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Dialing it up on defense

Posted by Darren Urban on December 15, 2011 – 10:29 am

The Cards, now, are coming from everywhere.

The development of the defense — and the ability for defensive coordinator Ray Horton to call a lot of different plays now — has changed the way they attack the opposing passing game. Two games in a row, they have five sacks from five different players (eight players overall; Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett have gone back-to-back. The others: Nose tackle Nick Eason — pictured below — and linebackers O’Brien Schofield, Paris Lenon, Clark Haggans and Daryl Washington, along with cornerback Patrick Peterson.

“That’s the evidence they are getting it,” Horton said. “I was watching (Cowboys quarterback) Tony Romo and I could see it, we did things he wasn’t expecting,” Horton said. “Now that every single guy can blitz, the package is starting to come together.”

Peterson’s sack — the first of his career — came on a play where both he and fellow cornerback Michael Adams blitzed.

“Coach Horton has definitely been dialing it up lately,” Peterson said. “To have five different guys get five sacks the last two games, that’s unbelievable. Everyone is getting in on the party. I got my first sack, so you know he is sending them from everywhere when a cornerback is getting his first sack. It’s a pleasure to be playing in this type of defense because guys don’t know where we are coming from.”


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The “real” Heap and other Friday health

Posted by Darren Urban on December 9, 2011 – 1:04 pm

Tight end Todd Heap should play Sunday and perhaps show up on the offensive radar after all these weeks battling the bad hamstring.

“I think we are finally going to see the real Todd this week,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said after practice. “So hopefully he’ll have a chance to make some plays and we can see the guy we were excited about.”

Heap played a full game in St. Louis two weeks ago and a couple of plays against the Eagles. Other than that, Heap has been out since getting hurt Oct. 2 and he doesn’t have a catch since then.

In other injury news, Whiz said punter Dave Zastudil, who hurt his bicep trying to tackle Dez Bryant last weekend, should be fine. The Cards did work out a couple of punters Thursday as a contingency, but it doesn’t look like it will matter. And while linebacker Joey Porter may not be “all the way there yet,” Whisenhunt said, he will be available for the game if needed. “We are to the point that if he had to play, he could play,” Whisenhunt said,

Safety Kerry Rhodes will probably be a game-day decision, Whiz added, but it seems he might be a little further away.

— Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was asked if he was happy with the play of Dan Williams’ replacements at nose tackle, Nick Eason and David Carter. “Am I happy?” Horton repeated. “Does that mean satisfied? Does that mean elated?” Told it meant “satisfied,” Horton said he was. “We have the rotation and we are doing what we need to be doing.”


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Old friends, new teams and trash talk

Posted by Darren Urban on October 20, 2011 – 7:58 am

It happens all the time — two teams meet, and ex-teammates on each side end up with some good-natured smack talk before the game. It just doesn’t usually happen in the middle of the locker room. But there was Cardinals’ reserve defensive lineman Nick Eason Wednesday, about to do an interview, when his phone rang. The caller ID said it was Chris Hoke — a defensive lineman from the Steelers. Instead of letting it go to voice mail, Eason picked up.

“Don’t call me now, I’m about to do an interview about we’re gonna beat y’all,” Eason said, smile growing on his face. Then he punched speaker to let everyone in on the brief conversation.

“Is Casey playing?” Eason asked, knowing that Steelers starting nose tackle Casey Hampton has been banged up with a bad shoulder. “Don’t worry about that,” Hoke said.

(A quick side note: Eason, along with fellow long-time D-line vet Vonnie Holliday, have fit perfectly into their roles. Would each like to play more? Yes. But both have embraced their jobs as wise sages in the locker room, there to mainly support guys like Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams and David Carter.)

“Is Casey playing? Why can’t you tell me? We aren’t friends?” Eason repeated through his grin, only to get the same, “Don’t worry about that” answer from Hoke. “So we’re enemies now,” Eason said. “I thought we were boys. That’s how you’re gonna act.”

It was Hoke’s turn to dig, noting that “Ramon” — Steelers offensive lineman Ramon Foster — told Hoke he was going to “pancake” Eason. That drew another grin from Eason. “You tell Ramon he ain’t gonna be able to move me,” the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Eason said. “He never has, and he’s not going to start now.”

There are only three ex-Steelers playing for the Cards right now: Eason and linebackers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans (cornerback Crezdon Butler is on IR). For all the ties to Pittsburgh — and there are still plenty on the coaching staff — the Cards have looked to downplay that aspect of the game this week. Eason is no exception, save for his jabs to Hoke.

“I’m not jacked up,” Eason said. “Obviously, it’s a dominant opponent. Pittsburgh is a dominate team. You’ve got to give it to them. But right now we are 1-4. I just want a win here. I don’t care if it was whomever, it’s the next game. And we need a win.”


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Waiting on CBA, and other notes

Posted by Darren Urban on August 3, 2011 – 12:44 pm

Everyone has been waiting for Thursday, because practice  begins for all the players who just signed contracts.

Probably.

The Thursday deadline was based on the idea the new collective bargaining agreement would be ratified. It has not been yet.

“Everybody wants to get out there and everyone is chomping at the bit,” said kicker Jay Feely, the Cardinals’ union representative. “No one wants to sit on the sidelines. But they can’t get out there until it is done. We’ve been shooting for tomorrow all along and as of (Tuesday) I was still being told it would be tomorrow hopefully. But we don’t have anything definitive yet.”

There were issues left that couldn’t be bargained until the union recertified, like drug policies, benefits and player conduct policies. That is what is still being dealt with. One thing is for certain — no one wants to wait.

— Rookie CB Patrick Peterson is changing his jersey number to 21, with safety Hamza Abdullah switching from 21 to 23. A couple other holdovers are also switching, with WR Max Komar going from 18 to 10 and Stephen Williams from 14 to 18.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he doesn’t questions the toughness of RB Beanie Wells. But when it came to dealing with the knee injury last season and the aftereffects, “quite frankly, he didn’t handle it as well as he could have.”

— I know a lot of people keep asking about the backup nose tackle behind Dan Williams. Having looked at new defensive lineman Nick Eason, he definitely could fill in at the spot if needed. He’s a wide-body. And again, rookie David Carter is taking snaps there.


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Sendlein comes back, and other adds

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2011 – 7:49 pm

This morning came the news G Daryn Colledge agreed to terms. Then came the Kolb trade.

Tonight, ESPN said the Cards agreed with Steelers DE Nick Eason, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter said center Lyle Sendlein has agreed to come back. And the Cards are still in on Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley. (Kent Somers reported that LB Joey Porter, who was in in the morning working out, agreed to restructure his deal, keeping him on the roster). And CB Michael Adams tweeted he was flying to Phoenix “with a smile on my face” so it sounds like he’s coming back as well.

Tomorrow at 3 p.m., all these things can be official, so I expect more news then. Probably some rookie announcements. It’s all moving pretty fast.


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The search goes on

Posted by Darren Urban on March 9, 2010 – 7:12 pm

The Cardinals didn’t make any official moves Tuesday, but there is the sense they are headed in that direction. That’s what happened when the Browns cut quarterback Derek Anderson. Is Anderson the answer to add to Matt Leinart? I know they like Anderson. I know he’s someone they wanted to look at if he got released, which was expected all along. That happened the same day it came out the Cards are going to have Chargers restricted free agent Charlie Whitehurst for a visit (Whitehurst was tendered at a third-round pick meaning the Cards would have to give up such a pick if Whitehurst signed an offer sheet and the Chargers didn’t match). The Cards and Chargers could work out a deal for a lesser pick.

And as a quick aside: It’s funny to me to a point that people are making a big deal (in this case, profootballtalk.com but that’s not the only place) about coach Ken Whisenhunt declining to “give” Leinart the starting job. Whisenhunt doesn’t give out starting jobs. Heck, Kurt Warner had more touchdown passes the last eight games of the 2007 season — more than Tom Brady in that span in the year Brady threw for an NFL-record 50 — while Leinart struggled before his injury that season, and Warner still had to compete with Leinart and beat him out in training camp 2008. Leinart needs to prove himself, yes. He’s not going to be able to be terrible and keep the job. But does anyone doubt he goes into the offseason as the No. 1 regardless of whom the Cards sign? He’s been in the offense since 2007 and anyone else — say, Anderson — would be brand new.

Anyway, the Cards are looking in other places. Offensive lineman Wade Smith and defensive end Nick Eason finished their visits Tuesday, and offensive lineman Rex Hadnot and Whitehurst are due tonight. Linebackers Joey Porter and Larry Foote are expected Wednesday night, as the Cards try to reunite a Steelers linebackers corp (with Clark Haggans). I know a lot of people are wondering if guys will sign soon, especially Porter and/or Foote. I would think they would both want to be in Arizona, given their other (known) options and the Steelers ties. Foote thinks his market has been set by the Browns’ deal with Scott Fujita. That seems pricey, but not out of line given the market. And you know Porter is going to want to be paid as a pass rusher. That always can slow down the process.


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Here come the visits

Posted by Darren Urban on March 8, 2010 – 3:48 pm

Reports are now coming about multiple free-agent visits for the Cards. Fox Sports’s Alex Marvez reports that Browns offensive lineman Rex Hadnot is coming in Tuesday night, while ESPN’s Adam Schefter says Steelers defensive end Nick Eason and Chiefs offensive lineman Wade Smith will come in tonight. Again, none of the names are sexy and probably not even as starters. But it is about building depth on the lines.

Linebackers Larry Foote and Joey Porter are also reportedly going to visit later this week.


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