Vonnie Holliday sat back a bit in his locker in the cramped, outdated visiting locker room at Candlestick Park. He hadn’t yet pulled off his uniform pants or his undershirt, quietly taking in the scene after Sunday’s loss.
Change is coming for the Cardinals. Holliday is part of the inevitable part of that change, even if the Cardinals were 11-5 and not 5-11. At 37, he sounds like he is leaning toward retirement. It was he and not Calais Campbell who was in the starting lineup Sunday at the insistence of his defensive linemates. They knew it was probably Holliday’s last NFL game.
“That’s the kind of guys we have in this room, on this team,” Holliday said. “Great character. Calais kind of joked about it on Saturday and then today, we came into the locker room and he said, ‘I want you to have it.’ It meant a lot to me.”
Holliday’s eyes welled up a bit as he told the story. He doesn’t know yet if he is retiring, but sure sounded like he might be leaning that way. “At some point, the sun sets on us all,” Holliday said. “It’s getting late in the evening for me.”
He mentioned to me last week he might actually want to coach – or more realistically, be a consultant. Already, he’s expecting some of the young defensive linemen to join him in Atlanta to train before the Cards’ offseason work begins.
“The season didn’t play out the way we wanted to play out, but it couldn’t be with a better group of guys,” Holliday said. “All the chances to point fingers or having a divide, guys never did that. It’s been a pleasure.”
Holliday is a class act. The Cards were better for him being in the locker room. Things must change to improve the team, but there was a universal feeling among the players that the character of the roster was impressive.
— As for the actual change that’s coming, I don’t know what will happen. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he expects to be back next season, which is what he should say. We will see how this sorts out and on what timeline upon which it happens. There is this assumption all kinds of things will happen Monday. I’m not saying they won’t, but I don’t know if it’s is a lock they do, either.
— The Cardinals will draft seventh. So there’s that.
— There are a lot of people wondering about the future of defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. Including, I would guess, Dockett.
“I’m not one of those guys who wants to play 15 or 16 years chasing a ring,” Dockett said. “Wherever God takes me, he’ll take me. If it’s here I’m going to give them everything I’ve got. I just want to be somewhere to win a championship and where I’m wanted. And I want to be somewhere where they are committed to winning, standards all the way around.”
But Dockett went on to talk like a guy who wasn’t trying to get out.
“At the end of the day my loyalty is with the Cardinals,” he said. “I have given this organization everything I’ve got. I love playing here. I love some of the talent we’ve got. At the end of the day, we have to find a way for us to compete for a championship.”
— Running back Beanie Wells wasn’t into analyzing why he didn’t play Sunday despite being active. His fumble last week didn’t help. Whiz said he wanted to ride William Powell’s hot hand, and Powell did start well (50 first-half yards on 12 carries). I’m not sure Wells’ thoughts that he’d be moving on from the Cards after the season helped the cause.
— There were a few times when left guard Daryn Colledge and left tackle D’Anthony Batise swapped places. “It was an opportunity to kind of keep him guessing on what was going on and keeping fresh legs on the guy,” Colledge said. “Just kind of change it up and see how they reacted to it.”
— A rough year for Larry Fitzgerald ended with a two-catch-for-13-yard game.
“Yeah, it wears your patience pretty thin,” Fitzgerald said of the season. “(But) acting out, being a jerk, causing a scene doesn’t make anything any better either so at this point it’s important to make sure you’re a part of the solution and not part of the problem, going out and working hard every day in practice and doing everything you can in your power to make this team better. I’m just trying to stay that course.”
— The team gets together for a final meeting Monday morning. We’ll see how the morning turns out. I’ll be on Twitter (@cardschatter) for immediate updates and azcardinals.com for all the news.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell, D'Anthony Batiste, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Vonnie Holliday, William Powell
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Next week, Ray Horton figures to get at least one if not several inquiries to interview for vacant head coaching jobs. He already had one last year – with the Rams – and as a minority candidate whose unit has played very good football this season, Horton figures to attract interest.
Horton didn’t want to necessarily go there today, his final day of meeting the media this season.
“I would say today I’m just trying to be the best D-coordinator in the league and I didn’t do it (this season),” Horton said. “We didn’t accomplish our goals. The rest of that stuff usually takes care of itself and usually teams that win more are rewarded that well.”
That said, when asked when he would know if he was ready for a head coaching job, Horton acknowledged, “A couple years ago – (although) you never know until you get there.”
Horton’s interview with the Rams reportedly went well and he had no reason to think he wouldn’t duplicate the feat. “I think if you are confident in what you do, every interview would be good,” he said. “I feel I’m prepared, smart, knowledgeable, humble and whatever goes with whatever that entails.”
None of that means Horton won’t be defensive coordinator in Arizona next year. A lot will happen across the league over the next few weeks. There is a lot of unknown about the Cards themselves. Horton said he isn’t thinking about that.
“All I know is I am going to San Francisco in the morning and I’m not going there to get any sourdough bread,” Horton said. “I’m going there to play a football game.”
— With left tackle Nate Potter upgraded to limited Friday and listed as questionable to play, we’ll see who gets the call at the spot – him or D’Anthony Batiste. You wonder how much the 49ers will work to get Aldon Smith the three sacks he needs to tie the NFL record in that stat, and you wonder if Brian Hoyer – who looks pretty aware in the pocket – can make a difference with his decision-making.
— It does help that the 49ers will be without DT Justin Smith, however.
— Horton said he thought the 49ers have changed their playcalling after installing Colin Kaepernick as starting quarterback in place of Alex Smith.
“You don’t see as many shifts, as many extra linemen in the game,” Horton said. “(Kaepernick) adds an element to run the ball. It will be an interesting experiment to see what they think after the season is over.”
— In case you missed it, here’s the list of 2013 opponents for the Cards, home and away.
— Heading into the league’s final weekend, the Cardinals currently have the ninth pick in the first round of the draft. Given the matchups in the final game – and given the Cards’ fairly strong strength of schedule – it’s going to be difficult to move much higher if the team loses to the 49ers (a win would drop them mid-first-round. About 15 or 16, I would guess). There might be a chance to move to No. 7, realistically.
— Veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday – who could be playing in his final NFL game Sunday as he contemplates retirement once again – has high hopes for a lot of the younger defenders on the Cardinals and what they can become.
One of those guys is nose tackle Dan Williams, about whom Holliday is bullish about his future.
“He can be one of the best nose guards in this league,” Holliday said. “Because of his athleticism, because of his size and strength. And now he’s become a student of the game.”
— For this week’s episode of “Season In Focus” (airing Saturday at 7 a.m. on ABC-15), there will be Adrian Wilson Wired, the best of Cardinals Chronicles for 2012, the best moments of the season at University of Phoenix Stadium, and a spotlight on record-breaking punter Dave Zastudil.
— I will admit I hope Daryl Washington can get his 10th sack.
— The Cardinals had all kinds of problems tackling the 49ers the last time they met, one of the reasons Smith’s 18-for-19 passing day turned so effective (232 yards, three touchdowns). Can’t have that happen again.
— The 49ers have a lot on the line. We’ll see if the Cardinals can mess with that at all.
Tags: 49ers, Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, D'Anthony Batiste, Dan Williams, Daryl Washington, draft, Justin Smith, Nate Potter, Ray Horton, Vonnie Holliday
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No Darnell Dockett. That’s the very real possibility Sunday because of his hamstring injury. As Darnell mentioned to me in the locker room after the Eagles game, “Every now and then, even the Hulk gets wounded.” The Cards’ version of the Hulk has missed exactly one game since he got into the league in 2004. That’s 135 games played in 136 opportunities, including playoffs, and he started 134 of them. (He missed a 2010 game with a shoulder problem, the Cards lost.) The Cards can overcome an absence, I’d think. They did pretty well last week when safety Adrian Wilson had to sit out.
“If that’s the case, they’ll step up. That’s kind of the mentality of that group,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. The Cards have Vonnie Holliday, Nick Eason and even David Carter who could probably play some. Besides, you never know what DC Ray Horton might cook up.
The injury situation will be interesting, not only because the Cards have a bunch of guys that could sit, but also because the Cards have a short week next week – they play Thursday night in St. Louis. Asked if the schedule might dictate how he would make inactive decisions for this game (for instance, resting a guy because he wouldn’t have as much recovery time) Whisenhunt said that hasn’t been the approach.
“I can’t say that wouldn’t change maybe as we got closer to the game,” Whisenhunt said. “I don’t anticipate it changing. We’re focused on this game and I’m not really worried about the Thursday game right now. I think that’s the way you have to approach it.”
— The spotlight will be on the Cards’ running game. The Dolphins are allowing less than three yards a carry and are third in the NFL in run defense. The Cards are averaging less than three yards a carry on offense. Ryan Williams, what say you?
— The Dolphins are also fourth in the league in rushing, not a surprise because when you have a rookie QB like Ryan Tannehill, you are going to effort to run the ball. Reggie Bush, who has broken out as a back since going to Miami, is questionable with a sore knee. Word from Miami is that Bush is expected to play. Holliday made the point earlier this week the Cards’ defense, as well as it has played, needs to do better against the run. Here’s a big chance.
— History said last week that Larry Fitzgerald always did well against the Eagles, and then he went out against the Eagles and played well again. The sample size is much smaller against the Dolphins, but the highlights are there. In 2008, Fitz, Anquan Boldin and Kurt Warner riddled Miami with shots in a 31-10 home win. Fitz ended that day with six catches for 153 yards – that was the first day the whole Todd Haley ridding the Cards of the “one-trick pony” and a guy who never got yards after the catch finally took hold. Fitz was a monster (Boldin had six for 140 too, with three touchdowns.)
The other Fitz-Miami game was less spectacular but more memorable. It was 2004, Fitz’s rookie year, and he made a two-yard jump-ball touchdown catch with 19 seconds left to beat the Dolphins, 24-23. Fitz had five catches for 92 yards that day, and the Cards snapped a 17-game road losing streak (Ah yes, those were the days). Mostly from that game I remember Fitz’s post-game presser. Those were the days when Fitz often left the locker room before reporters even got there. With the game-winner he was made to come into the interview room for what might have been the most awkward presser ever. I think Fitz delivered very few short sentence answers before it mercifully ended. He’s come a long way since then.
— Calais Campbell went to the University of Miami, although he doesn’t see facing the Dolphins as an big deal because of that (now, the Denver Broncos for the Aurora, Colorado, native is something different.) That said, Campbell has a long memory. Before the Cardinals took Campbell in the second round of the 2008 draft, the Dolphins could have taken him but instead took Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling. Merling is now in Green Bay, having washed out as a Dolphin.
“I was a little bit mad about that,” Campbell said. “I definitely want to make sure they regret the decision. I love being in Arizona, I don’t think I’d do well in Miami, but I know one thing, I want them to regret not drafting me. I’m sure they already feel that way, but I want to make them feel it even more.”
— For those wondering, Scott Green – who is the head of the referees’ union, is scheduled to officiate Sunday’s game. (He was the ref for the Cardinals-Packers wild-card playoff game in 2010 too. Karlos Dansby must be happy.)
— Speaking of Karlos, he was also a good guy. He also was one of those players that always dropped a “Know what I’m sayin’?” every third sentence. It was kind of his calling card. But the one I remember most is when I went to ask him for his reaction that then-teammate Sean Morey had agreed to donate his brain to research after his death in an effort to find out about potential brain effects that come with playing in the NFL. Karlos didn’t hesitate.
“That’s huge, man,” he said.
Indeed, it was.
— Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said stud pass rusher Cameron Wake has played very well this season and is pressuring the quarterback often. Wake, however, has yet to record a sack. The tackles will have to hold up against Wake, who could have been a Cardinal. After lighting up the CFL, Wake worked out for the Cardinals in late 2008 as a potential outside linebacker. The Cards ended up passing, and Wake didn’t latch on anywhere until Miami signed him in the offseason – and where he had notched 28 sacks in three seasons before this one.
— Since Whisenhunt arrived in 2007, the Cardinals are 27-5 in games in which they have carried a lead into the fourth quarter.
— Kevin Kolb, with a passer rating of 108.6, is the third-ranked passer in the NFL behind Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger. Raise your hand if you saw that coming.
— Congrats, by the way, to the Kolbs for the arrival of Saylor. Family time intact, and no missed games.
— The Cardinals, over their last 11 games, have allowed a mere 1.33 touchdowns per game. Wonder if Tannehill knows that.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Cameron Wake, Darnell Dockett, David Carter, Dolphins, Karlos Dansby, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Nick Eason, Ryan Tannehill, Vonnie Holliday
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With the news Daryl Washington got a contract extension, it changes the list of who might be next up for the Cardinals on the contract front. The obvious and probable choice is running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season and is a player whom general manager Rod Graves has already said is a target for a new deal. We’ll see if that comes to fruition, but the way the NFL is these days, a back who fills the Hyphen’s role is important to have.
Beyond that? The Cardinals have done a good job managing contracts at this point. Extensions are usually only there for younger players who you don’t want to hit the open market. Older veterans who play a role usually don’t get anything done until after the season and even then, after free agency arrives — if the team is going to bring them back at all. So some of the guys scheduled to be free agents after the season — defensive linemen Vonnie Holliday and Nick Eason, tight end Todd Heap, safety James Sanders, linebacker Quentin Groves, tackle D’Anthony Batiste — probably aren’t going to get into talks until later.
One intriguing name is linebacker Paris Lenon, but he likely falls into the previous category, even as he is about to start for a third straight season and was named captain again. Lenon said he thinks he has more in the tank for beyond 2012, but we’ll see if the Cards’ front office has thoughts that dovetail with that. Beyond Lenon, there are younger guys like linebacker Reggie Walker and defensive backs Rashad Johnson and Michael Adams. I don’t see any of them getting new deals in season.
Other than that, the Cards are in good shape through 2013 in terms of key guys under contract. I know some are asking about Patrick Peterson, but he’s already under contract through 2015. He’ll have to be locked up before then, but there is plenty of time for that.
Tags: contracts, D'Anthony Batiste, James Sanders, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Michael Adams, Nick Eason, Paris Lenon, Patrick Peterson, Quentin Groves, Rashad Johnson, Reggie Walker, Rod Graves, Todd Heap, Vonnie Holliday
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Every NFL team must have it roster cuts in by Friday afternoon. To be exact, by 6 p.m. Arizona time. I expect the Cardinals – and coach Ken Whisenhunt – to have announced them before, since Whiz will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. that day. Until then, though, this is a guess at how this 53-man roster shakes out.
Whisenhunt made it clear the other day that this last preseason game does matter when it comes to a spot or two on the roster, and I believe that. It means trying to approximate who will be on the roster before that last game is somewhat fool’s gold. I’m certainly not Nostradamus here. Last year, for instance, I had Ben Graham holding off Dave Zastudil for the punter job. I was very wrong. And this only holds for as long as it might take for the Cards to claim/sign a guy or two over the weekend, which would obviously change things. That always happens.
But it’s fodder to chew on until Friday, speculation upon which this time of the NFL schedule is built around. So with apologies to those I miss on, and with a nod to old school Letterman, this is only an exhibition and not a competition, so please, no wagering.
QB – (3) John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley. No, we don’t know the starter yet. But it’s hard to believe that with everything Lindley has shown as a rookie he doesn’t get the nod over Rich Bartel (who is one of the best guys you’ll meet and someday will be a very good coach.)
RB – (4) Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell. This is one of the sticking points. Powell has had a good preseason, but as I have mentioned many times, I think Alfonso Smith has as well. It may come down to how Powell looks Thursday night. Will I be shocked if Smith is the choice instead of Powell? Nope.
FB – (1) Anthony Sherman. The Sherminator running unopposed. It’s like a boring political “race.”
WR – (6) Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, Michael Floyd, DeMarco Sampson, LaRon Byrd. This is a close one, in my mind. The top four are obvious. I think Sampson has had a good camp and he can play special teams. Byrd versus Stephen Williams may just be about Byrd’s upside. I’m not sure Byrd would make it to the practice squad but — given some other positional issues, like, at say, offensive line – I’m not sure either if the Cards may try and keep just five receivers and use the practice squad for relief.
TE – (4) Todd Heap, Jeff King, Rob Housler, Jim Dray. Given the injury history of, well, all of them, I think the Cards play it safe and keep four guys around again.
OL – (8) D’Anthony Batiste, Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein, Adam Snyder, Bobby Massie, Rich Ohrnberger, Jeremy Bridges, Senio Kelemete. This is a very difficult one from the outside looking in. The Cards might keep nine linemen, given their . Has Kelemete shown enough, even as a draft pick? Would Nate Potter be possible given the tackle issues? Where might a free agent or waiver claim fit in? I could see Potter, D.J. Young and/or center Scott Wedige as practice squad material too.
DL (6) – Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Vonnie Holliday, David Carter, Nick Eason. Seems fairly cut and dried at this position, one of the few like that.
LB – (8) Sam Acho, Paris Lenon, Daryl Washington, O’Brien Schofield, Stewart Bradley, Reggie Walker, Clark Haggans, Brandon Williams. This is another spot that might come down to the Denver game. The backup outside linebacker spot figures to have two places for three guys: Haggans, Williams, Quentin Groves. Groves made some plays early. Williams plays some special teams and has been higher on the depth chart.
DB (10) – Patrick Peterson, William Gay, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, Jamell Fleming, Justin Bethel, Rashad Johnson, James Sanders, Greg Toler, A.J. Jefferson. Usually, the Cards wouldn’t keep more than nine defensive backs, and that’s still possible. With 10, Bethel is a special teams keeper despite being a raw DB. Michael Adams is the odd man out there, but it will not shock me to see Adams stick around either and maybe someone like Jefferson out. Watching the reserve defensive backs closely in the finale, because I think that will be part of the equation.
ST – (3) Jay Feely (K), Dave Zastudil (P), Mike Leach (LS). Never should have doubted Leach’s return.
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Adam Snyder, Adrian Wilson, Andre Roberts, Anthony Sherman, Beanie Wells, Bobby Massie, Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell, Clark Haggans, D'Anthony Batiste, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Daryn Colledge, Dave Zastudil, David Carter, DeMarco Sampson, Early Doucet, Greg Toler, Jamell Fleming, James Sanders, Jay Feely, Jeff King, Jeremy Bridges, Jim Dray, John Skelton, Justin Bethel, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, LaRod Stephens-Howling, LaRon Byrd, Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Michael Floyd, Mike Leach, Nick Eason, O'Brien Schofield, Paris Lenon, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Reggie Walker, Rich Ohrnberger, Rob Housler, Roster, Ryan Lindley, Ryan Williams, Sam Acho, Senio Kelemete, Stewart Bradley, Todd Heap, Vonnie Holliday, William Gay, William Powell
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As became clear last week after the Cards re-signed veteran linebacker Clark Haggans, the Cards brought back another vet today when veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday returned on a one-year contract. As I’ve mentioned before, Holliday not only provides depth but is great in the locker room and teaching young players and that part of it can’t be overstated.
To make room for Holliday, the Cards cut undrafted rookie defensive end Conrad Obi. The Cards will take their full 90-man roster into minicamp tomorrow, with two practices.
Tags: Conrad Obi, Vonnie Holliday
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With OTAs coming to a close and minicamp next week – the final on-field work for veterans before breaking up for the summer – the Cardinals brought back another veteran piece Tuesday.
The team re-signed linebacker Clark Haggans, who has spent the last four years of his previous 12 NFL seasons with the Cards, to a one-year deal. Last year, starting all 16 games, Haggans had 54 tackles and three sacks. O’Brien Schofield is expected to replace Haggans in the starting lineup this season across from Sam Acho, but Haggans has been as valuable in the locker room as on the field, mentoring guys like Schofield and Acho.
The Cards cut undrafted rookie linebacker Broderick Binns to make room for Haggans.
The 35-year-old Haggans, who has kept himself in great shape throughout his career, was long thought to be a target to return at some point. Having played in Pittsburgh his first eight seasons, his familiarity with the defensive scheme of former Steelers assistant Ray Horton made getting to all the OTAs less important.
Haggans was leaning toward a return after the season was over, even has he understood his role could be changing and his influence on the young linebackers as important as his play. “It makes me feel a little older, like I should have a rocking chair in front of my locker, but it’s a lot of fun,” Haggans said at the time.
The Cardinals could still end up re-signing veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday as well. Both he and Haggans have remained possibilities in their free agent status despite the weeks passing in the offseason. I’ll have more from/about Haggans — who is practicing today — after the workout.
Tags: Clark Haggans, Vonnie Holliday
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The final rookie minicamp practice of the weekend just ended. As usual, it’s too early to tell much.
“It’s hard,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Everybody looks good in shorts. You don’t want to get too excited. (At first glance), you like what you see. We had a number of guys look good. Everyone is on the same playing level today. We’ll have a better sense when they go against the veterans. But the first stage of the test, they passed.”
Whisenhunt said there was something missing without veterans, where a coach could grab a vet and have the vet show the newcomer how to execute something. But no veterans also meant more reps for the players who need it most. “It was a new experience with just rookies,” Whisenhunt said. “We’ll judge how productive it was once we get to OTAs and see how they respond.”
As for a final message for the group, Whisenhunt kept it simple. “I thanked them for their effort and their work,” Whisenhunt said. “I think for three days and five practices, we kind of knew what we were doing, so that was impressive. The credit goes to our coaches and the players. … For the guys who are going to be here, (I told them) ‘Be ready to work.’ ”
— As Whisenhunt said, the draft class was noticed. Quarterback Ryan Lindley and wide receiver Michael Floyd hooked up on a nice downfield pass Friday, and both clearly looked more comfortable as the weekend went on. Cornerback Jamell Fleming had some impressive pass breakups over the days. Tackle Bobby Massie looks right, but again, so hard to tell how a lineman will really be when it counts. It’s the same for all of them really.
— You’d expect the guys who have already been in the league to stand out at least a little. A couple did, at least from my perspective. Linebacker Quan Sturdivant looked comfortable out there in his first offseason, while new tight end Martell Webb made impressions on a couple of catches, including a nice one-handed grab down the seam Sunday.
— The Cards officially have 85 on the roster. The remaining five spots should be filled before OTAs start a week from Tuesday. Linebacker Clark Haggans and defensive end Vonnie Holliday remain viable options for two of those spots.
— Whisenhunt did offer blanket Happy Mother’s Day wishes to everyone. “When you get into these camps, you can lose sight of the real world, you can forget today is Mother’s Day,” He said. “We were sure to tell the guys, ‘Be sure to call and thank your Mom.’ We wouldn’t be out here if it weren’t for our moms.’ ”
Tags: Bobby Massie, Clark Haggans, Jamell Fleming, Ken Whisenhunt, Martell Webb, Michael Floyd, minicamp, Quan Sturdivant, Ryan Lindley, Vonnie Holliday
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OK. The three-day wait-and-write of the NFL draft is finally over. Before I scoot out the door, some quick hit thoughts/nuggets to tide you over until Monday (or until the possible undrafted rookies start getting leaked):
— The Cards didn’t take a linebacker or defensive lineman in the draft. That would seem to make it much more likely for veteran linebacker Clark Haggans and/or defensive end Vonnie Holliday to come back. General manager Rod Graves acknowledged that could still happen and made clear veteran free agents will not be ignored at this point.
“There are still opportunities out there for veterans (to be signed),” Graves said.
— Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean splashy veterans, not that there are any to sign. Vets signing now are going to be minimum, one-year deal guys. And I think the Haggans/Holliday thing makes the most sense.
— With 69 players on the roster, including the unsigned/tagged Calais Campbell, the Cards need to fill 21 roster spots. The vast majority will be undrafted rookies, but whatever that total is when it is finally announced Monday (and it should be Monday, but the list will have to be complete before they do let it out) will let you know if they are keeping spots open for vets.
— The offensive line got their influx of talent on the final day. I don’t know if Bobby Massie will be the right tackle starter — we all know how things go for rookies with this staff — but Levi Brown did start as a rookie at right tackle. I wouldn’t rule it out.
— Not taking a linebacker means a lot for Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield, and in a good way. “I think they were the two high totals in sacks for our team at that position and when you have young guys doing that, you feel good,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said, who added that Brandon Williams, whom the Cards picked up late last year, as flashed some potential.
— The basically unknown Justin Bethel (you know, aside from his leaping skills) is versatile. Bethel (pictured below at the combine) said he didn’t know what position he’d play, but the Cards listed him at safety. Like Richard Marshall, I think DC Ray Horton likes guys who are able to do both anyway. As Horton mentioned, the Cards play teams like the Packers and Patriots, teams that send an armada of pass catchers out most plays. The Cards need quality DBs.
— Interesting to hear about the scouting process. Horton said he specifically wrote down during the combine interview of new CB Jamell Fleming “very smart player.” With new guard Senio Kelemete, a two-time team captain, Whisenhunt noted how he was an “intriguing interview what he’s gone through in his personal life and how he stayed focused on school and football.”
Bottom line: They keep talking about how football intelligence and character matter. Sometimes talent trumps that, but it does factor in and does matter.
— I don’t know what will happen at QB. Not sure why everyone kept banging the Kellen Moore drum — every team in the league passed on him multiple times. He won, yes. But so did Matt Leinart. It doesn’t automatically mean anything on this level, and it certainly doesn’t make it any easier to see in the pocket when you are barely 6-foot. Maybe he shocks the world. The odds say he probably won’t. You take the kid — Lindley, in this case — who has tools in which you hope you can mold.
OK, that’s enough. Time to go home. Until next draft …
Tags: Brandon Williams, Clark Haggans, draft, Jamell Fleming, Justin Bethel, Ken Whisenhunt, Levi Brown, O'Brien Schofield, Rod Graves, Ryan Lindley, Sam Acho, Senio Kelemete, Vonnie Holliday
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The list of the Cardinals’ own free agents is shrinking, which is what normally happens this close to the draft. Of the team’s original group of 16 unrestricted free agents (tackle Levi Brown was of course not on the original list, having been released and not technically a UFA), seven remain. Three were never going to return: linebacker Joey Porter, running back Chester Taylor and offensive lineman Pork Chop Womack. There is a still a chance safety Hamza Abdullah could come back even after the Cards signed James Sanders, and tackle Brandon Keith — given that the Cards haven’t added a tackle in free agency — is certainly still on the radar.
Then there are a pair of veteran defenders who helped on the field last season and were even more valuable in the locker room: linebacker Clark Haggans and defensive end Vonnie Holliday.
It’s tough not to think of Haggans these days because he was the one who all but lived at the facility year-round, working out every day. I have no doubt he is somewhere keeping in prime shape. It’s just not in the Cards’ weight room. He has moved past the point where you want him starting every game — this is the season O’Brien Schofield needs to take hold of that spot, across from Sam Acho, depending on who the Cards might draft — but Haggans still was and can be productive in a role on the field. Same goes for Holliday, who looked really good in the season finale when he got his most significant playing time of the season.
Again, the value to both comes as much off the field as on. I’ve mentioned this before but Holliday (and fellow vet DL Nick Eason) has the perfect temperament and attitude for what the Cards need him to be, a fill-in guy who can teach other players and be OK with that. Haggans played more last season but he too has been a good influence on the younger players. How could a guy who is constantly making sure he is prepared as possible not be?
Both players, however, fall into limbo at this point in their careers. A draft pick at either position could change a need to bring them back. Holliday hinted at retirement last year, although he said his thoughts right after the final game were that he’d want to return. I’m not sure anything gets done with either before the draft, but it’s not like you have to be worried about their commitment if you do bring them back.
Tags: Brandon Keith, Clark Haggans, Hamza Abdullah, James Sanders, Vonnie Holliday
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