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Friday before the (biggest) Seahawks (game)

Posted by Darren Urban on December 19, 2014 – 4:56 pm

First, a history lesson. Or at least a flashback.

I was there in New Jersey in 2012 as the life drained out of the Ken Whisenhunt regime and the Cardinals, when Ryan Lindley started against the Jets in what might have been the ugliest game ever. You remember, when the Cards nursed a 3-0 lead into the fourth quarter and eventually lost, 7-6. The game was striking because Lindley simply could not move the offense that day, and Whisenhunt refused to put in backup John Skelton.

Lindley completed just 10 of 31 passes for 72 yards, and that, more than the four interceptions he had against the Rams in a loss the week before or his Lions start that the Cards won because of defense and Beanie Wells, is what I remember most of Lindley 1.0.

What will Lindley 2.0 look like?

He’s had a week to practice with the first unit, and he’ll be playing with a better offensive line than he had back then. Honestly, I have no idea what Lindley will do Sunday, or how he will play. Sure, we could see the guy who has the 0-to-7 TD-to-interception ratio in his career. The Seahawks can make a lot of quarterbacks look poor (Drew Stanton didn’t exactly dominate against the Seahawks in the earlier game). But maybe he’ll be enough. Maybe, in a year where the Cards simply find a way to win at home every time, he’ll make the plays. Carson Palmer threw four interceptions just about this time last year against the Seahawks – in Seattle – and the Cards still managed to win.

That was because of defense and a commitment to the run, and the Cards should have both again Sunday. Lindley doesn’t have to be Aaron Rodgers. He just can’t be Lindley 1.0.

— The biggest thing that struck me this week was the confidence around the team. I’ve been around this franchise for 15 years, in this building the last eight. I know when the mood in the locker room skews bad, or when there is concern where the team sits. And from my vantage point, that isn’t the case right now.

I don’t know if that’s confidence in Lindley, or knowledge a playoff berth is already secure regardless of the outcome Sunday, or Arians’ trickle-down mindset. But mentally, the Cardinals are in the right place. We’ll see if that translates against the Seahawks.

— The Cardinals will wear their red-and-red uniform combo for the game. I could talk about what a great record they have wearing that combo, but I’m one of those that doesn’t believe uniforms make a difference, so, yeah. They are wearing red-and-red.

— Palmer was in the locker room after practice today, walking around although noting that was about all he can do at this point. He won’t be attending Sunday’s game, he said, because after about an hour of standing his surgically-repaired knee would swell considerably. He also wouldn’t want to think about getting hit on accident on the sideline – he’s not super mobile – and hurting his knee all over again.

“I’m too old for that,” he said.

— A hint for halftime Sunday if you are going to the game: You might not want to leave your seats. A special six-minute laser light and video show that highlights the season and pays tribute to the fans will be played. It incorporates 12 laser light projectors to create graphics on the field and the roof. Should be fun.

— Goodness, these Tim Tebow fans

— Defensive end Frostee Rucker played for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC, and this week, Carroll  talked about how Rucker was a tailback coming out of high school.

“When we got him we weren’t sure where to play him because he was growing at an alarming rate,” Carroll said. “He was no longer in tailback kind of profile. We moved him around. He was such a good athlete and such a good player that we finally found a place for him to play on the D-line where he wound up.

“But he dotted the ‘I’ pretty well there at tailback in the old days — wing-T, he brought it to life when he was in the game.”

Rucker smiled when told Carroll remembered back then. “That was back in my heyday,” Rucker said, noting that his position change was the best thing for him. “I still need to thank him for that.”

The Cards will too. Frostee has been a lifesaver.

— The Cards need the run game. There are some wondering if the two-game surge in running production – 141 and 143 yards the last two games – was because of Jonathan Cooper’s insertion into the lineup, and if it goes away now that Cooper is out with a wrist injury. I think Cooper might have helped. It might have helped that Ted Larsen was playing the right side. It definitely helped that Kerwynn Williams got on the field. And if the Cards take a step back, it may be more about the defense they are playing than anything else.

— Got to keep Russell Wilson contained. Can’t give the Seahawks short fields, whether off turnovers or bad special teams play or poor punts. The Cardinals do that, I think they are in this game.

And if they are in the game in the fourth quarter, we’ll see what happens.


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The Palmer-Stanton dynamic

Posted by Darren Urban on April 2, 2013 – 11:09 am

Matthew Stafford. Tim Tebow. Andrew Luck. And now Carson Palmer.

If Drew Stanton was hoping his path would finally be cleared to be an NFL starter, well, another name is in front of him. Palmer is officially a Cardinal. He’ll collect $10 million guaranteed on a two-year contract that the Cardinals can easily shed after one year if need be. He gives the Cards a veteran signal-caller and their most proven QB since Kurt Warner. He steadies the offense even if he isn’t quite the guy he used to be. Palmer is in the building, attending meetings with his team and isn’t even behind, since today was the first day the players were going to be able to talk football with their new coaches anyway. Palmer is starting in the same place on the learning curve as Larry Fitzgerald, so that’s good.

We’ll have much more on Palmer later. This is about Stanton, the man who less than a month ago was hoping to have a shot at being a starter.

Stanton knows the NFL business better than anyone. (And in fact, apparently was told when he signed a Palmer arrival could indeed be in the Cards’ plans.) Stanton was a second-round pick in Detroit who missed his rookie season with knee surgery and fell behind in his second year as a Lion (behind Jon Kitna and Dan Orvlosky) when a thumb injury kept him out of the preseason. By 2009, Stafford arrived as savior and permanent starter. Stanton hoped he could at least be the backup with the Jets when he signed as a free agent last year — and with Mark Sanchez’s issues, maybe an opening at some point — but the Jets traded for Tebow five days later and, writing on the wall, Stanton asked to move on. The Jets sent him to Indy, where he was inevitably going to sit behind Luck.

Stanton hoped the combination of Bruce Arians and the Cards’ QB situation might be a little different. Arians talked him up but left the door ajar, the space within which Palmer now walks through. Palmer is going to be the starter. But Stanton will be the backup, and who knows, maybe Stanton will — through injury or otherwise — get a shot to start at some point.


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Receiver picture looks a little better

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2012 – 1:18 pm

Wide receiver Andre Roberts did not practice again Friday, meaning he sat out the entire week with his bad ankle. But he is still listed as questionable to play against the Jets, one of three receivers for the Cards who are questionable. On the good side, the other two questionable — Early Doucet (back) and LaRon Byrd (head) — each we’re upgraded to full practice Friday.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he also expects two other players listed as questionable to play barring an unforeseen setback between now and game day: DE Calais Campbell (calf) and running back Beanie Wells (knee). I thought all week Beanie was just precautionary, but if he is listed as questionable, perhaps not.

The other questionable player, QB Kevin Kolb (ribs), seems like a long shot to be active Sunday given his circumstances.

One of those listed as questionable for the Jets, backup QB Tim Tebow, is dealing with fractured ribs. ESPN reported Tebow will be inactive Sunday.

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A chance to miss on Tebow once again

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2012 – 4:20 pm

The last time the Cardinals played against a Tim Tebow team in the regular season, they probably should have seen him play — but he didn’t.

You remember that game, at the end of the disastrous 2010 season. The Cardinals crushed the Broncos, 43-13, in rookie quarterback John Skelton’s first start. Skelton didn’t play well (15-for-37, 146 yards) but he didn’t turn the ball over, and the game was dominated by kicker Jay Feely (25 points, including a touchdown run on a fake field goal) and running back Tim Hightower’s 148 yards rushing on only 18 carries.

(Looking back on my story, I forgot about then-rookie Daryl Washington pulling a Leon Lett. Oops.)

Anyway, not only did the Broncos get throttled but quarterback Kyle Orton was bad, completing just 19-of-41 passes for 166 yards and three interceptions. The Broncos were going nowhere. Kind of seemed like a natural time to give backup QB Tim Tebow a chance to play. But interim coach Eric Studesville decided against it.

Flash forward to Sunday, when the Cardinals play the Jets, and Tebow again is the backup. Tebow is dealing with bad ribs, bad enough to the point where third-stringer Greg McElroy may be the wiser choice to have as Mark Sanchez’s reserve option. Coach Rex Ryan isn’t committing to anything, although he said he thinks Tebow will be able to be active Sunday. Tebow playing, in some way, would certainly add a storyline to a game that could use an extra boost. Clearly Sanchez isn’t going anywhere as the starter.

The Cardinals aren’t taking chances. “You have to prepare for (Tebow),” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Whether he plays or not, we’ll see. But you’ve got to be prepared for him. When he’s in the game, it’s different.”

Another side note: That win against the struggling Tebow team also snapped a seven-game losing streak. Maybe history has a chance to repeat itself Sunday against another struggling Tebow team.

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Not all Madden choices created equal

Posted by Darren Urban on March 24, 2011 – 10:50 am

This year, EA Sports has decided to make a contest out of who will be their cover photo for this year’s version of the Madden football video game. Given the past season, I guess I assumed Aaron Rodgers was a shoo-in for Madden ’12, but no, Rodgers is just one of 32 candidates — one from every team. It’s also set up in bracket form, so we aren’t just talking about the total number of votes.

There are many cover possibilities that make sense — Rodgers, Matt Ryan, DeMarcus Ware, Patrick Willis, Adrian Peterson, Julius Peppers, Andre Johnson — and others that I look at and think, ‘A good player, but a cover?’ — guys like Peyton Hillis, Jake Long, Josh Freeman. There are repeat candidates, guys who have already been on the cover before, like Drew Brees, Michael Vick and, for the Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald.

But just when you find a couple of head-scratchers (The Bengals’ Carlos Dunlap, the Bills’ Steve Johnson, the Patriots’ Danny Woodhead, Tim Tebow?) you end up freezing on the option for Seattle. Apparently, they have no player worthy of the honor, at least none important enough to usurp “The 12th Man” — the name the Seahawks give to their crowd (which yes, can be very loud, but is generally a non-factor if the team is lousy — just like any other crowd).

The 12th Man faces the aforementioned Willis in the first round, so I’d guess Willis will be the one to advance there. But still, the Qwest crowd? Really? Not, oh, maybe Mike Williams? Marshawn Lynch?

Besides, how exactly does the Madden curse affect that group — I’d be afraid of a natural disaster on game day.

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On hog hunting and seeing Tebow

Posted by Darren Urban on December 8, 2010 – 4:59 pm

A few notes to finish the day:

— Richard Bartel was at home in Gonzales, Texas, when the Cardinals called. When asked what he was doing waiting for a team to call, he said he was hog-hunting. One media member was wondering if that was a euphemism for something like off-road racing or something. Nope. The new Cardinals’ QB was actually tracking down and taking out hogs.

There are javelinas in Texas, Bartel said, but these were wild hogs. “Bigger, slower, and they don’t have the tusks,” Bartel said, “but they are still dangerous.”

Bartel doesn’t use guns. Too dangerous for his dogs, who come along. Nope. “Hopefully none of you (media) guys are animal rights activists,” Bartel said.

The hogs will have to wait for now. Bartel is too busy playing football.

— The Broncos drafted Tim Tebow in the first round in large part because coach Josh McDaniels fell in love with his potential. Now, though, McDaniels is out. Where does that leave Tebow (who has played in goal line packages this season)? Maybe on the sideline, at least for the trip to Arizona Sunday.

“We’re going to evaluate every player on our team,” Broncos interim coach Eric Studeville said during a conference call Wednesday. “If something or someone can give us an advantage in a game, we’re going to explore it. … Tim has contributed this year and done some things for us that have benefitted us. We are going to continue to look at those things, but we haven’t decided at this point.”

This season Tebow has accounted for four touchdowns (three running, one passing) on just 13 plays. You’d think the coaches would know exactly what he brings to the table – or maybe they do and aren’t sure it’s enough right now.

— I’m not sure if Darnell Dockett is 100 percent healthy from his shoulder issues, but it’s a good sign he practiced fully today. As for the guys limited today, I don’t think any of them are “going to cost a chance to play Sunday” injuries.

— Speaking of Dockett, he will be Adrian Wilson’s guest on the Big Red Rage tomorrow night at 6 p.m. at Majerle’s in Chandler.

— The Cardinals filled the practice squad spot left vacant when Herman Johnson signed with the Bears yesterday by bringing in tackle Cliff Louis.

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Making a mockery of the draft

Posted by Darren Urban on April 21, 2010 – 3:04 pm

OK, after much work — and in the end, I’m sure most of it is wrong — I’ve put together my mock first round for tomorrow’s draft. If there are any trades, all bets are off, and even if there aren’t any trades, don’t be betting anyway. This is strictly for fun and amusement, likely your amusement in making fun of me tomorrow night.

It’s difficult to get a handle on what will happen even at the top of the draft, and anytime you are sliding the Raiders in the top 10, that tends to blow everything up anyway. In it, I have the Cards taking linebacker Daryl Washington from TCU (Weatherspoon and Dan Williams are off the board by then, as are Jerry Hughes and Sergio Kindle. And I think there are reasons to like Washington regardless).

No, I don’t have Tim Tebow going in the first round. I have Jimmy Clausen going to San Francisco. I have five linemen among the first six picks. And I have a scenario in which the Cards could end up trading out of the first round to add picks (but no one, like a Rolando McClain for instance, dropping far enough that would make the Cards want to trade up).

So take it for what it’s worth. Again, not sure it’s much. It’s about the effort — right?

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Tebow and the Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on March 2, 2010 – 11:01 am

No, I don’t think the Cardinals will draft Tim Tebow.

We’ll get that out of the way right at the top. I don’t know if the Cards see the University of Florida superstar able to fix his throwing flaws enough to make it in the NFL as a quarterback – which is Tebow’s emphatic preference. That’s the major hangup, I believe, one voiced by Browns president Mike Holmgren – who, after mentoring Brett Favre, Steve Young, Joe Montana, among others in his career, knows his quarterbacks.

“It’s always been my opinion that (the throwing motion) is the most difficult thing to change in any quarterback,” Holmgren said. “I’ve read he’s got a number of guys coaching him up on that and he’s trying to change it, but it’s really hard to do, I think. Particularly in pressure situations.”

But, Holmgren added, “Do you want a Tim Tebow on your football team? I think absolutely. You need guys like that, players like that.”

I think, ultimately, that would be the view of Tebow by the Cards. They need quarterbacks, but if you are iffy on Tebow’s ability to play that spot, there are better risks as the position. Now, if Tebow was saying he was willing to play any position coming in, well, that might change some things. He leaped 38.5 inches, ran a 4.72 40-yard dash and showed all kinds of athleticism both in college and at the Scouting combine that at a shade under 6-foot-3 and 236 pounds, he seemingly would make a good tight end/H-back/fullback.

“I want to be a quarterback in the NFL,” Tebow said. “That’s been my dream since I was 6 years old. I’m going to do whatever it takes to do that. (But) if I’m on a team that asks me to help the team in another way, of course I’m going to do that. It’s always team-first.”

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged that it could be intriguing to have Tebow available in a game, noting what the Cards have done on offense with guys like safety Antrel Rolle. But to me, that’s an indication Tebow would be at another position and work in as a gadget guy rather than a guy normally behind center.

“I think the one thing you can’t overlook is he has been very successful in college football,” Whisenhunt said. “He’s won a lot of games, and there’s a lot to be said for that. So I think the transition for any player moving to this level is going to be difficult to a degree. For Tim, because of the offense that they ran, there is going to be a transition period.”

Unless Tebow slipped to the fifth or sixth round – which I believe unlikely – I don’t see the Cards willing to take a flier on him (and certainly not in the first round). There are too many other places that need depth/help, and in a draft considered deep, I don’t think the Cards would be willing to gamble a pick (or the time) to see what Tebow might be in the pros.

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