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Limited Ellington and what it means

Posted by Darren Urban on September 4, 2014 – 4:41 pm

The first injury report of the season delivered one piece of unexpected news Thursday, when running back Andre Ellington was listed as limited because of a foot injury. Right now, it’s unknown what that means, since the report came after Bruce Arians spoke to the media and it wasn’t known that Ellington was ailing. Ellington did sit out some practice last week before the final preseason game, but given that he wasn’t going to play anyway, it wasn’t surprising. I’m sure we will hear more Friday. If I had to guess, I’d guess Ellington will be OK, but you never know.

UPDATE: Multiple reports are saying Ellington could miss “significant time.”

If Ellington is limited, that at least means he is doing some things in practice and he was wearing his pads during the open portion of work Thursday. It goes without saying that Ellington is an incredibly important piece of the offense, so his presence — and ability to do everything needed by the Cardinals — is a crucial component for Monday.

“We still have to watch not overloading (Andre) and overworking him,” Arians said a couple days ago. “But it’s fun to draw plays for him because the guy can do damn near anything.”

Ellington didn’t get a ton of preseason work but Arians said that wasn’t a big deal. “We know what he likes now and we are well-equipped to run the plays he likes.”


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The tight end battle — on both sides

Posted by Darren Urban on September 4, 2014 – 3:59 pm

John Carlson looked wonderful at tight end through the offseason and training camp, but he did not make a catch during his limited preseason time (save for a touchdown called back by penalty in the opener). This was brought up to Bruce Arians Thursday.

“Tight ends catch the ball against our defense all the time,” Arians deadpanned, before pausing.

“That’s what I read, anyway.”

Ahh, the tight end. It’s a position that, on both sides of the ball, definitely made things interesting in 2013. How it plays out this season, given the efforts to fix such issues, will definitely be something to watch. On offense, Carlson’s play in practice has been a revelation, the defense notwithstanding. His ability to catch the ball should mean a lot to an offense that needs such a weapon.

Does it mean he’ll get seven targets a game, necessarily? No, for the same reason he didn’t get any preseason grabs. “You don’t force balls to people,” Arians said. “You design things and you read them out. Sometimes he’ll get balls, sometimes he won’t. We don’t say ‘We’re going to get John Carlson five balls.’ It’s just not going to happen.”

On the other hand, it’s hard to think other teams didn’t do that last year with their tight ends against the Cardinals. It was definitely an Achilles heel in 2013. Asked if the Cardinals would be better against it in 2014, Arians said “I hope so.” Rookie safety Deone Bucannon is a player who is supposed to help, although one play in the preseason finale, Bucannon lost track of the tight end he was covering because he got caught looking at the quarterback. The tight end slipped only a few yards away, but made the catch and got a big gain out of it.

The Chargers have LaDarius Green, a 6-foot-6 raw target for one tight end and the ancient but still talented Antonio Gates at the other. Gates shredded the Cardinals in their last regular-season matchup, although it was 2010 against a totally different defense. It’s safe to assume the Cardinals know they need to be better in that area.

“We didn’t show it a couple of times in the preseason in zone defense, letting guys run behind us,” Arians said. “As far as man to man, we have some length now with Deone and other guys.”

 


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Adrian Wilson visits practice

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2014 – 1:39 pm

Before anyone takes this out of context, when veteran safety and ex-Cardinal Adrian Wilson came to visit practice today, it was just that — a visit. It wasn’t a tryout. Wilson wasn’t working out for General Manager Steve Keim but conversing with him, wearing — as A-Dub often does — a trendy outfit and carrying what looked to be a notebook and pen. He and Keim go way back, with both North Carolina State products and Keim the one who scouted Wilson and pushed for his selection in the 2001 draft.

I only got to talk to Wilson briefly, and he said he was doing well. There was no talk of football per se, or his recent release by the Bears. He, as you can see in the picture below, still very much looks the part. (One young Cardinal saw him from afar and noted, “I thought he’d look older than he does.” Take it as a compliment, Adrian.)

I’m not sure of the drop-by, but it isn’t surprising. Someday, Wilson will be going into the team’s Ring of Honor. That’s been known since it was put in the official press release the day Wilson was released. I am one of many who thinks that, whenever Wilson decides to retire, he could very well sign a one-day contract with the Cardinals to end it with this franchise. And I would not be surprised to see Wilson end up with some kind of role within the organization at some point. I think the organization thinks that much of Wilson, and I think Wilson thinks that much of this organization.

– The Cardinals had a another mini-practice Wednesday. With a Monday game, the real “week” of practice starts Thursday, with pads and hitting. That’s the day safety Tyrann Mathieu will give hitting a try.

– Arians said new defensive lineman Tommy Kelly is picking up the defense just fine — “Defensive line, the playbook isn’t real deep,” Arians quipped — and it looks like Kelly should slide in just fine into the defensive rotation.

DubBubbleblog


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A tenuous schedule, and the captains

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2014 – 9:34 am

The Wes Welker suspension bomb dropped yesterday, and that’s a great example of why all these game-by-game results guesses never made any sense to me. The Broncos wide receiver is gone for four games, and since the Broncos have a Week 4 bye (as do the Cardinals), the fourth and final game Welker will have to sit out will be the Cardinals’ visit to Denver. Will that impact the outcome? Maybe, maybe not. But you can’t predict because this game doesn’t allow that. Last year, when the schedule game out, the Cardinals were facing two tough playoff teams coming to Arizona in Houston and Atlanta. By the time the Texans and Falcons arrived, injuries had shredded them and they were bad teams. This year, the Broncos won’t have Welker (or kicker Matt Prater, who has also been suspended the first four games), the 49ers won’t have linebacker Aldon Smith in the first meeting with the Cards, and again, you just don’t know how these things will play out.

Random aside: That Oct. 5 game will be only the second time in Payton Manning’s career he will play an entire game against the Cardinals. He did so in a Sunday night game in 2009, but he sat out virtually all off the 2005 season finale. That is, of course, assuming Manning is healthy by that point. Because you just don’t know what will happen.

– The Cardinals picked captains and the results weren’t really surprising when you think of it. The biggest one, noted by many fans, is that Larry Fitzgerald is not a captain. This year’s offensive captain is Carson Palmer. But this should not shock. Palmer has really been the biggest offensive leader since he arrived, although there is something to be said about taking a bit of a backseat in the first year. Palmer did that, and Fitz was a 2013 captain. But Palmer is unquestionably the guy out front. Fitz has always been more of a lead-by-example guy. It was interesting that Calais Campbell is the defensive captain, but then again, maybe that shouldn’t be that surprising either. It’s hard to think of Campbell as a veteran leader — sometimes, it still feels like he just got here, especially since Darnell Dockett’s experience always overshadowed him on the line. But he’s a guy the defense can get behind.

– The Cardinals finished off their 10-man practice squad today by signing cornerback Anthony Gaitor. The 5-foot-10 Gaitor was among the Bucs’ final cuts. He was a seventh-round pick of Tampa in 2011, and missed all of last season with a knee injury. He joins rookie Jimmy Legree as the defensive backs on the practice squad, which gives the Cards some in-house possibilities for help if there are injuries with the eight men on the active roster.


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Keim: Roster could still change this week

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2014 – 8:09 am

General Manager Steve Keim is still looking at his roster. That can’t be a surprise. He said this morning during his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports’ “Doug and Wolf” show that the Cardinals will bring in “four or five” tryout players on Wednesday — this week’s “Tuesday,” given the Monday night opener next week — to see if any are worth signing. That thing about none of the bottom five guys on the roster getting comfortable? That’s serious reality.

– Keim acknowledged it’s a little bit of a concern there are only eight offensive linemen on the roster, but that’s what the Cardinals have right now. Nate Potter hurt his shoulder so there was really no choice but to keep Bradley Sowell. Interestingly, Keim said the Cardinals will begin trying Earl Watford at right tackle a little bit and see if he can be a help there as well as both guard positions. This is a big year for Watford. At some point, the Cards are going to want to see him step forward when he gets a chance.

– It sounds like one of the roster spots came down to sixth-round pick wide receiver Walt Powell and undrafted linebacker Glenn Carson. Carson is on the roster; Powell made it for a day and then when the Cardinals claimed outside linebacker Thomas Keiser, Powell was cut. He did not make it through waivers, getting claimed by the Jets. “There was a time when Walt Powell did a few nice things (in camp), but when we looked at Glenn versus Walt, we felt Glenn outperformed him and earned a spot on this team,” Keim said.

– Keim was happy to be able to get Keiser, who provides a natural pass rusher, “one thing I felt we were missing.” That speaks again to the concern about individual pass rush ability (although Keim said he is happy where John Abraham is going into the season.) The Keiser move was long hoped for, as Keim said he had been targeted for a long time if he was released by San Diego. The Cards did not get him just for Chargers’ intel going into the opener, Keim said, and Keim added that he doesn’t think the Chargers — who only carry two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster — signed Ryan Lindley to the practice squad for such purposes either. The Chargers’ QB coach is Frank Reich, who had been on the Cards’ staff with Lindley.

– Only eight defensive backs is no big deal, Keim said, because of how versatile the eight guys are. Tyrann Mathieu, as noted last week, will get some contact this week and it’s stil a we’ll-see situation for Mathieu in the opener.

– Some teams see the practice squad for just practice help but Keim said he sees the practice squad as a developmental extension of the roster, for guys who can eventually get on and help with the 53. Keep that in mind when you see who is put there. The final four PS names should be released soon.

 

 

 


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Cards claim linebacker Keiser, cut Powell

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2014 – 2:07 pm

The Cardinals got a player on waivers, claiming outside linebacker Thomas Keiser. Keiser was just released by San Diego – a team that just happens to be the Cards’ opponent for the opening game. To make room for Keiser, the Cardinals cut wide receiver Walt Powell. Powell now becomes a likely practice-squad addition.

It takes the Cards down to five wide receivers, but they now have 11 linebackers on the roster. That’s a healthy amount. That may be the only waiver addition by now. It doesn’t mean the Cardinals didn’t try to claim others, but right now, the waiver claim order is based on draft order, and at 20, there are a lot of teams players must get past before the Cardinals would be able to get them.

Keiser came in as an undrafted free agent with the Panthers in 2011 and has nine sacks in his career. The Stanford product (6-4, 260) forced a Logan Thomas fumble in Thursday’s preseason game.

The Cardinals also signed six to their 10-man practice squad: C/G Anthony Steen, T Kelvin Palmer, CB Jimmy Legree, LB Jonathan Brown, WR Brittan Golden and TE Andre Hardy.

UPDATE: In terms of ex-Cardinals, defensive tackle Bruce Gaston, who was a player the Cardinals would have liked on the practice squad, was claimed by the Patriots, where he will go right on to the 53-man roster. Quarterback Ryan Lindley landed on the Chargers’ practice squad, thanks to the new “veteran” exceptions.

Thomas Keiser, Micah Hatfield

 


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“Final” cuts aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 30, 2014 – 6:29 pm

It’s tough to fully analyze the Cardinals’ roster right now after the initial moves to get to a 53-man roster. Waiver claims come through Sunday, and really, the surprise will be if the Cardinals don’t claim one or two players — which would mean they would have to cut the corresponding amount from the 53. So a guy could have made the team today and  be off by tomorrow. Yes, it’s a rough, rough business.

Surprises? Nothing of note. I had different picks for my 53, before the final preseason game. I managed to hit on the offense. They kept only four cornerbacks — I had Bryan McCann as a fifth — and the linebackers as I thought were a problem for me. I had Desmond Bishop and Glenn Carson cut, and Marcus Benard in. Wrong. But as we go forward, what to expect?

There are six wide receivers for now, but as Bruce Arians said, the bottom five on the roster shouldn’t be comfortable because the potential for change is constant. Walt Powell could easily slide on the practice squad at some point. So too could Carson, if the Cardinals don’t need a fifth inside linebacker. Is another backup tackle possible? Could Max Starks come back like Arians said he might? I suppose the one surprise is the fact the Cardinals only have eight defensive backs, given that Tyrann Mathieu’s status is so up in the air. But I believe Teddy Williams is practice-squad eligible and I don’t know if McCann is going to get picked up anywhere anyways.

The practice squad will be 10 strong now, don’t forget, with the potential of a couple of veterans. So maybe the Cards keep WR Brittan Golden if he isn’t claimed, and other potential practice-squad guys would be defensive tackle Bruce Gaston, interior offensive lineman Anthony Steen and tight end Andre Hardy. I’d think there also could be a couple of outside guys come in for the practice squad too.

This isn’t over yet.

– A quick note: Veteran LB James Harrison retired today. So that’s no longer an option.

53bloguse

 


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Mathieu will tackle next week. Play? We’ll see

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2014 – 1:41 pm

Rehabbing safety Tyrann Mathieu will tackle during the Cardinals’ one padded practice next week heading into the Sept. 8 season opener against the Chargers. Will he play? Coach Bruce Arians left that door cracked for now, but asked about his statement that Mathieu would have needed to play in Thursday’s game in order to play a week from Monday, Arians quickly said “I wasn’t kidding.”

Arians did chuckle as he said it. “We’ll see how he tackles, though.”

That’s the problem of this time of year, Arians said. Players like Mathieu, linebacker Kevin Minter and guard Jonathan Cooper need to put on pads and play football. “You really can’t do that this time of year,” Arians said.

Mathieu knew going into Thursday he wouldn’t be playing, and all the warmup with pants on was a ruse. “I was just teasing everybody,” he joked. As for the opener, “If the doctors, the trainers, (GM) Steve (Keim) and everybody comes together and think I should play and if it’s best for me, hopefully I can get out there,” Mathieu said.

Put me in the doubtful category, giving what everyone has been saying on the subject. First he has to tackle, and we will see who gets the honor of getting hit.

“That’s what practice squad is for,” Arians quipped.

– Arians did give a James Harrison update. The veteran linebacker met with the Cardinals Friday. “We’ll see what happens,” Arians said, confirming that yes, Harrison would bring a bit of the same attitude to the team lost when Darnell Dockett got hurt. UPDATE: Harrison apparently won’t be coming to Arizona.

MathieuSDblog


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Chargers (and preseason) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2014 – 11:52 pm

We’ll try not to get too verbose here. It’s late and in a matter of hours, the Cardinals are going to at least begin the process of making the final cuts to the 53-man roster. I’m just thrilled to have a computer to type this on, after leaving it in the taxi and watching it drive away before the game. But that turned out OK — obviously I got it back — and maybe it’s good the preseason is over for me as well.

Bruce Arians rarely pulls punches. He didn’t tonight saying some of the play was “disturbing” and that it will make some of the roster choices easy. We’ll see how it filters out. I don’t know if injuries will affect anything. Safety Eddie Whitley, with a potential broken foot, wasn’t going to make the team. Safety Curtis Taylor, who may have broken his arm, was trying to make a push, especially with the iffy status of Tyrann Mathieu. That option is now gone. Nate Potter was trying to make the team as a backup tackle — maybe, just maybe, the Cards would keep an extra two tackles — but hurt his shoulder. (I don’t know how Bradley Sowell did either; it’ll be interesting to see if Max Starks is ever brought back like Arians said he might be.)

I expect some cuts Friday, some Saturday. And then we’ll see what else comes in the form of waiver claims, maybe another signing. We have a long 10 days before the opener.

– The big mystery was whether Tyrann Mathieu would play. He did not, and yes, if you take Arians’ word for it, he won’t play in the opener. I’m beginning to think that’s not just lip service. Look, Arians can change his mind, but it’s feeling more and more like the Cardinals are going to handle this with kid gloves. And really, why not? Here’s the interesting question — does Mathieu come back after the bye (three games into the season), like Arians always thought he would?

– No way to know how they looked at the battles for spots. Undrafted linebacker Glenn Carson played well with 10 tackles and could’ve (should’ve?) had a leaping interception late in the game. That would have looked good on the résumé. You can’t help but notice the kid out there. Can he edge out a vet like Desmond Bishop? Carson said he’s done all he can do — “It’s in the hands of the coaches now,” he said — but he’s made a nice case. Practice squad certainly.

– Felt the same about Walt Powell. He looked good on kickoff returns and made a nice move after a catch to avoid tacklers and get a first down. Brittan Golden dropped a deep ball. One play does not a roster spot make, but if it’s close, you have to wonder (although Golden did make a nice play to open the second half and force a fumble on a San Diego kickoff return.)

– I agree with linebacker Kevin Minter that he looked OK. At least he was back on the field. Jonathan Cooper looked a little more shaky, but in his case, Ted Larsen is starting for the time being anyway. It’s going to take some time for Cooper, clearly. That’s just reality.

– Love the way Deone Bucannon hits. That is a physical aspect the Cards need in the secondary, their answer to Kam Chancellor. He got lost in tight end coverage once though, losing his man as he stared too long in the backfield. Got to be careful on that.

– The way Arians sounded talking about Tommy Kelly’s 15 or so plays, I got the impression he’s got a good chance to make the roster. Isaac Sopoaga, who had been battling an oblique strain, didn’t play. Will be interesting to see how the defensive line plays out.

OK, that’s a wrap. We’ll have some news tomorrow. I don’t know how headline-grabbing it will be, but the next two days will go a long way in shaping the roster for the season.

Bruce Arians


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Goodwin, not B.A., calling plays in San Diego

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2014 – 6:36 pm

There is not an official “not expected to play” list tonight, since so many players are not expected to play. Already, Larry Fitzgerald is on the field without even having his uniform on, and Bruce Arians said earlier in the week no starters would play (although I would guess there might be one or two.)

That’s not the only change tonight. Because of the circumstances of it both being a fourth preseason game and because the Cardinals have to face the Chargers again in the regular-season opener, Arians decided to hand over the reins of playcalling duties to offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin tonight. It’s the first time in many, many years Arians has not called plays. He made clear when he showed up in Arizona he would be calling plays, and that will remain true. (The last time Arians wasn’t in a position to call plays was 2006 in Pittsburgh, when he was wide receivers coach and the offensive coordinator/play caller was a man named Ken Whisenhunt.)

“It’s going to be different for me,” Arians said.

This not only gives Goodwin a chance to practice doing it for the first time, but it also helps the Cards somewhat in the the back-to-back Charger battles. It’s hard to get a read on what the Cardinals like to call in certain situations if the playcaller changes.

“This will screw up the computer pretty good for three days,” Arians said.

Arians will of course be calling the plays Sept. 8. Already, Arians said the offensive game plan will be basic and tailored to things rookie quarterback Logan Thomas is comfortable with. It’ll be an interesting thing to watch for tonight.

– Arians also said Tyrann Mathieu will not play tonight. No need to rush him.


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