“Players make it come to life”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 10, 2011 – 1:59 pm

During Super Bowl week, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was talking about why his defensive schemes were so successful. There were a few reasons, but LeBeau came back a couple of times to one in particular: “The players make it come to life.”

So as Ray Horton takes over as defensive coordinator, that’s the question: What players does he have in place to have his defense – which he clearly will pattern after LeBeau’s – work? He wasn’t real specific talking about the players yesterday (and that’s only fair, he had only begun to analyze what he had). He mentioned that technique and fundamentals got sloppy at the end of the season. That can happen, but that obviously has to change.

(For now, we won’t talk about the possible short time window of the offseason due to labor problems; if there is a work stoppage, Horton won’t be able to talk to the players until it’s over. “That’s my biggest challenge, getting information to the players in a short, concise amount of time.” But that’s a topic to be attacked on another day.)

Horton also said the system was going to be “very demanding” and “very precise.”

Here’s the key, and we have talked about this before: The good players have to play good (and yes, I just butchered the English language. Making a point here). If Horton can get Adrian Wilson and Calais Campbell and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Darnell Dockett to play at a consistently high level – which I still believe all are capable of doing – then the defense is already better without any moves. If Daryl Washington, Dan Williams and O’Brien Schofield make a jump because they got playing time, you have the same thing (although you still need more linebackers).

I’ve mentioned Horton may have an advantage as a former player communicating with these guys, and he agreed that helps. “It gives you some credibility that you have sat in the same chairs they’re in,” Horton said. “It helps until they say, ‘Why’d you call that?!?’ ”

In other words, there’s a lot more that goes into the equation than similar backgrounds. We know that. Again, the cliché is that “It’s more about the jimmys and joes than the x’s and o’s.” The players, as LeBeau said, make the defense come to life. So do the Cards have the players?

“That remains to be seen, every situation is different,” LeBeau said. “But whenever you can add a person to your organization that has the depth of experience at both levels – playing and coaching – that (Ray) has, and he has been a major contributor to our success in Pittsburgh … there is no reason why, those ideas he shared with us can’t be equally effective out there.”

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About DRC’s high-stepping …

Posted by Darren Urban on October 16, 2009 – 9:53 am

There is no question Hall of Famer Larry Wilson is a fan of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, as are most with the young cornerback. But as thrilling as DRC’s interception and subsequent return for a touchdown was last weekend against Houston, his high-stepping over the last 20 yards or so — at one point, it was hard to tell if Texans tight end Owen Daniels, thanks to DRC’s slowing with the leg kicks, might actually get to DRC and shove him out before the end zone — left some shaking their head. Including Wilson.

“If there was one thing I’d say, I’d like to see them remain profesional, make sure you get to the end zone before you celebrate,” said Wilson, who attended the game Sunday. “I stood up and yelled, ‘Run for gosh sakes! Run!’ ”

Coach Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged after the game he was concerned about the move and noted “We’ll have a discussion about that.”

The discussion has happened, DRC said. But in a lot of ways, the thing that creates the confidence in DRC is the same thing that allows the high-stepping to seep out in that situation.

“It’s the same thing,” DRC said of his confidence and how he reacts to a big play. “You want to showboat a little bit. Interceptions are hard to come by in this league and when you get your hands on one, you get that feeling. Those feelings and emotions came out of me having a bad, bad week before.”

So as far as DRC changing his habits?

“Coaches said something, but you know, as far as toning it down … it’s not looking very good,” DRC said. “That’s just not me.”


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DRC’s fractured finger

Posted by Darren Urban on October 1, 2009 – 12:02 pm

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said after the final practice of the week today that cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has a fracture in one of his fingers and it’s been immobilized, but Whisenhunt also said he doesn’t expect DRC to miss any games. “It was more a question of making sure he didn’t do something over the weekend to hurt it further,” Whisenhunt said.

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Campbell gets NFC special teams award

Posted by Darren Urban on September 22, 2009 – 3:53 pm

The Cardinals’ Calais Campbell was lamenting how many sacks he missed out on Sunday when he couldn’t quite tackle David Garrard a couple of times, but his key block of a field goal — that turned into Antrel Rolle’s game-changing 83-yard touchdown return — earned him the NFC special teams player of the week award.

Now Campbell just has to work on getting the defensive player of the week honor.

Three other Cards were nominated: QB Kurt Warner for offense, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for defense, and Rolle for special teams.

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Broncos aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 4, 2009 – 1:22 am

This aftermath comes directly from the final charter flight of the preseason, late night Thursday (and by the time it’s posted, it’ll be Friday, when everyone is sleeping). One thing coach Ken Whisenhunt said that seems perfectly rational – it’s so hard to judge the fourth preseason game, more than any of the other preseason matchups. The second half is littered with guys on both sides who either aren’t going to be on the roster when the season starts or will play little on offense or defense (if they are active at all). Is there reason to be concerned? Clearly, guys like Adrian Wilson, Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald didn’t seem particularly happy. Ultimately, though, it’s impossible to know what this all means until the 49ers visit in 10 days or so.

So, knowing what we know (or can’t really know, since it’s the fourth preseason game), here are some thoughts:

— Very interesting that Whisenhunt went out of his way to praise cornerback Michael Adams after the game. Ralph Brown and Bryant McFadden weren’t playing because of bad ankles, and, especially since Adams can be so effective as a gunner in punt coverage, I’m beginning to think he’s made this roster. You never know, but when you’re on the bubble and the coach is delivering specific kudos, that’s a good sign.

— On the flip side, it’s hard to see Lance Long having a chance to make the team. He has played a ton the past two games and yet it doesn’t seem like he has left enough of a lasting impression.

— All through the preseason, Warner has downplayed the offense’s issues, saying how good he felt despite the results. That seems to have changed to an extent. Warner knows what this offense can do, but he talked about not being on the same page and Whisenhunt talked about being out of sync. Some of that may do with the receivers; Steve Breaston was clearly rusty (he lined up wrong twice and was flagged for ‘covering up’ a lineman or tight end in an illegal formation) and Anquan Boldin isn’t playing. But Fitzgerald is fine and Warner couldn’t hook up with him a time or two. It’s hard not to remember how the offense sputtered a bit in the season opener against the 49ers last season despite a win and wonder if it could happen again.

— It’s impossible to know what the defense was or who was supposed to be where, but the lone big play given up by the starting defense came when the Chad Jackson got past Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The Cards need big things from DRC; you just hope his confidence is still where it needs to be. I’m sure he’s not looking at these past two games as résumé material.

That’s really it. Cuts come tomorrow, and as I said in my radio stint before Thursday’s game, I am willing to wager a good amount of money that won’t be it – and that the Cards will bring in a player or two cut from other teams by the time they get back to practice next week (OK, I wouldn’t really wager. Commissioner Goodell would frown upon that, and I’d lose my job. But you get what I mean.)


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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):

Kurt Warner
Matt Leinart
Brian St. Pierre
Tyler Palko


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


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


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


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

Darnell Dockett
Bryan Robinson
Calais Campbell
Kenny Iwebema
Gabe Watson
Alan Branch
Keilen Dykes*
Rodney Leisle
Alex Field

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

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

Mike Leach
Neil Rackers
Ben Graham

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The ups and downs of DRC

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2009 – 4:50 pm

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a talented, young player. That was evident last season. But right now, the cornerback is just that – talented and young. He has yet to reach a Pro Bowl, and while he seemingly knows what he has left to do, that doesn’t mean he is immune to games like he had against the Packers Friday. He was burned on a couple of deep passes – the 76-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson the worst-looking one, but there was also a 32-yard pass allowed to James Jones – and even on a good play, coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn’t doling kudos. DRC was on Donald Driver on an attempted bomb during the second play from scrimmage, and while he knocked it away, he should have had the interception – something Whisenhunt noted Monday. An interception there, the coach said, and the game may have changed because the Cards would have gotten a spark it desperately needed.

“I wouldn’t say he is freelancing, I would say he’s a young player that at times is undisciplined, and it is our job and our defensive leaders’ job to get on the same page,” Whisenhunt said. “He was disappointed in the way he played, embarrassed, and he worked in practice a lot better. We’ll see.”

For his part, DRC – using the phrase of the week, apparently – called it his “wake-up call.”

“That’s a ball I want thrown,” DRC said of the Nelson pass, “and it finally came, and I wasn’t prepared.

“It’s just another chapter. It’s all about preparation. I should have had a better week of practice, I had my ups and downs in practice, and it showed in the game. That’s what you learn from.”


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