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Arians: Doomsday hasn’t arrived

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2016 – 7:29 am

Bruce Arians watched his team Friday night. And he knows the Cardinals did not play well, especially offensively. But he said this week was like any other, noting that Carson Palmer has played only about 20 plays thus far — not even a half’s work most games.

Arians also knows there is concern out there from the fan base. He matter-of-factly said while that’s expected, maybe it shouldn’t be.

“Tendency is to ‘Woe is me,’ ” Arians said. “But when our starters have played 15 plays, 20 plays maybe, that’s not even a good half. We’ve had bad halves before and come back and won games. It’s not a doomsday situation by any stretch of the imagination.”

The game in Houston this week is going to be a better and more important barometer. But with all due respect to Denny Green, it still will not be the end-all, be-all as a foretelling of the regular season, whether the Cardinals play well or play poorly.

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Chargers aftermath, and Okafor

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2016 – 11:26 pm

The Cardinals got a lot good work in this week while practicing in San Diego. Bruce Arians said that, his players did too. But the end result didn’t feel all that good. The offense looked ugly, which really isn’t what you’d like to see at this point of camp (and things went pretty well in the first-unit’s one series in the preseason opener, so it’s not like they were bad a week ago).

But then you throw in the news that best case scenario, linebacker Alex Okafor would have to play the season with a torn biceps tendon, and that’s only if he decides not to have surgery. That’s a tough call. Okafor is going to be a free agent after the season. If he waits on surgery, he won’t be a full strength and he’ll have to have surgery right before signing with another team. Surgery now, and he’ll have no season in which to entice teams to sign him. He called it one of the most difficult decisions he’s made (and he had to make the same exact decision already, with Arians, when he was a rookie in 2013.)

Okafor suffered the injury in practice Tuesday night. We’ll see what his choice is and what it means. Okafor is/was the third linebacker to give relief to starters Chandler Jones and Markus Golden.

— Interesting that Arians said Jaron Brown is the best receiver the Cardinals have right now. Brown did make a pair of great grabs against the Chargers. One of the few bright spots.

— Larry Fitzgerald sat with a minor MCL sprain, Arians said. It isn’t serious.

— Deone Bucannon hammered wide receiver Dontrelle Inman early in the game, a clean hit (a penalty wasn’t called and the replays I’ve seen show a hard hit to the upper chest) that knocked Inman’s helmet off. Inman was checked for a concussion and cleared, but did not return.

“I’m a physical player,” Bucannon said. “That’s what it is and I like setting the tempo for the team and making plays within the rules of football. I love playing the game with passion.”

— Couldn’t tell exactly how D.J. Humphries did at right tackle, but frankly, there wasn’t anyone on offense (except maybe Jaron Brown) that will be able to be excited about how he played.

— Cornerback Brandon Williams gave up a 13-yard pass early, but held up better in my opinion. Overall, it seemed like a better performance.

— Arians, in his postgame radio interview: “You can’t play the game without passion, energy or brains and we didn’t have any of the three.”

One more week of training camp to go.

Dontrelle Inman, Deone Bucannon


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Thursday before the Chargers

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2016 – 2:26 pm

The work in San Diego is almost over. The Cardinals have their preseason game against the Chargers Friday night, and to be frank, the attention has shifted from what the team might do this week and to what Bruce Arians might do after his health issues. The reality is that offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin was already set to call plays, and Arians had joked previously that he doesn’t have much to do during a game in those cases anyway. Still, all eyes are going to be on B.A. That’s only natural.

— Because of Arians’ illness, there wasn’t much discussed about the how the game will play out in terms of snap distribution, but the first units will probably get a chunk of the first quarter you’d figure. It always depends on how they perform, but maybe two or three series, depending on the number of plays. I’d expect this game to be a lot more Drew Stanton at QB, as Carson Palmer’s big third preseason game looms and the fourth game likely will be all Matt Barkley and Jake Coker.

— Another big game for CB Brandon Williams. Also curious to see what veteran Mike Jenkins can do now that he’s back on the field, albeit with a cast.

— Another guy to watch is DT Corey Peters, who returns to a game for the first time since blowing out his Achilles after just one preseason game in 2015.

— Not only were there no fights during the two practices between the Cards and Chargers, no situation really ever came close as far as I could tell. Don’t know if it was because Arians and Chargers coach Mike McCoy made such a big deal about no fights or if the Arians situation changed how practice was approached. Question is, does Friday night get chippy at all?

— Arians has said there are four inside linebackers fighting for one spot, which includes Chargers castoff Donald Butler. But you figure the Cards are going to have Deone Bucannon and Kevin Minter in there. I’m guessing Chris Clemons, who has been working behind Bucannon, likely is in. So that would leave Butler vs. Alani Fua vs. Gabe Martin vs. Lamar Louis. So again, a battle to watch.

— One more week of training camp to go. Four more open practices.

ThursBeforeCharegers


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Arians goes to hospital for stomach pains

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2016 – 6:19 pm

The Cardinals are taking part in their practice in San Diego at Qualcomm Stadium, but their head coach isn’t with them. Soon after reaching the stadium, he started experiencing stomach pain and told the team’s medical staff. He was taken to a local hospital for evaluation. The Cards will provide more updates as they become available.

In the meantime, assistant head coach Tom Moore looked like he talked to the Cardinals some at the outset of practice against the Chargers, and then Chargers head coach Mike McCoy addressed both teams as a whole. The practice has gone on as planned.

UPDATE: Here is a story on Arians. There is optimism he will be OK.

UPDATE II: Arians was released from the hospital Wednesday morning and is resting at the team hotel in San Diego.


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No more PUP but still no Smoke, Nkemdiche

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2016 – 12:30 pm

The Cardinals are prepping for their night practice against the Chargers tonight and Bruce Arians delivered a bunch of injury updates, not the least of which the fact there are no more players on the physically unable to perform list. S Tyrann Mathieu, DT Frostee Rucker and CB Justin Bethel have all been put on the active roster, and while they will not practice yet — Arians said, as he did before, that they will only take part in walkthroughs and get mental reps — it’s a start.

Arians wouldn’t even say if all or some will be available Week 1 against the Patriots, although he did say Mathieu was “close.” They have to get to individual work before they even graduate to team practice.

— WR John “Smokey” Brown still has yet to be cleared after his concussion. At this point, Arians acknowledges it is a concern. The Cardinals will be smart about it, and Arians said Brown will likely sit out a couple extra days after he’s cleared just to be safe. Besides, Arians said, Brown will have to work his way back into shape anyway since he has been out so long.

— The hope is that rookie DT Robert Nkemdiche (ankle) will return to practice next week, Arians said.


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Long snapper battle and a Leach sighting

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2016 – 8:45 am

The Cardinals are still looking for their long snapper, although their former long snapper is still around — at least right now.

Mike Leach, who retired in the offseason, was at the Cardinals’ preseason opener Friday night and helped this week at practice the Cardinals’ pair of undrafted rookies who are trying to claim his vacant job — Kam Canaday and Daniel Dillon. Leach was around the team some during OTAs this offseason as well, and even though he and his family have moved back east in retirement, it says something about Leach that he wants to help the Cardinals in their quest to replace him.

“Having him there … coaches will tell (players) something but when you have a guy who’s done it for 16 years, they listen a little better,” coach Bruce Arians said.

Canaday and Dillon — roomates and now close friends — will get the balance of the preseason to earn the job over the other. There was nothing remarkable about either’s work in the Raiders game, which for a long snapper is a good thing. If you don’t notice them, they are doing the job.

“It’s a heck of a battle,” Arians said. “(I will) feel very comfortable with one of them.”

 

LeachCoachUSE


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Goodwin to call plays Friday, and the “out” list

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2016 – 12:41 pm

Every preseason, Bruce Arians — who is the Cardinals’ playcaller and has been and always will be, as long as he’s coaching — turns the reins over to offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin to call plays. It’s to get Goodwin experience in the area, as Arians tries to prep him for a future head coaching job. This preseason, Goodwin will call plays (and gameplan, such that it is in the preseason) in three of the four games. The only one Arians will take is the third one, of course, the “most important” of the preseason games.

So what will that make Arians Friday night?

“Bored,” he deadpanned.

Arians loves to call plays. “That’s the fun in coaching for me,” he said. But he’s committed to helping coaches — in this case, Goodwin — grow. Exactly what will Arians do on the sideline? “Deciding if we are going for it on fourth,” Arians said. “Or go for two. Tough job. Someone has to do it.”

Arians also acknowledged it’ll free him up to bark at the officials too. But that’s something Arians is never going to give up.

UPDATE: Goody weighed in. “I love him for it,” said Goodwin, who also called the plays in three of the four preseason games in 2015. “He’s been a mentor for me since 2007, back in Pittsburgh. He’s always put me in a position to learn and grow as a coach. For him to do this for me is special. Tells me he thinks a lot of me, and I don’t ever want to disappoint him.”

Goodwin said he’s learned his lesson about taking shots down the field as a play caller as well. “The first time I called plays a couple years back, the halftime speech he gave me, it wasn’t very nice,” Goodwin said. “It was still professional, but he said ‘You’ve got to call more shots.’ ”

— The list of players officially not playing Friday against the Raiders because of injuries: Everyone on the PUP list, of course, plus CB Asa Jackson, CB Mike Jenkins, WR Smokey Brown, OL Earl Watford, OL Taylor Boggs, DT Corey Peters, LB Alani Fua, DT Robert Nkemdiche and WR Brittan Golden, who hurt his hamstring Tuesday.

Arians said CB Cariel Brooks, WR Jaxon Shipley and DT Olsen Pierre are all questionable right now. The Cards are hurting at receiver and cornerback, but “it’s a great opportunity for the ones that are out there,” Arians said.

— Watford is on crutches after hurting his knee, but Arians estimated he’d only be out a couple of weeks. Even if it’s a little longer, the good news is that Watford isn’t seriously hurt. He’s become important, as a guy who can legitimately play all five spots, as the top backup offensive lineman.

“His value is sometimes higher than a starter,” Arians said.

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Arians: Practice got sloppy (and Niklas’ name)

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2016 – 12:23 pm

It’s that time of camp, Bruce Arians said.

It’s that time when players get a little bored, and no matter what the warning from the top, it shows up on the field. So Arians was irritated with the Cardinals’ practice Monday after a Sunday off.

“It hits you right in the face when you put the sheet up there and there are 18 penalties and 45 mental errors,” Arians said, noting that there were “some veteran Pro Bowlers who had five mental errors.”

Arians was confident the Cards would respond well later Tuesday, but lamented the fact Monday’s was practice time the Cards won’t be able to get back.

“I’m disappointed with leadership of the team, because that’s their job,” Arians said.

— WR J.J. Nelson (groin) is returning to practice, but Swiss Army knife OL Earl Watford is out after bruising his knee Monday (it actually looked like it could have been worse, although Watford didn’t miss a play) and CB Cariel Brooks (quad) is also out for now.

— Arians thinks WR Smokey Brown (concussion) will be cleared in the next day or two, but the coach ruled Brown out from playing Friday night.

— There is a chance DBs Tyrann Mathieu and Justin Bethel could come off PUP next week. But Arians said if they are not ready to take part in the two practices against the Chargers, the team will probably hold off.

— Current frontrunner for quote of camp: Arians said TE Troy Niklas has been playing well, playing like the guy the Cards drafted in the second round in 2014. About this, Niklas was happy. Always good to hear the boss is pleased. “He gets my name confused with dumb mother(expletive) a lot,” Niklas said with a smile.


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Veldheer restructure would help cap space

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2016 – 9:01 am

The Cardinals have been tight up against the salary cap — overthecap.com estimates they have (had?) only about $2.2 million in space, the NFLPA puts the number around $3.4 million — and usually at this time of year, GM Steve Keim likes to have more wiggle room than this. That’s partly to account for unknowns (IR players, needing to sign veteran help) and for potential other plans (like a contract extension.)

That’s why it was interesting but not altogether shocking to see the Field Yates tweet this morning saying the team had converted $6M of left tackle Jared Veldheer’s $7.25M salary into a signing bonus. It would be an immediate win-win. Veldheer gets his money now instead of in 17 installments over the season, the Cardinals create $4M more of salary cap room (although they push some of Veldheer’s cap hit into future years, so there is a down side.)

It becomes a little more interesting after Bruce Arians’ comment on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday that the Cardinals are hoping to have another three or four extensions done at some point. That may be overly optimistic, but we will see — the Cards certainly have a laundry list of players who are up after the season. The Cards also might want to add a vet for depth on the offensive line too, although in my opinion D.J. Humphries is progressing just fine at right tackle. But the final decisions at center and right tackle remain up in the air for now.

There’s another point to be made about extensions too, and that’s any bigger one probably could lower the current salary cap number for a particular player, say a Chandler Jones (who I would guess be next of the big names the Cards would want to try and lock up) or a Michael Floyd or Calais Campbell. Their cap numbers for this year, respectively, are $7.8M, $7.3M and $15.25M. The recent Palmer and Fitzgerald extensions didn’t impact the cap. Those moves were about gaining roster certainty for 2017.

In any event, Keim now would have some room to do any number of things as the Cards set up for what they hope is a deep run this season.

CapSpace


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Analyzing the Fitz and Palmer deals

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2016 – 12:57 pm

The news that both Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald received one-year extensions was certainly noteworthy, especially when it comes to Fitzgerald. Yes, Fitz could still decide to walk away after the season and retire. But I don’t think that’s likely now that he’s agreed to another year. No longer will he be a free agent, and I just don’t see him choosing to walk away. I could be wrong — and if the Cardinals were to win a Super Bowl, I’d guess the temptation would be there — but if Fitz comes anywhere close to posting similar numbers as last year while the team can win, I’d guess he fulfills the 2017 portion of his deal.

— As for Palmer, Bruce Arians was blunt: “I don’t think anything changes other than he’s got another year.” Palmer was going to be around.

— Kent Somers reported the move doesn’t have an impact on the salary cap. Which again would revert back to the roster certainty the Cards get out of these moves as a reason to do them.

— What it does do with both is create a roster certainty for next season, important on a team that still has a number of key free agents-to-be. Michael Floyd will be a free agent and figures to command big dollars. If the Cardinals lose him, at least they know they (probably) still have Fitz to anchor the receiving corps.

— Arians also said Palmer’s deal doesn’t impact the search for a QB of the future. “It depends on who the hell is out there,” Arians said. “Who is it? If he’s there, we’ll take it. If he’s not there, we don’t need him.”

— Big props to Mike Disner (pictured below with GM Steve Keim), the team’s director of football administration who is the main contract negotiator. It was a big week for him, getting the the Tyrann Mathieu extension done and then the Fitz and Palmer deals. Maybe he can get some down time now.

PalmerFitzBlog


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