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.
Tags: Anthony Sherman, Greg Toler, inactives, Kerry Rhodes, Kevin Kolb, Rashad Johnson, Reagan Maui'a, Reggie Walker, Senio Kelemete, Todd Heap, Vikings, Vince Young
Posted in Blog | 24 Comments »
I made it all the way to January 12.
Obviously, quarterback is going to be a hot topic, probably all offseason. This isn’t the last time I am going to address it on the blog. But it will be the entry I link back to – over and over – whenever someone asks me about one of the popular names floating out there, whether it is a current NFL player or a potential draftee.
So expect to see the URL often in the blog comment section.
I don’t know who is going to play quarterback for the Cardinals in 2011. I don’t know who is going to be on the roster. I don’t think they know right now, and they can’t. The draft isn’t until late-April, and the nitty-gritty talks about who will be available and where they rank on the draft board have yet to occur. Free agency is a little less than two months off, and that’s only if there is no work stoppage. If there is a work stoppage, no free agents can sign anywhere until it is resolved. The same will go for trades involving players.
Those are some of the many reasons I have tried to hold out on talking about potential QBs. I didn’t last very long. So here goes, with the understanding of my limited knowledge of the college guys relegated to watching them on TV here and there:
Kevin Kolb: Might as well start here. If Kolb doesn’t get to start in Philly, he wants to start somewhere else. Ears all over Arizona perked up. But then Andy Reid talked about keeping both Kolb and Michael Vick, and reality sets in. Let’s say the Cards want Kolb (and I don’t know if they do). Forget about working out a trade for a moment. Why would the Eagles deal Kolb? He is under contract for relative peanuts in 2011 ($1.4M) and for now, Michael Vick isn’t under contract at all. Vick might be franchised, or there might not be any tag. Plus Vick got beat up by the end of the season. The Eagles need a backup. Lot of hoops to be jumped before you could ever see Kolb out West (or anywhere besides Philly).
Donovan McNabb: Ahh, my favorite subject. First, he has to be released. If it happens before the lockout, I believe he can be signed. But will that happen? Regardless, I don’t see it here. McNabb will have been let loose by two different teams. His play was less than consistent this year (and yes, I know some people don’t think he had enough weapons). There are questions about his fitness (the Washington stuff earlier this season wasn’t out of the blue), his accuracy and his age. Plus, he’s spent almost his entire career in a West Coast offense that doesn’t exactly mirror the Cards’ offense. I just don’t see it.
Marc Bulger (pictured below): He was a candidate this last offseason and is expected to be one again. He followed Kurt Warner once before. He’ll be available and he’s experienced. These are the plusses. He also hasn’t had a good season since 2006, struggling with less talent in St. Louis and declining skills.
Matt Hasselbeck: Why would the Seahawks let him go now? Or might he have made himself that valuable where they can’t keep him?
Kyle Orton: Has probably proven himself better than many expected. But the reports are the Broncos want a second-round pick for him. I don’t see the Cards doing that, unless they see Orton as a long-term solution (with, for example, Skelton as a backup for now). Would the Cards negotiate a lower pick? I could see that. Again, however, it’s a trade, so until there is a new CBA, Orton is a Bronco and in limbo.
Vince Young: Has skills and has been a winner. Also has reputation for not working hard enough at his craft and has proven he doesn’t handle adversity well. Not a good combination. I don’t see him as a realistic option.
Cam Newton: Was great this past college season – with the operative word being “college.” He was just OK in the national championship game. He’s not Vick, so you can wipe out most of the running part of his game as it translates to the next level. He’s got a ways to go if he is ever going to be a top-flight NFL QB, and I don’t see – right now – how you spend the No. 5 overall pick on him.
Ryan Mallett/Blaine Gabbert: Again, I need to see how these guys sort themselves out during workouts/combine, etc. But right now, hard to tell. Gabbert seems more highly regarded than Mallett, but things can always change as the draft approaches. There are also teams ahead of the Cards who will be looking at QB. I’ll say this: No one left in the draft is Andrew Luck. And the Cards can’t afford to whiff on the No. 5 overall pick.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton, Marc Bulger, Matt Hasselbeck, Ryan Mallett, Vince Young
Posted in Blog | 186 Comments »
It felt a little like Chinese water torture Sunday. There were no dramatic shifts in the game, no real knockout punch. The Chiefs just kept drip-drip-dripping their way to a win, and it eventually felt there was no way the Cards could wiggle out from beneath the spigot.
Postgame was about as weary as I have seen coach Ken Whisenhunt. He’s still going to say the right things – that’s how he believes it should be done – but the losing obviously is eating at him. What now? Well, barring a shift in the division race, the Cards are in the week-to-week storyline mode. You don’t look big picture. You shrink it, meaning the much-anticipated-once-upon-a-time Monday night home game (with the black uniforms and I believe a better-than-average chance of an open roof) will have to be an event in itself.
You win – and once again, the Cards will be playing a team on the downslide, so at least it feels like even footing – and reevaluate later.
Since I’ll have basically an extra day to sift through this, I’m keeping this short tonight. (And I doubt I will be getting to the comments tonight, so bear with me. I will approve everything in the morning. I’m not censoring. I’m taking a bit of my life back. There’s not a lot new to say anyway).
— Whisenhunt said there wouldn’t be any personnel changes, but rookie tight end Jim Dray was in there extensively Sunday ahead of Ben Patrick. Dray struggled, but as we get deeper in the season, those are the kinds of developmental moves we may see going forward. (No, I don’t think John Skelton is playing next week).
— Derek Anderson has thrown high passes before but he seemed particularly skewing high Sunday. Maybe the wind was playing a major role, but it made for some harrowing catch attempts. And obviously one of them knocked Early Doucet out of the game.
— Wide receiver Steve Breaston was not a happy camper. “You’ve got to find what motivates you inside. You’ve got to push on. Don’t look for others to make plays. Do it yourself.” It’ll be interesting to see if his message gets across.
— Todd Haley wasn’t going to let Larry Fitzgerald beat him. On the Cards’ second field goal, on the third-down pass, the Chiefs not only double-teamed Fitz but did it with bump coverage with both. The pass ended up incomplete to Breaston.
“(The Chiefs) have done that a couple of times, they did it against (Chargers tight end) Antonio Gates, (Broncos receiver) Brandon Lloyd,” Fitzgerald said. “Anytime they are in the red zone they try to take away the guy who is the most targeted usually.”
— At some point, I would think Whisenhunt will consider heavily changing quarterbacks again, to give a rookie some experience. But it’s not going to be now, not when the NFC West is frightening still not out of reach and not against the 49ers on “Monday Night Football.”
— No, I don’t know if the Cardinals have interest in Vince Young if he becomes available.
Tags: Ben Patrick, Chiefs, Derek Anderson, Early Doucet, Jim Dray, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Todd Haley, Vince Young
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Admittedly, Calais Campbell was thinking of his bank account, and it may be costing him the team lead in sacks right now.
Campbell’s goals before the season were to lead the Cards in sacks and reaching double digits in the category. Campbell has six sacks right now, with linemate Darnell Dockett totaling seven.
Flash back to the final play of the first half in Tennessee, where Darnell Dockett tracked down a scrambling Vince Young for a sack, the clock running out and costing the Titans a chance at a field goal? That was one of Dockett’s sacks. Campbell should have been the one who got Young on that play. Somehow, Campbell – who had a similar play in Jacksonville when he allowed David Garrard to escape what looked like a sure sack – didn’t bring Young down.
In this case, Campbell thought Young threw the ball.
“Usually you still throw him to the ground, let him know you’re there, but I didn’t want to get fined,” Campbell said. “So I gave him a love tap to let him know I was there, and I turned around to see where he threw the ball, and I saw it was still in his hand. I was like, ‘Man, I should’ve taken him to the ground.’ That hurt. But I thought about the fine.”
Campbell tried to put such thoughts out of his head after that. A week later, Campbell tossed Vikings quarterback Brett Favre like a rag doll on a sack, and while he wasn’t flagged, he was fined $5,000 for the extra emphasis.
“I learned the last couple weeks, you just play and if the fine comes, you go with it,” Campbell said. “Sacks are critical, so if you have a chance to make it happen, you have to get it.”
Tags: Brett Favre, Calais Campbell, Titans, Vikings, Vince Young
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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.”
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Beanie Wells, Ben Graham, Bryant McFadden, Calais Campbell, Chris Johnson, Darnell Dockett, David Garrard, DRC, Gerald Hayes, Kurt Warner, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Matt Leinart, Ron Wolfley, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower, Titans, Vince Young
Posted in Blog | 27 Comments »
Thanksgiving came and went and, as usual, the holiday seemed like a blur. There is a lot to like about this job but that’s one of the downsides – the traditional holidays this time of year flash then disappear in the grind of the season.
But it does give us a chance to hear the thoughts of defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who has continued to slide his desire for a new contract out once in a while never in a snit but instead with a little humor. The message is never lost, though. This week, Dockett said his family wasn’t coming out for Thanksgiving in part because the team leaves Saturday morning for Tennessee and he was saving their trip for the following week for Minnesota weekend. He just doesn’t have the cash to afford to fly his family out from Maryland more than once in a while.
“We don’t have no Albert Haynesworth money,” Dockett deadpanned. “If I am able to get off minimum wages I would definitely take my family out to all the home games because I know they’d be happy about that.”
Yeah, I’d guess Darnell would be happy about it too. Haynesworth, the Redskins’ defensive tackle, got some $40-plus million in guarantees from Washington last offseason. Dockett is making $3.5 million this season and is scheduled to make $3.75 M in 2010 and $4 M in 2011. I can only hope his family can handle their time apart.
Nevertheless, there’s a game against the Titans up first:
— Dockett did give big props to Tennessee’s running game and talked about what a huge boost to the confidence it would be for the defense if they could slow the Titans on the ground. And to think, Tennessee running back Chris Johnson, currently the NFL’s leading rusher, could have been a teammate. The Cardinals absolutely loved him going into the 2008 draft. They loved Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie too, and cornerback was perhaps a more crucial position at the time. I think there was hope Johnson may slide all the way to their second-round pick, or at least into the second round where the Cards could trade up (a la Alan Branch in 2007). But the Titans grabbed Johnson in the first round. It seemed a bit premature at the time. Uh, not so much. He’s clearly one of the best already.
— Speaking of running games, the Cardinals are 27th in the NFL. But over the past three weeks, this is how the NFL’s top rushing teams shake out: 1. Carolina (183 yards a game); 2. Tennessee (182.7); 3. Arizona 162.3.
— Say what you want about the guy, but Dockett is productive and playing well. He has a sack in three straight games and is making a strong Pro Bowl push.
— Perfect weather planned for Sunday: 64 degrees and only a slight chance of rain. Could the Cards have had any better weather this season? Heck, even in the postseason, it looks like it will be all domes.
— Kurt Warner is going to play, barring something crazy. Hopefully the Cards can protect him well enough to avoid a replay of his St. Louis hit, but Warner is going to get tagged a couple times. That’s just the game.
— Warner’s 89 straight passes without an interception was the longest active string in the league for starting quarterbacks before Thanksgiving. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers surpassed him Thursday and is at 125 attempts. Two other guys have longer active streaks than Warner but neither plays: Washington’s Todd Collins (222) and Kansas City’s Brodie Croyle (96).
— So that’s where the offense was … in the first seven games, the most yards the Cards generated was 383. They have surpassed 400 each of the past three games, the first time since 1969 the team has had more than 400 yards in three straight games.
— Getting LB Monty Beisel back was crucial. It didn’t hurt that Beisel wanted to come back all along, but his knowledge of the defense will allow them to drop him in right away. He can play both inside and outside and most importantly, fill Will Davis’ spot on special teams. The Davis injury hurts. He was playing well and earning more and more time on defense. The ability to get him back before the playoffs, I think, is important.
— Watching Vince Young throw, that passing game doesn’t frighten me. He can complete some passes, but he can’t beat you that way. Now, if he starts to scramble, and you defense gets out of position and then he finds a way to throw it, that can beat you. It’ll start on the early downs for the Cards. They can’t let Young or Johnson rip off too many big runs (I don’t think you can realistically say “any big runs.” That’s unfair). And the Cards have to move the ball and score points. The Titans can’t score with the Cards.
— It’s week two of the Does-Adrian-Wilson-get-his-20th-career-sack watch. Not going to be easy with Young running around. Young has only been sacked once this season.
— The Cards need to win at least one of their next two games, both for confidence’s sake and to put the 49ers out of the picture.
That’s about it. We’re off to the Music City tomorrow. Hard to believe we’re about to hit December. As well as the Titans have played, the Cards again are giving off good vibes before this one. Having Warner healthy helps. So does an undefeated road record. Can it pay off into another win? The Titans are hot, but so are the Cardinals. It’s going to be fun to watch it unfold.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Alan Branch, Albert Haynesworth, Chris Johnson, Darnell Dockett, DRC, Kurt Warner, Monty Beisel, Titans, Vince Young, Will Davis
Posted in Blog | 15 Comments »
An odd game in St. Louis. More late-game heart stoppage when you didn’t think there would be any. Heck, before Kurt Warner left the game – probably right about the time Beanie Wells powered over in a manly one-yard touchdown run – I wondered how much yardage Warner was going to pile up throwing to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin before coach Ken Whisenhunt put Matt Leinart in.
Instead, Leinart had to come in.
There will be plenty of people breaking down Leinart’s time in the game. It didn’t make you forget the starter was out with a possible concussion, but it wasn’t the disaster some will inevitably make it out to be. Under different circumstances, for instance, Whisenhunt might have let Neil Rackers try a 51-yard field goal – in a dome, remember – on the first drive of the second half. Leinart took the Cards from their own 15 to the cusp of field-goal range before Whisenhunt stayed conservative and punted.
It makes sense. The Rams had done nothing offensively and there was little reason, with an 18-point lead, to give them life with good field position (and indeed, punter Ben Graham pinned the Rams at their own 2). But maybe points there changes how Leinart’s day went, especially since the next possession was the one where the Cards couldn’t convert on third-and-1.
Anyway, on to other thoughts in the wake of the win:
— The running game has been tremendous. The Cards have 487 rushing yards the past three games, an average of 162.3 per game. The first seven games of the season, the Cards totaled 454 rushing yards, an average of 64.8. Their overall ranking will still be low, but it’s clear the Cards are a better running team than that ranking.
— Rookie linebacker Will Davis – who got his second sack Sunday — might be a find as a sixth-round pick. With Chike Okeafor out, the Cards have needed Davis, and seems to have surpassed veteran Bertrand Berry for playing time in some key spots.
— The Cardinals used running back Jason Wright as a fullback on one play Sunday. You have to give Whisenhunt props in his ability to shuffle his personnel and use them in different ways. RB Tim Hightower spent some time split wide too.
— Quietly, Anquan Boldin had another big game. It got lost in the running exploits of Hightower and Beanie Wells and the injury to Kurt Warner, but he’s back to playing at a Pro Bowl level. If he can just stay healthy, it’s going to be a bi.. err, very difficult to defend the Cards.
— Wide receiver Steve Breaston was shut out of making a catch for the first time since playing in Washington the third game of last season. Breaston doesn’t really care about such things, but it does hurt him in his quest to get to the 75-reception mark. Then again, if anyone noticed, not only is Fitz on pace for Pro Bowl numbers but Boldin’s pace (85 receptions, 1,020 yards) is getting back there too.
— Leinart acknowledged he had a little problem with high throws. Whisenhunt said it’s partially because Leinart just hasn’t gotten enough playing time. It is an issue Leinart has worked with a lot with quarterbacks coach Chris Miller. “It’s been my little problem this season and I have been working hard to fix stuff on my release,” Leinart said. “I know when I throw a high pass, I know exactly why so I have to correct those things and that’s what I try to (fix) during the week.”
— With Bryant McFadden out with a knee injury, the Rams did their best to pick on 5-foot-8 backup Michael Adams. But there was one play where anyone could see why the Cards like Adams. The Rams ran a pitch wide left for 235-pound Steven Jackson. The only man in his way was Adams, all 181 pounds of him. Adams came up and stuck Jackson with a textbook tackle at the knees. One yard gain. It’s all about angles.
— Safety Adrian Wilson didn’t get his 20th sack, but he did get his 21st interception (Didn’t seem like Wilson was given many shots to rush the QB in St. Louis). That’ll have to be good enough for this week. Wonder if he can chase down the elusive Vince Young.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Beanie Wells, Ben Graham, Bertrand Berry, Bryant McFadden, Chike Okeafor, Chris Miller, Jason Wright, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart, Michael Adams, Neil Rackers, Rams, Steve Breaston, Steven Jackson, Tim Hightower, Vince Young, Will Davis
Posted in Blog | 19 Comments »