Cardinals living in Pick City

Posted by Darren Urban on December 17, 2012 – 2:58 pm

We’ve covered this before, but seriously, the interceptions keep piling up for the Cardinals. They now lead the NFL with 22 interceptions, one more than the team that comes in to visit University of Phoenix Stadium this weekend, the Chicago Bears. (The Cards, with 32 total takeaways, are fourth in the league in that department, with Chicago’s 37 topping the list.) Remember this team had only 10 interceptions all of last season.

And in all honesty, the Cardinals could have more this year. There was the one Adrian Wilson couldn’t quite hold on to against the Dolphins this year (although that would have been a spectacular effort and it certainly wouldn’t be considered a drop), and I can think of at least three that I remember in the hands of William Gay that he couldn’t quite snare. That’s just off the top of my head. Patrick Peterson gets the headlines with his seven, and deservedly so. But Kerry Rhodes has four, Gay, Rashad Johnson and Greg Toler two each.

“I wish we could lead the league in a number of different categories,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday. “Maybe that would help us be a little bit better record-wise.”

They even punctuated this weekend’s trio with 186 return yards, the fifth-most interception return yards for an NFL team since 1970 and 66 more yards than the Cards had totaled on their first 19 picks of the season. The interceptions are a big reason the Cardinals are tops in the NFL when it comes to passer rating-against (68.0) and third in the NFL in completion percentage-against with 54.5.

“When you have 22, obviously it’s not going to be one guy or otherwise he’d be defensive MVP,” Whisenhunt said. “You’ve got a number of different guys that are making those kinds of plays.

“You think about the interceptions Patrick has had, some of those acrobatic ones down the field and even (Sunday’s) was another one like that. Our guys believe in what they are doing and they’re playing hard, and it’s nice to see them making some plays.”

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Routt not on radar

Posted by Darren Urban on November 8, 2012 – 10:59 am

A national report yesterday noted that recently released cornerback Stanford Routt, cut by the Chiefs, was “drawing interest” from multiple teams around the league. The Cardinals were named specifically. The Cards might have looked into the possibility, but I have been told the Cardinals do not have interest in signing Routt (The Dolphins, also named specifically, also are not pursuing him.)

The Routt situation is interesting. On the surface he looks intriguing. But it says something that, in a league starving for cover guys, he has now been released twice since the end of last season, by the Raiders and now the Chiefs. As always, in this league, there is a reason players are cut. Sometimes it’s a lucky break for another team out there but often times, there is something behind it. Teams don’t usually cut good players.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, need more consistent play from their own cornerbacks. Patrick Peterson has been admittedly up and down, newcomer William Gay has been struggling, rookie Jamell Fleming has looked like a rookie and Greg Toler has been injured. The Cards should have the players there, but they have to have the performance.

At this point, I am not expecting new players on the roster coming out of the bye — other than defensive end Ronald Talley, signed yesterday — and we’ll have to check in with coach Ken Whisenhunt after practice Monday to see if there were any depth chart or positional changes that might be coming down the pike.

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Heap, Toler remain out, Nelson playing for Packers

Posted by Darren Urban on November 4, 2012 – 9:36 am

The Cardinals’ inactive list is out for today’s game, with tight end Todd Heap still out with his bad knee. On the flip side, Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, who didn’t practice all week because of a bad hamstring, is active today and listed as a starter. The Cardinals are also still without cornerback Greg Toler (hamstring).

Guard Adam Snyder (quad) remains out, no surprise, so Rich Ohrnberger will start at right guard. The rest of the Cardinals’ inactives:

— QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)

— LB Jamaal Westerman

— G Senio Kelemete

— WR LaRon Byrd

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New starting OL with Snyder out; Heap still down

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2012 – 4:10 pm

The Cardinals will have a change in the starting offensive line for the first time this season, with right guard Adam Snyder sitting out with his quad injury, sending Rich Orhnberger into the lineup against the 49ers on “Monday Night Football.” Ohrnberger did a decent job in relief of Snyder in Minnesota after Snyder got hurt.

Tight end Todd Heap (knee) also remains sidelined for a sixth straight game.

The rest of the inactive list for the Cardinals is:

— QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)

— CB Greg Toler (hamstring)

— WR LaRon Byrd

— LB Jamaal Westerman

— G Senio Kelemete

And in case you missed it, the roof will be open tonight as well at University of Phoenix Stadium, the first time this season.

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Heap remains inactive

Posted by Darren Urban on October 21, 2012 – 8:38 am

Tight end Todd Heap remains inactive with his bad knee today against the Vikings, on an inactive list that is filled up with injured players.

Only guard Senio Kelemete is a healthy scratch. Sitting out are QB Kevin Kolb (ribs), S Kerry Rhodes (back), CB Greg Toler (hamstring), FB Anthony Sherman (knee), and LB Reggie Walker (concussion). Rashad Johnson is starting in place of Rhodes, while Regan Maui’a is starting in place of Sherman.

The Vikings have all their key players available who were on the injury report, including RB Adrian Peterson, DE Jared Allen and WR Jerome Simpson.

— Also this morning, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that the Cardinals are expected to work out free agent QB Vince Young this week. If true — and I haven’t heard anything about it — it’s an interesting turn. Young, given his background and recent play, wouldn’t have been a guy I’d think the Cards would consider as an option.

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Defense sure it is spelled t-e-a-m, and some notes

Posted by Darren Urban on October 19, 2012 – 2:15 pm

The Cardinals’ offensive players have said a few times that their unit needs to start playing to the level of the defense. It is only logical that some would wonder about the frustration level of the defense as they wait for the offense to come around. But defenders aren’t going there.

“We all get off the bus together, we all are in the locker room together,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “But we have to focus on what we do on defense. They’ll get it together.

“There are games where they bailed us out,” Dockett added, noting the Miami outing when the Cards gave up a ton of passing yards. “I’m tired of people saying defense has to be the backbone, defense, defense, defense. We’re a team at the end of the day.”

That works for defensive coordinator Ray Horton. “I’ve never said that (message) to them so it is great they answer that way,” Horton said. “If (the question) was posed to me, I’d go back one year when we were 1-6 and (the defense) didn’t do our job, so we understand where we came from.”

— As expected safety Kerry Rhodes won’t play Sunday in Minnesota with his bad back, and quarterback Kevin Kolb is of course out. Fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and cornerback Greg Toler (hamstring) are doubtful. Tight end Todd Heap remains limited and questionable with his sore knee, and frankly, at this point, I’m guessing he won’t play until he gets back to practicing fully. I’ve been burned too many times thinking he’d be back. He’ll give it a try pre-game Sunday though and see how it feels.

— I know there are a bunch of questions about the Cards and the status of trying to sign offensive lineman Chris Williams. Here’s the deal: He visited the Cards. He had already visited the Eagles and now Mike Jurecki noted he’s visiting the Chargers. Williams looks like he will have options. Could he sign here? Sure. If he does, it’d probably be after the weekend. But the Cards have to want him, he has to want to come here (and he certainly would seem to have a good opportunity to play here) and then a contract has to be worked out. I’ll let you know something as soon as I know.

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Heap still sitting, Skelton to back up Kolb

Posted by Darren Urban on October 14, 2012 – 11:30 am

Tight end Todd Heap remains sidelined today with his bad knee, while quarterback John Skelton is active today for the first time since hurting his ankle and will back up starter Kevin Kolb. The Cards do have tight end Jim Dray back to help at tight end.

Injuries are a big reason for a chunk of inactives today. Linebacker Reggie Walker (concussion), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and cornerbacks Michael Adams and Greg Toler (both hamstrings) are all out. Also sitting out is QB Ryan Lindley — natural with Skelton back — and guard Senio Kelemete.

That means wide receiver LaRon Byrd will be active for the first time in his NFL career. Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is active.

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Friday before the Bills

Posted by Darren Urban on October 12, 2012 – 4:03 pm

There will be many things that people will be waiting to see Sunday when the Cards finally kick off against the Bills – how the Cards’ run game looks, whether the Bills have recovered from a couple of historical beat-downs – but from the Cardinals’ side of the fence, it’ll be Arizona’s first few pass plays that will be under the microscope. The Bills won’t have (struggling) defensive end Mark Anderson, although they do have (struggling) defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and (struggling) defensive end Mario Williams. There has been plenty of talk not surprisingly, from the Buffalo perspective that their pass rush can get healthy against the Cards. It’s vice versa for the Cards, who count on righting the pass-protection ship after surrendering 17 sacks the past two games.

“If you go into the game thinking that you are going to do that just because, you could be in for a rude awakening,” Mario Williams said. “If we go out and think, ‘Oh well, it’s going to be easy because the last two teams did this,’ we could be in for a rude awakening.”

Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb spoke again this week about how there were many facets in the pas game that need to do better to improve the pass protection. Someone suggested more three-step drops for Kolb, which the quarterback dismissed. “You can’t just go to three-step drops,” Kolb said. “That’s not the way the game is.”

You can’t just do a lot of anything. Pro teams – and pro coaches – figure that out soon enough. Leave more guys in to block? OK, but that’s fewer people in pass routes, and fewer options for which Kolb to pass. Coach Ken Whisenhunt knows he needs better technique from his blockers, better protection schemes and better overall play. There’s will have been 10 days to try and iron some of this out.

— There are two banged-up teams going out to play. With cornerbacks Greg Toler and Michael Adams doubtful, it sure sounds like rookie Jamell Fleming will be thrust back into a prominent defensive role. And kind-of-newcomer Crezdon Butler may be active right off the bat after being away from the team since being cut at the end of the preseason. The Bills, meanwhile, are missing a pair of starting offensive linemen themselves.

— Cornerback William Gay, who stands to start across from Patrick Peterson again Sunday, has struggled at times. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said it is technique issues with Gay, and along those lines, Gay’s role was reduced against the Rams. “Obviously, he’s capable,” Horton said. “He had a good week of practice. We reduced his role and message sent, I believe. Now, whether message was received or not, we’ll find out.”

— The Bills have allowed 97 points the last two games, to the Patriots and 49ers. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Cardinals will suddenly break out, but if the Cards’ offense is going to have a chance to improve, this is a matchup you want.

— Quarterback John Skelton is listed as probable for the first time since his ankle injury. I fully expect Kolb to start – who wouldn’t? – but Skelton, I would guess, would be the backup. After that, I don’t know if we are going to have any big announcement or not. The Cards are going to go through the gauntlet on the schedule after this game, at Minnesota, home against the Niners, at Green Bay and at Atlanta, which will be rough on whoever is playing QB.

— Today is Adrian Wilson’s birthday. He turned 33. His biceps don’t look a day over 27.

— Yes, I used that on Twitter.

— Speaking of birthdays, analyst and Cardinals Underground compatriot Ron Wolfley turns 50 Sunday, with the Cards playing against his hometown team. How great is that?

— The Cards are wearing black Sunday, as a reminder. And pink. This is the annual Breast Cancer Awareness game, in case you are still putting together your gameday outfit.

— It probably saved an interception return for a touchdown – and it wasn’t even flagged at the time – but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was dinged for a $7,850 fine from the NFL after grabbing cornerback Janoris Jenkins’ facemask on a play against the Rams. The Rams didn’t escape fines for their play, though. Two players were nailed for roughing up Kevin Kolb – defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo was fined $7,875 for roughing the passer when he ripped Kolb’s helmet off, while defensive end Robert Quinn was fined $15,750 for hitting Kolb helmet-to-helmet.

— Fitz needs 48 receiving yards to reach 10,000 in his career.

— Fitz, by the way, wasn’t about to pop off about the Bills’ struggles. “I always remember my grandfather said, you let a sleeping dog lie,” he said. “We just don’t want to ruffle any feathers and try to sneak out of here with a ‘W’ without getting anyone upset.”

It seems like it’s been forever since the Cards last played.

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CB Butler returns as Williams goes to IR

Posted by Darren Urban on October 9, 2012 – 9:04 am

The expected happened this morning, with running back Ryan Williams going on injured reserve — officially ending his season, even though that was made plain yesterday — and the Cardinals adding not a running back but a cornerback to his place on the roster. Crezdon Butler comes back for the secondary. Not only did coach Ken Whisenhunt emphasize yesterday that the plan for now was to use LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell and Alfonso Smith as the running backs and probably not add anyone right now (don’t forget Beanie Wells will be back in about six weeks), but Butler’s return also may speak to the health of the cornerbacks.

Don’t forget Greg Toler, on the bomb he was beaten on in St. Louis, limped off the field with some sort of leg injury. Michael Adams has also been on the injury report with a sore hamstring, although he’s been playing. Maybe the Cards need insurance at corner. I know everyone is waiting for a new running back, but as I said a couple times in a couple places yesterday, I don’t expect one, not anytime soon.

As for Williams, he was in surprisingly good spirits last night at the Cards’ Kingpin Challenge bowling event. I’ll be honest, I was surprised to see him there, his left arm in a sling while he waited to have the left shoulder surgery that he said would take place today. But he mentioned to me he had been through so many emotions the past year with his patella injury that he feels like he can conquer anything.

“After the roller coaster I went through last year, and made it through, I’ll get through this,” he said.

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Wednesday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on October 3, 2012 – 3:10 pm

Maneuvering through a short week is difficult. The flip side, of course, will be Friday, and Saturday and Sunday and the extra days off. That could really benefit the Cards as banged up as they have been.

But they have to get through Thursday first. And truthfully, those benefits would feel a little bit better with a victory in St. Louis.

“(A short week) is pretty tough, but I think everyone in this locker room feels the same way – we’ve put together four decent games and are in position to be 4-0 and have an opportunity to play on national TV in front of the masses,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “I think guys are relishing the opportunity.”

I do get the sense that the vibe is better for this Thursday game than it was back in 2008, for the Thanksgiving game in Philly. Back then, it didn’t feel like anyone was relishing anything. It showed on the field. This team is in a different place. We’ll see how it plays out on the turf.

— Andre Roberts has four touchdown catches – that’s the most of any receiver in the NFL right now. He’s a long way from training camp of 2011, when every “name” receiver that popped up as available quickly was linked to the Cardinals. Roberts has become a real weapon – he has been since midseason last year – but as usual, downplays his situation.

I asked him if he thought he had crossed some kind of threshold as a player. “I don’t know if it is a threshold,” Roberts said. “I just try to make the best out of my opportunities. When it comes my way, I want to make the most of it.”

The steady play of Kevin Kolb and the clutch play late in the Miami game obviously plays well with teammates. But it’s also about a settling of the position. That’s all the rest of the Cards ever wanted was to find a player who was effective. They don’t care if it is Kolb or John Skelton.

“I’m pleased it’s not become an ordeal in the locker room,” center Lyle Sendlein said.

— It will be interesting to see who is playing cornerback across from Patrick Peterson. Will Greg Toler stay there after finishing the game at the spot? Does William Gay, who struggled, go back? If Toler gets more time, given that Gay stayed at nickel last game when that happened, it looks like rookie Jamell Fleming will be the one losing defensive snaps. Toler was the starter last year before he got hurt. I’m sure he’d like to regain that spot for good.

— The Rams are not the same team they were. They barely lost to the Lions and had they won that game, Jeff Fisher’s bunch would be 3-1. “This team is not sitting here with aspirations of going to the Super Bowl, because I think those things are unrealistic at this time of the year,” Fisher said. “Realistic goals are improving, accepting the next challenge, and doing whatever it takes to try to win the next game.” It’d be a big feather in the cap to beat division rivals Seattle and Arizona in back-to-back home games. The Cards will be tested to make sure that doesn’t happen.

— As I mentioned before, the Cardinals could make some headway with their struggling running game. They need to. Ryan Williams figures to get more carries. St. Louis has always been a place where Cards’ runners can get healthy, stats-wise.

— Speaking of guys who pop in St. Louis, Adrian Wilson is one. Against the Rams, he has six career interceptions and 7½ career sacks. Plus he is coming off a strong game, even if his diving interception (below) was eventually eliminated. Wilson thought the Rams, in 2001, might draft him with multiple high picks. They didn’t. He remembers.

Bring on Thursday night.

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