Housler signs with Browns

Posted by Darren Urban on April 9, 2015 – 2:19 pm

Rob Housler wasn’t coming back to the Cardinals. The team had decided to move on from the tight end and 2011 third-round pick, so he was always going to have a new address in 2015. It turned out to be Cleveland, where Thursday Housler worked out a one-year contract. He joins former Cardinals teammates Karlos Dansby and Jim Dray. Once the Cardinals drafted Troy Niklas last year, Housler’s days were probably numbered, and with Darren Fells emerging as a future possibility at tight end, the Cards had — along with John Carlson — the tight ends they needed.

Coach Bruce Arians has said he is hoping to add an H-back-type tight end. Right now, the Cards have five tight ends on the roster: Niklas, Fells, Carlson, Ted Bolser and Ifeanyi Momah.


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Glancing at the 2015 opponents

Posted by Darren Urban on July 14, 2014 – 2:46 pm

You know that it’s the dead of the offseason — real dead — when it comes to mind to point out who will be on the Cardinals’ schedule for 2015.

But here we are, inside of two weeks before training camp begins and a week away from the quarterbacks and a handful of other players reporting for a couple of days of “quarterback school” prior to the opening of camp. It’s the last hurrah for time off for both coaches and players. It doesn’t leave a lot to discuss right now. That’s all coming. But as I flipped through the new edition of the NFL Record and Fact Book, I came across the 2015 opponents for the Cardinals. So I thought I’d point them out.

As always, there are the home-and-away games against the NFC West opponents. The teams visiting University of Phoenix Stadium include the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings, the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals and then an NFC South team that ends up inhabiting the same position in their division that the Cardinals do in the NFC West by the time the 2014 season is over.

Road trips in 2015 for the Cardinals include the Chicago Bears, the Detroit Lions, the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the corresponding NFC East team.



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Odds, ends and Bowles

Posted by Darren Urban on January 7, 2014 – 10:27 am

So it’s gonna be about 70 degrees today. Sunny. Just sayin’. Seems like everyone else is making comments about the weather, so I thought I’d chime in.

Anyway …

— Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles reportedly met with the Browns for their head coaching job on Friday and was supposed to meet with the Vikings about their opening Monday. Neither team seems close to making a decision on their coach, although Bowles reportedly made an impression with the Vikings. Both Minnesota and Cleveland continue to look at more and more candidates, and that doesn’t include coaches still in the playoffs. Bowles won’t be interviewing in Detroit, where he was a candidate back in 2009. That makes sense, because many reports say the Lions would likely hire Chargers offensive coordinator and ex-Cards boss Ken Whisenhunt for that job once the Chargers are knocked out of the playoffs.

On the all-pro team from profootballfocus.com, Tyrann Mathieu makes first team as a slot cornerback, Justin Bethel first team for special teams. Patrick Peterson is second team at cornerback.

— Cardinals director of football administration (and salary cap guru) Mike Disner was named on Forbes list of top 30 rising stars under age 30 in sports. (The man next on the Forbes slideshow after Disner? Kevin Durant. LeBron and Gronk are among the athletes on the list too.)

— I am not a fan of messing with the playoff format. It caught up with the Cardinals this season yes, it benefited them in the 2008 season. I do not think extra teams should be added to the postseason. That said, it is still often discussed. That doesn’t mean anything is imminent, but things could change at some point.

— In case you missed it — and in case you’d like a smile or two — check out here the year in quotes and quips from coach Bruce Arians.

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Bowles scheduled to interview for two jobs

Posted by Darren Urban on January 2, 2014 – 7:53 pm

So far, Todd Bowles is scheduled to interview for a pair of head coaching jobs: With the Browns Friday and then with the Minnesota Vikings sometime next week. Does that mean Bowles is leaving as Cardinals’ defensive coordinator? Of course not. Last year at this time, DC Ray Horton was set up for three head coaching interviews — Cleveland, Buffalo and Arizona — and as we all know, Horton was still the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator when Bruce Arians decided to let him leave so he could be the DC in Cleveland and Arians could hire Bowles.

We’ll see how this turns out. Bowles fulfills the minority requirement of the Rooney Rule. Not that he isn’t a legitimate candidate, but that’s a possibility too. The Houston job (Bill O’Brien) and Tampa job (Lovie Smith) are now filled, so the only openings left are Detroit, Cleveland, Minnesota and Washington. It’s also hard to get a sense about what candidates are in play since many of the playoff teams will have assistants up for jobs when their seasons end.

(On a side note, so Horton doesn’t get the Cleveland job last year but goes to the Browns to be DC. Now that job is open again and I can’t think Horton would be thrilled if he was kept under contract when Bowles — the man who replaced him — then got the head Browns gig.)

I don’t know exactly what Bruce Arians, who has made clear his hope that Bowles someday becomes a head coach, would do if Bowles left. I’m not sure there is an automatic candidate on the staff already. But that’s a long way off. It still seems likely to me Bowles will be around for another year as defensive coordinator. Certainly, the Cards would like that to happen.

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Gruden visits, so time to catch up on coach talk

Posted by Darren Urban on January 10, 2013 – 5:15 pm

If you put your head down for a moment and just listened, you can definitely hear the Jon Gruden in Jay Gruden’s voice. That’s natural since they are brothers, but kind of funny since everyone is so familiar with Jon’s voice because of “Monday Night Football.”

(The similar-voice-with-brothers can be fun, though. My brother and I have gotten my Mom and my wife on it a couple of times over the phone.)

Jon also helped Jay a bit with his first-ever coaching interview Thursday. “Jon’s always got his two cents to add,” Jay Gruden said. “He can talk with the best of them. He’s been around the block a few times.”

Whether Jay Gruden actually will make a push to be head coach is anyone’s guess. The Cards have played this pretty close to the vest, even as they announce who they are talking to. It’s an impressive walk of the tightrope. Next week will be interesting, depending on how the Broncos — and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy — do. If they lose, something would go down next week you’d figure. Barring more interviews, you’d think the process would move forward with all candidates available. If they win, something could still happen next week, just not with McCoy, who is off-limits until his team is out.

But there is no puff of white smoke yet from 8701 S. Hardy.

You know, if the building had a chimney.

— XTRA’s Mike Jurecki is reporting that Ray Horton has reached out to Norv Turner to gauge interest in Turner taking the offensive coordinator job if Horton were to get the head coaching job. Not that Turner has said yes, but it’s interesting if true. I mentioned that possibility last week.

— I have seen the report that former Eagles offensive line coach (and DC, but in this case, it’d probably be line related) Juan Castillo would interview with the Cards. That has not been confirmed. I would think a head coach would be in place before more assistants would be hired, but Castillo’s reputation as a line coach is a good one.

— The Browns reportedly brought Ken Whisenhunt in for a second interview for their head coaching job. Horton was interviewed by the Browns (but just once thus far). The Browns have a lot of candidates they have talked to thus far. It doesn’t seem like Horton — who also interviewed for the now-filled Bills job — is in the mix.

UPDATE: It turns out the Browns hired Panthers OC Rob Chudzinski as head coach. And other reports have Chudzinski pursuing/hiring Norv Turner as OC, which if it happened would obviously mean Horton couldn’t get him.

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Gruden planned as coaching candidate

Posted by Darren Urban on January 6, 2013 – 6:44 pm

The Cardinals confirmed Sunday they plan to interview Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden this week for their vacant head coaching position. Gruden had success grooming second-round 2011 pick Andy Dalton at quarterback, as the Bengals made the playoffs in each of Dalton’s first two seasons. The Bengals’ offense did struggle Saturday in its playoff loss at Houston, although the Texans do have a tough defense.

(Again, no confusion here: This is Jay Gruden, not ESPN announcer/former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, who is, in fact, Jay’s brother.)

Gruden becomes the fourth known candidate (fifth total, although Andy Reid never interviewed). Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was Saturday’s interview. Todd Haley still is on the radar, although no known interview has been set up as yet. And there is Ray Horton.

McCoy did spend Sunday with lengthy interviews with the Eagles and Bears. Reportedly, the Eagles want to talk to Gruden. Horton remains a candidate with the Browns, who reportedly have moved on from trying to get Oregon coach Chip Kelly.

The Cards are still looking for a general manager. They have already interviewed in-house candidate Steve Keim and the Redskins’ Morocco Brown. I’d think that decision would come sooner rather than later. We will see.

For perspective on the coach search, let’s look at the last time the Cards hired a coach. Denny Green was fired Jan. 1, 2007. Ken Whisenhunt was hired Jan. 13.

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The AFC at UoP with Whiz

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2012 – 10:21 am

Ken Whisenhunt coached in Pittsburgh for six seasons before coming to the Cardinals and knew what he’d be seeing when the AFC teams played his new team in Arizona. That’s worked out well.

The Cardinals have been a good home team since Whisenhunt’s arrival in 2007, and no place does that show up more than when AFC teams come to visit, like will happen Sunday when the Buffalo Bills will be the opponent. It’s the second and final AFC visitor of the season, and of the 11 previous AFC teams to come to town, the Cardinals have beaten nine of them and will be the favorite Sunday against the reeling Bills.

The only two home AFC losses in Whiz’s tenure came in 2009, when the powerful Colts beat up the Cards on “Sunday Night Football” and last year, when the Steelers caught the Cardinals at arguably their lowest point in the season in a 32-20 Pittsburgh win. Because of the way the schedule has worked out, the Cards have seen repeat AFC visitors in that time. The Cards have beaten Miami twice, Cleveland twice, along with a then-undefeated Buffalo (when Adrian Wilson knocked QB Trent Edwards out of the game, below), Houston (late goal-line stand), Oakland (Janikowski’s shocking missed field goal) and Denver (the Jay Feely score-a-thon.)

Next season, the AFC teams who will visit Arizona are the Texans and Colts again.

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Browns aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 18, 2011 – 8:51 pm

After a while, even these endings tend to numb you. The Cardinals didn’t really do anything different than they have been. They won. Their playoff hopes took a blow when the Raiders couldn’t finish off the Lions in Oakland – the Cards need a lot of help the next two weeks, even if they win out, for the playoffs – but the goal at this point can only be a 9-7 record and let the rest settle out as it may.

Let’s put this four-game winning streak in perspective, at least when it comes to me. I’ve never seen one. I started covering this team full time in 2000; the Cards’ last four-game win streak was in 1999. (I’ve seen a few four-game losing streaks, but I digress).

— Props to Ken Whisenhunt’s 43rd win as Cards’ coach to set the franchise record and break his tie with Don Coryell. No, it’s not a Belichickian total, but it means something. It especially means something since it looked all but impossible to reach this season after that wretched start.

— It’s still so hard to decipher QB John Skelton. Some great plays. Some plays he’s got to make. A stumbling offense, but a win. Good yardage – 313 – but a passing rating below 80 because he threw so many incompletions. Cards have won five of six he has played the majority of the snaps, however.

“Everyone talks about Tim Tebow and his record but you look at John’s record and it’s pretty good too,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.

Let’s not bring Tebow into this, Fitz. Skelton’s his own man. “I don’t consider myself able to lean on the crutch I am a young quarterback anymore,” Skelton said. “If there are plays that need to be made, I need to make them.”

— Fitzgerald explained the game-winning play where he unbelievably got wide open for the 32-yard gain. “We had been in that bunch (formation) three times throughout the day and every single time we ran it before, we ran the ‘Toss Crack’ out of it for Beanie,” Fitzgerald said. “As soon as I lined up in the formation they were yelling ‘Crack, crack, crack!’ The cornerback kind of settled, and I saw that and went vertical and broke it to the corner.”

— Speaking of playcalls, here was Whiz’s explanation of the shovel pass that went sour after Schofield’s forced fumble. The Cards ended up kicking a tying field goal when Skelton was sacked (and the Cards went nowhere on three downs). “We had a play we thought would work,” Whisenhunt said. “It was a good play to get to LaRod (Stephens-Howling) on a shovel pass inside. They played it (well). Kudos to them. … It’s a situation where we’ll second-guess that or I’ll think about it all night, would have, could have, should have run the ball. The ones that work, you don’t second-guess.”

— I will admit I was expecting a lot more Beanie. Skelton had 48 pass attempts and Beanie Wells just 15 rushing attempts (for 51 yards, so he is still six short of 1,000 for the season). Obviously the Cards fell behind, but against the 31st-ranked rush defense, it was surprising.

— Safety Kerry Rhodes made his return, and showed up a couple of big times, one on a diving play to break up a deep pass, and another to take down a pass receiver short of a first down. “Getting back into the mix was a little weird, but no rust,” Rhodes said.

— Kicker Jay Feely said he was ready to kick a 54-yard field goal had that last pass to Fitzgerald not been completed. Then maybe Fitz couldn’t have gotten off his postgame jab at the kicker: “I wish I would have been able to get in the end zone,” Fitz said, “but I wanted Jay to get a shot. I wanted to get his Twitter followers up.”

— That’s @JayFeely, for those interested. And @LarryFitzgerald.

— The field-position game started lousy for the Cards (obviously, since the offense couldn’t do anything) but ended perfect. Patrick Peterson’s big last punt return was huge, but it was helped because the defense forced a punt deep in Cleveland territory.

— Thank goodness for the first turnover in three weeks. Only gave the Cards a field goal, but it was enough.

— Cornerback Michael Adams said some on defense needed to “wake up” after that first Cleveland drive, but they did. Browns RB Payton Hillis had 51 yards rushing in the first quarter and still didn’t get to 100 (99 total).

— Fitz was full of one-liners. On playing yet another barnburner: “We wanted to help CBS with their ratings.”

Christmas is coming. A winning streak — which the Cards will attempt to make five in Cincy Christmas Eve — is a fun gift for the whole family.

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Friday before the Browns

Posted by Darren Urban on December 16, 2011 – 5:05 pm

With safety Adrian Wilson playing so well, I thought it was appropriate to do a story on him this week, and he’s clearly becoming a story everywhere. Friday, he popped up on Jim Rome’s radio show, and he was A-Dub-honest. When it came to his self-assessment of his play during the first month of the season, “I was terrible. I was horrible. I didn’t like seeing myself like that on tape.”

More revealing was his comment about that play when it came to being a leader on the defense. “It hurt me emotionally the way that I was playing,” Wilson said. “I knew I wasn’t that type of player, and I knew what I was doing in games early on in the year, that wasn’t me. It hurt me inside, and I wanted to show my teammates I was still that guy, that guy they could depend on, still that playmaker. That fueled me as the season went on.”

He admitted coming back from the right biceps injury was mentally difficult, a strain that made it harder when he was already learning the defense. Wilson said he wasn’t doing a lot of interviews this season because he wanted the young players, guys like linebacker Daryl Washington and linebacker Sam Acho, to get the spotlight.

Besides, for the team, the most important thing is Wilson’s play on the field, which has been 180 degrees from “terrible.”

“Shoot, he didn’t talk to me the first two years I was here,” safety Hamza Abdullah said with a grin (and folks, that was a joke). “Between the white lines, he doesn’t care. You could be his Auntie, his next door neighbor, the guy who needs help crossing the street, if you are between the lines and wearing a different colored helmet, he is going to hit you hard, not care, push you down after the play. You want a guy like that on your team. He keeps it clean, but he’ll make you feel it at the end of the day.”

Clearly the Cardinals’ defense has played better because there are a bunch of players who understand the scheme better. But it’s not a coincidence Wilson has found a groove at the same time.

“I feel I am the emotional leader for this team,” Wilson said. “I may not say a lot during the week or do a lot of interviews but come game day being that emotional guy, being a guy who is out front, I think that’s important for the team defensively.”

On to Browns’ weekend:

— The streaking Cards’ defense runs into an offense that was struggling anyway and now must turn to backup quarterback Seneca Wallace. Good news, right? Well, perhaps the better news is the message – whomever is giving it, whether it is coach Ken Whisenhunt or defensive coordinator Ray Horton or  players leaders – that the only thing that matters is the next game and not whatever success the unit is having. No one is paying attention to the growing compliments.

“One thing I know, a pat on the back is six inches from a slap in the face,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “I treat that the same. We just want to do it for each other.”

— If the Cardinals win, Whisenhunt notches his 43rd win, most in franchise history for a head coach (and yes, postseason is included).

— If the Cards win, that’s a four-game winning streak, something they haven’t done since 1999.

— Is it feast or famine for this team? The Cards do have five offensive touchdowns of more than 50 yards this season (and an NFL-leading nine, thanks to Patrick Peterson’s four punt-return scores). Big plays have become the norm.

— Beanie Wells needs 57 yards rushing to reach 1,000 for the season. You know he’d like to do it against the Browns, the team that plays about a half-hour from his Akron home – and one for he once dreamt about playing.

— Starting cornerback/nickel safety Richard Marshall has turned into a valuable piece for Horton. He’s also a guy who signed only a one-year contract as a free agent before the season (which made sense, given the high hopes with Peterson, the injured Greg Toler and A.J. Jefferson by the time they got to 2012). He would seem to be a guy the Cards want to keep around. Marshall sounded like a veteran when asked about his future in Arizona.

“I like it here,” Marshall said. “My family likes it here, it’s a great place to play. Not too far from home. We will see what happens at the end of the year. The only thing I am thinking about is these last three games.”

— Wilson was fined $7,500 for roughing the passer after he grabbed 49ers quarterback Alex Smith’s facemask as he went flying by during a play last week. Niners linebacker Larry Grant was fined $15,000 for hitting Cards QB John Skelton below the knees, although reports from San Francisco are that Grant is appealing the fine because he said he hit Skelton in the thigh area.

— There has been only one team Larry Fitzgerald has not played against in his career – the Cleveland Browns. He missed the 2007 meeting because of a groin injury.

— Speaking of Fitz, he was asked about how to deal with the offensive slow starts: “I just keep hoping our defense can keep playing well in the first half so our engine can get going in the second,” he deadpanned. “Naw, we have to play better. The first half, it’s unacceptable for us to start that slow.”

John Skelton, Sunday’s probable starter at quarterback with Kevin Kolb’s concussion issues, has a 22.4 passer rating in the first quarter this season (and 100.8 in the fourth quarter).

Fitz may have been talking tongue-in-cheek, but the way the defense is playing, his idea just might work.

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Breaking down draft order, 2011 schedule

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2010 – 9:38 am

With one game left — and the Cards safely out of the playoff picture — it’s a lot easier to narrow down some key portions of 2011 concerning both draft position and the schedule.

— As for the draft, the Cardinals have four teams with worse records than their own 5-10 mark. Arizona is one of seven teams with five wins. But as of right now, the Cardinals are fifth overall in the draft and “first” among those seven teams because of the Cards’ weak strength of schedule (Draft position is not broken by head-to-head or various playoff-type tiebreakers but instead the inverse — the weaker the opponents you played were, the higher pick, because the thought process is if your record is the same against weaker opponents, you are considered the weaker team and in need of a higher pick).

The Cardinals’ strength-of-schedule is so weak, in fact, that no matter any team(s) they end up tied with in the draft position, they will be choosing higher. So, for instance, even if the Cards beat the 49ers this weekend and the Seahawks lose and both the Cards and Seahawks finish with six wins, the Cards will be slotted higher in the draft. (Of course, beating the 49ers will mean the Cards end up with a better record than San Francisco, meaning the Niners will of course be ahead in the order).

Looking over the standings, the “lowest” the Cardinals will be picking will be 11th in the draft. If the Cardinals beat San Francisco, the Niners would be “ahead” of the Cards, while of the other five teams who have five wins, four could lose (two of the five-win teams play each other, Minnesota at Detroit, and I am assuming the Vikings lose in Philadelphia tomorrow night). Cleveland (hosting Pittsburgh), Dallas (at Philly) and Houston (hosting Jacksonville) are the other five-win teams.

If the Cards lose to the 49ers, they could still in theory have as high as the No. 2 pick in the draft, but that would mean Denver (hosting San Diego), Cincinnati (at Baltimore) and Buffalo (at the Jets) all won this weekend. Carolina has already clinched Andrew Lu, errr, the No. 1 pick overall.

— As for the schedule, that is always all but set. In cement are home games against the three NFC West foes, Dallas, the Giants, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The Cardinals will go on the road to the three NFC West opponents, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore and Cincinnati.

The remaining road/home games set up like this: If the Cards win, they will host Tampa Bay again. (UPDATE: My mistake — if the Saints lose tonight and then the Buccaneers beat the Saints next week, the Cards would host the Saints again next year in this scenario). If they lose, the extra home game will be Carolina.

For the final road game, a Cardinal win means the Cards will play at the winner of this weekend’s Minnesota-Detroit game. A loss in San Francisco means they will travel to the loser of the Vikings-Lions.

— UPDATE II: For those confused about why the schedule, for instance, has the Cards hosting Pittsburgh again after the Steelers came in 2007 and the Cards last went to Pittsburgh in 2003, here was the info I received on the subject from the league:

“You need to look at the scheduling formula on a larger scale. it’s not as simple as just alternating the home games for every opponent – the math would not work out that way. The formula is set so that you’ll play all non-division conference opponents at least one every three years and at home at least once every six years. Also, keep in mind for non-division opponents in the conference, you’re rotating three divisions over a period of time, so if you take the original eight-year rotation, the math doesn’t work out so that it’s a straight alternating system. So by just taking selective end points and asking about ’04, ’07 and ’10, you’re not looking at a complete picture.”

Under the formula, every team within a division plays 16 games as follows:

  • Home and away against its three division opponents (6 games).
  • The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (4 games).
  • The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (4 games).
  • Two intraconference games based on the prior year’s standings (2 games).  These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season.  The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.

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