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Game day for Andre and Saturday before the Chargers

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2014 – 3:02 pm

Will he or won’t he? I’m sure the last thing the Cardinals wanted going into the opener was having their key offensive piece be a game-day decision, but that’s where we are left with running back Andre Ellington and his pesky foot problem. Bruce Arians said Ellington did enough in practice Saturday (pictured right) to convince him that Ellington could possibly play Monday, so there is that.

“We can’t worry about injuries,” Arians said. “Nobody cares but us.”Andre3MAINblog

Even if he doesn’t play, the beat moves on. If you look at the key guys not playing in total that you had hoped would – Washington and Mathieu and Dockett and Cooper, aside from Ellington – it can be a daunting list. But these are things that don’t make Bruce Arians flinch. He will forever have that 2012 season with the Colts burned on his brain, when everyone seemed to get hurt for Indy (except for Andrew Luck) and they still won 11 games. That will be the memory Arians will fall back upon, and why his “Next Man Up” battle cry isn’t just lip service. Whether the Cardinals can too make it work, we’ll see. The Chargers are just the first in a tough schedule.

– Punter Dave Zastudil was added to the injury list as questionable Saturday with a groin injury. That’s not good, obviously. The Cardinals did cut linebacker Desmond Bishop Saturday, so maybe the Cardinals fill that spot with a new punter if Zastudil can’t go. (Kicker Chandler Catanzaro punted once last season in college at Clemson.)

– If I had to pick just one major key to the game Monday, I’d have to go with the pressure the Cardinals need to put on Philip Rivers. There are other important aspects, of course. The Cardinals need to show they can stop the run again, and they need to protect Carson Palmer as promised. But after the vanilla preseason, it’s important that the Cards can hurry Rivers in the pocket. Once in a while without a blitz, preferably.

– Here is not a surprise in the least: The presence of new left tackle Jared Veldheer has completely changed the tension level for offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin.

“For me, for Carson, it’s about being comfortable,” Goodwin said. “For me, I can worry about other things. I don’t have to worry about chip-help for the tackle all the time. That relieves a whole lot of stress.”

No question Veldheer gives the Cardinals something Levi Brown simply did not, and that Bradley Sowell can not. In the end, Veldheer is seen by many fans as a savior to that position, although Veldheer isn’t all that comfortable with the notion.

“I guess that’s an OK thing, but to me, the biggest thing is being accountable to the guys on the line and the offense and the team,” he said. “And that’s me doing my job.”

– Got a chance to catch up briefly with Darnell Dockett yesterday, and he was as Darnell as always. He’s already pushing himself hard on his knee, even this early.

“You put the time in, got nothing else to do,” he said. “My coaches are supporting me, they know my work so they give me the green light to do everything I can to come back faster. There can’t be a better situation other than not being in this situation in the first place.”

– I’ve had many people ask me what the ramifications might be for suspended linebacker Daryl Washington if the new drug policy – rumored to be close – is passed. The truth is, I have no idea. Part of the problem is that it hasn’t publicly been said why Washington was suspended. He said in his statement it was for marijuana, but you’d need more details than that. Let’s put it this way, first this new policy actually has to be put in place – and it hasn’t yet. I still wouldn’t hold my breath for Washington even if it does.

– It’ll be an emotional night Monday. Aside from the game itself and the knowledge it is on national television, Kurt Warner gets inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime. I’d guess there will be some well-remembered highlights played too. Don’t leave your seats.

– Carparks open at 3 p.m. Monday. Don’t forget your clear bags.

– With all the Ellington news, the possibility of Tyrann Mathieu playing has seemingly been pushed to the background. I still think the Cardinals are going to err on the side of caution and keep him out for now, but Arians said again it’ll be a game-day thing.

– Crazy to think Alameda Ta’amu is fine after tearing his ACL in the 2013 season finale, but the nose tackle should be in the defensive line rotation and his biggest issue is his stamina. “He’s full go. He runs on and off the field and gets out of gas. That’s a lot of ass to carry back and forth out there.”

So, on that note, on to Monday night.

 


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A tenuous schedule, and the captains

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2014 – 9:34 am

The Wes Welker suspension bomb dropped yesterday, and that’s a great example of why all these game-by-game results guesses never made any sense to me. The Broncos wide receiver is gone for four games, and since the Broncos have a Week 4 bye (as do the Cardinals), the fourth and final game Welker will have to sit out will be the Cardinals’ visit to Denver. Will that impact the outcome? Maybe, maybe not. But you can’t predict because this game doesn’t allow that. Last year, when the schedule game out, the Cardinals were facing two tough playoff teams coming to Arizona in Houston and Atlanta. By the time the Texans and Falcons arrived, injuries had shredded them and they were bad teams. This year, the Broncos won’t have Welker (or kicker Matt Prater, who has also been suspended the first four games), the 49ers won’t have linebacker Aldon Smith in the first meeting with the Cards, and again, you just don’t know how these things will play out.

Random aside: That Oct. 5 game will be only the second time in Payton Manning’s career he will play an entire game against the Cardinals. He did so in a Sunday night game in 2009, but he sat out virtually all off the 2005 season finale. That is, of course, assuming Manning is healthy by that point. Because you just don’t know what will happen.

– The Cardinals picked captains and the results weren’t really surprising when you think of it. The biggest one, noted by many fans, is that Larry Fitzgerald is not a captain. This year’s offensive captain is Carson Palmer. But this should not shock. Palmer has really been the biggest offensive leader since he arrived, although there is something to be said about taking a bit of a backseat in the first year. Palmer did that, and Fitz was a 2013 captain. But Palmer is unquestionably the guy out front. Fitz has always been more of a lead-by-example guy. It was interesting that Calais Campbell is the defensive captain, but then again, maybe that shouldn’t be that surprising either. It’s hard to think of Campbell as a veteran leader — sometimes, it still feels like he just got here, especially since Darnell Dockett’s experience always overshadowed him on the line. But he’s a guy the defense can get behind.

– The Cardinals finished off their 10-man practice squad today by signing cornerback Anthony Gaitor. The 5-foot-10 Gaitor was among the Bucs’ final cuts. He was a seventh-round pick of Tampa in 2011, and missed all of last season with a knee injury. He joins rookie Jimmy Legree as the defensive backs on the practice squad, which gives the Cards some in-house possibilities for help if there are injuries with the eight men on the active roster.


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Short practice and successful Dockett surgery

Posted by Darren Urban on August 26, 2014 – 2:21 pm

The short practice week got even shorter Tuesday when coach Bruce Arians,citing the humidity during the outside workout, ended practice about 40 minutes early. Arians also noted how few players he had practicing, which goes more toward the players who won’t be playing Thursday rather than too many injuries. In fact, Arians said there was no change on that front. He did say he broke out the two fields of work for the first time since OTAs, allowing some of the starters who don’t figure to play to get some skeleton work done while the rest of the team prepped for the Chargers, Part I.

– Arians’ update on the players who have been injured: LB Kevin Minter is ready to play. NT Alameda Ta’amu looks like he will play, as does guard Jonathan Cooper. S Tyrann Mathieu remains day-to-day and a game-day decision Thursday. As promised, Mathieu’s playing status will be mostly up to him and how he feels about playing. If those guys play, Arians figures it will be about 20 to 25 plays.

– The surgery for DT Darnell Dockett went well, Arians said. Dockett remains in Alabama, where Dr. James Andrews did the work, and will be there abut five days, Arians said. It was a “clean” ACL injury — no ancillary damage — and Arians said Dockett was doing well after trading texts. “He is in really good spirits, anxious to get back,” Arians said.

Arians’ plan to have Dockett on the sidelines for games echoes his 2012 season in Indianapolis, when he also had a player injured for the season in November who still was on the sideline every game and traveled with the team. That guy? Cornerback Jerraud Powers, now a Cardinal.

– Arians did not specify who the Cardinals were having in for a tryout Tuesday (although it’s been reported that it will be defensive lineman Tommy Kelly) but he acknowledged there would be one. That workout had not happened yet, Arians said, because of “flight problems.” It was expected to take place later in the day.

– Interesting to see the Seahawks have lost two minicamp practices in 2015 for violating the CBA with their 2014 offseason work.


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No starters Thursday; Mathieu watch continues

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2014 – 1:19 pm

Some quick post-cut comments and thoughts from Bruce Arians as the Cardinals prepare to head out to practice:

– Just the normal bumps and bruises coming out of the Bengals game.

– After watching the video, Arians wasn’t as disappointed with the pass rush but believes it needs to become more effective.

– LB Kevin Minter and G Jonathan Cooper will practice today. Minter expects to play Thursday and be ready for the regular-season opener.

– No big surprises on the cuts rationale. Chandler Catanzaro just has a stronger leg than Feely. Arians wanted to let Feely and QB Ryan Lindley have a chance to hook on elsewhere as long as the decision here was already made.

– Arians did not rule out bringing T Max Starks back somewhere down the road if needed — and if he remains available.

– The starters will not play in the preseason finale. Logan Thomas will start at quarterback at play the whole game.

– DT Darnell Dockett had his surgery today to repair his torn ACL. Dr. James Andrews was expected to do the surgery.

– Arians said the only way Tyrann Mathieu will play in the regular-season opener is if he plays some Thursday. Mathieu wouldn’t say he’ll be in there for sure but said there is a “great possibility” he will play in San Diego.


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Arians wants Dockett on sideline for games

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2014 – 12:32 pm

Bruce Arians said he wants Darnell Dockett to get his surgery as soon as possible and get him back to the Cardinals rehabbing, because the defensive tackle will remain a big part of the team even though he cannot play.

“I plan on having him on the sidelines all year long because of his spirit and leadership,” Arians said. “It’s something we need and don’t want to lose.

“Injuries, they happen. It’s terrible for him, a great opportunity for somebody else. Frostee (Rucker) will step into that role, the young guys will step up and we’ll keep moving on like we always do. One injury is not going to change who we are and what we do.”

Arians called Dockett’s history of health — he played in 158 of 160 possible regular-season games in his first 10 seasons, plus all six postseason games — “unbelievable.”

“It just shows how hard he trains and keeps himself in top physical condition all the time,” Arians said. “Unfortuantely, it was one of those non-contact deals. You put your foot in the ground and it’s over.”

– Arians said everyone will be back at practice today save for linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral), guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) and tackle Max Starks (ankle).

– That means center Lyle Sendlein will return after missing much of camp with a calf injury. That moves Ted Larsen out to left guard, and Arians confirmed Larsen will start at left guard Sunday night against the Bengals.

– S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Alameda Ta’amu will only do individual drills today in their first practice after coming off the PUP lists following major knee rehabs. They will work their way into practice slowly. Arians said whether one or both play in the regular-season opener will be up to their progress on the field, but clearly, both are aiming to play against the Chargers in that Monday night game.

“I want to earn my way on the field,” Mathieu said. “I don’t want anyone to give it to me.” Mathieu said he will wear a brace.

– Arians said Jay Feely will kick in the first half against the Bengals and Chandler Catanzaro will kick in the second half.


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Time for the defense to recalibrate

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2014 – 9:52 am

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.

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The impact of losing Darnell Dockett

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 10:16 pm

Injuries happen every preseason. They are not all created equal.

Even the long-term injuries are not created equal. As much as Jonathan Cooper’s injury hurt the Cardinals last year — and at the time, GM Steve Keim felt Cooper was the Cardinals’ best offensive lineman — there is an jarring emotional slam with the news Darnell Dockett is done for the season. That comes on many levels. On a defense that already lost Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington from last year’s unit, losing Dockett is a difficult pill to swallow.

After Dockett was carted off and practice resumed with some 7-on-7 work, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner gathered his players on the field and they all took a knee. I don’t know exactly what was said, but it certainly looked like Buckner was helping his guys get through what already looked like a rough patch that was later confirmed.

Now though, it’s about moving on. It’s about the future, which is in the short-term the 2014 season and in the long-term where 2015 might take Dockett and the Cardinals. Veteran Frostee Rucker should move into Dockett’s starting role, but again, there was always going to be a rotation on the defensive line. There was a reason the Cardinals drafted Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson. Those rookies are going to have to play a bigger role. They are going to have to grow up very fast because Dockett won’t be there to anchor — along with Calais Campbell — the line. One potential free agent to look at is long-time 3-4 defensive end Brett Keisel, Keisel was cut by the Steelers this offseason but he knows Bruce Arians and Buckner from their time in Pittsburgh. I have no idea if it’s possible he could come — I have no idea what kind of money he might want — but the Cardinals will need to add someone.

What will happen next year becomes very interesting. Dockett will turn 34 in May. He will be coming off major knee surgery. He will be going into the last year of his contract and will be due $6.5 million in salary and will have a $9.8M cap hit. That’s a lot of money for an older lineman. Like Larry Fitzgerald and his $23.6M cap hit in 2015, Dockett’s bulky contract was always going to be an issue after this season. That certainly hasn’t changed, and perhaps, becomes more of an issue because of the injury.

In the moment, though, there is only the gut-punch to the Cardinals. And the long rehab Dockett faces while the Cards try to prepare for the season to come.


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Dockett carted off with ACL injury

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 4:16 pm

UPDATE: Dockett tore his ACL and is out for the season. Here is the story.

The first practice of the last week of training camp didn’t go the way the Cardinals would have liked, not when defensive tackle Darnell Dockett went down during the workout and had to be carted off the field with a right knee injury. Dockett was headed to get an MRI on the injury, and it’s safe to say the Cardinals are holding their breath it is not serious. It’s tough to tell right now, although Dockett did look to be in some pain before he left.

“It was a routine play and Darnell was going hard,” defensive tackle Dan Williams said. “I don’t know the extent of the injury, but it’s part of football. His foot just got stuck in the ground. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Defensive end Calais Campbell said he didn’t see the play.

“It’s a tough situation to be in,” Campbell said. “He’s a great player, one we count on to be a leader. I’m not sure how serious it is, and hopefully he’ll come back soon but it’s always a scary moment when they bring the cart out.”

The Cardinals’ defensive line has been hammered with injuries. Defensive Bruce Gaston sat out Monday with his knee injury, Williams has missed time because of his knee and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu remains on the PUP list while he rehabs his ACL injury. Dockett has been remarkably durable, missing only two games out of 160 possible in his 10-year career.

Injuries, though, are part of the game.

“People go down every day almost,” Campbell said. “Sometimes it’s simple and they come right back into practice and sometimes it’s serious. It depends. In football, when people go down, you move the ball up and keep playing football. Since I was 6 years old playing the game, it’s always been when someone goes down, next man up.”


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Feely’s perfection and Arians under ice

Posted by Darren Urban on August 12, 2014 – 1:44 pm

Rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro didn’t have a miss in his preseason debut. He made all three field goals, all three extra points and he was excellent on kickoffs, either driving them over the end zone or creating touchbacks or returns inside the 20. It’s veteran Jay Feely’s turn in Minnesota. So what is coach Bruce Arians looking for?

“Perfection,” Arians said.

Is that all?

Arians said that means making his kicks and having decent depth and hangtime on his kickoffs. “(Jay) has always kicked off adequately, but when someone is kicking off better and all the kicks are the same, you’re going to take the guy who is kicking off better,” Arians said.

Feely will have to kick outside in Minnesota, although Arians has said Feely will get to kick inside too, the following week against the Bengals. The kicking battle will continue to be interesting.

– Arians said yet again that fighting in practice is “not tolerable,” and that’s why Darnell Dockett and Bradley Sowell were stuck doing laps the balance of practice Monday after fighting. “You get ejected from the game (for fighting), so you get ejected from practice,” Arians said. “We practice like it’s a game every day. You lose your temper and punch a guy, you get ejected.”

– S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Alameda Ta’amu are “pretty close” to being removed from PUP and returning to practice.

– Still no rush on filling the empty three roster spots right now. “There really isn’t any need,” Arians said. “The number of players we have, to get somebody ready to play in a game that’s available right now, there’s nobody out there right now who are going to make our team better. We have our eyes on a couple guys that we will potentially bring in.”

– Interestingly, Arians called cornerback Jerraud Powers “probably our most valuable player on defense” right now because of how versatile he is in the secondary. It echoed those one-time thoughts of Ray Horton on Richard Marshall back in 2011.

– The injuries that kept a handful of players out for Monday’s practice will do the same today. That means left guard Jonathan Cooper is still out, which doesn’t help. “It’s a big deal for anyone on the club right now because the competition level is high. It’s not like anything is in cement,” Arians said. The coach added a player can definitely lose his job after getting injured. “You can if someone comes in and plays better than you were playing,” Arians said. “That’s called Wally Pipp.”

– Finally, in case you missed it, Arians took part in the viral #icebucketchallenge to raise awareness for ALS. He had been challenged by Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. Arians accepted — the idea is you get ice water dumped on you on video or you donate money to the cause — and Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer were only too happy to oblige.

“At first it wasn’t too bad,” Arians said. “That second one had too much ice in it. Thought it gave me a concussion. I wanted it to be ‘bam, bam.’ They waited too much.”

Arians challenged Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “Tomlin told me he’s not dumping water on his head so he’s going to donate money,” Arians said.


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Dockett, Sowell with first camp scuffle

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2014 – 4:42 pm

Finally, the Cardinals, under Bruce Arians, had a training camp fight.

The Cards didn’t have one during Arians’ first training camp last year. The streak held for two-plus weeks this year too. (I stand corrected. A fan reminded me that Bryan McCann and Charles Hawkins had a scrap late in camp last year, and lo and behold, they did.)

Monday, tackle Bradley Sowell and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett got into a post-play scuffle that wasn’t much of one. It was broken up quickly. But then we saw why Arians’ team doesn’t have such fights. Sowell and Dockett were made to run/walk/jog laps the rest of practice, which endd up being more than 30 minutes.

“It’s been a long time,” Sowell said of the last time he was made to run laps as punishment. “Dating back to probably middle school. Somewhere in there.”

It wasn’t a surprise though. At the outset of camp, Arians warned the team of the consequences of a fight. He frowns on that behavior. “The first thing you do is break your hand,” Arians said. “Might as well punch the wall. If you want to break your hand, break your hand. If you want to fight I’ll put boxing gloves on you and you can fight your ass off.”

There weren’t any broken hands Monday, or boxing gloves. Just the image of Dockett — who declined to comment — and Sowell circling the field over and over as practice went on as normal.

“We were coming off a big win where obviously as a team we looked good and the message today was don’t be complacent,” Sowell said. “Me and Dockett had the same mindset, neither one of us were going to go there (and be complacent). It happened the way it happened.”

Sowell said he and Dockett had been getting into it a little in each drill as practice had been going. “I knew it would eventually get heated,” Sowell said. At one point, Sowell caught up to Dockett during the laps and the two spoke briefly before continuing the punishment on their own.

“It was ‘We’re still teammates, let’s finish up this running and get by it.’ We both have played a little bit of football in the league. We both know how it is. Neither one of us want to lose,” Sowell said.

As teammate Lyle Sendlein said earlier in camp, “The Cardinals aren’t on the Cardinals’ schedule.”

“We’re teammates,” Sowell said. “It’s done.”

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