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Wednesday before the Broncos

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2015 – 1:49 pm

It’s the fourth preseason game, and there is a short list of the things of which I’ll really focus upon when the Cardinals play the Broncos. Some are about the roster, some are about the lineup.

One of those things is the right tackle start for Earl Watford. It means so much both on the field and with the construction of the 53-man roster, because of the uncertainty with Bobby Massie and the rough camp of rookie D.J. Humphries.

To be fair to Humphries, and Bruce Arians acknowledged it this week, the idea was that Humphries was for the future, not necessarily 2015.

“We were hoping we had a full year to develop him,” Arians said, which speaks directly to the maturity issues Arians has talked about with Humphries, in addition to him being a natural left tackle trying to play the right side.

“But,” Arians added, “there is going to come a time when he’ll have to go out there and he better be ready.”

When you look how the roster is breaking down, and the very real possibility Humphries could be the backup swing tackle on Sundays, you understand Arians speaks the blunt truth. At least Arians added he thinks Humphries, over the last week or so, seems to have come to an understanding of the work ethic needed here. It’s going to take some time on Humphries, but Arians and OC/OL coach Harold Goodwin will work on him. And like Jonathan Cooper, it may take a little while, but there is confidence Humphries will get there.

The other places where I’ll be watching closely as the 53-man roster moves closer to reality (and I will have a post with my guess on that later today.):

— The first game action for running back Chris Johnson and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon after hamstring injuries.

— The last push by three undrafted guys: Inside linebackers Alani Fua and Gabe Martin and cornerback Cariel Brooks.

— And of course, the play of quarterbacks Phillip Sims and Logan Thomas.

— While there are some roster spots that are in the balance, it is the Johnson/Weatherspoon/Watford spotlight that truly affects this team when it comes to playing the Saints in a little over a week. I think the Cardinals have managed to get into a place where if they do not have Johnson or Weatherspoon, they are prepared. I wasn’t sure they’d be able to get to that place with Weatherspoon, but Kevin Minter has had a good enough preseason that they are in a much better place there.

— In case you didn’t see it, recently released linebacker Lorenzo Alexander signed with the Raiders. Happy to see him find a job, and it’s back home — Alexander went to Cal Berkeley.

It’s about time to get the preseason over with, isn’t it?

BeforeBroncosBlogUSE


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Keim: Raiders game “a great wake-up call”

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2015 – 8:07 am

General Manager Steve Keim acknowledged the obvious from Sunday night: There were a lot of issues offensively.

“It was a great wake-up call,” Keim said Monday during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf show” on Arizona Sports 98.7.

Of the starting offensive line, Keim said guard Ted Larsen was the only to even have a solid game. But like Bruce Arians, he saw other problems, like Carson Palmer holding the ball too long a couple of times, some poor routes from receivers, and running backs failing to chip in certain situations.

“When you have so many things go wrong at the same time, it’s a recipe for disaster,” Keim said.

— Keim said the potential Bobby Massie suspension is “up in the air” until and if the Cardinals hear something from the league office.

— The battle at center between A.Q. Shipley and Lyle Sendlein remains ongoing, Keim said. (Shipley did have some issues Sunday night holding off the inside of the Raiders’ line, including ex-Cardinal Dan Williams.)

— Earl Watford played well, Keim said, reinforcing my view that Watford held up pretty good against stud Raiders pass rusher Kahlil Mack.

— Nothing has changed with Mike Iupati, other than he continues to rehab. Personally, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t miss some regular-season time, but we will see.

— Keim acknowledged there probably hasn’t been a preseason game the last two years where he hasn’t been concerned or there had not been some ups and downs. But he also said that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to feel good about. He thought the defense — other than a couple of blown assignments on coverage — played well. And he was happy with the play specifically of linebackers Alex Okafor and Kevin Minter and defensive end Calais Campbell.

— Keim said both running back Chris Johnson and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon “have a chance” to play in Thursday’s preseason finale.

— The 12 roster moves needed to get to 75 should come today. “No reason to waste any time,” Keim said. The Cardinals practice this afternoon.

 


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Friday before the Raiders/Camp aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2015 – 4:14 pm

It’s a special two-headed blog post, combining a “Friday before” with an “aftermath.” We’ll see if I can get out alive. Seriously, camp is over, and thank goodness for that. I know I have tired of hotel life. Even if we are just a short drive from home, home seems so far away in the middle of the month.

What is there to say about camp? The Cards had their injuries, although beyond losing starting nose tackle Corey Peters to his Achilles tear — which is a big deal, but not crippling given the defensive line depth — the Cards came out OK. We’ll see where Michael Floyd and Mike Iupati and Sean Weatherspoon are in a week as the Cards prep for the Saints on opening day.

Best players in camp? Hard to go anywhere but Carson Palmer. Tyrann Mathieu was very good. I thought Patrick Peterson played well. There has been a lot of praise doled out to inside linebacker Kevin Minter, which is a huge deal given Weatherspoon’s absence. Of course, with still two preseason games to go, there is still some time before the roster is shaped. The Cards — at 88 on the roster right now — have to be down to 75 by Tuesday at the latest (although I expect those cuts sooner) and then to 53 a week from Saturday. All for a season where much is expected of the team.

“For us to reach where we want to go, we can’t be potential,” Bruce Arians said. “We have to be damn good.”

— I have a hunch running back Chris Johnson plays in Oakland. He practiced Friday, but he didn’t do a lot beyond individual drills, mostly running off by himself to keep loose. But Arians said he wants to be on the field, and while Johnson said he wasn’t sure if he’ll be ready, I just have a gut feeling he’ll get a little time. If not, it’ll be the Denver game.

— Let’s hope the MRI needed for rookie Xavier Williams on his left elbow isn’t a big deal. He got hurt at the end of practice Friday.

— Arians started calling CB Jerraud Powers “Milkman” because he wanted to needle Powers for needing so many days off with his hamstring injury. (Powers was milking the injury — get it?) Then Powers came back to practice Friday and made a couple of interceptions. “The Milkman delivered today.”

— The players aren’t the only ones who likes finally breaking camp to be able to sleep in their own bed. Arians does too.

“My liver likes a break too,” Arians deadpanned.

— Earl Watford will get second-team work at right tackle in Oakland Sunday. How much backup quarterback Drew Stanton will play will depend on how much Carson Palmer ultimately plays. In this game, Phillip Sims will get in the game first as third QB with Logan Thomas finishing up.

— Arians likes the depth that’s been created with the young inside linebackers, but I’d think the spotlight will still be bright on those guys Sunday (although it’ll be brighter in the preseason finale.) I’m interested to see how D.J. Humphries looks at left tackle, how DT Rodney Gunter looks in extended time and whether the Cardinals can put together a couple of sacks with their first-unit defense. Josh Mauro was getting a lot of work as an edge guy in first-unit sub-packages this week.

In a week, the preseason will be over, and it’ll be time to talk regular season. Finally.

FridayRaidersBLOG

 

 


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Possible future joint practices — just not in AZ

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2015 – 12:57 pm

It’s the homestretch: One more regular practice today, and then an earlier practice Friday (gates open at 9:30 a.m.) before the Cardinals break camp.

Next year, there’s a possibility not all the training camp practices will be at University of Phoenix Stadium, because, as Bruce Arians has mentioned before, he would “love” to hold some joint practices with another team.

“We just don’t have the space here,” Arians said. “We’d have to travel somewhere.”

Arians said the Cardinals talked to “two or three” other teams about joint practices but it didn’t work out. One team Arians floated as one he wouldn’t mind teaming up with? Tennessee, with former coaching cohort (and former Cardinals head coach) Ken Whisenhunt.

— CB Jerraud Powers, ILB Sean Weatherspoon and RB Chris Johnson are all run testing today to test their hamstrings. If all goes well, they will practice Friday and the door isn’t closed on them playing in Oakland.

— Defensive end Ed Stinson is sitting out with a toe injury. Arians doesn’t think it is serious. It is not the same toe that derailed Stinson’s rookie season and eventually landed him on injured reserve.

— Arians acknowledged what had been speculated on frequently, that there is a possibility the Cardinals would only keep two quarterbacks and have a third on the practice squad.

— The punting battle remains even, Arians said. The coach acknowledged Dave Zastudil’s age and injury history have to be considered, and Arians added that he thought Drew Butler did a good job last season except for that terrible playoff outing. “That was really the only game he struggled,” Arians said. However, Arians added, “it’s still the best guy for the job” and these last two games will be factors.

 


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Chris Johnson’s hammy, and where he fits

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2015 – 9:24 am

Bruce Arians suggested Wednesday that running back Chris Johnson could be back practicing by the end of the week, and there is a possibility that Arians will say in a couple of hours that indeed, Johnson is returning today from his sore hamstring. With only two preseason games left — and with Johnson sitting out the entire offseason — there is little time left to prep for games that count. (UPDATE: Arians said Johnson will go through a run test Thursday, and hopefully will practice Friday and play Sunday.)

Johnson acknowledged Wednesday he feels he needs to play in preseason games, to at least get a couple of carries and get a feel for the game. If that ends up being the normally fringe-heavy fourth preseason game, so be it. But, Johnson also said, “I think they know what I can do already.”

That may be true, and I would still lean toward CJ being on this roster heading into the regular season. But it’s not necessarily a lock, with what David Johnson has shown and Kerwynn Williams still lingering in the background and Stepfan Taylor so valuable on special teams. Can’t keep ’em all.

Johnson noted “I’ve never been a guy that really misses games or practices or anything like that,” and that’s true (save for a contract holdout once upon a time.)

“It’s a situation where it’s frustrating watching practice,” Johnson said. “I know I need to be out there practicing. But it has kind of helped me be able to really focus on the playbook and get the playbook down.”

CJfrustBLOG

 


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Riddick return, OL moves and similar butts

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2015 – 2:24 pm

It was a long presser from Bruce Arians today after no morning walkthrough. Here are some of the highlights before I head down to practice:

— The injury list right now includes cornerback Jerraud Powers, who is now dealing with a hamstring issue of his own and will be “shut down” for a few days. Arians did not sound concerned. Good news, though, running back Chris Johnson is actually better than Arians originally thought with his hamstring and is day to day. Arians said Saturday he thought Johnson would missed a week or two. OL Earl Watford had a shot in his troublesome ankle and gets a rest day (the Cards are off Tuesday too), and will be back Wednesday, as will TE Jermaine Gresham (back) and WR Brittan Golden (sore after taking a big hit Saturday.)

— OLB Shaq Riddick is finally back at practice. So is CB Jonte Green and T Rob Crisp.

— Arians said it was “discouraging” ILB Sean Weatherspoon is still out with his bad hamstring. There is a hope he’ll return to practice this week, but we’ll see.

— The coaches have talked as a staff about playing the starters less Sunday in Oakland in light of all the injuries around the NFL. Arians said each guy will be gauged differently, based on practice and the need for reps.

— When Watford comes back, he’ll work at right tackle and have the chance to battle Bradley Sowell for the starting job. D.J. Humphries will spend the week at left tackle to get some work there; Arians wants him to be able to play both sides as a backup — which he will be to start the season almost assuredly.

— Arians praised Alani Fua and, to a lesser extent, Gabe Martin, at inside linebacker. Arians intrigued by Fua’s length.

— After video watching, Arians still said there is no leader at third QB between Sims and Thomas.

— Although Mike Leach already took the blame on Twitter, Arians reiterated it was Leach snapping the ball too soon to holder Dave Zastudil that caused the botched PAT in the game. “A 25-year-vet, whatever he is, snapping to a 30-year vet, and one wasn’t looking,” Arians said. “You would not anticpate that happening out of thise two guys, but it did happen.”

— Arians liked the game starting left guard Ted Larsen had a lot, but “he blew it with one dumb penalty,” Arians lamented of Larsen’s 15-yarder for jumping on a pile. Still, he said he liked Larsen’s game, and that of Jonathan Cooper’s too.

— The starting center job between A.Q. Shipley and Lyle Sendlein is “heavily contested.” Arians added that Carson Palmer gets no say in the matter. “Their butts are about the same,” Arians quipped.

 


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Chargers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 23, 2015 – 12:11 am

Let’s be real — Bruce Arians would have liked to get a preseason win Saturday night, but he couldn’t have wanted extra football in the form of overtime. Injuries happen that late with tired bodies, and there is no upside of a fifth quarter this time of year. It shouldn’t have come to that anyway, of course, if Marion Grice doesn’t drop a wide open pass on the Cardinals’ previous drive, or if Phillip Sims doesn’t overthrow 6-foot-7 tight end Ifeanyi Momah soon after. Or if Logan Thomas and Momah don’t get crossed up on a pass where Momah was wide open in the third quarter, failing to connect on a pass that seemed like it could have been a touchdown.

In the preseason, these things get forgotten, however. In the regular season, Thomas or Sims would (hopefully) never throw a pass. So, with a nod to the football gods for letting us get out of this one in regulation time, my thoughts:

— Carson Palmer said he wanted to take a couple of hits. Not sure he wanted to be buried on two sacks and get whacked another time. But he didn’t break and that pass to J.J. Nelson was a thing of beauty. So was that touchdown dart to John Brown.

— If David Johnson really can perform like that in the backfield, and Andre Ellington — who had a very nice 11-yard run himself — stays healthy, the Cardinals are going to be fine running the ball.

— Chris Johnson out a week or two with a hamstring pull. He might not get any preseason carries now. You wonder where it might put him after David Johnson’s performance.

— It’s always good to be a young player on the bubble to be named by name by the head coach as playing well. So linebacker Alani Fua, cornerback Cariel Brooks and defensive end Josh Mauro, that’s a good thing.

— Arians also praised Sims, as he should. Sims did miss Momah late, but Sims looked incredibly cool in the pocket and patient. Arians said there is no leader at third quarterback between Sims and Logan Thomas, but Sims is making his push.

— After all the Rodney Gunter talk, it was Matt Shaughnessy out there in the starting lineup with Frostee Rucker and Calais Campbell. Gunter did play with the starting unit, however.

— The Cardinals are off tomorrow, and practice Monday before taking Tuesday off. They play next Sunday in Oakland.

— Arians screamed at the officials much of the game but at no time was it more noticed that late when he (and Patrick Peterson) kept yelling for some flag on Chargers’ defensive backs guarding Jaxon Shipley. That Cardinals cornerback C.J. Roberts was flagged for holding on what turned out to be the game’s deciding play on a pass that wouldn’t have been completed stuck in Arians’ craw too.

“Don’t ask me about officials. Please,” Arians said, after he was asked about the officials. “That’s why I’m hoarse. We need to relearn the rules they changed two years ago. This crew might need eight preseason games to get ready.”

That’s a good way to end it. G’night all.

BAchargerafter

 


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No Chris Johnson debut yet

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2015 – 5:55 pm

Chris Johnson came off the practice field Thursday having pulled up gimpy on one of the last plays. The injury has yet to be disclosed, but whatever it is, He’s suffering from a hamstring injury, and it’ll stop him from making his Cardinals debut tonight against the Chargers. Previously, Bruce Arians had planned to get Johnson five or six carries. The other Johnson, David, will make his debut, however. The rookie figures to play a bulk of the second and third quarter in his first game after missing the preseason opener.

The other Cardinals not playing tonight — at least on the list — are all injured:

— WR Michael Floyd (hand)

— CB Jonte Green (hamstring)

— LB Shaq Riddick (hamstring)

— LB Sean Weatherspoon (hamstring)

— T Rob Crisp (knee)

— G Mike Iupati (knee)

Last week, CB Jerraud Powers and TE Jermaine Gresham also didn’t play but weren’t on the “not expected to play list.” We’ll see if they get on the field against the Chargers.


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Friday before the Chargers

Posted by Darren Urban on August 21, 2015 – 10:53 am

Is it me, or does it always seem to be this way about this time, where everyone is just so ready to have football games that count and instead there is still so much time left on the preseason schedule. The Cardinals still have a week left at University of Phoenix Stadium for training camp, three preseason games and another nine days before they even have to have first roster cuts. Yet so much has happened — including the harsh news that Corey Peters is out for the season, which covered up the less-harsh-but-still-harsh Mike Iupati injury news — it just feels like it’s time for the regular season.

But it’s not.

— The Cardinals will play their starters about a quarter against the Chargers, and let’s be real, everyone will cross their fingers on Carson Palmer’s uprightness on every play. The first offense looked so good in the first game. Let’s see how game two goes, with Ted Larsen in the mix at left guard. Another part to watch there is Earl Watford and how much time he’s given at left guard after playing right guard all camp. Can he make inroads to possibly get on the field? It’s year three for Watford. Eventually, he’s going to run out of time to show he belongs in the starting lineup, and Iupati’s injury opens a door.

— I am interested to see Andre Ellington’s work a week later. He looked very promising in the first game. We are supposed to see Chris Johnson, but after he came off the field Thursday with a leg wrap, it’s possible his preseason debut will be delayed.

— Peters, by the way, was officially placed on injured reserve Friday. The Cardinals have two open roster spots.

— We definitely are going to see David Johnson for a good portion of two quarters in his debut. I know he can catch, and I think he’ll be fine there in the games. What I want to see is how he does running the ball.

— Jermaine Gresham ended up not playing last week. Does he make his debut? Bruce Arians didn’t say Gresham wasn’t going to play last week either, so that’s a wait-and-see. Seeing more game time for Troy Niklas, and the continued development of Ifeanyi Momah at tight end are other things I’d to which I’ll pay attention.

— If it turns out that rookie Rodney Gunter can do the job as a starting nose tackle, that will make his tremendous story all the better. (And quite the opposite of first-round tackle D.J. Humphries, although I thought Humphries did OK in the first preseason game, even though Arians clearly wants to see more in practice.) But I also agree with the vets like Calais Campbell who note that the Peters’ injury will be filled by committee. The plan all along was to have all these defensive linemen so there would be a steady rotation. That hasn’t changed.

— I don’t think the Cards will look for a free agent defensive lineman or free agent offensive lineman — at least not at this point — because of the injuries. I do think they will continue to scour carefully what’s out there, both in free agency and once teams start making cuts, to add another cornerback. This is a big game for any cornerback not named Peterson, Powers or Bethel.

— With a game on “Sunday Night Football” next week in Oakland, there is a funky start to the final week of camp. The Cards are off Sunday, practice Monday but then are off again Tuesday. They finish Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, but the Friday schedule has been adjusted to the morning (Check our camp page for details.)

BeforeChargers


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Gunter’s turn, and “ask Daryl”

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2015 – 5:24 pm

The Cardinals have a week left of training camp. The current week ended a little rough, with the Corey Peters and Mike Iupati injury news, but these things happen. And as harsh as it sounds, defensive line was probably the best position from which the Cardinals could handle losing a starter for the season. It’s just as Bruce Arians said, though, you don’t want a rash of injuries at the position.

We’ll see how Rodney Gunter comes out as starter. He’s a long way from between the orchard and the graveyard. He crushed Chiefs quarterback Aaron Murray in last week’s preseason opener and the day Peters got hurt in practice, with Gunter at defensive end, he knocked back tackle Bradley Sowell so violently that it drew “ooohhhs” from the defensive players watching the play.

— Running back Chris Johnson came off the practice field when the workout was over Thursday with a wrap on the back of his upper right leg. Don’t know what it means yet. Earlier in the day Bruce Arians said Johnson would get five or six carries against the Chargers Saturday.

— Much deserved praise came Tyrann Mathieu’s way when he had his interception-fest in practice last week. It’s worth noting safety Tony Jefferson came up with his fourth pick in five practices Thursday. I do not expect anything to change with his Madden rating, however.)

— Many, many requests, both in the comments here and on Twitter, for Daryl Washington information. Arians too was asked for answers, with the reporter noting that many fans — the “Birdgang” — had been wanting to know what’s up.

“Ask Daryl,” Arians said. “I’m not allowed to talk to Daryl. The league hasn’t notified me of anything, so I would ask the Birdgang to please call Daryl.”

TC15.MoreRodtweet


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