The roster and other thoughts

Posted by Darren Urban on September 7, 2010 – 4:01 pm

Veteran linebacker Clark Haggans came off the field Monday exhausted. It was pretty hot and humid, and given the dearth of linebackers — the Cards that day had just three outside ‘backers, since newcomer Cyril Obiozor had yet to arrive  and practice squaders Pago Togafau and Curtis Gatewood weren’t there yet either — the 33-year-old Haggans was basically taking every rep. No one on the team is in better shape than Haggans, but he still joked that “I was looking for rookies to take my place and he’s out there next to me,” referring to Daryl Washington.

By the time the team was running gassers at the end of the workout, “I was seeing heat monkeys,” Haggans said.

That’ll change by Wednesday’s practice (which, because of the temperatures breaking a bit, will be back at the Cards’ Tempe facility, as will Thursday’s, instead of a planned visit to ASU’s Dickey Dome). Obiozor, Gatewood and Togafau are in place to take some snaps. Still, now that the Cards have a roster in place — at least for week one — it is an interesting breakdown.

The Cards are clearly still looking to find the right combination in the secondary, which is why they have kept six cornerbacks right now. A.J. Jefferson (pictured below) has upside — I doubt he’ll be active on game days at first — and they aren’t sure yet what they have in Brandon McDonald, the newcomer from Cleveland. I am also guessing there will be a lot of nickel and dime looks, like strong safety Adrian Wilson playing in/near the box. That’s one way to not worry about needing too many linebackers.

Still, the Cards only have seven LBs on the active roster and one — Obiozor — has to show he fits.

— Interested to see what the Cards do with their seven defensive linemen, although since a guy like Gabe Watson actually play more special teams than most nose tackles, they may just make all seven active on game days.

— WR Andre Roberts is still listed as the No. 1 punt returner, but he is going to have to show something coming back from his shoulder injury (he said Tuesday he is healed) to have that job out of the gate. Is Max Komar active in the first game? Do the Cards stick Steve Breaston back there until Roberts is ready?

I was wrong. Washington is starting by opening day. I was right. Tim Hightower is starting opening day.

— I don’t know much about fullback Jerome Johnson, but they feel comfortable enough that he is the only FB on the roster. Wonder how that will work, or if the Cards use more two-tight end stuff in St. Louis.

— Notice Jorrick Calvin actually made the Eagles’ roster. I don’t think he was going to make it here. Now that Marshay Green is back on the practice squad (in case you missed it, Green and Togafau rounded out the eight-man reserve group), the Cards still have the young untested group in the secondary as they search for one or two to develop.

— Four undrafted guys — QB Max Hall, WR Stephen Williams, Komar and Jefferson — made the roster. Green made the practice squad. Not a bad undrafted haul, even if only a couple pan out (and it’s hard to believe Williams, at least, isn’t well on his way).

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Calvin traded for fullback UDPATE with cuts

Posted by Darren Urban on August 30, 2010 – 9:50 am

The Eagles have announced that the Cards have traded cornerback Jorrick Calvin to Philly for fullback Charles Scott. Not a surprise since fullback Nehemiah Broughton blew out his knee in Chicago. Nothing official from the Cardinals as of now, but since the Eagles have put it out there, I’m pretty sure it’s done. Like Calvin, Scott was a sixth-round draft pick this year. It looked like Calvin was a long shot to make the team anyway, so if Scott pans out, the Cards may have salvaged the pick.

Scott needs to beat out holdover Reagan Maui’a. Calvin fell behind the undrafted Marshay Green, so he was probably going to be a practice squad guy at best.

UPDATE: The trade has now been announced by the Cards. The team also has released TE Dominique Byrd, and OL Casey Knips and David Moosman. They also brought in WR Isaiah Williams. That’s the extent of the moves coming today; the Cards have until tomorrow to make three more moves to get the roster to 75.

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Cards bring in new cornerback

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2010 – 8:49 am

The Cardinals have made a change in cornerback in their quest to find more depth. They have released CB Rashad Barksdale and picked up CB Trevor Ford, who played three games last season with the Packers. Ford is big (6-foot) and probably raw, coming from Troy (he was a college teammate of rookie CB Jorrick Calvin). Barksdale had struggled (even yesterday, he gave up a fourth-down completion to rookie Andre Roberts during the two-minute drill) and could never seem to really get himself into the hunt for playing time.

In the meantime, the Cardinals continue to search for depth at cornerback behind Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

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Breaston wants to return to normal

Posted by Darren Urban on May 5, 2010 – 5:04 pm

Ken Whisenhunt was right.

The coach, after the Cards took wide receiver Andre Roberts in the third round — a player who also is a punt returner — of the draft, said he wasn’t comfortable with Steve Breaston continuing to return punts because of Breaston’s rise to the No. 2 receiver. Injuries are a concern, although Whisenhunt noted “it’s going to be hard because Steve isn’t going to want to give that up.”

So the other day, I started asking Breaston if he indeed understood why the Cards were going to take him off punt returns — and he didn’t even let me finish.

“I didn’t lose it yet,” Breaston said, before bursting into laughter.

“It was default (I lost) kick return,” Breaston said, noting he injured his knee in the first preseason game. “I got hurt early and LaRod (Stephens-Howling) ran away with that, so I am trying to hold on as long as I can to punts. I’ve been punt returning since I was 10 years old, so you know …”

Breaston continued to smile. He isn’t stupid. He knows this is a battle he cannot win. The Cards need him at receiver, and don’t need him getting exhausted in punt returns. There is a reason a couple of the draft picks (Roberts and Jorrick Calvin) and a slew of the undrafted rookies all have return talents. Whisenhunt is looking for his alternatives.

Breaston has broken his share of big returns — Minnesota last year, for instance, and the franchise-changing TD against Pittsburgh in Whisenhunt’s first year that led to a milestone victory — but it is his sure-handedness Whisenhunt loved (he’s never dropped a ball), to go with Breaston’s complete fearlessness back there. This isn’t about Breaston losing the job at all.

Regardless of the reasoning, “it will always be in the back of my mind I lost it,” Breaston said. “I feel like I can put myself in shape where I can carry that. I feel I have always returned punts and I enjoy that. I want to get back to where I’m going to compete. I hope they give me that opportunity. I want that shot. I can’t lose it.”

Whiz was right. Breaston may have been smiling when talking about the subject, but he isn’t going down without a fight.

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Wrapping up minicamp

Posted by Darren Urban on May 2, 2010 – 1:38 pm

Well, it’s over, but before I chase the half a day left this weekend, a few thoughts now that minicamp is over for 2010:

— The big thing some fans want to know is who looked good? And who didn’t? The bottom line, it all means very little this time of year. As Michael Adams said yesterday, “Minicamp depth charts don’t mean much.” It means really little for the linemen, who can’t line up and hit. If a quarterback is completing everything, does it resonate even though there is rarely any pass rush? And it’s even more fruitless to pass close attention to the rookies, who aren’t going to have a big impact out of the box regardless because of this team’s philosophy about first-year players. (And yes, there are exceptions. If the QB is terrible or the rookies are awful, sure it might mean bad things. But if they aren’t really bad — which rarely happens — my minicamp “truths” apply).

All that said, you do get a sense of receivers and defensive backs, because they are generally doing what they will always do. And my sense is there wasn’t much to see good or bad. The best receiver, in my mind, was Steve Breaston. The young guys were all decent. No one did anything to stand out from what I saw (although O.J. Jones always seems able to make a play when the ball comes his way).

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt wouldn’t say the Cards are going to run out and get a veteran cornerback. I know there have been reports tying the Cards to 10-year guy Will James, but again, I don’t see the need to rush. Get through OTAs and maybe even get through part or all of training camp before making a move. See what you really have here — and make sure you really sign a guy that can help and isn’t just another guy.

— Speaking of cornerback, Adams made a nice play on Larry Fitzgerald Sunday after being the one beat by Fitz’s dropped bomb Saturday. The best catch by Breaston Sunday came with Adams in perfect position. Those of us on the sideline watching had no idea how Breaston came up with the ball.

— The Cards were trying a bunch of rookies with punt and kickoff returns this weekend, in what looked like an effort just to see if they were OK with the basics. Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams, A.J. Jefferson, Jorrick Calvin, Marshay Green, Max Komar, Alfonso Smith and Juamorris Stewart all took turns catching from the JUGS machine. Those spots have a long, long, long way to go before anything shakes out.

— Dan Williams was working inside on the first-unit dime package, one of the few times a rookie got to play with a first-string group.

I have some other leftover notes to parcel out in the next few days. The charity golf tournament is tomorrow. Rookies are gone until OTAs start May 18. Back to the voluntary strength and conditioning work and, I suppose, the will-Deuce-Lutui-sign-his-tender-offer watch.

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Final draft thoughts

Posted by Darren Urban on April 24, 2010 – 3:26 pm

Well, I don’t think anything could have prepared anyone for today’s final day of the draft Cardinals-wise. Heck, when the O’Brien Schofield story came down — stud pass rusher who just ripped up his knee three months ago — I was just happy there was something interesting to write about. Then the Cardinals traded cornerback Bryant McFadden. Then they took a quarterback. Then we’re in the press room trying to find stats on CB Jorrick Calvin, not realizing at first he didn’t play in 2009. Even the last pick, Stanford tight end Jim Dray, had his own backstory — in 2007 covering a punt, he tore the ACL, MCL, LCL meniscus and hamstring in his left leg. Yikes.

Stories galore. But before I rush off to coach my son’s basketball game (yes, thank you NFL for hustling through this last day), some kibbles and bits I didn’t get to elsewhere:

— Calvin is intriguing. Coach Ken Whisenhunt even said the fact he didn’t play in 2009 probably helped the Cards wait until the sixth round to get him. You like the idea he took responsibility — “I had to live with the consequences,” Calvin said when he didn’t turn in an assignment and was flunked. “It was all my fault.” — and Whiz and Rod Graves sounded sure they knew what they were getting. It helped that Troy assistant coach Maurea Crain took part in training camp last year as part of the NFL’s minority coach intern program. They reached out to Crain and got all the info they needed on Calvin.

— That said, I wonder like everyone about cornerback depth. I do think Greg Toler was going to end up as the starter, so that part doesn’t concern me when it comes to the McFadden trade. And knowing McFadden was supposed to make almost $5 M catches your eye. Will they sign a vet? I think they will consider it. And this may end up being a situation where they nab a guy when final cuts come at the end of training camp too, a la Jeremy Bridges last year.

— The Cards sent both Mike Miller and Chris Miller from the coaching staff to work out QB John Skelton about 10 days ago. I was hearing his name connected with this team since the combine. I think they’ve liked him for a while. And he them. “In the back of my mind I always thought I would be a Cardinal.”

— I can’t see Brian St. Pierre signing now, though. I think the Cards get an undrafted rookie arm, but between Skelton and the work needed for both Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson, I don’t know how many reps a fourth QB would even get. And I don’t see anyone beating out the two vets and a draft pick for a roster spot either.

— Dray, on his injuries: “I knew coming back from a big knee injury like that, my way to get back on the field wasn’t going to be running double move routes or deep routes because my knee wasn’t up to that level. I knew I would have to come in right away and try to get back on the field blocking.”

— After listening to Schofield this morning, it’s tough not to feel good about the pick and what he’ll do to return to his pass-rushing ways. You look at the numbers — 12 sacks, 24 tackles for loss — and you can understand why the Cards took a chance. And coming back from ACLs isn’t the same as it used to be. I remember covering Kyle Vanden Bosch back in 2001-2003 when he blew out his knee twice and look how he turned out after he left. It takes so much less time to recover too. Whisenhunt pointed out that when he played in the 1980s, you put a guy in a cast for six weeks after tearing an ACL, and then going from there. Schofield was walking around the combine without a limp about a month after his injury.

OK, that’s all for now. I’ve gotta go. I’m sure there will be much more to talk about soon. I’ll monitor the comments on the blog, but otherwise, I’m off until Monday.

Unless the Cards make another trade … or news of their undrafted guys leak … who am I kidding. I’ll probably write again tomorrow.

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Sixth-round cornerback didn’t play in 2009

Posted by Darren Urban on April 24, 2010 – 12:10 pm

The Cardinals took Troy cornerback Jorrick Calvin in the sixth round, necessary after the Cards dealt Bryant McFadden earlier today. At 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Calvin ran a 4.64 and 4.46 40s at his pro day. The negative? He didn’t play as a senior after being ruled ineligible, because Troy administrators figured out he had run out of eligibility after starting his college career at Northwestern State in 2005 and then going to community college. An interesting choice, although he was a starter for Troy before that (two interceptions in 2008) and was on the radar of NFL teams.

UPDATE: Calvin said he was academically ineligible because, after a “couple of deaths” in his family in the spring of 2009, he failed to inform one of his teachers he would be missing some classes and he ended up with a failing grade. That put him below the 24 credit hours for the year he needed to play. “I’ve had problems in my past, but I have come to realize there is more in life to worry about than bull,” he said.

Calvin said he spent the football season with the team and lifted weights. “I just couldn’t play on Saturdays,” he said. Calvin added he wasn’t worried about rust. “Once an athlete, always an athlete,” he said.

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