Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2011 – 8:49 pm

Adrian Wilson was on the field and the Cardinals were about to use the victory/kneel-down formation at the end of Sunday’s game. But with Beanie Wells having a chance at history – to himself – the Cards took a delay of game and then Wells got his record-breaking run, a 14-yarder that put the exclamation point on a 228-yard day.

It was a fantastic show by Beanie, and a necessary one. The Cards need to get Kevin Kolb back on the field at quarterback, odd in some ways to say after John Skelton went 3-1 as a starter, but the passing offense has grinded to a halt. You don’t want to get anything confused – the Rams’ after all, do have the NFL’s worst run defense and have dealt with 200-yard rushers earlier this season, after Dallas’ DeMarco Murray ran for a league-high 253 yards – but Beanie played well and to match his career-high in carries with 27 speaks to fighting through his knee soreness.

— The Cards used a few more jumbo-type packages to just out-physical the Rams. Beanie looked comfortable doing those things. Now Wells just needs to hold up – he looked beat up the way he was walking around the locker room – and the Cards need to feed the Bean.

— Speaking of that knee, the way Beanie got twisted around in the fourth quarter looked ugly at first (and his lost fumble could have been disaster). But he broke off a 53-yard run the next time he got back in the game. And that led Larry Fitzgerald to tag Beanie with the Paul Pierce award.

“Past recipients have been Greg Toler (and) Eric Green,” Fitzgerald quipped. “I think Beanie is a candidate but we are glad to have him on the team.”

Pierce, of course, is the star of the NBA’s Boston Celtics who left a 2008 Finals game looking like he wrecked his knee horribly, only to return later in the game like nothing had happened. It’s all in good fun – Fitzgerald nabbed Green back after the Jets game in 2008, when Green came up lame after getting burned for a touchdown and Fitzgerald insisted his injury “changed” to a different part of the body after Green came to the sideline.

It was all in good fun, although after the ups and downs Wells has been through given his injury situations – and what outside people tend to see with Wells when he gets hurt – it was kinda close to home.

“You know what it goes to show you Beanie has grown up a little bit, a tough-minded guy,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That’s what you need. That’s what we have been striving to get Beanie to get to do for a couple years now. It’s great to see.”

— Beanie has a career-high 849 yards rushing already with five games remaining. He now has a career high in touchdowns too, with eight.

— It meant something that rookie fullback Anthony Sherman was in there blocking for Beanie. Sherman is good at his job already. Plus, Beanie seems to be the kind of back who likes having a lead back blocking for him.

— Fitz was quiet again (3 catches, 55 yards) but that’s what happens when the quarterback struggles so. “I am just happy to get a win honestly,” Fitzgerald said. “I would love to have 100 yards and a couple touchdowns, but I know that’s not going to happen every week.”

Fair. But the Cards need Fitz and more importantly, need to find a way to get him the ball. That’s probably been mentioned before.

— Sam Acho isn’t going to say much about himself. He doesn’t like to do it if he can help it, preferring to shower the entire team with praise. I asked him on the plane if he was going to be a little more forthcoming. Nope. “Go ahead and put me down for all the clichés,” he said. That’s fine. We will stick with simple analysis: Acho has been very impressive. He already has five sacks as a rookie, and he barely played defense before the seventh game of the season. Is he a Pro Bowler? No. Not even polished. But a very good start, and needed at that position.

— No, I don’t know if Sam Rosen will be calling any more games involving the Cardinals on Fox this season.

— Patrick Peterson said on the radio after the game he wants to get to six punt-return TDs this season. If he gets five, it’s a season for the ages as a special teamer. One at a time.

— Hope Rosen wouldn’t have to fill in for the Cards’ own radio play-by-play guy, Dave Pasch. Pasch’s neck was hurting enough before the game he had to get a shot from the trainers of the “blue juice” Ron Wolfley recalls so fondly from his playing days. To be honest, it was a little freaky how jacked up Wolf got with the idea Pasch had to take the needle. Pasch indeed gutted out the game. He’s officially probable for next Sunday against Dallas.

— Tight end Todd Heap finally played a full game, but ended up as only a blocker. He was not targeted for a pass (although Jeff King was three times as a tight end, catching two).

— The down side of Beanie’s two big runs: In six subsequent downs right after the 71- and 53-yarders, one after first-and-10 at the Rams 11-yard line and one after first-and-goal at the Rams 9, the Cards gained all of five yards (two runs for no gain, three incompletions, and a five-yard pass to Fitz). They had to kick two field goals.

That was on the mind of guard Daryn Colledge when it was suggested the Cards found something by leaning on the run Sunday. “We’re going to run the plays that are called,” Colledge said. “We’re not concerned if they are run or pass. We want production. That’s important coming out of this game: We need more production in the red zone.”

— Two wildcat playcalls this season with Peterson at QB. The first time, the Cards had to call timeout before the snap because of a formation problem. Sunday, Peterson fumbled the snap. Maybe next time we’ll actually see what Peterson is supposed to do.

— Skelton said his first interception was simply a bad read and he should have thrown it to the dump-down guy. His other high throws was an issue of trying to get it up and over underneath coverage. “It’s something I have to work on,” Skelton said.

That’s good for now. Game ball, Beanie.

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Wolf, Cards to help NFL kick off season Thursday

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2011 – 1:39 pm

As part of the NFL’s “Back to Football” campaign, the league is bringing in a representative from each team to Green Bay for Thursday night’s season opener between the Saints and Packers as part of the pregame celebration. The Cards chose four-time Pro Bowler (and Cardinals Underground colleague of mine) Ron Wolfley to have the honors.

From the press release: “The alumni will hold their team’s flag and form a chute on the field with players representing the NFC on one side and AFC on the other.  Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr will walk through the gauntlet onto the field holding the Green Bay Packers flag followed by the Super Bowl XLV Champions running onto the field.  … The team flags then will be flown by each team at their stadium during their first home game.”

Interestingly, another former Cardinals great will also be there — Aeneas Williams — as the representative of the St. Louis Rams.

The national anthem will be sung by the Valley’s own Grammy nominated platinum recording artist (and Fitz friend) Jordin Sparks, who makes sense — her father is long-time NFL cornerback Phillippi Sparks. Not coincidentally, Sparks (the daughter, not the father) will be singing the national anthem for the Cards Sunday at their home opener against Carolina.

But congrats to Wolf, whose days walking off the Pro Bowl field with Lawrence Taylor probably seem so very long ago.

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The attitude works for Whiz

Posted by Darren Urban on August 15, 2011 – 12:21 pm

Coach Ken Whisenhunt talked about how intense the practice was yesterday afternoon. Earlier, during our newest podcast Ron Wolfley was talking about how he was impressed because normally the first practice back after a couple of days off can be sluggish or lethargic. Sunday was certainly anything but that. “The challenge is to maintain that intensity.” Quarterback Kevin Kolb echoed that, talking about how crisp the work was but that the Cards “have to keep pressing.”

Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett did note the difference between last year and this year. “We don’t complain about nothing,” Dockett said. “We run every day. First time ever we ran after the conditioning test. We had the conditioning test and then went to practice and still did conditioning. No one complained one time. We were like ‘Alright coach, whatever you want us to do’ That’s what it’s about. I feel like last year we worked hard to get to a certain level but I felt a lot of guys didn’t buy into the program and do everything that was (needed). Now we have the right attitude to go and work.”

Whisenhunt didn’t want to get into comparing any difference, however. “Let’s not color our judgment for last year based on a 5-11 season,” he said. “That’s the easy thing to do. Our guys worked hard last year in camp. We had some things not go the way we wanted to in season, but I’m not going to get into how we felt last year in camp compared to how we feel this year. When we get to the season, if we win football games, that’s the only thing that matters.”

— Whiz said WR Max Komar (groin) should be back at practice today. Tight end Todd Heap (thumb) is sore and won’t be rushed back. The rehab for CB Michael Adams (knee surgery) and S Adrian Wilson (biceps) is going well, but Whiz wasn’t putting any timetable on a return.

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Vernon, Dockett and Cards-Niners

Posted by Darren Urban on May 16, 2011 – 4:16 pm

Even with very little going on right now around the league, there apparently still be a little trash talk going on between 49ers tight end Vernon Davis and Cards’ defensive lineman Darnell Dockett. Well, at least from Davis, who mentioned he’d like to take on Dockett in a steel cage match. Of course, it should be noted those kinds of “matches” are for pro wrestling, where everything is staged. As has been mentioned before, Dockett and Davis are good friends, both having grown up in Maryland. Having them war with words is a little like hearing Paul Calvisi and Ron Wolfley verbally attack one another.

Dockett, just about a year ago, even clarified some Twitter bombs he was lobbing both at Davis and the Niners.

Now, the rivalry between Davis and safety Adrian Wilson, that’s another story. Or so I thought. I believed there was some bad blood between the two. That’s always how A-Dub came across. Then I watched Davis praise Wilson for the recent NFL Network stuff naming Wilson one of the top 100 players in the league, and I began to wonder.

Not that Wilson — or Dockett, for that matter — would let up on Davis in a game.

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What’s next for coaching staff

Posted by Darren Urban on January 7, 2011 – 12:03 pm

As coach Ken Whisenhunt was wrapping up his end-of-the-season press conference, he was asked if he was going to have any down time soon.

“I am going to need a break here at some point but I don’t see one on the near horizon right now,” Whisenhunt said.

Definitely no time soon. With the rest of the coaching staff getting a break for the next week or so, Whisenhunt is back in his office working on the future, which presumably includes the replacement for the fired Bill Davis at defensive coordinator. I’ve been asked many times already who it will be or who is in the mix. Right now, I don’t know. I am sure Whisenhunt has an idea what direction he’d like to go in — head coaches always have a fluid “who’s next” list — but as he said Thursday night, whether those guys would be available/interested is a different story.

So that leave speculation. I have heard a lot of suggestions by the rank-and-file fans out there: John Fox, Eric Mangini, Packers LB coach Kevin Greene, Steelers LB coach Keith Butler (with whom Whisenhunt has had interest in the past). But I have not heard any suggestions from Whisenhunt, and in the end, there is always a wait-and-see for assistant coaches anyway, since it’s harder to get them away from other teams if they are already under contract.

I will be curious to see if the coach recruited has been a 3-4 or 4-3 guy. Whisenhunt has talked about the difficulty in installing a new philosophy with a change in DC with the very real possibility of an offseason-ruining lockout. If part of the problem this season was putting the new pieces (player-wise) in place and that was a season-long struggle, what happens when the prep time is drastically cut down?

(A quick aside: one thing I found interesting talking to Ron Wolfley on our season-ending podcast — to be posted Monday– was when he broke down the Cards’ use of the 4-3 late in the season as opposed to the 3-4. It was the exact same defense, Wolfley said, except that instead of an outside linebacker standing up on the right side, the Cards were using a defensive end with a hand down — Campbell, for instance, instead of Porter/Schofield. Everyone else played the same roles as before).

I guess we will see how it goes. I expect some potential candidate names to leak out next week (they always do) and we will see how this plays out. Whisenhunt said yesterday he isn’t ruling out further coaching changes but said that doesn’t mean he expects any. I read that as a nod to whomever the new DC is, and whether he might want to make some moves with the defensive staff. I expect the offensive staff to stay intact, barring someone leaving on his own for a different job.

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Wilson decides to Rage

Posted by Darren Urban on July 22, 2010 – 10:12 am

I know there have been a bunch of people wondering about The Big Red Rage after Bertrand Berry’s retirement. It’s official now; Adrian Wilson has agreed to take over the co-hosting spot with Ron Wolfley and Paul Calvisi. That should be a good thing (although my Wilson story being posted tomorrow is purely coincidental; it’s not like this is a big PR push).

Speaking of Wolf, how about this shot from the wayback machine, featuring (from left to right) Neil Lomax, Wolf, Vai Sikahema and Luis Sharpe once upon a time (Yes, I’ve been waiting for some reason to post this. This seems as good a time as any):

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Friday before the Packers

Posted by Darren Urban on January 1, 2010 – 4:40 pm

A meaningful game – or not?

The Cardinals have never been in this situation before, not since coming to Arizona. There’s never been the choice to really gear it back in the regular season. Yes, they did it against Seattle in the finale last season, but the Cards at the same time needed a win to stay above .500 and that always seemed to play a role in some decisions. This year, it’s all going to be about the Vikings. The Vikings lose, and the Cards will go full bore. The Vikings win, and I’m thinking it will look more like an exhibition than the team’s third game of the preseason (because who takes the third game of the preseason like it’s … well, you know).

And here’s the thing: Whether the Cards have something to play for or not, the Packers do not. Regardless of what Packers coach Mike McCarthy says, it’s unlikely the Packers play their starters extended time. There is nothing to gain, and things to lose on many levels.

— I wouldn’t think traveling to Philadelphia in the playoffs would be enticing right now, but that has nothing to do with the Cards. The Eagles win, and eventually, the Cards may have to go through Philly. The Eagles lose to Dallas, and the Cards don’t have to worry about it – even if they lose to Green Bay.

— Talking to Ron Wolfley on the podcast this week, Wolf made a great point: When you are talking about showing the other team something, it isn’t so much particular plays as it is your thoughts. When you go after a team, you are letting them know what you think of their offense/defense and how you think you should attack it. That’s what you’d rather not reveal this weekend, as opposed to, say, Jason Wright winging a halfback option pass or some such look.

— Safety Adrian Wilson basically played defensive end the final five or six plays last week, long after the game was decided, to get his 20th career sack. That says a lot about the coaching staff, who were willing to give Wilson that opportunity. Or … did it? “I had family in the stands and they walked all the way down to the bottom row,” Wilson said with a smile. “They got a hold of Billy and told him, ‘If my son doesn’t get this sack there’s going to be some problems after the game.’ I relayed the message to Billy. And he got me that sack.”

— The Packers are the top-ranked rushing defense in the NFL. It’ll be interesting to see if the cards can dent it – assuming both sides play their “A” games.

— Each team is 10-5. But the Cards are a minus-5 this season in turnover ratio and the Packers are plus-22. You can look at that a couple of ways, but if you’re a Cards’ fan, you have to feel, all things being equal, the Cards are a better team. The problem is that, apparently it’s often not equal against the Packers – they manage to grab the advantage.

— That stat dictates things for the Cards under coach Ken Whisenhunt, though. If the Cards are even or ahead in turnovers under Whisenhunt, they have a 28-3 record. If they lose the turnover battle, they are 2-18.

— Whiz, by the way, has 30 wins as Cardinals coach – already the most fourth-most in franchise history and the top number for any coach in Arizona. Don Coryell is the leader with 42. Jim Hanifan had 39 and Charley Winner 35.

— Whenever we get to the end of the season, there are always season marks to try and hit. Punter Ben Graham needs three punts inside the 20 to tie the NFL record of 42. Larry Fitzgerald needs six catches to get to 100. Kurt Warner needs 278 yards passing to get to 4,000 this season.

And, of course, Anquan Boldin needs just 14 yards to reach 1,000 yards receiving for the fifth time in his career, which would be a franchise first. Boldin heading into the playoffs healthy and playing at a high level, to me, is the best part of the offense for the Cards, who didn’t really have that luxury late last year when Boldin was dinged up and then hurt himself again in the first playoff game.

Then again, getting all those players those statistic marks may depend on how much they play. And right now, we just don’t know how much that will be. No one does.

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Titans aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2009 – 1:12 am

Late, late, late. You get talking with cohorts like Ron Wolfley and Paul Calvisi on the flight home and suddenly, there’s not quite enough time to do all your work and you’re writing the aftermath blog entry past midnight at the kitchen table. Certainly there’s been enough time to absorb everything. I thought for sure, once the Cards held for three downs on that final sequence near their goal line, that they’d hold for one more. Great play by Vince Young, but to give up three fourth-down plays … ouch.

So on to some thoughts:

— Obviously quarterback was the big story. Matt Leinart played above average. He didn’t do enough in the first half; he was much better in the second as his confidence clearly grew (I could see it all the way from the press box). He needs to play better, sure. Is it unfair to compare him to Kurt Warner, sure. Warner set the bar high; even if Leinart becomes a star, it’s unlikely he’d ever post the passing numbers Warner does. That’s reality.

— Warner still is doing the “day-to-day” thing. He certainly didn’t come out and declare himself ready to play against the Vikings. The week off helps but it may not be an exact parallel to Anquan Boldin taking a week and then being perfect. What’s concerning is that no tests are saying anything is wrong with Warner, so it’s a matter of when he feels right. It’s a tough way to run a team. I can’t see Leinart being ready for the 10-1 Vikings if he doesn’t get more practice time than last week.

— Leinart wore a glove in practice last week to get a better grip and then —  lookee here!  — he wore it in the game. The subject brought a smile to his face after. “I told Kurt I am doomed, because I am still young in my career and I liked it,” Leinart said, given that Warner permanently wears gloves in games. “We’ll see what happens. But I was comfortable with it.”

— It proved moot, but the Titans have to be thanking their lucky stars the Darnell Dockett sack on the last play of the half – the play where Vince Young suffered brain lock and scrambled around to waste all eight seconds instead of preserving time for a field goal – didn’t come back to kill them. Another three points would have changed so much in the fourth quarter. Props to Dockett on that play too, since Calais Campbell should have had the sack and inexplicably didn’t wrap up (he did the same thing to David Garrard earlier this season). Dockett never stopped coming, and eventually got Young.

— Dockett is playing as well as any defensive lineman in the league. Period. He has to finish strong, but right now, it’d be a crime if he wasn’t a Pro Bowler.

— Ditto on that for punter Ben Graham. Lemme get this straight: Six punts, a gross average of 49.7 yards, a net of 48, five dropped inside the 20-yard line and three of those at the 5, 2 and 1? There isn’t an NFC punter having a finer season.

— Rookies rarely get Pro Bowl nods unless they are at a glamour position, but LaRod Stephens-Howling is deserving of consideration too. He’s been great in coverage on kicks and as a gunner on punts, and now he has a 99-yard kickoff return. He may have had, as an overall showing, the greatest special-teams day I’ve ever seen. He and Graham work magic together.

— Who says Beanie can’t catch? That was a pretty nice grab of the impressive Leinart throw down the sideline. More importantly, that play got Beanie and Tim Hightower on the field together, which will cause matchup concerns for any defense.

— I heard from a couple fans about the Cards not going for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 45 in the fourth quarter (I noticed Hightower asking for the same thing at the time). I say, why? Graham pinned them deep, and at that point, the only touchdown the Cards had given up was Chris Johnson’s 85-yard run. It was the right move and, in hindsight, proved to be the right move.

— That said, the two-yard run by Beanie on third-and-1 on the TD drive may have been the hardest run I’ve ever seen for two yards.

— There were three shots by Leinart down the field I thought should have come closer to working. Twice he tried to find Steve Breaston but the lack of practice time between Breaston and Leinart showed, with Leinart looking long and Breaston cutting off his route with a defender behind him both times. There was also a bomb to Anquan Boldin in which Boldin would have had a one-on-one jump ball – except Boldin didn’t see the ball coming and slowed up, never giving himself a chance.

— Big, big, big hitting going on down there. You could tell from afar but you could really tell down on the sideline. It was intense Sunday and a nice playoff preview.

— Finally, everyone knows how important this game was to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who played college ball at Tennessee State and trained in the offseason with many Titans, including Chris Johnson, whom DRC talked to at one point Sunday (as seen in the photo below). “I holler at him whenever I can,” DRC said, apparently including game days. He almost caught Johnson on Johnson’s 85-yard run. “I didn’t think he was gonna break,” DRC said. “But then he got past ’Los (Karlos Dansby) and I’m like, ‘Here we go.’ ” (Johnson broke free, by the way, because it looked like linebacker Gerald Hayes over pursued and didn’t protect the cutback lane).

DRC played pretty well against the Titans, making a couple of pass breakups and creating the lone turnover of the day, coming from behind to force what was at the time a crucial fumble that was recovered by fellow cornerback Bryant McFadden. DRC thought he’d have bragging rights. And then he didn’t.

“That was hard,” DRC said, “because I’m going to hear about all offseason.”

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