Blogs

No Palmer or Fitz in Hall of Fame game

Posted by Darren Urban on July 22, 2017 – 1:02 pm

The Cardinals will have an extra preseason game this year but that doesn’t mean everyone will be playing in an extra game. Coach Bruce Arians said Saturday that quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will not play in the game against the Cowboys in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 3. Veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby may not play. “I doubt Karlos plays,” Arians said. “We’ll see.”

It’s not a surprise, nor will it be if there are others who also do not play (for instance, all-everything running back David Johnson, whom Arians was not asked about.)

Arians did say the more-rested Palmer will play more this preseason, although he followed up by saying that just meant that instead of six plays in a a game, he might get 12.

Most of the main players usually don’t play in the preseason finale either, a point Arians reiterated Saturday about Palmer in particular.


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A tale of two Frostees — or one Frostee, one Frosty

Posted by Darren Urban on July 22, 2017 – 8:51 am

Just before Frostee Rucker headed out to training camp — he actually got to the hotel Thursday night — he had finished a workout when driving home he saw a gentleman walking by the side of the road in the heat.

“It looked like it was going to take some time for him to get where he had to go,” the defensive tackle said. “Sometimes you have to take yourself outside of the box. I’m not really a fearful guy – I feel like I’m a servant in a way – and I pulled over and asked if he needed a lift and he actually did.”

The man’s twitter account (he later tweeted at Rucker to thank him for the ride, which is how the whole situation came to light) lists his name as Crispin White. Rucker said he didn’t have to drive White far. “But it didn’t matter,” Rucker added. “Wherever he had to go.”

But that’s not the best part of the story. The two began a conversation on the ride, and Rucker let White know his name was Frostee. White perked up.

“He said, ‘Really?’ ” Rucker recounted. ” ‘Well, that’s my nickname.’ ”

The man’s nickname was Frosty with a “y.” Frostee — his given name, don’t forget — spells it a little different. But it was an interesting twist on Rucker’s Good Samaritan gesture.


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Johnson’s finger can vouch for Palmer arm strength

Posted by Darren Urban on July 21, 2017 – 7:27 pm

All offseason, there has been talk from the Cardinals — and coach Bruce Arians — of not overworking Carson Palmer’s arm. The quarterback didn’t throw during team work during OTAs until the last couple, and then minicamp. The idea was to keep him fresher for the season. Whether that improved his arm strength, well, David Johnson has a story.

Johnson went to the San Diego area after minicamp had ended, to take part in Palmer’s annual work near Palmer’s California home.Palmer was zinging passes to Johnson one day.

“He was throwing some heat and his arm was so fresh, I had to get stitches in my finger,” the running back said.

A throw had cut Johnson’s pinky. He wasn’t sure what it was, whether the laces caught him wrong or the leather simply sliced him, but Johnson said he actually suffered a subluxation of the finger. Still, he kept playing catch and didn’t get it looked at until later.

“He’s still got it,” Johnson said. “To say the least, he definitely still has an arm.”

UPDATE: Palmer said he felt bad about hurting Johnson but “he wasn’t wearing gloves, so I can put a little bit of the blame on him.” That wasn’t the only reason Palmer felt bad. “We washed it with the hose, and I thought ‘That’s probably not the cleanest water in Southern California’ ”


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It’s good for Cardinals that CJ2K returns

Posted by Darren Urban on July 20, 2017 – 2:36 pm

The door for Chris Johnson to return to the Cardinals was never really closed, and that speaks to the relationship between the veteran running back and the franchise. Both knew where the other side was coming from. The Cards got that Johnson would want to explore his options, especially with a situation here where David Johnson is going to get the vast majority of the work. Johnson understood that coming back to the Cardinals not only would likely mean limited snaps but also a limited salary — especially after Johnson had both his Cardinals’ seasons end early because of injury.

To be honest, I thought the David Johnson roadblock would ultimately keep CJ2K from coming back. Only 463 yards shy of 10,000, you get the strong sense CJ wants to show everyone what he can still do as a runner. That’ll be difficult with DJ atop the depth chart.

But he does like this organization and this locker room. And I think CJ is a large benefit to the Cardinals on multiple levels. He immediately becomes the best running back on the roster in pass protection. (Hopefully DJ is making strides in that area, but then again, you want DJ going out to catch passes.) He is a good vet to have in the running backs room. While Freddie Kitchens will do a good job as the new running backs coach, CJ can help with the transition from Stump Mitchell, who had been DJ’s only position coach. Oh, and CJ can still run a little bit, I’m guessing.

Chris Johnson never was hurt in his career until that broken leg two-thirds of the way through 2015, when he was the among the league leaders in rushing yards. Last year, he got little work before badly hurting his groin, which turned out to end his season — a season that didn’t go the way wanted for many Cards. It makes sense for him to come back and try and wipe out the bad taste in his mouth from 2016. There are a lot of Cardinals who want to do that this season.


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Before #CardsCamp, Keim’s notable camp signings

Posted by Darren Urban on July 19, 2017 – 10:02 am

As mentioned the other day, the Cardinals still have a vacancy on their 90-man roster. Bruce Arians, during an interview on Arizona Sports, indicated that the Cards could still re-sign veteran running back Chris Johnson, which has always been a possibility as long as Johnson remained on the market.

With all that in mind, a quick look at the notable veterans General Manager Steve Keim has signed in the days prior or during training camp while the Cardinals are at University of Phoenix Stadium:

2013 — T Eric Winston (started all season), LB John Abraham (led team in sacks), K Dan Carpenter (signed as competition to Jay Feely, lost battle.)

2014 — T Max Starks (eventually released at end of camp), DT Tommy Kelly (had a solid season as a replacement for the injured Darnell Dockett.)

2015 — TE Jermaine Gresham (has been team’s top tight end since), C Lyle Sendlein (started all season), RB Chris Johnson (played well before late-season injury.)

2016 — LB Donald Butler (released during final cuts), CB Mike Jenkins (was in line to start until tearing ACL).

Odds favor a couple more signings in this camp, necessary either because of play or injury. Whether they make a difference (see: 2016) we will see, but as always, the roster is churning.


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30 touches for David Johnson? Maybe. Likely not

Posted by Darren Urban on July 17, 2017 – 9:43 am

The subject of David Johnson and his potential touches per game this season has been a ongoing theme this offseason. It came up again this weekend when the Cardinals’ running back attended a fantasy football event (fantasy football is the No. 1 reason so many people want to know about Johnson’s touches this season, in an effort to forecast his production.)

Back at the owners’ meetings in March, Bruce Arians first talked about Johnson getting 30 touches — rushing attempts plus receptions — per game. When Johnson threw out the first pitch at a Diamondbacks game in April, he said there was no reason why he couldn’t get 30 touches a game.

“I never really got fatigued,” Johnson said then. “Those tough defense games against Seattle and the Rams, those games might feel a little sore, but that’s not until the adrenaline comes down. I never really feel too bad.”

Arians has said he’ll be smart about it. And the likelihood of Johnson averaging 30 touches a game, or even reaching that number a lot, just isn’t great.

Last season, one in which Johnson threatened to gain 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving, Johnson didn’t come close to averaging 30 touches a game. In fact, he led the league in touches at “only” 23.3. (Take out his injury-shortened finale, when he only had eight touches before going out with a scary knee injury, and Johnson still only averaged 24.3 touches a game.) Only three times did Johnson reach 30 touches in 2017, when he was the undisputed bellcow of the offense: 30 at San Francisco, 41 at home in the overtime tie against Seattle, and 32 in the late-season win at Seattle. (He had 29 at Minnesota and 27 against Washington.)

Make no mistake. Johnson will again be the centerpiece of the offense. There will be days when he gets 30 touches. But circumstances will be different each game. Defenses will create new challenges. Arians will want his receivers involved. There will be reasons at times to not overdo it with Johnson, too, something Arians has acknowledged. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense that he will average that many. Unless it’s against Seattle.


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Cardinals still blitz-happy under Arians

Posted by Darren Urban on July 13, 2017 – 1:15 pm

Bruce Arians kept his promise. The Cardinals acquired Chandler Jones last offseason (and were counting on Markus Golden taking another step forward as a pass rusher) and yet before the season he said he still wouldn’t be happy unless the Cards were blitzing.

“If we’ve got four good ones, why not send five or six?” Arians said then.

The Cards got what they wanted out of Jones (11 sacks) and Golden (12.5 sacks). But they also kept blitzing. Pro Football Focus has the numbers (and a couple of gifs for examples). NFL teams blitz an average of 30 percent of the time, PFF says, and about 38 percent in obvious passing situations. The Cardinals in 2016? Blitzing nearly 41 percent of the time (and 41.4 percent on first downs.) PFF makes the point that, in blitzing, it gives teams less chance to double-team when blocking. But in the end, Arians just likes to bring the pressure. It’s the defensive equivalent of the deep shots B.A. likes to take on offense. What, you thought because B.A. is an offensive guy that “No risk-it, no biscuit” was restricted to offense?

It’s also followed the change in DC from Todd Bowles — who blitzed a lot — to James Bettcher. With the addition of rookie inside linebacker Haason Reddick (who played a pass-rushing defensive end at Temple) and a healthy Tyrann Mathieu, there seem to be more blitzing options heading into 2017.


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Post-season cancer surgery for Arians

Posted by Darren Urban on July 11, 2017 – 12:30 pm

Bruce Arians had a rough year health-wise in 2016. There was a scare in San Diego in the preseason (Arians had diverticulitis), and then another hospital check after “discomfort” in late November. Now, in his new book released today called “The Quarterback Whisperer,” Arians acknowledges there was third health concern that had to be taken care of after the season.

Arians writes that he was out to dinner with his wife, Chris, in December when he got a call from his doctor. Arians had just been to the doctor to get a hernia checked, and his ultrasound revealed a small spot on his kidney — renal cell carcinoma. Amazingly, Arians coached the remainder of the season before having surgery to remove a “small portion” of the kidney in February.

“Now I feel great,” Arians writes. “My energy has returned. I’m told I’m cancer-free again. I’m ready for at least one more season of NFL football—maybe more.”

Arians had to deal with a lot of heartbreak around that time. Both his brother-in-law and his longtime agent passed away from cancer. Arians also has a history with the disease. He battled prostate cancer in 2007, and had to have some cancerous cells scraped off his nose during his first summer work with the Cardinals in 2013.

“I now realize more than ever nothing is guaranteed in life,” Arians writes. “Every day needs to enjoyed and celebrated to the fullest. Roses need to be smelled, sunsets savored, time with family cherished. Moving forward, I want to be a beacon of hope for others struggling with cancer. My fight is their fight. I’m not coaching for myself in 2017; I’m coaching for everyone who’s dealing with cancer. This is my charge.”


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A Badger in London

Posted by Darren Urban on July 11, 2017 – 8:49 am

In advance of the Cardinals’ Week 8 trip to London to play the Rams, safety Tyrann Mathieu is there now as part of an NFL contingent publicizing all four of the 2017 London games. Each of the eight teams involved sent a player over, and today Mathieu was at Twickenham — where the Cards will play — doing interviews, taking part in photo shoots and having a talk with soccer star Bayo Akinfewna (who has some NFL size and is nicknamed “The Beast.”)

The players will spend a few days in London hyping the games. In the U.K., the NFL sells “season tickets” to all four games for those who want to attend all of them, and even though two games will be played at Wembley Stadium and two at Twickenham (which is outside the city), there is a group marketing effort.

Mathieu is a natural ambassador for the Cardinals. High-profile with a good personality, he is also hoping that he can regain his 2015 form as the 2017 season unfolds.

By the time Mathieu (whose exploits are being chronicled by our video department, so there will a video to watch somewhere down the line) returns at the end of the week, the offseason will have nearly run its course. Players report to training camp a week from Friday, with the first practice coming a week from Saturday.


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About that roster spot …

Posted by Darren Urban on July 10, 2017 – 1:51 pm

As I come back off vacation, things are still quiet around the Cardinals’ facility. Coaches and players won’t start filtering in until next week (report day for training camp is a week from Friday, with the first practice on July 22, a week from Saturday.) This is the time when the radar gets raised for a potential veteran signing for training camp.

The Cardinals currently have one open spot on the 90-man roster, a vacancy created the last time the Cards made moves more than a month ago. Odds are that it would be more of a fringe guy to fill out a position heading into camp, a name that most won’t recognize. But it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to have someone with a better chance of making the roster. The last we heard from GM Steve Keim, the team was monitoring a bunch of veterans who were possibilities (assuming the price was right.)

There are cornerbacks out there, although if  you are floating around right now, there are questions: Darrelle Revis is price v. age (and since he is already making $6 million this season and has offset language, he may not be motivated to play), Sam Shields has dealt with concussions, Brandon Flowers and Alterraun Verner are smaller. When last we heard from running back Chris Johnson, he said he was still in contact with the team. Maybe there is a guard to compete with Evan Boehm (besides rookie Dorian Johnson.)

One thing that seems certain: Adding whomever it is won’t be the only move of camp. Since Keim took over as GM, the Cardinals have averaged 18 roster moves from camp-opening week through the first cut to 75. (Again, don’t forget that a new rule means there won’t be a cut to 75 this season, only the final cut, which will take teams from 90 to 53.) The roster, through performance and injuries, will be churned soon enough.


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