Three straight openers against a rookie QB

Posted by Darren Urban on August 26, 2012 – 7:18 pm

With the news today that the Seahawks will start rookie third-round quarterback Russell Wilson at quarterback (over free-agent signee Matt Flynn, in a mild upset given that Wilson had been generating big buzz since the offseason), it obviously impacts the Cardinals. The regular-season opener is Sept. 9, when the Seahawks visit University of Phoenix Stadium. That will make Wilson the third straight rookie quarterback to make his debut against the Cardinals in the opener.

In 2010, the Cards opened in St. Louis, when Sam Bradford had some trouble with Adrian Wilson in his first NFL game. In 2011, Cam Newton ended up setting an NFL rookie record for passing yards in his first game. In the Cards’ favor, they ended up winning both games (17-13 against the Rams, 28-21 against the Panthers).

Now the defense will get a chance at Wilson, who, unlike Bradford and Newton, was not the first overall choice in the draft. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton will also get a chance at Wilson, who is under 6-feet tall, the reason he went in the third round. I’m sure it will be one of the storylines for the game in about a week (you know, after we get past the last preseason game, any forays into the waiver/free-agent pool by the Cards, and their own decision at quarterback.)

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While we wait …

Posted by Darren Urban on July 5, 2011 – 9:48 am

The Fourth of July has passed and that time when the lockout is creeping up on the season is coming fast. Talks are ongoing, and the hope still is that training camps won’t be delayed. Like everyone else, I am sitting back, waiting and hoping. In the meantime …

— Former NFL coach Herman Edwards was on ESPN’s SportsCenter this morning talking about his top five players to watch this season. At five was Packers LB Clay Matthews. Four was Bucs QB Josh Freeman, three was Rams QB Sam Bradford and two was Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant. And his top guy to keep an eye on? Cardinals rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson. Edwards has long been a fan of Peterson. Here’s hoping Edwards is right. Funny thing, by this time we’ve usually written and talked a ton about the first-round draft pick but because of the circumstances, he remains a relative mystery for this level. Will he jump in? Is he going to take longer to assimilate to the pro game because of no offseason (another reason it seems crazy for the Cards to deal DRC)?

— Speaking of the DRC “trade” — or more specifically, Eagles QB Kevin Kolb, some interesting stuff floating out there right now in this speculation bonanza we have. There is little question the Eagles think they can get a ransom for him right now, but who knows what that means? A Seattle radio station floated last week that the Seahawks would be willing to give up a first- and third-round pick for Kolb. That would change the dynamic of the situation, certainly.

As for Kolb’s play, Adam Caplan and Greg Cosell did an in-depth breakdown of Kolb’s five starts. It’s good stuff for anyone wanting to know more about this potential QB.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt will be back in the U.S. soon after his trip overseas to visit military troops, a journey that took him to Kuwait and over to Iraq and eventually Baghdad and allowed him to spend Fourth of July with men and women defending the very nature of the holiday. Whiz is also scheduled to return to the American Century Championship according to the tourney. That’s the celebrity golf tournament held every year at Lake Tahoe (This year, it’s July 12-17). Cardinals linebacker Joey Porter is also on the list to play this year.

Then again, you never know what could be happening football-wise. I don’t know what a new labor agreement would immediately mean for the coaches. Hope we get to find out soon.

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Feeling familiar

Posted by Darren Urban on May 19, 2011 – 3:26 pm

While everyone waits for the league year to start — and, at its root, waits for the Cardinals to have a chance to figure out its quarterback situation — the possibilities remain open speculation. Suddenly, it begins to feel very familiar.

In fact, as I read about how NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi felt about Kevin Kolb during a Sports 620 KTAR interview this morning, and how Kolb has generated a range of believers and non-believers when it comes to his abilities and what it could mean to the Cardinals if there indeed was a trade here, it felt very deja vu. Is Kolb the right guy? What’s he worth in a trade? Is what the Eagles want and what the Cards (assuming they’d want Kolb) are willing to give up at least in the same ballpark? Hard to know, given Kolb’s relatively short career and seven NFL starts.

This is about more than Kolb, though. So many questions are flying around about Marc Bulger too, and he’s got a much longer resume. And Donovan McNabb and Kyle Orton and even Carson Palmer. I realized it reminded me so much of the ramp-up before a draft when it comes to quarterbacks. Obviously, the veterans have played in the league, but this feels a lot like how Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett, etc., were deconstructed over and over. Such as Sam Bradford last year.

It’s the position, of course. It’s the position and the importance it carries and, this offseason, its the days of dead time that allows for possible paralysis by analysis. The trade market for a player like Kolb doesn’t hurt either; unlike the draft, there is someone on the other side of the equation (the Eagles, in this case) hoping Kolb’s value is driven up during all these discussions.

Like the draft, however, it’ll be impossible to know what any of these quarterbacks could really do in a different situation until they get to a new place. Until someone gets here to Arizona. The naysayers could be right about Kolb, for instance. But like the draft, that’s why a team has scouts. They scout veteran players too. You have to assume, whichever player the Cards chase, they believe he will be successful. Why else get him?

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Pro days and the case for No. 1 Cam

Posted by Darren Urban on March 8, 2011 – 9:54 am

The Cardinals have a handful of decision-makers — including head coach Ken Whisenhunt — attending Auburn’s pro day today, as colleges begin to host their home-cooking workouts. Obviously Auburn has a pair of potential top five picks in QB Cam Newton and DT Nick Fairley. Arkansas also has it’s pro day today; is it notable Whisenhunt chose to go where Newton is and not Ryan Mallett? Maybe. Maybe he already has seen what he wants to see from Mallett. Maybe the Cards will schedule Mallett for a one-on-one workout. The point is I don’t think you can make assumptions based on today’s choice.

At this point, the general feeling is that Newton and Misouri’s Blaine Gabbert (who, after not throwing at the combine, has his pro day March 17) are the top two QBs available. So to me, choosing to watch Newton over Mallett is logical. Doesn’t mean the Cards will take a quarterback.

Which leads me to this point: So many people are wondering if the Cards will take a QB first. What if Newton and Gabbert are both off the board in the top four picks? It may be a moot point for the Cards in the end.

My friend Darin Gantt, who covers the Panthers, told he thinks (at least on March 8th) that Newton will be the Panthers’ pick after losing out on Andrew Luck. That’d be a surprise. But I also remember about this time last year when everyone was just starting to talk about Sam Bradford going to the Rams No. 1 after he was hurt almost his entire final season in college. Everyone at first didn’t think Bradford would be the pick. Then he was, and it turned out pretty well for St. Louis.

That same top-three mock has Denver taking Von Miller at No. 2 and Alabama DT Marcell Dareus going to Buffalo at No. 3. That’d leave Cincinnati before Arizona. But all four teams in front of the Cardinals could conceivably be looking for a quarterback of the future. Would it really be a stunner to see both Newton and Gabbert off the board that early? I don’t think so.

We will see. In the meantime, the Cards will continue checking out the pro days (general manager Rod Graves is scheduled to attend the pro days of TCU, LSU and Texas A&M over the next six days) and doing due diligence. There can only be four players taken before the Cards go. Someone high-profile is going to be sitting there at 5. Who that is, however, remains vague.

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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2010 – 10:05 pm

Less than a week ago coach Ken Whisenhunt was saying John Skelton probably wasn’t going to play this season barring an injury. Then Max Hall got hurt. And Skelton got to play Sunday.

So now we see if Skelton gets to play. He looked good on those first couple of throws – darts to Steve Breaston and then Larry Fitzgerald – and that led the crowd to go crazy. You would have thought the Cards had traded for Tom Brady at that moment, but it showed how much the fans are starved for offensive success.

Because Max Hall was sick Friday last week, Skelton actually got some first-team reps – eight in fact. That is the entirety of Skelton’s first-team reps this season. Then he had to go out and perform with them.

“I was about as nervous as a third-string quarterback going into his first-game action could be,” Skelton said. “Nothing overwhelming or anything.”

— Will he start? We will see. I think a strong case can be made for it, especially since Whisenhunt said after the game that even though Derek Anderson wasn’t right (and was being checked for a concussion) he was going to make a QB change anyway.

Something has to change, Whisenhunt said. That certainly points – to me – as the Cards trying out a third starter this season.

— XTRA’s Mike Jurecki is tweeting the Cards will sign QB Richard Bartel should Hall be out (which sounds likely). The Cards had Bartel in for a workout a few weeks ago and they had seen him already this season – he played a good chunk of the preseason finale at University of Phoenix Stadium for the Redskins. If they do sign him, he’ll be the third guy. I would expect Anderson/Skelton to be one and two in some order.

— When Hall came in, he ended up passing three straight times despite the Cards being down just 10 points and the Cards running well. The first play, a play-action call, ended in a sack. The second play was a near-sack and an incompletion, and the third was an interception. It was an inauspicious sequence, but Whisenhunt said the Rams’ constant blitzing called for such plays.

“We thought there would be easy, easy throws,” Whisenhunt said. “One of (passes) got tipped and we missed the protection. The same play we ran to start the game (an Anderson 16-yard pass to Fitzgerald), we got the same blitz. We picked it up on the first play, we didn’t pick it up on Max’s first play.”

— Kicker Jay Feely has quietly had a great season. Take away a missed 54-yard field goal (which was straight but short wide left … dang the official scorebook!) and he has made all 15 of his other attempts (and is perfect on 21 extra points). He’s also drilled 14 touchbacks. He deserves Pro Bowl consideration, although I worry the offense may not give him enough opportunities to draw attention from the rest of the league.

— Disappointing Larry Fitzgerald still hasn’t taken that franchise record for catches to himself. He is tied with Anquan Boldin after today. He was targeted 11 times, but ended up with just four catches. He would have been open on the interception thrown by Anderson; Not sure if Anderson thought Fitz would stay straight (Fitz was setting up an up-and-out break) or if he just threw it behind Fitz.

— Darnell Dockett was all over the field Sunday. It was good to see him so dominant. Kerry Rhodes was impressive too. I actually thought Sam Bradford played better in the opener than Sunday, although the Rams didn’t have to get too fancy knowing their own defense was holding down the Cards.

Four games to go.

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Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on December 3, 2010 – 5:02 pm

Today was a good Friday. Our annual third-floor potluck luck was highlighted by freshly made carne asada tostadas by Rolando Cantu. First Mexican-born NFL player, and a killer chef to boot.

Of course, I’m not sure that has any affect on Sunday’s game. I’m guessing no. But I’m trying to go glass half-full here. I am sure optimism isn’t warranted until it’s earned, and the way Sam Bradford has been playing the Rams have to be feeling confident. I mean, they might have been a crucial Steve Breaston strip away from beating the Cards the first time, and that was Bradford’s first NFL start, not his 13th.

But this team isn’t going winless the rest of the way. They just aren’t, no matter what funk they are in. Is this the weekend to snap it? Is the way they seem to have rallied around Derek Anderson after his version of the Monday Night Meltdown translate? (Oh, I am imagining the comments below already). The Rams haven’t won back-to-back road games since 2007. The Cards have beaten the Rams eight straight times.

I’m not predicting anything. The Cardinals have to play better. It is disconcerting to hear Adrian Wilson talk about guys communicating poorly on defense (and getting in the wrong spots) still, even though we are this deep in the season. The offense has never found any kind of steady rhythm all season. These are the major things working against the Cards, and again, they have to earn any kind of trust/respect/prediction right now.

— There will be a toy drive at University of Phoenix Stadium before the game. Cheerleaders and personnel from Chicanos Por La Causa will collect new unwrapped toys and monetary donations outside each stadium entrance. Donations benefit the “Angeles Del Barrio” program that distribute toys to more than 13,000 needy kids in Phoenix and San Luis.

— Linebacker O’Brien Schofield is feeling pretty good, although he wishes he could ditch the brace he must wear on his knee. “I told them they are going to see me run down the field one day and it’s going to come off like I’m Forrest Gump,” Schofield said with a laugh. He will wear it through the season, but insisted he’s going to find a way to rid himself of it in the offseason.

— That’s when Schofield plays to build up his legs, period. He weighed about 246 in college. He got down to 221 after his knee injury, and is back to 244. He wants to play between 248 and 250, weight he plans to build in his legs.

— Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, on special teams demon/kick-return star LaRod Stephens-Howling: “LaRod has been lights out. You want to pick an MVP, he’s hands down the guy.”

— It’s very clear they are waiting for John Skelton until next year and that it’s always been the plan. Hopefully, that answers everyone’s questions.

— Tackle Jeremy Bridges was fined $20,000 for an unnecessary roughness penalty Monday against the 49ers for hitting a player in the head. The league pointed out it was Bridges’ fifth such infraction since the beginning of the 2009 season (the five don’t necessarily have had to have been flagged in the game, just deemed penalties when the league looks at them later). Linebacker Clark Haggans was fined $10,000 for a blow to the head/neck area in the same game.

— In that first game against the Rams, perhaps you remember Fitzgerald being targeted 15 times but only getting four catches. Much frustration that day, although Fitz said this week his health was “about 25 percent” for that game after he hurt his knee in preseason. “I wasn’t full-go at that point.”

— Tim Hightower usually does pretty well against the Rams, so that’s something to look for.

— So does Wilson. If there was ever someone who needed a standout game, it’s A-Dub. Of course, you could say that about a lot of Cards.


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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 12, 2010 – 11:36 pm

Didn’t we just talk about going and getting a win in St. Louis, regardless? So that’s what the Cards did.

But there is little question, of all the big-picture items coming out of the 17-13 nailbiter, was about quarterback Derek Anderson. He completed his first six passes and 10 of his first 13. Then he missed on his next seven. On the game-winning drive, he completed 6-of-7 (and piled up 101 yards passing on that drive, because of penalties).

“We still have to find out what our strengths are going to be with Derek as far as the kinds of passes we are going to run,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “He made some good throws and he made some throws that were not so good.”

Whisenhunt insisted he was comfortable with Anderson (so everyone clamoring for Max Hall, stop). He praised Anderson for handling himself well. Perhaps Whisenhunt just understands who Anderson is and there are things a team must accept.

Anderson was impressive in taking responsibility. “I missed some throws, some easy ones I have to make,” he said. “I know that. I have to be better.” Later, he compared it to his beloved golf game (he is a scratch golfer), saying some of his incompletions “are like missing four-foot birdies.”

He missed Larry Fitzgerald on 12 of the 15 passes he threw No. 11’s way, including a seam route that Fitz was behind everyone. “I want that, I have to hit that,” Anderson said. “I will watch it tomorrow and probably be sick.”

— Whisenhunt thinks it will get better with Anderson. Both he and his quarterback wore that tired smile that comes after a win. Anytime you can make some mistakes – or in this case, have the offense stagnant for a chunk of the game – and still win, that’s the best kind of learning experience. Anderson did throw the game-winning TD after all (celebration below) and didn’t throw an interception (although the Rams dropped at least one).

— It didn’t help that Early Doucet is hurt again, straining a groin and forcing two rookies – Stephen Williams and Max Komar – into significant playing time. Whisenhunt also said Fitz’s injured knee starting bothering him late in the game too.

— Tim Hightower may have cost himself dearly with two fumbles. Hightower had fumbling issues last season and to have it crop up twice today is the fastest way to the doghouse. The last one did look like he was down, but let’s face it, the only job the running back has after that last interception by Kerry Rhodes is to not turn it over. The game is then over.

— Komar desperately needed that big 20-yard catch he made on the final TD drive. It was Komar’s lost fumble after his previous catch around the Rams’ 5-yard line cost the Cards at least three points, and he twice dropped punt returns to the turf (but recovered those). “You are both encouraged and upset” with Komar, Whisenhunt said, “but that’s this game.”

— The Cardinals, by the way, didn’t fumble seven times in a game at all from 1983 through 2008. Now they have done it twice in five games (including the Monday night debacle in San Francisco late last season).

— New cornerback Greg Toler did fairly well. He was a sound tackler with 13, while the Rams clearly went in his direction and tried to stay away from DRC.

— The 17 points scored were the fewest for the Cards in a victory since Whiz became coach.

— Definitely one of the best all-around games safety Adrian Wilson has ever played. He plays like this, he may reach that coveted 30-30 club (sacks and interceptions) yet. He now has 21½ sacks and 25 picks. (As good as he was, though, I do not expect Wilson to have 16 sacks and 32 interceptions this season. I do expect him to be NFC defensive player of the week, however).

— Anderson praised newbie Ram Sam Bradford, but he did note, “I was kind of happy we had a rookie quarterback leading them at the end.”

— Weirdest part of the game was because of the great play by Steve Breaston, the Cardinals had, essentially, a 10-play drive (plus three other plays called back because of penalty) that lasted almost five minutes of game clock. It started at the Arizona 29 and ended at the Arizona 35. “Talk about a 15-play drive to nowhere,” center Lyle Sendlein said.

Not that it matters now. Now, it’s a funny little anecdote in a win’s aftermath.

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Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on September 10, 2010 – 4:59 pm

The regular season has arrived. And frankly, it’s impossible to know what the next four months holds for this team.

There can be no opponent/road trip better for a team in transition to play/go than the St. Louis Rams. Yet there can be no opponent/road trip worse. This feels like a no-win in some ways; if the Cards dominate, the thought will linger, “Yeah, but who was it against?” If they somehow lose … ugh.

Of course, I’m probably overthinking things. If the Cards play well Sunday, I am sure there will be a collective sigh of relief more than anything. As Adrian Wilson once said in his famously deep voice during an infamous radio interview the morning after the Monday Night Meltdown, “It’s hard to win in the NFL.” (There might have been an expletive thrown in there, but that’s a tale for another day). It is hard to win, and the Rams have some positive vibes with their new quarterback Sam Bradford.

But the Rams also have 14 rookies on their team and frankly, I am probably selling short this Cards’ defense, which is anxious to have a crack at a rookie in his first game. Bradford is a rookie. By the end of the season, who knows, maybe he does become another Matt Ryan in his first year. He’s just starting out though. No better time to get him than right out of the box.

(Ryan may be a bad example. In his first game, he was 9-of-13 for 161 yards and a touchdown. I’m thinking – and the Cards are thinking – more like Matt Stafford’s 16-for-37, 205-yard, three-interception showing.)

That’d make for a fun afternoon, wouldn’t it?

— I know Larry Fitzgerald told Sports 620 KTAR, in defense of himself in the whole Matt Leinart-was-cut scenario, that he hadn’t even taken any snaps with the newbie, Derek Anderson. Technically that’s true in the preseason-game sense of the situation. But as coach Ken Whisenhunt pointed out Friday, the two did work together sometimes in OTAs and in training camp.

“We said we were going to get Derek some reps with the ones just so he could get a feel for those guys,” Whisenhunt said. “Obviously you’d like to have more reps than we have, but I don’t see it as a situation where we haven’t gotten reps. We’ll see how it plays out Sunday.”

I think Fitz will be just fine, as long as Anderson gets the ball near him.

— Speaking of that, Whisenhunt said earlier this week the Cards have worked hard on Anderson’s footwork, which in turn is supposed to aid his accuracy. Whiz said he has seen results. That’s key. Missing out on chances – like the errant throw to a wide-open Early Doucet in the Chicago preseason game – can’t happen too often.

— I can’t see Beanie Wells playing with his bad knee. But Tim Hightower has been itching to have the load on his shoulders and now it will be, although I’d expect a heaping helping of Hyphen with no Beanie. LaRod Stephens-Howling should be a bigger part of the offense this year anyway, and they’ll need him if/when Beanie is sidelined. Looking forward, it’s hard to tell if there should be long-term Beanie concern. Which, if you think about it, is how Whiz likes it (the part about being hard to tell, not that there could be concern about Beanie).

— The wait to see who returns punts will happen game day. We’ll likely know by who is active; I am betting on Max Komar as the fifth receiver, with Andre Roberts inactive for now.

— I expect Calais Campbell to have a big season, and this game would seem to be a good starting point, with Bradford and everything.

— The Cards have to stop Steven Jackson, although they know that. Since Whisenhunt has taken over, Jackson has missed two of the six meetings, had one 100-yard game, and has averaged 63 yards rushing against the Cardinals. Yes, the Cards need more of that.

It always seems harder to “preview” the opening game because it seems, in some ways, that training camp and the preseason has been one long preview. There really doesn’t feel like much to say here, not until a game is played for real and the play of some of the new guys filters out. It will be strange going back to St. Louis without the Kurt Warner subplot (OK, let’s be honest, the game always felt like the subplot to Warner’s return – and then he’d rip up his old team).

It’s time to go, though. Finally. (P.S. Here’s a video to inspire you for the weekend.)

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Redskins aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2010 – 11:37 pm

The preseason is over. That’s always nice to say.

Where things go for the Cardinals from here, we will see. Sometime in the next day or two – the team must be shaved to a 53-man roster by 3 p.m. Arizona time Saturday – we all get to see who is in and who is out. Obviously, everyone is waiting to see what will happen with Matt Leinart. Could he still be traded, after the report that agent Tom Condon has been given permission to work one out? Could Leinart simply be released, something that multiple media outlets have speculated could happen?

Heck, could Max Hall have played his way into being Derek Anderson’s backup?

Coach Ken Whisenhunt pumped the brakes a bit on the Hall hysteria after Thursday’s game. “You have to understand this was preseason, and they weren’t doing a lot defensively,” the coach said. “Sometimes you get a little too excited about those situations.”

“But,” Whiz continued – and it was an important but – “I like the way he handled himself and I like the way he handled our team.”

Handling the team was one of the catch phrases Whiz kept bringing up when he was talking earlier in the preseason about Anderson and Leinart. Hall was impressive Thursday, and he certainly doesn’t lack for confidence. He said “absolutely” when I asked him if he’d be comfortable being a rookie backup. I don’t doubt it.

— That, of course, means Leinart would be moved. I’m not sure he can be traded, not with a contract that would force a team to play him $12 million next year. But when an agent gets permission to shop – and let’s assume that happened – it includes talks of contract restructuring usually. That could help.

— Leinart, not surprisingly, was saying nothing of substance after the game. He said a couple of times he hadn’t been thinking about his future or what will happen, and I would be willing to bet a lot that’s almost all he has been thinking about. But what else can he say right now? That he wants to play for Pete Carroll again? Of course not. So he’s right. He has to wait. But I don’t doubt that wherever he is playing, he probably hopes it isn’t Arizona.

— It sounds like Deuce Lutui is just about in a place to get back to starting. “Deuce has been playing pretty well, consistently during the preseason,” Whisenhunt said. “I haven’t been displeased with his play. That has not been the issue. The issue is obviously what we’re all well aware of.”

Lutui’s weight problems, of course.

“Once he gets out of my doghouse, I think he’ll be fine,” Whisenhunt added.

The guess is Lutui will supplant Reggie Wells sooner rather than later in the lineup.

— The Cardinals finished 3-1 in the games that don’t count, eclipsing Whiz’s win total from the previous three preseasons combined (two). “I don’t know how comfortable I am being 3-1 in preseason,” Whisenhunt quipped.

— I think Max Komar, the undrafted rookie wideout, has made this team. I wonder if Monty Beisel’s play – an interception and sack at linebacker – may have saved him. I believe this team will look hard at the waiver wire this weekend, and that the 53-man roster we get first will not be the roster than climbs on the plane to St. Louis.

— It looks like Sam Bradford has wrapped up the starting QB job for the Rams, which means Darnell Dockett will get his wish when the Cards visit St. Louis for the season opener. This defense was praying that would happen, even if Bradford may eventually turn out to be the real deal.

— Finally, Beanie Wells is OK. He could have gone back in, he said. But no reason to risk it. That’s what the fourth game of the preseason is about – minimizing risk.

And, maybe, reshuffling the quarterback depth chart.

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Seeking a QB and other draft stuff

Posted by Darren Urban on April 15, 2010 – 2:36 pm

Ken Whisenhunt admits it. If Sam Bradford is there as the 26th pick overall, the Cardinals will draft him.

OK, so it isn’t going on a limb. Bradford isn’t making it out of the top three, and at this point, it’ll be an upset if he isn’t selected No. 1 by fellow NFC West tenant St. Louis. But the Cards are, not surprisingly, going to look and see if they can find a quarterback somewhere in the draft. That’s something the Cardinals’ coach acknowledged the team has considered the last couple of years. Whisenhunt also admitted figuring out if a quarterback will truly fit and succeed is one of the toughest jobs for a team. Any team.

“Sometimes it’s the scheme, sometimes it’s the talent around the quarterback,” Whisenhunt said. “I think early in a quarterback’s career there are a lot of things that can determine where his career is going to go. If he has a strong team around him, he can turn into something good. There are quarterbacks who are high picks coming out and don’t have a good team around them and they take a beating and they never seem to recover. There are a number of factors involved.

“There are things important to us that we have learned over the years – technique, drops, how they throw the ball, knowledge of the game, how they do reads, the things that would make them successful. But once again, we never know how they are going to react to the stress of this level.”

That’s why quarterbacks like Bradford end up going No. 1 overall because teams can’t afford to pass on them when they are franchise quarterback-less.

In other breaking news, Whisenhunt said if  defensive tackle studs Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy is sitting there at No. 26, the Cards would be willing to select them. Offensive tackle Russell Okung too. I’m sure you’re stunned at such information.

Three other quick draft related points:

— General manager Rod Graves, acknowledging it is a personal preference, said unless there is an exception player on the board like a left tackle, he prefers to stay away from drafting an offensive lineman in the first round. I always thought the Cards would go defense in the first round anyway, but anyone mock drafting the Cards will take a tackle or someone like guard Mike Iupati is probably off-base;

— Whisenhunt said the team will obviously be looking for defensive depth but he feels the defense is helped by some of the offseason moves, notably linebacker Joey Porter’s signing. “It helps when you get a guy like Joey, who you feel brings  a lot to the table not only as a player but as a guy who can help with the mentality of your team,” Whisenhunt said. “To me, that was something as a team we needed to improve on. We did at times and other times we didn’t.”

That said, the Cards’ braintrust sure sound like defense will be an important factor in the draft. Whisenhunt stressed they won’t pass up an important offensive piece they can use if such a player were highly rated just to reach for a defender, but I think defense will be the focus.

— Speaking of defense, Whisenhunt disputed the idea there weren’t a lot of quality inside linebackers, noting that the lack of inside guys projected for the first round may be more a result of the draft’s overall talent, especially on the offensive and defensive lines.

Don’t forget, live chat with yours truly tomorrow (here’s the link), 11 a.m. PST (2 p.m. EST).

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