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Bengals aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2014 – 10:44 pm

No reason to overanalyze here tonight, not with Bruce Arians talking to the media again just 14 hours from now and a short week ahead. This is going to go quickly, from the 13 cuts that are coming in the next day or so (officially, they must be done by Tuesday at 1 p.m. Arizona time) to the “practices” the Cardinals will try and hold Monday and Tuesday even though everyone is beat up from Sunday night’s game and more football is on the horizon Thursday.

The big concern/talking point again was Carson Palmer. He deserved praise the first two games. He was not nearly as good against the Bengals, and even he would admit that. But watching the game, while Palmer wasn’t good enough for this team to keep up in the NFC West I did not think he was terrible. Arians backed that up afterward. “Carson is going to take the blame and the heat for his quarterback rating but there are two drops that are wide open,” Arians said. “I don’t put a lot of stock in that one.”

Arians said Palmer made the right read on his interception and that it was the receiver (who was Larry Fitzgerald) who made the mistake but not cutting across the face of the defender. Fitz owned up to it as well. Truth be told, it looked like there were so many defenders in the area maybe the throw was ill-advised, but it’s got zero chance if the receiver isn’t where the QB thinks he’ll be. Palmer can’t miss a wide-open Michael Floyd either — and when we say wide open, it is literal. The Bengals just forgot to cover him deep. That said, I saw a replay where Floyd stopped near his defender and then started running again, and if Floyd runs full out the whole time, maybe the ball is in the right place for the TD.

Doesn’t really matter. No one will remember this in a few days. The Cardinals will fix some things. It wasn’t a terrible game. It wasn’t what they wanted, but it wasn’t unforgivable.

– The run defense was impressive. Arians did say he is worried about the pass rush when it’s only four players, and that’s been an issue for a long time. LB John Abraham played for the first time and Arians said he actually played more than expected. Abraham also drew a holding penalty. But it can’t be all about Abraham when the Cards are trying to get non-blitz pass rush.

– It certainly looks like rookie John Brown is this team’s third wide receiver. And if a fourth is needed, it looks like Jaron Brown will get the call more often than Ted Ginn. There will be plays for Ginn in three-receiver sets I am sure, but right now, if I had to put together a depth chart, I’d peg Ginn as behind the Brown boys. Ginn is the return man and the “get deep” threat.

– Other notable spots on the live depth chart watching the game. UDFA Glenn Carson was with Desmond Bishop as second-unit ILBs, with Larry Foote and Kenny Demens starting. Kevin Minter is still out; Carson could be a practice squad candidate. Jonathan Dwyer is pretty clearly the No. 2 running back. Bradley Sowell was the second-unit right tackle, and Max Starks worked third team. Arians said Sowell had been doing better the last couple of weeks. It’ll be interesting to see if Starks or Sowell are kept, because the swing tackle backup job is between those two.

– No injuries Sunday night? That’s the best news of all.

– The offensive line played well. In protection and the run game. That’s an excellent development.

That’s good for now. I’ll make a stab at guessing the 53-man roster in the next couple of days. Time to go home. Back to work in a few hours.

CPbengalsblog


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Mathieu, Ta’amu, Minter, Coop to sit

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2014 – 3:30 pm

There are only four Cardinals that are not expected to dress for the game against the Bengals tonight, and none are a surprise. It’s the two guys who just came off the PUP list — S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Alameda Ta’amu — and the two guys who didn’t practice at all last week — LB Kevin Minter (pectoral) and G Jonathan Cooper (toe). Coach Bruce Arians said this past week that both Minter and Cooper face an important (if short) week of practice if they still plan on playing in the regular-season opener.

Even though everyone else is expected to dress, how much they play will be interesting. There have been a rash of injuries across the league this weekend as all team’s play that all-important third preseason game, and it affects the season. Just ask the Rams, who have lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford for the season when he again tore the same ACL that ended his season early last year. The Cardinals need work and want to be sharp, but more crucial is making sure all the key pieces are ready to play when the regular-season starts against the Chargers in a couple of weeks.

TaamuList


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Friday before the Bengals, as camp ends

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2014 – 4:25 pm

As cuts approach – down to 75 by Tuesday, down to 53 by next Saturday – it’s getting a lot clearer who will likely be around for the Cardinals. (I will have a post on my predicted 53 next week.)

But coach Bruce Arians made a great point Friday about the last few spots on that 53-man roster, and what the decisions can be based upon.

“It’s going to be hard. It’s going to come down to positions of strength and we have about four or five positions of strength,” Arians said. “You always have to measure those last five guys and what is harder to find if another injury occurs.”

The injury component is important. Maybe keeping an extra defensive lineman makes sense if you are already thin. I’d think that definitely could come into play at inside linebacker with Kevin Minter’s situation. It’s hard enough finding guys sitting around to fill in there. Maybe less so on the offensive line. We shall see.

– Arians said there are still players that could stave off getting cut Sunday through their play, especially if they shine on special teams. If you are looking for hints of who will make it through to at least the final preseason games, look for the players that flash in the “transition game,” as Ron Wolfley likes to call it.

– Not that Jaron Brown’s place on this team has been in much doubt after an impressive training camp and preseason, but this was General Manager Steve Keim’s comment about Brown on this week’s edition of the “Big Red Rage” radio show: “He may be one of the most improved players from year to year I’ve seen in my NFL career.”

Brown simply didn’t get the reps in college playing behind future first-rounders Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. He’s gotten that work now.

– I don’t know how much time linebacker John Abraham might play Sunday, if at all, but there is clearly little concern from either Abraham or the coaches that the veteran will be ready for the regular season. There is still a lot of talk about him getting into shape, and it lead to a funny exchange when Abraham was asked about his current weight.

“I didn’t check,” Abraham said. “I’ll let you know, though. Some time next year.”

Seriously, though Abraham said weight has never been an issue in his career and he doesn’t think it will be now.

– Arians has been happy with the progress of rookie defensive lineman Ed Stinson. Stinson isn’t someone who is going to fill up your notebook when you talk to him, but “of course when the head coach brings your name up in anything you are happy,” he said. “I just want to make sure I put my 100 percent effort in and show what I’ve got.”

– Keim said safety Tyrann Mathieu has been fully cleared and essentially, it will be up to Mathieu to decide when he can play in games again. “We’re not going to press him,” Keim said.

– Keim reiterated he thinks guard Jonathan Cooper, somewhere down the road, is going to be “fine” and he is reveling in the fact that neither tackle position has been a constant source of chatter this camp. That’s a nod to Jared Veldheer and Bobby Massie.

“It’s been refreshing,” Keim said. “They don’t talk about the right or the left side. Both have had very good camps.”

– If you are going to the game Sunday (or any home game for that matter), don’t forget about the NFL bag policy instituted last year. Click here for more info.

– Arians acknowledged “I would be surprised” if an NFC West team was not the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. Asked if he expected an NFC West team to win the Super Bowl, Arians didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”

– Arians, as he opened his final press conference of training camp: “I know you guys are really upset of this being the last day here,” Arians said.

Then B.A. referenced the next practice-day presser, which will come at the team’s Tempe facility. If you recall, construction there means the famous “interview tree” is no more. “The biggest thing, I don’t want to see any tears when we don’t meet underneath that tree next week,” Arians said.

Camp is over. Bring on the Bengals.

FridatBeforePicuse


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Beware — B.A. noticing the training room

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 2:06 pm

The question was about how well Ted Larsen was playing on the offensive line, and Bruce Arians used it as a jumping-off point to mention that Larsen, when Lyle Sendlein came back this week, would have a “good chance” to be the starting left guard. That, of course, raised eyebrows given that Jonathan Cooper plays left guard. So someone asked, “What about Cooper?”

“He’s in the training room,” Arians replied. “He can’t do anything.”

Later, Arians was talking about Jaron Brown when he mentioned “he’s playing better than some of our starters. There are some guys who need to get out of the training room.”

And just like that, shots across the bow. It’s that time of camp when nerves are frayed and games that count are what everyone is looking forward to seeing. But now the head coach has clearly noticed guys who aren’t able to practice, and if you aren’t practicing, it’s hard not to notice. Some context here: For instance, the two receivers that have been sidelined are Michael Floyd and Ted Ginn and both guys are going to be on this roster. Ginn actually played in Saturday’s game. He’s your return man at the very least, and Floyd is Floyd. But there is little question Arians wants his guys back on the field (and if you remember, Arians has pushed Floyd to get back to practice before.)

In Coop’s case, this could be a goose to get him back, or maybe Larsen is doing well enough to usurp his spot. There is no question the Cardinals want the Cooper who was explosive and athletic in training camp last year, before he broke his leg. He is the long-term vision. But he’s got to show he deserves to be out there, and he can’t do that until he’s out there in the first place. He remains sidelined with his turf toe injury.

“Unfortunately you can’t make the team in the training room,” Floyd said, and making the team isn’t necessarily the problem for some.

Floyd is supposed to practice Wednesday, Arians said. Said Floyd with a smile, “What he says goes.”

– Arians said the starters will play no more than a half against Cincinnati Sunday night. Drew Stanton will play behind Carson Palmer and “we’ll see” if other quarterbacks are used.

– The hope is that LB John Abraham will practice at least some this week. Arians was pleased with the jump-in-with-no-practice performance for new ILB Desmond Bishop, who played 15 plays. “Not as much rust as I thought.” You listen to Arians and Steve Keim and you think Bishop has a good chance to make this team.


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Glancing at the 2015 opponents

Posted by Darren Urban on July 14, 2014 – 2:46 pm

You know that it’s the dead of the offseason — real dead — when it comes to mind to point out who will be on the Cardinals’ schedule for 2015.

But here we are, inside of two weeks before training camp begins and a week away from the quarterbacks and a handful of other players reporting for a couple of days of “quarterback school” prior to the opening of camp. It’s the last hurrah for time off for both coaches and players. It doesn’t leave a lot to discuss right now. That’s all coming. But as I flipped through the new edition of the NFL Record and Fact Book, I came across the 2015 opponents for the Cardinals. So I thought I’d point them out.

As always, there are the home-and-away games against the NFC West opponents. The teams visiting University of Phoenix Stadium include the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings, the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals and then an NFC South team that ends up inhabiting the same position in their division that the Cardinals do in the NFC West by the time the 2014 season is over.

Road trips in 2015 for the Cardinals include the Chicago Bears, the Detroit Lions, the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the corresponding NFC East team.

FitzInChicagoBLOG

 


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Searching for veteran bargains

Posted by Darren Urban on April 9, 2014 – 4:12 pm

The questions are constant, as soon as a veteran player with any kind of reputation is released or becomes available: Would the Cardinals be interested? Well, for one, those questions are asked within seconds of the news happening, so usually, it’s a little soon for a feeling (GM Steve Keim admitted when CB Antonio Cromartie was first released, for instance, the Cards hadn’t anticipated it and had to do some extra legwork to figure out whether to chase him or not.)

It isn’t hard to get a sense of where the Cards land on many such players, however. Keim wants his team to get younger. And at this point, he certainly isn’t paying a lot. That should always be the prism from which any player should be viewed when it comes to this team. There are always exceptions. John Abraham, it was determined by the front office, still could play the game even at his age. Now, the Cards had to wait him out last year until his price was worth it (and never underestimate a veteran willing to wait out the offseason so he can wait to go back to work until training camp), but they got their bargain. Same with Karlos Dansby. Eric Winston was even cheaper, and that should probably provide guidance of where his market was — and where it might be this offseason.

The key element to all this is not just about whether a vet is available and is willing to work for cheap. It’s mostly about if he can still play — or more importantly, play to the level that the Cardinals, in this case, need him to play. Just because a guy is on the market isn’t enough. There is a reason veteran players remain unsigned, especially after the draft. Yes, once in a while it’s about the asking price and circumstances can change if it drops. But there are guys out there who are willing to play for little just to get a job, and it’s been determined they aren’t good enough anymore, whether because of age or cumulative injuries or both.

The Cards likely will sign another veteran or two at some point. It’ll be after the draft, because there is no reason to make any more moves right now until you know what you’ve filled with your picks. But whoever Keim signs, it’ll be for someone that makes sense on a football-level in 2014. Remember, past results don’t necessarily indicate future performance. It’s the slogan by which every GM should live.

– I’ve never been to a Pro Bowl. I’m going to get to one now, although I was really hoping to get a trip to Hawaii when I finally attended. I’ll be curious to know where the teams practice; those workouts have always been fan-friendly events.

– Not a surprise that there is a “Sunday Night Football” telecast in the preseason against the Bengals at University of Phoenix Stadium. NBC is also televising the Super Bowl. Not a bad time to get a lay of the land. What I am curious about is whether “SNF” will pick a Cardinals’ game in the regular season.

SNFuse


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The fine line of finding a quarterback

Posted by Darren Urban on January 6, 2014 – 11:39 am

So if you are the Cincinnati Bengals, what are you thinking about with Andy Dalton? And what does it say about “finding” your long-term quarterback?

These questions are not easily answered. The Cardinals have been looking for their “long-term” quarterback since, well, since they moved to Arizona. There were the Kurt Warner years, but the time where Warner was both the unquestioned and winning (a key adjective) quarterback for this franchise was less than three seasons: A few games into the 2007 season through 2009. Carson Palmer has come along, and was 10-6 in his first season, and likely is the Cards’ starter in 2014, but how long does he have?

Again, finding the young replacement isn’t simple. Look at Dalton. He has won nine, 10 and 11 games in his three seasons in Cincinnati. The Bengals have made the playoffs every single season. It’s a foundation many teams — even the Cards — would love to have with a quarterback after he was drafted. He threw for almost 4,300 yards this season and already has 80 TD passes in his young career. It’s the definition of finding a long-term guy … right?

Yet the Bengals have lost all three playoff games Dalton has quarterbacked, and he has not played well in any of them. He is, not surprisingly, getting hammered about it again and there are some who think the Bengals should look elsewhere. Now, there are QB-needy teams across the league who would probably love to have Dalton. Yet his situation underscores the minefield that is filling that position.

Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton have worked well. It looks like Colin Kaepernick has too (although I think he still tends to be more up and down than you’d like at this early stage) and Nick Foles flourished in Chip Kelly’s offense. Side note, you look at the playoff teams and the winners and it drives home the point this league is about good quarterback play.

Is Matthew Stafford the answer, even with all his gaudy stats? (Ken Whisenhunt may be hired soon to find out.) Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder were not. Sam Bradford? It’s no wonder Steve Keim says he has to fall in love with a QB to want to draft him, because let’s face it, if you do draft one early, you are married to him for a few years to see if he works out.

And, in the case of someone like Dalton, you still may be wondering if he is working out even when it seems like he is.

DaltonBlogUSE


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Putting a cap on it

Posted by Darren Urban on January 8, 2013 – 1:00 pm

While the reports are out there that VP of player personnel Steve Keim is negotiating to become the next Cardinals’ general manager, the next GM — whether it was going to be Keim or someone else — will have some work to do.

According to figures reported by John Clayton, the Cards are currently set to come in around $720,000 above the 2013 salary cap. That means at the very least there will be some restructuring to do. To have any flexibility for free agents or the like will take some paperwork. That’s why, beyond Kevin Kolb’s injuries, it will be important to try and restructure his deal (his cap number is around $13 million this coming season), or extend safety Kerry Rhodes ($6M), or make a call on linebacker Stewart Bradley ($6.5M). The cap numbers of Larry Fitzgerald (more than $10M), Darnell Dockett ($7.7M) and Adrian Wilson (more than $5M) also could be looked at in some way, shape or form.

Cap space can be found quickly if necessary, and it doesn’t have to be at the cost of losing a player outright, necessarily. Sometimes it just is a matter of shifting contract language. But there is little question there is work to be done.

Most cap space to come, according to Clayton? The Bengals, with more than $55 million. The least? The Jets, at more than $19M on the negative side.

 


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Deuce heads to Seattle

Posted by Darren Urban on April 6, 2012 – 9:31 pm

Stop if you’ve heard this before, but guard Deuce Lutui has left the Cardinals as a free agent. This time, it’s going to stick.

Lutui signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks, ending his six-year tenure with the Cards, the last couple of which were weighted down with issues about Lutui’s girth. It looked like the lockout last year was going to take care of the end of Lutui in Arizona. Deuce had taken a good offer from the Bengals — but then he didn’t pass his physical because he was overweight. He came back to the Cards needing to lose weight and never could find his way back into the lineup. His lone play on the offensive line all season came, ironically enough, in Cincinnati late in the season.

The crazy way he went and yet was denied in Cincy last year was unique because of the lockout and the speed in which players had to be signed. Lutui agreed to a deal before taking his physical. This year, Lutui already visited Seattle recently. I’m guessing the Seahawks already know what they are getting with Deuce.

The door hadn’t been closed on Lutui in Arizona, but I didn’t see him starting again here. He may not in Seattle, but he reunites with his college coach, Pete Carroll, and the Cards will get a chance to see him again.


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Bengals aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 24, 2011 – 6:27 pm

It’s Christmas Eve, 30,000 feet above Missouri according to the “moving map” in the seatback in front of me, and at this point, it’s tough to not think more about my kids and the next 24 hours than the Cardinals.

That’s what happens when the finish doesn’t go the Cards’ way – a Cardiac Cards game in reverse. All the components were there for another amazing rally. I have no doubt, frankly, that had Early Doucet caught that ball, or the Cards had been able to find their way to a tying score, that they would have won in overtime. But that didn’t happen, and after so many of the late breaks that went their way over the past month, the tangling of feet just seemed bound to happen. The law of averages and all that.

The Cardinals are done, and now the game against the Seahawks next week is about the chance to finish .500 – still a feat given the start to the season – and taking second place in the NFC West.

First, a shorter (I say that as I start out) aftermath, since Christmas is on the mind:

– John Skelton, the ultimate Jekyll-and-Hyde. How does the guy who did what he did in the first three quarters do what he did in the final quarter? The pressure is off? A switch is flipped? Through three quarters, his passing rating was 18.0. Forced interceptions, overthrows, inaccurate throws.

In the fourth quarter, his passing rating was 112.8. What you saw is the reason you can’t go all-in with him. Not yet, anyway. The defense works without a net when Skelton plays like that, and he has yet to not play like that, really. I’m sure he’d love to know why too, but he doesn’t. I’ve never seen such a dramatic difference in how a guy plays. Make no mistake – the pass to Doucet was a good read and good throw. He would have had another TD pass. It’s why he’s so hard to bench. Because that streak always seems to come.

– Calais Campbell set a career-high with his eighth sack, and forced that last fumble that looked like it would get the Cards the tie.

– Safety Kerry Rhodes was back as a playmaker too – he recovered both Bengals fumbles.

– Safety Adrian Wilson forced a fumble, but the big play was his roughing the passer call that seemed iffy. Some have said the right replay showed helmet-to-helmet. I just didn’t see it, and it stole a big play from the Cards.

– A.J. Jefferson was the kickoff returner, so that LaRod Stephens-Howling – dealing with a sore hamstring – could concentrate on his offensive packages. Jefferson struggled, averaging just 17.3 yards a return.

– The Cardinals finally put Deuce Lutui in on offense. He took over at right guard in the second half. No way to know how he graded out yet, but since Lutui will be a free agent after the season, it’s interesting. You wonder if there will be some evaluating going on.

– On the play before Doucet’s miss, the Cards ran a screen to Larry Fitzgerald. It was set up well – but tight end Todd Heap missed a block, and that was the man who made the tackle. It only gained two yards, and probably should have gained more. Not that it mattered much, since the Cards needed to convert the Doucet pass, but worth noting.

– The Cardinals have played an NFL-high 12 games decided by seven points or less. That they added to the total Saturday is simply crazy.

– It was a weary Ken Whisenhunt who talked after the game. There was no anger. He mentioned the frustration many times, and he was asked if that was partly because he thought the Cards were past playing like that. A tired smile crossed his face. “I never thought we were past playing like that,” he said.

He knew his team didn’t play well enough. But he wasn’t in the mood to complain much. Maybe it was the Christmas spirit.

“It’s not any fun when it starts like that,” Whisenhunt said. “But I do have a lot of respect for our players for the way they didn’t quit. It didn’t look good there in the fourth quarter. We fought all the way back. We had chances to make plays, we just didn’t get it done. It’s disappointing from that aspect, especially as hard as we fought this year to get back to where we were.”

OK, big props to anyone actually reading this tonight. I’m taking tomorrow off, if everyone doesn’t mind. Merry Christmas.

 


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