There are a lot of questions I am getting about trades when it comes to a running back. If the Cards go get another running back, I think it will be the free-agent route. That way you don’t surrender a draft pick at a position that you need short-term help with. It’s tough when people start throwing out names like Chris Johnson or Maurice Jones-Drew or even Mark Ingram, all of whom apparently have been suggested as targets. Stop. Those aren’t going to happen for a multitude of reasons.
The one trade name that does make some sense to me is Chris Ivory in New Orleans. He’s shown before he can perform and he is buried deep, deep on the Saints’ bench behind Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. But the Saints know the Cards need a back, and they might just hold up the Cards for a higher pick. Frankly, in this day and age where backs have become more and more disposable, it’s hard to think that’s a good idea. Ivory was undrafted and has shown well — maybe William Powell can do the same for the Cards.
Free agency makes more sense to me, if and only if the Cards decide they need someone. That’s no sure thing right now.
As for available free agents, well, the name that comes up over and over is Tim Hightower. He knows the team and the offense. But Hightower isn’t healthy right now. The Redskins, who cut him in camp, thought about bringing him back when Roy Helu went down for the season and not only is Hightower still coming back from an ACL tear, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said he had a setback and was having an arthroscopic procedure on his knee. That was a couple weeks ago. (The Redskins signed Ryan Grant instead.) Could Hightower be in the mix down the road if he heals up? Maybe. But the Cards have had their fill of injured backs. They don’t need another so they would have to be sure where Hightower stands health-wise before that could be explored.
– If you missed it, check out this story of defensive lineman Nick Eason, his mom , and why this month of pink in the NFL is so meaningful to him.
– The Cardinals, in case you missed it on Twitter yesterday, will be wearing their black uniforms again Sunday against Buffalo. Because of the various NFL rules in place for alternate uniforms — you can’t wear them in nationally televised games, you can’t wear them after flex scheduling starts — this is the last opportunity for the Cards to do so.
– The Big Red Rage has been moved to Wednesday night because of ASU football, so anyone heading to Majerle’s — special guest Vonnie Holliday — make sure you adjust your schedules accordingly. Same time (6 p.m.), same place (Chandler Fashion Mall).
Tags: Big Red Rage, black uniforms, Chris Ivory, Saints, Tim Hightower, trade
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Justin Bethel understood the goal. “Going in I knew I needed to play well on special teams,” he said.
The rookie sixth-round draft pick knows he’d have a tough time making the team just as a safety. But he was a special-teams demon in college and showed it Sunday against the Saints. He whiffed on one of his early attempts but made an impressive tackle as a punt gunner — blowing past two blockers to bring down the return man just as he caught the ball — and the came off the edge, a la Patrick Peterson, to get a hand on a 54-yard field-goal attempt. At one point, he even told special teams coach Kevin Spencer he would block a punt too, if he had been given the chance.
On the blocked field goal, Bethel wasn’t on the outside and tried to get a teammate to switch. He was turned down, but a timeout was called and Spencer made the move anyway. “I was like, ‘I’ve got to go get it now,’ ” Bethel said. “I just wish I could have gotten it a little more so I could have tried to pick it up, but a block is a block.”
Bethel’s abilities create a lot of options for the Cards. Would his work mean it was less likely to keep special teams ace Michael Adams at cornerback, or might the Cards keep both and punch up what analyst Ron Wolfley likes to call the “transition game.” It’s Bethel’s only option to the active roster, because it’s hard to see him breaking into the safety rotation soon.
“I wanted to show up on special teams,” Bethel said. “We have great safeties. Kerry (Rhodes), Adrian (Wilson), Rashad Johnson and James (Sanders). I know if I can make the team on special teams it will give me time to mature and learn, where they can trust me not only on special teams but defense, making the right calls and making the right plays.”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, James Sanders, Justin Bethel, Kerry Rhodes, Michael Adams, Rashad Johnson, Ron Wolfley, Saints
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It is way, way late – going on 2 a.m. local time – and I have to get up much too early to catch a plane to Missouri on our next stop of this magical mystery tour of the preseason. So this aftermath is going to be short and sweet (OK, let’s see if it really is once I finish):
– What do you want me to say? I don’t think it’s a character flaw that Kevin Kolb gets hurt. Does it hurt when he’s not on the field? Of course. Dave McGinnis used to say “Availability is more important than ability” and in many ways, that’s true. If you can’ stay healthy, the rest doesn’t matter. But you’re never going to convince me Kolb is less of a person because he won’t “tough out” an injury. Especially in a freaking preseason game. The first one, in fact. I would give tonight to John Skelton, obviously. But this isn’t over, no matter how much everyone wants it to be. We’ll see how Kolb reacts this week. Only a couple days of practice before the Chiefs game.
– It was an early bell to play a game, and I asked Ken Whisenhunt if it was fair to say he expected some of the sloppiness. “That would be the right answer for me to say,” Whisenhunt said, before acknowledging, “I would hope we would have been better.”
– The missed tackles weren’t good, but out of everything NFL teams work on, I always wonder how you can really work on that. Sure you can talk about being in better position, but ultimately, you can never have a full-on tackling practice. That’s reality and maybe the best reason to have five preseason games.
– Dave Zastudil had a great day punting in his home state, including a Hall of Fame game record 79-yarder. Michael Adams showed why he’s so great on special teams with the way he saved the ball from going in the end zone.
– Rookie Justin Bethel will be a killer on special teams with that speed and ability. Blocked a punt, had a great tackle as a gunner. I think he makes the roster on that alone.
– Michael Floyd gets his first catch, a 15-yarder. “It felt good to get the nerves out of me, to get those jitters out. Now I can just go play ball.”
– Every time I see Alfonso Smith run the ball, he shows something. I don’t know if he’d ever be a feature back, but as a fourth back, the Cards have something.
– That goes double for LaRod Stephens-Howling, whom I really would like to see touch the ball more on offense for the same reason – he just seems to make people miss.
– Linebacker Stewart Bradley had a rough year last year, but he made a couple of plays tonight with a sack and a pass defensed. He said he is so much more comfortable. Having him as a workable piece of the defense would make a difference.
– Seriously, though, Stew — that sack dance?
– Whisenhunt said he thought the offensive line played better after they “settled down,” which apparently was after Kolb was knocked out of the game.
– Rookie right tackle Bobby Massie seemed to have a rough night, and Whiz concurred with the assessment: “He looked like he was a young tackle who struggled a little bit. He was beat on up and under (moves) a couple times.” Whiz said they are working on Massie’s set-up so he’s not as mechanical, but that’s something that was going to take longer than a couple weeks of padded practice.
– Whisenhunt talked about dealing with some of the young guys, especially at the end when rookie QB Ryan Lindley drove the Cards in a spot to possibly tie the game (first-and-goal) only to have two incompletions and a Lindley pick end the hope.
“At the end of the game we had the whole team come over on the time out,” Whisenhunt said. “I was like, ‘This is like a college team. (Quarterbacks coach John) McNulty said, ‘About six of those guys are college guys.’ You have to understand what you are working with.”
– Ah youth. While Lindley was conducting the drive, Larry Fitzgerald was making lots of fans happy signing autographs. That’s the preseason for you, and the dichotomy between the young and veteran with the reality of an extra preseason game. “Guys like Lyle (Sendlein) and Levi (Brown) and guys that have been here a while, it’s probably their worst nightmare,” Lindley said. “But for us, it’s a blessing, for the rookies, the younger guys, all the guys fighting to make the 53.”
There. Done in 15 minutes. Goodnight.
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Bobby Massie, Dave McGinnis, Dave Zastudil, Justin Bethel, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Michael Adams, Michael Floyd, Ryan Lindley, Saints, Stewart Bradley
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Yes, yes, I know I am early. Way early. But as long as the info is out there — and while we still have a little bit before we get to training camp — here is a look at who the Cardinals’ opponents will be for the 2013 season.
– Indianapolis (Andrew Luck!)
– Carolina (Cam Newton!)
– Houston (Arian Foster.)
– Atlanta (Roddy White?)
– NFC North team that matches Cards’ spot in 2012 standings
– and of course, St. Louis, Seattle, San Francisco.
– New Orleans
– Tampa Bay
– NFC East team that matches Cards’ spot in 2012 standings
– and, of course, St. Louis, Seattle, San Francisco.
I was going to do a little analysis, but then I realized how foolish that was this far out.
Tags: 49ers, Andrew Luck, Arian Foster, Buccaneers, Cam Newton, Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, Panthers, Rams, Roddy White, Saints, schedule, Seahawks, Texans, Titans
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With everything going on today with the death of former NFL star Junior Seau, talking about football-related matters seems trivial (especially when I saw the story about a shooting tragedy locally here near where I used to live.) Indeed, before the Seau news broke, even the Saints bounty player suspension news wasn’t exactly uplifting. Interesting in that case that the league said part of the evidence against linebacker Jonathan Vilma was that he offered a $10,000 bounty to knock Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner out of their playoff game in January of 2010. Not that we have to rehash all of that again.
– Great and heartfelt anecdote from Saints offensive lineman Eric Olsen about going up against Seau at a football camp when Olsen was a kid. A must-read.
– It was painful to see Seau’s mother trying to deal with this. If you ever think it might be time to give up, always remember there are people close to you that don’t want you to give up.
– I thought Chargers.com did a great job handling the situation.
– Congrats to Steve Keim for his front-office promotion. I’d guess this would help in the future when teams sniff around him for GM work (although it won’t stop it). And it’s a big deal getting Jason Licht back. They liked his work during his first tenure. It never hurts to have someone coming in who already knows how everything operates.
– For those wondering, the Cards had about $2.5 million of salary cap space as of Monday. With the news they have about $4.5 million to use in the rookie pool, they
will still need to find more room they should be OK for now. (As Adamjt13 points out in the comments, the Cards actually should already have enough room with the offseason top 51 rule. My bad. He explains it well here, even if I may have been the media guy getting it wrong he was forced to update the article.)
– Finally, this is a great story written by former NFL defensive lineman Trevor Pryce. The next time you wonder why a player wants to “hang on” — or even why they’d subject themselves to an often brutal lifestyle, this is the answer.
Tags: Jason Licht, Junior Seau, Kurt Warner, Saints, Steve Keim
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A holiday weekend means Friday off, but before we reach the end of Thursday, I figured to touch on a few quick subjects:
– The signing of safety James Sanders doesn’t mean Adrian Wilson is going anywhere or that Sanders will even play a big role. I mean, he could, but there is nothing guaranteed (I remember the Cards signing veteran safety Keith Lewis in 2009 to a two-year contract almost as soon as free agency started and he didn’t make it out of training camp.) But again, this is a veteran who should serve well in the locker room. A scouting report from someone who covered Sanders acknowledged his age — he doesn’t run as well as he used to — but that the veteran is a good person, good with teammates and is intelligent, the kind of player who makes sure everyone is on the same page defensively.
In some ways, it sure sounds a lot like Richard Marshall (and like Marshall, Sanders is from Fresno State. He’s actually a one-time college teammate of Marshall’s.)
– I’ve talked to a lot of players over the years and most have always said what you’d think they’d say in context of the game — “You never want to see anyone get injured” and “You’re never trying to hurt someone.” They are just making football plays. So why is it that so many seem to, if not defend, not be upset with what went on with the Saints? I get that they think it’s part of the culture, but that’s not what everyone has been saying all these years. The idea a coach would specifically talk about going after a opponent’s concussed head or ACL — knowing what a guy has to go through to come back from a torn ACL — makes me cringe.
– If you didn’t see it, we have an offseason Underground podcast available.
Tags: James Sanders, Saints
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The punishments for the New Orleans Saints — at least most of them, since the player punishments are still TBD — came down Wednesday and they provided the expected doozy: A year-long suspension without pay for Saints coach Sean Payton, an indefinite suspension for former DC Gregg Williams of at least a year, and an eight-game ban for general manager Mickey Loomis.
Obviously this isn’t about the Cardinals, although there are parts of this that do impact the Cards:
– To begin with, the Cardinals will be the first team to play the Saints, since the teams will match up Aug. 5 in the Hall of Fame game to kick off the preseason. Wonder what the talking points will be during that broadcast? You wonder if the Cards are just going to be in the background, because it’s hard to see the Saints’ storylines not dominating.
– The Saints lose second-round picks this year and next. That’ll move up the Cards’ third-round pick a slot sooner. We’ll see what it means in 2013.
– Once the regular season begins, the Cards know that Williams, who had since been hired as the Rams’ defensive coordinator, won’t be around. Williams may never be around in St. Louis; commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t assuring anyone that Williams will be reinstated. Not that new head coach Jeff Fisher can’t work around it — former Cards head coach Dave McGinnis, on staff with the Rams now as an assistant head coach, could drop into the DC role like he once did for the Cards. UPDATE: Fisher said the duties won’t go to a permanent DC. He, McGinnis and Chuck Cecil will split the work.
– Then there is the Kurt Warner tie-in. The original investigation sprouted from the way the Saints treated Warner, then the Cards’ QB, and Brett Favre, then with the Vikings, during the playoffs after the 2009 season. The Cards’ playoff game, in fact, was mentioned a couple of times in the NFL’s official release about the punishments, including Warner himself. “The investigation showed bounties being placed on four quarterbacks of opposing teams – Brett Favre, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, and Kurt Warner.”
Warner, appearing on NFL Network Wednesday, had this to say about the punishment: “I’m shocked, like a lot of people, but not fully surprised. … But this is what Commissioner Goodell has done from Day One. And I love he is trying to make statements trying to protect our game for the long-term.”
Added Warner, “To a degree, this has gone on through the history of our game, where guys have gone out to hit guys really hard to knock them out of the game or at least knock them off their game so it affects (the hitting team) in a positive manner. Of course, not to the extent to where you are paying guys to hurt other guys, and I think that’s where this takes a different turn.”
– The NFL also made clear that they won’t let this happen again, sending a memo to all teams directing the owner of every team to meet with the head coach to confirm bounty systems aren’t in place in any other organization. Said the NFL release, “Each principal owner and head coach must certify this in writing to the commissioner by March 30.”
Tags: Dave McGinnis, Gregg Williams, Hall of Fame game, Jeff Fisher, Kurt Warner, Rams, Roger Goodell, Saints, Sean Payton
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The NFL dropped a bombshell Friday, releasing the results of an investigation that players and at least one coach on the New Orleans Saints were funding and using a “bounty” program for many defensive players, including extra money for anyone who knocked a player from a game.
One of the reasons the investigation started was the complaints that the Saints had targeted Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner in the teams’ playoff game in New Orleans in January, 2010. That was a game that the Cards lost, 45-14, and ended up being Warner’s final game of his career. He was beaten up during the game and then was crushed by Saints lineman Bobby McCray trying to make a tackle after an interception. Warner retired a few weeks later.
Warner said it at the time, but reiterated it again Friday on the Burns and Gambo show on Arizona Sports 620: That hit — and that game — did not make up his mind on retirement. Warner had pretty much decided by midseason his career would be over once the 2009 season was.
“(The McCray hit) put a nice exclamation point on it, but I had known well into that season there was a strong likelihood of me retiring,” Warner said. “It had nothing to do with one hit or one incident. Having made 99 percent of the decision anyway and then you take that hit and are sore for two-and-a-half weeks, it makes you go, ‘Uh, yeah, that’s the right decision.’ But by no means did it come down to one play whether I retired.”
There were other times in that game though when it did look like the Saints were going after Warner and specifically, his head (Warner had suffered through a concussion earlier that season.) Warner got hit a few times up high (like the picture to the right, where he is being clocked by linebacker Jonathan Vilma) but the Saints were only flagged for one personal foul, a roughing-the-passer by linebacker Scott Shanle. Warner at the time wasn’t thrilled about the hits either (the photo below is him complaining to referee Ron Winter.) Warner said the McCray hit was clean, even if it didn’t feel that good.
Warner said he’s heard of plenty of “bounty” speculation in the past, not necessarily with the Saints. There is no question bounties have been around for awhile. The Cards’ own senior director of community relations Luis Zendejas was a infamous target himself from Buddy Ryan and the Eagles back in the 1980s. But Warner also thinks the league, bounties or not, had been morphing into a more violent version anyway, which is why it is good the NFL has put some better rules in place.
“I believe players were going out trying to knock people out,” Warner said. “They were trying to get the big hit. That’s where the league had gone. Whether it was because of a quote-unquote “bounty” or teammates were paying those kinds of incentives, I still believe there are a number of players who were going to hit somebody and try to knock them out. That was the culture.”
The penalties the Saints will receive will be determined later, but they are expected to be severe. This went well beyond the Cards’ game or even the Vikings’ NFC Championship game the following week. Saints were getting $1,500 for knocking a player out of a game and $1,000 if a player was carted off and those payments went up double or triple in the playoffs. Warner said he really doesn’t remember the Saints coming after him or hitting him that day much differently than any team would each week.
But, “I don’t think there is a place in our game for trying to hurt someone,” Warner said.
Tags: Kurt Warner, Saints
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So there were — understandably — big questions about the Seahawks taking their 7-9 record despite an NFC West title and winning anything. Every single one of their nine losses were by at least 15 points, for heavens sake!
Then they knocked off the Saints.
And suddenly, you look at the NFC playoff landscape and think, “Have I seen this before?”
Back in 2008, after the Cards won their first playoff game (at home) they went to play at 12-4 Carolina (the No. 2 seed) as the No. 4 seed. It was the perfect matchup, because they had already gone to Carolina earlier in the season and even though they lost, 27-23, to a man the Cardinals felt they had blown that game against the Panthers and were a better team. At the same time, the No. 6 Eagles were going to the No. 1 Giants, and while New York was having a fine season as defending NFL champs, Philly had just beat them in New York.
We know how that turned out. The Cards ended up with one of the most improbable NFC Championship home games ever.
This season, some of the details are transposed, but there is a chance the result could repeat. The No. 4 Seahawks are at the No. 2 Bears, and Chicago was the site of Seattle’s most notable regular-season victory when they beat up the Bears earlier this year. And while the No. 6 Packers lost at the No. 1 Falcons a few weeks ago, Green Bay easily could have won a tight game. If the Packers and Seahawks both win (and the latter isn’t out of the question), Seattle might find itself hosting the NFC Championship. Improbably. Once again.
Tags: Bears, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, NFC Championship, Packers, Panthers, Saints, Seahawks
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With one game left — and the Cards safely out of the playoff picture — it’s a lot easier to narrow down some key portions of 2011 concerning both draft position and the schedule.
– As for the draft, the Cardinals have four teams with worse records than their own 5-10 mark. Arizona is one of seven teams with five wins. But as of right now, the Cardinals are fifth overall in the draft and “first” among those seven teams because of the Cards’ weak strength of schedule (Draft position is not broken by head-to-head or various playoff-type tiebreakers but instead the inverse — the weaker the opponents you played were, the higher pick, because the thought process is if your record is the same against weaker opponents, you are considered the weaker team and in need of a higher pick).
The Cardinals’ strength-of-schedule is so weak, in fact, that no matter any team(s) they end up tied with in the draft position, they will be choosing higher. So, for instance, even if the Cards beat the 49ers this weekend and the Seahawks lose and both the Cards and Seahawks finish with six wins, the Cards will be slotted higher in the draft. (Of course, beating the 49ers will mean the Cards end up with a better record than San Francisco, meaning the Niners will of course be ahead in the order).
Looking over the standings, the “lowest” the Cardinals will be picking will be 11th in the draft. If the Cardinals beat San Francisco, the Niners would be “ahead” of the Cards, while of the other five teams who have five wins, four could lose (two of the five-win teams play each other, Minnesota at Detroit, and I am assuming the Vikings lose in Philadelphia tomorrow night). Cleveland (hosting Pittsburgh), Dallas (at Philly) and Houston (hosting Jacksonville) are the other five-win teams.
If the Cards lose to the 49ers, they could still in theory have as high as the No. 2 pick in the draft, but that would mean Denver (hosting San Diego), Cincinnati (at Baltimore) and Buffalo (at the Jets) all won this weekend. Carolina has already clinched Andrew Lu, errr, the No. 1 pick overall.
– As for the schedule, that is always all but set. In cement are home games against the three NFC West foes, Dallas, the Giants, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The Cardinals will go on the road to the three NFC West opponents, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore and Cincinnati.
The remaining road/home games set up like this: If the Cards win, they will host Tampa Bay again. (UPDATE: My mistake — if the Saints lose tonight and then the Buccaneers beat the Saints next week, the Cards would host the Saints again next year in this scenario). If they lose, the extra home game will be Carolina.
For the final road game, a Cardinal win means the Cards will play at the winner of this weekend’s Minnesota-Detroit game. A loss in San Francisco means they will travel to the loser of the Vikings-Lions.
– UPDATE II: For those confused about why the schedule, for instance, has the Cards hosting Pittsburgh again after the Steelers came in 2007 and the Cards last went to Pittsburgh in 2003, here was the info I received on the subject from the league:
“You need to look at the scheduling formula on a larger scale. it’s not as simple as just alternating the home games for every opponent – the math would not work out that way. The formula is set so that you’ll play all non-division conference opponents at least one every three years and at home at least once every six years. Also, keep in mind for non-division opponents in the conference, you’re rotating three divisions over a period of time, so if you take the original eight-year rotation, the math doesn’t work out so that it’s a straight alternating system. So by just taking selective end points and asking about ’04, ’07 and ’10, you’re not looking at a complete picture.”
Under the formula, every team within a division plays 16 games as follows:
- Home and away against its three division opponents (6 games).
- The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (4 games).
- The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (4 games).
- Two intraconference games based on the prior year’s standings (2 games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.
Tags: 49ers, Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Cowboys, draft, Lions, Panthers, Saints, schedule, Seahawks, Texans, Vikings
Posted in Blog | 75 Comments »