Optimism reigns every year when a team’s season begins and at no time does that optimism echo more than the day when training camp begins. That day, with all due respect to QB School is Friday. That’s when the Cardinals move into the hotel next to the stadium, when they take their conditioning test and when they get the speech from coach Bruce Arians about the goals for the season. They are the same goals every season — eventually ending with a title, of course — but they must be repeated all the same.
There will be ups and downs. Some players will have a bad stretch. Somebody will get hurt, and you just hope it isn’t a season-ender. Some new players might now work out. It’s how a team deals with these events that determines the course of the final won-loss record.
I think the Cardinals have a chance to be as good or better than last year. I think their defense might need some adjustments with the losses of the inside linebackers, but I think Todd Bowles can make something work. I think, assuming health, the offense will be better. I don’t think Carson Palmer is going to morph into Peyton or even Kurt Warner, but I think he will benefit by an upgraded offensive line. How this all plays out, ultimately, with a won-loss record depends on a lot of moving parts, not all of which are under the Cardinals’ control. But they have a chance to be good, and over the years, that hasn’t always been the case.
— Calais Campbell (@Campbell93) July 24, 2014
Tags: Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Todd Bowles, training camp
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— Calais Campbell (@Campbell93) July 10, 2014
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Calais Campbell, ESPN, First Take, NFL
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As we come to the end of June (and the beginning of a little time off), it’s time for my annual pre-vacation pair of posts – the ones in which I take a stab at who will be in the starting lineup on opening day, which in this case will be Monday night against the Chargers. Some picks are obvious. Some are not. We’ll defense today, offense tomorrow. And then we’ll wait to see what training camp brings.
DE – Darnell Dockett. There are a lot of questions, given Dockett’s age and 2015 salary, about what his situation will be next season. But this season, Dockett will be right where he always is – in the starting lineup. The Cards do like to rotate on the line. It’s necessary for good defenses to stay effective. And rookies Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson will get some time.
NT – Dan Williams. It’s a big year for Williams, who goes into the last year of his contract. He might have been pushed by Alameda Ta’amu, but Ta’amu is coming off knee surgery. Ta’amu will return early in the season, and the one-two combination will help. It has to start with Williams, though.
DE – Calais Campbell. He’s deserved Pro Bowl consideration the last couple of years, even if he hasn’t gotten it. When the Cardinals’ braintrust say they hope Martin turns into another Campbell, that says something.
ROLB – John Abraham. Abraham turned into a real find last year. He was supposed to be a part-time pass rusher and proved to be much more. He’s ahead of Sam Acho these days, but at some point, Acho (who’s in the last year of his contract) or someone has to step forward to provide a future.
ILB – Kevin Minter. He was going to be a starter as soon as Karlos Dansby left. Now, with Daryl Washington absent, there is a lot on the second-year man.
ILB – Larry Foote. There is a chance Lorenzo Alexander could win this job, but I think Alexander will end up filling multiple depth roles and Foote will get the starts. His signing has proved to be fortuitous given Washington’s situation. What will be interesting to watch will be where someone like Kenny Demens fits in – with Washington out, there’s an opportunity for someone.
LOLB – Matt Shaughnessy. The Cardinals had the best run defense in the NFL last season in large part because Shaughnessy was so solid. It’s what you’d expect when you have a former defensive end playing outside in the 3-4. The Cardinals are hoping Alex Okafor develops down the road, but his inexperience leaves him a question mark for now.
CB – Patrick Peterson. Forget the criticisms (yes, he needs to get better, like everyone) and forget the chatter of who is the best, which is really meaningless anyway. He’s an anchor, and he’ll be an anchor for a long time.
CB – Antonio Cromartie. He looked healthy in the offseason and that’s a good sign. If he can regain the consistent level of play he’s had in the past, the Cardinals will be in great shape for their coverage.
FS – Rashad Johnson. With Tyrann Mathieu on the mend, Johnson is the natural choice. He’s a vet who won’t make mistakes. Tony Jefferson has been playing strong safety in offseason work, but Jefferson should be in the mix when dime packages are used.
SS – Deone Bucannon. The aforementioned Jefferson was running first unit in the offseason but the Cardinals are going to play their first-round pick if he shows anything in camp. I expect that to happen and Bucannon will get his shot as the season begins.
Tomorrow, we’ll have the offense.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Alex Okafor, Antonio Cromartie, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Deone Bucannon, Ed Stinson, John Abraham, Kareem Martin, Kenny Demens, Kevin Minter, Larry Foote, Lorenzo Alexander, Matt Shaughnessy, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Sam Acho, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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At some point, Darnell Dockett’s time with the Cardinals is going to come to an end. I’m sure he is hoping we are still a few years away from that, but with a 2015 salary of $6.5 million and the fact he will be 34 by that point, we’ll see how that impacts the decision-making by that point from the front office. Dockett is not unaware of such discussion or possibilities. Regardless, in that context, the veteran tweeted this out today:
Ed Stinson will be the next Dockett if not better, I will give him all the tools and show him all the tricks. No one showed me but I will.— DARNELL DOCKETT (@ddockett) May 19, 2014
Stinson, of course, is the fifth-round draft pick out of Alabama. And yes, it feels like Stinson (below) was drafted to give the Cards not only depth now on the line but a line of succession post-Dockett. It is important that, given those realities, Dockett is willing to help. It is not unlike the words spoken by Calais Campbell last week to me about helping out another draft pick, Kareem Martin. (Logan Thomas praised the quarterbacks for the same help.)
Campbell’s situation is a little different than Dockett’s right now, but the idea is the same — veterans willing to work with the younger players at the same time roster spots are difficult to keep. Dockett remains frustrated to this day that the veteran defensive linemen on the Cardinals when he arrived as a rookie in 2004 did not want to mentor him the same way. It isn’t always easy — remember, Denny Green installed Dockett, a third-round pick, as a starter from the day he was drafted. That tends to foster hard feelings. But if Dockett is serious about giving Stinson aid, it’s a big benefit for the team and continues to show exactly what the Cards have built within the locker room.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Ed Stinson, Kareem Martin, Logan Thomas
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Go kart racing….. 1st place 😴😴😴✌️ pic.twitter.com/aNdIvtHKin
— DARNELL DOCKETT (@ddockett) May 15, 2014
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, NFL
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The Cardinals went with a 3-4 defensive end in the fifth round Saturday, taking Alabama’s Ed Stinson. At 6-4 and 287 pounds, Stinson is a prototypical guy to fit up front in the way the Cards play, and scouting reports say he can move inside if necessary. The team went into the draft hoping to get some depth up front. The Cardinals have Campbell, Williams and Dockett, but only Frostee Rucker behind them right now with Alameda Ta’amu coming off ACL surgery. Plus, Dockett will be in to his (pricey) final year of his contract in 2015 and the team must start thinking about the future.
Stinson is really good against the run. He’s been described as the type of underrated player who can be solid for a long time. NFL analyst Mike Mayock said if Stinson can stay healthy — he’s been banged up a couple of times — he is a starter for a 3-4 team in this league. That will definitely help.
Stinson said he grew up with third-round pick WR John Brown in Florida, so the draft class already has a pair of friends.
Mayock, by the way, on the Cards’ entire class so far: “It’s not sexy, but I like this draft.”
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, draft, Ed Stinson, Frostee Rucker, Mike Mayock
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The Cardinals have had good turnout at their voluntary work thus far, which is always good to see. I’ve seen almost everyone on the current roster at some point (I keep getting questions about players that aren’t in photos — Patrick Peterson, Ted Ginn and Carson Palmer in particular. I have seen all three. Workouts run at 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. after meetings. I’m not taking pictures at 6 and usually I’ve moved on in my day at 12:30, so just because they aren’t in a photo doesn’t mean anything.) It’s important to have guys around, as Darnell Dockett noted yesterday.
“This is voluntary, so when you have guys here, voluntary, and we grade out at 94 percent every day of people coming in, that shows the right direction we’re trying to go in,” he said. “Not showing up with 20 guys, missing 15 here and 30 here, 20 guys late, people missing in the classroom. That’s a bad sign. So right now every day we’re getting out this work, and we’re appreciating it and enjoying it. We’re getting better. Chemistry is not all about coming in talking about football and weights. We’re getting to know each other.”
Kent Somers does a nice job chronicling how Dockett’s mindset has changed after multiple offseasons when he wasn’t here. Part of the change for the Cards — and around the NFL for that matter — has been a proliferation of workout bonuses in contracts. Players get paid for their weekly attendance, but it’s not much really, $175 a day as stipulated by the collective bargaining agreement. If you make the workouts a fruitful part of the paycheck, you tend to motivate. Overthecap.com writes about this. Seven teams in the league have invested at least $2 million of cap space into offseason workout bonuses, including the Cardinals at $2.085 million. The most is the Packers, at $4.325M, and that’s not a surprise knowing that many players probably wouldn’t want to stick around Green Bay in the offseason if they could avoid it.
Nine Cardinals collect six figures just for showing up for whatever the prescribed amount of offseason workouts would be (it’s usually a high percentage of the total days available.) Dockett, DE Calais Campbell, WR Larry Fitzgerald and QB Drew Stanton get $250,000. C Lyle Sendlein and S Rashad Johnson get $150,000. Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy gets $125,000. Linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Daryl Washington get $100,000. And there are eight other players who get money.
Cash doesn’t explain everything. There are a ton of guys on the roster — big-name guys — who have been here and get no extra monetary reward for doing so, including new players like Jared Veldheer, Antonio Cromartie and Ted Ginn. There is a push from those on the roster to make sure teammates are hear for the reason of just making sure the team will be as good as possible. But as always, money plays a role.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Drew Stanton, Jared Veldheer, Larry Fitzgerald, Lorenzo Alexander, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Shaughnessy, offseason, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Ted Ginn, voluntary workouts
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Calais Campbell, Easter, NFL, White House
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The Cardinals’ initial foray into free agency was offense-heavy. Not a big shock, since that side of the ball need the most work. As the draft approaches, however, the focus may just shift. Because even though Bruce Arians is an offensive guy, GM Steve Keim has a belief that the good teams in this salary cap work have a dominant side of the ball. And the Cardinals — with the No. 1 rush defense and the sixth-ranked defense overall — aren’t in that realm on the offensive side of the ball.
“Seattle was a dominant defense with a solid offense,” Keim said. “Denver was a dominant offense with an OK defense. In our situation, we are closer to having a dominant defense. So I think you have to continue to throw gas on the fire. Continue to build the strength.”
That’s why cornerback Antonio Cromartie shot to the top of the to-do list after he was cut by the Jets. The move surprised the Cards — they did not think New York would let him go — but rallied to understand the situation and aggressively court him. It was only a one-year contract, but the team proved last year with linebacker Karlos Dansby that could be a golden type of situation. There are still spots defensively that need shoring up (like the need for a safety or inside linebacker depth), and there is also Keim’s quest to get longer and more athletic with his 3-4 defensive ends and the pass rushers outside. The draft could very well provide those things. But when you start looking at the top end talent on the roster, it is the defense that claims many of the spots, whether it is Patrick Peterson, Calais Campbell or Daryl Washington. (Or even, as Ron Wolfley points out, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who fortunately for the Cards did not get a head coaching job.)
The offense isn’t going to be ignored — “We know we have areas we need to fix and it certainly needs to catch up with the defense,” Keim said — but a defensive juggernaut is the first goal. It’s what has put the Seahawks and 49ers into the stratosphere they are in, and why the Cards returned to relevance last season.
Tags: 49ers, Antonio Cromartie, Calais Campbell, Daryl Washington, defense, draft, Patrick Peterson, Seahawks, Steve Keim, Todd Bowles
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