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Glancing at the 2015 opponents

Posted by Darren Urban on July 14, 2014 – 2:46 pm

You know that it’s the dead of the offseason — real dead — when it comes to mind to point out who will be on the Cardinals’ schedule for 2015.

But here we are, inside of two weeks before training camp begins and a week away from the quarterbacks and a handful of other players reporting for a couple of days of “quarterback school” prior to the opening of camp. It’s the last hurrah for time off for both coaches and players. It doesn’t leave a lot to discuss right now. That’s all coming. But as I flipped through the new edition of the NFL Record and Fact Book, I came across the 2015 opponents for the Cardinals. So I thought I’d point them out.

As always, there are the home-and-away games against the NFC West opponents. The teams visiting University of Phoenix Stadium include the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings, the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals and then an NFC South team that ends up inhabiting the same position in their division that the Cardinals do in the NFC West by the time the 2014 season is over.

Road trips in 2015 for the Cardinals include the Chicago Bears, the Detroit Lions, the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the corresponding NFC East team.



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Foote will make his presence felt

Posted by Darren Urban on May 13, 2014 – 4:45 pm

Larry Foote had considered coming to the Cardinals before. A couple of times, in fact. “It didn’t quite work,” the veteran inside linebacker said. “This time, perfect timing.”

Foote signed a one-year deal right before the draft, coming in to provide depth at a position that needed it. The Cardinals did not select an inside linebacker with any of their seven draft choices, going with Foote and bringing in undrafted rookies Jonathan Brown and Glenn Carson. With the uncertainty of Daryl Washington’s status after his legal issues (going with a plea on an assault charge) and even Kevin Minter’s inexperience, having Foote around is a plus.

“It’s a perfect match,” Foote said.

Foote is entering his 13th NFL season. His 12th was hard, earning a starting role with the Steelers and then going down in the first game of the year with a ruptured biceps. Foote is healthy again, but that didn’t make last year’s sting any less.

“It was frustrating watching my boys struggle,” Foote said. “The middle linebacker really sets the tone and you do that the first week, throws people in different positions.”

Foote, who will wear his longtime No. 50 (pictured below), said the defense Todd Bowles runs and the one he played in for Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh are similar. That will ease his transition.

“Twelve years in the league, you don’t bring anything but presence,” Foote said. “Guys know how hard it is to last that long in the league. I’m knowledgable. Once I pick up the terminology, I can start helping the young boys out instead of them helping me out. That’s been awkward.”


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Levi already done in Pittsburgh

Posted by Darren Urban on October 15, 2013 – 8:30 am

That didn’t take long.

Levi Brown, set to start Sunday in Pittsburgh in the Steelers’ first game since trading for the Cardinals’ left tackle, hurt his triceps in warmups (after, as it turned out, the team had put in the game’s inactives, leading them to be short for the day.) Today, the Steelers put Brown on injured reserve, ending his season before he ever took a snap for Pittsburgh. Given Levi’s contract, I’d expect at the very least for the Steelers to release him after the season. Could they bring him back? Maybe, but not under this deal. He is due $6 million in 2014.

What does this mean for the Cardinals? Well, we know there was a conditional pick involved coming from the Steelers. That usually means based on some sort of playing time — which I feel confident in saying Brown didn’t reach, since he never even played a down. The Cards also sent a pick back. Essentially, it means (and this is total speculation on what is involved, just trying to give an example) the Cards got, for instance, a sixth-round pick and gave the Steelers a seventh, and maybe the sixth could have become a fifth. Now, there will be no change, whatever the deal might have been. UPDATE: Kent Somers reports Brown had to be on Steelers’ active roster for five weeks to force draft pick compensation in the first place. Now that Brown won’t be, there will not be any swap of picks. In the end, the Cards basically cut Brown but saved about $600,000 that the Steelers ended up paying.

The Cards, based on what GM Steve Keim said at the time of the trade, sounded close to releasing Brown anyway. More importantly for the Cardinals, they moved on from the Levi Brown era, which was probably necessary.

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Levi Brown traded

Posted by Darren Urban on October 2, 2013 – 7:29 am

Multiple reports have surfaced this morning that the Cardinals are trading left tackle Levi Brown to the Steelers at some point today. No word on compensation, but I wouldn’t expect any blockbuster in return. This way, the Cards ease the logjam of offensive linemen on the roster — Bradley Sowell becomes the starting left tackle, and I would guess Nate Potter is the backup LT knowing you have both Earl Watford and Mike Gibson who can play guard.

More importantly, it clears away the constant talk of Brown’s play at left tackle, whether he will improve, and what the Cards will do at that spot. It’s funny that the Cards trade Brown the very week GM Steve Keim said on his radio show Brown played his best game of the season.

Nothing official has been announced yet and I would doubt it will be until Brown passes his physical. But Keim long ago promised to be aggressive with the roster, and it has been clear that, at some point, the Cards were going to try and upgrade from Brown (who is due $6M in salary next season and is still due $3.6M this season.)

UPDATE: On trades after June 1, signing bonus does not accelerate into the current league year, so the Cards will absorb $4.2M in dead Brown signing bonus cap room into the 2014 cap.

UPDATE II: Still not officially announced by Cards and Bruce Arians declined to comment, but the Steelers announced the move on their Twitter feed:

UPDATE III: It’s now officially been announced by Cards. Arians won’t be available to comment on it until Friday. GM Steve Keim is speaking later this afternoon.

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A visit, a signing and some money

Posted by Darren Urban on May 14, 2013 – 9:25 am

Some things to consider on Tuesday, as the Cardinals are set to unveil their complete team in on-field work for the first time as organized team activities begin later this morning:

– The one-year contract of Karlos Dansby calls for a salary of $1.25 million this season, according to the NFLPA. Kent Somers reports Dansby also got a $1 million signing bonus. That’s $2.25M (yes, I am sharp at math), which is obviously well below the $6M-plus Dansby had been originally scheduled to receive from the Dolphins before he was released. The Cardinals had approximately $8.5 $10.5 (forgot about the money cleared in the Hoyer release) million in cap space before Dansby (A $2.25M cap hit, obviously) and second-round pick Kevin Minter (who should count about $800,000 against the cap, and I’d figure he’ll slide into the top 51).

– One roster move already this morning. The Cardinals decided to sign tryout tight end Kyle Auffray out of New Hampshire, releasing undrafted rookie cornerback Prentiss Waggner. Again, with 90 on the roster (because all the unsigned draftees figure to sign sooner rather than later) the Cards will continue to cut for every player they sign.

– Could there be another potential veteran signee? Josina Anderson is reporting that tackle Max Starks is visiting the Cardinals today, including a physical. Don’t read too much into that — any vet is going to need a physical first, especially at the point in the career Starks is at. Starks has been available for a while and in the past, there was always a question of whether Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm would bring him in after working with him in Pittsburgh. Obviously, Bruce Arians also has worked with him given Arians’ Steelers ties and offensive coordinator (and offensive line coach) Harold Goodwin also worked with Starks in Pittsburgh. We’ll see if that develops. Starks has also talked to the O-line-needy Chargers.

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A restricted Hoyer’s potential place

Posted by Darren Urban on February 28, 2013 – 1:05 pm

Through all the talk about what the Cardinals might do at quarterback and who their potential targets might be through trade and through the draft, one name has remained somewhat in limbo — Brian Hoyer. Hoyer flashed a bit at the end of the season for the Cardinals and he was a player new GM Steve Keim had long considered. With the Cardinals looking everywhere for QB answers, Hoyer likely remains a candidate for the roster in some capacity at this point.

Originally, Hoyer was thought to be an unrestricted free agent. But as free agency approaches in a couple of week, Hoyer instead ended up in restricted free agent limbo. A restricted free agent is a player with three accrued seasons. Hoyer was an RFA going into the offseason of 2012, and the New England Patriots tendered him a contract offer then, restricting him from shopping his services on the open market. Yet Hoyer was cut at the end of training camp in favor of Ryan Mallett — a signed tender offer still doesn’t make it a guaranteed deal — and Hoyer waited.

To get an accrued season — and a fourth would allow someone like Hoyer unrestricted free agent status — a player must spend six games on a 53-man roster during the season. As it turns out, Hoyer just missed. He was with the Cardinals for three games. Before that, and after the Patriots let him go, the Steelers signed him for two games. He was cut the Saturday before the third game. It led him to a better opportunity with the Cards when they claimed him off waivers the following Monday, but those two days off the roster also meant he compiled just five games on a roster total — and a second straight year of restricted status.

What it all means is that the Cards have control over Hoyer staying if they choose to. The Cards could tender Hoyer at the lowest RFA amount — about $1.3 million — and have the right to match any other offer Hoyer might get. (For another $700,000, the Cards could tender Hoyer so that any team signing him away would owe the Cards a second-round pick. I don’t see the Cards doing that, nor would I see a team giving up a pick for the one-time undrafted Hoyer.)

I do think Hoyer will be tendered an offer as the Cards search for a QB. It would have been easier for him to get away as an UFA, but I think the Cards will want to see more of what they got a glimpse of down the stretch last season.


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The AFC at UoP with Whiz

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2012 – 10:21 am

Ken Whisenhunt coached in Pittsburgh for six seasons before coming to the Cardinals and knew what he’d be seeing when the AFC teams played his new team in Arizona. That’s worked out well.

The Cardinals have been a good home team since Whisenhunt’s arrival in 2007, and no place does that show up more than when AFC teams come to visit, like will happen Sunday when the Buffalo Bills will be the opponent. It’s the second and final AFC visitor of the season, and of the 11 previous AFC teams to come to town, the Cardinals have beaten nine of them and will be the favorite Sunday against the reeling Bills.

The only two home AFC losses in Whiz’s tenure came in 2009, when the powerful Colts beat up the Cards on “Sunday Night Football” and last year, when the Steelers caught the Cardinals at arguably their lowest point in the season in a 32-20 Pittsburgh win. Because of the way the schedule has worked out, the Cards have seen repeat AFC visitors in that time. The Cards have beaten Miami twice, Cleveland twice, along with a then-undefeated Buffalo (when Adrian Wilson knocked QB Trent Edwards out of the game, below), Houston (late goal-line stand), Oakland (Janikowski’s shocking missed field goal) and Denver (the Jay Feely score-a-thon.)

Next season, the AFC teams who will visit Arizona are the Texans and Colts again.

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Cards sell out game against 49ers

Posted by Darren Urban on December 8, 2011 – 3:01 pm

The Cardinals officially have sold out Sunday’s game, meaning it will not be blacked out locally and instead be shown on Fox (Ch. 10) in the Valley. The game is the 61st straight time – out of 61 possibilities – in which the Cards have sold out University of Phoenix Stadium.

That’s an impressive total (46 of those games are from the regular season) but they have a while to go to match the longest streaks. Both the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins have sold out all their regular season games since 1974. The Steelers since 1976. The Jets date back to 1981, the Giants 1981 and the Packers 1989.

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Steelers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 23, 2011 – 7:04 pm

Coach Ken Whisenhunt opened his press conference like this: “I don’t have a lot to say.” I think I need to steal the line.

What else is there after Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh? There were moments where you thought, “OK, maybe here.” Then they disappeared. You hope Kevin Kolb can connect on a couple of those throws – it’s hard to believe that play down the middle to Rob Housler was open again to no avail. You hope the defense can come up with a stop, or at least hold the Steelers to a field goal after LaRod Stephens-Howling electrified the stadium with his 73-yard touchdown reception.

It could have made a difference but the plays aren’t made and that’s what happens with a team that’s reeling. The plays aren’t made. What’s next? A trip to Baltimore, that’s what is next. The Cardinals have to play a lot better than this on a trip like that.

– The health of running back Beanie Wells will be under the spotlight. He left, walking under his own power, with what was called a right knee sprain late in the first half. Whisenhunt said he didn’t know what that meant in terms of time, and my early guesstimate is that we’re not going to know so the Ravens will be guessing all week. Obviously, the Cardinals need a healthy Wells badly.

– The inability to sustain some momentum just keeps coming back to bite the Cards. With the Cards trailing 7-0, the place exploded when Kolb hit Larry Fitzgerald for a 31-yard gain out to the Arizona 41-yard line, and then rookie fullback Anthony Sherman made a beautiful snare over the middle for a 15-yard gain. The Cards even got a pass interference call against Pittsburgh a couple plays later. But the drive then stalled with a loss on a Beanie run, an incompletion and a sack.

– You have to be wary and make the plays, but man, is Mike Wallace fast.

– The defense has to come up with rebound stops – the possessions by the other team after an Arizona score. With less than two minutes left in the first half, the Steelers managed to get a field goal after the Cards got their first touchdown. And of course, there was the TD drive after Stephens-Howling’s TD.

– Cards had some NFL firsts Sunday. Linebacker Sam Acho had his first sack, running back Alfonso Smith his first touchdown, receiver DeMarco Sampson his first catch.

– Stephens-Howling took out a couple of kickoffs that were pretty deep, and the Cards ended up without the greatest field position, because the Steelers had good coverage. Stephens-Howling said he did ask special teams coach Kevin Spencer if he should change things up, but Spencer said to keep doing what he was doing.

– Whisenhunt repeated again the looking at “what we do and who we’re doing it with” line. I know everyone – or many, at least – are wondering about Kolb. I don’t expect a change. If nothing else, you want to find out about him this year, and the season is only six games old. My guess, though, is that the quarterback is going to be a bigger and bigger story — if he isn’t already.

I’m trying to come up with a good walkoff line. No dice. Not after this one today.

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Friday before the Steelers

Posted by Darren Urban on October 21, 2011 – 4:54 pm

Everybody has a story. Mine was standing in the bowels of Raymond James Stadium, suit on and lugging my computer backpack among a host of other Super Bowl media types waiting for the game to end and to have access to players/the field. And watching the game on a TV – seven-second delay – as Fitz caught that crossing route and raced for that 64-yard touchdown, and seeing the crowd go crazy and roar. I remember the emotion smacking me hard enough I bent over for a moment to catch my breath, thinking, “Holy crap, the Cards are going to win this thing.”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was asked earlier this week on his conference call about how long ago that Cards-Steelers Super Bowl seemed. His answer was succinct: “Eons.”

I can’t disagree. So much has happened in the two-and-a-half seasons since the last time the Cardinals and Steelers played a game that counted, which will happen again Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Steelers have been back to another Super Bowl, losing this time. The Cards have undergone a huge metamorphosis, losing one way or another many of key figures that played on that team in 2008.

Not only does the Super Bowl seem like eons ago, so too does that playoff game against Green Bay a year later, when the Cards lit up the scoreboard like a pinball machine.

Now they have – at this moment in time – a chance to beat the Steelers, which in no way would make up for the Super Bowl loss but would be certainly welcome nonetheless, given their dire straits.

“It doesn’t erase the fact we got there and it was a good run for us,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I think that’s what makes us so confident we are doing the right thing, as far as how we prepare and how we work.

“I’m more worried about where we are as a team right now and getting our team some wins.”

– Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett called the recent players meeting that included coaches – a rare occurrence – “one of the most emotional meetings I have ever been in.” The hope is whatever messages were delivered carry over. As Fitz said (and I am paraphrasing here), meetings are good but it comes down to playing on Sundays.

– The Steelers can be run on. They have the best pass defense in the NFL. This may be a weekend where running back Beanie Wells, now healthy from his hamstring issue, gets 30 carries (his career-high is 27, set against the Giants earlier this month).

– You figure the Steelers are going to test these young cornerbacks. Wide receiver Mike Wallace has established himself as one of the – if not the – scariest deep threat in the league. He already has five catches this season of at least 40 yards. He averages 21 yards a reception, and it will be one of the keys to the game how he is dealt with by cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and A.J. Jefferson.

– Speaking of Peterson, he may be a rookie, but he isn’t fazed by the Cards’ current rough patch. “My confidence will always stay high,” Peterson said. “I let bygones be bygones. I have amnesia. This team will continue fighting.”

– In terms of yardage gained on third-down receptions, this game will have the top two receivers in the NFL: Wallace (228 yards) and Arizona’s Early Doucet (214).

– Nice job by Kent Somers to ferret out the conditions of the conditional draft pick the Cards got in the trade that sent running back Tim Hightower to Washington and a pick plus defensive end Vonnie Holliday to Arizona. The Cards get a sixth-rounder unless Hightower plays in 60.41 percent of the offensive snaps for the Redskins. Currently, Hightower has played 54 percent of the snaps and shares time with Ryan Torain and Roy Helu. That doesn’t seem to be a good combination for the higher pick, barring an injury.

– With defensive coordinator Ray Horton seeing his former team Sunday, I wanted to remind everyone of the feel-good story from the offseason, when Horton gave his car to a Steelers cafeteria worker before leaving the team to come to Arizona.

– If you get to Big Ben, tackle him. It changes everything when you don’t.

I thought it was interesting today as Horton spoke and a visiting Pittsburgh writer asked about the matchup between Fitzgerald and cornerback Ike Taylor and what he thought of the matchup.

“Back in Tampa, there was a call late in the game where our guy caught a pass and went up the field,” Horton said. “I hope there is a lot of that this week.”

Of course, back in Tampa, Horton was working for the Steelers at the time and probably wanted to throw up when Fitzgerald split the defense for his touchdown. Today, though, the memory comes up and it’s “our guy.”

Eons indeed.

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