Cards name their captains

Posted by Darren Urban on September 5, 2012 – 4:01 pm

The Cardinals officially named their team captains today. Offensively, it is Larry Fitzgerald and Lyle Sendlein. Defensively, it’s Paris Lenon and Adrian Wilson. For special teams, however, it’s a couple of new names: Reggie Walker and Anthony Sherman (pictured below).

The first four aren’t surprises. All four were captains last year too. Walker has been good on special teams for a couple of years, and it’s interesting he gets the nod as a captain now after he stood out as a linebacker in preseason. Sherman is only in his second year, but like former Cardinals fullback/special teams Pro Bowler Ron Wolfley, it’s like he was born to play in what Wolfley likes to call “the transition game.”

“It shows he has put in a lot of hard work,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “When you are a fullback you have a limited amount of work in today’s NFL. You’ve got to understand what is important, and being a special teams guy is part of that. He has impressed enough of his teammates that he was named captain in his second year, and that’s one of the reasons we were excited about getting him in the draft.”


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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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Wednesday before the Titans

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2012 – 4:27 pm

Ah, Nashville. The last two times we were here, the story was always the quarterback. In 2009, Kurt Warner, last moment, decided his concussion wouldn’t let him play, and Matt Leinart almost had the game he needed – until Vince Young put together a 99-yard drive to finish the game and the Cardinals. The last time here was the beginning of the end for Leinart, the preseason week spent in Tennessee where Leinart was demoted from the first unit in favor of Derek Anderson and we all know how that turned out.

Some things never change. Quarterbacks are still front and center. John Skelton gets the start and ostensibly, the chance to put a stranglehold on the job. Kevin Kolb will play. Coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn’t given any indication this battle is over. This game will mean something. Ron Wolfley made a point the other day both on the podcast and his radio show that Kolb has probably been better in practice where Skelton has been better in games, which is why this is probably closer for coaches than fans (who don’t watch practice daily but watch the games.)

In any case, it looks like this game will only add to the quarterback legacy that Cards’ trips to Nashville have built.

— Watching Beanie Wells in a game for the first time will be fascinating. We’re on the precipice of the regular season. It looks like Ryan Williams is in good shape to be ready as expected. It’s time for Wells to make a similar step. It has been suggested Beanie runs with a limp. Some of that has to do with getting used to his brace and getting back on the field for the first time in a while. But those of us who have observed Beanie have always noticed what to me, at least, seems like an awkward gait when Wells walks quickly or runs half-speed, even when totally healthy. When he turns it up, it disappears.

— Larry Fitzgerald said he knew all along there probably wouldn’t be a choice at quarterback just yet. “You can’t just give guys one game. That’s not much of a competition,” he said. “We knew it would probably come down to the wire.”

— D.J. Young and D’Anthony Batiste get their chance to show what they can do at left tackle. Will one emerge? Maybe. Conventional wisdom seems to be that Batiste has a better shot than Young. There are more options than Batiste at right tackle, which could be Jeremy Bridges or even just sinking or swimming with rookie Bobby Massie (although the Massie move might be easier to deal with if Brown was still in the lineup). A savior isn’t coming, though. The Cardinals might pick someone up in free agency or the waiver wire, but again, anyone on the street is on the street for a reason. Chad Clifton is available, for instance, because he’s been injured and is 36. Anyone cut next week will be cut because there were at least two guys better than him on his previous roster. That’s reality.

(And a quick side note on the depth behind Brown, and the Cards being caught unprepared – you always want the best depth you can get on the roster, but I’m not sure you build a roster with the idea of a guy possibly going down with a season-ending injury. You’re counting on the starter to be there, especially a guy like Brown, who had played every game for the last four seasons. I think they felt Batiste/Bridges would have been fine as a Brown fill-in for a game or two.)

— Brown had his surgery, by the way. The Cardinals have to trim 15 players off the roster by Monday (although it may come as soon as Friday.) One of those moves, I would think, would be Brown’s move to injured reserve. I just don’t see them saving a roster spot for an end-of-season return. We will see.

— Left guard Daryn Colledge on losing Levi: “If anyone was (indestructible) I thought it would be Levi. Anyone who tears a triceps and just takes a knee (after the play) and talks about it, that’s a pretty studly guy to me. But anyone can go down on any play, that’s the hard part about preseason. We lose him in Week 14, that’s something, but lose him in Minus-Week 3, that’s one of the worst things that can happen.”

— Lots of questions about whether Quan Sturdivant is going to make the team, but it seems like a longshot with the way Reggie Walker has been playing. Your starters are Daryl Washington and Paris Lenon, and I think both Walker and Stewart Bradley have played well in the preseason. Four inside linebackers seems like enough. It’s been suggested that maybe the $3 million for Lenon might put him on the bubble, but the way he has performed and with his durability, I just don’t see him anywhere but the roster.

— Besides the first cuts that I mentioned earlier, final cuts must be made the day after the final preseason game, Friday the 31st.

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After movie day, Whiz hopes for a result

Posted by Darren Urban on August 15, 2012 – 12:54 pm

The Cardinals got their first movie day at camp in a couple of years (it was nixed last year because of the lockout and the need for practice time). It’s been an annual thing because coach Ken Whisenhunt feels the need to take his foot off the gas pedal. He almost pulled the plug, but felt like the players’ effort Monday and Tuesday earned them a moment.

And it wasn’t as if it was a full-contact practice that was scotched. It was an hour-long walkthrough they missed and there will still be a full regular practice this afternoon at 3 p.m. The Cards have been through a lot of upheaval in the past 10 days, from Canton to Cleveland to St. Joseph to Kansas City, and they looked like it against the Chiefs — leading to this week’s intense practices.

“We haven’t handled the changes very well,” Whisenhunt said. “I thought last week we were sluggish and tired in that game. That’s something you have to adapt to. This was a change for the good for once.”

— RB Beanie Wells is sore getting back into practice. Whiz said he’ll go through pregame Friday to see if he plays. If I had to guess, I’d think he’d wait one more week.

— CB Greg Toler tweaked his knee in practice yesterday. Whisenhunt said he was sore, but it isn’t expected to be a major issue. LB Paris Lenon (ankle) isn’t ready to return yet, but that is coming soon. My thought would be that Lenon will miss one more game. No reason to rush it.

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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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Spirited work, and a move at tackle

Posted by Darren Urban on August 13, 2012 – 6:47 pm

Quarterback Kevin Kolb was talking about how coach Ken Whisenhunt treats the players fairly, not overworking them usually. “We have to reward him with a better effort.”

Practice sure seemed more intense Monday afternoon after the Cards had a disappointing game in Kansas City. There was a scuffle between defensive lineman David Carter and center Scott Wedige and some various whoops and hollering, and the battling went all the way down to the late part of the two-minute drill, when Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson went up for a jump ball in the end zone and while it looked like Peterson had it at first, Fitz wasn’t going to give up the battle as they fell to the ground.

As for the offensive woes of late, answers are at a premium. “If we knew, maybe practice today would have been a little better,” Kolb said. “I’ve been a lot of places and you go through funks like this. To be honest a lot of time it happens in practice a lot when the defense, they know route concepts and stuff like that. You just keep pushing through, trust your keys and keep working hard.”

— The Cardinals made a move in the lineup Monday, with D’Anthony Batiste taking over as first-string right tackle from Jeremy Bridges, who then took Batiste’s place as second-string right guard. No way to know what it means yet — coach Ken Whisenhunt is next available at lunch tomorrow — but at a position where everyone was waiting for a Bridges-versus-Bobby Massie fight, it was an interesting development.

— Sitting out with injuries were FB Jared Crank (neck), CB Michael Adams (hamstring), WR LaRon Byrd (shoulder), RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (undisclosed) and LB Paris Lenon (ankle).

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For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 18, 2012 – 8:31 am

OK, so I missed a year (darn the lockout!) but with the end of offseason work and with my time off finally arriving, it’s that time. The proper sendoff into that dead area prior to training camp is my educated guesstimate for the starting lineups come Sept. 9 when Seattle visits University of Phoenix Stadium. Defense today, offense tomorrow. We’ll see if these choices come to fruition, although there is a long, long way to go. A lot can change. So, as always, remember this is just an exhibition and not a competition, so please, no wagering:

DEDarnell Dockett. I’m anxious to see how he performs with a full season of knowing what he’s doing in Ray Horton’s scheme.

NTDan Williams. He was playing better when he got hurt. David Carter was solid as a rookie, but Williams is the key here. He needs more consistency. He knows that.

DECalais Campbell. New contract in hand, time to build on what he started.

ROLBSam Acho. He was better than anyone could have expected as a rookie.

SILBParis Lenon. Maybe Stewart Bradley emerges at some point, but Bradley’s time on the bench has been as much about Lenon’s incredibly solid play as Bradley’s own play. Lenon just won’t let anyone dislodge him.

WILBDaryl Washington. Hard not to see him as emerging star.

LOLBO’Brien Schofield. He’s itching to be a starter and to prove he belongs. Now’s his chance. He wants to have the same impact Acho did, and the Cards need him to do just that.

RCBGreg Toler. Yes, William Gay was there this offseason and yes, Gay has a good chance to be the starter. But for some reason, I think Toler finds his way there. Both are going to play regardless.

LCBPatrick Peterson. Pro Bowl status as return man. Now he needs to make it so as cover guy.

FSKerry Rhodes. Remember how Adrian Wilson burned so much in camp last year – before he got hurt – to make up for his struggles the year before? That’s the sense I get from Rhodes, who is still frustrated from last years’ broken foot and I think wants to show everyone how good he can be.

SS – Wilson. One thing you never have to worry about from Wilson is motivation. The boulder on his shoulder draws from different places, but it never goes away. Horton thinks Wilson will be even better this year now that he’s comfortable in the defense.

Offense is up tomorrow.

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No rush to linebackers

Posted by Darren Urban on May 7, 2012 – 3:48 pm

Before the draft, it seemed  — at least, in my opinion — the Cards had three areas that most warranted help: offensive line, pass rusher and receiver. The Cards took care of the latter right away with the Michael Floyd pick. They obviously hit the line hard with three choices, including potential right tackle starter Bobby Massie. But, sticking to their board — and perhaps revealing just how much they think of their young players — the Cardinals didn’t take a pass rusher. Didn’t take a linebacker at all.

Right now, the Cards have 14 linebackers on the roster. Six could be classified as outside linebackers, seven as inside guys and Stewart Bradley as a swing guy (although obviously guys can always move around.) Three of the inside linebackers are undrafted rookies (Marcus McGraw, Colin Parker and Paul Vassallo) and one is definitely untested (Quan Sturdivant.) But one the inside, Darryl Washington is established, Paris Lenon continues to outperform everyone’s expectations and both Bradley and Reggie Walker have shown they can fill in.

But it’s on the outside that will always get the attention. Young players usually have a ton of confidence that they will do the job as long as they get the opportunity, and that’s certainly the vibe you get from O’Brien Schofield when you talk to him. Sam Acho had seven sacks after barely playing the first five games, so he seems to be a potential game-changer. Both must up their games. And then what? Will Brandon Williams, signed late last season on to the practice squad after not finding a place with the Cowboys, surprise some people? Can the Cards find a diamond among free agent Antonio Coleman or undrafted rookies Zach Nash and  Broderick Binns? (Clark Haggans could also still return.)

It’s not like the Cards didn’t sack opposing quarterbacks last year. As a team, they had 42, tied for seventh in the NFL. The Cards had an NFL-best nine different guys with at least two sacks. The way defensive coordinator Ray Horton does things, pressure by committee works and is much harder for which to handle. But developing those linebackers, especially the rushers on the outside, is one of the keys to any 3-4 scheme. After passing in the draft, development will be one of the things to watch at the position.

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Wilson’s workload was heaviest in NFL

Posted by Darren Urban on February 13, 2012 – 1:25 pm

While Bears beat man Brad Biggs was putting together a playing time story about the team he covers for the Chicago Tribune — based on snaps played — he noted the players who played the most snaps this past season in the entire NFL on both sides of the ball. Turns out the guy who played the most defensive snaps was the Cardinals’ own Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson.

Wilson, according to the NFL stats Biggs acquired, played 1,134 snaps (Saints offensive linemen Jermon Bushrod and Carl Nicks each played 1,152 for the other side of the ball.) So, to recap, Wilson came into 2011 having had ups and downs in 2010, in part because of a abductor injury, and then proceeded, a week into camp, to tear a biceps muscle in his right arm, forcing him to miss the entire rest of the preseason. Yet he promised to be back. He had to play with the biceps tear, and admittedly struggled in the new defense of coordinator Ray Horton early on.

From there, Wilson simply a) played at such a high level in the new system he b) earned yet another Pro Bowl berth, c) led the defense as captain, and d) was on the field more than any other defensive player in the entire NFL. Got it. noted Biggs’ story and headlined it, “Adrian Wilson is tougher than you.”

Not sure we needed a snap count to affirm that, but point taken.

(UPDATE: The Twitter feed of the NFL Network’s Playbook show (@NFLN_Playbook) notes that Darnell Dockett had the most snaps by a defensive tackle in the NFL with 1000, and added that Paris Lenon had the most snaps of any linebacker (although a number wasn’t given.)

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Morning after with Whiz

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2011 – 11:40 am

Calling chances to win on the road “precious,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said today about what you’d expect after the Cardinals blew that chance Sunday. The team, especially the defense, is a work-in-progress. Believe it or not, he said, there were some good plays made by the defense. But there is still too much yardage surrendered and too many mistakes made.

“When we make bad plays,” Whisenhunt said, “they are really bad.”

Whisenhunt knows the team needs to cut down on penalties, especially the “dumb” ones by the defense yesterday. He said Kerry Rhodes’ 15-yarder was because he inadvertently bumped an official, and the official knew it was an accident — otherwise, Rhodes would have been thrown out of the game. He also said the punt team missed the injured LaRod Stephens-Howling as the gunner, which impacted the Cards’ coverage.

He added he thought the young cornerbacks showed improvement from week one, but that they can’t afford to turn receivers loose downfield. They avoided the big plays yesterday (which helped in stopping the Redskins from scoring too much).

Injury-wise, the Cards came out pretty healthy. Other than linebacker Paris Lenon (ankle), who came back in the game, Whisenhunt didn’t name any names for injuries because nobody suffered anything that would cause them to miss any time, he said. It’ll be wait and see on someone like linebacker Daryl Washington, whom the Cards hope can return to practice at some point this week.

— Tomorrow, I will host  a live chat right here at 11:30 a.m. Az time (2:30 p.m. Eastern). Gear up for all questions Cardinals.

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