The Cardinals hired Buddy Morris as their new strength and conditioning coach Tuesday. Today, one of the men Morris used to train became his new coaching associate — and it is an interesting hire to say the least. Olympian hurdler Roger Kingdom, who won gold medals in the hurdles in both the 1984 Los Angeles and the 1988 Seoul Games, will be the Cardinals’ new speed coach. With assistant strength and conditioning coach Pete Alosi remaining in place, the Cards have grown their coaching staff yet again in a quest to have the Cards be a one-stop shop for however the players need to prepare.
Kingdom originally attended the University of Pittsburgh on a football scholarship, so he knows the sport. That’s how he knew Morris, who was the school’s strength coach from 1980-89 in his first of three stints there. Kingdom won the gold in the 110-meter hurdles. He retired from the sport in 1999 (he briefly tried a comeback a few years later) and spent time as the track coach at California University of Pennsylvania. During his track career, Kingdom was a five-time United States outdoor champion (1985, 1988-90 and 1995) and two-time gold medalist at the Pan American Games (1983, 1995). He also holds a World Cup gold medal (1989) and won gold at the World University Games in 1989.
Now he will try to bring his speed training to the Cardinals. That’s something Bruce Arians has harped on since he arrived. Meanwhile, Morris in past interviews has talked about how he doesn’t believe Olympic-style lifting helps guys play football. This will be a very interesting transition to a new strength and conditioning program, and will make for an intriguing offseason.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Buddy Morris, Roger Kingdom
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Once, Bertrand Berry left, but he came back.
Having covered the Cardinals either for the East Valley Tribune or here at azcardinals.com for years, I’ve been through a lot of free-agent signing periods and watched the team have a lot of interest in various players. Sometimes they signed. Sometimes they didn’t. And those times pop into my head with the new philosophy of the front office. It isn’t necessarily take it or leave it, but it is close. The Cardinals these days have a number in mind to spend on each particular free agent and definitely a ranking system where they want a certain player first over others. But if there is hesitation, the Cards are ready to move on. They won’t be used as leverage, and that’s a good thing.
The Cards were frequently the team used for leverage once upon a time (the brief Joe Montana courtship is one I remember, but that was before my time on the beat.) There have been others, and that’s one reason why it’s good to see GM Steve Keim get past that. More importantly, it’s good to see the confidence the team has in its plan. The Cards want, for instance, Karlos Dansby to come back. But the possibility of him leaving breeds no panic. As Bruce Arians likes to say, next man up, and that’s an incredibly liberating stance to take this time of year. The Cards will reach out to a left tackle in free agency, I’d guess, and if whoever it is doesn’t like the offer or hedges, the Cards will move on to the next choice. I have no doubt of that. The Cardinals aren’t going to be cheap, but they are going to structure deal on their terms.
(This doesn’t mean the Cards won’t bargain shop later, like they did with Dansby/Winston/Abraham last year. Float a number, wait a guy out and if he’s willing to come in for a bargain, you put him on the roster.)
That brings me back to Berry, who the Cardinals really wanted as a pass rusher in 2004. The offer was on the table and the Cardinals really wanted him to agree to it that day when he visited the team. Berry told them he probably would agree, but he wanted to sleep on it. Fair, although it could have been a leverage ploy. It wasn’t. Berry came back the next day to sign, and proved to be one of the best free-agent signings the team has made, with 14.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl that year before injuries derailed his Arizona tenure.
I don’t see the current Cards letting that happen much at all. A free agent who won’t agree right away is risking that deal being yanked off the table quickly. Keim is going to be in control of this process.
Tags: Bertrand Berry, Bruce Arians, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Steve Kiem
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The Cardinals parted ways with strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott Friday, a little bit of a surprise. The Cards confirmed the move in a statement.
“Coach (Bruce) Arians let John know this morning that he’s making a change and going in a different direction in that role. Everyone at the team is certainly grateful to John for his contributions and wish him nothing but the best moving forward. The search for a replacement is underway.”
Lott still has two years remaining on his contract, so financially he’s got time to search for a landing spot. Lott was just at the Scouting combine, reprising his role as the guy bellowing at prospects to encourage extra reps, after not going there in 2013. Lott was a holdover from the Ken Whisenhunt regime and didn’t have any ties to Arians, which made him different than say, Freddie Kitchens (who played for Arians in college). Lott’s profile shrunk this year as well. Normally out front at the beginning of practice at before games leading stretching, that duty was eliminated with Arians’ belief players needed to prep on their own and not stretch as a team. There was chatter earlier in the offseason Lott could end up with Whisenhunt in Tennessee after Whiz got the Titans job. The Titans, though, retained long-time strength coach Steve Watterson.
Assistant strength and conditioning coach Pete Alosi remains in place. The Cardinals don’t officially begin their offseason conditioning program until April 21.
Tags: Bruce Arians, John Lott, Ken Whisenhunt
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A couple of tidbits out there this morning. One, Adam Schefter reported that the Cardinals have reached out to veteran linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, just cut by the Browns, to see if they could line up a free-agent visit next week. Jackson, who already has reportedly be contacted by the Titans and Broncos, would be an inside linebacker for the Cardinals. Is he a backup plan in case Karlos Dansby chooses not to return?
Speaking of Dansby, not that this is a shock, but coach Bruce Arians said on Arizona Sports 98.7 this morning that the team offered Dansby a contract “the day after the season ended.” Negotiations are ongoing — and I still think Dansby wants to see what he can get on the open market — but I’ve had some ask if the Cards had made an offer. It was obvious, but here’s the proof.
In the same interview, Arians said the Cardinals “probably have five” immediate free agent targets when they can officially start calling players on 12:01 a.m. March 8 (deals cannot be finalized until March 11.) And in case you were wondering about that take-it-or-leave-it approach to free agents the Cardinals unveiled last offseason? Yeah, it’s still in place.
“Steve and I have the same philosophy,” Arians said. ” ‘Here it is, do you want it? I’m going to ask this guy in about a half an hour. If you don’t want it, I’m going to ask him. If he wants it, you’re out.’ It’s easy. We don’t play games.”
If nothing else, we’ll probably know what the Cards are doing free-agent wise — at least with the high-end names — quickly. Like the left tackle spot.
Tags: Bruce Arians, D'Qwell Jackson, free agency, Karlos Dansby
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Patrick Peterson is a Pro Bowler, and with Jerraud Powers, the Cardinals are “very solid” at starting cornerback, coach Bruce Arians said. Tyrann Mathieu, when he finally returns from his knee injury, will work the slot. But, especially given the Mathieu question mark, there will be depth questions heading into free agency with both Javier Arenas and Antoine Cason at unrestricted status.
The Cardinals will have to bring in somebody. But the wild card is someone who is already on the roster, and who has already made a Pro Bowl.
“I think the guy who really should make the big move is Justin Bethel,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s as talented probably as Patrick. He just has to start believing it and play corner the way he plays special teams and we’ll really be set back there.”
During the season, Bethel said he felt like he already was ready to contribute on defense. He’s incredibly valuable as a Pro Bowl special teamer. Could he become something similar as a cornerback? I don’t know if it is fair to compare him, even talent-wise, to Peterson, but Bethel does look the part and had a steeper learning curve coming out of tiny Presbyterian College.
– One other note from Arians, who said every player who is rehabbing injuries is on schedule save for linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who suffered a right foot Lisfranc injury. “I’m a little concerned with Lorenzo’s foot right now,” Arians said. “Hopefully it will show improvement.”
Tags: Antoine Cason, Bruce Arians, Javier Arenas, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Lorenzo Alexander, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Bobby Massie finished his 2012 rookie season playing pretty well at right tackle after a horrendous start to his career. He seemed like a natural piece of the 2013 offensive line, until the Cards signed veteran Eric Winston as training camp began. Over the season, Massie eventually got a few snaps at right tackle, but he never displaced Winston, who is an unrestricted free agent. If Winston comes back, Massie will be his competition. Massie isn’t playing guard or on the left side, as the Cardinals try to improve the offensive line.
“(Bobby) is a right tackle,” Arians said. “He’s not a left tackle. We experimented with that and he struggled with it. He’s a right tackle and he’s talented. The biggest thing right now is to be more consistent every day in his work habits.”
Does Massie fit in to the 2014 starting line? He very well could. But so much is up in the air, and it goes well beyond Massie and Winston. It’s assumed, and probably not incorrectly, that the Cardinals will seek an offensive lineman or two in free agency. It’s likely they will look into Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert if he reaches free agency (Kansas City GM John Dorsey said Friday the Chiefs have talked to Albert’s agent at the combine about an extension) and reports surfaced Friday that the Cards might also look into Rams tackle.guard Rodger Saffold (Rams GM Les Snead said Friday re-signing Saffold was a priority.)
It is realistic to think the Cards could have new starters at four of five positions on the line by the time games count in 2014 (center Lyle Sendlein is likely safe.). It’s also possible the line doesn’t change. Friday, Arians wouldn’t commit to the Cards having a new player in the lineup (other than the return of injured guard Jonathan Cooper), saying only the line needed to get bigger and stronger.
“Whether it is adding pieces to the puzzle or improving the players we have, we have Coop back, Earl (Watford) to the development, you add those two young guards will make us more athletic and create good competition with the veterans,” Arians said. “We are looking at adding pieces, one tackle, two, whatever we find is best to fit our locker room.”
The Cardinals also probably want to get cheaper at parts of the line, especially if they pay a premium for a free agent. That too can impact the equation — and make a guy like Massie more attractive.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Branden Albert, Bruce Arians, Eric Winston, offensive line, Rodger Saffold, Scouting combine
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The best tight end in the NFL? Bruce Arians doesn’t name Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. He picks Heath Miller. “Not because he catches 90 passes,” the Cardinals’ coach said at the Scouting combine Friday. “But because he blocks big defensive ends.”
Herein lies the Arians philosophy on tight ends, and why those guys piling up catch totals in spread college offenses might not be the guy the Cardinals will want going forward: “Tight ends for me block first, catch second,” Arians said.
Those guys are pretty rare these days. Rob Housler was a catch-first guy when he was drafted, and while he isn’t great blocker, Arians said he has leaned to block “adequately.” The Cardinals need tight ends, depending on the free agents they might bring back. Arians does believe a pass-catcher can be taught to block, but they have to have the right body type and they have to be willing to do it. “A lot of guys are not willing to stick their face in the fan,” Arians said with a chuckle.
Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro is considered a catch-first tight end and probable high draft pick who flourished in Kliff Kingsbury’s up-tempo offense. But Amaro said when Tommy Tuberville was coaching Tech, Amaro had to block first.
“I think it’s just a want-to thing,” Amaro said. “I’ve always had the technique; I’ve always had the drive. When I’m asked to block, I know I can block. I feel like it’s something that’s very overlooked of what I can do and then it’s something I’m going to have to show at the next level. But I know I’m willing to.”
It’s something that’s going to come up with any of the highly rated college tight ends. And it’s something Arians and the Cardinals are going to have to believe before they draft one, especially with a high pick.
“It’s such a unique position,” Arians said. “The best tight ends never go to the Pro Bowl because the best tight ends don’t catch 80 passes or 90 passes. Those are wide receivers.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Heath Miller, Rob Housler, Scouting combine
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— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) February 18, 2014
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Bruce Arians, NFL, NFL Combine, Steve Keim
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It’s that time of year again — the Scouting combine begins this week, the unofficial beginning of the 2014 season. I and a few of my azcardinals.com cohorts leave for Indianapolis tomorrow, with media access beginning Thursday. Cardinals GM Steve Keim will be at the podium Thursday morning (11:30 Indy time) and coach Bruce Arians will go Friday morning (10:15 Indy time.)
As we did last year, I will host a pair of short video chats with each man while in Indy, asking questions from the fans. If you’d like to submit a question, you can do so in the comments below, you can submit it via Twitter using the hashtag #CardsCombine or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you specify for whom the question is intended.
Speaking of questions, I will host a pre-combine chat today at 1 p.m. The link is available by clicking here. Feel free to stop by and ask whatever as we are about to head hip-deep into free agency in early March.
As for Indy, it’ll be 57 degrees (allegedly) on Thursday, a somewhat surprising turn of events considering how it usually is this time of year. The interview portion starts Thursday while the on-field (and on NFL Network stuff) starts full bore on Saturday. The draft becomes the focus for a week or so, before backing off for the free agency portion of the offseason. Remember, the draft is later this year — May 8-10 — so there will be plenty of time to think about and dissect the draft. For those wondering, the players officially can return to the voluntary offseason program April 21. It’ll be interesting to see what the roster looks like by then.
Tags: Bruce Arians, draft, Scouting combine, Steve Keim
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As the Cardinals head toward the draft — a week later, May 8-10 this year — there will be a lot of talk about what positions will be targeted. There will be discussion about offensive tackles, defensive linemen, pass rushers, tight ends and defensive backs. But one thing that can’t be dismissed is the quest for a speed receiver.
The Cardinals can’t overlook the position anyway, given the impending free agent status of Andre Roberts (who likely will want to look what’s available on the open market since he’s destined to stay behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd) and the ongoing desire to have someone be able to run down the field and take the top off the defense. It was a constant quest last season. The Cards took a draft risk on Ryan Swope, and that didn’t work. Robert Gill was a track guy who they hoped would work out. Later, it was Brittan Golden and Teddy Williams.
According to profootballfocus.com, quarterback Carson Palmer threw 74 passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air last season. He completed only 23 of them, and while longer passes will inevitably have a lower completion percentage, coach Bruce Arians does want to get more production out of those six deep shots a game he’d like to take. The Cards didn’t take as many as that as the season went along, in part because there was an understanding the protection wasn’t always good enough for such long plays and in part because the was a search for the right target. Floyd and Fitz can do the jump ball thing, but to be able to just tell a guy to go long and watch him speed by in one-on-one coverage would be ideal.
Where that guy will come from isn’t set in stone. Will the Cardinals draft one? I wouldn’t be surprised. But Steve Keim will comb other options too. Williams and Golden are still around and in the mix (although they have to stay healthy.) It’s an Arians want, and an Arians need, and that isn’t going to change until the Cards find their answer.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Brittan Golden, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, draft, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Robert Gill, Ryan Swope, Steve Keim, Teddy Williams
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