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Blogs

And that’s the 2014 Cards’ draft

Posted by Darren Urban on May 10, 2014 – 3:43 pm

Seven picks, six rounds and a whole lot of hand-wringing over the Cardinals’ picks, but the draft is over. So are three long days, but before I head out to an abbreviated weekend, it’s time to wrap this up.

The Cards went with an eventual starting strong safety, a starting tight end who can block, a pair of future picks for the defensive line, a pair of receivers to fill out the corps and an intriguing (I know some of you have stronger words for it) quarterback prospect. Some of the picks, especially Logan Thomas, feel like a swing for the fence, as in if they work out, they could be very, very good.

But let’s make no mistake, not everyone is going to work out and frankly, that’s how every draft ends up. Steve Keim said he looks for three impact players out of each class. That’s just being realistic.

“What I love about (this class) is I look at all those names and I see guys who are big-time competitors, who love the game and bring an element of toughness to our locker room, which I don’t think you can ever have enough of,” Keim said. “That’s the whole thing. I’ve walked out of this building for many years when we got ‘A’s’ and ‘B’s’ (as grades), and those players didn’t turn out to be good players. You have to trust what you’re doing and trust your board. I trust the people in our room.

“Again, you have to avoid the noise sometimes and avoid what people are saying. You can’t get caught up in some of the hype. Again, I’ve always trusted what I see on tape and I think we came away with a pretty good class.”

– I don’t know how Thomas will turn out. I know he looked erratic the very limited times I saw him play in college. I’m pretty sure the Cards saw the same. I’m leery about being about change a guy who has long been inaccurate. Is it a risk? Sure. But everyone has a different opinion. I still think that, if you try him at QB for a couple of years and it isn’t working out, you can put him at tight end and still get a good fourth-round choice out of it. Sorry, but I don’t lose any sleep about the draft picks. They are what they are, and I’ll chronicle how their careers play out, good or bad.

– Keim said the Cardinals tried to trade “multiple times” in the draft. “We would’ve moved three or four more times if we would have gotten cooperation in other spots from other teams,” Keim said.

– Finishing the draft in the sixth round meant an early jump on recruiting potential undrafted rookies. The Cards after the draft class have 76 players on the roster, leaving 14 spots (although as long as the draft class is unsigned, they officially don’t count toward the 90-man roster limit.) Keim said he would’ve liked a seventh round pick but it’s a benefit to start on recruiting. “Quite frankly, I think that’s one of the things Bruce and I do best,” Keim said.

– Of those undrafted rookies, Keim said he’d like to add two running backs and three-to-five offensive linemen. I’d guess they will add a couple of defensive backs and receivers too.

– The undrafted names will slowly leak out. I don’t expect an official list until Monday. I may check out Twitter and mention some there (@cardschatter, if you aren’t already following) but otherwise, I’ll catch up to that group later.

 


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Going defensive end in the fifth

Posted by Darren Urban on May 10, 2014 – 12:10 pm

The Cardinals went with a 3-4 defensive end in the fifth round Saturday, taking Alabama’s Ed Stinson. At 6-4 and 287 pounds, Stinson is a prototypical guy to fit up front in the way the Cards play, and scouting reports say he can move inside if necessary. The team went into the draft hoping to get some depth up front. The Cardinals have Campbell, Williams and Dockett, but only Frostee Rucker behind them right now with Alameda Ta’amu coming off ACL surgery. Plus, Dockett will be in to his (pricey) final year of his contract in 2015 and the team must start thinking about the future.

Stinson is really good against the run. He’s been described as the type of underrated player who can be solid for a long time. NFL analyst Mike Mayock said if Stinson can stay healthy — he’s been banged up a couple of times — he is a starter for a 3-4 team in this league. That will definitely help.

Stinson said he grew up with third-round pick WR John Brown in Florida, so the draft class already has a pair of friends.

Mayock, by the way, on the Cards’ entire class so far: “It’s not sexy, but I like this draft.”

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QB Logan Thomas comes to Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on May 10, 2014 – 10:19 am

So Friday night, Bruce Arians asked “Why” when he was asked why the Cardinals hadn’t taken a quarterback. Saturday morning, the Cardinals took Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, the definition of a project. As a QB, can Thomas beat out Ryan Lindley? Probably not. But Thomas, at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, has a giant arm and endless athletic talent. He’s not accurate. He is smart enough to play quarterback but all the analysts wonder about his technique and form. That, you figure is exactly what Arians and QB coach Freddie Kitchens think they have a chance to fix.

It’s a boom-or-bust choice, at least as a QB. Thomas could turn into one heckuva tight end. Arians, before the draft, was asked if Thomas could be a quarterback in the NFL. Arians said “he thinks he is,” and I’d think he will get his shot. Arians personally went to Virginia Tech for a pre-draft workout. He clearly likes his potential and he also thinks coaching changes and the talent around Thomas impacted Thomas’ play. But there is no getting around Thomas’ inconsistencies as a passer. This is incredibly intriguing and will be as this plays out.

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Need, speed, no QB: Day Two wrap

Posted by Darren Urban on May 9, 2014 – 9:12 pm

Four picks and no quarterbacks. People keep wondering if the next draft spot would draw a QB choice and it didn’t. It certainly doesn’t sound like it will happen either, now that the Cardinals have moved into the fourth round. Bruce Arians was asked what he would say to fans who were expecting a quarterback to be picked. Arians was blunt.

“Why?” Arians said.

“We’ve got three pretty good ones and you don’t take quarterbacks if they’re not going to beat out the ones you have,” Arians added. “I know people rate quarterbacks. I’ve been doing this a long time. I like ours better.”

So there’s that. As for some other notes after three more draft picks on the draft’s hump day Saturday:

– As a QB follow, Arians said there was “no doubt” Carson Palmer could play a couple of more years after this one. “Look at Peyton at 38,” Arians said. “The longevity of the athletes today, with the technology in the medical profession, they are going to go a lot longer. As long as you stay injury-free.”

– The Cardinals don’t want to draft for need. Then the first three picks go to a safety, a tight end and a pass rusher and that certainly felt like need.

“That’s the emphasis you put into building that (120) board,” GM Steve Keim said. “We say best player available, but there is an emphasis on who impacts our football team the most. We are never going to leave a good player to the side, but we will take who impacts us the most.”

– Keim said the Cardinals tried to trade back up into the second round, but could not get a deal done (he did not say who the Cardinals wanted to try and get.) But a trade remains possible Sunday when the Cardinals have a pick in the fourth, fifth and sixth round. “The phone has been ringing a lot,” Keim said. “We’ve been active.”

– The Cardinals’ two third-round picks echoed exactly what Keim has been talking about this offseason, which is adding speed. Defensive end/outside linebacker Kareem Martin is 6-foot-6 and 272 pounds and Keim compared his frame to the 6-8, 284-pound Calais Campbell when Campbell came out in 2008. Now, Campbell weighs 305. Martin can rush from the outside in the base 3-4 and be both places in sub-packages. More importantly, he has the size and speed that is difficult to find. Keim also said he wanted to get longer and more athletic on the edges, better to chase down the Colin Kaepernicks and Russell Wilsons of the world.

– The other third-round pick was a stunner. “Got to keep you guys on your toes with a small-school guy,” Keim quipped. That’s exactly what it was when Pittsburg State wideout John Brown was picked. But it didn’t take much research to see Brown, at 5-foot-10 and a 4.34 40, was the Cardinals’ attempt to find Arians another T.Y. Hilton. Arians loved him some T.Y. in Indy in 2012. Keim’s been looking for a clone since. Arians also compared Brown in some ways to another of his former wideouts, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown. He’s older — 24 — but they love his makeup and his speed.

– It’s not surprising that Arians said he plans to cut back on Patrick Peterson’s punt returns. There are enough other guys on the roster now, with Brown and Ted Ginn, to do it that you wouldn’t risk your Pro Bowl cornerback. Arians acknowledged the Tyrann Mathieu injury had an impact on that thinking. Plus Peterson isn’t going to play wide receiver most likely, but after adding pieces at receiver, it doesn’t make a lot of sense anyway.

– What’s left Sunday Saturday? (It’s been a long day.) Assuming the Cards stick with three picks, I wouldn’t be surprised with an offensive lineman. Beyond that, we’ll see. Obviously I’m not counting on a QB. Maybe another guy for the front seven. Then it’s time to get this roster together for the full offseason.

 


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Notes after a first-round pick

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2014 – 10:52 pm

Before I head home for the night, some notes to clean up with after the Cardinals took safety Deone Bucannon with their first-round pick:

– I can see, on various platforms of communication I have with fans, that some are upset (and some are very, very upset) with the fact the Cardinals didn’t take a quarterback. Folks, I feel I’ve made this pretty plain over the weeks (and I’m not the only one covering the team that did) that the Cards could consider a QB but it was going to have to be the right QB in their eyes. If the right guy wasn’t there, they weren’t gonna take him. Taking a QB you don’t believe in is a reach of the highest proportions. It’s what the Titans did with Jake Locker and the Vikings did with Christian Ponder. It’s a recipe for disaster.

I appreciate some of you believe so much in Manziel/Carr/Bridgewater. But it’s not like Steve Keim and his crew aren’t scouting these guys. I think they have a pretty good handle on what they think they should do.

– Speaking of Derek Carr, Bruce Arians actually addressed him specifically, when talking about how the hype of the draft provided skewed perspective for both fans and prospects.

“Sometimes people forget about the player (and his skills) and they start pairing players with teams and push and push and push and it doesn’t happen,” Arians said. “I felt terrible Derek Carr has been attached to us by some people. There he is sitting there on television when we are coming on the clock. That (pick) wasn’t going to happen.”

– Keim got his extra pick. The Cards have No. 52, 84 and 91 Friday. The Texans are first with No. 33.

– Did the Cards have players ranked higher than Bucannon? Of course. But those guys all came off the board by 20, and that’s when you look to trade back. It made sense.

– Arians and Keim both said Bucannon can cover tight ends. That would help a team that desperately needs to do a better job of that.

– You have to like that Bucannon talks about his “aggressive energy.” “I’m not afraid to go in there and stick my nose in anything or anybody,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how big you are, I’m coming downhill regardless.”


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Cardinals take Bucannon in first round

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2014 – 8:23 pm

The Cardinals traded back and then grabbed a safety with their first pick of the draft, nabbing Washington State strong safety Deone Bucannon. GM Steve Keim had a chance to take safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix at 20, but instead he sent the 20th overall pick to the Saints for the 27th choice, pulling in an extra third-rounder (91 overall) for the swap. GM Steve Keim had said he wanted to get more picks, and the Cards now will have seven selections in the draft. Keim even said he didn’t want to compare him to Adrian Wilson … but then said there were similarities. Wilson noticed too.

Bucannon fills a need for a young safety who can team with free safety Tyrann Mathieu in future years to solidify the secondary. At 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, Bucannon can hit and joins the 6-foot-plus cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie for a pretty sizable secondary. He’s a big-time tackler who should help in run support, and he’s improved in pass coverage and he had 15 career interceptions as a four-year starter in college. Six of those came last season.

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On the clock, the Cards have choices

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2014 – 10:42 am

It’s draft day. The final mock drafts of hundreds have been filed and there is still a lot of intrigue. It gets even more interesting with the Cardinals selecting at 20. A deep draft and flexibility given the current roster will give plenty of room for speculation all the way up to the pick. As the draft comes closer, it seems more and more people expect a quarterback at 20. Something Bruce Arians said last week resonates, about how a rebuilding team can’t afford to pick a QB early and let him sit — but a team that isn’t rebuilding could. Clearly, the Cards aren’t rebuilding — Arians even said he doesn’t like to use the word — so that leaves open the door for a QB. Carson Palmer doesn’t have a problem with a QB pick, and for the right guy, I don’t think the Cards will either.

That said, Steve Keim has his own thought process. I don’t think Keim/the Cards like a ton of QBs, not in the first round. But I think there are one or two. Is it Derek Carr or Blake Bortles, the guys who have become the chic mock picks? To me, Bortles makes a lot more sense than Carr, but what would be the chances Bortles falls all the way to 20? That too seems a long shot. People want to talk about dropping QBs but in the end, QBs rarely drop. Especially if they have a decent chance to be special.

Keim too said something that sticks with me, the idea of being patient because there are usually unexpected players that could drop. Maybe that means someone who has been universally expected to go top 10 or 12 — I saw one mock with tight end Eric Ebron dropping into the 20s. Keim definitely is a fan of linebacker Ryan Shazier, who could be there and who makes a lot of sense in this defense. An interesting name is pass rusher Anthony Barr — another guy expected to go before 20, but you never know.

Regardless, Keim’s confidence in his staff’s draft process is obvious when he talks about it. The belief is that the first-round pick, whoever it is, will be the right one. And in the end, you don’t know exactly who you have even after the draft anyway. Players are chosen, and you have to wait a little while to find out exactly what you have.

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Actually, 120 is enough for the draft

Posted by Darren Urban on May 7, 2014 – 10:21 am

The numbers went like this: First, there were 13,000 possible draftees between seniors and potential juniors. That was cut, pretty easily, to 2,000. That group is whittled to 591 decent draft prospects. The Cardinals, led by General Manager Steve Keim, then apply what Keim calls a “Cardinal filter,” which screens out some players based on character concerns or medical concerns or players that don’t fit the Cardinals schematically.

From there, the team builds their now famous “120” board, which ranks the players from 1 to 120 in order of how the Cardinals believe they are the best. In theory, if their pick comes up at No. 20 overall, they are taking the top guy left on that list (which won’t be the 20th guy regardless of what happens, because all teams see things differently.) When their second round pick comes up at 52, again, who is the top guy left on the list?

The best example of this came in the Cards’ impressive 2004 draft, the one that netted Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett in the first three rounds.

“The first three picks were all within the top 17 players on our board,” Keim said. “That’s unheard of, to get guys through 60-plus picks that are in the top 17 on your board. Some of it is the ability to identify as a staff who can play who can’t play, who is a good fit. Sometimes taking a chance on a guy who may have had some issues, whether it is Darnell coming out, Tyrann (Mathieu) coming out, whatever was attached to them off the field we were convinced we knew who they were as football people. Passionate, love the game. I’ve said it many times, if they love it enough, you feel you have a chance to steer them down the right path.”

Here’s the kicker: Those 120 names? They get the Cardinals all the way through the draft. It doesn’t seem like it should. With 254 draft picks, math says 120 names shouldn’t cover a team. But it does every year, sometimes to the first-time amazement of front-office folks who have come on board and gone through the process. It speaks to the differences teams have in how they see players and how needs and scheme fit into the draft process. As the draft goes on, needs might impact the choice between two closely regarded players, but as the Cards proved last year with Andre Ellington — noting his grade stuck out like a sore thumb in the sixth round even though the Cards had just drafted Stepfan Taylor — staying true to the board matters.

 

 


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Draft doesn’t end after the seventh

Posted by Darren Urban on May 6, 2014 – 4:12 pm

As GM Steve Keim mentioned last week, the Cardinals had already begun to reach out to call players (or their agents) who they think could go undrafted, beginning the weird recruiting process that is the undrafted rookie class. At once, the best of these undrafted guys are wooed by multiple teams like they are trying to pick a college all over again, while at the same time dealing with the disappointment that they were not picked at all.

(That’s not always an easy thing. Safety Tony Jefferson was one of those priority undrafted guys last year and while he ended up in a good place and was wanted, he admitted his undrafted reality actually affected his play for part of last year.)

The Cardinals usually assign a scout to a coach and then the two work together to reach out to the players. Yes, as was pointed out on Twitter today, if a team likes the player that much, they could instead draft him, but that’s a story for another day. Bottom line, only so many guys can be picked, and other potential worthy draftees are going undrafted.

“We’ve been aggressively calling players and planting seeds that if somehow they go undrafted, we feel like this would be a great fit for them,” Keim said.

This early UDFA push isn’t unique to the Cardinals. It came out Tuesday the Seahawks not only are doing their own recruiting but actually put together a brochure to send to agents with their own recruiting pitch. The race when the draft is over to pick up the other players to be included in the draft class is always intriguing. If the Cardinals don’t add any late picks — remember, they right now are scheduled to be done after the 20th pick of the sixth round — they will have plenty of time to work the phones and hoping their targets aren’t picked in the extended seventh round. These guys make a difference and some make the team every year. It’s where you find depth through the Jeffersons and Jaron Browns and Lyle Sendleins.

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The chances of trading down

Posted by Darren Urban on May 4, 2014 – 10:56 am

General Manager Steve Keim made it pretty clear last week when it came to his thoughts on potential draft-day trades, especially with the Cardinals sitting with only six draft choices as of right now: “I think our philosophy would be to acquire more picks and move back.”

(Yes, it could be a smokescreen but I do not think so. Keim is about the draft picks.)

“We do think it’s deep enough where I really do think that you are going to get third-round players in the fourth and fifth round, guys who can come in and be immediate impact players for you,” Keim added. “I think, when it’s all said and done, you want to acquire more picks.”

Whether that can happen will be seen. Sure, the Cards would like to pick up an extra pick or two. They pulled off a couple trades last year that could end up paying off. The second-round trade down — essentially giving up the chance to take linebacker Manti Te’o and instead picking up linebacker Kevin Minter — provided the extra fourth-round pick to take guard Earl Watford. Watford could very well end up being a starter this season. And trading down in the fourth round so the Giants could take QB Ryan Nassib (the Cards took pass rusher Alex Okafor six picks later) netted an extra sixth-round choice that turned out to be running back Andre Ellington — and we all know how that turned out.

“Acquiring more picks, it gives you a better chance to hit on players,” Keim said. “It’s just simple mathematics.”

But another team would have to want to trade up, obviously, to make something happen. The Cardinals aren’t the only ones who a) like to gather draft picks and b) understand the depth of the draft. It also depends on what is going on in the draft at the time the Cardinals are on the clock. Who is sitting there the Cards might take, and who could be there by the time the Cards — if they trade down — would be able to pick again. Those are the factors a team must weigh.

“If we’re trading back, in particular, what clump of players are we looking at in our own (top) 120 that are still going to be there?” Keim said. “Dropping back six or seven picks, then you know you have to have six or seven guys left on your board that you like or have a similar value to the player you’re possibly missing out on. That’s the one thing you have to really drive home with the room is, ‘Guys, we may miss out on this player, but here are the five or six guys that could be in contention.’ As long as you’re OK with those players and they fit what you do, I think trading back makes sense.”


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