As camp approaches, some of the Cardinals have begun to leak back into the building, getting in a morning workout. Most of the weight room has been cleared out, with the equipment moved to University of Phoenix Stadium for use at camp, but that didn’t stop guys like Lyle Sendlein, Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker, Sam Acho and Marcus Benard (among others) today.
Also here were the two key rehabbers: safety Tyrann Mathieu and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu. Both are expected to be on the physically unable to perform list when camp opens. It doesn’t mean their rehab has gone poorly or slow. But the reality is both ripped up their ACLs late in the season and coming back at the beginning of camp not only doesn’t make a lot of sense it’s probably not fair to ask.
The rehab from a torn ACL carries with it a lot of uncertainty. Uncertainty of a timeline, uncertainty of what you can do even when you’re out there doing it on the field. Playing in a game is one thing. But will you be Adrian Peterson, or Robert Griffin III? One-time Cardinals tight end Stephen Spach ripped up his ACL in the Carolina playoff game during the Super Bowl run. He was back on the field six months later, although he said “there is a difference between being able to play and compete and getting to where you feel like it never happened.” It took tight end Jake Ballard a couple years to feel right, although in Ballard’s case, he had other damage besides the ACL.
Ta’amu was hurt almost a month after Mathieu but his injury was only the ACL. Mathieu had other injuries, but his rehab has gone well and he has worried less about what he can do when he plays again and more how quickly he can actually play. Both guys are key pieces to the defense. The one guarantee: The Cardinals will be better when they get back on the field.
— In other news, Mathieu has decided to change agents. It’s not altogether a surprise, since Patrick Peterson — who also had Pat Lawlor as an agent when he came into the league — dropped Lawlor in favor of Joel Segal. What will be interesting to see is if Mathieu, who looks up to Peterson, decides he too will use Segal. Unlike Peterson, Mathieu is going into only his second year of a four-year contract and any new contract is much further down the road. Peterson, of course, is already in (early) talks for a contract extension.
Tags: agents, Alameda Ta'amu, Jake Ballard, Patrick Peterson, PUP, Stephen Spach, training camp, Tyrann Mathieu
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As long speculated, the Cards have acquired veteran running back Chester Taylor, at least according to multiple outlets (including his agent’s Twitter). That comes as no surprise. The Cards needed a veteran running back to join Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling. Taylor, even though he is older (will be 32 at the end of the month) and his numbers have been dwindling, seems a perfect fit. He can give you a few carries, he can catch the ball, he can block, he has long played a backup role (to Adrian Peterson and then Matt Forte) and most importantly, he was available. He was expendable in Chicago after the Bears signed Marion Barber.
I remember Taylor lighting up the Cards in November of 2006 for 136 yards in Minnesota when he was a starter for the Vikings (before Peterson came in the next year). He signed a big contract with the Bears before 2010, but only averaged 2.4 yards a carry.
The Cards have also apparently nabbed a couple of cornerbacks off waivers: Crezdon Butler of the Steelers and Korey Lindsey of the Bengals. The Cards need depth there and it can’t be a shock these were two names targeted: defensive coordinator Ray Horton coached Butler last year as DBs coach with the Steelers, and Cards defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi was in Cincinnati and still probably has knowledge of the Bengals situation (although Lindsey is a rookie).
Picking up three means the Cards will have to release three from the current roster — again, why coach Ken Whisenhunt mentioned the roster was “in pencil” Friday.
The practice squad won’t be announced until tomorrow. Wide receiver Isaiah Williams’ agent tweeted Williams would be coming back to the practice squad.
UPDATE: Some afternoon details that emerged on Twitter and elsewhere. An NFL source said the Cards had agreed on a practice squad deal for DT Ricky Lumpkin. St. Louis-based reporter Howard Balzer reported the Cards had released TE Stephen Spach, and Kent Somers reported the Cards also cut LB Quan Sturdivant. I’d expect Sturdivant to come back to the practice squad assuming no one claims him off waivers.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Chester Taylor, Crezdon Butler, free agency, Isaiah Williams, Korey Lindsey, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Quan Sturdivant, Roster, Stephen Spach
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The Cardinals wanted Brodie Croyle at quarterback because he did come from Todd Haley’s system, and there are similarities with that and what the Cards run. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the Cards waived-injured Max Hall because it was the only way they could have any chance of bringing Hall back this season. They can injury settle with Hall and then re-sign him down the road. Will it happen/be necessary? Well, if there is an injury, I could see wanting to turn back to Hall. Otherwise, I’m not sure it would happen.
As for Croyle, with two games in five days (the Cards play Saturday and again Thursday), they need someone who didn’t come in completely cold. It’s not like they are bringing him in just because of that, Whisenhunt said, but it was a major factor. “We did have good grades on him coming out,” Whiz said.
Croyle (pictured below at his first practice this morning) doesn’t know what to expect. “I will come in and hopefully play well and we will see what happens,” Croyle said, adding that he hopes to see some time against the Chargers Saturday. “I’d like to but we will see. It wouldn’t be the ideal situation, but you play when you can. I’ll take reps when I can get them.”
Starting quarterback Kevin Kolb was asked about seeing the Chargers this weekend and then the Panthers — who are led by new head coach and former San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera — opening weekend, and whether he can glean anything from it. Kolb actually weaved in the arrival of Croyle, and the Haley tie. “We said to Brodie, ‘Is this pretty similar?’ And he’s like, ‘Ehhh …’ ” Kolb said. “Coaches want to change their stuff. You can’t get caught up thinking you’ll be seeing the same things.”
— Whisenhunt said it was “competition” for incumbent punter Ben Graham as to why the Cards signed veteran Dave Zastudil. Punting, Whisenhunt said, was one of many areas that needed to be improved from 2010. In 2009, Graham was fantastic, but the team played to his strengths — the offense gained so many yards they were often near or beyond the 50, able to let Graham pin teams deep. When the offense struggles and Graham is forced to kick deep, he can drive it long, but the hang time allows for bigger returns.
— Kolb avoided a high-speed accident Tuesday night — he swerved on his Segway so he didn’t hit a skunk. That would have been a disaster. Whisenhunt said he’s dodged a few skunks in camp himself.
— Someone asked Kolb if he would get butterflies before his first home game. He said he gets butterflies before practice. “I take this game serious,” he said, and it was hard not to flash back to the Cardinals quarterback of last season. “I get amped up and ready to go, practice, preseason whatever it is,” Kolb added.
— Kolb said he was going to play into the third quarter. Whisenhunt would not commit to that, but did say it was a possibility. Playing into the third would allow Kolb to come out and play after halftime, which is always good for the starter to go through. Kolb joked that that was a big reason to look forward to this game, learning stuff like that. He doesn’t even know where the stadium is yet.
— S Adrian Wilson will not be pushed to come back. If anything, the Cards will be conservative with him. But it was good to get him back on the field, Whisenhunt said. “The common phrase for defensive players is ‘Getting their eyes right,’ ” Whiz said. “Getting in there with the speed of the game and in the right position. You can stand back and watch, but it is different when things are full-speed and you’re the one on the hook.”
— Tight end Stephen Spach (calf) and quarterback John Skelton (ankle) are making “good progress.” What that means practice-wise or game-wise is TBD.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Ben Graham, Brodie Croyle, Dave Zastudil, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Max Hall, Stephen Spach
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Tight ends Todd Heap (thumb) and Stephen Spach (calf) are sitting out tonight’s game in Green Bay. Heap would’ve played if this was a regular-season game, but there is no reason to rush it. That opens the door for more playing time for rookie Rob Housler (as well as Jim Dray, fighting to make the roster). Housler did have a touchdown catch last week, so he was of to a good start.
The others sitting out are guard Floyd “Pork Chop” Womack (shoulder) and, of course, safety Adrian Wilson (biceps) and cornerback Michael Adams (knee). Tackle D.J. Young, who missed some practice time with a knee issue, was not ruled out.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, D.J. Young, Floyd Womack, Jim Dray, Michael Adams, Packers, Rob Housler, Stephen Spach, Todd Heap
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The Cardinals held their one night practice of camp at Coconino High School. It was a little different than the ones of last season. With only a few days before the next preseason game, coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t do a live goal line session at the end. In fact, there was no tackling. The practice ended with a series of plays starting at the 10-yard line with first-and-goal, but it was tough to tell exactly what would have happened — linebacker Clark Haggans was particularly vocal in protesting where the ball was spotted.
— Linebacker Joey Porter was sitting out on a veteran’s day off. O’Brien Schofield is next on the depth chart behind Porter at ROLB, but it was rookie Sam Acho who was in Porter’s place Tuesday night. Interesting. Schofield is the guy who needs to make the big step forward as pass rusher this season. Although it might have been just to balance out the position — with Will Davis a LOLB, the Cards could go Acho-Schofield at ROLB and Haggans-Davis at LOLB.
— Tight end Stephen Spach (calf) and offensive lineman D.J. Young (knee) were also sitting out. So too was guard Deuce Lutui, for what I would expect to be a continuing conditioning issue.
— Cornerback Greg Toler made a nice interception in front of Larry Fitzgerald at the goal line, ripping the ball away from Fitz. (Fitz did make a spectacular Willie Mays-style over-the-head grab earlier in the practice, but really, that’s no surprise, not the way he makes the spectacular routine.)
— Wide receiver Isaiah Williams made a fantastic touchdown catch from John Skelton, making the grab in the back of the end zone just over the outstretched hand of cornerback Richard Marshall. Williams, who scored the game-winning touchdown in Oakland, has looked good in camp — one of many receivers that have shown well.
— One of those receivers, rookie DeMarco Sampson, pulled down a deep pass early in the practice despite good coverage by cornerback Marshay Green. Sampson needs to continue his work but he’s got a real shot to make this roster.
Tags: Clark Haggans, D.J. Young, DeMarco Sampson, Deuce Lutui, Greg Toler, Isaiah Williams, Joey Porter, John Skelton, Larry Fitzgerald, O'Brien Schofield, Richard Marshall, Sam Acho, Stephen Spach, training camp, Will Davis
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Sunday afternoon the Cardinals got back on the field for the first time since the Oakland game. It was, coach Ken Whisenhunt said during his lunchtime presser, a chance to go over the mistakes the Cards made against the Raiders.
What was noticeable in the work that just lasted over an hour (in the Walkup Skydome, after it rained — hard — most of the afternoon) was the intensity that crept in by the final 11-on-11 work.
“The energy was pumped up,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “I think everybody knows where we are about to go this week.”
That’s Green Bay for those who aren’t sure, and the defending champs will be playing a game at Lambeau for the first time since winning the Super Bowl. Preseason or no, that’ll be a big deal. So it wasn’t a surprise when the volume got loud, when tight end Jeff King and linebacker Paris Lenon scuffled (tight end Stephen Spach as peacemaker and not instigator? Imagine that). The offense went crazy when running back Ryan Williams juked and broke an ankle or two (not literally, for anyone concerned) to get loose down the field. The defense did the same when safety Matt Ware came from centerfield for a nice on-the-run interception and return.
Some other moments/notes:
— Didn’t seem to be any changes on the depth chart. That’s not a shock right now. One game does not an evaluation make.
— RB LaRod Stephens-Howling did a good job blocking linebacker O’Brien Schofield on a blitz pick-up.
— RB Beanie Wells made a fantastic one-handed catch — left-handed — in traffic.
— CB Patrick Peterson did a good job ranging over to make a leaping interception at one point.
— Learning from mistakes was one thing QB Kevin Kolb kept stressing. He showed it tangibly Sunday. One play Andre Roberts beat Greg Toler deep on what looked like a skinny post, but Kolb didn’t get enough air under the ball and over threw Roberts. A couple plays later, same scenario, except Larry Fitzgerald was the receiver. This time, Kolb put it on the money.
— Speaking of Roberts, that he got open deep was to be noted, especially with all the wonder/speculation about the Cards “needing” a No. 2 receiver. Both Kolb and Whisenhunt said after the Raiders game Roberts got open deep a couple of times, just that the passes didn’t work out. That’ll be something I’m sure everyone will be watching going forward.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Beanie Wells, Darnell Dockett, Greg Toler, Jeff King, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Ware, O'Brien Schofield, Paris Lenon, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Williams, Stephen Spach
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The Cardinals have added yet another tight end. Veteran Todd Heap, a local product of Mesa Mountain View High School and Arizona State, who was released recently by Baltimore, has agreed to a two-year contract. Heap becomes the Cardinals’ sixth tight end joining Jim Dray, Stephen Spach, Jeff King, and rookies Rob Housler and Stephen Skelton. Obviously the Cardinals won’t need so many at the position.
The Cardinals kept three tight ends last year, and after signing King as a main blocker, drafting Housler and adding Heap, it will be interesting to see it that’s how the position filters out or if the remaining guys can make a mark. The Cardinals have not used the tight end much as a receiver over the past few seasons, but bringing in Heap and Housler may underscore a shift in philosophy this season.
Tags: Jeff King, Jim Dray, Rob Housler, Stephen Skelton, Stephen Spach, Todd Heap
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Slowly, information has come out on a handful of Cards’ early moves here in this tiny 2011 offseason. Again, because contracts can’t be signed until Friday afternoon, no official announcements are being made on free agents. But through multiple reports, it came out that the Cards had agreed to a deal with former Carolina tight end Jeff King, a good blocker who fits well the mold of what coach Ken Whisenhunt wants in a tight end. Stephen Spach is also expected to return, so with draft pick Rob Housler and holdover Jim Dray, we know what the position is going to look like in camp (and it doesn’t include Todd Heap or Zach Miller).
Kicker Jay Feely also reported on Twitter that punter Ben Graham has agreed to re-sign, although I expect the Cards to bring in another punter to compete with Graham in camp.
As for the QB situation, news is still on hold. Reports have Denver’s Kyle Orton possibly to going to Miami. With Matt Hasselbeck going to Tennessee, it seems it will be an upset if Kevin Kolb doesn’t end up in Arizona. For what price, it is uncertain. The song for QB musical chairs is about to stop however.
P.S. A quick training camp note: The Walkup Skydome is in the middle of renovations in Flagstaff, and while the Cardinals will still be able to practice inside if there is rain, fans will not be able to go in to watch practice. Something to keep in mind.
Tags: Ben Graham, free agency, Jay Feely, Jeff King, Jim Dray, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton, Matt Hasselbeck, Rob Housler, Stephen Spach
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
The accomplishments certainly weren’t lost as the Cardinals went on their most exciting month-long journey ever back in the first few weeks of 2009, but I’m not totally sure what Larry Fitzgerald was doing in the playoffs that year could have been completely appreciated given the circumstances.
As the wins came and the Super Bowl got closer, talking just about one player didn’t make sense (let’s not get it twisted – Fitz still got plenty of attention over those five weeks of the postseason, and I just thumbed through his clip file if I hadn’t remembered). When you go back and think, however, it almost started innocently against the Falcons.
At that point, the Cards just wanted to win a playoff game, after the 2-5 slide on which they entered the postseason. Fitz had 101 yards on six receptions that day, including an acrobatic catch in double-coverage for a 42-yard touchdown. But that was early, and the moments burned more harsh in the brain were things like Anquan Boldin’s 71-yard catch-and-run TD on which he came up hurt, the Dockett/Rolle combo that created a fumble for a touchdown, and tight end Stephen Spach’s game-clinching catch.
Fitz had nice numbers, but that was supposed to happen.
The next game, though, that’s when the momentum began to build. And when Fitz truly exploded.
Boldin was injured. The Cards were on the road in Carolina. And yet Fitzgerald ran roughshod, finishing with 166 yards on eight catches, with 122 of those yards coming when there was still five minutes left in the first half and the Cards were in complete control. He caught another bomb in double-coverage. He did whatever he wanted against the Panthers (who shouldn’t have been surprised; he had seven receptions for 115 yards when the teams met earlier in the season in Carolina and instead they looked like they had no idea how to deal with him). When Fitz scored his TD – an amazing effort on a crossing route in which he dove for the pylon and scored – it was still the first half and yet it felt like an exclamation point had already been stamped on the game.
His numbers were incredible. The Eagles knew this. They insisted during the week they would not let Fitzgerald go off. A noble pursuit. Yet at that point, impossible to back up with actions. Fitzgerald had three touchdown catches in the first half (he finished with nine receptions for 152 yards). The Eagles slowed him down in the second half, but he had done enough damage. It had reached the expectation that Fitzgerald was certain to get 125 yards in a game, that every jump ball would be his, that he could do no wrong and would carry the team all the way to a title. I mean, Boldin was back for the Eagles, but at that moment, Fitz was alone in the receiving stratosphere, not only on his own team but the entire league. There was no question.
(Well, I guess there was some question. But what is the two weeks leading up the Super Bowl about if not hyperbole.)
In the Super Bowl, Fitz had just one catch in the first three quarters. He had finally been tamed by the famed Steel Curtain. Except he wasn’t, suddenly going off in the final 15 minutes during the Cards’ furious rally, coming up with six receptions and capping it all with that magical 64-yard catch-and-run that seemed destined to be the highlight to signify the Cards’ improbable championship. Then it wasn’t, instead a reminder of what could have been.
The loss didn’t take away from what Fitzgerald did, however. He had seven more catches for 127 yards in the game and he had played so well for so long some were even marveling about the plays he almost made. He set playoff records for catches (30), yards (546) and TDs (7). It was a performance for the ages. “A lot of those playoff catches, he had guys draped over him and he was just making plays,” fellow wideout Steve Breaston said at the time. “You did kind of wonder: When was anyone going to stop him?”
That postseason, the answer was never.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Eagles, Falcons, Larry Fitzgerald, Panthers, Steelers, Stephen Spach, Steve Breaston, Super Bowl
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Kent Somers has some comments from safety Adrian Wilson this morning about Cards vets — notably Wilson and Larry Fitzgerald, but including guys like Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges — trying to organize a three-day “minicamp” for the players as they wait out what is hopefully the final stretch of the labor impasse.
“We’re trying to get three days in, or three practices in, depending on what guys have to do,” Wilson told Somers. “We’re not trying to take up guys’ time but we are trying to get better as a team, get better as individual units.”
There is only so much the Cards can do, assuming Wilson and Fitz can gather the troops. There are only so many troops to gather (do potential free agents like Steve Breaston and Deuce Lutui, for example, take part?) and with the knowledge the probable starting quarterback isn’t even on the roster yet makes for an interesting dynamic. Then again, it doesn’t surprise me that Wilson, etc., don’t want to sit idly by.
— The news came down yesterday that because Qwest is being merged into CenturyLink, the Seahawks’ home field is no longer Qwest Field but CenturyLink Field. I re-tweeted this info yesterday, leading follower @ethanpoulsen to say “False Start Field was it’s name before…and always will be it’s name.”
As I noted on Twitter, however, the Cards have done a good job with that. The Cards have only been nailed for five false starts total in the last three visits to Seattle, and none last year (despite a bad, bad game offensively). Two other ones came from tight ends, both in 2008, by Stephen Spach and Leonard Pope. The other three were in 2009 — two by RT Levi Brown and one from LT Mike Gandy.
— Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. breaks down the Cards’ receivers. He has interesting takes on both Breaston and Andre Roberts.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Andre Roberts, Deuce Lutui, Jeremy Bridges, Larry Fitzgerald, Leonard Pope, Levi Brown, Mike Gandy, offseason, Seahawks, Stephen Spach, Steve Breaston
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