Saturday before the Cowboys

Posted by Darren Urban on September 23, 2017 – 4:29 pm

When the Cowboys visit Arizona of late, it’s provided quite the show. The last three times, it’s been decided at the very end.

* In 2008, the game goes to overtime, and the Sean Morey blocks a punt, with Monty Beisel recovering in the end zone for a 30-24 win;
* In 2010, on Christmas night, the Cardinals blew a 21-3 lead and then got a Jay Feely field goal with five seconds left for a 27-26 win;
* In 2011, Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey misses a 49-yard field goal on the final play of regulation and the game went to overtime. LaRod Stephens-Howling then grabbed a Kevin Kolb dump pass and raced 52 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Whether we’ll see that kind of drama Monday night is unlikely, but you can’t really know. This is a game where you figure to get a much better read on the Cardinals. No early start time to gum up the works, no road game. If the Cards are going to show more than they have, this is the time and place.

“The Cowboys are apparently ‘America’s Team’ so there will be a lot of eyes on this matchup,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said.

In a weekend in which I’m guessing a lot of eyes will be everywhere on the NFL after the President’s comments and the league-wide reaction to them, Cardinals-Cowboys will cap what will likely be an emotional weekend all around. A win would do wonders for the Cards’ emotion too.

— I like the concept from Frostee Rucker about the Cardinals staying together one way or the other when it comes to potential protest. The idea that sports can stay separate from where we are as a country, though, that’s long past.

— As expected, John Brown is going to sit again (so will D.J. Humphries), and so J.J. Nelson becomes important again. Not ideal that he’s listed as questionable, or that your speed merchant is dealing with a hamstring. If I had to guess, I’d think Nelson plays, but if he was limited all week, there has to be concern with how much he can do.

— It looks like the Cards finally get Deone Bucannon back. As for the questionable Mike Iupati, after the job Alex Boone did last week, if you aren’t sure, it makes sense to me to stick with Boone again.

— Speaking of Boone, there was some learning-on-the-fly last week. “I’m not even kidding, there was a play where I was like, ‘I have no idea what’s going on,’ ” Boone said. “Carson (Palmer) looked at me and told me and was like ‘SET, GOOOO!’ Hey man, trial by fire, right?”

–All this talk about offensive line play – the Cardinals certainly have had their share – there was a great quote by Browns stud left tackle Joe Thomas this week.

“As offensive linemen, we consider ourselves mushrooms because we get thrown in the corner of a dark room and people pile poop on us and then expect us to grow,” Thomas said. “So that is why we are mushrooms.”

I have not had a chance to run the mushroom analogy past any of the Cards’ linemen.

— One lineman who actually played tight end this week was rookie guard Will Holden, who played 15 snaps at tight end last week because Jermaine Gresham was hurt and he was a better blocking option in heavy packages than Ifeanyi Momah. Holden said he’d never played tight end before. Ever. In college, he came in for similar heavy packages but he played inside while they had another offensive lineman be the tight end.

“I felt fine,” Holden said. “It’s a little different view of the defense because you’re wider out and it’s a little harder to hear. But once you settle into the game, you’re just playing football.”

Holden said he was happy with his play, although he was willing to allow, smiling, that how well he did was “up for debate.” OL coach Harold Goodwin said Holden needed to finish blocks better. Holden probably won’t be needed this week now that Gresham is back, but it’s an option going forward.

— The last time the Cardinals hosted the Cowboys on “Monday Night Football” was 1995, when Larry Centers made his incredible leap, Buddy Ryan left before the game was over and cameras were capturing footage later used in the movie “Jerry Maguire.”

“Everybody loves Jerry Maguire,” Larry Fitzgerald said. “ ‘Show me the money.’ It’s what Monday night is all about.”

(Speaking of Maguire, it makes you think back to Rod Tidwell, right?)

— Bruce Arians, after the win in Indy, now has 42 victories as Cardinals head coach. It ties him with Don Coryell for second-most in team history (Ken Whisenhunt has the top mark with 49.) B.A. was asked what he thought of that.

“It was a bad team for a long time,” Arians deadpanned. Seriously, though, “to be even mentioned with Coach Coryell, that’s mind-boggling to me,” Arians added. “He was one of my great idols and watching that team play.”

— A random tidbit Fitz revealed this week, of which I have no recollection: He played special teams as a rookie. He was on punt return, as an outside blocker taking on the opposing gunner.

“I played hold-up guy,” Fitzgerald said. “I was pretty good at it too. Me and Nate Poole, we held it down out there.”

Poole, if you remember, was on the receiving end of the famous McCown-to-Poole TD pass in the last game of 2003 to knock the Vikings out of the playoffs and send the Cards from the No. 1 overall pick to No. 3. Probably got them Fitzgerald in the first place. Now that’s drama.

See everyone Monday night.

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Cody Brown among cuts

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2010 – 2:03 pm

Here are the players that have been reported as cut by the Cards so far; when coach Ken Whisenhunt meets with the media at 3 p.m. a full list is expected. Keep checking back here for updates.

Obviously G Reggie Wells was dealt. LB Gerald Hayes (back) was placed on PUP, meaning he’ll miss the first six weeks. And LB Mark Washington was waived/injured:

  • TE Anthony Becht
  • LB Stevie Baggs
  • LB Monty Beisel
  • T Herman Johnson
  • T Tom Pestock
  • LB Cody Brown
  • DE Jeremy Clark
  • DE John Fletcher
  • CB Trevor Ford
  • WR Ed Gant
  • WR Mike Jones
  • WR Onrea Jones
  • CB Justin Miller
  • G Jonathan Palmer
  • FB Charles Scott
  • WR Isaiah Williams

WR Max Komar tweeted he made the team, and QB John Skelton has also made the team. Matt Leinart hasn’t gone anywhere yet. Big surprise so far is Brown, given he was a second-round pick. Obviously he is a big disappointment, since the coaches knew what they had even though he didn’t play most of last year.

The Cards still have three moves to make by tomorrow.

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Redskins aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2010 – 11:37 pm

The preseason is over. That’s always nice to say.

Where things go for the Cardinals from here, we will see. Sometime in the next day or two – the team must be shaved to a 53-man roster by 3 p.m. Arizona time Saturday – we all get to see who is in and who is out. Obviously, everyone is waiting to see what will happen with Matt Leinart. Could he still be traded, after the report that agent Tom Condon has been given permission to work one out? Could Leinart simply be released, something that multiple media outlets have speculated could happen?

Heck, could Max Hall have played his way into being Derek Anderson’s backup?

Coach Ken Whisenhunt pumped the brakes a bit on the Hall hysteria after Thursday’s game. “You have to understand this was preseason, and they weren’t doing a lot defensively,” the coach said. “Sometimes you get a little too excited about those situations.”

“But,” Whiz continued – and it was an important but – “I like the way he handled himself and I like the way he handled our team.”

Handling the team was one of the catch phrases Whiz kept bringing up when he was talking earlier in the preseason about Anderson and Leinart. Hall was impressive Thursday, and he certainly doesn’t lack for confidence. He said “absolutely” when I asked him if he’d be comfortable being a rookie backup. I don’t doubt it.

— That, of course, means Leinart would be moved. I’m not sure he can be traded, not with a contract that would force a team to play him $12 million next year. But when an agent gets permission to shop – and let’s assume that happened – it includes talks of contract restructuring usually. That could help.

— Leinart, not surprisingly, was saying nothing of substance after the game. He said a couple of times he hadn’t been thinking about his future or what will happen, and I would be willing to bet a lot that’s almost all he has been thinking about. But what else can he say right now? That he wants to play for Pete Carroll again? Of course not. So he’s right. He has to wait. But I don’t doubt that wherever he is playing, he probably hopes it isn’t Arizona.

— It sounds like Deuce Lutui is just about in a place to get back to starting. “Deuce has been playing pretty well, consistently during the preseason,” Whisenhunt said. “I haven’t been displeased with his play. That has not been the issue. The issue is obviously what we’re all well aware of.”

Lutui’s weight problems, of course.

“Once he gets out of my doghouse, I think he’ll be fine,” Whisenhunt added.

The guess is Lutui will supplant Reggie Wells sooner rather than later in the lineup.

— The Cardinals finished 3-1 in the games that don’t count, eclipsing Whiz’s win total from the previous three preseasons combined (two). “I don’t know how comfortable I am being 3-1 in preseason,” Whisenhunt quipped.

— I think Max Komar, the undrafted rookie wideout, has made this team. I wonder if Monty Beisel’s play – an interception and sack at linebacker – may have saved him. I believe this team will look hard at the waiver wire this weekend, and that the 53-man roster we get first will not be the roster than climbs on the plane to St. Louis.

— It looks like Sam Bradford has wrapped up the starting QB job for the Rams, which means Darnell Dockett will get his wish when the Cards visit St. Louis for the season opener. This defense was praying that would happen, even if Bradford may eventually turn out to be the real deal.

— Finally, Beanie Wells is OK. He could have gone back in, he said. But no reason to risk it. That’s what the fourth game of the preseason is about – minimizing risk.

And, maybe, reshuffling the quarterback depth chart.

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Beanie practices and the afternoon

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2010 – 6:17 pm

Running back Beanie Wells was out and practicing (he did skip a couple of things) with his bad ribs today, although he did run in 11-on-11, breaking one away and getting thumped on another play that let everyone know he was OK. He is sore and he wants to play Saturday but that’ll be wait-and-see, both with Beanie’s injury and coach Ken Whisenhunt’s comfort that Wells won’t be further banged up.

— Vets day for guard Alan Faneca, so he sat. Wide receiver Steve Breaston came down briefly to the area where injured players rehab but then he went back to practice and took part. Not sure what that meant. Wide receiver Early Doucet was in practice gear but I don’t remember seeing him do too much.

— Cornerback Greg Toler hurt his ankle. Hopefully it isn’t a big deal. He needs some game time.

— At least for today, Pago Togafau replaced Monty Beisel alongside Paris Lenon as starting inside linebackers. Beisel was with the second unit. I still think that’s a spot they will be looking at.

— At lunchtime, Whisenhunt was praising linebacker Cody Brown. At practice, Brown was in at the quarterback a couple of times. He’s definitely a guy to keep an eye on Saturday.

— There were a couple of nice plays in the two-minute drill. A Matt Leinart pass went right through the hands of Andre Roberts, but Breaston was there to grab it anyway for a completion. And a play later, safety Adrian Wilson tried to jump an out route, and Larry Fitzgerald snagged the pass one-handed.

— Finally, we are using James Morris for fantasy football articles this season. Just go to the Fan Zone page and in the upper right hand corner you’ll see “Fantasy News.” Morris breaks down the upcoming drafts.

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First day in the books

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2010 – 5:40 pm

The first practice came and went in relative sunshine! Stunning, I know. But the rain stayed away and the Cards’ first practice — in shells, looking much like a minicamp or OTA workout — was good. But as Ken Whisenhunt said a couple of times, “It’s only the first day.”

The first day did cost the Cards defensive tackle Dean Muhtadi, who hurt his right calf on basically his first step of the conditioning test. For a guy working so hard to stay in shape all offseason, a killer result. Whisenhunt said Muhtadi will be out for a while, although he added, “it’s a long camp.” Whether it is long enough for Muhtadi to make enough of his impression, we will see.

Many of the depth chart choices this early were not unexpected. Trumaine McBride was running across from DRC as first-team cornerbacks, not Greg Toler. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis stressed to me that job opposite DRC is “wide open.” The inside linebackers, with Gerald Hayes hurting, are Monty Beisel and Paris Lenon. Daryl Washington knows what it is to be a rookie; he is third-string behind Lenon and Ali Highsmith.

On offense, Matt Leinart looked pretty good although Derek Anderson got a good chunk of reps too. The offensive line is the same that ended OTAs, with Levi Brown (LT), Alan Faneca (LG), Lyle Sendlein (C), Reggie Wells (RG) and Brandon Keith (RT). Deuce Lutui is second-team RG, next to tackle Herman Johnson. Ben Claxton is second-team center, with Jeremy Bridges at left tackle and Rex Hadnot at left guard.

I’ll have more tonight on the homepage, with notes about Gabe Watson, Alan Branch and their weights, DRC’s injury feelings and a story about the spotlight on the quarterback position.

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Whiz’s opening speech

Posted by Darren Urban on July 30, 2010 – 5:03 pm

Coach Ken Whisenhunt just addressed the media to open camp. The key highlights:

— LB Gerald Hayes will start camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list, as expected. Hayes has been dealing with back problems since last season, and had a surgical procedure this offseason when rehab wasn’t effective. Whisenhunt said Hayes’ surgery was the same that LB Monty Beisel had last year for his back problems. Hayes is able to come off at any time, and Whisenhunt said he wasn’t sure when Hayes would return. Hayes wouldn’t stop earlier but said when he arrived he wasn’t sure of his timetable to return. LB O’Brien Schofield (knee) also is on PUP as he rehabs after surgery.

— Whisenhunt wasn’t specific about the weight of G Deuce Lutui. Asked how Lutui was doing, Whisenhunt said, “We’ll find out tomorrow,” as the Cardinals await their conditioning test.

It was relatively short and sweet. The rain coming down as players and coaches arrived today in Flagstaff prevented much talking with the media. But the team is in place and Whisenhunt reiterated his usual message to open camp — the team is happy to be at camp and ready to get to work.

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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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Expiring minds want to know

Posted by Darren Urban on June 30, 2010 – 10:02 am

If the NBA has the Summer of 2010, the NFL – right now – is staring at the Summer of 2011.

The lack of a new collective bargaining agreement and the possibility of a work stoppage after the 2010 season has slowed the talk of contract extensions throughout the league. Judgments aside, that’s just a fact. Teams and players don’t know what free agency will look like next March (or later; until a new CBA is put in place, there will be no free agency movement). It’ll affect every team around the league. That is also a fact.

Closer to home, though, it looks like it’ll make for one, um, let’s say interesting offseason for the Cardinals. Here are the key players on the team right now who are not under contract past 2010 and are scheduled to have their contracts expire after this season:

  • P Ben Graham
  • WR Steve Breaston
  • S Matt Ware
  • CB Michael Adams
  • RB Jason Wright
  • RB Tim Hightower
  • LB Monty Beisel
  • C Lyle Sendlein
  • G Alan Faneca
  • T Brandon Keith
  • G Reggie Wells
  • G Deuce Lutui
  • DT Alan Branch
  • WR Early Doucet
  • TE Anthony Becht
  • TE Ben Patrick
  • DE Kenny Iwebema
  • DT Bryan Robinson
  • DT Gabe Watson

Obviously, some players are more important that others. Some may not even make the roster this season. And some figure to be still under restricted FA status next season even with a new CBA (guys like Doucet, Keith and Iwebema, for instance). But again, you don’t know how it turns out. That also doesn’t include three major key players who, while all under contract through 2011, will need extensions by next offseason to make sure they stay in Arizona: WR Larry Fitzgerald, DL Darnell Dockett and (assuming he plays as the Cards hope) QB Matt Leinart.

It’s quite the list. I find it hard to believe, if there is a delay in free agency that there won’t be some short moratorium to let teams get their FA ducks in a row before the market is flooded with UFAs. But you never know.

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Spirited in so many ways

Posted by Darren Urban on May 20, 2010 – 1:43 pm

One of the keys to the summer workouts — like today’s organized team activity, for instance — is to make sure the focus stays put even late in the week, when the guys are ready to blast out of town for a long weekend. So it helps to have something on the line. The Cards had their intensity at the end today when coach Ken Whisenhunt pitted offense versus defense in third-down situations. The “winner” — whichever unit did its job more often — got out of running.

So there was whooping and hollering from the defense when cornerback Greg Toler broke up the first Matt Leinart-to-Larry Fitzgerald pass. And there was the same from the offense when Fitz made a wonderful one-handed grab on the sideline. There was a lot of arguing when a first down pass from Derek Anderson to Early Doucet might have come after a “sack” of Anderson. And there was an explosion of happiness from the red shirts when Money Mike Adams broke up the final pass to Andre Roberts. The coaches from the offense had to run too, which made it even more interesting.

“From the chemistry standpoint, it shows how quickly it is building with the team,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Guys are getting along. They’ve already put in eight or nine weeks and I think when they get on the field and are able to do football things, there is always a lot of excitement. I said (to the team) today, the question is can we sustain this over the next three weeks. Based on what I have seen, it looks that way. The tempo, the enthusiasm is good. Guys are competing. If that becomes our nature, then this will have been very productive for us in the long run.”

Other stuff from today:

— Among the other plays that stood out were a beautiful 40-or-so-yard bomb from Anderson to Doucet over Justin Miller and a John Skelton 20-yard lob into the outstretched hands of 6-foot-5 WR Darren Mougey in between double coverage by Miller and Herana-Daze Jones. After the latter play, the air was filled with yelps of “MOO-gee.”

— At one point early in the practice, WR Ed Gant made a catch as he headed for the sideline. He gained control and sprinted upfield to finish the play — even as he was about three yards out of bounds on the field closest to the team headquarters. “We playing on an expanded field?” linebacker Monty Beisel said, turning to Gant and adding, “Watch out for the building!”

— Former University of Arizona football coach Dick Tomey — whose son, Rich, works for the team in business development — was on hand to watch practice.

— Rookie nose tackle Dan Williams continues to work with the first-team dime unit.

— Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was clearly exasperated that his latest back-and-forth with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis caused a stir in some places, enough so that he put out this tweet right after practice: “Lol look people me and @VernonDavis85 are cool and been friends B4 the NFL and we will be after the NFL so yall stop taking shhh so serious.”

— WR Steve Breaston was sporting some very red gloves again and I figured there had to be a reason. An ability to get the attention of the quarterback easier, perhaps? Nope. Turns out that he got them from Adams. “I wore them a lot last year,” Breaston said, unsure why I was the third or fourth person to notice them today. “Maybe it’s because they’re clean.”

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Notes from Fan Fest practice

Posted by Darren Urban on May 1, 2010 – 1:25 pm

Another Fan Fest on the Saturday morning of minicamp is over and with it, the third of five minicamp practices. The fan Fest crowd was big again — around 4,500 — and the practice fairly crisp. Some news, notes and thoughts:

— The Cardinals are hurting at fullback, with Reagan Maui’a nursing a bad groin, leaving Nehemiah Broughton as the lone healthy fullback. “We’re thin, and not from a physical standpoint,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “The two guys we have out there definitely aren’t thin. … That’s obviously an area we have to address, just to have some depth. I feel good about who we have there, but when you only have two and one gets nicked up, it makes it kind of difficult.”

The Cardinals were considering bringing back veteran Dan Kreider, but Whisenhunt said that won’t happen.

— The quarterbacks looked good today. Clearly Derek Anderson and John Skelton have arm strength to put some heat on their passes. Whisenhunt said he wants to see how all the QBs react once the defense starts working in more blitzes and the like.

— Speaking of catching passes, linebacker Monty Beisel made an impressive and athletic leaping interception of Anderson, standing at the line of scrimmage and grabbing a missile before it got very far from Anderson. “We had a blitz coming and I was kind of messing around coming on a delayed blitz and he threw it up – it happened really quick,” Beisel said. “I had that one (Friday) when Matt threw me a layup and I dropped it. I had to come back and redeem myself.

The crowd certainly loved it.

— Larry Fitzgerald might be getting the bugs out. He got open deep on a bomb that was perfectly thrown by Matt Leinart, but Fitz couldn’t come up with the catch. Judging on what Fitz has done in the past, though, I’d bet the Cards would rather have a great bomb by Leinart and Fitz get the drops out of his system in April rather than Leinart have trouble getting it there and Fitz rescuing him with a great catch.

— I still don’t think it’s a big deal as I have said many times, so I am hesitant to even bring this up, but Tim Hightower is still running with the first string with Beanie Wells second. Again, Beanie is going to get a ton of carries this season, so it’s basically a moot point, but I know there are fans out there who want to know.

— Speaking of things people want to know, Whisenhunt addressed the progress of 2009 second-round pick Cody Brown. “He does not look anywhere close to be as lost as he was at this time last year,” Whisenhunt said. “He looks more natural than he did. He’s not a rookie. He hasn’t shown what he can do yet, but he’s much further advanced.”

It was suggested that Brown was still lost but not as lost. “That’s a great assessment,” Whisenhunt said. “He’s kind of in that limbo-land. He’s not a rookie but he’s not a vet.”

— As has become the custom, the Cards presented framed Pro Bowl jerseys to last year’s Pro Bowlers: Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett, Adrian Wilson and DRC.

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