NFC West: John Phillips

Five things I noticed while watching the Arizona Cardinals during their 19-13 overtime victory against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 13:
  • Field goal confusion benefited Arizona. The Cowboys twice called timeouts before failed field goal attempts. Dallas snapped the ball and was running a fourth-and-2 play midway through the first quarter when officials whistled the play dead. Tony Romo threw incomplete after the whistle, making it tough to know if he might have done anything different had there been no whistle. The Cowboys had called timeout. They then attempted a 53-yard field goal, which missed. The second pre-kick timeout made headlines because Dan Bailey, having connected from 49 yards for the apparent game-winner, had to re-kick following a late Cowboys timeout call, only to miss.
  • LaRod Stephens-Howling's return to health. The Cardinals' offense wasn't the same when a hand injury sidelined and then limited the third-year running back and utility player. He helped beat Philadelphia with a 30-yard reception on fourth-and-2 a few weeks ago. He finished this game with a 15-yard run, three kick returns, one special-teams tackle and the winning 52-yard touchdown reception in overtime.
  • Defense better against tight ends. The Cardinals' defense has too often struggled against tight ends, especially last season. Arizona fared well against the Cowboys' tight ends. Jason Witten caught five passes for 47 yards. Two plays on one drive in the first half stood out. Safety Adrian Wilson rocked tight end John Phillips at the line of scrimmage, cutting into the backfield to help bring down DeMarco Murray for a 3-yard loss. Two plays later, Paris Lenon and Rashad Johnson blanketed Witten to force an incomplete pass on first down. The drive ended with Darnell Dockett getting a sack on third down. (Arizona turned loose its defensive linemen effectively, including when Calais Campbell rushed inside to stop Murray for a loss, with outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield responsible for outside run containment to Campbell's side.)
  • Matching Cowboys' OLB sack counts. The teams combined for nine sacks, five by Dallas. The Cardinals' outside linebackers matched the Cowboys' outside linebackers in sacks, 2-2. Arizona will happily accept that trade-off. Clark Haggans and Schofield had one apiece. DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer each had one for Dallas. This game featured quite a few coverage sacks and/or sacks when quarterbacks held the ball too long. Arizona also unleashed some of the inside linebacker blitzes the team envisioned using this season. Lenon had a sack.
  • Kolb protects the ball. Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb played a turnover-free game for the first time since the Cardinals acquired him. He had eight interceptions and three lost fumbles in seven previous starts for the team. If taking an extra sack or two meant suffering no turnovers while scrambling or forcing balls into coverage, the Cardinals were better off. Taking sacks instead of throwing higher-risk passes also helped Kolb complete 64 percent of his passes, ending a streak of four consecutive games with completion rates between 47-59 percent.

This victory was only a mild upset, in my view. The Cardinals have a chance at home against 10-2 San Francisco in Week 14 if their defense continues playing well and Kolb protects the ball.

2010 Rams draft glance

March, 24, 2010
3/24/10
6:46
PM ET
The Rams hold 10 choices in the 2010 NFL draft.

One is compensatory, meaning St. Louis cannot trade it (254th overall).

The chart shows which picks the Rams hold and where the picks originated, if applicable. I've included a column showing which players were chosen in the same slot last year.

The final column shows how many points each pick is worth on the draft value chart.

Earlier: Download full 2010 draft order with summary charts.
Draft Rd. Pick Graves' Team Tight end
College Conference
1993 3 61
Bears Chris Gedney Syracuse
Big East
2006 3 72
Cardinals Leonard Pope
Georgia
SEC
1988 4 105
Bears Jim Thornton
Fullerton St.
--
1998
5 125 Cardinals Terry Hardy
S.Mississippi C-USA
1992
5 134 Bears Todd Harrison
N.C. St.
ACC
2000
5 164 Cardinals Jay Tant
Northwestern Big Ten
2007
7 215 Cardinals Ben Patrick
Delaware CAA (I-AA)
2002
7 223 Cardinals Mike Banks
Iowa St.
Big 12
2001
7 246 Cardinals Tevita Ofahengaue
BYU Mtn. West
1984
10 266 Bears Kurt Vestman
Idaho
WAC
1989
10 270 Bears Todd Millikan
Nebraska
Big 12

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals could use a tight end versatile enough to stay on the field across running and passing situations. They settled on Stephen Spach as a blocking tight end last season.

Spach made an important catch against the Falcons in the wild-card playoff round, but he isn't a consistent downfield threat in the passing game -- particularly after suffering a torn knee ligament against the Panthers.

As much as the Cardinals could use a frontline tight end, I'm not sure they can afford to draft one early enough to find such a player. I see them targeting running back and outside linebacker in the first two rounds if the draft falls their way. If the Cardinals do wind up trading Anquan Boldin to Baltimore, perhaps they can get the Ravens to throw in Todd Heap. A thought.

Cardinals general manager Rod Graves' teams generally haven't drafted tight ends early, anyway, and never higher than 72nd overall since Graves joined the Cardinals.

I spoke with Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. for additional perspective on the Cardinals' options at tight end in this draft. A few of his thoughts:

(Read full post)

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