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One breakdown of the offensive line

Posted by Darren Urban on July 6, 2012 – 9:47 am

As I have mentioned before, work of sites like profootballfocus.com and footballoutsiders.com are always fun to look at because they break down video and try to take a deeper look at some of the game. Whether it’s always accurate you can debate — ultimately, it’s opinion, just like every scout or coach has on players or plays — but this time of year, it’s food for thought.

On FO recently, blogger Ben Muth decided to break down the Cards’ offensive line in their regular-season finale against the Seahawks. Muth, a one-time Stanford starting tackle who had an NFL cup of coffee, admits the Cards are his favorite team (he is from Phoenix, prepping at Pinnacle High School.) It’s just one game he studied, so you can’t make sweeping generalizations on what it means for each player. He does note that guard Rex Hadnot struggled, not a great way for Hadnot to finish up and perhaps a reason the Cards were willing to cut him. He praises the steady play of guard Daryn Colledge and center Lyle Sendlein. He goes deep inside that LaRod Stephens-Howling run where right tackle Jeremy Bridges basically blocked three guys during the coure of the play.

(Side note: These are the things Bridges does sometimes to make me think he can hold off Bobby Massie for a while.)

He also talks about the improvement he has seen from Levi Brown since the last game he broke down. His quote on Levi:

“He played with much better balance in the running game and wasn’t getting thrown off blocks as much. He also did a nice job sitting down on bull rushes throughout the game, a feat that was even more impressive considering he was matched up against Red Bryant for the majority of it. Of course, he still can’t pass off twists because he has no lateral quickness. He did allow a sack, although it was off a linebacker stunt and not a straight twist. Brown also gave back 20 yards in penalties. Still, this was best performance I’ve ever seen Levi Brown give. So there’s that.”

 

 


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Hadnot, Stuckey released

Posted by Darren Urban on March 19, 2012 – 9:35 am

Eventually, the cap situation for the Cardinals was going to force further roster moves, and while they had been out there over the weekend, the team officially announced the cuts of guard Rex Hadnot and wide receive Chansi Stuckey Monday.

Hadnot started all of 2011 but the team had been looking to upgrade and when they signed Adam Snyder it gave the Cards the room to make a move. Stuckey never seemed to find traction for playing time after his costly fumble in Washington ended the Cards’ chances on a late drive.

And in the end, the Cards also need to clear salary cap space where they can. UPDATE: By my calculations, Cards saved about $3 million in cap space with the moves.


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Odds and ends on a Friday afternoon

Posted by Darren Urban on January 13, 2012 – 4:13 pm

A few tidbits as we head into a long weekend in which we see if Tebow-mania lives another week in this NFL season and where I don’t expect anything to happen in Cardinals World (so don’t hold your breath waiting for news on the coaching staff, Todd Haley or otherwise.)

– The Cardinals added a couple of players to the roster Friday, bringing back a couple of wide receivers that have been here before: Isaiah Williams and Jaymar Johnson (actually, Johnson was here basically all season, while Williams was cut after training camp).

– The news Jeff Fisher was hired as Rams coach wasn’t unexpected. It means, at least right now, that Ray Horton will be staying in Arizona (I am assuming he won’t come up as a candidate anywhere else). It also makes less likely that Cards’ director of player personnel will be the Rams’ GM, because the expectation is that Fisher’s arrival will mean Lake Dawson, with whom Fisher worked in Tennessee, will probably get the GM job. We will see. (On a side note, Mike Jurecki said on XTRA 910 today that former Cards coach Dave McGinnis could end up in St. Louis on Fisher’s staff. McGinnis has been with the Titans ever since Fisher hired him after McGinnis was fired from the Cards following the 2003 season.)

– If you missed my Twitter link, and if you want to start looking at names, here’s a good free agent tracker as we move toward the March 13 beginning of the new league year.

– I know I said we shouldn’t be talking about this right now, but Charley Casserly, who created a big dust-up on national TV last weekend suggesting Peyton Manning would be a good fit in Arizona if he were cut by Indy, said on XTRA 910 with Mike Jurecki and Dan Bickley his comments were “strictly my opinion.” Not that it’s a shock, but anyone suggesting it was based on fact and not just connect-the-dots can put that in their back pocket.

– Former Cardinals defensive end Michael Bankston is going to be running for a spot in the Arizona Legislature.

– If you didn’t see it, posted an update on the rehab of the chronically optimistic RB Ryan Williams. I don’t know how he will do when he starts playing, but it’s hard not to think he’ll do well when you talk to him. (And I also liked this story around Rex Hadnot and his late brother, if you missed it).

That’s all for now. We’ll have updates over the weekend if there is anything to update (but I’ll probably be crawling around Twitter @cardschatter if you’re looking for me).


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The questions of the offensive line

Posted by Darren Urban on January 4, 2012 – 10:47 am

Aside from the quarterback situation — which will always have top offseason billing unless you have an established stud in place — the spotlight would seem to fall brightest the next on the offensive line as the Cards plan for 2012.

The Cards were already going to have to figure out what to do with their starting tackles, and that was a given even before taking their performance into account. Right tackle Brandon Keith, ravaged by injuries the past two years, is an unrestricted free agent. Left tackle Levi Brown isn’t a free agent, but something will have to be done about his contract, which will slide up to a $16.9 million salary cap number in March. You figure center Lyle Sendlein and left guard Daryn Colledge are set, but do the Cards leave Rex Hadnot at right guard? Is there a chance Deuce Lutui comes back and gets that job? Or could they sign someone else?

The tackles, however, are the most important storyline. Jeremy Bridges filled in for Keith when Keith’s knee and ankle didn’t allow him to play, and  Bridges will return. Whether Bridges is a guy they want to make a full-time starter is another question. The Cards have always liked Keith’s raw potential, but he has not reached it, whether that’s because of injuries or otherwise.

Brown is the more famous question mark. The website profootballfocus.com, which studies such things, said that Brown, through 10 games, had allowed 10 sacks, five quarterback hits and 32 quarterback hurries. Over the last six games, Brown allowed one sack and eight hurries. That aligns with the thoughts of coach Ken Whisenhunt, who had noted Brown played well down the stretch. Does playing better the second half of the season create enough interest/comfort to bring Brown back? If the Cards did, might he move back to right tackle and a new left tackle found?

FootballOutsiders.com has compiled a list of “notable” free agents on offense and defense, including linemen. The tackles list is sparse: Jeff Backus, Max Starks, Vernon Carey, Sean Locklear, Stephon Heyer, Jared Gaither and Demetrius Bell. The Cards have to figure out if someone else is an upgrade (or draft a player). If Levi hits the open market, he’d probably be considered as “notable” as anyone else in this group. The Joe Thomases of the world aren’t available.


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Peterson enters season as starter

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2011 – 10:37 am

For most of training camp, a debate among the Cards’ depth chart was whether rookie and No. 1 pick Patrick Peterson would start the opening game. He was behind Greg Toler and A.J. Jefferson, and, all things staying the same, I think Peterson would have come off the bench in the beginning.

But obviously all things didn’t stay the same. Toler got injured and is out for the season. So Peterson has now been elevated — above veteran Richard Marshall — to the starting lineup. He was there in the preseason finale and he is there again today when the Cards officially released the first depth chart of the season. Peterson is a starter at right cornerback, ahead of Marshall and newcomer Crezdon Butler. Jefferson is the left-side starter in front of Michael Adams and the other newcomer, Korey Lindsey. (Peterson is also listed as the No. 1 punt returner.)

The rest of the depth chart remains the same as it has through training camp. Rex Hadnot is the right guard, ahead of Deuce Lutui. And Paris Lenon, who has just impressed coaches time and time again since he arrived last year, remains a starter at inside linebacker ahead of Stewart Bradley. John Skelton is still listed as the No. 2 QB, ahead of Rich Bartel.


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Thursday before the Packers (with a Fitz contract update)

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2011 – 12:04 pm

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.


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Faneca decides to retire

Posted by Darren Urban on May 10, 2011 – 11:49 am

Kent Somers (and other outlets) is/are reporting that guard Alan Faneca has decided to retire from the NFL, something Faneca said he was heavily considering when we got to the end of the season. Faneca played the final season of his 13-year career with the Cards, after playing for the Steelers and Jets. Had things gone differently, he likely would have ended up in Arizona longer because of his relationship with offensive line coach Russ Grimm, but when he was available back in 2008 the Cards couldn’t make it work while trying to sign Larry Fitzgerald to his new deal. So the Faneca-Grimm reunion had to wait until 2010.

Somers has a statement from Faneca, which says in part that the greatest memory he has from the NFL is the friendships he has made.

The Cardinals would have liked to have Faneca back this season but knew all along he would probably step away. He wasn’t the player that once made nine straight Pro Bowls but Grimm insisted he was still effective. He definitely was a good presence in the locker room, something the Cardinals will miss now that he is moving on to a different part of his life.

Given the current roster, Rex Hadnot would figure to immediately be penciled into Faneca’s left guard role, although offensive line remains unsettled given the expiring contracts of fellow starters Lyle Sendlein and Deuce Lutui and the fact free agency has yet to begin. UPDATE: Faneca went on Sirius radio saying he basically had decided a month ago he was ready to step away, but with the draft coming up, he decided to wait and allow the Cards to take someone if they wanted. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he had talked extensively to Faneca right after the season (and before the work stoppage) and knew retirement was a very real possibility. Click here to read a full story with Whisenhunt quotes.


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Workouts, for now

Posted by Darren Urban on April 29, 2011 – 10:51 am

A handful of players came in, as promised, to work out this morning — among them, DRC, Levi Brown, Andre Roberts, Jeremy Bridges and Rex Hadnot. They were all thrilled to be around, although Brown joked that John Lott’s bear crawl work got him pretty good. “I wasn’t expecting that,” he said.

How long it lasts is unknown. A temporary stay sounds like it’s coming from the court system, which would put everything on hold for a while. (UPDATE: Reports were that a temporary stay was granted, although nothing official has been said yet). But the guys around looked pretty good. DRC said he put on about eight pounds of muscle and he looks it. Wide receivers Stephen Williams and Roberts also clearly look stronger than they did as rookies.

“It feels great,” DRC said. “Every time you see coach Lott, he puts a smile on your face. More importantly, it’s good to see my dogs again.”

Lott, who has wanted players around obviously, looked thrilled and the coaches that came down to say hello also were happy. General manager Rod Graves made sure to go around and shake the hand of every player who was there.

“It’s just good to be back,” Bridges said. “You really can’t control what is going on.”


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Fitz gets the guys together

Posted by Darren Urban on April 12, 2011 – 3:04 pm

A story today from Kent Somers about how Larry Fitzgerald organized a workout today for 20 Cards over at Arizona State University. Kent doesn’t list everyone involved, but among those there were Rex Hadnot, Tim Hightower, Lyle Sendlein, Clark Haggans, Max Hall and John Skelton. With no way to come to the facility now in lieu of the lockout, this was always a possibility. The day after the season, Sendlein even talked about the need to work on their own.

Kent notes only eight guys were there Monday. Giving a “lineup” of who is there and who isn’t is always dicey. These things are even more voluntary than the regular “voluntary” workouts of an offseason. (Side note: I remember one year covering the team for the East Valley Tribune when I did a story on the opening of voluntary conditioning work and got specific about a few guys who were there and a few guys who were not. I noted big tackle Leonard Davis wasn’t there. The next day, Davis was on the field when I went outside to make a phone call. “I’m here, Darren,” Davis yelled out. “I’m here Darren.” He wasn’t mad. I don’t think. But he made his point.)

Always good to see some of the players be willing to do such things. Even better to see Fitz spearheading it. (Read Kent’s piece for a few Fitz quotes). Of course, I’d love for labor peace to come sooner rather than later, so I could write some of these stories myself. For now, though, it’s important. We still could see a lot of Skelton-to-Fitzgerald this season. Better to have them work on that timing now.


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Lining them up front

Posted by Darren Urban on April 4, 2011 – 2:05 pm

Inevitably, most of the talk with the draft and the Cardinals has been about pass rushers and quarterbacks, as it should be. Those remain the two greatest areas of need. But, as many of you have pointed out before, offensive line is a unit that cannot be ignored. How the Cardinals analyze that need could dictate how the draft plays out (assuming, right now, that there is no free agency period before the draft).

Center Lyle Sendlein and guards Alan Faneca and Deuce Lutui all have expired contracts. I think the Cards feel good about bringing Sendlein back. Faneca and Lutui are much bigger unknowns. Faneca is wanted back, but he is considering retirement. Lutui is considering a fat contract, and the fact he hasn’t gotten one in Arizona yet could ultimately lead him to take an offer elsewhere.

Without knowing what the free agent rules will be, it’s impossible to know exactly what free agents will be available. It’s safe to say Levi Brown will remain at tackle – I assume on the left side; there is no reason to think otherwise – while Brandon Keith is going to have to show he is better than veteran Jeremy Bridges at the other tackle. The reason the Cards signed Rex Hadnot to a three-year deal was for exactly this scenario, and he can step in if there ends up a guard vacancy.

(It’s weird to be talking about a potential offensive lineman depth shortage, after the Cards collected so many last year that they were forced to trade long-time starter Reggie Wells to relieve the logjam.)

The Cards aren’t going to go offensive lineman with their first pick, but after that, I could see it at any point. Finding someone to begin grooming – a la Keith – now that Herman Johnson has left seems crucial. There seems to be some line depth in the draft, especially at tackle, again with the knowledge decent interior guys can often be found later or undrafted.


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