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Thoughts on a schedule

Posted by Darren Urban on April 18, 2013 – 6:31 pm

So here are some quick thoughts on the Cardinals’ schedule, for what they are worth. No one knows exactly what will happen between now and when the games will be played and so much can change. Nevertheless, this is what we do, so we press on …

— What smacks me in the face first is the back-to-back games against the 49ers — in San Francisco — and the Seahawks just four days later for their NFL Network game. That’s in October (13 and 17). Those teams aren’t easy with which to deal, and to have them so close together is tough. I guess, with Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson with similar games (I know Wilson doesn’t run as much as Kaepernick), the defense will be in the right frame of mind. Todd Bowles, are you ready?

— Opening in St. Louis isn’t a bad place to start. The Cards have had a ton of success there, winning seven straight before last year. These aren’t the 2009 Rams, but they aren’t the Niners and Seahawks either.

— Offenses with which the Cards must deal without suspended linebacker Daryl Washington: Rams, Lions, Saints, Buccaneers. All in all, not the worst thing.

— A bye at exactly the midway point of the season.

— The Bruce Arians-faces-his-former-Colts-team game comes Nov. 24. Will be very interesting to see where the Cards are at that point — we will be long past the storybook of the Colts season last year — and, for that matter, where the Colts stand.

— I didn’t think weather would be a big deal, but it could be chilly in Philly (Dec. 1) and Tennessee (Dec. 15). And perhaps Seattle (Dec. 22) for that matter.

— It did catch my eye that the preseason Dallas game is at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. I prefer that rather than night preseason games.

— A trip to Raymond James Stadium Sept. 29. Let’s see, the last time the Cards were there


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Reading the options of the future of offense

Posted by Darren Urban on January 28, 2013 – 10:48 am

The Super Bowl run-up this week — on both TV and in print — will be filled with a handful of the obvious stories this week: The last game for Ray Lewis, the Harbaugh brothers, and, with the 49ers becoming explosive on offense with new quarterback Colin Kaepernick, there will be plenty written and said about the read-option offense.

The conventional wisdom has long been that running quarterbacks will have a hard time having long-term success in the NFL. Defenders are faster and stronger in the pros than college. The chances of a quarterback getting hurt — and the chances that a coach wants to make sure his quarterback doesn’t get hurt — are high. Of course, that all got turned on its head this season, with Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson (to a lesser degree) all making the read-option incredibly dangerous to opposing defenses.

Where does it go from here?

It’s impossible to know for sure. I do know that defensive coordinators are going to have an entire offseason to prepare to defend it. If you are Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who could/will see some version of it up to seven times in 2013 — the Niners twice, the Seahawks twice, the Panthers (Cam Newton), Titans (Jake Locker) and Eagles (with new coach Chip Kelly) — you know the Cards are going to study the strengths and weaknesses carefully. There have been comparisons made to the Wildcat offense, and that version became a lot less effective the year after it hit the scene hard.

Then again, the Wildcat was done in a situation where the main ballhandler wasn’t a quarterback. The threat of the pass was only that, a threat. It wasn’t normal. That’s what makes the read-option so difficult, because the quarterback could instead fade for a quick throw. That’s why Kaepernick and Griffin and Wilson have been so good. It’s not because they run the ball well — although they do do that — but because they are accurate passers and can make defenses pay through conventional ways too. (In other words, Tim Tebow they are not.) As more and more college quarterbacks find ways to do both, it will inevitably find its way into the pro game.

Injury concerns are legitimate. The Redskins understand this. The more hits a QB takes, the more chance he gets hurt. Simple math. Maybe the success can be sustained on a football level, but on a player level, the quarterback won’t last as long. Or maybe the QB has to morph after a few years, like Michael Jordan went from going to the hoop every time into one of the best jump shooters. Pocket passers aren’t going away. It’s really about what the talent is coming from colleges and what coaches are willing to do to adapt. I doubt every team suddenly starts running the read-option, but I don’t see it going away.

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Final four factor for Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on January 14, 2013 – 11:07 am

The Cardinals, for a second straight season, played three of the teams in the NFL’s final four. It helps that division brother San Francisco has made it in, and the Cardinals had their trouble with the 49ers this season, whether Alex Smith was the quarterback or Colin Kaepernick was calling signals. The games against the other two opponents that have made it to the championship games went a little bit better. The trip to Atlanta was a loss, yes, but it should have been a win with the way the defense played that day, amid the controversy of the benching-Skelton-for-Lindley situation. Obviously, the trip to New England was the Cardinals’ signature victory of the season, complete with late-game dramatics and a heart-stopping ending.

(And a game that seems like it was four years ago, not four months ago.)

It’s the same 1-3 record the Cards had against final four opponents last season. It’s hard to make a lot of comparisons with the way those teams are playing now to when the Cards met them. Even though the 49ers last game before beating up the Packers Saturday night was against Arizona, the game plan devised by the Niners with Kaepernick looked so deadly the other day. The Cards didn’t play great in that finale, but Kaepernick at least didn’t look like a Hall of Famer like he did against Green Bay. The Patriots, who lost tight end Aaron Hernandez early that day against the Cards, have clearly smoothed out the offense. The Falcons just don’t scare anyone, even in their dome, and everyone seems to agree — the Niners are road favorites against the No. 1 seed, for goodness sake.

— In the head coach search, Jay Glazer reported the Cards want to talk to Broncos OC Mike McCoy for a second interview. He was interviewed in Denver the first time so you’d figure everyone would want to get him in the building so he could actually see the physical situation.

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Friday before the Niners

Posted by Darren Urban on December 28, 2012 – 4:08 pm

Next week, Ray Horton figures to get at least one if not several inquiries to interview for vacant head coaching jobs. He already had one last year – with the Rams – and as a minority candidate whose unit has played very good football this season, Horton figures to attract interest.

Horton didn’t want to necessarily go there today, his final day of meeting the media this season.

“I would say today I’m just trying to be the best D-coordinator in the league and I didn’t do it (this season),” Horton said. “We didn’t accomplish our goals. The rest of that stuff usually takes care of itself and usually teams that win more are rewarded that well.”

That said, when asked when he would know if he was ready for a head coaching job, Horton acknowledged, “A couple years ago – (although) you never know until you get there.”

Horton’s interview with the Rams reportedly went well and he had no reason to think he wouldn’t duplicate the feat. “I think if you are confident in what you do, every interview would be good,” he said. “I feel I’m prepared, smart, knowledgeable, humble and whatever goes with whatever that entails.”

None of that means Horton won’t be defensive coordinator in Arizona next year. A lot will happen across the league over the next few weeks. There is a lot of unknown about the Cards themselves. Horton said he isn’t thinking about that.

“All I know is I am going to San Francisco in the morning and I’m not going there to get any sourdough bread,” Horton said. “I’m going there to play a football game.”

— With left tackle Nate Potter upgraded to limited Friday and listed as questionable to play, we’ll see who gets the call at the spot – him or D’Anthony Batiste. You wonder how much the 49ers will work to get Aldon Smith the three sacks he needs to tie the NFL record in that stat, and you wonder if Brian Hoyer – who looks pretty aware in the pocket – can make a difference with his decision-making.

— It does help that the 49ers will be without DT Justin Smith, however.

— Horton said he thought the 49ers have changed their playcalling after installing Colin Kaepernick as starting quarterback in place of Alex Smith.

“You don’t see as many shifts, as many extra linemen in the game,” Horton said. “(Kaepernick) adds an element to run the ball. It will be an interesting experiment to see what they think after the season is over.”

— In case you missed it, here’s the list of 2013 opponents for the Cards, home and away.

— Heading into the league’s final weekend, the Cardinals currently have the ninth pick in the first round of the draft. Given the matchups in the final game – and given the Cards’ fairly strong strength of schedule – it’s going to be difficult to move much higher if the team loses to the 49ers (a win would drop them mid-first-round. About 15 or 16, I would guess). There might be a chance to move to No. 7, realistically.

— Veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday – who could be playing in his final NFL game Sunday as he contemplates retirement once again – has high hopes for a lot of the younger defenders on the Cardinals and what they can become.

One of those guys is nose tackle Dan Williams, about whom Holliday is bullish about his future.

“He can be one of the best nose guards in this league,” Holliday said. “Because of his athleticism, because of his size and strength. And now he’s become a student of the game.”

— For this week’s episode of “Season In Focus” (airing Saturday at 7 a.m. on ABC-15), there will be Adrian Wilson Wired, the best of Cardinals Chronicles for 2012, the best moments of the season at University of Phoenix Stadium, and a spotlight on record-breaking punter Dave Zastudil.

— I will admit I hope Daryl Washington can get his 10th sack.

— The Cardinals had all kinds of problems tackling the 49ers the last time they met, one of the reasons Smith’s 18-for-19 passing day turned so effective (232 yards, three touchdowns). Can’t have that happen again.

— The 49ers have a lot on the line. We’ll see if the Cardinals can mess with that at all.

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Chasing the 10th sack

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2012 – 10:14 am

Linebacker Daryl Washington, snubbed for the Pro Bowl Wednesday, is still chasing his 10th sack of the season. Notching one more would not only tie the franchise mark for sacks by a linebacker, but also make him the first guy with 10 since Bertrand Berry had 14.5 in 2004 and the first Cardinal ever to have 100 tackles and 10 sacks. Of course, Washington as been stuck with nine sacks since getting one against the Rams Nov. 25. Chasing down mobile 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for one might not be easy. Washington did have two sacks the last time the Cards played the 49ers, but at that point, Alex Smith was still playing QB for San Francisco.

— Left tackle Nate Potter sat out Wednesday’s practice with a bad ankle. If Potter isn’t able to play Sunday, his backup is D’Anthony Batiste — who struggled so much when he was in there earlier in the season — and I’d think Batiste would likely get another start. That would definitely be something that bears watching.

— The Big Red Rage tonight at Majerle’s in Chandler will feature not only host Kerry Rhodes but also wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, so reserve your table quickly. The show starts at 6 p.m.

 


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