Friday before the Colts

Posted by Darren Urban on November 22, 2013 – 4:09 pm

The Cardinals have become stellar on defense in the second half – that’s well-chronicled and came to the forefront against last week in Jacksonville when the Cards shut out the Jaguars the final two quarters. The Colts have been a second-half kind of offense, most recently showing that off when they rallied a week ago from a 17-6 halftime deficit to beat the Titans.

So something has to give when the two teams play Sunday. Right?

“It’ll be a good matchup, two second-half teams going at it,” Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Hopefully  we can have a good start though. Hopefully we don’t wait until the second half again.”

I don’t think anyone will have to wait for the second half to get a feel for Sunday’s very large game between these teams. But these teams’ respective strengths will collide eventually, and we’ll have to see which comes out on top. The Colts are up three games in the AFC South and it would take an epic collapse for them not to win the division. This game is not as crucial to Indy as the Cards. Then again, the fact Bruce Arians is on the other sideline will mean something.

— That last thought reminds me of the game the Cardinals – and first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt – played against the Steelers at University of Phoenix Stadium in 2007. The Steelers were generally regarded as the better team, as the Colts are now. The Cards won the game, and you could tell it meant a ton to Whiz and his staff. I’d expect that emotion to flow from Arians and his staff too in a win.

— What, you say you don’t fully understand the Arians-Colts connection? Click here for the whole story.

— And if you missed it, this was a sad but important lesson learned by offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin.

— Linebacker John Abraham has been better than the Cardinals could have hoped. He’s playing nearly every snap, he’s defending the run, he’s been upgraded on the injury report so he’s been practicing full, and he’s the sack machine he’s always been. Shut out in the first six games, he’s had seven sacks in his last four games. That’s a franchise record for a four-game stretch, and it’d be tough to bet against him reaching Andrew Luck Sunday.

— Remember Patrick Peterson’s muffed punt in Jacksonville, the one where he somehow got it back and the Jaguars were angry and challenged the call? Yeah, they weren’t allowed to challenge the call. That’s been confirmed in the latest NFL officials video (which you can watch here, along with some more somehow-that-wasn’t-pass-interference call from Patriots-Panthers). At the time, it was pretty clear the muffed punt wasn’t reviewable. How an entire officials crew didn’t know that is surprising.

— Congrats to former Cardinals wide receiver Jerheme Urban, who at age 33 has been named the head football coach at his alma mater, Trinity University.

— It will be a blow if the Cardinals cannot get Justin Bethel back and healthy Sunday. You don’t want to mess with concussions, of course. But the Cards’ special teams clearly took a hit last weekend when Bethel went out of the game. Even Arians acknowledged no Bethel isn’t a good thing.

— At least the NFL recognized the problem with the play. Jaguars defensive back Will Blackmon, the player who hit Bethel with the illegal blindside block that caused the concussion, was hit with a $21,000 fine for the play.

— Don’t forget the Cardinals are going to wear red-on-red Sunday. Here are some images from past red-on-red games. And, against my better judgment, because I have zero belief in correlation of such things, note the Cards are 12-3 wearing red-on-red since 2005. That stat is courtesy of Cardinals’ VP of media relations Mark Dalton.

— If you are coming to the game Sunday, the annual holiday food drive to benefit St. Mary’s Food Bank is taking place. Please bring non-perishable food items to drop off at the gate so those less fortunate can be helped. (You can donate money if you want).

— No Reggie Wayne for the Colts. “It’s like taking out the heartbeat,” Arians said. But they do have tight end Coby Fleener, who has taken a bit to get rolling in the NFL but who is coming off his best game. And we know how the Cards have been with tight ends. Stop T.Y. Hilton first, of course, but they better watch Fleener.

Between the background between Arians and the Colts, the teams’ records, the Cards’ three-game winning streak, this is going to have a playoff feel to it Sunday.

But before that, we walk off with Carson Palmer’s Chronicles video: “My mustache is ginger, but very Tom Selleck.”

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Receiver still a strong suit

Posted by Darren Urban on May 25, 2010 – 9:21 am

When a team deals a player away like Anquan Boldin, the first thought is what happens going forward. Clearly, the Cards (who also lost Jerheme Urban to free agency) aren’t quite as deep at the position as before. But it’s hard to look at the Cards’ receiving corps at the top and not still have serious confidence.

Matt Williamson of Scouts, Inc., wrote a piece (it’s under the Insider paywall, FYI) breaking down the receiving groups of a handful of teams, including the Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald is a great starting point of course, and he’s clearly bullish on Early Doucet — not only calling Doucet a possible breakout player but even going as far to say Steve Breaston is better suited for the No. 3 role and implying Doucet could be No. 2 (I don’t necessarily agree; I think Breaston’s toughness is underrated). In Williamson’s estimation, Doucet is an ideal Boldin replacement, which wouldn’t make him the first person to view Early that way.

Here is also what Williamson said about the rest of the pass-catching situation: “I also love the draft pick of Andre Roberts in the third round. Although he is from the Citadel, his game is polished and he should quickly assert himself as one of the best No. 4 wideouts in this league. Surely Boldin’s loss will be felt and Arizona’s tight ends are glorified offensive tackles, but I don’t have any worries about the wide receiver position.”

I feel the same way at this point. Again, guys have to stay healthy (and it wouldn’t hurt to find another young guy to develop besides Roberts) but the Cards are in good shape out wide.

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Cards take WR Roberts in the third

Posted by Darren Urban on April 23, 2010 – 6:47 pm

The Cardinals went with a receiver in the third round, taking Andre Roberts of the Citadel. He’s 5-foot-11 but he ran a 4.46 40. He can return punts, averaging 15.5 yards a return this past season, which is a big deal since Steve Breaston will likely lose that role as he moves up to the No. 2 wideout. He also is a two-time team captain.

“I believe I am explosive, quick and elusive (on punt returns),” Roberts said, adding he has returned punts since his freshman year of high school. “I feel like I have gotten it down. … I do believe I have sure hands.”

He averaged 19 yards a return as a junior.

Roberts realizes it was the Senior Bowl and combine that jumped his stock. The Cards are looking for a No. 4 receiver after losing Anquan Boldin and Jerheme Urban this offseason.

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Filling in the roster gaps

Posted by Darren Urban on March 24, 2010 – 1:47 pm

With the owners’ meetings wrapping up today and the pace of free agency slowing down, it may be a good time to look at where the Cardinals’ roster stands — and where there are holes that need to be filled by the time minicamp begins April 30.

This topic crossed my mind after writing yesterday about the signing of wide receiver Darren Mougey, who may or may not pan out but certainly isn’t been seen (at least as of now) as a replacement, whether it’d be Anquan Boldin or even Jerheme Urban. He’s just one of many receivers that will be on the roster this summer. Today, the Cardinals officially have 60 61 players on the roster, leaving 19 spots to be filled by the draft/undrafted rookies (which figures to total between 14 to 16, depending) and then some free-agent spots. There are seven veterans un-signed who could still return: LB Monty Beisel, FB Dan Kreider, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware, K Neil Rackers, DT Bryan Robinson and WR Sean Morey (although I think Morey is more likely to end up in Seattle right now).

(On my 60-man count, I am including all the restricted and exclusive rights free agents who have yet to sign their tenders, because they eventually will.)

What spots need shoring up? The Cards need at least one more quarterback, and even if St. Pierre comes back, they need someone young, at least for camp. They need another receiver or two, although I am guessing whether they chase a veteran may depend on what happens in the draft. Remember, at that spot, a fourth receiver would likely need to play special teams and guys like Kevin Curtis or Torry Holt tend not to want to do such things.

The Cards definitely need to look at nose tackle, especially if Robinson doesn’t return. They need inside linebackers even if Beisel comes back (which I expect). They probably could use another young pass rusher at outside linebacker without knowing exactly what Cody Brown/Mark Washington/Stevie Baggs brings to the table. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get another cornerback — you can never have too many — and a return man is also needed if Steve Breaston is going to be the No. 2 wideout.

Numbers-wise, here is the current 61-man breakdown by position:

  • QB  2
  • RB  4
  • FB  2
  • WR  6
  • OL  11
  • TE  4
  • DL 9
  • OLB  6
  • MLB  4
  • CB  6
  • S  5
  • Specialists  2

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No comp draft picks

Posted by Darren Urban on March 22, 2010 – 3:40 pm

The NFL released the compensatory picks for the 2010 draft today and the Cardinals did not get one. While there had been a lot of talk earlier about possibly getting one after losing defensive end Antonio Smith last offseason, I guess it was offset by signings like cornerback Bryant McFadden, to the point where comp pick guru AdamJT13 had already guessed the Cards were out of the loop (that link, by the way, explains well how the comp pick formula basically works).

The picks announced today, again, were based on last offseason. This month’s free agency transitions will affect the 2011 draft. In short, the Cards could come out ahead — possibly. Players have to be actual free agents (the contracts expiring) and not released, meaning the loss of Antrel Rolle won’t help but the signings of Joey Porter and Derek Anderson won’t hurt either. For now, the Cards’ 2011 comp formula will be Karlos Dansby/Jerheme Urban vs. Paris Lenon/Rex Hadnot.

UPDATE: Here is AdamJT13’s explanation on the Cards’ situation for this draft: “Arizona signed two qualifying players and lost two qualifying players, so the best the Cardinals could hope for was a net value pick, but as I projected, the difference in values was not enough to warrant one. Had the Cardinals not signed Jason Wright, they would have received a third-round pick for Antonio Smith.” I believe the players were McFadden/Wright vs. Smith/Terrelle Smith.

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The best safeties and Urban to K.C.

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2010 – 7:35 am

A few odds and ends early on a Thursday:

— Not sure if you saw, after Antrel Rolle signed with the Giants, that he talked about re-teaming with college teammate Kenny Phillips and that the two of them could be “the best (safety tandem) in the league. Hands down.” Didn’t see that? Adrian Wilson did. We were wrapping up our conversation the other day, A-Dub suddenly  brought it up unprompted. “Best safety tandem?” he said, showing that look you get from your dad when you’re a kid acting like you know everything when you really don’t. “Hold on there now. Just hold on a minute.”

That’s all he needed to say. I’d guess Wilson is looking forward to working with Kerry Rhodes and seeing if the Cards can, you know, get into the equation.

— Wide receiver Jerheme Urban is signing with the Chiefs. No surprise. Urban was inactive a lot late in the season, he wasn’t tendered as a restricted free agent and I’m not sure — even if he made the team — he’d get to play much. Besides, the main reason he came to the Cards in the first place was because then-offensive coordinator Todd Haley liked him from Urban’s and Haley’s days together in Dallas. Now Urban is reunited with Haley. (Of course, on a personal note, my two young sons are going to be bummed. It’s not often as a kid you have a guy on a team who shares your surname and then you get to meet that guy. I know fans had mixed feelings about Jerheme the player, but you won’t find a better person).

— In case you’re looking for one free-agency clearinghouse when it comes to the Cards, go to our free agency page, which we will continue to keep track of the comings and goings as guys sign.

— Another big day today for the Cards, as they finish up free-agent visits with linebackers Larry Foote and Joey Porter.

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Breaking down the roster

Posted by Darren Urban on January 21, 2010 – 12:35 pm

Right now, the Cards are knee-deep in offseason meetings, meaning I haven’t had a chance to talk to general manager Rod Graves for a story. That will be coming. In the meantime, I have collected all the contract situations (at least, organizing what year each player is signed through, or their free agent status) in a file you can find right here. It doesn’t cover every single player on the roster but it has everyone I considered a contributor this season or someone who needed to be addressed.

Officially the Cards have 14 unrestricted free agents and 10 restricted (the numbers would have been 17 and 7, but Gabe Watson, Deuce Lutui and Jerheme Urban all are going to be hamstrung by the new rules when the NFL deals with an uncapped offseason). On offense, the Cards seem to be in good shape. Starters Dan Kreider (FB), Anthony Becht (TE), Sean Morey (special teams) and Mike Gandy (T) — along with Jeremy Bridges (G/T) are unrestricted. Bigger questions are on defense, where Karlos Dansby (LB) and Matt Ware (S) could walk away, and the Cards are in transition with veteran UFAs like Bryan Robinson, Chike Okeafor, Bertrand Berry, Ralph Brown and Monty Beisel.

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Divisional Playoff Aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2010 – 12:38 am

Last year at this time (at least, as I am writing) I was also sitting on a plane coming back from a road trip in the second round of the playoffs. Obviously, that had a whole different feel. Saturday certainly didn’t go the way the Cardinals wanted it to go. There really aren’t any true regrets, because it felt like the Saints were going to find a way on their home turf.

I mentioned about a billion times (OK, exaggeration) this past week how, if the Cards could not lose the turnover battle, they had a good chance to win. Saturday, they come up with that amazing 70-yard run to start, and, even after the Saints answered (a little too easily), that next play was a 28-yard gain to a wide-open Jerheme Urban … and then Urban allowed himself to get stripped from behind and the ball was lost.

That was the beginning of the end.

Had Urban hung on, maybe the Cards march down and take a 14-7 lead. But the injuries mounted. Had Antrel Rolle not suffered a concussion, maybe he makes the tackle missed by Rolle backup Hamza Abdullah on the screen to Devery Henderson – which, after the blown tackle, was the play on which DRC wrecked his left knee. Maybe if the game was closer Kurt Warner doesn’t throw the pass picked off by Will Smith and, in the process of chasing the play, gets hurt when he is drilled by Bobby McCray.

Teams need health to win, however. Even the kickers were banged up. Neil Rackers knew it was going to be tough to make that 50-yard field goal at the end of the first half his right groin was hurting so bad. He had no chance on the second-half kickoff either. And punter Ben Graham would’ve had a little better opportunity to at least angle Reggie Bush out of bounds on his 83-yard punt return, except Graham can’t sprint with a bad left groin pull.

No use dwelling, however. As for a few other kibbles and bits from the game …

— The defense played arguably the two best offenses in the NFL the last two weeks and had trouble stopping them. The Packers scored 35 second-half points last game and the Saints had 35 in the first half Saturday. There was more bad tackling but the Cards needed more of everything. “It’s frustrating,” defensive lineman Darnell Dockett said. “You want to win every down and you can’t win every down.” It doesn’t need to be every down, but it has to be more downs that what was happening.

— Who says Tim Hightower can’t break away for a home-run sprint like his 70-yarder (pictured below). How the Beanie/Hightower combo continues to evolve when it comes to playing time may be one of the more interesting  — and crucial – stories of this team heading into 2010.

— It’s always tough to pressure Drew Brees anyway, and the Cards were limited when Rolle and DRC got hurt. Greg Toler was going to play more in lieu of Michael Adams, but Adams was forced in once the injuries cropped up. The Saints took advantage, and that’s why coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t want to blitz more. It was an ugly catch-22.

— Cornerback Bryant McFadden had his issues and it will be interesting to see if the Cards go try for veteran help or if Toler can wrest the starting job away. Toler is still very raw. And now you have the knee issue of DRC that, if indeed needs major surgery, will keep DRC off the field all offseason at the least.

— Warner took the blame for the bad exchange between he and Beanie Wells to start the Cards’ third possession. The Saints were in a possible safety blitz and Warner is supposed to blow off the handoff and make a quick throw in that case. But at the snap the safety sprinted back into the hot read’s passing window, and Warner tried to pull off the handoff. He just missed.

— Before you ask, I don’t know what Kurt Warner is going to do. I know everyone on the Cards desperately hopes he returns. I don’t know if that will mean enough for him. I’d like to see him play out this one final year of his contract and give this group one more shot.

— The Cards will have their exit physicals tomorrow morning. It’ll be a short night, but after Saturday, I think everyone is ready to put the season to bed and heal up mentally and physically.

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Packers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on January 3, 2010 – 10:56 pm

On Friday, with the Cardinals options still wide open, veteran defensive back Ralph Brown was talking about going into the regular-season finale against the Packers and the idea, should the Vikings win early, the game wouldn’t mean much.

“I wish it wouldn’t have been brought up,” Brown said, “so we could just go out and play football and coaches could have just pulled guys during the game. But now, you have guys calculating stuff, talking in the locker room. I know guys will play hard but now we are thinking about different scenarios when we should just be thinking about playing the game.”

Brown’s thoughts proved prophetic. The Vikings won and the Cards simply couldn’t muster the drive to get up for what was next. It didn’t help them Sunday. The question is this: Does it really matter?

“If this happens next week, bring me the same question and I will try and dissect it for you,” defensive tackle Bryan Robinson said.

— Obviously the big story – maybe the only story – was injuries. If the air wasn’t already out of the Cards following the Vikings result, it disappeared after cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie went off. It turned out that DRC’s knee injury wasn’t as bad as it first looked, but that doesn’t mean (despite what he says) he’ll definitely be back.

— Same with Anquan Boldin’s knee/ankle and Calais Campbell’s thumb. It’s premature to guess one way or the other. At least the Cards will have an extra day – with the playoff game Sunday – to recover. It’s an important detail.

— I suppose the argument will rage, at least for a couple days, which players should have been in or not. I don’t see how anyone can quibble with DRC’s wrong-place-wrong-time. It was the third play of the game. DRC wasn’t going to sit altogether; no one but Bertrand Berry (who was out because he doesn’t play special teams) got to do that. Certainly you’re not going to sit your young legs.

Campbell was in and out, but with Robinson and Darnell Dockett not playing, Campbell couldn’t leave the game for good.

— I was a little surprised to see Boldin still in the game, but Larry Fitzgerald played even longer than that. I feel OK with Boldin’s situation after though. Normally, Boldin is pretty taciturn after games, dressing facing into his locker and often answering questions that way. Given the situation, the media group – about 15 people – quietly waited for Boldin to be ready, until he half-turned and chuckled, asking the group, “Why is everyone so quiet?” It was too light-hearted a moment for a guy who would have been ticked off about his injury (which he normally is with a bad injury).

— Speaking of Fitz, that 13th TD and getting to 100 catches mean something to him, and I am sure that played a large role in him playing the full game.

— Not a good game for Matt Leinart. He obviously knew it. His body language was demonstrative after his mistakes and even on his incompletions, he was too often off-target. It probably won’t matter in the short-term in the playoffs, and it was interesting that coach Ken Whisenhunt made sure to say the showing didn’t change his confidence in Leinart.

— Mostly, though, it was so hard to take much of anything out of Sunday. Backups played and game-plans were limited. And the Cards will be lumped in with the Bengals (and to a lesser extent, the Colts) in the playoffs. If those teams, which stumbled late by gearing back before the playoffs, win in the postseason, no one will care. If not, everyone will wonder why they geared back.

Maybe it’s part of a master plan to get back to last postseason’s us-against-the-world status. “You know, just between you and me, Coach talked about that this week, ‘Let’s go out there and let’s let all the TV pundits and everybody bury us,” cracked receiver Jerheme Urban. “That way we can be the underdog again.” (Just in case anyone wasn’t sure, Urban was joking).

Do the Cards need to be the underdog again? Who knows. Until next Sunday, when we see the Cards really try against the Packers for the first time in three attempts this season, no one does.

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Kreider inactive, as is Steven Jackson UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2009 – 12:45 pm

The Cardinals’ inactive list has one surprise — fullback Dan Kreider, who wasn’t hurt so I can only guess right now is out for strategic purposes (Beanie and Hightower playing together?). There is a bigger surprise for the Rams: running back Steven Jackson won’t play, taking away the Rams’ one weapon. UPDATE: Kreider woke up with a stiff neck today and was held out of the game as a precaution.

For the Cards, tight end Ben Patrick and wide receiver Sean Morey are both out with concussions, meaning receiver Jerheme Urban and tight end Stephen Spach are active for the first time in a while. The rest of the inactives:

  • K Neil Rackers (groin)
  • QB Brian St. Pierre
  • S Hamza Abdullah
  • OL Herman Johnson

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