The Cardinals have a handful of games back East (or at least in the Eastern time zone) this season and the team requested at least a couple of them back-to-back so they could just spend a week out there without having all the flying. According to Peter King, that’s what the games in Detroit Oct. 11 and Pittsburgh Oct. 18 are about — a week back East for the team. Obviously, coach Bruce Arians has deep roots in Pittsburgh having coached there for so long and being from Pennsylvania. (GM Steve Keim is from the area too, so it works for those guys.) Both Keim and Arians have a pre-draft press conference today so I’m sure the subject will come up. UPDATE: Arians confirmed the Cards plan to stay back and that the team is looking for an indoor facility within which to practice.
The last time the Cardinals spent a week away, there were some rain issues in Tampa, when the Cardinals got beat up in New Orleans in Week 3 of 2013 and then barely pulled off a win against the Buccaneers in Week 4.
A week in Pittsburgh. It’ll be interesting.
Tags: 2015 schedule, Bruce Arians, Lions, Steelers, Steve Keim
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One of the things that frustrates Bruce Arians is the inability to talk football with players during certain parts of the offseason. It’s reality, though, under the current collective bargaining agreement. Today, those shackles come off.
The players have returned to begin Phase I of the offseason work. (It’s voluntary, don’t forget, although one player here was Patrick Peterson, as you can see below.) The big part of that is the strength and conditioning program, but it also includes meetings. Players can be around for four hours total (90 minutes on the field) so Arians and his coaches can finally start discussing the playbook. The new free agents can start getting the information about their duties. New defensive coordinator James Bettcher can start explaining his system and its tweaks from what Todd Bowles did.
The 2015 is here.
— The full NFL schedule will be released at 5 p.m. Arizona time on Tuesday.
— Meanwhile, the return of the players isn’t the biggest news of the day here at the team facility. There is a 1 p.m. press conference with Adrian Wilson, team president Michael Bidwill and GM Steve Keim. No official word on what it’s about.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bruce Arians, James Bettcher, NFL schedule, offseason
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At some point, it figures, Steve Keim will find a “name” veteran who figures out he isn’t going to get the money he had planned on making in free agency and is willing to come to Arizona on a (likely) one-year deal. In 2013, that was Karlos Dansby and then, right before training camp, Eric Winston and John Abraham (although Abraham ended up signing a two-year contract.) Last year, the guy was Antonio Cromartie and, to a lesser extent, Larry Foote.
This year? We’ll see. If it doesn’t come before the draft — Dansby was post-draft, for instance — so be it.
“The second and third wave comes when guys come to their senses and realize they aren’t going to get the dollars or the type of long-term or guaranteed deals they expected,” Keim said. “We’ll pounce if the numbers are right. Right now if we went into the draft and didn’t address another position, I feel good with where we are at.”
Who could such a player be? The list of available players at this point don’t have any names that significantly stand out. Here’s a look at some potential pickups based merely on who is still out there and possible fit (although this is strictly speculation — at this point, I will be surprised if anything happens before the draft, and then the Cardinals will sort it out from there):
— TE Jermaine Gresham. Coming off a back injury and right now, I don’t see them chasing a guy like this. Troy Niklas is the one they have high hopes about, they like what Darren Fells could be as a blocker and I’ll be surprised at this point if John Carlson doesn’t remain part of the 2015 plan. Bruce Arians said he was looking for an H-back type if anyone. Gresham isn’t that guy.
— TE James Casey. OK, he’s not really a “name” but he is an H-back-type who still hasn’t signed anywhere since talking to the Cards a month ago. Could he be a late add?
— LB Brandon Spikes. The Cardinals already added LaMarr Woodley on the one-year, prove-it deal, so maybe that’s their Dansby/Foote linebacker choice for 2015. Besides, Spikes is the two-down run-stopper, and that’s why you have Kevin Minter.
— C Stefen Wisniewski. Still unsigned, he is reportedly coming off shoulder surgery after the Cards were linked to him pre-free agency. Now, with the addition of A.Q. Shipley, it’s hard to believe the Cardinals would bring Wisniewski in, unless it turned into a real bargain sign.
— Pass rusher Dwight Freeney. Perhaps Freeney makes the most sense, given his status in the league. In some ways, he is like Abraham. His sack totals haven’t been the same (3.5 last season) although he had a team-best 40 quarterback hurries playing for the Chargers. Plus, the 35-year-old was with the Colts when Arians was there.
Again, much of this is wait-and-see, a door open for the Cards to move “if the numbers are right.” Always, if the numbers are right.
Tags: Brandon Spikes, Bruce Arians, Dwight Freeney, free agency, James Casey, Jermaine Gresham, Stefen Wisniewski
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Bruce Arians has never been shy about bold proclamations about his team, like after winning the Coach of the Year award before the Super Bowl saying that he planned on his players dressing in the locker rooms of the 49ers’ stadium at the same time the following year — when Super Bowl 50 is played.
Last week at the NFL spring meetings, someone pointed out that Rex Ryan often had the same kind of talk when leading the Jets, until Ryan apparently got to the point where he felt like he was putting an unnecessary target on his team. Arians was asked if he had considered those ramifications.
“No, because we talk about it in the first meeting and then we don’t talk about it anymore,” Arians said. “That’s the goal every year. Last year (the Super Bowl) just happened to be in our stadium. It was easy to look a guy in the eye and say, ‘Who’s dressing in your locker?’ We don’t have that so I have to come up with a new line this year.
“The goal is to win the Super Bowl. We won’t shy away. We talk about it the first day and then we talk about the process, every day the process.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Super Bowl
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When Bruce Arians was asked about suspended linebacker Daryl Washington earlier this week, he declined again. Arians has been pretty straightforward with handling questions about Washington that way. “He’s not even a part of our team so there’s no sense in talking about him,” Arians said.
Washington recently spoke about his excitement about returning to the NFL. It’s still no guarantee. The NFL still has to reinstate him, and in terms of the Cardinals, he’s still going to have to rebuild the trust he shredded on his way to his year-long punishment. (And that doesn’t include any other possible NFL punishment for his assault conviction.)
In general terms, though, Arians was willing to talk about how suspended players are treated. Washington, like other players with long-term suspensions, has not been allowed to be around the facility.
“I would definitely not isolate them from the only structure in their life,” Arians said. “You have to make sure they have structure on their life. Hopefully, that structure will help them overcome the problem — not turn them loose on themselves because obviously when they’re by themselves they can’t handle it. … Not just the team, but structured rehab with the team.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Daryl Washington
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The Cardinals may or may not sign another noteworthy free agent (although knowing the history of Steve Keim, it’s likely they will at some point.) But there is little question, with the draft just about a month away, the Cards are going to be turning their attention there. Bruce Arians left little doubt what he wanted to see when the Cards use their eight picks.
“In the draft, it’s still speed,” Arians said. “Speed at running back, speed at receiver, speed at linebacker, another interior player.” (I’m guessing the speed isn’t as important for that last one.)
At this point, assuming no significant changes to the roster pre-draft, I would guess there is a chance the Cardinals could take a running back with their first pick. I still think that’s unlikely, although it’s so hard to predict anything when you are talking about the 24th overall pick. So many different options could be there. I still think the Cards would like to get that edge pass rusher in the first round. If he’s not there, would anyone be surprised if Keim tried to trade down? Maybe a young cornerback could be the pick (at this point, both Justin Bethel and Jerraud Powers are scheduled to be free agents after the season.)
The running back will be the position that draws the attention. Nothing has happened to change my mind about a certain potential trade for a vet running back. Paying a running back who has been in the league a ton of money doesn’t make a lot of sense in the grand scheme of things. Not when the Cardinals could take a running back on a rookie contract and pair him with Andre Ellington.
“This might be the best group (of running backs) top to bottom that I’ve seen in about 10 years,” Arians said. “There’s some teams in college running the ball and not just at the top two or four guys but all the way down. There are 15 really quality running backs in this draft.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Steve Keim
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Bruce Arians talked for an hour today on a lot of subjects at the NFC coaches breakfast during the NFL spring meetings. We’ll have a lot of stories and video on the various topics today and in the coming days. Among the things Arians touched on:
— The Cardinals would still like to bring back Lyle Sendlein to compete for the center position;
— Logan Thomas will get a ton of reps in the offseason and could even get some “field one” work (the Cards have players working on two fields) depending on the health of Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton;
— There was nothing to say on Adrian Peterson (“Are you trying to get me fined?” he said);
— The Cardinals will look at Kareem Martin at outside linebacker. Arians thinks Martin has the body-type of Aldon Smith.
— He wants DE Calais Campbell to be more consistent, saying “he disappears too much.”
There was much more. But the line of the day came when Arians was talking about the reluctance of General Manager Steve Keim to accept his award for Executive of the Year from the Sporting News the other day in front of the other GMs and coaches. The trophy itself was a big glass vase-looking thing.
“You check your ego at the door, because everything is for the Cardinals,” Arians said. “We’ve both been fortunate enough to get some accolades. You can’t take them. The entire room got you there. Don’t think you’re special. We both laughed, he was embarrassed as hell the other day to get his. I said, ‘Dude, you got a cup. We can drink out of that.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Kareem Martin, Logan Thomas, Lyle Sendlein, Sporting News, Steve Keim
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Ken Whisenhunt returned to Arizona for the first time as a head coach since the Cardinals fired him after the 2012 season, and at Tuesday’s AFC Coaches breakfast, the current Titans boss talked about the “great memories” he has from his six years at the helm of the Cardinals.
“It’s good to come back,” Whisenhunt said. “The people, even in the short time I’ve been here (for the meetings) have been great. Lot of special memories about this place.”
Whisenhunt said Bruce Arians — whom Whisenhunt looked into hiring for his Cardinals staff — has done a “great job” as his replacement as head coach.
“I’m happy for him, I’m happy for the players, I’m happy for the fans,” Whisenhunt said. “To see the excitement around this team and what they are doing … this is a great area, it’s a great fanbase, and University of Phoenix Stadium, when it’s rocking, it’s a great environment. I’ve always enjoyed that.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Ken Whisenhunt
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The inevitable happened Thursday, with Antonio Cromartie getting the long-term (four years) and hefty ($32 million, at least at its max, reportedly) contract he sought and right where he wanted to be — back with the Jets, back with Todd Bowles and Darrelle Revis, and back where he has his home. The Cardinals knew for a long time Cromartie was a likely one-and-done, like Karlos Dansby before him.
There is a reason Bruce Arians often talks about Justin Bethel’s potential as a cornerback, and now here we are, with — at least as of today — Bethel seems the choice to step in across from Patrick Peterson. That’s assuming Jerraud Powers remains the slot cover man, where he is most effective. Even Bethel reacted to the Cromartie departure news in a similar vein:
Time to take the spot I already thought was mine. #nextlevel
— Justin bethel (@Jbet26) March 12, 2015
Bruce Arians has never been shy about praising Bethel’s potential as a cornerback. Last offseason, he said he thought Bethel could end up being better than Peterson and multiple times during the season said Bethel might be starting if he were on another team and not stuck on a depth chart populated with Peterson, Cromartie and Powers.
“Oh, he’s moved up the depth chart in my mind,” Arians said in mid-December. “He’s a starter. He has potential to be a starter in the league. I’m very excited about his future.”
As usual, there are moving pieces to all of this. Powers — who is going into the last year of his contract — could be in the mix to return to the starting spot he had with Peterson before Cromartie arrived. That possibility could increase if the Cardinals decide to use Tyrann Mathieu in the slot, like he was used in his rookie season before tearing his ACL.
(Quote to note on Powers from Arians: “I don’t think anybody played any better than Jerraud Powers last year. He was probably our best guy.”)
The Cardinals probably need to add a cornerback at some point, either by free agency or the draft, for depth. But the secondary still has a lot of good remaining, with four safeties that can play (Mathieu with Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson and Deone Bucannon) and the ability the mix-and-match.
Still, this seems to be Bethel’s chance to emerge beyond being a Pro Bowl special teamer.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Bruce Arians, Deone Bucannon, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals added two more free agents Wednesday, bringing in a pair of ex-Colts: center/guard A.Q. Shipley and defensive end Cory Redding. Both are Bruce Arians specials; He coached both when he was in Indianapolis. Shipley has been with Arians three times now (he started in Pittsburgh when Arians was there) while Redding said he came to lean on Arians when Colts head coach Chuck Pagano got sick in 2012.
Both are the kind of depth signings GM Steve Keim has begun to master. Redding — below, signing his deal — will be great in the locker room and still can play, even though he contemplated retirement after the 2014 season. He’ll be perfect to mentor guys like Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson (as will fellow signee Corey Peters.)
Shipley fits into the mix on the interior of the offensive line. The numbers are starting to grow there, however, and it’s getting crowded for the current bunch even with a 90-man roster. Paul Fanaika is leaving (reportedly is going to sign with the Chiefs) but with Shipley and Iupati coming in, adding in with Lyle Sendlein, Ted Larsen, Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford, it’s a logjam. Sendlein’s $4 million-plus salary cap hit sticks out right now. We’ll see how it plays out, and who might be able to find their way onto the revamped offensive line.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Bruce Arians, Colts, Cory Redding, Earl Watford, Ed Stinson, Jonathan Cooper, Kareem Martin, Lyle Sendlein, Paul Fanaika, Ted Larsen
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