Thursday, September 15, 2011

Arizona Cardinals week 2 preview

The 1-0 Arizona Cardinals head east to face the 1-0 Washington Redskins in this week 2 match-up.  The Cardinals are coming off an exciting win against the Carolina Panthers, while the Redskins are coming off an impressive win against the New York Giants.

It is well known throughout the league how poor the Cardinals are when they have to head east for a game.  I still have nightmares from that 2008 season where the Cardinals went 0-5 and got outscored 202-102 when playing teams on the east coast.  Despite our poor performances, that is a child's excuse for not winning and something that needs to change if the Cardinals are ever going to be considered a legitimate NFL team.

Cardinals offense
The Cardinals offense will go into this week hoping to improve on what they did last week.  There were great performances by Kolb and Beanie as well Fitzgerald and Doucet.  The Redskins defense is without a doubt better than the Carolina Panthers and combine that with them being at home, I think we could see Kolb under more pressure this Sunday.  Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo will be bringing serious heat and it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals plan to counter this.  It wouldn't surprise me to see the Cardinals do some more 5 wide receiver sets in order to spread the defense out and allow Kolb to make the hot read and get the ball out quickly.  Beanie will need to have another solid game in order to help us open any potential play action and the offensive line will need to generate enough of a push on run plays as well as keep the pocket intact on passing plays.  Kolb will also need to do a better job of staying inside the pocket and stepping up instead of running outside.  I see some sacks and maybe an interception due to the pressure they will generate, but I also see our offense being able to move the ball and keep us in the game.

Cardinals defense
This defense looked absolutely brutal on Sunday and they will need drastic improvement if they are going to be able to stop the Redskins.  The league finally came out and admitted that the Richard Marshall hit on Cam Newton was legal, which means it shouldn't have been flagged.  This is one thing that I think the league really needs to look at as it's starting to really frustrate me and other fans.  This game is so fast and the hits look so brutal the referees, being human just assume that it had to be an illegal hit or at minimum that the hit was too rough or unnecessary.  Anyways, two plays after the non illegal hit, the Panthers score so you could theoretically say that those 7 points didn't exist but fact is they did.  Whether or not the play shouldn't have happened, it did and we gave up the points.  In order to be successful this weekend, the Cardinals must generate a more consistent pass rush.  We got to Cam a couple of times and almost sacked him a couple of other times but they were usually when we were bringing tons of pressure and leaving our secondary on their own.  With elite or above average corner backs that's usually not as big of worry but when you're starting a rookie and a second year undrafted free agent, this will ultimately lead to big plays especially if the blitz can't get there in time.  Not to mention we have Adrian Wilson who is below average in coverage and admits he likes to peak in the backfield to try and jump a short route and is unable to recover in time when he sees it's a pass down field.  If we're going to be bringing 6 guys, Adrian has to play straight up defense and cover his given zone and I think he will start doing that from this moment on.  In zone coverage, everyone must stay in their area, because when they don't it's usually a different player who ends up looking bad(ala Kerry Rhodes last weekend).  I'm not sure if we're going to try to focus on stopping the run as we did against Carolina or try to drop more into coverage to try to stop the pass attack.  It will be interesting to see what approach Horton and the gang take into this game.  One thing we all have to remember is that there was a shortened off-season, we're implementing a new scheme and have young guys like Dan Williams, O'Brien Schofield, Daryl Washington, AJ Jefferson and Patrick Peterson who are all in their first or second year and are expected to have a major impact on our defense this year.  This defense will need time to gel and hopefully with more playing time and more experience they can improve.  I'm not saying that they will without a shadow of a doubt improve and become a solid defense, but we also can't expect this many new guys to come in and be successful with a new scheme.

I am really excited for this game and will be cheering my heart out hoping for a win, but in the end I just don't see it happening this weekend.  While I think we'll see an improvement on defense, we still have a lot of young guys at key positions and the Redskins offense looks like it belongs in the NFL.  I think it'll be competitive, but the Cardinals will fall.

Redskins 24, Cardinals 17

Monday, September 12, 2011

Arizona Cardinals week 1 review

Week 1 is in the book for the Arizona Cardinals and thankfully we escaped with a win.  I have to give Cam Newton credit as I was not a believer of his and boy did he shut me up this weekend.  This doesn't mean I'm all of a sudden going to anoint him the next great QB, but he was very good yesterday.

Cardinals offense
I was very excited to see Kolb perform well in his first regular season start as a Cardinal.  He completed 66% of his passes which is 16 percentage points higher than our 3 QBs had last year.  He also did a good job of spreading the ball around, having receptions by 8 different players.  We converted on 41% of our third down conversion, when on average we converted only around 31% of our 3rd down conversions last year.  Unfortunately, we again lost the time of possession battle by about five whole minutes.  You have to take the time of possession battle in stride though, because the Cardinals touchdowns were relatively quick and we also had a punt return for a touchdown.  Both our red zone efficiency and "Goal to go" efficiency were 33%(1/3), those are areas that we have to improve in.  I was surprised we didn't see a single fade to Fitzgerald in the end zone but it seems as if we made a conscious effort not to force the ball to Fitzgerald.  Beanie looked solid rushing 18 times for 90 yards and a Touchdown while also catching four passes out of the backfield(which is a nice surprise).  The fumble was horrible and made this game more interesting than it had to be, a better team will punish us with those types of mistakes.  Our O-line had its good plays and its bad plays, sometimes looking like beasts pushing the line of scrimmage, and other times getting blown out of the water.  Thankfully Kolb is mobile enough to escape the pocket and get the ball down field or out of bounds.  All in all, I was happy with what the offense did yesterday and hope they can continue to improve week to week and get that 3rd down conversion rate even higher and win the time of possession battle.  

I'm really going to hope that this was just a case of having two inexperienced guys as our starting CBs.  They looked DREADFUL at times, and only really bad other times.  Steve Smith torched us with a double move again and also made an awesome grab(despite reasonable coverage) while scoring two touchdowns in the process.  Maybe we were just so caught up with stopping the run, that we relied too much on our young CBs in the secondary, but we have to find a way to help them out or teams with much better receiving threats will torch us for more than 400 passing yards.  We generated some nice pass rush getting to Cam Newton quite a few times, including an absolute garbage roughing the passer call on Richard Marshall.  Going off on a tangent here, they have to find a way to give the defense some kind of leeway to get these QBs that are 6'5 250lbs to the ground.  If Marshall(who is 5'11 198 lbs) were to go to Cam Newton's body and try to wrap him, up, he would just shrug off Marshall and make a play(as he did to Joey Porter).  In order to get some of these mammoth QBs down, it is sometimes necessary to deliver a truck stick hit.  Marshall didn't use his helmet, and didn't hit Newton's helmet.  Yes he did launch into Newton's shoulder, but again there is no other way to get the guy down sometimes.  Anyways back to our struggles on defense.  Is it just me or should Schofield be a starter by now?  I think he has more gas and more drive than Porter does at his age and it was evident to me yesterday.  Despite not getting credit for ANYTHING, Schofield was in on at least two of those sacks and was just a second late from recording a solo sack.  On the last play(the Porter offsides) I said to out loud,"Why the hell is Porter in there, it should be Schofield), and sure enough Porter had to jump offside to try to generate any pass rush.  He also had a nice tackle on special teams.  Daryl Washington left the game with an injury, I hope he's okay or we might be in serious trouble.  Paris Lenon showed up again(is this guy underrated or what?) making some nice tackles including the game saving tackle with no time left.  This defense has to improve by leaps and bounds for this team to stay competitive, unless we go Warner era and just try to outscore everybody.....which we won't.

Special Teams
Stephens-Howling is a special teams juggernaut and Patrick Peterson's punt return was downright hilarious.  I've never seen a punt returner with absolute fear in his eyes as I did when I saw Peterson turn around and saw a Carolina player closing in on him.

Well that's all I have to say about this game.  I'm glad we got a win but we have to improve in order to beat the better teams in this league.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Arizona Cardinals week 1 preview

Well it's the start of another season and it looks as if like last year the Cardinals will be facing the overall #1 pick in the draft in week one.  Cam Newton is getting the start and I think he'll be in for a rough first week.

I have never been shy about my dislike for Cam Newton, going as far as making a joke video about the possibility of the Cardinals drafting him.  I have nothing against the guy personally, I just don't think his ability will translate into anything really productive on the NFL stage.  It took Michael Vick 6 years in the NFL, a year in prison, then getting signed by a QB genius before he finally learned what it took to be a legitimate Quarter Back in the National Football League.  Most of Newton's progression at Auburn involved looking at his first receiver and if that receiver was covered, Newton would take off running.  That just won't cut it in the NFL and this is not even taking into account his accuracy problems which is something I think is difficult if not impossible to learn.  I think the Panthers would have been better of letting Newton sit for awhile and then bring him in around game 9 or 10 of the season.  Thankfully for us, they decided not to do that.

One of the key things I will be looking for in week 1 is balance in our play calling.  I want us to feed Beanie the ball throughout the game, giving him somewhere around 18-24 carries.  The last thing I want to do week 1 is put all of the weight on Kolb's shoulders and go Kurt Warner style slinging it.  Last year, we abandoned the run way too early in games and I think it hurt both our offense and defense.  I know Kolb and Fitzgerald have a connection and I don't blame the guy for wanting to get him the ball, but I would also like to see Kolb spread it around and get guys like Roberts and Heap involved as well.  Those guys can be serious receiving threats and we know Fitz will be demanding a double team.  I want to see long drawn out drives that span lots of yards and good chunks of time.  We saw way too many 3 and outs last year and our 3rd down conversion rate was almost impossibly low.  These things MUST improve for our offense to be effective.

This could be a rough game for the Panthers offense.  Not necessarily because of our defense, just more so that a rookie QB like Newton will struggle a lot early on.  Combine that with the fact that we have a new aggressive defensive coordinator and I believe guys like Dockett and Adrian Wilson are pissed off at what happened last year and are eager to get back out there.  I expect Horton to disguise the blitz and try to confuse Cam Newton into turnovers and hopefully force the Panthers to beat us through the air and not via the run game.  It will be interesting to see how the Cardinals plan to play against the pass.  Except for Steve Smith, the Panthers don't have much of a threat at wide receiver, but they do have two effective tight ends that can catch the ball well.  Shockey is very limited physically but can still be effective at the goal line and Olsen is a solid pass catcher.  Hopefully we will not see a repeat of last year where we saw Adub continually dropping into coverage where he is at a disadvantage against tight ends.  On obvious passing downs, I expect Horton to bring Adub in on a blitz and have an extra LB drop into coverage on a tight end.  Maybe Daryl Washington would fill in there, though I dunno how he would match up against those tight ends size wise.  It will definitely be interesting to see because we do have quite a few unknowns coming into play on defense and Carolina always seems to play us well in the regular season.  We just have to make sure that Deangelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart don't run up and down the field on us as well as make sure that Cam Newton can't scramble for a ton of yards.  If we can do that, I really like our chances.

I predict Cardinals win 27-13 with Newton throwing 3 picks.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Preseason week 4 Preview

The final week of the preseason is finally here and I for one am really excited that the regular season is fast approaching.  In one short week we'll be enjoying regular season football but in order to do that we have to sit through week 4 of the preseason.

Honestly, I'm hoping and expecting to see very little of our starters this week.  After seeing Beanie get hurt in the third quarter of last years final preseason game, Whisenhunt would be wise to sit any starter of consequence.  With A-dub hurt, along with Toler and Williams out for the season, I think it would be really foolish for Whiz to press his luck and play starters in order to get them some extra work.  I wouldn't even press my luck with unproven guys like AJ Jefferson or Patrick Peterson.  Sit these guys, they are far too valuable to risk injuring them in this game.

Aside from that, I don't expect to see anything from the Denver Broncos either.  We'll likely get to see some Tim Tebow but other than that I don't see much happening in this game.  I know Whiz says that spots are still up for grabs but I feel that he already has an idea who will make the team.  I don't fathom some player stinking it up the entire preseason, then by tearing it up in the final preseason game he somehow wins a job on the roster.  While that might happen, I don't think it's very common.

I'm just looking to avoid any injuries tonight.  I hope our players stay safe and we can head into the season with no new injuries to report.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Preseason week 3 review

Week 3 of the preseason is in the books for the Cardinals and now we're only 14 days away from game 1 of the regular season against the Carolina Panthers.  Kevin Kolb and a lot of the starters went into the third Quarter last night so we had plenty of chances to see what they're capable of.

The offense had a decent opening drive that ended up with a field goal.  Beanie was consistently getting 3 or 4 yards a carry which is encouraging to see.  He even had a run where he should have been tackled for a loss of 2 but was able to turn it into a gain of 3.  Those types of runs sometimes go unnoticed when looking at how effective a running back is.  While his pass protection is improving, I still don't think it's up to where the coaches need it to be.  There were a couple of blocks where he didn't necessarily stop the blitzing attacker, he just kind of got in his way.  I would either like to see Beanie cut block the blitzer, or lead him around on the outside of Kolb so he can maintain the pocket.  All in all, Beanie had a good night and I am impressed with his improvement.

Kevin Kolb finished the night 11 for 20 with 205 yards and a touchdown which came via an 80 yard catch and run to Larry Fitzgerald.  I will tell you one thing going into this year, Larry Fitzgerald is going to get himself some targets.  With how this preseason has gone, and how much we have seen Kolb look to him, it wouldn't surprise me to see Larry lead the league in targets.  While 11 for 20 is okay, I would like to see maybe one or two more passes completed to bring that average into the 60s but this is still preseason game 3 and he has time to improve.  One concerning thing I have seen from Kolb in the preseason is that every once in awhile, he just has one of those throws that comes off his arm ugly.  A pass so ugly, you know almost instantly that ball has no chance to make it where it's intended to go.  What's interesting, is looking at the intended receivers on those throws, they are usually covered and it's a throw Kolb shouldn't be making.  He also took some unnecessary sacks when it wasn't too difficult to get rid of the ball.  I liked that he used Heap and Roberts more, I think he will continue to get into a rhythm with them.  I was impressed with our offensive line on blocking plays, they got good push and it's evident by the night Beanie had.  They still have a little work to do on pass blocking, which also needs to be helped by Beanie not allowing his guy to force Kolb to move horizontally in the pocket into other pass rushers.  All in all, I think it was an effective night by our offense and I look forward to seeing what they can do in the regular season for four full quarters.

This was an up and down night for the defense.  While we did get some pressure early, it was not to the level as last week and it quickly flamed out.  For the first series or two, we were able to rattle Phillip Rivers a little and force him into some hurried throws.  One of those throws turned up into a pick six from Patrick Peterson who looks dynamic when he has the ball.  I don't know about anybody else, but when I saw number 21 running the opposite way with the ball, I was reminded of Antrel Rolle's game changing ability with the ball in his hands.  While I hope he has Rolle's amazing ability with the ball, I hope he can surpass Rolle's weak coverage and tackling ability.  After that play though, Rivers went back to his vintage self, completing impossible throw after impossible throw and moved the ball with ease resulting in a touchdown.  I was really disappointed in O'Brien Schofield's night.  He had a great play on special teams early on, but then was relatively quiet for the rest of the night.  I thought he would have been used more than he was since Porter is a veteran and Schofield is essentially a rookie since in his two years he's had no OTAs.  Our 7th round pick David Carter had a really night especially early on.  Every time I looked up all I would see is number 79 make a tackle.  I almost forgot Dan Williams was on our defensive line, which is not a good thing.  Toler has what is suspected to be an ACL sprain.  Hopefully it isn't too serious because as much as I'm unsure about Toler's coverage ability, I don't want to go in with our best CBs being Patrick Peterson, AJ Jefferson and Richard Marshall.

Well that's it for this weekend.  Preseason game 4 is on Thursday and then ten short days later the regular season will start.  I for one am really excited about this season and can't wait to see how we perform.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Beanie Wells : The Workhorse

"This is my third year and three strikes and you're out, and I'm definitely not striking out." Beanie Wells uttered these words in an interview back in June and now he has his opportunity. With Tim Hightower being traded and rookie Ryan Williams out for the year, Beanie is coming up to the plate with the bases loaded, a full count in the bottom of the 9th inning in game 7 of the World Series. A strike out here and it could spell disaster for this up and coming team in the 2011-2012 year.

While the Cardinals are expected to bring in someone to replace Ryan Williams, it is clear that anyone they bring in will not have the same number of opportunities that Williams would have been afforded. Some thought that Williams would push and eventually take the starting job from Beanie Wells. Like it or not, Beanie is the guy for the upcoming year and I for one am excited. People underrate his rookie season in which he carried the ball 176 times for 793 yards and 7 touchdowns. A 4.5 average is pretty good for a rookie, especially when he's sharing the load with Tim Hightower in a pass heavy offense with a hall of fame QB in Kurt Warner. Beanie has always said that he is the type of back that gets better as the game goes along, a scenario which he hasn't been given as of yet. After a solid rookie year, Beanie battled an injury he suffered in the 3rd quarter of the 4th preseason game and was never fully able to take off because of it. Compound that with one of the worst QB rotations in history, and it's obvious to see why Beanie and the entire running game struggled.

Here are some reasons why I think Beanie will excel if he is able to stay healthy.

1. The Quarterback
Yes, I understand Kevin Kolb is relatively unknown but let's face it, he can't be any worse than what we had last year. Derek Anderson couldn't hit an open receiver to save his life, Might Max looked like a boy among men and John Skelton just wasn't ready. Assuming Kolb is at least adequate at QB, teams will have to respect our pass game more. A more efficient pass game will also give us more offensive plays as we will be able to sustain drives longer than 3 plays.

2. The Offensive Line
While it may have not been addressed to the level of my liking, it was addressed as we signed Daryn Colledge and guys like Hadnot look to be stepping up their game to try to get into the starting line-up. Also, people have underrated our offensive line's ability to get a push as Beanie averaged 4.5 his rookie year and Hightower averaged 4.8 last year. We don't give this offensive line much credit when it comes to run blocking.

3. The Tight-Ends
King, Housler and Heap have given us weapons we have never had before. Both Housler and Heap are your pure pass catching tight ends, while King can block pretty well and is a decent pass catcher. The problem with Beanie before was he was so poor at pass protection, and our tight ends could ONLY pass protect, opposing teams could tell with relative ease that we were running the ball. Beanie has improved his pass protection, and if you run him out there with King and either Housler or Heap, it won't be as obvious that we are running the ball.

4. The Full Back
This doesn't have so much to do with Sherman's ability, just the mindset of the team. Granted Sherman has made some nice plays so far but I think it's still a little early to say that he will have a huge impact on this team. It's just not that often you see a team draft a fullback, but Whisenhunt feels like Sherman was the best in the draft. If you're going to commit to the run why not get a bruiser to lead the way?

5. Beanie himself
Beanie has not given me a reason to doubt him yet. Despite what people say I still refuse to believe he is as injury prone as people say and I think he's ready to prove it this year. With a little more work and a slightly better technique, I believe Beanie can be the workhorse that he wants to be and will live up to his first round status.

It all comes down to whether or not Beanie can stay healthy. If he can, he will be given every chance in the world to succeed.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Preseason week 2 Review

I can describe how I feel about tonight in two words and those words would be utterly devastated.

Going into this game I wanted to see three things happen.  Our offensive line look capable of standing strong against a tough front seven of the Green Bay Packers, our defensive line be able to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers, and lastly for no huge injuries to take place.

Everything was going great at the beginning.  Our offensive line looked alright, creating some nice holes for Beanie to run into and giving Kolb ample time to look downfield.  The Packers may have been playing vanilla defense tonight, but even their vanilla defense is pretty dang good.   The defensive unit started off strong, with Dockett getting a great hit on Aaron Rodgers early, followed by a Campbell sack and Dockett finished off what he started earlier and got a sack on Rodgers.  I was really impressed with both of our starting units against the defending Super Bowl champs............and then it happened, on his one and only run of the night Ryan Williams got rolled up on from behind and never got up.  You could see him clutching his leg right from the beginning and it was a depressing sight to see.  The young talented rookie getting carted off the field while hanging his head down.  I can't describe how sad this makes me as Ryan Williams is probably one of the nicest guys out there and I hate to see this kind of thing happen.  Reports are he has a ruptured patella tendon and is out for the year.  This kid has all the heart, drive and determination in the world, and I hope he has a speedy recovery and expect to see him back here next year.

Despite that bad news, Kolb looked good, Skelton looked shaky and left the game with an ankle injury but I doubt it's serious.  Bartel seems to have secured the number 3 spot, as he played a majority of the 3rd and 4th quarter, was pulled for Max Hall who got all of 4 plays before Bartel was put back in.  Beanie had some nice runs and Fitzgerald made an amazing catch early on.

A guy I have been hyping up for awhile O'Brien Schofield looked really impressive flying around the field on both special teams and defense.  He had a vicious hit on special teams, a solid hit on Matt Flynn and came back shortly after and forced a fumble on a nice rush around the edge.  Personally, I think he'll be starting before we know it but it's hard to know if he fully understands all aspects of the game right now.

That's pretty much it for the big stuff that happened, sorry for not writing about Peterson but he didn't really do that much good or bad and I think by far the biggest news of the night is the loss of Ryan Williams.