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Arians thinks accuracy can be helped — sometimes

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2013 – 11:41 am

Larry Fitzgerald was targeted 156 times last season. He ended up with just 71 catches.

Now, that doesn’t mean there weren’t times when Fitz could’ve and should’ve come down with a pass and didn’t. That certainly happened, and more times last year, I think, than in the past (profootballfocus.com had him with five drops last season, Stats.inc credited him with three.) But there were many, many, many more times when the pass went to Fitzgerald and the ball simply wasn’t close enough to even make a play on it.

This isn’t about Fitz though but the ability to make sure whatever quarterback is behind center can be accurate. There are many factors that go into an incomplete pass, including the pass rush and pass protection. But last season, none of the four quarterbacks who played for the Cardinals completed 60 percent of their passes. Kevin Kolb was 59.6 percent, John Skelton was 54.2, Ryan Lindley 52.0 and Brian Hoyer 56.6. These days, if you aren’t completing between 62 to 65 percent of your passes — at least — you are going to have a hard time being successful. It’s something to watch for with the rookies too, although given the upgrade in speed and schemes in the NFL, accuracy can be a projection for those guys.

The question is whether it can be improved in a prospect — or with anyone.

“I think you can improve all phases of their mechanics,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “Some guys, if the flaw is so difficult in their throwing motion especially from the trunk up, it’s going to be hard. But the majority of accuracy problems are your legs. Guys overstride, they understride, they put themselves in bad positions and stress themselves. Fundamentals, that’s why golfers go to the driving range every day. Tiger (Woods) is a great player, Rory (Mcllroy)  is a great player, but they go to the driving range every day. Quarterbacks need to go to the driving range every day.

“You want to be more of a teacher than a swing coach. When you are a swing coach, you know you have problems.”

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A top rookie quarterback would play

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2013 – 3:55 pm

Back in 2006, when Matt Leinart was just drafted and Denny Green was in charge, the hype around the Cardinals’ freshly-minted quarterback-of-the-future was off the charts. Back then, Kurt Warner was just a guy, a placeholder for Leinart much like Warner had been for Eli Manning and the Giants back in 2004. But Green was having none of the hype. He made it plain — in a perfect scenario for 2006, Warner would play all season, and Leinart would sit and learn the whole year and not even play a single snap.

(Of course, that didn’t happen because Warner fumbled the ball all over the place and Leinart came in and it got me one of my all-time favorite quotes from Denny. I asked him, with the Cards 1-8 and Leinart struggling, what it would have meant for Leinart to have sat the entire season as the original plan, and Denny’s first reaction was, “That’s an awfully philosophical question for a Wednesday.” As opposed to saving the philosophical questions for Friday. But I digress.)

Flash forward to 2013, when the Cardinals could spend their highest pick on a QB since that season. Will it be the first round? If I am guessing, I say no. Never say never I suppose. The second round seems more likely. But unlike Green, both GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians would rather drop a first-round rookie in the fire. No reason to wait.

“My philosophy is, if you are taking a player that high, particularly at the quarterback position, I think that guy needs to be on the field and play for you,” Keim said. “To me, a player grows by being on the field and taking snaps, and I don’t think you can replicate that, whether it is the speed of the game, the timing of routes … in practice. He needs to be on the field.”

Said Arians, “I’ve never been one to sit them on the bench. You never learn on the bench. He’s not going to get any reps in practice because that’s for the starter. If you want him to develop, you give him every rep in practice and you throw him out there. Hopefully you can put enough talent around him that he can handle the downside.”

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The Alex Smith speculation

Posted by Darren Urban on February 21, 2013 – 9:13 am

Finding an answer at quarterback is again on the agenda for the Cardinals this offseason. One potential target could be 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who is no longer needed in the Bay Area thanks to the rise of Colin Kaepernick. But Smith is under contract with the Niners, and they are going to try and get something out of him, clearly. Matt Barrows does a great job breaking down the Smith situation from the Niners’ perspective, but the Niners aren’t committing to anything. Yet.

“Are we going to trade him for sure? No, that hasn’t been decided,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said this morning here at the NFL Scouting combine.

Of course, that may mean releasing him instead, which, with my thought process, would be the probable way he’d end up in Arizona if he ever were to end up in Arizona. I don’t see the Cards trying to trade for him, not after what happened in the Kevin Kolb trade. Unless you think Smith can be your long-term answer — and as well as he was playing in SF, I don’t know how you could be confident in that — he’s going to be a short-term solution. Smith also could have other suitors, and maybe the Browns (who have Norv Turner as OC after Smith played well under Turner as OC once upon a time in San Fran) will want to deal a pick for him.

I know there are plenty of people who think Smith is a suitable choice for the Cards if the Cards could make such a move. But the QB situation remains fluid for both the Cards and the Niners and many other teams in this league. I don’t see Smith being all that thrilled being forced to be a backup next season for Kaepernick, nor do I see the Niners being thrilled with paying him some $8 million to sit. A move of some kind seems inevitable. So can San Francisco generate a trade market?


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Stuff to chew on

Posted by Darren Urban on May 7, 2010 – 9:56 am

Most of the coaches are off, and most of the players are scarce for a long weekend, so not a whole lot going on.

But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to talk about.

— Perhaps the most stunning news of the day when it comes to this team. According to Darren Rovell, Bodog has released odds on where jettisoned quarterback JaMarcus Russell will land now that the Raiders dumped him. Bodog’s most likely landing spot, at 3-to-1 odds? The Cardinals. To which I say, what?!?!? If the Cardinals aren’t going to chase Marc Bulger, who makes so much more sense considering the circumstances, why the heck would they take a flyer on the overweight, massively underachieving, unmotivated-because-of-all-his-money Russell?

Bodog has Russell being a 10-to-1 shot to go to the CFL. Right now, I think I’d swap the Cards and the CFL’s odds (although the Cards’ odds should be a much longer shot, really. Some NFL team will give Russell a chance. But not the Cards).

–If you haven’t seen it, I’d like to think the story I posted yesterday about coming back from ACL tears is pretty interesting. The stories of tight end Stephen Spach and new draftee O’Brien Schofield are chronicled. When you listen to head athletic trainer Tom Reed, it’s easy to understand why the Cards were willing to take a chance on Schofield and his upside. One of the most telling parts was Schofield’s outlook on 2010: “They would like for me to play this year but they don’t need me to play this year,” he said. “That is what I am considering.” You hear that (and, looking at the Cards’ linebacker situation, see the truth in it) and it’s not hard to envision Schofield taking that “redshirt” year on PUP/IR when it’s all said and done. We’ll see though.

— Bill Williamson, who covers the AFC West for ESPN.com, posted the first round of the 2007 draft just for comparison’s sake after Russell was cut. For the Cards, that was the infamous Levi Brown-before-Adrian Peterson draft, and probably will remain that way. But, just for a second, take a look at the first round without AP in mind. The Cards ended up with Brown, who has been relatively solid and with whom the coaches are happy (Yes, many will argue, but those are the internal facts). Considering many of the picks in the first round, especially the top 10, the Cards actually are one of the teams that came out OK.

Gaines Adams? LaRon Landry? Jamaal Anderson? Ted Ginn? Adam Carriker?

Yes, there are superstars. Peterson. Patrick Willis. Darrelle Revis. But the Cards are in better shape than most. Especially the Raiders.

— The Cardinals are apparently going to be signing undrafted South Dakota State linebacker Chris Johnson, according to Johnson in this Iowa newspaper story.


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