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(A quiet) Friday before the Raiders

Posted by Darren Urban on October 17, 2014 – 4:46 pm

Oh, there was still drama Friday that impacted the Cardinals, but for the first time in a couple of weeks, it wasn’t directly related to the Cardinals themselves. Instead, the Seahawks traded (the guy who seemed to be a dangerous) playmaker Percy Harvin to the Jets. That means the Cards never had to play against the guy when he was in Seattle – he was injured for both 2013 meetings, and the Cards have yet to play the Seahawks this season. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about why Harvin was dumped soon – a lot of stuff out there already basically saying Harvin had worn out his welcome – but the Cards aren’t going to be dealing with him.

Otherwise, it was a boring Friday for the Cards as they prepare for their road trip to Oakland. That’s a good thing. No quarterback questions. No wondering about chop block fines. No new injuries. Just a game.

How about that?

— Bruce Arians all but scoffed at the idea of trap games, and the way he and his staff operates, that doesn’t surprise me. There has been zero looking ahead (Philly and Dallas are up next) from what I have heard/can tell. Arians did say the Cards can’t be as listless to start in Oakland as they were against Washington and I totally agree. The lesson hopefully was learned.

— Speaking of listless, the last time the Cardinals went to Oakland for a regular-season game was 2006. It was a disaster. It was a week after the Cardinals had the infamous Monday Night Meltdown and Denny popped off (hey, that eight-year anniversary, by the way, was yesterday!) The Cardinals had fallen to 1-5, but we’re playing the 0-5 Raiders and the I-don’t-give-a-flip version of Randy Moss. The Cards were terrible. Moss actually scored a TD. That was a long time ago.

— Andre Ellington believes the run game is close. He actually said he feels more fresh right now than he probably should, because his foot injury means he doesn’t do as much as practice as he normally would. Ellington has also be careful, as he was going to have to, of getting down on plays once he figures out he’s not going to gain any more yards.

It was noticeable against Washington, and I even heard from a couple of fans wondering why he was going down so easily. In the end, Ellington said, it’s about thinking big picture.

“I don’t have the strength to fight away from tackles,” Ellington said. “I try to do myself justice by getting down and getting ready for the next play.

“(Other people) are not out there taking those hits like I have to. I feel like once I get all I can get, I’m going to go down. I moreso do it on plays when I get a big gain. If it’s third-and-one, I’m going to fight for that yard.”

— Ellington also said the Cardinals would have “some surprises” in the run game Sunday. We’ll see what that means.

— Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker was fined $10,000 for ripping the helmet off quarterback Carson Palmer on that in-the-grasp-probably-should-have-been-a-sack pass completion Palmer made to Robert Hughes. Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson was fined $16,537 for a horsecollar tackle on the sideline made on safety Rashad Johnson after Johnson’s first interception. Neither play drew a flag from the officials (although Dan Williams, Jared Veldheer and Tony Jefferson tried to get in Jackson’s face after the play.)

— Running back Marion Grice got a few first-team reps at running back this week, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said, although Goodwin made it sound it was more exploratory rather a harbinger of anything imminent. Goodwin also reiterated he thinks Grice can perform all the same tasks as Ellington.

— The Cardinals are third in the NFL in run defense, meaning they moved up in the rankings even after losing Calais Campbell and Matt Shaughnessy. Now they face the next-to-last rushing team in the league.

— How about Dan Williams playing some defensive end? The nose tackle likes it. “I’ll take it where I can get it,” Williams said. “It kind of reminded me of college a little bit. I haven’t played that much end since my rookie year.”

— You just get a feeling Patrick Peterson is motivated to have a big game Sunday.

— You know the Raiders buried a football? That’s what interim coach Tony Sparano did with his team, symbolizing the end of the poor play that culminated with coach Dennis Allen’s firing.

“If you keep looking back with that same old mindset like, ‘Oh, yeah man, we can’t do it because this, this and that, we already lost five games,’ well you defeated yourself before you even tried to get on the field and to make something happen,” Raiders defensive end and former Cardinal Antonio Smith said. “I think that was the main thing that Tony was trying to symbolize when burying that ball—burying whoever you were before that day, whatever team we were before that day.”

The Raiders played better last week. But they still lost. The Cards don’t want that changing. Not yet.

FriRaidersUSE


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Winston moves to the first unit

Posted by Darren Urban on July 30, 2013 – 5:17 pm

It took only four practices before the Cardinals moved newly signed veteran right tackle to the first unit, supplanting Bobby Massie. There Winston was Tuesday for the Cards’ fifth practice, next to guard Paul Fanaika (who is in for the injured Daryn Colledge) as the Cardinals continue to evaluate what they want to do with the offensive line.

“I don’t assume anything in the business anymore after the odyssey I’ve been on,” Winston said of his promotion. “I come to every camp to work hard and earn my stripes. I believe in that and I believe that’s the only way that you are going to make teams consistently. It doesn’t matter what team I am on, I’m getting reps, I’m getting seen and you have to make the most of it. Whether it’s the first team or the third team, I’m going to continue to work hard and try to be the guy they brought in here.”

Winston (below, next to Fanaika) said the line is going to be a work in progress “for a little while” and that isn’t surprising. Tuesday’s move doesn’t necessarily signal the end of Massie’s hopes, just like it isn’t inconceivable for second-string Nate Potter to surpass Levi Brown at left tackle at some point. It was interesting to hear Bruce Arians praise Fanaika too earlier Tuesday. Not that Colledge’s spot is in trouble, but it’s easy to believe these jobs are as open as Arians promises.

— Patrick Peterson made a nice interception Tuesday afternoon, then pitched the ball to safety Rashad Johnson. As the multi-talented Kent Somers noted, it’s hard to see Peterson giving up the ball in a real game. He wants to make something happen.

— Speaking of that, another few plays for Peterson on offense Tuesday. At one point, he ran a play on offense and when it was over, raced back to toss his white tank top to a ball boy before scrambling to play defense on the very next snap. He’s going to get tired running around like that.

— DE Calais Campbell came out late in the practice but he still had his helmet on the sideline so I’m not sure if that meant something happened to him or others were just getting reps.

— Seahawks WR Percy Harvin reported on Twitter he has to have hip surgery. A huge blow to Seattle and now, the top two teams in the division are missing their top receivers with injuries (SF and Michael Crabtree.) Harvin might be back for the second Cards-Seahawks game in December but he figures to miss the Thursday night game in Arizona in October.

— The players are off tomorrow. Practice resumes Thursday with a closed workout at the team’s Tempe facility. They come back to University of Phoenix Stadium Friday for an open practice.

65use


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Winston, Abraham and churning the roster

Posted by Darren Urban on July 25, 2013 – 5:26 pm

At Denny Green’s first training camp in 2004, the roster was in constant flux. That was the camp in which Pete Kendall was axed as he came in to take his physical on report day, and a few weeks later, when the team spent an extra week in Prescott following their Flagstaff stint, there was a revolving door on the roster. I remember a couple of veterans being signed the first day in Prescott and getting released a day or two later, without getting in a game or anything (if memory serves, I think one was DE Joe Tafoya, who a couple years later re-signed and played some with the Cards.)

That’s what went through my mind Thursday with new players coming in and seeing O’Brien Schofield. He walked out on the field for the conditioning test — shaking hands with rookie linebacker Alex Okafor at one point — before going back to the locker room with someone from the front office. It didn’t look promising at the time for the fourth-year linebacker and it wasn’t — he was released on the day when tackle Eric Winston and linebacker John Abraham (along with the inexperienced LB Kenny Rowe) were added.

For those keeping track at home, by the way, the Cards have a pair of open roster spots still, after Ryan Swope was placed on the reserve-retired list.

It was a head-spinning day. The action all came from Steve Keim’s men upstairs, even while the players got in a conditioning test that was mostly a formality in this day and age when guys are always in condition. “It’s a cold business some days,” coach Bruce Arians said, and that was underscored Thursday.

— O’Brien Schofield is a good guy. Great in the locker room. A great story, after blowing out his knee in Senior Bowl practices back in 2010. Worked hard to rehab and to become an pass rushing force at outside linebacker. But he never was able to make that solid step forward, and when he suffered yet another serious injury last year when Darnell Dockett fell on his leg, and a new coaching staff came in, that doesn’t bode well for guys like Schofield. He’d be here if the Abraham signing hadn’t worked out. But with Abraham and Acho and Alexander and Okafor around as outside linebackers — and that doesn’t include Matt Shaughnessy, who spent the offseason working mostly with the linebackers and not the defensive line. The numbers were daunting, and Schofield found himself headed out.

— That Swope is now on the reserve-retired list because of concussions isn’t a shock. He suffered a concussion in an OTA early in the offseason and then was absent from the Cards’ facility. That’s never a good sign. Hindsight is 20/20, but as Keim said, the team knew the risk when they took Swope and decided at the time it was a good decision. They did have two sixth-round picks. Putting Swope on the reserve list does allow the Cards to keep his rights, interesting when Swope says in a statement that he plans to reassess his football career next year. Would he play again?

— Many props nationally for the Cards on getting Abraham and Winston. For the price, for this team. Arians said today talent was not going to be an excuse for this team, and while the other three teams in the division are impressive, Keim is doing what he can to get the Cards into the mix.

— Speaking of the division, Seahawks WR Percy Harvin is having hip troubles and coach Pete Carroll acknowledged surgery could be an option. Yikes.

— Winston, on Sirius XM NFL Radio, talking about his contract dealings with the Cards: “We started these conversations a while ago. Probably around, I would say, the end of OTAs and they kind of progressed through the summer and got to a point where we felt like it was right to go ahead and have a conversation. I flew into Arizona last week and we progressed on terms and we came to this point.”

I’m curious to see how the Abraham stuff came down too.

Meanwhile, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the roster churn continue. Interesting to hear Arians say he won’t make any judgements on the offensive linemen until Wednesday, when they’ve had some days in pads. Wednesday, the players are off. Would the Cards make more changes then?


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No more Beanie, and new wideouts hit NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2013 – 2:13 pm

I thought the day before free agency began was supposed to be quiet.

Instead, it most certainly has not been, not for anyone following the Cardinals. The Cards continued to make moves by cutting running back Beanie Wells — more on that in a minute — while NFC West foes Seattle and San Francisco set up trades for Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin and Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin, respectively. Those teams were already set up for success and obviously, both players make them better.

(The deals, which can’t be made official before tomorrow at the earliest, are different in nature, though. The Seahawks gave up a three-pick haul for Harvin, including their first-round pick, and will need to sign him to an extension. The 49ers gave up just a sixth-round pick because everyone knew the Ravens were going to cut Boldin, and that could very well be a one-year rental depending on why direction the Niners want to go in 2014. Boldin has one year left on his contract. The Boldin deal can’t be completed before he takes a physical either, and that comes after he completes his trip to Africa with Fitz.)

In the meantime, the Cardinals let Wells go. Beanie always knew it was a likely result. He believes he can rebound from his knee problems at age 24 but they have dogged him for more than a year now. When healthy — heck, even when kind of healthy in 2011 — Wells could run over opponents with the best of them. He had some runs as a rookie on that 10-win 2009 team that made you wonder why he wasn’t playing more. But when you don’t catch passes or block tremendously well, when running is mostly what you do, you need to be able to do that often. He didn’t miss a ton of games before last season but going forward, with a new offense, the marriage between the Cards and Beanie didn’t make a lot of sense to continue.

Next at running back? Ryan Williams will get a shot, I’d think, depending on free agency. The Reggie Bush buzz will be floating out there until Bush signs somewhere. Maybe it’s him. Maybe someone else. Maybe the draft makes sense. But if you are certain you will get a big name back there, remember the Colts and Bruce Arians rode Vick Ballard last year and no one knew who Vick Ballard was before that. There has been zero talk about LaRod Stephens-Howling so I’m not sure if he is still an option to be re-signed. The overhaul continues.

BeanieVikingsUSEblig

 


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Friday before the Vikings

Posted by Darren Urban on October 19, 2012 – 4:58 pm

Trips to Minnesota since I’ve been covering the Cardinals have frequently ended poorly. OK, not frequently. Always. My first trip there was for a 2000 preseason game, where four or five Cardinals suffered serious injuries on the one-time crappy turf, including the ACL tear for wide receiver Rob Moore. There were not very close losses in 2000 and 2006 (although the Cards were a Hail Mary away at the end to get an amazing comeback). There was the 2010 loss, which looked like it was in the bag with a two-touchdown lead with six minutes left (Favred!) and then last year, when the Cards simply melted down in the first quarter.

Year-to-year doesn’t matter – it’s a new team here, the Vikings are a new team, and for the most part, nothing carries over – but that’s at least the backdrop for the Cards this weekend. I don’t need to get into the schedule again (but if you forgot, it’s Niners, Packers, Falcons in the next three games) but this is important. The coaches know it. So do the players.

— This is an early game, kickoff 10 a.m. Arizona time. The Cards had one of those in New England, but that was after flying in on a Friday. The Cards don’t fly to Minnesota until tomorrow. They can’t afford to sleepwalk through the first quarter.

— I watched the video of Vikings defensive end Jared Allen meeting with the Minnesota media. Not surprisingly, he was asked multiple times about the Cards surrendering 22 sacks the past three games and the opportunity he had. Not surprisingly, he dodged bulletin-board material. Who knows? Maybe he actually made a good point:

“I’ve been in this league for so long, I’ve played teams where they’ve given up … I always go back to the Texans, who had given up, like, 50 sacks and we came in there like Week 10 or Week 11 (when he was with the Chiefs),” Allen said. “All we saw were bootlegs. Teams also know that. So you can’t sit there and say, ‘We’re going to lick our chops and get after the quarterback,’ because you’re going to get burned in the run.”

The Allen pass rush – he’s only got four sacks this season, below expectations — will be under the microscope Sunday, whether it is against D’Anthony Batiste or Bobby Massie.

— Linebacker Daryl Washington repeated the same message over and over: We have to stop 12 and 28. That’s Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson, in case you weren’t sure. Obvious, yes. But last year, quarterback Donovan McNabb was god-awful against the Cards (another reason why it confounds me a Cardinals fan would suggest signing McNabb) and yet the Vikings rolled. Peterson was awesome (three first-quarter TDs) and Harvin is a Swiss knife of a playmaker.

— Speaking of Peterson, it is still amazing he has returned from ACL surgery so quickly (he blew out his knee Christmas Eve 2011). He already has 499 yards rushing. “He’s not quite as bombastic in what he used to do,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton said, “but he still has our full respect.”

“He just never ever doubted,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “The only time he showed any doubt was when we were flying back from the game when he was injured in Washington. But after that it was full speed ahead from a mental standpoint and he’s never regressed.”

— The Cards are allowing just 16.2 points a game, fourth in the NFL behind the Bears, 49ers and Seahawks. Whatever the rest of the stats say, that works for Horton. “That’s the only stat that should be measured,” Horton said.

— It hurts to be missing safety Kerry Rhodes, down with the bad back. That means the Cards will have gone through a game without Rhodes, Adrian Wilson and Darnell Dockett so far. It’d be nice to have all the key pieces in place, and Rhodes is having a pretty good year. Horton more or less shrugged it off. “Hopefully we’re not built like a house of cards where one guy gets hurt it is doom and gloom,” he said. “I don’t think we are built that way.”

— In case you missed it, my visit this summer to Minnesota turned into this story about how Larry Fitzgerald loves his home state. (But don’t worry, he loves being in Arizona too.)

— Minnesota native Michael Floyd isn’t getting the kind of work he was hoping – 7 catches, 84 yards – but he’s hanging in there. “The ball doesn’t come that way often, so when it does, you have to make the play,” he said. Floyd made the spectacular catch against the Bills after failing to come down with one a couple of weeks previous. Both Ken Whisenhunt and offensive coordinator Mike Miller say Floyd is doing fine in his steps forward.

“If we were doing better offensively (overall), he’d probably be more involved, have more statistics,” Whisenhunt said.

John Skelton, you’re up.


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