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#CardsDraft aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on May 2, 2015 – 7:01 pm

The NFL draft, in reality, was the shortest time-wise as it has ever been. It didn’t seem that way when we were sitting around waiting after the second of the Cardinals’ two fifth-round picks all the way until the Cards’ next pick, which was the last of the whole thing. Now that it’s over, and there is little question Steve Keim had a plan that wasn’t chalk. But I’ll say this as I do after every draft — I have no idea how this will turn out. No one does.

The pick with which I’m most intrigued? Markus Golden. The Cards weren’t the only ones who talked about how he kept showing up on video when watching Missouri play. Is that enough to break through on the NFL level? And will he be the first second-rounder since Daryl Washington to make an immediate impact? But there are plenty of intriguing guys here. I thought it was telling when Keim said today that the tough part is projecting guys who can make the team in the Cards’ current state.

How these guys fit it this season, well, that’s what the offseason and training camp is all about.

A few more wrap-up thoughts:

— There were plenty scratching their heads after the Cards picked Delaware State DE Rodney Gunter in the fourth round, and that was more vigorous when adding in the trade up to do so. But Keim and Bruce Arians both said they had reliable intel that multiple teams were on the Gunter in the fourth round. When that happens, and when it’s a guy you want and you have draft pick ammo to do so, you trade up. Keim knows it was a surprise to most. He plans on it being a pleasant surprise.

— The personality of first-round pick D.J. Humphries is real. He drew laughs when he called himself an “awesome person” during his conference call, but during his press conference, he simply wins the room with his smile and demeanor. Easy guy to root for, especially when you read the story about him and his father, who was 15 when D.J. was born.

“My dad always told me when I was a kid, if you be yourself then people are going to love you,” Humphries said.

— Humphries has never been to an NFL game, interestingly.

— Gunter is cousins with the Cardinals’ seventh-round selection, TE D.C. Jefferson. Jefferson had a quick and bumpy tenure with the team, getting a tattoo during the preseason of a birdhead on his torso even though his place on the team was no sure thing. He made it, but was released a few weeks later after a DUI. Gunter said he and Jefferson are “very close but we lost contact for over a year because he has some personal issues going on. I wish him the best.”

— Fifth-round wide receiver J.J. Nelson is one of the last players to be drafted from the University of Alabama-Birmingham now that UAB has shuttered its football program. The school provided an in for Nelson during his visit to the Cardinals; the son of coach Bruce Arians, Jake Arians, played football at UAB.

“When I came to visit, I ran into Coach Arians,” Nelson said. “He said, ‘J.J., I already know you. You’re a Blazer. We love UAB.’ … I just felt like everything fell in my hands in the right direction.”

— It wasn’t all draft at the Tempe facility Saturday. Yes, it was the weekend, but there was quarterback Carson Palmer, working out in his quest to come back from a torn ACL. Significant nose to the grindstone.

— Time for football. The Cardinals are on the field Monday for the first time as Phase 2 of the offseason work begins. Rookie minicamp starts Friday.

afterdraftblog


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Trading up to take DL Gunter in fourth round

Posted by Darren Urban on May 2, 2015 – 10:05 am

The Cardinals traded up in the fourth round, moving with the Browns to select Delaware State defensive lineman Rodney Gunter. At 6-5, 305 pounds, he fits the versatile frame the Cards have been seeking for their defensive lineman. Gunter had seven sacks and 13 tackles last season. He is the cousin of the Cards’ 2013 seventh-round draft D.C. Jefferson, a tight end who didn’t last long in Arizona despite his tattoo. GM Steve Keim said there was a good chance the Cards would trade up to get a player they wanted — they apparently wanted Gunter.

Gunter said he only played one year of high school football — ending up at Delaware State — because he had to work and help his single mother pay the bills and support he and his two brothers. He was clearly emotional on his conference call.

To move up the Cards swapped fourths and gave up their sixth-round pick and their original seventh-round pick. That leaves the Cards with three remaining picks today: Back-to-back choices in the fifth round and the final pick in the draft — Mr. Irrelevant — which is a compensatory pick they cannot trade.

It’s a big price but the reality is that nine draft picks weren’t going to make the roster. Now they will have seven picks.

GunterHitforblog


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TE swap: Jake Ballard in, D.C. Jefferson out

Posted by Darren Urban on November 4, 2013 – 11:55 am

The Cardinals agreed to terms today with tight end Jake Ballard, who is coming off a torn ACL but in 2011 had a very good season with the Giants with 38 catches for 604 yards — a gaudy 15.9-yard average, especially for a tight end — and won a Super Bowl. To make room, the Cards cut seventh-round tight end D.C. Jefferson, who was an interesting story and even tattooed a Cardinal on his stomach before he made the team. But he also struggled quite a bit with a transition to the NFL game. Kent Somers reported he was arrested for a DUI Friday night, which I’m sure didn’t help his cause either. UPDATE: Arians said the decision to release Jefferson for Ballard had come before Jefferson’s arrest and did not play a factor.

If Ballard is healthy, he could be a real find, although the Cards only signed him through the end of the season, so this will be a trial run of sorts. Ballard’s story has had some interesting twists. He was playing on the ACL tear in the Super Bowl when it finally gave out on him, so his celebration of a win over New England was tempered by his knee problems (pictured below). He was going to spend 2012 on IR for the Giants but, through a quirk in the rules, was exposed to waivers and the Patriots claimed him. He then was on the physically-unable-to-perform list all last season before the Patriots cut him at the end of preseason this season.

The Cardinals need better tight end production. Ballard was in for a tryout a couple of weeks ago and apparently the Cards liked what they saw (and might have been ready to move on from Jefferson, too.) We’ll see how quickly he can get integrated into the scheme, but the Cardinals have not had the play from tight end position overall that they wanted or needed this season.

— In one other player move, the Jacksonville Jaguars, who play the Cards in two weeks, signed wide receiver Kerry Taylor off the Cards’ practice squad today and put him on their active roster.

BallardBlogUSE


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Looking at young players is just that

Posted by Darren Urban on October 21, 2013 – 1:03 pm

There will be no changes to the lineup this week, Bruce Arians said. Yes, he mentioned Bobby Massie possibly playing and looking at young players, but Arians clarified that looking at those players was all he was doing. He wants to make sure they are making progress and “really are the depth we’re looking for,” Arians said.

“It’s just a matter of opportunities in case one arises,” Arians added.

Opportunities, Arians said, come in the form of injuries, mostly. Those included under the microscope, according to the coach: The entire practice squad, along with guard Earl Watford, linebacker Dontay Moch, and tight end D.C. Jefferson. It’s clear the Cards continue to look at tight ends — Arians mentioned practice squad tight end Daniel Fells by name. But unless, for instance, Colledge is down this week because of his back problem (and Watford is currently running as Colledge’s backup), don’t expect an overhaul.

— Colledge (back), WR Brittan Golden (hamstring) and LB Matt Shaughnessy (looked like his leg was wrapped) were sidelined during the open part of Monday’s practice. There is no injury report before Wednesday, but Arians said there were no injury surprises today. He also said the Cards eased off on certain veterans who were hurting.

— The Falcons are expected to get running back Steven Jackson back from practice this week too, although he has missed so much time there is no guarantee he’ll be ready to play Sunday.

— LB Marcus Benard missed practice because he was out of town for the birth of his child. “I congratulate him on that,” Arians said. Arians added Benard played well. Benard started Thursday, although he only played 11 of 67 defensive snaps.

— Wide receiver Michael Floyd reiterated that the entire offense needs to shoulder the blame for its problems, and Arians repeated the same thing when asked about the issues of quarterback Carson Palmer. “I think Carson’s problem is, some are hit and some are the 10 guys around him,” Arians said. “It’s not just the line. It’s the receivers being in the wrong spots and running the wrong routes and not being in their reception areas, and then again the protection.”

— The three biggest injuries announced in the NFL today all impact the Cardinals and their home schedule. The Texans (visit Nov. 10) lost linebacker Brian Cushing for the season, the Colts (visit Nov. 24) lost wide receiver Reggie Wayne for the season, and the Rams (visit Dec. 8) lost quarterback Sam Bradford for the season.

 

 


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Tattoo a “landmark” for D.C. Jefferson

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2013 – 7:44 am

It’s there on the right side of D.C. Jefferson’s abdomen, and it’s been there for weeks, long before he got the news over the weekend that he had made the Cardinals’ 53-man roster.

The rookie tight end, a seventh-round draft choice and anything but a sure thing to make the team, got etched into his skin a logo of the Cardinals. And it’s not small. Inside the lines it also has numbers — 7th and 219 — that reference his draft round and his overall draft selection spot.

“I got it (regardless) of making the team or not,” Jefferson said. “It was just a landmark in my life. That’s how I looked at it. You can’t take that away from me.”

Jefferson meant the draft selection, but the same goes for a skin-altering tattoo. Jefferson said he had it done within the first two weeks of coming to the Cardinals in late April. It had gone under the radar until after the final preseason game in the locker room. Larry Fitzgerald saw it, and while Jefferson explained the “landmark” idea to his Pro Bowl teammate, “he started hassling with me,” Jefferson said with a smile. That included Fitzgerald announcing to the arriving media after the game to check out Jefferson’s body art — when, at the time, Jefferson’s roster spot was still in question.

Jefferson is still raw. But given the dearth of tight ends out there available and the need for the Cards to have at least four, he’s safe for now. And his tattoo, to the naked eye, still makes sense.

“Regardless of anything, they drafted me,” Jefferson said. “Can’t ever take it back.”

DCuse


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Broncos aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2013 – 11:46 pm

Tony Jefferson still had his uniform on, his shoulder pads pushing out his grass-stained jersey. After his last showing of the preseason, getting five tackles, a sack, two tackles TJusefor loss, a fumble recovery and a special teams tackle while battling for a roster spot, he was left to … do nothing.

“I’m just going to leave that up to the coaches, whether I am a fit for the team or not,” the undrafted rookie safety said, noting he would be going back to watch his former University of Oklahoma teammates in their opener this weekend.

“I’m going to try and keep my mind off it,” Jefferson said. “Just wait. It’s a waiting game. Just like draft day.”

The wait won’t take long (which is why this aftermath is going to be pretty short and sweet.) Steve Keim said the initial 53-man roster will be set by noon Friday, and Bruce Arians will make it public at 1 p.m. No reason to overly analyze Thursday night, which will be old news soon enough.

Some thoughts on what is coming, in light on what happened in Denver with context through my initial 53-man guess:

— Obviously strong games for QB Ryan Lindley and RB Ryan Williams. Enough to be on the 53? It would make sense, yet you could easily see a scenario where they wouldn’t be. Williams, I suppose, still could be traded, although I don’t see him being simply released. Personally I’d like Williams to stay, but we’ll see. “We’re not cutting good football players,” Bruce Arians said. (Although he didn’t say he wouldn’t trade them.)

— Teams don’t have to be to 53 until Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. So they might still keep 54 or 55 tomorrow if a deal is percolating.

— Lindley is “light years” ahead of where he was, Arians said. “Early on he had trouble processing as the play was happening. Now he has a quarterback rating of (104) and that was with guys busting routes on him. I thought he played extremely well. He was very comfortable out there.”

— All that said, Arians still wouldn’t say if Lindley had made the team for sure yet.

— Speaking of trades, will a defensive back be dealt? I’ve said since the offseason I wouldn’t be surprised in a deal like the A.J. Jefferson trade of 2012.

— I thought rookie wideout Jaron Brown was already on this team. I feel even more confident in that now.

— Beyond Brown? Mike Thomas did catch a touchdown late but he probably should have caught a bomb from Lindley earlier. It would have been a tough catch but it was makeable – and it was the kind of catch that helps you make rosters. Kerry Taylor had a quiet night.

— Arians said TE Jeff King is headed for knee surgery. Not sure if that’s significant enough for injured reserve or not. With Rob Housler still trying to come back from an ankle issue, I’m thinking King won’t be on the roster.

— To my untrained eye, I think Jefferson flashed enough to make them want to keep him. Would it be in lieu of Jonathon Amaya? Other than Jefferson, I didn’t really think any of the defensive backs battling for the roster played particularly well Thursday.

— The lone injury was a shoulder problem for defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin, unfortunate for a guy trying to make the roster. Ronald Talley, the man Arians has been talking up, seemed to make a couple plays. Wondering what that might mean for David Carter, who is on the bubble. Arians said he’d need to see the tape to really give decent analysis on the defensive line play in the game.

— In the locker room, Larry Fitzgerald pointed out the Cardinals logo rookie seventh-round tight end D.C. Jefferson has tattooed on his abdomen. Now that’s confidence in your ability to make the roster.

— I thought before the entire draft class still here (Ryan Swope already having retired of course) makes the 53. I haven’t changed my mind on that.

We’ll see. We’ll know in a little more than 12 hours.


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Wednesday before the Broncos

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2013 – 10:57 am

The Cardinals are down to one preseason game. And by now, there probably isn’t much to determine. In fact, it’s tough to get past the words of Darnell Dockett going into this one: “You always want to play preseason games and make sure everyone gets out healthy,” Dockett said, and obviously, with Jonathan Cooper, that didn’t happen. “I’ve never been a fan of preseason games. I understand the games because young guys are trying to get on rosters and this might be their big chance, so I’m all for it. But guys who have to play 16 regular-season games … my biggest thing is getting out healthy.”

That’s why quarterback Carson Palmer may not play, and why I’m sure the Cards will be careful with what they do tomorrow night.

All that said, Bruce Arians did say there was still “four or five” roster spots still up for debate. The positions he named were the back end of wide receiver, safety, cornerback, tight end and offensive line. He didn’t name names, and that’s where the speculation comes in. At receiver, for instance, Kerry Taylor has worked hard for this team and is a smart guy. But Mike Thomas, the newbie vet, has the speed Arians so covets. At safety, can special teamer Jonathon Amaya hold off Tony Jefferson or big Curtis Taylor? Tight end is a very interesting spot too. Veteran Jeff King hasn’t been able to get on the field much, and Arians wants to see him play. When the offseason started I assumed he would be here, but with his balky knee, I’m not so sure anymore — not that the Cards have overwhelming options elsewhere.

That’s the thing about guessing about the 53-man roster (which I will attempt to do later today). It’s hard to know what a new GM and a new coach really like to do. It’s hard to know what they think about raw players like G Earl Watford and TE D.C. Jefferson, guys who probably aren’t ready to help right away but guys who may not make it through waivers to put on the practice squad.

— With RB Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and TE Rob Housler (ankle) sitting out practice yesterday, I’m sure that would basically rule them out. I am guessing there might be a couple other guys sitting as precautionary, but it did seem like the Cards are fairly healthy right now, all things considered.

— I don’t expect to see major Broncos players, like Peyton Manning. Doesn’t matter whether it was Mike Shanahan or John Fox as coach in Denver, the QB never seems to play that last preseason game.

— Arians has a press conference scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday. Not sure if cuts will come by then or not (teams must be to 53 by Saturday afternoon) but regardless, whatever this 53-man roster is on Saturday, I will be surprised if it is still the 53-man roster on Tuesday, after waiver claims and the like. Arians said he would probably warn “two or three” players that their spot on the 53 could change into a practice squad spot by Thursday. It’s the reality of the business.

— And as we have said many times, this team is is going to churn the roster. Director of media relations Chris Melvin is going to be a busy man putting out new bio after new bio this season, methinks.

UPDATE: The game, no matter what your TV guide says, will be live on Ch. 15 ABC Thursday. Pregame starts at 5:30 p.m.

— It’s good to know Tyrann Mathieu’s eyebrow is coming back. Time to end the preseason.


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Coop could come back this season

Posted by Darren Urban on August 26, 2013 – 1:20 pm

Coach Bruce Arians said today that the surgery on Jonathan Cooper’s fractured left fibula was a success and the Cardinals are holding out hope he can return later in the season. His status is yet to be determined in terms of injured reserve. The Cards will wait to make that decision until the end of preseason. They still have to make one more roster move by tomorrow to get down to the league-mandated 75.

Cooper’s best-case scenario in coming back is 10 to 12 weeks, Arians said. If he could return for the last six games or so, that would makes sense. Arians wants him to get real regular-season playing time this year if at all possible.

“We don’t want him to be a rookie again next year,” Arians said.

— To replace Cooper, Daryn Colledge will be moved to left guard. Paul Fanaika will move into the starting lineup as right guard. “(Daryn) is not as athletic as Coop, but he’s more than adequate,” Arians said of Colledge’s ability to do the job in Arians’ offense, when the left guard pulls often.

— The rest of the injuries aren’t nearly as bad. Arians described almost all of them as day-to-day, and the hope is that most will be OK by the time the Cards have to play in St. Louis for the opener. Defensive tackle Dan Williams re-aggravated the ankle he hurt earlier in camp, but he was not concerned about it. Running back Rashard Mendenhall has a knee sprain, he too is day-to-day although he won’t play in Denver. Tight end D.C. Jefferson (knee sprain) is going to try and play. TE Rob Housler has a high-ankle sprain, and is probably the most questionable of the bunch. WR Andre Roberts (quad) and LB Matt Shaughnessy (ankle) are “fine.”

— Arians said he cut K Dan Carpenter because he didn’t like the way he was kicking. Penetration was not a problem on Carpenter’s blocked field goal, Arians said — which leaves it to be too low of a kick by the kicker.

— Starters will probably play Thursday, but not much. QB Carson Palmer may not play, however.

— RB Ryan Williams will get the bulk of the work against the Broncos. Arians had no comment on the report the Cardinals were “shopping” Williams. “I’m shopping him as far as getting me some groceries,” Arians said with a smile.


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Chargers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2013 – 12:22 am

Ugly doesn’t even begin to describe what happened to the Cardinals Saturday night. If the Cards could have only left it at the stadium. If only a bad night for special teams or dropped passes or anything like that was the worst that happened.

But the long list of injuries the Cards had been avoiding – they only had five guys not able to play coming into the game, for goodness sake, and frankly, only Jeff King was among those guys who have a shot at the roster – came back hard. The most devastating is Jonathan Cooper’s broken leg. Here’s the guy who was drafted to jump start an offensive line resurgence. And now he could be out for the season.

There are lots of ways to look at this and we won’t know exactly what can happen with Cooper yet. There are options to put him on short-term, bring-’em-back IR if the prognosis goes the right way. But that doesn’t make it any easier to replace him. Do we get more Chilo? Do we get a Paul Fanaika-Daryn Colledge guard combo? Bruce Arians isn’t sure yet. There will be much brainstorming tomorrow, I am sure. But it hurts.

“To see a guy like that go down, a young guy trying to go out there and prove himself, that’s always hard,” Colledge said. “Especially with an offensive line that lost a lot of guys last year. We’re used to this, but it’s always hard to see a friend and a teammate go down. I know it hurts him. I know he’s probably emotionally distraught right now.”

— It can’t be easy for Cooper. It might not be easy for the Cards. MRIs are coming for all the other injuries, but the offense alone saw Cooper, Rob Housler (ankle), Andre Roberts (quad) and Rashard Mendenhall (ankle) leave the game. Scary.

— As for the game, not good. The Rashad Johnson lateral was bad. Funny, Arians actually praised the lateral linebacker Jasper Brinkley made to Patrick Peterson earlier in the game following an interception, saying it was a legitimate choice. Johnson’s lateral? “Absolutely asinine.”

Johnson knows that. He was upset after a pass interference call on teammate Jerraud Powers a couple of plays before and let his emotions ride the moment. “I just felt like we needed to make a play, which we did, instead of thinking of the situation we were in and playing smart football,” Johnson said. “Coach is always talking about ‘Cardinals beating Cardinals.’ That was a big Cardinals-beating-Cardinals play.”

— Powers was hit with three pass interference flags. He said he felt a couple of them shouldn’t have been thrown, but took responsibility for not adjusting to the way the officials were calling the game.

— Ryan Williams said he was “fine” after a pair of carries (for 10 yards) and a catch in his first preseason action of the season. I thought he looked aggressive for what little time he got. He needed to be. With Alfonso Smith coming out and looking good as Mendenhall’s backup, this running back battle is very interesting. Could the Cards keep five?

— Not a good night for the tight ends. Housler dropped a touchdown (Arians didn’t seemed all that concerned about it), while Kory Sperry and D.C. Jefferson also had drops. Jefferson’s miss ended up an interception.

— Not a ton learned in the kicking battle, since neither got much opportunity. Dan Carpenter had a field goal blocked on what looked like protection issues. Jay Feely made an extra point. Feely had both kickoffs.

— Arians wasn’t overly critical of Levi Brown’s play against Dwight Freeney because, well, it was Dwight Freeney. Nate Potter had his own issues, so it’s not like there is someone there that would step in.

— Michael Floyd made a nice catch in the back of the end zone for the touchdown.  Larry Fitzgerald’s one-handed catch to start the game was amazing. Other than that, a night to forget.


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Questions at tight end

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2013 – 9:13 am

When Bruce Arians walked in the door, one of the first things he emphasized was that he was a two-tight end man.

The tight end was a key in his offense. Fullbacks were unnecessary (and in this case, a surprising bargaining chip of the offseason, after Anthony Sherman was traded for the impressive cornerback Javier Arenas.) The roster was shaped, a (seventh-round) draft pick was spent on a tight end and Arians went about building his offense. As training camp comes to a close, tight end remains important to the Cardinals. But questions swirl around the position, especially since they are so important.

Tight end starts with Rob Housler. He’s had a quiet preseason, but Arians said that is because he wanted to look at other players. “It’s more blocking and I think he’s improved tremendously,” Arians said. “He’s had some he could have finished better, but I think he’s improved in his all-around. We know he can run and catch. We’ve got a bunch of packages where we can feature him. He’s a given to me. I don’t need to see that part.”

Housler will be a given as receiver (and in my opinion, he has improved as a blocker.) Beyond him? Right now, factoring in practice reps, health, production, the under-the-radar Jim Dray is No. 2. Dray is fascinating in some regards. The one-time seventh-rounder keeps sticking around, an excellent special teams player under Ken Whisenhunt and now the kind of guy drawn up perfectly for Arians — with the ability to drop into the backfield as an H-back/fullback if needed. Veteran Jeff King was supposed to be in the mix, but continuing knee troubles have kept him sidelined a ton, and you have to wonder about his future. Kory Sperry was impressing Arians early and he’ll need to be around.

D.C. Jefferson, the seventh-round rookie, looks the part and seems like he has promise. But he is so raw he may be better suited to the practice squad, if he can clear waivers. I’m not sure Mickey Shuler has made enough in-roads to stick around.

You figure the Cards need at least four tight ends on the active roster. Tight end remains, in my mind, the number one position Steve Keim will watch as cuts are made across the league. While it’s no lock the Cards claim/sign another tight end, it wouldn’t be surprising at all. It’s too important to Arians not to keep searching.

TEblogUSE


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