Keeping key parts

Posted by Darren Urban on March 10, 2010 – 8:54 am

Nothing is official yet, but there have been reports over the last 12 hours or so that the Cards have reached agreement to bring back safety Matt Ware and tight end Anthony Becht. Neither one is going to suddenly have the impact of, say, Karlos Dansby, but they each played a vital role last season. Becht was the blocker coach Ken Whisenhunt had long been looking for at the position, while Ware’s importance was underscored when he was hurt — his versatility frees Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson to do so many more things (and the things A-Dub is best at, like being near the line of scrimmage).

I wouldn’t be surprised to see those become official today while the Cards host other free agents and the grind of the free-agency period continues.

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Breaking down the roster

Posted by Darren Urban on January 21, 2010 – 12:35 pm

Right now, the Cards are knee-deep in offseason meetings, meaning I haven’t had a chance to talk to general manager Rod Graves for a story. That will be coming. In the meantime, I have collected all the contract situations (at least, organizing what year each player is signed through, or their free agent status) in a file you can find right here. It doesn’t cover every single player on the roster but it has everyone I considered a contributor this season or someone who needed to be addressed.

Officially the Cards have 14 unrestricted free agents and 10 restricted (the numbers would have been 17 and 7, but Gabe Watson, Deuce Lutui and Jerheme Urban all are going to be hamstrung by the new rules when the NFL deals with an uncapped offseason). On offense, the Cards seem to be in good shape. Starters Dan Kreider (FB), Anthony Becht (TE), Sean Morey (special teams) and Mike Gandy (T) — along with Jeremy Bridges (G/T) are unrestricted. Bigger questions are on defense, where Karlos Dansby (LB) and Matt Ware (S) could walk away, and the Cards are in transition with veteran UFAs like Bryan Robinson, Chike Okeafor, Bertrand Berry, Ralph Brown and Monty Beisel.

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Lions aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 20, 2009 – 11:14 pm

So what was Sunday, exactly?

Was it the scary way the Cards managed to come up with a win in Detroit? Was it, ultimately, the fact they won the game and turned it into the NFC West title by the end of the night (pictures from the flight home are right here)? A little of both, I suppose. The Lions, by the end, were using a third-string quarterback, a second-string running back and couldn’t get the ball to star wideout Calvin Johnson. Mistakes were made. Yet the Cards ended up with a victory. That wasn’t the team that took apart the Vikings on “Sunday Night Football” but it wasn’t the team that played in San Francisco either.

If it makes any frustrated fans out there feel better, there’s was enough concern lingering in the locker room to make sure the close call won’t go for naught.

“As a team, we have to know, being who we are, we’re going to get it every week,” wide receiver Steve Breaston said. “That is what we have to understand.”

“We’ve got to look at this film, look at the second half and look ourselves in the mirror,” safety Adrian Wilson said. “We’ve got some good team coming up so we can’t continue to shoot ourselves in the foot.”

With the one-win Rams coming in to University of Phoenix Stadium this week, everyone will be looking for domination. That may or may not happen, but maybe it’s something the Cards strive for as they gear up for what is now a guaranteed playoff berth.

— Wilson is thisclose to reaching the 20/20 club for career sacks and interceptions. He got to 19½ sacks Sunday when he got a half, splitting one with Clark Haggans. “I ain’t tripping off that,” Wilson said. “It’s a half. I’ll continue to work. Sooner or later, it’ll come around.”

— The Cardinals faced four third-and-1 plays Sunday. Beanie Wells lost three yards on the first, Kurt Warner was sacked for a loss of eight on the second, Wells was stuffed for no gain on the third. The fourth was a nine-yard swing pass to running back Tim Hightower. But the Cards obviously need to get better on converting those, and it was one of the reasons their offense had so many fits and starts.

— Wells was very, very good Sunday. I will now get a bunch of e-mails/blog questions/Tweets asking me if he will replace Hightower in the starting lineup. I doubt it, and the only reason I am not saying it definitely won’t happen is because you can never say never. But as I have said many times, I don’t think coach Ken Whisenhunt has any reason to upset that apple cart. Hightower started Sunday and Wells was on the field – making the Cards’ first rushing attempt of the game – on the Cards’ second play. We all can see what Beanie brings. Whether he starts, truthfully, is immaterial.

— In case anyone wasn’t sure, punter Ben Graham continues to have his unbelievably good season (and that’s with a sore groin right now). He averaged 50.3 yards on seven kicks Sunday, put three more inside the Detroit 20-yard line and can boast this stat: He hasn’t kicked a ball into the end zone since the Houston game, which was the fourth game of the season. That’s 62 straight punts without a touchback over 11 games. He has 32 punts inside the 20 in that span.

— Jeremy Bridges got another start at left tackle, and that may not change. Mike Gandy is struggling mightily with that pelvic injury – Larry Fitzgerald said last week Gandy’s guts were “falling out” – and I’m not sure Gandy is going to be able to get back out there. It makes the Bridges signing gigantic.

— Congrats to tight end Anthony Becht, who played in his 150th straight game Sunday.

— Quarterback Kurt Warner just seemed, I don’t know, off. There were a couple chances, especially early, where Anquan Boldin was open down the field and Warner didn’t see him or didn’t look his way. There were also a couple of near misses on interceptions on which Warner was lucky they weren’t turnovers. The fumble right before halftime – on which Warner simply wasn’t given enough time – cost the Cards three points.

Then again, Warner calmly hit Fitzgerald for a 13-yard gain to start the final drive (Oh, and don’t forget the huge 39-yard kickoff return by LaRod Stephens-Howling to set the offense up). And his final pass was the perfect five-yard screen to Boldin for a touchdown (I do love that Boldin screen in the red zone). Warner’s day was kind of a microcosm of the Cards’ day – yes, it was up and down. But in the end, it was good enough.

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Beisel comes back, Byrd cut

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2009 – 1:59 pm

Searching for depth at linebacker – especially after Gerald Hayes and Chike Okeafor missing games with back problems and having the inexperienced Reggie Walker and Ali Highsmith on the roster – the Cardinals brought back veteran Monty Beisel today. The Cards wanted Beisel when his contract expired after last season , but Beisel instead followed Todd Haley to Kansas City. Then Beisel was cut after just three games and has been searching for a job since. He had been in contact with the Cardinals in an attempt to come back since then.

To make room on the roster, the Cards decided they couldn’t hang on to four tight ends any longer. They released Dominique Byrd, who had yet to appear active in a regular-season game this season. With Anthony Becht and Ben Patrick taking hold of the two tight end spots on game day and Stephen Spach a more accomplished blocker than Byrd, Byrd was the odd man out.

The Cardinals also brought back a couple of familiar faces to the practice squad: linebacker Pago Togafau and defensive end Jason Banks. Both Banks and Togafau were injured during training camp and eventually received injury settlements. They take the place of FB Jed Collins and DT Antoine Holmes, who were released from the practice squad.

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Urban among inactives

Posted by Darren Urban on November 22, 2009 – 12:33 pm

For those wondering if Early Doucet has surpassed Jerheme Urban on the depth chart, Urban is inactive today for the Rams’ game after not playing a snap last week. TE Stephen Spach is the choice to sit at that position (along with Dominique Byrd) as Anthony Becht stays in the lineup and Ben Patrick returns from injury.

The other inactives:

  • QB Brian St. Pierre
  • S Rashad Johnson
  • LB Chike Okeafor (back)
  • OL Herman Johnson
  • OL Brandon Keith

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Bears aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 8, 2009 – 10:25 pm

I’m generally not a superstitious person. Jinxes don’t matter to me, and usually it’s tough to string one happening as foretelling another. But as I gathered my things outside of the meal room Sunday morning with my back to the entrance, I felt someone come up from behind and drop something in my pocket. By the time I looked behind me, Larry Fitzgerald was already several steps beyond me, apparently never breaking stride. I reached in to my pocket and found the three quarters and a penny Fitz, for some reason, decided to leave with me.

Again, it was just a random act. But I have to admit it left me with a sense of confidence for that day’s game, both for Fitz’s play and the outcome overall. Obviously, by the end of the afternoon, it became an important 76 cents, at least in my brain.

Every question the Cardinals have been asking themselves (or had barked to them by outside sources) was answered in the 41-21 win. Kurt Warner’s rebound game? Check, with emphasis, thanks to five TD passes. A running game? Check. 31 rush attempts, 149 yards in 28 attempts between Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells, with a tricky fake-end-around-to-a-delayed-end-around picking up 25 yards on the ground too. Defensively, the Cards did enough, sacking Jay Cutler four times and overcoming a bumpy early fourth quarter.

As for specific impressions:

— The offensive line has taken its share of hits this season so the props start with that unit. The protection was very good and when you run for 182 yards (and average 5.9 yards a carry overall), that’s a game that lands on the group’s permanent highlight tape.

— I’m checking on the last time the Cards had two different tight ends with touchdowns in the same game, but to see Warner hit both Anthony Becht and Ben Patrick for scores was important. Neither was the initial target – Warner found both after his first reads weren’t there – but they made the plays. It’s going to be difficult for Stephen Spach to get back on the field, methinks.

— The Cards enjoyed the win. But the message even in the postgame locker room – whether it was on their own or sparked by Whisenhunt’s longer-than-usual postgame speech to the team – was that it was time to go home and win against the Seahawks. “If we can play with the same intensity that we play on the road, we’ll be a tough team to deal with,” Fitzgerald said. “But now we have to go home and protect the nest.”

— It was very obvious in the locker room afterward Anquan Boldin was ticked off for being inactive and told reporters he wasn’t happy he wasn’t given the heads-up before it went down. I’ll admit I thought, watching him in warm-ups, Boldin would play. But with a 20-point win, Whisenhunt made the right call, and now, it’s hard to believe he won’t be in good shape to go against Seattle next weekend. I’d expect Q to be angry but I’m guessing Whisenhunt expected it too. He wasn’t going to sit unless someone made him. It’s not in Q’s DNA.

I can understand his frustration though. In the six games Boldin has missed since the beginning of last season, the Cards have won five of the games. Fitzgerald has averaged six receptions for 108 yards in those games, scoring nine touchdowns.

— I thought for sure Antrel Rolle had come up with a shoulda-downed-it-oh-wait-he’s-gonna-score-a-TD-and-be-ESPN’s-top-highlight return on the blocked field goal. The man is amazing when he gets a little bit of space to work with. He should have had an interception late that he would have returned for a score too. Not sure how he dropped it.

— I find it tough to believe Deuce Lutui had nothing to do with the reason Tommie Harris decided to slug him, but Harris has to keep his cool.

— Not the best day for Adrian Wilson, who was trying to cover Bears tight end Greg Olsen on all three touchdown catches. But what’s the cliché? It’s always easier to correct mistakes after a win.

— Fitz moves up: Fitzgerald now has 482 career receptions, passing Jackie Smith (480) for fifth in franchise history right behind Frank Sanders (493). His 100-yard game was his 22nd, three behind Boldin for most all-time in franchise history. And his 6,607 receiving yards sixth all-time, passing Sanders Sunday and leving him behind Mel Gray’s 6,644.

— On the very first TD pass to Fitz, Hightower did a great job on the blitz pickup. And that’s why Hightower still gets all those snaps, although Beanie did get a few more pass plays Sunday. Oh, and he delivered another great stiff arm too – kind of like the Cards did, metaphorically, to the Bears. Right? 


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One possible 53

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2009 – 6:44 pm

In a couple of days, the Cards and coach Ken Whisenhunt will make their final decisions on an opening day roster (or close to it), trimming another 22 players from the current squad to 53. So that means I make my annual guesstimate on who is in, who is out, and who is truly on the bubble. This is never a foolproof thing; if there is a guy or two who pops available on the waiver wire the Cards want it changes the dynamics of what can happen, and that initial 22 can grow by a name or two to bring in newbies. That certainly happened on the practice squad last year, when the Cards went shopping for new names who weren’t around during training camp.

Again, this is my opinion, based on what I have seen and heard but still my opinion. And it doesn’t factor in what happens in Denver and if a guy wows a coach or two. Or if a guy gets hurt. It’s also just about the 53; for instance, undrafted rookie LB Reggie Walker doesn’t look like he will make the 53-man roster but he’s a guy who should end up on the practice squad. (Speaking of which, * will designate some PS candidates):

Kurt Warner
Matt Leinart
Brian St. Pierre
Tyler Palko


Larry Fitzgerald
Anquan Boldin
Steve Breaston
Jerheme Urban
Sean Morey
Early Doucet
Lance Long*
Onrea Jones*
Ed Gant
Steve Sanders


Tim Hightower
Beanie Wells
Jason Wright
Dan Kreider
LaRod Stephens-Howling*
Tim Castille
Reagan Maui’a
Chris Vincent


Stephen Spach
Ben Patrick (doesn’t count against the 53 during 4-game suspension)
Anthony Becht
Leonard Pope
Dominique Byrd


Lyle Sendlein
Reggie Wells
Mike Gandy
Levi Brown
Deuce Lutui
Brandon Keith
Herman Johnson
Melvin Fowler
Oliver Ross
Elton Brown
Ben Claxton
Carlton Medder
Trevor Canfield*

Darnell Dockett
Bryan Robinson
Calais Campbell
Kenny Iwebema
Gabe Watson
Alan Branch
Keilen Dykes*
Rodney Leisle
Alex Field

Chike Okeafor
Bertrand Berry
Clark Haggans
Karlos Dansby
Gerald Hayes
Will Davis
Victor Hobson
Ali Highsmith
Reggie Walker*
David Holloway*
Chase Bullock

Adrian Wilson
Antrel Rolle
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Bryant McFadden
Greg Toler
Rashad Johnson
Aaron Francisco
Ralph Brown
Matt Ware
Michael Adams
Jameel Dowling
Wilrey Fontenot*

Mike Leach
Neil Rackers
Ben Graham

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