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Wednesday before the Chargers

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2014 – 9:47 am

The fourth preseason game is what it is. Teams are leery about playing anyone of any starting importance, because whatever little you might gain in a few more game reps is highly outweighed by the opportunity to get injured. How the actual game plays out — like the Cardinals going against the Chargers — means nothing. This one may mean even less, since the two teams have to play their very next game against each other. No reason to show anyone anything. At all.

That being said, there are some things to watch in the game tomorrow night, thanks to injuries, a new quarterback and a couple of roster spots that look like they could go either way:

– Logan Thomas is going to get to play the whole game, for the first time in the NFL and likely for the last time in a long time. The rookie fourth-round quarterback looked really good in his debut against Houston, he looked less comfortable against Cincinnati. He gets 60 minutes now, though. Bruce Arians said he just wants to see Thomas be efficient and take care of the ball. Thomas admitted he already has become more settled now since arriving in Arizona, and he knows he’s about to sit and not play (and really, not practice much either) for a long time. He has the right attitude. There’s really nothing on the line since he’s a lock to be on this roster. Take the pressure off, and let’s see what he can do.

– Very curious to see if S Tyrann Mathieu plays. I have long felt that the Cardinals are OK in the secondary to not have any reason to want/need to rush Mathieu back. I don’t think they will rush him. The question is how comfortable/confident Mathieu is to get back into live action. This is about mental as much as physical by now.

– The other guys coming off injuries all are also worth watching. We know the story of Jonathan Cooper at this point, and dealing with his turf toe. The Cardinals are probably best suited to deal with his recovery too with the way Ted Larsen is playing. The team needs Kevin Minter at inside linebacker, and we will see how he can perform. Minter seemed very confident earlier this week. That’s a good sign. Like Mathieu, you want to see nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu in real game action — especially where he plays and how there are always bodies down by your legs — a scary thought for a guy coming off a torn ACL. Again, mental as much as physical.

– As for the battles for rosters spots, these are the ones I see out there (and the ones to watch in the game): The backup tackle spot between Bradley Sowell and Nate Potter, both who figure to start. Potter will be on the left and Sowell on the right Thursday, but it’ll be surprising if both can make the cut. The special teams/cornerback slot with Teddy Williams and Bryan McCann. It figures one will be in, the other out. McCann is a little more polished as a cornerback, but Williams definitely can be more physical. This comes down to who they like better for special teams. And then there are the many linebackers who seem to be on the bubble. Desmond Bishop. Alex Okafor. Lorenzo Alexander. Marcus Benard. Glenn Carson too. You’ve only got so many spots. Pay attention to their play.

– Finally, reports are that the Cardinals will at least work out veteran linebacker James Harrison. Sounds like it’ll be less about anything immediate and instead seeing what is available. Veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly may be the same situation. Something to keep in mind this time of year, signing a veteran after Week One means the salary is not guaranteed, so there will be some vets signed after the first game around the league — especially those who might not have a lot left in the tank.

LoganB4ChargersBLOG


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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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Feely’s perfection and Arians under ice

Posted by Darren Urban on August 12, 2014 – 1:44 pm

Rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro didn’t have a miss in his preseason debut. He made all three field goals, all three extra points and he was excellent on kickoffs, either driving them over the end zone or creating touchbacks or returns inside the 20. It’s veteran Jay Feely’s turn in Minnesota. So what is coach Bruce Arians looking for?

“Perfection,” Arians said.

Is that all?

Arians said that means making his kicks and having decent depth and hangtime on his kickoffs. “(Jay) has always kicked off adequately, but when someone is kicking off better and all the kicks are the same, you’re going to take the guy who is kicking off better,” Arians said.

Feely will have to kick outside in Minnesota, although Arians has said Feely will get to kick inside too, the following week against the Bengals. The kicking battle will continue to be interesting.

– Arians said yet again that fighting in practice is “not tolerable,” and that’s why Darnell Dockett and Bradley Sowell were stuck doing laps the balance of practice Monday after fighting. “You get ejected from the game (for fighting), so you get ejected from practice,” Arians said. “We practice like it’s a game every day. You lose your temper and punch a guy, you get ejected.”

– S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Alameda Ta’amu are “pretty close” to being removed from PUP and returning to practice.

– Still no rush on filling the empty three roster spots right now. “There really isn’t any need,” Arians said. “The number of players we have, to get somebody ready to play in a game that’s available right now, there’s nobody out there right now who are going to make our team better. We have our eyes on a couple guys that we will potentially bring in.”

– Interestingly, Arians called cornerback Jerraud Powers “probably our most valuable player on defense” right now because of how versatile he is in the secondary. It echoed those one-time thoughts of Ray Horton on Richard Marshall back in 2011.

– The injuries that kept a handful of players out for Monday’s practice will do the same today. That means left guard Jonathan Cooper is still out, which doesn’t help. “It’s a big deal for anyone on the club right now because the competition level is high. It’s not like anything is in cement,” Arians said. The coach added a player can definitely lose his job after getting injured. “You can if someone comes in and plays better than you were playing,” Arians said. “That’s called Wally Pipp.”

– Finally, in case you missed it, Arians took part in the viral #icebucketchallenge to raise awareness for ALS. He had been challenged by Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. Arians accepted — the idea is you get ice water dumped on you on video or you donate money to the cause — and Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer were only too happy to oblige.

“At first it wasn’t too bad,” Arians said. “That second one had too much ice in it. Thought it gave me a concussion. I wanted it to be ‘bam, bam.’ They waited too much.”

Arians challenged Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “Tomlin told me he’s not dumping water on his head so he’s going to donate money,” Arians said.


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Dockett, Sowell with first camp scuffle

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2014 – 4:42 pm

Finally, the Cardinals, under Bruce Arians, had a training camp fight.

The Cards didn’t have one during Arians’ first training camp last year. The streak held for two-plus weeks this year too. (I stand corrected. A fan reminded me that Bryan McCann and Charles Hawkins had a scrap late in camp last year, and lo and behold, they did.)

Monday, tackle Bradley Sowell and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett got into a post-play scuffle that wasn’t much of one. It was broken up quickly. But then we saw why Arians’ team doesn’t have such fights. Sowell and Dockett were made to run/walk/jog laps the rest of practice, which endd up being more than 30 minutes.

“It’s been a long time,” Sowell said of the last time he was made to run laps as punishment. “Dating back to probably middle school. Somewhere in there.”

It wasn’t a surprise though. At the outset of camp, Arians warned the team of the consequences of a fight. He frowns on that behavior. “The first thing you do is break your hand,” Arians said. “Might as well punch the wall. If you want to break your hand, break your hand. If you want to fight I’ll put boxing gloves on you and you can fight your ass off.”

There weren’t any broken hands Monday, or boxing gloves. Just the image of Dockett — who declined to comment — and Sowell circling the field over and over as practice went on as normal.

“We were coming off a big win where obviously as a team we looked good and the message today was don’t be complacent,” Sowell said. “Me and Dockett had the same mindset, neither one of us were going to go there (and be complacent). It happened the way it happened.”

Sowell said he and Dockett had been getting into it a little in each drill as practice had been going. “I knew it would eventually get heated,” Sowell said. At one point, Sowell caught up to Dockett during the laps and the two spoke briefly before continuing the punishment on their own.

“It was ‘We’re still teammates, let’s finish up this running and get by it.’ We both have played a little bit of football in the league. We both know how it is. Neither one of us want to lose,” Sowell said.

As teammate Lyle Sendlein said earlier in camp, “The Cardinals aren’t on the Cardinals’ schedule.”

“We’re teammates,” Sowell said. “It’s done.”

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Sorting out keepers on the O-line

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2014 – 12:50 pm

Bruce Arians was short and sweet during his press conference today, which means the news is little and the grind of camp has officially set in. Until games begin to be played, players can start proving themselves on the field against another time and, you know — stuff happens — I’d imagine there won’t be a torrent of news. One thing from today is that guard Jonathan Cooper, tight end Jake Ballard and tackle Nate Potter are all taking the practice off because of sore knees, but all three are expected to practice against Wednesday.

That’ll give Earl Watford a chance to work with the ones all through practice today. He said he’s getting better in cutting down the mental mistakes. How that offensive line filters out will be one of the more intriguing parts of the camp and preseason. Arians usually dressed seven on game days. After the starters, that would mean a swing tackle (Starks?) and a G/C combo (Larsen, probably). So if Cooper starts, does that mean Watford is inactive again? Where does Potter stand, or Bradley Sowell (the latter of whom is probably in trouble roster-wise if Starks proves usable.)

Some of it will have to do with youth and keeping players around if you feel they can develop, as well as the numbers across the rest of the roster. But now that Starks is here, someone is going to be the odd man out. And there could be a couple that end up odd.

– WR John Brown, who has missed three practices with a bad hamstring, will be back out at practice.

– Arians is very happy with the way rookie safety Deone Bucannon is playing at dollar linebacker, which is his spot in the nickel defense.

– There is still a chance the Cardinals could keep five running backs on the roster, depending on special teams. That would seem to open a possible spot for Jalen Parmele. The first four of Andre Ellington, Stepfan Taylor, Jonathan Dwyer and Robert Hughes looks more and more solid.

 


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Cards bring in vet T Starks

Posted by Darren Urban on August 1, 2014 – 10:27 am

For a second straight year, the Cardinals have brought in a veteran tackle around the beginning of training camp. Unlike last year, the addition of Max Starks will in theory be about depth than starting — which is really why the Cards grabbed Eric Winston a year ago.

Last year, the Cardinals were not comfortable with Bobby Massie at right tackle, and when Winston was available, they made it work. Winston ended up starting all season. This year, the feeling on Massie has changed. This is likely more of a depth move — Bruce Arians will address it in a bit — and who knows? Maybe this is more about Bradley Sowell or Nate Potter. In the end, it’ll be about the competition it creates. At this point in his career, Starks is no lock to make the roster. He started all 16 games at tackle for the Steelers in 2012, but last year, he played only two games with the Rams after the Chargers cut him in the preseason.

UPDATE: It’s definitely about depth and not Massie.

What he does do is give Arians and OC/OL coach Harold Goodwin someone with whom they are familiar from their time in Pittsburgh.

The Cardinals also cut kicker Danny Hrapmann, so that battle is down to Jay Feely and Chandler Catanzaro. Tackle Cory Brandon was released too, so the Cardinals now have an open roster spot.

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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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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.

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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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