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If Veldheer goes down, a Humphries switch

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2016 – 10:05 am

One of the important parts of the end-of-preseason roster choices will be how the Cardinals choose to divvy up their offensive line spots. As of now we have the five starters — from left tackle across, it’ll be Jared Veldheer, Mike Iupati, A.Q. Shipley, Evan Mathis and D.J. Humphries. Beyond that, you figure they keep fourth-round center Evan Boehm and Swiss Army knife lineman Earl Watford, who is still recovering from a knee injury. Does rookie guard Cole Toner stick? Guard Antoine McClain? Tackle John Wetzel? Do they add a guy?

Watford started two games at right tackle last year and is a strong possibility to play there if Humphries goes down. For now, coach Bruce Arians made it a little more clear how they would handle the backup tackle situation on the left. If Veldheer got hurt, Arians said, the move would likely be to switch Humphries — who spent his college days as a left tackle — back over to the left, and then fill in the right.

Arians also had a good line about what the Cardinals ask their offensive tackles to do.

“Block the best players on the other team,” Arians said. “That’s pretty much it. those defensive ends get paid a bunch of money. They get paid a million dollars a sack, you get paid half-a-million for 59 good blocks.”

VeldheerTacklesUSe


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Williams, Boehm and rookie impact

Posted by Darren Urban on July 30, 2016 – 9:23 am

We’re only one practice into training camp, nowhere close to being able to know what rookie will walk in and help a team. But already, it feels like things are shifting with a few draftees. Robert Nkemdiche is the first, a guy who is sitting for now with a bum ankle. You figure the defensive lineman will be back sooner rather than later, and frankly, even if he missed a week or two, it probably wouldn’t make a big difference once we got to the regular season.

But you look at the next two picks: CB Brandon Williams and C Evan Boehm. When the picks were made, given the Cardinals’ circumstances at both spots (which both had and have uncertainty), the safe guess would have been that Williams would come along slow and Boehm would have the best chance to start.

Instead, early in camp, the situations have reversed. With Justin Bethel sidelined, Williams is running with the first team, and actually looked pretty good in his first practice, continuing the arc he finished up in the offseason work. Boehm, meanwhile, is behind A.Q. Shipley now, as coach Bruce Arians has repeatedly noted the steep learning curve Boehm must climb before he is ready to play.

There’s a long way to go. The two could switch again before the season. Bethel could come back and fight off the Williams challenge for that starting job. But for now it’s an interesting twist from where we were in May.

Boehm

 


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Nkemdiche to play fullback and other Arians

Posted by Darren Urban on July 29, 2016 – 12:42 pm

Bruce Arians didn’t have a lot of news speaking today since the Cardinals have yet to hold a practice — “No one got hurt in the walkthrough,” Arians deadpanned — but there were still some tidbits. Among them, A.Q. Shipley’s days as a fullback are probably done, since he’s likely going to end up the starting center. So who would be the battering ram in the backfield instead of Shipley for those few times it’s needed? How about rookie defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche?

“He’s done it before and he’s been damn good at it,” Arians said.

This is true.

— Speaking of Shipley, Arians said “in all fairness” Shipley didn’t lose the starting center job last year, saying “I gave it to Lyle” Sendlein.

— Andre Ellington will be among the players looked at on kickoff return. It’s another chance to get Ellington, an explosive player, his hands on the ball. Arians said it wasn’t about getting one of the running backs a spot on special teams, but if Ellington doesn’t return kicks, it’d be hard to have three backs on game day and none playing any special teams. Chris Johnson isn’t going to, and starter David Johnson likely wouldn’t either.

— Carson Palmer was asked about the possibility of retiring if the Cardinals won the Super Bowl. Thursday, Arians said if the Cards won, he’d likely want to try and coach the Cards to another one instead of retiring. Palmer said he’d probably feel the same, and noted that when he was younger, watching John Elway win back-to-back Super Bowls left a deep impression on him.

— Along those lines, Arians was asked when he arrived in Arizona how long he thought his coaching window was, given his age. Arians said he never really thought about it. “That’s up to God,” Arians said. “The way I treat myself, not long.”


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For what it’s worth in June, offensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 24, 2016 – 2:13 pm

As we maneuver through the dead of the offseason (and I finally get some time off), it’s a chance to survey the landscape of the Cardinals and make predictions about the season opening starters a couple of months from now – like I did with the defense yesterday.

Today, before I disappear for a bit, here is the offensive version, which, given the return of all the skill players, isn’t exactly an exercise in rocket science:

QB – Carson Palmer. As long as he’s healthy and productive, the Cardinals will remain a contender.

RB – David Johnson. The Cards hope that vets Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington stay healthy and contribute to Bruce Arians’ multi-pronged offense. But make no mistake, David Johnson is the running back in this offense.

WR – Larry Fitzgerald. He’s coming of a renaissance season only to be stepping into the will-he-or-won’t-he-retire last year of his contract. Still, he remains the soul of this offense.

WR – Michael Floyd. Also going into a contract year. Had a slightly slow start, but his dominance for a long stretch mid-to-late in the year showed how much of an impact he can really make. Yet another of the weapons that will make this team so hard to defend.

WR—Smokey Brown. Arians said Brown slumped late in the year, so the goal now is for Brown to carry through his talents for 16 games. Avoiding a nagging hamstring injury like the one that bothered him for a chunk of last season would be a good starting point.

TE – Darren Fells. Jermaine Gresham will get plenty of playing time, but Fells quietly had a very solid season last year, and Palmer said he’s shed 20 pounds and looks even better through the spring.

RT – D.J. Humphries. One of the few offensive question marks. All signs point to the 2015 first-round pick starting this season after learning a hard lesson as an inactive player for all 16 games as a rookie. If the Cardinals sign a veteran right tackle as camp opens, all bets are off.

RG – Evan Mathis. The Cardinals signed the Super Bowl champ to a one-year contract hoping he can not only solidify the line but also serve as a mentor – or at least give veteran help — to Humphries.

C – A.Q. Shipley. Eventually, the Cardinals want fourth-round pick Evan Boehm to win this job. But can the rookie learn enough to beat out Shipley by September? I’m guessing it takes a little longer than that.

LG – Mike Iupati. Comes to Cardinals, makes the Pro Bowl, the running game piles up almost 2,000 yards. Probably not a coincidence.

LT – Jared Veldheer. The offensive line overhaul with Steve Keim began with the Veldheer signing back in 2014. The Cards wanted a left tackle anchor. They got one.

OffenseWorth


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Center may be college non-center

Posted by Darren Urban on April 19, 2016 – 4:51 pm

Lyle Sendlein and Ted Larsen are gone. And while A.Q. Shipley remains and the Cardinals have signed a couple of other street free agents in Taylor Boggs and Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, it’s pretty clear the Cardinals are on course to draft a center at some point. Maybe it’s the first round, a guy like Alabama’s Ryan Kelly (who has been a favorite for mock drafters to scribble next to the Cardinals at 29th overall.) But it won’t be a surprise, even though the Cards don’t have a second-round pick, if they wait. After listening to both Steve Keim and Bruce Arians Tuesday, it shouldn’t even be a surprise if one comes later — and isn’t even technically a center. Not yet.

“In this draft, there are several opportunities to draft centers in all rounds,” Keim said. “Some of those guys are projections. There are some guys in the second, third, fourth rounds, who are going to be guys who played left tackle or they played guard at the collegiate level, who we worked out at center or they played center previously in their career that we think has the skill set. There are going to be opportunities to address that position if we feel necessary.”

Arians noted a couple of very good NFL centers like Jeff Hartings of the Steelers and Tim Grunhard of the Chiefs (Grunhard played guard in college, Hartings started his NFL career at guard before moving to center) that made the move. “When you say a college center, there might be three college centers, but there are 15 potential centers,” Arians said.

Options obviously open up a lot of possibilities for that first pick. Waiting on a center makes it easier to take a cornerback. Or a defensive lineman. Whatever Keim might want.

Ryan Kelly


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Keim: “Fingers crossed” for Mathieu UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2015 – 8:13 am

Cardinals GM Steve Keim didn’t go to bed after the team landed around 4:30 a.m. from Philadelphia after their win Sunday night. And when he made his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 a little more than three hours later, there was no definitive answer yet on the status of safety Tyrann Mathieu and his right knee injury. (Mathieu hurt his left knee in 2013.)

Keim said Mathieu was undergoing an MRI Monday morning to determine the extent of the problem.

“We’ll keep our fingers crossed,” Keim said. “He’s such a valuable piece to this defense, this organization.”

UPDATE: Bruce Arians announced Monday Mathieu’s season is over after he tore his ACL.

Some other Keim thoughts:

— On the NFC West title, with a chance to clinch a first-round bye by beating the Packers in a week, I “just like the fact we control our own destiny.”

“It was nice to see a complete football game from our club” against the Eagles, Keim added.

— He said he was happy with the play of the offensive line. Keim thought it was one of the best games for right tackle Bobby Massie, he liked the aggressiveness of guard Mike Iupati, and he thought A.Q. Shipley played well in place of injured center Lyle Sendlein.

— As for the injured finger of QB Carson Palmer and the knee of RB David Johnson, Keim said both should be fine.

— Keim praised the play of newcomer D.J. Swearinger at safety. He also liked the games of ILB Deone Bucannon and DT Josh Mauro

“That’s what makes a team, when you have different guys step up each week,” he said.

— His biggest concern going forward? There was a mention of consistent pass rush, but the main thing comes as no surprise with the Mathieu situation hanging over the team’s collective head. “The ability to stay healthy through the process,” Keim said.

 


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Eagles, and Honey Badger, aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2015 – 1:35 am

Sunday night was a good night for the Cardinals. They dominated. They won the NFC West. They had a rookie running back rush for 187 yards and look tremendous doing it. They were happy to win the division, but know they haven’t yet accomplished what they want, which is the right mindset to have.

“We want to put banners up,” defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said. “We want to keep this thing rolling, and we’re on the right track.”

But it was hard not to see the stoic faces of both Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer after Tyrann Mathieu went down on a non-contact play late in the game, his knee buckling. Non-contact plays like that are a scary thing in this league, and when Palmer said he had already been praying for Mathieu, it shows where his head was at.

No, the Cardinals have not yet reached their goals. There are a lot of boxes left that need to be checked before/if the Cards can start thinking about a Super Bowl. It would really help if Mathieu is there to help. That answer isn’t out there yet as the Cards fly home from Philly in the middle of the night.

We’ll see.

— David Johnson was tremendous. He provided an injury scare himself late in the first half – after he had already surpassed 100 yards for the first time in his career – but came back. He said he knew he was fine, and he was. Johnson had 187 yards rushing and 229 total yards and is firmly entrenched as this team’s No. 1 running back.

— This nugget from longtime Eagles beat writer Reuben Frank: Two players have ever rushed for at least 185 yards and three touchdowns in a game against the Eagles. David Johnson Sunday night … and Jim Brown.

— What was it with the drops? From jump, when Smokey Brown dropped what should have been a 78-yard touchdown on the game’s first play, it was something that receiving group never does. Brown ended up with three drops – including one in the end zone – and Michael Floyd had a couple himself. Bruce Arians said it should’ve been a big game for Brown. (There were about three other deep shots to Brown that just didn’t connect.)

— The Cardinals wanted to get better in short yardage and self-scouted to do so. Sunday night, the Cardinals had third down/goal to go and either one or two yards to make nine times. They passed it four times and ran it five – and they converted all nine attempts.

— A.Q. Shipley did a nice job in replacing the gimpy Lyle Sendlein at center.

— Two hardest hits of the night: New safety D.J. Swearinger hammering tight end Zack Ertz to prevent a completion in the first quarter to force a field goal, and tight end Troy Niklas, who accidentally belted punt returner Patrick Peterson hard enough that Peterson fumbled. Niklas jumped on the ball to save the play.

— Well, it’s very late. The attention is starting to wane, so I’m going to cut this off. The Cardinals may be 12-2, but they haven’t wrapped up a bye yet, and the team chasing them comes to town this week. Packers-Cardinals is a pretty good game, no?

AriansLockerBlog


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Gresham out, but Jefferson to play vs. Vikings

Posted by Darren Urban on December 10, 2015 – 4:59 pm

The Cardinals will not have tight end Jermaine Gresham tonight because of his knee, but that wasn’t unexpected after he was listed as doubtful. More work for Troy Niklas alongside Darren Fells, and I’d think A.Q. Shipley or Jonathan Cooper could get tight end work in jumbo packages.

Injuries actually made the inactive list for tonight’s game fairly simple. With the short week, those extra couple of days might have helped a couple of guys. Safety Tony Jefferson (hamstring) is active, although the Cards have new safety D.J. Swearinger if needed.

The full list of inactives:

— QB Matt Barkley

— CB Jerraud Powers (calf)

— RB Andre Ellington (toe)

— LB Shaq Riddick

— T D.J. Humphries

— TE Jermaine Gresham (knee)

— DT Frostee Rucker (ankle)

 


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Shipley, Sendlein and Seattle

Posted by Darren Urban on November 11, 2015 – 9:27 am

We are still a couple of days away from knowing if starting center Lyle Sendlein, who is dealing with a shoulder injury, will be able to play against the Seahawks Sunday night. Bruce Arians said Sendlein missed practice Tuesday. The first injury report of the week comes out later today.

But if Sendlein can’t go, A.Q. Shipley would start at center. The question is what might that mean for an offensive line that has been solid. It’s true that Arians said he had been expecting more on the interior of the line at Cleveland, which includes Sendlein. But the veteran has something that Shipley does not — experience at CenturyLink Field.

Sendlein has started six games in Seattle during his career (and appeared in a seventh.) He knows what it’s like in that stadium, with that crowd, with that noise. Shipley has played in 51 games in his career, none at Seattle. A night game, with the knowledge that a national TV audience is watching, will boost the crowd intensity that much more. The center is the one who organizes the offensive line every play. In a season where everyone continues to say the offensive line communication is a developing work-in-progress, who starts at center — and how he handles the moment — will have an impact on how effective the Cardinals’ offense can be.

CentersBlog


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Smokey Brown active against Ravens

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2015 – 3:59 pm

Smoke said he was good to go and it turns out he is, so wide receiver John Brown is among the active players for tonight’s game against the Ravens, a positive thing for the Cardinals. It should be noted, however, that with Brown’s hamstring issues of the last two weeks, the Cardinals will have all six wide receivers active for the game — including both Brittan Golden and rookie J.J. Nelson, who is playing in his first games since hurting his shoulder in Chicago.

The Cardinals, with Darren Fells hurt, also only have two tight ends active — Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas — so I would guess in the situations where the Cards need a third tight end in jumbo situations, we’ll see reserve center A.Q. Shipley. (Or maybe, with the Ravens’ struggling secondary, we will just see lots and lots of three- and four-wide receiver sets).

The full inactive list for the Cardinals:

— QB Matt Barkley

— LB Alex Okafor (calf)

— LB Shaq Riddick

— T D.J. Humphries

— T Earl Watford

— TE Darren Fells (shoulder)

— NT Xavier Williams


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