The search for pass rushers is leading the Cardinals to investigate one of the best of the Canadian Football League. The agent of defensive end/linebacker Tristan Okpalaugo of the Toronto Argonauts tweeted that Okpalaugo is coming in for a workout with the Cardinals after doing the same with the Seahawks and the Jets. The agent also said the Jets have already made Okpalaugo an offer.
UPDATE: The Cardinals signed Okpalaugo.
Okpalaugo, 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds, had 11 sacks in 14 games this season for Toronto after posting 12 in 17 games for the Argonauts in 2014. He went to the CFL after brief stops with the Dolphins, Vikings and Cowboys, failing to get on to a 53-man roster after being undrafted out of Fresno State. But he’s had CFL success, and perhaps that will change his NFL future.
It isn’t the first time the Cardinals have looked at pass rushers from Canada. The Cards had Cameron Wake in for a workout during the playoff run to the 2008 Super Bowl — presumably for the following season — but decided to pass. Wake turned into a Pro Bowler for the Dolphins with 70 career sacks since 2009. There is no guarantee Okpalaugo, 26, will become the next Wake. He might end up as the next Stevie Baggs, a pass rusher the Cards did sign and try and work into the defense.
Perhaps most interesting is the teams involved here. The Cards know each situation well. The Jets, of course, are led by former Cards’ defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. And the Seahawks are in an arms race with the Cardinals for NFC West supremacy.
Tags: Cameron Wake, Jets, Seahawks, Stevie Baggs, Tristan Okpalaugo
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A short week starts in as good of a way as possible. Let’s put it that way.
What do you say? Even coach Ken Whisenhunt’s opening statement acknowledged there was so many areas to correct that he wasn’t going to try and hit on them all. But the Cards won. I’m not sure how – it was hard to believe the Hartline 80-yard score wasn’t a backbreaker, and the Dolphins certainly thought it would be – but it wasn’t.
Kevin Kolb had a couple of shaky moments. But being down on the field, to see that dart he threw to Andre Roberts for the game-tying touchdown, it looks even more impressive up close. On fourth down, no less … just another step forward. No he can’t throw the end-zone pick. He knows it, Whiz knows it, we all know it. But he overcame it. So did all the Cards. Unreal.
— The Cardinals missed Darnell Dockett today, sitting with an injured hamstring, but safety Adrian Wilson returned with a vengeance after missing one game. Wilson had a team-best 10 tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, a forced fumble, three pass deflections and almost had an incredible diving interception until replay stole it from him. With everything that happened today, it’d be easy to lose sight of that performance. But you can’t.
— Patrick Peterson had a miserable night returning punts. He averaged just 4.5 yards a return. He was charged with three fumbles, two on one return (although he fortunately recovered them all). He fair-caught a punt inexplicably at his own 3-yard line, and thank goodness for Dave Zastudil it didn’t hurt the Cards.
“I was pressing a little bit today, the ball was dropping a little faster,” Peterson said. “I was trying to hurry up and get the ball in my hands and try and take off. I wasn’t patient today. I definitely wasn’t myself in the punt returns, but that won’t happen again. I told the return team, that’s my fault. We’ve got 12 more games to get to the end zone and make it right.”
— The Cards got everyone involved in the passing game Sunday. Fitz was targeted 15 times – 8 catches for only 64 yards, but a score – and Michael Floyd even had four grabs. Roberts has played excellent football, with 118 yards. Now, Kolb can’t get sacked eight times. Some of that was him holding the ball, and some was the offensive line. Rookie right tackle Bobby Massie was overwhelmed by Cam Wake in the first half, although he did better in the second half (Wake still had 4½ sacks.) Mostly, though, when there is time, I still think Kolb looks pretty good in the pocket.
— That end-zone pick, though. Can’t happen. “A terrible decision, a terrible throw,” Kolb said. He understands.
— William Gay was picked on a lot at cornerback. He stayed in playing nickel, but Greg Toler was taking snaps as the guy opposite Peterson in both base and nickel. Jamell Fleming was the odd man out in nickel.
— The flip side of the pass game: Ryan Williams doesn’t look like he is part of the no-huddle package, which the Cards used a bunch Sunday. The Cards had 15 rush attempts and, with sacks added in, 56 pass plays. Williams finished with just 26 yards on 13 carries. If you would have told me that would equate to a win, I don’t think I would’ve believed you.
— Kicker Jay Feely got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a kickoff that was downed in the end zone to start the second half. It could have been bad, but the Cards forced a punt. Feely said the Cards had planned to use him to help block on a Dolphins blocker if he was used a certain way. On a kickoff, Feely is allowed to hit the player in the back if necessary. Feely did and was flagged.
“The ref said, ‘Well it’s a touchback, you shouldn’t have done that,’ ” Feely said. “I said ‘I didn’t know it was a touchback, I was running to the block.’ I was just glad they didn’t get a score.
— That’s 500 wins all-time for the franchise.
— There were mistakes, obviously, but Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill looks like the real deal to me (and yes, I’m looking at you John the Draft Guy.)
— The Cardinals, per Elias Sports Bureau, are now 10-214-1 all-time when trailing by at least 13 points at halftime. That underscores the occasion.
— The last time the Cards came back down at least 13 points at the half was Sept. 12, 1999 at Philadelphia. Heck, that was before I was covering this team. (h/t to Mark Dalton and Randall Liu for those last two goodies.)
— Brian Hartline’s 253 yards receiving was not an all-time high for a Cards’ opponent. Anthony Allen had 255 against the Cards in 1987? Don’t know Anthony Allen? Well, he was a replacement player during the 1987 strike, crossing the picket line in that game against the then St. Louis Cardinals. He was done when the regular players returned, but actually made the Redskins the following year.
— Gotta keep propping punter Dave Zastudil. Nine punts for a net of 47.3? Seriously? So, so huge.
A wild game. Now comes a trip to play the Rams where the Cards have dominated but where the Cards usually have had a week to prepare. Not as much time now – but it’s so much easier after a win.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Andre Roberts, Bobby Massie, Brian Hartline, Cameron Wake, Darnell Dockett, Dave Zastudil, Dolphins, Greg Toler, Jay Feely, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Tannehill, Ryan Williams, William Gay
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No Darnell Dockett. That’s the very real possibility Sunday because of his hamstring injury. As Darnell mentioned to me in the locker room after the Eagles game, “Every now and then, even the Hulk gets wounded.” The Cards’ version of the Hulk has missed exactly one game since he got into the league in 2004. That’s 135 games played in 136 opportunities, including playoffs, and he started 134 of them. (He missed a 2010 game with a shoulder problem, the Cards lost.) The Cards can overcome an absence, I’d think. They did pretty well last week when safety Adrian Wilson had to sit out.
“If that’s the case, they’ll step up. That’s kind of the mentality of that group,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. The Cards have Vonnie Holliday, Nick Eason and even David Carter who could probably play some. Besides, you never know what DC Ray Horton might cook up.
The injury situation will be interesting, not only because the Cards have a bunch of guys that could sit, but also because the Cards have a short week next week – they play Thursday night in St. Louis. Asked if the schedule might dictate how he would make inactive decisions for this game (for instance, resting a guy because he wouldn’t have as much recovery time) Whisenhunt said that hasn’t been the approach.
“I can’t say that wouldn’t change maybe as we got closer to the game,” Whisenhunt said. “I don’t anticipate it changing. We’re focused on this game and I’m not really worried about the Thursday game right now. I think that’s the way you have to approach it.”
— The spotlight will be on the Cards’ running game. The Dolphins are allowing less than three yards a carry and are third in the NFL in run defense. The Cards are averaging less than three yards a carry on offense. Ryan Williams, what say you?
— The Dolphins are also fourth in the league in rushing, not a surprise because when you have a rookie QB like Ryan Tannehill, you are going to effort to run the ball. Reggie Bush, who has broken out as a back since going to Miami, is questionable with a sore knee. Word from Miami is that Bush is expected to play. Holliday made the point earlier this week the Cards’ defense, as well as it has played, needs to do better against the run. Here’s a big chance.
— History said last week that Larry Fitzgerald always did well against the Eagles, and then he went out against the Eagles and played well again. The sample size is much smaller against the Dolphins, but the highlights are there. In 2008, Fitz, Anquan Boldin and Kurt Warner riddled Miami with shots in a 31-10 home win. Fitz ended that day with six catches for 153 yards – that was the first day the whole Todd Haley ridding the Cards of the “one-trick pony” and a guy who never got yards after the catch finally took hold. Fitz was a monster (Boldin had six for 140 too, with three touchdowns.)
The other Fitz-Miami game was less spectacular but more memorable. It was 2004, Fitz’s rookie year, and he made a two-yard jump-ball touchdown catch with 19 seconds left to beat the Dolphins, 24-23. Fitz had five catches for 92 yards that day, and the Cards snapped a 17-game road losing streak (Ah yes, those were the days). Mostly from that game I remember Fitz’s post-game presser. Those were the days when Fitz often left the locker room before reporters even got there. With the game-winner he was made to come into the interview room for what might have been the most awkward presser ever. I think Fitz delivered very few short sentence answers before it mercifully ended. He’s come a long way since then.
— Calais Campbell went to the University of Miami, although he doesn’t see facing the Dolphins as an big deal because of that (now, the Denver Broncos for the Aurora, Colorado, native is something different.) That said, Campbell has a long memory. Before the Cardinals took Campbell in the second round of the 2008 draft, the Dolphins could have taken him but instead took Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling. Merling is now in Green Bay, having washed out as a Dolphin.
“I was a little bit mad about that,” Campbell said. “I definitely want to make sure they regret the decision. I love being in Arizona, I don’t think I’d do well in Miami, but I know one thing, I want them to regret not drafting me. I’m sure they already feel that way, but I want to make them feel it even more.”
— For those wondering, Scott Green – who is the head of the referees’ union, is scheduled to officiate Sunday’s game. (He was the ref for the Cardinals-Packers wild-card playoff game in 2010 too. Karlos Dansby must be happy.)
— Speaking of Karlos, he was also a good guy. He also was one of those players that always dropped a “Know what I’m sayin’?” every third sentence. It was kind of his calling card. But the one I remember most is when I went to ask him for his reaction that then-teammate Sean Morey had agreed to donate his brain to research after his death in an effort to find out about potential brain effects that come with playing in the NFL. Karlos didn’t hesitate.
“That’s huge, man,” he said.
Indeed, it was.
— Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said stud pass rusher Cameron Wake has played very well this season and is pressuring the quarterback often. Wake, however, has yet to record a sack. The tackles will have to hold up against Wake, who could have been a Cardinal. After lighting up the CFL, Wake worked out for the Cardinals in late 2008 as a potential outside linebacker. The Cards ended up passing, and Wake didn’t latch on anywhere until Miami signed him in the offseason – and where he had notched 28 sacks in three seasons before this one.
— Since Whisenhunt arrived in 2007, the Cardinals are 27-5 in games in which they have carried a lead into the fourth quarter.
— Kevin Kolb, with a passer rating of 108.6, is the third-ranked passer in the NFL behind Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger. Raise your hand if you saw that coming.
— Congrats, by the way, to the Kolbs for the arrival of Saylor. Family time intact, and no missed games.
— The Cardinals, over their last 11 games, have allowed a mere 1.33 touchdowns per game. Wonder if Tannehill knows that.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Cameron Wake, Darnell Dockett, David Carter, Dolphins, Karlos Dansby, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Nick Eason, Ryan Tannehill, Vonnie Holliday
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