The Cardinals moved up practice this week, starting at 10 a.m. on the field. That way, the players are “used” to playing football at 10 a.m., which is kickoff time for Sunday in New York against the Giants. Anything to be as prepared as possible for the earliest start time of the seasom.
“You do everything you can,” coach Bruce Arians said.
Larry Fitzgerald shrugged off the early-start-is-tough-on-the-Cardinals storyline this week – “That’s in the past, he said – and sometimes, there’s only so much you can do anyway. The Cardinals stayed in Florida all week last year after their road game in New Orleans to be properly adjusted for the game in Tampa Bay, and then they were terrible in the first half.
What the Cardinals didn’t have at that point last year was the confidence this group has these days. That makes a difference.
– There are plenty of injury questions for the Cardinals heading into the game, from Carson Palmer’s shoulder (he should be playing) to Andre Ellington’s foot (he thinks he’ll be playing) but maybe the most interesting thing at this point on the injury report is the fact Tyrann Mathieu is listed as probable. If he wasn’t likely to play, there’s no reason to not list him as questionable again. Food for thought as we wait the couple of days to see who is on the inactive list.
– The Giants’ passing game, under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, has been a mess. Eli Manning is trying to learn a new system after years under Kevin Gilbride, his weapons are questionable and his offensive line struggles. It’s a situation upon which the Cardinals can capitalize, especially if they continue to defend the run as well as they do.
That said, the Giants are already frustrated. Bruce Arians told the New York media this week it takes a half-season for a veteran QB to get comfortable in a new offense – paging 2013 Carson Palmer – but that’s not exactly the timeframe Giants coach Tom Coughlin was hoping for.
“I’m not patient,” Coughlin said. “I’m not one of those. I don’t have a real good handle on that maybe because we haven’t done that around here and I haven’t done that for a long time. I have to bite my tongue sometimes and kind of step back and realize it’s a process.”
– I want to see Chandler Catanzaro kick outside in a place that can have interesting weather. The Cat Man is off to a great start.
– The Giants got some pass rush on Matthew Stafford Monday. Their secondary seemed a little out of sorts (covering Calvin Johnson can do that). But I think the Cards’ offensive line held up well enough in the opener. That must continue.
– Don’t remember a game in which both starting punters might be sidelined with injuries, but Dave Zastudil is questionable with his bad groin and the Giants’ Steve Weatherford is questionable after hurting his ankle. The difference is the Cardinals already have a backup punter on the roster with Drew Butler. The Giants haven’t made such a move yet.
– There is always emotion at play during an NFL game. At the end of the Cardinals’ win – when running back Jonathan Dwyer was about to get a third straight handoff on third-and-5 trying to seal the win – offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said “a couple of choice words for him to keep the ball inside.”
“As big as he is, you saw the last run, he kept it inside and ran full speed, that’s what we’ve got to do,” Goodwin said.
Dwyer slammed up into the line for seven yards and a game-clinching first down.
“He was yelling, he said something, and it kinda pissed me off,” Dwyer said. “But I knew what he was talking about. I wanted to get the first down for my team. That’s what they brought me in to do.”
– If you missed this week’s Cardinals Underground podcast – and it was easy to miss – here’s a link.
– Lost in the will-Fitzgerald-get-more-targets stories of the week was the fantastic start to the season of Michael Floyd. Five catches, 119 yards, proof he’s a dangerous deep threat and the continuing uptick of his growth. He doesn’t get the spotlight, although that’s just how he likes it. That’ll change if he keeps playing this way.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Dave Zastudil, Drew Butler, Eli Manning, Giants, Jonathan Dwyer, Michael Floyd, Tom Coughlin, Tyrann Mathieu
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Why, Bruce Arians was asked, wasn’t wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald targeted more in the Monday night game against the Chargers?
“You have to ask the quarterback,” Arians said. “(Larry) is going out for a pass every time. I don’t look at that. We don’t design plays for guys to get the ball. That’s interceptions waiting to happen.”
In fact, Arians referred to early last season, when Carson Palmer acknowledged he had been trying to force the ball to Fitz a couple of times, with turnover-laden results. It would seem, however, that Fitzgerald would be in line to be targeted a little bit more. “I learned some lessons last year,” Palmer said. “You want to get him involved, but it can bite you in the butt. We weren’t going to do that tonight.” Arians acknowledged there were a couple of times Fitzgerald was open and Palmer threw the ball elsewhere.
“But I’m not interested in anybody’s numbers other than the ‘Ws,’ ” Arians said. “Those days are long gone.”
Fitzgerald was officially targeted four times, with one catch for 22 yards.
– Running back Andre Ellington will wear a boot on his injured left foot so it can “calm down” after playing on it and he’ll probably not practice Wednesday. Then he will try and go Thursday and Friday to get ready for the Giants game. Playing through a little pain — knowing the injury can’t get worse — is important, Arians believes. Ellington did the same thing last year, skipping the Philadelphia game after hurting his knee and then coming back to play arguably his best game, in Tennessee. “You’re never going to be 100 percent until March as a running back in the National Football League,” Arians said, adding that Ellington wanted to play Monday night.
– LB John Abraham is going through the concussion protocol, so he’ll be day to day this week. Arians said DE Frostee Rucker will not practice Wednesday with his calf injury and looks doubtful to play in New York. Punter Dave Zastudil, with his bad groin, is day to day, although Arians said he was happy with the way Drew Butler punted.
– There are going to be a lot of tense moments this season as the defensive backs — especially Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie — are going to be very much on an island as the Cardinals try to bring extra guys to create a pass rush. “Where we are putting them, they are going to get beat sometimes,” Arians admitted. “The pressure better get there.”
– Guard Jonathan Cooper played one play because Paul Fanaika hurt his knee. Cooper pulled and didn’t do the best job on his block. But there won’t be any extra plays for Cooper barring injuries, Arians said.
– For a second straight press conference, Arians noted that the offensive line had some communication issues because of crowd noise at University of Phoenix Stadium. Asked if that meant the crowd needed to learn to quiet down when the Cardinals are on offense, Arians said “yeah. And keep their tickets.”
– The Cardinals made a pair of practice squad moves Tuesday, adding running back Chris Rainey, who played for the Steelers in 2012 and was with the Colts in the preseason, and bringing back cornerback Teddy Williams. The Cards released receiver Kevin Cone from the practice squad, and put running back Dominique Williams (knee) on the practice squad/injured list.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Antonio Cromartie, Bruce Arians, Chris Rainey, Dave Zastudil, John Abraham, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Teddy Williams
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With Dave Zastudil hurting with a groin injury, the Cardinals today filled their empty space on the roster (opened when Desmond Bishop was cut) by signing punter Drew Butler. Butler, the son of long-time Chicago Bears kicker Kevin Butler, was with the Detroit Lions during the preseason before being released. He was with the Bears in the offseason of 2013, but in 2012, he punted for the Pittsburgh Steelers, averaging 43.8 yards a kick.
I am not sure if this is strictly a backup plan if Zastudil can’t go tonight, or if Zastudil already is going to miss. Butler has punted before, so that isn’t really a concern. What will be interesting to see is what happens on field goals and extra points, because Zastudil is the holder for kicker Chandler Catanzaro. There is not a backup holder listed on the depth chart and truth be told, I don’t recall seeing a backup working in practice (that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, just that I have not seen it). Don’t know if it would be Butler automatically, or Drew Stanton or someone else. Butler did hold for field goals and extra points when he was in Pittsburgh, so he can do the job if needed.
Tags: Dave Zastudil, Drew Butler
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Well, everyone in the Valley woke up to the massive rain and flooding, and that tends to hold the attention right now. Even Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim, on his weekly “Doug and Wolf” appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7, did his call from home because he said he had a foot of water in his basement. Not good. The I-10 freeway is flooded in spots too. We’ll have updates on azcardinals.com and on Twitter if needed as we get closer to the game. Nothing to report right now in terms of it impacting the game, but be sure to keep checking.
“Hopefully,” Keim said, “all our fans can make it out there.”
As for a little bit of football:
– Keim said running back Andre Ellington (foot) was limited again Sunday in the work the Cardinals did. That said, Keim said the medical and training staff will put Ellington through the paces pre-game to determine if he plays. My gut, based on pure speculation? I’d say they hold him out. But we’ll see.
– Same goes for safety Tyrann Mathieu. I did find it interesting that Keim noted how well Jerraud Powers and Tony Jefferson have been playing and Mathieu’s status is “just whether he fits in to the particular scheme this week.” Again, my gut would say Mathieu sits. Powers and Jefferson can do the job.
– Keim said guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) is taking reps with the first unit. Ted Larsen is still the starter, but clearly, the Cardinals aren’t going to shove Cooper in the corner. Keim said it would be up to Bruce Arians whether Cooper would get any actual work in the game.
– Keim said the decision to release linebacker Desmond Bishop was a “numbers decision.” Bishop’s salary is not guaranteed now, even if they were to bring him back. Although listening to Keim, I’m not sure that would happen anyway. “(Bishop) had a nice preseason but quite frankly (undrafted rookie) Glenn Carson did as well,” Keim said. “Carson is the fourth inside linebacker at this point and we don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
– The Cardinals have not yet filled the open roster spot created with Bishop’s release. I’d guess one would happen today, but we’ll see. You could add a running back with Ellington’s iffy situation, or a punter if ailing Dave Zastudil (groin) isn’t ready.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Dave Zastudil, Desmond Bishop, Glenn Carson, Jonathan Cooper, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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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.”
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.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Andre Ellington, Chargers, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Dave Zastudil, Harold Goodwin, Jared Veldheer, Kurt Warner, Philip Rivers, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals released linebacker Desmond Bishop Saturday, and given the glut of linebackers on the roster, dropping one can’t be a shock. It leaves an opening on the roster, which tends to make you think with the status of Andre Ellington in doubt, but there was no one added to the 53-man squad yet. Coach Bruce Arians said Saturday Ellington did enough in his limited practice work that he thinks he would be able to play Monday, but it will be a game-day decision.
It’s also important to note that letting a guy like Bishop go – a vested veteran – before the first game means that his salary is not guaranteed. If he were brought back at a later date, the Cardinals would have more flexibility to let him go down the road if they needed a roster spot again or if he just wasn’t working out.
Even with Alex Okafor not expected to play Monday with a thigh injury, the Cardinals still have nine linebackers at their disposal, including Glenn Carson, Larry Foote, Kevin Minter and Kenny Demens on the inside.
UPDATE: Punter Dave Zastudil was also added to the injury report as limited/questionable with a groin issue. That’s another roster spot that might need help Monday if Zastudil can’t go.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Dave Zastudil, Desmond Bishop, Glenn Carson, Kenny Demens, Kevin Minter, Larry Foote
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The first padded practice was exactly what you’d want — eventful, with a lot of hitting. Unfortunately, such things can come with a price. Starting center Lyle Sendlein left early in the workout during one-on-one drills with the defensive line after hurting his left calf. No word on the seriousness of the injury. Ted Larsen stepped in to play center on the first unit and as 11-on-11 began, you could tell the chemistry with Larsen and QB Carson Palmer were not there. There were a couple of misplayed snaps/fumbles in the first few plays. It got ironed out. We’ll see what will happen with Sendlein.
Otherwise, the hitting was intense. During the pass protection drills between the linebackers and tight ends/running backs, it’s tough to see Bruce Arians get any more fired up than he did with that. There were some incredible collisions, including when linebacker Kenny Demens just crushed running back Damien Thigpen (who, to be fair, is only 5-8 and 180).
But it was hard not to notice that rookie wide receiver John Brown, who everyone raved about but said needed to wear pads and prove it that way, still shined. His first long pass after putting on pads, he beat cornerback Justin Bethel — who isn’t exactly slow — by a couple of steps and hauled in an 82-yard touchdown in stride. More on Brown on the homepage in a bit.
In other notes:
– Sendlein wasn’t the only injury. Defensive tackle is becoming an issue. Alameda Ta’amu is already on PUP and Dan Williams sat out with a sore left knee, so Christian Tupou stepped in in the middle of the 3-4 defense — only to leave early with what looked like some kind of right thigh injury. He walked off the field at the end of practice, though, having taken off his ice wrap, so it may not be a big deal.
– The fears of having a big hitter at safety: On one play, wide receiver Jaron Brown couldn’t hold on to a pass in the end zone with cornerback Jerraud Powers behind him and rookie safety Deone Bucannon coming at his chest. But Bucannon was a step or two away, and popped him (not full on) after Brown dropped the pass. Arians yelled across the field, “That’s a flag” so Bucannon understood that just can’t happen in today’s game. It was bang-bang, but Arians is right — it probably draws a penalty.
– The Cardinals ran a “fire” field goal drill on a “mishandled” snap. Holder Dave Zastudil rolled left and lofted a pass toward undrafted rookie tackle Kelvin Palmer. Palmer, 6-4 and 302, made a great catch while shielding the ball with his body from coverage linebacker Alex Okafor. I wish I had a picture or video. It was impressive from the big man.
– Former Cardinals offensive lineman Leonard “Bigg” Davis made an appearance on the sideline, as did former safety Kwamie Lassiter.
Tags: Christian Tupou, Damien Thigpen, Dan Williams, Dave Zastudil, Deone Bucannon, John Brown, Kelvin Palmer, Kenny Demens, Leonard Davis, Lyle Sendlein, Ted Larsen, training camp
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Kicker Jay Feely used Twitter to let everyone know Monday he had re-signed with the Arizona Cardinals less than 24 hours before he would have hit the free-agent market.
Happy to announce I am signed back with the @AZCardinals I never wanted to play with different teammates or for another organization.
— Jay Feely (@jayfeely) March 10, 2014
The move makes sense for both sides. The Cardinals want a veteran kicker going into the offseason — they already signed Danny Hrapmann as a young, big leg to compete — and Feely wanted to return. The team has yet to officially announce anything. Feely had 127 points this season, converting 30 of 36 field goals. It will be interesting to see if the team is done at the position or if it will be Feely trying to fend off Hrapmann in a battle for the job. The Cardinals would like to get more touchbacks on kickoffs and there is always a possibility of carrying a pair of kickers (although I would not expect it.)
Regardless, the Cards have stability in the kicking game now that both Feely and punter Dave Zastudil have avoided free agency as the offseason gets underway. UPDATE: Kent Somers reports it’s a one-year deal, and that Feely expects competition. Both make sense.
Tags: Danny Hrapmann, Dave Zastudil, free agency, Jay Feely
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Every time General Manager Steve Keim talks about his roster, he talks about looking to improve everywhere. That’s always the default. While the Cardinals probably need, say, offensive linemen or tight ends more than, running backs, you don’t turn down chances to upgrade your team at any position. (As for the latest talk-radio conversation about quarterback, I feel confident that a) Carson Palmer is going to be the starter in 2014 and b) if Keim has a QB sitting on the board in the draft that he really, really likes — whenever that is — the Cardinals will likely take him.)
All that said, there are spots that need addressing just for the sheer numbers. I’ve already posted this once, but below is a link to a roster breakdown done right after the season. It has changed a bit — punter Dave Zastudil has re-signed by now — but the rest of the contract situations remain the same. Keim has a little more than six weeks before contracts officially expire. In terms of strictly numbers, here are how impending free agency impacts the positions (not including all the futures deals/low-end free agents that have signed):
– QB: Cards are fine with all three guys under contract. You’d expect a fourth camp arm to sign if one isn’t drafted.
– RB: Rashard Mendenhall is unrestricted and plays a big role, although if the Cards rode Andre Ellington/Stepfan Taylor in 2014, no one would be surprised.
– WR: Assuming the Cards can get comfortable (if they aren’t already) with Fitz’s contract, the position is probably OK. They need to add someone if Andre Roberts leaves as a free agent, but they can ride with Floyd/Fitz as a top two.
– TE: A major question. Only Rob Housler is under contract for next season. This has got to be a spot where the Cards draft, right?
– OL: Upgrades are necessary and will happen, but as of now, only Eric Winston is a free agent of guys who played at all.
– DL: Need depth here. Do you bring Frostee Rucker back? And that rehab needed for Alameda Ta’amu’s ACL tear hurts the team as much as Ta’amu.
– LB: It’s hard not to notice two starters in Karlos Dansby and Matt Shaughnessy who could potentially walk away.
– DB: The Cards could probably use another young safety, although they may be in good shape if Tony Jefferson can step forward. But what about cornerback, with Tyrann Mathieu coming back from injury and Javier Arenas/Antoine Cason/Bryan McCann scheduled to be free agents. Depth is needed there. It’ll be interesting to see if Justin Bethel ends up playing a bigger defensive role.
– Specialists: Zastudil is back. We’ll see what the Cardinals do at kicker and impending FA Jay Feely.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Antoine Cason, Bryan McCann, Carson Palmer, Dave Zastudil, Eric Winston, Frostee Rucker, Javier Arenas, Jay Feely, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Shaughnessy, Rashard Mendenhall, Rob Housler, Roster, Stepfan Taylor, Steve Keim, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Sometimes, even the punter builds a fan base.
Dave Zastudil is in the middle of one of his best seasons, averaging 40.4 net yards per punt (45.3 overall) and dropping 32 of his 70 kicks thus far inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. He has plenty of fans inside his locker room, between teammates and coaches, but elsewhere? Especially Tennessee? But Zastudil had quite the experience.
It started when he was checking Twitter last week and one of his mentions featured a picture of some guys in a family room holding a giant head shot of someone. “I looked closely and thought, ‘Damn, that’s me,’ ” Zastudil said. He showed the picture/giant head — which featured the tagline “Punting ain’t easy” — to long snapper Mike Leach and kicker Jay Feely, they all had a laugh, and Zastudil thought that was the end of it.
But when Zastudil got out to the field pre-game last Sunday, he looked behind the Cardinals’ bench and there, standing in the front row going crazy and holding up the Ain’t Easy Zastudil head were those same fans.
“Somebody gave me a pen and said, ‘You gotta go sign this,’ ” Zastudil said. “These guys went nuts. Every time I got near them during the game, they went nuts. It was like a funny dream.”
Zastudil said he sensed some “fun sarcasm” in the “punting ain’t easy” message but noted they were just some good Cardinals fans having fun. “I’m just happy the covered up the top part of my head (on the picture) so my hairline was covered,” he said. “It looked like I was a little younger.”
“It’s hard,” Zastudil said, tongue firmly in cheek. “I’m expecting this every game now.”
Tags: Dave Zastudil, Jay Feely, Mike Leach
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