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Looking at young players is just that

Posted by Darren Urban on October 21, 2013 – 1:03 pm

There will be no changes to the lineup this week, Bruce Arians said. Yes, he mentioned Bobby Massie possibly playing and looking at young players, but Arians clarified that looking at those players was all he was doing. He wants to make sure they are making progress and “really are the depth we’re looking for,” Arians said.

“It’s just a matter of opportunities in case one arises,” Arians added.

Opportunities, Arians said, come in the form of injuries, mostly. Those included under the microscope, according to the coach: The entire practice squad, along with guard Earl Watford, linebacker Dontay Moch, and tight end D.C. Jefferson. It’s clear the Cards continue to look at tight ends — Arians mentioned practice squad tight end Daniel Fells by name. But unless, for instance, Colledge is down this week because of his back problem (and Watford is currently running as Colledge’s backup), don’t expect an overhaul.

– Colledge (back), WR Brittan Golden (hamstring) and LB Matt Shaughnessy (looked like his leg was wrapped) were sidelined during the open part of Monday’s practice. There is no injury report before Wednesday, but Arians said there were no injury surprises today. He also said the Cards eased off on certain veterans who were hurting.

– The Falcons are expected to get running back Steven Jackson back from practice this week too, although he has missed so much time there is no guarantee he’ll be ready to play Sunday.

– LB Marcus Benard missed practice because he was out of town for the birth of his child. “I congratulate him on that,” Arians said. Arians added Benard played well. Benard started Thursday, although he only played 11 of 67 defensive snaps.

– Wide receiver Michael Floyd reiterated that the entire offense needs to shoulder the blame for its problems, and Arians repeated the same thing when asked about the issues of quarterback Carson Palmer. “I think Carson’s problem is, some are hit and some are the 10 guys around him,” Arians said. “It’s not just the line. It’s the receivers being in the wrong spots and running the wrong routes and not being in their reception areas, and then again the protection.”

– The three biggest injuries announced in the NFL today all impact the Cardinals and their home schedule. The Texans (visit Nov. 10) lost linebacker Brian Cushing for the season, the Colts (visit Nov. 24) lost wide receiver Reggie Wayne for the season, and the Rams (visit Dec. 8) lost quarterback Sam Bradford for the season.

 

 


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Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2012 – 4:34 pm

So I engaged in a Twitter discussion today with a fan with whom I have traded many tweets with in the past. He was frustrated with something coach Ken Whisenhunt said today about the challenge flags after the debacle of Jim Schwartz in Detroit yesterday (I’ll have Whiz’s thoughts in a moment). The fan’s problem was that Whiz was even talking about it, instead of, apparently, his job performance.

It seemed to be a good time to bring this up, because it’s not the first time someone is upset with a) what a coach or a player is talking about and b) the media not hounding coaches or players into some sort of bloodletting in front of the cameras.

Almost every quote you hear or read from these guys is prompted by a question. Whiz wasn’t talking about, in this case, the challenge flags, out of the blue. It was asked. He answered. It’s timely. Players always are answering questions. We’re all trying to generate interesting things to talk about. It’s not always about the status of job security.

That leads to the second point. I’m not sure what fans are expecting. Coaches and players tend to have a personality with their media interaction. Spend enough time around them, you know what they are going to get. Everyone seems to be waiting for Whisenhunt to change course now and that’s not going to happen. And guess what – it doesn’t matter. Whisenhunt isn’t saying anything different or handling anything different than when the Cards were winning, and no one had a problem with it then. Andy Reid stands up and says mea culpa every week in Philly and everyone still wants him fired because he’s not winning. The message doesn’t matter as much as results. Whisenhunt isn’t oblivious to the outside world. He knows what is going on. Yet this notion that if he talks about anything but, say, his future or the quarterbacks or the offensive line issue is just pointless, well, I don’t get it. Those things are important, but there are other things to talk about too.

Lemme get off the soap box now to hit some other points heading into the Rams’ game:

– Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald would like to have a big game. He’s not saying it, but you know he’s feeling it. Winning, though, is still his priority, he insisted. “We won in New England when I had one catch for four yards,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s possible to be done. If that’s what it takes that’s what it takes.”

When it was pointed out he’d prefer to win with a lot more catches and some touchdowns, Fitz laughed. “I prefer a lot of things,” Fitzgerald said. “But hey, it’s the way it is.”

– It’s so hard to predict what Fitz might do this week, but I’d be surprised if newbie Ryan Lindley doesn’t try to get him the ball. A Pro Bowl wide receiver can be a nice security blanket for a rookie QB.

– Whiz said he isn’t planning on scaling back the offense because Lindley is playing. He just wants his offense to do what they already can do better.

– Whisenhunt noted that the last time the Cards played the Rams, Darnell Dockett was limited. Actually he was very limited, making almost no impact because of the hamstring injury bothering him at the time. Dockett is good now. He created a lot of havoc last week in Atlanta – “You see his explosiveness,” Whisenhunt said – and will be a new factor with which the Rams must deal.

– It’s a tradeoff, because Rams running back Steven Jackson is looking better than he has in a couple of years. That may be because he is healthier than he has been in a couple of years (he has 182 yards over the past two games, averaging more than five yards a carry.)

“He’s the unsung NFL MVP,” Cardinals linebacker Quentin Groves said. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it shows the Cards’ respect for Jackson.

– Jackson will be even more important with the news Rams receiver Danny Amendola is doubtful with a foot injury. Amendola didn’t practice all week, yet he was the one guy – along with Jackson – Cardinals players kept mentioning. Amendola was also the receiver that was shredding the Cards in the first meeting before he got hurt early. His absence would be a boon to the Cards.

– About Whisenhunt and the challenge flags. Lions coach Jim Schwartz screwed up on Thanksgiving. He threw his flag when an 81-yard TD run by Texans RB Justin Forsett that should have been called down wasn’t, which is a no-no – Forsett ran for a TD, and all scoring plays, like turnover, are automatically reviewed. Throwing your flag before the review is officially called for not only is a 15-yard penalty, it wipes out the review itself. The Cards watched the Falcons do the same exact thing less than a week ago.

“They warn you every game,” Whisenhunt said. “They make a point before every game of telling you on turnovers and scoring plays, you can’t throw the flag.”

Is the rule just? That’s debatable. It’ll be looked at in the offseason, I’m sure. But Whisenhunt was blunt in answering whether it is fair. “That’s the rule,” he said.

– I think we’ll see Calais Campbell play this weekend. How much I’m not sure. Will it be Dockett limited from the first Rams’ game? Maybe. Maybe he’ll play more. David Carter did a nice job last week as a fill-in, so that works.

– Tight end Todd Heap has practiced full all week with his knee issue. He is probable for the first time. Yet Whiz said whether Heap plays depends on the 46-man game day roster. If Heap isn’t active Sunday, it’ll be a coach’s decision. Will Heap’s long stint on the shelf cost him a chance to play going forward, barring an injury to a tight end? I don’t know if you take reps from Rob Housler for Heap. Then again, if you think Heap can make that much of an impact, I don’t know if you can afford to sit him either.

– With LaRod Stephens-Howling limited with a rib problem – technically he is questionable — it will be interesting to see if that will impact Beanie Wells’ workload in his return. Whiz has seemed to be warning off a heavy game for Beanie since he is just coming back.

– One final thought, as the Cards head into the final six games of the season, from linebacker Daryl Washington.

“If we can lose six games in a row, we can win six games (in a row) too,” he said. “That’s tough in the NFL but I believe we can do it. It would take a lot of effort, a lot of hard work. In the meantime, we have to focus on one at a time.”


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Trade winds blow

Posted by Darren Urban on October 30, 2012 – 4:58 pm

Because of that storm called Sandy, the NFL’s trading deadline was moved back to Thursday this week. That means a couple of extra days of the rumor mill for a time that already picked up some steam because it is a couple of weeks later this year than in year’s past.

Today, we know:

– The Rams’ Steven Jackson, oft talked about, is staying put.

– Ravens T Bryant McKinnie, who is no longer playing because he was supplanted by a rookie, could be had. Peter King wrote the Cardinals “I hear have some interest in him.” What that means is anyone’ guess. Even King says McKinnie would just be a band-aid, and what exactly would you give up for a band-aid?

Coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked about the trade deadline today. “Well, we’re looking,” Whisenhunt said, and that’s really standard operating procedure for any team. “We’re always looking for ways to help this team. We always have been, so if there’s something available, we’ve got until Thursday. If we had an opportunity to get somebody we think can help us, we certainly would try to do that.”

I’ve said a few times, on Twitter and in response to blog comments, I’m not sure any trade will happen. Take McKinnie for instance. Is he an upgrade? You’d think so. He was also beaten out by a rookie. He’s had all kinds of off-field issues. The Vikings let him walk away rather than deal with him anymore. If he were a free agent, a band-aid makes sense. To give up a draft pick, even a later one, to me takes some consideration, especially if he is just a band-aid that won’t be around in the future.

If there was a deal, I can’t see it being for anything but an offensive lineman. Just my opinion.

We’ll see how this plays out.

– Whiz said running back Beanie Wells “is not there yet” but is on track to return to practice next week — the soonest he can off the IR-return list — and I would assume that means right now it looks encouraging for Wells to play in his first chance to come back, which is the Nov. 25 home game against the Rams. What will be something to watch is if Beanie’s whole body is right after this time off. Not just the torn ligament in the toe but also his knee, which still looked like it left him out of sorts earlier in the season.

– There are many wondering why Whiz doesn’t play rookie QB Ryan Lindley, and he isn’t, saying John Skelton is his starter. I get questions of why that is, and I’m not going to argue that Skelton isn’t exactly playing stellar right now. But there are a lot of issues that go into the offensive problems, and QB isn’t the only one. The Cardinals and Whisenhunt have been through the rookie thing before, and it usually isn’t pretty.

I’d guess Lindley will take some snaps in a game this season. I don’t expect it to be in a start, and I’m not even saying it will be soon. If a game gets out of hand, maybe we see him. Skelton has been through some things by now, though, and Lindley hasn’t, and while I’m sure I will get “Yeah, but Skelton can’t do it anyway and we might as well get Lindley experience,” well, that’s a fine line to walk as a team and as a coach.


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Sifting through smoky draft talk

Posted by Darren Urban on April 23, 2012 – 11:15 am

I listened to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock make a point today that isn’t new nor something I hadn’t thought of, but it bears repeating right now: Any information someone from a team divulges about the draft or players in it knows what he is doing.

I never really like the term smokescreen because, to me, that tends to imply everything said is a lie. While there are obviously some lies being told around the draft right now, not everything is false. But I do believe that everything said, true or false, has a purpose, whether to make people think better or worse of a player or differently about what a team might do. It doesn’t mean you can’t make logical, educated guesses about who a team will pick when all is said and done, but unless you have a team’s draft grades, there is no way to know.

Which brings me to the element of the player talking draft. There has been a lot made this morning about an item in Peter King’s “Monday Morning Quarterback” that Larry Fitzgerald “badly” wants the Cards to draft Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd. To which I say, that’s no surprise, but it doesn’t really mean anything. I have no problem with a team touching base with a player or listening when a player has something to say. Basing a draft pick on that doesn’t make sense to me. In 2006, Kurt Warner made it clear he didn’t think the Cards should draft a quarterback. Turned out Warner was right in thinking he was better than Matt Leinart, but it’s tough not to see the personal bias there. While Floyd could help the Cards, Fitz has a personal reason for wanting another high-profile receiver too. Just like on the flip side when Fitz’s buddy Steven Jackson didn’t want the Rams to take Trent Richardson (although Jackson understands reality too.)

Bottom line, there will be speculation increasing 10-fold this week. The benefit of hindsight Friday morning will show that most of it was wasted breath. But that’s what makes it fun. Greg Cosell of NFL Films, who watches a ton of video, did a mock draft based on team needs and strict on-field grades (off-field issues didn’t factor in for him) and he has Matt Kalil dropping to the Cards. That won’t happen, but it’s fun to dream.


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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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Kreider inactive, as is Steven Jackson UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2009 – 12:45 pm

The Cardinals’ inactive list has one surprise — fullback Dan Kreider, who wasn’t hurt so I can only guess right now is out for strategic purposes (Beanie and Hightower playing together?). There is a bigger surprise for the Rams: running back Steven Jackson won’t play, taking away the Rams’ one weapon. UPDATE: Kreider woke up with a stiff neck today and was held out of the game as a precaution.

For the Cards, tight end Ben Patrick and wide receiver Sean Morey are both out with concussions, meaning receiver Jerheme Urban and tight end Stephen Spach are active for the first time in a while. The rest of the inactives:

  • K Neil Rackers (groin)
  • QB Brian St. Pierre
  • S Hamza Abdullah
  • OL Herman Johnson

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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2009 – 12:28 am

An odd game in St. Louis. More late-game heart stoppage when you didn’t think there would be any. Heck, before Kurt Warner left the game – probably right about the time Beanie Wells powered over in a manly one-yard touchdown run – I wondered how much yardage Warner was going to pile up throwing to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin before coach Ken Whisenhunt put Matt Leinart in.

Instead, Leinart had to come in.

There will be plenty of people breaking down Leinart’s time in the game. It didn’t make you forget the starter was out with a possible concussion,  but it wasn’t the disaster some will inevitably make it out to be. Under different circumstances, for instance, Whisenhunt might have let Neil Rackers try a 51-yard field goal – in a dome, remember – on the first drive of the second half. Leinart took the Cards from their own 15 to the cusp of field-goal range before Whisenhunt stayed conservative and punted.

It makes sense. The Rams had done nothing offensively and there was little reason, with an 18-point lead, to give them life with good field position (and indeed, punter Ben Graham pinned the Rams at their own 2). But maybe points there changes how Leinart’s day went, especially since the next possession was the one where the Cards couldn’t convert on third-and-1.

Anyway, on to other thoughts in the wake of the win:

– The running game has been tremendous. The Cards have 487 rushing yards the past three games, an average of 162.3 per game. The first seven games of the season, the Cards totaled 454 rushing yards, an average of 64.8. Their overall ranking will still be low, but it’s clear the Cards are a better running team than that ranking.

– Rookie linebacker Will Davis – who got his second sack Sunday — might be a find as a sixth-round pick. With Chike Okeafor out, the Cards have needed Davis, and seems to have surpassed veteran Bertrand Berry for playing time in some key spots.

– The Cardinals used running back Jason Wright as a fullback on one play Sunday. You have to give Whisenhunt props in his ability to shuffle his personnel and use them in different ways. RB Tim Hightower spent some time split wide too.

– Quietly, Anquan Boldin had another big game. It got lost in the running exploits of Hightower and Beanie Wells and the injury to Kurt Warner, but he’s back to playing at a Pro Bowl level. If he can just stay healthy, it’s going to be a bi.. err, very difficult to defend the Cards.

– Wide receiver Steve Breaston was shut out of making a catch for the first time since playing in Washington the third game of last season. Breaston doesn’t really care about such things, but it does hurt him in his quest to get to the 75-reception mark. Then again, if anyone noticed, not only is Fitz on pace for Pro Bowl numbers but Boldin’s pace (85 receptions, 1,020 yards) is getting back there too.

– Leinart acknowledged he had a little problem with high throws. Whisenhunt said it’s partially because Leinart just hasn’t gotten enough playing time. It is an issue Leinart has worked with a lot with quarterbacks coach Chris Miller. “It’s been my little problem this season and I have been working hard to fix stuff on my release,” Leinart said. “I know when I throw a high pass, I know exactly why so I have to correct those things and that’s what I try to (fix) during the week.”

– With Bryant McFadden out with a knee injury, the Rams did their best to pick on 5-foot-8 backup Michael Adams. But there was one play where anyone could see why the Cards like Adams. The Rams ran a pitch wide left for 235-pound Steven Jackson. The only man in his way was Adams, all 181 pounds of him. Adams came up and stuck Jackson with a textbook tackle at the knees. One yard gain. It’s all about angles.

– Safety Adrian Wilson didn’t get his 20th sack, but he did get his 21st interception (Didn’t seem like Wilson was given many shots to rush the QB in St. Louis). That’ll have to be good enough for this week. Wonder if he can chase down the elusive Vince Young.


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Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on November 20, 2009 – 5:32 pm

Coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked Friday about the existence of “dog days” in an NFL season. Whisenhunt didn’t hesitate in saying that’s exactly where the Cards are right now.

“No question about it,” he said. “It’s really a battle of attrition right now.”

That’s true, with guys banged up and sitting out some time and, let’s face it, no breaks coming. The bye came so early the Cards will end up playing 13 straight weeks and – barring a meltdown at the top of the NFC – won’t get any off time in the playoffs unless they get to the Super Bowl (*crosses fingers*).

For the players, though, there is enough emotion on the weekend to carry them through.

“You really have to muster it up during the week because it’s hard and nobody likes to practice,” Whisenhunt said. “But the excitement of game day – that’s what gets you going. There is nothing like Sundays.”

OK, so this is only Friday. But we’re going to muster up some energy to get through this last blog post before we get to the Edward Jones Dome in less than 48 hours.

– Getting MLB Gerald Hayes back before a game against Steven Jackson would seem fortuitous. The Cardinals will have a huge upper hand if they can just control Jackson and not let him control the clock. The Rams shouldn’t have the ability to slow the Cards’ offense and I don’t think the Rams will be able to pass much on the Cards given their offensive line issues. This will be about making sure Jackson doesn’t keep the Rams in the game.

– Speaking of Hayes, he was asked if he’d rather face a back who would rather run over him or was fast enough to run around him on the end (knowing, of course, Jackson can probably do both). Hayes laughed. “Speed kills,” he said. “I’d rather it’d be somebody who could run through me, because he’s not going to get far.”   

– CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was off the injury list this week for the first time since fracturing his finger. So does that mean he’s not going to wear the cast in the game anymore? “Yes sir,” he said. And does it mean the finger is totally healed? “No sir.” Having two hands for an interception would be nice for DRC, who is in the running for the Pro Bowl.

– Speaking of which, FS Antrel Rolle feasts on Rams passes the last couple of seasons and he’s playing well in coverage. Can he grab another?

– The Cards were only the fifth team in NFL history to have three players with 75 catches last season (Fitz, Q, Breaston). They are on pace to be the only team to ever do it twice if three guys keep it up: Fitz, Q and Tim Hightower. And if Breaston, who is just off that pace, can do it too, the Cards would be the first team ever with four guys with 75 receptions in a season.

– Oh, and the QB for three of the five thus far? Kurt Warner.

– Here’s one measurement on how the Cardinals are playing right now: “I think last week was the least amount of mental errors we have had as a team,” Boldin said.

– The Cards have averaged 35 points a game in their last four trips to St. Louis: 38, 34, 34, 34.

– Then again, Whisenhunt isn’t assuming past performance equals future results. He’d like to believe they are ready – he told the team Friday this game is a business trip – but again, you never know. “You always worry about that. We are a long way from being that mature team you count on showing up every week and playing the game you are supposed to play. But we have made great strides in that direction.”

– Here’s why I don’t worry about this weekend (I know, I know, famous last words): Kurt Warner. Given his weapons and the level at which the offense suddenly is playing (a killer run game!), he won’t have a bad game against the Rams. He just won’t. Will he go for five TDs like Chicago? Maybe not. Will he throw for 340 like Seattle? Maybe not. But he will play well and the Cardinals will take care of things. Warner insists the Rams game doesn’t mean as much to him anymore, but sorry, I just don’t see it.


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