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Breaking down Cooper’s opener

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2014 – 1:02 pm

If it weren’t for that pesky broken leg, Jonathan Cooper’s training camp in the spotlight would have been one-and-done. The left guard would have been looked at all last camp as a No. 1 draft pick, and he would have settled in to the background by now. But he did break his leg and he did lose his rookie season, and right now he’s been up-and-down in camp as he tries to come back.

So everyone was watching Coop in the preseason opener Saturday night. He knew it. “Nerves were running at an all-time high,” Cooper said, adding “I definitely have a lot of room to improve.”

Cooper ended up playing the entire first half, mostly with the second-unit offensive line. That was 40 total snaps, including those that had penalties. The last was a kneel-down at the end of the second quarter. Three times Cooper moved back into pass protection but with a three-man rush he had no one to block. Here is a breakdown of his plays. I don’t know exactly what he was being asked to do, obviously, and I can’t speak directly to his technique. He got burned early by J.J. Watt sack but otherwise it looked to me that Cooper did just fine in his first work since last preseason.

DRIVE ONE

1st-n-10: Cooper pulls, hits LB Brooks Reed. Does job, although Andre Ellington gains one yard.
2nd-n-9: Watt beats Cooper badly, shoving Cooper left as he sacks Palmer.
3rd-n-16: Cooper tries to help LT Jared Veldheer on Jadaveon Clowney. Not really needed as Palmer fires 25-yard completion.
1st-n-10: Helps Veldheer on Watt on four-yard completion, which was negated by Texans penalty.
1st-n-10: Engages defensive tackle Tim Jamison and holds up fine on 38-yard pass to TE Rob Housler.
1st-n-10: Pushes forward on quick screen to Larry Fitzgerald.
2nd-n-6: Helps Veldheer on Watt, not really needed on wheel route TD pass to TE John Carlson, which was called back on penalty.
2nd-and-16: Nice push on Jamison as Ellington runs for six yards.
3rd-n-10: Takes on Watt one-on-one. Watt definitely pushes Cooper back, but Coop holds up long enough for 10-yard completion to Jaron Brown.
1st-n-G: Handles Jamison on seven-yard TD slant to Fitz.

DRIVE TWO

1st-n-10: Takes care of Jamison decently, although a non-factor in a six-yard Stepfan Taylor run.
2nd-n-4: Pushes out to second level on run, but run play blows up when TE Darren Fells can’t hold a block.
3rd-n-9: Helps Veldheer on Clowney double-team, plenty of time for Drew Stanton to hit John Brown for 24 yards.
1st-n-10: Helps double-team NT Jarrell Powe. Brown draws 39-yard PI.
1st-n-10: Handles Jamison on a quick six-yard pass.
2nd-n-4: Gets OK push on Jamison, with help from Veldheer, on three-yard Taylor run.
3rd-n-1: Good pass pro on Jamison on two-yard pass play to RB Robert Hughes.
1st-n-G: Standoff with Powe, and Taylor rolls up the back of Cooper’s leg. A scary sight after last year. Coop gets up.
2nd-n-G: Tries to chip Clowney on a dive block. Misses. Taylor gains a yard.
3rd-n-G: Holds off Jamison just long enough for Stanton to hit Jaron Brown for a five-yard TD.

DRIVE THREE

1st-n-10: Unneeded in pass pro.
2nd-n-10: OK blocking Jamison but the whole line has breakdown and Taylor may have made mistake bouncing outside for yard loss.
3rd-n-11: Fine in pass pro against Jamison. Incomplete.

DRIVE FOUR

1st-n-10: Helps on DT Ricardo Mathews at the snap, tries to come over and take unblocked LB Jeff Tarpinian late. Too late. Taylor no gain.
2nd-n-10: Takes out Tarpinian on quick five-yard pass to Brittan Golden.
3rd-n-5: Rides Jamison out of the play on an 11-yard pass.
1st-n-10: Locks up DE Jared Crick but Taylor loses a yard.
2nd-n-11: No one to hit in pass pro on eight-yard gain.
3rd-n-3: Helped some on Jamison in pass pro on Stanton incompletion.

DRIVE FIVE

1st-n-10: Locks up Jamison in pass pro on 14-yard pass to TE Darren Fells.
1st-n-10: Struggles with Mathews as pocket collapses everywhere and Stanton barely gets off an incompletion.
2nd-n-10: No one to hit in pass pro. Walt Powell gets 45-yard catch.
1st-n-10: Blocks Jamison but run play to other side.
2nd-n-6: Pulls right as screen pass goes back to the left on some nice misdirection. Gains 10.
1st-n-10: Negates Jamison. Nine-yard run comes back on Niklas hold.
1st-n-20: Not great against DE Keith Browner but enough — but Fells drops a TD pass.
2nd-n-20: Handles Crick, but Cards called for offensive pass interference.
2nd-n-30: Locks down Crick on incompletion.
3rd-n-30: Handles Crick again on 22-yard pass to John Brown.

Again, it’ll be interesting to see how Arians describes Cooper’s night. But it was a good start to the preseason for a guy who just needed to get back on the field.

CoopBlockUSE


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Texans aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2014 – 10:53 pm

Bruce Arians wanted a fast start. He got it. What was striking to me about Saturday night’s demolition of  the (admittedly bad) Houston Texans was that everything the Cardinals have been saying about their team was indeed true. The offensive guys kept saying they were a lot more comfortable and knew their stuff. The defense promised they’d be good again even with the linebacker losses. There is a ton of time still before the games count for real, but that’s what happened to start. Why does that strike me? Because I have been around plenty of teams for this franchise and optimism is always high early in camp — and then the games start. It’s rare when the optimism matches.

– Carson Palmer looked really good. This is the guy the Cardinals are talking about when they talk about Palmer’s ability to lead them where they want to go.

– I’ve heard a lot of things said about rookie wide receiver John Brown. Here’s how one Cardinals’ player described him tonight: “He’s like Wes Welker.” If he can make that kind of impact, turning third-and-longs into first downs, man, does this offense have potential for being incredibly dangerous.

– I’ll have more on G Jonathan Cooper tomorrow after I watch the game again, but I thought he held up OK. He gave up the sack to J.J. Watt, but again, we’re talking about the best defensive player in the league. “I definitely have a lot of room to improve,” Cooper said. “I got those jitters out of the way now.”

Cooper will get better (and thank goodness when he was rolled up on from behind he wasn’t hurt. Cooper said it was the same leg he broke last year. It shouldn’t be a problem but we’ll see in the light of day.

– I’m not sure how this team will sort through its wide receivers. I really believe Walt Powell can play in this league, but he’s stuck behind a solid five of Fitz, Floyd, Ginn, John Brown and Jaron Brown. I mean, Floyd and Ginn didn’t suit up and the passing game didn’t miss a beat.

– Logan Thomas might be that guy Arians talks about when he talks about gamers, because goodness, the Logan Thomas who played against the Texans has not been the guy I’ve noticed on the practice field. Not that Thomas has been bad in camp, but it was his calmness in the pocket that struck me. Maybe Arians and Tom Moore will turn out to be quarterback whisperers. Long, long way to go, of course. But 11-for-12 for 113 yards and a TD? Can’t start much better.

– Because the offense was so crisp it is easy to forget about the defense, but it was solid. “We have to look at the film to be sure,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “We did some good things. We were out of out depth a few times in the running game. All in all, a good start.”

– Speaking of good starts, rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro couldn’t have been better in his battle to get a job. Boomed kickoffs deep or through the end zone all night, made all three field goals (easily) and three extra points. Jay Feely gets his turn in Minnesota.

That’s it for tonight. I’ll post on the blog tomorrow, and it’s back to practice Monday. We’re only halfway through #CardsCamp.


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Floyd, Ginn sit out Texans game

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2014 – 4:22 pm

Earlier in the week, Bruce Arians said he expected all but center Lyle Sendlein (and the PUP guys) to be available tonight against the Texans in the preseason opener. Turns out it wasn’t quite the case. Wide receivers Michael Floyd (groin) and Ted Ginn (knee) ended up scratches for the game for what I can only expect are minor issues. Sendlein’s bad calf will keep him out, and obviously LB John Abraham (still awaiting to have him show at camp) and PUPers Tyrann Mathieu and Alameda Ta’amu are out.

I don’t think Larry Fitzgerald will play a ton either. I do expect to see a lot of John Brown, Jaron Brown, Walt Powell and Brittan Golden.

The Texans did not announce the players they are not expecting to dress tonight.


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Jaron Brown and Friday before the Texans

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2014 – 3:36 pm

It’s been hard not to notice that wide receiver named Brown during training camp. Then again, Jaron Brown has had a year under his belt to know what to do.

Sure, rookie John Brown is the breakout-star-in-the-making. And he’ll be on the roster. Jaron Brown, the 2013 undrafted man out of Clemson, has more of a fight on his hands. But this last week seemed to show that this J. Brown likely ends up on the roster as well. Part of it had to do with prepping for the Texans game, since Jaron will be part of that second group that figures to play a lot Saturday. He definitely has found a rapport with backup quarterback Drew Stanton. It felt like he was making a two to three nice plays a practice (including a couple of nice grabs Thursday, as you can see below). Better yet, Bruce Arians loves the fact that Brown not only plays special teams, but is big and rugged enough at 6-2, 205 to stick his nose in the middle of kickoff coverage.

Jaron Brown had a nice preseason last year as well, which got him on the team. He’s showing up again. Assuming Jaron Brown doesn’t get hurt, he seems to be playing from ahead for that spot on the 53.

– If Jaron Brown looks like the leader for the fifth receiver job, where does that leave others? Brittan Golden hasn’t been bad either, but after the Cardinals added Ted Ginn and John Brown, his speed is less needed. Sixth-round draft pick Walt Powell also has been solid with good hands. Perhaps he’s a practice-squad target. The Cardinals are not going to be able to keep them all.

– The Texans aren’t going to play wide receiver Andre Johnson or running back Arian Foster Saturday. Whether No. 1 overall draft pick Jadaveon Clowney plays seems to be up in the air. Clowney, dealing with an undisclosed injury, seems to think he will start. Texans coach Bill O’Brien refuses to commit to Clowney playing. Who says there’s no drama in the preseason.

– The starters are going to get about 15 plays, maybe two possessions. I would guess it will be determined by the success of the first possession for both sides of the ball. That’ll open up the vast majority of the playing time for the second- and third-units. Logan Thomas is going to play the last chunk of the game, and after his camp thus far — he’s gotten almost all of the third-team reps since camp opened — it’ll be a big test.

– Players to watch in the game? I’ll be curious to see how Bobby Massie looks at right tackle and how John Brown fits. I want to see how guard Jonathan Cooper does against someone who isn’t Calais Campbell. I want to see backup offensive linemen Max Starks — who has an inside track to the roster if he shows well — and Earl Watford. I want to see Justin Bethel at cornerback, Kevin Minter as he begins his starting role and rookies like Deone Bucannon and Kareem Martin on defense.

Mostly, I want to see zero injuries. In the end, that’s really the most important part of the preseason.

– Speaking of preseason, here’s a link to the reminders if you are going to the game. It is a sellout, so it will be televised on local TV, on ABC-15.

– The Cardinals will be off Sunday and back at (open) practice Monday at University of Phoenix Stadium.

JaronBLOG


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Healthy Cards cut another linebacker

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2014 – 9:45 am

Remember how Bruce Arians joked about how the Cardinals had “way too many” on the roster right now? It looks like there was some truth in that quip. I mean, Arians said that in response to when the Cards might fill to two open spots left with the departures of Jake Ballard and Ernie Sims. Not only have the Cardinals not filled those spots, but they created another one Friday when they cut outside linebacker Trevardo Williams, who had just been claimed off waivers last weekend.

Arians had already said the only player expected to miss Saturday’s preseason opener against Houston was starting center Lyle Sendlein, down with his calf injury. Even with Williams’ release, that leaves 85 players on the roster prepared to play (minus PUP guys Tyrann Mathieu and Alameda Ta’amu). That seems a bit much to juggle as it is (hence, Arians “way too many” comment.) A couple of guys aren’t expected to play because of position-battle preseason rotations — QB Ryan Lindley and K Jay Feely this week — but the Cardinals have plenty at all the positions, especially since they are trying to see the performance of some young guys.

This leaves three roster spots open, which is handy given that once you go through a preseason game, inevitably some guys will get banged up. The Cardinals can easily buoy those positions next week if needed.


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B.A. talks Sims, Badger, Coop

Posted by Darren Urban on August 7, 2014 – 12:21 pm

Some quick notes from Bruce Arians’ lunchtime presser, on the last day of availability before the Cardinals actually get to play a game Saturday against the Texans at home:

– The only player Arians said he plans to hold out from the game is center Lyle Sendlein, who is still dealing with the bad calf. Wide receiver John Brown was shut down in practice again yesterday due to fatigue in the hamstring, but Arians emphasized again it’s not injured. He also said Brown should have no issues in the game because he will be getting rests between possessions.

– The Cardinals cut LB Ernie Sims because he was not a fit, and Arians figured, as a veteran, the team owed it to Sims to let him go now to see if he could find a team that he could actually fit. As for the two empty roster spots with Sims’ release and the Jake Ballard retirement, he said the Cardinals aren’t in any hurry to fill them. “We’ve got way too many now,” Arians quipped.

– Ballard’s retirement was not a surprise to Arians. “I was in pain watching him trying to make it through practice,” the coach said. Ballard’s last MRI showed bone-on-bone, and Ballard’s future in the NFL was grim. “Hate to see it because he has such a passion for the game,” Arians said. “But it was the right move.”

– Arians dismissed the optimism of Tyrann Mathieu yesterday (although Mathieu’s demeanor and full comments at the time showed he too understood he wasn’t exactly at the doorstep of coming off PUP.) “We’ll still stick with our timetable and see how it comes out and when he comes off,” Arians said.

– Guard Jonathan Cooper’s play has improved since he had his knee drained, Arians said. “I thought he moved around much better.” No word on whether the knee is any concern. Arians didn’t make it sound like it was.

– Teams are able to use tablets on the sideline for the first time, but Arians sounds wary after using them during the Fan Fest practice. Like most tablet users, coaches have had some issues with glare from the screen, whether it’s the lights indoors at University of Phoenix Stadium or an outdoor stadium. “I’ll go back to the (still) pictures,” Arians said. “I’m old school.” he smiled. “Tom (Moore) will handle all the high-tech stuff.”

Moore, of course, is 75. Arians is 61.

 


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Cardinals cut LB Sims

Posted by Darren Urban on August 7, 2014 – 9:16 am

It’s been a quick start to the news of the day, with the Cardinals releasing veteran linebacker Ernie Sims — whose last act as a Cardinal was intercepting a Drew Stanton pass during a drive drill at the end of practice Tuesday that deflected high in the air (picture below). It isn’t that surprising. If you have a veteran who doesn’t really have a chance of making the team — and Sims clearly wasn’t going to surpass Kevin Minter, Lorenzo Alexander, Larry Foote or Kenny Demens at inside linebacker at this point — you’d rather move on and not expose him to injury in a game that could cause an IR trip and/or a drain on the salary cap.

The Cardinals now have two open roster spots, after dropping Sims and the retirement of tight end Jake Ballard. We’ll see how those get filled. I assume they will be filled.

– Came across this article about Adrian Wilson in Chicago last night. Made me chuckle. A interview that lasted less than two minutes? An icy glare? Dismissing a question? Been there, done that with Dub. Plus, there’s a picture of him sporting jersey No. 44. My favorite part of the transcript:

“On whether he feels any differently at this point in training camp than he has in Pro Bowl seasons, health-wise:

(Wilson appeared annoyed. He ignored this question and turned to another reporter.)”

86SimsINTuse


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Defense knows too much (and other notes)

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2014 – 5:43 pm

The Cardinals’ defense will be good again this season. Just ask the Cardinals’ offense.

“Every day we go on the field is an unbelievable challenge for this offense,” coach Bruce Arians said.

It’s about more than talent, though. The defense not only has players but it has information. It has watched the offense run its plays over and over, in camp and this offseason. It has heard the audibles.

“Because we see so many pressures, blitz period or not, they are going to know our audibles,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “Coach Arians said it (Tuesday), as soon as we audibled one play the whole defense knew what was coming. He just wants to see the audible executed, (even if it is) completely covered and blown up. But you see it in a walkthrough and then in practice, it’s pretty easy to pick up. Once you go in a game, you only use that audible once every three weeks. You understand the situation for what it is. But that stuff does get frustrating.”

Palmer emphasized how much respect he has for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. “You can’t get a bead on what you think is coming,” Palmer said.

Still, it makes success during training camp much, much harder.

“When offense wins a few matches in practice, I am very proud our offense is getting better,” Arians said.

– Maybe that played a part in Wednesday’s practice. At one point during team work, the defense would have come up with a handful of sacks and/or heavy pressures on the passer. Then at the end of the day, when the offense took on the defense — first unit versus first unit, and so on — for an attempt at a mostly length-of-the-field drive, the defense was winning. The first-string offense drove all the way into the red zone, only to have cornerback Antonio Cromartie bring down a beautiful one-handed interception on a fade route to Ted Ginn. The second offense only had a couple of plays before a pass to Jaron Brown was deflected high in the air before linebacker Ernie Sims grabbed the ball. The third offense was successful, eventually scoring a touchdown on a short run by Jonathan Dwyer.

– Darren Fells would seem to have an inside track at a roster spot as the fourth tight end after Jake Ballard’s retirement, but he had his hiccups Wednesday after the news came out, dropping a couple of catchable passes.

– Everybody was out practicing except for DT Darnell Dockett (who was given a rest day by Arians) and center Lyle Sendlein, still out with a calf injury.

– Tyrann Mathieu, on the help he gives rookie safety Deone Bucannon: “I try to tell him what I know. I don’t try to tell him too much because I don’t know everything.”

– Arians said the kicking spot will come down to how the games play out. “All the eggs are in that basket,” he said. “It’ll be a tough decision.” Arians said each kicker will be given a full game to work, starting with Chandler Catanzano against Houston Saturday. Feely will kick in Minnesota the following week.

86CroINTuse

 


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TE Jake Ballard retires

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2014 – 12:12 pm

The Cardinals’ logjam at tight end was lessened Wednesday when veteran Jake Ballard — who had already missed a couple of days of practice with a sore knee — decided to retire with his ongoing knee issues. Ballard’s career was derailed when he blew out his knee in the Giants’ Super Bowl win over the Patriots after the 2011 season. In a statement released through profootballtalk.com, Ballard said that knee injury was too much to overcome.

“I love this game and have put my heart and soul into it for as long as I can remember,” Ballard’s statement read in part. “After sustaining a serious knee injury while playing for the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, my body never felt the same.  Having a quality of life after football is very important to me and I have witnessed it taken away from others.  I will miss the game tremendously, but I am ready for this next chapter in my life.”

It’s too bad. Ballard is a good guy who came up with a couple of big plays for the Cardinals after signing last season, including a crucial catch in the game-winning drive in Seattle (seen below).  Just a few months ago, he was saying that he already felt better on the field than he did last season. “I feel like I am almost back to my old self. And that’s a relief.” Apparently, that good feeling didn’t last.

“It was an honor and a privilege to play for the NY Giants, New England Patriots, and most recently the Arizona Cardinals,” Ballard’s statement continued. “I met amazing people from all of my teammates, to opponents, to trainers, to coaches, to owners, and everyone in between. I thank you for allowing me to be a part of your fraternity and I wish you all nothing but success.”

Big picture, it’s hard to know if there is any cause-and-effect whether Ballard’s decision — or the troubles it was giving him in camp — had anything to do with how Darren Fells has been playing or the prism within which coach Bruce Arians has seen Fells as he praised him publicly the last few days. Knowing the Cardinals will have four tight ends on the roster, it seems like a quartet of John Carlson, Rob Housler, Troy Niklas and Fells makes some sense.


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Sorting out keepers on the O-line

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2014 – 12:50 pm

Bruce Arians was short and sweet during his press conference today, which means the news is little and the grind of camp has officially set in. Until games begin to be played, players can start proving themselves on the field against another time and, you know — stuff happens — I’d imagine there won’t be a torrent of news. One thing from today is that guard Jonathan Cooper, tight end Jake Ballard and tackle Nate Potter are all taking the practice off because of sore knees, but all three are expected to practice against Wednesday.

That’ll give Earl Watford a chance to work with the ones all through practice today. He said he’s getting better in cutting down the mental mistakes. How that offensive line filters out will be one of the more intriguing parts of the camp and preseason. Arians usually dressed seven on game days. After the starters, that would mean a swing tackle (Starks?) and a G/C combo (Larsen, probably). So if Cooper starts, does that mean Watford is inactive again? Where does Potter stand, or Bradley Sowell (the latter of whom is probably in trouble roster-wise if Starks proves usable.)

Some of it will have to do with youth and keeping players around if you feel they can develop, as well as the numbers across the rest of the roster. But now that Starks is here, someone is going to be the odd man out. And there could be a couple that end up odd.

– WR John Brown, who has missed three practices with a bad hamstring, will be back out at practice.

– Arians is very happy with the way rookie safety Deone Bucannon is playing at dollar linebacker, which is his spot in the nickel defense.

– There is still a chance the Cardinals could keep five running backs on the roster, depending on special teams. That would seem to open a possible spot for Jalen Parmele. The first four of Andre Ellington, Stepfan Taylor, Jonathan Dwyer and Robert Hughes looks more and more solid.

 


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