Sturdivant’s got to speak up

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2011 – 8:29 am

The walkthrough was sparsely attended by fans, so it was even easier to hear the chatter on the field. That included linebackers coach Matt Raich, who was watching his charges from the offensive backfield when at one point he bellowed at rookie inside linebacker Quan Sturdivant, “I need to hear you back here!”

Sturdivant was calling the pre-snap signals. He wasn’t doing it loudly enough.

“Some players have that take charge voice,” Raich said. “Young guys come in here and they are not sure. That’s why I always say, ‘Say it loud and say it proud.’ They laugh about it, but it is true.”

It’s not just a Sturdivant issue, or even just young players. Raich said that even veterans new to the team might not be quite loud enough at first. It’s tough to have conviction in your voice when you are just learning the defense yourself. The starting inside linebackers, Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington, have been around a year, so even though they are learning the defense, they have been more confident. So too is new veteran Stewart Bradley.

As for Sturdivant, “you’re the Mike linebacker, it’s what you are supposed to do,” the rookie said. “It is a little adjustment. I’m not a loud person. I’m not going to say it’s tough but it is something to get used to.”

Sturdivant, the first of two sixth-round picks, will have to battle to make the roster. The addition of Bradley and the influx of new information (without an offseason) has made his impact minimal right now. Asked if he was “swimming” with all the incoming info, Sturdivant smiled and said, “you could say that.”

“I’m taking it day by day,” he added. “I ask questions of the vets if I have questions.”

Learning to pipe up is just one of his early lessons.

“He has to scream it,” Raich said. “I want them to make sure. He has his hand up to say, ‘right, left’ but the defensive linemen can’t see him. I’ve got to get Quan going.

“You’ve got to be able to communicate before the snap and obviously after. I think guys are unsure at times. … It’s just like anyone if they are talking. If you are comfortable with what you are going to say, you are fluent.”


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The rookies and their impact

Posted by Darren Urban on July 7, 2011 – 11:30 am

So ESPN.com’s K.C. Joyner — the  “Football Scientist” — wrote an Insider article about No. 1 pick Patrick Peterson and the possibility he could bring the Cards’ secondary elite status this season. Joyner uses football metrics (fancy stats) to prove his point. He compares the Cards’ move to that of Bill Walsh and the 49ers back in 1981 when they added future star Ronnie Lott.

“This combination of traits helped the 49ers pass defense improve to top-five rankings in passer rating allowed, passing yards per attempt (YPA), passing yards allowed and interceptions in the 1981 campaign, all of which were key elements in San Francisco’s Super Bowl run that season,” Joyner writes.

“Fast forward to this year’s draft. It’s very hard to project any draft pick to be as impactful as Lott — who was a star at cornerback before he was eventually shifted to safety — but Whisenhunt and the Cardinals’ brain trust may have had the same idea in mind when they drafted LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson with the No. 5 pick.”

Joyner also writes “It may sound hard to believe given how bad Arizona’s pass defense statistics were last year, but the metrics show that the addition of Peterson and an achievable turnaround by former Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could give the Cardinals a truly elite secondary.”

Of course, that would be huge for the Cards if Peterson indeed did so (while noting DRC also has to up his play). But it also got me wondering about the entire rookie class. The way coach Ken Whisenhunt likes to break in rookies, there is usually a waiting period for them to make a large impact. Add in the complete loss of the offseason — so that this rookie class with have absolutely zero idea about life in the NFL and what this coaching staff expects until we are two weeks away from an actual preseason game — and you have to think the learning curve will be that much steeper.

Peterson, of course, should get a chance to play early. But with DRC and Greg Toler, there doesn’t have to be a rush into the starting lineup. The Cards can afford to pick-and-choose his spots (which may, again, slow down that scenario Joyner envisions). The same goes for second-round running back Ryan Williams, since the Cards obviously have running backs already in place — even if one of the guys already on the roster isn’t there once the season begins, which remains a possibility.

Interestingly, it’s the next four picks that really could be the ones to watch, depending on how free agency turns out. Third-round tight end Rob Housler is a pass-catching piece the Cards could use right away, if he can quickly assimilate. Fourth-round outside linebacker Sam Acho will have to learn the position, but given the Cards’ need for pass rushers and the ability to spot-play such guys, he too could be used early. And the Cards will probably carry only one fullback, so if fifth-rounder Anthony Sherman is the guy, he’ll have to be the blocker right out of the gate. Meanwhile, sixth-round linebacker Quan Sturdivant will find that there is playing time to be had in the middle — again, if he can quickly learn on the job.

(Sixth-round DL David Carter and seventh-round WR DeMarco Sampson, to me, are depth at best and will be fighting just to get on the roster.)

Until these guys get on the field, it’s always easy to be optimistic what they can add right away. History shows the free agents the Cards bring it — whomever they will be — will be more important, one way or the other, at first. That may just be underscored with this absent offseason.


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Draft aftermath and the seventh-rounder

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2011 – 7:15 pm

So the Cards finish up not with Mr. Irrelevant but close (five choices came after the Cardinals’ final pick) in San Diego State wide receiver DeMarco Sampson. Sampson is a big guy (6-foot-2, 204), with some speed (Whisenhunt said he ran a 4.41 this offseason) and a chance to add to the position that has some uncertainty in terms of contracts.

Otherwise, here are some other last thoughts after the last day:

— The wait for undrafted rookies now must wait – usually, the land rush to those guys has already started – until the current labor limbo is fixed. “We are going through our process of preparing to sign our (rookie) free agents like we normally would, except we’re not putting that plan into action until we’re allowed to do so,” GM Rod Graves said. “We’re taking it right up to the final step in the process.”

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the Cards are attractive to UDFAs for a couple of reasons. He said the Cards actually pay decent signing bonuses for such things, which obviously grabs attention of players. More importantly, the Cards have shown they will keep UDFAs on the roster, and ultimately, that’s what those guys want.

— No offensive linemen drafted (for a second draft in a row), but I will guess there will be a couple or three undrafted rookies and some aggressiveness in free agency. Whenever that is.

— There will be plenty of time to assess what the picks mean for guys already on the roster at those positions (running back, for one). But the selection of a pass rusher not until the fourth round not only says something about who was on the board, it says something about O’Brien Schofield, the 2010 fourth-round pick who would have been higher if not for a postseason knee injury.

“It’s very, very difficult what he did, to not have played a snap (coming off knee surgery), come in and practice for a couple of weeks and then be playing,” Whisenhunt said. “(It) means he had to put a lot of time and effort into preparing. That’s what we really think is going to give him a chance.

— Inside linebacker Quan Sturdivant wears No. 52 in honor of a couple of his heroes, Ravens LB Ray Lewis and Panthers LB Jon Beason. Beason, Sturdivant said, was his model. “He’s not that big. He’s fast, instinctive, strong and makes plays, so I kind of like his game.”

— Speaking of uniform numbers, Sturdivant I’m sure wants 52, but right now, that is owned by LB Cyril Obiozor. I know new cornerback Patrick Peterson wants No. 21. But be cautioned (for anyone wanting to run out and buy jerseys), numbers aren’t in concrete yet. Veterans usually get first dibs and until there is a free-agency process at some point, uniform numbers will remain fluid.

— No quarterback, no real surprise, quite frankly. Just never got the sense the whole draft run-up they’d be looking in that direction.

–Defensive end David Carter may have been “all cried out” after an emotional day, but he sounded just fine on his conference call. So in the end, call-wise, he still can’t hold a candle to the Hyphen.

And finally …

— Whisenhunt broke out some draft humor after the team took linebacker Sam Acho from Texas.

“We’re going to make a request from the league he can wear No. 5 so we’ll have an Acho Cinco on our team,” Whisenhunt deadpanned.

Graves wasn’t going to let that go. “I wasn’t a part of that,” Graves said.


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First sixth-round pick is LB Sturdivant

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2011 – 12:54 pm

The Cardinals used the first of two sixth-round draft picks on inside linebacker Quan Sturdivant from North Carolina. Sturdivant, 6-foot-1 and 241 pounds, was part of the Tar Heel team ravaged from suspensions, and he was one of the ones investigated for improper dealings with agents (he was cleared ). He also battled a hamstring injury for five weeks.

But in eight games he had 61 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss. In his career, he had 27.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four interceptions and three fumble recoveries, and looks like a good pickup considering he was thought of as a third- or fourth-round pick and some even believed he could go in the second round. With Gerald Hayes unlikely to return next year, the Cards needed depth on the inside behind Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington.

“With his desire and love for the game,” general manager Rod Graves said, “we are excited to get him where we got him.”

Sturdivant said he “made a bad decision” last summer — he was cited for marijuana possession, although the charges were dropped — and he said that probably cost him in the draft. “It’s been a little tough,” Sturdivant said of waiting to be drafted. “But now that I have a chance to play with the Cardinals, I’m excited.” Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the Cards investigated his arrest but are satisfied it was just a mistake, and Whiz added he liked the idea of how much support Sturdivant got (while battling his bad hamstring) at Carolina’s pro day from his other teammates, indicating players like to play with him. He will compete for the strong-side inside spot manned by Lenon.


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