Next week, the decision-makers for the Cardinals and the rest of the NFL will head to Indianapolis for the annual Scouting combine. Already teams, including the Cards, have been meeting and ranking their rosters and figuring out what direction they will need to go in. Free agency, which begins March 11 officially (although teams came start to talk to guys from other teams a couple of days before that), will impact what happens in the draft and the rest of the offseason.
But before all that, and before the Cardinals re-sign any more of their own players, here are — in my opinion — the positions that need to be addressed the most over the next few months:
1) Offensive line: It doesn’t hurt that this encompasses multiple positions. Ultimately, it is left tackle that the Cardinals likely need to go after the most. I have no doubt Bradley Sowell can be depth at the position, but clearly the Cards would like to upgrade there. Easier said than done, of course, and we’ll see if it comes in free agency or the draft.
2) Defensive line: You’re not going to win in the NFC West unless both lines of scrimmage are fortified. As it stands now, the defensive line seems to be OK, with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett and Dan Williams. But Alameda Ta’amu was an important co-nose tackle with Williams, and he is coming off ACL surgery. Dockett’s age and contract will likely call into question his future after 2014. And with Frostee Rucker a free agent, the Cardinals need depth there, especially after using rotations during the season.
3) Linebacker: This is in part a continuation of the defensive line issue, because whether you consider a pass rusher a linebacker or a defensive end in nickel situations, the Cards still need pass rushers. John Abraham was a godsend in 2013 but he is not getting younger, even if he has another double-digit sack year in his arsenal. Alex Okafor is an unknown quantity at outside linebacker after his lost rookie season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Matt Shaughnessy get away as a free agent. It’s hard to tell, since both missed most of the season, how well Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho fit in the defense as well. That doesn’t even include the inside, where Karlos Dansby could still leave.
4) Tight end: This position probably should be higher on the list, considering all the free agents the Cardinals have. Then again, maybe I’m just used to the Cards just getting along the best they can at tight end to make sure other spots are taken care of first. But Bruce Arians likes to use the tight end in multiple ways and use multiple tight ends. The Cards need bodies, and that’s even if Jim Dray returns. Rob Housler had flashes again last season but this is likely a make-or-break season for him to stay healthy and be consistent.
5) Safety: Even if Yeremiah Bell returns he is older. Tyrann Mathieu is coming off major knee surgery. The depth is thin, and the Cardinals, as you might have heard, had some issues covering tight ends last season. As good as Richard Sherman is, a big reason why the Seahawks secondary is so good is because Earl Thomas is backstopping Sherman and all those corners. Getting a safety like that wouldn’t be too bad.
Bonus) Quarterback: There’s no reason to list QB in the top five because the Cardinals are fine going into next season playing with Carson Palmer. There’s no argument there, really. But reality says the future QB has to be acquired sooner rather than later. This is a draft-only kind of scenario. I don’t see the Cards seeking another trade or anything. But at some point, GM Steve Keim is going to come across a quarterback he likes very much when the Cards are on the clock. And he needs to pull that trigger for down the road.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Bradley Sowell, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, draft, free agency, Frostee Rucker, John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, Lorenzo Alexander, Matt Shaughnessy, offensive line, Rob Housler, Sam Acho, Tyrann Mathieu, Yeremiah Bell
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This is what happens, even after a 10-6 season and a finale that goes down to the final play of the game and an exciting trading of four scores in the last 3:30 of the fourth quarter. All of it seems so inconsequential, because immediately, your thoughts go to the future.
There will be lots and lots of time to speculate, break down and report on what is going to happen with the Cardinals this offseason. Certainly I won’t cover it all tonight or even tomorrow on the final day for the players. There are a lot of free agents-to-be, a lot of decisions that have to be made, and most guys are going to say they’d love to be back. Because of course they will, as long as the money is right, and I do not blame them. The shelf life is relatively short in this league. You don’t pass up a big contract elsewhere because you like the vibe your feeling in the current locker room. I mean, you can (and sometimes, you might), but you take the guaranteed money where you can get it. That’s the business.
So where does that put the Cardinals now, on Sunday night, after a finale that started terribly and ended almost magically and once again underscored just how far this team has come.
“This is a totally different ballclub (from 2012), not just looking at the wins and losses but with the mindset of the guys in the locker room,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “That starts with coach Arians. You can tell it’s a different feel with this team.”
– In a lot of ways, Sunday encapsulated the season. There was a slow start but ultimately, the Cards rallied. The defense played well against the run and gave up a crucial pass or two. Offensively the Cardinals threw an interception but did enough to keep the team in the game. If nothing else, the Cardinals showed the last two weeks they have nothing to fear from the Seahawks or 49ers. Remember that Arians’ training camp quote about how he didn’t see a dominate team in the division? Well, from the perspective of his team, he was right.
– Yeah, that Saints game went exactly how it looked like it was going to go. And the NaVorro Bowman pick against the Falcons was really the death knell.
– If you are looking for the Cardinals’ full list of 2014 opponents, click right here.
- -And as I mentioned in that post, the Cards will pick 20th in the draft.
– It’s been mentioned before but the Cardinals have got to find a way to stem the turnover tide against the Niners. In the last 10 games – nine losses – the Cards have turned the ball over 30 times and forced just seven.
– Linebacker Karlos Dansby, on his Pro Bowl snub: “(I’ve) got to do more. There’s always room for improvement.”
– Dan Williams played very well at nose tackle Sunday. But that ACL tear for Alameda Ta’amu hurts. The Williams/Ta’amu combo was a big reason the Cardinals finished with the best rush defense in the NFL. Ta’amu, if he does have an ACL tear, is gonna be down for a while.
– Speaking of that run defense, Frank Gore (14 yards on 13 carries) was absolutely stoned. The Niners got cutesy early with some impressive misdirection, running wide receivers Anquan Boldin (11-yard run) and Quinton Patton (26 yards) on the first drive on end arounds. That’s 37 of the 83 rushing yards the Cards gave up (and QB Colin Kaepernick had 24 himself.)
– Fitz finishes with a flourish, 113 yards on six catches. Couldn’t get the 160 he needed for 1,000, but a nice ending.
– Do the Cardinals draft a quarterback? Possibly. As I said before, Steve Keim won’t take a guy he doesn’t love. But I fully expect Carson Palmer to go into the offseason work as starter, and I expect if he plays next season to be more efficient (with fewer picks.)
– Defensive end Calais Campbell with his ninth sack. Here’s hoping, as an alternate, he ends up in that Pro Bowl. Because he really had a Pro Bowl season.
OK, that’s enough for now. More tomorrow as the Cardinals wrap up with exit physicals, and much more over the offseason. No one ask me what I do now that the season is over. There will be plenty to write about.
Tags: 49ers, Alameda Ta'amu, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, Frank Gore, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, quarterback
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Dan Williams, NFL, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks
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In September, Dan Williams’ family — his father, mother and sister — were driving from their home in Memphis to New Orleans to watch Williams and the Cardinals play the Saints when they were in a bad accident. Thomas Williams was killed.
This weekend, Dan Williams, who missed a couple of games while being with his family and attending the funeral, will head back (close to) home when the Cardinals play at Tennessee in Nashville. The nose tackle insists it will not be emotional for him.
“Just seeing my family and friends will be great,” Williams said. “I know what happened earlier, but I am pretty much past that. I love my dad and mom. But things in life happen. My mom is getting stronger every day. A lot of my high school and college buddies will be out there, cousins, family members. I am glad to have family I can count on and will be glad to see me play.”
Williams said his sister recovered quickly. His mother is doing well too, surrounded by her Williams’ grandmother and aunts. “I talk to her every day,” Williams said. “She sounds happy on the phone, she is getting better mentally too, and I couldn’t ask for anything better. There is a lot of family near her.”
Williams, who played college ball at the University of Tennessee, also is optimistic about the game. “I’ve never lost in Nashville before in a game that counted,” he said with a smile.
Tags: Dan Williams, Titans
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Larry Fitzgerald was asked what he could say about the defense.
“You can’t say enough about the defense,” the Pro Bowl wide receiver said.
It was an impressive showing Sunday. It’s one thing to beat up a rookie QB like Mike Glennon. But Cam Newton had been playing pretty well, and while the Panthers got a few
yards, they didn’t get points, and the big plays were everywhere. If this team gets inside linebacker play from Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby like that, it won’t need nearly as much from its outside linebackers. Calais Campbell was a beast too. (And I really, really like what I have seen from new nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu. Dan Williams played well too. Nice to have some strength at the point of attack.)
We’ll get back to the defense in a moment, though.
It was hard not to notice Fitzgerald and the way he took on his press conference, clearly tussling with the mixed emotions of a victory yet knowing a) the offense didn’t play very well again and b) he was going to have to answer questions about it. Again.
He said the win helped “keeps you sane a little bit.” Then Fitz chuckled that knowing chuckle – did he learn that from Anquan once upon a time – when you can’t really say what you want to say. “We’ve got to get better.”
Then he was asked if he was surprised points are so hard to come by. “How surprised am I? Um. I don’t want to answer that. Uh.” And then another smiling chuckle. “I’m, I’m, um. We’ve got to do better.”
The Cardinals are 3-2 and the fact Bruce Arians went to the run a bit more Sunday is a good sign, because the passing game is having more ups and downs than they want. Can it get fixed? More importantly, will it be effective enough for the San Francisco-Seattle five-day twosome the Cards have next week? They better hope so.
– I’ll say this: If the Cards can perform this way defensively, they should at least be in games. Washington’s return was impressive, but the fact Dansby was everywhere was too. Dansby is a smart football player. He might not always have the speed anymore to get to where he wants to be, but he knows where he should be. That duo played the whole game at inside linebacker. Yes, Jasper Brinkley was hurt, but I think we know what direction the Cards are going there. Kevin Minter, barring injury, is going to be waiting a while before he gets to play defense.
– That’s two straight outstanding games for Patrick Peterson, I thought, and he almost broke that interception return.
– The pressure was intense often on Carson Palmer. It was mostly on the interior Arians said, and I tend to agree. Bradley Sowell was fine at left tackle, but we all knew the next two games were going to be a stiffer test.
– I think it probably went through the coaches’ minds to use Drew Stanton Sunday. I didn’t think they would both because Palmer tends to rally – and he did, for a second straight week, throw a late TD pass – and because that’s an open can of worms that changes a season regardless of what happens. But it’s not like they have a rookie behind Palmer. And we all know the trust Arians has in Stanton. Something to watch if Palmer continues to struggle.
– The Cardinals hadn’t had seven sacks in a game since they had eight against Dallas Sept. 13, 1987. For those scoring at home, that’s the last season in St. Louis for the franchise.
– Calais Campbell’s sack for a safety was the Cards’ first regular-season safety since 2004. Yes, they had one more recently – the infamous Steelers hold in the end zone giving the Cards two (important) points in Super Bowl XLIII.
– If there was a way to wed a punter and gunner together in a Pro Bowl category, there would be votes for Dave Zastudil and Justin Bethel. By the way, a 48.3 net average for Zastudil Sunday with two of four inside the 20.
– The game might have been different if the Panthers didn’t have four drops, including one sure TD by Steve Smith on the first drive of the game. Three instead of seven. The Cards will take it.
– Arians said it was Michael Floyd’s fault on the first interception, the reasoning being if the Cards are going to call for a jump ball, the receiver has to at least knock it down. Sounds fair.
– Antoine Cason sighting: The veteran cornerback has not played defense much at all, but he was in the right place when Campbell had his second sack, and Cason grabbed the ball in the air and returned it inside the Carolina 10.
“I haven’t played a lot,” Cason said. “But whenever they call me to play, that’s what I come to do. Don’t complain. Just go to work.”
– I could go forever but there will be more tomorrow. San Francisco week beckons.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Antoine Cason, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, Daryl Washington, Dave Zastudil, Drew Stanton, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Panthers
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Bruce Arians just held his day-after presser. Some of the highlights:
– Linebacker Daryl Washington, returning to the roster this week after his four-game suspension, will go right into the starting lineup. “That one’s easy,” Arians said. Karlos Dansby will likely be the other inside linebacker starter.
– Special teams was excellent. The defense was excellent. The offense, Arians said, “was putrid.” Asked if this offense usually takes this amount of time, Arians shook his head. “I haven’t seen it take this long ever.”
– Arians said the injuries suffered Sunday (Dockett, Colledge, Brinkley, So’oto) wouldn’t be updated until Wednesday but he called them “minor.” That doesn’t mean they won’t miss practice time. After last week’s rash of season-enders, the Cards will take it. Linebacker Kevin Minter (hamstring) should return this week.
– Nose tackle Dan Williams is due to return to Arizona Tuesday night after missing the past week or so because of his father’s death.
– The pass protection was better, Arians said, but not good enough. He said QB Carson Palmer would have had to make some “superhuman throws” because of some of the pressure.
– Asked his thoughts on Dashon Goldson’s hit on Jaron Brown, Arians said it was “totally illegal, just like he always does.”
– Arians said outside linebacker John Abraham played his best game and looked particularly good against the run. That would be a great development for the Cardinals if Abraham can keep it up.
– Arians clearly wasn’t thrilled with the Buccaneers crashing hard on the Cards during their final kneeldown at the end of Sunday’s game. Tampa and coach Greg Schiano have raised eyebrows before with the tactic. “That’s their style,” Arians said. “I’ve got no comment on it.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Dan Williams, Daryl Washington, Dashon Goldson, Jaron Brown, John Abraham, Kevin Minter
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The Cardinals are heading out to their first day of practice for the week and it is going to be a very wet one. The rain has not let up.
“Anybody got a boat we can borrow,” coach Bruce Arians said to open his press conference.
In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be raining. Not like this. But Arians said the Cards will make the best of it. In the meantime, here are some notes before I head out myself and try to take a few pictures:
– The Cardinals officially put LB Alex Okafor on season-ending IR with his torn biceps tendon. LB Kenny Demens has been promoted from the practice squad. The Cards also added WR Devon Wylie to the practice squad.
– Okafor said he possibly could’ve played with the injury but decided he has too much football left in his career to risk something like that, so he decided to get it taken care of.
– NT Dan Williams will not play Sunday. His father’s funeral is scheduled for Saturday.
– Arians said he doesn’t plan on using any inside linebackers on the outside. We’ll see if that can hold up given the circumstances.
– The Cardinals will face a rookie QB Sunday. The Buccaneers benched starter Josh Freeman today for draft pick Mike Glennon. That should benefit this injury-ravaged defense.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, Dan Williams, Kenny Demens
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In the end, Sunday felt a little like the last time the Cardinals went to New Orleans, when Tim Hightower ripped off a 70-yard touchdown run on the opening possession and you were thinking, “OK, now, this will be interesting” and it really wasn’t. The Cards were more deliberate on their first drive this time around but the result was the same, and you were thinking, “OK now …” only the offense kept sputtering. There were too many trips without points to not have it end up adversely affecting the team.
A lot of those out there jumped on the defense, but sorry, I can’t see it. Did the unit finish? No. was there still too much poor tackling, leading to bad situations? Yes. But the defense was doing its job much of the game. Jimmy Graham proved too much – I wonder if the injuries (more below) might have impacted that – but the Cards weren’t giving up anything on the ground and had mostly stumped a pretty good offense. Eventually, though, the Cards’ own offense couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
Now it’s on to Florida for the week. “We need to make sure it’s (good to be away),” QB Carson Palmer said. “We need to make sure this is a crisp week. We have a chance to get back to 2-2, a chance to play against Carolina at home, a chance to get a win against a team that is struggling a little bit.
“The veterans need to make sure this is work week. We are there to work.”
– Bruce Arians was not specific about the injuries suffered by the Cardinals during the game, but he sounded grim when he said “it’s not good.” Given that three defensive starters left the game in linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (foot), safety Rashad Johnson (finger) and linebacker Sam Acho (ankle), that wouldn’t bode well. Acho tweeted out a picture of himself in a boot saying “God has a plan.” Those aren’t usually the words spoken – even for someone devoted to his faith like Acho – by a guy who might miss a week. We’ll see.
– Palmer was pressured, too much according to Arians (although the Saints have a better pass rush than I gave them credit for.) He didn’t look sharp regardless. The first interception was just a bad throw to tight end Rob Housler, Palmer admitted.
– Alfonso Smith got off to a great start, gaining 27 yards on three carries on the first drive, including a touchdown. He didn’t get another carry and played sparingly if at all on offense the rest of the way. Andre Ellington got a ton of work again behind Rashard Mendenhall.
– In the grand scheme, it didn’t mean much but the Cards, after scoring the opening TD, allowed the Saints to get one on their own first possession. “You score a touchdown you don’t like it answered with a touchdown,” Arians said.
– Larry Fitzgerald looked OK dealing with his hamstring. Led the team in catches and yards (5-64). The week of little practice seemed to make a difference.
– Who were the two guys most brought up during the week by the Cards as the ones to watch for? Graham and Darren Sproles. Who were the catalysts for the Saints? Graham and Sproles.
– Can’t discount Drew Brees and his ability to move in the pocket. He was sacked four times but he seemed to somehow escape about four others, turning them into gains either by running or passing. Those are always gut-punchers for the defense.
– A lot of this, of course, seems pretty trivial given the horrible news about Dan Williams. Arians said the team is keeping their collective thoughts and prayers with Williams. That’s all it can really do.
That’s it from Florida. We’ll have all the coverage out here for the week as the Cards will try to bounce back against the Bucs.
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, Jimmy Graham, Larry Fitzgerald, Lorenzo Alexander, Rashad Johnson, Saints, Sam Acho
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In sad news, nose tackle Dan Williams lost his father after Thomas Williams was killed in a car accident. Williams did not make the trip to New Orleans and will not play today. Williams’ family was driving to New Orleans from Memphis to see the game. Williams’ mother and sister were also in the car and survived.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and running back Rashard Mendenhall will play, as expected. With Rob Housler active for the first time, rookie tight end D.C. Jefferson will be inactive for the first time. Newcomer Alameda Ta’amu will play in Williams’ place. Rookie linebacker Alex Okafor is active for the first time this season. Also inactive today:
– LB Kevin Minter (hamstring)
– RB Ryan Williams
– QB Ryan Lindley
– T Bobby Massie
– G Earl Watford
RB Mark Ingram is inactive for the Saints.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Dan Williams, inactives
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Nose tackle Dan Williams did not make the trip to New Orleans because of a family matter and so is officially listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game against the Saints. If Williams can’t go, it makes sense that the Cardinals would make newcomer Alameda Ta’amu active for the first time since picking him up on waivers.
Tags: Dan Williams, Saints
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