I had the opportunity to watch the Cards Rookie Camp over the weekend. The Cards are transitioning from one system to another and my first glimpse of Bruce Arians' offense filled me with cautious optimism.
Coach Arians likes to throw the ball but he knows in order to throw it better you have to run it better. Play action is going to be a big part of what the Cardinals are going to do and if you want to be effective with play-action you better be able to run the ball effectively.
The tackle zone was prevalent during the practice that I saw and it remains the best form of play-action in the game. Linebackers have to honor the deep mesh-point on the tackle zone action which allows receivers to get down field, behind linebackers, and gives quarterbacks better windows to throw in. But your protection better be solid, including the back making the fake.
Coach Arians told me his favorite drill to run in practice is back-on-backer blitz pickup. This drill is brutal and inherently unfair to the running back. Edge rushers line up on the LOS (line of scrimmage) and rush the back on the snap, 1-on-1, with no pocket or help to either side. As B.A. told me, "You learn a lot about a guy in that drill."
And this is why the Cardinals brought in Rashard Mendenhall and drafted Stepfan Taylor. These two men will be relied on heavily to hold up in protection in order to use play-action the way Arians wants. They are every down backs that can run the ball and that element of the game should be much improved.
Coach Arians believes that it's not how often you run it but how effectively you run it. B.A. knows his offense must be capable of running the ball well in the red zone, on short-yardage and goal line and during the four-minute drill, when you're trying to close out a game when you have the lead.
This is one of the reasons why Big Red drafted two guards in the top four rounds. The Cardinals play in the NFC West and know they need to become more physical on the LOS in order to run the ball effectively enough to use play-action to the degree Arians would like.
Execution is the elixir of life for any scheme conceived and good players execute schemes but if what I saw on Saturday is any indication of what the Cards offense will look like this season, play-action might be the biggest component of that new scheme.
Suddenly cooling off as the series with the D-backs is approaching. Probably it has more to do with the health of Jason Heyward, but I'm still interested. It doesn't matter whether Upton goes hitless or torches Arizona. I can't wait to see it.
Really? Tiger pulled a club and that caused you to miss a shot?
I thought Garcia was soft. I'm wrong. He's weaker than that.
He's getting ripped by people who are learning the game of baseball for pulling Brandon McCarthy Sunday. It was 100% the right move.
If an established MLB pitcher throws less than 90 pitches and isn't showing signs of weakness in the eighth, he pitches the ninth inning. Here's the catch: McCarthy has established nothing! Statistically, he's the worst pitcher in the National League. McCarthy has done nothing to earn the right to throw the ninth inning. It's not about one game against Philadelphia. This is about re-establishing the confidence of McCarthy.
There's a caveat to the book. Whenever a pitcher gets hit in the head with a line drive and comes back with the worst OPP/BA and BABIP, if they pitch eight innings of shutout baseball with a rested bullpen, you pull him!
It's amazing how evil this man is. What's more amazing to me is he actually made it through high school, college and spent two years in the NFL. How does that happen? How did any educator ever say he's accomplished enough to move on? Why didn't Detroit accept a failed pick and move on much sooner?
It also brings up something else. I wonder how many Americans have NFL talent who are incarcerated or living a shady life. If Titus made it this far, there must be.
The D-backs are 7-0 when he starts. There's two ways to look at the D-backs this season.
1) They're being carried by two young pitchers who won't be able to sustain this on their way to a 70-win season.
2) If Wade Miley and Corbin can pitch like this, just wait until Brandon McCarthy and Ian Kennedy start doing their thing.
I said it in spring training and I'll say it again. This season rests on Ian Kennedy. He is the key between playoffs and a distant 3rd place.
Fieldin Culbreth was suspended two games for not knowing a baseball rule a high school umpire should know. I'm thrilled with the announcement. It's nothing against Culbreth, but baseball has failed in umpire discipline for far too long. Sure, sometimes umps are fined or suspended behind the scenes, but that's rare. Even rarer is for us as fans to find out about it. Glad to see MLB is holding the umps accountable while being transparent.
I coached my daughter's soccer game Thursday night. Parents on each sideline started yelling at each other. YOU'RE NOT PLAYING. When will parents learn to care about the performance of their own team and show respect to others? It was only five people total but it ruins the night.
Welcome home. Shows great humility from both sides. The Cardinals should have paid him and Dansby should have stayed. They both screwed up that deal. By Dansby returning, it shows both understand that...to a certain extent.
I quickly talked with three men at new Suns general manager Ryan McDonough's introductory press conference Thursday.
They were casual conversations with three people. I'm going to leave two people's names out of this. None of the quotes are direct, only my memory of the conversation.
Jay Biles (ESPN analyst): I've known him for years and he was someone you talked to in his early days in the business and knew he'd be a GM.
(When I asked for a weakness): There really isn't one. I mean he's young but he's done it with the Celtics. His youth could be a weakness but I actually think it's a strength.
Suns employee on business side: It's already different here. Lance just didn't seem like he wanted to be a part of the family. He didn't work against us but he certainly didn't work with us. He just wasn't around.
Former Suns player (when I asked him what he knows of McDonough): Nothing personally, but I'll tell you what, out of everyone I've talked to, no one has anything negative to say. That's hard to do in this business.
The building felt completely different to me today. Winning the press conference doesn't matter at all...but the Suns did accomplish that.
I wanted to see the Cardinals go get Karlos Dansby weeks ago because of his unique skill set and need for depth at inside linebacker. With the trouble surrounding Daryl Washington, it makes even more sense for Big Red.
And the Dirty Bird came to town.
Los Dirty is a proven player and multifaceted. He excels in space and has incredible ball skills. He's a playmaker capable of producing sacks, stripping balls, picking passes off and being around the ball.
Dansby can play, and has played, both inside backer positions in a 3-4 defense. In a gross simplification, the Mike backer plays inside-strong side and needs to hold up at the point of attack. The Bill backer plays inside weak side and needs to be capable of covering a ton of ground and playing well in space. And can do both.
Finally, the Dirty Bird is a leader, on the field and off. Even though it seems like Dansby has been around forever, he's still only 31 years old. He's experienced, capable and has a history with this franchise.
The only question I have is this: how much does he want? Every man has his price and so does every franchise.
One thing is for certain: the trouble with Daryl Washington isn't bringing down Dansby's asking price.