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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2009 – 11:18 pm

There was one question I wanted to ask Early Doucet after Sunday’s rollover of the Rams. On his first NFL touchdown – an 18-yard pass from Kurt Warner – what was more difficult, making the play or surviving Larry Fitzgerald’s bone-jarring thrown-down tackle milliseconds later (pictured here)?

“Surviving the tackle,” Doucet said, grinning. “He told me, ‘If you ever get a touchdown, you’ll never celebrate yourself because I’m coming to the end zone.’ ” Fitz confirmed that version, saying “He told us he had a touchdown dance and I told him he wasn’t going to do it.” So he didn’t. Doucet scored, Fitz threw him down before Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston joined in a dogpile celebration.

“He slammed me to the ground and I couldn’t do anything but enjoy the moment,” Doucet said. “It was a good feeling.”

These are the things talked about after a three-touchdown win over a team that you should beat. First touchdowns and celebrations. Milestones, like A-Dub finally getting that sack he needed for his induction to 20/20 or Warner reaching 100 TD passes with his second team or DRC getting his sixth interception, which is the most for the Cards since Dexter Jackson had that many in 2006.

So much to touch on, so before I head off to bed:

— Yes, it was a Rams’ team severely short-handed, even on defense. But the Cards took their shots downfield Sunday and even got their biggest play of the season, a 45-yard bomb to Steve Breaston (topping the 44-yard catch-and-run of Boldin in New York in October).

— The Cards have more than 40 sacks in a season for the first time since moving to Arizona. They have 41 on the season.

— Boldin should be over 1,000 yards receiving. He is 14 yards short, a number that was taken care of on a 28-yard catch late in the third quarter – except an illegal shift on rookie LaRod Stephens-Howling negated the play. “I’m very upset,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said of that penalty, because the play had “really created momentum for us.”

— With Pro Bowlers being announced Tuesday, it’s too bad Boldin’s injuries threw off his early season showing. Because he is playing at a Pro Bowl level, and he has been at that level for a few weeks now.

— Tackle Levi Brown looked like he struggled Sunday, and generally, Whisenhunt said he was “a little disappointed in our protection today at times.” Obviously, that’s an area that needs to hold up when the Cards start playing postseason games.

— The Cardinals need the Vikings to lose Monday night in Chicago to keep hope alive to achieve the No. 2 playoff seed and a bye. So Fitzgerald – who grew up in Minnesota and was a Vikings ballboy and doesn’t really hide the idea he still roots for the Vikings – was asked who he will be rooting for in Bears-Vikings. “I’m from Minnesota, man,” Fitzgerald said, pausing before saying, “I want the Bears to wi…, ahh, yeah. We’ll see what happens.” It brought laughs, even from Fitzgerald. So yeah, we will see what happens.

— Jason Wright did an admirable job filling in at fullback after the last-second neck stiffness kept Dan Kreider, the Cards’ lone fullback, out. Beanie Wells had a nice game (17 carries, 68 yards and a score) but it seemed like, with Kreider around, he might have been even more effective.

— Calais Campbell tied Darnell Dockett for most sacks on the team with seven. Bertrand Berry is just one behind. What a race.

— Considering he had some tough moments in coverage this season (I’m thinking against the Bears for sure, and maybe a couple of other instances), safety Adrian Wilson actually has done well against the pass. He now has five interceptions and he’s made some nice pass breakups too. That shouldn’t be forgotten – although I am sure he’ll have a third Pro Bowl selection come Tuesday.

— It was nice to see A-Dub get to 20/20. If it wasn’t going to happen today, though … I mean, on that final Rams’ possession in which Wilson got Null for his second sack of the season, Wilson might as well have been a defensive end. He came off the edge on the rush on every one of the five plays, including his takedown.

— Finally, Whisenhunt said he thought about taking Warner out for Matt Leinart earlier than the three-minute mark, but “I kept wanting one more score in the second half. I wanted to make sure there was a point of emphasis for our football team that we got the 10th win.”

— Oh, Warner delivered the 10th win. Heck, Warner even delivered a 10-yard run. Who’s that, Chris Johnson I spy? Nope. Just Kurt.


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Kreider inactive, as is Steven Jackson UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2009 – 12:45 pm

The Cardinals’ inactive list has one surprise — fullback Dan Kreider, who wasn’t hurt so I can only guess right now is out for strategic purposes (Beanie and Hightower playing together?). There is a bigger surprise for the Rams: running back Steven Jackson won’t play, taking away the Rams’ one weapon. UPDATE: Kreider woke up with a stiff neck today and was held out of the game as a precaution.

For the Cards, tight end Ben Patrick and wide receiver Sean Morey are both out with concussions, meaning receiver Jerheme Urban and tight end Stephen Spach are active for the first time in a while. The rest of the inactives:

  • K Neil Rackers (groin)
  • QB Brian St. Pierre
  • S Hamza Abdullah
  • OL Herman Johnson

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Friday before the Panthers

Posted by Darren Urban on October 30, 2009 – 5:06 pm

Funny how the week seems to fly by when the team is playing well and the storylines are basically positive. And there’s no plane to climb aboard this week. OK, maybe it’s not funny. Just pleasant.

But enough chit-chat. I have a ton of stuff I haven’t been able to notebook/blog until now. So let’s get to it:

— The last time the Panthers came to Arizona, it was quite the result, if you don’t remember. It was 2007, and WarnerHurtCarolinaBlogMatt Leinart had just broken his collarbone the week before. The Cards wanted to sign Vinny Testaverde to back up Kurt Warner, but the Panthers, looking for a replacement for the injured Jake Delhomme, convinced Testaverde to go there instead – and he started despite being in Carolina all of three practices. The Cards signed Tim Rattay, and when Warner badly hurt his left elbow (pictured) on a Julius Peppers’ sack early in the game, Rattay – who also only had three practices – was forced to play. Eventually, Carolina pulled away late in a 25-10 win, a game the Cards always regretted after finishing 8-8.

— To think, Warner began his current 37-game starting streak that day and kept it up the very next week even though his elbow was scrambled and he had to play with a brace. That told me and a lot of people about Warner’s toughness (And no, before you all send e-mails or comments that I’m jinxing Warner, no I’m not. That’s simply a silly thought).

— Speaking of Warner, keeping him clean is the key, right? If he’s sacked two times or less, the Cards are 4-0 this season. More than twice, 0-2. For his career, those numbers are similar: 46-22 when sacked twice or less, 15-24 when sacked at least three times. His passing stats are also much better in the former than the latter. Yes, I know it’s kind of a “duh” stat. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be pointed out.

— Whisenhunt has been leaning toward taking the ball if the Cards win the toss this season rather than deferring. “How many times have we scored on the opening drive?” Whisenhunt said. “We would have had (Sunday) night too.” I agree. If Tim Hightower hadn’t fumbled in New York, I have no doubt the Cards would have gotten at least three points there.

— The last time the Cardinals (4-2 going into the Panthers’ game) started 5-2 in a season was 1976, when they were actually 5-1. They eventually ran their record to 8-2 before finishing the 14-game season with a 10-4 mark.

— One man who doesn’t get mentioned much is backup safety/special teamer Matt Ware, who was in a serious fight in training camp with two others – Aaron Francisco and Keith Lewis – for one roster spot. Whisenhunt specifically talked about him today, noting it was Ware who caused the fumble by Ahmad Bradshaw in the Giants’ game. “The arrow is going up with him,” Whisenhunt said.

— No, the Cardinals aren’t going to wear white-on-white this weekend, because they didn’t request it in the offseason (the last home game was planned because of the pink for breast cancer awareness). Had Whisenhunt been given a choice, knowing the Cards are 4-0 this season wearing white jerseys and knowing how superstitious he is, would he have? Heck yeah. “You know I’m aware of it, that’s for sure,” Whisenhunt said.

— A couple fans have asked me about dropped passes and the Cards. The bottom line, there haven’t been many, not officially. The Cardinals have been charged with only 10 dropped passes out of 175 catchable balls, and their 5.7 percentage is sixth-best in the NFL (The Bears, at 3.5 percent, are first; the Browns, at 17.3 percent drops, are last). Fullback Dan Kreider has two of the drops; running back Tim Hightower three. Fitz has been charged with one drop in 63 passes targeted his way. Anquan Boldin has two in 51 targets, Steve Breaston none in 32 and Jerheme Urban none in 23.

— I do say, in light of the fines announced today by the NFL, I did enjoy Darnell Dockett’s response to the Ahmad Bradshaw fine for hitting Dockett.

— The Cards could make an impact with a sudden score, given that the Panthers have had trouble in that area. Carolina, in six games, has given up five such touchdowns – one kickoff return, one punt return, one fumble return and two interception returns.

— I think Fitz could be due for a big game. Sure, the Panthers lead the league in pass defense, but they are dead last in the NFL in pass attempts against. That tends to help your yardage average. Teams run the ball against Carolina (Beanie?) and don’t need to pass as much. The Cards, with Hightower and Edgerrin James, had 145 yards rushing in the playoff game in Carolina. And something tells me that’s going to free Fitz deep.

— Speaking of Fitz, if you haven’t caught it already, Fox Sports Arizona is airing one more time his story on an episode of VIZIO’s Pro Football PROfiles tonight at 11 p.m.

— Finally, it’ll be interesting to see what the Panthers do to free up Steve Smith, who’s been a non-factor. The Pro Bowl receiver used to always torch the Cards, all the way up until the playoff game. “He’s got that big-guy mentality,” Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “He doesn’t fear anything.”

That’s probably true. But the Cards’ defense is playing so well right now. They handled Smith in the playoffs. Their run defense is prepared for DeAngelo Williams. Here’s hoping for another quick week around the Tempe office come Monday morning.

DRCSteveSmithBlog


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Friday before the Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on October 16, 2009 – 4:44 pm

Let the road trips begin.

It’s been nice mostly hanging around home since the regular season started, but now comes the flip side – three roadies in four weeks, five in seven, and seven in 10. But it’s a little goofy of me jumping that far ahead. Like coach Ken Whisenhunt said, his team operates better when they are just looking at the one game in front of them, and that’s the Seahawks in Seattle this week. So I’ll take that advice.

— We’ll start with Cardinals fullback Dan Kreider, who has spent a decade in the NFL, compared to his crazy rookie counterpart on the Seahawks, Owen Schmitt. Schmitt made all the highlights this past week for bashing his head with his own helmet before the game and cutting himself pretty good. Seahawks coach Jim Mora told Schmitt no more, admitting to us on a conference call “I didn’t know he really had that in his arsenal still” after seeing Schmitt do it in college.

Kreider saw it too. And he could only chuckle.

“We’re already meatheads enough playing this position,” Kreider said. “Then when you are cracking yourself in the head with your own helmet, I don’t know. That’s certifiable. Flat-out crazy. I don’t even know what to say, except that I hope it doesn’t link all of us (fullbacks) together.”

I’m guessing those who are concerned about concussions in NFL players – guys like Sean Morey – aren’t thrilled with the practice either. Kreider said he’s never really had to go crazy to get ready for a game, much less whack himself with his helmet.

“If anything, I’m one of those guys who needed to calm my nerves down, because I’d be throwing up in the bathroom or something,” Kreider said. “I can get amped up … doing that, I’m not sure what that proves.”

— Anquan Boldin had 13 catches in Seattle last season. If he gets 11 this week, he’ll surpass Larry Centers as the franchise’s all-time leader in catches with 536. I don’t expect the Seahawks to let Q and Fitz (who went 10 for 151 in Seattle last season) erupt again, but that can always leave room for someone else (Breaston? Beanie?)

— At some point, the Cards’ offense wants to be satisfied with a performance. I think they were definitely there against Jacksonville, but right now, that seems so long ago. “I’m not happy yet,” quarterback Kurt Warner said. “Until we start performing like we did in the first half last week (against the Texans) every time out, I’m not going to be happy.”

— Weather.com is calling for a 40 percent chance of rain Sunday, with a high of 59 degrees. Not terrible.

— Curious to see if tight end Ben Patrick can impact the game in any way. Whisenhunt said his status for Sunday will be a game-time decision, but my gut tells me they use him. To be isolated from a team that’s constantly working for five weeks and then come back to play after a few days of practice is fascinating to watch. But that’s what Patrick has to do.

— Key things to watch for: When the Cards are on offense, can they handle rookie Aaron Curry? Is he everything they said he was? And can the Cards protect Warner well enough? Because if Warner has time, I have little doubt he can have another great game. Defensively, the Cards must exploit the Seahawks’ inexperienced offensive line. They have to, both to possibly force turnovers and to get Matt Hasselbeck off his game.

— Key thing that’s tough to watch: Warner split wide (pictured below), like he did when Beanie Wells took the direct snap last week on one play. Just don’t get hurt, Kurt. Then again, I don’t think Dunta Robinson could have been less interested in what Warner did.

WarnerWRWildcatBlog

OK, that’s all folks. See you on the other side in Seattle, where it’s definitely supposed to be raining all Saturday.


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One possible 53

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2009 – 6:44 pm

In a couple of days, the Cards and coach Ken Whisenhunt will make their final decisions on an opening day roster (or close to it), trimming another 22 players from the current squad to 53. So that means I make my annual guesstimate on who is in, who is out, and who is truly on the bubble. This is never a foolproof thing; if there is a guy or two who pops available on the waiver wire the Cards want it changes the dynamics of what can happen, and that initial 22 can grow by a name or two to bring in newbies. That certainly happened on the practice squad last year, when the Cards went shopping for new names who weren’t around during training camp.

Again, this is my opinion, based on what I have seen and heard but still my opinion. And it doesn’t factor in what happens in Denver and if a guy wows a coach or two. Or if a guy gets hurt. It’s also just about the 53; for instance, undrafted rookie LB Reggie Walker doesn’t look like he will make the 53-man roster but he’s a guy who should end up on the practice squad. (Speaking of which, * will designate some PS candidates):

QUARTERBACKS
IN
Kurt Warner
Matt Leinart
Brian St. Pierre
OUT
Tyler Palko

WIDE RECEIVERS
IN

Larry Fitzgerald
Anquan Boldin
Steve Breaston
Jerheme Urban
Sean Morey
BUBBLE
Early Doucet
Lance Long*
OUT
Onrea Jones*
Ed Gant
Steve Sanders

RUNNING BACKS/FULLBACKS
IN

Tim Hightower
Beanie Wells
Jason Wright
Dan Kreider
BUBBLE
LaRod Stephens-Howling*
Tim Castille
OUT
Reagan Maui’a
Chris Vincent

TIGHT ENDS
IN

Stephen Spach
Ben Patrick (doesn’t count against the 53 during 4-game suspension)
BUBBLE
Anthony Becht
Leonard Pope
Dominique Byrd

OFFENSIVE LINE
IN

Lyle Sendlein
Reggie Wells
Mike Gandy
Levi Brown
Deuce Lutui
Brandon Keith
Herman Johnson
Melvin Fowler
BUBBLE
Oliver Ross
OUT
Elton Brown
Ben Claxton
Carlton Medder
Trevor Canfield*

DEFENSIVE LINE
IN
Darnell Dockett
Bryan Robinson
Calais Campbell
Kenny Iwebema
Gabe Watson
BUBBLE
Alan Branch
Keilen Dykes*
Rodney Leisle
OUT
Alex Field

LINEBACKERS
IN
Chike Okeafor
Bertrand Berry
Clark Haggans
Karlos Dansby
Gerald Hayes
Will Davis
Victor Hobson
BUBBLE
Ali Highsmith
OUT
Reggie Walker*
David Holloway*
Chase Bullock

CORNERBACKS/SAFETIES
IN
Adrian Wilson
Antrel Rolle
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Bryant McFadden
Greg Toler
Rashad Johnson
Aaron Francisco
Ralph Brown
BUBBLE
Matt Ware
Michael Adams
OUT
Jameel Dowling
Wilrey Fontenot*

SPECIALISTS
IN
Mike Leach
Neil Rackers
Ben Graham


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