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Weaver cut to trim roster to 87

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2015 – 10:47 am

The Cardinals made a roster move Saturday morning, releasing safety Ross Weaver. That Weaver was cut isn’t a surprise, since he was likely going to be in the batch that was included in the first round of cuts early next week as the team gets to 75. What it does mean is that the Cardinals are down to 87 on the roster, meaning they only have to pare 12 from the roster to get to the 75-man limit.

Again, teams don’t have to get to 75 until Tuesday but with a Thursday game and a Monday practice, I expect it to be earlier than that after the Cards play Sunday night.

That short week will make for an interesting couple of days, by the way. The Cards play in Oakland Sunday night and won’t get back to Arizona before midnight, and then have a practice beginning at 1:20 p.m. Monday. Granted, the vets won’t do much since they won’t play much if at all in the preseason finale, but still, it’s a short turnaround.


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Friday before the Raiders/Camp aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2015 – 4:14 pm

It’s a special two-headed blog post, combining a “Friday before” with an “aftermath.” We’ll see if I can get out alive. Seriously, camp is over, and thank goodness for that. I know I have tired of hotel life. Even if we are just a short drive from home, home seems so far away in the middle of the month.

What is there to say about camp? The Cards had their injuries, although beyond losing starting nose tackle Corey Peters to his Achilles tear — which is a big deal, but not crippling given the defensive line depth — the Cards came out OK. We’ll see where Michael Floyd and Mike Iupati and Sean Weatherspoon are in a week as the Cards prep for the Saints on opening day.

Best players in camp? Hard to go anywhere but Carson Palmer. Tyrann Mathieu was very good. I thought Patrick Peterson played well. There has been a lot of praise doled out to inside linebacker Kevin Minter, which is a huge deal given Weatherspoon’s absence. Of course, with still two preseason games to go, there is still some time before the roster is shaped. The Cards — at 88 on the roster right now — have to be down to 75 by Tuesday at the latest (although I expect those cuts sooner) and then to 53 a week from Saturday. All for a season where much is expected of the team.

“For us to reach where we want to go, we can’t be potential,” Bruce Arians said. “We have to be damn good.”

— I have a hunch running back Chris Johnson plays in Oakland. He practiced Friday, but he didn’t do a lot beyond individual drills, mostly running off by himself to keep loose. But Arians said he wants to be on the field, and while Johnson said he wasn’t sure if he’ll be ready, I just have a gut feeling he’ll get a little time. If not, it’ll be the Denver game.

— Let’s hope the MRI needed for rookie Xavier Williams on his left elbow isn’t a big deal. He got hurt at the end of practice Friday.

— Arians started calling CB Jerraud Powers “Milkman” because he wanted to needle Powers for needing so many days off with his hamstring injury. (Powers was milking the injury — get it?) Then Powers came back to practice Friday and made a couple of interceptions. “The Milkman delivered today.”

— The players aren’t the only ones who likes finally breaking camp to be able to sleep in their own bed. Arians does too.

“My liver likes a break too,” Arians deadpanned.

— Earl Watford will get second-team work at right tackle in Oakland Sunday. How much backup quarterback Drew Stanton will play will depend on how much Carson Palmer ultimately plays. In this game, Phillip Sims will get in the game first as third QB with Logan Thomas finishing up.

— Arians likes the depth that’s been created with the young inside linebackers, but I’d think the spotlight will still be bright on those guys Sunday (although it’ll be brighter in the preseason finale.) I’m interested to see how D.J. Humphries looks at left tackle, how DT Rodney Gunter looks in extended time and whether the Cardinals can put together a couple of sacks with their first-unit defense. Josh Mauro was getting a lot of work as an edge guy in first-unit sub-packages this week.

In a week, the preseason will be over, and it’ll be time to talk regular season. Finally.

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Possible future joint practices — just not in AZ

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2015 – 12:57 pm

It’s the homestretch: One more regular practice today, and then an earlier practice Friday (gates open at 9:30 a.m.) before the Cardinals break camp.

Next year, there’s a possibility not all the training camp practices will be at University of Phoenix Stadium, because, as Bruce Arians has mentioned before, he would “love” to hold some joint practices with another team.

“We just don’t have the space here,” Arians said. “We’d have to travel somewhere.”

Arians said the Cardinals talked to “two or three” other teams about joint practices but it didn’t work out. One team Arians floated as one he wouldn’t mind teaming up with? Tennessee, with former coaching cohort (and former Cardinals head coach) Ken Whisenhunt.

— CB Jerraud Powers, ILB Sean Weatherspoon and RB Chris Johnson are all run testing today to test their hamstrings. If all goes well, they will practice Friday and the door isn’t closed on them playing in Oakland.

— Defensive end Ed Stinson is sitting out with a toe injury. Arians doesn’t think it is serious. It is not the same toe that derailed Stinson’s rookie season and eventually landed him on injured reserve.

— Arians acknowledged what had been speculated on frequently, that there is a possibility the Cardinals would only keep two quarterbacks and have a third on the practice squad.

— The punting battle remains even, Arians said. The coach acknowledged Dave Zastudil’s age and injury history have to be considered, and Arians added that he thought Drew Butler did a good job last season except for that terrible playoff outing. “That was really the only game he struggled,” Arians said. However, Arians added, “it’s still the best guy for the job” and these last two games will be factors.

 


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Chris Johnson’s hammy, and where he fits

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2015 – 9:24 am

Bruce Arians suggested Wednesday that running back Chris Johnson could be back practicing by the end of the week, and there is a possibility that Arians will say in a couple of hours that indeed, Johnson is returning today from his sore hamstring. With only two preseason games left — and with Johnson sitting out the entire offseason — there is little time left to prep for games that count. (UPDATE: Arians said Johnson will go through a run test Thursday, and hopefully will practice Friday and play Sunday.)

Johnson acknowledged Wednesday he feels he needs to play in preseason games, to at least get a couple of carries and get a feel for the game. If that ends up being the normally fringe-heavy fourth preseason game, so be it. But, Johnson also said, “I think they know what I can do already.”

That may be true, and I would still lean toward CJ being on this roster heading into the regular season. But it’s not necessarily a lock, with what David Johnson has shown and Kerwynn Williams still lingering in the background and Stepfan Taylor so valuable on special teams. Can’t keep ’em all.

Johnson noted “I’ve never been a guy that really misses games or practices or anything like that,” and that’s true (save for a contract holdout once upon a time.)

“It’s a situation where it’s frustrating watching practice,” Johnson said. “I know I need to be out there practicing. But it has kind of helped me be able to really focus on the playbook and get the playbook down.”

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Niklas must sit again (and #CardsCamp notes)

Posted by Darren Urban on August 26, 2015 – 1:02 pm

Troy Niklas is sidelined again, done in by the same hamstring that put him out of practice at the beginning of camp. It’s another blow for the young tight end, who flashes what the Cardinals want to see on the field. He’s just never on the field, thanks to a broken thumb/bad ankle/hamstrings over the past year-plus.

“He’s the player we liked,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We just have to keep him healthy.”

Can that happen? Niklas is frustrated and I’d guess the team is frustrated. Arians said he isn’t sure how long this will sideline Niklas, and with Jermaine Gresham hopefully playing this week — but still not a lock — the Cards must still think about where they are at tight end.

— Arians is hopeful the hamstring trio of RB Chris Johnson, ILB Sean Weatherspoon and CB Jerraud Powers will all be back later this week (which is running out of days), but all are sitting Wednesday. OL Earl Watford (ankle) is sitting again too.

— WR Michael Floyd (hand) said he is sticking with his rehab protocol but he expressed optimism he could be back for the regular-season opener. Floyd isn’t catching yet, but said he thinks it will be mental hurdles and not physical hurdles that will be the key. Arians too is hopeful Floyd will return. “I wouldn’t be shocked if he was ready,” Arians said.

— Another sign undrafted rookie nose tackle Xavier Williams is going to make this roster — Arians’ comment Wednesday. “We’d be very, very happy if he was our third- or fourth-round draft choice right now.”

— Arians said he is “anxious” to see OLB Shaq Riddick on the field after missing, well, basically almost every practice since he was drafted. It’s Riddick’s potential speed off the edge that has the Cardinals wanting more. Might be hard to get him through to the practice squad — which is another thing to keep in mind with the final 53-man roster.

— Both Logan Thomas and Phillip Sims are expected to play Sunday (and the whole game in Denver, likely). That third QB battle will go through the Denver game, Arians added. Sims may come in before Thomas this week, however, because Arians wants Thomas to get a chance at a two-minute drill.

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Spoon’s absence, and Buc as LB

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2015 – 3:06 pm

Sean Weatherspoon’s extended absence has been, in Bruce Arians’ words, “discouraging.” Certainly Weatherspoon’s spot in this defense feels like a question mark (although if he gets back on the field in the next week, I’m not sure we’ll even think about it anymore.) With Weatherspoon still out, not much has been figured out in terms of the inside linebacker position.

Or maybe it has.

Look, there has never been any doubt of the depth the Cardinals have at safety, or the fact both Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator James Bettcher have said multiple times they will put the best 11 on the field. Or the fact Arians earlier in camp called safety Deone Bucannon the lone “inside linebacker” he can see on the field all three downs (with Weatherspoon on the shelf, of course.)

Bucannon would like to play safety. But he is smart enough — and team-oriented enough — that he’ll play wherever. He reiterated that again Monday. As long as Rashad Johnson (who, it can be noted is in the last year of his contract) and Tony Jefferson and Tyrann Mathieu are around, and as long as Bucannon probably is better suited in the box rather than running around to cover a lot of guys, linebacker is his spot. To be out there a lot could be a concern given his weight (he is listed at 211) but I know there are many out there who suggested Bucannon may be better suited at linebacker.

Things change from year to year. If Johnson isn’t here in 2016, if the Cards get Weatherspoon to click and stay beyond this season, if an athletic inside linebacker is drafted, maybe this all changes. But even if Weatherspoon gets back to where the Cardinals want him to be, I’m guessing Bucannon will be next to him, in front of the secondary, much of the time.

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Riddick return, OL moves and similar butts

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2015 – 2:24 pm

It was a long presser from Bruce Arians today after no morning walkthrough. Here are some of the highlights before I head down to practice:

— The injury list right now includes cornerback Jerraud Powers, who is now dealing with a hamstring issue of his own and will be “shut down” for a few days. Arians did not sound concerned. Good news, though, running back Chris Johnson is actually better than Arians originally thought with his hamstring and is day to day. Arians said Saturday he thought Johnson would missed a week or two. OL Earl Watford had a shot in his troublesome ankle and gets a rest day (the Cards are off Tuesday too), and will be back Wednesday, as will TE Jermaine Gresham (back) and WR Brittan Golden (sore after taking a big hit Saturday.)

— OLB Shaq Riddick is finally back at practice. So is CB Jonte Green and T Rob Crisp.

— Arians said it was “discouraging” ILB Sean Weatherspoon is still out with his bad hamstring. There is a hope he’ll return to practice this week, but we’ll see.

— The coaches have talked as a staff about playing the starters less Sunday in Oakland in light of all the injuries around the NFL. Arians said each guy will be gauged differently, based on practice and the need for reps.

— When Watford comes back, he’ll work at right tackle and have the chance to battle Bradley Sowell for the starting job. D.J. Humphries will spend the week at left tackle to get some work there; Arians wants him to be able to play both sides as a backup — which he will be to start the season almost assuredly.

— Arians praised Alani Fua and, to a lesser extent, Gabe Martin, at inside linebacker. Arians intrigued by Fua’s length.

— After video watching, Arians still said there is no leader at third QB between Sims and Thomas.

— Although Mike Leach already took the blame on Twitter, Arians reiterated it was Leach snapping the ball too soon to holder Dave Zastudil that caused the botched PAT in the game. “A 25-year-vet, whatever he is, snapping to a 30-year vet, and one wasn’t looking,” Arians said. “You would not anticpate that happening out of thise two guys, but it did happen.”

— Arians liked the game starting left guard Ted Larsen had a lot, but “he blew it with one dumb penalty,” Arians lamented of Larsen’s 15-yarder for jumping on a pile. Still, he said he liked Larsen’s game, and that of Jonathan Cooper’s too.

— The starting center job between A.Q. Shipley and Lyle Sendlein is “heavily contested.” Arians added that Carson Palmer gets no say in the matter. “Their butts are about the same,” Arians quipped.

 


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Keim: Speed good, protection not as much

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2015 – 8:11 am

The Cardinals enter the dog days of training camp with one final week at University of Phoenix Stadium beginning today. And as GM Steve Keim talked about the Cards’ most recent performance, there was no eye-popping news — which, in a preseason where injuries are usually the biggest news, Keim noted correctly that coming out relatively healthy was the top story.

Otherwise, Keim’s thoughts when talking on the “Doug and Wolf Show” on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM:

— He likes the weapons on offense, with the speed at receiver and the versatility at running back, “if we can protect Carson,” Keim said.

“There’s no question in my mind there are some concerns,” Keim said.

Keim said the offensive line messed up a couple of times on combo moves from the defense. Watching the game back myself, it definitely looked like backs Andre Ellington and David Johnson at least once each (and possibly more) missed on chances either to pick up a blitzer or help chip block, one of the reasons there were multiple hits and six first-half sacks by the Chargers.

“It’s one thing to be beat physically, but to blow assignments mentally is unacceptable,” Keim said.

— Keim said he thinks new defensive coordinator James Bettcher is “doing an excellent job,” noting all the blitzing the Cards have done. It did seem like the Cards blitzed almost every play in the last half of the fourth quarter.

— Another Keim shoutout for undrafted rookie defensive tackle Xavier Williams. I will be shocked if Williams does not make this roster.

— Keim thought, other that one sack allowed, that right tackle Bradley Sowell played “pretty good” as a starter. D.J. Humphries, not as much. “He’s a guy on one play looks exactly like the first round pick we selected” and others, not very good, Keim said. “The bottom line is his consistency.” The Cardinals want more — much more — from Humphries. But Keim noted it’s still very early in Humphries’ process. (In other words, he’s not close to a bust.)

— Natural praise for running back David Johnson after that performance.

— There is no leader for the No. 3 quarterback job, although Keim said “Phillip (Sims) looked really patient and poised in the pocket.” I don’t think we’ll ever hear that one is ahead of the other one, not before a decision is made. Keim said both still aren’t consistent enough. And there is still the chance the Cards carry only two QBs on the 53=man roster.


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Chargers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 23, 2015 – 12:11 am

Let’s be real — Bruce Arians would have liked to get a preseason win Saturday night, but he couldn’t have wanted extra football in the form of overtime. Injuries happen that late with tired bodies, and there is no upside of a fifth quarter this time of year. It shouldn’t have come to that anyway, of course, if Marion Grice doesn’t drop a wide open pass on the Cardinals’ previous drive, or if Phillip Sims doesn’t overthrow 6-foot-7 tight end Ifeanyi Momah soon after. Or if Logan Thomas and Momah don’t get crossed up on a pass where Momah was wide open in the third quarter, failing to connect on a pass that seemed like it could have been a touchdown.

In the preseason, these things get forgotten, however. In the regular season, Thomas or Sims would (hopefully) never throw a pass. So, with a nod to the football gods for letting us get out of this one in regulation time, my thoughts:

— Carson Palmer said he wanted to take a couple of hits. Not sure he wanted to be buried on two sacks and get whacked another time. But he didn’t break and that pass to J.J. Nelson was a thing of beauty. So was that touchdown dart to John Brown.

— If David Johnson really can perform like that in the backfield, and Andre Ellington — who had a very nice 11-yard run himself — stays healthy, the Cardinals are going to be fine running the ball.

— Chris Johnson out a week or two with a hamstring pull. He might not get any preseason carries now. You wonder where it might put him after David Johnson’s performance.

— It’s always good to be a young player on the bubble to be named by name by the head coach as playing well. So linebacker Alani Fua, cornerback Cariel Brooks and defensive end Josh Mauro, that’s a good thing.

— Arians also praised Sims, as he should. Sims did miss Momah late, but Sims looked incredibly cool in the pocket and patient. Arians said there is no leader at third quarterback between Sims and Logan Thomas, but Sims is making his push.

— After all the Rodney Gunter talk, it was Matt Shaughnessy out there in the starting lineup with Frostee Rucker and Calais Campbell. Gunter did play with the starting unit, however.

— The Cardinals are off tomorrow, and practice Monday before taking Tuesday off. They play next Sunday in Oakland.

— Arians screamed at the officials much of the game but at no time was it more noticed that late when he (and Patrick Peterson) kept yelling for some flag on Chargers’ defensive backs guarding Jaxon Shipley. That Cardinals cornerback C.J. Roberts was flagged for holding on what turned out to be the game’s deciding play on a pass that wouldn’t have been completed stuck in Arians’ craw too.

“Don’t ask me about officials. Please,” Arians said, after he was asked about the officials. “That’s why I’m hoarse. We need to relearn the rules they changed two years ago. This crew might need eight preseason games to get ready.”

That’s a good way to end it. G’night all.

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No Chris Johnson debut yet

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2015 – 5:55 pm

Chris Johnson came off the practice field Thursday having pulled up gimpy on one of the last plays. The injury has yet to be disclosed, but whatever it is, He’s suffering from a hamstring injury, and it’ll stop him from making his Cardinals debut tonight against the Chargers. Previously, Bruce Arians had planned to get Johnson five or six carries. The other Johnson, David, will make his debut, however. The rookie figures to play a bulk of the second and third quarter in his first game after missing the preseason opener.

The other Cardinals not playing tonight — at least on the list — are all injured:

— WR Michael Floyd (hand)

— CB Jonte Green (hamstring)

— LB Shaq Riddick (hamstring)

— LB Sean Weatherspoon (hamstring)

— T Rob Crisp (knee)

— G Mike Iupati (knee)

Last week, CB Jerraud Powers and TE Jermaine Gresham also didn’t play but weren’t on the “not expected to play list.” We’ll see if they get on the field against the Chargers.


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