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D-Line wants to earn the shake and the apple pie

Posted by Darren Urban on May 25, 2017 – 3:49 pm

Brentson Buckner is a guru of the defensive line, and the way he phrases things to get across his point is gold for a writer. Buckner was known as a great quote as a player, and it hasn’t changed. Talking to him about Robert Nkemdiche, the Cardinals’ defensive line coach provided his philosophy about teaching young players. Fortunately, it was after lunch, because otherwise, it would have left me hungry.

“I’m not going to chew their food up and then give it to them,” Buckner said. “I’m going to teach you how to chew it yourself, because when you chew it yourself, you’ll be more satisfied.

“Now, I’m not going to give you a whole bunch to eat. I might start you with the little person’s plate. The older guys, they get the big daddy plate. But the little guys, they start with the Happy Meal. Then I’ll move you up to the quarter pounder with cheese, and before you know it, you can get the nuggets, the Big Mac, the shake and the apple pie. Because guess what, you can chew it and swallow it yourself and it won’t overwhelm you. Know what I’m saying?”


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Cardinals celebrations? “Chandler likes to dance”

Posted by Darren Urban on May 24, 2017 – 1:54 pm

Here’s the thing about the new relaxed celebration rules in the NFL — I’m not sure exactly how much they’ll impact the Cardinals. They don’t exactly have a group of guys pining to make a scene post-play. On our latest podcast, we were talking about a power poll of Cardinals who were most likely to take advantage. I mean, it’s not going to be Larry Fitzgerald (“That’ll never happen,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Larry’s dance is dancing over to give the ball to the referee, which is what he’s supposed to do.”) We know Smokey Brown can dance, but his dance was already allowed in the rules and frankly, I don’t see him going much further than that. J.J. Nelson is pretty low key. David Johnson is definitely low key — it’s tough to embrace the nickname “Humble Rumble” and you know, not be humble.

Arians, in contrast to Marvin Lewis, is cool with the change. “I danced all the time when I scored touchdowns,” Arians said. “I didn’t get many. Danced my ass off when it happened.”

Arians, however, doesn’t figure to score at all these days. In terms of the current players? “I’m not really a dancing type of guy,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said, when asked about his potential plans. “I do love the fact the league is allowing players to show their personality, not putting us in handcuffs. I think it’s a great win for the players.”

Peterson’s first choice in the locker room “probably would’ve been Tony,” but alas, Tony Jefferson has moved to Baltimore.

“Chandler,” Peterson said. “Chandler likes to dance.”

Indeed, Chandler Jones came to my mind first. He’s further removed from the more buttoned-up culture of New England. He has the security of the long-term contract. And he definitely likes to have fun. Jones was asked about the new overtime rule but he said the celebration rule move was the “one that matters” to the defensive players.

Jones did say there wouldn’t be any choreography or dance practice. “That’s when it gets out of hand” and away from football, he said. But, he added, “I’ll have something cooking for sure.”

 


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Answer on Fitz future won’t be soon

Posted by Darren Urban on May 23, 2017 – 7:44 am

Larry Fitzgerald said last night at Bruce Arians’ charity event that he will only address his NFL future after 2017 one time, in training camp. That’s so he won’t have to keep answering questions. (Although, if he’s hoping no questions will be asked all season, well, good luck with that.) Here’s the thing: It would be a massive upset if, at that point in camp, Fitz says anything besides something along the lines that he’ll make a decision after the season. Just like 2016.

He’s not going to ever proclaim his last season — even if he were to know — as his last season. Fitz doesn’t want that. If you want tangible proof, look at the foreword Fitz wrote for the Kent Somers’ book “100 Things Cardinals Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die.” In Fitz’s own words: “Kent Somers covered my first press conference and he’ll probably be there for my last, unless I just quietly slip into retirement (That’s more my style).” I definitely believe that. I have long thought there is a better chance Fitz just says goodbye in a tweet, with no goodbye presser. We’ll see when that happens. But if that’s his style, then having a goodbye lap around the league by announcing his retirement early doesn’t make sense.

Carson Palmer recently said the same. He talked last week and was asked about 2017 being possibly his last year. Palmer’s response? How would he know in May? He won’t even know in November or December. That’s an after-season thing. He’s another guy I don’t think wants to make a big deal about whether he’s going to be done or not.

Bottom line, I think 2017 will be another vague season for Fitz (and Palmer) in terms of the end. I appreciate Fitzgerald wanting to try and contain such talk. I’m not sure it’s in his hands. That’s what happens when you are the face of the franchise. People want to know.


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Behind Johnson, the look of running back room

Posted by Darren Urban on May 19, 2017 – 9:45 am

When you have arguably the best running back in the league — certainly in the top two or three — who can both rush and catch the ball with any back out there, the notion of who is behind him can get lost. But then it was reported this week, before LeGarrette Blount signed with the Eagles, that the Cardinals showed some interest. It raises the question, with the team moving on from veteran Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington giving wide receiver a shot, just how that depth chart will fill out behind David Johnson.

As it stands right now, Kerwynn Williams figures to be the top running option behind Johnson. Williams has earned that nod over the years; he has produced on the ground when he has gotten the chance. T.J. Logan, the rookie fifth-round pick, is a virtual lock to make the roster. His kickoff return skills alone help, and from what little I have seen in the OTAs and rookie minicamp, the speed on display after catch a short pass is a very real threat.

Beyond that? Ellington could still officially end up as a running back, although it feels like in many ways his and Logan’s skillsets are similar. Big Elijhaa Penny seems to be the wild card. Is he the big back the Cards could use between the tackles if needed? Do the Cardinals need to add someone at some point? I’ve never gotten the sense the Cardinals felt a strong need to add another vet back — it was a little surprising to hear Blount caught their attention — but that’s part of what OTAs and minicamp will be for, to sort that need out. It would never be surprising to have the Cardinals decide to make a late signing either. That’s what happened with Chris Johnson, and with GM Steve Keim, you never rule out that possibility.


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An early appearance for the accountability board

Posted by Darren Urban on May 17, 2017 – 8:19 am

The accountability board is something Bruce Arians brought with him when he came to the Cardinals, in use since his very first training camp. But it always had its place — camp and then the fall. It was put away in the offseason. Until now.

Arians said he was making a new move this year, putting up the accountability sheet starting this morning — now that OTAs had started Tuesday.

“We never do it in OTAs but we’re doing it this year,” Arians said.

It falls in line with everything else Arians has talked about wanting to do differently this season, all in an effort to rebound from a disappointing 7-8-1 record in 2016. Tackle more in training camp. Prep Carson Palmer now for later. Add more leaders in the locker room. And make sure the Cardinals don’t beat themselves — hence, the accountability board earlier than normal.

“We had too many mental errors in games last year,” Arians said. “It’s a point of emphasis.”


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Bucannon news means crash course for Reddick

Posted by Darren Urban on May 16, 2017 – 4:15 pm

So the hope is that Deone Bucannon will be back for the beginning of the regular season, after the news that the linebacker recently had ankle surgery to repair the injury he had hoped rehab would solve. That means for the offseason — and into training camp, if not all of training camp — it’ll be No. 1 draft pick Haason Reddick who will step into the breach.

That’s fine — ultimately, Reddick figures to spend more time at inside linebacker than outside, and inside is where he was slated to spend the offseason anyway. Bruce Arians said Tuesday the Cardinals get that Reddick already knows how to rush the passer. Now it’s about learning the other position. But this also will make the latter stages of training camp and the beginning of the regular season very interesting. The inside linebacker corps becomes thinner now, much different than just a week ago when Bucannon was in the fold, Reddick could fill in and — at least briefly — there was a chance Daryl Washington might be in the mix. The Washington return was a non-starter, though, and now Bucannon is sidelined. If Bucannon comes back early in the season, it’s easy to forget it ever happened — does anyone remember that left guard Mike Iupati missed the first three games of the 2015 season because of a knee injury, only to return to Pro Bowl status in a 13-3 season?

The kind of guy Bucannon is, he’ll push hard to return quickly. I could see him being the kind of guy who may have to be told to take it easy and let the healing take place. In the meantime, though, Reddick is on deck.


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No Budda until after the vets leave

Posted by Darren Urban on May 15, 2017 – 12:47 pm

Timing is everything, and the timing for this season means safety Budda Baker won’t get any work with the veterans of this roster until training camp. Baker, the second-round safety, took part in this weekend’s rookie minicamp (even coming up with a pick on Friday). But he had to leave Sunday, part of a long-time NFL rule that says a rookie cannot participate (other than the rookie minicamp) until his college’s spring class has graduated — whether or not the player has remained in school.

The point of the rule is to make sure a player doesn’t feel he has to leave school to get to his NFL team’s workouts when he is trying to finish out the semester. Most players have already dropped out to focus on the NFL anyway, but some still are going to class.

Washington, like a handful of schools (UCLA, Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State among them), is on a quarters system. Graduation for Washington for the current quarter doesn’t come until June 9. It means Baker cannot take part in the offseason work until June 10. Unfortunately for Baker, the Cardinals finish up on-field work with their mandatory (except for Baker) minicamp June 6-8.

There is a couple of weeks of rookie work after that, so Baker’s return does mean something. Baker can talk to coaches on the phone or FaceTime in the meantime (as well as teammates; I’d guess at some point he’ll touch base with Tyrann Mathieu.) How he fits with Mathieu and Patrick Peterson and the rest of the secondary will have to wait until mid-July.


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Washington out as Gabbert comes in

Posted by Darren Urban on May 11, 2017 – 2:26 pm

And so the Daryl Washington saga is over.

The Cardinals released him Thursday, just ahead of the official signing of Blaine Gabbert and just ahead of the rookies starting to report. It seemed like it might take longer to come to a decision, but it didn’t. Washington said in a statement that a fresh start was good. Mike Jurecki tweeted that Washington told him he didn’t want to play for the league minimum salary, which fits the time line. I would’ve guessed that was a prerequisite — the Cardinals weren’t going to just ride with Washington’s current deal.

Regardless, we’re basically back to where we were three weeks ago, when Washington was still suspended. As I have noted, I was surprised about a lot of this because I didn’t think there was a chance he would play for the Cardinals again. Turns out, Washington will not. We’ll all watch to see what happens with his career. I know many fear Washington signing with another NFC West team and haunting the Cards. He’s still missed three years of football. At this point, it’s impossible to predict anything. As long as he’s around somewhere, I guess someone will still shoot me DWash questions. But it won’t be about his future with the Cardinals. That’s done.

— Washington will count $1.875 million in dead cap space, according to multiple cap sites. He was due to make $2.9M in salary with another $100,000 in workout bonuses (which I’m not sure he would’ve qualified for by now), but that would save $3M in cap room off his contract. He has no dead money beyond this season, meaning they are clear of anything Washington-related after 2017.

—  There is a lot of debate about whether Washington deserved another chance with the Cards. (I won’t say a second chance because I’m not thinking this would’ve been No. 2). There are legitimate arguments for both sides. But that it came to this result can’t really shock anyone, no matter what side you might argue.

— Speaking of debate, the Gabbert signing has sparked a lot. Nationally it seems to be a touchpoint about the future of Gabbert’s former teammate Colin Kaepernick and why Kaepernick hasn’t gotten signed. But with the Cardinals, it’s about where Gabbert fits. That’s TBD, but it can’t really hurt to have Gabbert around. See what he has, whether he makes more sense to have around than Zac Dysert or Trevor Knight. (As I said yesterday, I don’t see Gabbert supplanting Stanton. Not this year.) And don’t lose sight of the fact the Cardinals want to make sure Palmer doesn’t overextend himself before the season. Having another arm is important in that regard.


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Gabbert expected to join Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on May 10, 2017 – 4:49 pm

With rookies reporting tomorrow for the weekend’s rookie minicamp, it is a veteran who is attracting attention. Nothing official yet, but multiple reports have the Cardinals about to sign quarterback Blaine Gabbert to a one-year contract at the minimum salary. Gabbert recently worked out for the team. Cardinals fans know Gabbert well — he was the starter to begin last season for the 49ers as Colin Kaepernick recovered from injuries, and later was sent to the bench in favor of Kaepernick. The 49ers started over with a new GM and coach, and jettisoned all their QBs.

Gabbert would join a team with a bunch of quarterbacks already. There would have to be a corresponding roster move with his signing, but the expectation is that the Cards stick with five quarterbacks. Carson Palmer is the starter, and I don’t see Gabbert displacing Drew Stanton as the backup. This seems more likely a battle as a third QB, with Zac Dysert and undrafted rookie Trevor Knight. Getting a look-see, at least in offseason work, makes some sense. And with the passing of the comp pick deadline, the signing doesn’t impact the Cards’ anticipated comp pick haul.


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Bidwill: “Process” with Washington decision

Posted by Darren Urban on May 10, 2017 – 11:36 am

Michael Bidwill, in New York to be there when the Cardinals’ Amazon/NFL Films series “All or Nothing” won a Sports Emmy Tuesday night, also did a couple of media interviews while there. At one point with Adam Schein, the Cardinals’ team president was asked about the status of the team’s decision about recently reinstated linebacker Daryl Washington.

Bidwill said Washington had some personal things he was taking care of out of town the following weekend after the draft, so it was this week where the Washington situation became more of a Cardinals’ focal point, even though it’s been a couple of weeks since Washington’s reinstatement.

“I don’t see this as a 30-minute meeting,” Bidwill said. “There is a lot that needs to go into this and our analysis, because we haven’t seen him in three years. There is a lot more process that we are going to go through than just having a meeting. I think that everyone has to be comfortable to put him back on the field.

“We’re going to go through our process and hopefully have an answer, one way or the other, here soon.”

Bidwill said he didn’t want to get into specifics about what the team might need to hear from Washington.

“I will speak generally, we need to know that this isn’t going to happen again,” Bidwill said. “That he had accepted responsibility for what happened and what he’d done, and there were a couple different things that happen. … I just think, generally, we need to know players accept responsibility, have addressed their issues in a therapeutic way in which we know professionally they are going to be good to go moving forward and that we are going to be comfortable having them around.

“Also, when you have a player off the field for three years, that’s a big deal. … We’ve got some more process to go through.”


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