Early on, FA names start to float

Posted by Darren Urban on March 7, 2015 – 3:18 pm

It’s the first day that teams can officially speak to the agents of free-agents-to-be, and as always, there’s plenty of early info floating around about certain players and certain teams. It does not mean anyone is locked in to signing anywhere, and certainly, there is the possibility agents are leaking interest publicly to drive their client’s market price up. With those caveats, the Cardinals were mentioned in a couple places thus far:

— Trent Cole, who would be a linebacker/pass rusher and who was cut by the Eagles already (and could sign at any time) has been making multiple visits, but the Cardinals are reportedly among the teams interested.

— Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is “leaning toward” the Cards, according to Rand Getlin. Weatherspoon, who would be a nice addition as an inside linebacker, has had it rough injury-wise of late — he missed all of last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon and played only seven games in 2013. If healthy, however, it’d upgrade the front seven. The Cards liked Weatherspoon coming out in 2010.

— The same reporter who broke Darnell Dockett’s release is saying the Cards have interest in Ravens UFA Pernell McPhee as a Dockett replacement. Not sure if McPhee would be a linebacker or defensive end for the Cardinals, given his 6-foot-3, 280-pound frame (although the Cardinals already have Alex Okafor and Matt Shaughnessy as linebackers at that size.)

— Perhaps interest in Bears DT Stephen Paea.

Again, free agents can’t even set up visits before Tuesday, and the Cards would have guys take physicals before they’d ever sign them. So there will be speculation like this for a couple of days. In the meantime, we see what is thrown out there as teams and players maneuver for the best deals possible.

— Last thing. I (surprisingly) have gotten multiple questions about Reggie Wayne. Yes, I know he played with Bruce Arians. But why would the Cardinals do that? Makes zero sense. They have their elder statesman receiver in Fitz. Arians said walking in the door he wanted to turn Fitz into what he turned Wayne into in Indy — so why would the Cards need another one of those guys? Plus, you wouldn’t want someone blocking the development of Floyd and the Browns, nor do you want someone else who would be unhappy if he wasn’t getting the ball.

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An afternoon move by Ryan Williams

Posted by Darren Urban on July 27, 2013 – 7:23 pm

It was a play that doesn’t technically mean anything, especially on a day when pads weren’t on and players aren’t hitting much anyway. But running back Ryan Williams

provided the highlight of the second practice of camp (sorry, we didn’t catch it on video I stand corrected — the play is the final one on the highlight video to the right). He ran left on a play, was hemmed in and made an incredible on-a-dime cutback that staggered a couple of defenders as he moved back right. It was the kind of play that reminds everyone while Williams has potential and why this team drafted him in the second round in the first place.

I’ve been asked a couple of times and, no, I don’t think Williams will be able to unseat Rashard Mendenhall as the starter. But I do think Williams has a chance to get playing time. Carson Palmer praised Williams’ blocking, which is a big deal in Bruce Arians’ offense. One play early in camp doesn’t sew anything up, but it does set a tone. We’ll see where Williams takes it.

— Wide receiver Tyler Shaw and tight end Alex Gottlieb were sitting out practice with undisclosed issues, while wide receiver Robert Gill left the field in the middle of practice with a trainer.

— The Cardinals signed undrafted rookie receiver Nick Edwards (Eastern Washington) and now have two open roster spots left (not including the one technically open while Jonathan Cooper remains unsigned.) Some have asked why the Cards aren’t looking for a vet with Ryan Swope now gone. Simple. They have plenty of capital — money and otherwise — invested in their top three receivers. Plus, they like some of the young receivers — Gill, Jaron Brown and Robert Hawkins in particular — a lot.

— QB coach Freddie Kitchens talked about coming back to work after his near-fatal issue with his aorta in early June. I’ll have much, much more in a story I am working on, but Kitchens said other than getting fatigued at the end of the day, he is doing well. “The worst thing that could have happened to me missed its opportunity,” Kitchens said.

— The first padded practice comes Sunday. I’m hearing there could be many of them, many more than what we saw under Ken Whisenhunt. The BA era will be fun to watch unfold.

— Finally, after I saw the Colts’ Reggie Wayne arrived at training camp in a helicopter, I had to needle Fitz a little bit on Twitter. As usual, he played it perfectly:

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Not wanting to repeat, Fitz is on the move

Posted by Darren Urban on June 13, 2013 – 4:10 pm

Last year, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts had a breakout season not coincidentally, he believed, after attending Larry Fitzgerald’s Minnesota workouts (where Shorts also decided to swim for the first time in the lake behind Fitz’s house, FYI). He noted recently that Fitz “works like he is broke.” So, after an offseason of change in which Fitzgerald for the first time is trying to learn three receiver positions so coach Bruce Arians can move him around more, Fitzgerald was asked Thursday exactly why he’d work like that.

“This last year would be enough to drive anybody over the edge,” Fitzgerald said. “I just don’t ever want a repeat of what happened last year. You put that kind of stuff on tape, it’s hard to keep a job.”

There were some laughs in Fitz’s impromptu, I’m-about-to-leave-until-camp-so-ask-what-you-need press conference. But talking about last year, and talking about why Fitz hasn’t talked a ton this offseason, Fitzgerald was definitely serious.

“It’s ‘Prove it’ for me,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s not about the talking and the soundbites. It’s about getting back to the level of play I am accustomed to, and the level of play everybody is accustomed to.”

That apparently is starting, via Arians and assistant head coach Tom Moore, with moving Fitzgerald all over the place. That has made this offseason uncomfortable for Fitz. He’s played one spot since high school. Coaches have moved him in motion, but he’s never really lined up in the slot or in other facets of the passing game. Arians made it clear that was going to change, and Arians had huge success doing it with Reggie Wayne a year ago. The goal is obviously to make sure Fitzgerald doesn’t have another 71-catch, 798-yard season like 2012.

“Do you want 100 balls? If you want 100 balls, move around,” Arians said. “If they know where you are at it’s easier to take you out of your game. Reggie bought in right away last year and Larry is buying in now. It’s hard because when you are a veteran of their stature, you don’t like making mistakes. You get embarrassed. You have to put that behind you and learn multiple positions.”

There have been moments, especially earlier in the offseason, when Arians got on Fitzgerald during practice. Fitz, save for the Todd Haley years, rarely heard such things on the practice field. Now, that was mostly because he was so very good at what he did. He’s learning all over again.

“I’m a bit of a creature of habit,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve played the same position since I was a junior in high school, I’ve never had to move around, and I’ve gotten good at it. I think we all resist change to a certain degree, especially if you have had a little success. But as I have gone through these offseason workouts I have definitely become more receptive of it.

“Coach Arians has a wealth of knowledge with the defense that will be thrown at us and he tells me there will be a lot more opportunities to make plays inside and it will give my teammates like Andre Roberts and Michael (Floyd) and Rob Housler and guys like that better matchups as well. It’s not all about me, it’s about making this team go.”

As much as Fitzgerald will help Carson Palmer, he too can learn something from Palmer, who threw to a couple of pretty good receivers in Chad Johnson/Ochocinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Moore has backgrounds with Peyton Manning, Wayne and Marvin Harrison, along with Steelers Hall-of-Famers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann. Fitzgerald is hoping that knowledge comes in handy and was frequently talking with Moore prior to workouts this entire offseason.

Make no mistake, one of the reasons Fitzgerald was so salty about last year was the drop in his production. The losses were the biggest reason, but Fitzgerald wants to be considered one of the best and that’s tough when you aren’t even reaching 800 yards. If there are ways to avoid that again, Fitzgerald will buy in. He’ll work as if he’s broke — which is most certainly is far, far from — and figure out new positions. He’ll probably mention to Palmer too that single coverage means get Fitz the ball — just not right now.

“I’m too busy trying to learn where I’ve got to be and figure out my assignments,” Fitzgerald said. “Once I have that down, then I’ll try to get in his ear a little bit.”


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Whither Fitz? Look to Wayne

Posted by Darren Urban on January 23, 2013 – 11:03 am

The numbers weren’t great for the Pro Bowl receiver — 75 catches, less than 1,000 yards, four touchdowns — but then again, the quarterback situation wasn’t great either.

It was difficult for Reggie Wayne.

Wait, you thought I was talking about Larry Fitzgerald? Well, part of the story plays out as a parallel for sure. Wayne, the Colts’ veteran, had statistics (75-960-4) in 2011 that mirrored what Fitz dealt with in 2012 (71-798-4). But when Bruce Arians came in to Indianapolis as offensive coordinator before the 2012 season, one of his goals was to make Wayne the impact player he had always been. Now that Arians is head coach of the Cardinals, he has the same plans for Fitz.

“As a receiver, you can’t hand it to them, you have to throw it to them,” Arians said. “They can double-cover him, and you don’t throw it to him if he is double-covered and someone else is single-covered. You’ve got to take what is there as a quarterback, but you do have to get him the ball because he is such a tremendous talent.

“When I first met with Reggie, Reggie had been on the left side for 10 years. The first day of spring I put him over there on the right, and he looked like he had palsy. I said, ‘It’ll come. You have to retrain your body here. Wait until I put you in the slot.’ There was buy-in.”

Now, Fitzgerald is ahead of the curve there. The Cardinals have been moving him around for a while now, just to get him open. Wayne’s resurgence not coincidentally benefited from the arrival of Andrew Luck at quarterback, and as of today, it doesn’t look like a Luck-type will end up behind center for the Cardinals this season. But Arians understands the ball must end up with Fitz more often than it did last season.

Wayne, by the way, had 106 catches for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns in 2012.


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Going into the weekend

Posted by Darren Urban on September 25, 2009 – 5:09 pm

It’s a Friday, and I wanted to try to get back to the late afternoon, wrap-up of the week blogs that I had been doing last season. Big weekend for the Cards, especially going into the bye. There is such a huge difference between 2-1 and 1-2, knowing that with the latter it means an 0-2 record at a home field the Cards thought they could turn into a 6-2 or 7-1 massive advantage. With the Texans, Panthers, Vikings and Packers still left on the home schedule, that’d be a rough goal with a loss Sunday.

But I feel good about this one for the Cards, and I’d like to believe it’s not because I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. This is the kind of game in which these Cards tend to thrive, on national TV, at home, against a good team (and one that many are picking to win on the road). I’ll guess we’ll see Sunday night.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt on getting hyped for “Sunday Night Football”: “It all started many years ago with the Monday Night games when there were no other games and everybody was watching and you knew everyone was watching,” Whisenhunt said. “Now, it’s Sunday night and the emphasis put on it, it’s the same thing. There is so much more coverage with the NFL than there ever has been which is great. But when you are the only game playing and it is on national TV, your juices do get flowing.

“Now, our team gets excited for 1 o’clock games on Sunday. We’re not just going through the motions. But there is a little bit different air. Everyone talks about how the speed and intensity picks up with the playoffs. Well it’s like that when you play a Sunday night game or a Monday night game.”

— The Cardinals catch a break with Colts stud safety Bob Sanders still out. The Colts’ defense is simply better when Sanders plays. I’ve noticed that over the years watching them from afar. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it just changes the complexion, beyond just what Sanders does tangibly. It’s a lot like when Adrian Wilson is missing for the Cards (see: Jets and Favre against the Cards’ D, 2008).

— This will be Kurt Warner’s 34th consecutive start for the Cards. Never thought he’d reach such heights, but with the dings he plays with, it makes his record-setting game last week even more amazing – even if he says he feels he “stole” the record because of how the game played out.

— I am much more worried about what tight end Dallas Clark will do against the Cards than Reggie Wayne. I think the Cardinals can deal with a top receiver. They don’t see good tight ends often.

— This stat has been making the rounds: If you include playoff games, the Cardinals are 17-0 under Whisenhunt when they hold an advantage in the turnover battle. When they are even, they are 3-2. When they have more turnovers than the other guys, they are 1-15. Guess we know what stat to look at to analyze the end. (That one victory when losing the turnover battle? The electrifying overtime win over the Cowboys last season, when the Cards scored twice on special teams – the ultimate equalizer. Thanks for that off-the-top-of-the-head info, Little Whiz).

— Anquan Boldin needs 61 yards receiving to move into fourth place in the franchise’s history. As of today, Boldin is 1,913 yards shy of Roy Green’s top mark of 8,497.

— This is a huge test for this defense. They have had two pretty decent games (although I don’t think they were thrilled with the fourth quarter in either outing). But last year, the D surrendered 13 and 10 points in the first two games, respectively, and that didn’t hold up. They aren’t going to shut out Peyton Manning. But they have to slow him.

That’s it. Time to go spend some time with the family. Going to take in a football game at the high school where my wife teaches, and count on the Cards being ready in that atmosphere Sunday night. I haven’t been on the field pre-game yet this season, but I think we’ll have to give that a go this week. When you go to a Super Bowl, these are the games you’re supposed to be part of the next season.


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