Another Tyrann pick and practice notes

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2013 – 5:23 pm

The Cardinals were running deep red-zone offense — passing situations around and inside the 10 — at one point in Monday’s practice when safety Tyrann Matheiu got a hand up to deflect a pass near the goal line, hitting it straight up in the air and tipping it to himself for an interception. I know this has been said before, but the kid just is always in the mix when the ball is around. Could an opponent burn him for his aggressiveness? Maybe. But if he’s on the field, he’s going to create his share of turnovers. It’s hard to see otherwise.

Other tidbits from the afternoon:

— RB Ryan Williams, dealing with the knee irritation that has been keeping him out of practice, basically ruled himself out of the Green Bay game Friday. It’s disappointing to him on multiple levels, since it was a preseason game in Green Bay in 2011 when he tore his patella tendon and suffered the first of a few NFL injuries. “They started this whole thing, man,” Williams said. “I was really hoping to get over this hump in the sense of playing on that field where it all started, but you know, I’m not able to. So I can’t think too much about it. It is what it is. I’ll be there for the Cowboys, though.”

— Ever since Bruce Arians mentioned that his defense wasn’t getting its collective hands on the ball enough, they have. LB Daryl Washington, CB Justin Bethel and CB Javier Arenas also made picks. (That isn’t to say there weren’t a couple of nice pass hookups too. Charles Hawkins had a couple of downfield plays I recall.)

— G Daryn Colledge isn’t back at practice, but he was able to move around well enough to do the some of the snapping for the 7-on-7 drills. He doesn’t look too far away from returning.

— The tight end group was helped when both Jeff King and Alex Gottlieb returned to work. WR Kerry Taylor is out with some sort of leg/hamstring injury.

— DT Ricky Lumpkin went down after a play and took a few moments to get up. They brought the cart out but Lumpkin later was able to get off the field himself, with a limp, with the aid of head athletic trainer Tom Reed. Lumpkin was trying to walk it off on the sideline. It’s been a tough run for the defensive line and injuries over the past week or so.

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A new Pro Bowl, a day off and a mashup

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2013 – 12:25 pm

The Cardinals have the day off, so the NFL did us a favor and threw out a little news: The Pro Bowl is changing. The biggest news of these changes is that, instead of AFC-NFC, the Pro Bowlers will be picked and then “drafted” on to two separate teams. Could that mean Patrick Peterson covering Larry Fitzgerald in the Pro Bowl? Yes. Then again, we see this all the time in camp. (It’s been suggested this won’t work, that say Terrell Suggs can’t be asked to sack Joe Flacco, or Aldon Smith to Colin Kaepernick. Maybe. Seems like, in general, a good idea for a game looking for good ideas.)

There will be other changes too. From the NFL release:

  • Game within the Game – A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the ball will change hands after each quarter.  This will increase the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct “two-minute drills,” which are especially exciting for fans.
  • No Kickoffs – The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first.  The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
  • Rosters – The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad.  The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
  • Cover Two and Press Coverage – The defense will be permitted to play “cover two” and “press” coverage.  In previous years, only “man” coverage was permitted, except for goal line situations.
  • Stopping of the Game Clock – Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass.  This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.
  • Game Timing – The game clock will start after an incomplete pass on the signal of the referee, except inside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.
  • Play Clock – A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-second/25-second clock.
  • Sacks – The game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game.  Currently, the game clock stops in these situations outside of two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.

We’ll see how it works.

— The Cardinals are off today. They resume meetings tonight and have practice outside at the team’s Tempe facility tomorrow. I’ll be curious to see how many of the injuries can be cleared up by then. (The team goes back to University of Phoenix Stadium Friday and Saturday, with Saturday being the Red-White practice.) Here’s the list of players who were still out yesterday: G Daryn Colledge (calf), WR Robert Gill (hamstring), TE Alex Gottlieb (hamstring), TE Jeff King (knee), TE Kory Sperry (ankle), RB Ryan Williams (knee), CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring), WR LaRon Byrd (concussion).

— With six days of camp and five practices in the books, it’s a good time to recap. So here’s the first mashup of camp. Truth be told, it’s very cool.

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Arians: About jobs right now, not chemistry

Posted by Darren Urban on July 29, 2013 – 5:46 pm

Here’s one way to look at it, and a good one, from coach Bruce Arians when talking about gaining team chemistry in training camp: “This is not a time for chemistry. My philosophy is, we’re not the Cardinals yet. Now we are 90 guys trying to get a job. We’ll become the Cardinals when 53 of them are picked. Then we will be a team.”

Along those lines, since we are talking about guys winning jobs, here are some observations a few days into camp that could play into that:

— One cornerback who has made a lot of plays is Javier Arenas. It could turn into a nice pickup given the price to get Arenas — FB Anthony Sherman — was going to be released anyway. Arenas broke up a bomb to Patrick Peterson yesterday and fought Larry Fitzgerald into one incompletion today. He’s not perfect, of course, but given all the other cornerbacks, he’s just going to make cutdown harder. The fact he could be the kickoff return man also plays into his favor.

— I think CB Jerraud Powers has made some plays too.

— Michael Floyd has looked good. Not that it’s a surprise. It’s a continuation of what he did this summer.

— Bruce Arians noted that Paul Fanaika, the Arizona State product who signed as a tackle, has done well in transition to guard. Lo and behold, he’s second-string right guard, which means he’s starting while Daryn Colledge is sidelined with his leg injury.

— That also means fourth-round pick Earl Watford is pretty far down the depth chart right now. Watford looks the part but he’s raw. He’s got work to do and it will be interesting to see how he does in preseason games.

— Didn’t see tight end Jeff King, who sat out Sunday’s practice, at Monday’s afternoon practice. Not sure what it is. Maybe it is related to the knee issue he was rehabbing from this offseason. Alex Gottlieb is already nursing a sore hamstring. And then Kory Sperry left the field early in Monday’s work. Newly acquired Mickey Shuler was there but he had arrived so close to practice he wasn’t even wearing Cardinals gear yet, much less practicing. The Cards are thin at the spot right now. Rookie D.C. Jefferson got a ton of reps (along with Rob Housler and Jim Dray.)

— The defensive coaches continue to mix-n-match a lot of the lineups. One nickel package had four linemen, although John Abraham was on the right side standing up, with Calais Campbell at RDE/RDT (depending on if you’re counting Abraham as a linebacker or end), Frostee Rucker as DT/NT and Matt Shaughnessy as LDE. Reggie Walker and Karlos Dansby were the linebackers (although Walker was in for Jasper Brinkley, sidelined with a sore knee).

— The first-string base defense continues to include Campbell, Dan Williams, Dockett up front; Alexander, Dansby, Brinkley, Acho at linebacker; Powers and Peterson at cornerback and Johnson and Bell at safety. Tyrann Mathieu continues to get lots of reps, not only at safety but nickel cover corner too.

— Running back talk is always going to start with Mendenhall and Ryan Williams while Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington have impressed Arians too. But to me, Alfonso Smith is going to make it very hard to cut him loose. The guy competes and he’s looked good when he’s gotten chances. He may again run into a numbers game, but Smith has made an impression.

— Speaking of making an impression, the defensive linemen tend to do that when they hit the sled:

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Palmer pitching, PP catching, and pads

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2013 – 5:19 pm

The first padded practice of training camp made for some interesting stuff to digest:

— It only happened a couple of times, but quarterback Carson Palmer (and backup Drew Stanton, for that matter), ran the read-option in 11-on-11. Both times Palmer ran it — once to each side — he ended up pitching it to wide receiver Andre Roberts. It doesn’t exactly look like Colin Kaepernick and I’m not sure it’s going to make it all the way into an actual game that counts. But it gives the defense something to think about in a season they will certainly see it (from Kaepernick and others) and it gives other teams at least a slight pause when this seemingly crazy notion gets out there.

— Speaking of offensive twists, there was Patrick Peterson (below) quickly throwing on a white tank top over his red defensive jersey (think a practice jersey in basketball) to jump in on offense at a moment’s notice. His first play was a straight go route down the sideline. The Ryan Lindley bomb was broken up by fellow cornerback Javier Arenas. Peterson shook his head about it after.

“I told Ryan, ‘When number 21 is out there, make him run,’ ” Peterson said. “I don’t want to have to try and turn around and have to catch the ball. I have enough speed I’m pretty comfortable, anywhere you throw the ball, I’m going to go get it.”

Unlike the Palmer option, I do expect such plays for Peterson to be in the playbook. I’m sure Patrick won’t mind.

— Don’t expect the same from Tyrann Mathieu though. Mathieu was asked if he too could be an offensive threat. “I’m not an offensive weapon,” he said. “I’m a defensive guy who looks good with the ball in his hands.”

— The injury list got a little longer for the Cardinals Sunday, in part because they are now hitting. WR Robert Gill (hamstring) and TE Alex Gottlieb (hamstring) were already sitting out. LB Daryl Washington (neck spasm) was sitting out for the first time, and then G Daryn Colledge (lower right leg) and RB Ryan Williams (right leg/knee) came out during practice. Williams, who had ice on his right knee for a while, had discarded the ice by the end of practice and was standing watching his teammates, a good sign it probably isn’t serious. TE Jeff King was also sitting out, possibly a nod to taking it easy early in camp after coming off his own knee rehab.

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An afternoon move by Ryan Williams

Posted by Darren Urban on July 27, 2013 – 7:23 pm

It was a play that doesn’t technically mean anything, especially on a day when pads weren’t on and players aren’t hitting much anyway. But running back Ryan Williams

provided the highlight of the second practice of camp (sorry, we didn’t catch it on video I stand corrected — the play is the final one on the highlight video to the right). He ran left on a play, was hemmed in and made an incredible on-a-dime cutback that staggered a couple of defenders as he moved back right. It was the kind of play that reminds everyone while Williams has potential and why this team drafted him in the second round in the first place.

I’ve been asked a couple of times and, no, I don’t think Williams will be able to unseat Rashard Mendenhall as the starter. But I do think Williams has a chance to get playing time. Carson Palmer praised Williams’ blocking, which is a big deal in Bruce Arians’ offense. One play early in camp doesn’t sew anything up, but it does set a tone. We’ll see where Williams takes it.

— Wide receiver Tyler Shaw and tight end Alex Gottlieb were sitting out practice with undisclosed issues, while wide receiver Robert Gill left the field in the middle of practice with a trainer.

— The Cardinals signed undrafted rookie receiver Nick Edwards (Eastern Washington) and now have two open roster spots left (not including the one technically open while Jonathan Cooper remains unsigned.) Some have asked why the Cards aren’t looking for a vet with Ryan Swope now gone. Simple. They have plenty of capital — money and otherwise — invested in their top three receivers. Plus, they like some of the young receivers — Gill, Jaron Brown and Robert Hawkins in particular — a lot.

— QB coach Freddie Kitchens talked about coming back to work after his near-fatal issue with his aorta in early June. I’ll have much, much more in a story I am working on, but Kitchens said other than getting fatigued at the end of the day, he is doing well. “The worst thing that could have happened to me missed its opportunity,” Kitchens said.

— The first padded practice comes Sunday. I’m hearing there could be many of them, many more than what we saw under Ken Whisenhunt. The BA era will be fun to watch unfold.

— Finally, after I saw the Colts’ Reggie Wayne arrived at training camp in a helicopter, I had to needle Fitz a little bit on Twitter. As usual, he played it perfectly:

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Tight end options

Posted by Darren Urban on May 24, 2013 – 3:33 pm

A recent ESPN Insider article breaking down the holes remaining for each NFC West team marked tight end as the spot in which the Cards have a question mark. Some of that — much of that — has to do with the scheme of new coach Bruce Arians and the fact he likes to use two tight ends. Arians has made that abundantly clear.

The main focus will be the play of Rob Housler, in many ways. Arians has said, as Steelers OC, he considered Housler as a big wide receiver prospect when he was coming out for the draft. Does that color his perspective for Housler as tight end? Housler definitely has potential skills as a seam threat. He remains a work-in-progress as a blocker. This is a big year for him. Veteran Jeff King remains in the final year of his contract. He’s coming off recent knee surgery and hasn’t been practicing but the hope is he will be back soon (Veterans have next week off completely, and the final four OTAs take place the first week of June, when King could return.) Jim Dray played a little fullback last season when Anthony Sherman was hurt, has been good on special teams and has turned into a solid seventh-round pick from 2010. Those are your top three tight ends right now.

The Cards drafted D.C. Jefferson in the seventh round this year, and he certainly looks the part, especially of a pass catcher. But the former quarterback — he didn’t become a tight end until getting to Rutgers — is definitely raw at this point. And it’s tough to figure out if he can block yet given that the Cards aren’t in pads and in shorts. They also have holdover Kory Sperry, who was on the roster part of last season, and recent inexperienced signees Alex Gottlieb and Kyle Auffray.

There are a few tight ends still out there, but probably not an upgrade. Dallas Clark? The Colts let him walk away last year as Arians was coming in as offensive coordinator. Kellen Winslow? Injuries have robbed him of what he provided. Chris Cooley, again, another older player who may not have much left. It’s not like the Cards aren’t doing their due diligence on these guys and if they felt bringing someone in would be worth it, they would — could you doubt that after all the changes this offseason?

That said, I could see them adding someone later, after they get an offseason to sort out what they have.


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Adding four to the roster

Posted by Darren Urban on April 24, 2013 – 12:50 pm

The Cardinals brought in a few players on a tryout basis coming into their voluntary minicamp, and have decided to sign four of them: TE Alex Gottlieb, T Paul Fanaika and wide receivers Jarett Dillard and Robert Gill. Dillard has three years in the NFL, making 35 receptions in 21 games with Jacksonville. He was cut by the Lions after 2012 training camp. Fanaika, who went to Arizona State, was a seventh round draft pick in 2009 and has spent time with the Eagles, Redskins and Seahawks. Gill is an arena football veteran who ran track in college at Texas State. Gottlieb was cut by the Lions last year as an undrafted rookie out of William & Mary.

The additions bring the Cardinals’ roster number to 65. There are scheduled to be seven draft picks, and likely somewhere between 12 and 15 undrafted rookies, that would put the Cards around 84 to 87 players, leaving about three to six spots for veteran additions after the draft.

A couple other notes:

— New Era is holding a contest through May 17 with the chance for a fan from each team to win a trip to New York. Just put in a photo of yourself wearing a cap and show in the picture how you “speak with your cap.” All the details are right here at The winners get a chance to be in a New Era ad along with their trip.

— Strength and conditioning coach John Lott is holding a football camp May 4 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Gilbert. Open for kids from first through eighth grade, the camp covers football fundamentals as well as nutrition and strength and conditioning. Money raised goes to buying needed mosquito nets in Africa to prevent the spread of disease. Among the players scheduled to attend are Larry Fitzgerald, Calais Campbell, Lyle Sendlein, Ryan Williams, Levi Brown, Sam Acho, Rashad Johnson and Jay Feely. For more information, call 480-883-3733.

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