The idea of adding at wide receiver

Posted by Darren Urban on February 26, 2012 – 9:08 am

As this year’s crop of wide receivers run their 40s here at the NFL combine, it’s as good time as any to note that, yes, the Cardinals will look at the position this offseason.

(And as a side note, 40 times don’t mean as much as you’d think. Nice to have speed, but Jerry Rice reportedly ran a 4.71 at the combine. Larry Fitzgerald was a 4.63. Both turned out OK, in my opinion.)

The Cards will have Fitz and Andre Roberts next year. Early Doucet is a free agent and while there is a chance he could return, we will see what the market — and the Cards’ plans — turn out. The team will look over the free-agent market. That does not mean, for instance, they would bring in (if he does hit the market) someone like San Diego’s Vincent Jackson or that ilk. They have a No. 1 receiver in Fitz, and don’t need another. Yes, I have heard the arguments that Boldin was a 1A, but guys that are No. 1 potentials want No. 1 money, and it makes little sense to invest that kind of cash into two pass catchers.

Guys like Pierre Garcon and Robert Meachem make more sense to me. They have speed and, in theory, aren’t as expensive. The latter could change and that will impact the Cardinals. As general manager Rod Graves said the other day, the team sets the value for each player and then goes from there. At some point, each team needs to decide how much adding that free agent is worth. Garcon, for instance, reportedly declined a five-year contract from the Colts. Does that mean he is expecting a huge deal? We’ll see. We’ll see what the market bears.

One reason teams like having free agency before the draft is because free agency can be about need and there is a little more of “best player available” at draft time. Given the deep crop of UFA receivers this year, it makes sense to make a stab there for whatever the Cards might want to do, because you’d figure to get more for your money. If the Cards come out of free agency without a receiver, I’d think they’d look very hard at taking one in the draft.

The Cards still have young guys like Stephen Williams and DeMarco Sampson, but in both cases I’d think their most likely landing place would be as a fourth receiver if they take another step forward.

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Not enough work for Stephen Williams

Posted by Darren Urban on December 2, 2011 – 9:30 am

Stephen Williams was one of the stars of training camp, 2010. The undrafted Toledo product caught everyone’s eye in Flagstaff and ended up making the roster. He played a little as a rookie too. This year, not so much.

Williams has been healthy all season  but has been active on game day only two times in 11 games. He has no receptions, and now, the Cardinals promoted wide receiver Jaymar Johnson from the practice squad to give the Cards seven receivers available on Sundays. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the dynamic with the receivers hasn’t changed even with Johnson. Whisenhunt added the promotion does not necessarily mean Johnson will be active for any games. He also said Williams was hampered by the lockout.

“(Stephen) didn’t have an offseason, we didn’t have a chance to work with him,” Whisenhunt said. “He does some good things in practice; it’s (lack of) consistency and that’s what you will always face with a young guy until you have a chance to work with him in the offseason.”

Williams doesn’t really play special teams — he’s not going to beat out LaRod Stephens-Howling as a return man, and he doesn’t stand out as a blocker or coverage guy. That means he is working uphill when he would be, at best, a fourth receiver. It’s one of the reasons DeMarco Sampson has stayed ahead of him. He’s not going to be a slot receiver, which is why Chansi Stuckey has played ahead of him.

Williams admitted he is frustrated, but, reading into Whisenhunt’s comments, it’s clear extra work is needed for Williams to take the next step (in-season, that work for guys lower on the depth chart just doesn’t exist as teams prep for games every week). He will be an exclusive rights free agent after the season, and I expect the Cardinals to tender him and bring him back for camp next year. He’ll get his offseason. And next year’s training camp will be a very important one for Williams’ future in Arizona.

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Packers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2011 – 11:43 pm

It’s very late and the trip to the airport comes very early. So we will make this aftermath brief. At least, that’s the plan as I start.

–What can you really say about the injury to running back Ryan Williams? Horrible. I’ve written it and everyone has said it: There was definitely excitement watching this kid in practice. I really wanted to see him and what he could bring to the table. Now, barring a miracle, there is going to be a long rehab process and a lot of questions about the future.

“We were all excited about him and we saw the stuff he had done in the game and the stuff he had done in practice and the kind of kid he is,” quarterback Kevin Kolb said. “It is a little bit frustrating as an athlete. It doesn’t matter whether he was in green-and-yellow or our colors.”

— What next at running back. Well, the Cards will look at players, and, at least body-wise, I won’t be shocked to see them sign someone. But I like what little I have seen from fourth-stringer Alfonso Smith — the man is very fast — and with the success of so many undrafted running backs, he may just get a shot to team up with Beanie and the Hyphen. If they don’t want to go that route, I could see them waiting until teams make final cuts and see who is out there. I don’t see them chasing some old “name.”

— Beanie really, really has to stay healthy now.

— Somehow, it’s funny to see this tweet from cornerback Patrick Peterson, knowing it is coming from 30,000 feet in the air on the flight home: “The back shoulder fade is a MOTHER!!!!” Welcome to the NFL, PP. A 20-yard score from Rodgers-to-Jennings. You may be the best player coming out in the 2011 draft, but you are still a rookie, and that duo has burned so many cornerbacks already in the league. You live, you learn.

— OK, not a surprise, but seriously, are you kidding me?

— Quarterback Rich Bartel should have led the Cards to a chance to tie the game late. His end-zone interception was forced, which obviously he knew. Worse, he had rookie wideout DeMarco Sampson wide open over the middle when that play began to break down. Take your six or seven yards and live to fight another day.

— It got lost with a few false starts, but I think the offensive line has held up pretty well in pass protection for Kolb and created some room for Beanie (who ran over a couple people tonight too). You can’t have the penalties period. But decent-with-penalties, for the second game of the preseason, is better than the alternative.

— Wide receiver Stephen Williams made a nice touchdown catch. But he also dropped a couple he needs to make, and he probably could have blocked a little better. These are the things that make a difference when you are trying to decide who makes the roster.

— Darnell Dockett played really well. Don’t know if it was the fact it was the Pack or not, but he was a beast.

That’s enough for now. Someone asked me yesterday what I was looking for in this game. I wanted a steady Kolb — he was OK, although he missed a couple of throws. I wanted the pass rush to pop — and I think it did.  And I wanted no injuries.


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Whiz talks about developing receivers

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2011 – 4:47 pm

The subject of wide receivers came up again today with coach Ken Whisenhunt. Obviously this has been a constant topic during camp, although it’s been clear the Cards want to look at their young receivers and have faith in them. In fact, if there was any uncertainty of that, the idea that veteran Chansi Stuckey might have a hard time making this team with Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, Stephen Williams and right now, Max Komar and rookie DeMarco Sampson ahead of him speaks loudly to the situation.

Whisenhunt also spoke bluntly about it too.

“We ask our receivers to do so many different roles, and just to have guys that you can believe in to do it, that’s the purpose of building a team is,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s why you draft guys, that’s why you develop guys. At some point, they have to step in and play.

“It would be kind of counterproductive if we didn’t continue to try and bring in (young) receivers and develop them. I don’t understand what people think from the outside about how you build your football team. You don’t just go and get a receiver in free agency (every time) when you lose one. At some point, you’ve got to have young players that step in and play well.”

Whisenhunt pointed out Steve Breaston as an example of a receiver who showed promise in practice and the Cards leaned on him.

“At some point you have to put guys in the game and see if they can do it,” Whisenhunt said. “I have seen Andre make plays in games, I have seen Early make plays, Stephen Williams make plays. It’s not like it’s a complete unknown entity. Isaiah Williams (pictured below scoring against Oakland) has looked good, and I think we all know about Sampson and how he has performed. Everybody wants to beat the drum about a second receiver. I think we have some young receivers that I would like to see what they can do.”

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Washington wants to look the part

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2011 – 7:28 am

It was out of necessity, but inside linebacker Daryl Washington started as a rookie last season right away, pairing with Paris Lenon (pictured below, with No. 58 Washington) when Gerald Hayes couldn’t start the season. And by the end of the year, when Hayes fell out of favor, Washington and Lenon again were the starters.

Washington has speed. That you cannot miss. In one play earlier in camp during an 11-on-11 drill, there was a sweep to the right side. Washington, coming from the backside, was amazingly in the backfield in a flash in what would have been a tackle for loss. Drafted to ostensibly be the replacement for the departed Karlos Dansby, Washington’s physical gifts were evident.

But he certainly isn’t as big as Dansby was. That’s one of the reasons Washington felt — even though the offseason was spent away from the team facilities because of the lockout — he needed to bulk up at least a little. It’s noticeable too in the upper body, even though his playing weight has only gone from about 227 pounds last year to 230 this season.

“I put on some muscle,” Washington said. “That was the expectation for myself, actually looking like a linebacker and not just playing the linebacker position.”

(As a side note, one of the bigger concerns from the lockout was how the second-year guys — the ones who went through an offseason as rookies in 2010 — would handle themselves on their own. Most came back not only in shape, but physically built up from last year. Washington, Max Komar, Stephen Williams, Andre Roberts, O’Brien Schofield.)

For now, Washington and Lenon are running with the first unit, although it wouldn’t be a surprise to see free-agent signee Stewart Bradley find his way into the strongside ILB spot (formally Hayes’ spot) and allow Lenon to become a rotational player backing up both Bradley and Washington. Washington just needs to make a normal progression from his rookie season, and changing his body was part of that. Last year, Washington said he was “too lean” and needed to gain strength. So that’s what he did.

“People have been noticing,” Washington said, “so that’s a good thing.”

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Not the fourth time, but the first

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2011 – 12:23 pm

Here is the reality of camp: The Cardinals walked through their two-minute offense at the end of the morning workout, because they are going to work on the two-minute offense this afternoon at practice and coach Ken Whisenhunt realized they had yet to go over it on the field. Whiz wanted to make sure they went through the concept before trying it at full speed. In a normal year, with a normal offseason, this would be the fourth time the offense would have been going over the two-minute offense.

— Whisenhunt said there is an “ebb and flow” to practice right now, between the good and bad. It’s to be expected, and it’ll make that first preseason game in Oakland next week interesting to say the least.

— Asked about the No. 2 receiver job, Whisenhunt not only praised Andre Roberts but also mentioned holdovers like Early Doucet, Chansi Stuckey, Stephen Williams and Max Komar as players that continue to show signs of progress.

— RT Brandon Keith said he is still getting comfortable with football moves after his surgery last season to repair a bad knee and a torn hamstring. He was back training at his old high school and his college, Northern Iowa, in the offseason. “I’m 90, 95 percent right now,” Keith said, and feels confident about his ability to take another step forward this season. He knows he has yet to prove himself, but he felt he was playing much better when he got hurt in mid-November.

— Kent Somers reports the Cards don’t have interest in FA DE/LB Matt Roth. And heads up, WR Malcom Floyd went back to San Diego.

— For those asking, here is a picture of Fitz’s one-handed TD grab past Patrick Peterson, courtesy of fan Alex Lowry.

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Waiting on CBA, and other notes

Posted by Darren Urban on August 3, 2011 – 12:44 pm

Everyone has been waiting for Thursday, because practice  begins for all the players who just signed contracts.


The Thursday deadline was based on the idea the new collective bargaining agreement would be ratified. It has not been yet.

“Everybody wants to get out there and everyone is chomping at the bit,” said kicker Jay Feely, the Cardinals’ union representative. “No one wants to sit on the sidelines. But they can’t get out there until it is done. We’ve been shooting for tomorrow all along and as of (Tuesday) I was still being told it would be tomorrow hopefully. But we don’t have anything definitive yet.”

There were issues left that couldn’t be bargained until the union recertified, like drug policies, benefits and player conduct policies. That is what is still being dealt with. One thing is for certain — no one wants to wait.

— Rookie CB Patrick Peterson is changing his jersey number to 21, with safety Hamza Abdullah switching from 21 to 23. A couple other holdovers are also switching, with WR Max Komar going from 18 to 10 and Stephen Williams from 14 to 18.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he doesn’t questions the toughness of RB Beanie Wells. But when it came to dealing with the knee injury last season and the aftereffects, “quite frankly, he didn’t handle it as well as he could have.”

— I know a lot of people keep asking about the backup nose tackle behind Dan Williams. Having looked at new defensive lineman Nick Eason, he definitely could fill in at the spot if needed. He’s a wide-body. And again, rookie David Carter is taking snaps there.

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Wilson and working away from work

Posted by Darren Urban on July 14, 2011 – 4:47 pm

While things get — in theory — a little bit closer to resolution thanks to a reported understanding on the rookie wage scale, there has been some talk about what will the players look like when they finally are allowed to come in. After an offseason of being on their own, it’s tough to know exactly what that will mean for each player. So I was mulling that over — you have ideas of which players would do well in their own environment, and who wouldn’t. Clearly, Adrian Wilson is a guy who you really wouldn’t worry about. He’d stay in shape.

Then Wilson tweeted out a video from today’s workout. Narrated by wide receiver Stephen Williams (and with a cameo from Beanie Wells), Wilson shows his ability to rep four big plates on each side of the bar on the incline bench press. Crazy. Say the bar is 45 pounds and the plates 45 pounds each, that’s 405 pounds. Yikes. Not that it’s a shock, really. Wilson lives for the weight room. As an aside, safety Rashad Johnson, who is spotting for Wilson, looks like he’s put on significant muscle.

And yes, I am running out of things to talk about when I am analyzing A-Dub’s incline press reps.

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Workouts, for now

Posted by Darren Urban on April 29, 2011 – 10:51 am

A handful of players came in, as promised, to work out this morning — among them, DRC, Levi Brown, Andre Roberts, Jeremy Bridges and Rex Hadnot. They were all thrilled to be around, although Brown joked that John Lott’s bear crawl work got him pretty good. “I wasn’t expecting that,” he said.

How long it lasts is unknown. A temporary stay sounds like it’s coming from the court system, which would put everything on hold for a while. (UPDATE: Reports were that a temporary stay was granted, although nothing official has been said yet). But the guys around looked pretty good. DRC said he put on about eight pounds of muscle and he looks it. Wide receivers Stephen Williams and Roberts also clearly look stronger than they did as rookies.

“It feels great,” DRC said. “Every time you see coach Lott, he puts a smile on your face. More importantly, it’s good to see my dogs again.”

Lott, who has wanted players around obviously, looked thrilled and the coaches that came down to say hello also were happy. General manager Rod Graves made sure to go around and shake the hand of every player who was there.

“It’s just good to be back,” Bridges said. “You really can’t control what is going on.”

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Undrafted limbo

Posted by Darren Urban on April 24, 2011 – 5:00 pm

The draft comes in a matter of days — 5 p.m. Thursday night in Arizona — and every year, hundreds of draft hopefuls wait to get a phone call. This year, because of the current lockout and the uncertainty of when it will be resolved, there might be a little more stress come Saturday in those last couple of rounds.

Everything during the draft will be normal, generally. Players will be picked, players will  be interviewed. Assuming a player is still game, a first-rounder will still do some sort of press conference. Once Mr. Irrelevant is selected, however, and the draft ends, all the players drafted fall into the same spot as all the current NFL players, and contact with teams ends until a new labor agreement is reached. That has, of course, included new contracts (which is why free agency hasn’t begun). That means no rookies can sign a contract either. That doesn’t mean much for draftees — I mean, they already know what teams they will play for.

The post-draft stampede for undrafted rookies, however, won’t be happening. At least for now.

Last year, the Cards ended up keeping a bunch of their undrafted signees. Think of all the guys who made the team in one way or another last season who were undrafted: receivers Stephen Williams and Max Komar, cornerbacks A.J. Jefferson and Marshay Green and quarterback Max Hall. All left big enough marks in the offseason work to gain a foothold for training camp. Will such guys get that chance this offseason? They won’t even know what team they are playing for for the time being.

“Once the draft is over, that’s when it becomes very strange,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. “Not signing guys, not being able to coach these guys, having them in for OTAs, getting them accustomed to the playbook, that will hurt all these rookies and all these teams counting on these rookies contributing. The undrafted free agents, not even being  able to sign those guys until it is over … it hurts the percentages of those players coming in and making an impact.”

Again, we don’t know what the summer will hold, or when things are resolved. If a labor agreement is reached soon enough, things might not end up that different, other than adjusting what month things happen. In the meantime, this year’s Stephen Williams, whomever it may be, will have to wait and see. That can’t be easy.

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