Arians thinks accuracy can be helped — sometimes

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2013 – 11:41 am

Larry Fitzgerald was targeted 156 times last season. He ended up with just 71 catches.

Now, that doesn’t mean there weren’t times when Fitz could’ve and should’ve come down with a pass and didn’t. That certainly happened, and more times last year, I think, than in the past ( had him with five drops last season, credited him with three.) But there were many, many, many more times when the pass went to Fitzgerald and the ball simply wasn’t close enough to even make a play on it.

This isn’t about Fitz though but the ability to make sure whatever quarterback is behind center can be accurate. There are many factors that go into an incomplete pass, including the pass rush and pass protection. But last season, none of the four quarterbacks who played for the Cardinals completed 60 percent of their passes. Kevin Kolb was 59.6 percent, John Skelton was 54.2, Ryan Lindley 52.0 and Brian Hoyer 56.6. These days, if you aren’t completing between 62 to 65 percent of your passes — at least — you are going to have a hard time being successful. It’s something to watch for with the rookies too, although given the upgrade in speed and schemes in the NFL, accuracy can be a projection for those guys.

The question is whether it can be improved in a prospect — or with anyone.

“I think you can improve all phases of their mechanics,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “Some guys, if the flaw is so difficult in their throwing motion especially from the trunk up, it’s going to be hard. But the majority of accuracy problems are your legs. Guys overstride, they understride, they put themselves in bad positions and stress themselves. Fundamentals, that’s why golfers go to the driving range every day. Tiger (Woods) is a great player, Rory (Mcllroy)  is a great player, but they go to the driving range every day. Quarterbacks need to go to the driving range every day.

“You want to be more of a teacher than a swing coach. When you are a swing coach, you know you have problems.”


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Potter inactive, Batiste to start vs 49ers

Posted by Darren Urban on December 30, 2012 – 12:57 pm

Left tackle Nate Potter is inactive today because of his sprained ankle, putting D’Anthony Batiste back in the lineup for the first time since Potter replaced him during the Green Bay game prior to the bye week Nov. 4. That will make for an interesting matchup when he goes against 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith (19.5 sacks). Fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) is also inactive, meaning tight end Jim Dray will fill in for the fullback duties.

Rookie guard Senio Kelemete is active for the first time this season, too.

Also inactive for the Cards today are:

— QB John Skelton

— WR LaRon Byrd (knee)

— G Mike Gibson (calf)

— WR Early Doucet (concussion)

— DE Ronald Talley (ankle)

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Hoyer active as backup QB; Rashad sits

Posted by Darren Urban on December 23, 2012 – 12:59 pm

Brian Hoyer is active as the backup quarterback today with John Skelton inactive against the Bears. Ryan Lindley starts, but Hoyer will be available if coach Ken Whisenhunt wants to play him. It’s not a surprise, but for Skelton to open the season as starter and now be inactive with Kevin Kolb also out is an amazing journey.

Safety Rashad Johnson (hamstring) will sit out, meaning Adrian Wilson could get extended time beyond his play in the base defense, although James Sanders is available. This, again, could end up being Wilson’s final home game with the Cards depending on what the Cards do with him this offseason.

Others inactive:

— G Senio Kelemete

— OL Mike Gibson (calf)

— TE Kory Sperry

— WR Early Doucet (concussion)

— DE Ronald Talley (ankle)

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Friday before the Bears

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2012 – 3:52 pm

Here’s one benefit of playing the Lions and Bears in back-to-back weeks: The blueprint was already there for the defense, after covering Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, to deal with the Bears’ Brandon Marshall. Johnson has been a beast this season, no question, but Marshall has been fairly beastly himself, with 107 catches, 1,398 yards and 10 touchdowns already himself.

Now, that doesn’t mean the Cards will necessarily give Marshall the “vice” look they gave Johnson at times last week – when Johnson was in the slot, safety Kerry Rhodes and cornerback William Gay would basically double-team him at the line, like Johnson was a gunner on punt coverage. But who knows? We could see it again. It’ll be fun to watch this defense regardless, against a struggling offensive line and against a quarterback who has shown he can be harassed into bad decisions.

— We do know we’ll see Patrick Peterson on Marshall , as Peterson keeps making his late-season push. I don’t think he’s getting double-digit picks, but he’s closer than I thought he’d get earlier in the season. He also talked a little this week about his confidence which is obvious.

“All the good corners have confidence in their ability to go out and make plays for their team,” Peterson said. “I believe the confidence started in high school. It was something my Dad always instilled in me growing up – ‘Always be confident in your ability, confident in what you are doing at all times.’ Not cocky. There is definitely a difference.

“I’m not a guy who’s going to go out and boast and brag about my ability, but if I feel like I am doing something better than another guy or doing something at the top level, I’ll definitely let you guys know.”

Peterson added, in a question about whether he was the best in the game, “I believe I am playing at a top level right now.”

— Both Rashad Johnson (hamstring) and James Sanders (calf) returned to practice on a limited basis Friday for the first time this week. Both are questionable. I would guess at least one will play Sunday, if not both, but starter Adrian Wilson could get more playing time, defensive coordinator Ray Horton said.

“There’s never been a question of Adrian’s ability,” said Horton, although Wilson has lost snaps since the bye. Horton said Friday part of the reason for that was to reward the good play of Johnson and Sanders.

Nevertheless, Wilson understands – as do many – there is a chance this could be Wilson’s final home game Sunday, with his future with the team murky right now. Horton was asked about calling the blitz last weekend that got Wilson the sack he needed to reach the 25-25 club.

“I was aware of where he was in the (historical rankings) in the league and it was a perfect opportunity to do it,” Horton said. “It was kind of called for him.”

— If the Cardinals win Sunday, it will be Ken Whisenhunt’s 50th victory as Cardinals’ head coach including playoffs.

— Given the problems with the Bears’ offensive line and the way the 49ers play offense, this might be the week linebacker Daryl Washington wants to get that elusive 10th sack of the season. Time is running out for him to his double-digits.

— Nothing official, but yes, I expect the roof open Sunday.

— Don’t know what’s going to happen with quarterback Brian Hoyer. I still think he ends up active in one of the final two games, if not both. Does that mean he plays? Not necessarily. Whisenhunt made it plain he wouldn’t change things up and jeopardize winning just to look at Hoyer, so my guess would be if a game got out of hand, then he might be willing to test-drive the new guy. But again, he’s got to be active for that to happen. Which likely means John Skelton would be made inactive.

— While Sunday’s game doesn’t kick off until 2:25 p.m., the plaza at University of Phoenix Stadium will open early, at 10:45 a.m., so fans can get through screening. The stadium still does not open until 90 minutes prior to kickoff for non-premium seat holders, but food and beverage options will be available on the plaza, in addition to entertainment at Gate 2. Anyone with food or beverage purchased on the plaza can bring it into the stadium when the doors open.

We come to the end of another home schedule. Seems like we were just showing up for that Seahawks game in early September. Back then, Ryan Williams, Kevin Kolb and Lyle Sendlein were still around (playing, I mean) and so were hopes for the season. Now the Cards just want to finish above  .500 at UoP.


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Sunday in the rear view; Lindley back as starter

Posted by Darren Urban on December 12, 2012 – 2:56 pm

The other day defensive tackle Nick Eason was saying that, in the aftermath of the Cards’ 58-0 loss in Seattle, that the players were simply going to go back to work. “That’s all we can do,” Eason said, noting that they were football players, and this was just another week of football.

So the reaction Wednesday coming off what in some ways was a historic loss was just like the Cards have done every Wednesday after their other losses. And their wins, for that matter.

“It was a typical practice,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “We were flying around. Same as it has been all season.”

Quarterback Ryan Lindley noted “you try to forget about (Sunday) as quick as possible.” “We did some things all right (today),” Lindley said. “Wednesday is always an up and down day because you are putting new stuff in. (Thursday) will be better.”

The message wasn’t going to change much. There are guys banged up — wide receiver Early Doucet suffered a concussion, and the Cards could use nose tackle Dan Williams given their woes stopping the run, but Williams was also sitting out with his bad hamstring — yet that isn’t going to stop the schedule and the three games left.

“I don’t think anybody was happy,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said after practice. “They’re all upset about what happened. They worked well today. Came back out here and had good energy. That’s a painful thing to go through and we went through and looked at why that happened, tried to correct those things, and worked on correcting them today. That’s all you can do.”

— Whisenhunt named Lindley his starter for Sunday’s game. Not a surprise, since Lindley finished the game and John Skelton had five turnovers in his brief chance to start again.

— Whiz said it is wait-and-see for new QB Brian Hoyer. I don’t see how he’d play this week. Beyond that? Let’s see how Lindley fares, but I will not be shocked to see Hoyer get a start down the stretch.

— QB Kevin Kolb wants to be back next season. He hasn’t had any discussions about his contract, which would need to be restructured, I’m sure. He said his “heart and soul” are with the Cardinals.

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Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 9, 2012 – 9:15 pm

Not even sure where to start. Winning in Seattle is rare. But to see it derail like that? I don’t know what is next. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he hasn’t talked to anyone about his job situation. I don’t expect any drastic changes, not so close to the end of the season, but I haven’t talked to anyone about it either. In the meantime, the Cards have back-to-back home games to try and find a victory.

“Just everybody is really just playing for their pride at the end of the day,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “It’s going to take a lot of bonding for everybody to come together and win these last three games.”

— If Kevin Kolb doesn’t come back – and judging by how Kolb talked last week about his circumstances, that seems like a long shot – I’m not sure who Whisenhunt turns to at quarterback for the Lions game. The way both John Skelton and Ryan Lindley are playing, neither is an obvious option.

— The Cardinals were a plus-seven in turnover ratio coming into the game. After an eight-turnover game (and getting only one, the Patrick Peterson pick), the Cards are back to even.

— Dockett didn’t start as part of his punishment following the incident at the end of the New York game. He played, but not nearly as much as he normally would. Dockett was credited with a pair of assists and a quarterback hit. David Carter started in his place.

— No part of the Cardinals played well but Marshawn Lynch went off for 128 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries. Robert Turbin added 108 rushing yards himself on 20 carries. The run defense hasn’t been good enough but to surrender 284 yards on the ground is impossible to overcome.

— The Seahawks threw the ball deep on fourth and long late in the game and again later. Dockett said he was “surprised” but Whisenhunt wasn’t going there. “I have no comment on that, other than to say it’s our job to stop it.”

— The way the game went, I don’t think the Cards come out ahead regardless, but would things have been better had Skelton connected with Larry Fitzgerald on the first drive (pictured below) and not have it been an interception? The Cards had actually been successful on a couple of pass plays right before that. Then it turns into a turnover and … we all know the rest.

There is no analysis here, really. It was obviously the low point of this season and since Whisenhunt arrived. No one is arguing that. We will wait to see how the week goes.


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Friday before the Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on December 7, 2012 – 4:45 pm

So the Cardinals head to Seattle tomorrow, and we turn to locker room sage Larry Fitzgerald – man, if you would have asked me in 2006 if I’d ever write that descriptor for Fitz, I’d have thought you were crazy – to put these last four games, the playoffs realistically if not officially out of reach, into perspective.

“It’s never to the point where you can’t improve and get better,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s top to bottom, I don’t care about your position on the team. It teaches all of us how to deal with adversity. It’s a microcosm of life. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way and you have to continue to battle.”

It doesn’t hurt that the Seahawks have a chance to make the playoffs and the Cards have a chance to crimp that possibility. It’s cliché, but I do believe playing spoiler – especially to a division rival – is motivation and I do think it is real. The Cards would love to sweep the Seahawks, even if both teams are a lot different than the teams that met at UoP Sept. 9.

— I am very interested in seeing how John Skelton reacts to this start. Seattle is not an easy place to play. He struggled against the Seahawks’ defense in the opener this season before getting hurt. But as he noted Wednesday, he gets another opportunity, one that if not for the major problems of Ryan Lindley, he probably would not have gotten.

I don’t know if there is less pressure on Skelton or more. Obviously coach Ken Whisenhunt proved he’d go to Lindley. Then again, after seeing where Lindley is in his development, it’s tough to see the Cards turning to him again. Impossible not to watch that storyline play out.

— Safety Kerry Rhodes said this week, talking about how the defensive players can’t talk bad about the offense, that until the defense holds a team to zero points and zero yards, they have to tend to their own business. Zero yards? Hyperbole. Zero points? Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was asked if that was realistic.

“That’s probably every defensive player’s mantra,” Horton said. “Is it realistic? Sometimes it is. I think it is the mentality they have which I love, that they think that way.”

— I think the Cards should have defensive end Calais Campbell back this week, a good thing because Campbell always plays well against the Seahawks. Then again, I thought Campbell was going to play in New York, so I will wait and see on that one.

— A final capper on the Kerry Rhodes-Darnell Dockett dustup, where Rhodes said it wasn’t a big deal and Dockett said he was sorry but he was never going to quit. The reference was to the unsaid-yet-out-there reason that the Cards’ decision to try and let the Jets score at the end of last week’s game – statistically, the best way (however long of a shot it was) to try and win – was at the root of the problem. So Horton was asked his philosophy about letting a team score.

“The ultimate goal is to win the game, whether you give up the safety, whether you give up a touchdown,” Horton said. “My philosophy is whatever it takes to win the game. If it means doing that I’d do it to give ourselves a chance. I asked Coach (Ken Whisenhunt) to do it for time reasons.”

(We won’t go into the details yet again of the situation. I know some of you disagree with the strategy and agree with Dockett’s take. I covered it here.)

— OK, maybe one more point: Mike Jurecki of XTRA broke the news that Dockett was fined six figures by the team and could have his playing time limited in Seattle for what went down. Whisenhunt has made it plain whatever was happening with the situation was going to be handled internally and not commented upon. Clearly, the Cardinals did not agree with Dockett’s take. (Kent Somers is now also reporting the fine and said it was because of both the fight and not heeding the coach’s call.) We’ll see on Sunday about the playing time issue.

UPDATE: Dockett tweeted out praise for the NFLPA so the assumption is, not surprisingly, Dockett is appealing the fine.

— That late personal foul call against nose tackle Dan Williams last week, the iffy one on Jets quarterback Greg McElroy on the sidelines? Williams was not fined for it. Still hurt though – it gave free yards on the Jets’ lone touchdown drive of the game in a 7-6 Jets win. Usually, if a player isn’t fined for a roughness call, it means the league disagreed that it should have been a penalty.

— With cornerback Brandon Browner out with a suspension, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman – himself facing a possible four-game suspension – will probably follow Fitz around Sunday. “I would anticipate that, if I were a betting man,” Fitzgerald said. The best on the best makes sense. It just would be nice to get Fitzgerald a handful of catches and maybe sniff 100 yards. It’s been too long. And frankly, the offense needs it.

The good news is that, after nasty forecasts earlier in the week, the rain is supposed to subside after Saturday morning in Seattle and hold off through Sunday. That’d be a plus. But the Cards have a hard game ahead to snap the losing streak. Let the fourth quarter of the season commence.


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No decision yet for QB at Seattle

Posted by Darren Urban on December 3, 2012 – 11:36 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he has not yet made a decision on who his starting quarterback will be in Seattle. He wants to watch the video with his coaches and go from there. Kevin Kolb is an unknown still as he comes back from injury. Asked if he planned on having Kolb return at some point, Whisenhunt said “I sure hope so.” Here is a portion of Whiz’s Q and A with reporters about the quarterback position and how Ryan Lindley played yesterday.

Q: You mentioned yesterday part of the problem was that receivers weren’t making the right reads. Is that a function of practice time with Lindley, or is that something that would be in place regardless of the quarterback?

A: “We didn’t play very well yesterday in the receiving part of it. That means getting off press coverage, running good routes, being in the right spots in routes. Sometimes, when you play a team that pressures like they do, you have to be able to sight adjust or make the correct adjustments to your routes and we didn’t do a very good job with that. We didn’t help Ryan out very much with that.”

Q: With that game, five first downs, oh-for-15 on third downs, yet you cited the best chance to win the game was not change the quarterback. The fan base is pretty upset with that decision.

A: “I understand that. But like I said, we didn’t help Ryan out very much yesterday. There were a lot of areas we had problems. We are looking for the right combination to be effective offensively. We talked about it on the sideline, we talked about what was going on during the game. It was a combination of a number of different things besides the quarterback.”

Q: By your own criteria, a couple of weeks ago, you were going to hold everyone to strict standards and if they weren’t doing their job, you could make a change. So (Lindley) is doing his job?

A: “Like I said, I don’t think anyone did their job well enough yesterday offensively. The quarterback is the focal point of that. But that’s part of what we have to go through today and evaluate that.”

Q: Do you know where you go at quarterback going forward?

A: “We’ve got to look at it with the players today, understand why we had the breakdowns that we did, and then we will decide from that point.”

Q: Is there a realistic chance Kevin Kolb can play this week?

A: “The only way we will know is when he can do it in practice. He has made progress. But until he can get out there and see he can make those throws, then we will know.”

Q: Are you sticking with Ryan?

A: “I said we will watch the tape today and look at with the players where we had the breakdowns. There are a lot of things you don’t know from the perspective of what everyone is looking at why we were not successful.”

Q: Did you lose confidence in John Skelton?

A: “I wouldn’t say I lost confidence in John’s ability.”

Q: To follow up, you said it crossed your mind to play him …

A: “We talked about it in the course of the game. But when you play a team that gives you a multitude of different looks and how it is being communicated, at the point where you have to make that (QB) change, you have to understand, is it because the guy in there is not playing well? Because you are going to lose a lot of what you have gone through in the first parts of the game as far as understanding the protections and where the sights are and where the checks are.”

Q: To follow that up then, you mentioned (after the game) Ryan was doing a good job with the schematics. Does that mean John wasn’t doing a good job?

A: “I never said that.”

Q: Did John not understand?

A: “We were talking (after the game) about Ryan. The decision we made about John, we’ve already talked about. We don’t need to go back and revisit that.”

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Jets aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 2, 2012 – 6:30 pm

I don’t think it’s out of line to think the most interesting question of the week will be who the Cardinals start at quarterback in Seattle next weekend. (Yes, I am aware of the understatement there.) Seattle has never been a particularly easy place to play for any Cardinals QB – I remember some rough games for Kurt Warner – and the last two years, Max Hall and Kevin Kolb have had trouble putting up points.

So after Sunday, when rookie Ryan Lindley had so much difficulty in production, will coach Ken Whisenhunt go back to him again? There’s no way to know if Kolb will be ready this week, but if he isn’t, Lindley is in the middle of six quarters of play he isn’t going to file among his NFL memories.

Whiz noted there were some poor routes/adjustments by receivers – one time, it seemed Michael Floyd just slowed up on a deep pattern, and the ball ended up well over his head – but Lindley knew he struggled. To have 10 three-and-outs as an offense (one ended on an interception), plus a four-and-out when the Cards couldn’t pick up a first on fourth down, was just devastating. When you lose a game by a single point, it’s that much more magnified.

“We just have to play better,” Lindley said. “I have to play better.”

— There is no need to belabor the point. I know there were plenty asking if/when Whiz was going to put in John Skelton. Was I surprised a change wasn’t made? I guess I was. Whisenhunt said he stuck with Lindley because he understood the scheme and what needed to be done. That’s got to translate into the game play, though.

I’m sure the comments below will be dominated by this subject.

— What a day for Kerry Rhodes. He promised on the Big Red Rage “I’m going to make plays, don’t worry about that one” when asked about his return to New York. It was Rhodes’ first chance to go against the Jets and coach Rex Ryan, who ripped Rhodes pretty good after Rhodes was traded away. Had the Cards won,’ Rhodes’ two interceptions and forced fumble would have been the perfect narrative. Losing takes the luster off, for sure, but you have to think Rhodes made his point while continuing to have a good season. Officially, Rhodes had six tackles and three passes defensed too.

— The interception by Patrick Peterson was a heck of an athletic play. It looked like he was definitely beaten, yet he not only made up the ground but grabbed the pick.

— Crazy how Jets kicker Nick Folk hit both the left upright and right upright on a pair of missed field goals. The Jets weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut out there. Some of that was the Cards’ defense, but some of that is the Jets’ issues too.

— Running back Beanie Wells had only 22 yards on 15 carries. There weren’t a lot of holes for him to hit for sure, but watching him run he just doesn’t look totally right with the knee, which did limit him in practice last week. I know that when his two straight runs on third- and fourth-and-1 early in the game that the Cards couldn’t convert hurt. The Jets have a good defense, but an absence of a run game shows up when the QB struggles. Then again, the Jets could tee off on the run because they weren’t concerned about Lindley beating them.

— Punter Dave Zastudil tied his career-high with 10 punts which makes sense in context.

— It was a weird game because the Jets’ crowd wasn’t happy with their team much of the game and let them know it. To have Greg McElroy come in to play quarterback and get the kind of cheer he did just shows how much the fan base doesn’t have faith in Mark Sanchez. McElroy didn’t do anything special. But he was the lone QB with a TD drive.

— Dan Williams was just talking about taking advantage of more playing time if he got the chance, and Sunday, he got the chance with the Jets playing a lot of run-first offense. The nose tackle responded with a team-high 10 tackles.

I wish I had a lot more to touch on but I do not. The QB thing is going to overshadow everything I’m sure.


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A chance to miss on Tebow once again

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2012 – 4:20 pm

The last time the Cardinals played against a Tim Tebow team in the regular season, they probably should have seen him play — but he didn’t.

You remember that game, at the end of the disastrous 2010 season. The Cardinals crushed the Broncos, 43-13, in rookie quarterback John Skelton’s first start. Skelton didn’t play well (15-for-37, 146 yards) but he didn’t turn the ball over, and the game was dominated by kicker Jay Feely (25 points, including a touchdown run on a fake field goal) and running back Tim Hightower’s 148 yards rushing on only 18 carries.

(Looking back on my story, I forgot about then-rookie Daryl Washington pulling a Leon Lett. Oops.)

Anyway, not only did the Broncos get throttled but quarterback Kyle Orton was bad, completing just 19-of-41 passes for 166 yards and three interceptions. The Broncos were going nowhere. Kind of seemed like a natural time to give backup QB Tim Tebow a chance to play. But interim coach Eric Studesville decided against it.

Flash forward to Sunday, when the Cardinals play the Jets, and Tebow again is the backup. Tebow is dealing with bad ribs, bad enough to the point where third-stringer Greg McElroy may be the wiser choice to have as Mark Sanchez’s reserve option. Coach Rex Ryan isn’t committing to anything, although he said he thinks Tebow will be able to be active Sunday. Tebow playing, in some way, would certainly add a storyline to a game that could use an extra boost. Clearly Sanchez isn’t going anywhere as the starter.

The Cardinals aren’t taking chances. “You have to prepare for (Tebow),” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Whether he plays or not, we’ll see. But you’ve got to be prepared for him. When he’s in the game, it’s different.”

Another side note: That win against the struggling Tebow team also snapped a seven-game losing streak. Maybe history has a chance to repeat itself Sunday against another struggling Tebow team.

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