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Breaking down the roster

Posted by Darren Urban on January 21, 2010 – 12:35 pm

Right now, the Cards are knee-deep in offseason meetings, meaning I haven’t had a chance to talk to general manager Rod Graves for a story. That will be coming. In the meantime, I have collected all the contract situations (at least, organizing what year each player is signed through, or their free agent status) in a file you can find right here. It doesn’t cover every single player on the roster but it has everyone I considered a contributor this season or someone who needed to be addressed.

Officially the Cards have 14 unrestricted free agents and 10 restricted (the numbers would have been 17 and 7, but Gabe Watson, Deuce Lutui and Jerheme Urban all are going to be hamstrung by the new rules when the NFL deals with an uncapped offseason). On offense, the Cards seem to be in good shape. Starters Dan Kreider (FB), Anthony Becht (TE), Sean Morey (special teams) and Mike Gandy (T) — along with Jeremy Bridges (G/T) are unrestricted. Bigger questions are on defense, where Karlos Dansby (LB) and Matt Ware (S) could walk away, and the Cards are in transition with veteran UFAs like Bryan Robinson, Chike Okeafor, Bertrand Berry, Ralph Brown and Monty Beisel.


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Packers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on January 3, 2010 – 10:56 pm

On Friday, with the Cardinals options still wide open, veteran defensive back Ralph Brown was talking about going into the regular-season finale against the Packers and the idea, should the Vikings win early, the game wouldn’t mean much.

“I wish it wouldn’t have been brought up,” Brown said, “so we could just go out and play football and coaches could have just pulled guys during the game. But now, you have guys calculating stuff, talking in the locker room. I know guys will play hard but now we are thinking about different scenarios when we should just be thinking about playing the game.”

Brown’s thoughts proved prophetic. The Vikings won and the Cards simply couldn’t muster the drive to get up for what was next. It didn’t help them Sunday. The question is this: Does it really matter?

“If this happens next week, bring me the same question and I will try and dissect it for you,” defensive tackle Bryan Robinson said.

— Obviously the big story – maybe the only story – was injuries. If the air wasn’t already out of the Cards following the Vikings result, it disappeared after cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie went off. It turned out that DRC’s knee injury wasn’t as bad as it first looked, but that doesn’t mean (despite what he says) he’ll definitely be back.

— Same with Anquan Boldin’s knee/ankle and Calais Campbell’s thumb. It’s premature to guess one way or the other. At least the Cards will have an extra day – with the playoff game Sunday – to recover. It’s an important detail.

— I suppose the argument will rage, at least for a couple days, which players should have been in or not. I don’t see how anyone can quibble with DRC’s wrong-place-wrong-time. It was the third play of the game. DRC wasn’t going to sit altogether; no one but Bertrand Berry (who was out because he doesn’t play special teams) got to do that. Certainly you’re not going to sit your young legs.

Campbell was in and out, but with Robinson and Darnell Dockett not playing, Campbell couldn’t leave the game for good.

— I was a little surprised to see Boldin still in the game, but Larry Fitzgerald played even longer than that. I feel OK with Boldin’s situation after though. Normally, Boldin is pretty taciturn after games, dressing facing into his locker and often answering questions that way. Given the situation, the media group – about 15 people – quietly waited for Boldin to be ready, until he half-turned and chuckled, asking the group, “Why is everyone so quiet?” It was too light-hearted a moment for a guy who would have been ticked off about his injury (which he normally is with a bad injury).

— Speaking of Fitz, that 13th TD and getting to 100 catches mean something to him, and I am sure that played a large role in him playing the full game.

— Not a good game for Matt Leinart. He obviously knew it. His body language was demonstrative after his mistakes and even on his incompletions, he was too often off-target. It probably won’t matter in the short-term in the playoffs, and it was interesting that coach Ken Whisenhunt made sure to say the showing didn’t change his confidence in Leinart.

— Mostly, though, it was so hard to take much of anything out of Sunday. Backups played and game-plans were limited. And the Cards will be lumped in with the Bengals (and to a lesser extent, the Colts) in the playoffs. If those teams, which stumbled late by gearing back before the playoffs, win in the postseason, no one will care. If not, everyone will wonder why they geared back.

Maybe it’s part of a master plan to get back to last postseason’s us-against-the-world status. “You know, just between you and me, Coach talked about that this week, ‘Let’s go out there and let’s let all the TV pundits and everybody bury us,” cracked receiver Jerheme Urban. “That way we can be the underdog again.” (Just in case anyone wasn’t sure, Urban was joking).

Do the Cards need to be the underdog again? Who knows. Until next Sunday, when we see the Cards really try against the Packers for the first time in three attempts this season, no one does.


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More on the Miracle Baby

Posted by Darren Urban on October 22, 2009 – 10:50 am

To follow up a bit on my story yesterday on Steve Breaston, everything about him seems to scream overachiever, including the way he was born. Long-time readers of this blog know my affinity for the story behind the Miracle Baby and he’s been overcoming things ever since. QB Kurt Warner and WR Larry Fitzgerald marvel at the way Breaston seems to get the job done even when he doesn’t necessarily look, in Warner’s words, “orthodox.”

Veteran cornerback Ralph Brown, a sage of the locker room who seems to be able to sit in his corner and have a true perspective of the goings-on, talked a little about Breaston’s emergence from then (rookie in 2007) to now. “I saw the potential his rookie year: the speed, the eagerness to learn. I knew he had the potential to get to where he is, but I didn’t know how fast he was going to be able to get there, for him to be as confident and aggressive and as important to this team as he is now. It’s amazing and I am proud of what he has done. You can see it in his eyes, when he works on and off the field.”

 Brown also noted how Breaston is playing through his knee injury. “We know he’s not 100 percent, but on the field (in Seattle), he looked 100 percent.”

That can’t be discounted. As I mentioned in my story, his ability to quietly do his job — well — while meshing with everyone else has been impressive. When you see him up close and hear him talk, he’s not a guy you’d immediately peg as tough and fearless. But that’s exactly what Breaston is. Some of that rubbed off from Anquan Boldin, who was a big influence on Breaston when he first arrived, but some of that is just inherent.

BreastonFitzBlog

 


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Broncos aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 4, 2009 – 1:22 am

This aftermath comes directly from the final charter flight of the preseason, late night Thursday (and by the time it’s posted, it’ll be Friday, when everyone is sleeping). One thing coach Ken Whisenhunt said that seems perfectly rational – it’s so hard to judge the fourth preseason game, more than any of the other preseason matchups. The second half is littered with guys on both sides who either aren’t going to be on the roster when the season starts or will play little on offense or defense (if they are active at all). Is there reason to be concerned? Clearly, guys like Adrian Wilson, Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald didn’t seem particularly happy. Ultimately, though, it’s impossible to know what this all means until the 49ers visit in 10 days or so.

So, knowing what we know (or can’t really know, since it’s the fourth preseason game), here are some thoughts:

— Very interesting that Whisenhunt went out of his way to praise cornerback Michael Adams after the game. Ralph Brown and Bryant McFadden weren’t playing because of bad ankles, and, especially since Adams can be so effective as a gunner in punt coverage, I’m beginning to think he’s made this roster. You never know, but when you’re on the bubble and the coach is delivering specific kudos, that’s a good sign.

— On the flip side, it’s hard to see Lance Long having a chance to make the team. He has played a ton the past two games and yet it doesn’t seem like he has left enough of a lasting impression.

— All through the preseason, Warner has downplayed the offense’s issues, saying how good he felt despite the results. That seems to have changed to an extent. Warner knows what this offense can do, but he talked about not being on the same page and Whisenhunt talked about being out of sync. Some of that may do with the receivers; Steve Breaston was clearly rusty (he lined up wrong twice and was flagged for ‘covering up’ a lineman or tight end in an illegal formation) and Anquan Boldin isn’t playing. But Fitzgerald is fine and Warner couldn’t hook up with him a time or two. It’s hard not to remember how the offense sputtered a bit in the season opener against the 49ers last season despite a win and wonder if it could happen again.

— It’s impossible to know what the defense was or who was supposed to be where, but the lone big play given up by the starting defense came when the Chad Jackson got past Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The Cards need big things from DRC; you just hope his confidence is still where it needs to be. I’m sure he’s not looking at these past two games as résumé material.

That’s really it. Cuts come tomorrow, and as I said in my radio stint before Thursday’s game, I am willing to wager a good amount of money that won’t be it – and that the Cards will bring in a player or two cut from other teams by the time they get back to practice next week (OK, I wouldn’t really wager. Commissioner Goodell would frown upon that, and I’d lose my job. But you get what I mean.)

 BroncosAfterBlog


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One possible 53

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2009 – 6:44 pm

In a couple of days, the Cards and coach Ken Whisenhunt will make their final decisions on an opening day roster (or close to it), trimming another 22 players from the current squad to 53. So that means I make my annual guesstimate on who is in, who is out, and who is truly on the bubble. This is never a foolproof thing; if there is a guy or two who pops available on the waiver wire the Cards want it changes the dynamics of what can happen, and that initial 22 can grow by a name or two to bring in newbies. That certainly happened on the practice squad last year, when the Cards went shopping for new names who weren’t around during training camp.

Again, this is my opinion, based on what I have seen and heard but still my opinion. And it doesn’t factor in what happens in Denver and if a guy wows a coach or two. Or if a guy gets hurt. It’s also just about the 53; for instance, undrafted rookie LB Reggie Walker doesn’t look like he will make the 53-man roster but he’s a guy who should end up on the practice squad. (Speaking of which, * will designate some PS candidates):

QUARTERBACKS
IN
Kurt Warner
Matt Leinart
Brian St. Pierre
OUT
Tyler Palko

WIDE RECEIVERS
IN

Larry Fitzgerald
Anquan Boldin
Steve Breaston
Jerheme Urban
Sean Morey
BUBBLE
Early Doucet
Lance Long*
OUT
Onrea Jones*
Ed Gant
Steve Sanders

RUNNING BACKS/FULLBACKS
IN

Tim Hightower
Beanie Wells
Jason Wright
Dan Kreider
BUBBLE
LaRod Stephens-Howling*
Tim Castille
OUT
Reagan Maui’a
Chris Vincent

TIGHT ENDS
IN

Stephen Spach
Ben Patrick (doesn’t count against the 53 during 4-game suspension)
BUBBLE
Anthony Becht
Leonard Pope
Dominique Byrd

OFFENSIVE LINE
IN

Lyle Sendlein
Reggie Wells
Mike Gandy
Levi Brown
Deuce Lutui
Brandon Keith
Herman Johnson
Melvin Fowler
BUBBLE
Oliver Ross
OUT
Elton Brown
Ben Claxton
Carlton Medder
Trevor Canfield*

DEFENSIVE LINE
IN
Darnell Dockett
Bryan Robinson
Calais Campbell
Kenny Iwebema
Gabe Watson
BUBBLE
Alan Branch
Keilen Dykes*
Rodney Leisle
OUT
Alex Field

LINEBACKERS
IN
Chike Okeafor
Bertrand Berry
Clark Haggans
Karlos Dansby
Gerald Hayes
Will Davis
Victor Hobson
BUBBLE
Ali Highsmith
OUT
Reggie Walker*
David Holloway*
Chase Bullock

CORNERBACKS/SAFETIES
IN
Adrian Wilson
Antrel Rolle
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Bryant McFadden
Greg Toler
Rashad Johnson
Aaron Francisco
Ralph Brown
BUBBLE
Matt Ware
Michael Adams
OUT
Jameel Dowling
Wilrey Fontenot*

SPECIALISTS
IN
Mike Leach
Neil Rackers
Ben Graham


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