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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Friday before the Dolphins

Posted by Darren Urban on September 28, 2012 – 4:36 pm

No Darnell Dockett. That’s the very real possibility Sunday because of his hamstring injury. As Darnell mentioned to me in the locker room after the Eagles game, “Every now and then, even the Hulk gets wounded.” The Cards’ version of the Hulk has missed exactly one game since he got into the league in 2004. That’s 135 games played in 136 opportunities, including playoffs, and he started 134 of them. (He missed a 2010 game with a shoulder problem, the Cards lost.) The Cards can overcome an absence, I’d think. They did pretty well last week when safety Adrian Wilson had to sit out.

“If that’s the case, they’ll step up. That’s kind of the mentality of that group,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. The Cards have Vonnie Holliday, Nick Eason and even David Carter who could probably play some. Besides, you never know what DC Ray Horton might cook up.

The injury situation will be interesting, not only because the Cards have a bunch of guys that could sit, but also because the Cards have a short week next week – they play Thursday night in St. Louis. Asked if the schedule might dictate how he would make inactive decisions for this game (for instance, resting a guy because he wouldn’t have as much recovery time) Whisenhunt said that hasn’t been the approach.

“I can’t say that wouldn’t change maybe as we got closer to the game,” Whisenhunt said. “I don’t anticipate it changing. We’re focused on this game and I’m not really worried about the Thursday game right now. I think that’s the way you have to approach it.”

— The spotlight will be on the Cards’ running game. The Dolphins are allowing less than three yards a carry and are third in the NFL in run defense. The Cards are averaging less than three yards a carry on offense. Ryan Williams, what say you?

— The Dolphins are also fourth in the league in rushing, not a surprise because when you have a rookie QB like Ryan Tannehill, you are going to effort to run the ball. Reggie Bush, who has broken out as a back since going to Miami, is questionable with a sore knee. Word from Miami is that Bush is expected to play. Holliday made the point earlier this week the Cards’ defense, as well as it has played, needs to do better against the run. Here’s a big chance.

— History said last week that Larry Fitzgerald always did well against the Eagles, and then he went out against the Eagles and played well again. The sample size is much smaller against the Dolphins, but the highlights are there. In 2008, Fitz, Anquan Boldin and Kurt Warner riddled Miami with shots in a 31-10 home win. Fitz ended that day with six catches for 153 yards – that was the first day the whole Todd Haley ridding the Cards of the “one-trick pony” and a guy who never got yards after the catch finally took hold. Fitz was a monster (Boldin had six for 140 too, with three touchdowns.)

The other Fitz-Miami game was less spectacular but more memorable. It was 2004, Fitz’s rookie year, and he made a two-yard jump-ball touchdown catch with 19 seconds left to beat the Dolphins, 24-23. Fitz had five catches for 92 yards that day, and the Cards snapped a 17-game road losing streak (Ah yes, those were the days). Mostly from that game I remember Fitz’s post-game presser. Those were the days when Fitz often left the locker room before reporters even got there. With the game-winner he was made to come into the interview room for what might have been the most awkward presser ever. I think Fitz delivered very few short sentence answers before it mercifully ended. He’s come a long way since then.

— Calais Campbell went to the University of Miami, although he doesn’t see facing the Dolphins as an big deal because of that (now, the Denver Broncos for the Aurora, Colorado, native is something different.) That said, Campbell has a long memory. Before the Cardinals took Campbell in the second round of the 2008 draft, the Dolphins could have taken him but instead took Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling. Merling is now in Green Bay, having washed out as a Dolphin.

“I was a little bit mad about that,” Campbell said. “I definitely want to make sure they regret the decision. I love being in Arizona, I don’t think I’d do well in Miami, but I know one thing, I want them to regret not drafting me. I’m sure they already feel that way, but I want to make them feel it even more.”

— For those wondering, Scott Green – who is the head of the referees’ union, is scheduled to officiate Sunday’s game. (He was the ref for the Cardinals-Packers wild-card playoff game in 2010 too. Karlos Dansby must be happy.)

— Speaking of Karlos, he was also a good guy. He also was one of those players that always dropped a “Know what I’m sayin’?” every third sentence. It was kind of his calling card. But the one I remember most is when I went to ask him for his reaction that then-teammate Sean Morey had agreed to donate his brain to research after his death in an effort to find out about potential brain effects that come with playing in the NFL. Karlos didn’t hesitate.

“That’s huge, man,” he said.

Indeed, it was.

— Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said stud pass rusher Cameron Wake has played very well this season and is pressuring the quarterback often. Wake, however, has yet to record a sack. The tackles will have to hold up against Wake, who could have been a Cardinal. After lighting up the CFL, Wake worked out for the Cardinals in late 2008 as a potential outside linebacker. The Cards ended up passing, and Wake didn’t latch on anywhere until Miami signed him in the offseason – and where he had notched 28 sacks in three seasons before this one.

— Since Whisenhunt arrived in 2007, the Cardinals are 27-5 in games in which they have carried a lead into the fourth quarter.

— Kevin Kolb, with a passer rating of 108.6, is the third-ranked passer in the NFL behind Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger. Raise your hand if you saw that coming.

— Congrats, by the way, to the Kolbs for the arrival of Saylor. Family time intact, and no missed games.

— The Cardinals, over their last 11 games, have allowed a mere 1.33 touchdowns per game. Wonder if Tannehill knows that.

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Next up for a contract

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2012 – 12:32 pm

With the news Daryl Washington got a contract extension, it changes the list of who might be next up for the Cardinals on the contract front. The obvious and probable choice is running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season and is a player whom general manager Rod Graves has already said is a target for a new deal. We’ll see if that comes to fruition, but the way the NFL is these days, a back who fills the Hyphen’s role is important to have.

Beyond that? The Cardinals have done a good job managing contracts at this point. Extensions are usually only there for younger players who you don’t want to hit the open market. Older veterans who play a role usually don’t get anything done until after the season and even then, after free agency arrives — if the team is going to bring them back at all. So some of the guys scheduled to be free agents after the season — defensive linemen Vonnie Holliday and Nick Eason, tight end Todd Heap, safety James Sanders, linebacker Quentin Groves, tackle D’Anthony Batiste — probably aren’t going to get into talks until later.

One intriguing name is linebacker Paris Lenon, but he likely falls into the previous category, even as he is about to start for a third straight season and was named captain again. Lenon said he thinks he has more in the tank for beyond 2012, but we’ll see if the Cards’ front office has thoughts that dovetail with that. Beyond Lenon, there are younger guys like linebacker Reggie Walker and defensive backs Rashad Johnson and Michael Adams. I don’t see any of them getting new deals in season.

Other than that, the Cards are in good shape through 2013 in terms of key guys under contract. I know some are asking about Patrick Peterson, but he’s already under contract through 2015. He’ll have to be locked up before then, but there is plenty of time for that.

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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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Ignoring the storm

Posted by Darren Urban on August 14, 2012 – 6:39 pm

One of John Skelton’s greatest attributes is his sense of calm. It’s one of the reasons he can be so effective in the fourth quarter, because he doesn’t get rattled. So it makes sense that, even with his name at the center of the NFL world most of Tuesday because of a national report he might be the starter, Skelton shrugged it off.

“For me, not speaking for Kevin, I take it the same way whether it is a local reporter reporting something or a national outlet, it doesn’t faze me either way,” Skelton said. “I think it’s fair to say I haven’t really thought about (getting it over). My goal every day is to come to practice and get better. It’ll all work itself out in the end.”

Skelton does think he’s much improved over the Skelton of training camp 2011. “I think I am, and I think coaches will say the same thing and I think players will say the same thing,” he said. “Really, getting better day in and day out and getting consistent with it is my goal.”

— I thought Kevin Kolb had arguably his best practice of camp today. Maybe all the news swirling around motivated him (maybe that’s what the news was meant to do.) I thought Skelton struggled for the first part,overthrowing several times, but in the final segment of 11-on-11 looked much more sharp.

— DL Nick Eason returned to practice after missing almost two weeks to tend to his ill mother, who later passed away. LB Zach Nash, who hurt his ankle early in training camp, also finally came back to practice.

— QB Rich Bartel was ill and sat out. CB Greg Toler left after tweaking his right knee (the opposite one that he tore ligaments in last preseason). LB Paris Lenon (ankle) and WR LaRon Byrd (shoulder) remained out.

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Tidbits after another humid practice

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2012 – 2:51 pm

The Cardinals finished their final practice of the week (there will be a walkthrough tomorrow) here in still humid St. Joseph. Some newsy nuggets after another day of work:

— QB Kevin Kolb was able to practice, including 11-on-11 work. Everything seems on target for him to be able to play Friday in relief of starter John Skelton. Before practice, coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was expecting Kolb, “unless he has a setback. He can throw it fine. He still has some issues with bruise inside. If that settles down, he’ll play.”

— Playing time will depend on various players’ health, but generally, Whiz said he plans on doling out the work the same as he did in the Hall of Fame game. I think quarterback-wise, it’d be great to get the top two guys 10 plays or so, or maybe one sustained drive. Obviously, Kolb needs one.

— Running back Ryan Williams still isn’t sure if he will play .(My gut — and no one has told me — says no one more week. Who knows though?) But he did say that working through his sore knee at practice isn’t just working through his rehabbed knee. The normal compensation an athlete makes with the rest of his body has impacted him too.

“My core is weak, my knee is weak, my back is weak, so it’s one of those things,” Williams said, smiling like always. “I go in the weight room and do extra every day. Wake up earlier than everybody, basically stay in the weight room longer. I just want to be good for the season.”

— Cornerback Greg Toler sat out practice. He’s had some knee soreness after rehab, going through the same things as Williams.

— Turns out the father of Williams — who is in prison — played high school football in upstate New York against Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli. Pioli figured that out talking to Williams before the 2010 draft, and then reached out to Williams’ father. I’ll have more on this story (and here it is).

— Defensive lineman Nick Eason is still not with the team, having been gone since last week to tend to his ill mother. Eason posted on Facebook last night his mom had passed away. Condolences to Nick, one of the best people on the roster.

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The list of Not-Dressing for the Hall of Fame game

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2012 – 3:56 pm

There is no inactive list technically for the preseason because there doesn’t have to be any inactives, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be guys who will not dress. Most are injury related. Some we knew about, some we didn’t. Don’t Didn’t know the details on every injury, but I’ll try to track them down when I can know I do. Don’t expect any to be serious:

— CB Crezdon Butler (hip)

— DT Darnell Dockett (hamstring)

— DE Nick Eason (He isn’t here; His mother has been very ill, as he has pointed out on Twitter)

— CB Marshay Green (hamstring)

— RB Javarris James (abductor strain)

— TE Jeff King (PUP — quad)

— LB Zach Nash (ankle)

— RB Beanie Wells (PUP — knee)

— RB Ryan Williams (patella)

— WR Stephen Williams (hamstring)

— S Adrian Wilson (calf)

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The meaning of training camp

Posted by Darren Urban on July 16, 2012 – 8:14 am

Listening to the radio this morning on the way to the gym, I heard about some of the NBA player moves and how one guy got crossways with a coach because he didn’t come into training camp this past season in shape. The player thought training camp was when you should get in shape. The coach, obviously, thought camp was time to practice and that being in shape when a guy showed up was a given.

That’s certainly how it is in the NFL these days.

Once, the preseason was six games long and teams would spend weeks on end at camp. I remember talking to some of the long-time athletic trainers with the Cards and them talking about spending eight weeks at training camp. Ugh. But in those days, players often had offseason jobs to make enough money and camp was indeed to get in shape. These days, players make enough — even the guys on the fringe of the roster — to be able to dedicate themselves year-round to staying in shape. It’s a must.

(There’s a tough grey area for the guys who are on the bubble every year — no guaranteed salaries, remember, and you only get paid the significant money during the regular season, not camp — but they have to grin and bear it to have a chance to make it in the league.)

It’s not easy all the time. Dedication is a must, and you have to do it the right way. I was mulling it over, and off the top of my head, I could recall nose tackle Dan Williams, defensive lineman Nick Eason and wide receiver Stephen Williams all admitting they were out of shape in one way or another heading into camp last year after the lockout. We won’t get into ex-Cardinal Deuce Lutui.

Look, it’s not rocket science to figure out that the coaching staff would love to have the players around more than they are in the offseason. That’s how coaches are. The collective bargaining agreement says otherwise. But when most guys are driving forward on their own — Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts acknowledged the other day at Larry Fitzgerald’s camp that guys know “this is a year-round thing” — anyone doing otherwise won’t be in a good place once it’s time to go to Flagstaff.

Which, by the way, is only eight days away.

P.S. Speaking of workouts, click here for some pictures I shot in Minnesota of the Fitz camp.

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“Feast or famine”

Posted by Darren Urban on June 12, 2012 – 1:26 pm

As Larry Fitzgerald came off the field after the first minicamp practice of the week, he shook his head. “Feast or famine for me today,” he said, not happily. It seemed like any other summer workday for Fitz, even with the one obvious drop that left him less than thrilled. But that’s Fitz, the guy who caught a pass downfield and then sprinted all the way to the end zone just to finish, even as everyone else had moved back toward the opposite 20-yard line.

In a world where everyone has highs and lows, Fitz doesn’t want any lows. Don’t know if that’s possible, but he’s clearly efforting.

— Only one guy was missing from the mandatory work, and that was defensive lineman Nick Eason, excused to tend to family issues. Offensive linemen D.J. Young (knee) and Blake DeChristopher (back) are out, and running back Beanie Wells (knee) sat too. Everyone else worked at least some.

— Rookie guard Senio Kelemete (below) returned after missing all the OTAs. He couldn’t come because school was still in session. He kept his head in his playbook while he was absent. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he’s still far behind right now, no shock as a rookie.

The Cards go back on the field this afternoon.

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Eason gets his mind right

Posted by Darren Urban on May 1, 2012 – 2:09 pm

A year ago, newcomer Nick Eason played defensive line — mostly on the inside — at around 325 pounds. And it was too much.

“I thought about last year, how I played,” Eason said. “I thought about my game and a lot of it had to do with me not having myself prepared in the offseason with the lockout. I mean, I worked out, but I didn’t take it to the level I needed to. And when you get to camp, pretty much if you are not in shape then you won’t be in shape to be ready for the season.”

So Eason decided to change. A boxing fan, he was boxing as part of his workouts (and is still doing it once a week) and the pounds started coming off. By the time he showed up to the Cards’ offseason conditioning work, he had shaved 37 pounds off his frame. At 288 pounds, Eason said he wants to play this season about 295 pounds. It was all about being smarter as a 10-year veteran.

There was also a realization last year that he needed to do more after he was forced to start once starting nose tackle Dan Williams broke his arm, after backing up ends Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett most of the season.

“My role changed,” Eason said. “All of a sudden I am starting,” Eason said. “A lot of time when you are running second on the defensive line and (a starter) goes down, you don’t have a backup. Your role triples. You are getting more reps than the starters.

“This year, I hope no one gets hurt, but I will be prepared more than I was last year. Plus I feel better. As you get older you want to be lighter on your joints. I want to take care of my body and play at a level I played at when I was a younger guy.”

Eason said he’s played lighter before, and it worked. “I was in great shape,” Eason said. “Best shape I’ve been in.”

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