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The need for speed and that first draft pick

Posted by Darren Urban on March 26, 2015 – 11:28 am

The Cardinals may or may not sign another noteworthy free agent (although knowing the history of Steve Keim, it’s likely they will at some point.) But there is little question, with the draft just about a month away, the Cards are going to be turning their attention there. Bruce Arians left little doubt what he wanted to see when the Cards use their eight picks.

“In the draft, it’s still speed,” Arians said. “Speed at running back, speed at receiver, speed at linebacker, another interior player.” (I’m guessing the speed isn’t as important for that last one.)

At this point, assuming no significant changes to the roster pre-draft, I would guess there is a chance the Cardinals could take a running back with their first pick. I still think that’s unlikely, although it’s so hard to predict anything when you are talking about the 24th overall pick. So many different options could be there. I still think the Cards would like to get that edge pass rusher in the first round. If he’s not there, would anyone be surprised if Keim tried to trade down? Maybe a young cornerback could be the pick (at this point, both Justin Bethel and Jerraud Powers are scheduled to be free agents after the season.)

The running back will be the position that draws the attention. Nothing has happened to change my mind about a certain potential trade for a vet running back. Paying a running back who has been in the league a ton of money doesn’t make a lot of sense in the grand scheme of things. Not when the Cardinals could take a running back on a rookie contract and pair him with Andre Ellington.

“This might be the best group (of running backs) top to bottom that I’ve seen in about 10 years,” Arians said. “There’s some teams in college running the ball and not just at the top two or four guys but all the way down. There are 15 really quality running backs in this draft.”

Bruce Arians, Steve Keim


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The tao of Arians: “Dude, you got a cup”

Posted by Darren Urban on March 25, 2015 – 8:39 am

Bruce Arians talked for an hour today on a lot of subjects at the NFC coaches breakfast during the NFL spring meetings. We’ll have a lot of stories and video on the various topics today and in the coming days. Among the things Arians touched on:

— The Cardinals would still like to bring back Lyle Sendlein to compete for the center position;

— Logan Thomas will get a ton of reps in the offseason and could even get some “field one” work (the Cards have players working on two fields) depending on the health of Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton;

— There was nothing to say on Adrian Peterson (“Are you trying to get me fined?” he said);

— The Cardinals will look at Kareem Martin at outside linebacker. Arians thinks Martin has the body-type of Aldon Smith.

— He wants DE Calais Campbell to be more consistent, saying “he disappears too much.”

There was much more. But the line of the day came when Arians was talking about the reluctance of General Manager Steve Keim to accept his award for Executive of the Year from the Sporting News the other day in front of the other GMs and coaches. The trophy itself was a big glass vase-looking thing.

“You check your ego at the door, because everything is for the Cardinals,” Arians said. “We’ve both been fortunate enough to get some accolades. You can’t take them. The entire room got you there. Don’t think you’re special. We both laughed, he was embarrassed as hell the other day to get his. I said, ‘Dude, you got a cup. We can drink out of that.”


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Cardinals know all their draft picks UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on March 24, 2015 – 8:57 pm

The NFL released the full draft order for next month’s draft, and here are the Cardinals’ eight selections. UPDATE: The league acknowledged some mistakes in a few comp picks, so the overall order has changed one of the Cardinals’ selections:

Round 1: 24th overall
Round 2: 55th
Round 3: 86th
Round 4: 123rd
Round 5: 159th
Round 6: 197th 198th
Round 7: 241st, 256th

The final selection is the final pick of the draft — Mr. Irrelevant — and as a compensatory pick cannot be traded. All the other choices are the Cards’ original picks and are in play if General Manager Steve Keim wants to flip them in a deal.


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Whisenhunt’s “great memories” of time with Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on March 24, 2015 – 2:07 pm

Ken Whisenhunt returned to Arizona for the first time as a head coach since the Cardinals fired him after the 2012 season, and at Tuesday’s AFC Coaches breakfast, the current Titans boss talked about the “great memories” he has from his six years at the helm of the Cardinals.

“It’s good to come back,” Whisenhunt said. “The people, even in the short time I’ve been here (for the meetings) have been great. Lot of special memories about this place.”

Whisenhunt said Bruce Arians — whom Whisenhunt looked into hiring for his Cardinals staff — has done a “great job” as his replacement as head coach.

“I’m happy for him, I’m happy for the players, I’m happy for the fans,” Whisenhunt said. “To see the excitement around this team and what they are doing … this is a great area, it’s a great fanbase, and University of Phoenix Stadium, when it’s rocking, it’s a great environment. I’ve always enjoyed that.”

 Titans Jaguars Football


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Cards’ comp pick means Mr. Irrelevant

Posted by Darren Urban on March 23, 2015 – 6:21 pm

The Cardinals were awarded one compensatory pick in April’s draft — an extra seventh-round pick that just happens to be the final selection of the draft. That’s right, the Cards will get 2015’s Mr. Irrelevant. (And they will too, because comp picks cannot be traded.) It means the Cardinals will have eight draft picks instead of just seven, although trades could change that number.

Officially, in the comp pick equation, the Cardinals added Jared Veldheer, Ted Ginn and Ted Larsen in 2014, and lost Antoine Cason, Jim Dray, Andre Roberts and Karlos Dansby.

The last time the Cardinals got Mr. Irrelevant? That was 2001, when they took BYU tight end Tevita Ofahengaue. That was memorable for me because on the conference call, we asked him how to pronounce his name. “Oh-fen-hen-NOW-way,” he said. Then there was a pause. “Simple,” he added. “Like John Smith.”


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Cardinals add Veterans Combine receiver

Posted by Darren Urban on March 23, 2015 – 11:26 am

The NFL brought in 105 players to Tempe Sunday for their first Veterans Combine. They are leaving one behind. The agent of wide receiver Nathan Slaughter tweeted out his client was signing with the Cardinals. (And a little later, the player himself did the same.) The team has yet to officially announce any move. UPDATE: It’s official now.

Slaughter ran one of the fastest 40 times Sunday (reportedly sub-4.4s), which is noteworthy after a workout with some notoriously slow 40 times. He is 5-foot-9 and 184 pounds, a West Texas A&M product who was originally signed by the Texans as an undrafted free agent last year. He was cut and then signed by the Jaguars in June, then waived-injured by Jacksonville early in August. He has yet to appear in a regular-season game. For a team looking for a return man, Slaughter averaged 41.7 yards per kickoff return his last year in college.

Nathan Slaughter


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Optimistic Washington awaits reinstatement

Posted by Darren Urban on March 22, 2015 – 11:56 am

The future of Daryl Washington as a Cardinal remains vague, since Daryl Washington the football player remains suspended by the NFL for violation of the substance abuse policy. That suspension was supposed to last for at least a year — late May — although the CBA does allow for Washington to begin the reinstatement process right around this time. The Cardinals aren’t talking about Washington or his status on the team until he is finally reinstated. Even when that happens, Washington must find out if there is any league punishment on last year’s assault conviction (which, assuming he went through the proper post-plea steps, should have been moved to a misdemeanor by now.)

But Mike Jurecki scored a coup when he recently talked to Washington. Washington told Jurecki he had completed anger management courses and said he hasn’t failed or missed any of the random drug tests he has needed to take. If true, both are positive steps towards reinstatement, I’d think. Of course, even if reinstated, there are other issues with which to deal — not the least of which is being able to regain the trust of the organization and teammates. Washington did say he’s had support from a number of teammates.

“I’m looking forward to a fresh start, and excited about playing football again,” Washington told Jurecki. “I’ve even thought about changing my number.”

DWashBlog


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NFL descends on Arizona — again

Posted by Darren Urban on March 20, 2015 – 3:59 pm

The NFL universe came to town in late January when the Pro Bowl and then the Super Bowl were played at University of Phoenix Stadium. On a much lesser scale, it’s being repeated over the next few days. The Cardinals’ Tempe complex hosts the NFL’s Super Regional combine Saturday, which is the best of the best of five previous regional combines over the last six weeks — the players taking part are draft-eligible guys who were not invited to the main Scouting combine in Indianapolis. Sunday the facility will host the first NFL Veterans combine, which is around 100 NFL vets who are essentially working through a mass workout for all the teams.

The reason the Cards are playing host is because the teams were already going to be in town for the spring owners meetings, which go from Monday through Wednesday at the Arizona Biltmore. Among the highlights of the owners meetings will be work from the competition committee to potentially tweak/change rules, commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference Wednesday, and the coaches’ breakfasts on Tuesday (AFC) and Wednesday (NFC) when each coach talks for an hour in an informal setting.

We’ll have coverage of the Vet combine and the meetings, including whatever Bruce Arians might have to say Wednesday.

— Finally, a quick congrats to my cohort, Kyle Odegard, who is getting married to Kelsey Perry Saturday and will not be covering any of these events. I’m on my own for the week.


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Super Bowl turf lives on the West side

Posted by Darren Urban on March 20, 2015 – 1:43 pm

The Patriots won the Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium in early February. The turf upon which they won the Lombardi Trophy will live on for football too (and soccer and other sports.) The grass has been installed at Tolleson Union High School. Through Chandler-based Evergreen Turf (which, not surprisingly is a partner with the Cardinals), about 90,000 square feet of sod was moved from University of Phoenix Stadium about 6½ miles west.

It’s not the first time the sod (which was grown in Alabama, originally) has been shared locally. After the Giants’ Super Bowl win in February of 2008, that sod was moved to Phoenix Moon Valley High School.

Super Bowl XLIX Football

 


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Cards benefit from Fells’ basketball departure

Posted by Darren Urban on March 19, 2015 – 4:25 pm

The (real) opening of March Madness Thursday was a good time to break out the in-season Zoom episode of tight end Darren Fells, who spent a bunch of years away from the game of football playing first college basketball (no NCAA tournaments for him) and then pro basketball overseas. A couple of years ago he realized he would like to try his hand at football — he notes he wanted to be in a more physical game — and now he’s morphed into a feasible option for the Cardinals at tight end.

Fells actually looked pretty decent near the end of the season when he got a chance to play. The Cardinals and coach Bruce Arians really like 2014 second-round pick Troy Niklas (assuming he can stay healthy). John Carlson figures to be an option, and something could happen in the draft. The Cardinals are going to want four tight ends, given that Arians likes to use two at a time and, as the Cards proved in each of the last two seasons, injuries happen.

Fells should be in the mix. At 6-foot-7 and someone who has already admitted he likes the physical part of the game, Fells still must learn. You don’t play in college and the learning curve is a little more steep, and in football terms, Fells is still very young. He’s not going to be a Antonio Gates-type of basketball-player-turned-tight end. But if he continues to develop, he’s one of those down-the-roster finds that can really help a team become a contender.

Darren Fells, Pomare


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