Post-practice: Chike, Breaston sit

Posted by Darren Urban on September 16, 2009 – 2:05 pm

The first practice of the week saw linebacker Chike Okeafor sitting out with a bad shoulder and receiver Steve Breaston still out with his balky knee. WRs Anquan Boldin (hamstring) and Early Doucet (ribs) were limited, but coach Ken Whisenhunt said he feels better about his receiving situation this week than last — at least, he has a better handle on it.

Keilen Dykes was brought up — and Lance Long released — mostly because of DL Kenny Iwebema’s bad ankle. The Cards needed another defensive lineman. S Matt Ware sat out with his bad shoulder. G Reggie Wells was added to the injury report this week with a bad thumb but he practiced full and it shouldn’t be an issue.

Otherwise the talk was about the Cards’ up-and-down offense (a full story coming later). Most of the same things were said — it’s about details, we’ve got to clean up mistakes — but no one was as passionate about it as Boldin, who was blunt in his assessments. Boldin said the players simply have to get focused. As far as the problems, “It’s not a mystery,” he said.

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Dykes promoted, OJ Jones returns

Posted by Darren Urban on September 16, 2009 – 10:35 am

The Cardinals have added defensive lineman Keilen Dykes to the active roster to take the spot of wide receiver Lance Long, who was, in fact, released. Long is gone for good, since Dykes’ practice squad spot will be taken by receiver Onrea Jones, who was recently on Washington’s practice squad for a couple weeks after the Cards’ cut him. Dykes had impressed coaches in the offseason and has a chance to develop, although he’ll have to battle to be active Sundays for now.

As for Long, no surprise to see he ended up on the Chiefs’ practice squad with former Cards OC Todd Haley. He always had an uphill battle behind five guys, and now that Early Doucet looks like he is coming back, Long — who had struggled and dropped a pass against San Francisco — didn’t have a place on the active roster.

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Report: Long released

Posted by Darren Urban on September 15, 2009 – 10:08 pm

There’s been a report that wide receiver Lance Long has been released, which a) would be a good sign about the injury status of gimpy wideouts Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston and b) would signal somebody else coming on the roster. I would bet it would be someone on the defensive side of the ball, since the Cards are short some people. I’d also guess it’s less likely a veteran than a young guy, perhaps a promotion from the practice squad. We’ll see tomorrow. As for Long, we’ll see if the Cards can keep him on the practice squad or if someone picks him up. He struggled in games of late and seems to need more seasoning.

UPDATE: Long has signed with the Chiefs’ practice squad.

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49ers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 13, 2009 – 11:19 pm

What sticks with me more than anything else after the Cards’ disappointing season-opening loss was the TV shot of an animated Larry Fitzgerald talking to Kurt Warner in the huddle late in the first half. I don’t know what Fitz was saying nor did I get a chance to ask, but I’m willing to guess – since Fitz didn’t have a catch at that point – Fitz was saying something along the lines of “Just give me a chance and I’ll go get it for you.”

Shades of last season’s opener against the Niners. Of course, the Cards ended up winning that game. The Cards didn’t win Sunday. But it was game two where the offensive air attack really starting clicking after an uneven first game. Can they repeat that in Jacksonville?

Anyway, some other thoughts:

— If the Cards can really play defense like that, they’ll be in good shape. Their new style is now on video though, so teams will be better prepared. But if Chike Okeafor can play like that and Darnell Dockett continues to be disruptive ad Calais Campbell (pictured below stuffing Frank Gore near the Niner goal line) plays like he is ready to make us forget Antonio Smith, that’s a start.

— Beanie Wells showed some things after his messed-up first play, but if Tim Hightower can make plays out of the backfield catching the ball, that’s why Hightower will continue to start. Hightower did seem to slip back sometimes into some east-west running after making strides toward north-south in the preseason.

— The receiver injuries have to be a concern. It’s now clear why Lance Long made the team, because Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston were banged up. Are the injuries a major reason the offense has slid backward? That makes sense.

— The penalties should be a thing of the past. They were a bugaboo in 2007. They were cleaned up for the most part last season, but there they were Sunday killing the Cards. “There was a lot of aggression out there, a lot of emotion,” Dockett said of the penalties. “Penalties hurt you but at the same time I don’t think that dictates whether you win or lose the game like that out there.” That could be true, but what stuck with coach Ken Whisenhunt afterward were the two penalties when the Cards got the ball back when they could have won. They had 38 yards to go and went backwards 15 yards first.

— The offensive line play was uneven. It wasn’t helped when Warner held the ball a couple of times waiting for plays to open up. But Levi Brown had trouble with rush end Parys Haralson, as one example. The Cards didn’t get to establish much of a run, either, playing from behind much of the game.


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This time, Branch helps

Posted by Darren Urban on September 4, 2009 – 4:39 pm

With final cuts today, there was much talk about the Cards’ roster makeup. The team kept seven receivers, coach Ken Whisenhunt said, in large part because Early Doucet’s broken ribs mean he is an unknown when he will come back. Since Anquan Boldin has been dinged and Steve Breaston has missed time, the Cards almost had to keep Lance Long around.

But keeping an extra player somewhere means going without. In the Cards’ case, it is the defensive line where Whisenhunt feels the team is thin right now. They have just six defensive linemen (when we are talking about the 3-4 alignment): starters Calais Campbell, Bryan Robinson and Darnell Dockett, and reserves Kenny Iwebema, Gabe Watson and Alan Branch. The team would have liked another end, but guess what? Branch, the nose tackle who was on the bubble coming into camp, has the ability to do both. He played some 3-4 end against the Broncos, and he was a big reason the Cards felt comfortable enough to stick with six on the defensive line.

“He did a pretty good job,” Whisenhunt said. “We talk about the fourth (preseason) game having an impact, that’s an example right there. What he did, it gives us more flexibility with a guy who can play inside or outside.”


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Looking at the final cuts

Posted by Darren Urban on September 4, 2009 – 2:41 pm

Well, obviously I was off when I was coming up with my 53-man roster. I thought Lance Long cost himself a shot, I thought Aaron Francisco was ahead of Matt Ware, and I thought the Cards would want to keep a veteran like Victor Hobson over a rookie like Reggie Walker. I thought Elton Brown was in trouble and that Melvin Fowler would topple Ben Claxton in the battle to back up Lyle Sendlein.

Wrong on all accounts.

Nevertheless, the list is in. It’s not final by any stretch, and we’ll get a better idea of what coach Ken Whisenhunt was thinking at his 3 p.m. press conference. One thing is for sure — Whisenhunt and his staff are always looking to develop younger players. It’s the only way to survive in this league, so even if, for instance, Walker is a tad below Hobson, he’s likely got more long-term upside. This roster also clearly rewards hard work. You need talent, of course, but you see young undrafted guys like Walker, Michael Adams, Long, even Stephen Spach and you see the kind of mentality Whiz wants in the locker room.

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Broncos aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 4, 2009 – 1:22 am

This aftermath comes directly from the final charter flight of the preseason, late night Thursday (and by the time it’s posted, it’ll be Friday, when everyone is sleeping). One thing coach Ken Whisenhunt said that seems perfectly rational – it’s so hard to judge the fourth preseason game, more than any of the other preseason matchups. The second half is littered with guys on both sides who either aren’t going to be on the roster when the season starts or will play little on offense or defense (if they are active at all). Is there reason to be concerned? Clearly, guys like Adrian Wilson, Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald didn’t seem particularly happy. Ultimately, though, it’s impossible to know what this all means until the 49ers visit in 10 days or so.

So, knowing what we know (or can’t really know, since it’s the fourth preseason game), here are some thoughts:

— Very interesting that Whisenhunt went out of his way to praise cornerback Michael Adams after the game. Ralph Brown and Bryant McFadden weren’t playing because of bad ankles, and, especially since Adams can be so effective as a gunner in punt coverage, I’m beginning to think he’s made this roster. You never know, but when you’re on the bubble and the coach is delivering specific kudos, that’s a good sign.

— On the flip side, it’s hard to see Lance Long having a chance to make the team. He has played a ton the past two games and yet it doesn’t seem like he has left enough of a lasting impression.

— All through the preseason, Warner has downplayed the offense’s issues, saying how good he felt despite the results. That seems to have changed to an extent. Warner knows what this offense can do, but he talked about not being on the same page and Whisenhunt talked about being out of sync. Some of that may do with the receivers; Steve Breaston was clearly rusty (he lined up wrong twice and was flagged for ‘covering up’ a lineman or tight end in an illegal formation) and Anquan Boldin isn’t playing. But Fitzgerald is fine and Warner couldn’t hook up with him a time or two. It’s hard not to remember how the offense sputtered a bit in the season opener against the 49ers last season despite a win and wonder if it could happen again.

— It’s impossible to know what the defense was or who was supposed to be where, but the lone big play given up by the starting defense came when the Chad Jackson got past Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The Cards need big things from DRC; you just hope his confidence is still where it needs to be. I’m sure he’s not looking at these past two games as résumé material.

That’s really it. Cuts come tomorrow, and as I said in my radio stint before Thursday’s game, I am willing to wager a good amount of money that won’t be it – and that the Cards will bring in a player or two cut from other teams by the time they get back to practice next week (OK, I wouldn’t really wager. Commissioner Goodell would frown upon that, and I’d lose my job. But you get what I mean.)


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One possible 53

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2009 – 6:44 pm

In a couple of days, the Cards and coach Ken Whisenhunt will make their final decisions on an opening day roster (or close to it), trimming another 22 players from the current squad to 53. So that means I make my annual guesstimate on who is in, who is out, and who is truly on the bubble. This is never a foolproof thing; if there is a guy or two who pops available on the waiver wire the Cards want it changes the dynamics of what can happen, and that initial 22 can grow by a name or two to bring in newbies. That certainly happened on the practice squad last year, when the Cards went shopping for new names who weren’t around during training camp.

Again, this is my opinion, based on what I have seen and heard but still my opinion. And it doesn’t factor in what happens in Denver and if a guy wows a coach or two. Or if a guy gets hurt. It’s also just about the 53; for instance, undrafted rookie LB Reggie Walker doesn’t look like he will make the 53-man roster but he’s a guy who should end up on the practice squad. (Speaking of which, * will designate some PS candidates):

Kurt Warner
Matt Leinart
Brian St. Pierre
Tyler Palko


Larry Fitzgerald
Anquan Boldin
Steve Breaston
Jerheme Urban
Sean Morey
Early Doucet
Lance Long*
Onrea Jones*
Ed Gant
Steve Sanders


Tim Hightower
Beanie Wells
Jason Wright
Dan Kreider
LaRod Stephens-Howling*
Tim Castille
Reagan Maui’a
Chris Vincent


Stephen Spach
Ben Patrick (doesn’t count against the 53 during 4-game suspension)
Anthony Becht
Leonard Pope
Dominique Byrd


Lyle Sendlein
Reggie Wells
Mike Gandy
Levi Brown
Deuce Lutui
Brandon Keith
Herman Johnson
Melvin Fowler
Oliver Ross
Elton Brown
Ben Claxton
Carlton Medder
Trevor Canfield*

Darnell Dockett
Bryan Robinson
Calais Campbell
Kenny Iwebema
Gabe Watson
Alan Branch
Keilen Dykes*
Rodney Leisle
Alex Field

Chike Okeafor
Bertrand Berry
Clark Haggans
Karlos Dansby
Gerald Hayes
Will Davis
Victor Hobson
Ali Highsmith
Reggie Walker*
David Holloway*
Chase Bullock

Adrian Wilson
Antrel Rolle
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Bryant McFadden
Greg Toler
Rashad Johnson
Aaron Francisco
Ralph Brown
Matt Ware
Michael Adams
Jameel Dowling
Wilrey Fontenot*

Mike Leach
Neil Rackers
Ben Graham

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Packers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2009 – 11:51 am

Never has an “aftermath” blog entry seemed so apropos, with the way that game went last night. Considering it was just a preseason game, it left quite an imprint in a lot of areas, and because of that first half, much of it wasn’t a good feeling. This much is true – there are plenty of those who, because of the recent history of Super Bowl losers, believe the Cards are primed to take a fall. A performance from the starters, like the one against the Packers, well, that just makes it that much easier to doubt. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was hoping it was a wake-up call. We’ll see. Since the final preseason game means less than all the others, and since the starters will not play much if at all, we won’t know what this means until the Sept. 13 season opener.

On to the more specific aftermath.

— Defensively, it was just scary. The group looked solid in the first two games, and then transformed for a night into something that looked like the worst in the NFL. But in some ways, that may be a positive. Had the Cards given up, say, three touchdowns in the first half, I actually might have been a little more concerned. Things got so off the rails it felt a lot more like a one-time meltdown rather than an overall weak unit. More disturbing were a couple of the comments after, like when Darnell Dockett noted how some players were playing hard, and some just weren’t. He didn’t name names, of course, but preseason or not, that simply can’t happen.

— Interesting comment from Whisenhunt when it came to the receivers: “We found out a bunch of guys tonight and unfortunately, some of that wasn’t good.” The Cards went almost the whole game with Jerheme Urban, Lance Long and Early Doucet. Urban (who had 103 yards) for a moment felt like he was undoing a lot of the good he did in camp when he fumbled after a catch and then dropped one he should have had. But he also made a nice 27-yard catch the play after the drop, and I would guess he is OK.

Long and Doucet could have shown more. Long had just one catch and needs to hold on to the final catch he could have had in the end zone (the play was ruled incomplete not because he didn’t get his feet down but because he lost the ball when he hit the ground). Doucet had five catches for nearly 100 yards, but he absolutely has to make the two-point conversion catch at the end of the game. “It’s just disappointing that when we had opportunities to step up tonight we didn’t,” Whisenhunt said.

— If that’s Beanie at not-100-percent, wow. A very impressive initial showing from Wells, and don’t forget Tim Hightower averaged more than six yards a carry too. In a night filled with things that made you shake your head, the running game actually have reason to smile.

— Same with Matt Leinart, for that matter. Yes, he was going against backups, but his rally was important. There’s no way he isn’t No. 2, and if something should happen to Kurt Warner, I don’t see how Whisenhunt wouldn’t be comfortable with Leinart taking over.

— Is it me, or have there been a heck of a lot of blows to the head on Cardinals’ offensive players already this preseason? It’s happened to Long three or four times (one was called last night), it seemed like the play that gave LaRod Stephens-Howling a concussion was close and Sean Morey may have absorbed one late.

— The Cards are off for a couple of days. The cuts of five come by Tuesday, but Whisenhunt will likely deliver the news Monday before practice. LB Cody Brown needs to go to injured reserve, so the team only has to let four guys go.


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