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Friday before the Bears, a preseason meme

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2017 – 2:49 pm

The Bears, the Cardinals and really, who takes the third game of the preseason like it’s bullspit? Bullspit!

I know it’s only Week 2 for the Bears — and frankly, for the Cardinals, who aren’t marching their main guys out for a half until next week’s Week 4/Week 3 game in Atlanta — so again, this is more of a ramp-up game. Bruce Arians isn’t calling plays until next week (that falls on QB coach Byron Leftwich again.) There will be around 20 plays for the starters, although as usual it could be less if each unit is effective. The biggest story in the game will probably be Chicago QBs Mike Glennon vs. Mitchell Trubisky, so we can see how Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson and company can mess with the immediate Bears future.

(In ’06, that Bears preseason game was Matt Leinart’s second appearance in the NFL, after playing on only a couple of days of practice — he signed late — in New England the week before. Leinart vs Warner. Those were the days.)

— It’ll be the first game for left tackle D.J. Humphries. Arians said Humphries did fine in his first practice Wednesday. I thought he had a slow start to Thursday’s work. As with the whole offensive line, he needs to ramp up — although again, with so much camp, there is plenty of time to get ready.

— Speaking of getting ready, the same goes for linebacker Karlos Dansby, who has been bothered by a leg issue. Deone Bucannon is ostensibly still on target to return to practice likely after the preseason games are over. Maybe a couple of days before. That inside linebacker crew could be a juggling situation for the first game. Haason Reddick is clearly still learning, and Scooby Wright, while solid on special teams, has shortcomings on defense. Both are players to watch against the Bears.

— DT Robert Nkemdiche has played well in the preseason but this week, the coaching clearly got harder. Nkemdiche is doing the right things as far as effort and intensity. But the technique must improve, because that is what will beat the better players in the regular season. Everyone has the talent.

— Others I’ll be watching in particular this week: Both punters; Kerwynn Williams on another punt return or two; the down-depth-chart receivers like Carlton Agudosi and Chris Hubert in particular since Brittan Golden (groin) likely won’t play; Justin Bethel and Tramon Williams (I haven’t forgotten about CB No. 2); and more Budda Baker.

— It’d be nice to see a little David Johnson but not too much.

— I’ll be curious to see how much John Brown plays. Smoke did much more in practice this week. But he certainly is not 100 percent, and the trainers keep a close eye on that quad injury. Still, Brown made some plays Thursday, and after one touchdown Larry Fitzgerald made sure everyone knew it was Smoke and then made sure to give Brown the side-five.

— Fitz, by the way, seemed like he was having a great time Thursday. For a guy who is usually tops on the list of wishing training camp wasn’t so long, it didn’t seem to be impacting him. That’s probably good, because after the game, there’s still one week left.


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A BASK health update (they’re fine. Really)

Posted by Darren Urban on August 17, 2017 – 12:33 pm

Bruce Arians is coming off his vegan diet and feels great. Steve Keim just wants to heal.

Yes, it’s the dog days of camp. There are on-field health issues to worry about, and the Cardinals are. Apparently all the missed practices for LB Karlos Dansby weren’t really vet rest days as much as a leg issue that Arians said had been bothering him. The Cards have figured out what’s what, and Arians said “he doesn’t need much work” anyway. Dansby needs to get in football shape, but there are still three weeks for that, Arians added. T D.J. Humphries came through practice looking good and is expected to play Saturday.

As for coach and the GM …

— Keim is coming off surgery to fix a torn right Achilles, when it just gave way one day last week when he stood up to walk. Instead of sitting in the stands to watch practice — or coming down to the field as he has sometimes — Keim now has to watch from the concourse. Still, Keim is going to work through the injury, and he’s expected to remain the starting GM as the Cardinals get to the end of the preseason and have to cut from 90 to 53.

— Arians was given a vegan diet in an ongoing quest to help his health. He had a big smile when he said he was able to have meat for the first time in a long time. “Had a grass-fed burger,” Arians said. “It was really good with nothing else. And a bunch of vegetables.”

Arians admitted there was “nothing” he liked about being vegan. “I’m shocked I could stick to it but I was kind of proud I did for 27 days,” Arians said.

Now, protein is slowly being reintroduced to his diet. Vegetables were OK, although Arians couldn’t have his favorite, a special brussels sprouts dish served at one of his favorite restaurants. “There’s a whole lot of butter and bacon in those babies,” Arians said. Still, he sneaked out once to have them.

“I told them I ate brussels spouts,” Arians said, a smile creeping across his face. “They said, ‘You did good.’ ”


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A quiet Arians is a scary Arians

Posted by Darren Urban on August 15, 2017 – 12:20 pm

J.J. Nelson mentioned Monday that while Bruce Arians had made it known he was not happy with the wide receivers, he was “saying it in a nice way.”

Yeah, well, that’s not a good thing.

“I was very nice about it,” Arians said Tuesday, very even-keeled while speaking on the subject. “I said (GM) Steve (Keim) is upstairs right now looking at tape for more new (receivers).”

That was probably a B.A.-mic drop moment. “I don’t really give a s*** what they think,” Arians said. “They were told real quietly and that scared them.”

It reminded me of my parents — and probably many parents. I know I’ve done it with my kids. Getting yelled at isn’t good, but when the tone gets quiet and perhaps a little more deliberate, something not so good is going down.

“If I’m hollering, I’m coaching ’em,” Arians said. “When I’m not hollering, it’s not a good thing.”

— Three receivers (coincidence? Probably not) are attempting to return to practice full today: John Brown (quad), Chad Williams (shin splints) and Aaron Dobson (hamstring). Tackle D.J. Humphries (hamstring) is going to try individual drills today, and Arians expects him back to practice later this week and to be able to play Saturday.


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After practice: Rough, but just a practice

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2017 – 4:31 pm

There isn’t as much to say about practice today. One, the main story has already been covered well by Kyle right here. Two, you aren’t going to get much detail about who did what — well or not well — because the back half of the outside practices are shut off from reporting. (Bruce Arians brought up the conditioning, so that became fair game). It was a physical practice, and if anyone is wondering if Arians was going to be true to his word about making this camp harder than last year’s, do not fret. He is doing just that.

As upset as Arians was, though, it wasn’t the end of the world.

“It’s just a practice,” he said. “We didn’t play anybody. We just failed to handle the heat and the time.”

— The young guys had their issues — you know, the young guys who are going to be playing the majority of Thursday’s game. Arians was asked how the team was positioned for the Hall of Fame matchup against the Cowboys. “If today’s practice was any indication, it’s going to be a fire drill.”

— I can say that Tyrann Mathieu looked good yet again. Arians said he thought it was the first time Mathieu looked totally healthy.

— The last (and only) other time the Cardinals were made to run at practice? Arians said it was his first season, but it was actually his second.

— Arians was asked about running back Elijhaa Penny’s performance Saturday. “Really good. Moved the pile, caught the ball well. He’s been having a good camp, and if he gets hurt, it’s your ass.”

That drew laughs, after what happened Saturday with Ronald Zamort. So Kent Somers asked the only thing he could: Should we just ask you about guys on other teams?

“That’d be good,” Arians said, breaking into a big smile. “Really good.”

— LB Alani Fua was waived-injured with his knee. He’ll likely revert back to injured reserve, so in theory — depending on how long it takes him to get healthy — he’d be a candidate to return this season. Remember, two IR guys can come back now after the new rule was put in. That said, Fua has had a lot of injuries in his short career. It’s tough not to remember something Dave McGinnis used to say a lot: Availability is as important as ability.


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After practice: Penny bashes at the Red-White

Posted by Darren Urban on July 29, 2017 – 6:22 pm

Famous last words.

Mike Jurecki asked about cornerback Ronald Zamort in Saturday’s lunchtime presser. And if he hadn’t, someone would have. Bruce Arians’ reaction was swift.

“You guys keep asking about individual guys and they keep getting hurt,” Arians deadpanned. “You and Josh (Weinfuss) are 2-for-2. If you get this one, you’re done.” (There had been previous questions about Aaron Dobson and the lack of soft tissue injuries at that point.)

Arians chuckled.

He wasn’t chuckling a couple hours later, when Zamort indeed went down. At first it was scary — Zamort wasn’t moving — but he eventually got up. We don’t know what the injury was — an update likely won’t come until Monday — but we’ll see what kind of questions Arians will answer going forward. UPDATE: Kent Somers reports that Zamort tore an ACL.

As for the rest of the Red-White:

— Elijhaa Penny is trying to find a spot on the roster. The big second-year running back wanted to clarify some of the reports about his weight — he said he weighed 250 last season, and is now down to 236, feeling lighter on his feet — and he spends most reps looking for contact as he runs downfield.

“I want to be the linebacker on offense,” Penny said. “I want to deliver the hit instead of taking the hit. The main point is I want the offense to get the same mentality that the defense has. Hit them instead of them hitting us.”

He is in a fight with a crowded backfield. “Every day, I have to treat it almost like it’s game day.”

— It was interesting to watch the final three plays on the full-contact goalline scrimmage. Three straight carries for rookie T.J. Logan. Logan and fellow rookie linebacker Haason Reddick collided something fierce in the hole on the first two. On all three, Logan’s helmet popped off.

— Among the notable plays in 11-on-11 work: Patrick Peterson’s tip-drill interception in the end zone, tipped by Tyvon Branch; Jaron Brown hauling in a tipped pass that had been defended well by Zamort; Larry Fitzgerald’s sliding TD catch on the first play of red zone work from the 11-yard line; Krishawn Hogan’s juggling catch on the sideline; and Budda Baker’s nice from-behind pass breakup on Jeremy Ross.

— LB Karlos Dansby sat out the practice with a sore knee.

— The defenses and offenses essentially split success at the end-of-practice scrimmage plays.

— Robert Nkemdiche was a disruptive force much of the time again. The second-unit offensive line has a hard time blocking him.

— The crowd ended up being 25,000.

— The Cardinals are off tomorrow and don’t have another open practice to the public until Aug. 8. They play in Canton Thursday.


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After practice: Zamort time at cornerback

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2017 – 5:09 pm

There is no new veteran cornerback yet. But who knows, maybe one will become inherently necessary sooner rather than later. Justin Bethel ended up sitting out practice Friday — he had a brace on his left knee — and interestingly, Ronald Zamort was the one in his place with the first unit and not Brandon Williams. Zamort actually had a decent camp a year ago, but he was cut and not brought back to the practice squad. (The Cardinals ended up bringing in a bigger defensive back, Trevon Hartfield, for the PS.) Zamort was re-signed to the practice squad later in the season after injuries. It’ll be interesting to see how he does in preseason games, and how Williams does as well.

(Not sure how Bethel was hurt. Bruce Arians didn’t mention anything at the lunch presser. Bethel did have a play Thursday when he and tight end Jermaine Gresham collided and seemed to bump knees/legs, but Bethel finished practice after getting up slowly.)

— Carson Palmer was technically back at practice but he threw little. Very little. He didn’t go in during any of the 11-on-11 work, and he didn’t throw much before that either. (Again, as Arians said earlier in the day, given the early start, all this work is “bonus” time for Palmer. I wouldn’t read too much into the inactivity.)

— Tyrann Mathieu had another pick in a drill, grumpy at one point that he was flagged for a hold he didn’t think he should have. Mathieu is trying to be more low-key, but he’s playing better and better.

— Practice ended with a pair of situational periods. The first started around the defense’s 30 with 22 seconds left and the offense down 6. That ended up all offense: A David Johnson TD catch for the first unit, a Troy Niklas TD catch for the second unit, and a clutch fourth-and-10 TD catch down the seam by tight end Ifeanyi Momah for the third unit.

— The other sequence started on the offense’s end of the field needing about 15 yards for a long field goal try and 19 seconds left. First unit’s possession ended with a interception by Antoine Bethea. The second ended with a Josh Mauro sack. The third unit succeeded, with a Carlton Agudosi catch setting up a 56-yard field goal by the ageless Phil Dawson.


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Resting Palmer again and Buc’s status

Posted by Darren Urban on July 27, 2017 – 12:10 pm

If there was any doubt about how careful the Cardinals were going to be with QB Carson Palmer this camp in an attempt to have him ready for the regular season, he will be resting at Thursday’s practice, the second time he’s sat out through a mere five practices thus far.

“I like practice,” Palmer said. “I enjoy what I do in the practice aspect. I like throwing in blitz period and team period and 7-on-7 and routes on air. But I’m listening to the professionals, the people that have studied this and read and been to seminars. I’m going with the recovery process and what people tell me to do.”

Again, it’s important to remember that the Cardinals have an extra stretch of camp this year because of the fifth preseason game, so this is all bonus practice anyway, especially for a veteran like Palmer. It’s smart to slow-play it like this if he needs to protect his arm.

— Arians said $LB Deone Bucannon, on PUP with his ankle, is doing some running. No timetable for a return, but Arians said he’d want Bucannon to have at least a week if not more of practice before playing in the opener. We’ll see if Bucannon ends up hitting that target.

— The good news was no one got hurt at Tuesday’s practice. S Ironhead Gallon (knee) and LB Jarvis Jones (NFI-quad) are close to returning — Jones could practice Friday, Arians said. LB Alani Fua (knee) is going to miss 2-to-4 weeks, Arians said.


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Arians confirms Flowers visit

Posted by Darren Urban on July 25, 2017 – 12:04 pm

Bruce Arians confirmed today that free-agent veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers is visiting the team — Arians said he’s getting a physical today — as a potential addition to the roster. Flowers has had concussion issues, so the physical is important. Arians also emphasized adding Flowers doesn’t necessarily mean a reflection on the play of current first-stringer Justin Bethel. The Cardinals want to add pieces, and besides, it’s worth noting the Cards lost a pair of cornerbacks who had been up the depth chart for a couple of weeks — Elie Bouka (ankle) and Jumel Rolle (hamstring).

— Arians again praised the work if Bethel. Bethel made more plays Monday, and Arians even likes the fact Bethel is getting better responding when he makes a bad play. “He’s learning to get amnesia,” Arians said, which is such a great quote.

— DT Ed Stinson hurt his hamstring while LB Alani Fua and S Ironhead Gallon each hurt a knee. No timetable was given for those players. (Tough for both Stinson and Fua, who seemingly are both always battling injury.)


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Camp scuffle? “Rank has privilege”

Posted by Darren Urban on July 24, 2017 – 12:13 pm

Bruce Arians has never been shy about his feelings about fighting in training camp — nobody better do it. So as the pads come on for camp and the level of intensity rises, inevitably, it’s something Arians will watch out for. Talking about hitting with the pads on, Arians said “Just don’t take anyone to the ground if you want to stick around.”

(He’s a poet and he didn’t know it.)

And if someone does?

“Throw them off the field,” Arians said. “If it’s the wrong guys, I’ll cut ’em.” Well-timed pause. “Rank has privilege.

“I don’t think any of our ranked guys are gonna fight.”

Arians does make sure his message gets across. “They know that has no place in football. It’s not in the rule book, you fight and you’re ejected, so why practice things that aren’t in the rule book?”

— With the heavy rain across the Valley — and the University of Phoenix Stadium field sitting outside the building as usual this morning as it came down — Arians acknowledged he was a little concerned with the field. But it’s being rolled in as I write this and it looks OK. Doesn’t really matter anyway. Arians said there wasn’t a circumstance where he’d change practice because of a wet field. “We are going to play on that field anyway,” he said. “We better learn how to play on it quick.”

— QB Drew Stanton and WR Jaron Brown will not practice today in a scheduled day off.


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30 touches for David Johnson? Maybe. Likely not

Posted by Darren Urban on July 17, 2017 – 9:43 am

The subject of David Johnson and his potential touches per game this season has been a ongoing theme this offseason. It came up again this weekend when the Cardinals’ running back attended a fantasy football event (fantasy football is the No. 1 reason so many people want to know about Johnson’s touches this season, in an effort to forecast his production.)

Back at the owners’ meetings in March, Bruce Arians first talked about Johnson getting 30 touches — rushing attempts plus receptions — per game. When Johnson threw out the first pitch at a Diamondbacks game in April, he said there was no reason why he couldn’t get 30 touches a game.

“I never really got fatigued,” Johnson said then. “Those tough defense games against Seattle and the Rams, those games might feel a little sore, but that’s not until the adrenaline comes down. I never really feel too bad.”

Arians has said he’ll be smart about it. And the likelihood of Johnson averaging 30 touches a game, or even reaching that number a lot, just isn’t great.

Last season, one in which Johnson threatened to gain 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving, Johnson didn’t come close to averaging 30 touches a game. In fact, he led the league in touches at “only” 23.3. (Take out his injury-shortened finale, when he only had eight touches before going out with a scary knee injury, and Johnson still only averaged 24.3 touches a game.) Only three times did Johnson reach 30 touches in 2017, when he was the undisputed bellcow of the offense: 30 at San Francisco, 41 at home in the overtime tie against Seattle, and 32 in the late-season win at Seattle. (He had 29 at Minnesota and 27 against Washington.)

Make no mistake. Johnson will again be the centerpiece of the offense. There will be days when he gets 30 touches. But circumstances will be different each game. Defenses will create new challenges. Arians will want his receivers involved. There will be reasons at times to not overdo it with Johnson, too, something Arians has acknowledged. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense that he will average that many. Unless it’s against Seattle.


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