I don’t think we’ll be hearing anything about the Cardinals’ vacant defensive coordinator job until next week (the coaches remain off, although former defensive coordinator/new Jets coach Todd Bowles did drop by Thursday and again Friday as he settled his affairs with the organization and said goodbyes.) We’ll wait to see if the Dick LeBeau rumors come to pass of him joining the Cardinals’ staff, and who else might be impacted (if LeBeau is a consultant, does outside linebackers James Bettcher become defensive coordinator? Or defensive backs coach Nick Rapone? Or someone else?)
What kind of scheme the Cardinals use will be the first question everyone will want to know, and if LeBeau arrives, whether it’s he dealing with what the Cardinals have been running or vice versa. The scheme of LeBeau and the scheme of Bowles have some parallels but they were definitely different — especially up front, where LeBeau (and disciple Ray Horton when he was DC of the Cardinals) look to have the linemen “two-gap” and allow the linebackers to roam and make plays. Bowles was willing to let his lineman just head one way and make a play. It’s a big reason why Darnell Dockett was so happy when Bowles arrived, as I mentioned the other day, although LeBeau had used more one-gap in the last couple of years and let his 3-4 ends rush the passer more often.
Either way, a good nose tackle is important. And the Cardinals face a crucial offseason when it comes to their nose tackles. Starter Dan Williams is an unrestricted free agent. Alameda Ta’amu, who had a disappointing season coming off a torn ACL, is a restricted free agent. Ta’amu is an interesting case, because he played well in 2013 and can be kept for a minimum of a restricted free agent tender offer. He didn’t tear up his knee until the season finale in 2013 and it wasn’t that shocking he was slow to recover, but the Cardinals were still expecting more from him this season. (It’s notable that LeBeau’s Steelers cut Ta’amu last year, which is how the Cardinals got him off waivers in the first place.)
Williams is more dicey. I’d think the Cardinals want him back. Williams said he would like to be back, but again, this is about money. What will the open market bring for Williams? Williams played pretty well this season and his weight isn’t the issue it used to be. But there is already a ton of money tied up in the defensive line (at least for now) with Calais Campbell and Dockett, and that also must fit into the equation. There was a reason the Cards drafted two defensive linemen last year.
Ed Stinson and veteran Tommy Kelly can play inside but it is Williams and/or Ta’amu who are the true nose tackles on the roster for now. Someone will need to be there in May too. If it isn’t Williams, can it be Ta’amu? Or someone else?
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Dick LeBeau, James Bettcher, Nick Rapone
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When the Cardinals beat the Seahawks last season, they took a quarterback who at times had looked like an MVP candidate with his efficiency and made him look very, very bad. Russell Wilson’s stats that day: 11-for-27, 108 yards, one touchdown, one interception. More importantly, he had just two rushing attempts (for 32 yards, including one outlier 27-yard scramble).
There aren’t many quarterbacks who throw on the run as well as Wilson. Aaron Rodgers, maybe, but his is a different style. With Wilson there is the constant fear he will take off. And he’s done that a lot this season – already Wilson has rushed for at least 100 yards in three different games – or triple the amount he had in his first two seasons.
The Cardinals would love to make sure Wilson has the same kind of game Sunday as he had against the Cards last year, but “I don’t think there is a blueprint,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “It’s catch ’em if you can.”
The top priority will be to slow Marshawn Lynch, because it always is. The Seahawks, without any real dynamic receivers, don’t have a scary passing game. If there is a way to slow Lynch and not let Wilson go off on broken plays, the Cardinals will have gone a long way toward winning another one in the Pacific Northwest.
— A player to watch in this regard: Rookie Deone Bucannon, the safety who is playing linebacker in in nickel and who has essentially replaced Wilson antidote Daryl Washington this season.
— This game, even if the Cardinals win, does not clinch the NFC West. But it goes a long way in doing so, as long as there isn’t an epic collapse down the stretch. And teams that win in Seattle and are 9-1 before that don’t collapse. A loss, and things could get interesting, especially with another game left to play with the Seahawks. The tough games do not end yet.
— As I mentioned, my gut here on a Friday is that Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t play, and as I mentioned, I’ve been wrong on Fitz before. It’s hard not to remember the obvious confidence OC Harold Goodwin showed in the rest of the receiving corps though. They want Fitz to play, of course. But if Jaron Brown and John Brown and Michael Floyd are the top three guys, the Cardinals can live with that. They are better suited to survive a short-term injury at receiver perhaps more than anywhere else.
— The Cards have to find a way to run the ball with some success, and it can’t be all Andre Ellington, Rashard Mendenhall had 21 carries in the Seahawks game in Seattle last year, Ellington 15 as the Cards had the most rushing attempts in a game in more than a decade. Yes, it was Jamaal Charles, but the Chiefs were able to run a lot and well against the Seahawks last week. Ellington plus, Step Taylor? Marion Grice? They just need to give Drew Stanton a chance.
— Stanton needs to be smart, but the Cards can’t be too cautious either. So far, the Cardinals, with Stanton, have moved the ball immediately in all his starts. It speaks to the Arians/Goodwin plans, and how much Stanton understands the offense. They just have to have it carry through the game.
— Great note pointed out to me on Twitter by @DylanCarey11. Stanton will be the sixth different starter at quarterback the Cardinals have used in Seattle the last six trips there:
2014 – Stanton
2013 – Palmer
2012 – John Skelton
2011 – Kevin Kolb
2010 – Max Hall
2009 – Kurt Warner
— As an additional note to that, the Cardinals will have used eight QBs in those six games, because Ryan Lindley played in relief of Skelton in 2012 and Derek Anderson came in for Hall in 2010. Neither time it was injury related. Just bad football.
— If you haven’t seen it, Michael Silver did a great piece on Bruce Arians and his path to Cardinals’ head coach. Some of it goes over familiar territory, but there is some good stuff, like the just-fired Ken Whisenhunt telling Arians good things about the franchise and encouraging Arians to interview for the job.
— There is also this great story by David Fleming covering the family of the donor woman who gave Carson Palmer his original ACL replacement – and the feeling after it gave out against the Rams, sidelining Palmer.
— There is also this story on the rise to GM by Steve Keim. It happens to be my work, so if you haven’t read it, just sayin’ …
— Matt Shaughnessy was back on the field this week for practice for the first time since a knee injury forced him to the IR-designated to return list. He can’t play the next two games, but he will be back for the Dec. 7 game against the Chiefs. Arians wasn’t definitive in how Shaughnessy will fit in the lineup; Shaughnessy’s replacement, Alex Okafor, is playing the best of the outside linebackers. Could it be Shaughnessy and Okafor, with Sam Acho as a reserve? Possible. Arians said he wants to see where Shaughnessy is first; there’s going to be rust that must be knocked off.
— Last year at the end of the Seahawks’ upset, a handful of defensive linemen had a snack of Skittles on the sidelines in the waning moments. Skittles, for the uninitiated, are famously the favorite treat of Lynch. There won’t be any this year, alledgedly.
“Naw,” defensive tackle Dan Williams said. “I got to cut back on calories.”
— Last year, the win in Seattle was the Cards’ 10th win of the season. Can they do that two years in a row?
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, Deone Bucannon, Drew Stanton, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Shaughnessy, Max Hall, Russell Wilson, Seahawks
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Larry Fitzgerald caught the pass just about at the first down marker up the middle on third-and-5 against the Cowboys, stiff-armed safety Barry Church to the ground and then crashed into safety J.J. Wilcox. Wilcox went down in a heap. Fitz, who was tackled moments later for a 20-yard gain, jumped up and swung his arms at his bench, looking to send his emotion toward his teammates.
“That safety came up and almost looked like (Larry) put him to sleep,” General Manager Steve Keim said Monday during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. After the Cardinals beat the Cowboys, Keim found Fitz on the bus as the Cards were leaving AT&T Stadium to tell him so. ” ‘Larry, you’re starting to look like a tight end out there,’ ” Keim said with a chuckle. “I don’t think he took that as a compliment.”
But it was. Keim loves Fitzgerald’s emotion, and his physical play. The GM complimented all the receivers and their ability to block — also crediting receivers coach Darryl Drake — but the continued reinvention of Fitzgerald is hard not to notice. Fitz always has had his moments of emotion over the years, but it used to come just after big plays. Now, it seems, Fitz goes looking for contact if he’s in close quarters, dishes out some punishment, and then gets visibly psyched for all to see. Keim said he can tell it affecting the Cards, and you can tell.
Fitz also had another solid game, with five catches for 70 yards. Maybe he and Carson Palmer are finally finding a groove.
Other Keim notes:
— Nose tackle Dan Williams played his best game as a pro (which was easy to see.)
— He called out the defensive line as a whole and Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Antonio Cromartie in particular for having good games, but added that the whole defense impressed.
— He liked Palmer’s ability to have a short memory, allowing the QB to come back strong after his early interception.
— Overall, Keim admitted there was some frustration with the offense’s “self-inflicted issues.” The drops were one thing. Key penalties. And he said the interior of the offensive line struggled with the stunts and twists of the Cowboys’ defensive line.
Tags: Dan Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Keim
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If the fact that fullback Ron Wolfley got a carry for the Cardinals the last time the franchise had gone to Dallas and won a regular-season game doesn’t grab you, the fact 22 players on the current roster weren’t even born the last time the Cards won there catches the attention.
Of course, all those “last times” don’t mean much right now, since this current Cardinals team took care of the Cowboys at Jerry’s World and don’t care about much of anything except what’s right in front of them. Again, Sunday’s game wasn’t one you’d bronze. There were a lot of good things, but some divots, especially offensively. But it doesn’t matter after yet another win, and a 7-1 record that stands as the best of not only the NFC but the NFL after the Broncos were knocked around in New England.
No, Tony Romo didn’t play. To that, the Cardinals basically said, so? “We don’t really want to hear the excuses right now,” locker-room sage Frostee Rucker said. (The Cardinals have done the play-with-the-backup-quarterbacks thing. They made it work.)
— The Cardinals stopped DeMarco Murray from reaching 100 yards, the first team to do so this season. It wasn’t as if Murray was ineffective, with 79 yards on 19 carries. But it was a goal to end his streak, and certainly, that fourth-down stand was the game in a microcosm – stop Murray, and you stop the Cowboys. Especially with Brandon Weeden as QB.
— Meanwhile, Andre Ellington outplayed Murray. If it wasn’t for the goal of getting Marion Grice some work, Ellington (95 yards on 21 carries) would have had his first 100-yard game. I thought Ellington battled for extra yards even better Sunday as well. He’s having an excellent season.
— Ellington did get his eyes checked during the game. Bruce Arians said he feared Ellington might be out with a concussion, but Ellington said his helmet came down over his eyes and blurred his vision for a moment.
— Red-zone troubles? No red-zone troubles here. When the Cardinals got there Sunday, they cashed in. Four trips inside the Dallas 20, and Chandler Catanzaro only came on the field for extra points. Even better, all four scores – three of them on Carson Palmer passes – were converted on third down.
— The Cardinals swept the NFC East. After sweeping the AFC South last year.
— Frostee was a little frosty on the sideline at the end of the game, hacked off that he and his teammates couldn’t stop the final Dez Bryant touchdown. It was meaningless, except it wasn’t.
“Me and (Darnell) Dockett were just talking about it, that’s the stuff you look back when the season is over and that’s the difference in being number one in something or being number three,” Rucker said. “Don’t give that up. Don’t give them anything.
“But I’m happy with the performance of all the guys. The team won this game today.”
— With John Carlson, Jaron Brown and Marion Grice all scoring Sunday, the Cardinals have had 12 different players score for them already this season though eight games.
— It was not a good day for the AT&T Stadium press box announcer. The Honey Badger as “Tyson Mathersly”? But it was worse for Cantanzaro, who was a couple of things – “Chancer Catanzaria” for one – before the guy gave up and just said, “Number 7 on to try the extra point.”
— Mathieu gets his first interception. He is certainly doing Honey Badger things again.
— Nose tackle Dan Williams was excellent, beyond his first sack of the season. “I would probably say it’s my best game,” Williams said. “I think I’ve been playing well thus far, doing the things coaches ask of me and make sure we get upfield. I think I actually played like I do each week, it’s just that the guys were cutting back into me, I made a few tackles. Today, I was pretty much just the clean-up man.”
— Larry Fitzgerald with another quietly solid game, with five catches for 70 yards. He fell short of surpassing Michael Irvin on the all-time yardage list, but more important was the touchdowns and a step toward better offensive production.
“We were able to score a little more consistent today,” Fitzgerald said. “But we are still finding out what we are capable of. We took a little bit of a step today. We pride ourselves on being a very smart, intelligent football team.”
— Not great were the five drops, three coming from tight end John Carlson. Carlson did have a touchdown catch, but combined with a holding penalty, it wasn’t his best game.
— This time, all the players earned a Victory Monday. Even the young guys.
— Your walk-off quote, courtesy of Arians: “Having been 1-7 before, 7-1 feels a lot better.”
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Cowboys, Dan Williams, DeMarco Murray, Frostee Rucker, Larry Fitzgerald, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals looked hard for a pass rusher prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline. Nothing materialized. That’s really not surprising. In this league — especially when a team can flip into a playoff contender in one offseason — you just don’t trade decent pass rushers. You need them too much. And if you are willing to trade, you’re probably asking for more than they are worth, because they are at a premium, and a team like the Cardinals can’t just shred their draft options for that.
(Now, if Justin Houston was being offered for a first-round pick, yes, I make that move. I’d think GM Steve Keim would too. But the Justin Houstons of the world aren’t being offered.)
That leaves the Cardinals wanting on the pass rush. Yes, I’d think that will be the top target of the offseason, whether it is through free agency or the draft (or even both.) But the offseason is the offseason. That doesn’t help now.
The Cardinals have only seven sacks in seven games, and two of those are from defensive backs and one is from an inside linebacker. It’s no secret the Cards are blitz-happy out of necessity. It’s the only way they can generate consistent pressure, and it’s been a Todd Bowles staple, with the Cards blitzing about half the time. Would more sacks be welcome? Of course. But Bruce Arians sounds OK with the results so far. The last play Sunday is a great example. The Cardinals brought the blitz. They couldn’t sack Nick Foles — they couldn’t sack him all day, through 62 pass attempts — but it was the heavy pressure up the middle that forced Foles to backpedal and throw off his back foot. Jordan Matthews had been open in the back of the end zone, but the bad throw under pressure gave safety Rashad Johnson just enough time to recover and make sure the pass wasn’t completed.
“The thing we want to do defensively is be disruptive,” Arians said. “I thought we were disruptive (against Philadelphia). We created turnovers. Yardage doesn’t really matter. We want to lead the league in points (allowed) and we want to lead the league in sacks and turnovers. Sacks are the one thing that are obviously down, but there are disruptions there.”
At this time last year, the Cardinals had 19 sacks, en route to 47 on the season. A big part of that was John Abraham’s 11.5, and obviously losing Abraham — when the team had been counting on him to create some of those sacks — has left a mark. It was interesting to see that Marcus Benard is part of the outside linebacker rotation to create pressure, when Benard was one of the guys originally cut to add outside linebacker Thomas Keiser, who has mostly been inactive. Getting Calais Campbell back on the field will help, but it is, as Keim has said, beating a dead horse when talking about the Cardinals and creating/finding more of a pass rush.
The snap breakdown for the defensive line/outside linebackers against the Eagles, on 92 defensive snaps (92 – yikes!): Okafor 69, Acho 65, Campbell 62, Kelly 62, Stinson 51, Rucker 31, Dan Williams 18, Benard 16, Martin 10.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Ed Stinson, Frostee Rucker, John Abraham, Kareem Martin, Marcus Benard, Rashad Johnson, Sam Acho, Steve Keim, Thomas Keiser, Tommy Kelly, trade
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Oh, there was still drama Friday that impacted the Cardinals, but for the first time in a couple of weeks, it wasn’t directly related to the Cardinals themselves. Instead, the Seahawks traded (the guy who seemed to be a dangerous) playmaker Percy Harvin to the Jets. That means the Cards never had to play against the guy when he was in Seattle – he was injured for both 2013 meetings, and the Cards have yet to play the Seahawks this season. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about why Harvin was dumped soon – a lot of stuff out there already basically saying Harvin had worn out his welcome – but the Cards aren’t going to be dealing with him.
Otherwise, it was a boring Friday for the Cards as they prepare for their road trip to Oakland. That’s a good thing. No quarterback questions. No wondering about chop block fines. No new injuries. Just a game.
How about that?
— Bruce Arians all but scoffed at the idea of trap games, and the way he and his staff operates, that doesn’t surprise me. There has been zero looking ahead (Philly and Dallas are up next) from what I have heard/can tell. Arians did say the Cards can’t be as listless to start in Oakland as they were against Washington and I totally agree. The lesson hopefully was learned.
— Speaking of listless, the last time the Cardinals went to Oakland for a regular-season game was 2006. It was a disaster. It was a week after the Cardinals had the infamous Monday Night Meltdown and Denny popped off (hey, that eight-year anniversary, by the way, was yesterday!) The Cardinals had fallen to 1-5, but we’re playing the 0-5 Raiders and the I-don’t-give-a-flip version of Randy Moss. The Cards were terrible. Moss actually scored a TD. That was a long time ago.
— Andre Ellington believes the run game is close. He actually said he feels more fresh right now than he probably should, because his foot injury means he doesn’t do as much as practice as he normally would. Ellington has also be careful, as he was going to have to, of getting down on plays once he figures out he’s not going to gain any more yards.
It was noticeable against Washington, and I even heard from a couple of fans wondering why he was going down so easily. In the end, Ellington said, it’s about thinking big picture.
“I don’t have the strength to fight away from tackles,” Ellington said. “I try to do myself justice by getting down and getting ready for the next play.
“(Other people) are not out there taking those hits like I have to. I feel like once I get all I can get, I’m going to go down. I moreso do it on plays when I get a big gain. If it’s third-and-one, I’m going to fight for that yard.”
— Ellington also said the Cardinals would have “some surprises” in the run game Sunday. We’ll see what that means.
— Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker was fined $10,000 for ripping the helmet off quarterback Carson Palmer on that in-the-grasp-probably-should-have-been-a-sack pass completion Palmer made to Robert Hughes. Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson was fined $16,537 for a horsecollar tackle on the sideline made on safety Rashad Johnson after Johnson’s first interception. Neither play drew a flag from the officials (although Dan Williams, Jared Veldheer and Tony Jefferson tried to get in Jackson’s face after the play.)
— Running back Marion Grice got a few first-team reps at running back this week, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said, although Goodwin made it sound it was more exploratory rather a harbinger of anything imminent. Goodwin also reiterated he thinks Grice can perform all the same tasks as Ellington.
— The Cardinals are third in the NFL in run defense, meaning they moved up in the rankings even after losing Calais Campbell and Matt Shaughnessy. Now they face the next-to-last rushing team in the league.
— How about Dan Williams playing some defensive end? The nose tackle likes it. “I’ll take it where I can get it,” Williams said. “It kind of reminded me of college a little bit. I haven’t played that much end since my rookie year.”
— You just get a feeling Patrick Peterson is motivated to have a big game Sunday.
— You know the Raiders buried a football? That’s what interim coach Tony Sparano did with his team, symbolizing the end of the poor play that culminated with coach Dennis Allen’s firing.
“If you keep looking back with that same old mindset like, ‘Oh, yeah man, we can’t do it because this, this and that, we already lost five games,’ well you defeated yourself before you even tried to get on the field and to make something happen,” Raiders defensive end and former Cardinal Antonio Smith said. “I think that was the main thing that Tony was trying to symbolize when burying that ball—burying whoever you were before that day, whatever team we were before that day.”
The Raiders played better last week. But they still lost. The Cards don’t want that changing. Not yet.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, fines, Marion Grice, Patrick Peterson, Percy Harvin, Raiders, Rashad Johnson
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It comes as no surprise that the Cardinals want to extend quarterback Carson Palmer. GM Steve Keim said he has had initial discussions with Palmer’s agent, and given the landscape, keeping Palmer around makes sense for both sides. For Palmer, who will turn 35 in December, he has found a comfort — and success — working in Bruce Arians’ system. Considering there probably aren’t many teams that are going to want to bring in a 35-year-old QB, at least not believing in him at the level the Cardinals do, Palmer wanting to remain is only logical.
The Cardinals have a quarterback who works for them, not only passing the ball but as a leader, a guy who easily was voted captain by his teammates. Palmer stands tall in that locker room, and it has nothing to do with his 6-foot-5 frame but the way he carries himself and plays off every guy in there. At some point, the Cardinals will have to find their long-term QB answer, and maybe it’s Logan Thomas and maybe Keim sees the franchise QB sitting there late in the first round this coming April, but there are no certainties and having Palmer in place is almost obvious for the team too.
The shoulder nerve issue probably threw a wrench into things somewhat. You have to believe Palmer will stay healthy. But assuming that, this should work. If it makes so much sense for both sides, it almost has to, right?
But that also leads into this incredibly interesting offseason to come for Keim. Last year, he said the 2015 season was really when the Cards would be in better shape in terms of the salary cap. You can only assume he was already taking into account the Larry Fitzgerald situation, and what he may or may not do with Darnell Dockett’s contract (a spot that’s gotten stickier now that Dockett, who turns 34 in May, will be coming off major knee surgery.) That doesn’t include the scheduled free agents: Antonio Cromartie, Dan Williams, Sam Acho, Tommy Kelly, Larry Foote and Paul Fanaika among them.
If there is anything Keim has shown with a couple of offseasons under his belt, it’s that the Cardinals have a plan on how they spend. And going overboard isn’t part of it. There is a number the Cardinals have in mind they will want to give to any of these guys for 2015 — for a Fitz, for a Dan Williams. For a Palmer. Selling a chance to stay with a winner helps.
Of course, winning only happens when there is a QB in place. Palmer is that guy for the Cardinals. You want him to stick around.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, free agency, Larry Fitzgerald, Larry Foote, Logan Thomas, Paul Fanaika, Sam Acho, Steve Keim, Tommy Kelly
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GM Steve Keim said on his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports’ “Doug and Wolf” show that the Cardinals expect linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral) and guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) to return to practice today. That is good news, although it should probably come with a caveat: Because the Cards just played last night, I am guessing practice will be very light today. But it’s a start. Bruce Arians had said this is a big week for both if they have any hope of playing in the opener. We’ll see how it plays out.
— Keim confirmed what I thought I had seen, that wide receiver Michael Floyd did hesitate in his route on the play where Carson Palmer overthrew him despite no defender in the area. “Michael slowed down in his ‘go’ route and the fact is if he would have kept running Carson would have hit him in stride for a touchdown. I expect that to be cleaned up.” Keim said he checked with Bruce Arians to see if Floyd was actually running a double move, but that Arians told him it was a straight fly pattern.
Overall, “it just didn’t seem like our quarterback and our receivers were in sync last night,” Keim said.
— He said after watching video, he was even more impressed with the offensive line play, especially the protection.
— Keim said a big concern of his coming into camp was right tackle but said that no longer is an issue. “Bobby Massie played very well last night,” he said.
— He said he thought DT Dan Williams had his best game of the preseason. In light of Darnell Dockett’s absence, that’s a good thing.
— Keim was very high on the play of rookie safety Deone Bucannon, and said he hopes Bucannon gets more playing time.
— Asked if the Cardinals were going to take one kicker or two kickers to San Diego, Keim said they would make that decision “later today.” UPDATE: The Cardinals cut Jay Feely.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, Deone Bucannon, Jay Feely, Jonathan Cooper, Kevin Minter, Michael Floyd, Steve Keim
Posted in Blog | 21 Comments »
Perhaps the day off Tuesday came at the right time for the Cardinals. The defense can digest the season-ending injury to Darnell Dockett, and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can start to sort out how exactly he will run his defense with the pieces he has left. You can sit and mull what the Cardinals don’t have now compared to 2013, but it’s a moot point.
Along the defensive line, the Cardinals are expected to add a vet to the roster (Brett Keisel went back to Pittsburgh) but veteran Frostee Rucker should end up as the starter alongside Calais Campbell and Dan Williams. There should be plenty of mixing and matching, though, with rookies Ed Stinson and Kareem Martin and now, Alameda Ta’amu, who comes back to practice today. There would have been mixing and matching even if Dockett was healthy. Getting a steady rotation on the defensive line has been one of the main themes GM Steve Keim wanted to accomplish while re-tooling the roster. The key here could be Ta’amu, because if he can return to form relatively quickly, it will impact the middle of that line.
At linebacker, there have long been concerns and whenever Kevin Minter returns to the field, that probably doesn’t go away. I thought Larry Foote played pretty well in Minnesota and it was encouraging to see newcomer Desmond Bishop do what he did in a handful of plays, but the question marks don’t go away and now you don’t have a guy like Dockett in front of them. The plus is that outside linebacker John Abraham is back (his return to practice, pictured below, was seriously overshadowed Monday by the Dockett news) but again, until he plays his way into shape, it’s tough to know what he’ll bring.
In the secondary, the Cardinals not only have all their guys still but now Tyrann Mathieu is back in the mix too. That group remains the strongest, although playing out on an island at times means they need the front seven to come through. That was a bit troubling to hear Bruce Arians talk about how many times the Cardinals did not run their blitzes correctly in Minnesota — Bowles was magical last year the way he schemed players to often get to the quarterback untouched — and that will be a key to this whole thing.
The Cardinals’ offense will be better this season and they will need to be. Regardless, the Cardinals aren’t going to get where they want to go unless the defense plays at a high level. They will have to do it differently than they once planned.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, defense, Desmond Bishop, Ed Stinson, Frostee Rucker, John Abraham, Kareem Martin, Kevin Minter, Larry Foote, Todd Bowles, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 16 Comments »
When the pads go on and the tackling starts, players can make an impact. Two young guys who did that during the Fan Fest work were tight end Darren Fells and undrafted rookie defensive tackle Bruce Gaston. Arians mentioned both by name Monday as having caught his eye Saturday, and there is nothing better than having your coach call you out in a good way during a press conference. That’s twice for Fells in a week, too. And as you know, three times is the charm.
(Actually, it will be really interesting to see what happens with Fells and the other tight ends. The Cardinals aren’t keeping five. Fells could go back to practice squad, but would he clear waivers? Would the Cardinals look at a trade? A lot of camp to go so maybe Fells’ star fades, but it’s an intriguing situation.”
Arians also mentioned Robert Hughes and Jonathan Dwyer, and again, those two look like the natural backs to join Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor on the 53 in early September.
Gaston also creates a dilemma if he indeed stays in contention for the roster. “He was blowing up some blockers and made a name for himself in that scrimmage.” Figure the Cardinals will keep six defensive linemen. Dockett, Campbell, Dan Williams and the two rookies Martin and Stinson seem like locks. Alameda Ta’amu might be on PUP, but what about Frostee Rucker, who also seems like a lock? Would the Cardinals keep seven defensive linemen?
— One of the reasons left guard Jonathan Cooper has struggled is going against defensive end Calais Campbell, who has played at a Pro Bowl level the last couple of years.
“Coop is getting there. He’s still a rookie,” Campbell said. “I don’t feel bad beating him. I mean I kind of do a little bit but I know I have to go hard against him so he can be football-ready because the first game he’ll have to step up and play big for us.
“Me and Coop are great friends. You don’t want to make him look bad in theory. But it is best for the team for me to go strong, and get him game-ready. We’ve had some good battles.”
Arians said Cooper responded well Saturday to his “disappointed” comments.
— WR John Brown (hamstring) will miss practice again today.
— Arians said he expects everyone to play Saturday against Houston, barring injury. He does hope Brown is back and playing. Starters will go about 15 plays.
— Arians update on the return of absent linebacker John Abraham. “I would hope next week,” he said. Added that with Abraham’s experience, missing a couple weeks of camp was not a big deal.
— Logan Thomas will be the third QB against Houston and play most of the fourth quarter. Ryan Lindley will get that chance the following game in Minnesota.
— Reminder that today’s practice is closed to the public. That gives Arians a chance to see how his team responds. There were an announced 23,000 at the Fan Fest scrimmage Saturday, which provided energy as a backdrop to what Arians called the best practice of camp. “It should be with 20-some thousand people,” Arians said. “It should get the juice flowing. Look forward to what it will be with nobody in there. It’s got to be the same kind.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Bruce Gaston, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Darren Fells, John Abraham, John Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Jonathan Dwyer, Robert Hughes, training camp
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