With the Andy Reid discussion officially over (and it was over last night), the Cardinals’ search for a coach remains with multiple candidates. The Mike McCoy interview will happen this weekend. We’re still waiting for word of a talk with Todd Haley (although Haley reportedly isn’t sure he’d want to leave Pittsburgh.) The Ray Horton talks are done, and I think there is still a chance for another candidate or two to emerge.
(After everything that happened with Reid, I’m not sure the Cards are going to be quite as transparent with announcing potential names at this point. Leaks are going to happen, though.)
I know I mentioned this before but the key phrase in Michael Bidwill’s Monday presser: “It’s not going to move at lightning speed. You don’t want it to, because you learn a lot during your due diligence period.” Bidwill wants to make sure he talks to all the candidates he wants to before making any decisions. That makes sense. This is a huge decision that will impact the next three or four seasons at least.
UPDATE: The interview with GM candidate Morocco Brown of the Redskins took place in Washington D.C. Friday. The McCoy interview comes Saturday in Denver.
— Interesting that Mike Sullivan, the Buccaneers offensive coordinator, reportedly had a good interview with the Bears for their head coaching job and that Bucs QB coach Ron Turner is leaving to coach in college, former Cardinals QB coach John McNulty may not only have a landing spot with friend and Bucs head coach Greg Schiano but could even end up right where he tried to go last year. McNulty, who coached with Schiano at Rutgers, was Schiano’s original choice as OC but the Cardinals wouldn’t release him from his contract to leave, seeking continuity on their staff. The Bucs turned to Sullivan. Now, you’d think McNulty will likely end up on the Tampa staff one way or the other.
Tags: Andy Reid, Buccaneers, John McNulty, Michael Bidwill, Mike McCoy, Ray Horton, Todd Haley
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The Cardinals have asked for and have been granted permission to talk to Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley for the vacant head coaching job. That’s not a surprise. Michael Bidwill has always liked Haley, and was intrigued last year when Haley was interested — after being let go by the Chiefs as head coach — in coming back to be part of Whisenhunt’s staff. And Haley, even when he was Chiefs’ head coach, had expressed his fondness for Arizona and the Cards. He still has a home here.
His stint as K.C. head coach after leaving the Cards as OC after the Super Bowl season started well and devolved quickly until he was fired during the 2011 season. His time in Pittsburgh this past year was filled with some drama as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made some critical comments of Haley’s choices.
Of course, Haley was part of a dynamic offense while in Arizona, developing a close relationship with Kurt Warner and coaxing the next level out of Larry Fitzgerald. He can be confrontational. But you always know where you stand with Haley.
So to recap, here’s where things stand with the Cards’ known candidates as of Thursday morning a little before 10 a.m. Arizona time:
— DC Ray Horton had a good interview, but also felt like he had good interviews with the Browns and Bills.
— Andy Reid is, as of now, still supposed to interview with the Cards at some point, but had an extended interview with the Chiefs Wednesday and many reports have Reid closing in on a deal with the Chiefs. Howard Eskin says Reid won’t make it to Arizona. Then again, many reports had him closing in on a deal with the Cards a couple days ago, and that turned out to be a fallacy.
— The Cards are still scheduled to meet with Broncos OC Mike McCoy this weekend.
— Now Haley figures to be in the mix whenever they can line up an interview.
— For the general manager spot, in-house candidate Steve Keim was having his interview this week, and the Cards will also interview Redskins director of pro personnel Morocco Brown. Keim feels like the favorite there to me, but who knows. Keim is still reportedly going to interview with the Chargers and Jaguars for their GM posts.
Got all that?
— Also, Ken Whisenhunt interviewed not only with the Bills but also the Browns for their vacant jobs.
Tags: Andy Reid, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Mike McCoy, Morocco Brown, Ray Horton, Steve Keim, Todd Haley
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First, a disclaimer: I have zero idea whom Ray Horton — if he were hired as Cardinals’ head coach — would hire as his offensive assistants, including coordinator. Horton said he knows who he would have on his staff, but alas, he isn’t sharing those names. This next anecdote, then, might just be an interesting story and nothing more.
But, for those asking, Horton not only has a strong connection with former Chargers head coach-and-pretty-good-offensive-coordinator Norv Turner, but a memorable moment too. Horton was finishing his playing days as a defensive back with the Dallas Cowboys in 1991 and 1992, which were the first two of Turner’s three seasons as OC for the juggernaut Cowboys back in the day.
Horton explained their relationship, which I chronicled back in a story when Horton arrived in Arizona in 2011:
The greatest compliment Horton said he ever received came from Norv Turner, who was the offensive coordinator for the Cowboys during Horton’s playing days in Dallas. As Horton’s NFL career came to a close, Turner – who figured to get a head coaching opportunity soon – asked Horton to be on his staff, whenever that might be.
Horton was perplexed. He talked to a lot of coaches in Dallas, but they were defensive coaches, given Horton’s position. He hadn’t interacted with Turner nearly enough to produce an invitation to work for him. Turner told him he wanted Horton because all the Dallas defensive coaches spoke so highly of him – and that willingness from Turner sticks with Horton to this day.
When Turner ended up as the Washington Redskins head coach in 1994, he indeed brought Horton aboard. Horton was on Turner’s staff for three seasons as a assistant defensive backs coach and defensive assistant before he was plucked to be defensive backs coach in Cincinnati. So yes, there is definitely a connection with Horton and Turner. Does that mean Horton would reach out to Turner to be OC? Again, no way to know. But it wouldn’t be a shock given their history.
— More updates on the general manager front. I’d expect in-house candidate Steve Keim to be interviewed this week. Keim is also reportedly going to interview for the GM jobs in both San Diego and Jacksonville. Tim Graham also reported that the Cardinals will interview Redskins director of pro personnel Morocco Brown — he’s held his post for five years — for the GM job. The Rooney Rule also governs general manager searches, and Brown would fulfill that requirement for the Cards. Coincidentally, Brown, like Keim, played football at North Carolina State (although Keim was gone by the time Brown arrived there.) UPDATE: The Brown interview has been confirmed.
Tags: Morocco Brown, Norv Turner, Ray Horton, Redskins, Steve Keim
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The news will move quickly now, on to potential candidates for both head coach and general manager, and the new offensive assistants that will take the places of the ones let go. On the NFL’s “Black Monday,” after weeks of speculation that changes were probably going to happen, the actual move has a relatively short shelf life.
The Cardinals needed to make some changes. That’s what happens after struggles and non-playoff years and extended losing streaks. But make no mistake, both Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves deserve to get credit for where this team was a few years ago, during division titles and a run to a Super Bowl. They had help from their players and coaches, yes, but they were part of the equation.
So many want to say that Kurt Warner was the reason this team scaled its heights, and Kurt for sure deserves that. But Warner was also in Arizona for two years before Whisenhunt arrived and never took the team anywhere close to where it went after Whiz’s arrival. Warner got benched by Denny Green, was booed off the field at UoP. Warner helped Whiz but Whiz helped Warner, got him to change the way he handled the pocket. It made a difference. Whiz, and Graves, collected a team that could make steps forward. Yes, Whiz inherited good players but he got those good players winning in a way they never had before.
And Graves was there helping collect those players even before Whisenhunt arrived.
There will be criticisms of both, and that’s fair. Whisenhunt said it yesterday after the Niners’ loss — “Bottom line, we didn’t win enough games.” There is plenty of blame to go around when you lose nine in a row, or six in a row last year, or seven in a row in 2010, but it’s never completely black and white. In a lot of ways, this comes down to the quarterback. There is little question the position could have — and probably should have — been handled differently after Warner retired. But without a top-notch quarterback, winning in the NFL is a difficult chore, regardless of anything else going on. Yes, the offensive line has been under-addressed, but I just don’t believe that it’s something consistent QB play couldn’t have overcome.
So the Cards move on. Both defensive coordinator Ray Horton and VP of player personnel Steve Keim are expected to be candidates for the coach and GM jobs, respectively. Adam Schefter reported the Cards have also put in for permission to talk to Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. We’ll see what president Michael Bidwill has to say later this afternoon. (The last time the Cards were searching for a head coach, Bidwill let everyone know who was on the list of candidates.)
Change can be good, but change isn’t what you want to have to happen. Stability works in the NFL. The Cards were put in a spot where change was necessary, but the process starts all over again now.
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Michael Bidwill, Mike McCoy, Ray Horton, Rod Graves, Steve Keim
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Next week, Ray Horton figures to get at least one if not several inquiries to interview for vacant head coaching jobs. He already had one last year – with the Rams – and as a minority candidate whose unit has played very good football this season, Horton figures to attract interest.
Horton didn’t want to necessarily go there today, his final day of meeting the media this season.
“I would say today I’m just trying to be the best D-coordinator in the league and I didn’t do it (this season),” Horton said. “We didn’t accomplish our goals. The rest of that stuff usually takes care of itself and usually teams that win more are rewarded that well.”
That said, when asked when he would know if he was ready for a head coaching job, Horton acknowledged, “A couple years ago – (although) you never know until you get there.”
Horton’s interview with the Rams reportedly went well and he had no reason to think he wouldn’t duplicate the feat. “I think if you are confident in what you do, every interview would be good,” he said. “I feel I’m prepared, smart, knowledgeable, humble and whatever goes with whatever that entails.”
None of that means Horton won’t be defensive coordinator in Arizona next year. A lot will happen across the league over the next few weeks. There is a lot of unknown about the Cards themselves. Horton said he isn’t thinking about that.
“All I know is I am going to San Francisco in the morning and I’m not going there to get any sourdough bread,” Horton said. “I’m going there to play a football game.”
— With left tackle Nate Potter upgraded to limited Friday and listed as questionable to play, we’ll see who gets the call at the spot – him or D’Anthony Batiste. You wonder how much the 49ers will work to get Aldon Smith the three sacks he needs to tie the NFL record in that stat, and you wonder if Brian Hoyer – who looks pretty aware in the pocket – can make a difference with his decision-making.
— It does help that the 49ers will be without DT Justin Smith, however.
— Horton said he thought the 49ers have changed their playcalling after installing Colin Kaepernick as starting quarterback in place of Alex Smith.
“You don’t see as many shifts, as many extra linemen in the game,” Horton said. “(Kaepernick) adds an element to run the ball. It will be an interesting experiment to see what they think after the season is over.”
— In case you missed it, here’s the list of 2013 opponents for the Cards, home and away.
— Heading into the league’s final weekend, the Cardinals currently have the ninth pick in the first round of the draft. Given the matchups in the final game – and given the Cards’ fairly strong strength of schedule – it’s going to be difficult to move much higher if the team loses to the 49ers (a win would drop them mid-first-round. About 15 or 16, I would guess). There might be a chance to move to No. 7, realistically.
— Veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday – who could be playing in his final NFL game Sunday as he contemplates retirement once again – has high hopes for a lot of the younger defenders on the Cardinals and what they can become.
One of those guys is nose tackle Dan Williams, about whom Holliday is bullish about his future.
“He can be one of the best nose guards in this league,” Holliday said. “Because of his athleticism, because of his size and strength. And now he’s become a student of the game.”
— For this week’s episode of “Season In Focus” (airing Saturday at 7 a.m. on ABC-15), there will be Adrian Wilson Wired, the best of Cardinals Chronicles for 2012, the best moments of the season at University of Phoenix Stadium, and a spotlight on record-breaking punter Dave Zastudil.
— I will admit I hope Daryl Washington can get his 10th sack.
— The Cardinals had all kinds of problems tackling the 49ers the last time they met, one of the reasons Smith’s 18-for-19 passing day turned so effective (232 yards, three touchdowns). Can’t have that happen again.
— The 49ers have a lot on the line. We’ll see if the Cardinals can mess with that at all.
Tags: 49ers, Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, D'Anthony Batiste, Dan Williams, Daryl Washington, draft, Justin Smith, Nate Potter, Ray Horton, Vonnie Holliday
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Defensive coordinator Ray Horton wasn’t happy with his unit’s performance in last weekend’s 58-0 blowout loss in Seattle. But that doesn’t mean he wants to flush it either.
“I hope they never forget that,” Horton said. “We have to own that as a whole team. It’s embarassing as a whole team. I hope I never forget that. I think it was just a cavalcade of dominoes falling. We couldn’t turn off the faucet. It was awful.”
Yet Horton regained a measure of optimism after seeing the defense rebound mentally. Normally, Horton said, it’s tough not to be down after such a performance on Monday and Tuesday but that things get back to normal by Wednesday. This Wednesday, Horton said he was still “a little down.”
“Darnell (Dockett) came to me and said, ‘Hey coach, we still have a lot to play for, what are we doing (this week)?’ ” Horton said. “We are prepared. We are all on the same page.”
— Horton said one defensive player he thought played well last week was cornerback Patrick Peterson. Like everyone else, Horton is looking forward to seeing Peterson versus Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. “Patrick is ready for this guy,” Horton said. “It’s probably a statement game for Patrick. It will be an interesting spotlight on him this week. … It’s important for him to prove his elite status.”
Horton also has no problem with Peterson talking in public. “They’re the ones that have to back it up. I encourage them to be bold and assertive. If he believes that, and if he wants to say that, I am sure everyone else will try to co-sign that check for him.”
— Rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming, however, is apparently in a totally different place. The third-round pick was a healthy scratch last week, and Horton said after Fleming was excellent early in the season (most notably in New England) his play fell off and thus, so did his playing time.
“I need him to grow-up, mature and be professional and in my opinion he’s not at that point yet,” Horton said bluntly. “He came in and was very productive, very productive in the New England game. I think he had a sense of lull or complacency. I talked to him about that.
“I think he probably thought, ‘There is nothing to this league, I don’t have to prepare, I don’t have to study, I don’t have to challenge myself.’ And you really do, every day, or you get run by.”
Fleming said his reaction was just to do what Horton said. Asked if he too thought he had become complacent, Fleming said “You could say that. I don’t know if I would say that myself, but something like that.”
Fleming did say he didn’t have an issue with how blunt Horton was with him. “Him being honest is what I want,” Fleming said.
Tags: Jamell Fleming, Patrick Peterson, Ray Horton, Seahawks
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So the Cardinals head to Seattle tomorrow, and we turn to locker room sage Larry Fitzgerald – man, if you would have asked me in 2006 if I’d ever write that descriptor for Fitz, I’d have thought you were crazy – to put these last four games, the playoffs realistically if not officially out of reach, into perspective.
“It’s never to the point where you can’t improve and get better,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s top to bottom, I don’t care about your position on the team. It teaches all of us how to deal with adversity. It’s a microcosm of life. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way and you have to continue to battle.”
It doesn’t hurt that the Seahawks have a chance to make the playoffs and the Cards have a chance to crimp that possibility. It’s cliché, but I do believe playing spoiler – especially to a division rival – is motivation and I do think it is real. The Cards would love to sweep the Seahawks, even if both teams are a lot different than the teams that met at UoP Sept. 9.
— I am very interested in seeing how John Skelton reacts to this start. Seattle is not an easy place to play. He struggled against the Seahawks’ defense in the opener this season before getting hurt. But as he noted Wednesday, he gets another opportunity, one that if not for the major problems of Ryan Lindley, he probably would not have gotten.
I don’t know if there is less pressure on Skelton or more. Obviously coach Ken Whisenhunt proved he’d go to Lindley. Then again, after seeing where Lindley is in his development, it’s tough to see the Cards turning to him again. Impossible not to watch that storyline play out.
— Safety Kerry Rhodes said this week, talking about how the defensive players can’t talk bad about the offense, that until the defense holds a team to zero points and zero yards, they have to tend to their own business. Zero yards? Hyperbole. Zero points? Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was asked if that was realistic.
“That’s probably every defensive player’s mantra,” Horton said. “Is it realistic? Sometimes it is. I think it is the mentality they have which I love, that they think that way.”
— I think the Cards should have defensive end Calais Campbell back this week, a good thing because Campbell always plays well against the Seahawks. Then again, I thought Campbell was going to play in New York, so I will wait and see on that one.
— A final capper on the Kerry Rhodes-Darnell Dockett dustup, where Rhodes said it wasn’t a big deal and Dockett said he was sorry but he was never going to quit. The reference was to the unsaid-yet-out-there reason that the Cards’ decision to try and let the Jets score at the end of last week’s game – statistically, the best way (however long of a shot it was) to try and win – was at the root of the problem. So Horton was asked his philosophy about letting a team score.
“The ultimate goal is to win the game, whether you give up the safety, whether you give up a touchdown,” Horton said. “My philosophy is whatever it takes to win the game. If it means doing that I’d do it to give ourselves a chance. I asked Coach (Ken Whisenhunt) to do it for time reasons.”
(We won’t go into the details yet again of the situation. I know some of you disagree with the strategy and agree with Dockett’s take. I covered it here.)
— OK, maybe one more point: Mike Jurecki of XTRA broke the news that Dockett was fined six figures by the team and could have his playing time limited in Seattle for what went down. Whisenhunt has made it plain whatever was happening with the situation was going to be handled internally and not commented upon. Clearly, the Cardinals did not agree with Dockett’s take. (Kent Somers is now also reporting the fine and said it was because of both the fight and not heeding the coach’s call.) We’ll see on Sunday about the playing time issue.
— UPDATE: Dockett tweeted out praise for the NFLPA so the assumption is, not surprisingly, Dockett is appealing the fine.
— That late personal foul call against nose tackle Dan Williams last week, the iffy one on Jets quarterback Greg McElroy on the sidelines? Williams was not fined for it. Still hurt though – it gave free yards on the Jets’ lone touchdown drive of the game in a 7-6 Jets win. Usually, if a player isn’t fined for a roughness call, it means the league disagreed that it should have been a penalty.
— With cornerback Brandon Browner out with a suspension, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman – himself facing a possible four-game suspension – will probably follow Fitz around Sunday. “I would anticipate that, if I were a betting man,” Fitzgerald said. The best on the best makes sense. It just would be nice to get Fitzgerald a handful of catches and maybe sniff 100 yards. It’s been too long. And frankly, the offense needs it.
The good news is that, after nasty forecasts earlier in the week, the rain is supposed to subside after Saturday morning in Seattle and hold off through Sunday. That’d be a plus. But the Cards have a hard game ahead to snap the losing streak. Let the fourth quarter of the season commence.
Tags: Brandon Browner, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, John Skelton, Kerry Rhodes, Larry Fitzgerald, Ray Horton, Richard Sherman, Ryan Lindley, Seahawks
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Dan Williams likes to joke with defensive line coach Ron Aiken from time to time, letting Aiken know “I am always ready to rush the passer if they need me.” The big nose tackle isn’t going to get that chance often, not playing in obvious passing situations. The folks at profootballfocus.com noted the big nose tackle has been playing well and that it’s unfortunate he doesn’t get to play more because of the current state of the game.
Williams shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know if I am a generation too late,” Williams said. “That’s what they brought me in here to do, to stop the run. When teams go to the extra receivers, they bring the extra DB in.”
That’s when Williams comes out. He sees himself as capable if needed in those spots. He sees nose tackles like New England’s Vince Wilfork and Green Bay’s B.J. Raji in such situations and believes he is as talented. He’s a long way from the weight-issue storyline that dominated his career – “Just for the record, I only missed weight one time and I think it was blown out of proportion,” he said – and, as noted, his play has been solid.
“If they try to throw the ball when we are in base, I am going to try to take advantage of that,” Williams said.
The Cardinals haven’t stopped the run as effectively as they have liked this season, but some of that has to do with the pass-defense-first packages they have used. This week, against the struggling Jets, the run would seem to be New York’s weapon of choice. Williams will be needed.
As for some other New York-is-next topics:
— Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was plain in his desire to get after Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. “We sacked (Aaron Rodgers) on the first play, and I think he had one of his worst statistical games,” Horton said. “We hit Matt Ryan on the first third down and he didn’t have a very good game. It’s something we do anyway … when you hit the quarterback early, it gets in their mind a little bit.”
— It’s no surprise the Jets are struggling, but offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo was not happy during a rare press conference this week, including making the point he was being forced to use Vlad Ducasse every third series at left guard instead of the preferred Matt Slauson. (Ducasse, you may remember, has been a bust of a second-round pick best known for the man blocking O’Brien Schofield in the Senior Bowl practice in which Schofield blew out his knee.)
Horton noticed. “I saw their offensive line coach complaining a little bit about who makes the decision on who plays,” Horton said. “We hope there is a little confusion, disarray, uncertainty there we can take advantage of.”
— Rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley was matter-of-fact talking about his four-interception starting debut last week. He wasn’t about to declare it a disaster.
“This is a results-driven game,” Lindley said. “We lost the game, I gave up 14 points myself. So it wasn’t a good game. But there were things I can look at, move forward from, and gain confidence from to take into this week.”
Lindley can make up a lot of ground if he can respond well, on the road, against the aggressive Jets. Whether he can actually pull that off, with a new starting center in Rich Ohrnberger on top of it, remains a big question mark.
— The last time the Cardinals took on a Rex Ryan defense, coach Ken Whisenhunt unveiled the no-huddle offense. That was in Baltimore in 2007, when the Cards got way behind and starting QB Matt Leinart looked very bad. Kurt Warner came in and lit up the Ravens, who were still able to pull off a win at the end.
This is an entirely different situation, starting with the reality that Kurt Warner isn’t walking through that door. As for the chance the Cards could use the no-huddle, Whisenhunt didn’t exactly sound optimistic.
“Is it something you could do? Yes,” Whisenhunt said. “Is it something you can do with a rookie quarterback? Depends on the rookie. He’s done it, worked on it in practice. It could be part of the gameplan.”
— Tight end Todd Heap wasn’t active last week, Whiz said, because he didn’t get enough reps in practice and “you have to get ready to play and that’s part of it.” Heap did practice full all last week, however, just like this week. If I had to guess, I’d think Heap plays this week, but you never know. He was officially moved down the depth chart this week. Jeff King was already ahead of him, but Rob Housler now is too.
— Some TV shows this weekend. On this week’s “Season In Focus” Saturday morning at 7 a.m. on ABC-15, cornerback Michael Adams is featured on the “Wired” segment, and there is a “Zoom” episode on running back LaRod Stephens-Howling – including The Hyphen listening to his emotional draft-day phone interview for the first time. On “Flight Plan” Saturday night at midnight on Ch. 12 NBC, Whisenhunt breaks down some video of Lindley’s first start and he and Ron Wolfley preview the Jets game.
— Horton was asked if cornerback Patrick Peterson had reached the level of Jets corners Darrelle Revis (who is out for the season) and Antonio Cromartie.
“Patrick is past one of them already,” Horton said, referring to Cromartie. “He is approaching Revis with everything he does on and off the field.”
— Rams defensive end Chris Long was fined $15,750 for hitting Lindley in the head during last weekend’s game. Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar was not fined for his hit on Cardinals receiver LaRon Byrd.
— Punter Dave Zastudil has 27 punts inside the 20 this season. Only Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt (31) has more.
— One more sack by Daryl Washington and he ties the team record of 10 by a linebacker, set first by Ken Harvey. Maybe he finds Sanchez twice on Sunday.
Tags: Chris Long, Dan Williams, Daryl Washington, Dave Zastudil, Jets, Ken Whisenhunt, Patrick Peterson, Ray Horton, Ryan Lindley, Todd Heap
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There weren’t a lot of specifics defensive coordinator Ray Horton was giving Friday when asked about veteran safety Adrian Wilson’s role, after Wilson was taken out of nickel situations last week in favor of Rashad Johnson and James Sanders.
“Hopefully the message being sent by everyone is the most important thing is to do your job and do your job well,” Horton said. “When you are in there, it is not a right, it is a privilege to play defense. We’re just trying to tweak some things and get some guys some opportunities. Where does (Adrian) fit in? Right where he has always been, as one of the leaders of our team.”
Horton talked once again about defensive depth. Giving Sanders and Johnson more chances to play was important to him. At this point, the reserves have been playing well when they get a chance, and Horton wants to cultivate that.
“(Depth) is a security blanket for me with the defense,” Horton said. “I don’t care who is in the game, I haven’t seen anyone really perform poorly in a substitute role. With (linebacker) Quentin (Groves) and he dominates against New England, James Sanders picked up the fumble (against the Eagles), guys continue to make plays. Guys tend to take advantage of the opportunities they get.”
So Horton — who used Reggie Walker more at outside linebacker last week with the season-ending injury to O’Brien Schofield, as another example — will continue to move pieces around. And we’ll watch the role of someone like Wilson evolve.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, James Sanders, Rashad Johnson, Ray Horton
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The bye week is always good – I know I appreciate it, so I can only imagine the players’ delight – but it is tough when you go two weeks between games. The storylines dry up a bit, especially this deep in the season, when there isn’t actual action from which to play off.
At this point, maybe it’s helps to look at it simply. Coach Ken Whisenhunt and the players were asked many times different ways about a midseason/bye assessment the past couple weeks. One Whisenhunt answer summed it up best.
“What is there to say besides it’s not good enough?” he said.
True. The 4-0 start is well in the rear view mirror. I don’t think anyone can argue that the Cardinals winning Sunday in Atlanta would be an upset, but in the NFL, it wouldn’t be some kind of stunning shock either. Everything changes if the Cards were to win. But to have that chance, the Cardinals can’t drop passes, can’t miss tackles, can’t get off to slow starts on offense or defense. They have to be good enough.
— The Cardinals have not, as noted, been tackling very well. It hasn’t been a season-long problem, but it’s been a problem for late. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton wasn’t concerned it will continue to be a problem.
“One of our coaches said today that in practice this week, it reminded us how they practiced for New England,” Horton said. “Very focused, very alert, very sharp. I don’t think tackling will be an issue. They are ready for this game.”
— Whisenhunt was asked if he had even been on a team that started two rookie tackles. “Nope,” Whiz said, allowing himself a chuckle. “I think I would remember that. We have been through some tough situations with the line during my time in the NFL. I don’t think I’ve ever started two rookie tackles.”
Nate Potter and Bobby Massie are a first Sunday.
— Here was quarterback John Skelton’s assessment of Potter’s first playing time in Green Bay. “He had the jitters a little bit, but the first play we asked him to block Clay Matthews and he did a good job,” Skelton said. Skelton just happened to hit Andre Roberts on a 40-yard bomb that play. It’s going to be a learning curve for Potter, but it’s definitely will be interesting to watch.
— I know the Falcons are calling wide receiver Julio Jones a game-day decision, but a sprained ankle is tough for a wide receiver, and from what I have always seen, any guy who doesn’t practice all week tends to be not much of a factor on Sunday even if the player does play.
— Calais Campbell could play Sunday, I suppose, but I don’t expect it. It’s like Darnell Dockett being banged up earlier in the year – you’d rather have a player miss one game rather than risk a longer-term problem. If Campbell sits, it looks like David Carter will get a shot at a lot of playing time. It’s easy to forget how well Carter played at times as a rookie. He’s definitely a player the Cards can develop and if he can play both end and tackle, even better.
— I know a lot of people keep asking. I don’t know what to expect from tight end Todd Heap. He was limited all week and questionable. I’d guess he’s one of the ones that will work out before the game, and the Cards will go from there. I have zero idea if this is the week he plays.
— Ralphie is an Arizona Cardinals’ fan. Who knew?
— This will be the first start for Quentin Groves at linebacker, following the season-ending injury to O’Brien Schofield. That shouldn’t be a huge deal; Groves, after all, has been a starter in Oakland and Jacksonville. But it also means the Cards’ depth behind Groves and Sam Acho falls on a pair of first-year Cards: Jamaal Westerman and undrafted rookie Zack Nash. Westerman has experience, but he was also the one left inactive on game in favor of Nash, which could say something about both of them. If Acho or Groves get nicked, how the backups respond will be important.
“They don’t have much choice.” Whisenhunt said. “This league, you have to play and be successful when you aren’t getting all the (practice) reps.”
— A quick heads-up: “Season In Focus” will air Saturday morning at 7 a.m. on ABC-15. There will be a recap of the first half of the season, a “Wired” segment with linebacker Daryl Washington and a “Zoom” episode featuring a Cardinals cheerleader who happens to be a veteran of the war in Iraq. Then on “Flightplan” – airing Saturday at midnight on NBC Ch. 12 right after “Saturday Night Live,” Whisenhunt and Ron Wolfley break down video of the Roberts’ bomb and Potter’s overall work in his first game.
The second half of the season is upon us.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Calais Campbell, Falcons, Jamaal Westerman, Ken Whisenhunt, Nate Potter, Quentin Groves, Ray Horton, Todd Heap, Zack Nash
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