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Palmer and battling the NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on June 12, 2015 – 10:40 am

The health of Carson Palmer is the linchpin to the Cardinals’ 2015 season. No one is disputing that, which is why it’s been so important for Palmer to get back on the field and why his full return in minicamp generated the headlines it did. It also (obviously) would make an impact on the NFC West race. Right after the season, Bruce Arians was asked about battling Seattle going forward.

“I’d like to play them with a first-string quarterback,” Arians said. “We beat them with our first-string quarterback. We didn’t get the chance to play them this year with our first-string quarterback.”

The fact is, the Cardinals hardly got any play from Palmer against their division rivals. Because of the schedule and thanks to the shoulder injury that cut down Palmer’s season early before the knee got him late, Palmer played a little more than three of a possible 24 quarters against the Rams, 49ers and Seahawks. That’s a tough way to maneuver through a difficult division. (The Cardinals ended up going 3-3 in six division games, rallying behind a Drew Stanton TD pass to beat the Rams in the one game Palmer did get to play.)

Palmer plans to change that in 2015, of course. While he only got six starts last season, Palmer was healthy in 2013, not only starting every game but taking every snap. If he can manage that again — or at least come close to it, since taking every single snap doesn’t necessarily have to happen — it’ll give the Cards even footing in the NFC West.

Carson Palmer


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Keim: Potential trades coming

Posted by Darren Urban on June 11, 2015 – 12:01 pm

General Manager Steve Keim has spent the offseason building up the roster to a place where the Cardinals have some quality players on the current 90-man roster that won’t be able to stick around by the time the team needs to get to 53 in September. Keim said on the “Doug and Wolf” show this morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 it was a concern, although it was a good concern. What it means is that the Cards might pull off a trade or two, likely in an effort to fetch some future draft picks if possible.

“For the first time we have a certain amount of depth here where we will either have the ability to trade a player or two or four or five at certain positions that not only can make other NFL rosters but could potentially start for some teams,” Keim said. “I have to be active and make sure I address that situation so we are not just releasing players and allowing teams to pick them up. Hopefully we can be active and get some solid value for guys who can help other teams.”

Keim has never been shy about churning the roster, and this is just another potential instance. He also said he is “watching two or three players” at the moment who are free agents that the team could sign. Keim wouldn’t name names or even positions, but he did note that often times, these late veteran signees are guys who are coming off injuries and need until near training camp to get right, and then the Cardinals would talk to them (and likely execute one of Keim’s famous one-year “prove it” contracts.) Tight end anyone?

Mini1.BASKuse


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Arians cuts minicamp short

Posted by Darren Urban on June 10, 2015 – 11:39 am

The offseason is just about over.

After the Cardinals finished their minicamp practice this morning, Bruce Arians declared it to be the last day of minicamp. The work had been good enough over the last month of OTAs and minicamp that he canceled Thursday’s final day (The Cardinals still had meetings and a walkthrough today.) Arians was confident the Cards accomplished what needed to be done, not the least of which was getting Carson Palmer back on the field. No reason to push it, or risk any more injuries.

Some quick notes now that it’s over:

— Tight end Troy Niklas is having a minor surgical procedure on his previously injured left ankle to remove what he described as the “tightrope” in his ankle, which had kept the area tight but also restricted his movement. He said he’ll move much better in training camp afterward. Niklas was sitting out Wednesday with his right ankle sore after rolling it Tuesday.

— Undrafted rookie inside linebacker Alani Fua got a couple of reps in seven-on-seven nickel work, which could be interesting down the line. Fua, at 6-foot-5 with long arms, could be a pain in a rear for opposing passing lanes.

— One defensive look had four safeties on the field: Rashad Johnson, Deone Bucannon, Tyrann Mathieu, Tony Jefferson. There was a reason Arians dismissed the idea of the depth chart regarding safety.

— Arians talked again about the Cardinals’ improved team speed and strength. “What the hell is it called now, Sports Science?” Arians said. “I know we’re bigger and stronger and faster.”

— Arians praised the final work of practice for rookie tackle D.J. Humphries, and also said Jonathan Cooper has looked very good all offseason.

— The last practice was spirited. The offense and defense wanted to “win” plays, which is why running back Andre Ellington couldn’t believe he dropped a wide-open TD pass (pictured below.)

AndreBummedBLOG

 


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Minicamp opens with Palmer in the fray

Posted by Darren Urban on June 9, 2015 – 12:00 pm

Minicamp began Tuesday — the last three days of work before the players break for the offseason — with Carson Palmer right where he said he wanted to be when he first hurt his ACL last November: Playing on the field. Palmer had been taking part in OTAs but Tuesday was the first time he took part in full speed 11-on-11 work. Much more on that later, but it’s a great sign for Palmer and the Cardinals — especially since Bruce Arians said there are no limitations right now.

(That could change come training camp, but we will see.)

Other quick notes from the first day:

—  The weather couldn’t have been nicer — clouds, a few raindrops and a touch higher than 80 degrees — and so the longer time on the field wasn’t that brutally hot minicamp stuff the Cardinals usually deal with. The work followed. Arians was pleased with what his team did (and he’s a guy who will say so if he’s not.) Arians said the Cards finished early and still got about 30 extra reps.

— Arians said he’s pleased with the team speed, which is always something GM Steve Keim is looking to upgrade.

— Wide receiver Michael Floyd remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, which kept him out last week as well. Arians said there is no reason to risk Floyd’s health right now. On a good note, rookie inside linebacker Alani Fua (foot) took part in practice for the first time since getting hurt in rookie minicamp. Rookie linebacker Shaq Riddick (hamstring) remains sidelined.

— Running back David Johnson got more reps Tuesday (the Cards are down to one field of work as opposed to the two-field practices) in part because Kerwynn Williams and Stepfan Taylor are sitting out with minor injuries.

— Arians acknowledged he was hoping quarterback Logan Thomas would have made more progress by now. Thomas remains in a three-QB race for the third QB spot.

JaronForBlog


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Considering Johnson as Ellington Part II

Posted by Darren Urban on June 8, 2015 – 8:23 pm

One of the things Bruce Arians said last season — more and more as the year went along — was that while he still believed in the philosophy of the offense that allowed Andre Ellington to be the linchpin both running and receiving, it became a big problem when Ellington was dinged up and then sidelined with injuries. It was especially true in the passing game, where Ellington excels when he is on the field.

As the offseason goes on and people keep wondering what will be the role of rookie third-round running back David Johnson might be, it’s telling that Arians mentioned first the other day praise for Johnson as a receiver. The thought was that the Cards would take a big running back to pair with Ellington, but instead, it points more toward the ability for the Cardinals’ offensive gameplan to absorb an Ellington injury if necessary.

Arians said as much right after the draft, saying with Johnson “you don’t have to change if there was an injury,” but that message is easy to forget over the weeks. Arians has said Johnson needs to put on pads before anything can be determined of him as a runner. How this running rotation plays out will be interesting — Arians has talked a lot about Robert Hughes about needing more work, although Hughes never quite was able to fill that void left when Jonathan Dwyer was let go last season. Maybe the offensive line upgrade will make a difference all the way around. But even though Johnson physically has size on Ellington, they’ll likely do a lot of the same things on the field.

DJohnsonBlog


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Roster move for Halapio on a quiet Friday

Posted by Darren Urban on June 5, 2015 – 1:44 pm

The Cardinals made a roster move on the back of the depth chart Friday ahead of next week’s minicamp, releasing tackle Tavon Rooks and signing guard Jon Halapio. Halapio was a sixth-round pick of the New England Patriots in 2014 before being released in the final roster cuts. He spent time on the Broncos’ practice squad late last season and was with Denver until he was cut in May.

The Cards have 15 total offensive linemen on the 90-man roster. Minicamp begins Tuesday.


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Two Cards in a different top 100

Posted by Darren Urban on June 5, 2015 – 10:00 am

While the NFL Network continues to roll out its top 100 players — Calais Campbell and Larry Fitzgerald have been named, and I am assuming Patrick Peterson will find his way in there at some point — CBS’s Pete Prisco has put out his annual top 100 list. Two Cardinals make an appearance, the two you would think: Peterson and Campbell.

On Peterson (No. 39), Prisco writes “He started slowly last year, but we later found out he was dealing with a blood sugar issue. He came on strong and continues to be one of the better corners in the league. Watch him against Dez Bryant last year. You will see.”

That’s the plan from Peterson, who said soon after his season “I know what problems need to be fixed.” It wasn’t the year he wanted, but there is still certainly big belief in Peterson not only from himself but from his coaches and the Cardinals’ front office.

On Campbell (No. 44), Prisco writes “He doesn’t pile up big sack numbers in their scheme, but the personnel men and opposing offensive coaches know all about him. He is a good run player and he does have 16 sacks the past two seasons and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl last season.”

On a defensive line that will be about rotation, Campbell will be the star. He’s the guy who needs consistency of his often high level of play. Bruce Arians has made that point and Campbell understands where his coach is coming from.

— Apropos of nothing, I wanted to give a quick congrats to two men with Cardinals ties who have been named Arizona’s best this year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. The voice of the Cardinals, Dave Pasch, was named sportscaster of the year, while my competitor (and friend) Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic was named sportswriter of the year. Can’t speak for Pasch, but I know Kent is headed to beautiful Salisbury, North Carolina, this weekend for the banquet.

Peter100

 


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#tbt: Denny really, really wanted Leinart signed

Posted by Darren Urban on June 4, 2015 – 2:38 pm

First-round draft pick D.J. Humphries signed his contract earlier this week, the last of the seven Cardinals draft picks to do so, and the June 1 date was a couple of days earlier than Deone Bucannon’s scribble on the dotted line in 2014. Clearly, the timetable has shifted with rookie signings, as we went over a few weeks ago. In the spirit of those one-time rookie signing sagas (and today being a Throwback Thursday and all) I recall one interesting moment in 2006 when Matt Leinart was still unsigned as a rookie, the Cardinals were in training camp and Denny Green — still two months from letting the world know the Bears may or may not need to be crowned — wasn’t all that thrilled.

So Green brought a memorable (if less publicized than the one about the Bears) rant, letting everyone know he wanted Leinart signed already. The question that elicited the response? Well of course, it was someone asking about how Karlos Dansby was doing with his nagging toe injury.

That’s why I remember it so much. The question was about Dansby.

Some quick background. The Cardinals were about to head to New England to play the Patriots in a Saturday night preseason game.  On this Monday, someone wanted to see how Dansby was doing. Green, who may or may not have planned ahead of time to say something about Leinart one way or the other (rumors say he did), began his nearly four-minute monologue, which can be heard by clicking here. Measured to be sure (unlike that other answer) but sure in its tone. Green also made it his last comment of the presser — just like that night after the Bears.

A morsel from that day: “I look forward to going to New England. I look forward to Kurt Warner going on the field, looking over and seeing Tom Brady — who was not the 10th pick in the draft, he was in the (sixth) round, so it’s not always about the draft,” Green said. “It’d be a shame if Matt Leinart is still sitting there as the only guy in the National Football League who is not in the National Football League.”

It only mattered for about six hours. By the early evening, Leinart had agreed to terms. As you can see here in my story from the next morning (remember newspapers?) the quarterback’s side insisted Green’s comments had nothing to do with moving things along. Either way, it made for great theater.


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OTAs end on a high note (and other notes)

Posted by Darren Urban on June 4, 2015 – 10:35 am

The Cardinals did a lot more on their final OTA day than they had in a long time — in years previous, the team would often get excused after the opening special teams period (or, under Ken Whisenhunt, after a stretch). There was full work today, although a Chandler Catanzaro field goal clipped the end about 30 minutes earlier than normal. The Cards had also eschewed the two-practice-field work the last few days of OTAs. Next week is the last work of the offseason — mandatory minicamp Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

— Bruce Arians said he was happy with the competition, although again, with no pads, it’s hard to know exactly where anyone is. That won’t change next week, because the rules are exactly the same for minicamp.

— In particular, Arians said the final roster for both the defensive line and outside linebackers will be “interesting” in terms of the numbers kept. “We are going to keep the best 53.

— Arians passed over the chance to say Bobby Massie has a strong hold on the right tackle job right now, instead pointing out how good of an offseason Earl Watford has been having at multiple positions — including right tackle. (We’ll have more on Watford later on the homepage.)

— Michael Floyd has been sitting out this week with an undisclosed ailment and Larry Fitzgerald missed the last couple days of the voluntary work, leaving lots of reps for John Brown — who Arians said has been “great” in OTAs.

— Arians said rookie running back David Johnson looks very good as a receiver. As for being a running back, that evaluation can only come when the pads are on, Arians said.

— Quarterback Carson Palmer briefly appeared in 11-on-11 work although it was in a walk-through drill. Palmer could get more no-huddle work in minimcamp, Arians said, “depending who’s on defense.” That means Arians has to trust the defenders to stay well away from Palmer and his knee. The vets know what’s what.

— The final OTA opened with the big boys of the offensive and defensive lines catching kickoffs. It’s always a sight to behold (and yes, there should be video on it later today.)

CampbellCatch

 


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Some cap room with which to work

Posted by Darren Urban on June 3, 2015 – 2:14 pm

As the final days of on-field summer work play out — the Cardinals have one more OTA Thursday, and then three days of mandatory minicamp next week before players scatter for the remainder of the offseason — the roster has settled. The last move came back on May 13 when linebacker Darryl Sharpton was signed, and with the front office members headed for some much needed down time of their own, transactions figure to be in limited supply until the pre-training camp rollup in late July.

(Official camp dates have yet to be announced but with Labor Day and the later-than-usual opening weekend of the regular season on Sept. 13, the Cards won’t even report to camp until July 30 or 31.)

There are moves than can be made if the Cards want, however. As of Wednesday, the Cardinals have $12.16 million in salary cap room, according to the NFLPA. So if Steve Keim is looking for that pre-training camp veteran add (which wouldn’t cost that much anyway), the Cards can do it. It also allows some freedom to work out contract extensions if the team is so inclined. I’d expect Pro Bowl special teamer Justin Bethel, set to become an unrestricted free agent, near or at the front of that line. Among the other players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after this season: defensive backs Jerraud Powers, Rashad Johnson and Alfonzo Dennard, tackle Bobby Massie, linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Lorenzo Alexander, defensive end Matt Shaughnessy and quarterback Drew Stanton.

BethelCapBlog


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