Steelers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 23, 2011 – 7:04 pm

Coach Ken Whisenhunt opened his press conference like this: “I don’t have a lot to say.” I think I need to steal the line.

What else is there after Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh? There were moments where you thought, “OK, maybe here.” Then they disappeared. You hope Kevin Kolb can connect on a couple of those throws – it’s hard to believe that play down the middle to Rob Housler was open again to no avail. You hope the defense can come up with a stop, or at least hold the Steelers to a field goal after LaRod Stephens-Howling electrified the stadium with his 73-yard touchdown reception.

It could have made a difference but the plays aren’t made and that’s what happens with a team that’s reeling. The plays aren’t made. What’s next? A trip to Baltimore, that’s what is next. The Cardinals have to play a lot better than this on a trip like that.

— The health of running back Beanie Wells will be under the spotlight. He left, walking under his own power, with what was called a right knee sprain late in the first half. Whisenhunt said he didn’t know what that meant in terms of time, and my early guesstimate is that we’re not going to know so the Ravens will be guessing all week. Obviously, the Cardinals need a healthy Wells badly.

— The inability to sustain some momentum just keeps coming back to bite the Cards. With the Cards trailing 7-0, the place exploded when Kolb hit Larry Fitzgerald for a 31-yard gain out to the Arizona 41-yard line, and then rookie fullback Anthony Sherman made a beautiful snare over the middle for a 15-yard gain. The Cards even got a pass interference call against Pittsburgh a couple plays later. But the drive then stalled with a loss on a Beanie run, an incompletion and a sack.

— You have to be wary and make the plays, but man, is Mike Wallace fast.

— The defense has to come up with rebound stops – the possessions by the other team after an Arizona score. With less than two minutes left in the first half, the Steelers managed to get a field goal after the Cards got their first touchdown. And of course, there was the TD drive after Stephens-Howling’s TD.

— Cards had some NFL firsts Sunday. Linebacker Sam Acho had his first sack, running back Alfonso Smith his first touchdown, receiver DeMarco Sampson his first catch.

— Stephens-Howling took out a couple of kickoffs that were pretty deep, and the Cards ended up without the greatest field position, because the Steelers had good coverage. Stephens-Howling said he did ask special teams coach Kevin Spencer if he should change things up, but Spencer said to keep doing what he was doing.

— Whisenhunt repeated again the looking at “what we do and who we’re doing it with” line. I know everyone – or many, at least – are wondering about Kolb. I don’t expect a change. If nothing else, you want to find out about him this year, and the season is only six games old. My guess, though, is that the quarterback is going to be a bigger and bigger story — if he isn’t already.

I’m trying to come up with a good walkoff line. No dice. Not after this one today.

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Washington questionable; Butler out

Posted by Darren Urban on September 16, 2011 – 12:41 pm

Linebacker Daryl Washington (calf) missed practice for a third straight day but he is listed as questionable for Sunday. Same goes for running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (hand) and wide receiver DeMarco Sampson (hamstring), who missed practice but are questionable.

The only two players already out are tight end Jim Dray (pectoral) and cornerback Crezdon Butler (ankle), who hurt himself in practice Thursday and it could be serious.

Everyone else is healthy enough to play, including linebacker Joey Porter (knee) and punter Dave Zastudil (calf).

And with that, it’s time to head downstairs and hop on the bus. Time to fly to D.C.

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3’s a charm for A-Dub as Cards return

Posted by Darren Urban on September 5, 2011 – 1:27 pm

On Labor Day, the Cardinals were out laboring as usual. The group was much smaller thanks to cuts — it was the first practice with less than 80 guys. That was one thing notable. (The other thing was safety Adrian Wilson changing up his practice jersey number again. This time, it was the No. 3. I was thinking maybe, because he has three kids? Nope. “I’m the third-best safety of this generation,” he said. “I’ve got to do better.” I’m guessing he was referencing Polomalu and Reed? Not sure. Regardless, he finds ways to find haters — that drives him.)

During the early open portion of practice, almost everyone who had been banged up had a helmet and looked ready to go back into the fray — QB John Skelton (ankle), CB Michael Adams (knee), WR DeMarco Sampson (hamstring), TE Rob Housler (groin). The only one who didn’t look like he’d be doing much was tight end Jim Dray (pec strain) but it’s early. We will get a sense of where everyone is Wednesday with the first injury report.

The Cards didn’t have new running back Chester Taylor yet; all the new arrivals were busy getting physicals and taking care of paperwork, so they won’t practice until Wednesday.

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Smith, Housler in, Skelton, Sampson out

Posted by Darren Urban on September 1, 2011 – 5:31 pm

For the final preseason game, running back Alfonso Smith, who had been nursing a sore hamstring, will play tonight against Denver. Tight end Rob Housler (groin) will be available too.

Quarterback John Skelton (ankle) and wide receiver DeMarco Sampson (hamstring) will not. Skelton’s absence should mean playing time for newcomer Brodie Croyle.

Obviously, safety Adrian Wilson (biceps tear) and cornerback Michael Adams (knee) are still out. Adams said last week he is aiming to return to practice Monday so he can be ready for the opener, while we all know how badly Wilson would like to come back and be ready for Sept. 11.

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Some playing time for starters in the 4th

Posted by Darren Urban on August 30, 2011 – 10:55 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said, in the final presser before the fourth preseason game (and in the final presser  before final cuts) that he wants to get his starters at least some playing time. It could even be more than a “normal” fourth game. But how much is TBD.

“I want them to get a little bit of work just because they haven’t played together much,” Whisenhunt said. “It’ll be more of a feel thing. I don’t think we will have a set number of plays.”

Whiz did say, because of the lockout and the lack of an offseason, he could play different guys “a little bit longer.” He does want to make sure no key guys get hurt. As for the rest of the roster, Whiz turned to a fellow coach for what exactly he was looking for from the rest of the roster.

“I heard something (Patriots) coach (Bill) Belichick said,” Whisenhunt said. “It’s exactly right. That’s ‘More information.’ We have a number of spots players are competing for, and last week, a lot of guys didn’t get a number of reps because we were trying to get the first team reps and give them a shot to make the team.”

Whisenhunt only ruled out safety Adrian Wilson (biceps) from playing, although I don’t expect cornerback Michael Adams (knee) out there either. The other key guys banged up — QB John Skelton (ankle), WR DeMarco Sampson (hamstring), RB Alfonso Smith (hamstring) and tight end Rob Housler (groin) — are wait and see. Smith and Housler got in some work Tuesday, and both of them could definitely use the work, especially Smith, who is trying to prove he can be the third running back.

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Housler, Sampson sitting vs. San Diego

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2011 – 5:35 pm

Tight end Rob Housler (groin) and wide receiver DeMarco Sampson (hamstring), a pair of rookies who have impressed early, will not play tonight in the third preseason game against San Diego. Both got hurt during practice this past week. Quarterback John Skelton (ankle) also is sitting out, setting the stage for Rich Bartel to be the backup and possible playing time for newcomer Brodie Croyle.

Linebacker Brandon Sharpe (hamstring), safety Adrian Wilson (biceps) and cornerback Michael Adams (knee) are also sitting out for the Cards.

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And that’s all she wrote

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2011 – 11:10 am

Another training camp over.

I know the weather here is much nicer than down in the Valley right now, but I know I am ready to go home and you know all the players and coaches are too. Time to get back into a normal routine. Coach Ken Whisenhunt wouldn’t rule out anyone for Saturday’s game save for cornerback Michael Adams (knee), although he acknowledged quarterback John Skelton (ankle) was unlikely to go (and Adrian Wilson, of course, won’t be out there.) There are some question marks. Rookie receiver DeMarco Sampson tweaked his hamstring Wednesday and sat out Thursday. Tight end Rob Housler (groin) is getting better but he missed a second straight day.

Whiz said the last practice was “better than I expected.” No short-timers disease.

— It seemed like cornerback Patrick Peterson had a pretty good practice today. That’s always a good sign. If he can make an early impact, that would aid this defense so much.

— The players I’ll remember most from this camp? I thought rookie NT David Carter and Sampson both performed better than expected. Kevin Kolb is a work-in-progress, but he’s shown plenty to make this year’s quarterback situation so much more enjoyable to unfold. Backup Rich Bartel has impressed me too. And of course, Larry Fitzgerald continues to wow every day.

— Whisenhunt isn’t concerned about going to practice in the heat. “You know what? We’ve faced heat every year. It’s hot. We know that. We will do what we can to make it work.” Whisenhunt talked about having the giant fans and tents at the facility as usual and “potentially” using ASU’s practice dome.

OK, that’s enough. See ya, Flagstaff.

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Packers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2011 – 11:43 pm

It’s very late and the trip to the airport comes very early. So we will make this aftermath brief. At least, that’s the plan as I start.

–What can you really say about the injury to running back Ryan Williams? Horrible. I’ve written it and everyone has said it: There was definitely excitement watching this kid in practice. I really wanted to see him and what he could bring to the table. Now, barring a miracle, there is going to be a long rehab process and a lot of questions about the future.

“We were all excited about him and we saw the stuff he had done in the game and the stuff he had done in practice and the kind of kid he is,” quarterback Kevin Kolb said. “It is a little bit frustrating as an athlete. It doesn’t matter whether he was in green-and-yellow or our colors.”

— What next at running back. Well, the Cards will look at players, and, at least body-wise, I won’t be shocked to see them sign someone. But I like what little I have seen from fourth-stringer Alfonso Smith — the man is very fast — and with the success of so many undrafted running backs, he may just get a shot to team up with Beanie and the Hyphen. If they don’t want to go that route, I could see them waiting until teams make final cuts and see who is out there. I don’t see them chasing some old “name.”

— Beanie really, really has to stay healthy now.

— Somehow, it’s funny to see this tweet from cornerback Patrick Peterson, knowing it is coming from 30,000 feet in the air on the flight home: “The back shoulder fade is a MOTHER!!!!” Welcome to the NFL, PP. A 20-yard score from Rodgers-to-Jennings. You may be the best player coming out in the 2011 draft, but you are still a rookie, and that duo has burned so many cornerbacks already in the league. You live, you learn.

— OK, not a surprise, but seriously, are you kidding me?

— Quarterback Rich Bartel should have led the Cards to a chance to tie the game late. His end-zone interception was forced, which obviously he knew. Worse, he had rookie wideout DeMarco Sampson wide open over the middle when that play began to break down. Take your six or seven yards and live to fight another day.

— It got lost with a few false starts, but I think the offensive line has held up pretty well in pass protection for Kolb and created some room for Beanie (who ran over a couple people tonight too). You can’t have the penalties period. But decent-with-penalties, for the second game of the preseason, is better than the alternative.

— Wide receiver Stephen Williams made a nice touchdown catch. But he also dropped a couple he needs to make, and he probably could have blocked a little better. These are the things that make a difference when you are trying to decide who makes the roster.

— Darnell Dockett played really well. Don’t know if it was the fact it was the Pack or not, but he was a beast.

That’s enough for now. Someone asked me yesterday what I was looking for in this game. I wanted a steady Kolb — he was OK, although he missed a couple of throws. I wanted the pass rush to pop — and I think it did.  And I wanted no injuries.


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A night at Coconino

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2011 – 11:31 pm

The Cardinals held their one night practice of camp at Coconino High School. It was a little different than the ones of last season. With only a few days before the next preseason game, coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t do a live goal line session at the end. In fact, there was no tackling. The practice ended with a series of plays starting at the 10-yard line with first-and-goal, but it was tough to tell exactly what would have happened — linebacker Clark Haggans was particularly vocal in protesting where the ball was spotted.

— Linebacker Joey Porter was sitting out on a veteran’s day off. O’Brien Schofield is next on the depth chart behind Porter at ROLB, but it was rookie Sam Acho who was in Porter’s place Tuesday night. Interesting. Schofield is the guy who needs to make the big step forward as pass rusher this season. Although it might have been just to balance out the position — with Will Davis a LOLB, the Cards could go Acho-Schofield at ROLB and Haggans-Davis at LOLB.

— Tight end Stephen Spach (calf) and offensive lineman D.J. Young (knee) were also sitting out. So too was guard Deuce Lutui, for what I would expect to be a continuing conditioning issue.

— Cornerback Greg Toler made a nice interception in front of Larry Fitzgerald at the goal line, ripping the ball away from Fitz. (Fitz did make a spectacular Willie Mays-style over-the-head grab earlier in the practice, but really, that’s no surprise, not the way he makes the spectacular routine.)

— Wide receiver Isaiah Williams made a fantastic touchdown catch from John Skelton, making the grab in the back of the end zone just over the outstretched hand of cornerback Richard Marshall. Williams, who scored the game-winning touchdown in Oakland, has looked good in camp — one of many receivers that have shown well.

— One of those receivers, rookie DeMarco Sampson, pulled down a deep pass early in the practice despite good coverage by cornerback Marshay Green. Sampson needs to continue his work but he’s got a real shot to make this roster.

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Whiz talks about developing receivers

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2011 – 4:47 pm

The subject of wide receivers came up again today with coach Ken Whisenhunt. Obviously this has been a constant topic during camp, although it’s been clear the Cards want to look at their young receivers and have faith in them. In fact, if there was any uncertainty of that, the idea that veteran Chansi Stuckey might have a hard time making this team with Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, Stephen Williams and right now, Max Komar and rookie DeMarco Sampson ahead of him speaks loudly to the situation.

Whisenhunt also spoke bluntly about it too.

“We ask our receivers to do so many different roles, and just to have guys that you can believe in to do it, that’s the purpose of building a team is,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s why you draft guys, that’s why you develop guys. At some point, they have to step in and play.

“It would be kind of counterproductive if we didn’t continue to try and bring in (young) receivers and develop them. I don’t understand what people think from the outside about how you build your football team. You don’t just go and get a receiver in free agency (every time) when you lose one. At some point, you’ve got to have young players that step in and play well.”

Whisenhunt pointed out Steve Breaston as an example of a receiver who showed promise in practice and the Cards leaned on him.

“At some point you have to put guys in the game and see if they can do it,” Whisenhunt said. “I have seen Andre make plays in games, I have seen Early make plays, Stephen Williams make plays. It’s not like it’s a complete unknown entity. Isaiah Williams (pictured below scoring against Oakland) has looked good, and I think we all know about Sampson and how he has performed. Everybody wants to beat the drum about a second receiver. I think we have some young receivers that I would like to see what they can do.”

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