Friday before the Eagles

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2013 – 4:02 pm

The Cardinals would like to get an interception Sunday. That would be a start. It’d be a start in slowing the Eagles’ high-speed offense, and a start in taking young Eagles quarterback Nick Foles down a peg. Foles has thrown 16 touchdown passes in eight appearances (five starts and one other game of significant playing time), but has yet to throw an interception. It’s an impressive stretch for an inexperienced quarterback.

The Cards are among the best in the league in getting turnovers. So maybe this is where Foles’ luck changes a bit.

“You can’t worry about throwing an interception when you’re throwing the ball,” Foles said. “I expect them to come out ready to go, ready to try to mess it up. That’s what a defense does, and they’re a talented defense.”

Cornerback Patrick Peterson, on that potential mess: “Our goal is to try and make turnovers, force him into some bad throws,” Peterson said. “We’re not getting caught up in that. The offense seems to be rolling with him. When that opportunity, if that opportunity does come, we have to make the play.” said Foles has been under pressure on just 34.8 percent of his dropbacks. That makes life as a QB easier. Linebacker Daryl Washington said there have been times when Foles has thrown balls that can be intercepted. Sunday’s game might just turn on such a situation.

— I’ve already touched on the Andre Ellington gimpy knee situation, but obviously, no Ellington would make a difference. Bruce Arians made the point it’s just one guy, but at this point, Ellington is the speed of this offense, the guy who can go all the way on a single play. His status Sunday has to impact this game, one way or the other.

— The last time the Cardinals – winners of four straight – won five straight? That was back in 1977, when Don Coryell’s bunch won six in a row in a weird season when the Cardinals went just 7-7. The winning streak made their record 7-3, and they lost their final four.

— Peterson reflecting on linebacker Karlos Dansby’s interception return for a touchdown last week: “Almost every time we break the huddle, I rub his hands, give him some of my grip,” Peterson said. Peterson smiled. “He could be in the race for defensive MVP if he caught the last six he dropped.”

— The key to this game to me is Dansby and Washington. The two inside linebackers are playing so well, and when the Cards have beat the Eagles the last two meetings, Washington has been a major factor. With the Eagles’ speed and Shady McCoy running the ball, the Cards need big games from their inside men.

— Just like Todd Bowles is having a redemptive season with the Cards after struggling with the Eagles, Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis is winning confidence after he was fired as Cards’ DC back after the 2010 season (with a stop on the Browns staff in between).

— I don’t know if Larry Fitzgerald can get free as much as he usually does against the Eagles – Philly is of course running a different look than the Andy Reid years when they always seemed to let Fitz get loose – but the rise of Michael Floyd would seem to be incentive to watch Floyd much more closely. Which should help Fitz.

— “As coach Buck (defensive line coach Brentson Buckner) always says, ‘You are remembered with the games you win in November and December,’ ” Peterson said.

Here’s the Cards’ first chance in December. It’s kind of a big one too.


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What’s next for coaching staff

Posted by Darren Urban on January 7, 2011 – 12:03 pm

As coach Ken Whisenhunt was wrapping up his end-of-the-season press conference, he was asked if he was going to have any down time soon.

“I am going to need a break here at some point but I don’t see one on the near horizon right now,” Whisenhunt said.

Definitely no time soon. With the rest of the coaching staff getting a break for the next week or so, Whisenhunt is back in his office working on the future, which presumably includes the replacement for the fired Bill Davis at defensive coordinator. I’ve been asked many times already who it will be or who is in the mix. Right now, I don’t know. I am sure Whisenhunt has an idea what direction he’d like to go in — head coaches always have a fluid “who’s next” list — but as he said Thursday night, whether those guys would be available/interested is a different story.

So that leave speculation. I have heard a lot of suggestions by the rank-and-file fans out there: John Fox, Eric Mangini, Packers LB coach Kevin Greene, Steelers LB coach Keith Butler (with whom Whisenhunt has had interest in the past). But I have not heard any suggestions from Whisenhunt, and in the end, there is always a wait-and-see for assistant coaches anyway, since it’s harder to get them away from other teams if they are already under contract.

I will be curious to see if the coach recruited has been a 3-4 or 4-3 guy. Whisenhunt has talked about the difficulty in installing a new philosophy with a change in DC with the very real possibility of an offseason-ruining lockout. If part of the problem this season was putting the new pieces (player-wise) in place and that was a season-long struggle, what happens when the prep time is drastically cut down?

(A quick aside: one thing I found interesting talking to Ron Wolfley on our season-ending podcast — to be posted Monday– was when he broke down the Cards’ use of the 4-3 late in the season as opposed to the 3-4. It was the exact same defense, Wolfley said, except that instead of an outside linebacker standing up on the right side, the Cards were using a defensive end with a hand down — Campbell, for instance, instead of Porter/Schofield. Everyone else played the same roles as before).

I guess we will see how it goes. I expect some potential candidate names to leak out next week (they always do) and we will see how this plays out. Whisenhunt said yesterday he isn’t ruling out further coaching changes but said that doesn’t mean he expects any. I read that as a nod to whomever the new DC is, and whether he might want to make some moves with the defensive staff. I expect the offensive staff to stay intact, barring someone leaving on his own for a different job.

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DC Bill Davis let go

Posted by Darren Urban on January 6, 2011 – 5:54 pm

Ken Whisenhunt has fired defensive coordinator Bill Davis this afternoon. No names on possible replacements, although Whiz did say he will not come from the existing staff nor does he have a timetable. I have more in a homepage story here.

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Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 14, 2010 – 11:29 pm

Adrian Wilson had stripped off his uniform, towel around his waist, ready to go take a shower. Except he didn’t. He sat, head in hands, for what seemed forever. The media swarmed around the locker room, talking to other Cardinals, and Wilson barely moved.

Every player reacts differently to games and Wilson is rarely filled with glee even after big wins. But the safety was clearly despondent (he declined to talk Sunday, offering himself up tomorrow). And it will be interesting to see how this team bounces back from Sunday’s ugly loss to the Seahawks.

The numbers say the Cards aren’t out of it, but realistically, things probably got very hard given the two losses to Seattle. Not only are they essentially three games behind the Seahawks because of the tiebreaker, but with the way the Cards have played, they have to show they can win games in the first place.

But I’m sure we will gnaw on that all week. It’s late, and I am tired. I have a host of (I’m sure angry) blog comments to go through (and I await many, many more). Let me try and cut some questions off at the pass:

— The defense obviously played poorly. Guys missed assignments, including cornerback Greg Toler, and I don’t know how much that meant in the performance. That has nothing to do with tackling, though, and I am stunned it got as bad as it did.

— No, I don’t think defensive coordinator Bill Davis will be replaced in-season. It’s not coach Ken Whisenhunt’s style. I wouldn’t rule anything out, howevr. If this season gets sideways, there may be some decisions made after the year.

— Darnell Dockett just tweeted it may have been worse to sit on the sidelines watching than risking a worse shoulder injury. I can see why. (Dockett tweeted, by the way, his risk was possibly being out for the rest of the season).

— No, I don’t think Toler will be replaced long term. They think he can be the real deal. But he clearly still is in the learning stages.

— Got to be worried about running back. My wife said she happened to be watching Jason Wright through her binoculars when he was hit, and she said he looked like his body went limp before he hit the ground. He’ll go through concussion tests. LaRod Stephens-Howling pulled a hamstring. Beanie Wells is already dealing with a gimpy knee. You could see a scenario where all are ready for the Chiefs next weekend. And you could see a scenario where the only guy available would be Tim Hightower – which would take some serious roster maneuvering.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt, on saying he was not disappointed in the effort: “The guys didn’t quit. That is not even a question. I didn’t see it. If you saw something different I will be happy to talk about it with you, but I didn’t see that.”

— I’m sure this next note will get flamed pretty good by some of you, but it was noticeable when the Cards somehow kept the Seahawks out of the end zone again and again late in the game even as hope disappeared. “It shows some guys are not giving up no matter what,” nose tackle Gabe Watson said. “They could have easily scored 40 or 50 points, but for guys to keep holding up, for field goal block to keep rushing the way they did, it’s a good sign I believe.” Maybe that’s what Whisenhunt was seeing. Not sure it made up for the rest of the game, however. It would have been nice to have more stops sooner.

— I’ll be honest, I thought this team was going to be fine after that opening drive.

OK, that’s enough. Good night, all.

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Chargers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 3, 2010 – 10:58 pm

Where to begin … I write this about 10:30 p.m., with already some 90 comments on the blog waiting for approval/answers. I haven’t read them quite yet. I can imagine what most say. There will be talk about the quarterback, I’d guess, thank goodness Whiz went to Max Hall, etc. There will be rants about the defense – and honestly, I didn’t see their troubles coming – and the offensive line.

The answers aren’t coming tonight. There are some significant issues to fix (and doing it the week of the Saints game seems a difficult chore). “It’s a bitter taste and no one around here really likes it,” linebacker Joey Porter said. “Now it’s, what do you do to respond?”

— I don’t know what coach Ken Whisenhunt does at QB. As I mentioned a couple of times, I think he’ll tip toward Max Hall. I’m not sure he is convinced Hall is the guy that can win enough to secure a very winnable division, just because Hall is inexperienced and rookies don’t usually perform that way. But as I mentioned in my column, Whiz has talked too many times about missing on big plays (when Anderson was QB) that to see it happen again Sunday on the errant Stephen Williams throw is tough to take.

— The other question is, does Whiz make a decision public before the end of the week? Maybe he does. If he doesn’t, that’d make for one interesting week in front of the media for both players.

— After all that talk about rookie receivers, and they turned out to be kind of moot Sunday because of the quarterback situation and the defensive woes. Max Komar made a big 16-yard catch on the very first drive. Williams got open on the aforementioned bomb attempt but dropped a ball right in his hands later. Again, a mixed bag without much to grade.

— Have to be impressed with how physical of a tackler cornerback Greg Toler is, after he forced the fumble. Much better than I expected him to be.

— Had one offensive lineman ask me, “So, what did you see?” with the play today. No way to know. I know on one of Shaun Phillips’ four sacks, he timed his rush perfect (he was moving as the snap came back) and tackle Brandon Keith – in my opinion – had zero chance to block him. The rest of the sacks, I’d have to look. Guard Alan Faneca looked like he got beat on one, but again, I haven’t broken down any film. When it was as bad as Sunday, I would guess there are multiple issues. And when you are behind big and have no threat to run, that’s a really, really bad way to be judging your pass protection (And no, I am not excusing the line play, before you jump my case).

— Defensive coordinator Bill Davis talked about making changes if need be, and so did Whisenhunt. It’s always a little scary when a player – Darnell Dockett in this case – says the defensive problems were about “want-to.”

“The game is simple,” Dockett added. “The same plays they ran, we practiced. Again, when you practice, you got to put it out there, it’s simple. It’s simple as hell.”

— Did you notice Andre Roberts caught the one punt booted to him? And he returned it 19 yards? So there’s that.

I don’t have much else to add. More tomorrow.

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First day in the books

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2010 – 5:40 pm

The first practice came and went in relative sunshine! Stunning, I know. But the rain stayed away and the Cards’ first practice — in shells, looking much like a minicamp or OTA workout — was good. But as Ken Whisenhunt said a couple of times, “It’s only the first day.”

The first day did cost the Cards defensive tackle Dean Muhtadi, who hurt his right calf on basically his first step of the conditioning test. For a guy working so hard to stay in shape all offseason, a killer result. Whisenhunt said Muhtadi will be out for a while, although he added, “it’s a long camp.” Whether it is long enough for Muhtadi to make enough of his impression, we will see.

Many of the depth chart choices this early were not unexpected. Trumaine McBride was running across from DRC as first-team cornerbacks, not Greg Toler. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis stressed to me that job opposite DRC is “wide open.” The inside linebackers, with Gerald Hayes hurting, are Monty Beisel and Paris Lenon. Daryl Washington knows what it is to be a rookie; he is third-string behind Lenon and Ali Highsmith.

On offense, Matt Leinart looked pretty good although Derek Anderson got a good chunk of reps too. The offensive line is the same that ended OTAs, with Levi Brown (LT), Alan Faneca (LG), Lyle Sendlein (C), Reggie Wells (RG) and Brandon Keith (RT). Deuce Lutui is second-team RG, next to tackle Herman Johnson. Ben Claxton is second-team center, with Jeremy Bridges at left tackle and Rex Hadnot at left guard.

I’ll have more tonight on the homepage, with notes about Gabe Watson, Alan Branch and their weights, DRC’s injury feelings and a story about the spotlight on the quarterback position.

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After the second day

Posted by Darren Urban on April 23, 2010 – 9:56 pm

Coach Ken Whisenhunt made a joke earlier this week about the Cards taking “the best player available that fits the our need.” This year, he wasn’t kidding. Three picks, three players that just so happened to fit major holes, capped by the slot receiver/punt returner Andre Roberts in the third round. So after that (and the choice of LB Daryl Washington in the second round), some thoughts:

— There are clearly some of you out there less than thrilled about the Roberts pick. Know this — the Cards have been looking for a punt returning alternative for Steve Breaston for a while. Not because Breaston isn’t good, but because he has become that valuable as a receiver. Before Roberts, there wasn’t anyone on the roster that was a true candidate. The Cards also needed speed at receiver. Roberts has some of that as a former track guy. They needed a slot guy. Roberts does that. They needed another candidate as fourth receiver, since the leading in-house candidates were unknown quantities in Ed Gant and Onrea Jones.

Plus, Whisenhunt likes the idea of a guy from the Citadel. Don’t get him wrong. Roberts is here because of what he does on the field. But add that to surviving and thriving at a military school, well, Whiz likes that. His father attended the school and he knows what it is about (Whiz took a visit there before going to Georgia Tech).

— The last NFL player drafted from the Citadel? In 2005, the Redskins spent a seventh rounder on a fullback named Nehemiah Broughton — who just happens to be Roberts’ new teammate on the Cards. Of the 12 Citadel players drafted in history, six have been Cards at one point.

— The Cards have been big on the small schools. Roberts, TE Ben Patrick (Delaware), T Brandon Keith (Northern Iowa), RB Tim Hightower (Richmond), CB Greg Toler (St. Pauls) and DRC (Tennessee State) have all been taken since Whiz came aboard. “Because we have had success with those guys,” Whisenhunt said, “we may be a little less inclined to be scared of that.”

— I think the move to get Washington was important. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis loves the idea of Washington coming in to (eventually) fill Karlos Dansby’s shoes. Davis told a story of putting on a tape of a Clemson-TCU game, when running back C.J. Spiller (who went ninth in the draft to Buffalo) caught a swing pass and the only thing in the flat to stop Spiller was Washington. And there was 10 yards in between the two. Nevertheless, Washington “gets him down easily,” Davis said.

“It’s one play,” Davis siad. “But the athleticism …  if you start with speed and athleticism, which you can’t teach. T hen talk to him, he’s a classy young man and football means a lot to him. I talked for maybe two hours. I know he’s sharp enough to learn the NFL system.”

— By the way, the Cards have zero concerns about Washington’s size and/or weight. And the idea is, if Dan Williams and the rest of the defensive line succeeds as planned, Washington will have the space to use his skills to make plays.

— With three picks left, I expect serious consideration on two of them to go to offensive line and defensive back. But in terms of the offensive line, that’s why they signed Rex Hadnot and why they have groomed Keith. That’s why the re-signed Jeremy Bridges. Do they want to keep stockpiling? Yes. But just because some pundits (and some fans) see offensive line as this major need doesn’t mean the Cards do as well.

— If the drop of Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy proves anything, it’s how weak this QB class is considered. Because of that, I won’t be surprised to see the Cards get a rookie QB, but after the draft as an undrafted free agent.

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Versatility at LB

Posted by Darren Urban on September 18, 2009 – 3:00 pm

If linebacker Chike Okeafor can’t go Sunday with a bad shoulder, veteran Bertrand Berry would start in his place. It would also seem to leave the Cards dangerously thin at outside linebacker, because behind Berry and Clark Haggans there is only Will Davis, who has been working behind Haggans. This is why it hurt when rookie Cody Brown went down for the season.

I would think Ali Highsmith might be able to move outside if needed. The Cards could also lean more toward a dime package where safety Adrian Wilson can play a role near the line of scrimmage. But Davis is also ready to go to both sides. That was one of the things in mind when defensive coordinator Bill Davis went from the  strongside and weakside LB positions the Cards used to run and go with right and left — because with right and left, guys are asked to deal with the tight end and not.

“It’s easier, because right and left means you could be the rush guy or the drop guy,” Davis said. “When it’s strong and weak, the weak is always rush and the other guy is drop. That’s part of the reason you go to this. It’s hard early — the growing pains are ugly, you get all frustrated and you almost quit the project, but when you come through the other end, you can absorb injuries easier.”

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