Less Dockett means more Dockett?

Posted by Darren Urban on March 23, 2011 – 11:34 am

A little earlier today, Darnell Dockett tweeted out this message to the world: “ONE of my weakness is I have to rotate EARLY in the game! I feel like I can’t come out but watching this film its to my advantage that I do!” It’s an interesting self-evaluation by the Pro Bowl defensive lineman, and one that speaks to the importance of depth.

While Dockett did make the Pro Bowl as an alternate, there is little question is impact was not as great in 2010 as it had been in 2009 (Dockett still had five sacks, five quarterback pressures, 11 quarterback hits and three fumble recoveries this past season). When you have a high-end player, you’d rather have him out there. And Dockett isn’t the kind of guy who wants to sit either, something I am sure probably was ramped up even more after he signed his large contract extension.

But if he can rotate out more early in games, that could make a difference late in games. Again, depth will be a factor — as of now, defensive linemen Bryan Robinson, Gabe Watson, Kenny Iwebema and Alan Branch are not under contract for 2011 — but shuffling Dockett is a good idea. The fact it came from Dockett himself might even be more important. The self-awareness to see weaknesses is always a good thing.

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The RFA tender offers

Posted by Darren Urban on March 4, 2011 – 2:15 pm

I know there are many wondering exactly which players were tendered restricted free agent contracts for the Cardinals, so here is that list:

  • RB Tim Hightower
  • WR Early Doucet
  • G Deuce Lutui
  • WR Steve Breaston
  • DL Alan Branch
  • C Lyle Sendlein
  • T Brandon Keith

Some quick thoughts on these. These were clearly done — not surprisingly — based on the 2010 rules that it takes six accrued seasons to reach unrestricted free-agent status. Conventional wisdom is that the new CBA will again call for four years to reach UFA status, which in the Cards’ case would mean the tenders wouldn’t matter to Lutui, Breaston, Branch or Sendlein — all would be unrestricted.

It’s also notable (although not a shock, given how much he was inactive) that the Cards declined to tender NT Gabe Watson, who would be in the same boat as Lutui, for example, after playing five seasons. TE Ben Patrick also could have been in that vein, although again, that doesn’t absolutely rule out a return. It just means the Cards weren’t willing to lock them into a high salary. Same goes for TE Stephen Spach and DE Kenny Iwebema, among others.

The level of each tender offer was not available.

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Who is expiring?

Posted by Darren Urban on March 3, 2011 – 2:53 pm

Regardless of the status of the CBA, the Cardinals have a chunk of players whose contracts will expire whenever the league year ends. What that means for free agency is uncertain because the CBA will address those rules. But as an FYI, here is a list of the current Cardinals who will have their contract run out this offseason. If a player has an asterisk, he has at least four accrued seasons in the NFL:

  • FB Nehemiah Broughton
  • RB Tim Hightower
  • FB Reagan Maui’a
  • RB Jason Wright*
  • WR Max Komar
  • WR Steve Breaston*
  • WR Early Doucet
  • TE Ben Patrick
  • TE Stephen Spach
  • T D’Anthony Batiste
  • C Ben Claxton
  • G Alan Faneca*
  • T Brandon Keith
  • G Deuce Lutui*
  • C Lyle Sendlein*
  • DL Alan Branch*
  • DL Keilen Dykes
  • DE Kenny Iwebema
  • DL Bryan Robinson*
  • DT Gabe Watson*
  • LB Curtis Gatewood
  • LB Cyril Obiozor
  • LB Reggie Walker
  • S Hamza Abdullah
  • CB Michael Adams
  • CB Trumaine McBride
  • S Matt Ware*
  • P Ben Graham*

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The flip of 43 and 34

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2010 – 3:35 pm

The Cardinals have used more of the four down linemen look the past two games in an effort to slow opposing running attacks and, more importantly, to make up for injuries at linebacker. This has caused more than a few of you out there to wonder/inquire about/insist the Cardinals switch from a 3-4 base defense to a 4-3.

I have mentioned before it wasn’t going to happen, but since coach Ken Whisenhunt talked about it today: “As far as making a wholesale change, that’s not something I even want to consider right now.”

The Cardinals have never abandoned using 4-3 looks, and the defense has been a bit of a hybrid since Whisenhunt arrived. The 3-4 bent has become more pronounced as the years went on, in large part because the Cards have made the effort to bring in players that fit that scheme better. That’s precisely why nothing will change. It’s easy to look at defensive linemen like Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Alan Branch, Gabe Watson, Dan Williams and Bryan Robinson and think the better players right now are on the line than linebacker.

In fact, that’s the main reason why the Cards have used more 4-3 recently, because the injuries at linebacker have sapped any depth. Will Davis, Clark Haggans and Joey Porter — three of the top six ‘backers — have been significantly banged up (or in Davis’ case, sidelined for good). Davis and O’Brien Schofield, despite being college defensive ends, couldn’t be that in the NFL (too small) and their use as a linebacker would be significantly minimized in a 4-3 scheme.

On the line, Whisenhunt said Williams could operate as a 4-3 DT and the others could adapt. But Williams is probably better suited to be a nose in 3-4. Campbell probably works better as a 3-4 end than a 4-3 end, and even Dockett seems to fit better in a 3-4 than an undersized 4-3 DT. (There’s also depth to consider; Branch, Watson and Robinson are all free agents after this season). Going forward, the Cards see their personnel as a 3-4 fit.


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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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Gerald Hayes, Derek Anderson both inactive

Posted by Darren Urban on December 12, 2010 – 12:46 pm

The Cardinals have put on the inactive list, and it carries one slight surprise: linebacker Gerald Hayes is out as a “healthy scratch.” So my thought Friday that Daryl Washington would get more defensive work comes true in a big way. Hayes has struggled of late, so I am sure they want to get Washington’s speed on the field. Quarterback Derek Anderson is also inactive (and not the third quarterback) due to concussion symptoms. So the Cards have just two QBs today.

The rest of the list for the Cards, who are wearing all-red today for the first time this season:

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

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Toler, Campbell return to lineup

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2010 – 12:47 pm

Defensive end Calais Campbell (ankle) is back in the lineup today for the Cardinals, meaning he will start again and putting DT Gabe Watson back on the inactive list. Cornerback Greg Toler (foot) is also back playing, sending CB A.J. Jefferson to the sideline.

The other inactives include:

  • WR Max Komar
  • QB John Skelton
  • S Hamza Abdullah
  • CB Marshay Green
  • LB Reggie Walker
  • C Ben Claxton

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Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 14, 2010 – 11:29 pm

Adrian Wilson had stripped off his uniform, towel around his waist, ready to go take a shower. Except he didn’t. He sat, head in hands, for what seemed forever. The media swarmed around the locker room, talking to other Cardinals, and Wilson barely moved.

Every player reacts differently to games and Wilson is rarely filled with glee even after big wins. But the safety was clearly despondent (he declined to talk Sunday, offering himself up tomorrow). And it will be interesting to see how this team bounces back from Sunday’s ugly loss to the Seahawks.

The numbers say the Cards aren’t out of it, but realistically, things probably got very hard given the two losses to Seattle. Not only are they essentially three games behind the Seahawks because of the tiebreaker, but with the way the Cards have played, they have to show they can win games in the first place.

But I’m sure we will gnaw on that all week. It’s late, and I am tired. I have a host of (I’m sure angry) blog comments to go through (and I await many, many more). Let me try and cut some questions off at the pass:

— The defense obviously played poorly. Guys missed assignments, including cornerback Greg Toler, and I don’t know how much that meant in the performance. That has nothing to do with tackling, though, and I am stunned it got as bad as it did.

— No, I don’t think defensive coordinator Bill Davis will be replaced in-season. It’s not coach Ken Whisenhunt’s style. I wouldn’t rule anything out, howevr. If this season gets sideways, there may be some decisions made after the year.

— Darnell Dockett just tweeted it may have been worse to sit on the sidelines watching than risking a worse shoulder injury. I can see why. (Dockett tweeted, by the way, his risk was possibly being out for the rest of the season).

— No, I don’t think Toler will be replaced long term. They think he can be the real deal. But he clearly still is in the learning stages.

— Got to be worried about running back. My wife said she happened to be watching Jason Wright through her binoculars when he was hit, and she said he looked like his body went limp before he hit the ground. He’ll go through concussion tests. LaRod Stephens-Howling pulled a hamstring. Beanie Wells is already dealing with a gimpy knee. You could see a scenario where all are ready for the Chiefs next weekend. And you could see a scenario where the only guy available would be Tim Hightower – which would take some serious roster maneuvering.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt, on saying he was not disappointed in the effort: “The guys didn’t quit. That is not even a question. I didn’t see it. If you saw something different I will be happy to talk about it with you, but I didn’t see that.”

— I’m sure this next note will get flamed pretty good by some of you, but it was noticeable when the Cards somehow kept the Seahawks out of the end zone again and again late in the game even as hope disappeared. “It shows some guys are not giving up no matter what,” nose tackle Gabe Watson said. “They could have easily scored 40 or 50 points, but for guys to keep holding up, for field goal block to keep rushing the way they did, it’s a good sign I believe.” Maybe that’s what Whisenhunt was seeing. Not sure it made up for the rest of the game, however. It would have been nice to have more stops sooner.

— I’ll be honest, I thought this team was going to be fine after that opening drive.

OK, that’s enough. Good night, all.

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Iwebema likely done and Beanie’s situation

Posted by Darren Urban on November 8, 2010 – 11:37 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said DE Kenny Iwebema will have more tests done to his knee, but the coach said he is “not optimistic” and the fear is that he tore his ACL. If that’s true, Iwebema will be done for the season, a blow to the Cards’ special teams and a blow to Iwebema, who has dealt with his share of health issues (most notably the tumor he had removed from his chest during 2009’s offseason). If Iwebema is out, it likely opens the door for Bryan Robinson to play more end and to open up game work for Gabe Watson, who has been inactive most of the first half of the season.

LB Paris Lenon (ankle) is the other injury the Cards are watching after the game.

— Whisenhunt said the reason RB Beanie Wells didn’t play a lot Sunday was a lack of practice time. “The way the game went, with the offensive packages we were using to attack those guys, Beanie just hadn’t had a lot of reps on,” Whisenhunt said. “That was what it was about more than anything. Hopefully he won’t have any issues this week. I think if the game had gone differently and we had been able to run the ball a bit better later in the game, we would have used the packages he was comfortable with and we would have seen more time with him.”

— Whisenhunt acknowledged two three-point hard losses are hard and “emotionally it takes a toll.” But the coach remained steadfast in the belief progress was being made and the goal of winning the division remains possible. As to whether the players buy into that, “the test will be on Wednesday” when they return to practice, rather than today when the raw wound of Sunday’s loss probably hasn’t healed yet.

I’ll have more later after the players’ availability.

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Beanie plays, Hayes expected to start

Posted by Darren Urban on November 7, 2010 – 9:35 am

Running back Beanie Wells will be active today for the Cardinals, while safety Hamza Abdullah gets his chance to face off with his brother, Vikings safety Husain as the Cards inactivate fellow safety Matt Ware. Linebacker Gerald Hayes is also expected to be in the starting lineup finally, with rookie Daryl Washington coming off the bench in a rotation.

For the Vikings, hobbled wide receiver Percy Harvin is active, despite his injury and fight with coach Brad Childress Friday.

Besides Ware, the inactives for the Cards include:

  • WR Max Komar
  • QB John Skelton
  • CB A.J. Jefferson
  • LB Clark Haggans (groin)
  • LB Reggie Walker
  • C Ben Claxton
  • NT Gabe Watson

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