Christmas at home, and other stuff

Posted by Darren Urban on December 24, 2010 – 12:09 pm

Merry Christmas Eve from Cardinals-land:

Normally, the Cardinals spend the night before a game in a hotel, even home games. But not tonight. Not Christmas Eve.

“I feel it’s important, especially with the guys who have young children, that they spend Christmas morning with their families,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We are fortunate we don’t have to be on the road. There are so few times when you get a chance to spend Christmas morning home with your family in this profession that when you have a chance to do it, it’s the right thing to do.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that the holiday makes things easy with a game looming less than 24 hours away.

“It takes away from your study time,” Whisenhunt said, noting the team will come back for a night meeting at the facility this evening. “You hate to say Christmas is a distraction, but when you are working, that’s what it is. … With the number of mistakes we’ve made this year, you have to get in the books and study and try to eliminate those things.”

— It’s been a semi-popular topic of late — just where did wide receiver Stephen Williams go? He’s not inactive on game days, but there have been some DNP-coach’s decision on his resume. Honestly, it’s not a surprise, not when you are the fifth wideout (behind Fitz, Breaston, Doucet and Andre Roberts) and you don’t make an impact on special teams. Now that Early Doucet is on injured reserve, however, you figure Williams will get a little work these last two games — and he couldn’t be happier.

“It’s what I have been waiting for,” the undrafted rookie said. “I’ve been practicing good and making plays, it’s just that I’ve been doing it on the (practice) field with the guys, the media sees but not people on the outside. It’s kind of frustrating but you have to keep pushing through.”

Williams was one of the stars of training camp, and with early injuries to Doucet and Fitz, he was forced to play a lot early in the season. Then everyone got healthy, Roberts emerged after a rocky training camp and first month, and Williams was the odd man out.

“It’s  been hard, getting the feet wet, getting to play and then when all the guys returned it was like, ‘You’ve got to take a seat,’ ” Williams said. “Just got to wait my turn. Listen and learn.”

— Linebacker Joey Porter (tricep) did some limited work today, and his status for tomorrow will be a game-time decision. It was always going to be about whether Porter has enough strength to defend himself in a game; I’d still guess he’d take a one-game sit and then get ready for San Francisco (like Dockett did with his shoulder). LaRod Stephens-Howling sat and is doubtful. Whisenhunt said if The Hyphen did anything, it’ll be kick returns, but I am guessing that’s a long shot. Derek Anderson will dress, although whether he is second or third QB is still TBD, although “probably” he will be the third, Whiz said.

— Because of the Saturday’s game, this week’s “The Ken Whisenhunt Show” will air tonight at 10:35 on KPNX Ch. 12 (NBC)  following the late local news. Included will be the Larry Fitzgerald sit-down in which Fitz discusses the milestone catches in his career.

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Breaston inactive, Doucet plays, Roberts to start at WR

Posted by Darren Urban on October 24, 2010 – 11:34 am

Early Doucet is playing but Steve Breaston is not, now that the inactive list has been announced for today’s game. Interestingly, with Breaston and Stephen Williams (back) inactive, it is rookie Andre Roberts and not Doucet who will be starting with Larry Fitzgerald.

Nose tackle Gabe Watson is also back to inactive now that Kenny Iwebema is healthy again. The rest of the inactive list:

  • QB John Skelton
  • S Hamza Abdullah
  • CB Trumaine McBride
  • C Ben Claxton
  • LB Alex Hall

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Thursday before the bye

Posted by Darren Urban on October 14, 2010 – 3:46 pm

There might only be one quieter day than this one in-season around here, and that will be tomorrow. But, as coach Ken Whisenhunt noted, there were a few players in to work out this morning. Included in the group was new quarterback Max Hall, who indeed was out in the early-morning sun throwing some passes. Unfortunately, most were to players he’s unlikely to throw to in a real game. Larry Fitzgerald was gone, and while Steve Breaston, Early Doucet and Stephen Williams were out getting in some work running around, they weren’t in a place to do it with Hall yet. Max Komar, Onrea Jones and practice-squader Ed Gant were the targets.

(Although Doucet and Breaston did look decent jogging around and Breaston seemed like he had some proper footwork down when he briefly played “quarterback” on a handful of passes to Doucet as they were wrapping up. BTW, Breaston was killing the doughnuts in the locker room).

Doucet is hoping to be back for the Seattle game. He is clearly anxious to play again. He acknowledged it’s easy to feel good “going against air” and needs to see how he responds when there are actual defenders.

Speaking of all that, when all the receivers get healthy, the coaches have some interesting decisions to make. Fitz, Breaston and Doucet will play. You figure Andre Roberts — who flashed as a receiver as well as a punt returner against the Saints — will be the fourth. Is the fifth Komar or Williams? Komar does more on special teams, but since Doucet and Roberts both can play inside, Williams might be more needed.

There is time to talk about all this later. The flow of information — at least from me — is going to trickle to nothing soon. I’ve got a long weekend myself, and given the grind since training camp started and days off I can count on one hand in that time, I too plan to enjoy the break.

Then comes the sprint to the finish. Eleven games in which to lock down an NFC West three-peat. Should be an interesting journey, regardless.

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Whiz makes it light this week

Posted by Darren Urban on October 11, 2010 – 11:51 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt just held his day-after presser. Among the highlights:

— The Cardinals were promised by Whiz that they’d have a light week if they won Sunday. Then they did, so the only formal practice of the week will be Wednesday. Whiz is expecting to bring in the young players (he didn’t define exactly who that was) Thursday for some video work and maybe a little on-field stuff, but nothing like a regular practice. He does want to clean up the youthful mistakes and do some prep work for Seattle.

— The only injury of concern, he said, was linebacker Reggie Walker, who hurt his hamstring. Walker is getting further evaluation. Wide receiver Stephen Williams had an MRI and his back — hurt when he landed hard on a defender’s foot after leaping high in the air — should be OK.

— WRs Steve Breaston and Early Doucet will work on the side Wednesday. The Cards will see if they are ready to do work Monday, when the team reconvenes for work next week. Whiz will see where LB Gerald Hayes fits next week too when he is able to practice again off the PUP list (O’Brien Schofield is probably a couple weeks away, he said, even though Schofield can come back Monday himself). Whiz said he likes the idea of fitting Hayes into a linebacker rotation, especially to give some rest to workhorse Paris Lenon.

— Alan Branch continues to take some playing time from Calais Campbell, although Whisenhunt said he likes not only how Branch was playing but also how Campbell bounced back from a poor game in San Diego.

— Whiz commented on Jed York’s proclamation. I updated it right here.

— Whiz, on the 20 carries for Beanie Wells and the four for Tim Hightower: “It wasn’t anything I had planned on. It just kind of came out that way in the course of the game. It was something you looked at after the game and said, ‘Oh, OK, I didn’t even realize that.”

— Hightower, by the way, was the player who went the wrong way on the goal line play in which Max Hall tried to score, was crushed, and fumbled the ball to Levi Brown for the touchdown. Hall was going to go that way, but had to improvise.

— The Cardinals are only the second team in NFL history to score 30 points without a TD either rushing or passing. The Bears did it against the Packers in 1993.

— Hall is the second rookie QB in franchise history to win his first start. Georgo Izo did it in 1960, although Izo left early with a knee injury and the Cards trailing Dallas, 3-2. Izo completed 1-of-6 passes that day.

— I will be holding a live chat tomorrow at 11 a.m. Arizona time (2 p.m. EST), so keep that in mind.

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Chargers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 3, 2010 – 10:58 pm

Where to begin … I write this about 10:30 p.m., with already some 90 comments on the blog waiting for approval/answers. I haven’t read them quite yet. I can imagine what most say. There will be talk about the quarterback, I’d guess, thank goodness Whiz went to Max Hall, etc. There will be rants about the defense – and honestly, I didn’t see their troubles coming – and the offensive line.

The answers aren’t coming tonight. There are some significant issues to fix (and doing it the week of the Saints game seems a difficult chore). “It’s a bitter taste and no one around here really likes it,” linebacker Joey Porter said. “Now it’s, what do you do to respond?”

— I don’t know what coach Ken Whisenhunt does at QB. As I mentioned a couple of times, I think he’ll tip toward Max Hall. I’m not sure he is convinced Hall is the guy that can win enough to secure a very winnable division, just because Hall is inexperienced and rookies don’t usually perform that way. But as I mentioned in my column, Whiz has talked too many times about missing on big plays (when Anderson was QB) that to see it happen again Sunday on the errant Stephen Williams throw is tough to take.

— The other question is, does Whiz make a decision public before the end of the week? Maybe he does. If he doesn’t, that’d make for one interesting week in front of the media for both players.

— After all that talk about rookie receivers, and they turned out to be kind of moot Sunday because of the quarterback situation and the defensive woes. Max Komar made a big 16-yard catch on the very first drive. Williams got open on the aforementioned bomb attempt but dropped a ball right in his hands later. Again, a mixed bag without much to grade.

— Have to be impressed with how physical of a tackler cornerback Greg Toler is, after he forced the fumble. Much better than I expected him to be.

— Had one offensive lineman ask me, “So, what did you see?” with the play today. No way to know. I know on one of Shaun Phillips’ four sacks, he timed his rush perfect (he was moving as the snap came back) and tackle Brandon Keith – in my opinion – had zero chance to block him. The rest of the sacks, I’d have to look. Guard Alan Faneca looked like he got beat on one, but again, I haven’t broken down any film. When it was as bad as Sunday, I would guess there are multiple issues. And when you are behind big and have no threat to run, that’s a really, really bad way to be judging your pass protection (And no, I am not excusing the line play, before you jump my case).

— Defensive coordinator Bill Davis talked about making changes if need be, and so did Whisenhunt. It’s always a little scary when a player – Darnell Dockett in this case – says the defensive problems were about “want-to.”

“The game is simple,” Dockett added. “The same plays they ran, we practiced. Again, when you practice, you got to put it out there, it’s simple. It’s simple as hell.”

— Did you notice Andre Roberts caught the one punt booted to him? And he returned it 19 yards? So there’s that.

I don’t have much else to add. More tomorrow.

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Friday before the Chargers

Posted by Darren Urban on October 1, 2010 – 4:50 pm

I enjoy San Diego. I have been there many times, and had some good family vacations there. Given that the freaking temperature here in the Valley continues to boggle us at around 105 degrees now that we’ve reached October, 36 hours in San Diego sounds good.

Football-wise, it’s definitely an interesting trip to say the least. The Chargers are beat up, missing two key players because of contract squabbles, and apparently can’t tackle on special teams. They are 1-2, and are turnover machines – and still are favored by more than a touchdown. I suppose that says a little about where the Cardinals are right now, beat up themselves at wide receiver and still looking for offensive consistency and a true defensive identity.

I will say this: If the Cards emerge victorious this weekend – regardless of how it happens – this team will have earned its 3-1 record.

As for the details on this Friday afternoon …

I’ve mentioned this before but the Cardinals need a big effort on defense. They just do. Partly it’s because the Chargers have turned the ball over nine times in three games. Partly it’s because the Cards just don’t know what will happen offensively. Those turnovers are key, though (Duh, right?) The Chargers are ranked tops in the NFL in offense, which is based on yards, and the Cards know they haven’t been stellar in that regard.

“We have been giving up a lot more yards than we should,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “We know if we don’t play our game, they can expose us.”

Said safety Kerry Rhodes, “They are number one for a reason. They get a lot of big chunks. We give up the big one, we’re going to be in trouble.”

— On the other side of the ball, Derek Anderson will be tested. The passing game has been hot and cold even with Steve Breaston in the game and now Breaston isn’t. I like the potential of Stephen Williams and even Max Komar, but the question is whether potential helps enough right now.

— So then you think about Larry Fitzgerald and getting him the ball – again. Is he a decoy (not on purpose, but …)? Coach Ken Whisenhunt knows the Chargers may use even more resources to throw at Fitz. But, Whiz noted, “if you’re going to compromise your scheme to take away a certain player, it may open up certain areas and you can exploit it.”

— Fitzgerald expressed his concern in a Fitz-like way this week, talking about just wanting to double his catches from last week’s two, etc. Clearly, he and Anderson have to hook up on openings more often. Whisenhunt even mentioned missing on the big plays when they presented themselves last week, and it seems like there have been a couple each game in which Fitz could have broken loose and the connection just wasn’t made.

Fitz talked about getting on the same page, still preaching patience. Most dynamic duos have had a couple of years. He and Anderson have had three games. “Reggie Wayne and Peyton, Moss and Brady, they know each other, all their quirky moves,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s what me and Derek need to do.”

Fitz said it felt like it was working better in Atlanta. Last week, not as much. “Hopefully this is the week it comes together,” he said.

— XTRA’s Mike Jurecki is reporting rookie nose tackle Dan Williams didn’t make weight this week so he won’t play in San Diego. If so, it’s a lot easier to make such a call with veteran Gabe Watson – who has been a healthy scratch the first three games – champing at the bit to finally play. (Bryan Robinson is the starter, so we’re talking about a backup anyway). It’s a big moment for Watson, who you know doesn’t want to be one and done. And it’s an wake-up call for Williams, who was regarded as a nose tackle who wouldn’t have to fight such things as much as guys like Watson and Alan Branch have the past few years.

— The game in San Diego will be blacked out locally because, for a second time in two home games, the Chargers didn’t sell out. It’s been an issue there, although quarterback Philip Rivers insisted it doesn’t affect the home-field advantage.

“We were 7,000 tickets or so short in the home opener, but you sure couldn’t tell,” Rivers said. “It was loud. … I don’t think that’s something us players get caught up into.”

— Another thing the Chargers haven’t had affect them too much – the missing stars, tackle Marcus McNeill and receiver Vincent Jackson. Rivers said everyone knew both would not show up, so there was no shock value. “We were able to have a whole offseason, a whole training camp a whole preseason knowing we weren’t going to have those guys,” he said. “It really hasn’t been a distraction.”

— Which special teams unit “wins” Sunday? Do the Chargers make up for their errors last week in giving up two TD kickoff returns? Do the Cards repeat The Hyphen’s exploits? Or at least cut down on two crucial punt return turnovers? “The toll it took on our defense, at the time, our defense was on a roll,” Whisenhunt said of the backbreaking notion of bad special teams plays. “I’m sure it’s a little the same thing with San Diego.”

— Finally, it stinks that Beanie Wells got hit with the $5,000 facemask fine from last week. But judging by this pic (by freelance photog Bruce Yeung, who had been reading my blog) it’s kind of tough to argue.

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For now, no new receivers

Posted by Darren Urban on September 28, 2010 – 8:59 pm

With the surgery and subsequent short-term shelving of Steve Breaston, the Cardinals re-signed receiver Onrea Jones and will see how their current wideout group does Sunday in San Diego before considering any other veteran additions, general manager Rod Graves said in a text message Tuesday night. The team will re-evaluate the position again after playing the Chargers, Graves added. The Cardinals feel if they can get through the next two games with the current group — Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams, Max Komar and Jones — then both Breaston and Early Doucet can likely return after the bye (which comes in three weeks after a home game against New Orleans).

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Breaston has knee surgery

Posted by Darren Urban on September 28, 2010 – 1:41 pm

Wide receiver Steve Breaston has had arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee (first reported by XTRA’s Mike Jurecki). The Cards are unsure of exactly what Breaston’s return time frame will be, but it isn’t believed to be extensive. Not to compare the surgery of Breaston and Beanie Wells — who also had a meniscus repair — but Beanie missed two games and the Cards do have a bye week after the next two games in San Diego and home against New Orleans.

Obviously, not the best news. Breaston was hobbled a bit in the locker room yesterday but that was to be expected after he was banged up in Atlanta and then played against Oakland. Apparently, it was a little more than being banged up.

With WR Early Doucet still out, that certainly thins an already-thin receiving corps. The Cards did re-sign Onrea Jones yesterday, but even with all his back and forth with the roster, he has yet to play a regular-season game. I’d guess this puts Stephen Williams as the No. 2 and Max Komar as the No. 3, and I was told Andre Roberts had a great week of practice on offense last week. That’s a lot of rookies for the trip to San Diego.

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Ware, teammates, Twitter and free tickets

Posted by Darren Urban on September 23, 2010 – 9:07 am

In a quest to help some teammates elevate their Twitter followers — and, I suppose, his own list — safety Matt Ware is holding a Twitter contest this week. First, he wants to get as many people as he can to join Twitter pages of himself (@MattWare22), receivers Max Komar (@MDKomar22) and Stephen Williams (@SteveWill_14) and defensive backs Trumaine McBride (@TruMcBride) and Hamza Abdullah (@HamzaAbdullah21).

Then Friday, Ware will post a trivia question on Twitter, with the first to send the right answer receiving two free tickets to Sunday’s game against Oakland. Seems simple enough.

Oh, and if you are on Twitter and you’re not following me (@cardschatter), I mean, really?

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Being careful with Fitz and Doucet’s surgery

Posted by Darren Urban on September 16, 2010 – 1:53 pm

WR Early Doucet indeed will have surgery to repair his sports hernia, coach Ken Whisenhunt said today. The rehab process is normally three-to-six weeks, Whisenhunt added, but he didn’t want to put an exact timetable on it. RB Beanie Wells “did more” and the Cards will see how he responds tomorrow to see how much he practices Friday. How much Wells practices Friday will determine how much/if he plays Sunday. Whisenhunt just doesn’t want swelling to continue after he works out, and that’s ultimately what the team is monitoring.

With WR Larry Fitzgerald still trying to come back from his knee injury, Whisenhunt acknowledged that while Fitz doesn’t want to miss practice reps, the Cards have “integrated Steve (Williams) a few more times.” “You walk a fine line,” Whisenhunt said, “because you want Larry to be in game shape and the only way to do that is get reps in practice.” Then again, when the Cards have a hot practice outside like Thursday, Whiz said, it makes sense, and in the game Williams may get a few more regular snaps “just to make sure Larry stays fresh.”

DE Kenny Iwebema (knee) and S Hamza Abdullah were the only changes to the injury report, with both moving up to limited participation.

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