Ravens aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 30, 2011 – 6:22 pm

I’ll start with Beanie.

You could see it, every time he tried to bounce it outside, that his right knee was trouble. He had no burst of speed. He couldn’t get the corner. And a few times after he was hit, the Ravens blasted him on the leg. He couldn’t get as many carries as he normally would have. Physically he couldn’t do it.

Yet there he was, plowing into the line. There he was, going over the top for a touchdown. There he was, probably needing to come out of the game after being blasted by Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata on a third-and-1 but insisting to the sideline he wanted to stay in for a crucial fourth down and cracking off a four-yard rush on the next play.

The Cardinals didn’t win, but I – and anyone else watching – had to be impressed by Wells. That is one of those tangible things you see when anyone asks about the team shutting it down during this losing streak.

Of course, that doesn’t make the losing easier. Not the way it happened Sunday. For a half, it felt like a corner had been turned. There were things that helped, with Ravens’ turnovers and Patrick Peterson’s electric punt return, of course. Kevin Kolb didn’t have exciting numbers in the first half (other than the 66-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald) but he did look more comfortable.

From there, though, the offense stumbled and the defense couldn’t stop Anquan Boldin. Hard loss.

— Larry Fitzgerald only had three receptions, for 98 yards. He was only targeted on five passes total, much too low of a number. Fitzgerald, however, said the Cards called his number “six or seven times” in the second half.

“It’s not like they’re not calling my number,” Fitzgerald said. “The ball has to go where the ball needs to be depending on the coverage. If Kevin forces the ball and (Ravens safety) Ed Reed is over the top of me, time and time again, Ed Reed makes people pay for those types of mistakes. The calls were there.”

Fair enough. The Cards have to find a way though.

— The Ravens’ defense harasses quarterbacks better than any defense in the NFL, but Kolb has to complete more passes. Under 50 percent for a game in today’s NFL – where you really need to be at least at 60 percent to be better than average – isn’t going to get it done.

— The Cards had a defensive sub-package that had Richard Marshall at safety instead of Rashad Johnson. After A.J. Jefferson’s tough game – he was the one covering Boldin most of the time when Boldin went off — Marshall took Jefferson’s spot on the last drive when Jefferson was kept on the sideline. Marshall still gave up the bomb that sealed the Cards’ fate.

— Jefferson, meanwhile, tweeted this out afterward: “Only so many people actually know the schemes n game. I do what I’m told, If I had it my way… Well it’d be my way. #ItisWhatItis ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”

— One last cornerbacks thought: Peterson likes playing physical, but in the NFL, it’s going to get you penalties more often than not. That’s going to be part of his learning curve – until/if he becomes a star and they let him get away with it more often.

— Right tackle Brandon Keith was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of Jeremy Bridges. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he didn’t know if it’d be permanent. “We made a move because we had, obviously, given up two plays there and weren’t getting the job done,” Whisenhunt said. “We’ll work this week and whoever practices better will be the guy that plays there.”

— Boldin insisted again after the game playing the Cardinals meant nothing extra. No, I don’t believe him either.

— Linebacker Terrell Suggs, the ASU product from Chandler who everyone thought was going to be drafted by the Cards until the Cards traded on draft day, 2003, was the opposite. He admitted it does mean something to go against the Cards. He played like it – 13 tackles, a sack, four tackles for loss.

— I don’t know if Sam Acho or O’Brien Schofield will ever get to that level, but they each got a sack in the first game Joey Porter missed. Acho has two sacks, one more than Porter, in much less playing time.

— If FB Anthony Sherman’s left ankle injury is a lingering problem, it’ll be interesting to see what the Cards do at the position. There are no other fullbacks. And with Todd Heap and now Rob Housler gimpy, they are short on tight ends too.

— I don’t know how bad the Kolb foot injury is. (UPDATE: I have been alerted Whisenhunt said on the postgame radio show Kolb has turf toe.) He played the whole game, and even had that gutsy first-down scramble late in the game, prior to the Cards’ final punt. Between that and Beanie’s injury – and Wells thinks his knee is going to be an issue the rest of the season – ouch.

— Of course, that’s what the day was too.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 130 Comments »

Peterson’s improvement

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2011 – 11:33 am

A lot was expected of rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson this season. Frankly, had Greg Toler not gotten hurt, Peterson would not have played as much as he did early (and for all those screaming for him to start right away, the growing pains through which he has played is exactly why the Cardinals’ coaches are hesitant in throwing rookies out there).

Did he turn a corner — pun intended — against the Steelers? His job was to cover speedy Mike Wallace and he did pretty well. The big play by Wallace, the 95-yard bomb, it was Richard Marshall and not Peterson on Wallace (and, after watching the replay, it looks like Marshall got caught cheating up and thinking about jumping an underneath route — the intended play to the Steelers fullback Ben Roethlisberger talked about afterward — which was too deadly of a start for Marshall to keep up with Wallace).

The rest of the day, Wallace didn’t make much of an impact.

“Patrick was very effective in the scheme,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “He’s rough around the edges and he still has a lot of things to learn, but he’ll get better.”

Few teams have a pure deep guy like Wallace. Peterson obviously will have to work into other parts of his game, and he still needs to show more flashes of physical play that the Cards count on in this defense.  But it’s the right direction. There is a long way to go with both he and A.J. Jefferson — Jefferson played pretty well in Minnesota, but he struggled against the Steelers — although both are going to get plenty of work the rest of this season to learn. (A better pass rush wouldn’t hurt either.) Bottom line, Peterson was the No. 5 overall pick — the Cards need him to turn into a star.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Blog | 38 Comments »

Marshall’s hit was clean

Posted by Darren Urban on September 14, 2011 – 5:17 pm

Well, coach Ken Whisenhunt was looking for clarification on the penalty flag thrown on cornerback Richard Marshall — the one play in which Marshall was called for unnecessary roughness when he hit quarterback Cam Newton shoulder-to-shoulder, forcing a throw that linebacker Daryl Washington intercepted. Not only did the Cards lose the turnover, but a couple plays later, Newton threw a touchdown pass to Steve Smith for a 14-7 halftime lead.

Marshall got the clarification. “NFL looked at my hit on cam newton from Sundays game and said it was legal. Happy to say I’m not getting fined, thanks” Marshall tweeted.

Something tells me linebacker Clark Haggans isn’t going to be fined for inadvertently hitting Newton’s facemask in the fourth quarter either, a play that helped set up the Panthers’ potential game-tying touchdown (that the Cards ended up stopping anyway).

At least Marshall got Newton at a more important time later (pictured below): The sack — when Newton had 40 yards of running room — that forced the punt Patrick Peterson returned for the game-winning score.

— Speaking of Twitter news, Rams/NFL reporter Howard Balzer tweeted that the Cards tried out former Rams receiver Donnie Avery this week (which goes with the Jaymar Johnson tryout news). As I said before, the Cards, like a lot of teams, are going to kick the tires on potential upgrades. Doesn’t mean they will sign them. With Avery, he’s coming off major knee surgery and he was cut by a receiver-hungry team like the Rams. That would give me caution.

— General manager Rod Graves gave a talk to ASU students looking to get into the sports business field.

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 25 Comments »

Panthers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 11, 2011 – 8:04 pm

I kept thinking, standing down on the field around the 10-yard line after watching the Panthers’ final offensive play Sunday, it reminded me of the final play of the Rams-Titans Super Bowl – the one where Rams linebacker Mike Jones grabbed Kevin Dyson and stopped him a yard short of the end zone. Obviously, the gravity of Sunday’s Cards’ win wasn’t quite the same. But seeing linebacker Paris Lenon stop running back Mike Goodson’s reception for four (plus an inch or two) instead of the five needed for a first down or the six needed for a touchdown was an echo.

Certainly, the Cards have to revel in Lenon’s play. To fall short in what was really an odd game would have been a gut punch. The way the Cards blew chances to score hurt, but they really would have left a mark if it would have meant a loss.

If you would have said beforehand Kevin Kolb would throw for 309 yards and two TDs without a pick and Beanie would have 90 rushing yards and a TD, I would have been thinking it’s a lock. Instead it was quite a bit harder.

They won, though.

— Here’s hoping Daryl Washington is OK with his calf strain. He had an interception, he had another called back on the Richard Marshall roughing penalty (more on that in a minute), was credited with half-a-sack and, I think, will be the one who ends up with the one credited to Joey Porter as well. Plus, on the play he got hurt, he flashed his amazing speed to catch up and tackle Steve Smith from behind. If he stays healthy, he’s going to be a very, very good player.

— Marshall still was incredulous after the game about his penalty. I have a feeling it was because Marshall “launched” himself at Newton, leaving his feet to deliver the hit. But Newton is 6-foot-5 and Marshall 5-11; all it did was allow Marshall to hit Newton’s shoulder with his shoulder. There was no helmet-to-helmet.

“We will see why they threw the flag, but I guess they will let me know,” Marshall said. “I’ve got to play full-speed. I’m not going to slow down. I just have to deal with it.”

— I will admit that I was dead wrong on Cam Newton. I thought he was going to struggle, at least for a while. Whoops. He played a hell of a game, and was much better from the pocket than I expected. Those were 422 real yards, not anything piled up in garbage time.

Does that mean the Cards couldn’t have played better on defense? Of course. They’ll say that. “It is (a work-in-progress) but at the same time, we made mistakes,” safety Adrian Wilson said. “It is a new defense but there are no excuses. Everybody understands that.” Patrick Peterson will get better, but anyone who expected a lot more from him to begin with wasn’t being realistic.

— The same goes for the offense’s issues. You just have a feeling that’s going to get fixed (Jay Feely’s miss is a great example. After he was so consistent last year, does anyone think today’s miss was anything but a fluke?) If Beanie Wells can run like that, the Cards will be OK. The Cards will have to figure out the best ways to get the ball to Fitz – he’ll need more than three catches, obviously – but think of it this way: If Kolb is throwing for 309 on a day when things don’t seem to be altogether smooth, what happens when the offense really “clicks?”

— Tight ends made an impact. Todd Heap had a pair of 20-yard catches early, and Jeff King made his early bid as the Cards’ speed receiver with that 48-yard catch-and-run touchdown. So too did Early Doucet with his 105 yards receiving (including his 70-yard TD, pictured below).  There’s another guy who continues to show he can play … as long as he is healthy.

— I know people want to jump on Peterson for his premature high-step (and I’d be curious, with the new college rules, if that would have been flagged if he was still at LSU and the ball put at the 18 or wherever it happened). In the end, though, it can be a lesson learned. He didn’t finish the high-stepped, he instead stepped up his speed and got into the end zone.

— Speaking of the punt, Wilson deadpanned that there was only one reason to be “mad” at Peterson: Because he fielded the ball back around the 10, instead of letting it drop and bounce into the end zone. “I don’t know if coach is going to scold him,” Wilson said. “Technically, at the 10-yard line, he’s not supposed to catch the ball. It was 89 yards, so I don’t know if he can really get mad at him.”

Tough to get mad after a win.

I think it’s time to go home.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 90 Comments »

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 37 Comments »

An eye open, then adding a CB

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2011 – 1:54 pm

The loss of cornerback Greg Toler to a knee injury is a blow, and it’s a tough coincidence that the two good players the Cards dealt in trades — Tim Hightower and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie — happen to play the positions where the two season-ending injuries occurred with Toler and Ryan Williams. In the meantime, coach Ken Whisenhunt continued to say the same thing: The Cards will keep an eye on who is available, but in neither case are they definitely going to add someone.

At cornerback they still have A.J. Jefferson, Patrick Peterson and Richard Marshall to man the top three spots. At running back, they are still intrigued by Alfonso Smith (although he unfortunately is dealing with a hamstring problem right now, which kept him from running the ball against San Diego the other night).

There will be players who come available not this week but next weekend that can change the equation.

UPDATE: The Cardinals did add a cornerback Monday afternoon, signing Fred Bennett while waiving-injured LB Brandon Sharpe (hamstring). Bennett, a 2007 fourth-round pick of Houston, actually started 17 times in 40 games for the Texans from 2007-09. He spent time with San Diego and Cincinnati last season, and was just released by the Bengals this weekend. He has five career interceptions.

“We are always looking to get our team better,” Whisenhunt said. “It may be this week, it may be after this week, we will look and see. It’s got to be the right fit for us. You get a sense in training camp you have all these numbers that you don’t have in the regular season. We don’t have six corners or five corners or five running backs on the regular roster. We will look and see what’s available.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 37 Comments »

Toler out for season; Komar among cuts

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2011 – 10:55 am

Cornerback Greg Toler was “praying” for a light ACL sprain when he went in to have an MRI of his left knee Sunday. His prayers weren’t answered. Toler — who tore his ACL on a non-contact play Saturday against the Chargers — was placed on injured reserve Monday, ending his season. The Toler move was one of 10 the Cards made to reduce the roster to the required 80 heading into the final week of the preseason. It’s a painful one too, since Toler was starting. It’s a good thing A.J. Jefferson has been playing so well, and it puts rookie Patrick Peterson — and veteran Richard Marshall — squarely in the spotlight as the Cards’ top three corners.

As expected, rookie running back Ryan Williams was also put on injured reserve. Wide receiver Max Komar (knee) and undrafted rookie safety Tommy Irvin (foot) were waived-injured. With the Komar situation, that takes one potential out of the mix as the Cards try to find six wideouts to keep.

Six other players were released: veterans FB Charles Ali and LB Curtis Gatewood, along with undrafted rookies WR Daiveun Curry-Chapman, LB Duke Lemmens, T Eric Mensik and T Jason Speredon.

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 37 Comments »

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 41 Comments »

A night at Coconino

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2011 – 11:31 pm

The Cardinals held their one night practice of camp at Coconino High School. It was a little different than the ones of last season. With only a few days before the next preseason game, coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t do a live goal line session at the end. In fact, there was no tackling. The practice ended with a series of plays starting at the 10-yard line with first-and-goal, but it was tough to tell exactly what would have happened — linebacker Clark Haggans was particularly vocal in protesting where the ball was spotted.

— Linebacker Joey Porter was sitting out on a veteran’s day off. O’Brien Schofield is next on the depth chart behind Porter at ROLB, but it was rookie Sam Acho who was in Porter’s place Tuesday night. Interesting. Schofield is the guy who needs to make the big step forward as pass rusher this season. Although it might have been just to balance out the position — with Will Davis a LOLB, the Cards could go Acho-Schofield at ROLB and Haggans-Davis at LOLB.

— Tight end Stephen Spach (calf) and offensive lineman D.J. Young (knee) were also sitting out. So too was guard Deuce Lutui, for what I would expect to be a continuing conditioning issue.

— Cornerback Greg Toler made a nice interception in front of Larry Fitzgerald at the goal line, ripping the ball away from Fitz. (Fitz did make a spectacular Willie Mays-style over-the-head grab earlier in the practice, but really, that’s no surprise, not the way he makes the spectacular routine.)

— Wide receiver Isaiah Williams made a fantastic touchdown catch from John Skelton, making the grab in the back of the end zone just over the outstretched hand of cornerback Richard Marshall. Williams, who scored the game-winning touchdown in Oakland, has looked good in camp — one of many receivers that have shown well.

— One of those receivers, rookie DeMarco Sampson, pulled down a deep pass early in the practice despite good coverage by cornerback Marshay Green. Sampson needs to continue his work but he’s got a real shot to make this roster.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 30 Comments »

Wednesday before the Raiders

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2011 – 2:22 pm

Yes, we are, actually, ready for some football.

The lockout ended less than three weeks ago, yet it feels like months. That first few days of camp – and the couple of days before it – were such a whirlwind and now, suddenly, it’s the eve of the Cards’ preseason opener in Oakland.

How this game turns out is anyone’s guess. It’s always a little harder to know before that first exhibition game and now you throw in the chaos of learning everything on the fly. Whatever they do – whatever quarterback Kevin Kolb does, specifically – should be taken with a grain of salt. We’re a long way from anything counting, whether it be Kolb game-planning or defenses game-planning against him. He said he just wants to make sure he learns from whatever mistakes might happen. A fair goal.

There are plenty of players to look forward to seeing. As I have mentioned, the depth chart is going to be fluid, and coach Ken Whisenhunt made clear the last couple of days how much competition is going to be going on.

— It’ll be fascinating to see how a couple of positions filter themselves out. Greg Toler and A.J. Jefferson have been running first-team at cornerback, but – at least early – rookie Patrick Peterson looks pretty good to me. And officially, new signee Richard Marshall is third team. I just don’t see that holding steady.

— Speaking of cornerbacks, how many will the Cards eventually keep? Besides those four, there is Michael Adams to consider. The coaches like him. Here’s the thing, however. I could see five cornerbacks and four safeties, expect now there is the injury of Adrian Wilson to consider. Do you carry an extra safety with Wilson’s situation so dicey? It’s a decision that doesn’t have to be made until after the fourth preseason game, but it will be a choice that has to be made.

— So far, it’s hard not to be excited seeing what inside linebacker Stewart Bradley does in the middle there. Hopefully he can stay healthy. With so much vague with the outside linebacker spots, a trio of Bradley, Daryl Washington and Paris Lenon wouldn’t be bad.

— Quarterbacks beyond Kolb will be scrutinized too. Max Hall is not practice-squad eligible and neither is Rich Bartel. Bartel is ahead of Hall right now. They like him as a potential backup. And it will be interesting to see how John Skelton has progressed.

— Todd Heap is the sexy name at tight end, but they really like Jeff King as a blocker. As said before, the position has had a big upgrade.

— Preseason games are always a good time to look at players’ ability to win one-on-one battles. Watching young pass rushers like O’Brien Schofield try and get pressure – heck, even Joey Porter – will give everyone a better picture of where that part of the team stands.

— Safety Rashad Johnson gets his chance to show off the work he has done coming into his third year. He has always weighed in the 200-to-204-pound range, but he has much more muscle, he said, trimming his body fat from 17 percent to under eight percent.

That’s thanks to a summer at Club A-Dub, working out under Wilson’s tutelage.  “It is ironic I spent the entire summer in Scottsdale working out and doing the same type of workouts he has been doing for eight or nine years,” Johnson said, knowing he is replacing Wilson in the short-term at least. “Of course we want Adrian to be able to come back and play and help us. Whatever my role is, I will be ready, whether it is starter or nickel and dime and special teams.”

That’s enough for now. Time to stop speculating and actually watch a game.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 74 Comments »