On Now
Coming Up

Blogs

Jenkins visit and the shrinking roster of March

Posted by Darren Urban on March 18, 2014 – 10:07 am

Running back Alfonso Smith — who had been a restricted free agent to whom the Cards did not tender an offer — tweeted out this morning the Cardinals had told him they would not be bringing him back. It’s the other side of the fluctuating roster of March.

The long anticipated visit of free agent cornerback Mike Jenkins is happening (Kent Somers noted the visit, and Mike Jurecki was the first to report interest in Jenkins before free agency even started). Nothing new has come about with free agent cornerback Antonio Cromartie, and as we all know, GM Steve Keim usually puts an offer out there and if it is rejected, he is prepared to move on to the next option. Cromartie obviously hasn’t been amendable to the deal the Cards offered, so Jenkins is now up. He’s not Cromartie, but he’d provide depth.

Meanwhile, I’d guess Smith isn’t the only ex-Card to be told he’s definitely an ex-Card. Every year at this time there are a handful of players from the previous year’s team that have a chance to return until they don’t. As needs and circumstances change, so do the possibility they could come back. The Jonathan Dwyer signing probably ended any possibility of a Smith return. That’s why some unsigned players remain on the roster, at least for now, and sooner rather than later, that will change.

In the meantime, free agency is an ongoing process. As of this morning, the NFLPA lists the Cardinals with $5.13 million (UPDATE: NFLPA now has the Cards with $8.1 million and one less contract, so I am guessing they mistakenly added in a non-Cardinal, like the other day) in cap space for their top 51 of the offseason. That should include everyone’s contracts that have signed as of now, including cornerback Bryan McCann yesterday. That’s not a ton of room. But there are some points to make when it comes to that.

– The Cardinals do need space to sign the rookie class. But remember, half the draft class — which for the Cards need about $4.2M total cap space to sign — won’t count on the cap until the regular season, because the players who aren’t in the top two or three rounds won’t have a first-year cap hit big enough to qualify for the top 51. The Cards will likely need about half that.

– And that rookie cap money will come available June 1 anyway when half of the released Daryn Colledge’s cap number comes off the books as a June 1 cut.

– Any player can usually be fit under the cap, for those worried about signing more free agents. It’s all about how you structure the deal. So yes, the shrinking cap doesn’t mean Cromartie isn’t coming here. It doesn’t mean he is, either, but the point is, a team can make a lot of things work if they want to enough.


Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 44 Comments »

Saints aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 22, 2013 – 5:59 pm

In the end, Sunday felt a little like the last time the Cardinals went to New Orleans, when Tim Hightower ripped off a 70-yard touchdown run on the opening possession and you were thinking, “OK, now, this will be interesting” and it really wasn’t. The Cards were more deliberate on their first drive this time around but the result was the same, and you were thinking, “OK now …” only the offense kept sputtering. There were too many trips without points to not have it end up adversely affecting the team.

A lot of those out there jumped on the defense, but sorry, I can’t see it. Did the unit finish? No. was there still too much poor tackling, leading to bad situations? Yes. But the defense was doing its job much of the game. Jimmy Graham proved too much – I wonder if the injuries (more below) might have impacted that – but the Cards weren’t giving up anything on the ground and had mostly stumped a pretty good offense. Eventually, though, the Cards’ own offense couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain.

Now it’s on to Florida for the week. “We need to make sure it’s (good to be away),” QB Carson Palmer said. “We need to make sure this is a crisp week. We have a chance to get back to 2-2, a chance to play against Carolina at home, a chance to get a win against a team that is struggling a little bit.

“The veterans need to make sure this is work week. We are there to work.”

– Bruce Arians was not specific about the injuries suffered by the Cardinals during the game, but he sounded grim when he said “it’s not good.” Given that three defensive starters left the game in linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (foot), safety Rashad Johnson (finger) and linebacker Sam Acho (ankle), that wouldn’t bode well. Acho tweeted out a picture of himself in a boot saying “God has a plan.” Those aren’t usually the words spoken – even for someone devoted to his faith like Acho – by a guy who might miss a week. We’ll see.

– Palmer was pressured, too much according to Arians (although the Saints have a better pass rush than I gave them credit for.)  He didn’t look sharp regardless. The first interception was just a bad throw to tight end Rob Housler, Palmer admitted.

– Alfonso Smith got off to a great start, gaining 27 yards on three carries on the first drive, including a touchdown. He didn’t get another carry and played sparingly if at all on offense the rest of the way. Andre Ellington got a ton of work again behind Rashard Mendenhall.

– In the grand scheme, it didn’t mean much but the Cards, after scoring the opening TD, allowed the Saints to get one on their own first possession. “You score a touchdown you don’t like it answered with a touchdown,” Arians said.

– Larry Fitzgerald looked OK dealing with his hamstring. Led the team in catches and yards (5-64). The week of little practice seemed to make a difference.

– Who were the two guys most brought up during the week by the Cards as the ones to watch for? Graham and Darren Sproles. Who were the catalysts for the Saints? Graham and Sproles.

– Can’t discount Drew Brees and his ability to move in the pocket. He was sacked four times but he seemed to somehow escape about four others, turning them into gains either by running or passing. Those are always gut-punchers for the defense.

– A lot of this, of course, seems pretty trivial given the horrible news about Dan Williams. Arians said the team is keeping their collective thoughts and prayers with Williams. That’s all it can really do.

That’s it from Florida. We’ll have all the coverage out here for the week as the Cards will try to bounce back against the Bucs.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 55 Comments »

A new left tackle backup

Posted by Darren Urban on September 10, 2013 – 11:05 am

The new depth chart revealed a new option on the left side with newcomer Bradley Sowell listed as Levi Brown’s backup. Sowell was on the right side last week, but he’s been flipped and Nate Potter now officially listed as the left guard backup to Daryn Colledge.

A lot of people have asked about Bobby Massie playing the left side, but he’s never done it. In college, in fact, Massie was also a right tackle at Ole Miss — because the left tackle was none other than Sowell. Sowell played in only six games as a rookie for the Colts (including the playoff game), and was right tackle in all but one, in which he played left guard. In college, however, he started 36 of his final 37 games at left tackle.

None of this means Sowell is on the verge of starting or taking Levi Brown’s place. Bruce Arians sounded pretty sure the last couple of days that there was no plan on changing out Brown now. But the Cards will probably get Sowell work there like Potter is working at guard, and we will see what happens — both with Sowell’s development and Brown’s play on the field.

– The running back depth chart was officially changed too, and Ryan Williams — as how it played out in the opener — is indeed listed fifth, behind Rashard Mendenhall, Alfonso Smith, Stepfan Taylor and then Andre Ellington (even though Ellington got eight offensive snaps and Taylor none against the Rams.)

– Speaking of the offensive line, I caught up with Jonathan Cooper. He isn’t worried about being a rookie again next year when he returns from his broken leg, because of his confidence gained from playing in the preseason.


Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 31 Comments »

Doing the math on the running backs

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2013 – 10:27 am

The Cardinals have five running backs. That’s not a complete surprise, given who the backs are and the fact the team doesn’t carry a fullback. But in a system where the offense calls for just one back on the field the vast majority of the time, the math doesn’t exactly work out. What that means for the roster Sunday remains a bit of mystery.

Asked about his plans for his running backs, coach Bruce Arians said “We have plenty. We have plenty.” And that was as far as he went.

“I think it’s based on how Rashard (Mendenhall) plays, how he’s going and when he gets tired,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “We feel good about all our backs, so whoever is in there, he’s our starter.”

Mendenhall is the clear No. 1 guy. He looked good against the starting defenses he played against in the preseason, and he’s the well-rounded veteran Arians trusts. Now, he’s wearing a brace on his knee and he’s been listed as limited thus far this week, so there is always the hesitation on the injury front. Arians said Mendenhall was healthy coming into the week, so the limited part of practice may just be precautionary. Either way, how does it play out behind him?

Rookie Stepfan Taylor seems to be the one who will grind it out in needed short-yardage — there was a play in the preseason when he lined up in the backfield with Mendenhall essentially as a fullback in an offset I, and made a fourth down-and-short carry for a first. The wild card in all this is Ryan Williams. He’s behind the other backs on the special teams depth chart — Taylor, Alfonso Smith and rookie Andre Ellington all perform in the transition game — and while he is listed as second behind Mendenhall on the depth chart, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him inactive either.

Ellington, who showed up on the injury list Thursday limited with a hamstring, also might be a candidate to sit. Smith, because he can be a key on special teams, would figure to be active. He’s probably best in pass protection too, aside from Mendenhall. But again, this is the first game and it’s hard to get a true sense of how Arians will construct his roster. It was a slight surprise Arians kept five backs on the 53-man roster in the first place. Perhaps having all five playing Sunday isn’t that much of a leap, although if Mendenhall is OK, it’s hard to believe the need for four others.

UPDATE: Arians said after practice that while the rotation behind Mendenhall is situational, Alfonso Smith will be the No. 2 guy in many instances. If that’s the case, Williams indeed could be inactive Sunday.

RBBlogUSE


Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 6 Comments »

Chargers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2013 – 12:22 am

Ugly doesn’t even begin to describe what happened to the Cardinals Saturday night. If the Cards could have only left it at the stadium. If only a bad night for special teams or dropped passes or anything like that was the worst that happened.

But the long list of injuries the Cards had been avoiding – they only had five guys not able to play coming into the game, for goodness sake, and frankly, only Jeff King was among those guys who have a shot at the roster – came back hard. The most devastating is Jonathan Cooper’s broken leg. Here’s the guy who was drafted to jump start an offensive line resurgence. And now he could be out for the season.

There are lots of ways to look at this and we won’t know exactly what can happen with Cooper yet. There are options to put him on short-term, bring-’em-back IR if the prognosis goes the right way. But that doesn’t make it any easier to replace him. Do we get more Chilo? Do we get a Paul Fanaika-Daryn Colledge guard combo? Bruce Arians isn’t sure yet. There will be much brainstorming tomorrow, I am sure. But it hurts.

“To see a guy like that go down, a young guy trying to go out there and prove himself, that’s always hard,” Colledge said. “Especially with an offensive line that lost a lot of guys last year. We’re used to this, but it’s always hard to see a friend and a teammate go down. I know it hurts him. I know he’s probably emotionally distraught right now.”

– It can’t be easy for Cooper. It might not be easy for the Cards. MRIs are coming for all the other injuries, but the offense alone saw Cooper, Rob Housler (ankle), Andre Roberts (quad) and Rashard Mendenhall (ankle) leave the game. Scary.

– As for the game, not good. The Rashad Johnson lateral was bad. Funny, Arians actually praised the lateral linebacker Jasper Brinkley made to Patrick Peterson earlier in the game following an interception, saying it was a legitimate choice. Johnson’s lateral? “Absolutely asinine.”

Johnson knows that. He was upset after a pass interference call on teammate Jerraud Powers a couple of plays before and let his emotions ride the moment. “I just felt like we needed to make a play, which we did, instead of thinking of the situation we were in and playing smart football,” Johnson said. “Coach is always talking about ‘Cardinals beating Cardinals.’ That was a big Cardinals-beating-Cardinals play.”

– Powers was hit with three pass interference flags. He said he felt a couple of them shouldn’t have been thrown, but took responsibility for not adjusting to the way the officials were calling the game.

– Ryan Williams said he was “fine” after a pair of carries (for 10 yards) and a catch in his first preseason action of the season. I thought he looked aggressive for what little time he got. He needed to be. With Alfonso Smith coming out and looking good as Mendenhall’s backup, this running back battle is very interesting. Could the Cards keep five?

– Not a good night for the tight ends. Housler dropped a touchdown (Arians didn’t seemed all that concerned about it), while Kory Sperry and D.C. Jefferson also had drops. Jefferson’s miss ended up an interception.

– Not a ton learned in the kicking battle, since neither got much opportunity. Dan Carpenter had a field goal blocked on what looked like protection issues. Jay Feely made an extra point. Feely had both kickoffs.

– Arians wasn’t overly critical of Levi Brown’s play against Dwight Freeney because, well, it was Dwight Freeney. Nate Potter had his own issues, so it’s not like there is someone there that would step in.

– Michael Floyd made a nice catch in the back of the end zone for the touchdown.  Larry Fitzgerald’s one-handed catch to start the game was amazing. Other than that, a night to forget.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 52 Comments »

No new running backs and lunch notes

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

The running back health is improving. Rashard Mendenhall is back to practicing fully and Andre Ellington (concussion) has been cleared but will be worked back in slowly. Ryan Williams, said Bruce Arians, remains day-to-day with his knee issues. One thing is for certain: Arians said the Cardinals are not considering bringing in another running back, so the concern for numbers there (Alfonso Smith and Stepfan Taylor are the only ones to have avoided dings) can’t be that great.

Other stuff from Arians’ presser:

– WR Jarrett Dillard has a concussion. He’s out until he’s cleared. G Daryn Colledge (leg) will practice limited today and is expected to practice fully starting Tuesday. He is champing at the bit to return after serving as Twitter analyst watching the Green Bay game from home. “That was a tough spot to be in,” Colledge said. “It was hard. I want to be out there next week against Dallas.”

– Arians said he expects DT Dan WIlliams (ankle) and TE Kory Sperry (ankle) back next week, so neither sounds possible for the game against Dallas. TE Jeff King (knee) is day-to-day.

– Is the 5-foot-9 Tyrann Mathieu big enough to play free safety in the base defense? “No doubt,” Arians said. “He plays bigger than he is and plays faster than he is.”

– Arians said rookie linebacker Kevin Minter played “extremely well.” “Sideline to sideline he was better than I anticipated,” Arians said. “He’s a thumper, exactly what we are looking for as a middle linebacker. Really bright.”

– The young receivers made mistakes about 50 percent of the time, Arians estimated. Because of that, nothing has been sorted out yet there.

– Arians had the same thoughts on the close cornerback battle, even mentioning solid play not only from Justin Bethel but Bryan McCann. It’s why Jamell Fleming, who was finally back at practice Sunday following a hamstring injury, needs to get on the field, he said.

– Arians wants to play his starters at least 20 plays against the Cowboys, but he doesn’t want them to go the full first half. He also is happy to have the Cardinals going up against a 4-3 defense for the first time after spending an offseason and a first preseason game against mostly 3-4 looks.

– As for the many mental errors, Arians admitted he was disappointed in part because he thought many would be avoided after the Cardinals essentially had the young players with their second-field practice during the offseason just so they’d get reps. “I would have bought into some of these mental errors had they not got all that practice time,” Arians said.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 19 Comments »

Packers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2013 – 10:38 pm

The way Carson Palmer threw the ball Friday night was good. So was the way backup Drew Stanton did, for that matter. But what may have been the most promising of all for the Cardinals was the way the pass protection held up.

“There were some great pockets to throw in,” Palmer said.

This all has the usual caveats. It was the preseason. The Packers weren’t coming with a complex package. Yet that didn’t help a ton in the preseason last year when the Cards struggled. I thought the first unit (Brown-Cooper-Sendlein-Fanaika-Winston) did very well. The Cards are smart too. On a 17-yard Palmer-to-Fitz pass from their own 1 early in the game, Michael Floyd was in – and then stayed in the backfield to help with protection. Palmer was clean.

Palmer wasn’t touched in his short stint. Stanton was a couple of times (his lone sack was of the coverage variety) but he also Russell-Wilsoned himself out of trouble a couple of times. Everything tonight comes with the “It’s early in the preseason” sticker attached. But a team with consistent pass protection? That’s something to embrace.

– The running game wasn’t as effective. That will be something that needs improvement. But Bruce Arians was just thankful the Cards got through with just two healthy running backs. Rashard Mendenhall didn’t play, and Andre Ellington sat too. Stepfan Taylor and Alfonso Smith was all the Cards had.

– The offense is going to get the spotlight. That’s natural after the season the unit had last year. But the defense, under scrutiny itself with the

Horton-to-Todd Bowles coordinator change, played well. Two turnovers led to two touchdowns, which is how Bowles wants it to go. And preseason or not, the Packers didn’t score, which is the best you can do.

“It’s a good starting point for us,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “I’m sure we didn’t play nearly as good as we could have, I’m sure there was a lot of mistakes on film. That’s football and the preseason. It does show us how good we can be.”

– You don’t want to go overboard on any player in the preseason. And a rookie has a long way to go. But what’s the No. 1 thing you want to see out of a player – especially a rookie? You want to see them , if they were showing you good things in practice, to show those things in a game. Tyrann Mathieu did that.

His stat line was gaudy: Two tackles, one for loss, a sack, a quarterback hit, a pass breakup, a pass breakup, two special teams and a 26-yard punt return. He also thought he had a chance at an interception and didn’t look thrilled Packers receiver Myles White grabbed him to mess with that possibility. You don’t want to go overboard, but a very, very impressive debut.

– Patrick Peterson tweeted about his protégé: “Proud of my baby boy @Mathieu_Era doing great things in his first @NFL game. Can’t wait till Sept. 8

– Not to be outdone, though, Peterson made sure to get his own interception in his brief stint, leading to the Cards’ first TD.

– Arians said he gave the receiving corps a C grade. He poked fun at Andre Roberts a little for not catching the first bomb from Palmer (to be fair, it also hit off the DB) but Roberts atoned with his TD. Jaron Brown and Charles Hawkins did well, I thought, although Brown had a drop he can’t make and Hawkins fumbled the ball on a long reception (he got it back but the fumble probably cost him a chance at a bigger play.)

– John Abraham didn’t play much at all, but he managed a strip-sack of Graham Harrell in his brief time in the game. You sign a guy to rush the passer and you get that out of the gate.  “Doing that just helps the team out and helps them see that I have a little something left,” Abraham said.

– The only injury reported by Arians was a hip pointer for rookie tight end D.C. Jefferson, who twice couldn’t hang on to passes he should have – including one in the end zone. Arians isn’t going to let him forget about that. He told the media about the hip pointer, and then added “that’s what happens when you drop big touchdowns.”

– Arians was irritated at the offensive issues in terms of substituting and getting lined up, something that really affected the younger players. That will have to be cleaned up. Timeouts were burned too often.

There’s probably more I could say, but it’s late, there’s a long plane ride ahead and I’ll have time to hit on more over the next few days. As Palmer said, “it’s a small step.”


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 25 Comments »

It may be five running backs after all

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2013 – 12:23 pm

The Cardinals’ top two running backs are sitting out practice again today, giving coach Bruce Arians the chance to praise the other three — Alfonso Smith and draftees Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington. At one point, he said that Smith was “having a great camp” and has taken a “great step” in making the roster. That seemed to bode not so well for the banged-up Ryan Williams, and indeed, Arians said “it’s hurting (Ryan) extremely not to be on the field competing for a job because those other guys are doing so well.”

At the same time, when asked how many running backs he will keep on the roster — remember, the Cards don’t use fullbacks — Arians said, “probably five. Four or five.”

“It’ll depend on how they all play,” he added.

If the Cardinals indeed keep five, that would allow all of them — Rashard Mendenhall, Williams, Taylor, Smith and Ellington — to be on the team. Would they be all active on game days? No, probably not, but it would allow flexibility if there was a decision to make on Williams if he is slow to come around physically.

That said, it’s clear Arians is hoping Williams is back on the field soon. That isn’t a surprise. Arians was talking about another injured guy — WR Robert Gill, out with a hamstring — when he delivered a line that makes sense with Williams as well: “The clock is ticking.”

– One thing is true: Arians said from jump he liked backs who could pass protect and he has yet to talk about running backs without bringing up the job they are doing in pass protection. (Today, by the way, he said the rookies have done a nice job in that area, and added Smith was too.)

– Arians said the injury list remains static. No one is coming back yet. Mendenhall (tendinitis) is sitting another day. Williams and G Daryn Colledge (leg) are making progress, Arians said, as is LB Karlos Dansby. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot of concern that any of the players are sitting right now, nor if a couple end up missing the Green Bay game. “We’ll err on the side of caution,” Arians said.

– Arians warned about the upcoming depth chart that they don’t mean a ton in his mind. Some third-stringers on the depth chart are “starters” in certain packages. He pointed out LB Daryl Washington will be listed third on the depth chart and that’s strictly because of his impending suspension.

–  The coaching staff is “shooting for 15 plays” from the first unit in the preseason opener.

– Finally, we have a walkoff quote from Arians, talking about watching camp phenoms over the years, especially the guys who catch the eye all offseason. Many don’t pay off when needed.

“They are like thunderstorms,” Arians said with a chuckle. “There’s a lot of lightning and then they fade away. You’ve got to make sure it’s a real tornado.”


Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 16 Comments »

Considering Alfonso

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2013 – 5:59 pm

Alfonso Smith first came to the Cardinals in April of 2010. It’s been a journey back and forth since then. He’s always flashed talent, but he could never get past guys with more glittering resumes like Tim Hightower/Beanie Wells/Ryan Williams/LaRod Stephens-Howling/Chester Taylor. Last year, in fact, he was released in favor of William Powell at the end of camp. But when Wells and Williams suffered more injuries, the Cards brought Smith back, and it is he and not all the others (save for Williams) who is still around.

Now, everyone is talking about Rashard Mendenhall’s career comeback or what Williams can still do or what draftees Stepfan Taylor or Andre Ellington might be able to do. Smith still has an uphill climb to a roster. He knows this.

“Man, in the past when I was younger it would frustrate me and it would cloud my mind and I wouldn’t perform to the best of my ability,” Smith said. “Now I know sometimes things aren’t in my hands and I just go out there and give it all I got and coaches, fans and y’all (in the media) see hey, I can play. I know those guys have proven themselves too. But I do have talent and I work hard and I am just as good.”

It’s hard not to notice him. You can argue he isn’t always going against the top part of the roster, but Smith looks the part much of the time. And he practices like you’d expect — like he knows his time could be cut short at any point. The other day during 1-on-1 pass protection drills, Smith had a pair of doozies with linebackers Jasper Brinkley and Reggie Walker (below) when he doggedly battled in a setup that are designed to make it very hard for a back to be successful.

“I look at the defense that they are trying to take food out of my mouth, they are trying to take food away from my family,” Smith said. “I take it very personal. When I saw Mendenhall and Ryan (Williams) go out and the defense kind of got the best of them, it pissed me off. That’s like seeing your brothers getting in a fight. I just wanted to go hit the defense in the mouth.”

The numbers say the Cards will keep at least four running backs. Keeping a fifth is usually a luxury. So Smith fights to see if he can stick around yet again.

“(Coaches) don’t really tell me anything but I know when I do well,” Smith said. “I grade myself hard. When I mess up one time out out of the whole practice, I’m like, ‘Man, I’ve got to fix that because I know my window is not as big as theirs and my opportunities are slim.’ That’s all I can do.”


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 9 Comments »

Tweet of the day

Posted by since1898 on July 30, 2013 – 10:33 pm

RB Alfonso Smith is certainly excited about the day off tomorrow. 

 

BACK TO #since1898


Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Since1898 | 2 Comments »