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Cardinals add punter Butler

Posted by Darren Urban on September 8, 2014 – 2:51 pm

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.

Drew Butler


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Flooding and Ellington still game-night decision

Posted by Darren Urban on September 8, 2014 – 8:33 am

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.

EllShot

 

 


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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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Cardinals release Bishop

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2014 – 1:27 pm

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.

Tevin Reese, Jimmy Legree, Desmond Bishop


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Brown’s bomb; Sendlein hurt

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2014 – 5:42 pm

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.

FirstPagBlog

 


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Feely re-signs before free agency

Posted by Darren Urban on March 10, 2014 – 3:55 pm

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.

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.

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Cardinals, the roster, and target areas

Posted by Darren Urban on January 27, 2014 – 11:33 am

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.

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Punting ain’t easy

Posted by Darren Urban on December 19, 2013 – 3:50 pm

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.”

PuntingAintEasyUSE


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Colts aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2013 – 8:04 pm

Bruce Arians stuck with them. That’s what popped to mind Sunday. There were many calls to dump Rashard Mendenhall to the bench and Carson Palmer too. The Cardinals’ coach didn’t. Sunday that paid off.

This isn’t to reignite the Mendenhall-Ellington debate. I still think Ellington is the better back (and oh my he showed some of his shifty goodness against the Colts, especially with that 17-yard run along the sideline) but Mendenhall had a burst against Indy we hadn’t seen. And if he can play like that, he’s worth having on the field and worth being the yin to Ellington’s yang. As for Palmer, the cacophony surrounding him when he was throwing way too many interceptions was hard to ignore. Arians stood by him. Now? Palmer looks like a QB of a playoff team.

“The biggest difference really is trust,” Palmer said, before admitting, “It took a little longer than you’d like.”

There are many things going well for the Cardinals right now. But offensively, they are clicking, and those two vets are in the middle of it.

— It does feel like sometimes, the defense gets a short shrift. They just do what they do, they control the game, and the Cards are winning (or at least have a chance to win). Palmer said it best: “Identity-wise, we’re a defensive football team,” the quarterback said.

— After all the talk all week of Arians and his Colts memories, that was more or less put aside Sunday. Lots of pre-game hugs (and a few postgame) but basically it’s been the B.A. the Cards have known all year. “It’s crazy, he’s been even keel all week,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said.

— If there was a question about which better second-half unit would win the second half – the Colts’ offense or the Cardinals’ defense – it came out on the Cardinals’ favor. Arizona took the second half, 13-8, and honestly, I’m not sure how safety Yeremiah Bell didn’t get a hand on the lone touchdown pass to tight end Coby Fleener.

— Then again, if you would have said Luck would give up as many touchdowns throwing the ball as scoring, the Cards would have taken it.

— Good to see you hold on to one, Karlos Dansby.

— Good to see Darnell Dockett not get a sack on that play, too. “I don’t care,” Dockett said. “They say, ‘You had the sack.’ I don’t care, Karlos had the touchdown, and I’ll take the interception touchdown over a sack any day. I’m glad I didn’t hit his arm and knock the ball out.”

— Arians with his quote of the day, talking about his second half defense against the explosive Colts: “We didn’t want any bullets left in the gun. I know I’m not supposed to say bullets anymore. It’s not the politically correct thing. But here in Arizona it’s OK.”

— It was kind of amazing that the Cardinals, on their first two TD drives, did not face a third down. That’s one way to avoid the third-down conversion problem.

— Speaking of that, 7-for-14 on third downs works. And Dave Zastudil only punted twice. He had never had fewer than four in a game since joining the Cardinals in 2011.

— Palmer’s touchdown of 26 yards to Larry Fitzgerald was a thing of beauty. Palmer hung in the pocket a long time and absorbed a crushing hit by linebacker Kelvin Sheppard while delivering the perfect pass – with Fitz being chased by two defenders.

— According to media relations VP Mark Dalton, that makes the Cards 13-3 overall wearing the red-red uniforms and seven in a row. And here I am feeding into the frenzy. I disappoint myself.

— Fitz looked like Fitz on those touchdown catches. He now has eight this season, double his 2012 total. His other numbers don’t match up to what he’d like, but heck. All he does is catch touchdowns. The Cards could live with that.

DansbyBlogUSE


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Ellington’s hair and some Jaguars aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 17, 2013 – 7:42 pm

That’s five years worth of hair growing on the head of Andre Ellington, so he doesn’t want to lose it. He especially doesn’t want to lose it on the football field, but he lost

some of his beloved dreadlocks Sunday, which might have been the strangest part of a strange game. The rookie running back was tackled, Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin ended up with a handful of it (right) and it ended up on the ground, only to have Cardinals defensive end Frostee Rucker rescue and return it.

“I didn’t think I was going to get it back,” Ellington said. “I was talking to (Jaguars defensive end) Andre Branch, we are pretty good friends, I told him, ‘I’m gonna get your boys, they pulled my hair out.’ But it’s all good.”

Amazingly, Ellington said he didn’t feel it, although “you don’t feel it when you are being tackled by 300-pounders.” He didn’t even realize it had happened until he saw Babin holding it up. “I was like, ‘Oh man.’ He was like, ‘It’s part of the uniform.’ I was like, ‘Alright. I’ll remember that.’ ”

Ellington later tweeted out he’d just stich back in the loose part. I didn’t really know you could do that, but hey, Rucker is a hero, apparently. Ellington did say he was just happy with the win, which is good, because not only did he have hairs yanked out (ouch, by the way) but he was held to three yards on eight carries (ouch again.)

This game had a little of everything. Big plays, bad officiating, crazy calls, a few turnovers and yet another dominant defensive showing after not exactly a bad but more of a weird start. But lookie here: The Cardinals are 6-4, reeling off three wins in a month after that Seattle loss. The schedule gets tougher, with division leaders Indy and Philly next. But the Cards are where they want to be.

— The Newark Star-Ledger reported the Cardinals game in Philly will be flexed to “Sunday Night Football.” Not a surprise. It is supposed to be Giants-Redskins, and with all the Thanksgiving games (and with Chiefs-Broncos Part II unavailable after Part I was on SNF tonight) there aren’t a ton of choices better than two potential playoff teams. It would be the Cards’ first Sunday night appearance since the Vikings game in Arizona was flexed into the spot in 2009. UPDATE: Here’s an opposing report saying it won’t happen. We’ll see this week. UPDATE II: Monday morning the NFL announced that “Sunday Night Football” was going to stay Giants-Redskins, and the Eagles-Cardinals game is staying as a 1 p.m. kickoff in Philly.

— Michael Floyd was spectacular Sunday. Forget the 91-yard play for a moment, he made a catch on the sideline for 22 yards that was incredible. He made a nice play on the long TD, too. His 193 yards are a career-high, and  that threat means a lot for the Cards going down the stretch.

— Carson Palmer did not throw an interception Sunday. (OK, he did, but it didn’t count.) First time that’s happened this season.

— Palmer looked good. He said afterward he had a clean pocket, and again, that’s the book on Carson – if you give him a comfortable place within which to throw, he will do well. That’s exactly what happened.

— The Cardinals didn’t have a turnover for the first time since the third week of last season.

— The lopsided way the Cards had their offense today – 419 yards passing, 14 yards rushing – reminded me of the 2006 game in Minnesota when Matt Leinart threw for 405 yards but the Cards just ran the ball five times. The Cards lost that game. It’s not like the Cards didn’t try Sunday, with 24 attempts, but against the worst rushing defense in the league? It was surprising, to say the least.

— Special teams did not have a good day at all. The Cards allowed 36 yards a kickoff return, Dave Zastudil looked like he didn’t hit some punts as solidly as usual and more importantly – much more importantly – there were injuries. Justin Bethel went out of the game early after an illegal blindside block left him with a possible concussion, while fellow gunner Teddy Williams was lost for the season after tearing his Achilles. It hurts to lose Williams. Bethel’s status is up in the air, but it was clear how much the special teams need him after he left the game. That’s what happens when a Pro Bowl-caliber player goes down.

— Among the special teams problems, Patrick Peterson muffed a fair catch. He got it back somehow, but punt returning has turned into such tough sledding for him.

— One of the reasons the Cards had a tough time putting the game away? Field position was rarely in their favor, at least until late. The Cards started possessions on their own 3, 16, 9, 10, 2 and 10.

— There wasn’t a big crowd. It was kind of sad. “It’s like a morgue,” Cardinals tackle Eric Winston said. “It makes a three-point lead seem like 20.”

That’s good for now. Lot of flight left, but I have some other stuff I need to get to. Tomorrow, it’s Colts week, Arians against his ex-team week. It will be fun.


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