1 down, 11 to go for Fitz?

Posted by Darren Urban on July 2, 2013 – 11:04 am

The University of Pittsburgh announced yesterday that it would be retiring the No. 1 jersey in honor of Larry Fitzgerald’s tenure as a Panther, a pretty remarkable achievement when you consider Fitz played just two seasons in college. (Because Fitz went to prep school for a year after high school to improve his grades, he was able to go to the NFL after his true sophomore season.) Fitzgerald was a beast in college. In his final Pitt season in 2003, despite playing for a Pitt team with limited weapons and drawing all the attention of every opponent, Fitz had 92 catches for 1,672 yards (for an 18.2 avg.) and 22 touchdowns. Guess being the No. 3 pick overall was kind of a no-brainer, even if it meant passing on some quarterbacks that turned out to be pretty good themselves.

No word in the announcement, by the way, when the jersey retiring will take place. (And, as a side note, when talking to Larry Fitzgerald Sr. last year for a Fitz story I was working on, he said his son thought about not going to Pitt but Michigan State. “He thought real hard,” Fitzgerald Sr. said, “because his girlfriend was there.”)

Anyway, Fitz’s number being retired usually brings up the secondary question: Would, somewhere down the road, the Cardinals retire No. 11? The answer is probably not. And it doesn’t have anything to do with how great Fitzgerald’s career ends up.

The Cardinals simply don’t retire many numbers. They put players in the Ring of Honor, which doesn’t take their jersey number off the market. Hall of Famers like Dan Dierdorf and Roger Wehrli are in the Ring of Honor yet their Nos. 72 and 22, respectively, have been worn often (of late, Brandon Keith and currently DE Everrette Thompson have had 72 and 22 has been worn by Duane Starks, Emmitt Smith and, today, CB Bryan McCann.)

The Cardinals have retired five jersey numbers since the organization started in 1898. Hall of Fame safety Larry Wilson (8), all-around star back and war hero Marshall Goldberg (99), safety/war hero Pat Tillman (40), and two players who died while on the roster, tight end J.V. Cain (88) and tackle Stan Mauldin (77). There are 13 people in the team’s Ring of Honor, including Wilson, Tillman and Goldberg but not Cain or Mauldin. That RoH number will rise when safety Adrian Wilson goes in, and I’d expect Fitz to be there someday as well. He just might not be able to take 11 with him, at least not permanently.


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Rookies on their way this week

Posted by Darren Urban on May 6, 2013 – 4:28 pm

The majority of rookies (i.e. everyone but No. 1 pick Jonathan Cooper) have yet to come to the Tempe facility yet. That changes later this week. They will show up Thursday for physicals, and then the first rookie minicamp will be held Friday through Sunday (and before you ask, no, it’s not open to the public.)

That begins a couple straight weeks of on-field work, with the first of six organized team activities on May 14-16 and then May 21-23. Strength and conditioning work remains through the on-field time. After a week off after Memorial Day of on the field, the final four voluntary OTAs come June 3-6. Mandatory minicamp is June 11-13.

— A couple of ex-Cardinal notes from today. Ex-tackle Brandon Keith, allowed to walk away as a free agent after the 2011 season and who didn’t hook on with anyone in 2012, signed with the Vikings today.

Meanwhile, offensive lineman Adam Snyder, cut last week by the Cards, signed a new two-year deal with the 49ers Monday. If you remember, Snyder was allowed to leave as a free agent last year by the Niners and he signed a five-year contract with the Cardinals. He was cut and now goes back to his original team, although if he makes it now, it’ll be as a backup.

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Cards grab tackle Massie in the fourth round

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2012 – 10:11 am

So many fans were upset when the Cards didn’t take Ole Miss tackle Bobby Massie with their third round pick, instead taking cornerback Jamell Fleming. But it worked out Saturday morning, because Massie was still on the board when the Cards had their fourth-round pick and the Cards scooped him up. Some thought Massie could go late in the second round, although a lot of the highly-rated tackle slipped to the second round, pushing him lower.

Massie said he wasn’t sure why he dropped and I’m not sure who would be. He didn’t sound thrilled about it — who would be — but wasn’t going to have any regret about coming out early. Certainly, without him setting foot in Tempe yet, Massie has a chance to be a real steal — although everyone says that about fourth-round picks, and sometimes that happens  (Sam Acho) and sometimes it doesn’t (Elton Brown.)

He’s 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds and said he’s been exclusively a right tackle in college. Interestingly, he said his strength is in pass blocking. Will he end up as a starter? He’s got a chance. I’d think this makes Brandon Keith’s return a longshot now, and Massie would have to beat out Jeremy Bridges. Levi Brown looks safe on the left side.

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On Haggans and Holliday

Posted by Darren Urban on April 11, 2012 – 10:40 am

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.

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Offensive line options

Posted by Darren Urban on April 4, 2012 – 4:33 pm

With the news Demetress Bell (I find it really weird he “fixed” the spelling problem but his Twitter account, which he controls, still says “Demetrius”) signed with the Eagles, the Cardinals move to the next step with the offensive line.

First, a word from offensive line coach Russ Grimm about free agent signee and versatile lineman Adam Snyder. “He was tops on our free agent list as far as offensive line was concerned,” Grimm said. “He’s a big physical guy, he’s smart, he has played a number of positions. Right now we have him penciled in at right guard but if we have to move it around before camp we’ll move it around.”

Snyder could play right tackle, but I’m thinking the Cards would rather keep him where he is. Bell would have worked in that regard, with Levi Brown being the other tackle. From here, the Cards can still draft a tackle — Reilly Reiff if he’s there, or Cordy Glenn, or maybe Jonathan Martin — and fill that spot. David DeCastro still is possible, but that would mean moving Snyder for sure. (They could go tackle (or guard) in a round later than the first.) I’m not sure free agency, with Bell gone, is a focus. For all those asking about Marcus McNeill, I’ve never got the sense they were interested, and his neck injury is a red flag.

The Cardinals also haven’t closed the door on a pair of their own free agents, right guard Deuce Lutui and/or right tackle Brandon Keith. Both of those players may end up on hold until after the draft, depending on who is chosen. At this point, it’s pretty clear that Brown/Daryn Colledge/Snyder/Lyle Sendlein will be four of the five starters. Obviously, who the other is will determine the landing spots for Brown and Snyder.

(It’s been pointed out that Jeremy Bridges has and can play right tackle, and if the season started today, Bridges would indeed play there. I expect the Cards to make a change there, however.)

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Three offensive linemen visiting UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on March 14, 2012 – 8:43 am

The Cardinals will have three offensive linemen visiting today for free agency: The aforementioned Jake Scott, a guard from the Titans (who used to play with the Colts and Peyton Manning), tackle Demetrius Bell of Buffalo and 49ers tackle/guard Adam Snyder. It’s not a big surprise, since the Cards have wanted to work on upgrading/overhauling the offensive line. They need to find tackles in particular with the future of Levi Brown and Brandon Keith very much in doubt since both are free agents themselves.

I’m sure it’s the first step in another day of watching and waiting.

UPDATE: And here this afternoon, Snyder signs a five-year deal for the Cards’ first free agent of the season.

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The questions of the offensive line

Posted by Darren Urban on January 4, 2012 – 10:47 am

Aside from the quarterback situation — which will always have top offseason billing unless you have an established stud in place — the spotlight would seem to fall brightest the next on the offensive line as the Cards plan for 2012.

The Cards were already going to have to figure out what to do with their starting tackles, and that was a given even before taking their performance into account. Right tackle Brandon Keith, ravaged by injuries the past two years, is an unrestricted free agent. Left tackle Levi Brown isn’t a free agent, but something will have to be done about his contract, which will slide up to a $16.9 million salary cap number in March. You figure center Lyle Sendlein and left guard Daryn Colledge are set, but do the Cards leave Rex Hadnot at right guard? Is there a chance Deuce Lutui comes back and gets that job? Or could they sign someone else?

The tackles, however, are the most important storyline. Jeremy Bridges filled in for Keith when Keith’s knee and ankle didn’t allow him to play, and  Bridges will return. Whether Bridges is a guy they want to make a full-time starter is another question. The Cards have always liked Keith’s raw potential, but he has not reached it, whether that’s because of injuries or otherwise.

Brown is the more famous question mark. The website, which studies such things, said that Brown, through 10 games, had allowed 10 sacks, five quarterback hits and 32 quarterback hurries. Over the last six games, Brown allowed one sack and eight hurries. That aligns with the thoughts of coach Ken Whisenhunt, who had noted Brown played well down the stretch. Does playing better the second half of the season create enough interest/comfort to bring Brown back? If the Cards did, might he move back to right tackle and a new left tackle found? has compiled a list of “notable” free agents on offense and defense, including linemen. The tackles list is sparse: Jeff Backus, Max Starks, Vernon Carey, Sean Locklear, Stephon Heyer, Jared Gaither and Demetrius Bell. The Cards have to figure out if someone else is an upgrade (or draft a player). If Levi hits the open market, he’d probably be considered as “notable” as anyone else in this group. The Joe Thomases of the world aren’t available.

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Keith to IR; Green up as Peterson insurance

Posted by Darren Urban on December 31, 2011 – 11:01 am

With the status of cornerback Patrick Peterson uncertain — Peterson will be a game day decision — the Cardinals covered their bases Saturday by promoting cornerback Marshay Green from the practice squad. To make room for Green, the Cards officially put tackle Brandon Keith on injured reserve. Keith had already been declared out of Sunday’s game.

Green was on the roster for the final six games of 2010 as a rookie, but was inactive every week.

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Kolb inactive; Skelton gets the start

Posted by Darren Urban on December 24, 2011 – 9:39 am

John Skelton will start at quarterback for the Cards today, not a surprise, nor is the fact Kevin Kolb is inactive again because of his concussion. As expected, Jeremy Bridges will also start today at right tackle because Brandon Keith is out with his ankle injury. The rest of the Cards’ inactives:

  • WR Stephen Williams
  • S Sean Considine (foot)
  • LB Brandon Williams
  • WR Jaymar Johnson
  • WR DeMarco Sampson

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No (QB) news is … the news

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2011 – 1:35 pm

There was nothing different on the quarterback front Thursday as coach Ken Whisenhunt continued to play his cards close to the vest. Kevin Kolb is “making progress” but Whisenhunt wants to see how Kolb reacts Friday to the plane flight to Cincinnati.

“He’s getting reps and seeing the field and getting acclimated to the game plan,” Whisenhunt said, and when he was asked just how many reps — remember, Whiz said he’d like to get the starter more reps — the coach just smiled. “I’m not going to comment on the number of reps,” he said. “Both (quarterbacks) are getting reps and both working. We’ll make a decision at the end of the week when we see where everything is.”

Such a vague path would seem to point more toward John Skelton getting another start, since Kolb was clearly the starter the week he finally returned against Dallas. But it’s wait and see.

— Whisenhunt did say he doubts right tackle Brandon Keith, sporting a walking boot because of an ankle injury and sitting out practice for a second straight game, will be able to play in Cincinnati. That means Jeremy Bridges would get the start for the fourth time this season.

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