A night at Coconino

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2011 – 11:31 pm

The Cardinals held their one night practice of camp at Coconino High School. It was a little different than the ones of last season. With only a few days before the next preseason game, coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t do a live goal line session at the end. In fact, there was no tackling. The practice ended with a series of plays starting at the 10-yard line with first-and-goal, but it was tough to tell exactly what would have happened — linebacker Clark Haggans was particularly vocal in protesting where the ball was spotted.

— Linebacker Joey Porter was sitting out on a veteran’s day off. O’Brien Schofield is next on the depth chart behind Porter at ROLB, but it was rookie Sam Acho who was in Porter’s place Tuesday night. Interesting. Schofield is the guy who needs to make the big step forward as pass rusher this season. Although it might have been just to balance out the position — with Will Davis a LOLB, the Cards could go Acho-Schofield at ROLB and Haggans-Davis at LOLB.

— Tight end Stephen Spach (calf) and offensive lineman D.J. Young (knee) were also sitting out. So too was guard Deuce Lutui, for what I would expect to be a continuing conditioning issue.

— Cornerback Greg Toler made a nice interception in front of Larry Fitzgerald at the goal line, ripping the ball away from Fitz. (Fitz did make a spectacular Willie Mays-style over-the-head grab earlier in the practice, but really, that’s no surprise, not the way he makes the spectacular routine.)

— Wide receiver Isaiah Williams made a fantastic touchdown catch from John Skelton, making the grab in the back of the end zone just over the outstretched hand of cornerback Richard Marshall. Williams, who scored the game-winning touchdown in Oakland, has looked good in camp — one of many receivers that have shown well.

— One of those receivers, rookie DeMarco Sampson, pulled down a deep pass early in the practice despite good coverage by cornerback Marshay Green. Sampson needs to continue his work but he’s got a real shot to make this roster.

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Cards finally nab pass rusher in Acho

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2011 – 9:25 am

The Cardinals begin the final day of the draft by getting a pass rusher they needed in Texas linebacker Sam Acho in the fourth round. At 6-foot-1 and 260 pounds, Acho is going to have a transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4, but as a senior, he had nine sacks, five forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. He was also a three-time all-academic selection in the Big 12.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said he is a ‘tweener, not quite an OLB but not quite a DE. But with O’Brien Schofield and Will Davis already around (along with veterans Clark Haggans and Joey Porter for now), Acho could be a pass rusher only at first until he is ready for something bigger.

Acho said he actually played OLB the first two years of college before moving to defensive end, so he expects to be able to make the transition. Interestingly, he said he had no specific contact with the Cardinals before the draft, so he was a little surprised. But Acho — who comes across as smart as his resume indicates — clearly is happy to be coming to Arizona.

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The flip of 43 and 34

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2010 – 3:35 pm

The Cardinals have used more of the four down linemen look the past two games in an effort to slow opposing running attacks and, more importantly, to make up for injuries at linebacker. This has caused more than a few of you out there to wonder/inquire about/insist the Cardinals switch from a 3-4 base defense to a 4-3.

I have mentioned before it wasn’t going to happen, but since coach Ken Whisenhunt talked about it today: “As far as making a wholesale change, that’s not something I even want to consider right now.”

The Cardinals have never abandoned using 4-3 looks, and the defense has been a bit of a hybrid since Whisenhunt arrived. The 3-4 bent has become more pronounced as the years went on, in large part because the Cards have made the effort to bring in players that fit that scheme better. That’s precisely why nothing will change. It’s easy to look at defensive linemen like Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Alan Branch, Gabe Watson, Dan Williams and Bryan Robinson and think the better players right now are on the line than linebacker.

In fact, that’s the main reason why the Cards have used more 4-3 recently, because the injuries at linebacker have sapped any depth. Will Davis, Clark Haggans and Joey Porter — three of the top six ‘backers — have been significantly banged up (or in Davis’ case, sidelined for good). Davis and O’Brien Schofield, despite being college defensive ends, couldn’t be that in the NFL (too small) and their use as a linebacker would be significantly minimized in a 4-3 scheme.

On the line, Whisenhunt said Williams could operate as a 4-3 DT and the others could adapt. But Williams is probably better suited to be a nose in 3-4. Campbell probably works better as a 3-4 end than a 4-3 end, and even Dockett seems to fit better in a 3-4 than an undersized 4-3 DT. (There’s also depth to consider; Branch, Watson and Robinson are all free agents after this season). Going forward, the Cards see their personnel as a 3-4 fit.


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Cards bring back Komar, promote Green

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2010 – 11:55 am

The Cardinals shuffled the roster today, including making the expected move of putting linebacker Will Davis on injured reserve with his broken leg. The Cards also cut running back Alfonso Smith, who became redundant with the expected return of both LaRod Stephens-Howling and Jason Wright.

With two spots open on the roster, the Cardinals re-signed wide receiver Max Komar and promoted cornerback Marshay Green from the practice squad (and it will be interesting to see if Green manages to get some work with the Cards’ cornerbacks struggling). For now, the Cards will have an opening on the practice squad.

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Will Davis out with broken leg

Posted by Darren Urban on November 22, 2010 – 11:27 am

Linebacker Will Davis has a fractured fibula, coach Ken Whisenhunt said today, so he is out. It doesn’t help the depth issue, but Whisenhunt said he isn’t overly concerned at the moment. Linebacker Clark Haggans should be OK this week after sitting Sunday with a groin problem — Whisenhunt acknowledged the Cards may have rushed Haggans back the previous week against Seattle — and he noted rookie O’Brien Schofield is getting more practice time. “Not that I am ready to have O’Brien play a significant amount of snaps.”

“It’s disappointing because (Will) was playing fairly well for us,” Whisenhunt said.

Defensive end Calais Campbell has an ankle sprain that needs to be evaluated as the week goes. Whisenhunt did think running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (groin) will be ready this week. The Cards do have an extra day between games because of “Monday Night Football.” Officially, players were off Monday, although a bunch of them were down in the locker room working out.

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Beanie sits again

Posted by Darren Urban on November 10, 2010 – 2:26 pm

The Cardinals had a banged-up crew out for Wednesday’s practice. Running back Beanie Wells sat because of ongoing swelling issues. Linebackers Clark Haggans (groin) and Paris Lenon (ankle) also sat out, and it wasn’t a great day for the defense, since linebackers Joey Porter (knee) and Will Davis (knee), defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (shoulder) and safety Kerry Rhodes (hand) were also limited.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt attributed most of it to an overtime game on turf, accounting for some extra plays and less rest. I’m not sure about Lenon, but I’d expect the limited guys to be OK this week.

On Wells, we will have to see. Whisenhunt said he hoped Wells could practice more as the week goes on, and Beanie sounded somewhat optimistic on that too. But I’m probably done trying to predict on the running back. This is still the reaction to the injection — I don’t think it’s more than that — of last week.

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Beanie limited and the D.A. decision

Posted by Darren Urban on November 3, 2010 – 2:12 pm

Running back Beanie Wells was limited in practice Wednesday after suffered some swelling on the right knee within which he had had his meniscus surgically repaired. We will know more tomorrow on whether it impacts Wells’ status for Sunday but Whisenhunt said “I don’t anticipate it being an issue.” His back, which he hurt against the Bucs, is not a problem.

Linebacker Clark Haggans (groin) also sat out. Haggans will be day-to-day again, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he has to miss another game.

— As for coach Ken Whisenhunt’s decision to start Derek Anderson, a lot has to do with playing on the road this week in Minnesota (and, looking forward, at Kansas City in a  couple weeks). Whisenhunt said he hasn’t soured on Max Hall. And when he was asked about possibly making  another in-game change, Whisenhunt didn’t rule it out.

“We’re going to go into each game doing what we think gives us the best chance to win,” Whisenhunt said. “I’m not going to have a quick hook, if that’s what you are asking me. I told the quarterbacks I don’t think you can play the game worrying about that. But we will definitely do what we think gives us the best chance to win.”

— Also limited in practice were DL Alan Branch (back), WR Steve Breaston (knee), LB Will Davis (knee), WR Early Doucet (groin) and DE Kenny Iwebema (knee).

— The Cardinals’ players are holding an NFLPA meeting this after noon to vote on player reps and on decertification. Teams across the league are doing such voting — voting to decertify — in preparation of potential legal strategies in the event of a lockout.

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Haggans doubtful for Halloween

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2010 – 12:42 pm

The Cardinals are expected to have one linebacker back and be missing another Sunday against the Bucs. Linebacker Clark Haggans is doubtful for Sunday because of his bad groin (Will Davis will start in his place). Meanwhile, it looks like Gerald Hayes will be back, although coach Ken Whisenhunt still wouldn’t 100 percent commit to it quite yet (Hayes has to be placed on the active roster, necessitating someone else being released).

— Hayes said he is just happy about the little things he can do in life — like bend over to tie his shoes — that were made difficult or impossible before he had his back surgery. Playing football again was important, but not the only important thing.

“I”m just happy I am healthy,” Hayes said. “Everyday things I am thankful for. … In the back of your mind you worry about (having it the rest of your life). But like any other gladiator, any other player out there, you go out and push through it and let the chips fall where they fall.”

— Hayes said it was up to the coaches how much he would play. Whisenhunt said Hayes wouldn’t play 60 plays or anything like that, but Hayes said he will prepare like he would play the whole game.

— O’Brien Schofield is still mentally “swimming” a bit, Whisenhunt said, noting the Cards had to re-run a play in practice today because Schofield didn’t do it right. But that’s to be expected, the coach added.

— LB Will Davis was added to the injury report with a sore knee and is questionable, but he is expected to play.

— Whisenhunt also said he didn’t have a favorite costume for Halloween.  “I’m scary enough without a costume,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s what my daughter’s boyfriends say.”

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Where there’s a Will …

Posted by Darren Urban on October 28, 2010 – 2:20 pm

Will Davis was a defensive end in college at Illinois. He’s been a linebacker since the Cards took him in the sixth round of the 2009 draft. His days as a D-end are long over. Kind of.

“I am out of that world,” Davis said, laughing. Then he reconsidered. “It’s kind of a rush end, it’s an end with sugar on top. That’s how I consider it.”

Davis will start if veteran Clark Haggans can’t go. And Haggans, who hurt his groin, doesn’t seem likely, although coach Ken Whisenhunt said Haggans has played in the defense long enough he could go without practicing all week. Not that Whiz has a problem turning to Davis.

“Will played 24 snaps in last week’s game and he played well,” Whisenhunt said. “That gives you confidence. Last year, when he got banged up (with a knee injury) at the end of the year, he was playing well then. So I have seen it twice. I think the light has come on for him.”

Davis said that when he got to the league, “I had never really heard about routes and things like that,. Now, the way game has slowed down for him is “crazy. Like night and day. Coach (Matt) Raich said he sees me evolving.”

“I feel like I am better equipped to start because of Raich getting with me to watch film,” Davis added. “I always practice like I am going to start. I am always trying to push Joey (Porter) and Clark.”

— Whisenhunt said WR Steve Breaston looks good and should play this week. LB Gerald Hayes also has a couple packages put in for him and “he’s pretty close to being ready to go.” Even with the injury to Haggans, Whisenhunt sounded less certain about activating LB O’Brien Schofield, because he is a rookie and hasn’t played yet. If either Hayes or Schofield are activated, however, that also means the Cards must make a corresponding cut on the roster.

— DE Alan Branch was added to the injury report with a sore back, and he was limited Thursday. He still should be available, I’d think. The rest of the Cards’ injury report stayed the same. Haggans was out and four guys besides Branch were limited: Breaston (knee), WR Early Doucet (groin), CB Greg Toler (back) and Porter (groin). I’d think all will be able to go.

— The Buccaneers’ injury report is long. C Jeff Faine (quad) is already out. Fellow offensive linemen Jeremy Trueblood (knee) and Keydrick Vincent (back) sat out again, although CB Aqib Talib (calf) went from sitting out Wednesday to practicing fully Thursday. DE Kyle Moore (shoulder), LB Geno Hayes (knee), WR Preston Parker (knee) and DT Brian Price (pelvis) also sat out.

— The game Sunday is officially a sellout, so the game will be televised on local TV. And don’t forget the Cards will be wearing for the first time in the regular season their alternate black jerseys.

— The Big Red Rage will be tape delayed on Sports 620 KTAR tonight because of the Suns broadcast, but it will be live at Marjerle’s at Chandler mall beginning at 6 p.m. as usual. Adrian Wilson’s guest will be Branch.

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Noise and practice, signifying nothing (with the rehabbed)

Posted by Darren Urban on October 22, 2010 – 1:14 pm

No announcements yet on who is playing and who isn’t playing, which really is no surprise. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said after practice wide receivers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet will be checked out both Saturday and before the game before a decision is made. As for linebacker Gerald Hayes, he has to be put on the active roster first, and that can come no later than 1 p.m. Saturday. My guess? If Hayes is activated, he’s going to play, because otherwise, you might as well keep the roster flexibility another week while Hayes sits.

I am still pretty confident Breaston plays. Doucet has looked better, but I want to wait and see. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they hold off on Hayes for a week (although I won’t be shocked to see him play either).

— LB Will Davis (groin) was added to the injury report as questionable. Also questionable besides Breaston and Doucet are DE Kenny Iwebema (knee) and LB Reggie Walker (ankle).

— When everyone starts getting healthy, however, the eight-man inactive list (OK, seven, since third QB John Skelton will always be there) will be difficult to make.

“That’s a good problem to have,” Whisenhunt said. When you look at inactive list, especially with receivers, you think back to the first game. Larry (Fitzgerald) wasn’t 100 percent and three rookies were running around. It’s a lot different. Those (rookies) are a lot more comfortable, have a lot of plays under their belt. The decisions will be tough because now, you’re not sitting down a rookie, you are sitting down someone who has gotten reps and who you are comfortable with.”

— The Cardinals spend part of practices every week with simulated crowd noise, but they did try to ramp it up a little this week with the trip to Seattle (nice job, king of fake crowd Nate LoCascio).

“We’ve obviously tried to make it as loud as we could, to simulate it and make it as tough as you can,” Whisenhunt said. “We didn’t handle the noise as well earlier this year (on the road) and you could see as the week progressed that we got a little better in practice. That doesn’t mean we will do well in the game, but it at least helped prepare us.”

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