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Roster age, not surprisingly, shrinks

Posted by Darren Urban on May 3, 2013 – 3:25 pm

It didn’t take long before Bruce Arians made it known he was going to be comfortable playing young players after doing it last season in Indianapolis. Then, as March played out, the Cardinals either didn’t bring back older players who were free agents and released others who were on the wrong side of 30. Now, with the offseason roster nearly set, the numbers emphasize just how much younger General Manager Steve Keim has made his team.

The team’s 53-man roster by the end of last season — and that means younger players were on it in place of IR’d vets like Levi Brown, Kevin Kolb and Lyle Sendlein — had an average age of 29.7 years. The Cardinals’ current extended offseason roster (subtracting the 16 long-shot undrafted rookies who would obviously bring down the average age by their sheer numbers) features an average age of 25.8 years.

The Cards had 12 players 30 and older on their final 53. As of today, they have eight: Carson Palmer (33), Yeremiah Bell (35, pictured below), Daryn Colledge (31), Darnell Dockett (31), Jeff King (30), Jay Feely (36), Mike Leach (36) and Dave Zastudil (34). Take out those three specialists and the Cardinals’ current average age is 25.4.

The age could rise depending on how the roster is shaped going into the season, because of those 30-year-olds, I don’t right now see any of them being let go. But while Keim’s overhaul was in part about clearing salary cap room this offseason, it was also about an infusion of youth after a Ken Whisenhunt era that relied heavily on veterans.

YouthPicBellUSE


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Eagles aftermath, with a Kolb topper

Posted by Darren Urban on September 23, 2012 – 7:46 pm

The defense is dominant. But before we get too far away from one of the key storylines from today’s game, here’s a nod to Kevin Kolb. The quarterback keeps downplaying what it meant today to beat the Eagles, but the man is human. You can only imagine, with everything he’s been through – the guy wasn’t even going to be playing two weeks ago.

“We wanted to come out and play hard for him because we knew what it meant for him,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “He made the throws, he scrambled when he needed to and he did a great job commanding the huddle. In the huddle, he was very demonstrative. He really wanted it. He was calling guys to reach down and dig deep and make plays. He really doesn’t talk all that much in the huddle, but today, you could tell he was actually trying to motivate.”

Someone wanted Kolb to reflect on the past three games. He wouldn’t bite. “I want to stay focused,” Kolb said. “Because I’ve done it in the past, you know, tried to foresee the future and every time it comes up and knocks my legs out from under me.”

The questions are going to be there and no, I don’t know what happens at quarterback. You’d have to think Kolb will stay as the starter even if John Skelton’s ankle is healthy. I don’t anticipate any big announcement – that’s not really coach Ken Whisenhunt’s style – but that’s my guess tonight.

— There was a lot of preseason concern about how much pressure the Cards could get with their outside linebackers. O’Brien Schofield and Quentin Groves each had a sack, Sam Acho had a play that would’ve been a sack if Michael Vick hadn’t decided to intentionally ground the ball, and the three totaled six QB hits. Not a bad day’s work.

— Safety Kerry Rhodes has had two excellent games in a row. Played well in New England, and then today he looked like, since Adrian Wilson was sitting out, he was going to suddenly take up the mantle as the guy who drilled everyone. He did it back-to-back plays on tight end Brent Celek, and later tagged Vick for the James Sanders fumble return.

“Everyone else is making plays, so why not me?” Rhodes said. “I have to make a couple myself.”.

— James Sanders and Rashad Johnson stepped up in Wilson’s absence. Reminded me of last year when Johnson and Richard Marshall filled in well for Rhodes

— Daryl Washington won’t win NFC defensive player of the week, I don’t think, because Calais Campbell won it last week. But he’d have an argument after his two sacks and the way he harassed Michael Vick all day. So I’ll say this: Has a team ever looked better in a two-week stretch of re-signing two players to big contract extensions. No worries about either one flaking out after getting paid.

— The PatCat got a snap Sunday. Four-yard Patrick Peterson running loss. It can’t always be productive, I guess.

— Kolb has played two games plus the end of the other without an interception. “With our defense and our style of play, not turning the ball over is a big key,” Kolb said. “It’s OK to punt. We don’t like it, it’s never been in my game, but to have that mentality, sometimes it’s OK.”

— It was so important for Ryan Williams to bounce back like he did. Not only did his 83 yards on 13 carries look good, but it softens the blow if Beanie Wells is out. We’ll see how Wells’ toe is this week. Williams does, as Whisenhunt noted, need to grab that 3rd-and-1 pitch and just drive upfield and make sure he gets the one yard, rather than look for a big play and get stuffed.

— Speaking of stuffed, I felt back for LaRod Stephens-Howling. He was in the game with Wells down and Williams suffering from cramps, and the Eagles knew the Cards just wanted to run it into the line late and burn clock, and the Hyphen’s stats took a beating. Eight carries, minus-14 yards. Talk about taking one for the team.

— Darnell Dockett said his hamstring will be OK, but jeez, that would be a tough loss if he were to miss a game. Dockett shrugged. “Every now and then, even the Hulk gets wounded.”

— Long snapper Mike Leach recovered the Eagles’ fumble punt today, which is why you need someone athletic enough to get down in coverage at that position. It’s not just about putting your head between your legs and throwing.

— Michael Floyd, welcome to the NFL. A highlight-worthy TD catch and drawing a 15-yard penalty on DRC? Nice production.

— Fitz had a good game, but what does he tell Andre Roberts about the 50 yards Roberts lost on Fitz’s block in the back penalty that Roberts may not have even needed. Roberts ended up with a 29-yard reception instead. “I cost my closest friend on the team a 70-yard play,” Fitz lamented. Ah, after all that time Roberts spent with Fitz’s jet skis on the lake this summer, I’m sure Roberts will forgive him.

I had just turned 4 the last time the Cards were 3-0. I wasn’t living in Arizona yet, even though I’ve lived here most of my life, and their move to the Valley was a long way away. At some point, the Cardinals were going to get to 3-0 again. Raise your hand if, on Sept. 8, you thought it was going to be this season.


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A guess at the 53

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2012 – 4:59 pm

Every NFL team must have it roster cuts in by Friday afternoon. To be exact, by 6 p.m. Arizona time. I expect the Cardinals – and coach Ken Whisenhunt – to have announced them before, since Whiz will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. that day. Until then, though, this is a guess at how this 53-man roster shakes out.

Whisenhunt made it clear the other day that this last preseason game does matter when it comes to a spot or two on the roster, and I believe that. It means trying to approximate who will be on the roster before that last game is somewhat fool’s gold. I’m certainly not Nostradamus here. Last year, for instance, I had Ben Graham holding off Dave Zastudil for the punter job. I was very wrong. And this only holds for as long as it might take for the Cards to claim/sign a guy or two over the weekend, which would obviously change things. That always happens.

But it’s fodder to chew on until Friday, speculation upon which this time of the NFL schedule is built around. So with apologies to those I miss on, and with a nod to old school Letterman, this is only an exhibition and not a competition, so please, no wagering.

QB – (3) John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley. No, we don’t know the starter yet. But it’s hard to believe that with everything Lindley has shown as a rookie he doesn’t get the nod over Rich Bartel (who is one of the best guys you’ll meet and someday will be a very good coach.)

RB – (4) Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell. This is one of the sticking points. Powell has had a good preseason, but as I have mentioned many times, I think Alfonso Smith has as well. It may come down to how Powell looks Thursday night. Will I be shocked if Smith is the choice instead of Powell? Nope.

FB – (1) Anthony Sherman. The Sherminator running unopposed. It’s like a boring political “race.”

WR – (6) Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, Michael Floyd, DeMarco Sampson, LaRon Byrd. This is a close one, in my mind. The top four are obvious. I think Sampson has had a good camp and he can play special teams. Byrd versus Stephen Williams may just be about Byrd’s upside. I’m not sure Byrd would make it to the practice squad but — given some other positional issues, like, at say, offensive line – I’m not sure either if the Cards may try and keep just five receivers and use the practice squad for relief.

TE – (4) Todd Heap, Jeff King, Rob Housler, Jim Dray. Given the injury history of, well, all of them, I think the Cards play it safe and keep four guys around again.

OL – (8) D’Anthony Batiste, Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein, Adam Snyder, Bobby Massie, Rich Ohrnberger, Jeremy Bridges, Senio Kelemete. This is a very difficult one from the outside looking in. The Cards might keep nine linemen, given their . Has Kelemete shown enough, even as a draft pick? Would Nate Potter be possible given the tackle issues? Where might a free agent or waiver claim fit in? I could see Potter, D.J. Young and/or center Scott Wedige as practice squad material too.

DL (6) – Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Vonnie Holliday, David Carter, Nick Eason. Seems fairly cut and dried at this position, one of the few like that.

LB – (8) Sam Acho, Paris Lenon, Daryl Washington, O’Brien Schofield, Stewart Bradley, Reggie Walker, Clark Haggans, Brandon Williams. This is another spot that might come down to the Denver game. The backup outside linebacker spot figures to have two places for three guys: Haggans, Williams, Quentin Groves. Groves made some plays early. Williams plays some special teams and has been higher on the depth chart.

DB (10) – Patrick Peterson, William Gay, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, Jamell Fleming, Justin Bethel, Rashad Johnson, James Sanders, Greg Toler, A.J. Jefferson. Usually, the Cards wouldn’t keep more than nine defensive backs, and that’s still possible. With 10, Bethel is a special teams keeper despite being a raw DB. Michael Adams is the odd man out there, but it will not shock me to see Adams stick around either and maybe someone like Jefferson out. Watching the reserve defensive backs closely in the finale, because I think that will be part of the equation.

ST – (3) Jay Feely (K), Dave Zastudil (P), Mike Leach (LS). Never should have doubted Leach’s return.


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LS Leach, LB Walker agree to new contracts

Posted by Darren Urban on March 26, 2012 – 1:54 pm

The Cardinals continued to take care of free-agent housekeeping Monday, getting long snapper Mike Leach and linebacker Reggie Walker to agree to new three-year and two-year contracts, respectively. Both have been key players on special teams. Leach becomes the second of the three free agent specialists to return (kicker Jay Feely was back last week) and is a good component both on the field, in the locker room and in the community. Punter Dave Zastudil remains the unsigned specialist.

Walker was second on the team with 16 special-teams tackles (O’Brien Schofield had a team-best 17) and continues to be a contributor after arriving as an undrafted free agent, although he played little at linebacker most of last season.


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Hyphen, Patrick, Porter sit UPDATE Spach out

Posted by Darren Urban on January 2, 2011 – 12:43 pm

UPDATE: TE Stephen Spach hurt his left calf in warmups — after inactives came out — so he can’t play today. Jim Dray is the lone tight end. It’ll be interesting if long snapper Mike Leach gets a chance to play a little tight end today. It’s an injury that obviously hurts.

LaRod Stephens-Howling won’t get a chance to add to his NFL-leading kickoff return yardage today. He’s one of the Cards’ inactives, still nursing his hamstring injury after pre-game work showed it to be a no-go. Andre Roberts will return kicks in his place. And as expected, LB Joey Porter (tricep) will sit again, with O’Brien Schofield playing in his place. Tight end Ben Patrick (hamstring) is also sitting out after testing his leg out pre-game. The rest of the inactives:

  • QB Derek Anderson (third QB)
  • CB A.J. Jefferson
  • CB Marshay Green
  • LB Gerald Hayes
  • C Ben Claxton

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A dreary final Wednesday

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2010 – 2:30 pm

It was the last Wednesday practice of the season today, and during it came a fairly steady rainfall. Afterward, some boisterous freestyle rap battles (Do not mess with Rex Hadnot).

— The only Cardinal not to practice was LB Joey Porter (tricep). He continues to rehab, but the Cards don’t want him to play and totally tear the injury, so they will be cautious. Three others — RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (hamstring), TE Ben Patrick (hamstring) and LB Clark Haggans (groin) — were limited today.

— The 49ers have already ruled LB Patrick Willis (hand) out for the game. And interim coach Jim Tomsula said Alex Smith will be his starting quarterback. Why? “Experience” was Tomsula’s one-word answer. Remember, it was Troy Smith that beat the Cards on “Monday Night Football” back on Nov. 29.

— Long snapper Mike Leach was named the team’s Walter Payton “Man of the Year” award winner, given to a player both for playing excellence and community work. Each team names a winner, and the overall league winner is announced at the Super Bowl. Wednesday, team president Michael Bidwill presented the award to Leach (who, by the way, once managed to break down exactly how he, as a long snapper, could be named Super Bowl MVP. I wish I had a transcript).


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Patrick should be back for regular season

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2010 – 12:35 pm

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said tight end Ben Patrick should be back for the regular season after hurting his left knee at practice last night.

“It wasn’t as bad as we thought it was when he was down on the field or what we thought afterward,” Whisenhunt said. “He displaced his kneecap, it’s back in, but there is no ligament damage. It’ll be a few weeks and he should be able to return. It was a lot better news than what we thought last night.”

Whisenhunt said the Cards will try and make it through Saturday with their current tight ends. Whiz doesn’t want to make a roster move, but right now, Stephen Spach and Dominique Byrd are the only healthy tight ends. Jim Dray (quad) and Anthony Becht (back) have been sitting out, although Whisenhunt said he hopes both will be back soon. Long snapper Mike Leach, who is a tight end by trade, can fill in as well.

— As for his thoughts on the night practice, Whisenhunt said “we had some mental mistakes but we have to work through them and that’s why you have those practices.”

— The coach praised the camp so far of new left tackle Levi Brown.

— As for the constant trash talking, Whisenhunt said it was part of the intensity of camp. “A lot of that chatter, that goes back to the team making each other accountable,” he said.

— A tidbit from quarterback Matt Leinart —  he took his offensive linemen on a trip to Hawaii this offseason, helping the bonding effort. Yes, Leinart paid. (UPDATE: Turns out he brought Levi Brown, Brandon Keith, Lyle Sendlein and Jeremy Bridges. Alan Faneca was already in Hawaii).


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Youth is served

Posted by Darren Urban on July 13, 2010 – 4:58 pm

When I pointed out to a journalist friend of mine that I felt old when I was looking at the Cards’ roster and saw a handful of players who were born the year I graduated high school — 1988 — he pointed out that would be a great story. Talk to these guys about what they knew about the Cards, since that was the same year the Cardinals moved to Arizona. So I did just that, with running back Beanie Wells, receiver Andre Roberts, quarterback John Skelton and cornerback A.J. Jefferson.

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me as time marches on. But when you peruse the Cardinals’ alphabetical roster — the one with the players’ birthdates — and you see all the guys who seem to be born so recently. Obviously, we are pre-training camp, so there are more younger guys than usual, but of the 85 guys still around (remember, the team must cut a player every time one of the five remaining unsigned draft picks signs) 39 were born in 1985 or later. The youngest guy remains Wells, who doesn’t turn 22 until Aug. 7. Eleven guys were born in the 1970s. They are, in order of oldest to youngest: P Ben Graham (1973), NT Bryan Robinson (1974), K Jay Feely, TE Anthony Becht, LS Mike Leach and G Alan Faneca (1977), LBs Clark Haggans, Joey Porter and Paris Lenon (1977), LB Monty Beisel (1978) and S Adrian Wilson (1979).


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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):

QUARTERBACKS
IN
Kurt Warner
Matt Leinart
Brian St. Pierre
OUT
Tyler Palko

WIDE RECEIVERS
IN

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

RUNNING BACKS/FULLBACKS
IN

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

TIGHT ENDS
IN

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

OFFENSIVE LINE
IN

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

DEFENSIVE LINE
IN
Darnell Dockett
Bryan Robinson
Calais Campbell
Kenny Iwebema
Gabe Watson
BUBBLE
Alan Branch
Keilen Dykes*
Rodney Leisle
OUT
Alex Field

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

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

SPECIALISTS
IN
Mike Leach
Neil Rackers
Ben Graham


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