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Mathieu hits but isn’t sore; B.A. talks availability

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2014 – 12:37 pm

Tyrann Mathieu was a little irritated with himself after his first practice Thursday in 11-on-11 work, lamenting a dropped interception. Then again, the safety got to move around well, in the estimation of coach Bruce Arians, and he even got a couple of hits in during a non-hitting practice, knocking down Ted Ginn and Andre Ellington after catches.

“I wasn’t really trying to hit them, but I put a little weight on,” Mathieu said with a chuckle, a nod to the “11 or 12″ pounds he added in the offseason so he could get stronger.

Mathieu admitted he felt a little lucky he wasn’t booted out of the work. “I thought (Arians) was going to throw me out of practice,” Mathieu said, smiling again. “He doesn’t usually let people hit Andre.” (That hit is pictured below.)

Better yet, Mathieu said he wasn’t feeling sore and there has been no swelling. Arians said the status of Mathieu and fellow just-off-the-PUP defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu could still conceivably play Sunday against the Bengals, but give that neither will have even gone through a full practice (they aren’t expected to this afternoon either) it seems very unlikely the Cards would expose either this week.

– Along those lines, linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral) and guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) would be game-day decisions, Arians said, but neither are practicing today. I can’t see either playing Sunday. Arians said next week — a very short week with the final preseason game Thursday — would be crucial. If they don’t play in the preseason finale, Arians said, he can’t see them playing in the Monday night opener.

– Linebacker John Abraham does have a chance to play against the Bengals. Nothing set in stone yet, however.

– Tackle Max Starks (ankle) will return to practice today and has a chance to play Sunday. Interestingly, Bradley Sowell — who had been struggling earlier in camp — has made “really good progress” the last two weeks. It is a battle between Starks and Sowell for the backup swing-tackle spot on the roster.

– Kenny Demens is the inside linebacker starter with Larry Foote while Minter is sidelined. Lorenzo Alexander has actually been working more at outside linebacker again, Arians said.

– After Carson Palmer starts Sunday, Drew Stanton  will come in at the start of the third quarter or possibly sooner, Arians said. Logan Thomas will quarterback the fourth quarter. Ryan Lindley is not scheduled to play and it’s clear he is behind Thomas.

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Bowles analyzes where his defense stands

Posted by Darren Urban on August 21, 2014 – 7:30 pm

Earlier in the day, Bruce Arians said the Cardinals’ defense is better now than it was this time last year. Perhaps. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, speaking Thursday afternoon, simply said that in the wake of the Darnell Dockett injury, the unit simply has to adjust.

“It doesn’t impact what you want to do but it impacts who you want to do it with,” Bowles said. “Injuries happen in this league every year. No one is feeling sorry for us, not Darnell, not us or anyone else. It truly is next man up. You’ve got to prepare for injuries. That’s what you have depth for. Unfortunately, when it’s a star player, you make more of a big deal about it than if it is a practice squad player, and rightly so. We’ll just have to be aggressive in different areas.”

Bowles said he wasn’t worried about leadership because the defense has plenty of guys who can fill the role — “Dock was more vocal but (away) from cameras there are a lot of guys that are more vocal,” he said — and is reserving judgment on other pieces of the defense. Desmond Bishop will get a chance to show what he can do within the scheme against Cincinnati and we will see if Bishop can stick around and be a factor at inside linebacker. Linebacker John Abraham has looked “decent” in his first couple of practices, Bowles said.

As for rookie defensive linemen Ed Stinson and Kareem Martin, Bowles isn’t going overboard.

“You can’t make that much progress as a rookie in two-and-a-half weeks,” Bowles said. “But the smarts are there, the know-how is there. The rookies can only gain experience by playing in real games and playing in preseason games. So far, they have progressed little by little.”

– S Tyrann Mathieu moved into 11-on-11 work in his second day back at practice, as did DT Alameda Ta’amu. Mathieu was only working with the scout team and hitting was limited all the way around, but Mathieu did get shoulder knockdowns on wide receiver Ted Ginn and running back Andre Ellington after receptions.


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Cooper’s angry toe, and B.A.’s thoughts

Posted by Darren Urban on August 21, 2014 – 12:27 pm

The same three players will miss practice again Thursday with injuries — Kevin Minter (pectoral), Max Starks (ankle) and Jonathan Cooper (toe). And Cooper knows everyone is waiting on him to get back and start showing what made him a No. 1 draft pick. His turf toe is not cooperating.

“It’s getting better each day, but it hasn’t gotten to the point where I feel I can be effective and really evaluated fairly,” Cooper said.

Sometimes, Cooper admits, he can play up on his toes, which technically is not correct. But until he breaks that habit it’s a factor given that the toe injury makes it very difficult to push off. Ted Larsen will start at left guard for the Cardinals Sunday in the third preseason game, and at this point, Cooper is running out of time to make sure he’s the starting left guard when the regular season begins Sept. 8.

“It’s definitely been tough sitting out, especially coming off an injury that forced me to sit out so long,” Cooper said. “I just have to understand it’s part of my personal process. As long as I come back ready to play, everything will be OK.”

– Coach Bruce Arians said he wasn’t happy with the intensity of Wednesday’s practice, and it bothered him since the 2013 Cardinals had issues early in the season with having mediocre practices on Wednesday following the normal Tuesday off day — like the Cards had this week.

“We are going to try and nip that in the bud,” Arians said. “Just pointing out the trends to them that we do not want to set.”

– Arians knows new defensive lineman Ryan McBean because he was coaching with the Steelers when McBean was drafted there. But he reserved big praise for the other new defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a guy take a physical, sign a contract, get dressed, takes reps with the first-team defense and tell them what they were doing,” Arians said of Sopoaga’s Wednesday debut. “It was a real good start for him. He brings a lot of energy and professionalism.”

– The starters will play no more than a half Sunday, Arians reiterated, and “hopefully less than a half if we are playing really well.”

– The Cards will not fill their open two roster spots since the team has to shave the roster down to 75 Tuesday anyway, Arians said.

– Finally, there was this interesting comment about the defense: “I think we are better than we were last year right now at this time,” Arians said. “This defense is better than that one, even without Darnell.” Now, the Cardinals defense got better as the season went along, and didn’t have Daryl Washington for the first four games either. Last year’s defense was still learning what Todd Bowles wanted. But Arians definitely can’t be faulted for having confidence in his team.


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Arians wants Dockett on sideline for games

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2014 – 12:32 pm

Bruce Arians said he wants Darnell Dockett to get his surgery as soon as possible and get him back to the Cardinals rehabbing, because the defensive tackle will remain a big part of the team even though he cannot play.

“I plan on having him on the sidelines all year long because of his spirit and leadership,” Arians said. “It’s something we need and don’t want to lose.

“Injuries, they happen. It’s terrible for him, a great opportunity for somebody else. Frostee (Rucker) will step into that role, the young guys will step up and we’ll keep moving on like we always do. One injury is not going to change who we are and what we do.”

Arians called Dockett’s history of health — he played in 158 of 160 possible regular-season games in his first 10 seasons, plus all six postseason games — “unbelievable.”

“It just shows how hard he trains and keeps himself in top physical condition all the time,” Arians said. “Unfortuantely, it was one of those non-contact deals. You put your foot in the ground and it’s over.”

– Arians said everyone will be back at practice today save for linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral), guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) and tackle Max Starks (ankle).

– That means center Lyle Sendlein will return after missing much of camp with a calf injury. That moves Ted Larsen out to left guard, and Arians confirmed Larsen will start at left guard Sunday night against the Bengals.

– S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Alameda Ta’amu will only do individual drills today in their first practice after coming off the PUP lists following major knee rehabs. They will work their way into practice slowly. Arians said whether one or both play in the regular-season opener will be up to their progress on the field, but clearly, both are aiming to play against the Chargers in that Monday night game.

“I want to earn my way on the field,” Mathieu said. “I don’t want anyone to give it to me.” Mathieu said he will wear a brace.

– Arians said Jay Feely will kick in the first half against the Bengals and Chandler Catanzaro will kick in the second half.


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Time for the defense to recalibrate

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2014 – 9:52 am

Perhaps the day off Tuesday came at the right time for the Cardinals. The defense can digest the season-ending injury to Darnell Dockett, and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can start to sort out how exactly he will run his defense with the pieces he has left. You can sit and mull what the Cardinals don’t have now compared to 2013, but it’s a moot point.

Along the defensive line, the Cardinals are expected to add a vet to the roster (Brett Keisel went back to Pittsburgh) but veteran Frostee Rucker should end up as the starter alongside Calais Campbell and Dan Williams. There should be plenty of mixing and matching, though, with rookies Ed Stinson and Kareem Martin and now, Alameda Ta’amu, who comes back to practice today. There would have been mixing and matching even if Dockett was healthy. Getting a steady rotation on the defensive line has been one of the main themes GM Steve Keim wanted to accomplish while re-tooling the roster. The key here could be Ta’amu, because if he can return to form relatively quickly, it will impact the middle of that line.

At linebacker, there have long been concerns and whenever Kevin Minter returns to the field, that probably doesn’t go away. I thought Larry Foote played pretty well in Minnesota and it was encouraging to see newcomer Desmond Bishop do what he did in a handful of plays, but the question marks don’t go away and now you don’t have a guy like Dockett in front of them. The plus is that outside linebacker John Abraham is back (his return to practice, pictured below, was seriously overshadowed Monday by the Dockett news) but again, until he plays his way into shape, it’s tough to know what he’ll bring.

In the secondary, the Cardinals not only have all their guys still but now Tyrann Mathieu is back in the mix too. That group remains the strongest, although playing out on an island at times means they need the front seven to come through. That was a bit troubling to hear Bruce Arians talk about how many times the Cardinals did not run their blitzes correctly in Minnesota — Bowles was magical last year the way he schemed players to often get to the quarterback untouched — and that will be a key to this whole thing.

The Cardinals’ offense will be better this season and they will need to be. Regardless, the Cardinals aren’t going to get where they want to go unless the defense plays at a high level. They will have to do it differently than they once planned.

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Practice squad now gets 10 — and vets

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2014 – 2:02 pm

The NFL and the NFLPA have agreed to expand the practice squad from eight players to 10 in a pact that right now only lasts for the 2014 and 2015 season. That’s good news for coaches who like having more players for practice and for general managers who like the possibility of keeping young talent around to develop. It also helps a team to have more players who are familiar with the system if a roster move is necessary during the season.

The new practice squad rule has also brought with it a couple of adjustments. Players can spend up to three seasons on the practice squad if eligible, and now a player has to be on a PS six games (up from just three) to have a PS year count against one of those three seasons.

Second, and the much, much bigger news, is that two players of the 10 may now have up to two accrued seasons in the NFL. Before, a player with at least nine games on the 46-man roster in a season was not practice-squad eligible. That means that almost every player who has come into the league since 2012 is eligible this season. In the most obvious current case with the Cardinals, that suddenly means that quarterback Ryan Lindley, who was not practice-squad eligible a couple of hours ago, now is eligible.

In Lindley’s case, I still don’t know if the Cards would want to keep him around. There are very few reps for reserve QBs once the season starts and the Cards are going to want to get rookie Logan Thomas as much work as they can. Having a fourth quarterback in the mix would make that tougher for both Thomas and Lindley. But you never know.

Practice squad players still have to clear waivers. That hasn’t changed, so if you think a guy can play, he may never make it through for you to put him back on your practice squad. But with the two-years-and-OK change, the pool for the squad just got really, really big. (Brittan Golden on the practice squad? Even Earl Watford?)


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The impact of losing Darnell Dockett

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 10:16 pm

Injuries happen every preseason. They are not all created equal.

Even the long-term injuries are not created equal. As much as Jonathan Cooper’s injury hurt the Cardinals last year — and at the time, GM Steve Keim felt Cooper was the Cardinals’ best offensive lineman — there is an jarring emotional slam with the news Darnell Dockett is done for the season. That comes on many levels. On a defense that already lost Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington from last year’s unit, losing Dockett is a difficult pill to swallow.

After Dockett was carted off and practice resumed with some 7-on-7 work, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner gathered his players on the field and they all took a knee. I don’t know exactly what was said, but it certainly looked like Buckner was helping his guys get through what already looked like a rough patch that was later confirmed.

Now though, it’s about moving on. It’s about the future, which is in the short-term the 2014 season and in the long-term where 2015 might take Dockett and the Cardinals. Veteran Frostee Rucker should move into Dockett’s starting role, but again, there was always going to be a rotation on the defensive line. There was a reason the Cardinals drafted Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson. Those rookies are going to have to play a bigger role. They are going to have to grow up very fast because Dockett won’t be there to anchor — along with Calais Campbell — the line. One potential free agent to look at is long-time 3-4 defensive end Brett Keisel, Keisel was cut by the Steelers this offseason but he knows Bruce Arians and Buckner from their time in Pittsburgh. I have no idea if it’s possible he could come — I have no idea what kind of money he might want — but the Cardinals will need to add someone.

What will happen next year becomes very interesting. Dockett will turn 34 in May. He will be coming off major knee surgery. He will be going into the last year of his contract and will be due $6.5 million in salary and will have a $9.8M cap hit. That’s a lot of money for an older lineman. Like Larry Fitzgerald and his $23.6M cap hit in 2015, Dockett’s bulky contract was always going to be an issue after this season. That certainly hasn’t changed, and perhaps, becomes more of an issue because of the injury.

In the moment, though, there is only the gut-punch to the Cardinals. And the long rehab Dockett faces while the Cards try to prepare for the season to come.


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Dockett carted off with ACL injury

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 4:16 pm

UPDATE: Dockett tore his ACL and is out for the season. Here is the story.

The first practice of the last week of training camp didn’t go the way the Cardinals would have liked, not when defensive tackle Darnell Dockett went down during the workout and had to be carted off the field with a right knee injury. Dockett was headed to get an MRI on the injury, and it’s safe to say the Cardinals are holding their breath it is not serious. It’s tough to tell right now, although Dockett did look to be in some pain before he left.

“It was a routine play and Darnell was going hard,” defensive tackle Dan Williams said. “I don’t know the extent of the injury, but it’s part of football. His foot just got stuck in the ground. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Defensive end Calais Campbell said he didn’t see the play.

“It’s a tough situation to be in,” Campbell said. “He’s a great player, one we count on to be a leader. I’m not sure how serious it is, and hopefully he’ll come back soon but it’s always a scary moment when they bring the cart out.”

The Cardinals’ defensive line has been hammered with injuries. Defensive Bruce Gaston sat out Monday with his knee injury, Williams has missed time because of his knee and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu remains on the PUP list while he rehabs his ACL injury. Dockett has been remarkably durable, missing only two games out of 160 possible in his 10-year career.

Injuries, though, are part of the game.

“People go down every day almost,” Campbell said. “Sometimes it’s simple and they come right back into practice and sometimes it’s serious. It depends. In football, when people go down, you move the ball up and keep playing football. Since I was 6 years old playing the game, it’s always been when someone goes down, next man up.”


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Beware — B.A. noticing the training room

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 2:06 pm

The question was about how well Ted Larsen was playing on the offensive line, and Bruce Arians used it as a jumping-off point to mention that Larsen, when Lyle Sendlein came back this week, would have a “good chance” to be the starting left guard. That, of course, raised eyebrows given that Jonathan Cooper plays left guard. So someone asked, “What about Cooper?”

“He’s in the training room,” Arians replied. “He can’t do anything.”

Later, Arians was talking about Jaron Brown when he mentioned “he’s playing better than some of our starters. There are some guys who need to get out of the training room.”

And just like that, shots across the bow. It’s that time of camp when nerves are frayed and games that count are what everyone is looking forward to seeing. But now the head coach has clearly noticed guys who aren’t able to practice, and if you aren’t practicing, it’s hard not to notice. Some context here: For instance, the two receivers that have been sidelined are Michael Floyd and Ted Ginn and both guys are going to be on this roster. Ginn actually played in Saturday’s game. He’s your return man at the very least, and Floyd is Floyd. But there is little question Arians wants his guys back on the field (and if you remember, Arians has pushed Floyd to get back to practice before.)

In Coop’s case, this could be a goose to get him back, or maybe Larsen is doing well enough to usurp his spot. There is no question the Cardinals want the Cooper who was explosive and athletic in training camp last year, before he broke his leg. He is the long-term vision. But he’s got to show he deserves to be out there, and he can’t do that until he’s out there in the first place. He remains sidelined with his turf toe injury.

“Unfortunately you can’t make the team in the training room,” Floyd said, and making the team isn’t necessarily the problem for some.

Floyd is supposed to practice Wednesday, Arians said. Said Floyd with a smile, “What he says goes.”

– Arians said the starters will play no more than a half against Cincinnati Sunday night. Drew Stanton will play behind Carson Palmer and “we’ll see” if other quarterbacks are used.

– The hope is that LB John Abraham will practice at least some this week. Arians was pleased with the jump-in-with-no-practice performance for new ILB Desmond Bishop, who played 15 plays. “Not as much rust as I thought.” You listen to Arians and Steve Keim and you think Bishop has a good chance to make this team.


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Larsen a top lineman, and trade calls

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 9:16 am

Ted Larsen at left guard? It wouldn’t be a total surprise. Larsen was working at guard a lot before starting center Lyle Sendlein got hurt and General Manager Steve Keim said today during his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Larsen “has been one of our five best offensive linemen” during training camp. The veteran free agent who had played for Tampa Bay has been solid at center for Sendlein and at this point, there are still questions about when Jonathan Cooper will come back and how he will do when he does come back.

Keim said Cooper’s turf toe was “significant” and he isn’t sure if Cooper will be back this week or next. It would make sense when Sendlein returns from his calf injury — Keim said that could be Wednesday — that Larsen could be in the left guard mix. (That also likely means Earl Watford has not left as good of an impression playing left guard as the Cardinals would have liked.)

– The Cardinals have not received any phone calls about someone possibly interested in a Ryan Lindley trade, Keim said. The reality is that barring injury, Lindley will be the odd man out at QB. Keim said such calls wouldn’t hear up until next week anyway. Keim said the Cardinals have had a few calls about their wide receivers. In what really isn’t a surprise, Keim said it is “more realistic” the Cardinals will keep six wide receivers. I’ve thought that for a while, given the play of Jaron Brown and rookie Walt Powell behind Fitz, Floyd, Ginn and John Brown.

– Stuff Keim liked from the Vikings game: linebacker Larry Foote’s play, quarterback Carson Palmer, Jaron Brown and how all the wide receivers did blocking on the perimeter.

– Stuff Keim didn’t like: The inability to create pressure on the quarterback, blown coverages and the lack of explosive runs (although he admitted not playing Andre Ellington much didn’t help the latter.)

– New linebacker Desmond Bishop, who dressed for practice Thursday but didn’t practice much at all, looked good in his 12 snaps, Keim said. I think Bishop, assuming he progresses, has a chance to stick. It’ll be interesting to see who that might cost in terms of a roster spot.

– Speaking of inside linebackers, Kevin Minter may still sit because of his pectoral injury. Keim said the Cards will be careful with Minter. No reason to risk anything right now.

– Linebacker John Abraham could return to individual drills either today or Wednesday.

 


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