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Keim: Minter, Cooper should be back

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2014 – 8:14 am

GM Steve Keim said on his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports’ “Doug and Wolf” show that the Cardinals expect linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral) and guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) to return to practice today. That is good news, although it should probably come with a caveat: Because the Cards just played last night, I am guessing practice will be very light today. But it’s a start. Bruce Arians had said this is a big week for both if they have any hope of playing in the opener. We’ll see how it plays out.

– Keim confirmed what I thought I had seen, that wide receiver Michael Floyd did hesitate in his route on the play where Carson Palmer overthrew him despite no defender in the area. “Michael slowed down in his ‘go’ route and the fact is if he would have kept running Carson would have hit him in stride for a touchdown. I expect that to be cleaned up.” Keim said he checked with Bruce Arians to see if Floyd was actually running a double move, but that Arians told him it was a straight fly pattern.

Overall, “it just didn’t seem like our quarterback and our receivers were in sync last night,” Keim said.

– He said after watching video, he was even more impressed with the offensive line play, especially the protection.

– Keim said a big concern of his coming into camp was right tackle but said that no longer is an issue. “Bobby Massie played very well last night,” he said.

– He said he thought DT Dan Williams had his best game of the preseason. In light of Darnell Dockett’s absence, that’s a good thing.

– Keim was very high on the play of rookie safety Deone Bucannon, and said he hopes Bucannon gets more playing time.

– Asked if the Cardinals were going to take one kicker or two kickers to San Diego, Keim said they would make that decision “later today.” UPDATE: The Cardinals cut Jay Feely.


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Bengals aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2014 – 10:44 pm

No reason to overanalyze here tonight, not with Bruce Arians talking to the media again just 14 hours from now and a short week ahead. This is going to go quickly, from the 13 cuts that are coming in the next day or so (officially, they must be done by Tuesday at 1 p.m. Arizona time) to the “practices” the Cardinals will try and hold Monday and Tuesday even though everyone is beat up from Sunday night’s game and more football is on the horizon Thursday.

The big concern/talking point again was Carson Palmer. He deserved praise the first two games. He was not nearly as good against the Bengals, and even he would admit that. But watching the game, while Palmer wasn’t good enough for this team to keep up in the NFC West I did not think he was terrible. Arians backed that up afterward. “Carson is going to take the blame and the heat for his quarterback rating but there are two drops that are wide open,” Arians said. “I don’t put a lot of stock in that one.”

Arians said Palmer made the right read on his interception and that it was the receiver (who was Larry Fitzgerald) who made the mistake but not cutting across the face of the defender. Fitz owned up to it as well. Truth be told, it looked like there were so many defenders in the area maybe the throw was ill-advised, but it’s got zero chance if the receiver isn’t where the QB thinks he’ll be. Palmer can’t miss a wide-open Michael Floyd either — and when we say wide open, it is literal. The Bengals just forgot to cover him deep. That said, I saw a replay where Floyd stopped near his defender and then started running again, and if Floyd runs full out the whole time, maybe the ball is in the right place for the TD.

Doesn’t really matter. No one will remember this in a few days. The Cardinals will fix some things. It wasn’t a terrible game. It wasn’t what they wanted, but it wasn’t unforgivable.

– The run defense was impressive. Arians did say he is worried about the pass rush when it’s only four players, and that’s been an issue for a long time. LB John Abraham played for the first time and Arians said he actually played more than expected. Abraham also drew a holding penalty. But it can’t be all about Abraham when the Cards are trying to get non-blitz pass rush.

– It certainly looks like rookie John Brown is this team’s third wide receiver. And if a fourth is needed, it looks like Jaron Brown will get the call more often than Ted Ginn. There will be plays for Ginn in three-receiver sets I am sure, but right now, if I had to put together a depth chart, I’d peg Ginn as behind the Brown boys. Ginn is the return man and the “get deep” threat.

– Other notable spots on the live depth chart watching the game. UDFA Glenn Carson was with Desmond Bishop as second-unit ILBs, with Larry Foote and Kenny Demens starting. Kevin Minter is still out; Carson could be a practice squad candidate. Jonathan Dwyer is pretty clearly the No. 2 running back. Bradley Sowell was the second-unit right tackle, and Max Starks worked third team. Arians said Sowell had been doing better the last couple of weeks. It’ll be interesting to see if Starks or Sowell are kept, because the swing tackle backup job is between those two.

– No injuries Sunday night? That’s the best news of all.

– The offensive line played well. In protection and the run game. That’s an excellent development.

That’s good for now. I’ll make a stab at guessing the 53-man roster in the next couple of days. Time to go home. Back to work in a few hours.

CPbengalsblog


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Mathieu, Ta’amu, Minter, Coop to sit

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2014 – 3:30 pm

There are only four Cardinals that are not expected to dress for the game against the Bengals tonight, and none are a surprise. It’s the two guys who just came off the PUP list — S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Alameda Ta’amu — and the two guys who didn’t practice at all last week — LB Kevin Minter (pectoral) and G Jonathan Cooper (toe). Coach Bruce Arians said this past week that both Minter and Cooper face an important (if short) week of practice if they still plan on playing in the regular-season opener.

Even though everyone else is expected to dress, how much they play will be interesting. There have been a rash of injuries across the league this weekend as all team’s play that all-important third preseason game, and it affects the season. Just ask the Rams, who have lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford for the season when he again tore the same ACL that ended his season early last year. The Cardinals need work and want to be sharp, but more crucial is making sure all the key pieces are ready to play when the regular-season starts against the Chargers in a couple of weeks.

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Friday before the Bengals, as camp ends

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2014 – 4:25 pm

As cuts approach – down to 75 by Tuesday, down to 53 by next Saturday – it’s getting a lot clearer who will likely be around for the Cardinals. (I will have a post on my predicted 53 next week.)

But coach Bruce Arians made a great point Friday about the last few spots on that 53-man roster, and what the decisions can be based upon.

“It’s going to be hard. It’s going to come down to positions of strength and we have about four or five positions of strength,” Arians said. “You always have to measure those last five guys and what is harder to find if another injury occurs.”

The injury component is important. Maybe keeping an extra defensive lineman makes sense if you are already thin. I’d think that definitely could come into play at inside linebacker with Kevin Minter’s situation. It’s hard enough finding guys sitting around to fill in there. Maybe less so on the offensive line. We shall see.

– Arians said there are still players that could stave off getting cut Sunday through their play, especially if they shine on special teams. If you are looking for hints of who will make it through to at least the final preseason games, look for the players that flash in the “transition game,” as Ron Wolfley likes to call it.

– Not that Jaron Brown’s place on this team has been in much doubt after an impressive training camp and preseason, but this was General Manager Steve Keim’s comment about Brown on this week’s edition of the “Big Red Rage” radio show: “He may be one of the most improved players from year to year I’ve seen in my NFL career.”

Brown simply didn’t get the reps in college playing behind future first-rounders Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. He’s gotten that work now.

– I don’t know how much time linebacker John Abraham might play Sunday, if at all, but there is clearly little concern from either Abraham or the coaches that the veteran will be ready for the regular season. There is still a lot of talk about him getting into shape, and it lead to a funny exchange when Abraham was asked about his current weight.

“I didn’t check,” Abraham said. “I’ll let you know, though. Some time next year.”

Seriously, though Abraham said weight has never been an issue in his career and he doesn’t think it will be now.

– Arians has been happy with the progress of rookie defensive lineman Ed Stinson. Stinson isn’t someone who is going to fill up your notebook when you talk to him, but “of course when the head coach brings your name up in anything you are happy,” he said. “I just want to make sure I put my 100 percent effort in and show what I’ve got.”

– Keim said safety Tyrann Mathieu has been fully cleared and essentially, it will be up to Mathieu to decide when he can play in games again. “We’re not going to press him,” Keim said.

– Keim reiterated he thinks guard Jonathan Cooper, somewhere down the road, is going to be “fine” and he is reveling in the fact that neither tackle position has been a constant source of chatter this camp. That’s a nod to Jared Veldheer and Bobby Massie.

“It’s been refreshing,” Keim said. “They don’t talk about the right or the left side. Both have had very good camps.”

– If you are going to the game Sunday (or any home game for that matter), don’t forget about the NFL bag policy instituted last year. Click here for more info.

– Arians acknowledged “I would be surprised” if an NFC West team was not the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. Asked if he expected an NFC West team to win the Super Bowl, Arians didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”

– Arians, as he opened his final press conference of training camp: “I know you guys are really upset of this being the last day here,” Arians said.

Then B.A. referenced the next practice-day presser, which will come at the team’s Tempe facility. If you recall, construction there means the famous “interview tree” is no more. “The biggest thing, I don’t want to see any tears when we don’t meet underneath that tree next week,” Arians said.

Camp is over. Bring on the Bengals.

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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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