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Blogs

Keim perspective as pads go on

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2014 – 9:25 am

The Cardinals will put on the pads for the first time this afternoon, which changes the dynamic of training camp. That was part of the theme today when GM Steve Keim went on the Doug and Wolf show on Arizona Sports 620 this morning — what will happen when the pads go on.

– Keim wants to see rookie WR John Brown in pads, and see what the kid can do coming across the middle when, say safety Deone Bucannon is about to drill him. That’s not a big surprise, since it’s what everyone has been saying about Brown. He’s been impressive. “We haven’t been able to cover him,” Keim said. But that could change when the pads go on. As Patrick Peterson said, after Brown burned him on a play, “I told him he’s not going to be that much faster than me when he’s got those shoulder pads on.”

– Keim said he thought right tackle Bobby Massie looks like he’s in the best shape of his career (and I have always thought Massie was in pretty good shape anyway) and “he looks focused.” But Keim wants to see Massie in pads too, and frankly, that’s the only real way to judge linemen.

– The GM admitted to having a concern in the offseason for guard Jonathan Cooper after noticing a “little limp,” but the first two practices have erased those concerns.

– Keim acknowledged that taking Patrick Peterson off punt returns is in part because the Cardinals haven’t had as much return success with Peterson doing that job the last couple of years.

– Asked about absent linebacker John Abraham, Keim said “I’m not concerned at all. He’ll be back at some point here and Bruce (Arians) has excused him for personal matters.”

– With Aeneas Williams going into the Hall of Fame Saturday, we have created a page for Aeneas (azcardinals.com/aeneas) where all the stories and videos about Williams will live. Check it out.

 


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Massie in pole position and Peterson contract

Posted by Darren Urban on July 27, 2014 – 12:35 pm

Bruce Arians said today that the starting right tackle and starting right guard positions are Bobby Massie’s and Paul Fanaika’s to lose, which he also said has more to do with how well they are doing than what Bradley Sowell and Earl Watford are not doing. Arians even said Massie did not show up on the mental-error sheet from Saturday’s first practice, which is a big deal. “We’re not going to shuffle a lot anymore,”Arians said, although he emphasized “there is plenty of time to win or lose a job once we start hitting.”

The pads go on Monday.

Watford is “more than ready” to contend for a starting job, Arians said but Fanaika is playing well. And again, things can change. “If anyone says they are starting you are writing the wrong thing,” Arians said with a chuckle.

In other news:

Much more in a Patrick Peterson story here, but the Pro Bowl cornerback will not be playing receiver or returning punts this season. Neither move is a surprise, although Arians said Tyrann Mathieu’s injury did not play a factor. Peterson also said he is not unhappy he doesn’t yet have a new contract. “Those guys are still talking,” Peterson said, in reference to ongoing contract negotiations. “I’m here to play football. I have two years left on my deal and I want to do the best I can to help this team win. I haven’t been to the playoffs since I’ve been here and that’s my first goal.”

– Tight end Jake Ballard is the first injury of camp, although Arians said his thigh bruise is minor. He’ll skip today’s practice but could be back Monday.

– Arians said he was disappointed in the number of mental errors committed by offensive veterans on Saturday.

– LB John Abraham remains absent. “I won’t really comment on it,” Arians said. “I won’t get into personal things. He’s got my blessing.”

– Arians did say he has been impressed with the work second-year OLB Alex Okafor has done since he got hurt last season as a rookie. Okafor is working with the first unit in place of Abraham.

 

 

 


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First practice, first thoughts

Posted by Darren Urban on July 26, 2014 – 5:43 pm

The first practice for the Cardinals is over. With that, a few observations I made today, knowing that the Cardinals still aren’t wearing pads:

– The first units were how the Cardinals ended the offseason work. Bobby Massie and Paul Fanaika were running first-unit right tackle and right guard respectively. With LB John Abraham still absent, Alex Okafor ran with the first team on the other side from Matt Shaughnessy. In nickel defense, as expected, rookie safety Deone Bucannon was essentially the second linebacker along with Larry Foote as the Cardinals used six defensive backs.

– Justin Bethel had a good start to camp and it’s easy to see why Bruce Arians has been impressed with his play. He is definitely coming along as a cornerback.

– That said, a play after Bethel won a battle with Michael Floyd, Floyd came right back and beat Bethel on the sideline. Floyd continues to look like a beast, using his big body to make plays. It will be interesting to see him in pads.

– CB Antonio Cromartie has a good day in his Cardinals’ camp debut.

– Injured safety Tyrann Mathieu came on to the field after practice was well underway, and was greeted with loud cheers from the fans as he crossed the sideline.

– Rookie wide receiver Walt Powell made an impressive full-speed fingertip grab of a Logan Thomas bomb and managed to keep his feet to complete the 60-or-so yard TD pass.

– The Cardinals worked on a lot of screens, and there is little question the plays will be in the arsenal for the tight ends this season if Arians chooses to dial them up.

– Thomas had his moments, good and bad, as has been his reputation. In one early drill with no defense, rookie tight end Troy Niklas didn’t get his head around on a Thomas bullet and the pass slammed against the side of Niklas’ head. On this first day, Thomas got almost all of the third-team reps as Ryan Lindley did a lot of watching.

– The Cardinals announced that about 10,000 fans showed up to the first day of practice at University of Phoenix Stadium.

FitzForDay1Blog

 


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Considering intriguing camp battles

Posted by Darren Urban on July 18, 2014 – 4:17 pm

This isn’t necessarily about starters, since I have already addressed that directly. But the battles of training camp aren’t always about who plays first or the most. Sometimes it’s about roster battles and depth and who plays more than who. Some competition will come seemingly from nowhere — going into camp last season, no one would have guess Paul Fanaika would have gotten into the mix, but the Daryn Colledge injury helped that come into focus — so there will be other players to watch.

But for now, here is some of the competition I will be watching:

Guards Earl Watford, Paul Fanaika, Ted Larsen and Anthony Steen. Larsen has been backing up Lyle Sendlein at center while Steen, who can also back up both spots, didn’t do anything in the offseason recovering from injuries. Someone will be the starting right guard. The Cardinals would like for Watford to step up. It very well could be Fanaika for a second straight season. Watford should be on the roster regardless, so if he’s not starting, that will be a spot that must be won. The Cards likely will only dress seven on game days, making those swing interior guys valuable.

Tackles Bobby Massie and Bradley Sowell. OK, everyone knows this one. It doesn’t make it any less intriguing. Like Watford, Massie is the guy the Cardinals would like to win the job. But he’s got to win it. Sowell isn’t going away without a fight. Sowell, however, can be a valuable game-day backup since he played left tackle all last season and can play the right. That’s a one-for-two guy on your bench.

Cornerbacks Justin Bethel and Jerraud Powers. With Tyrann Mathieu still hurt, Powers is an important piece in nickle coverage to start the season. But when Mathieu gets back, can Bethel — who got so much love for his potential this offseason — find a way past Powers on the depth chart? Bethel still has much to prove. Powers has his limitations, but his smarts make him a favorite of Todd Bowles and Bruce Arians.

Inside linebackers Ernie Sims and Kenny Demens. Sims has the experience, but he also has the reputation of struggling the past couple of seasons, which is why he finds himself bouncing around the league. The Cardinals have been intrigued with Demens since his (undrafted) rookie year last year, when he spent most of his time on the practice squad. Sims came in late and is trying to catch up. Losing Daryl Washington sent a lot of things into flux at inside linebacker. One of these guys are vying for a depth role probably behind Kevin Minter, Larry Foote and Lorenzo Alexander.

Kickers Jay Feely, Chandler Catanzaro and Danny Hrapmann. This is another obvious one. Still it’s one to watch. It’s definitely a subject that seems to get the fans riled up — and looking around the league, it’s a position that tends to do that with the fan base, for whatever reason.

Running backs Robert Hughes, Jalen Parmele and Zach Bauman. Arians came out praising Hughes. He figures to be the top choice as the fourth running back behind Ellington, Dwyer and Taylor. But Parmele is another big guy who has played in the league and could sneak his way into the spot instead. What will be interesting is if the Cardinals want less of a bruiser as a fourth, like a Bauman, considering Dwyer is a big back and Taylor is more of a between-the-tackles guy too.

Wide receivers Jaron Brown, Walt Powell and Brittan Golden. The top four receiving spots are taken. Fitz is Fitz and Floyd is Floyd. Ted Ginn will have a role, as will third-round pick John Brown. Brown flashed last year but again, he’s got competition. He’s bigger than Powell and definitely Golden — Golden would seem to be in trouble given the arrival of Brown and Ginn — but Powell is a draft pick and that usually ends up playing a role if it’s close.

Quarterbacks Logan Thomas and Ryan Lindley. It’s hard to believe that, barring a meltdown, Thomas doesn’t find a way on to the roster. But you never know, and both players figure to get plenty of playing time in the preseason to let any battle play out in front of us.

battlesuse

 


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For what it’s worth in June, offensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 27, 2014 – 1:00 pm

Offensively, the Cardinals need to take a step forward this year. They need to so they don’t pressure the defense as much as last year (especially after some unknowns with defensive changes) and they need to so they can keep up in the NFC West arms race. Good news – there is a confidence there it will happen. Who are the guys who will be at the forefront of that plan? Here’s my guess, at least for the regular-season opener. (If you want to see the defensive picks, click here.)

QB – Carson Palmer. Biggest question around Palmer at this point? What happens in 2015, considering Palmer is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. But he is the guy the Cards will ride or die with this season.

RB – Andre Ellington. No-brainer. He’s earned the right, and we’ll see about the touches per game, which I will guess will be 20 to 22 a game.

WR – Larry Fitzgerald. Big year for Fitz, who scored last year like he once did but is still searching for his first 1,000-yard season since 2011 and who is coming to a crossroads – along with the franchise – with his contract in 2015.

WR – Michael Floyd. He’s a star on the rise. He played well last year, and he should be better this season. The third wide receiver should be Ted Ginn, but I fully expect John Brown to at least have a chance to play a role in the offense.

TE – John Carlson. This is assuming he stays healthy, but Carlson has looked good in the offseason and could prove to be a very nice bargain.

TE – Jake Ballard. At some point – maybe not until 2015 – this will be Troy Niklas’ spot. The rookie is far behind right now. Rob Housler still has a chance to work his way into the lineup. But right now, Ballard is feeling good with his knee and he is closer to the blocker that Arians likes.

LT – Jared Veldheer. The left tackle they have always wanted.

LG – Jonathan Cooper. He’s going to be back to health. Time for the 2013 first round pick to get his time on the field and show why the brass so believes in him.

C – Lyle Sendlein. Old reliable is what they want in the middle.

RG – Earl Watford. Paul Fanaika has been running first unit and there is also veteran Ted Larsen lurking as a possibility. But the Cardinals are hoping Watford comes around and takes control of a job he was drafted to have.

RT – Bobby Massie. Another wide open spot. There’s always a possibility of a late-summer free agent signing. Bradley Sowell isn’t go to go away. But Massie has looked better in the offseason work and in a lot of ways, this is probably his last chance to take ahold of the place he held as a rookie.

So that’s that. There will be a lot of time and practices between now and the opener. Injuries happen. Battles will be won or lost. We will see how this guesstimate (educated as it might be) holds up.

BreakHuddleblog


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Photo day, Clabo, and a minor move

Posted by Darren Urban on June 9, 2014 – 2:20 pm

On a day in which the Cardinals took their physicals ahead of this week’s mandatory minicamp (with many top players shooting special pictures and video for various forms of TV for the upcoming season, like Fitz below), the Cardinals are still roster shuffling. The team made a change Monday by releasing guard Christian Johnson and re-signing center John Estes. Estes was just cut by the team a couple of weeks ago after the Cards signed tryout players following rookie minicamp.

Of potentially more impactful news is the report the Cardinals tried out veteran right tackle Tyson Clabo Monday. Clabo, 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, could end up being this year’s Eric Winston (at this point, no, I do not expect Winston to return.) Clabo played with Miami last season, but he spent the vast majority of his career with the Falcons and made a Pro Bowl at one point. If he were to sign, it’d throw another potential starter in the mix and would make a cluttered right tackle competition (already with Bradley Sowell, Bobby Massie and Nate Potter) even more chaotic. At some point, someone isn’t going to get many reps, even with training camp coming. We’ll see if Clabo ends up with a deal, or if that becomes a waiting game closer to training camp.

UPDATE: Clabo and the Cardinals did not come to an agreement.

Regardless, minicamp starts tomorrow. And by Thursday afternoon, the veterans will have scattered for the rest of the offseason, returning in late July for training camp.

FitzBlogPHOTOuse

 

 


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Splitting right side reps and OTA notes

Posted by Darren Urban on May 27, 2014 – 1:27 pm

Last week, Bobby Massie (at right tackle) and Earl Watford (right guard) started getting some work with the first unit. It wasn’t that surprising, given how open the job is right now. Bruce Arians clarified it a little more after Tuesday’s OTA, which again featured Massie and Watford with the first unit. By the time the Cards go through six OTAs, Arians said, Massie-Watford and Bradley Sowell-Paul Fanaika will each get three with the first unit. The reps will continue to be divvied up, and let’s face it, nothing can be determined now because offensive linemen aren’t even blocking now. There’s no way to prove yourself in the time of year when, as Arians likes to say, the Cardinals are just playing soccer. The true depth chart/starting jobs won’t be figured out until training camp and the preseason.

(Although, for instance, Massie must sidestep too many mental errors right now, the bugaboo that Arians and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Harold Goodwin like to bring up.)

– Tuesday’s workout was moved an hour earlier with the heat. No bubble will be used when there are this many players. You can only have so many guys inside. Besides, Arians said, “we need the heat to get in shape.” They’ll get in shape, that’s for sure. With some missing players and the fact Arians uses two fields, all the main guys were taking a ton of reps Tuesday. If you were looking to see, for instance, Larry Fitzgerald vs. Antonio Cromartie, there were plenty of opportunities.

– The rookies are a little banged up after minicamp. First-round pick Deone Bucannon has a minor turf toe, Arians said. WR Walt Powell also had to sit out.

– The early thoughts on Andre Ellington from Arians? Hopefully 25 to 30 touches a game, which is a ton and basically unheard of these days for a running back. A lot of that will have to do with Ellington’s receptions (Arians has made no secret he wants to use Ellington a bunch as a receiver). There’s no question Ellington is the No. 1 back. How that translates to the stat sheet, we will see.

– Arians did say the Cardinals will use more two-back packages than last season, and that’s not the time when a tight end moves back there. There will be no true fullback on the roster, but both Jonathan Dwyer and Robert Hughes are beefy enough to be in there, I’d think.

– As the team waits on word about Daryl Washington’s status, Arians said he would like to add a veteran inside linebacker if the right guy came available. That’s not a big surprise.

SplitRightBlogUSE

 


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Lining up to begin OTAs

Posted by Darren Urban on May 20, 2014 – 10:05 am

There are, in the end, few starting spots that will truly be up for grabs as the Cardinals move toward the regular season. That’s reality. But as the Cards begin organized team activities today, there are some things to watch for. Through the Phase 2 work, there have been certain people running with the first unit. For instance, on the offensive line, Bradley Sowell is the first-team right tackle and Paul Fanaika remains the starting right guard. Bobby Massie and Earl Watford are with the second team. I don’t know if that is going to change before we get to training camp — I’d be a little surprised if it did — and camp will be when Massie and Watford will have to make their push.

At tight end, there’s been a lot of work for John Carlson and Jake Ballard and I think Rob Housler is going to have to work hard to stay up on the depth chart, although with his skill set and Bruce Arians’ love for multiple tight ends there will be plenty of work to go around. On defense, Kevin Minter and Daryl Washington are your inside linebackers, although Larry Foote is there to step in if Washington can’t be there. On the outside, Matt Shaughnessy and Sam Acho are getting reps although I’d expect John Abraham to be the starter when he’s around (remember, all this work is voluntary right now).

The rookies, meanwhile, will be worked in slowly. It was interesting to see first-round pick Deone Bucannon basically shadow Tony Jefferson at strong safety during the Phase 2 run-throughs of defensive plays. That’s one way to learn on the job. I anticipate a two-field system like last summer for the young players, although we’ll see if Arians sticks with that. I’ll have more after today’s workout.

DefesnivehikeUSE


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B.A. + draft = playing time

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2014 – 11:47 am

One of the reasons Steve Keim liked hiring Bruce Arians as head coach was because Arians was so blunt in proclaiming his ability to go young. Young, in this league, often means inexperienced and with the potential for mistakes, and that’s not always a coach’s favorite thing. Of all the ways Arians and predecessor Ken Whisenhunt are different, it is the use of the inexperienced that stands out the most.

Last year, first-round pick Jonathan Cooper and third-round pick Tyrann Mathieu each were inserted into the starting lineup (although Cooper’s injury sidelined him). Andre Ellington got more and more time as the season went on. It’s not as if Whisenhunt didn’t play rookies, but looking at first-round picks alone — the guys you would think would play a lot from the outset — Whiz clearly moved them in slowly. Patrick Peterson was an anomaly (and don’t forget, if it wasn’t for a Greg Toler injury, even PP might’ve started the year on the bench.) Michael Floyd, Dan Williams, Beanie Wells, DRC all were slow to be worked in. Levi Brown needed Oliver Ross’ injury.

Meanwhile, Arians doesn’t bat an eye to go to a Mathieu, or to stick a Bradley Sowell in at left tackle when Brown fails. It leads you to a couple of thoughts. One, whomever is drafted May 8-10 could make an immediate impact. It’ll depend on who it is and what position they play, but even though Arians has repeatedly said this team could go play the season as is and it would work, I’m guessing there will be draft picks that make a difference a la Mathieu and Ellington. The other is that if you are a young player upon whom this staff hesitates, you clearly need to ramp it up, for example, Bobby Massie. It’s not age alone that will provide hesitation in getting you on the field.

CoopBAuse

 


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Eric Winston elected NFLPA president

Posted by Darren Urban on March 19, 2014 – 9:32 am

Eric Winston, currently a free agent but the Cardinals’ starter at right tackle last season, was elected president of the NFL Players Association Wednesday, replacing the outgoing Domonique Foxworth. Winston, who has started 119 straight games in his career, has been active in the NFLPA since 2010 when he was named one of the player reps for the Houston Texans. He has served on the NFLPA’s finance committee and the committee for agent discipline. It makes a ton of sense. Winston is intelligent and he understands the ins and outs of the business that is the NFL.

UPDATE: It’s been a big day for Cardinals and the top of the union food chain. Kicker Jay Feely and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander were elected to the NFLPA’s executive committee as well.

Winston said at the end of the season he wanted to return to the Cardinals, but he knows the reality. He made about $2 million last year in an incentive-laden deal. I’m sure he’d like more and for more years than just one, but the Cardinals will likely approach his situation much like last year — looking for younger options, and seeing where Winston stands after those options are explored. Bobby Massie is still around as a potential right tackle and there is also Bradley Sowell, but the Cardinals figure to add another possibility there.

Someone asked if I thought Winston’s position as NFLPA president would hurt his chances to return to Arizona. I don’t think so. What would hurt his chances is if the Cards sign a veteran right tackle, or if they draft one. Winston went unsigned until training camp was opening last season. I don’t know if that will happen again, but it wouldn’t be shocking if it did. He is a smart, stabilizing force in the locker room, however, so if he is on the roster, the Cards get more than just an offensive lineman.

WinstonPrezUSE


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