The Cardinals, for a second straight season, played three of the teams in the NFL’s final four. It helps that division brother San Francisco has made it in, and the Cardinals had their trouble with the 49ers this season, whether Alex Smith was the quarterback or Colin Kaepernick was calling signals. The games against the other two opponents that have made it to the championship games went a little bit better. The trip to Atlanta was a loss, yes, but it should have been a win with the way the defense played that day, amid the controversy of the benching-Skelton-for-Lindley situation. Obviously, the trip to New England was the Cardinals’ signature victory of the season, complete with late-game dramatics and a heart-stopping ending.
(And a game that seems like it was four years ago, not four months ago.)
It’s the same 1-3 record the Cards had against final four opponents last season. It’s hard to make a lot of comparisons with the way those teams are playing now to when the Cards met them. Even though the 49ers last game before beating up the Packers Saturday night was against Arizona, the game plan devised by the Niners with Kaepernick looked so deadly the other day. The Cards didn’t play great in that finale, but Kaepernick at least didn’t look like a Hall of Famer like he did against Green Bay. The Patriots, who lost tight end Aaron Hernandez early that day against the Cards, have clearly smoothed out the offense. The Falcons just don’t scare anyone, even in their dome, and everyone seems to agree — the Niners are road favorites against the No. 1 seed, for goodness sake.
– In the head coach search, Jay Glazer reported the Cards want to talk to Broncos OC Mike McCoy for a second interview. He was interviewed in Denver the first time so you’d figure everyone would want to get him in the building so he could actually see the physical situation.
Tags: 49ers, Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Falcons, Packers, Patriots
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Perfection isn’t an option. Everyone knows that. But that means a couple of mistakes, not many. If Adrian Wilson is going to miss on a red-zone tackle that ultimately cost the Cardinals four points – the difference between a touchdown and a field goal – then Early Doucet can’t drop a couple of passes that should have gone for first downs, and John Skelton can’t force a ball into coverage that ends up being intercepted (and turned into a field goal) and the defense can’t get caught allowing a 72-yard touchdown pass, whether it was Paris Lenon or someone else.
Both sides of the ball had slow starts again Sunday. That wasn’t happening early in the year. The defense was punctured too many times in the first half. That wasn’t happening earlier in the year. The Cardinals lost again. That wasn’t happening earlier in the year.
What that means on the other side of the upcoming bye – a road trip to the currently undefeated Atlanta Falcons is up next – is anyone’s guess.
“It don’t get no easier, that’s for sure,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said.
Dockett was talking about the schedule. Hopefully he wasn’t foreshadowing how the Cards will play the rest of the season.
– The “big” story of the game, if you want to call it that, was the insertion of Nate Potter at left tackle. I thought during the game he held up well after coming in to replace D’Anthony Batiste in the second quarter. Potter got a lot of first-team work during practice last week so it wasn’t a surprise to see him. I’m guessing we will see him a lot more, and now he’ll have two weeks to prep for what I would suspect will be his first NFL start.
– No idea what has happened to the defense, especially early in games. They are playing well after some time, but those early hiccups are killing the Cards. Clearly the Cards set up to foil the Packers’ passing game Sunday, so the Packers said “OK, we’ll run.” And they ran for a season-high 176 yards, while Aaron Rodgers still got his four TD passes. If Wilson had just been able to make that first tackle of Randall Cobb on the catch-and-run – it was déjà vu of the Michael Crabtree San Francisco in-close catch-and-run – who knows how that might’ve changed things?
– The drops were not good, especially those of Doucet. According to Mike Sando of ESPN.com fame, Doucet already has six drops this season. “I had a couple of plays that I let get away from me,” Doucet said. “I need to do my job.” The question will be how many chances he’ll get to do that. Given Whiz’s post-game comments, this could easily be the point where Michael Floyd gets more playing time going forward. Floyd did have his best overall game, with five catches for 80 yards.
As for Doucet, Whiz shook his head when asked about what was wrong with Early, although he certainly wasn’t going to scapegoat his receiver. “I do not know. I do not know,” Whisenhunt said. “It’s not just him. We missed tackles. We missed a tackle on the first touchdown. There was a busted play on the 72 yard touchdown pass. That’s the point of what I am saying.”
– So much for the sack fest everyone – including me – was expecting. One sack for the Cards, two for the Packers.
– Whisenhunt was asked, again, about the possibility of rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley playing.
“I don’t know if the way that John (Skelton) played today would warrant that,” Whisenhunt said. “We feel like we’re going to go forward looking for the guys that can help us win. If that comes up in that situation, then we will certainly consider it.”
Personally, I didn’t think it was the quarterback play that got the Cards. There may be a point where the record dictates the Cards should try the rookie behind center. I don’t believe this is that time. Not yet.
– The Cards will have a couple of practices this week. There are multiple days off, something I believe is mandated by the CBA. I don’t know if this team needs a break – “After a loss, the one thing you want to do is get back on the field and play,” Lenon said – but I can’t say that I don’t welcome the mental respite.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, D'Anthony Batiste, Darnell Dockett, Early Doucet, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Nate Potter, Packers, Paris Lenon, Ryan Lindley
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I always love when the Cardinals play the Packers because their game notes – fitting a team that’s been around for so long and is steeped in tradition – carry the name “The Dope Sheet,” a phrase directly out of the 1920s. The Packs’ explanation:
Two years after he co-founded the Packers with Curly Lambeau, George Calhoun began writing a piece called The Dope Sheet, which served as the official press release and game program from 1921-24.
Need any Packers’ info? Check The Dope Sheet. This week it has a lot of information about quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is arguably the best in the NFL right now. I think he’d have my vote. If he had a healthy receiving corps this would be a monster task for the Cardinals Sunday. He doesn’t, and that does leave some room for a Cardinals’ team that needs a win. The bye comes after this week for coach Ken Whisenhunt’s crew, and while it would have been great to have it exactly at the halfway point in the schedule, if the Cards can steal one at Lambeau Field before getting some down time, that wouldn’t be too bad.
Here’s some more of my own Cardinals’ dope:
– Defensive coordinator Ray Horton spoke Friday, and a few questions in – and indirectly, since the question that spurred his answer was about clamping down in the red zone – he got to the heart of what he considered the matter.
“I’m surprised the first question wasn’t ‘What happened against San Francisco?’ Tackling,” Horton said. “They threw a number of balls that were short of the first-down marker and we missed tackles and they scored. That’s it. There’s nothing wrong schematically. We have to make the play in front of us. All (of Alex Smith’s) yardage was missed tackles. We had guys in position to make tackles and we didn’t.”
Certainly that’s something that can’t happen against the Packers, although Rodgers and Green Bay tend to throw the ball further down the field in the first place.
– Horton did say the Cards, as much as they could in an NFL world where practice contact is relatively limited, worked on tackling this week.
“An old sage, (Steelers DC) Dick LeBeau, said (tackling) is just want-to,” Horton said. “Guys on this level understand technique and what they are supposed to do. Sometimes it’s ‘I’m going to get this guy on the ground and nobody else.’ Losing four games is disappointing but I was disappointed how we performed tackling San Francisco 49ers.”
– Running back Beanie Wells is supposed to be able to start practicing next week, although because of the bye week, I’d guess he’d start slow. The Cardinals will be limited as it is, with practices scheduled only for Tuesday and Wednesday before getting a few days off. That doesn’t surprise me, given how beat up the roster is. This is a later bye than the Cards have had recently. A break will do some good.
– Daryn Colledge said Packers’ DC Dom Capers will be “out for blood,” which doesn’t sound good when it comes to holding up against the pass rush but could create some lanes for Larry Fitzgerald. Of late, teams have rushed only four or even three, knowing they can get pressure and yet have a bunch of guys for coverage. If the Packers blitz sometimes, you figure there will be more chances for Fitz. But they have to convert.
– It’s the flip side of only nine rushing attempts for seven yards, which is what the Cards ended up with against the 49ers (second fewest rushing yards in a game ever, behind the minus-1 the Cards had against the Giants in 1953), but quarterback John Skelton set personal highs in both attempts (52) and completions (32) last weekend. Obviously, in an ideal world, the Cards won’t have to pass as much.
– The Packers already have their inactive list practically done. Six guys are already listed as out, five of whom are starters – Jennings, Woodson, Kuhn, Perry and Shields. With Jennings already sidelined, the Pack also probably won’t have receiver Jordy Nelson, who didn’t practice all week with a bad hamstring (and with the Packers’ bye waiting too for extra rest.)
– That’s why the Cards need to make sure tight end Jermichael Finley doesn’t go off. Finley hasn’t been the same player since erupting on the Cardinals back in the playoff game of the ages. The Pack are trying to remind him he can be that guy.
– Comon, Money Mike. How about creating some deja vu?
– A gut prediction: Fitz gets 100 yards this week.
– With a road game in a tough place, it’s not difficult to imagine a good start would be a replication of what the Cards did in New England. They only got a field goal on their opening drive, but they ate up clock and took the crowd out of it early. That would be ideal at Lambeau.
So would finding a win. Somehow.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Beanie Wells, Daryn Colledge, Dom Capers, John Skelton, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Adams, Packers, Ray Horton
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The math seems pretty simple.
The Cardinals and Packers are currently tied for the NFL lead with 26 sacks each, and each have a dynamic linebacker who is leading the way (Daryl Washington has eight for the Cardinals, Clay Matthews has nine for the Packers). On the flip side, while it’s known around these part the Cardinals have surrendered the most sacks while on offense (39), the Packers have allowed the second-most sacks (28).
“(The Cardinals) have a have a uniqueness to their pressure in that their interior three guys are all very good pass rushers, which you don’t always see in a 3-4,” said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and certainly it seems that Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett can create more havoc than most 3-4 ends. “This is a unique challenge because it’s a defense that kind of throws a different pressure package at you, so it’s been an intense week of preparation.”
Given all that, it would sure seem like the team that can best protect its quarterback Sunday would gain an advantage. It may not be easy. It also isn’t a surprise to note both teams have had trouble running the ball this season, another way opposing teams can amp up its pass rush — knowing a pass is coming. Of course, in this matchup, props must also belong to defenses that know how to get to a passer. The Cards and coordinator Ray Horton can bring pressure from a lot of different places, and Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers can do the same.
“Dom is one of those guys who wants blood,” said Cardinals guard Daryn Colledge, a former Packer. “He’s got a couple of guys who can rush the passer and the way we are doing pass pro right now, I’d assume those guys want to rush the passer too.”
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Daryl Washington, Daryn Colledge, Packers, sacks
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The NFL and the NFL Referees Association announced Wednesday night the two sides had finally come to an agreement and the regular officials are coming back. It won’t be ratified before Friday and Saturday, but commissioner Roger Goodell lifted the lockout so the game tomorrow night between the Browns and Ravens will be covered by the regular guys.
If nothing else, it takes away a huge distraction from the first few weeks of the season. It was inevitable after the mess Monday night in Seattle The Cardinals had been fortunate in their first three games since there really had been no major issues that affected the outcome (although the extra timeout the refs gave the Seahawks in the opener would have cost the Cards had the Seahawks won late, and imagine if Seattle was 3-0 with two wins it shouldn’t have.)
As it is, the blown call in the Seahawks-Packers game could hurt the Cardinals. The Seahawks are 2-1 and not 1-2 in the NFC West.
“Well it was upsetting, because it does affect us,” Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb said. “In my eyes, it was clearly an interception. Just like anybody else around, it’s something that doesn’t sit well with us, because it directly affects us. That’s unfortunate at this level.”
The Cardinals have been careful not to say much of anything on the subject (although Darnell Dockett did drop an expletive on Twitter Monday night — not that it mattered, because the NFL decided not to fine any players critical and Dockett wasn’t the only one to use such language.) Coach Ken Whisenhunt made sure the message was that the Cards couldn’t let it bother them, no matter who the officials were. “We just want the right calls to be made,” Kolb said.
The official press release listed these particulars for the new eight-year agreement:
The agreement includes the following key terms:
– The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season (or until the official earns 20 years of service). The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.
– Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement, which will have two elements: an annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official that will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019, and a partial match on any additional contribution that an official makes to his 401(k) account.
– Apart from their benefit package, the game officials’ compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.
– Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.
– The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the NFL.
Those are details I’m sure most don’t care about. Most just care that the officials are back. And we’ll see how long it is before someone complains about one of the calls they make.
Tags: Kevin Kolb, officials, Packers, Roger Goodell, Seahawks
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The Cardinals officially have sold out Sunday’s game, meaning it will not be blacked out locally and instead be shown on Fox (Ch. 10) in the Valley. The game is the 61st straight time – out of 61 possibilities – in which the Cards have sold out University of Phoenix Stadium.
That’s an impressive total (46 of those games are from the regular season) but they have a while to go to match the longest streaks. Both the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins have sold out all their regular season games since 1974. The Steelers since 1976. The Jets date back to 1981, the Giants 1981 and the Packers 1989.
Tags: Broncos, Giants, Jets, Packers, Redskins, sellout, Steelers
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It’s very late and the trip to the airport comes very early. So we will make this aftermath brief. At least, that’s the plan as I start.
–What can you really say about the injury to running back Ryan Williams? Horrible. I’ve written it and everyone has said it: There was definitely excitement watching this kid in practice. I really wanted to see him and what he could bring to the table. Now, barring a miracle, there is going to be a long rehab process and a lot of questions about the future.
“We were all excited about him and we saw the stuff he had done in the game and the stuff he had done in practice and the kind of kid he is,” quarterback Kevin Kolb said. “It is a little bit frustrating as an athlete. It doesn’t matter whether he was in green-and-yellow or our colors.”
– What next at running back. Well, the Cards will look at players, and, at least body-wise, I won’t be shocked to see them sign someone. But I like what little I have seen from fourth-stringer Alfonso Smith — the man is very fast — and with the success of so many undrafted running backs, he may just get a shot to team up with Beanie and the Hyphen. If they don’t want to go that route, I could see them waiting until teams make final cuts and see who is out there. I don’t see them chasing some old “name.”
– Beanie really, really has to stay healthy now.
– Somehow, it’s funny to see this tweet from cornerback Patrick Peterson, knowing it is coming from 30,000 feet in the air on the flight home: “The back shoulder fade is a MOTHER!!!!” Welcome to the NFL, PP. A 20-yard score from Rodgers-to-Jennings. You may be the best player coming out in the 2011 draft, but you are still a rookie, and that duo has burned so many cornerbacks already in the league. You live, you learn.
– Quarterback Rich Bartel should have led the Cards to a chance to tie the game late. His end-zone interception was forced, which obviously he knew. Worse, he had rookie wideout DeMarco Sampson wide open over the middle when that play began to break down. Take your six or seven yards and live to fight another day.
– It got lost with a few false starts, but I think the offensive line has held up pretty well in pass protection for Kolb and created some room for Beanie (who ran over a couple people tonight too). You can’t have the penalties period. But decent-with-penalties, for the second game of the preseason, is better than the alternative.
– Wide receiver Stephen Williams made a nice touchdown catch. But he also dropped a couple he needs to make, and he probably could have blocked a little better. These are the things that make a difference when you are trying to decide who makes the roster.
– Darnell Dockett played really well. Don’t know if it was the fact it was the Pack or not, but he was a beast.
That’s enough for now. Someone asked me yesterday what I was looking for in this game. I wanted a steady Kolb — he was OK, although he missed a couple of throws. I wanted the pass rush to pop — and I think it did. And I wanted no injuries.
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Beanie Wells, Darnell Dockett, DeMarco Sampson, Kevin Kolb, Packers, Patrick Peterson, Rich Bartel, Ryan Williams, Stephen Williams
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Tight ends Todd Heap (thumb) and Stephen Spach (calf) are sitting out tonight’s game in Green Bay. Heap would’ve played if this was a regular-season game, but there is no reason to rush it. That opens the door for more playing time for rookie Rob Housler (as well as Jim Dray, fighting to make the roster). Housler did have a touchdown catch last week, so he was of to a good start.
The others sitting out are guard Floyd “Pork Chop” Womack (shoulder) and, of course, safety Adrian Wilson (biceps) and cornerback Michael Adams (knee). Tackle D.J. Young, who missed some practice time with a knee issue, was not ruled out.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, D.J. Young, Floyd Womack, Jim Dray, Michael Adams, Packers, Rob Housler, Stephen Spach, Todd Heap
Posted in Blog | 16 Comments »
Here we are in Titletown, and what do you know, the team that plays here just won a title – and they haven’t played a home game since then. Now the Cards come to visit.
The big “news” today is Jim Trotter’s report about Larry Fitzgerald’s contract talks. Fitz says he won’t talk extension after Sept. 4, but at the same time an agreement is “not too far away.” Trotter says on his own he believes a deal will get done, which I have said all along. Since he talked to Fitz for a good 45 minutes the other day, my guess is Trotter got a good vibe (or something more concrete) from Fitzgerald.
In the meantime …
– It will be interesting to see how the Cards use the pass rushers. Will rookie Sam Acho get some snaps on the right side? How much do they play O’Brien Schofield, knowing he needs as many reps as possible? Coach Ken Whisenhunt said this week that while he wants vets Joey Porter and Clark Haggans to play – the defense is “new” for them too – they don’t need to play as much.
– No way to know how banged up the Cards are right now, but guard Pork Chop Womack did come out of practice yesterday and had his right shoulder wrapped briefly. I expect Deuce Lutui to play regardless even with his conditioning issues, but if Womack can’t go, it probably makes it more important. As was guessed to start camp, Lutui’s story will be one of the main ones to watch.
– Whisenhunt talked about all the back-fade routes the Packers like to run and how it’s high stress on cornerbacks. It’s a good test, especially when seeing where rookie Patrick Peterson is right now in his development.
– And, this time is as good as any, here are a few of the position battles at which you can look (sticking mostly to starting jobs right now, unless something really jumps out at me):
WR – Obviously Fitz will start. Someone asked me if there was a way Early Doucet (pictured below) could beat out Andre Roberts. I don’t think there is going to be one true set No. 2. Roberts is going to get his playing time, but there will be some mixing-and-matching, I’d expect.
TE – Todd Heap and Jeff King are both going to play quite a bit, and I won’t be surprised if the starting lineup a few times includes two tight ends. But King is a very good blocker, and since that is not Heap’s strong suit, don’t be shocked if King gets this nod some of the time.
RT – I still expect Brandon Keith to be the guy here. But don’t underestimate Jeremy Bridges.
RG – Lutui can still make this quite an interesting battle between he and Rex Hadnot. But Hadnot doesn’t have too much to fear if Lutui can’t get his weight/conditioning in order.
ILB – I believe Daryl Washington will start. Paris Lenon is a good soldier who is solid and versatile. Can Stewart Bradley do enough to surpass him on the depth chart? I could see Lenon in a reserve role, able to fill in for both Washington and Bradley. It may be a moot point anyway, since I could see them using all three quite a bit.
CB –Peterson vs. Greg Toler vs. A.J. Jefferson vs. Richard Marshall. In terms of sheer numbers and lack of absolute locks, this position has to be sorted out. Toler and Jefferson remain with the first unit, but to see Peterson and Marshall there to start the season makes sense. So does, quite frankly, any combination of the four. This is why they make preseason, for battles like this.
There are other end-of-the-roster issues to figure out, but like every year, the top 53 probably already has 45 or 46 locks before camp even begins. That may be more true this year than any other, because the chances of an undrafted guy doing enough to make anything more than the practice squad seems slim without an offseason.
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Andre Roberts, Brandon Keith, Clark Haggans, Daryl Washington, Deuce Lutui, Early Doucet, Floyd Womack, Greg Toler, Jeff King, Jeremy Bridges, Joey Porter, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, O'Brien Schofield, Packers, Paris Lenon, Patrick Peterson, Rex Hadnot, Richard Marshall, Sam Acho, Stewart Bradley, Todd Heap
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Dozens of free agents switch teams every year in the NFL. But only a select few are leaving the Super Bowl champions, like new Cardinals guard Daryn Colledge did. A couple of months ago Colledge got his Super Bowl ring, knowing there was a chance he’d be leaving (the one bonus of the lockout — no one had officially “left” the team yet, unlike a normal offseason timeline) and he admitted returning there for Friday’s preseason game will create some emotions.
“I played their five years, I have a ton of friends still on the team, I enjoyed my time there,” Colledge said. “It’s a great place to play – it has a lot of history and a lot of tradition. I won a championship there. But I know my guys are extremely happy for me to be here, I am extremely happy to be here. It’s one of those things, ‘Hey it’s great to see you guys but it’s time for a different chapter.’ “
The ring ceremony was the end of Colledge’s previous story he said. It was a final chance to reminisce about a Super Bowl season and a great moment, but “it was the last page, that final chapter. That book is closed. And they will tell you the same thing.”
Colledge’s story just puts the hyper-focus on the treadmill of the NFL. A dream season is great, especially when it ends the way it did for Colledge and the Packers. Soon, training camp begins again and last year, is, well, last year. The Cardinals went through the same thing after their Super Bowl run. Moving on — fairly quickly — is a requirement.
“It feels like a long time ago,” Colledge said. “But you do have to start back to work. I mean, when was the last time we had a repeat Super Bowl champion? As soon as you put that ring on, bring that trophy home, you are the hunted. And you want to be the team that quietly stalks their way to the championship and not be at the front.”
Tags: Daryn Colledge, Packers
Posted in Blog | 16 Comments »