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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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Keim: Abraham, coming soon, will contribute

Posted by Darren Urban on August 13, 2014 – 4:49 pm

General Manager Steve Keim said this afternoon he expects absent linebacker John Abraham “in the very near future.” Asked if that was next week, Keim said “sooner than next week.”

And when Abraham does arrive, Keim sounded like a man who has no doubt that his veteran will play a role in the 2014 defense.

“It’s the same thing as a guy who is injured,” Keim said. “He has to work his way into playing shape and a guy coming off 11½ sacks at 35 years old, you’d like to think he’s still going to be able to contribute,” Keim said. “He just has to get his legs back under him.”

Keim declined to say specifically why the 36-year-old Abraham, who had been arrested for a DUI in Georgia in late June, has been missing. The Cardinals had already made clear Abraham has been excused to deal with a personal matter.

“It’s always a concern when there are off-field issues to deal with,” Keim acknowledged. “At the same time I think it’s given him an opportunity to step back and look at the situation and realize if he wants to continue playing football he has to get his life in order.”

AbepicBLOG

 


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Eating crow, lying and no snap counts

Posted by Darren Urban on August 13, 2014 – 12:46 pm

Logan Thomas isn’t going to play this week in Minnesota. He got the second half of the preseason opener, so now, it’s Ryan Lindley’s turn to get the second half when he plays against the Vikings. That means Thomas’ impressive (and yes, I know it was against second/third-teamers of a bad Texans team) debut will simmer for now. Nevertheless, Thomas has gotten national praise for the way he played in his 11-12-113-1-0 outing, and Bruce Arians said he couldn’t be more pleased out that aspect.

“I really enjoy all the guys who said he stunk coming out and should have been a tight end, they’re eating a lot of crow this week, so that’s fun,” Arians said with a smile.

Arians was having some fun himself today. He also was talking about third-round pick John Brown, and how in the aftermath of success with such a player there are always people from other teams claiming they had just been about to pick him when the Cardinals did so. Arians clearly isn’t a believer. He said he’s heard from guys on “three or four” teams that were about to choose Brown in the draft.

“They’re all lyin’,” Arians said.

– Offensive linemen Max Starks and Anthony Steen return to practice today. The other injured players remain sidelined. It does not look like guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) is going to make it back to playing Saturday. Receivers Ted Ginn (knee) and Michael Floyd (groin) could be game-day decisions. Linebacker John Abraham remains absent.

– QB Carson Palmer, on dealing with the mind of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles in camp: “We have seen every single coverage there is,” Palmer said. “There’s a couple we couldn’t identify. It’s like he’s making some stuff up just to try and see how it goes.”

– Arians said he has no set snap count for how much the starters will play Saturday. “If it is as good as last week, it’ll probably be the same,” Arians said. “If it’s not it’ll probably be a little longer.”

– Jay Feely will kick in Minnesota. Arians said it was undecided how the kicking will go in the next game at home against Cincinnati, but he does want to see Feely kick off indoors.

– Finally, Arians talked about how he likes to go through the locker room and interact with his players. Some coaches do not like to do that. Other locker rooms will have players who don’t like coaches coming through, but Arians said those locker rooms usually are host losing teams.

“I was taught a long time ago, coach ‘em hard and hug ‘em later,” Arians said. “That’s the hugging part. Rip a guy’s ass out there and go in, (tell them) it’s just football, nothing personal. ‘Your football stinks, you’re a pretty good guy.’ You want to make sure they know that. You ask them to do a lot of things and you get a lot of feedback when you go through there.”


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Feely’s perfection and Arians under ice

Posted by Darren Urban on August 12, 2014 – 1:44 pm

Rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro didn’t have a miss in his preseason debut. He made all three field goals, all three extra points and he was excellent on kickoffs, either driving them over the end zone or creating touchbacks or returns inside the 20. It’s veteran Jay Feely’s turn in Minnesota. So what is coach Bruce Arians looking for?

“Perfection,” Arians said.

Is that all?

Arians said that means making his kicks and having decent depth and hangtime on his kickoffs. “(Jay) has always kicked off adequately, but when someone is kicking off better and all the kicks are the same, you’re going to take the guy who is kicking off better,” Arians said.

Feely will have to kick outside in Minnesota, although Arians has said Feely will get to kick inside too, the following week against the Bengals. The kicking battle will continue to be interesting.

– Arians said yet again that fighting in practice is “not tolerable,” and that’s why Darnell Dockett and Bradley Sowell were stuck doing laps the balance of practice Monday after fighting. “You get ejected from the game (for fighting), so you get ejected from practice,” Arians said. “We practice like it’s a game every day. You lose your temper and punch a guy, you get ejected.”

– S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Alameda Ta’amu are “pretty close” to being removed from PUP and returning to practice.

– Still no rush on filling the empty three roster spots right now. “There really isn’t any need,” Arians said. “The number of players we have, to get somebody ready to play in a game that’s available right now, there’s nobody out there right now who are going to make our team better. We have our eyes on a couple guys that we will potentially bring in.”

– Interestingly, Arians called cornerback Jerraud Powers “probably our most valuable player on defense” right now because of how versatile he is in the secondary. It echoed those one-time thoughts of Ray Horton on Richard Marshall back in 2011.

– The injuries that kept a handful of players out for Monday’s practice will do the same today. That means left guard Jonathan Cooper is still out, which doesn’t help. “It’s a big deal for anyone on the club right now because the competition level is high. It’s not like anything is in cement,” Arians said. The coach added a player can definitely lose his job after getting injured. “You can if someone comes in and plays better than you were playing,” Arians said. “That’s called Wally Pipp.”

– Finally, in case you missed it, Arians took part in the viral #icebucketchallenge to raise awareness for ALS. He had been challenged by Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. Arians accepted — the idea is you get ice water dumped on you on video or you donate money to the cause — and Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer were only too happy to oblige.

“At first it wasn’t too bad,” Arians said. “That second one had too much ice in it. Thought it gave me a concussion. I wanted it to be ‘bam, bam.’ They waited too much.”

Arians challenged Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “Tomlin told me he’s not dumping water on his head so he’s going to donate money,” Arians said.


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