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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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Friday before the open-air Vikings

Posted by Darren Urban on August 15, 2014 – 11:22 am

Finally, the Cardinals go outdoors. There is a bit of irony attached that the first time the Cardinals will be outside since training camp started will be a game in Minnesota, since for so many years this game too would have been inside against the Vikings. But the Vikings are playing outside for a couple of years, shacking up as a guest at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium while their new (domed) stadium is constructed.

Regardless, the Cardinals haven’t been outside since minicamp ended in mid-June. Which took quarterback Carson Palmer back a bit when it was mentioned to him earlier this week. “It is (surprising) because I hadn’t thought of that at all,” Palmer said. “Because we do not want to be outdoors right now.”

Tough to argue. You don’t really want to go through outdoor two-hour plus practices when it’s 100-degrees plus and the humidity (at least for around here) starts to spike. The Cardinals had considered one outdoor practice earlier in camp but decided to stay inside. Last year, the Cardinals actually held a training camp practice outside at their Tempe facility. Bruce Arians wanted a tough workout in the heat. He doesn’t see the need this season.

“We don’t have a hot game this year so there is no need to go outside,” Arians said. “We’ve had a pretty physical, hard camp, as hard as we can make it..”

So it’s on to Minnesota, where the forecast for Saturday night is mid-to-low 60s and high humidity.

– We get to see round two of the John Brown experience. What might be more amazing with Brown, even more than his grasp of the offense and his production against veteran cornerbacks in practice, is how much Palmer already seems to trust him.

– Arians, talking about why Brown is so quick (and why it might take the QBs a bit of time to learn timing with him): “A lot of guys have to chop their feet and slow down to cut,” Arians said. “He can run full speed and just change directions. That’s rare.”

– Some have wondered about rookie safety Deone Bucannon and playing the dollar linebacker position in the nickel defense. When Bucannon is in there, that makes six defensive backs on the field. So, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, doesn’t that make it a dime package?

“It’s still the nickel,” Bowles said. “It’s the position, not the player.”

– The Cardinals’ running game wasn’t very productive in the preseason opener (81 yards on 37 attempts, although that includes three kneeldowns). Arians said he wasn’t and isn’t worried about it. “I don’t put a lot into numbers,” Arians said.

Given that Andre Ellington figures to play little, I’m not sure how dynamic the running game will be in the preseason.

– Darren Fells continues to push for a spot as the fourth tight end. Arians said  Fells continues to block very well. “He still has to get rid of those bonehead plays,” Arians said. “He’s experiencing a lot of new things too many times. I was disappointing he dropped that pass Saturday because he’s got great hands. I think he tried to score before he caught it. He’s steadily improving.”

– No, I don’t think Jay Feely has to be perfect, in the truest sense of the word, even though that is what Arians said. Feely will get his chance to kick Saturday after Chandler Catanzaro’s impressive debut in the controlled conditions of University of Phoenix Stadium. The pressure is on for Feely, yes. But he’s been through this kind of pressure before.

– One more week of training camp left.


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Scuffle means running “after” practice

Posted by Darren Urban on August 14, 2014 – 6:02 pm

It was mostly a routine final-practice-before-a-game Thursday at University of Phoenix Stadium, but then it got very interesting at the end. No, that’s not referring to the first meeting with the media for linebacker John Abraham, who returned to the team after missing the first 20 days of training camp. Instead, it came on the field. The Cardinals ran a nice pass play with tight end John Carlson coming across the field for the catch and heading for a touchdown. That’s where all the eyes were until suddenly there were coaches yelling and a host of players — it seemed like 15 or 20 already — near the line of scrimmage in a group. A scuffle had started, although with so many people, it was impossible to know who had been in it.

At this point, Bruce Arians had made very, very clear how he feels about things like that. The other day, Darnell Dockett and Bradley Sowell had been made to take laps, but obviously, the message didn’t stick. So Arians went to the next level, stopping practice altogether to make the entire squad — save for the guys sitting out because of injuries — run sprints from sideline to sideline. Up and back they went six times, before Arians called the team together in a huddle. It seemed like practice was over, and Arians even left the field. But the players did not, and after a couple of minutes, 11-on-11 commenced for a little while longer. Arians even came back on the field, although it was clear he was angry.

“It’s camp and stuff like that happens,” cornerback Justin Bethel said. “We’ve just got to know that we’re a team and stick together. We’re trying to win a championship, and we can’t be fighting amongst each other. It’s all about team. Team is what it takes is our slogan right now. We just had to do some extra conditioning and put it behind us.

“(Coach) made his point, and we already knew where he stood with that. Some guys, they lose their tempers, and it happens, but we’ve just got to keep on moving forward.”

As for the end of practice, “I think some of the players on the team just decided we wanted to finish up practice because every play is important for us,” Bethel said. “I think they decided among themselves, ‘Let’s go ahead and just finish up practice because we didn’t have much left.’ “

– Abraham did not practice in his first day back, getting a physical and meeting with the strength and conditioning coaches to see where his fitness was. Abraham said it might take a few days to get back on the practice field but said he was confident he’ll be ready for the regular season.

– Arians said wide receivers Michael Floyd and Ted Ginn will travel to Minnesota and could still possibly play against the Vikings. It does not look as good for guard Jonathan Cooper (toe), linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral) and defensive tackle Bruce Gaston (knee).

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Feely’s perfection and Arians under ice

Posted by Darren Urban on August 12, 2014 – 1:44 pm

Rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro didn’t have a miss in his preseason debut. He made all three field goals, all three extra points and he was excellent on kickoffs, either driving them over the end zone or creating touchbacks or returns inside the 20. It’s veteran Jay Feely’s turn in Minnesota. So what is coach Bruce Arians looking for?

“Perfection,” Arians said.

Is that all?

Arians said that means making his kicks and having decent depth and hangtime on his kickoffs. “(Jay) has always kicked off adequately, but when someone is kicking off better and all the kicks are the same, you’re going to take the guy who is kicking off better,” Arians said.

Feely will have to kick outside in Minnesota, although Arians has said Feely will get to kick inside too, the following week against the Bengals. The kicking battle will continue to be interesting.

– Arians said yet again that fighting in practice is “not tolerable,” and that’s why Darnell Dockett and Bradley Sowell were stuck doing laps the balance of practice Monday after fighting. “You get ejected from the game (for fighting), so you get ejected from practice,” Arians said. “We practice like it’s a game every day. You lose your temper and punch a guy, you get ejected.”

– S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Alameda Ta’amu are “pretty close” to being removed from PUP and returning to practice.

– Still no rush on filling the empty three roster spots right now. “There really isn’t any need,” Arians said. “The number of players we have, to get somebody ready to play in a game that’s available right now, there’s nobody out there right now who are going to make our team better. We have our eyes on a couple guys that we will potentially bring in.”

– Interestingly, Arians called cornerback Jerraud Powers “probably our most valuable player on defense” right now because of how versatile he is in the secondary. It echoed those one-time thoughts of Ray Horton on Richard Marshall back in 2011.

– The injuries that kept a handful of players out for Monday’s practice will do the same today. That means left guard Jonathan Cooper is still out, which doesn’t help. “It’s a big deal for anyone on the club right now because the competition level is high. It’s not like anything is in cement,” Arians said. The coach added a player can definitely lose his job after getting injured. “You can if someone comes in and plays better than you were playing,” Arians said. “That’s called Wally Pipp.”

– Finally, in case you missed it, Arians took part in the viral #icebucketchallenge to raise awareness for ALS. He had been challenged by Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. Arians accepted — the idea is you get ice water dumped on you on video or you donate money to the cause — and Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer were only too happy to oblige.

“At first it wasn’t too bad,” Arians said. “That second one had too much ice in it. Thought it gave me a concussion. I wanted it to be ‘bam, bam.’ They waited too much.”

Arians challenged Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “Tomlin told me he’s not dumping water on his head so he’s going to donate money,” Arians said.


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Dockett, Sowell with first camp scuffle

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2014 – 4:42 pm

Finally, the Cardinals, under Bruce Arians, had a training camp fight.

The Cards didn’t have one during Arians’ first training camp last year. The streak held for two-plus weeks this year too. (I stand corrected. A fan reminded me that Bryan McCann and Charles Hawkins had a scrap late in camp last year, and lo and behold, they did.)

Monday, tackle Bradley Sowell and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett got into a post-play scuffle that wasn’t much of one. It was broken up quickly. But then we saw why Arians’ team doesn’t have such fights. Sowell and Dockett were made to run/walk/jog laps the rest of practice, which endd up being more than 30 minutes.

“It’s been a long time,” Sowell said of the last time he was made to run laps as punishment. “Dating back to probably middle school. Somewhere in there.”

It wasn’t a surprise though. At the outset of camp, Arians warned the team of the consequences of a fight. He frowns on that behavior. “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.”

There weren’t any broken hands Monday, or boxing gloves. Just the image of Dockett — who declined to comment — and Sowell circling the field over and over as practice went on as normal.

“We were coming off a big win where obviously as a team we looked good and the message today was don’t be complacent,” Sowell said. “Me and Dockett had the same mindset, neither one of us were going to go there (and be complacent). It happened the way it happened.”

Sowell said he and Dockett had been getting into it a little in each drill as practice had been going. “I knew it would eventually get heated,” Sowell said. At one point, Sowell caught up to Dockett during the laps and the two spoke briefly before continuing the punishment on their own.

“It was ‘We’re still teammates, let’s finish up this running and get by it.’ We both have played a little bit of football in the league. We both know how it is. Neither one of us want to lose,” Sowell said.

As teammate Lyle Sendlein said earlier in camp, “The Cardinals aren’t on the Cardinals’ schedule.”

“We’re teammates,” Sowell said. “It’s done.”

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Arians: Starters’ playing time to be limited

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2014 – 12:35 pm

When your head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators and many of the main players are the same as last season, and after the team has a whole looked pretty good in the preseason opener, the thought process for the preseason sometimes with be adjusted. That sounds like it might be true for coach Bruce Arians, who said today that he might “buck the trend” and not play starters as much as he might normally in the preseason. It’s obviously on his mind. He mentioned running back Andre Ellington in particular, who should play a little more Saturday in Minnesota but “Andre is not going to see a whole lot of action this preseason.” Arians wants to keep Ellington healthy. (I know. Stunner.)

– Speaking of healthy, the Cardinals didn’t suffer any major injuries in the preseason opener. A handful of guys will miss practice today and Arians said they are all day-to-day: G Jonathan Cooper (toe), T Max Starks (ankle), G Anthony Steen (neck), T Nate Potter (back) and LB Kevin Minter (pectoral). Arians said C Lyle Sendlein (calf) will miss the Vikings game and it’s possible WRs Ted Ginn (knee) and Michael Floyd (groin) will too, but all three are expected back next week at the latest.

– Arians on his running game, which had Ellington with only two carries and a total of three kneeldown plays: “I am not concerned. We ran the ball effectively even with some mental errors from some young guys.” The Cardinals had a total of 81 yards rushing on 37 official attempts.

– The fight for positions in the backfield, tight end, wide receiver, defensive line and secondary are all intense, Arians said. “You better not have a bad day,” he said. “One bad day could cost you your job.”

– As for the idea the Cardinals could keep six receivers, Arians said the roster makeup isn’t locked into certain numbers. “We won’t cut a player at one position to keep someone just for depth,” he said. “If he is a better player, we want the best players on the team. There are some great battles from 45 to 53. Knock on wood, hopefully injuries won’t deplete us.”

– No sign yet of linebacker John Abraham. Asked if he still expected Abraham to arrive this week, Arians said “we’re hoping.” As for what the Cardinals can expect from Abraham when he does get here, Arians said he isn’t worried. “He was in great shape when he showed up (last year) and I’d think he’d come back in just as good of shape,” Arians said. “Knocking that rust off and getting up to playing speed in a lot of the new stuff on defense (that) he hasn’t been exposed to. There will be a learning curve but he will hopefully have more than 20 days to be ready.”


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Texans aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2014 – 10:53 pm

Bruce Arians wanted a fast start. He got it. What was striking to me about Saturday night’s demolition of  the (admittedly bad) Houston Texans was that everything the Cardinals have been saying about their team was indeed true. The offensive guys kept saying they were a lot more comfortable and knew their stuff. The defense promised they’d be good again even with the linebacker losses. There is a ton of time still before the games count for real, but that’s what happened to start. Why does that strike me? Because I have been around plenty of teams for this franchise and optimism is always high early in camp — and then the games start. It’s rare when the optimism matches.

– Carson Palmer looked really good. This is the guy the Cardinals are talking about when they talk about Palmer’s ability to lead them where they want to go.

– I’ve heard a lot of things said about rookie wide receiver John Brown. Here’s how one Cardinals’ player described him tonight: “He’s like Wes Welker.” If he can make that kind of impact, turning third-and-longs into first downs, man, does this offense have potential for being incredibly dangerous.

– I’ll have more on G Jonathan Cooper tomorrow after I watch the game again, but I thought he held up OK. He gave up the sack to J.J. Watt, but again, we’re talking about the best defensive player in the league. “I definitely have a lot of room to improve,” Cooper said. “I got those jitters out of the way now.”

Cooper will get better (and thank goodness when he was rolled up on from behind he wasn’t hurt. Cooper said it was the same leg he broke last year. It shouldn’t be a problem but we’ll see in the light of day.

– I’m not sure how this team will sort through its wide receivers. I really believe Walt Powell can play in this league, but he’s stuck behind a solid five of Fitz, Floyd, Ginn, John Brown and Jaron Brown. I mean, Floyd and Ginn didn’t suit up and the passing game didn’t miss a beat.

– Logan Thomas might be that guy Arians talks about when he talks about gamers, because goodness, the Logan Thomas who played against the Texans has not been the guy I’ve noticed on the practice field. Not that Thomas has been bad in camp, but it was his calmness in the pocket that struck me. Maybe Arians and Tom Moore will turn out to be quarterback whisperers. Long, long way to go, of course. But 11-for-12 for 113 yards and a TD? Can’t start much better.

– Because the offense was so crisp it is easy to forget about the defense, but it was solid. “We have to look at the film to be sure,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “We did some good things. We were out of out depth a few times in the running game. All in all, a good start.”

– Speaking of good starts, rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro couldn’t have been better in his battle to get a job. Boomed kickoffs deep or through the end zone all night, made all three field goals (easily) and three extra points. Jay Feely gets his turn in Minnesota.

That’s it for tonight. I’ll post on the blog tomorrow, and it’s back to practice Monday. We’re only halfway through #CardsCamp.


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