Good information (and not altogether surprising) info from Peter King this morning about third-round pick Tyrann Mathieu. There has been much said about the risk the Cards have taken to draft him after his drug problems. Even GM Steve Keim acknowledged to King “It’s uncharacteristic of our organization to take chances on guys with troubled pasts.” But King makes a great point, and one that should be repeated: In the NFC West, teams like the Rams and the Seahawks seem to not care as much about character concerns when it comes to stockpiling talent. Maybe that’s the price of doing business in what can honestly be called the NFL’s toughest division.
King also reports that Mathieu will receive random drug tests, as many as one a week (which is exactly what Mathieu said would probably happen, which he understood) and that the Cards will include no guaranteed money in his contract. Instead, his money will be delivered with a series of bonuses for sticking around and staying clean, which is the right way to go with a player who has had as many issues as Mathieu has had. If he washes out, it won’t save the loss of a draft pick. But it won’t hamstring the team either on the salary cap or with actual wasted dollars either.
UPDATE: Ian Rapoport reports that Mathieu’s agent — who happens to be Patrick Peterson’s agent — expects the Cards to try and protect themselves in the contract but that he won’t do a deal with no guaranteed money.
UPDATE II: On a Sirius interview Tuesday, Steve Keim said the Cardinals and Mathieu’s agent “are on the same page” with how the contract needs to be done.
Tags: Rams, Seahawks, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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So here are some quick thoughts on the Cardinals’ schedule, for what they are worth. No one knows exactly what will happen between now and when the games will be played and so much can change. Nevertheless, this is what we do, so we press on …
– What smacks me in the face first is the back-to-back games against the 49ers — in San Francisco — and the Seahawks just four days later for their NFL Network game. That’s in October (13 and 17). Those teams aren’t easy with which to deal, and to have them so close together is tough. I guess, with Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson with similar games (I know Wilson doesn’t run as much as Kaepernick), the defense will be in the right frame of mind. Todd Bowles, are you ready?
– Opening in St. Louis isn’t a bad place to start. The Cards have had a ton of success there, winning seven straight before last year. These aren’t the 2009 Rams, but they aren’t the Niners and Seahawks either.
– Offenses with which the Cards must deal without suspended linebacker Daryl Washington: Rams, Lions, Saints, Buccaneers. All in all, not the worst thing.
– A bye at exactly the midway point of the season.
– The Bruce Arians-faces-his-former-Colts-team game comes Nov. 24. Will be very interesting to see where the Cards are at that point — we will be long past the storybook of the Colts season last year — and, for that matter, where the Colts stand.
– I didn’t think weather would be a big deal, but it could be chilly in Philly (Dec. 1) and Tennessee (Dec. 15). And perhaps Seattle (Dec. 22) for that matter.
– It did catch my eye that the preseason Dallas game is at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. I prefer that rather than night preseason games.
– A trip to Raymond James Stadium Sept. 29. Let’s see, the last time the Cards were there …
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Colin Kaepernick, Colts, Daryl Washington, Rams, Russell Wilson, schedule, Seahawks
Posted in Blog | 32 Comments »
I thought the day before free agency began was supposed to be quiet.
Instead, it most certainly has not been, not for anyone following the Cardinals. The Cards continued to make moves by cutting running back Beanie Wells — more on that in a minute — while NFC West foes Seattle and San Francisco set up trades for Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin and Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin, respectively. Those teams were already set up for success and obviously, both players make them better.
(The deals, which can’t be made official before tomorrow at the earliest, are different in nature, though. The Seahawks gave up a three-pick haul for Harvin, including their first-round pick, and will need to sign him to an extension. The 49ers gave up just a sixth-round pick because everyone knew the Ravens were going to cut Boldin, and that could very well be a one-year rental depending on why direction the Niners want to go in 2014. Boldin has one year left on his contract. The Boldin deal can’t be completed before he takes a physical either, and that comes after he completes his trip to Africa with Fitz.)
In the meantime, the Cardinals let Wells go. Beanie always knew it was a likely result. He believes he can rebound from his knee problems at age 24 but they have dogged him for more than a year now. When healthy — heck, even when kind of healthy in 2011 — Wells could run over opponents with the best of them. He had some runs as a rookie on that 10-win 2009 team that made you wonder why he wasn’t playing more. But when you don’t catch passes or block tremendously well, when running is mostly what you do, you need to be able to do that often. He didn’t miss a ton of games before last season but going forward, with a new offense, the marriage between the Cards and Beanie didn’t make a lot of sense to continue.
Next at running back? Ryan Williams will get a shot, I’d think, depending on free agency. The Reggie Bush buzz will be floating out there until Bush signs somewhere. Maybe it’s him. Maybe someone else. Maybe the draft makes sense. But if you are certain you will get a big name back there, remember the Colts and Bruce Arians rode Vick Ballard last year and no one knew who Vick Ballard was before that. There has been zero talk about LaRod Stephens-Howling so I’m not sure if he is still an option to be re-signed. The overhaul continues.
Tags: 49ers, Anquan Boldin, Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Percy Harvin, Seahawks
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The Ravens won the Super Bowl and the 49ers reached the Big Game. Both teams have long been known for their defenses, and at one point last week, I saw someone note that regardless of what big numbers guys like Brady and Manning and Brees put up, teams with strong defenses were left standing at the end. Defenses win championships.
Except it’s not true.
I’m not saying the defenses of Baltimore and San Francisco aren’t good. Of course they are, and the 49ers’ defense in particular spurred them to another great season. But you can’t have a Super Bowl end with a score of 34-31 and say defense wins championships. It’s about the teams that can be effective offensively enough these days that will win the title. The Ravens did lock down the Colts in the Wild Card round (nine points) and the Patriots in the AFC Championship (13 points), but in both cases the offense did plenty, and certainly, the Ravens’ wins against the Broncos and Niners were more about scoring points than not allowing them. The 49ers provide a greater example, allowing 31, 24 and then 35 points in three postseason games. San Fran did shut out the Falcons in the second half of the NFC Championship, but if it wasn’t for an offense that could pile up four touchdowns, that wouldn’t have mattered.
Is it any wonder, then, that teams were looking for offensive head coaches? As well as the Cardinals’ defense played this season, the offense just wasn’t enough (and yes, I realize that is the understatement of the year.) The Cardinals’ defense in the 2008 season was just OK statistically, but it had it’s moments — and it could rely on an offense that could score points with anyone. Bruce Arians is here because the offense needs a fix. The Seahawks and Niners will be favorites going into next season not because they have good defenses — which they do — but because their offenses suddenly look explosive behind young quarterbacks.
A team still needs a good defense. The Ravens still needed a crucial stop at the end of the game in New Orleans to clinch their title. A poor defense gets you nowhere near a Super Bowl no matter what your offense is like (right, Saints?) But the days when a team can ride a defense practically alone to a title are long gone, like the 2000 Ravens did. The rules don’t allow it, and at some point, points are needed. These days, you need a championship offense to win a championship.
Tags: 49ers, Ravens, Seahawks, Super Bowl
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The Super Bowl run-up this week — on both TV and in print — will be filled with a handful of the obvious stories this week: The last game for Ray Lewis, the Harbaugh brothers, and, with the 49ers becoming explosive on offense with new quarterback Colin Kaepernick, there will be plenty written and said about the read-option offense.
The conventional wisdom has long been that running quarterbacks will have a hard time having long-term success in the NFL. Defenders are faster and stronger in the pros than college. The chances of a quarterback getting hurt — and the chances that a coach wants to make sure his quarterback doesn’t get hurt — are high. Of course, that all got turned on its head this season, with Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson (to a lesser degree) all making the read-option incredibly dangerous to opposing defenses.
Where does it go from here?
It’s impossible to know for sure. I do know that defensive coordinators are going to have an entire offseason to prepare to defend it. If you are Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who could/will see some version of it up to seven times in 2013 — the Niners twice, the Seahawks twice, the Panthers (Cam Newton), Titans (Jake Locker) and Eagles (with new coach Chip Kelly) — you know the Cards are going to study the strengths and weaknesses carefully. There have been comparisons made to the Wildcat offense, and that version became a lot less effective the year after it hit the scene hard.
Then again, the Wildcat was done in a situation where the main ballhandler wasn’t a quarterback. The threat of the pass was only that, a threat. It wasn’t normal. That’s what makes the read-option so difficult, because the quarterback could instead fade for a quick throw. That’s why Kaepernick and Griffin and Wilson have been so good. It’s not because they run the ball well — although they do do that — but because they are accurate passers and can make defenses pay through conventional ways too. (In other words, Tim Tebow they are not.) As more and more college quarterbacks find ways to do both, it will inevitably find its way into the pro game.
Injury concerns are legitimate. The Redskins understand this. The more hits a QB takes, the more chance he gets hurt. Simple math. Maybe the success can be sustained on a football level, but on a player level, the quarterback won’t last as long. Or maybe the QB has to morph after a few years, like Michael Jordan went from going to the hoop every time into one of the best jump shooters. Pocket passers aren’t going away. It’s really about what the talent is coming from colleges and what coaches are willing to do to adapt. I doubt every team suddenly starts running the read-option, but I don’t see it going away.
Tags: 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, Eagles, Panthers, read-option, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Seahawks, Titans, Todd Bowles
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The playoffs are a long-ago dream, but the Cardinals still can have a hand in it. This week, the Bears — reeling as they are — come to town losers of 5 of their last six after a 7-1 start. Once the playoffs seemed a foregone conclusion. But if Minnesota pulls off an upset in Houston in an early game Sunday, then the Cardinals would eliminate the Bears from the postseason if they can beat Jay Cutler’s crew.
“In order for us to be relevant, we have to win,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “This time of year everybody knows what has to happen for their football team. We are aware of the path we have to take.”
The Cards actually could be in position to do some damage in both the final two games. In the finale at San Francisco, the 49ers could have something on the line. If the Niners lose in Seattle this weekend, they could actually lose the division title the following week if the Cards won. Even if the Niners clinch this weekend by toppling the Seahawks, San Francisco will likely have a chance to clinch a first-round bye on the line in the final week.
What’s amazing is the difference a week makes. The Lions, playing poorly, came into University of Phoenix Stadium as the favorite last week because the Cardinals were on their nine-game losing streak. Now, it seems, many believe the Cardinals have a good shot to knock off the Bears and cripple their playoff chances. At this point, it’s what the Cards have to play for.
Tags: 49ers, Bears, Lions, Lovie Smith, playoffs, Seahawks
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Sunday, the Cardinals have a chance to fully wipe away last weekend’s loss in Seattle. But that’s all it was, a loss, and given the tragic events in Connecticut today, it’s difficult to get worked up over it as any more than that. The Lions come to town also as a 4-9 team, and this is one – if the Cardinals are going to get one – to get. Ryan Lindley will be back at QB, and if he can play more like the guy in the first 30 minutes of his lone start at University of Phoenix Stadium and not the last 30 minutes, the Cards should have a chance. I definitely don’t see the defense melting down again.
– It’s amazing, and I know it’s because of the quarterback situation, but there has been very little discussion about the Cards’ offensive line in recent weeks. The unit is far from perfect, but rookie tackles Bobby Massie and Nate Potter have been doing well enough. Coach Ken Whisenhunt wouldn’t disclose who the new starting center will be Sunday – “I think we need every little element of surprise that we can get. We can certainly use it,” Whisenunt said – but we’ll see if that group can hold up.
– As for needing a new center, “there’s continuity with the quarterback and the snaps and that’s something you can’t always simulate or get in practice,” Whisenhunt said. “We’ve struggled with that a little bit the last couple of games with adjusting to (now injured) Rich (Ohrnberger). Then just when he starts to get comfortable and you feel good about that, he goes out.”
– The Lions have a good defensive line, although with DT Nick Fairley doubtful and unlikely to play, the Cardinals catch the break. They still have ends Cliff Avril and nearing-the-end Kyle Vanden Bosch, the one-time Cardinal. They have defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who can be dominant at times. It will be a good test for the Cards’ line.
– On the flip side, the Lions’ secondary isn’t stellar. If Larry Fitzgerald is going to be anything more than a leader for this team and actually contribute to the offense on the field, Lindley hopefully can make that happen this week.
– Speaking of Fitz, I’m not sure acting is in his future.
– He turned 91 today, so former Cardinals star back Charley Trippi can’t help on the field, but he will be at UoP Sunday so the team can celebrate his career and his place in the Ring of Honor. If you don’t know about Trippi, check out Josh Weinfuss’ great story.
– FYI, the security screening locations will be opening early (10:45 a.m.) for both the Detroit and Chicago games, with portable food and beverage stands open on the plaza for those that get there early. Actual stadium access for non-premium seat holders remains the same (90 minutes before kickoff).
– There is a toy drive at the game. Bring unwrapped toys and donations to any stadium entrance to help needy children at this time of year.
– Speaking of good stories, all the state high school championship football teams will be honored Sunday, including Queen Creek High School. If you haven’t heard, the Queen Creek team befriended a very special girl this season, and she too will be at the festivities. Check out the story – although it might get a little dusty wherever you are.
– Because people want to know, here is an early list of offensive free agents-to-be. Chew on that if you’d like.
– Finally, I just want to send thoughts and prayers to those affected in the Connecticut shootings. It’s been tough making sense of writing about football today given what happened, especially when I think of my own kids and my wife – who is a teacher – and worrying about what could happen to them.
Just remember there are bigger things when we sit here and talk about football losses or bad play or whether someone should be fired. I’m not saying you can’t say that. This is a site about the Cardinals and that’s what we all talk about. I’m just asking to be civil when talking about it, when addressing others, when criticizing players, coaches or management. We are all just people — fans, me, guys on the team — trying to get along here. The vitriol isn’t necessary to get the point across. If it’s frustrating you that much, imagine what some back East are going through this weekend.
That’s it. I’m climbing off the soapbox. On to Sunday.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Charley Trippi, Ken Whisenhunt, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Larry Fitzgerald, Lions, Nate Potter, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Seahawks
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Defensive coordinator Ray Horton wasn’t happy with his unit’s performance in last weekend’s 58-0 blowout loss in Seattle. But that doesn’t mean he wants to flush it either.
“I hope they never forget that,” Horton said. “We have to own that as a whole team. It’s embarassing as a whole team. I hope I never forget that. I think it was just a cavalcade of dominoes falling. We couldn’t turn off the faucet. It was awful.”
Yet Horton regained a measure of optimism after seeing the defense rebound mentally. Normally, Horton said, it’s tough not to be down after such a performance on Monday and Tuesday but that things get back to normal by Wednesday. This Wednesday, Horton said he was still “a little down.”
“Darnell (Dockett) came to me and said, ‘Hey coach, we still have a lot to play for, what are we doing (this week)?’ ” Horton said. “We are prepared. We are all on the same page.”
– Horton said one defensive player he thought played well last week was cornerback Patrick Peterson. Like everyone else, Horton is looking forward to seeing Peterson versus Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. “Patrick is ready for this guy,” Horton said. “It’s probably a statement game for Patrick. It will be an interesting spotlight on him this week. … It’s important for him to prove his elite status.”
Horton also has no problem with Peterson talking in public. “They’re the ones that have to back it up. I encourage them to be bold and assertive. If he believes that, and if he wants to say that, I am sure everyone else will try to co-sign that check for him.”
– Rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming, however, is apparently in a totally different place. The third-round pick was a healthy scratch last week, and Horton said after Fleming was excellent early in the season (most notably in New England) his play fell off and thus, so did his playing time.
“I need him to grow-up, mature and be professional and in my opinion he’s not at that point yet,” Horton said bluntly. “He came in and was very productive, very productive in the New England game. I think he had a sense of lull or complacency. I talked to him about that.
“I think he probably thought, ‘There is nothing to this league, I don’t have to prepare, I don’t have to study, I don’t have to challenge myself.’ And you really do, every day, or you get run by.”
Fleming said his reaction was just to do what Horton said. Asked if he too thought he had become complacent, Fleming said “You could say that. I don’t know if I would say that myself, but something like that.”
Fleming did say he didn’t have an issue with how blunt Horton was with him. “Him being honest is what I want,” Fleming said.
Tags: Jamell Fleming, Patrick Peterson, Ray Horton, Seahawks
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Not even sure where to start. Winning in Seattle is rare. But to see it derail like that? I don’t know what is next. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he hasn’t talked to anyone about his job situation. I don’t expect any drastic changes, not so close to the end of the season, but I haven’t talked to anyone about it either. In the meantime, the Cards have back-to-back home games to try and find a victory.
“Just everybody is really just playing for their pride at the end of the day,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “It’s going to take a lot of bonding for everybody to come together and win these last three games.”
– If Kevin Kolb doesn’t come back – and judging by how Kolb talked last week about his circumstances, that seems like a long shot – I’m not sure who Whisenhunt turns to at quarterback for the Lions game. The way both John Skelton and Ryan Lindley are playing, neither is an obvious option.
– The Cardinals were a plus-seven in turnover ratio coming into the game. After an eight-turnover game (and getting only one, the Patrick Peterson pick), the Cards are back to even.
– Dockett didn’t start as part of his punishment following the incident at the end of the New York game. He played, but not nearly as much as he normally would. Dockett was credited with a pair of assists and a quarterback hit. David Carter started in his place.
– No part of the Cardinals played well but Marshawn Lynch went off for 128 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries. Robert Turbin added 108 rushing yards himself on 20 carries. The run defense hasn’t been good enough but to surrender 284 yards on the ground is impossible to overcome.
– The Seahawks threw the ball deep on fourth and long late in the game and again later. Dockett said he was “surprised” but Whisenhunt wasn’t going there. “I have no comment on that, other than to say it’s our job to stop it.”
– The way the game went, I don’t think the Cards come out ahead regardless, but would things have been better had Skelton connected with Larry Fitzgerald on the first drive (pictured below) and not have it been an interception? The Cards had actually been successful on a couple of pass plays right before that. Then it turns into a turnover and … we all know the rest.
There is no analysis here, really. It was obviously the low point of this season and since Whisenhunt arrived. No one is arguing that. We will wait to see how the week goes.
Tags: Darnell Dockett, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Ryan Lindley, Seahawks
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So the Cardinals head to Seattle tomorrow, and we turn to locker room sage Larry Fitzgerald – man, if you would have asked me in 2006 if I’d ever write that descriptor for Fitz, I’d have thought you were crazy – to put these last four games, the playoffs realistically if not officially out of reach, into perspective.
“It’s never to the point where you can’t improve and get better,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s top to bottom, I don’t care about your position on the team. It teaches all of us how to deal with adversity. It’s a microcosm of life. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way and you have to continue to battle.”
It doesn’t hurt that the Seahawks have a chance to make the playoffs and the Cards have a chance to crimp that possibility. It’s cliché, but I do believe playing spoiler – especially to a division rival – is motivation and I do think it is real. The Cards would love to sweep the Seahawks, even if both teams are a lot different than the teams that met at UoP Sept. 9.
– I am very interested in seeing how John Skelton reacts to this start. Seattle is not an easy place to play. He struggled against the Seahawks’ defense in the opener this season before getting hurt. But as he noted Wednesday, he gets another opportunity, one that if not for the major problems of Ryan Lindley, he probably would not have gotten.
I don’t know if there is less pressure on Skelton or more. Obviously coach Ken Whisenhunt proved he’d go to Lindley. Then again, after seeing where Lindley is in his development, it’s tough to see the Cards turning to him again. Impossible not to watch that storyline play out.
– Safety Kerry Rhodes said this week, talking about how the defensive players can’t talk bad about the offense, that until the defense holds a team to zero points and zero yards, they have to tend to their own business. Zero yards? Hyperbole. Zero points? Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was asked if that was realistic.
“That’s probably every defensive player’s mantra,” Horton said. “Is it realistic? Sometimes it is. I think it is the mentality they have which I love, that they think that way.”
– I think the Cards should have defensive end Calais Campbell back this week, a good thing because Campbell always plays well against the Seahawks. Then again, I thought Campbell was going to play in New York, so I will wait and see on that one.
– A final capper on the Kerry Rhodes-Darnell Dockett dustup, where Rhodes said it wasn’t a big deal and Dockett said he was sorry but he was never going to quit. The reference was to the unsaid-yet-out-there reason that the Cards’ decision to try and let the Jets score at the end of last week’s game – statistically, the best way (however long of a shot it was) to try and win – was at the root of the problem. So Horton was asked his philosophy about letting a team score.
“The ultimate goal is to win the game, whether you give up the safety, whether you give up a touchdown,” Horton said. “My philosophy is whatever it takes to win the game. If it means doing that I’d do it to give ourselves a chance. I asked Coach (Ken Whisenhunt) to do it for time reasons.”
(We won’t go into the details yet again of the situation. I know some of you disagree with the strategy and agree with Dockett’s take. I covered it here.)
– OK, maybe one more point: Mike Jurecki of XTRA broke the news that Dockett was fined six figures by the team and could have his playing time limited in Seattle for what went down. Whisenhunt has made it plain whatever was happening with the situation was going to be handled internally and not commented upon. Clearly, the Cardinals did not agree with Dockett’s take. (Kent Somers is now also reporting the fine and said it was because of both the fight and not heeding the coach’s call.) We’ll see on Sunday about the playing time issue.
– UPDATE: Dockett tweeted out praise for the NFLPA so the assumption is, not surprisingly, Dockett is appealing the fine.
– That late personal foul call against nose tackle Dan Williams last week, the iffy one on Jets quarterback Greg McElroy on the sidelines? Williams was not fined for it. Still hurt though – it gave free yards on the Jets’ lone touchdown drive of the game in a 7-6 Jets win. Usually, if a player isn’t fined for a roughness call, it means the league disagreed that it should have been a penalty.
– With cornerback Brandon Browner out with a suspension, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman – himself facing a possible four-game suspension – will probably follow Fitz around Sunday. “I would anticipate that, if I were a betting man,” Fitzgerald said. The best on the best makes sense. It just would be nice to get Fitzgerald a handful of catches and maybe sniff 100 yards. It’s been too long. And frankly, the offense needs it.
The good news is that, after nasty forecasts earlier in the week, the rain is supposed to subside after Saturday morning in Seattle and hold off through Sunday. That’d be a plus. But the Cards have a hard game ahead to snap the losing streak. Let the fourth quarter of the season commence.
Tags: Brandon Browner, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, John Skelton, Kerry Rhodes, Larry Fitzgerald, Ray Horton, Richard Sherman, Ryan Lindley, Seahawks
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