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Tag:Arizona Cardinals
Posted on: December 28, 2011 1:22 pm
 

Three of top five 2011 picks voted to Pro Bowl

If there was any questions about the talent and immediate impact ability of the 2011 draft class they may have been answered yesterday when it was announced that three rookies were voted Pro Bowl starters.

The rookies, who incidentally were selected with the second, fourth and fifth picks overall were Denver pass rusher Von Miller, Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green and Arizona cornerback/returner Patrick Peterson.

Miller, NFLDraftScout.com's highest rated senior prospect last year, currently has 64 tackles and 11.5 sacks for the Broncos. While Tim Tebow and the Broncos' dominant run game has garnered most of the hype this year, it has been Miller and the Denver defense that has been just as critical in turning the Broncos from one of the league's worst teams into the possible AFC West champions. Miller's success comes as no surprise as his speed off the edge, when coupled with that of Elvis Dumervil's, gave me reason to predict in August that the former Texas A&M Aggie would win this year's Defensive Rookie of the Year.

As impressive as Miller was making plays on the defensive side of the ball, it isn't difficult to understand why NFLDraftScout.com rated A.J. Green as the best offensive pro prospect in the draft. Green leads the Bengals with 63 catches, 1,031 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Though Calvin Johnson might beg to differ, statistically speaking Green has been the best big play wideout in the NFL this season, havihttp://rob-rang.blogs.cbssports
.com/mcc/blogs/edit-entry/13682485n
g caught 11 passes for 35  yards or more, thus far.

Peterson, who I ranked as the top overall prospect in the 2011 draft, proved to be every bit the playmaker on special teams that his fellow rookies were on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Peterson tied an NFL record with four punt returns for touchdowns this season. He's struggled at times in coverage for the Cardinals, but has gotten better as the season has gone on, recording 60 tackles, 13 passes defensed and two interceptions. Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic asked star wideout Larry Fitzgerald about Peterson and his selection to the Pro Bowl. Fitzgerald's response is sure to make Cardinals' fans excited about Peterson's future.

"I remember in the draft everybody was talking about Von Miller this, Von Miller that -- and he's a fantastic player, a Pro Bowler as well -- but what Patrick has done us for this year, I think, has been the best in the league of anybody, except for maybe Cam Newton."

Fitzgerald was asked if he thought Peterson would make the Pro Bowl as a cornerback one day:

"I think he's right there. He's tremendously talented. I don't he even knows how talented he is. Talking to (Bengals receiver) A.J. Green after the game a little bit, and he's telling me Patrick was by far the best cornerback he's gone against. I feel the same way. When I compete against him, there are not many guys around the league that I play on Sundays who can match up with his physical tools. And then you talk about his ball skills, the way he's able to go attack the football at its highest point, tackle. I mean, the only thing he needs is experience, and I think playing every single game this year gave him that. His confidence you see is just continuing to rise week in and week out."


It should be noted that as good as these three were, one could make the argument that several other top ten picks from the 2011 draft could have been honored with a trip to Hawaii. Quarterback Cam Newton, who of course was drafted No. 1 overall by Carolina, defensive lineman Marcell Dareus (Buffalo, No. 3 overall), wide receiver Julio Jones (Atlanta, No. 6 overall) and pass rusher Aldon Smith (San Francisco, No. 7 overall) each made huge impacts for their respective clubs as rookies.


Posted on: October 3, 2011 3:57 pm
 

Cornerback the strength of 2012 draft?

With a full month of the college and NFL seasons now in the books, we can now take a look at the talent likely to be available in the 2012 draft and compare it to the areas of concern for most professional teams.

Though I'd argue that none of the cornerbacks in the upcoming draft class appears to be as good as gifted as No. 5 overall pick Patrick Peterson (Cardinals), what is becoming increasingly obvious is that the cornerback class, as a whole, is much stronger than in most years.

Durability and off-field concerns have certainly reared their ugly heads at the position as Nebraska senior Alfonzo Dennard has struggled to return from a pulled leg muscle and two of the better ball-hawking corners in the country -- North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins and Oregon junior Cliff Harris -- had noteworthy run-ins with police during the off-season.

That isn't to say any of the three of them is likely to slip out of the first round should their issues be resolved to NFL teams' satisfaction prior to the April draft.

As everyone knows, the NFL has morphed into a league dependant on the passing game. This fact makes quarterbacks and strong passing attacks critical to offensive success. At the same time, it drives up the value of pass defenders -- whether they be pass rushers or defensive backs.

The 2012 class of safeties does not appear to be an overly talented one. At cornerback, however, there is a great deal of talent. Besides the three players I've already mentioned, I'd be surprised if Alabama's 'Dre Kirkpatrick, LSU's Morris Claiborne, Virginia Tech's Jayron Hosley -- all juniors -- aren't selected in whatever first round they choose to make themsevles eligible. I currently list six cornerbacks among my top 32 prospects for the 2012 draft.

Some argue that by spreading the defense out elite cornerbacks can be taken out of the game. There certainly is ample evidence to argue this considering that so many pro offenses are now utilizing three, four or even five receivers per snap.

My argument against this theory, however, is that spread offenses are only going to drive up the value of cornerbacks. Cornerbacks with Hosley or Harris, for example, while perhaps not ideal run defenders or possessing the size teams would like to slow the Andre or Calvin Johnsons of the world, might prove perfect cover options for the smaller, quicker slot receivers that are proving so integral to today's top passing attacks.

This doesn't appear to be a case of teams needing help at one position and therefore grading players at that position of need higher than normal.

These guys just might be that good.

For some NFL defenses weary of giving 300+ passing yards to even average quarterbacks, the help can't come soon enough.
Posted on: September 14, 2011 10:45 am
Edited on: September 14, 2011 10:49 am
 

Cam brilliant vs. AZ; faces stiffer test with GB

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has received a great deal of praise for his astonishing NFL debut, but before we start engraving his name on the Rookie of the Year Trophy just yet, let's see what he does for an encore.

Newton completed 24 of 37 passes for 422 yards -- the most any rookie quarterback has even thrown in their first NFL game.

As expected, he kept the Arizona defense honest with his legs, but it was the accuracy and command of the offense that he showed that caught the Cardinals off-guard. Newton's poise down the stretch was very impressive. So too, was his focus on the big picture following the game. Newton didn't want to talk about his record-breaking performance. Instead, demonstrating the leadership qualities that teammates at Auburn had praised him for, Newton focused on the need to improve and the disappointment of the 28-21 loss.

"The last time I lost a game was Navarro Junior College," Newton told reporters following the game. "What do you want me to say, it feels great? It is not a comfortable feeling for me."

"There's going to be a lot more things I can look back on tomorrow after I watch the film," Newton said. "One thing I know is you have to capitalize. When you're in the red zone, you can't take the sack, you can't digress."

Now, for all of the great things Newton demonstrated against the Cardinals, it is only fair to point out the generally shabby play by the Arizona defense. On many occasions, Newton was throwing to wide open targets.

Rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson was victimized on several occasions (though he provided what turned out to be the game-winning score on an 89-yard punt return in the 4th quarter). Peterson lined up against Steve Smith for much of the day and was beaten for Smith's second touchdown of the day (26 yards). Earlier in the game, Smith got behind Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson for the 77-yard score that was Newton's first score as a professional quarterback.

The Cardinals, of course, were without their best cornerback of the past several years after trading Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the Philadelphia Eagles as part of a package to land their own new quarterback, Kevin Kolb.

The defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers will give Newton a much stiffer test Sunday. Though obviously the brilliance of Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers and NFL Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Clay Matthews were huge reasons for Green Bay's success last season, the strong play from the Packers' defensive backfield played a critical role in securing the Lombardi Trophy. While the Philadelphia Eagles possess the "dream team" combination of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and the aforementioned Rodgers-Cromartie, for my money, the Packers' Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields is every bit as treacherous.

And after Newton's stunning debut, the trio will certainly be taking the rookie quarterback seriously.

One silver lining for Newton, his own confidence -- and that of teammates, coaches and Carolina fans -- should be high heading into this weekend's home opener.
Posted on: May 14, 2011 4:46 pm
Edited on: May 17, 2011 3:08 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- Cornerbacks

Over the last week and a half I have been highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

Here are the links for the other positions:
Perhaps not surprising considering that I had LSU's Patrick Peterson as the No. 1 player in this draft, I was higher on this year's cornerback class, as a whole, than most. The three corners taken in the first round deserved to be so -- and that isn't always the case. Kareem Jackson (Texans), Kyle Wilson (Jets) and Patrick Robinson (Saints) were all selected in the first round last year and struggled as rookies. I don't believe this year's first round class will experience the same growing pains.

The 2011 corner class, however, wasn't just talented up top. There were a few middle round fits that I believe could pay off quickly, as well. A couple of other fits that I liked, but didn't make the final cut below were the Chargers plucking Shareece Wright in the third round, the Panthers, Chiefs, and Packers adding Brandon Hogan, Jalil Brown and Davon House, respectively in the fourth round.

Players are listed alphabetically.

Quality Fits:

Prince Amukamara, New York Giants: The day before the draft I started hearing rumors that Amukamara could slip out of the 13. Detroit, at No. 13, had previously been the furthest most thought the All-American would slide. I didn't understand it. I remain an Amukamara fan and love the fit in New York. His length, strength and speed will serve him well and he'll have the advantage of playing behind a disruptive pass rush. One of the reasons for Amukamara slipping, I've been told, is that as scouts watched more tape, they saw returning senior Alfonzo Dennard making just as many impressive plays as Amukamara.

Rashad Carmichael, Houston Texans: I could have just as easily listed the Texans' second pick -- former Miami cornerback Brandon Harris -- in this space, as I like both selections. Like Harris, Carmichael is a good -- but not elite -- athlete who projected nicely as a zone cornerback due to his instincts and tackling. Houston, you had a problem. In drafting Harris and Carmichael (and hiring Wade Philllips as defensive coordinator), the problem is being fixed. 

Chris Culliver, San Francisco 49ers: Having evolved from wide receiver to free safety to cornerback throughout his career, Culliver enters the NFL still learning the intricacies of the position. He is an impressive athlete who had been enjoying a solid first starting season at cornerback after having earned Second Team All-SEC honors (behind Eric Berry) in 2009. A torn pectoral ended his senior season after only eight games, however. Culliver also is a standout special teamer (South Carolina record 2,464 career kick return yards). I projected the 49ers taking a cornerback in the first round in my 2012 early mock. Culliver is a little raw, but he is an ascending talent who could allow the team to look elsewhere.

Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals:
The fact is, Peterson was my top-rated player in the 2011 draft, so the fact that he "fell" to the Cardinals at No. 5 already makes him a rare value. Value doesn't necessarily equate to schematic fit in some cases, but it does in this one. The Cardinals ask their cornerbacks to play a lot of press man coverage, which is Peterson's strength. With another premier talent opposite him in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a starting-caliber corner in Greg Toler slipping inside to nickel, the Cardinals' secondary is formidable. Against the relatively weak passing games in the NFC West, Peterson is all the more likely to impress early.

Jimmy Smith, Baltimore Ravens: Say what you will about Smith's off-field issues, the man can flat play some football. Smith's length, physicality and speed make him an ideal press corner. Smith also gets the advantage of going to a very good defense. He turned some off when boastfully praising his own ball skills to that of Nnamdi Asomugha. With this defense forcing wild throws, Smith might very well get the opportunity to prove his playmaking ability.


Questionable Fit:

Demarcus Van Dyke, Oakland Raiders: In all honesty, it isn't fair to characterize Van Dyke as a poor schematic fit, as he certainly possesses the size (6-1, 176) and straight-line speed (4.25) that Al Davis has always placed a premium on at cornerback. "DVD" as he was called at Miami, obviously has a unique combination of size and speed, but he rarely demonstrated the physicality, toughness and technique while with the Hurricanes to stand out. As such, I and scouts I've spoken with, thought that Van Dyke was a significant reach at No. 81. Quite frankly, I believe that the Raiders will ultimately be more pleased with the play of 4th round pick, Chimdi Chekwa (No. 113 overall), than they will with Van Dyke, taken in the third. At that point in the draft, I belive the stakes were too high to make this gamble.

Posted on: May 12, 2011 2:13 pm
Edited on: May 17, 2011 3:09 pm
 

Finding the Fits -- Inside Linebackers

Over the last week and a half I have been highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

The inside linebacker class was one of the weakest units of the 2011 draft. The player many graded as the top inside linebacker in the draft -- former Illinois junior Martez Wilson -- slipped all the way to the third round to the New Orleans Saints. To put that into perspective, in each of the past 20 NFL drafts, there has been at least one collegiate inside linebacker selected in the first two rounds. While the class, itself, is weak, there are a few middle and late round fits, however, that I anticipate surprising in the NFL.

Here are the links for the other positions:
Players are listed alphabetically.

Quality Fits:

Greg Jones, New York Giants: Jones is a classic example of an undersized football player who attempted to add weight for his senior season to appear better suited to the NFL -- and struggled mightily because of it. Instinctive, tough and stunningly productive throughout his career, Jones played at 230 pounds at inside and outside linebacker while with the Spartans, but bulked up to nearly 245 pounds as a senior. The added weight slowed him down and scared off teams on draft day. Jones, who entered the year as a rock-solid 2nd round talent, instead fell to the sixth round (No. 185 overall). The Giants, who need help at linebacker, will one day look brilliant for stopping his slide there. Jones will not only prove to be an NFL starter, he'll prove an NFL standout.

Kelvin Sheppard, Buffalo Bills: "Finding the Fits" is all about finding players who fit in a team's scheme. Sheppard, in my opinion, the top 3-4 inside linebacker in this draft, fits in nicely with the Bills -- a club that desperately needed help considering the fact that they finished dead last in 2010 in rushing yards allowed (169.6 yards per game). Sheppard, 6-2 and 250 pounds, is stout enough to take on blockers at the point of attack and showed enough athleticism to contribute as an interior blitzer, as well.

Quan Sturdivant, Arizona Cardinals: Like Jones, a disappointing senior season contributed to Sturdivant slipping on draft day much further than he should. Instinctive, physical and productive, Sturdivant was actually a more consistent player in college than his more hyped teammate Bruce Carter, who went in the second round to the Cowboys despite the fact that Carter is coming off a torn ACL. Sturdivant isn't the athlete that the Cardinals possess already with Darryl Washington, but he could provide a similar "thumper" presence inside as what the team has in Gerald Hayes. That fact, could lead to Cardinals releasing Hayes this off-season.

Questionable Fit:

Casey Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles: Considering his bloodlines, it might be foolish to question any Matthews' ability to transfer his skill set into the NFL, but after scouting Casey closely over his career, I have questions about where he'll fit in best at the pro level. Under Andy Reid, Philadelphia has often gravitated towards undersized, athletic "chase" linebackers and have boasted some stout mashers in the middle, at times, as well. Matthews, 6-1 and 230 pounds, is neither of these things. He is very instinctive, a reliable open-field tackler and a leader. However, he doesn't discard blocks particularly well and offers very little in terms of coverage skills. He also lacks the athleticism coaches generally want on special teams.

Posted on: April 28, 2011 7:00 pm
 

Some talk Gabbert could slide

Speaking with NFL sources over the past few hours and one of the more interesting tidbits floating around is that Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert could slip.

Once viewed as a possible No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers, some suggest Gabbert could fall past Buffalo (No. 3), Cincinnati (No. 4), Arizona (No. 5), San Francisco (No. 7), and Tennessee (No. 8) -- despite the fact that each club could use a quarterback.

Quite frankly, while the rumor is interesting, I don't buy it. I have Gabbert going No. 7 overall to the 49ers . My fellow senior analyst Chad Reuter has him going even higher -- 3rd overall.

Even if Gabbert slips a bit, I can't imagine him falling out of the top ten. I've been told that Washington head coach Mike Shanahan and his son, Kyle Shanahan -- the Redskins' offensive coordinator, love the Missouri passer's combination of size, arm and athleticism. Should Gabbert slip to the Redskins, he'd jump ahead of other needs, like wide receiver and pass rusher. 

The greater point might be how Gabbert's fall -- should it happen -- would impact the rest of the QB class and how they, too, might slip as a result.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 10:28 pm
 

Arizona Cardinals Draft Preview

Arizona Cardinals 2010 record: 5-11, fourth place NFC West

2011 draft rundown - Eight total picks (round): 5 (1); 38 (2); 69 (3); 103 (4); 136 (5); 171 (6); 184 (7); 249 (7)

Top needs:   

Outside linebacker: Last year's starters, Clark Haggans and Joey Porter, will be 34 by the time the season is scheduled to start. Haggans could return, but Porter, whose salary is due to increase to $5.75 million probably is gone. Von Miller would be a nice replacement. With Daryl Washington and O'Brien Schofield, the Cardinals would have three young, promising linebackers. Brooks Reed from the University of Arizona would make sense in the second round. He's bigger and would be a good fit on the left side.

Quarterback: It's the top priority this offseason, but the Cardinals would prefer to address it through free agency or trade. Those options obviously aren't available to them, but they will be at some point, if the 2011 season is to be played. In John Skelton, the Cardinals already have a young quarterback. But there are some intriguing quarterbacks in this draft. Whisenhunt likes smart, tough gym-rat type of guys. Andy Dalton of Texas Christian falls into that category, as does Washington's Jake Locker. Both likely will be gone by the second round, however.

Inside linebacker: Gerald Hayes, the starter for the past five seasons, probably will be released at some point. The Cardinals don't have a big, inside linebacker on the roster, and could use a physical presence. Illinois' Martez Wilson would make sense in the second round. The starting two inside linebackers, Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington, weigh between 230 pounds and 240 pounds.

Guard: The starting guards, Alan Faneca and Deuce Lutui, are not under contract, and there are no young players behind them. Cannon is huge, 6-5, 358, and the Cardinals love to have large, road-grader type guys inside. Cannon has the size to play tackle, too, which is attractive.


First-round focus  5th overall -- The general consensus among league insiders is that the Cardinals would much rather land their next starting quarterback via free agency or trade, rather than invest in a rookie. Despite this notion, Arizona could have a hard time passing up Missouri's Blaine Gabbert -- rated by many as the top quarterback of this class -- if he were available to them at No. 5. With several attractive would-be free agents potentially available, the Cardinals could elect to look at other positions of need, however. Chief among them is pass rusher. The Cardinals feature two aging outside linebackers in Clark Haggans and Joey Porter and could be in prime position to nab the top pass rusher of the draft in Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller. The Cardinals kept close eye on the former Aggie throughout the week of practice at the Senior Bowl and could certainly use his speed off the edge. Arizona is so needy at the position that some theorize the club would "reach" for North Carolina's Robert Quinn should Miller already be gone. Perhaps a safer move would be to stick to the best player available strategy. LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson wouldn't fill as big of a need, but could present a big play threat opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Similarly, if Georgia wideout A.J. Green were to still be available, he would provide the Cardinals with a vertical threat to help Larry Fitzgerald. With two receivers of that quality, veteran quarterbacks would likely be lining up at the door to play in Arizona, especially considering that the Cardinals play in the very winnable NFC West division.

Five names on Cardinals' board:   
OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M
QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
WR A.J. Green, Georgia
CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
OLB Robert Quinn, North Carolina
Posted on: April 19, 2011 1:12 pm
 

Seahawks would like to trade down; won't go far

The Seattle Seahawks held a pre-draft press conference yesterday with general manager John Schneider fielding questions from the local media.

Among the topics he addressed was the report from Peter King of Sports Illustrated that "Seattle wants to trade down so bad from 25 that John Schneider can taste it."

Rather than dismiss it - as many general managers would do at this point in the cloak and dagger pre-draft season, Schneider expanded upon it, explaing that, "Personally, I’d like to move back. I have confidence in our ability in those middle rounds to do some good stuff.”

Presumably, the Seahawks would like to move down to recoup the third round pick they gave up last year for the rights to quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.

And therein lies the irony of the situation.

It is the fact that Whitehurst is the only quarterback currently on the Seattle roster that makes it unlikely that Seattle will look to trade down too far on draft day, if they are able to land a deal in the first place. As I pointed out in a previous blog post, teams are expecting the contract rules to remain the same for this draft as they have been in the past. Now, this could change when a new CBA is signed, but teams generally go by the rules that have been in place, rather than projecting the new rules that could occur.

That means that the maximum number of years in a contract for a first round pick drafted between No. 16 and No. 32 is a five year deal. Players drafted No. 33 or later, however, can only receive a four-year contract.

Should Seattle be attempting to trade down with the hopes of landing a quarterback -- as some believe to be the case -- they won't want to trade out of the first round. The value of the extra year of the rookie deal is simply too valuable -- especially when dealing with a quarterback likely to spend at least the first year of the deal on the sideline.

It is the same reason why some of the teams in the top of the second round who may want to take a quarterback -- the Bills, Bengals, Cardinals, Titans, 49ers, Jaguars, etc. -- may ultimately have to trade up into the late first round to take the player who might have been available to them if they'd stayed put. In this wacky year, teams aren't just competing against each other for the rights to players, they want the longer, potentially cheaper contract for grooming their quarterbacks of the future.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com