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Now, it’s time for training camp

Posted by Darren Urban on July 24, 2014 – 2:09 pm

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.

Here’s your link for all the training camp info, by the way, and click here for all the stories and videos of our coverage.


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#CardsCamp starts in only 3 days

Posted by since1898 on July 23, 2014 – 3:35 pm

3-DAYS-CAMP

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The hard, hard NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on July 21, 2014 – 10:39 am

Some NFL training camps are underway. The Cardinals get started themselves by the end of the week, with the team’s “Quarterback School” going on in a couple of days. The season is here. Many believe the Cardinals — including those who work at 8701 South Hardy — are going to be competing for a playoff spot again this season. It makes a lot of sense. But the raw reality of the division is also apparent, driven home this morning by Peter King’s initial “Fine Fifteen” ranking in the NFL.

King has the Cardinals 11th in the NFL, not altogether a bad spot (and about where many of these types of things put the Cards). There are 12 playoff teams in the NFL, so conferences aside, there is the thought the Cards belong in the postseason. But it is interesting to note that, if King’s rankings were to hold, the Cardinals would also be the last place team in the NFC West.

He has Seattle No. 1 and San Francisco No. 3, and also as St. Louis as No. 10. In the end, such rankings mean little, because they play the games on the field and not on paper and yada, yada, yada. But it does underscore what everyone talks about when it comes to the “NFC Best.” The division still plays a role in your season, although not as big as it once did — you can in theory go winless in your division and still finish with 10 victories. Last year, the Cardinals lamented their 2-4 division record, especially two close losses to the 49ers they felt were within their grasp.

It makes for an interesting question: Is it better to have your division be the best in football? Or would it be better to harken back to the days of 2008-2010, when the Cards not only were able to see lesser teams around them but in the case of 2010, remain in the hunt for the division title late in the year even though it was a bad year? Carson Palmer votes for the way it is now. “It’s a great challenge the competition within the division,” Palmer told NFL Network. “I think it really kind of hardens you as the season goes on. … It’s a grind getting through this division, but I think with Seattle and San Francisco getting to the championship game, a lot of that has to do with playing within this division. It gives you an edge.”

 


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Palmer still ranks as good fit for Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on July 7, 2014 – 1:07 pm

Rankings in the NFL are what this time of year is all about, with outlets looking for content and there being almost no real football news happening. So I came across this latest analysis piece by Mike Sando about the starting quarterbacks across the league, and noticed that Carson Palmer — through a system ranked by scouts, GMs and coaches — was tied for 21st among starters in the NFL’s “third-tier” of QBs.

You can debate this all you want. Obviously Palmer isn’t considered among the top QBs in the game anymore. That’s understandable. (Interestingly enough, he tied with Rams QB Sam Bradford on the list, who has questions about him for different reasons.) It’s fair to wonder about what Palmer can still bring to the table, although after watching he and the Cardinals wind their way through the first year in Bruce Arians’ offense, I think the hiccups he had last year can be explained — and improved upon.

As the season progressed (and as noted in the article), Palmer’s production rose (10 TD, 14 INT in the first eight games, 14-8 in the second eight — and that included the brutal 1-4 day during the big win in Seattle, that included Palmer’s clutch game-winning TD toss to Michael Floyd). That came as the offensive players all started to understand the playbook better and as Arians began to understand his chess pieces a little bit better.

I think it is noteworthy too how much Palmer stressed the comfort level for everyone in the offense now. In the year I have known him, he is mostly low-key in all his comments but when it comes to talking about the offense, he isn’t prone to hyperbole. He was very cautious last offseason about where the team was, and those brakes were not nearly applied as much this offseason. He also should have a better offensive line, especially at left tackle. That too will matter.

At his age and with what he has done, he’s not going to climb lists such as Sando’s. He is not the long-term guy for the Cardinals either, and everyone knows that too. But one last thing caught the eye in Sando’s Palmer write-up and it was a comment from a veteran player (although rankings did not include players’ thoughts). ” He is a tough guy,” an anonymous safety said. “I respect his game and his work ethic.” I think that feeling pervades the Cardinals’ locker room. I think Palmer is exactly the kind of leader the team needed at QB — and it’s the kind of leader you cannot be unless your teammates believe in you in the first place.


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For what it’s worth in June, offensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 27, 2014 – 1:00 pm

Offensively, the Cardinals need to take a step forward this year. They need to so they don’t pressure the defense as much as last year (especially after some unknowns with defensive changes) and they need to so they can keep up in the NFC West arms race. Good news – there is a confidence there it will happen. Who are the guys who will be at the forefront of that plan? Here’s my guess, at least for the regular-season opener. (If you want to see the defensive picks, click here.)

QB – Carson Palmer. Biggest question around Palmer at this point? What happens in 2015, considering Palmer is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. But he is the guy the Cards will ride or die with this season.

RB – Andre Ellington. No-brainer. He’s earned the right, and we’ll see about the touches per game, which I will guess will be 20 to 22 a game.

WR – Larry Fitzgerald. Big year for Fitz, who scored last year like he once did but is still searching for his first 1,000-yard season since 2011 and who is coming to a crossroads – along with the franchise – with his contract in 2015.

WR – Michael Floyd. He’s a star on the rise. He played well last year, and he should be better this season. The third wide receiver should be Ted Ginn, but I fully expect John Brown to at least have a chance to play a role in the offense.

TE – John Carlson. This is assuming he stays healthy, but Carlson has looked good in the offseason and could prove to be a very nice bargain.

TE – Jake Ballard. At some point – maybe not until 2015 – this will be Troy Niklas’ spot. The rookie is far behind right now. Rob Housler still has a chance to work his way into the lineup. But right now, Ballard is feeling good with his knee and he is closer to the blocker that Arians likes.

LT – Jared Veldheer. The left tackle they have always wanted.

LG – Jonathan Cooper. He’s going to be back to health. Time for the 2013 first round pick to get his time on the field and show why the brass so believes in him.

C – Lyle Sendlein. Old reliable is what they want in the middle.

RG – Earl Watford. Paul Fanaika has been running first unit and there is also veteran Ted Larsen lurking as a possibility. But the Cardinals are hoping Watford comes around and takes control of a job he was drafted to have.

RT – Bobby Massie. Another wide open spot. There’s always a possibility of a late-summer free agent signing. Bradley Sowell isn’t go to go away. But Massie has looked better in the offseason work and in a lot of ways, this is probably his last chance to take ahold of the place he held as a rookie.

So that’s that. There will be a lot of time and practices between now and the opener. Injuries happen. Battles will be won or lost. We will see how this guesstimate (educated as it might be) holds up.

BreakHuddleblog


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PP, Palmer to golf on big stage

Posted by Darren Urban on June 18, 2014 – 11:37 am

Next month, in one last fling before training camp, Patrick Peterson and Carson Palmer are going golfing. But it’s a little more than a foursome on a weekend, even though both guys do love their golf. Each have been invited — and have accepted — to play in the annual American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. It’s the biggest celebrity tourney of the year. Ken Whisenhunt used to participate annually when he was coaching the Cards. Palmer took part last year, while Peterson has been invited for the first time.

The sports book in Tahoe (not that anyone should ever, ever bet on such things) puts the odds on Peterson winning at 30-1, with Palmer at 50-1. Seeing that a former pro in Annika Sorenstam is in the field, I’d guess the Cards aren’t coming away with a victory.

Former Cardinal Emmitt Smith is also playing. The tournament runs from July 18-20.

Peterson has turned into a pretty decent golfer in his short time playing. He, along with Bruce Arians, played in the pro-am at the most recent Waste Management Open.

CPgolfshotBLOG


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CAPTION THIS – 2014 OTAs Edition

Posted by since1898 on May 21, 2014 – 11:14 am

Carson Palmer, John Brown

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Need, speed, no QB: Day Two wrap

Posted by Darren Urban on May 9, 2014 – 9:12 pm

Four picks and no quarterbacks. People keep wondering if the next draft spot would draw a QB choice and it didn’t. It certainly doesn’t sound like it will happen either, now that the Cardinals have moved into the fourth round. Bruce Arians was asked what he would say to fans who were expecting a quarterback to be picked. Arians was blunt.

“Why?” Arians said.

“We’ve got three pretty good ones and you don’t take quarterbacks if they’re not going to beat out the ones you have,” Arians added. “I know people rate quarterbacks. I’ve been doing this a long time. I like ours better.”

So there’s that. As for some other notes after three more draft picks on the draft’s hump day Saturday:

– As a QB follow, Arians said there was “no doubt” Carson Palmer could play a couple of more years after this one. “Look at Peyton at 38,” Arians said. “The longevity of the athletes today, with the technology in the medical profession, they are going to go a lot longer. As long as you stay injury-free.”

– The Cardinals don’t want to draft for need. Then the first three picks go to a safety, a tight end and a pass rusher and that certainly felt like need.

“That’s the emphasis you put into building that (120) board,” GM Steve Keim said. “We say best player available, but there is an emphasis on who impacts our football team the most. We are never going to leave a good player to the side, but we will take who impacts us the most.”

– Keim said the Cardinals tried to trade back up into the second round, but could not get a deal done (he did not say who the Cardinals wanted to try and get.) But a trade remains possible Sunday when the Cardinals have a pick in the fourth, fifth and sixth round. “The phone has been ringing a lot,” Keim said. “We’ve been active.”

– The Cardinals’ two third-round picks echoed exactly what Keim has been talking about this offseason, which is adding speed. Defensive end/outside linebacker Kareem Martin is 6-foot-6 and 272 pounds and Keim compared his frame to the 6-8, 284-pound Calais Campbell when Campbell came out in 2008. Now, Campbell weighs 305. Martin can rush from the outside in the base 3-4 and be both places in sub-packages. More importantly, he has the size and speed that is difficult to find. Keim also said he wanted to get longer and more athletic on the edges, better to chase down the Colin Kaepernicks and Russell Wilsons of the world.

– The other third-round pick was a stunner. “Got to keep you guys on your toes with a small-school guy,” Keim quipped. That’s exactly what it was when Pittsburg State wideout John Brown was picked. But it didn’t take much research to see Brown, at 5-foot-10 and a 4.34 40, was the Cardinals’ attempt to find Arians another T.Y. Hilton. Arians loved him some T.Y. in Indy in 2012. Keim’s been looking for a clone since. Arians also compared Brown in some ways to another of his former wideouts, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown. He’s older — 24 — but they love his makeup and his speed.

– It’s not surprising that Arians said he plans to cut back on Patrick Peterson’s punt returns. There are enough other guys on the roster now, with Brown and Ted Ginn, to do it that you wouldn’t risk your Pro Bowl cornerback. Arians acknowledged the Tyrann Mathieu injury had an impact on that thinking. Plus Peterson isn’t going to play wide receiver most likely, but after adding pieces at receiver, it doesn’t make a lot of sense anyway.

– What’s left Sunday Saturday? (It’s been a long day.) Assuming the Cards stick with three picks, I wouldn’t be surprised with an offensive lineman. Beyond that, we’ll see. Obviously I’m not counting on a QB. Maybe another guy for the front seven. Then it’s time to get this roster together for the full offseason.

 


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On the clock, the Cards have choices

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2014 – 10:42 am

It’s draft day. The final mock drafts of hundreds have been filed and there is still a lot of intrigue. It gets even more interesting with the Cardinals selecting at 20. A deep draft and flexibility given the current roster will give plenty of room for speculation all the way up to the pick. As the draft comes closer, it seems more and more people expect a quarterback at 20. Something Bruce Arians said last week resonates, about how a rebuilding team can’t afford to pick a QB early and let him sit — but a team that isn’t rebuilding could. Clearly, the Cards aren’t rebuilding — Arians even said he doesn’t like to use the word — so that leaves open the door for a QB. Carson Palmer doesn’t have a problem with a QB pick, and for the right guy, I don’t think the Cards will either.

That said, Steve Keim has his own thought process. I don’t think Keim/the Cards like a ton of QBs, not in the first round. But I think there are one or two. Is it Derek Carr or Blake Bortles, the guys who have become the chic mock picks? To me, Bortles makes a lot more sense than Carr, but what would be the chances Bortles falls all the way to 20? That too seems a long shot. People want to talk about dropping QBs but in the end, QBs rarely drop. Especially if they have a decent chance to be special.

Keim too said something that sticks with me, the idea of being patient because there are usually unexpected players that could drop. Maybe that means someone who has been universally expected to go top 10 or 12 — I saw one mock with tight end Eric Ebron dropping into the 20s. Keim definitely is a fan of linebacker Ryan Shazier, who could be there and who makes a lot of sense in this defense. An interesting name is pass rusher Anthony Barr — another guy expected to go before 20, but you never know.

Regardless, Keim’s confidence in his staff’s draft process is obvious when he talks about it. The belief is that the first-round pick, whoever it is, will be the right one. And in the end, you don’t know exactly who you have even after the draft anyway. Players are chosen, and you have to wait a little while to find out exactly what you have.

TillmandraftcardBLOG

 


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Voluntary workouts can be rewarding

Posted by Darren Urban on April 25, 2014 – 12:49 pm

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.

WorkoutCash

 


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