Breaking down the roster

Posted by Darren Urban on January 4, 2011 – 12:27 pm

That change coach Ken Whisenhunt was talking about? It’ll come. How fast? That’s TBD.

“I wish we could do it all in a day, but it is not a quick fix,” Whisenhunt said. “You have to make sure that you do it within the constraints that are given to you and you do it the best you can.”

In the meantime, that leaves us to speculate and break down. As of now, the coaching staff remains intact and I have heard nothing yet to suggest otherwise. Will there be movement there? Usually, Whisenhunt has come out and said there will be no changes if there will be no changes. He didn’t say that yesterday, so the door is open. If anything does happen, I’d think it’d have to come in the next two or three days. I guess I’d be a little surprised if nothing happened given the outcome of the season, but not shocked.

As for the roster, I’ve broken down it all by player within positions right here. Included is each player’s contract status, and obviously, one of the first things you notice is the many players not under contract for next season — I count 29 all told, several of whom have played significant roles. One of the free agents, Jason Wright, talked yesterday about how talks have been slowed because of the CBA and how the Cards don’t know what the labor landscape will be going forward, making it harder to negotiate contracts right now. It’s not a unique situation, clearly; Panthers ownership came out today saying they are waiting to sign any of their own free agents until a labor deal is done.

The problem is that the labor deal might not be done for a few months. The free agency period might have to be a  very quick (Three weeks? Four weeks?) time frame late in the summer. There is no question until  that CBA is figured out (and when), it is a complicated offseason.

All that said, there are obvious players the Cards will have to look at at some point. Steve Breaston (pictured below), Deuce Lutui, Lyle Sendlein, Alan Branch, for example. And since there are players already under contract that seem to be long shots to return (thinking Anderson, Hayes, Porter off the top of my head), it puts the roster in an even greater state of flux.

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Hyphen, Patrick, Porter sit UPDATE Spach out

Posted by Darren Urban on January 2, 2011 – 12:43 pm

UPDATE: TE Stephen Spach hurt his left calf in warmups — after inactives came out — so he can’t play today. Jim Dray is the lone tight end. It’ll be interesting if long snapper Mike Leach gets a chance to play a little tight end today. It’s an injury that obviously hurts.

LaRod Stephens-Howling won’t get a chance to add to his NFL-leading kickoff return yardage today. He’s one of the Cards’ inactives, still nursing his hamstring injury after pre-game work showed it to be a no-go. Andre Roberts will return kicks in his place. And as expected, LB Joey Porter (tricep) will sit again, with O’Brien Schofield playing in his place. Tight end Ben Patrick (hamstring) is also sitting out after testing his leg out pre-game. The rest of the inactives:

  • QB Derek Anderson (third QB)
  • CB A.J. Jefferson
  • CB Marshay Green
  • LB Gerald Hayes
  • C Ben Claxton

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Friday before the Niners

Posted by Darren Urban on December 31, 2010 – 4:01 pm

No reason to draw this edition of “Friday before” out. It’s New Year’s Eve, you’re all waiting to bring in a new year tonight and I’m in the same boat. I suppose if this game was to crown the division champ that’d be something else, but it’s not.

As for the importance of winning this game in particular, well, I’ll let coach Ken Whisenhunt speak for the team.

“Some people want us to do bad so we will do better in the draft — I don’t know,” Whisenhunt said. “I think for a football team, for us, it’s important you finish well. That’s something we have made strides in doing. Just like in the ’07 season propelled us into the offseason, and the next year we went to the playoffs.

“I’m not saying that going to the playoffs or having a great season is tied into how we play this game. But I think there’s no question, winning the game against Dallas has been tremendous for us, our young players, our organization to show right mindset what we have to do it week in and week out.”

— The fact the 49ers are willing to start Alex Smith this week means to me that offensive coordinator Mike Johnson is calling the shots on that side of the ball. Smith was always the guy Johnson leaned toward to execute the offense he wanted to put out there after he replaced Jimmy Raye.

— Who said it: “It makes it difficult when you’re changing quarterbacks because you have to build that chemistry with your quarterback. You want to know the guy you’re going to be up with because at the end of the day, you’re going to have to be on the same page.”

Steve Breaston? Larry Fitzgerald? Try 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. Once again, underscoring the issues any team has when it doesn’t really know about its most important position.

— One final QB note for this game. Amazingly, the Cards-49ers meetings still can’t get a matching quarterback battle. Since the teams joined the same division in 2002, the last time both teams had the same quarterback start in both games during the season was 2003 (Blake v Garcia). This year, neither team can pull it off (Anderson v Troy Smith a month ago, Skelton v Alex Smith this Sunday).

— Now is when we talk possible retirements after the season. Safety Kerry Rhodes tweeted a strong hint today that defensive lineman Bryan Robinson will be done after the season, although B-Rob later told Kent Somers he hasn’t made a final decision yet. Guard Alan Faneca is mulling the end too and it’s something a lot of players pause to consider (although usually only briefly) as a rough season ends.

— Since the last three Cards-49ers games have been basically lousy, I’m hoping for something better Sunday. The 49ers beat up the Cards the last two games and that 2009 season opener – a SF win – was a testament to uneven opening-game play.

— With star linebacker Patrick Willis out, the Cards should benefit. Willis has been a pain to the Cards. Maybe Beanie and/or Hightower can go off.

— After failing to target Breaston and only throwing towards Fitzgerald three times last week, I expect John Skelton to switch that up. And frankly, I think that’s important for the Cards and both players. I don’t think Fitz can make two TD catches to avoid his career-low, but maybe he can get his first since Kansas City Nov. 21. He’s not going to get the 18 catches he needs to equal last years’ 97, but he can get 80 more yards to match his 2009 yardage total.

— It’s been a long year for everyone around the Cards. “I think we found our identity,” Faneca said, and then paused to consider. “It just didn’t translate.”

Unfortunately, no. Talk to you in San Francisco. Happy New Year everyone.

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Porter, Hyphen among inactives

Posted by Darren Urban on December 25, 2010 – 4:04 pm

As expected, linebacker Joey Porter (tricep) and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (hamstring) are both inactive tonight with their injuries, while Derek Anderson is set to be the third quarterback. O’Brien Schofield starts in Porter’s place, and it will be interesting to see if the Cards use more 4-3 looks tonight — Gabe Watson is active while Gerald Hayes and Curtis Gatewood join Porter as inactive linebackers. Andre Roberts will return kickoffs with The Hyphen out.

The rest of the inactive list:

  • CB A.J. Jefferson
  • CB Marshay Green
  • C Ben Claxton

As a reminder, the roof is open tonight as well.

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Christmas at home, and other stuff

Posted by Darren Urban on December 24, 2010 – 12:09 pm

Merry Christmas Eve from Cardinals-land:

Normally, the Cardinals spend the night before a game in a hotel, even home games. But not tonight. Not Christmas Eve.

“I feel it’s important, especially with the guys who have young children, that they spend Christmas morning with their families,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We are fortunate we don’t have to be on the road. There are so few times when you get a chance to spend Christmas morning home with your family in this profession that when you have a chance to do it, it’s the right thing to do.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that the holiday makes things easy with a game looming less than 24 hours away.

“It takes away from your study time,” Whisenhunt said, noting the team will come back for a night meeting at the facility this evening. “You hate to say Christmas is a distraction, but when you are working, that’s what it is. … With the number of mistakes we’ve made this year, you have to get in the books and study and try to eliminate those things.”

— It’s been a semi-popular topic of late — just where did wide receiver Stephen Williams go? He’s not inactive on game days, but there have been some DNP-coach’s decision on his resume. Honestly, it’s not a surprise, not when you are the fifth wideout (behind Fitz, Breaston, Doucet and Andre Roberts) and you don’t make an impact on special teams. Now that Early Doucet is on injured reserve, however, you figure Williams will get a little work these last two games — and he couldn’t be happier.

“It’s what I have been waiting for,” the undrafted rookie said. “I’ve been practicing good and making plays, it’s just that I’ve been doing it on the (practice) field with the guys, the media sees but not people on the outside. It’s kind of frustrating but you have to keep pushing through.”

Williams was one of the stars of training camp, and with early injuries to Doucet and Fitz, he was forced to play a lot early in the season. Then everyone got healthy, Roberts emerged after a rocky training camp and first month, and Williams was the odd man out.

“It’s  been hard, getting the feet wet, getting to play and then when all the guys returned it was like, ‘You’ve got to take a seat,’ ” Williams said. “Just got to wait my turn. Listen and learn.”

— Linebacker Joey Porter (tricep) did some limited work today, and his status for tomorrow will be a game-time decision. It was always going to be about whether Porter has enough strength to defend himself in a game; I’d still guess he’d take a one-game sit and then get ready for San Francisco (like Dockett did with his shoulder). LaRod Stephens-Howling sat and is doubtful. Whisenhunt said if The Hyphen did anything, it’ll be kick returns, but I am guessing that’s a long shot. Derek Anderson will dress, although whether he is second or third QB is still TBD, although “probably” he will be the third, Whiz said.

— Because of the Saturday’s game, this week’s “The Ken Whisenhunt Show” will air tonight at 10:35 on KPNX Ch. 12 (NBC)  following the late local news. Included will be the Larry Fitzgerald sit-down in which Fitz discusses the milestone catches in his career.

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Injuries, illness and stepping away

Posted by Darren Urban on December 23, 2010 – 2:00 pm

Linebacker Joey Porter (tricep) and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (hamstring) improved a bit and coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was encouraged by their efforts. “Whether that means they play Saturday, that’ll be tough,” Whisenhunt said. The players seem matter-of-fact about their situations — “Can’t do nothing about it,” Porter said — although with only two games left, there has to be optimism they can at least return for the San Francisco game, because otherwise, the team might just find another option and put them on injured reserve.

— Quarterback Derek Anderson and tight end Stephen Spach also were absent today because they were ill. But in the spirit of the season, Whisenhunt, while talking about Anderson, deadpanned “it wasn’t reported like Tom Brady was, when he was out with the flu, but it’s a similar situation.”

— Whisenhunt touched on the notion of giving some playcalling duties to passing game coordinator Mike Miller, saying it is a natural progression that will only continue to grow for Miller.

“There are a lot of things going on on game day you have to be on top of, and fortunately we have a number of good coaches on the staff to help with that,” Whisenhunt said. “I get a lot of personal satisfaction when you call good plays or call a game with good success. That’s part of what I have done successfully for a number of years and it’s hard to step away from that.”

— The next-to-last Big Red Rage is tonight. Adrian Wilson’s guest is kicker Jay Feely for the broadcast, which is live at 6 p.m. at Majerle’s Sports Grill at Chandler Fashion Center (give yourself time withe the traffic, if you plan on going). It will be aired live on Sports 620 KTAR (and also streamed live right here).

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Porter not done, Anderson returns, a sellout

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2010 – 2:11 pm

Turns out LB Joey Porter’s triceps injury is a strain and not a full tear as coach Ken Whisenhunt first feared. So Porter will rehab. He was out Wednesday and frankly, I will be surprised if he can make it back for Saturday, but the finale, perhaps. Whisenhunt said Porter already is feeling better, so who knows. LB O’Brien Schofield would get the chance to start in Porter’s place, an amazing turn of events considering where Schofield was earlier this season rehabbing from knee surgery. RB LaRod Stephens-Howling did pull a hamstring and sat Wednesday. Whisenhunt said he wasn’t sure The Hyphen will be back for Saturday either, but he’s not being ruled out.

Quarterback Derek Anderson was finally back on a limited basis, but Whisenhunt wouldn’t declare him the No. 2 before seeing how practice goes this week. Even if Anderson is healthy, I won’t be surprised if they keep Rich Bartel as the No. 2, so if a change has to be made, they can take a look at Bartel.

The game Saturday, by the way, is officially a sellout. It will be televised on NFL Network and, locally, also over the air on KUTP MY45/Ch. 9.

Finally — and I will flesh this out in my notes on the homepage in a bit — QB John Skelton won Valley fans over quickly by declaring that, even though he is from Texas, he has always rooted against the Cowboys. Maybe he was born to be a Cardinal.

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The day after, Porter hurting

Posted by Darren Urban on December 20, 2010 – 11:38 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt opens his Monday press conference touching on injuries, even though there is usually not a whole lot of new information on the guys we had already heard about Sunday — in this case, wide receiver Early Doucet (hip, but not related to the surgery he had earlier this season) and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (hamstring, the same one that was bothering him). Stephens-Howling’s injury probably isn’t serious.

But Whisenhunt also mentioned a triceps injury for linebacker Joey Porter, and it seems that usually, when Whisenhunt brings up a new injury (Porter’s injury wasn’t reported yesterday) it tends to skew serious. Whisenhunt said it could be, although he didn’t know yet since Porter is waiting to get an MRI. At this point, I guess it wouldn’t be shocking to see Porter be out the final two games. We will see.

— Quarterback John Skelton remains the starting quarterback, but at this point, that’s definitely not a surprise. Whisenhunt noted Skelton struggled yesterday, but that wasn’t a surprise for a rookie on the road for the first time. The Cards still don’t know about Derek Anderson this week anyway.

— Not that he discounted Tim Hightower’s fumble, but when I asked about if there was anything else to say, Whisenhunt said “That was a tough play. He was scrambling to get something and it was a big hit … it wasn’t a strip, the helmet hit the ball and it came out and fortunately Steve (Breaston) was there to pick it up. There wasn’t much you could say about it.”

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Anderson remains inactive

Posted by Darren Urban on December 19, 2010 – 9:30 am

Quarterback Derek Anderson (concussion) remains sidelined today, meaning the Cards will have just two QBs: Starter John Skelton and Richard Bartel. The rest of the inactive list looks familiar, including veteran linebacker Gerald Hayes on the bench:

  • WR Max Komar
  • CB A.J. Jefferson
  • S Hamza Abdullah
  • CB Marshay Green
  • C Ben Claxton
  • DT Gabe Watson

For the Panthers, cornerback Chris Gamble, who has fallen out of favor with coach John Fox, is inactive.

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Friday before the Panthers

Posted by Darren Urban on December 17, 2010 – 5:05 pm

We’re in the air on the way to Carolina for this edition of “Friday before.” Derek Anderson missed a second straight week of practices, so – barring something unforeseen – the Cardinals will have two QBs Sunday: John Skelton, and backup Richard Bartel.

So that leaves who as an emergency quarterback?

Coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn’t said. Maybe he’d rather not jinx it. But looking at the guys who could, wide receiver Early Doucet – who has played the spot from the wildcat position once or twice – seems like the guy.

“I think so,” Doucet said.

And what does he think about that? Like most non-quarterbacks, the idea of playing the spot in the NFL does bring a smile to his face.

“Obviously you want everyone to stay healthy but if that opportunity did present itself, I am confident enough and played the position all through high school and a couple times in college, so I don’t think it’d be something completely new,” Doucet said. “It would be fun, but at the same time I’d rather have the quarterbacks stay healthy.”

I think it’s safe to say the rest of the Cardinals are thinking the same.

— Speaking of quarterbacks …

I’m going to write on Donovan McNabb because, well, I have to. The news came down that not only is McNabb not starting for Washington, he’s not even the backup. Yikes. So obviously, he’s not going to be in Washington next season (unless the Redskins want to take this mess into 2011, which I can’t see why).

So everyone – again – wants to see him in Arizona. They try to connect the dots out there around the NFL. Here’s my non-Twitter take: It won’t happen. Will I say that 100 percent? No. The veteran list out there this offseason is very, very thin. The Cards still need one. But I will repeat what I have said many times: For the Cards to get him, it means two teams will have given up on McNabb in one year. If that isn’t a red flag, I’m not sure what is. The Cards haven’t had interest in chasing him before, and I don’t think that will change.

— It’s been quite the week for kicker Jay Feely, and deservedly so. Yet, as a kicker, he still was taking some good-natured shots this week. Why, I ask. Why? Here was Larry Fitzgerald talking about getting the offense going a little more: “We love for Jay Feely to get points but we need some touchdowns this week.” Then there was Panthers coach John Fox, who was asked in the conference call if he might, you know, scheme a little defense for our man Jay. “Our media ask me about that,” Fox said. “I told them, ‘No offense’ but I did giggle.”

— You want to see a cool interview, Paul Calvisi sat down with Fitz to watch some video of Fitz’s greatest catches after he broke the franchise record for catches. I got a sneak peek and it was worth the time. It’ll air on “Maximum Cardinals” Saturday on NBC (Ch. 12) at 4 p.m. If you miss it, it’ll be posted on the website Sunday.

— Strange note of the week: Fox is going to use music during Sunday’s broadcast of Cards-Panthers, as an experiment. According to the USA Today, it could include popular music, but this weekend will definitely have some original pieces. Kind of like a movie score, I’d guess. I’m a huge fan of movie scores, but not sure it’ll work in this setting. We’ll see. (Yes, the game will still have announcers).

— Loved this quote from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was praising Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith and saying he enjoyed going up against someone that good: “He’s a little angry guy and he’s going to give you 100 percent.”

DRC came out ahead the last time these two saw each other in Charlotte. And the cornerback did have one of his better games last week. Having him finish strong is important.

— OK, that’s long enough. See you on the other side. Or at least when we land (love in-flight internet).

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