Two Cards in a different top 100

Posted by Darren Urban on June 5, 2015 – 10:00 am

While the NFL Network continues to roll out its top 100 players — Calais Campbell and Larry Fitzgerald have been named, and I am assuming Patrick Peterson will find his way in there at some point — CBS’s Pete Prisco has put out his annual top 100 list. Two Cardinals make an appearance, the two you would think: Peterson and Campbell.

On Peterson (No. 39), Prisco writes “He started slowly last year, but we later found out he was dealing with a blood sugar issue. He came on strong and continues to be one of the better corners in the league. Watch him against Dez Bryant last year. You will see.”

That’s the plan from Peterson, who said soon after his season “I know what problems need to be fixed.” It wasn’t the year he wanted, but there is still certainly big belief in Peterson not only from himself but from his coaches and the Cardinals’ front office.

On Campbell (No. 44), Prisco writes “He doesn’t pile up big sack numbers in their scheme, but the personnel men and opposing offensive coaches know all about him. He is a good run player and he does have 16 sacks the past two seasons and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl last season.”

On a defensive line that will be about rotation, Campbell will be the star. He’s the guy who needs consistency of his often high level of play. Bruce Arians has made that point and Campbell understands where his coach is coming from.

— Apropos of nothing, I wanted to give a quick congrats to two men with Cardinals ties who have been named Arizona’s best this year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. The voice of the Cardinals, Dave Pasch, was named sportscaster of the year, while my competitor (and friend) Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic was named sportswriter of the year. Can’t speak for Pasch, but I know Kent is headed to beautiful Salisbury, North Carolina, this weekend for the banquet.



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Cards’ 24th pick could go a million different ways

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2015 – 3:08 pm

OK, maybe it couldn’t go a million different ways. A million is a lot. But the closer the draft gets, it’s clear no one really has a good handle on how the picks will play out — and thus, no one has a good handle on who might be there for the Cardinals when pick No. 24 arrives. There are a lot of reasons for that. You have guys that would be locks to be top 10 or top 15 picks if not for off-field problems (Shane Ray, Randy Gregory, Dorial Green-Beckham.) You have a quarterback — probably Marcus Mariota, if you subscribe to the idea that the Bucs take Jameis Winston — that could go No. 2 but certainly seems to be anything but a sure thing, opening up the possibilities of trades very early. You have a ton of wide receivers that are talented and who goes before whom may come down to a matter of preference. You have probably the best running back dealing with a little thing called an ACL rehab, changing his stock.

There could be some serious talent sitting there for the Cards at No. 24. It may have an injury red flag or, more likely, a character red flag of some sort. This team desperately needs a good pass rusher, but they probably don’t need another linebacker who gets suspended. They could use a running back, but the draft is so deep with them, would they pass in the first round even if a Gurley or Gordon were there? (I’ve always thought yes, but I’ve been wrong before.)

Then there was this from the Voice of the Cardinals, Dave Pasch:

Pass rusher is not a surprise, nor is cornerback. And Pasch and I (and Kyle Odegard) discussed the reality of looking offensive line a couple weeks ago. Steve Keim is still looking to solidify the group up front to turn them into a unit that can grind out a ground game (and keeping in mind RG Jonathan Cooper remains unproven and RT Bobby Massie is a free agent after the season.) So a tackle makes sense too.

But I guess I’d be surprised if a wide receiver were the pick. Then again, there are some significant game-breaking wideouts that can be had in this draft — it’s the strength of the 2015 class — and another playmaker that can catch/return is always welcome. This all also plays into the very real possibility of a trade-down-for-an-extra-pick scenario for Keim, something of which Keim loves to do. I know this, that picking at 24 can provide a surprise. Last year, the Cards didn’t shock by taking a safety, but I don’t think anyone saw Deone Bucannon ahead of time.

2015 NFL Draft

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Back in black, and a linkfest

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2012 – 1:08 pm

The Cardinals will wear their black uniforms Sunday against the Eagles, the first time this season. I’m not sure when the other black-uniform date will be or if there will be one, but teams can’t wear their alternate third jersey on national TV (which rules out the Monday night game against the 49ers) nor can they wear them after the flex scheduling starts after the Cardinals’ bye week Nov. 11. So that obviously narrows the choices. Feels like it might be the Bills?

Some other news and notes:

— The Cardinals’ win in New England was nominated for the GMC “Never Say Never” moment award for the week. It’s a fan-vote thing, so you can vote here.

— I had some fans asking about seeing video of the PatCat formation. So here you go.

— And for some entertaining audio, (no, I wasn’t referring to Cardinals Underground, although that’s pretty good too) here are Dave Pasch and Ron Wolfley in the final moments in New England.

— If you want to rub shoulders with all the Cardinals and even bowl a little, check out the upcoming Kingpin Challenge Oct. 8 held for Cardinals Charities. All the details are here.

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Wednesday before the Broncos

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2012 – 10:25 am

It’s an early entry for the “Before” version of the Broncos game, because later today I’ll put out my best guess at what the 53-man roster will look like on Friday. I know — I’m sure you are all waiting with bated breath. There isn’t much to say before the final preseason game. We can talk about the final 53 and fighting for spots, but there are only a couple of roster holes you figure are still being determined (and really, it might not even be that many.)

— I wouldn’t want to have a post without mentioning the quarterback decision. I had one of those crazy thoughts as I was drifting off to sleep last night, a “What if” – as in, “What if coach Ken Whisenhunt decided to announce his QB in the postgame presser after the Denver game?” It won’t happen, I know, but that’d be one heck of a way to do it. Instead, I expect a press conference Friday since final cuts have to be made that day. That makes sense as a time he could do it. (Maybe I’m just wishing and hoping so I get a weekend off.) Either way, the decision is coming, which is good. I’m sure everyone is tired of talking about it. I know I’m ready for it to be over.

— There are three areas where you really wonder if this game will determine some spots. One is reserve offensive line – specifically, whether draft picks Senio Kelemete and/or Nate Potter have shown enough to nudge out a veteran. Another is defensive back, where you have a lot of choices and not a ton of spots. The other is running back, where William Powell gets his shot to play early, and we see if that is enough to unseat Alfonso Smith for a place on the roster.

— Peyton Manning is not expected to play against the Cardinals Thursday night. But the Broncos do have another quarterback that will generate interest, with rookie Brock Osweiler slated to come in after starter Caleb Hanie.

— With Dave Pasch off to be ESPN’s voice for the first game of the rest of Penn State’s life, Paul Calvisi will team with Ron Wolfley for the TV broadcast tomorrow night on ABC 15. It’s like Cardinals Underground, without me.

— The Cards are taking part in a backpack drive again this year, collecting new or gently used backpacks for needy kids. The program benefits the “Hope Endures” organization. Backpacks can be dropped off at UoP Stadium gates before the Broncos game.

OK. I’m off to the annual Kickoff Luncheon with the team. I’ll opine on the roster later. The preseason is almost over.

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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2011 – 8:49 pm

Adrian Wilson was on the field and the Cardinals were about to use the victory/kneel-down formation at the end of Sunday’s game. But with Beanie Wells having a chance at history – to himself – the Cards took a delay of game and then Wells got his record-breaking run, a 14-yarder that put the exclamation point on a 228-yard day.

It was a fantastic show by Beanie, and a necessary one. The Cards need to get Kevin Kolb back on the field at quarterback, odd in some ways to say after John Skelton went 3-1 as a starter, but the passing offense has grinded to a halt. You don’t want to get anything confused – the Rams’ after all, do have the NFL’s worst run defense and have dealt with 200-yard rushers earlier this season, after Dallas’ DeMarco Murray ran for a league-high 253 yards – but Beanie played well and to match his career-high in carries with 27 speaks to fighting through his knee soreness.

— The Cards used a few more jumbo-type packages to just out-physical the Rams. Beanie looked comfortable doing those things. Now Wells just needs to hold up – he looked beat up the way he was walking around the locker room – and the Cards need to feed the Bean.

— Speaking of that knee, the way Beanie got twisted around in the fourth quarter looked ugly at first (and his lost fumble could have been disaster). But he broke off a 53-yard run the next time he got back in the game. And that led Larry Fitzgerald to tag Beanie with the Paul Pierce award.

“Past recipients have been Greg Toler (and) Eric Green,” Fitzgerald quipped. “I think Beanie is a candidate but we are glad to have him on the team.”

Pierce, of course, is the star of the NBA’s Boston Celtics who left a 2008 Finals game looking like he wrecked his knee horribly, only to return later in the game like nothing had happened. It’s all in good fun – Fitzgerald nabbed Green back after the Jets game in 2008, when Green came up lame after getting burned for a touchdown and Fitzgerald insisted his injury “changed” to a different part of the body after Green came to the sideline.

It was all in good fun, although after the ups and downs Wells has been through given his injury situations – and what outside people tend to see with Wells when he gets hurt – it was kinda close to home.

“You know what it goes to show you Beanie has grown up a little bit, a tough-minded guy,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That’s what you need. That’s what we have been striving to get Beanie to get to do for a couple years now. It’s great to see.”

— Beanie has a career-high 849 yards rushing already with five games remaining. He now has a career high in touchdowns too, with eight.

— It meant something that rookie fullback Anthony Sherman was in there blocking for Beanie. Sherman is good at his job already. Plus, Beanie seems to be the kind of back who likes having a lead back blocking for him.

— Fitz was quiet again (3 catches, 55 yards) but that’s what happens when the quarterback struggles so. “I am just happy to get a win honestly,” Fitzgerald said. “I would love to have 100 yards and a couple touchdowns, but I know that’s not going to happen every week.”

Fair. But the Cards need Fitz and more importantly, need to find a way to get him the ball. That’s probably been mentioned before.

— Sam Acho isn’t going to say much about himself. He doesn’t like to do it if he can help it, preferring to shower the entire team with praise. I asked him on the plane if he was going to be a little more forthcoming. Nope. “Go ahead and put me down for all the clichés,” he said. That’s fine. We will stick with simple analysis: Acho has been very impressive. He already has five sacks as a rookie, and he barely played defense before the seventh game of the season. Is he a Pro Bowler? No. Not even polished. But a very good start, and needed at that position.

— No, I don’t know if Sam Rosen will be calling any more games involving the Cardinals on Fox this season.

— Patrick Peterson said on the radio after the game he wants to get to six punt-return TDs this season. If he gets five, it’s a season for the ages as a special teamer. One at a time.

— Hope Rosen wouldn’t have to fill in for the Cards’ own radio play-by-play guy, Dave Pasch. Pasch’s neck was hurting enough before the game he had to get a shot from the trainers of the “blue juice” Ron Wolfley recalls so fondly from his playing days. To be honest, it was a little freaky how jacked up Wolf got with the idea Pasch had to take the needle. Pasch indeed gutted out the game. He’s officially probable for next Sunday against Dallas.

— Tight end Todd Heap finally played a full game, but ended up as only a blocker. He was not targeted for a pass (although Jeff King was three times as a tight end, catching two).

— The down side of Beanie’s two big runs: In six subsequent downs right after the 71- and 53-yarders, one after first-and-10 at the Rams 11-yard line and one after first-and-goal at the Rams 9, the Cards gained all of five yards (two runs for no gain, three incompletions, and a five-yard pass to Fitz). They had to kick two field goals.

That was on the mind of guard Daryn Colledge when it was suggested the Cards found something by leaning on the run Sunday. “We’re going to run the plays that are called,” Colledge said. “We’re not concerned if they are run or pass. We want production. That’s important coming out of this game: We need more production in the red zone.”

— Two wildcat playcalls this season with Peterson at QB. The first time, the Cards had to call timeout before the snap because of a formation problem. Sunday, Peterson fumbled the snap. Maybe next time we’ll actually see what Peterson is supposed to do.

— Skelton said his first interception was simply a bad read and he should have thrown it to the dump-down guy. His other high throws was an issue of trying to get it up and over underneath coverage. “It’s something I have to work on,” Skelton said.

That’s good for now. Game ball, Beanie.

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Friday before the Eagles

Posted by Darren Urban on November 11, 2011 – 4:59 pm

As we sit on this flight back to Philly for one final two-day trip of the season, it jogs the memory of the last trip to Philly – which was only one day. That’s because the game was at night. A Thursday night to be exact, Thanksgiving night, when the Cards were knocked around pretty good, 48-20, and everyone wondered just what the Cardinals were going to be able to do in the playoffs a month later.

It was 2008 of course, and while the Cards had trouble keeping it on the road in that stretch run, we all know what they did in the playoffs. And that was the last time the Cardinals played the Eagles as well, hosting them in the NFC Championship game when Tim Hightower worked the perfect screen pass for the go-ahead touchdown. Funny thing was, even though the Eagles dominated the Cards every which way in that regular-season game, I always thought the Cards would win the playoff game.

It was that kind of season.

This season is different. Both the Eagles and Cards are struggling. The best subplot of this game – Kevin Kolb’s return – probably won’t happen. Kolb is officially questionable, but he hasn’t practiced at all since the Friday before the Ravens game. Besides, with all the problems he has had on the field, I don’t know if you would want to put him in this maelstrom of drama if he wasn’t totally healthy.

Instead, the Cards are trying for an upset. No one seems to think the Cards have a chance, although if they do win, even with all their troubles, they’d have the same record as the Eagles. Who would have thought that a few weeks ago?

— No Kolb would leave John Skelton of course, and while he has gone 3-0 in his home starts, his two road starts were not so good last season. He struggled mightily against both the Panthers – who were so bad they had the No. 1 overall pick, even after beating the Cards – and the 49ers.

— Before we even get to Sunday, Cardinals play-by-play man Dave Pasch has a huge assignment – he has to call the Penn State-Nebraska game for ESPN. Pasch knew his assignment last Sunday, just when the Penn State scandal was beginning to come to light.

“It’s just being prepared for anything,” Pasch told the New York Daily News. “Who knows what’s going to happen from now until Saturday, let alone from kickoff until the end of the game?”

A big job, but Pasch is so good he’ll pull it off. One subplot is already off the table – Urban Meyer, normally the third man in the booth with Pasch and Chris Spielman, won’t be there after his father passed away this morning.

— How will the Cards defend Michael Vick? Someone actually asked defensive coordinator Ray Horton if he would change personnel just for Vick, a query that brought a chuckle from Horton. He wasn’t about to reveal state secrets. Besides, containing Vick isn’t easy regardless.

“You can spy him, you can account for him, but he is going to get out because he is so elusive and, unless you have played this guy … you see it on film and you think, ‘I can get there,’ ” Horton said. “And you don’t.”

— Cornerback Michael Adams, who was close with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, said DRC was hurt that the Cards traded him away. DRC seemed to echo such a sentiment talking with Philly reporters this week.

“I’ve got a bit of a chip on my shoulder since the Cardinals were the team that decided to trade me,” DRC said. But, he added, “I’m going to go out there and give it my all, like I do every week. I’m trying to treat this game like any other; I’m not going to let it affect my play. It’ll be nice to see some of my old teammates and friends, but at the end of the day it’s business.”

— If the Cardinals can keep it close, the Eagles can be had late – Philly has been outscored 60-24 in the fourth quarter.

— Of course, that only matters if the Cards keep it close. The first quarter is Arizona’s Achilles heel, getting outscored 48-23.

— A piece on says that Levi Brown is tied with the Rams’ Rodger Saffold for the most sacks allowed this season, with 8½. Obviously there is no true way to measure exactly what happens – the story acknowledges there are times when it is tough to tell, and there are times, for instance, when Kolb has dropped back so far he is out of the pocket. But everyone knows Brown needs to play better.

— The great under-the-radar news for the Cards: How much better running back Beanie Wells feels. Actually practicing full today means a lot, not only to Beanie but to this game. The Eagles can be run on (Matt Forte cracked 130 yards against them Monday) and it’s a crucial part of the Cards’ offense these days.

One last thing: My most memorable moment in Philly. No, it wasn’t Adrian Wilson crushing Donovan McNabb and breaking his ankle on the first series of the game, only to have McNabb play on it and throw four touchdown passes. No, this was the 2001 game, and going down on the field at Veterans’ Stadium and watching Jake Plummer hook up with MarTay Jenkins on an improbable Hail Mary-esque TD pass with 17 seconds left to beat the Eagles.

Man, I’ve never heard such a loud stadium get quiet so fast.

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