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One guess at the 53

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2014 – 4:25 pm

The Cardinals have 75 on the roster now. By Saturday at 1 p.m. Arizona time, they must be down to 53. As always, we have a caveat whenever talking about that initial 53-man roster. I would be surprised if the Cardinals don’t claim at least one guy from waivers. Veterans don’t have guaranteed contracts if they are not on the Week 1 roster, so sometimes that’s a factor. If anything, GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians have shown many times the roster is a living, breathing thing subject to change at any and all times. That was apparent again today when the team signed Tommy Kelly, and news broke veteran James Harrison was going to visit. I can’t see Kelly signing and then being cut Saturday, but you never know.

Plus, the final preseason game can have some bearing on a couple of roster spots (Arians said it’d be about five.) And that doesn’t even include any potential injuries that could affect a guy who was going to make the team.

All that must be taken into account as I make my prediction at the 53-man roster (assuming no waiver claims, which I have already assumed will happen, so …):

QB (3): Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas. Ryan Lindley getting cut made this obvious, although it had been obvious for a while.

RB (4): Andre Ellington, Jonathan Dwyer, Stepfan Taylor, Robert Hughes. Jalen Parmele has been good on special teams, but I don’t see it. I could see the Cardinals searching for a back with some speed for the practice squad.

WR (6): Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown, Jaron Brown, Ted Ginn, Walt Powell. Powell has played well enough that I don’t think they can sneak him on to the practice squad. I thought Brittan Golden had a pretty good camp too. He is practice-squad eligible, though.

TE (4): John Carlson, Rob Housler, Troy Niklas, Darren Fells. I could see Andre Hardy sticking on the practice squad too.

OL (8): Jared Veldheer, Ted Larsen, Lyle Sendlein, Paul Fanaika, Bobby Massie, Jonathan Cooper, Bradley Sowell, Earl Watford. This one is a tough one and the play of Sowell and Nate Potter in the finale could go a long way in making a decision on the backup tackle. I am also guessing that Watford, despite not being able to take hold of an available starting job for two straight years, gets another year. This is also one of those spots I’d think is vulnerable to a waiver claim.

DL (7): Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Frostee Rucker, Kareem Martin, Ed Stinson, Alameda Ta’amu, Tommy Kelly. This is one of those places that is tenuous. Kelly’s addition — he is with the team in San Diego, so does he play tomorrow? — adds another intriguing question. I’d guess a final spot will go to either him or Isaac Sopoaga. Can rookie Bruce Gaston make a push or is he practice-squad bound? The Cards are still seeking depth here, wherever they can find it.

OLB (5): Sam Acho, Matt Shaughnessy, John Abraham, Alex Okafor, Marcus Benard.
ILB (4): Kevin Minter, Larry Foote, Kenny Demens, Lorenzo Alexander. These two spots need to be seen in total, and nowhere else was more difficult to sort through. Alexander, I think, is one of those guys who survives because of his special teams work. Marcus Benard has pass-rushing skills that this team could use, but obviously, this leaves Desmond Bishop out. I’d think Thursday night’s game will be important for him. (UDFA Glenn Carson would be a practice-squad candidate). One thing I can’t get out of my head is Arians talking about keeping players at positions that are hard to replace if injuries hit. The Cards may want to stay deep at linebacker given the injury situation. None of this allows for a signing of James Harrison, of course, if that were to happen. This is the position I am least sure about.

CB (5): Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Bryan McCann. I would think the final spot comes down to McCann or Teddy Williams. Williams seemed like a lock to me with his size and special teams ability, but McCann is pretty good on special teams too and Williams has had his ups and downs as a cornerback. Thursday night would seem to be a big game for both.

S (4): Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Deone Bucannon, Tyrann Mathieu. This is assuming Mathieu is close to contributing soon, but even if he isn’t, the Cardinals have a nice trio as Bucannon grows into this role.

Specialists (3): K Chandler Catanzaro, P Dave Zastudil, LS Mike Leach. Pretty straightforward. The Cardinals haven’t come out and said Catanzaro is guaranteed to stick around all season, but I’d think he’ll have his shot to prove himself in games that count.

53blogUSE

 


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Short practice and successful Dockett surgery

Posted by Darren Urban on August 26, 2014 – 2:21 pm

The short practice week got even shorter Tuesday when coach Bruce Arians,citing the humidity during the outside workout, ended practice about 40 minutes early. Arians also noted how few players he had practicing, which goes more toward the players who won’t be playing Thursday rather than too many injuries. In fact, Arians said there was no change on that front. He did say he broke out the two fields of work for the first time since OTAs, allowing some of the starters who don’t figure to play to get some skeleton work done while the rest of the team prepped for the Chargers, Part I.

– Arians’ update on the players who have been injured: LB Kevin Minter is ready to play. NT Alameda Ta’amu looks like he will play, as does guard Jonathan Cooper. S Tyrann Mathieu remains day-to-day and a game-day decision Thursday. As promised, Mathieu’s playing status will be mostly up to him and how he feels about playing. If those guys play, Arians figures it will be about 20 to 25 plays.

– The surgery for DT Darnell Dockett went well, Arians said. Dockett remains in Alabama, where Dr. James Andrews did the work, and will be there abut five days, Arians said. It was a “clean” ACL injury — no ancillary damage — and Arians said Dockett was doing well after trading texts. “He is in really good spirits, anxious to get back,” Arians said.

Arians’ plan to have Dockett on the sidelines for games echoes his 2012 season in Indianapolis, when he also had a player injured for the season in November who still was on the sideline every game and traveled with the team. That guy? Cornerback Jerraud Powers, now a Cardinal.

– Arians did not specify who the Cardinals were having in for a tryout Tuesday (although it’s been reported that it will be defensive lineman Tommy Kelly) but he acknowledged there would be one. That workout had not happened yet, Arians said, because of “flight problems.” It was expected to take place later in the day.

– Interesting to see the Seahawks have lost two minicamp practices in 2015 for violating the CBA with their 2014 offseason work.


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No starters Thursday; Mathieu watch continues

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2014 – 1:19 pm

Some quick post-cut comments and thoughts from Bruce Arians as the Cardinals prepare to head out to practice:

– Just the normal bumps and bruises coming out of the Bengals game.

– After watching the video, Arians wasn’t as disappointed with the pass rush but believes it needs to become more effective.

– LB Kevin Minter and G Jonathan Cooper will practice today. Minter expects to play Thursday and be ready for the regular-season opener.

– No big surprises on the cuts rationale. Chandler Catanzaro just has a stronger leg than Feely. Arians wanted to let Feely and QB Ryan Lindley have a chance to hook on elsewhere as long as the decision here was already made.

– Arians did not rule out bringing T Max Starks back somewhere down the road if needed — and if he remains available.

– The starters will not play in the preseason finale. Logan Thomas will start at quarterback at play the whole game.

– DT Darnell Dockett had his surgery today to repair his torn ACL. Dr. James Andrews was expected to do the surgery.

– Arians said the only way Tyrann Mathieu will play in the regular-season opener is if he plays some Thursday. Mathieu wouldn’t say he’ll be in there for sure but said there is a “great possibility” he will play in San Diego.


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Friday before the Bengals, as camp ends

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2014 – 4:25 pm

As cuts approach – down to 75 by Tuesday, down to 53 by next Saturday – it’s getting a lot clearer who will likely be around for the Cardinals. (I will have a post on my predicted 53 next week.)

But coach Bruce Arians made a great point Friday about the last few spots on that 53-man roster, and what the decisions can be based upon.

“It’s going to be hard. It’s going to come down to positions of strength and we have about four or five positions of strength,” Arians said. “You always have to measure those last five guys and what is harder to find if another injury occurs.”

The injury component is important. Maybe keeping an extra defensive lineman makes sense if you are already thin. I’d think that definitely could come into play at inside linebacker with Kevin Minter’s situation. It’s hard enough finding guys sitting around to fill in there. Maybe less so on the offensive line. We shall see.

– Arians said there are still players that could stave off getting cut Sunday through their play, especially if they shine on special teams. If you are looking for hints of who will make it through to at least the final preseason games, look for the players that flash in the “transition game,” as Ron Wolfley likes to call it.

– Not that Jaron Brown’s place on this team has been in much doubt after an impressive training camp and preseason, but this was General Manager Steve Keim’s comment about Brown on this week’s edition of the “Big Red Rage” radio show: “He may be one of the most improved players from year to year I’ve seen in my NFL career.”

Brown simply didn’t get the reps in college playing behind future first-rounders Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. He’s gotten that work now.

– I don’t know how much time linebacker John Abraham might play Sunday, if at all, but there is clearly little concern from either Abraham or the coaches that the veteran will be ready for the regular season. There is still a lot of talk about him getting into shape, and it lead to a funny exchange when Abraham was asked about his current weight.

“I didn’t check,” Abraham said. “I’ll let you know, though. Some time next year.”

Seriously, though Abraham said weight has never been an issue in his career and he doesn’t think it will be now.

– Arians has been happy with the progress of rookie defensive lineman Ed Stinson. Stinson isn’t someone who is going to fill up your notebook when you talk to him, but “of course when the head coach brings your name up in anything you are happy,” he said. “I just want to make sure I put my 100 percent effort in and show what I’ve got.”

– Keim said safety Tyrann Mathieu has been fully cleared and essentially, it will be up to Mathieu to decide when he can play in games again. “We’re not going to press him,” Keim said.

– Keim reiterated he thinks guard Jonathan Cooper, somewhere down the road, is going to be “fine” and he is reveling in the fact that neither tackle position has been a constant source of chatter this camp. That’s a nod to Jared Veldheer and Bobby Massie.

“It’s been refreshing,” Keim said. “They don’t talk about the right or the left side. Both have had very good camps.”

– If you are going to the game Sunday (or any home game for that matter), don’t forget about the NFL bag policy instituted last year. Click here for more info.

– Arians acknowledged “I would be surprised” if an NFC West team was not the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. Asked if he expected an NFC West team to win the Super Bowl, Arians didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”

– Arians, as he opened his final press conference of training camp: “I know you guys are really upset of this being the last day here,” Arians said.

Then B.A. referenced the next practice-day presser, which will come at the team’s Tempe facility. If you recall, construction there means the famous “interview tree” is no more. “The biggest thing, I don’t want to see any tears when we don’t meet underneath that tree next week,” Arians said.

Camp is over. Bring on the Bengals.

FridatBeforePicuse


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Bowles analyzes where his defense stands

Posted by Darren Urban on August 21, 2014 – 7:30 pm

Earlier in the day, Bruce Arians said the Cardinals’ defense is better now than it was this time last year. Perhaps. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, speaking Thursday afternoon, simply said that in the wake of the Darnell Dockett injury, the unit simply has to adjust.

“It doesn’t impact what you want to do but it impacts who you want to do it with,” Bowles said. “Injuries happen in this league every year. No one is feeling sorry for us, not Darnell, not us or anyone else. It truly is next man up. You’ve got to prepare for injuries. That’s what you have depth for. Unfortunately, when it’s a star player, you make more of a big deal about it than if it is a practice squad player, and rightly so. We’ll just have to be aggressive in different areas.”

Bowles said he wasn’t worried about leadership because the defense has plenty of guys who can fill the role — “Dock was more vocal but (away) from cameras there are a lot of guys that are more vocal,” he said — and is reserving judgment on other pieces of the defense. Desmond Bishop will get a chance to show what he can do within the scheme against Cincinnati and we will see if Bishop can stick around and be a factor at inside linebacker. Linebacker John Abraham has looked “decent” in his first couple of practices, Bowles said.

As for rookie defensive linemen Ed Stinson and Kareem Martin, Bowles isn’t going overboard.

“You can’t make that much progress as a rookie in two-and-a-half weeks,” Bowles said. “But the smarts are there, the know-how is there. The rookies can only gain experience by playing in real games and playing in preseason games. So far, they have progressed little by little.”

– S Tyrann Mathieu moved into 11-on-11 work in his second day back at practice, as did DT Alameda Ta’amu. Mathieu was only working with the scout team and hitting was limited all the way around, but Mathieu did get shoulder knockdowns on wide receiver Ted Ginn and running back Andre Ellington after receptions.


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Cooper’s angry toe, and B.A.’s thoughts

Posted by Darren Urban on August 21, 2014 – 12:27 pm

The same three players will miss practice again Thursday with injuries — Kevin Minter (pectoral), Max Starks (ankle) and Jonathan Cooper (toe). And Cooper knows everyone is waiting on him to get back and start showing what made him a No. 1 draft pick. His turf toe is not cooperating.

“It’s getting better each day, but it hasn’t gotten to the point where I feel I can be effective and really evaluated fairly,” Cooper said.

Sometimes, Cooper admits, he can play up on his toes, which technically is not correct. But until he breaks that habit it’s a factor given that the toe injury makes it very difficult to push off. Ted Larsen will start at left guard for the Cardinals Sunday in the third preseason game, and at this point, Cooper is running out of time to make sure he’s the starting left guard when the regular season begins Sept. 8.

“It’s definitely been tough sitting out, especially coming off an injury that forced me to sit out so long,” Cooper said. “I just have to understand it’s part of my personal process. As long as I come back ready to play, everything will be OK.”

– Coach Bruce Arians said he wasn’t happy with the intensity of Wednesday’s practice, and it bothered him since the 2013 Cardinals had issues early in the season with having mediocre practices on Wednesday following the normal Tuesday off day — like the Cards had this week.

“We are going to try and nip that in the bud,” Arians said. “Just pointing out the trends to them that we do not want to set.”

– Arians knows new defensive lineman Ryan McBean because he was coaching with the Steelers when McBean was drafted there. But he reserved big praise for the other new defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a guy take a physical, sign a contract, get dressed, takes reps with the first-team defense and tell them what they were doing,” Arians said of Sopoaga’s Wednesday debut. “It was a real good start for him. He brings a lot of energy and professionalism.”

– The starters will play no more than a half Sunday, Arians reiterated, and “hopefully less than a half if we are playing really well.”

– The Cards will not fill their open two roster spots since the team has to shave the roster down to 75 Tuesday anyway, Arians said.

– Finally, there was this interesting comment about the defense: “I think we are better than we were last year right now at this time,” Arians said. “This defense is better than that one, even without Darnell.” Now, the Cardinals defense got better as the season went along, and didn’t have Daryl Washington for the first four games either. Last year’s defense was still learning what Todd Bowles wanted. But Arians definitely can’t be faulted for having confidence in his team.


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Arians wants Dockett on sideline for games

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2014 – 12:32 pm

Bruce Arians said he wants Darnell Dockett to get his surgery as soon as possible and get him back to the Cardinals rehabbing, because the defensive tackle will remain a big part of the team even though he cannot play.

“I plan on having him on the sidelines all year long because of his spirit and leadership,” Arians said. “It’s something we need and don’t want to lose.

“Injuries, they happen. It’s terrible for him, a great opportunity for somebody else. Frostee (Rucker) will step into that role, the young guys will step up and we’ll keep moving on like we always do. One injury is not going to change who we are and what we do.”

Arians called Dockett’s history of health — he played in 158 of 160 possible regular-season games in his first 10 seasons, plus all six postseason games — “unbelievable.”

“It just shows how hard he trains and keeps himself in top physical condition all the time,” Arians said. “Unfortuantely, it was one of those non-contact deals. You put your foot in the ground and it’s over.”

– Arians said everyone will be back at practice today save for linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral), guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) and tackle Max Starks (ankle).

– That means center Lyle Sendlein will return after missing much of camp with a calf injury. That moves Ted Larsen out to left guard, and Arians confirmed Larsen will start at left guard Sunday night against the Bengals.

– S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Alameda Ta’amu will only do individual drills today in their first practice after coming off the PUP lists following major knee rehabs. They will work their way into practice slowly. Arians said whether one or both play in the regular-season opener will be up to their progress on the field, but clearly, both are aiming to play against the Chargers in that Monday night game.

“I want to earn my way on the field,” Mathieu said. “I don’t want anyone to give it to me.” Mathieu said he will wear a brace.

– Arians said Jay Feely will kick in the first half against the Bengals and Chandler Catanzaro will kick in the second half.


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Beware — B.A. noticing the training room

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 2:06 pm

The question was about how well Ted Larsen was playing on the offensive line, and Bruce Arians used it as a jumping-off point to mention that Larsen, when Lyle Sendlein came back this week, would have a “good chance” to be the starting left guard. That, of course, raised eyebrows given that Jonathan Cooper plays left guard. So someone asked, “What about Cooper?”

“He’s in the training room,” Arians replied. “He can’t do anything.”

Later, Arians was talking about Jaron Brown when he mentioned “he’s playing better than some of our starters. There are some guys who need to get out of the training room.”

And just like that, shots across the bow. It’s that time of camp when nerves are frayed and games that count are what everyone is looking forward to seeing. But now the head coach has clearly noticed guys who aren’t able to practice, and if you aren’t practicing, it’s hard not to notice. Some context here: For instance, the two receivers that have been sidelined are Michael Floyd and Ted Ginn and both guys are going to be on this roster. Ginn actually played in Saturday’s game. He’s your return man at the very least, and Floyd is Floyd. But there is little question Arians wants his guys back on the field (and if you remember, Arians has pushed Floyd to get back to practice before.)

In Coop’s case, this could be a goose to get him back, or maybe Larsen is doing well enough to usurp his spot. There is no question the Cardinals want the Cooper who was explosive and athletic in training camp last year, before he broke his leg. He is the long-term vision. But he’s got to show he deserves to be out there, and he can’t do that until he’s out there in the first place. He remains sidelined with his turf toe injury.

“Unfortunately you can’t make the team in the training room,” Floyd said, and making the team isn’t necessarily the problem for some.

Floyd is supposed to practice Wednesday, Arians said. Said Floyd with a smile, “What he says goes.”

– Arians said the starters will play no more than a half against Cincinnati Sunday night. Drew Stanton will play behind Carson Palmer and “we’ll see” if other quarterbacks are used.

– The hope is that LB John Abraham will practice at least some this week. Arians was pleased with the jump-in-with-no-practice performance for new ILB Desmond Bishop, who played 15 plays. “Not as much rust as I thought.” You listen to Arians and Steve Keim and you think Bishop has a good chance to make this team.


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The run game, the numbers, and what it means

Posted by Darren Urban on August 17, 2014 – 6:55 pm

Officially, 10 Cardinals had at least one rushing attempt against the Vikings Saturday, including two for no yards for Zach Bauman (because no, the crazy backward pass TD was ruled a fumble return on the official scoresheet.) On 34 attempts by those 10 players, the Cardinals amassed only 96 yards. Take out an eight-yard scramble by quarterback Carson Palmer and a 20-yard reverse by wide receiver Brittan Golden, and the numbers looked not so good.

But Bruce Arians has always looked at his running game a little different than his passing game. B.A. seems to go with a “I know it’s working when I see it” rather than leaning on statistics. For instance, the Golden run was a reverse that stuck in his head clearly, even after Golden gained his 20 yards. “The reverse that should have been a touchdown,” Arians said. “Our young tackle just stood there and didn’t block that last guy.” Indeed, Golden looks like he would have gone a lot further had tackle Kelvin Palmer decided to stay in front and get into safety Jamarca Sanford (who eventually got Golden out of bounds) instead of waiting to block defensive end Corey Wootton — who wasn’t going to catch Golden anyway.

Regardless, Arians noticed the negative runs. But he also noticed the 19-play TD drive to start the second half that featured 14 runs. “We challenged our offensive line to get physical, we’re going to run the football with Ryan (Lindley) in there and we did a really nice job,” Arians said. There were no finesse runs in the bunch. Every one stayed in the box or at least near the tackle. The gains weren’t great but the Cardinals imposed their will, which is obvious with any drive that takes more than 10 minutes. The Cardinals got a rushing touchdown on that drive and had one to open the game too.

“We ran the ball efficient,” said running back Jonathan Dwyer, who scored the first touchdown. “We read our keys well.”

“I thought there was some really quality pound-them runs,” Arians said.

The x-factor in the Cardinals’ running game will be Andre Ellington. He is hardly getting any work right now and he is without question the team’s best back. While I expect Stepfan Taylor and Robert Hughes to also have roles, Dwyer was the guy working after Ellington Saturday and he is the guy that, to me, has emerged as the top non-Ellington option. I also expect Dwyer to be the Cardinals’ goal-line back. The way the Cardinals built, and with an Arians offense, this team is going to be pass-first. That seems clear. Arians has shown very little concern about the running game at this point. I don’t see that changing.

“We know when we are running well,” Dwyer said. “We know when we are making positive yardage, the numbers will take care of itself.”

 

 


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Vikings (late) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2014 – 11:35 pm

It’s preseason, and rarely do things matter less in the NFL than a touchdown scored in the waning minutes of the second oreseason game. The reality is almost every player on the field at that point in the game won’t be in the NFL in a month.

In the grand scheme of things, Zach Bauman’s six-yard lateral run (?) of the loose ball batted backward by center John Estes was the play of Saturday night, right? It’s the kind of play that might’ve lived forever had it happened in a regular season game. It was fourth down, the Cardinals were going for it down three on the Minnesota 6-yard line because there is no way Bruce Arians was going to go to overtime in the preseason, and then Estes’ snap didn’t connect with quarterback Ryan Lindley. The ball rolled around. Estes, in the officials’ eyes, batted it backward, although oblong as it is, the ball took a turn toward the Vikings’ goal line, and Bauman scooped it up and improbably scored.

“Saw a play I haven’t seen in 22 years,” Arians said, before deadpanning, “that touchdown … that was designed.”

Even Lindley was willing to have fun with it.

“You know when we ran (at practice) and coach went off the field?” Lindley said, referring to the fight-induced punishment Thursday. “That’s really what we did, we got the defense some scout team reps, and we let it ride.”

For those wondering, here was the official comment from referee Craig Wrolstad:

“The ball was snapped, it was a backwards pass. The snap is considered the backwards pass. Any backwards pass can be advanced by any team, any direction, on any down. It wasn’t a fumble because the snap was never possessed by any of the players. The ball was snapped, it rolled around, it was knocked around a couple times, nobody ever had control of the ball. Nobody ever had control of the ball, so nobody ever had possession, so it was not a fumble.”

Wild. It worked out for Bauman too, clearly.

Some other quick thoughts before I try to actually get some sleep on this flight home:

– The Cardinals know they have to be better on special teams. This goes beyond who the kicker might be. The coverage wasn’t good – Arians said as much – and Lorenzo Alexander knows it needs to improve quickly.

“They probably have one of the premier return units in the league, but as a cover unit, we definitely have to step up and put our defense in better field positions, and also create turnovers,” Alexander said, adding “we still have a lot of moving parts, lot of young guys, but it’s no excuse. Special teams is about want-to, effort and heart.”

– The only injury Arians knew of was tackle Max Starks, who tweaked the same left ankle that has been giving him trouble.

– Newly signed linebacker Desmond Bishop wasn’t supposed to dress but he did and he played. He flashed a couple of times too. The veteran was a very good player before he had serious injuries the past two years. His progress bears watching.

– The starting defense did OK. I think they’d like to do better. I thought Calais Campbell was effective early, and I thought linebacker Larry Foote was too. That group is going to jump a level when DC Todd Bowles starts game-planning.

– It was too bad the crazy Bauman play didn’t win the game, but the third unit defenders didn’t have a good night. The Cardinals probably shouldn’t have been in the position late anyway, at least not how they got there. I thought the long pass interference drawn by receiver Kevin Ozier to set up the Cards’ final TD wasn’t a good call.

– The 19-play drive that scored a touchdown to open the third-quarter was a thing of beauty in terms of possession (and in terms of a preseason game and running the clock, but that’s me being selfish). It ate up 10:06 on the clock, and 14 of the plays were runs. No runs for more than seven yards and the Cards needed to convert a couple of fourth downs, but it was an exercise in being physical.

That’s enough for now.


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