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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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All quiet on Washington front

Posted by Darren Urban on June 2, 2015 – 2:52 pm

The line in the release from an NFL spokesman was plain, sent out on May 30, 2014: “Daryl Washington of the Arizona Cardinals has been suspended without pay for at least one year for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.”

At least is a key phrase. We have passed the one-year mark. Many have asked me (many times) what the news is on Daryl Washington and where he stands. As of today, there is no news. He stands in the same place where he’s been since May 30 of last year. Suspended, awaiting reinstatement from the NFL. Mike Jurecki reported recently that Washington himself doesn’t know where his reinstatement is headed. (No one is saying if Washington officially applied for reinstatement, but it had been expected.) The Cardinals don’t have anything to say on the subject because, frankly, there is nothing to say until and if Washington is reinstated. Bruce Arians told azcentral.com the subject is “a waste of breath.”

But on the idea of whether Washington should be a Cardinal again, Arians added, “I think each and every guy has different circumstances. If he’s reinstated by the league, I know this — our players want him back in the locker room. That’s fine by me.”

We’ve discussed the other obstacles many times. Washington still could be punished for the assault plea he took in early 2014, before the current suspension. Until he is reinstated for the current suspension, there won’t be anything known about the other possibility. And of course, there are fences to mend, if not in the locker room or with Arians, then probably with the front office and ownership.

Few want to hear that it’s wait and see, but truly, it’s wait and see.

DWashUpdate


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Frostee gets an extension

Posted by Darren Urban on June 1, 2015 – 4:27 pm

It was fitting that Frostee Rucker got a one-year contract extension Monday so quietly. The veteran defensive end, who had been scheduled to become a free agent after the 2015 season, stays clear of attention. That topic has been covered before. When he first signed, he was in the background, playing less than he would’ve liked in 2013 but understanding his role. The day Darnell Dockett got hurt last year in training camp, Rucker was suddenly thrust into a spotlight you could tell he could’ve done without.

But Rucker is a leader on a team that has a few, and you can tell that just by watching a game or two. I’m lucky enough to see a lot more of the interaction — during OTAs (like below, talking to fellow vet Cory Redding), around the locker room — and Frostee is the kind of professional you seek out for a roster. Plus, he’s coming off a career-high five sacks. He’s fits perfectly into a defensive line that is built to rotate early and often with versatile pieces. Rucker’s added year also takes one more thing off the to-do list after the season when it comes to potential free agents.

FrosteePact


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Depth spills on two fields (and other OTA notes)

Posted by Darren Urban on June 1, 2015 – 10:52 am

The Cardinals opened the final week of OTAs Monday (the mandatory minicamp is next week, and then the players are off until training camp.) Nothing eventful, although the rising temperatures played into some mistakes late, coach Bruce Arians said. Some tidbits from the day:

— The depth on the front seven — or maybe the uncertainty — has been on display because of the second practice field. Nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu, defensive end Matt Shaughnessy, defensive end Ed Stinson and newly crowned linebacker Kareem Martin are all taking reps on the second field even though all figure to be a part of the rotation.

“I wants those guys to get more reps too,” Arians said of having them on Field Two. “But that is the depth we have. Those positions right now, it’s a dogfight.”

— The Cardinals were working on the no-huddle a lot Monday, and Arians said he thinks the offense will use it more often this season. (More on the subject soon in Kyle Odegard’s notebook on the homepage.) At this point, with Carson Palmer still not taking part in 11-on-11, he can’t work in that facet of the no-huddle.

— Arians was asked about Larry Foote’s timetable if he wanted to give up coaching and try to play again. Arians said Foote would have to make a decision by the time training camp were to begin. Foote said the other day he was only thinking about coaching at this point.

— RB Kerwynn Williams is out right now with a hamstring issue, joining the same rookies who have been out: OLB Zack Wagenmann (foot) OLB Shaq Riddick (hamstring) ILB Alani Fua (foot). Riddick tried last week one day to give it a go but ended up sitting out again. Arians said there is no question the fifth-round pick is falling behind. “You can’t make any progress in the training room,” Arians said.

— Arians clarified his comment that first-round pick D.J. Humphries was a little immature at this point. “You’d like to see steady improvement,” Arians said. “He’s only 20, 21 years old. He’s a college kid still and this is a professional league. But he’s figuring it out fast.”

— A couple of quality Arians quips today. On whether he can wide receiver John Brown has added some muscle. “I don’t know. He’s still little.” And when he was asked how much rookie running back David Johnson might take off the plate of Andre Ellington, Arians said “Dave is not in the picure yet,” adding, “he ain’t getting s*** yet.”

BlogOTAWek3use

 


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“Way more fluid” Mathieu makes a pick

Posted by Darren Urban on May 28, 2015 – 11:44 am

The “Honey Badger is back” theme has hit high gear, and Tyrann Mathieu has felt optimistic about his upcoming 2015 season for a while now. While the tests of true tackling and NFL football is still weeks away when training camp and actual games start, Mathieu is embracing what he can show in the current OTAs. That included a nice play during 11-on-11 Thursday, when Mathieu scrambled to make an athletic interception as the offense was working at coming out inside their own 20. Mathieu grabbed the wayward pass and ran it back for a touchdown, much to the delight of his defensive teammates and coordinator James Bettcher.

By Mathieu’s count, it was his third interception of offseason work.

Thursday’s play “is an indication or a sign,” Mathieu said. “I feel good out there. Way more fluid. It just feels natural again.”

That’s the same way Bruce Arians has described Mathieu, who never quite got all the way back last season from his torn ACL late in 2013 and also dealt with a broken thumb. “He was playing with one arm and one leg,” Arians said. “He was playing not to lose, and he never played that way.”

In 2013, he did look a lot like the guy who made the pick Thursday. It’s early, but it’s always good to see the tangible proof of what everyone is talking about.

TyPickBlog

 


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Another year in top 100 for Fitzgerald

Posted by Darren Urban on May 27, 2015 – 7:01 pm

You can argue that more players should be involved in the polling for the NFL Network’s “Top 100″ players — currently unveiling their list from 2014 — but one thing cannot be argued: Larry Fitzgerald continues to command heavy respect with his peers, and it’s hard to see that changing. Once again, Fitz has made it on to the Top 100 list, this year at 68th. It’s the fifth straight year Fitzgerald has been on the list, and admittedly, his status has moved from 14th to seventh to 22nd to 38th to his current spot.

But again, Fitzgerald, in an era of prolific receiving numbers, hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2011 and yet still grabs the attention of the other players that he would be on this list (and undoubtedly, by the time the list is complete, other receivers with better stats will be left off.) Bruce Arians has said a number of times Fitz’s stats won’t return to gaudy numbers, but the franchise still wants to make sure Fitz is around. It was also clear that right before Carson Palmer got hurt last season, he and Fitz were finally clicking at a nice rate of return.

He’s the team’s emotional leader these days, which often can impact as much as a big catch. And even if his numbers have shrunk a bit, he’s still good for plenty of those too.


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The offensive line best in the West?

Posted by Darren Urban on May 27, 2015 – 3:03 pm

The tweet came from SiriusXM NFL Radio over the weekend, with host and former NFL QB Jim Miller saying that it is the Cardinals with the best offensive line in the NFC West. (His partner, Pat Kirwan, has the Cardinals second behind Seattle.) My first reaction, which I tweeted, was that I couldn’t remember the last time someone held the Cardinals’ offensive line in such high regard. It makes sense, with the Cardinals’ big free-agent purchase the past two offseasons being offensive linemen (Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati) in addition to a No. 1 draft pick (Jonathan Cooper.)

Veldheer was asked about being compared — on both the offensive and defensive line — to the Seahawks, and the tackle was pretty blunt.

“I think they’re both solid lines, but I’d take our guys any day over those guys,” Veldheer said. “That’s part of the fun part, too, getting that rivalry going, wanting to puff your chest out more than the guy across the line from you.”

In terms of the division’s offensive lines, the reality is the bar has dropped some. The Seahawks traded their center Max Unger to get tight end Jimmy Graham, who may help in catching the ball but won’t much as a blocker. The Rams have added defensive linemen aplenty of late but seem to have ignored the need on the offensive line. The 49ers lost one of their better lineman when Iupati came to Arizona. As for the Cardinals, they have upgraded. You can see why someone would consider them the best unit in the division. But as always, it’s difficult to tell much of anything on the offensive line in the offseason. What is done in the offseason isn’t enough of football to be sure the line will translate once the games actually start.

Then again, it’s better to be thought of as the best this time of year than the alternative.

OLbest

 


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Palmer on the run and other OTA notes

Posted by Darren Urban on May 26, 2015 – 10:51 am

The Cardinals started their second week of OTAs today after the long weekend, a session that coach Bruce Arians said started a little slowly in mental and communication terms before the Cardinals straightened things out. Quarterback Carson Palmer continues to sit out 11-on-11 work but in 7-on-7, on a play where coverage was good, he even took off on a scramble. Now, obviously there is no contact anyway and in 7-on-7, there are really no defenders matched up with the QB anyway, but still, a scramble.

“I’ve watched him run all over this place for the last month,” Arians said. “That part doesn’t bother me at all.”

Now for a couple of offensive line tidbits, with the caveat that, in the offseason, little can be determined about the offensive or defensive line.

— Arians, for that reason, didn’t have much to say about how new guard Mike Iupati looks. “Mike’s not a soccer player,” Arians said. “He’s a physical guy and now’s not a time to be physical.”

It doesn’t mean the Cardinals don’t have high hopes for Iupati. But that’s a discussion for training camp.

— As for the battle at center between Ted Larsen and A.Q. Shipley, there is a little more to that because the center can at least snap the ball. “It’s been back and forth every day,” Arians said. “Teddy had some problems snapping the ball in shotgun the first couple of days. ‘Q’ knows the offense inside and out. It’ll be a battle until the end.”

— As for first-round pick D.J. Humphries, Arians said the tackle “needs to mature a little bit” and that his progress has been slow.

CarsonScramble


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Tackling some work with different coaches

Posted by Darren Urban on May 21, 2015 – 1:48 pm

During a portion of today’s OTA when position groups were working on their own, each of the three lines of defense — the defensive line, the linebackers and the defensive backs — went to work with coaches. Except the coaches were not their own. The linebackers headed over to pass rush coach Tom Pratt. The defensive backs were with linebackers coaches Bob Sanders and Larry Foote. And the defensive line was working with secondary coaches Nick Rapone and Kevin Ross.

It’s part of the “tackling circuit,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. For instance, he said the defensive backs were working with Sanders on how to come off a cut block to make a play. “It’s just to work on all that,” Peterson said. “Get different looks.” The players rotate daily.

There is only so much tackling work you can ever do at practice. Getting after a tackling dummy and/or sliding off a blocking sled to get in the right position to tackle is about the extent. Added benefit of this sequence: All the defensive coaches get time with all the different players on that side of the ball.

tacklingBlog


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The battle for third QB

Posted by Darren Urban on May 20, 2015 – 4:29 pm

Bruce Arians made it pretty clear the other day where his quarterback depth chart stood. The third quarterback spot is “wide open” as a competition, a comment that both solidified Drew Stanton’s status as Carson Palmer’s backup (not a surprise at all) and left the rest of the offseason and training camp to an interesting situation for Logan Thomas (which might be a little more surprising.)

When the Cardinals signed Chandler Harnish, it was easy too look at it as adding an extra camp arm — the Cards always have four quarterbacks around — who was familiar with Arians’ system. Thomas was a guy who figured to be around at least one more season so the team could figure out if the 2014 fourth-round pick could indeed develop into an NFL quarterback. Then the Cardinals decided to sign tryout QB Phillip Sims and suddenly, the Cards had five quarterbacks. Maybe, if Palmer was further back in his rehab, all those arms would be important. And, truth be told, the full boat of QBs could still be partially about Palmer relief this summer. But after Arians praised Sims recently and then noted the whole wide-open thing, well, then you wonder where this could go.

With two practices running simultaneously during OTAs and minicamp, there are reps to share. Thomas is getting work, as is Sims — which normally does not happen much for a fifth QB. It’s so early, and right now, Thomas still seems to be the probable guy who ends up as the No. 3 QB on the depth chart once the Cardinals host the Saints Sept. 13. But Thomas still has work to do on all the things that were giving him issues as a rookie, and Sept. 13 is a long way away. While in theory the third QB spot isn’t one to focus upon in the grand scheme, the Cardinals unfortunately found out last season just how valuable that spot can become — and why this is a deep depth chart battle that still bears watching.

O1D2.LoganBLPOG


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