The Cardinals got Rashard Mendenhall on the field for the first time Saturday and got a little taste of what their starting running back would look like. It turned out OK. Mendenhall gained 32 yards on seven carries, and for a guy who has a reputation for getting better as his carries move along, that 4.6-yard average was encouraging.
A look at Mendenhall’s seven carries (and a couple of other plays in which Mendenhall was meaningful):
1st and 10, AZ 20 – With three tight ends in the game for the first offensive play of the day, left guard Jonathan Cooper pulls right and tight end Jim Dray also pulls from the same side. There is no real running room as Mendenhall gets to the right tackle area, and Mendenhall loses a yard.
1st and 10, DAL 22 – Two wide receivers, two tight ends. The Cards come off the ball straight ahead. Tight end Rob Housler manages a decent block to pinch a Dallas defender into the line as Mendenhall goes behind the block and hit apparent daylight – except linebacker Sean Lee, diving, gets enough of Mendenhall’s foot and leg to trip him up so he gains just five yards.
1st and 15, AZ 6 – One tight end and three wide receivers. After a holding penalty, With Mendenhall the lone guy deep in the backfield (actually in the end zone), he gets a delayed handoff. He’s nearly tackled at the goal line by charging Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Ware but Mendenhall escapes. Unfortunately, it slows him down enough that the Cowboys collapse, and Cooper is unable to hold off defensive end George Selvie as Selvie tackles Mendenhall after a one-yard gain.
1st and 10, AZ 26 – Two tight ends, although Housler is playing fullback. He and wide receiver Michael Floyd are the key blocks as Mendenhall heads over the Cooper/Levi Brown area on the left side for seven yards.
1st and 10, DAL 26 – Two tight ends lined up on the left. Floyd comes in motion from the left wide to come in tight on the left end of the line. Mendenhall grinds out three yards up the middle with the Cowboys not really giving any room.
2nd and 7 DAL 23 – Three wide receivers. Cards block hat-on-hat. Housler at tight end does OK on his block on the right side. WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts do a nice job on the right side too, and Mendenhall goes over right tackle for six yards.
3rd and 1 DAL 17 – On a short play, rookie running back Stepfan Taylor lines up as a fullback in the offset I with Mendenhall. Taylor gets the handoff as the up back for a two-yard gain.
4th and 2, DAL 7 – The Cardinals call a perfect play-action pass on fourth down. Mendenhall slips into the flat wide-open for what should be an easy first down. Quarterback Carson Palmer is pressured, but the underthrown ball at Mendenhall’s feet is a disappointing end to the play. Incomplete.
1st and 10, AZ 4 – Three wideouts and a tight end. Mendehall is four yards deep in the end zone. Cooper pulls again (see a trend?) and seals linebacker Brandon Magee to create a hole near right tackle. Fitzgerald has a nice second-level block on the defensive back. Mendenhall breaks a tackle and has good power on the finish, driving for a first down.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Cowboys, Jim Dray, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Michael Floyd, Rashard Mendenhall, Rob Housler
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Perhaps it’s a version of that age-old question: If a potential fourth receiver dresses in a different locker room, does he make
a sound the team?
Kerry Taylor spent all of last season on the Cards’ practice squad. While there have been other “unknowns” at receiver getting attention in training camp, it’s Taylor who is fourth on the depth chart and it’s Taylor who had the impressive game with four catches for 85 yards. Taylor said all the right things afterward, about continuing to work hard, but as he already mentioned, he’s noticed he’s been under the radar. But that’s in keeping with his locker room spot, which right now is in the secondary rookie room away from the main locker room.
“Larry (Fitzgerald) gives me some heat about that from time to time,” Taylor said. “ ‘What are you doing back there?’ They put me where they put me.”
Taylor did say the subjects talked about are totally different in the two locker rooms. “Up here there is grown conversation,” Taylor said. “Whereas back there, it’s like high school, with the jokes they make. It’s two totally different worlds. But it’s fun. I enjoy being back there with those guys.”
I’d guess Taylor would enjoy it even more moving back into the main room after final cuts. If he keeps making plays like he did Saturday – although he lamented only getting a couple fingers on what could have been a touchdown catch – the locker room space won’t be an issue.
— Coach Bruce Arians said there were no significant injuries. Knock on wood, the Cards have managed to escape that problem thus far in camp.
— Arians doesn’t like the “explosive plays” the Cards’ defense gave up, and that’s fair. But remember Arians said he didn’t give a “crap” about where his defense was ranked because of yardage. He doesn’t want to give up points and wanted turnovers. Well, after two games, the Cards have forced more turnovers (8) than given up points (7).
— Tony Jefferson remains a longshot to make the roster. But the practice squad may be possible. The guy makes two interceptions against the Cowboys and he made a couple in practice this week too. He also was credited with a pair of tackles for loss and a pair of passes defended.
— Rashard Mendenhall looked pretty good (32 yards on seven carries) and if he stays healthy, the Cards look like they will be OK at running back.
— Mendenhall would have had a nice fourth-down reception for a first too – if Carson Palmer hadn’t thrown a bad pass. Palmer took responsibility for the bad throw and Arians was clearly frustrated, after the perfect play call got Mendenhall wide open. Even the last two incompletions of Palmer – one to Fitz, one to Roberts – looked like they would be open, if the QB and WR had just been on the same page, instead of one zigging when the other thought about zagging.
— Rookie running back Andre Ellington made a couple of nice runs himself, including a good kickoff return. It was against the deep backups, but still, a nice debut.
— Tyrann Mathieu was credited with a team-high seven tackles, not a shock because he played more than any defender, I’d guess. One play didn’t work though – Mathieu tried to anticipate an interception, missed the ball, and Dwayne Harris took a short pass and got 16 yards out of it. “I said, ‘Hey, if you’re going to go for the pick, you better just make the tackle.’ ” Arians said, noting Mathieu had a similar error in practice this past week.
— Palmer was protected pretty well again, with only one real pressure and no sacks.
— Speaking of the offensive line, Nate Potter and Bobby Massie basically played the rest of the game after starters Levi Brown and Eric Winston left. Reps are what it’s about (and it’s hard to think there is any other tackle on the roster who is being considered.)
— Charles Hawkins was drilled pretty good fielding a punt late in the game. “Charles Hawkins will learn how to fair catch in the right instances,” Arians quipped. “It only takes one hit to learn how to fair catch, especially when you are told to fair catch before you go out there.”
— Arians did say he liked how his special teams played, and from Justin Bethel to Lorenzo Alexander to Dave Zastudil to Ellington and even Jay Feely with his 53-yard field goal (although Arians wasn’t happy with a 30-yard miss), special teams did shine.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bobby Massie, Bruce Arians, Charles Hawkins, Cowboys, Dave Zastudil, Jay Feely, Justin Bethel, Kerry Taylor, Lorenzo Alexander, Nate Potter, Rashard Mendenhall, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Cardinals, Cowboys, Dallas Cowboys, NFL
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Bruce Arians sees a lot of positives about playing Saturday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. They play a version of the Tampa Two thanks to new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, a zone that forces different decision-making than the quarterbacks have been making thus far. They feature a four-man defensive front, which the Cards do not see in practice. These are all things the Cards need to work on in preseason game No. 2.
But it’s also a game against Cowboys, which, preseason or not, tends to bring with it a different vibe than other games. When you hear guys like Jonathan Cooper talking about nerves, it seems to me playing against Dallas doesn’t do much to help – especially knowing it’s a nationally televised game on NFL Network (which will be blacked out locally I believe, because ABC-15 has the game here.)
This, however, is where I’d think one of the biggest benefits of holding training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium comes into play. Usually, the team hasn’t even been to the stadium yet, or maybe had a brief walkthrough the night before. But all these new players – rookies and otherwise – know UoP like the back of their hand now. They are there almost every day, dressing in the locker room and playing football on the field. There will be no newness to it whatsoever. As a player, they aren’t going to be any more comfortable than they already are.
— Arians said he plans to play his starters about 20 plays but also doesn’t want to have them play the entire first half. My guess is that their performance will dictate some of that, at least offensively. Arians was not happy with the number of points the Cards scored last week and that will be something to watch.
— General Manager Steve Keim, on Thursday night’s Big Red Rage, said Arians “has a few tricks up his sleeve for the fans on Saturday.” Hmm. Any chance the Patrick Peterson-at-receiver gets unveiled? Regardless, something to look forward to in the home opener.
— With Tyrann Mathieu starting at free safety, he may just be limited to those 20 plays. But I wouldn’t be shocked if they extend Mathieu a little with the second unit. With Jonathon Amaya already nursing a knee injury, the Cards are thinner at safety with Rashad Johnson down and it’s not like Mathieu doesn’t need the reps. Keim said Mathieu didn’t want to come out of the game last week in Green Bay.
— Here’s the reality of camp and fighting for jobs, too. Keim said the powers-that-be “probably have 10 tough discussions” coming on who was going to make the roster. “The rest are set in stone.” Do the math, and a lot of guys are already out of it before a second preseason game is even played.
— There are a lot of guys who need to make some inroads after injuries. CB Jamell Fleming and WR Robert Gill are two that come to mind. Arians hasn’t really made a secret out of the fact guys fall behind when they are hurt. When you are fighting to make the team, you can’t afford hiccups.
— Speaking of injuries, Keim was noting how guard Daryn Colledge came back “on a fractured leg” to fend off Paul Fanaika. Colledge was put right back with the first unit when he returned to practice this week.
— One player to watch is kicker Jay Feely. Feely had a good season last year and he is very dependable. But he did miss a long field goal last week and his leg doesn’t always boom kickoffs. Like most positions, Arians isn’t going to just give a guy the job. Finding an upgrade may be tough, but that doesn’t mean the Cards wouldn’t look.
— Do not forget the new bag policy is in place. Go here to read about all the details.
— Paid final respects to former Arizona Republic writer Jim Gintonio this morning. He was a good man and I hope he rests in peace. Go here or here or here to read those more eloquent about Gintonio the man than I.
— Reports from Dallas are that quarterback Tony Romo will get about 15 plays himself.
A day game in the preseason. Something different.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Cowboys, Daryn Colledge, Jamell Fleming, Jay Feely, Jonathan Cooper, Paul Fanaika, Robert Gill, Roster, Steve Keim, Tony Romo, Tyrann Mathieu
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The running back health is improving. Rashard Mendenhall is back to practicing fully and Andre Ellington (concussion) has been cleared but will be worked back in slowly. Ryan Williams, said Bruce Arians, remains day-to-day with his knee issues. One thing is for certain: Arians said the Cardinals are not considering bringing in another running back, so the concern for numbers there (Alfonso Smith and Stepfan Taylor are the only ones to have avoided dings) can’t be that great.
Other stuff from Arians’ presser:
— WR Jarrett Dillard has a concussion. He’s out until he’s cleared. G Daryn Colledge (leg) will practice limited today and is expected to practice fully starting Tuesday. He is champing at the bit to return after serving as Twitter analyst watching the Green Bay game from home. “That was a tough spot to be in,” Colledge said. “It was hard. I want to be out there next week against Dallas.”
— Arians said he expects DT Dan WIlliams (ankle) and TE Kory Sperry (ankle) back next week, so neither sounds possible for the game against Dallas. TE Jeff King (knee) is day-to-day.
— Is the 5-foot-9 Tyrann Mathieu big enough to play free safety in the base defense? “No doubt,” Arians said. “He plays bigger than he is and plays faster than he is.”
— Arians said rookie linebacker Kevin Minter played “extremely well.” “Sideline to sideline he was better than I anticipated,” Arians said. “He’s a thumper, exactly what we are looking for as a middle linebacker. Really bright.”
— The young receivers made mistakes about 50 percent of the time, Arians estimated. Because of that, nothing has been sorted out yet there.
— Arians had the same thoughts on the close cornerback battle, even mentioning solid play not only from Justin Bethel but Bryan McCann. It’s why Jamell Fleming, who was finally back at practice Sunday following a hamstring injury, needs to get on the field, he said.
— Arians wants to play his starters at least 20 plays against the Cowboys, but he doesn’t want them to go the full first half. He also is happy to have the Cardinals going up against a 4-3 defense for the first time after spending an offseason and a first preseason game against mostly 3-4 looks.
— As for the many mental errors, Arians admitted he was disappointed in part because he thought many would be avoided after the Cardinals essentially had the young players with their second-field practice during the offseason just so they’d get reps. “I would have bought into some of these mental errors had they not got all that practice time,” Arians said.
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Andre Ellington, Cowboys, Dan Williams, Daryn Colledge, Jarrett Dillard, Jeff King, Kevin Minter, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Tyrann Mathieu
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With Steve Keim in place as general manager, the Cardinals now need to find a head coach. That is ongoing, and there was some spark thrown into Wednesday morning with conflicting reports about the Cardinals and Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Some reported there was an interview happening, others said no. (Or absolutely no.) What we know is that the Cards have talked to Ray Horton and Mike McCoy and are going to talk to Jay Gruden Thursday. President Michael Bidwill said all those things Tuesday. The team has been pretty transparent with all their interviews once they are lined up. Then again, Haley might want this kept quiet (which doesn’t necessarily prevent leaks, not when it is fellow coaches apparently saying what is going on.)
The Cards, in the Haley case, are not commenting.
(UPDATE: Steelers president Art Rooney said Haley is interviewing. Feels like a solid source.)
Regardless, nothing has changed with the hiring time frame, which was that there was no time frame. Bidwill reiterated that notion. “The timetable is the timetable that gets us the right coach and the right decision for the team to move us forward,” team president Michael Bidwill said during Steve Keim’s introductory press conference Tuesday.
One final interesting note, which comes via Geoff Mosher from CSN Philadelphia, via tweets that make me think he too has been hit with many questions from concerned fans about no head coach yet hired, in his case with the Eagles.
“KC was first NFL team last year to hire HC, on Jan. 9. Chiefs went 2-14, fired Crennel. Colts hired Chuck Pagano on Jan. 25. Made playoffs”
Mosher makes the point of various successful coaches over the years and their hire dates: Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin Jan. 22 (’07); Baltimore’s John Harbaugh Jan. 19 (’08); Denver’s John Fox Jan. 13 (’11); Atlanta’s Mike Smith Jan. 24 (’08); and Seattle’s Pete Carroll Jan. 11 (’10). Again, I’m not trying to say every coach hired is the right one, or that waiting always is a benefit. But clearly, it’s not like taking time crushes chances for success. Of the seven teams that need new coaches, only two have hired new coaches, and that doesn’t include the possibility Jacksonville could change coaches now that they have a new GM.
— One final outlier here: After the Cowboys fired DC Rob Ryan Tuesday it became popular — driven by media speculation — that Horton could be a candidate to replace him. Horton was wooed by Jason Garrett to be on staff two years ago as Horton was coming to Arizona as DC. Here’s the problem: If the Cards don’t hire Horton has head coach, I’m pretty sure they want him to stay as defensive coordinator. Now, that can always change depending on who the head coach is, but with Horton still under contract for another season, he can’t go anywhere (except as a head coach) if the Cards don’t want him to. And I just don’t see the Cards allowing a lateral move, even if Horton did (of which I’m not sure either).
Tags: Art Rooney, Chiefs, Chuck Pagano, Colts, Cowboys, Eagles, John Fox, John Harbaugh, Michael Bidwill, Mike Smith, Mike Tomlin, Pete Carroll, Ray Horton, Steve Keim, Todd Haley
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The NFL announced Monday,with free agency so close, that they were hitting the Redskins and Cowboys with removal of cap space this year and next because of violations when the league was uncapped in 2011. The details aren’t as important for the Cards except for the part where the league is giving that extra cap space to 28 other teams (the Saints and Raiders had minor infractions so they don’t get extra space, but they aren’t docked either.)
The extra space is $1.6 million, according to ESPN. At this point, any little bit helps for the Cards. The next day or so, when teams must comply with the cap and begin free agency, could be busy across the league and have results like today when the Texans surprisingly cut right tackle Eric Winston for cap reasons.
Wow, a post that didn’t mention Pey … dang it!
Tags: Cowboys, free agency, Redskins, salary cap
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