Cards add two DBs (and Fitz talking to Palmer)

Posted by Darren Urban on April 4, 2013 – 10:41 am

The Cardinals have signed a pair of defensive backs: safety Curtis Taylor (who we mentioned was coming last night) and cornerback Bryan McCann. Taylor has played in 12 NFL games since he was a seventh-round pick of the 49ers back in 2009. He hasn’t played in an NFL regular-season game since 2010. He was on the 49ers’ practice squad throughout the 2012 postseason after the Raiders cut him following the 2012 preseason.

McCann played eight games for the Dolphins last season (10 tackles and a sack) after the Raiders cut him following the preseason. He was an undrafted rookie with the Cowboys in 2010, and even scored a pair of touchdowns as a rookie (on a 101-yard interception return and a 97-yard punt return). In 2011, he played in 12 games with the Cowboys, Ravens and Raiders. He can return both punts and kickoffs.

The Cards also announced running back Alfonso Smith signed his one-year exclusive rights free agent tender.

Oh, and here’s a grainy iPhone shot of Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer talking shop this morning during the Cardinals’ workouts. I assume they are talking shop. Maybe Palmer is asking Fitz where to live. Or about the latest episode of “The Walking Dead.” But you get the picture.


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Williams was “scared” and running back questions

Posted by Darren Urban on February 13, 2013 – 10:40 am

When Bruce Arians was first hired, he talked about taking shots downfield, and people getting too hung up on how much a team runs the ball as opposed to how effective it was in the ground game, and how where a team stood on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter ultimately dictated how much a team was going to run.

But he also said “we will have an attack, and we will start with the run.”

Who will be running it? That’s a good question.

I expect Ryan Williams to have the chance to be one of them. As Williams said, he’s got the label of being “damaged goods,” and he has a lot to prove. Between a torn hamstring, ruptured patella tendon and fracture of his left shoulder, his last three years — one at Virginia Tech, two in the NFL — have been forgettable. But he’s feeling a ton better going into 2013 and thinks no one saw the real Williams last year in his brief time because his patella and knee weren’t ready, and he played like it.

“I won’t say I was rushed, but … people don’t even understand what was going through my head when I got that ball,” Williams said. “Say I was running to my left side, my whole right side is exposed. I’m ducking, I’m curling, I don’t want to get touched. The first thing as a running back, you can’t be scared, and those four games, I was scared. I’m not going to lie.”

Even if Williams returns and can do well, he can’t be the only option. Beanie Wells is here in the final year of his contract — he was rehabbing alongside Williams the other morning — and his status is also interesting. The relationship between he and former coach Ken Whisenhunt seemed strained by the end and perhaps Wells benefits from a fresh start. The Cards must decide what to offer unrestricted free agent LaRod Stephens-Howling, who seems likely to hit the open market at this point.

There has been speculation of a connect-the-dots variety that the Cards might go after unrestricted free agent Rashard Mendenhall, whose time with the Pittsburgh Steelers is coming to an end but who performed pretty well for Arians when Arians was offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh. Mendenhall has battled a lot of injuries the last two years, however. Then there is the real possibility the Cards use a draft pick at some point. Alfonso Smith and William Powell are still in the mix for now, but again, when you have a new staff and a new offense, it’s hard to know exactly the direction the roster might go.

(In a semi-related note, running back Javarris James, who spent the 2012 season on injured reserve after blowing out his knee in the preseason, has been suspended the first four games of the 2013 season, according to multiple reports. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network said it was for substance abuse. James is an exclusive rights free agent. I’m not sure if the Cards were planning on bringing him back, but this news doesn’t help. James can take part in the offseason/training camp if needed.)


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Beanie and the future at running back

Posted by Darren Urban on December 26, 2012 – 9:45 am

When Beanie Wells said on Christmas Eve he thought it was “inevitable” he would be moving on from the Cardinals, it spotlighted what will be one of the positions that will see scrutiny this offseason.

Beanie could be brought back — his rookie contract runs through next season — but will the Cards want that? Beanie acknowledged “it’s a performance-based business and I don’t know if I’ve done things up to our organization’s standards here.” He’s had flashes, like his dominance against the Giants and the Rams last season, but those games came few and far between. Up until this season, he actually missed fewer games than many thought, but the constant storyline of his various aliments were what stuck in many fans’ minds. (It didn’t help that both Beanie and the team remained incredibly vague about some injuries, particularly his knee issues.)

Back in 2009, the top three running backs drafted were Knowshon Moreno by the Broncos (12th), Donald Brown by the Colts (27th) and Wells (31st). None have really sparkled, although Moreno, given a chance to return from the scrap heap of late after Willis McGahee’s injury, has done well. Beanie certainly showed — especially as a rookie — he could be special. He just didn’t do it often enough, and the problems at quarterback have not helped.

Bigger picture, the Cardinals will need to reassess where they are at the spot. Ryan Williams told me today he feels the best he has in two years with the Cards. His rehab has gone well with his shoulder — he is due a final surgery this week as a follow-up, he said — and the knee wrecked in 2011 is in great shape. He said he will be full-go in the offseason for the first time this spring. But again, Williams has to stay healthy for him to make an impact, and he hasn’t been in two seasons.

LaRod Stephens-Howling, who will be an unrestricted free agent in March, has not gotten a contract extension offer yet from the team. The Cardinals do want to bring him back, but it’s looking more and more like the Hyphen (below) will be allowed to test the market first. From there, anything can happen.

Guys like William Powell and Alfonso Smith will probably be kept around this offseason, but their future I’d guess will tie directly into what direction the team goes with the rest of the running back unit.

It’ll start with the decision on Beanie, however. When everyone is healthy, Beanie is the starter. Or at least he has been. We’ll see if the vibe Wells has is accurate.


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Campbell, Roberts inactive, as is Heap

Posted by Darren Urban on December 2, 2012 – 9:37 am

Defensive end Calais Campbell (calf) and wide receiver Andre Roberts (ankle) both are inactive today. So too is tight end Todd Heap, who has recovered from his knee injury but apparently isn’t in the Cards’ plans unless there is an injury to another tight end. With Roberts out — and he is, not Larry Fitzgerald, leading the team in yards receiving and receiving touchdowns — that means rookie Michael Floyd will get his first start. David Carter will start in Campbell’s place.

The rest of the inactive list isn’t a surprise:

— QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)

— G Senio Kelemete

— T Pat McQuistan

— RB Alfonso Smith

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Campbell still hurting, Heap will sit too

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2012 – 12:56 pm

Injuries will keep defensive end Calais Campbell (calf) and wide receiver Early Doucet (ribs) as inactive today against the Rams, but it would seem that it is a coach’s decision that will keep tight end Todd Heap inactive once again. Heap practiced full all week and was probable for the game, but after missing every game since Week 2 with knee issues, coach Ken Whisenhunt warned that Heap being active on game day would depend on the rest of the 46-man game day roster. With Rob Housler playing a bigger role, Heap just isn’t as crucial at this point.

With Doucet down, rookie Michael Floyd will have to perform, and it means LaRon Byrd is active too.

Besides Heap, Doucet and Campbell, the rest of the inactives:

— QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)

— RB Alfonso Smith (with Beanie back and LaRod Stephens-Howling playing despite sore ribs, Smith must sit)

— G Senio Kelemete

— T Pat McQuistan

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Beanie: “No doubt” he’ll play Nov. 25

Posted by Darren Urban on November 6, 2012 – 1:45 pm

The earliest running back Beanie Wells can play coming off the injured reserve/able to return list is the Nov. 25 home game against the St. Louis Rams. Wells, who has been out with torn ligaments in his toe, said Tuesday there was “no doubt about it” that he would play in that game.

First, Wells has to practice, and the first day he is eligible to do so is Wednesday. “Heck yeah I’m real excited,” Wells said. “It’s been a challenge. It’s hard to be out there and watch practice and not do anything.”

Wells must miss one more game, in Atlanta, so LaRod Stephens-Howling gets another start, backed up by William Powell and Alfonso Smith. When Wells does play again, he figures to start, but depending on his rust, the situation is likely flexible.

Wells said the knee issues that cost him the entire offseason have subsided and the knee “feels great.” His toe “feels good,” although he said making sure it is taped correctly seems to make a difference. Wells said it’s been difficult watching the season pass by without him and he wants to make it right. The Cardinals could certainly use his size in the backfield, where the team hasn’t been able to convert as many short-yardage and goal line opportunities has it would have liked.

Knowing he could have made a difference in those spots “sucks,” Wells said. “I feel if I was in there we could get something else going.” Starting with the Rams game, the Cardinals would have six games left for Wells to leave his imprint this season.

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Time for the Hyphen

Posted by Darren Urban on October 12, 2012 – 12:52 pm

Larry Fitzgerald has always liked LaRod Stephens-Howling. They both went to Pitt, so it’s hard not to have a bond. The wide receiver has no problem talking about the Hyphen’s strengths, which include versatility — and size.

“He’s so small, when he comes through the line you don’t see him until he’s too close, and then when he’s that close, there’s no way you can tackle him in a phone booth,” Fitzgerald said. “When he’s in space, he creates so many mismatches for us. He’s got big-play capabilities.”

Stephens-Howling, assuming his health holds up, will be the running back under the spotlight Sunday when the Cards play the Bills. There will be work for William Powell and even Alfonso Smith, but the Cards need their Hyphen to make some things happen like the last time he started. That was in the season finale against Seattle last year — the Cards sat Beanie — and Stephens-Howling had a good game. Coach Ken Whisenhunt is hoping for a repeat.

“The last time I saw LaRod as a starter he went for 92 yards against a good Seattle defense,” Whisenhunt said. “I’m hopeful he can get those extra eight yards this week.”

That would be a huge deal for the Cards. The top individual game a running back has had this season was Ryan Williams’ 83-yard effort against the Eagles. In the end, Fitz said, the Hyphen’s pedigree will shine (OK, maybe Fitz smiled a little bit as he delivered the following quote):

“He’s a Pitt guy,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s capable of doing whatever. He can play quarterback, he can play defensive tackle, whatever we need him to do. When you go to Pitt, good things happen for you.”

— Whisenhunt said tight ends Todd Heap and Jim Dray are healthy enough to give him options at the position. “Thank goodness.”

“When you look at the roster when you go to the 53, people say, ‘Why do you keep four tight ends?'” Whisenhunt said. “It’s because we’ve been through this before. It seems like it never fails you are going to be stuck with two or one-and-a-half. We’ve been that way, and I think we’re finally past that point for right now.”

The full injury report is due out in a bit.

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Dealing with the absence of Ryan Williams

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2012 – 12:00 pm

Monday brought some hard news to the Cards: Running back Ryan Williams ended up needing surgery on his shoulder and is out for the season. I know there were some who wondered about it being a shoulder injury at the time, but there is no question about that now.

UPDATE II: Williams said his injury is a coracoid process fracture, which he said is rare. He is having his surgery Tuesday. For more details, go here.

That leaves LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell and Alfonso Smith as the running backs. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said there is a chance the Cards could sign someone but he didn’t commit to it. The Cards have to hope Stephens-Howling is healthy after missing two games with a hip injury, and everyone waiting for Powell to get his chance is now going to see it. But Beanie Wells remains out until Nov. 25 at the earliest and the Cards’ running game, which needs to improve anyway, takes a personnel blow.

“That’s the NFL,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Teams have to fight through adversity and keep going. We’ve done a good job of that the first five weeks of the season, and now we’ve got another challenge, but that’s okay. We’ll work through it.”

I know people have suggested Tim Hightower, for one. Again, I don’t see them rushing to sign anyone right now, and if they do sign someone, I don’t know if he would jump in and get playing time above the three guys here already anyway.

For Williams, it’s a second straight season he’ll end up on injured reserve, although this time the time frame to return is three months, Whiz said, so while he’ll miss the season he’ll be back for the offseason. Frustrating for sure — Williams insisted after the Rams’ game he as going to be OK – and Williams’ mental strength will be tested once again. He’s got to be crushed. He’s an emotional sort anyway, and this is devastating. UPDATE: I know people want specifics on the injury, but Whiz declined to get specific. Here’s the story.

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Cards cut to 53

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2012 – 4:52 pm

The key point anytime a team gets to the 53-man roster on final cuts is this: It’s never quite the final roster. That’s something to keep in mind when looking over the Cards’ cuts today, which leaves an unbalanced roster for now.

The team decided not to move tackle Levi Brown off of injured reserve, leaving 22 cuts to be made:

Injured reserve — RB Javarris James (knee), QB Rich Bartel (shoulder)

Waived-injured – LB Brandon Williams (shoulder), WR Stephen Williams (Achilles)

Released – CB Crezdon Butler, LB Antonio Coleman, S Blake Gideon, LB Clark Haggans, G Russ Hochstein, DT Ricky Lumpkin, LB Colin Parker, CB Larry Parker, WR DeMarco Sampson, TE Steve Skelton, RB Alfonso Smith, LB Quan Sturdivant, DE Ronald Talley, DE Everrette Thompson, TE Martell Webb, C Scott Wedige, WR Isaiah Williams, T D.J. Young.

So this is what we get out of this:

— The Cardinals cut Sampson and Stephen Williams, leaving five receivers and undrafted LaRon Byrd (pictured below) as No. 5.

— OLB Quentin Groves makes the cut but both Clark Haggans and Brandon Williams are out – you’d have to think another linebacker is on the way.

— Right now, the Cards have 11 defensive backs and nine offensive linemen, and you figure one or the other, if not both, will be trimmed down. All three OL draft picks are on the squad right now. The defensive backs will have to come down if you are looking for a place to cut to add at another position. In my guess at 53, I had guessed six WRs and eight OL, and the Cards took one from receiver to add to the line. And they took one of eight linebacker slots and added it to the 10 defensive back spots, so I was kind of close. We’ll see how it shakes out.

— Running back William Powell indeed makes the team too.

— This group probably won’t be the exact group that hits the practice field Monday. That’s the cold reality of the NFL.

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Broncos (and preseason) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2012 – 12:25 am

The Cardinals avoided overtime Thursday night (thank goodness). And now the fun begins.

Final cuts are in a matter of hours, coach Ken Whisenhunt will have a press conference at 2 p.m. Arizona time. So, in the interest of getting some sleep, some highlights and thoughts from the preseason finale to tide you over until the real news tomorrow (which should be cuts and possibly could include a starting QB choice):

— Injuries probably didn’t make roster picks, but they might have cemented them. Rich Bartel was 4-for-5 before leaving with a right shoulder injury, although the way rookie Ryan Lindley performed, Lindley was probably always going to be the pick. He’s got a lot of upside. If Javarris James was in the mix at all at running back, that ended when he tore his ACL on Omar Bolden’s 103-yard kickoff return. That’s just unfortunate.

— If I had to do my 53-man roster over, I might change a couple of things. Or at least seriously consider it. Now I’m finding it hard to believe outside linebacker Quentin Groves doesn’t stick around. The other backup outside linebacker choice then would come down to Clark Haggans or Brandon Williams. In the secondary, undrafted rookie Blake Gideon got a ton of playing time, and while Rashad Johnson and Adrian Wilson sat out, I start to wonder if Gideon could have a chance to slip on the roster, in place of Johnson, maybe? And there is little question there is a decision coming between A.J. Jefferson, Greg Toler and Michael Adams. There will be some drama tomorrow.

— Ryan Williams did not play as Whiz took a long look at both William Powell and Alfonso Smith as they battle for a roster spot. Powell had 18 yards on nine carries, Smith five on five, and neither really stood out Thursday (although Powell did have a nice kickoff return late.)

— I thought Beanie Wells looked very good in his start. He had 35 yards on seven carries, although he said he needs to get better. “I have to get my leg drive and get my feet under me,” Wells said.

— LaRon Byrd had a couple of nice grabs among his three catches for 47 yards and if he didn’t solidify his spot, it’ll be because the Cards only keep five receivers. But if they keep six, he’s in, I’d think.

— Michael Floyd had an amazing touchdown catch for his first in the NFL. Ball bouncing around, Floyd grabbing it while he was hanging parallel to the ground and holding on as he crashed to the turf. “That was a much more acrobatic circus catch than I ever could have made,” fellow wideout Larry Fitzgerald said. Methinks Fitz is a bit modest, but no matter. It was a great play.

— The Cards have to be thrilled with what Lindley showed, especially for a rookie and a guy they picked in the sixth round. He had a couple of clunkers (although his one interception was a mistake by receiver Isaiah Williams, who didn’t pick up a checked call at the line, and the other pick was called back with a penalty). Bhe threw the TD and threw some darts and maneuvered the Cards to a late tying drive thanks to a 56-yard bomb to Williams (pictured below). The Cards couldn’t get it in the end zone, but again, Lindley looks like he has a potential future.

— Lindley had some decent protection early with the starting offensive line (although rookie right tackle Bobby Massie did have a couple of hiccups on an early drive with a holding penalty and to get beat for sack.) Will I be surprised to see the Cards pick up an offensive lineman via waivers as teams cut? Absolutely not.

— Whisenhunt said the Cardinals haven’t ruled out using the new IR rule – which allows players with major injuries to return later in the season without taking up a roster spot – on tackle Levi Brown. The Cards will talk more about Brown’s prognosis to return. The decision has to be made by Friday afternoon.

In fact, most of the news will come down Friday afternoon. So with that, I’ll say goodnight.

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