It wouldn’t be an offseason for the Cardinals and General Manager Steve Keim without a veteran free agent signing or two by the time the team got to training camp. Given the retirement of John Carlson earlier this offseason, making a tight end one of those signings wouldn’t be a surprise. So it’s also not a surprise when Adam Schefter reported Sunday morning former Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham would be visiting the Cardinals this week.
Gresham, a former first-round pick who spent his first five seasons with the Bengals (and once a teammate of Carson Palmer), has started 67 NFL games (of 73 total) and has 280 receptions. He’s a pass catcher on a team that could use a proven one at tight end now that Carlson is gone. He had to have back surgery earlier in the offseason for a herniated disc, which is why he hasn’t signed anywhere yet. He also has been criticized for his inconsistency over the years in Cincinnati.
Gresham has already visited the Saints, who traded away Jimmy Graham, and there is interest there. Gresham also could visit other teams. The Cards have Darren Fells and Troy Niklas as blocker-first-types. Veteran combine signee Ifeanyi Momah — who has been working with Palmer in Palmer’s San Diego workouts — has looked good as a receiver in non-padded OTAs and minicamp. The Cards also have seventh-round pick Gerald Christian, Ted Bolser and Gannon Sinclair at tight end.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Darren Fells, Gannon Sinclair, Ifeanyi Momah, Jermaine Gresham, John Carlson, Ted Bolser, Troy Niklas
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The tweet — once again from the data divers at profootballfocus.com — made it simple: In the 100 targets they counted for Larry Fitzgerald in 2014, the Cardinals did not throw one interception. Not from Carson Palmer, or Drew Stanton, or Ryan Lindley or Logan Thomas. That, PFF said, meant Fitz was the safest receiver to throw to in the NFL last season.
(Yes, I know Lindley’s backbreaking playoff red-zone interception in Carolina was supposed to go to Fitz, but all stats usually are regular season only unless noted.)
In itself, an interesting stat. But it got me thinking. In 2013, the Cardinals definitely threw an interception or two throwing to Fitzgerald — or Palmer did, since he took every 2013 snap. It was a big deal at the time, with Bruce Arians trying to teach a) his offense to a new QB and new wide receivers and b) a new position to Fitzgerald. More than once it was mentioned that Palmer was trying too hard to force the ball to Fitzgerald, something Palmer acknowledged he learned from once 2014 came around.
So I asked PFF what the Fitzgerald INT number was for 2013. It turns out Palmer had a whopping seven interceptions when targeting Fitzgerald in 2013. Now, there is no breakdown with that. It’s impossible to know who might have been at fault, whether the defender made a great play or if the pass rush caused a problem. But it does show the evolution of Arians’ offense and how much more comfortable Palmer and Fitz were within it. We have touched on the subject of the improvement of Palmer working with Fitz before. The numbers seem to back it up.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald
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So, before it’s time to take leave for a bit, we come to the second part of the “for what it’s worth” posts. Yesterday, it was the defense. Today, the offense, which starts with a healthy Carson Palmer, always a good thing. This team should be in a better place offensively this season, if for no other reason than the system is set and the offensive line should be better than it’s been overall in a long time. Of course, the Cards have to show it. And Palmer needs to stay on the field.
QB — Carson Palmer. Whatever else the Cardinals might have done on the field this offseason, just having Palmer back and working in 11-on-11 by the end would deem it a success. We’ll see how it plays out in camp — and more importantly, the first preseason game he takes part in — but it’s important that he is on track to be the starter.
RB — Andre Ellington. Rookie David Johnson should end up playing a role and could end up as a key on offense. But right now, all things still figure to go through Ellington to begin with. The entire running back situation is an interesting one. Will the offensive line upgrade trickle down to help this position? How might Kerwynn Williams fit in? The Cards just want Ellington to stay healthy, and see what that means.
WR — Larry Fitzgerald. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact, after another year under 1,000 yards, that Fitz was really clicking with Palmer before Palmer got hurt. If the two vets can play together, I’m curious to see what Fitz’s numbers can be, even in this system when not one receiver figures to dominate the stat sheet.
WR — Michael Floyd. It’s a big year for Floyd. The quarterback situation did not help last season, but there were times even when Palmer played where, for whatever reason, Floyd didn’t produce. Sometimes, that was a lack of targets. The Cards certainly have other options too. But the former No. 1 draft pick needs to make a greater impact.
WR — John Brown. In this setup, the Cards go three wide receivers (I’ll hit the tight ends in a minute.) Brown has added a little muscle and had strong self-awareness of what happened to him last season, including wearing out at the end of the season. Palmer can’t say enough good things about Brown, with whom he developed a strong bond with last summer. Smokey will get his chances.
TE — Darren Fells. Troy Niklas is going to be in this mix and when the Cards go two tight ends on running downs, Niklas will likely join Fells. But right now, with Niklas still trying to get healthy, it is Fells who as emerged out of a very inexperienced tight end room. One caveat: Can’t exclude the possibility of the Cards signing a veteran at the position, which could change this dynamic.
RT — Bobby Massie. D.J. Humphries is making strides, but as of now, it’s hard to see Humphries surpassing Massie. Things could change when the pads go on. Another possibility is if Humphries makes enough strides, maybe Massie is a guy who the Cards would consider trading, especially if another team loses a tackle in injury in camp. But if Massie is around for the first game, I think he starts.
RG — Jonathan Cooper. He’s in great shape. He doesn’t have any of the issues left from a broken leg or turf toe or any of the other problems he might have had. If Cooper is going to become the player the Cardinals hope he can be, this is the season he needs to do it. His confidence clearly has never been higher, and he comes across as a different player than he was at this time last year. A big, big camp awaits.
C — A.Q. Shipley. This is an interesting spot. Shipley and Ted Larsen will battle in camp. OTAs and minicamp are what they are, but Shipley was the one getting more first-unit snaps by the end and he has history with both Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin. This will come down to how Shipley and Larsen perform in games. (And if they both struggle, I wouldn’t completely write off the idea of a Lyle Sendlein return either, as long as he remains a free agent.)
LG — Mike Iupati. For a second straight year, the big free-agent purchase was an offensive lineman. Iupati’s reputation is that of excellent run blocker and a guy who needs to work on his pass blocking. Iupati certainly looks the part, and it will be fun to watch him in pads during camp and see what collisions develop.
LT — Jared Veldheer. The Cardinals wanted a left tackle and after one season, it looks like they have gotten a pretty good one.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Andre Ellington, Bobby Massie, Carson Palmer, D, Darren Fells, J. Humphries, Jared Veldheer, John Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Ted Larsen, Troy Niklas
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Palmer said his own film study revealed a problem in his mechanics, where he was failing to stay on the balls of his feet as he went through his read progressions as he glanced left. It meant he moved slightly left when doing so and was throwing off-balance because of it. Now that he has had to work so hard in rehab after a torn ACL and started his footwork from scratch, he made sure to update his mechanics as well — admitting he hadn’t worked on it enough as the years had gone by.
“It will help my completion percentage, it will help with my accuracy and it will also help us as a unit, because I won’t be making my left tackle’s job as difficult,” Palmer said. “In turn, I’ll be able to step into more throws. As I’m getting to my second and third and fourth read, I’m holding onto the ball a little bit longer and that pocket is getting slowly smaller, so it will give me more room to work with inside the pocket because I will be more centrally located.”
It wasn’t as if Palmer was inaccurate in the six games he played last season. In fact, he completed about 63 percent of his passes, and without an aberration of a game against Philly (only 20-for-42, despite throwing for 329 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions) Palmer’s completion percentage was 66 percent. But if Palmer is right and he not only can be more accurate but be able to be in a better place in the pocket as the rush closes in, the Cardinals’ passing game should see tangible benefits.
Tags: Carson Palmer
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The health of Carson Palmer is the linchpin to the Cardinals’ 2015 season. No one is disputing that, which is why it’s been so important for Palmer to get back on the field and why his full return in minicamp generated the headlines it did. It also (obviously) would make an impact on the NFC West race. Right after the season, Bruce Arians was asked about battling Seattle going forward.
“I’d like to play them with a first-string quarterback,” Arians said. “We beat them with our first-string quarterback. We didn’t get the chance to play them this year with our first-string quarterback.”
The fact is, the Cardinals hardly got any play from Palmer against their division rivals. Because of the schedule and thanks to the shoulder injury that cut down Palmer’s season early before the knee got him late, Palmer played a little more than three of a possible 24 quarters against the Rams, 49ers and Seahawks. That’s a tough way to maneuver through a difficult division. (The Cardinals ended up going 3-3 in six division games, rallying behind a Drew Stanton TD pass to beat the Rams in the one game Palmer did get to play.)
Palmer plans to change that in 2015, of course. While he only got six starts last season, Palmer was healthy in 2013, not only starting every game but taking every snap. If he can manage that again — or at least come close to it, since taking every single snap doesn’t necessarily have to happen — it’ll give the Cards even footing in the NFC West.
Tags: 49ers, Carson Palmer, NFC West, Rams, Seahawks
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The offseason is just about over.
After the Cardinals finished their minicamp practice this morning, Bruce Arians declared it to be the last day of minicamp. The work had been good enough over the last month of OTAs and minicamp that he canceled Thursday’s final day (The Cardinals still had meetings and a walkthrough today.) Arians was confident the Cards accomplished what needed to be done, not the least of which was getting Carson Palmer back on the field. No reason to push it, or risk any more injuries.
Some quick notes now that it’s over:
— Tight end Troy Niklas is having a minor surgical procedure on his previously injured left ankle to remove what he described as the “tightrope” in his ankle, which had kept the area tight but also restricted his movement. He said he’ll move much better in training camp afterward. Niklas was sitting out Wednesday with his right ankle sore after rolling it Tuesday.
— Undrafted rookie inside linebacker Alani Fua got a couple of reps in seven-on-seven nickel work, which could be interesting down the line. Fua, at 6-foot-5 with long arms, could be a pain in a rear for opposing passing lanes.
— One defensive look had four safeties on the field: Rashad Johnson, Deone Bucannon, Tyrann Mathieu, Tony Jefferson. There was a reason Arians dismissed the idea of the depth chart regarding safety.
— Arians talked again about the Cardinals’ improved team speed and strength. “What the hell is it called now, Sports Science?” Arians said. “I know we’re bigger and stronger and faster.”
— Arians praised the final work of practice for rookie tackle D.J. Humphries, and also said Jonathan Cooper has looked very good all offseason.
— The last practice was spirited. The offense and defense wanted to “win” plays, which is why running back Andre Ellington couldn’t believe he dropped a wide-open TD pass (pictured below.)
Tags: Alani Fua, Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, D.J. Humphries, Deone Bucannon, Jonathan Cooper, minicamp, Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Troy Niklas, Tyrann Mathieu
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Minicamp began Tuesday — the last three days of work before the players break for the offseason — with Carson Palmer right where he said he wanted to be when he first hurt his ACL last November: Playing on the field. Palmer had been taking part in OTAs but Tuesday was the first time he took part in full speed 11-on-11 work. Much more on that later, but it’s a great sign for Palmer and the Cardinals — especially since Bruce Arians said there are no limitations right now.
(That could change come training camp, but we will see.)
Other quick notes from the first day:
— The weather couldn’t have been nicer — clouds, a few raindrops and a touch higher than 80 degrees — and so the longer time on the field wasn’t that brutally hot minicamp stuff the Cardinals usually deal with. The work followed. Arians was pleased with what his team did (and he’s a guy who will say so if he’s not.) Arians said the Cards finished early and still got about 30 extra reps.
— Arians said he’s pleased with the team speed, which is always something GM Steve Keim is looking to upgrade.
— Wide receiver Michael Floyd remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, which kept him out last week as well. Arians said there is no reason to risk Floyd’s health right now. On a good note, rookie inside linebacker Alani Fua (foot) took part in practice for the first time since getting hurt in rookie minicamp. Rookie linebacker Shaq Riddick (hamstring) remains sidelined.
— Running back David Johnson got more reps Tuesday (the Cards are down to one field of work as opposed to the two-field practices) in part because Kerwynn Williams and Stepfan Taylor are sitting out with minor injuries.
— Arians acknowledged he was hoping quarterback Logan Thomas would have made more progress by now. Thomas remains in a three-QB race for the third QB spot.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, minicamp
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The Cardinals started their second week of OTAs today after the long weekend, a session that coach Bruce Arians said started a little slowly in mental and communication terms before the Cardinals straightened things out. Quarterback Carson Palmer continues to sit out 11-on-11 work but in 7-on-7, on a play where coverage was good, he even took off on a scramble. Now, obviously there is no contact anyway and in 7-on-7, there are really no defenders matched up with the QB anyway, but still, a scramble.
“I’ve watched him run all over this place for the last month,” Arians said. “That part doesn’t bother me at all.”
Now for a couple of offensive line tidbits, with the caveat that, in the offseason, little can be determined about the offensive or defensive line.
— Arians, for that reason, didn’t have much to say about how new guard Mike Iupati looks. “Mike’s not a soccer player,” Arians said. “He’s a physical guy and now’s not a time to be physical.”
It doesn’t mean the Cardinals don’t have high hopes for Iupati. But that’s a discussion for training camp.
— As for the battle at center between Ted Larsen and A.Q. Shipley, there is a little more to that because the center can at least snap the ball. “It’s been back and forth every day,” Arians said. “Teddy had some problems snapping the ball in shotgun the first couple of days. ‘Q’ knows the offense inside and out. It’ll be a battle until the end.”
— As for first-round pick D.J. Humphries, Arians said the tackle “needs to mature a little bit” and that his progress has been slow.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Carson Palmer, D.J. Humphries, Mike Iupati, offseason, OTAs, Ted Larsen
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Bruce Arians made it pretty clear the other day where his quarterback depth chart stood. The third quarterback spot is “wide open” as a competition, a comment that both solidified Drew Stanton’s status as Carson Palmer’s backup (not a surprise at all) and left the rest of the offseason and training camp to an interesting situation for Logan Thomas (which might be a little more surprising.)
When the Cardinals signed Chandler Harnish, it was easy too look at it as adding an extra camp arm — the Cards always have four quarterbacks around — who was familiar with Arians’ system. Thomas was a guy who figured to be around at least one more season so the team could figure out if the 2014 fourth-round pick could indeed develop into an NFL quarterback. Then the Cardinals decided to sign tryout QB Phillip Sims and suddenly, the Cards had five quarterbacks. Maybe, if Palmer was further back in his rehab, all those arms would be important. And, truth be told, the full boat of QBs could still be partially about Palmer relief this summer. But after Arians praised Sims recently and then noted the whole wide-open thing, well, then you wonder where this could go.
With two practices running simultaneously during OTAs and minicamp, there are reps to share. Thomas is getting work, as is Sims — which normally does not happen much for a fifth QB. It’s so early, and right now, Thomas still seems to be the probable guy who ends up as the No. 3 QB on the depth chart once the Cardinals host the Saints Sept. 13. But Thomas still has work to do on all the things that were giving him issues as a rookie, and Sept. 13 is a long way away. While in theory the third QB spot isn’t one to focus upon in the grand scheme, the Cardinals unfortunately found out last season just how valuable that spot can become — and why this is a deep depth chart battle that still bears watching.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chandler Harnish, Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas, Phillip Sims, quarterbacks
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It’s not unusual for the Cardinals to sign a player or two who attend their rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. This year, that reportedly includes a quarterback. NFLdraftdiamonds.com said Sunday the Cards are signing Winston-Salem State’s Phillip Sims, who along with Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly, was a QB the Cards brought in for minicamp. There has been no official announcement from the team as of yet (and the Cards will have to cut someone once it’s official) but the post did include a picture of Sims in the Cards’ offices. (al.com also reported the signing.)
The Cardinals already have four quarterbacks on the roster — Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas and Chandler Harnish. It’s possible Palmer will be dialed back for OTAs, and the Cards just want to have an extra arm around for the next few weeks of the offseason. Or maybe Sims impressed enough to displace Harnish. Sims started his college career at Alabama and was in the mix as Tide QB before eventually losing out to A.J. McCarron. Sims, 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, had 15 touchdowns and four interceptions as a redshirt senior at Winston-Salem while sharing playing time.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Chandler Harnish, Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas, Phillip Sims, rookie minicamp
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