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“Final” cuts aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 30, 2014 – 6:29 pm

It’s tough to fully analyze the Cardinals’ roster right now after the initial moves to get to a 53-man roster. Waiver claims come through Sunday, and really, the surprise will be if the Cardinals don’t claim one or two players — which would mean they would have to cut the corresponding amount from the 53. So a guy could have made the team today and  be off by tomorrow. Yes, it’s a rough, rough business.

Surprises? Nothing of note. I had different picks for my 53, before the final preseason game. I managed to hit on the offense. They kept only four cornerbacks — I had Bryan McCann as a fifth — and the linebackers as I thought were a problem for me. I had Desmond Bishop and Glenn Carson cut, and Marcus Benard in. Wrong. But as we go forward, what to expect?

There are six wide receivers for now, but as Bruce Arians said, the bottom five on the roster shouldn’t be comfortable because the potential for change is constant. Walt Powell could easily slide on the practice squad at some point. So too could Carson, if the Cardinals don’t need a fifth inside linebacker. Is another backup tackle possible? Could Max Starks come back like Arians said he might? I suppose the one surprise is the fact the Cardinals only have eight defensive backs, given that Tyrann Mathieu’s status is so up in the air. But I believe Teddy Williams is practice-squad eligible and I don’t know if McCann is going to get picked up anywhere anyways.

The practice squad will be 10 strong now, don’t forget, with the potential of a couple of veterans. So maybe the Cards keep WR Brittan Golden if he isn’t claimed, and other potential practice-squad guys would be defensive tackle Bruce Gaston, interior offensive lineman Anthony Steen and tight end Andre Hardy. I’d think there also could be a couple of outside guys come in for the practice squad too.

This isn’t over yet.

— A quick note: Veteran LB James Harrison retired today. So that’s no longer an option.

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Wednesday before the Chargers

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2014 – 9:47 am

The fourth preseason game is what it is. Teams are leery about playing anyone of any starting importance, because whatever little you might gain in a few more game reps is highly outweighed by the opportunity to get injured. How the actual game plays out — like the Cardinals going against the Chargers — means nothing. This one may mean even less, since the two teams have to play their very next game against each other. No reason to show anyone anything. At all.

That being said, there are some things to watch in the game tomorrow night, thanks to injuries, a new quarterback and a couple of roster spots that look like they could go either way:

— Logan Thomas is going to get to play the whole game, for the first time in the NFL and likely for the last time in a long time. The rookie fourth-round quarterback looked really good in his debut against Houston, he looked less comfortable against Cincinnati. He gets 60 minutes now, though. Bruce Arians said he just wants to see Thomas be efficient and take care of the ball. Thomas admitted he already has become more settled now since arriving in Arizona, and he knows he’s about to sit and not play (and really, not practice much either) for a long time. He has the right attitude. There’s really nothing on the line since he’s a lock to be on this roster. Take the pressure off, and let’s see what he can do.

— Very curious to see if S Tyrann Mathieu plays. I have long felt that the Cardinals are OK in the secondary to not have any reason to want/need to rush Mathieu back. I don’t think they will rush him. The question is how comfortable/confident Mathieu is to get back into live action. This is about mental as much as physical by now.

— The other guys coming off injuries all are also worth watching. We know the story of Jonathan Cooper at this point, and dealing with his turf toe. The Cardinals are probably best suited to deal with his recovery too with the way Ted Larsen is playing. The team needs Kevin Minter at inside linebacker, and we will see how he can perform. Minter seemed very confident earlier this week. That’s a good sign. Like Mathieu, you want to see nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu in real game action — especially where he plays and how there are always bodies down by your legs — a scary thought for a guy coming off a torn ACL. Again, mental as much as physical.

— As for the battles for rosters spots, these are the ones I see out there (and the ones to watch in the game): The backup tackle spot between Bradley Sowell and Nate Potter, both who figure to start. Potter will be on the left and Sowell on the right Thursday, but it’ll be surprising if both can make the cut. The special teams/cornerback slot with Teddy Williams and Bryan McCann. It figures one will be in, the other out. McCann is a little more polished as a cornerback, but Williams definitely can be more physical. This comes down to who they like better for special teams. And then there are the many linebackers who seem to be on the bubble. Desmond Bishop. Alex Okafor. Lorenzo Alexander. Marcus Benard. Glenn Carson too. You’ve only got so many spots. Pay attention to their play.

— Finally, reports are that the Cardinals will at least work out veteran linebacker James Harrison. Sounds like it’ll be less about anything immediate and instead seeing what is available. Veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly may be the same situation. Something to keep in mind this time of year, signing a veteran after Week One means the salary is not guaranteed, so there will be some vets signed after the first game around the league — especially those who might not have a lot left in the tank.

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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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Cards add a cornerback (no, not him)

Posted by Darren Urban on March 17, 2014 – 1:54 pm

Everyone is waiting for news on free agent Antonio Cromartie. There is nothing new to report there. But the Cardinals did re-sign cornerback Bryan McCann to a one-year deal Monday, which gives them options both on special teams and with depth in the defensive backfield. McCann came back last year after the Teddy Williams injury to help on special teams, but he nearly made the active roster coming out of camp.

This does not preclude the Cardinals from adding another corner, whether it be Cromartie or someone else. (Mike Jenkins, someone whom the Cards reportedly have interest in, was scheduled to visit the Buccaneers today.) That position definitely remains in play in the draft too, especially high, if no one of import is signed in free agency.

With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie signing with the Giants today, the price of Cromartie — the best cornerback remaining in free agency, just went up. Which might have been why Cromartie was waiting in the first place.

— The next episode of “Tenacious,” the occasional video series chronicling the rehab of safety Tyrann Mathieu is coming this week.

— We also, with it being the bracket-picking time of year, have our second annual Cardinals Bracketology page looking at the top plays of the past season as they battle for the respect of the fans through votes. The No. 1 seed?  Michael Floyd’s TD catch in Seattle. Last year, the 16th-seeded play, guard Senio Kelemete’s freak catch in the season finale, upset everyone en route to a title. Let’s see how it plays out this year. Click here to watch the plays and vote every day.

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Cardinals, the roster, and target areas

Posted by Darren Urban on January 27, 2014 – 11:33 am

Every time General Manager Steve Keim talks about his roster, he talks about looking to improve everywhere. That’s always the default. While the Cardinals probably need, say, offensive linemen or tight ends more than, running backs, you don’t turn down chances to upgrade your team at any position. (As for the latest talk-radio conversation about quarterback, I feel confident that a) Carson Palmer is going to be the starter in 2014 and b) if Keim has a QB sitting on the board in the draft that he really, really likes — whenever that is — the Cardinals will likely take him.)

All that said, there are spots that need addressing just for the sheer numbers. I’ve already posted this once, but below is a link to a roster breakdown done right after the season. It has changed a bit — punter Dave Zastudil has re-signed by now — but the rest of the contract situations remain the same. Keim has a little more than six weeks before contracts officially expire. In terms of strictly numbers, here are how impending free agency impacts the positions (not including all the futures deals/low-end free agents that have signed):

— QB: Cards are fine with all three guys under contract. You’d expect a fourth camp arm to sign if one isn’t drafted.

— RB: Rashard Mendenhall is unrestricted and plays a big role, although if the Cards rode Andre Ellington/Stepfan Taylor in 2014, no one would be surprised.

— WR: Assuming the Cards can get comfortable (if they aren’t already) with Fitz’s contract, the position is probably OK. They need to add someone if Andre Roberts leaves as a free agent, but they can ride with Floyd/Fitz as a top two.

— TE: A major question. Only Rob Housler is under contract for next season. This has got to be a spot where the Cards draft, right?

— OL: Upgrades are necessary and will happen, but as of now, only Eric Winston is a free agent of guys who played at all.

— DL: Need depth here. Do you bring Frostee Rucker back? And that rehab needed for Alameda Ta’amu’s ACL tear hurts the team as much as Ta’amu.

— LB: It’s hard not to notice two starters in Karlos Dansby and Matt Shaughnessy who could potentially walk away.

— DB: The Cards could probably use another young safety, although they may be in good shape if Tony Jefferson can step forward. But what about cornerback, with Tyrann Mathieu coming back from injury and Javier Arenas/Antoine Cason/Bryan McCann scheduled to be free agents. Depth is needed there. It’ll be interesting to see if Justin Bethel ends up playing a bigger defensive role.

— Specialists: Zastudil is back. We’ll see what the Cardinals do at kicker and impending FA Jay Feely.

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Friday before the Titans

Posted by Darren Urban on December 13, 2013 – 3:58 pm

The last time the Cardinals were on pace to win 10 games, they went to Tennessee. You remember that one don’t you? Kurt Warner was coming off a concussion and the Cards shut him down that day, putting Matt Leinart under center for what turned out to be his final time as a starter in Arizona.

(It was in Tennessee the following year in the preseason, with a game, joint practice and then benching for Derek Anderson, that essentially ended Leinart’s tenure with the Cards, but that’s a rehash for another day.)

Leinart played well enough to win, but the defense allowed Vince Young and the Titans a 99-yard touchdown drive culminating in a Kenny Britt touchdown catch on the final play of the game. It was a heartbreaker, and stopped the Cards from being 7-0 on the road at that point. They did, however, still win 10 games.

The Cardinals have to win in Tennessee this weekend to reach 10 games, you’d think. Mathematically that isn’t true, but with a road trip to Seattle and a home game against San Francisco left, this is one the Cards should get. Beyond that, they have to get it. We’ve covered the playoff situation, and while it tends to look bleak even if the Cards win all three of their remaining games, they can’t be eliminated this weekend if they win.

— Carson Palmer should play Sunday. If he did last week without throwing a pass in practice, he will this week barring something unforeseen. He was limited again this week – no one is saying if he threw some in practice or just took another week of rest – but Palmer said he didn’t like doing it last week at all.

“Completely different, kind of eerie,” Palmer said. “I didn’t enjoy it. It’s not enjoyable.  When you are practicing you are always looking at the guys that aren’t practicing, and you are jealous. But, then when you are that guy standing on the sidelines, you want to actually be out there. You kind of get stuck in that, ‘Well, I wish I wasn’t, but I wish I was.’”

— Here’s where we find out defensive life without Tyrann Mathieu. I actually think it will be a little less important against the Titans than against the final two NFC West opponents, but don’t forget that Mathieu was arguably the Cardinals’ best tackler. Now that’s gone.

— I know veteran cornerback Antoine Cason has been itching to play more defense. He’s going to get a chance now.

— If the Cards keep getting the same kind of play out of Karlos Dansby and John Abraham, the Mathieu loss can be mitigated.

— Darnell Dockett was fined $7,875 for intentionally stepping on the hand of Rams offensive lineman Chris Williams last week. Defensive end Eugene Sims (who was called for a personal foul for hitting Palmer during the Jim Dray fumble-runback-that-wasn’t), Rams defensive end Robert Quinn (who was flagged for spiking his helmet at the feet of an official) and Dansby (who was called for a personal foul) were not fined.

— With the end of the regular season in sight, it will be interesting to see if a few offensive players can reach yardage milestones. Palmer needs 542 yards passing to throw for 4,000 yards with his third different franchise. That seems doable, even with games coming against Seattle and San Francisco. Michael Floyd, gimpy ankle and all, needs 114 yards receiving to reach 1,000. That too seems reasonable.

More interesting is the case of Larry Fitzgerald, who needs 226 yards to reach 1,000, a not easy number given the Niners and Seahawks. You know Fitz wants to get there.

— Pro Bowl voting ends Dec. 26. Click here if you’d like to have your voice heard.

— The Cardinals have benefited big-time by the return of cornerback Bryan McCann, who was cut at the end of training camp. His special teams work replacing the injured Teddy Williams, especially at gunner opposite Justin Bethel has been impressive.

“You kind of got to,” McCann said. “It’s part of the business. The whole point is that you don’t have a drop off in production when the next man steps in.”

McCann said he wasn’t frustrated with getting cut when he had had a pretty good camp. “It’s the way the business goes. Can’t complain. I’m back here, I’m back working and I’m happy for it.”

— The weather is supposed to be 36 degrees and clear Sunday for the late afternoon start. We’ll see if the Cards can make sure it ends a little differently than last time.


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It’s Ellington’s real hair, and other notes

Posted by Darren Urban on November 20, 2013 – 2:25 pm

In the week of Arians vs. His Former Team (that story coming later on the homepage), here’s a few non-that-story notes from Wednesday:

— Running back Andre Ellington talked about Dreadsgate a final time. The most interesting part? Being asked if he was upset some people did not believe his hair was real but instead extensions. Ellington had said after the game it was real, but many (and I heard from some) did not buy it. “I knew it was real,” Ellington said. “I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I took me five years to grow it.”

Ellington reiterated he wasn’t hurt on the play. As for going forward, he said he hasn’t given any thought to cutting his hair. “They are probably going to start targeting it now,” Ellington said. “Just means I have to run a little faster.”

Certainly, the Cards need more than the three yards on eight carries Ellington provided in the game.

— Bruce Arians had a fantastic press conference today. Among the highlights: Andrew Luck, on his own conference call, said Arians had an “incredibly young soul.” Told this, Arians smiled. “I don’t feel like I’m 62. I feel like I’m 22.” (Of course, Arians is only 61, but who’s counting?)

— Second Arians highlight: Asked how improbable the last two years had been, which began when Arians was no longer the offensive coordinator for the Steelers to NFL coach of the year of the Colts to now his permanent job with the Cards: “From refired — excuse me, retired — to this, I don’t think anyone would have dreamed this.” If you remember, the Steelers had announced Arians had retired. Clearly, Arians did not see it the same way.

— Arians said Patrick Peterson will remain the punt returner this week, after saying they might consider something else.

— CB Justin Bethel has been cleared through concussion protocol, but is limited right now. The Cards re-signed CB Bryan McCann yesterday and Arians said McCann almost made the team out of training camp because of his special teams work. You’d think that’d put McCann in good shape to take over for the injured Teddy Williams across from Bethel on punt coverage.

— Still not certain of WR Brittan Golden returning. Arians said the problem with Golden’s hamstrings are more about scar tissue right now.

— Arians appeared on the Rich Eisen Podcast this week, if you want to take a listen.


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Two waiver claims add offensive, defensive linemen

Posted by Darren Urban on September 1, 2013 – 2:00 pm

The Cardinals ended up with two linemen today awarded on waiver claims: tackle Bradley Sowell (late of the Colts) and defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu (cut by the Steelers). The corresponding cuts were linebacker Kenny Demens (who is practice squad eligible) and cornerback Bryan McCann (which takes the Cards down to six cornerbacks).

Bringing in a nose tackle-type like Ta’amu is no surprise. The Cards had been looking for one behind Dan Williams. Adding another offensive tackle is interesting, since the Cards already have four on the roster. You have to wonder if they check out Sowell, see if he fits their bill, and then choose between him and another (Nate Potter, perhaps?) Sowell had also been used sometimes to line up as a tight end with the Colts — I’m sure in jumbo packages — so there’s that aspect. He played 10 games last year for the Colts, so offensive coordinator/O-line coach Harold Goodwin and coach Bruce Arians are both very familiar with him.

The release of Ta’amu was notable in Pittsburgh. He was a fourth-round pick in 2012 who didn’t have much of a rookie season after being involved in an auto accident after which he was placed on probation. The Cardinals now have six defensive linemen and 10 offensive linemen.


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Signs the Cards are ready to wrap

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2013 – 6:12 pm

The Cardinals ran their conditioning test back on July 25. With training camp ending later this week, there might have been a couple of signs the players are ready to wrap up here at University of Phoenix Stadium. In the morning locker room session, I asked Darnell Dockett if he was ready for camp to end. “I’ve been wanting camp over,” Dockett said. “I’ve wanted camp over from the second day. I just want to lay in my own bed. I have no problem with the two-a-day schedule. That’s football. It’s living in the hotel. I just don’t like that.”

Then, at the beginning of practice, there was a sight unseen since camp began — a true scrap. In a one-on-one special teams drill, wide receiver Charles Hawkins was a gunner and cornerback Bryan McCann was jammer, and McCann knocked Hawkins down with a powerful jam down the field. Hawkins took exception, to the points swings were taken and the two had to be separated.

“Towards the end of camp, tempers are flaring, people’s jobs are on the line, emotions run high,” McCann said. “You always can (feel the urgency) this time of camp. It’s just part of football.”

— The addition of Mike Thomas at receiver isn’t a surprise. The Cards were going to be looking at receivers. The inexperience is obvious, and when there is a chance to grab a guy with experience, you take it. It’s not like it’s a risk. One-year deal, and I’d guess the Cards can easily release him in two weeks if he doesn’t make sense. But he’s proven himself in this league. And Bruce Arians has been middle-of-the-road enough on his young receiver evaluations that bringing in one isn’t a shock.

— At the same time, there should be no shock when this team makes moves or adds guys even at positions you might think are set. Steve Keim and Co. have made crystal clear they will bring in guys who they think will help. Could that cost someone surprising a job? Sure. That’s the NFL. There are still two open roster spots. Things can happen.

— The injury list shrinks. TE Jeff King (knee), RB Ryan Williams (knee), WR Andre Roberts (ankle), WR Jarrett Dillard (concussion), T Joe Caprioglio (foot). LB Dan Giordano (toe) remains on the PUP list.


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A close battle among the corners

Posted by Darren Urban on August 13, 2013 – 5:09 pm

Coach Bruce Arians said he thought cornerback was among the closest battles on the roster and that’s not surprising. The depth of experience there is better than the Cardinals have had in a few seasons. Assuming everyone stays healthy — and Javier Arenas left practice early Tuesday with some sort of injury — it will be very interesting to see how it plays out.

Jamell Fleming finally got back on the field after dealing with a hamstring problem. Justin Bethel is too valuable of a special teamer to let go, but he’s still learning the cornerback position. Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers are locks. I’d think vet Antoine Cason is too, especially with Cason running as cornerback in nickel when Powers slides inside. One interesting name this week was Bryan McCann, who was singled out by Arians as having a good camp. If McCann really is in the mix, there are a ton of decisions that have to be made.

— And again, I’d expect a possible trade at the end of the preseason for guys they don’t want to keep here, a la A.J. Jefferson last season. At least get an extra 6th- or 7th-round pick.

— Because the Cards are off tomorrow, I don’t expect an Arenas injury update until Thursday.

— Among Tuesday’s highlights: WR Robby Toma made a beautiful one-handed catch on the sideline to beat Tyrann Mathieu. Cason, covering “wide receiver” Peterson, made an interception as Peterson went down and Cason basically had to climb over Peterson’s prone body to grab the ball. (Those two are both in the highlight package below.) And Peterson finished the session by slicing in front of WR Kerry Taylor during the final two-minute drill against the second-unit offense, sticking out his hand and having the ball stick there like it was flypaper for the drive-killing interception.

— Sitting out Tuesday was S Jonathon Amaya (knee), S Rashad Johnson (knee/ankle), RB Ryan Williams (knee), TE Jeff King (knee), TE Kory Sperry (ankle), DE Frostee Rucker (undisclosed), LB Karlos Dansby (hamstring), DT Ricky Lumpkin (ankle), DT Dan Williams (ankle) and LB Dan Giordano (PUP – toe.). RB Andre Ellington returned to practice limited.


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