Bears aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2010 – 2:40 am

Life on the charter flight. I write this version of the Aftermath well after midnight Arizona time, sitting in the back of the plane as flight attendants Billi and Candice serve dinner and fullback Reagan Maui’a sits across from me, playing his ukulele at 30,000 feet.

But we must go on to the game. That’s what you’re here for.

— I don’t know exactly what Ken Whisenhunt was aiming for when he decided to start Derek Anderson this week over Matt Leinart, but whatever his intention, it worked. Both played well, and frankly, I don’t envy Whisenhunt’s decision going forward. Nothing was made easier Saturday night in the Chicago win, although Whiz was clearly feeling better about life than in the Tennessee game.

“I take my hat off to (the QBs),” running back Tim Hightower said. “A lot of people they can say whatever they want to about Matt, but he showed a lot. D.A., he played well, and when he had opportunities, he capitalized. But Matt came in and did his thing and he handled himself well.”

It was interesting that twice, Whisenhunt noted the quarterback choice will come down to chemistry with the team and how the QB handles things when he is in the fray – and that it won’t necessarily be about stats. Given that Leinart has completed 19-of-23 preseason passes and not turned it over, Whiz’s comments seem to pump the brakes on the idea Leinart could be the favorite. One of the issues swirling around Leinart for a while has been whether he is able to inspire the team.

“I don’t know what the decision will be made on,” Leinart said, smiling. “I feel like I have a great relationship with my guys, my team for four, five years now. Like I said, I can only control what I control, and that’s playing good football and being a leader. I have a great relationship with all my teammates and I don’t think it should be based on that because I feel like I am doing a good job in that department.”

— Arguably, the guy with the biggest stake in the quarterback position is Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. His thoughts on the QB controversy/competition? Fitz told this to ace beat man Kent Somers: “I’m just a hired hand, man. I’m just a pawn on the chess board.”

Something tells me Fitz has his opinions.

— Hightower ran the ball well (62 yards on eight carries). Beanie Wells didn’t have the greatest night. He gained 14 yards on eight carries, dropped a pass and, most crucial, fumbled the ball late in the second quarter inside the Bears’ 10-yard line when it looked like the Cards were going to drive for a TD. Replays seemed to show Beanie might have been down a split-second before losing control, but it wasn’t overturned, and Whisenhunt wasn’t happy considering Beanie’s fumbling issues as a rookie.

“That is something with Beanie we have made progress with and he obviously was criticized for not paying more attention to the ball there,” Whisenhunt said.

— Deuce Lutui logged significant time with the starting offensive line at right guard, although Reggie Wells started. Given all the talk about Anderson, Greg Toler and Daryl Washington moving into the starting lineup, you wonder if Deuce is next.

— All four guys who can play nose tackle – Bryan Robinson, Gabe Watson, Alan Branch and Dan Williams – logged time there by early in the second quarter. It’s beginning to look like the Cards could very well keep them all, and seven defensive linemen overall (Campbell, Dockett, Iwebema).

— Speaking of the defensive front, they again played well and sparked the overall good defensive night (four sacks and two picks of QB Jay Cutler and Mike Martz’s latest attempt to revive the Greatest Show on Turf, except on grass).

— I’m not sure Stephen Williams has had a bad day since training camp started. Anderson played well, but he owes a little something to the rookie receiver for coming up big in traffic.

— Awesome play to score your touchdown, Steve Breaston (pictured below). Oh, don’t ever leap like that in a preseason game again. Your legs looked like they were going to snap as you went up and over the goal line.

— QB Max Hall looked sharp at the end. And I’m beginning to think Max Komar will be the second rookie receiver to stick around, if they decide to keep six receivers. All he does is make plays. (UPDATE: Oops. Forgot Andre Roberts is a rookie. He will make it too).

— Offensive linemen David Moosman and Casey Knips haven’t gotten into a game yet. That doesn’t bode well with a cut of five coming Monday. And speaking of not boding well, the fact tight end Dominique Byrd didn’t play Saturday usually isn’t a good sign either.

Wow, I wrote a lot there. Might have to take Sunday off.

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On a chilly night at Coconino

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2010 – 9:42 pm

The Cards just finished up their last night practice of camp. The crowd at Coconino High School wasn’t as big as the first night practice. The intensity wasn’t quite at the same level either. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said at lunch what he wanted to see fewer mistakes and some plays made. There were plays made, mostly by the defense. Cornerback Marshay Green picked off Derek Anderson in the end zone to finish the practice. There were a handful of “sacks” too (remember, no tackling).

Wide receiver Max Komar stood out, and quarterback Max Hall did drill a 15-yard TD pass to tight end Dominique Byrd through defenders LB Chris Johnson and S Rashad Johnson, but for the most part it was a defensive night. Rookie John Skelton also  had a tough sequence, as he twice turned the opposite way of the running back in one drive, botching both handoffs.

LB Reggie Walker (hamstring) was back in uniform but limited. LB Will Davis sat out to “calm down” some right knee soreness. The rest of the injury list was short: WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee), TE Ben Patrick (knee), WR Early Doucet (abdomen), LB Gerald Hayes (PUP-back) and LB O’Brien Schofield (PUP-knee).

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Whiz talks Texans

Posted by Darren Urban on August 12, 2010 – 12:16 pm

There was no practice this morning (and sorry, I’ll miss the afternoon workout with my brother getting married). So there wasn’t any action to speak of as coach Ken Whisenhunt had his final talk with the media before the preseason opener against Houston.

— Whisenhunt committed to little as far as the game. The coaching staff will discuss quarterback playing time tonight between Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson. Whiz wants Anderson to get some time with the starting offensive line.

— The game will dictate if both the other two quarterbacks, John Skelton and Max Hall, get in the game.

— Among the spots Whisenhunt said he’ll specifically be watching were linebacker (not the veterans as much as the guys battling for playing time/roster spots like Cody Brown), cornerback (obviously), offensive line and some of the young receivers. From Leinart, he’d like production but seeing Leinart be assertive and handle the huddle are more important (and are intangibles that will be hard to see from the stands).

— Whisenhunt mentioned receiver health. While only tight end Dominique Byrd (hamstring) is a guy Whisenhunt specifically mentioned as possibly sitting out (see what I mean by not committing?) I don’t know if Ed Gant — who has a walking boot on his right foot — can go. And after missing some time with a sore knee, I’d guess they’d be careful with Steve Breaston even if he does play.

— RB Beanie Wells, I would guess, will be out there. “I was proud of Beanie,” Whisenhunt said. “I know he was sore and he did what he said he was going to do, show up and practice (with bad ribs). He is working like he is working to get as many reps as he can.”

— Whiz was asked about using Adrian Wilson more at linebacker given the unknown at the position. “It’s easy to say move Adrian down, but there are a lot of intricacies that come with that particular position that you don’t want it to detract from his play.”

— Whisenhunt said cornerback Trumaine McBride caught the coaches’ collective eye this offseason with how he works and his experience, starting some games in the NFL, helps his cause. That said, the Cards are looking hard at everyone at the position, not just for the vacant starting job but for spots in the sub-packages.

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Back from Canton, back to work

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2010 – 12:26 pm

The Cardinals returned to practice after the weekend off — and the coaches are back from Russ Grimm’s induction to Canton (although not Russ quite yet; he’ll be back this afternoon). Among the highlights this morning:

— One tight end returns (Anthony Becht) just as another goes down (Dominique Byrd — hamstring). Coach Ken Whisenhunt did say Ben Patrick (knee) is coming along faster than expected. We’ll see if that really will mean anything down the road.

— DRC did pick off Matt Leinart this morning, but probably held Steve Breaston a little (or a lot?). Call it the reverse Fitz push.

— CB Greg Toler had another interception this morning. It’s good that he’s made some plays. Tru McBride is still running with the ones (he was back from his groin injury) but Toler seems to be making a push forward.

— WR Stephen Williams was on display again, catching a TD on an end zone fade from Derek Anderson in 7-on-7 and then grabbing a 50-some yard TD bomb from John Skelton on a purposely underthrown pass later.

— Leinart was optimistic on the first-team offense so far: “I think he have showed a lot of what we can potentially be.”

— Asked if he knew who No. 14 was on the team — it’s Williams — Leinart smiled and said, “The Playmaker!”

— Whisenhunt said LB Paris Lenon has distanced himself from the other middle linebackers and has shown “a lot of leadership.” That’s a good sign at a position where the Cards need good signs.

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Williams, Grimm and Whiz

Posted by Darren Urban on August 3, 2010 – 12:37 pm

Not only did we get coach Ken Whisenhunt for a lunchtime presser today, but also Russ Grimm — the man is going into the Hall of Fame this weekend — and newcomer Dan Williams. Bits and pieces from all (although I will have Grimm and Williams stories up later today):

— Williams passed his conditioning test, although Whisenhunt said he was told by Justin Casey — the Cards’ front office man who drove Williams up to Flagstaff — the Williams must have brought up the test “at least 25 times” on the two-and-a-half hour ride. Williams was fine, and he weighed in at 325 pounds, which is actually a little lower than his max allowed weight.

— Grimm is set to leave after the night practice tomorrow to go to Canton for the Hall of Fame induction. He has to stay through the game Sunday night, so he will have to return next Monday. I’m sure he isn’t thrilled having to be gone that long, but duty calls, and you’re only inducted into the Hall of Fame once.

— Whisenhunt said he likes the work he has seen from fullback Nehemiah Broughton and fellow FB Charles Ali is in the mix, but the Cards are also using tight end Dominique Byrd in the backfield some and Whiz likes how that has looked. If Byrd can do well there, it would go a long way toward helping him stick on the roster.

— Whiz, asked about Brett Favre, you know, if Favre really is retiring, what his thoughts were. “We talked about this last year,” deadpanned Whisenhunt. The coach talked about how much respect he has for Favre, noting “I know (retirement) is a decision he has to make. This game and this league will miss him if he doesn’t play.” Whiz was then asked if that meant he was one of those out there that thinks Favre still hasn’t made up his mind. Quipped Whisenhunt, “Like I said, we had this conversation last year.”

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The Cards’ Trojans and radio daze

Posted by Darren Urban on July 16, 2010 – 8:42 am

I figured it was just a matter of time before someone caught up with Matt Leinart to ask him about the USC football sanctions, which cost the Trojans a bunch of victories and the 2005 National Championship trophy. As expected, Leinart said it didn’t change what the Trojans accomplished on the field and he feels bad for the current players, who are the most affected. “Everyone who knows football knows we won those games and we won the title. It’s unfortunate what happened and you move on from it but I just feel for the guys who are there now but they’ll move on from it,” Leinart said.

I remember thinking at the time the sanctions came down earlier this summer that it was probably fortunate the offseason workouts had just ended. The Cardinals are a gold mine of personnel from that USC team, from Leinart to tight end Dominique Byrd to guard Deuce Lutui. In fact, the day Lutui signed and I briefly ran into him, I asked about the sanctions. Let’s just say he mentioned his championship ring and dared anyone to try and take it away.

Apropos of nothing — except some Cardinal talk (and other stuff, I am sure) — I will be filling in for Gambo on Friday’s edition of Sports 620 KTAR’s Gambo and Ash show (620 AM, or, if you are at a computer or out of state, click here and go to the upper right “Live Sports Talk” button). With five hours on the air, I would guess there will be plenty of football discussed. Or you can call in and make sure we discuss a topic. (UPDATE: Duh. I suppose putting the time in would be good. It’s on from 1-6 p.m. Arizona time).

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For what it’s worth in June, offensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 15, 2010 – 6:55 pm

OK kids. Here is part two – The Final Chapter — of my starting lineup blog guesses. Today is the offense, after I offered up the defense yesterday. There seems to be less in flux on the offensive side of the ball, so these are my thoughts of who will be on the field when the Cards go against the Rams in St. Louis Sept. 12:

WR – Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz had a big year with touchdowns but his yardage shrunk. With Anquan Boldin gone, I’d expect Fitz to look for more of everything.

WR – Steve Breaston. Breaston has proven he can be a good receiver in this league. Assuming Early Doucet stays healthy, the Cardinals will still be in good shape at wideout.

FB – Nehemiah Broughton. The position is open, but the Cards liked what they saw from Broughton late last season once they signed him. They will need a bruiser to help in what is expected to be a more prominent run game.

RB – Tim Hightower. Ahh, the most “controversial” of the starting calls. Will I be shocked if Beanie Wells is starting in St. Louis? No. Could Hightower start Game One and then have Wells move in? Sure. Might they stay Hightower-Wells all season as last year? Yes. Have I mentioned before it doesn’t matter? I am feeling pretty good in saying Beanie will have more carries and be the leading rusher. The other details are window dressing.

TE – Ben Patrick. This is a hunch. They like how Anthony Becht blocks, and I believe Becht will again play a role. I think Patrick would have been in a better spot last season had he not been suspended to start the regular schedule. Patrick can catch, Becht can block. A better, pretty interesting question is whether Dominique Byrd, Stephen Spach or even Jim Dray can find a way into the mix. But that’s for a blog on another day.

LT – Levi Brown. Since the day he arrived, Levi said he felt better at left tackle. Now he gets his chance to show it. Along with more running – the part of the game he is better at – the Cards hope Brown really blossoms.

LG – Alan Faneca. I know coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t guarantee anything when Faneca signed, but he’s going to be in the lineup and he’s going to be at left guard. The guy has made nine straight Pro Bowls.

C – Lyle Sendlein. I don’t know if Rex Hadnot can slip in here, but Hadnot was playing guard this offseason with Ben Claxton running second team. Again, Sendlein has always been a favorite of Russ Grimm. I think that makes an impact.

RG – Deuce Lutui. Here is the upset pick (and remember, this is my gut – not necessarily because I know it to be true). Reggie Wells will have a good chance to hold on to this spot and Lutui must prove he is a) in decent shape and b) not too far behind after missing all the offseason work. But Lutui is a guy this team wants around long-term and someone they were pleased with the second half of the season.

RT – Brandon Keith. This is what they have been grooming Keith for the past two seasons. Herman Johnson may have a spot on the line in the future, but this is where they see if Keith is ready. Considering how little Keith has played, I think that confidence level is remarkably high.

QB – Matt Leinart. Derek Anderson may be sitting in the background (yes, I’m playing off the photo below) but this is Leinart’s job to lose and his team to lead. No reason to hash and re-hash everything we’ve already said. We’ll see what happens. But Leinart will get his chance to show what he can do after his Warner tutelage.

OK, that’s wraps it up. Catch you all in a couple weeks.

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OTAs resume with Two-Face

Posted by Darren Urban on May 25, 2010 – 1:23 pm

So the second week of OTAs opened today with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the sidelines. And that’s not even what grabbed your attention with DRC. No, it was his hairstyle, which once again seemed DRC-unique. He had shaved off half his hair. His beard remained, but half his skull was clean (as you can see below). “They call me Two-Face around here,” DRC said later. “They say they never know what you’re gonna get. So I wanted to give them a look.”

Batman did not attend the voluntary workout.

Some other things that happened:

— I thought tight end Dominique Byrd made a few nice plays today. Obviously he isn’t quite the blocker that the Cards might want at the position, but he definitely can catch the ball and he’s nifty after the catch. He snared a Derek Anderson bullet on one play that was particularly noticeable.

— Safety Kerry Rhodes made an interception on 7-on-7 (I didn’t see who threw it) but DRC, watching on the sideline, good-naturedly warned Rhodes not to celebrate too much. “They don’t count right now,” DRC bellowed.

— Anderson threw a nice bomb to Early Doucet, and Max Hall found Stephen Williams on a deep out pattern among the other passes I noticed.

— Speaking of Doucet, during wide receiver drills, he’d usually go first and then peel off to make a couple throws to his teammates during the same drill, giving special-teams coach Kevin Spencer — the normal “QB” for such drills — a break. “Q’s gone,” Doucet said with a smile, noting the absence of former receiver-who-once-was-a-college-QB Anquan Boldin. “I’m just letting them see my potential if they want to draw something up.” UPDATE: For some sights and sounds from receivers and a glimpse of a Doucet throw, check out today’s video here.

— A handful of players besides DRC were sidelined with various dings, including linebacker Gerald Hayes (back), who was absent last week.

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Cards bring back Byrd

Posted by Darren Urban on January 21, 2010 – 2:02 pm

The Cardinals signed five more players to “future” contracts (which just means they don’t officially kick in until the end of the season), including tight end Dominique Byrd — who actually was on the roster this season, inactive for the first 10 games before being released Nov. 24. The Cards are also bringing back fullback Reagan Maui’a, the “Juggernaut” (there’s a little language at the end of the video, FYI) who was with the team in the preseason, along with cornerback Trumaine McBride, safety Herana-Daze Jones and defensive lineman Dean Muhtadi.

McBride isn’t big (5-foot-9) but the former Bear did start nine games in 2007. Jones (whose first name is pronounced “Hernandez”) has played in 30 games since 2006 with the Bengals, Broncos, Patriots and Saints. Muhtadi was an undrafted rookie at Green Bay’s camp this past season.

It’s intriguing that the Cards still want to look at Byrd. He definitely has receiving skills although his blocking isn’t where the Cards would like it. The team will need another tight end going into the offseason, but the future is up in the air for Anthony Becht. Becht is not only a free agent, but it’s possible he’s looking at retiring after a decade in the NFL. Byrd already had shown enough to the Cards for them to keep him half a season.

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Beisel comes back, Byrd cut

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2009 – 1:59 pm

Searching for depth at linebacker – especially after Gerald Hayes and Chike Okeafor missing games with back problems and having the inexperienced Reggie Walker and Ali Highsmith on the roster – the Cardinals brought back veteran Monty Beisel today. The Cards wanted Beisel when his contract expired after last season , but Beisel instead followed Todd Haley to Kansas City. Then Beisel was cut after just three games and has been searching for a job since. He had been in contact with the Cardinals in an attempt to come back since then.

To make room on the roster, the Cards decided they couldn’t hang on to four tight ends any longer. They released Dominique Byrd, who had yet to appear active in a regular-season game this season. With Anthony Becht and Ben Patrick taking hold of the two tight end spots on game day and Stephen Spach a more accomplished blocker than Byrd, Byrd was the odd man out.

The Cardinals also brought back a couple of familiar faces to the practice squad: linebacker Pago Togafau and defensive end Jason Banks. Both Banks and Togafau were injured during training camp and eventually received injury settlements. They take the place of FB Jed Collins and DT Antoine Holmes, who were released from the practice squad.

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