It’s been clear from the day the Cardinals acquired Carson Palmer that Bruce Arians was high on his abilities — I mean, why wouldn’t he be? — but that was reiterated during an ESPN interview this weekend when Arians was talking about his veteran QB.
“What he did last year with the Raiders, in a crazy situation, I thought was very, very impressive,” Arians said.
Let’s recap what Palmer did: In 15 games, he threw for 4,018 yards, 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and completed 61 percent of his passes. The Raiders still went 4-12. There is a lot that goes into all that. Those statistics may not have come in a lot of victories, but they still are impressive — especially the TD-to-INT ratio for a player who was forced to throw a lot because the team was behind. His top wide receiver was Denairus Moore (don’t feel bad if you have not heard of him.) The top pass catcher was tight end Brandon Myers, who had 79 catches for 806 yards. The first thought when you look at his receiving corps is that it was impressive to reach 4,000 yards without a top go-to type of threat.
Does Palmer have better receivers in Arizona? Certainly. Larry Fitzgerald alone changes the equation, Andre Roberts was pretty good last year and as I have noted before, it looks like Michael Floyd has made a big leap — at least at this point in the offseason — from Year One to Year Two. The Cards have to show they have a decent tight end threat (this is a crucial year for Rob Housler; if he can’t break out now with this QB and this offensive scheme, he may never) but Palmer will help.
What does that mean for Palmer himself? Well, he’s playing in a much more difficult division than last season. He’ll have to up his game to match his numbers. But if he stays healthy — and assuming the offensive line makes strides forward, as everyone is expecting right now — that can happen. Regardless, look at the numbers last year from the Cards’ QBs, which were ugly to say the least: 3,383 yards, 11 TDs, 21 INT, 55 percent completions. It figures to be much, much better. That alone I’d think would give fans a certain modicum of relief.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Raiders, Rob Housler
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As I was walking out to take some pictures at today’s OTA with special teams work going on at the outset, I noticed Larry Fitzgerald spending some time with assistant head coach/offensive guru Tom Moore and snapped off a photo:
They spoke for about 10 minutes. That’s no surprise. Fitz is learning about this offense like anyone else. But what I have noticed is that it is Moore spending most of his time with the younger players. It was noted Tuesday that Bruce Arians is splitting the OTAs into two simultaneous practices, so that the vets can get in the reps they need but the rookies also get a chance to get more reps than they normally would. (That’s a benefit of having a big coaching staff.)
Everyone knows Arians is going to call plays. He’s the one running the offensive show with the vets. But then Moore, with his years of knowledge and ability to teach — that was made clear by Arians from the start — is on the second field, getting key points across to players who are just learning the NFL game. It’s a extra benefit with the way this staff is constructed. Will it speed up the learning process for the young guys on offense? That remains to be seen, but it makes sense. With a coach in Arians who likes to use young players, you can certainly see it working out that way.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Larry Fitzgerald, Tom Moore
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The Cardinals began OTAs today and coach Bruce Arians tried something new with his 90-man roster: A dual practice. For a good chunk of the time on the field, the main first- and second-units worked on the front field, while the younger players — including almost every rookie — went to the second field with a mirror type of workout.
“We wanted to make sure we maximized the opportunities our rookies got, to get repetitions,” Arians said. “You can’t find a diamond in the rough if he’s standing on the sideline watching. You can find one if he’s out there working. That’s our goal. Get every single guy here an opportunity to make the ballclub.”
Arians said he’s never seen it done in his time in the NFL. Usually there aren’t enough players. “Our offensive tackles got a good workout,” Arians said. “There’s only four of them.” (That’s Nate Potter, Bobby Massie, Jamaal Johnson-Webb and Paul Fanaika today. Levi Brown was limited in his rehab and UDFA Joe Caprioglio isn’t here yet because Colorado State hasn’t finished up the spring semester.)
– Arians noted the full participation and thanked his players for the voluntary work. That included Daryl Washington (who has been here the whole time, not that it is new). Washington did address the media. Here is the story right here.
– Karlos Dansby was running with the first unit with Jasper Brinkley at inside linebacker. Washington was with Kevin Minter with the second unit. That was tough not to notice. We’ll see how it progresses as we go. Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho are working as the first-unit outside linebackers. Jerraud Powers continues to work first unit at cornerback with Patrick Peterson.
– Jonathan Cooper was running second-team left guard behind Chilo Rachal. All the other draftees — save for Ryan Swope, who was pulled up after LaRon Byrd had a neck spasm — were working in the second practice.
– It was weird seeing Dansby wearing No. 55. It was more weird seeing him in Miami Dolphin blue cleats. I’m sure that’ll be fixed soon. “I told him he could have my red shoes tomorrow,” Arians said. “He looked good. He looked spry.”
Tags: Bobby Massie, Bruce Arians, Chilo Rachal, Daryl Washington, Jamaal Johnson-Webb, Jasper Brinkley, Jerraud Powers, Joe Caprioglio, Jonathan Cooper, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Levi Brown, Nate Potter, OTAs, Paul Fanaika, Ryan Swope
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It was Bruce Arians’ introductory press conference when he first talked about his offense and how he wants to take shots down the field. That’s how he rolled in Pittsburgh, how the Colts played last year and how the Cards will do it now, because as Arians sees it, yards in big chunks helps a lot. Certainly, it’s something the Cards could use more of after 2012. It’s a big reason the club picked Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope, because he showed off some big-time speed at the Scouting combine, running a sub-4.4 40.
(Although the scouting reports wonder if Swope’s 40 times can translate on the field or if he is better suited for a quick slot game. Swope, speaking after he was picked, about being a deep threat: “I see that instantly.” He also said his speed is real: “A lot of people had me as just a possession receiver coming in.”)
If Swope can help stretch the field, that would be a big deal. But the Cardinals have gotten deep prior to last season with their other wideouts. Don’t forget Larry Fitzgerald had a sparkling and career-best 17.6 yards per catch in 2011, when John Skelton/Kevin Kolb weren’t as errant getting him the ball as last season. Fitz’s YPC got crushed in part last year because it seemed the team worked so hard to get him the ball on short stuff just so it’d be complete that he didn’t gain many yards. The longest pass play of the season was a 53-yarder to Michael Floyd in the finale, and that featured a lackluster tackling effort made (as you can see on the video below.) The Cards only had nine pass plays of at least 30 yards last season.
Floyd led the team with 12.5 yards a catch, and that was boosted from 10.7 only after his eight-catches-for-166-yards in the last game of the season. Fitz, in what was his most frustrating season as a pro, was at 11.2 (71 catches for 798 yards, ugh) and Andre Roberts was 11.9 (64 for 759).
There should be more accurate throws downfield from Carson Palmer this season. There should be better protection up front to actually allow the quarterback time to chuck it downfield this season. And there is no question there will be plays called to do it too, whether it’s to Swope, Fitz, Roberts or Floyd. Or someone else. The Cardinals need those kind of big plays.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Carson Palmer, Bruce Arians, Michael Floyd, Ryan Swope
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It didn’t take long before Bruce Arians made it known he was going to be comfortable playing young players after doing it last season in Indianapolis. Then, as March played out, the Cardinals either didn’t bring back older players who were free agents and released others who were on the wrong side of 30. Now, with the offseason roster nearly set, the numbers emphasize just how much younger General Manager Steve Keim has made his team.
The team’s 53-man roster by the end of last season — and that means younger players were on it in place of IR’d vets like Levi Brown, Kevin Kolb and Lyle Sendlein — had an average age of 29.7 years. The Cardinals’ current extended offseason roster (subtracting the 16 long-shot undrafted rookies who would obviously bring down the average age by their sheer numbers) features an average age of 25.8 years.
The Cards had 12 players 30 and older on their final 53. As of today, they have eight: Carson Palmer (33), Yeremiah Bell (35, pictured below), Daryn Colledge (31), Darnell Dockett (31), Jeff King (30), Jay Feely (36), Mike Leach (36) and Dave Zastudil (34). Take out those three specialists and the Cardinals’ current average age is 25.4.
The age could rise depending on how the roster is shaped going into the season, because of those 30-year-olds, I don’t right now see any of them being let go. But while Keim’s overhaul was in part about clearing salary cap room this offseason, it was also about an infusion of youth after a Ken Whisenhunt era that relied heavily on veterans.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Dave Zastudil, Jay Feely, Jeff King, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Roster, Steve Keim, Yeremiah Bell
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Ryan Williams smiled. He had just met Jonathan Cooper for the first time and as he sat on his stool in front of his locker, he couldn’t help but grin.
“Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about,” Williams said.
Cooper’s introduction came Friday, the day after the Cardinals made the North Carolina guard their No. 1 pick. General Manager Steve Keim tweaked him by wearing a North Carolina State shirt, and the Cards clearly found a player who was articulate, smart and potential backbone in their community efforts.
Mostly, though, the 6-foot-2, 312-pounder looked the part of a massive blocker. No wonder Williams — a running back on a team that struggled to run the ball last season — was happy. Williams didn’t even hear the Michael Irvin-on-NFL Network comparison to Hall of Fame guard Larry Allen, a notion Cardinals coach Bruce Arians wouldn’t dismiss.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Arians said. “Larry, early in his career, was an unbelievably athletic pulling guard that when he got there, good things happened for the offense. This kid has that.”
Cooper didn’t hear about that comparison until today. Nor one to another Hall of Fame guard, Randall McDaniel, who many know around these parts after he grew up in Avondale and went to Arizona State, or multi-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca, who played for Arians in Pittsburgh during his glory days and later finished his career as a Cardinal.
“Honestly, it makes me a little nervous,” Cooper said. “It’s high expectations and kind of a little bit of pressure, but I also put just as much pressure on myself, and it makes me want to get to work immediately. There are some guys who kind of bask in that hype, but I can’t allow myself to do that. It’s now time for me to prove to myself that I’ve earned that and I deserve that high praise.”
Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, who is the de facto offensive line coach, didn’t want to hype Cooper too much although he allowed that he could see similarities to Faneca. The difference, Goodwin said, is that Cooper hasn’t proved a thing yet. He’ll get a chance, though, Goodwin allowed. “When you are picked that high, you are picked that high for a reason,” Goodwin said. Cooper will play but “what that spot is, I couldn’t tell you right now.”
Cooper promised Darnell Dockett when the two met Friday that he was ready to go to work. Williams was long gone by the time Cooper had his press conference, but one of Cooper’s comments would have made Williams grin all over again.
“You want to be able to run that ball and show that your offensive line is good enough to impose your will on the defense,” Cooper said. “So, it would mean a lot to me to establish a running a game here in Arizona. It’s rare that you find teams that can run the ball frequently, and if we can do that, you can be a special team in the NFL.”
I’m guessing that is exactly what Williams was talking about.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Harold Goodwin, Jonathan Cooper, Ryan Williams
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The Cardinals are done with the first day of their three-day voluntary minicamp. The tempo for the almost two-hour work in the afternoon was crisp. Coach Bruce Arians said there were fewer mistakes than might have been anticipated. The only player not there was Larry Fitzgerald, but Arians knew that he wouldn’t be and said Fitz would be back on Wednesday. A couple other tidbits:
– T Levi Brown and LB O’Brien Schofield weren’t taking part as they continue their rehab from 2012 injuries. Arians said there was no reason to push it. Schofield should be back soon. Arians just wants to make sure Brown is available by the Fall. Arians said he might consider putting Nate Potter at guard at some point, but there is plenty of time to figure that out. Arians said a player should be able to play either guard or tackle on the same side.
– QB Carson Palmer said 75 percent of the offense has been introduced to the players, although there is a long way to go to make it work in practice. This is the teaching/learning phase, clearly, although the pace of the workout was noticeably quick.
– With Schofield out (and for all we know, even if Schofield was available) it was free agent linebacker Lorenzo Alexander lining up on the outside with Sam Acho. Daryl Washington and Jasper Brinkley were the inside linebackers. The first string secondary was Jerraud Powers with Patrick Peterson at cornerback and Rashad Johnson and Yeremiah Bell at safety.
– Washington obviously won’t be able to play the first four games because of his suspension. Arians said it was too early to know who will be the starter in Washington’s absence. “We will get Daryl ready to start just like I did with Ben Roethlisberger (before his suspension in 2010) and whoever was taking his place in September was more than ready to,” Arians said.
Tags: Ben Roethlisberger, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Daryl Washington, Jasper Brinkley, Jerraud Powers, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, minicamp, O'Brien Schofield, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Ssam Acho, Yeremiah Bell
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General Manager Steve Keim mentioned yesterday about the fine line evaluating players and, more specifically, not wanting to overevaluate them. With so much time between the end of the season and the draft, that is a concern.
But both he and coach Bruce Arians agree it is the play on the college football field above all else that should be driving these player grades.
“I don’t grade anybody down at the (Scouting) combine,” Arians said. “The tape doesn’t lie. If a guy plays football fast and doesn’t run fast at the combine, that means he carries his pads pretty well. … I don’t believe in working out in shorts because the game is not played in shorts.”
Keim, not surprisingly, referred back to Anquan Boldin — he of the relatively slow 40 time when he was at the combine in 2003 (the 4.7 range) — and yet became a Pro Bowl receiver from his first game in the NFL.
“As much as combine numbers mean to you, and sometimes our guys will get enamored with a guy who ran a (tremendous) 6.55 three-cone, you have to remind them, unfortunately, at 1 o’clock on Sunday, we don’t get to run a three-cone drill,” Keim said, adding that the evaluator has to ask, “What are his compensating abilities” for whatever shortcomings he might have.
That doesn’t mean someone with an impressive combine gets thrown out, even if his stats weren’t great in college. Again, the evaluation is about what the team sees on video. Production counts but it isn’t the whole picture. The player had to have shown something in real games. It sounds simple. But every team doesn’t always adhere to it.
– Really good read from Josh Weinfuss collecting an oral history of various Cardinals players from their time around the draft.
– Safety James Sanders, who wasn’t going to return this year after his one year on the Cardinals, has been suspended the first four games of the NFL season.
– And with that, I am headed to this evening’s Tweetup with SI’s Peter King, Arians, Keim and a host of players downtown at Tom’s Tavern as we raise funds for a Tillman Foundation scholarship. Tomorrow, I’ll be running in Pat’s Run at ASU. Hope to see some of you.
Tags: Bruce Arians, draft, James Sanders, Pat's Run, Scouting combine, Steve Keim
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So here are some quick thoughts on the Cardinals’ schedule, for what they are worth. No one knows exactly what will happen between now and when the games will be played and so much can change. Nevertheless, this is what we do, so we press on …
– What smacks me in the face first is the back-to-back games against the 49ers — in San Francisco — and the Seahawks just four days later for their NFL Network game. That’s in October (13 and 17). Those teams aren’t easy with which to deal, and to have them so close together is tough. I guess, with Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson with similar games (I know Wilson doesn’t run as much as Kaepernick), the defense will be in the right frame of mind. Todd Bowles, are you ready?
– Opening in St. Louis isn’t a bad place to start. The Cards have had a ton of success there, winning seven straight before last year. These aren’t the 2009 Rams, but they aren’t the Niners and Seahawks either.
– Offenses with which the Cards must deal without suspended linebacker Daryl Washington: Rams, Lions, Saints, Buccaneers. All in all, not the worst thing.
– A bye at exactly the midway point of the season.
– The Bruce Arians-faces-his-former-Colts-team game comes Nov. 24. Will be very interesting to see where the Cards are at that point — we will be long past the storybook of the Colts season last year — and, for that matter, where the Colts stand.
– I didn’t think weather would be a big deal, but it could be chilly in Philly (Dec. 1) and Tennessee (Dec. 15). And perhaps Seattle (Dec. 22) for that matter.
– It did catch my eye that the preseason Dallas game is at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. I prefer that rather than night preseason games.
– A trip to Raymond James Stadium Sept. 29. Let’s see, the last time the Cards were there …
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Colin Kaepernick, Colts, Daryl Washington, Rams, Russell Wilson, schedule, Seahawks
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The Cardinals held their pre-draft press conference today. Safe to say the schedule release in a couple of hours will hold bigger news. That’s natural. There isn’t anything that is going to be said of major consequence ahead of time. That was crystallized when GM Steve Keim was asked how many offensive linemen he had graded as first-round picks.
Keim paused before finally answering.
“Well, I could tell you, but it probably wouldn’t be the truth,” Keim said, eliciting laughs. “So I’d prefer not to answer that one.”
There were no major tells in the 17 minutes Keim and Head Coach Bruce Arians spoke. They reiterated they didn’t want to be forcing any picks, especially in the first round. The Top 120 board isn’t quite finished but “the hay is almost in the barn,” Keim said. They don’t bother paying much attention to all the draft stuff floating out there because they know it doesn’t mean much. Smokescreens. “It’s fun to watch all the prognosticators change their mock drafts every two hours,” Arians said.
The larger scouting staff generated 3,100 scouting reports and the Cards’ coaching staff added another 287, Keim said. That’s a lot of paperwork to shift through. Keim said the draft is deep for safeties, cornerbacks, offensive linemen and pass rushers. That works well for a team that could use safeties, cornerbacks, offensive linemen and pass rushers like the Cardinals. Arians repeated his thoughts from last month that he thinks “four or five” of the quarterbacks, while they might not have the “Wow” factor, will have long careers of some sort in the NFL. Those guys are hurt because they are following the 2012 draft class of QBs, Arians said.
Mostly though, it’ll be a waiting game until next Thursday to see what the Cards are going to do. There weren’t any real hints today.
Tags: Bruce Arians, draft, Steve Keim
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