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The impact of losing Darnell Dockett

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 10:16 pm

Injuries happen every preseason. They are not all created equal.

Even the long-term injuries are not created equal. As much as Jonathan Cooper’s injury hurt the Cardinals last year — and at the time, GM Steve Keim felt Cooper was the Cardinals’ best offensive lineman — there is an jarring emotional slam with the news Darnell Dockett is done for the season. That comes on many levels. On a defense that already lost Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington from last year’s unit, losing Dockett is a difficult pill to swallow.

After Dockett was carted off and practice resumed with some 7-on-7 work, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner gathered his players on the field and they all took a knee. I don’t know exactly what was said, but it certainly looked like Buckner was helping his guys get through what already looked like a rough patch that was later confirmed.

Now though, it’s about moving on. It’s about the future, which is in the short-term the 2014 season and in the long-term where 2015 might take Dockett and the Cardinals. Veteran Frostee Rucker should move into Dockett’s starting role, but again, there was always going to be a rotation on the defensive line. There was a reason the Cardinals drafted Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson. Those rookies are going to have to play a bigger role. They are going to have to grow up very fast because Dockett won’t be there to anchor — along with Calais Campbell — the line. One potential free agent to look at is long-time 3-4 defensive end Brett Keisel, Keisel was cut by the Steelers this offseason but he knows Bruce Arians and Buckner from their time in Pittsburgh. I have no idea if it’s possible he could come — I have no idea what kind of money he might want — but the Cardinals will need to add someone.

What will happen next year becomes very interesting. Dockett will turn 34 in May. He will be coming off major knee surgery. He will be going into the last year of his contract and will be due $6.5 million in salary and will have a $9.8M cap hit. That’s a lot of money for an older lineman. Like Larry Fitzgerald and his $23.6M cap hit in 2015, Dockett’s bulky contract was always going to be an issue after this season. That certainly hasn’t changed, and perhaps, becomes more of an issue because of the injury.

In the moment, though, there is only the gut-punch to the Cardinals. And the long rehab Dockett faces while the Cards try to prepare for the season to come.


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Dockett carted off with ACL injury

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 4:16 pm

UPDATE: Dockett tore his ACL and is out for the season. Here is the story.

The first practice of the last week of training camp didn’t go the way the Cardinals would have liked, not when defensive tackle Darnell Dockett went down during the workout and had to be carted off the field with a right knee injury. Dockett was headed to get an MRI on the injury, and it’s safe to say the Cardinals are holding their breath it is not serious. It’s tough to tell right now, although Dockett did look to be in some pain before he left.

“It was a routine play and Darnell was going hard,” defensive tackle Dan Williams said. “I don’t know the extent of the injury, but it’s part of football. His foot just got stuck in the ground. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Defensive end Calais Campbell said he didn’t see the play.

“It’s a tough situation to be in,” Campbell said. “He’s a great player, one we count on to be a leader. I’m not sure how serious it is, and hopefully he’ll come back soon but it’s always a scary moment when they bring the cart out.”

The Cardinals’ defensive line has been hammered with injuries. Defensive Bruce Gaston sat out Monday with his knee injury, Williams has missed time because of his knee and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu remains on the PUP list while he rehabs his ACL injury. Dockett has been remarkably durable, missing only two games out of 160 possible in his 10-year career.

Injuries, though, are part of the game.

“People go down every day almost,” Campbell said. “Sometimes it’s simple and they come right back into practice and sometimes it’s serious. It depends. In football, when people go down, you move the ball up and keep playing football. Since I was 6 years old playing the game, it’s always been when someone goes down, next man up.”


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Beware — B.A. noticing the training room

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 2:06 pm

The question was about how well Ted Larsen was playing on the offensive line, and Bruce Arians used it as a jumping-off point to mention that Larsen, when Lyle Sendlein came back this week, would have a “good chance” to be the starting left guard. That, of course, raised eyebrows given that Jonathan Cooper plays left guard. So someone asked, “What about Cooper?”

“He’s in the training room,” Arians replied. “He can’t do anything.”

Later, Arians was talking about Jaron Brown when he mentioned “he’s playing better than some of our starters. There are some guys who need to get out of the training room.”

And just like that, shots across the bow. It’s that time of camp when nerves are frayed and games that count are what everyone is looking forward to seeing. But now the head coach has clearly noticed guys who aren’t able to practice, and if you aren’t practicing, it’s hard not to notice. Some context here: For instance, the two receivers that have been sidelined are Michael Floyd and Ted Ginn and both guys are going to be on this roster. Ginn actually played in Saturday’s game. He’s your return man at the very least, and Floyd is Floyd. But there is little question Arians wants his guys back on the field (and if you remember, Arians has pushed Floyd to get back to practice before.)

In Coop’s case, this could be a goose to get him back, or maybe Larsen is doing well enough to usurp his spot. There is no question the Cardinals want the Cooper who was explosive and athletic in training camp last year, before he broke his leg. He is the long-term vision. But he’s got to show he deserves to be out there, and he can’t do that until he’s out there in the first place. He remains sidelined with his turf toe injury.

“Unfortunately you can’t make the team in the training room,” Floyd said, and making the team isn’t necessarily the problem for some.

Floyd is supposed to practice Wednesday, Arians said. Said Floyd with a smile, “What he says goes.”

– Arians said the starters will play no more than a half against Cincinnati Sunday night. Drew Stanton will play behind Carson Palmer and “we’ll see” if other quarterbacks are used.

– The hope is that LB John Abraham will practice at least some this week. Arians was pleased with the jump-in-with-no-practice performance for new ILB Desmond Bishop, who played 15 plays. “Not as much rust as I thought.” You listen to Arians and Steve Keim and you think Bishop has a good chance to make this team.


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Larsen a top lineman, and trade calls

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 9:16 am

Ted Larsen at left guard? It wouldn’t be a total surprise. Larsen was working at guard a lot before starting center Lyle Sendlein got hurt and General Manager Steve Keim said today during his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Larsen “has been one of our five best offensive linemen” during training camp. The veteran free agent who had played for Tampa Bay has been solid at center for Sendlein and at this point, there are still questions about when Jonathan Cooper will come back and how he will do when he does come back.

Keim said Cooper’s turf toe was “significant” and he isn’t sure if Cooper will be back this week or next. It would make sense when Sendlein returns from his calf injury — Keim said that could be Wednesday — that Larsen could be in the left guard mix. (That also likely means Earl Watford has not left as good of an impression playing left guard as the Cardinals would have liked.)

– The Cardinals have not received any phone calls about someone possibly interested in a Ryan Lindley trade, Keim said. The reality is that barring injury, Lindley will be the odd man out at QB. Keim said such calls wouldn’t hear up until next week anyway. Keim said the Cardinals have had a few calls about their wide receivers. In what really isn’t a surprise, Keim said it is “more realistic” the Cardinals will keep six wide receivers. I’ve thought that for a while, given the play of Jaron Brown and rookie Walt Powell behind Fitz, Floyd, Ginn and John Brown.

– Stuff Keim liked from the Vikings game: linebacker Larry Foote’s play, quarterback Carson Palmer, Jaron Brown and how all the wide receivers did blocking on the perimeter.

– Stuff Keim didn’t like: The inability to create pressure on the quarterback, blown coverages and the lack of explosive runs (although he admitted not playing Andre Ellington much didn’t help the latter.)

– New linebacker Desmond Bishop, who dressed for practice Thursday but didn’t practice much at all, looked good in his 12 snaps, Keim said. I think Bishop, assuming he progresses, has a chance to stick. It’ll be interesting to see who that might cost in terms of a roster spot.

– Speaking of inside linebackers, Kevin Minter may still sit because of his pectoral injury. Keim said the Cards will be careful with Minter. No reason to risk anything right now.

– Linebacker John Abraham could return to individual drills either today or Wednesday.

 


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The run game, the numbers, and what it means

Posted by Darren Urban on August 17, 2014 – 6:55 pm

Officially, 10 Cardinals had at least one rushing attempt against the Vikings Saturday, including two for no yards for Zach Bauman (because no, the crazy backward pass TD was ruled a fumble return on the official scoresheet.) On 34 attempts by those 10 players, the Cardinals amassed only 96 yards. Take out an eight-yard scramble by quarterback Carson Palmer and a 20-yard reverse by wide receiver Brittan Golden, and the numbers looked not so good.

But Bruce Arians has always looked at his running game a little different than his passing game. B.A. seems to go with a “I know it’s working when I see it” rather than leaning on statistics. For instance, the Golden run was a reverse that stuck in his head clearly, even after Golden gained his 20 yards. “The reverse that should have been a touchdown,” Arians said. “Our young tackle just stood there and didn’t block that last guy.” Indeed, Golden looks like he would have gone a lot further had tackle Kelvin Palmer decided to stay in front and get into safety Jamarca Sanford (who eventually got Golden out of bounds) instead of waiting to block defensive end Corey Wootton — who wasn’t going to catch Golden anyway.

Regardless, Arians noticed the negative runs. But he also noticed the 19-play TD drive to start the second half that featured 14 runs. “We challenged our offensive line to get physical, we’re going to run the football with Ryan (Lindley) in there and we did a really nice job,” Arians said. There were no finesse runs in the bunch. Every one stayed in the box or at least near the tackle. The gains weren’t great but the Cardinals imposed their will, which is obvious with any drive that takes more than 10 minutes. The Cardinals got a rushing touchdown on that drive and had one to open the game too.

“We ran the ball efficient,” said running back Jonathan Dwyer, who scored the first touchdown. “We read our keys well.”

“I thought there was some really quality pound-them runs,” Arians said.

The x-factor in the Cardinals’ running game will be Andre Ellington. He is hardly getting any work right now and he is without question the team’s best back. While I expect Stepfan Taylor and Robert Hughes to also have roles, Dwyer was the guy working after Ellington Saturday and he is the guy that, to me, has emerged as the top non-Ellington option. I also expect Dwyer to be the Cardinals’ goal-line back. The way the Cardinals built, and with an Arians offense, this team is going to be pass-first. That seems clear. Arians has shown very little concern about the running game at this point. I don’t see that changing.

“We know when we are running well,” Dwyer said. “We know when we are making positive yardage, the numbers will take care of itself.”

 

 


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Vikings (late) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2014 – 11:35 pm

It’s preseason, and rarely do things matter less in the NFL than a touchdown scored in the waning minutes of the second oreseason game. The reality is almost every player on the field at that point in the game won’t be in the NFL in a month.

In the grand scheme of things, Zach Bauman’s six-yard lateral run (?) of the loose ball batted backward by center John Estes was the play of Saturday night, right? It’s the kind of play that might’ve lived forever had it happened in a regular season game. It was fourth down, the Cardinals were going for it down three on the Minnesota 6-yard line because there is no way Bruce Arians was going to go to overtime in the preseason, and then Estes’ snap didn’t connect with quarterback Ryan Lindley. The ball rolled around. Estes, in the officials’ eyes, batted it backward, although oblong as it is, the ball took a turn toward the Vikings’ goal line, and Bauman scooped it up and improbably scored.

“Saw a play I haven’t seen in 22 years,” Arians said, before deadpanning, “that touchdown … that was designed.”

Even Lindley was willing to have fun with it.

“You know when we ran (at practice) and coach went off the field?” Lindley said, referring to the fight-induced punishment Thursday. “That’s really what we did, we got the defense some scout team reps, and we let it ride.”

For those wondering, here was the official comment from referee Craig Wrolstad:

“The ball was snapped, it was a backwards pass. The snap is considered the backwards pass. Any backwards pass can be advanced by any team, any direction, on any down. It wasn’t a fumble because the snap was never possessed by any of the players. The ball was snapped, it rolled around, it was knocked around a couple times, nobody ever had control of the ball. Nobody ever had control of the ball, so nobody ever had possession, so it was not a fumble.”

Wild. It worked out for Bauman too, clearly.

Some other quick thoughts before I try to actually get some sleep on this flight home:

– The Cardinals know they have to be better on special teams. This goes beyond who the kicker might be. The coverage wasn’t good – Arians said as much – and Lorenzo Alexander knows it needs to improve quickly.

“They probably have one of the premier return units in the league, but as a cover unit, we definitely have to step up and put our defense in better field positions, and also create turnovers,” Alexander said, adding “we still have a lot of moving parts, lot of young guys, but it’s no excuse. Special teams is about want-to, effort and heart.”

– The only injury Arians knew of was tackle Max Starks, who tweaked the same left ankle that has been giving him trouble.

– Newly signed linebacker Desmond Bishop wasn’t supposed to dress but he did and he played. He flashed a couple of times too. The veteran was a very good player before he had serious injuries the past two years. His progress bears watching.

– The starting defense did OK. I think they’d like to do better. I thought Calais Campbell was effective early, and I thought linebacker Larry Foote was too. That group is going to jump a level when DC Todd Bowles starts game-planning.

– It was too bad the crazy Bauman play didn’t win the game, but the third unit defenders didn’t have a good night. The Cardinals probably shouldn’t have been in the position late anyway, at least not how they got there. I thought the long pass interference drawn by receiver Kevin Ozier to set up the Cards’ final TD wasn’t a good call.

– The 19-play drive that scored a touchdown to open the third-quarter was a thing of beauty in terms of possession (and in terms of a preseason game and running the clock, but that’s me being selfish). It ate up 10:06 on the clock, and 14 of the plays were runs. No runs for more than seven yards and the Cards needed to convert a couple of fourth downs, but it was an exercise in being physical.

That’s enough for now.


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Ginn to go; Floyd, Coop sit in Minnesota

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2014 – 4:08 pm

No real surprises on the list of players who aren’t expected to dress for the Cardinals tonight in Minnesota. Linebackers John Abraham and Desmond Bishop did make the trip, but will not play. Wide receiver Ted Ginn is going to try and give it a go after missing time with a bruised knee. Wide receiver Michael Floyd (groin) will sit out. The rest of the Cardinals not playing tonight:

– G Jonathan Cooper (toe)

– C Lyle Sendlein (calf)

– T Nate Potter (back)

– LB Kevin Minter (pectoral)

– DT Bruce Gaston (knee)

– CB Teddy Williams (checking on this one)

The Cardinals return to practice Monday. I’m thinking a handful of these guys will be able to give it a go at some point this week. Also, there is optimism S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Alameda Ta’amu will come off PUP sometime next week.


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Friday before the open-air Vikings

Posted by Darren Urban on August 15, 2014 – 11:22 am

Finally, the Cardinals go outdoors. There is a bit of irony attached that the first time the Cardinals will be outside since training camp started will be a game in Minnesota, since for so many years this game too would have been inside against the Vikings. But the Vikings are playing outside for a couple of years, shacking up as a guest at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium while their new (domed) stadium is constructed.

Regardless, the Cardinals haven’t been outside since minicamp ended in mid-June. Which took quarterback Carson Palmer back a bit when it was mentioned to him earlier this week. “It is (surprising) because I hadn’t thought of that at all,” Palmer said. “Because we do not want to be outdoors right now.”

Tough to argue. You don’t really want to go through outdoor two-hour plus practices when it’s 100-degrees plus and the humidity (at least for around here) starts to spike. The Cardinals had considered one outdoor practice earlier in camp but decided to stay inside. Last year, the Cardinals actually held a training camp practice outside at their Tempe facility. Bruce Arians wanted a tough workout in the heat. He doesn’t see the need this season.

“We don’t have a hot game this year so there is no need to go outside,” Arians said. “We’ve had a pretty physical, hard camp, as hard as we can make it..”

So it’s on to Minnesota, where the forecast for Saturday night is mid-to-low 60s and high humidity.

– We get to see round two of the John Brown experience. What might be more amazing with Brown, even more than his grasp of the offense and his production against veteran cornerbacks in practice, is how much Palmer already seems to trust him.

– Arians, talking about why Brown is so quick (and why it might take the QBs a bit of time to learn timing with him): “A lot of guys have to chop their feet and slow down to cut,” Arians said. “He can run full speed and just change directions. That’s rare.”

– Some have wondered about rookie safety Deone Bucannon and playing the dollar linebacker position in the nickel defense. When Bucannon is in there, that makes six defensive backs on the field. So, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, doesn’t that make it a dime package?

“It’s still the nickel,” Bowles said. “It’s the position, not the player.”

– The Cardinals’ running game wasn’t very productive in the preseason opener (81 yards on 37 attempts, although that includes three kneeldowns). Arians said he wasn’t and isn’t worried about it. “I don’t put a lot into numbers,” Arians said.

Given that Andre Ellington figures to play little, I’m not sure how dynamic the running game will be in the preseason.

– Darren Fells continues to push for a spot as the fourth tight end. Arians said  Fells continues to block very well. “He still has to get rid of those bonehead plays,” Arians said. “He’s experiencing a lot of new things too many times. I was disappointing he dropped that pass Saturday because he’s got great hands. I think he tried to score before he caught it. He’s steadily improving.”

– No, I don’t think Jay Feely has to be perfect, in the truest sense of the word, even though that is what Arians said. Feely will get his chance to kick Saturday after Chandler Catanzaro’s impressive debut in the controlled conditions of University of Phoenix Stadium. The pressure is on for Feely, yes. But he’s been through this kind of pressure before.

– One more week of training camp left.


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Scuffle means running “after” practice

Posted by Darren Urban on August 14, 2014 – 6:02 pm

It was mostly a routine final-practice-before-a-game Thursday at University of Phoenix Stadium, but then it got very interesting at the end. No, that’s not referring to the first meeting with the media for linebacker John Abraham, who returned to the team after missing the first 20 days of training camp. Instead, it came on the field. The Cardinals ran a nice pass play with tight end John Carlson coming across the field for the catch and heading for a touchdown. That’s where all the eyes were until suddenly there were coaches yelling and a host of players — it seemed like 15 or 20 already — near the line of scrimmage in a group. A scuffle had started, although with so many people, it was impossible to know who had been in it.

At this point, Bruce Arians had made very, very clear how he feels about things like that. The other day, Darnell Dockett and Bradley Sowell had been made to take laps, but obviously, the message didn’t stick. So Arians went to the next level, stopping practice altogether to make the entire squad — save for the guys sitting out because of injuries — run sprints from sideline to sideline. Up and back they went six times, before Arians called the team together in a huddle. It seemed like practice was over, and Arians even left the field. But the players did not, and after a couple of minutes, 11-on-11 commenced for a little while longer. Arians even came back on the field, although it was clear he was angry.

“It’s camp and stuff like that happens,” cornerback Justin Bethel said. “We’ve just got to know that we’re a team and stick together. We’re trying to win a championship, and we can’t be fighting amongst each other. It’s all about team. Team is what it takes is our slogan right now. We just had to do some extra conditioning and put it behind us.

“(Coach) made his point, and we already knew where he stood with that. Some guys, they lose their tempers, and it happens, but we’ve just got to keep on moving forward.”

As for the end of practice, “I think some of the players on the team just decided we wanted to finish up practice because every play is important for us,” Bethel said. “I think they decided among themselves, ‘Let’s go ahead and just finish up practice because we didn’t have much left.’ “

– Abraham did not practice in his first day back, getting a physical and meeting with the strength and conditioning coaches to see where his fitness was. Abraham said it might take a few days to get back on the practice field but said he was confident he’ll be ready for the regular season.

– Arians said wide receivers Michael Floyd and Ted Ginn will travel to Minnesota and could still possibly play against the Vikings. It does not look as good for guard Jonathan Cooper (toe), linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral) and defensive tackle Bruce Gaston (knee).

FightRunBlogUse

 


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Cards sign LB Bishop

Posted by Darren Urban on August 14, 2014 – 8:27 am

The Cardinals have filled one of their three empty roster spots, and as Bruce Arians promised, it’s with someone the team hopes can be more than just a camp body. Veteran inside linebacker Desmond Bishop arrived Thursday with a couple of weeks to try and make enough of an impression to stick around.

Bishop was drafted by the Packers in 2007 and won a Super Bowl while in Green Bay in 2010. But his time with the Packers ended after he missed the entire 2012 season following a preseason hamstring injury that needed surgery. He signed a one-year contract with the Vikings last season, but in the fourth game he played for Minnesota he tore his ACL, ending his season. In his last full season, Bishop had more than 100 tackles and five sacks.

So, with that background of very few football games played in two years, Bishop comes to Arizona. After cutting inside linebacker Ernie Sims, the Cardinals could use more numbers inside, especially with starter Kevin Minter nursing an injured pectoral muscle. The top four inside linebackers have been Minter, Larry Foote, Lorenzo Alexander and Kenny Demens. That’s the group Bishop probably needs to crack to stick around.

It’ll be the second linebacker the Cards get today, since John Abraham is expected to arrive after missing camp thus far for personal reasons.

Desmond Bishop, Frank Gore


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