Other reported names have been Ray Brown (OL), David Merritt (DB) and Don Johnson (DL).

 


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Thursday before the Chargers

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2016 – 2:26 pm

The work in San Diego is almost over. The Cardinals have their preseason game against the Chargers Friday night, and to be frank, the attention has shifted from what the team might do this week and to what Bruce Arians might do after his health issues. The reality is that offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin was already set to call plays, and Arians had joked previously that he doesn’t have much to do during a game in those cases anyway. Still, all eyes are going to be on B.A. That’s only natural.

— Because of Arians’ illness, there wasn’t much discussed about the how the game will play out in terms of snap distribution, but the first units will probably get a chunk of the first quarter you’d figure. It always depends on how they perform, but maybe two or three series, depending on the number of plays. I’d expect this game to be a lot more Drew Stanton at QB, as Carson Palmer’s big third preseason game looms and the fourth game likely will be all Matt Barkley and Jake Coker.

— Another big game for CB Brandon Williams. Also curious to see what veteran Mike Jenkins can do now that he’s back on the field, albeit with a cast.

— Another guy to watch is DT Corey Peters, who returns to a game for the first time since blowing out his Achilles after just one preseason game in 2015.

— Not only were there no fights during the two practices between the Cards and Chargers, no situation really ever came close as far as I could tell. Don’t know if it was because Arians and Chargers coach Mike McCoy made such a big deal about no fights or if the Arians situation changed how practice was approached. Question is, does Friday night get chippy at all?

— Arians has said there are four inside linebackers fighting for one spot, which includes Chargers castoff Donald Butler. But you figure the Cards are going to have Deone Bucannon and Kevin Minter in there. I’m guessing Chris Clemons, who has been working behind Bucannon, likely is in. So that would leave Butler vs. Alani Fua vs. Gabe Martin vs. Lamar Louis. So again, a battle to watch.

— One more week of training camp to go. Four more open practices.

ThursBeforeCharegers


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Chargers confirm Cardinals’ San Diego practice

Posted by Darren Urban on May 23, 2016 – 8:31 pm

Last week, Bruce Arians said the Cardinals were talking to the Chargers about spending time in San Diego during training camp so the teams could practice against each other. Monday, Chargers coach Mike McCoy confirmed it would happen even if details haven’t quite been worked out.

“I can’t tell you it’s going to be this day, it’s going to be that day,” McCoy told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “But we’re going to practice against Arizona.”

The details are still being worked out, McCoy said, but the Cardinals play the Chargers on a Friday night (August 19) in San Diego. University of Phoenix Stadium is also unavailable to the Cardinals earlier in the week — Monday, Aug. 15 — because Guns N’ Roses is scheduled to play a concert that night. McCoy was one of the Cardinals’ options for coach before Arians was hired; the man who was let go by the Cardinals to create that vacancy — Ken Whisenhunt — is back with the Chargers as offensive coordinator after his stint as Titans’ head coach.

Another thing to watch, regardless of whether the teams practice against each other one, two or three times. The last few times teams in the NFL have practiced against each other in training camp, it’s resulted in some scuffles. And as we all know, Arians doesn’t tolerate scuffles in camp. He won’t tolerate it against another team either.

Carson Palmer, Donald Butler


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McCoy headed to Chargers

Posted by Darren Urban on January 15, 2013 – 8:12 am

The Cardinals, it seemed, wanted to get a second chance to talk to Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy about their open head coaching job. It certainly doesn’t look like they will get it, not after the news early Tuesday that McCoy is finalizing a deal to become the Chargers head coach and has told the Broncos he is leaving. (In an interesting twist, former Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt reportedly would be a candidate to replace McCoy as Broncos offensive coordinator, which if it comes to pass would mean Whiz got to team up with Peyton Manning after all.)

UPDATE: McCoy to Chargers is done.

With McCoy going elsewhere, that leaves defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. (I know I don’t have Todd Haley in here. Maybe I should but I just don’t see it. Could be totally wrong.) I am going on gut here only, but I’d think Horton would have a strong chance at this point. I have no idea who his assistants would be on the offensive side of the ball — I’m not sure anyone does, outside of Cards’ ownership and the front office — but I don’t think anyone would be hired without confidence in those choices. Again, president Michael Bidwill and general manager Steve Keim know how poorly the offense played and how it must be fixed. Bidwill insisted he wouldn’t make a choice based on offense/defense, but Gruden is an offensive guy.

Does this mean a decision will be made today? We will see. Anymore, it’s tough to forecast anything in a world of coaching searches that seem to change every few hours.


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With Broncos out, path cleared for Cards’ decision

Posted by Darren Urban on January 12, 2013 – 7:28 pm

With the Broncos losing (an admittedly amazing entertaining playoff game) Saturday night to Baltimore, it means their season is over and it means offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is now available to negotiate for a head coaching deal. It also would seem like the Cardinals would be in position to figure out their head coaching situation sometime this coming week.

Now, I’m not saying the Cards want McCoy for sure. But none of their candidates — at least, the ones we know of — are impeded from talking contract now. Cards defensive coordinator Ray Horton, McCoy and Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden (and Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley?) are all fully available. There’s been a lot of talk the Cards want McCoy, but that’s assumption rather than anything based on fact. Last week was filled with interviews anyway, so nothing was coming down last week regardless of McCoy’s situation.

We’ll see how it plays out. McCoy has interviewed with the Eagles and Bears already as well as the Cards. All of them were in Denver, so I’d expect a second interview with anybody to come in that city. Gruden has upcoming interviews with the Eagles and Jaguars. There is a report the Jags would like to talk to McCoy. Horton also interviewed with the Bills and Browns, although both spots have already been filled.

Will the Cards have a coach this week? Perhaps. President Michael Bidwill has maintained the whole process he had no set timeline in place and I don’t think there is a rush to get this done. But again, if all the candidates can be hired, it makes sense this moves forward in the coming days.

 


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Gruden visits, so time to catch up on coach talk

Posted by Darren Urban on January 10, 2013 – 5:15 pm

If you put your head down for a moment and just listened, you can definitely hear the Jon Gruden in Jay Gruden’s voice. That’s natural since they are brothers, but kind of funny since everyone is so familiar with Jon’s voice because of “Monday Night Football.”

(The similar-voice-with-brothers can be fun, though. My brother and I have gotten my Mom and my wife on it a couple of times over the phone.)

Jon also helped Jay a bit with his first-ever coaching interview Thursday. “Jon’s always got his two cents to add,” Jay Gruden said. “He can talk with the best of them. He’s been around the block a few times.”

Whether Jay Gruden actually will make a push to be head coach is anyone’s guess. The Cards have played this pretty close to the vest, even as they announce who they are talking to. It’s an impressive walk of the tightrope. Next week will be interesting, depending on how the Broncos — and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy — do. If they lose, something would go down next week you’d figure. Barring more interviews, you’d think the process would move forward with all candidates available. If they win, something could still happen next week, just not with McCoy, who is off-limits until his team is out.

But there is no puff of white smoke yet from 8701 S. Hardy.

You know, if the building had a chimney.

— XTRA’s Mike Jurecki is reporting that Ray Horton has reached out to Norv Turner to gauge interest in Turner taking the offensive coordinator job if Horton were to get the head coaching job. Not that Turner has said yes, but it’s interesting if true. I mentioned that possibility last week.

— I have seen the report that former Eagles offensive line coach (and DC, but in this case, it’d probably be line related) Juan Castillo would interview with the Cards. That has not been confirmed. I would think a head coach would be in place before more assistants would be hired, but Castillo’s reputation as a line coach is a good one.

— The Browns reportedly brought Ken Whisenhunt in for a second interview for their head coaching job. Horton was interviewed by the Browns (but just once thus far). The Browns have a lot of candidates they have talked to thus far. It doesn’t seem like Horton — who also interviewed for the now-filled Bills job — is in the mix.

UPDATE: It turns out the Browns hired Panthers OC Rob Chudzinski as head coach. And other reports have Chudzinski pursuing/hiring Norv Turner as OC, which if it happened would obviously mean Horton couldn’t get him.


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