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12-8-11: Arizona Cardinals Bird Droppings - Improved Defensive Pressure

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Time for some links, including a look at how the Cards have improved at pressuring the quarterback. An update to the injury with Rhodes as well.

Arizona Cardinals News:

Emerging Pressure Package
Harassing the quarterback working better for Cards

Rally A Morale Booster
Notebook: Kolb comeback helps; Heap role undefined with injury

Cardinals' Todd Heap improving from hamstring injury
Other than being close to family, Todd Heap's return to Arizona has not worked as anyone planned. The Cardinals tight end, signed as a free agent this summer, has missed six complete games and most of a seventh with a hamstring injury. He hasn't contributed in any significant way since suffering the injury after the fourth game. Heap said the injury has improved and he's feeling more like his old self. "I do have a lot more confidence on it now than I did at this time last week," Heap said. "That's a positive for me. I'm looking for any of those right now." Heap, who played at Mesa Mountain View High and Arizona State, returned to play against the Rams two weeks ago, but felt the injury limited his ability to run routes.

Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes back in extended practice
Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes knows exactly how he'll be used when he returns from a broken left foot. It's the "when" part that's uncertain. Rhodes took part in his first extended practice Wednesday since suffering the injury Oct. 9 against the Minnesota Vikings. Back then, the injury appeared devastating for the Cardinals. They had lost 34-10 to the lowly Vikings, and Rhodes -- playing well according to coaches -- left Mall of America Field in a walking boot.

'Hyphen' and Hunter dangerous after catch - NFC West Blog - ESPN
LaRod Stephens-Howling was among the NFL's best in racking up yards after the catch even before weaving through the Dallas Cowboys' defense for the winning 52-yard touchdown in overtime Sunday. That play widened the gap between the Arizona Cardinals running back and every other player with at least eight receptions this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Stephens-Howling, nicknamed "The Hyphen," previously gained about 15 yards after the catch during a critical fourth-and-2 play at Philadelphia. That play gained 30 yards during the winning drive.

NFC West injury situations that matter - NFC West Blog - ESPN
Arizona: Kevin Kolb is spending his time on the practice field, not on the injury report. That suggests Kolb's injured toe and foot held up well during his victorious return against Dallas. Kolb overcame a slow start to finish strong. He showed good mobility in scrambling for 17 yards to the 5-yard line. He'll need that mobility against the 49ers' pressure Sunday. Running back Beanie Wells missed practice Wednesday to rest various ailments. He expects to start. Tight end Todd Heap rested his troublesome hamstring last week in an attempt to return more successfully this time. He was limited in practice. On defense, the team welcomed back safety Kerry Rhodes to practice. He suffered a broken foot against Minnesota two months ago. He could need time to ease back into playing. blogs - Kent Somers - Notes on a frosty Wednesday
It was a chilly morning in the Phoenix area today, with frost on the roofs and grass. It should warm up to around 60 or so, so no one is feeling sorry for us. A few morning notes:

There's hatred, but is Cardinals-49ers a rivalry? -
There's no other way to slice it; the San Francisco 49ers have the Arizona Cardinals' number. The Niners, who have already clinched the NFC West title, have defeated the Cardinals the last five times they've played, including a 23-7 decision last month in San Francisco. Over the last few years, there has been an increase in the bad blood between the two teams brewing, a fact not lost on the Cardinals. But due to the fact that the 49ers have owned this pairing as of late, one Arizona player was hesitant to term it a rivalry.

Cardinals Underground - SF Preview
Paul Calvisi, Darren Urban, and Ron Wolfley talk about the win against the Cowboys and look ahead to the 49ers match-up.

Cards Daily - Solving the SF Defense
After struggling against the tough 49ers defense in the first match-up of the season, the Cardinals offense looks to increase their output in game two.

Arizona Sports News:

ASU breaks off talks with Southern Methodist's June Jones
Ten days after firing football coach Dennis Erickson, ASU's search for a replacement continues. ASU broke off talks with Southern Methodist University coach June Jones late Wednesday afternoon, a final unexpected turn in a dizzying day of false reports from national and local media outlets saying the deal was done. Where ASU's search goes from here isn't clear, but Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach Jim Leavitt, former head coach at South Florida, could be possibilities. It's unknown if Houston coach Kevin Sumlin -- high on ASU's list of candidates from the start -- remains in the picture.

Deonte Burton leads Nevada past ASU basketball
Playing at home for the first time since Nov. 18, ASU hoped to show its home fans that much had changed over the last 19 days. The Sun Devils played better in spurts, but couldn't sustain it, particularly late in the second half, falling to Nevada 69-61 on Wednesday night.

Arizona Wildcats basketball falls to No. 12 Florida in overtime
Kevin Parrom made his first start of the season and it almost resulted in an upset win for the Arizona Wildcats. But UA lost 78-72 in overtime at No. 12 Florida today at the McConnell Center, despite not having suspended guard Josiah Turner and giving freshman shooting guard Nick Johnson the majority of the point guard duties while Parrom started at small forward.

NFL News:

Four 1,100-yard rushers in one division? - NFC West Blog - ESPN
Passing is generally the key to victory in the NFL. This helps explain why quarterbacks earn the most money, why teams often draft pass-blocking tackles over top runners and why fullbacks have become endangered. Teams still value running the ball, of course. Defenses would have an easier time defending quarterbacks if they knew with certainty a run was not coming. And every team seeking support for young or average quarterbacks would be better off with a strong ground game. NFC West teams fall into this group. Each team in the division is on pace to produce a 1,000-yard runner. One division has produced four 1,000-yard rushers in a season five times since divisional realignment in 2002. Each NFC West team's leading rusher is on pace for at least 1,100 yards. Only one division, the AFC North in 2010, has produced four players with at least 1,100 yards since realignment.

Andrew Luck Sweepstakes: This Could Get Awkward With Peyton Manning -
After 13 weeks of the 2011 NFL season, the Indianapolis Colts have a commanding lead for the No. 1 overall pick. How will the franchise handle the awkward situation of having Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck on the same roster?

Michael Vick Injury: Eagles QB Expected To Start Week 14 -
After missing the last three weeks with a rib injury, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick continued to practice on Wednesday and, barring a setback, will start on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News reports.

Patriots-Broncos Will Not Be Flexed To Sunday Night In Week 15 -
Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos are scheduled to host Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon on CBS in Week 15 but NBC was hoping to move that game to Sunday Night Football as part of the league's flex scheduling.

Ray Lewis Is A Big Fan Of Michael Oher, The Blind Side - From Our Editors -
You know Michael Oher's story. Everyone, from his teammates to fans of Ole Miss and the Baltimore Ravens to casual movie-goers know Oher's story. Even though it's been years since The Blind Side, the movie about Oher's life and path to the NFL, was released, Oher is still incredibly well-known for the story. And it turns out his teammates like to remind him he's a big star.