Friday before the Falcons

Posted by Darren Urban on November 16, 2012 – 4:49 pm

The bye week is always good – I know I appreciate it, so I can only imagine the players’ delight – but it is tough when you go two weeks between games. The storylines dry up a bit, especially this deep in the season, when there isn’t actual action from which to play off.

At this point, maybe it’s helps to look at it simply. Coach Ken Whisenhunt and the players were asked many times different ways about a midseason/bye assessment the past couple weeks. One Whisenhunt answer summed it up best.

“What is there to say besides it’s not good enough?” he said.

True. The 4-0 start is well in the rear view mirror. I don’t think anyone can argue that the Cardinals winning Sunday in Atlanta would be an upset, but in the NFL, it wouldn’t be some kind of stunning shock either. Everything changes if the Cards were to win. But to have that chance, the Cardinals can’t drop passes, can’t miss tackles, can’t get off to slow starts on offense or defense. They have to be good enough.

— The Cardinals have not, as noted, been tackling very well. It hasn’t been a season-long problem, but it’s been a problem for late. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton wasn’t concerned it will continue to be a problem.

“One of our coaches said today that in practice this week, it reminded us how they practiced for New England,” Horton said. “Very focused, very alert, very sharp. I don’t think tackling will be an issue. They are ready for this game.”

— Whisenhunt was asked if he had even been on a team that started two rookie tackles. “Nope,” Whiz said, allowing himself a chuckle. “I think I would remember that. We have been through some tough situations with the line during my time in the NFL. I don’t think I’ve ever started two rookie tackles.”

Nate Potter and Bobby Massie are a first Sunday.

— Here was quarterback John Skelton’s assessment of Potter’s first playing time in Green Bay. “He had the jitters a little bit, but the first play we asked him to block Clay Matthews and he did a good job,” Skelton said. Skelton just happened to hit Andre Roberts on a 40-yard bomb that play. It’s going to be a learning curve for Potter, but it’s definitely will be interesting to watch.

— I know the Falcons are calling wide receiver Julio Jones a game-day decision, but a sprained ankle is tough for a wide receiver, and from what I have always seen, any guy who doesn’t practice all week tends to be not much of a factor on Sunday even if the player does play.

— Calais Campbell could play Sunday, I suppose, but I don’t expect it. It’s like Darnell Dockett being banged up earlier in the year – you’d rather have a player miss one game rather than risk a longer-term problem. If Campbell sits, it looks like David Carter will get a shot at a lot of playing time. It’s easy to forget how well Carter played at times as a rookie. He’s definitely a player the Cards can develop and if he can play both end and tackle, even better.

— I know a lot of people keep asking. I don’t know what to expect from tight end Todd Heap. He was limited all week and questionable. I’d guess he’s one of the ones that will work out before the game, and the Cards will go from there. I have zero idea if this is the week he plays.

— Ralphie is an Arizona Cardinals’ fan. Who knew?

— This will be the first start for Quentin Groves at linebacker, following the season-ending injury to O’Brien Schofield. That shouldn’t be a huge deal; Groves, after all, has been a starter in Oakland and Jacksonville. But it also means the Cards’ depth behind Groves and Sam Acho falls on a pair of first-year Cards: Jamaal Westerman and undrafted rookie Zack Nash. Westerman has experience, but he was also the one left inactive on game in favor of Nash, which could say something about both of them. If Acho or Groves get nicked, how the backups respond will be important.

“They don’t have much choice.” Whisenhunt said. “This league, you have to play and be successful when you aren’t getting all the (practice) reps.”

— A quick heads-up: “Season In Focus” will air Saturday morning at 7 a.m. on ABC-15. There will be a recap of the first half of the season, a “Wired” segment with linebacker Daryl Washington and a “Zoom” episode featuring a Cardinals cheerleader who happens to be a veteran of the war in Iraq. Then on “Flightplan” – airing Saturday at midnight on NBC Ch. 12 right after “Saturday Night Live,” Whisenhunt and Ron Wolfley break down video of the Roberts’ bomb and Potter’s overall work in his first game.

The second half of the season is upon us.

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Heap, Toler remain out, Nelson playing for Packers

Posted by Darren Urban on November 4, 2012 – 9:36 am

The Cardinals’ inactive list is out for today’s game, with tight end Todd Heap still out with his bad knee. On the flip side, Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, who didn’t practice all week because of a bad hamstring, is active today and listed as a starter. The Cardinals are also still without cornerback Greg Toler (hamstring).

Guard Adam Snyder (quad) remains out, no surprise, so Rich Ohrnberger will start at right guard. The rest of the Cardinals’ inactives:

— QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)

— LB Jamaal Westerman

— G Senio Kelemete

— WR LaRon Byrd

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New starting OL with Snyder out; Heap still down

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2012 – 4:10 pm

The Cardinals will have a change in the starting offensive line for the first time this season, with right guard Adam Snyder sitting out with his quad injury, sending Rich Orhnberger into the lineup against the 49ers on “Monday Night Football.” Ohrnberger did a decent job in relief of Snyder in Minnesota after Snyder got hurt.

Tight end Todd Heap (knee) also remains sidelined for a sixth straight game.

The rest of the inactive list for the Cardinals is:

— QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)

— CB Greg Toler (hamstring)

— WR LaRon Byrd

— LB Jamaal Westerman

— G Senio Kelemete

And in case you missed it, the roof will be open tonight as well at University of Phoenix Stadium, the first time this season.

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The reality of injuries

Posted by Darren Urban on October 23, 2012 – 10:38 am

Talking injuries in the NFL is always about walking a fine line.

There are few coaches that don’t get particular the way their team’s injuries are discussed on a weekly level, and that includes coach Ken Whisenhunt. There is a reason as little information as possible is divulged as team’s go along, why a team like the Patriots used to clog the injury report with as many players as possible, why guys are often “game-time decisions” when some are and some probably aren’t. No one wants to give the other side an advantage.

But on a bigger picture, there is another way the fine line is encountered with injuries: When a team is undercut by the sheer amount that crop up, talking about how much it’s affecting the team can be a minefield.

That’s what the Cardinals are going through right now. It’s impossible to know what this team would be like with better health, especially on the offensive side of the ball. If Beanie Wells, Kevin Kolb, Todd Heap, Levi Brown, Jeremy Bridges and Ryan Williams were all still available, what would it mean? Then again — and this is the fine line part — no one wants to hear about it usually. One of the biggest cliches out there is a coach or player for an injured team noting of their upcoming opponents “The (fill-in-the-blank) aren’t going to feel sorry for us.” In the Cardinals’ case, the 49ers are in the blank this week.

“That’s the NFL,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “You face (injuries). I think part of our continuity on offense is struggling because of that. You can’t use it as an excuse. You have to move forward.”

Guard Daryn Colledge said during his years on the Packers, there were a couple of years when the team was crushed by injuries. One season, the Packers finished 6-10. The other, the Packers rallied on their way to a Super Bowl title. “It can go both ways,” Colledge said.

The reality is that no one sits at the end of the season and says, “Hey, the such-and-such only won the Super Bowl because injuries crippled such-and-such.” No, the team that wins will be the team that wins, with no asterisks. If the Cardinals can’t parlay a 4-0 start into the playoffs, no one outside of Arizona is going to care or even note it. Last year’s Bears probably make the playoffs if quarterback Jay Cutler doesn’t get hurt, but that didn’t stop the Bears from making a change at general manager. It’s a harsh world to live within.

The Cards aren’t getting Brown, Bridges or Williams back. Wells is gone at least three more games. Kolb is out indefinitely. The Cards have to keep progressing tight end Rob Housler, because Heap’s return remains an unknown. In the short term, the Cards have been missing fullback Anthony Sherman, and guard Adam Snyder was limping pretty good with a quad problem after the Vikings game. Have the injuries hurt the Cards? Of course they have. That’s not an excuse as much as a fact. But it’s also a fact the Cards can’t do anything about it.

“It would be nice to have guys out there more than a week and find some continuity on offense,” Colledge said. “But again, it’s on us to find the playmakers and find ways to win games.”


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Heap remains inactive

Posted by Darren Urban on October 21, 2012 – 8:38 am

Tight end Todd Heap remains inactive with his bad knee today against the Vikings, on an inactive list that is filled up with injured players.

Only guard Senio Kelemete is a healthy scratch. Sitting out are QB Kevin Kolb (ribs), S Kerry Rhodes (back), CB Greg Toler (hamstring), FB Anthony Sherman (knee), and LB Reggie Walker (concussion). Rashad Johnson is starting in place of Rhodes, while Regan Maui’a is starting in place of Sherman.

The Vikings have all their key players available who were on the injury report, including RB Adrian Peterson, DE Jared Allen and WR Jerome Simpson.

— Also this morning, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that the Cardinals are expected to work out free agent QB Vince Young this week. If true — and I haven’t heard anything about it — it’s an interesting turn. Young, given his background and recent play, wouldn’t have been a guy I’d think the Cards would consider as an option.

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Defense sure it is spelled t-e-a-m, and some notes

Posted by Darren Urban on October 19, 2012 – 2:15 pm

The Cardinals’ offensive players have said a few times that their unit needs to start playing to the level of the defense. It is only logical that some would wonder about the frustration level of the defense as they wait for the offense to come around. But defenders aren’t going there.

“We all get off the bus together, we all are in the locker room together,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “But we have to focus on what we do on defense. They’ll get it together.

“There are games where they bailed us out,” Dockett added, noting the Miami outing when the Cards gave up a ton of passing yards. “I’m tired of people saying defense has to be the backbone, defense, defense, defense. We’re a team at the end of the day.”

That works for defensive coordinator Ray Horton. “I’ve never said that (message) to them so it is great they answer that way,” Horton said. “If (the question) was posed to me, I’d go back one year when we were 1-6 and (the defense) didn’t do our job, so we understand where we came from.”

— As expected safety Kerry Rhodes won’t play Sunday in Minnesota with his bad back, and quarterback Kevin Kolb is of course out. Fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and cornerback Greg Toler (hamstring) are doubtful. Tight end Todd Heap remains limited and questionable with his sore knee, and frankly, at this point, I’m guessing he won’t play until he gets back to practicing fully. I’ve been burned too many times thinking he’d be back. He’ll give it a try pre-game Sunday though and see how it feels.

— I know there are a bunch of questions about the Cards and the status of trying to sign offensive lineman Chris Williams. Here’s the deal: He visited the Cards. He had already visited the Eagles and now Mike Jurecki noted he’s visiting the Chargers. Williams looks like he will have options. Could he sign here? Sure. If he does, it’d probably be after the weekend. But the Cards have to want him, he has to want to come here (and he certainly would seem to have a good opportunity to play here) and then a contract has to be worked out. I’ll let you know something as soon as I know.

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Kolb’s ribs sore, MRI coming

Posted by Darren Urban on October 15, 2012 – 11:29 am

The X-ray to Kevin Kolb’s ribs and sternum were negative, coach Ken Whisenhunt said, although the quarterback is getting a follow-up MRI today to make sure there is nothing that was missed. Obviously, Kolb is sore. But it’s Monday, so Whiz was certainly not going to start talking about who would start in Minnesota. Right now, that’s because all the information isn’t available for Kolb yet. But there’s a chance it won’t change until deep in the week if at all. Everyone knows how Whiz will be cautious with that information.

— Safety Kerry Rhodes is also getting an MRI on his back after it tightened up on him a couple of times. That too will be wait-and-see.

— Asked about if he thought the pass protection improved Sunday, Whiz said “That’s a tough question to answer.” He added, “We did some things better. … Overall we got a little better.” The Cards will need better with the Vikings’ Jared Allen looming Sunday.

— The status for TE Todd Heap and FB Anthony Sherman is to be determined. Whiz acknowledged he was “disappointed” Heap wasn’t able to play Sunday. It was suggested the Cards miss Heap’s blocking.”We miss Todd overall,” Whisenhunt said.

— On Jay Feely’s missed 38-yard field goal on the final play — a kick that was deflected a bit by Bills DT Alex Carrington, Whisenhunt said “it wasn’t a matter of protection.” The protection, Whiz said, was good. “I don’t think he got very much of it,” Whisenhunt said, but it was enough.

— The Cards checked into the run play on which Kolb got hurt, but running back William Powell didn’t get the change. That led to the broken play and Kolb getting hurt. “It was a miscommunication,” Whisenhunt said.

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Heap still sitting, Skelton to back up Kolb

Posted by Darren Urban on October 14, 2012 – 11:30 am

Tight end Todd Heap remains sidelined today with his bad knee, while quarterback John Skelton is active today for the first time since hurting his ankle and will back up starter Kevin Kolb. The Cards do have tight end Jim Dray back to help at tight end.

Injuries are a big reason for a chunk of inactives today. Linebacker Reggie Walker (concussion), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and cornerbacks Michael Adams and Greg Toler (both hamstrings) are all out. Also sitting out is QB Ryan Lindley — natural with Skelton back — and guard Senio Kelemete.

That means wide receiver LaRon Byrd will be active for the first time in his NFL career. Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is active.

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Time for the Hyphen

Posted by Darren Urban on October 12, 2012 – 12:52 pm

Larry Fitzgerald has always liked LaRod Stephens-Howling. They both went to Pitt, so it’s hard not to have a bond. The wide receiver has no problem talking about the Hyphen’s strengths, which include versatility — and size.

“He’s so small, when he comes through the line you don’t see him until he’s too close, and then when he’s that close, there’s no way you can tackle him in a phone booth,” Fitzgerald said. “When he’s in space, he creates so many mismatches for us. He’s got big-play capabilities.”

Stephens-Howling, assuming his health holds up, will be the running back under the spotlight Sunday when the Cards play the Bills. There will be work for William Powell and even Alfonso Smith, but the Cards need their Hyphen to make some things happen like the last time he started. That was in the season finale against Seattle last year — the Cards sat Beanie — and Stephens-Howling had a good game. Coach Ken Whisenhunt is hoping for a repeat.

“The last time I saw LaRod as a starter he went for 92 yards against a good Seattle defense,” Whisenhunt said. “I’m hopeful he can get those extra eight yards this week.”

That would be a huge deal for the Cards. The top individual game a running back has had this season was Ryan Williams’ 83-yard effort against the Eagles. In the end, Fitz said, the Hyphen’s pedigree will shine (OK, maybe Fitz smiled a little bit as he delivered the following quote):

“He’s a Pitt guy,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s capable of doing whatever. He can play quarterback, he can play defensive tackle, whatever we need him to do. When you go to Pitt, good things happen for you.”

— Whisenhunt said tight ends Todd Heap and Jim Dray are healthy enough to give him options at the position. “Thank goodness.”

“When you look at the roster when you go to the 53, people say, ‘Why do you keep four tight ends?'” Whisenhunt said. “It’s because we’ve been through this before. It seems like it never fails you are going to be stuck with two or one-and-a-half. We’ve been that way, and I think we’re finally past that point for right now.”

The full injury report is due out in a bit.

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A time to rest, refocus

Posted by Darren Urban on October 5, 2012 – 12:38 pm

With 10 days before the next game, the Cardinals need time to get healthy. As usual, coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t have a day-after injury update, although he reiterated that the Cards have a lot of players banged up. Asked if he would like to be able to get the players on the field today and repair some of the many mistakes from Thursday night’s loss, Whiz said it wasn’t worth it.

“Physically, it wouldn’t be productive right now,” he said.

Take Darnell Dockett, for instance. The defensive tackle tried to play against the Rams, but in the end his injured hamstring allowed him to play only 19 of 56 defensive snaps. The Cards need tight end Todd Heap and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, and that doesn’t include things that may have cropped up last night, like Ryan Williams’ shoulder injury.

I’ll have more in a story in a bit, but there were lots of questions about the offensive line today. Whisenhunt said he was “not going to panic” about the line situation, which caused a Twitter kerfuffle when I tweeted it out. Look, Whiz isn’t going to panic about anything. That’s his style. Same reason he wasn’t going to rant and rave last season at 1-6 — and the Cards aren’t 1-6. Whiz sees a line that did an adequate job in the first three games and believes it can get back to that level of play. Russ Grimm isn’t going to be fired and it sure doesn’t sound like there are changes afoot.

What stuck with Whiz was the chances, noting the Cards had a first-and-10 at the St. Louis 36- , 38- , and 27-yard lines and first-and-goal at the Rams’ 9 without scoring any points. Those are the missed opportunities he lamented.

— Kicker Jay Feely was fined $7,875 for his personal foul penalty against the Dolphins earlier this week.

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