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Blogs

Arians: Pads are on to stay

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2014 – 12:25 pm

Coach Bruce Arians said he was happy padded practice arrived Monday afternoon because Sunday “we were way too active to be in shorts.” The pads will make it seem a lot like football — the first two days of camp just seem like a continuation of the offseason OTAs (which gets old after a while). The pads will stay on too, Arians said.

“With the limited time you can hit now, you can’t hit enough in my opinion,” Arians said. “You only get 15 practices before you are playing games. The evaluation process … most of it has been about how mentally can they handle the job, now it’s whether they can actually play. You can’t get enough evaluations in that situation.”

Arians will dial it down when the Cardinals trim to the 53-man roster. Until then, though, let the hitting commence.

– The swollen left knee of DT Dan Williams is not serious, Arians said, stemming from an old injury. Williams is getting an MRI but he should not miss much time. Everyone else is ready to practice, save for absent LB John Abraham.

– Thus far, Logan Thomas has received all the QB 11-on-11 reps that have not gone to Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton. That will change, Arians said, but we’ll see how soon. “Ryan is going to get the short end of the stick for a little bit because Logan is new,” Arians said.

– Arians said he considered center Lyle Sendlein underrated. Sendlein does fly under the radar but he is respected by this staff, which — if you can do after a full coaching change — is impressive.

– When the pads go on, there is always the threat of a scuffle breaking out. It’s unlikely at Cards camp, though, because Arians leaves little doubt how he feels about in-fighting.

“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. That’s what Coach (Bear) Bryant used to do. Want to fight? Wear 18-pound gloves, and they were not allowed to stop swinging.

 

Arians was asked how it would end. “They both passed out. It only happened once. (Now,) the CBA might frown on it.”

Arians did say he wouldn’t fine a guy for fighting. “No. I’ll cut ‘em,” Arians said. “There’s always a threat of that.”

 


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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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“All mental camp” and Arians notes

Posted by Darren Urban on July 26, 2014 – 12:48 pm

Bruce Arians met with the media after the morning walkthrough with the first practice of camp — remember, no pads until Monday — coming this afternoon. It’s that schedule that leaves the old school Arians shaking his head a bit. “It’s really hard to call this ‘camp’ anymore,” Arians said. “There’s no physical grind to this stuff like their used to be. It’s all mental.”

With that, Arians said he expects his team to be on the top of its game mentally. There were too many penalties in the spring, he said, and when it comes to pre-snap penalties, that’s a very bad thing . (Hopefully, B.A. doesn’t decide to do what the Jets have done, which means any practice offside forces everyone — media relations people, other team staff included — to do pushups.)

“(Mental mistakes) have to decrease and it really should now that we’ve been in this a year,” Arians said.

On to the other notable things from the media session:

– QB Carson Palmer, evaluating the roster: “This is by far the most talented team I’ve been on.”

– Palmer and Arians have discussed using the no-huddle more this season. The Cardinals didn’t use it much at all last year. Palmer ran it successfully many years in Cincinnati and now that the Cards understand the offense better, it may be a better fit.

– When Arians talks about RB Robert Hughes, fourth on the depth chart behind Ellington, Taylor and Dwyer, you get the sense he likes him a lot. He thinks he’s an excellent blocker, which is a big deal to Arians. It’ll be a surprise if Hughes doesn’t make the roster as a fourth back, especially because Hughes can play special teams.

– LB John Abraham has not yet returned from his personal business and will miss practice Saturday.

– How much the Cardinals use Patrick Peterson in the return game “remains to be seen,” Arians said.

– Arians isn’t a fan of the officials being able to call penalties for things said on the field, just because it’s a heat of the moment situation.

– Arians said he’s looking forward to the kicking competition, especially since preseason extra points will be moved back and will be more like field goal tries. Rookie Chandler Catanzaro is intriguing, Arians said. Asked if he would worry about having a rookie kicker, Arians didn’t flinch. “I don’t give a (expletive), whatever position it is,” Arians said. “If they can play, they can play. Everybody has got to be a rookie sometime.”


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No Dobermans here, and other camp-open notes

Posted by Darren Urban on July 25, 2014 – 2:35 pm

Here’s how you know it’s time for football again — Bruce Arians is on top of his game. Asked if the change in strength and conditioning coaches to Buddy Morris meant Arians’ stance had changed in terms of incorporating stretching into practice, the Cardinals’ coach gave a definitive no. Stretching still must be done by players before practice is scheduled to start.

“If a Doberman jumped out of a car with a gun, you wouldn’t be stretching,” Arians said. “When the horn blows, we’re practicing.”

And away we go.

Some other notes and quotes from the first day of camp, which was essentially multiple 60-yard sprints and about 30 minutes out on the field:

– Everyone passed. “I thought (314-pound nose tackle) Dan Williams looked as sexy in a run test as he’s ever looked,” Arians said. That’s Williams below, second from left (with Frostee Rucker, Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell.)

– Everyone was at University of Phoenix Stadium except for veteran linebacker John Abraham. Abraham was excused, Arians said, and would be back as soon as possible.

– Tyrann Mathieu, on the PUP list, isn’t close to returning although Arians said the safety would be ready in “a day” if he needed to be. Mathieu said he figures he’s still more than a month away, noting that oft-discussed bye week after three games but hopefully before that.

– Arians said Andre Ellington’s weight isn’t up that much but the running back’s strength has improved and he is ready to be both a leader and the “bell cow” of the offense.

– Per CBA rules, the Cardinals won’t wear pads this weekend. First padded practice is Monday.

DL1runblog

 


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The roster heading into camp

Posted by Darren Urban on July 15, 2014 – 3:55 pm

Next week is the week.

With the Cardinals’ decision-makers trickling back into the building, the end of minicamp has been a moratorium of sorts. Time off is the important thing, and with no football-related things going on, there was no reason to make any roster changes over the last month-plus. But that potentially changes Monday when everyone is back in Tempe and the Cards gear up for the camp that starts at the end of the week.

That’s no guarantee anything will happen. Last season, the Cardinals didn’t do anything to the roster (save for signing a couple of draftees) after May 21 until right as camp was starting. The biggest reasons? It was time to put Ryan Swope on the retired list (bringing in Robby Toma) and the Cardinals needed to clear room for linebacker John Abraham and tackle Eric Winston. That made just a bit of a splash as camp opened.

The Cards last transaction was June 9. Could they have another veteran or two that make sense to sign? If it’s going to happen without someone getting injured, this is the time. Vets on the market know they probably aren’t going to make the kind of money they once thought they might (Tyson Clabo, anyone?). This time around, I’m thinking the Cards have some faith in Bobby Massie, enough of which to see how he develops these next few weeks. I don’t know of any decent pass rushers hanging out either. Don’t forget, last year, Bruce Arians was still trying to get a handle on his players. Now, he knows better what they can do.

This isn’t to say the Cardinals aren’t going to stand pat with the roster. Things can change quickly, with players taking physicals next week and everything. You want to maximize the roster as practices begin. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how it all evolves, heading toward that 53-man lineup the Cards must pare down to prior to the season opener against the Chargers.


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A look at the rookies

Posted by Darren Urban on June 16, 2014 – 10:54 am

The rookie class had a (not surprisingly) mixed bag of results in OTAs and minicamp. That’s what rookies do. Still, they are going to mean something this season, especially with the way coach Bruce Arians is willing to play them.

“I like all the rookies,” veteran defensive lineman Darnell Dockett said. “There are three or four of those rookies that are going to make a big impact on our season. We don’t know which ones (yet), but it’s going to happen. You want to help them and let them know on the field and off the field, you have to be accountable and it’s not just about showing up for practice. We know we are going to need four or five of those rookies.”

Because the pads haven’t gone on yet, it’s possible two guys who have been way under the radar so far — defensive ends Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson — could be making large impacts. The way the Cardinals like to rotate the defensive line, both guys will get a shot to get in there, one would think. They also turn the defensive line from a thin area to one of serious depth, when you add in Frostee Rucker and (eventually) Alameda Ta’amu to Dockett, Calais Campbell and Dan Williams.

We all know safety Deone Bucannon is going to get his chance. That’s what happens with first-round picks. That turf toe slowed him, but it was a good sign Bucannon made sure to get back on the field in minicamp. Second-round Troy Niklas is behind and the idea he might still be sidelined into training camp with his broken hand isn’t the best news, but the kid is itching to get out on the field and do something. Adding John Carlson, and with the way Rob Housler has looked up until this point, helps, since Niklas doesn’t have to be out there right away if he isn’t ready. Speaking of not ready, that’s quarterback Logan Thomas, but he was always a long-term vision anyway.

That leaves the wide receivers. John Brown (below) has been mentioned a lot. No, I don’t see him displacing Ted Ginn. Not immediately. But at some point, could he be the No. 3 behind Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald? Very possible. He was the guy getting extra direction from both Arians and Carson Palmer in minicamp, more than any other wideout. That’s because he has a lot to learn, but also because the Cards need him to learn it quickly, because they want to use him. As for Walt Powell, he to showed some things, and after what the Cards got out of a sixth-round pick a year ago (Andre Ellington), who’s to say he can’t step in and do something? The receiving corps is loaded enough that it will be tough to have Powell move up the depth chart, however.

RookiesBlogBrown


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“Best” to open minicamp, and Niklas hurt

Posted by Darren Urban on June 10, 2014 – 2:13 pm

Bruce Arians said Tuesday’s minicamp practice was the Cardinals’ “best practice so far,” which it notable from the standpoint a) it was pretty freaking hot out there and b) it went longer than an OTA because it’s minicamp and they can go longer. Some of the quick hit notes before I post a Patrick Peterson story later this afternoon:

– Rookie TE Troy Niklas is sidelined again. He had actually returned to the practice field following his hernia surgery that kept him out of the first few OTAs but then got a finger caught and twisted in a jersey last week and broke his hand. And so Niklas goes back to the mental reps, although Arians said Niklas should be ready for training camp.

“It kind of sucks I’m missing out of the reps,” Niklas said. “It’s frustrating. … I feel like I know the offense and I know what to do. Now it’s about teaching my body how to do it.”

– Some good news from the injury front: First-round pick Deone Bucannon was on the field after missing some time with a turf toe. “He needs it psychologically and just to get out and play,” Arians said.

– A couple of high-profile guys out: LB John Abraham, who has sat out almost every OTA so as to not overextend his aging body, reported for minicamp, “threw up a few times,” Arians said, and was sent home. The Cards hope to have him back Wednesday. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald worked out on the side with strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris to protect a hamstring that had been giving him some issues.

– Big praise from Arians about safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Justin Bethel. He even said Bethel could become the Cardinals’ best cornerback at some point given his skill set. We’ll see with Peterson there, but it’s nice to have the confidence of the head coach.

– Who emerges as the starters at right tackle, right guard and tight end can only be determined when the pads go on, Arians reiterated, although he did say Bobby Massie has been “much better” with mental mistakes at right tackle.

– Arians said the reason the Cardinals tried out vet RT Tyson Clabo is because the team is going to look at available bodies, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they would sign someone with the sole reason to be the starter.

– Asked to assess what he had seen out of newly signed linebacker Ernie Sims, Arians had a five-second or so pause before saying “OK. OK.” A ringing endorsement it was not.

– The Cardinals have two more days of minicamp before the veterans are released until training camp.

MinicampBlogShotUSE


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Making 2014 a Housler of Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on June 6, 2014 – 12:19 pm

Robby, Bruce Arians said, has had a “fantastic” offseason so far. And that’s at least a start.

Where Rob Housler goes from there, we’ll see. It seems that Housler’s “make-or-break” year, or “year to make a leap” has been every year except his first. The Cardinals are still waiting, and now the reality of the NFL means time grows short. Housler is in the last year of his rookie contract. The Cardinals signed John Carlson (who has looked very good so far), brought Jake Ballard back to health and drafted Troy Niklas. Even, at least in the heat of OTAs, Darren Fells has looked the part. Arians has called his tight ends group “an NFL room right now” and they all certainly look the part. Making this team — and getting playing time — won’t be simple.

Housler, to start, needs to stay on the field. He knows that. He’s battled that since he got into the league, and his ankle injury that derailed him in training camp and then into the regular season last year did not help. Just as things picked up midway through the season he dealt with a missed game with a bad groin. He still had 39 catches and a career-high 454 yards. He still looks like that tight end who could be such a major mismatch/threat down the middle. No, he’s not the blocker that perhaps Arians wants at the position, but he still can bring much to an offense.

With his contract coming up, the motivation will never be greater. Given how the offense runs, Housler’s never going to be a 70-catch guy. Not here. But he can be more than he has been. Arians feels confident with the guys he has at the position now, and seeing how Housler fits into the puzzle — and how that impacts him beyond 2014 — is one of the more intriguing parts of this season.

HosuseUSE

 


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The black stripes are not a band

Posted by Darren Urban on June 3, 2014 – 7:32 am

Those looking at the photos from yesterday’s OTA or the video seemed to notice the black stripe on the Cardinals’ helmets. OK, it wasn’t on all their helmets. It was only on the helmet of the quarterbacks. That alone should give you a hint that it was something else besides some interesting new tweak to the team’s headgear. So no, the Cardinals aren’t going for a new look (although it is kind of catchy, no?)

In fact, it’s a simple way for the coaching staff to have an easier time to see what way the quarterback’s eyes are pointed when watching some of the videoed-from-high-above practice footage every day. The shots that include all 22 players on the field can make everyone look a little small on the screen. This is just another tool to make sure Bruce Arians, assistant head coach Tom Moore, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens have all the information they can in their work with the QBs.

BlackStripeBlog


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