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After practice: Better work before Canton

Posted by Darren Urban on August 1, 2017 – 11:42 am

Bruce Arians was much happier about Tuesday’s practice than he had been about Monday. “I knew they’d bounce back,” he said, and it was all but necessary with a game coming Thursday. For the first time in camp, Arians split the team to two fields, in order to ramp up the reps for the younger players that will be playing against the Cowboys.

Many vets, actually, will not play. Arians ruled out the starters (although we’ll see if that ends up being all of them; do you consider giving Evan Boehm a few reps at right guard, for instance?) as well as backup quarterback Drew Stanton and new cornerback Tramon Williams. Stanton doesn’t need more reps with four preseason games left, and Williams still needs to learn the playbook.

While things were better Tuesday, they weren’t perfect. At the end in particular, Arians said “some young guys” had trouble getting lined up correctly in a two-minute drill. There were a couple of guys who could’ve gotten out of bounds after catches who didn’t, and Arians ended practice upset on the last one.

“Run a  great route, fall down and catch it, don’t get up and get out of bounds,” Arians said. “There’s only nine seconds left those are things you hopefully learn from. Everyone else should learn from them also.”

The last two days have been about learning from B.A. “If you can’t learn it after I get after you, you’re in trouble anyway.”

— Injuries bit cornerback, and now they are biting inside linebacker. Karlos Dansby (knee) wasn’t going to play Thursday anyway, but he’s missed three straight practices. Arians isn’t concerned. But backup Gabe Martin is out for a while with an Achilles injury, and newcomer Phillip Wheeler is day-to-day with some unknown aliment. Arians would rather not play Haason Reddick a lot Thursday. Scooby Wright and Zaviar Gooden are in line to get a lot of playing time Thursday.

— On the good side, cornerback Justin Bethel returned — Arians Monday had said it’d be another week, but then again, Williams showed up — and Arians said “it was great to see him today. He was full speed.” Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is also doing more and more at practice.

— It’s been clear Tyrann Mathieu has been playing well as he rounds into Honey Badger shape, but he had a couple more interceptions during drills Tuesday. A high-level Mathieu is always fun to watch.

— Veteran kicker Phil Dawson was kicking at narrow practice goalposts at the outset of practice. No, there was no snap or rush. But Dawson nailed 60- and 63-yard field goals within the thin opening. It was impressive.


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Cornerback shuffle continues

Posted by Darren Urban on July 29, 2017 – 12:37 pm

Bruce Arians wants the Cardinals to add a veteran cornerback, but defers to GM Steve Keim as to when (not really an if, it doesn’t seem) that happens. Nevertheless, with Justin Bethel out a couple of days after hyperextending his knee in a collision with tight end Jermaine Gresham the other day, Ronald Zamort is running with the first unit. Brandon Williams, who was supposed to be behind Bethel, is behind Zamort.

— Rookie T.J. Logan should be the kickoff return man for the Cardinals, Arians said (unless he is bad in preseason, Arians added.) But in a small surprise, Arians said Logan has been doing well on punt returns and might have a chance to do that as well. Logan has never returned punts, so it’s a work-in-progress.

— Arians wasn’t happy with the offense in Friday’s practice, disappointed in the execution. Carson Palmer technically practiced, but he didn’t do anything after individual drills. (Palmer is practicing fully today.) Arians added that Drew Stanton had a good day at practice but could have had a great day. At the same time, he acknowledged Palmer’s absence obviously impacted the offense. “That’s why he’s Carson.”

— It’s tough to be happy after a camp practice, Arians said, and he rarely is. “That’s the problem. Cardinals always win, but offense or defense, one side always beats the other. You hope it happens in and out of practice, rather than one-sided.”

 


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And then there were four (QBs)

Posted by Darren Urban on June 5, 2017 – 3:35 pm

Zac Dysert wasn’t out of work long. He was cut by the Cardinals Friday and then claimed off waivers by the Cowboys, it was announced by the league today. Dysert didn’t last as long as the previous third QB, Matt Barkley, in terms of seeing what he had. Barkley at least made it through training camp.

But circumstances change. One, it means that Trevor Knight, the undrafted rookie out of Texas A&M, has shown enough in this short time to impress — at least impress enough to keep him over Dysert. It also means the Cards — not surprisingly, given the praise coach Bruce Arians has delivered anytime he is asked — are happy with Blaine Gabbert thus far. Third, it means that they are good with Carson Palmer having his normal workload in training camp, even with an extra week of camp and extra preseason game.

There is context needed everywhere. I don’t expect Palmer to get a lot more preseason work, so with an extra game, there should be more preseason game reps for Gabbert, Knight and Drew Stanton. As for Stanton — and Gabbert — last week Arians said clearly that Stanton remains the No. 2 QB. I don’t expect that to change this season, but camp can always make an impact. (It won’t, IMO.) Still, QB is always a sexy position, and there will be plenty of stories of all four guys once camp starts in mid-July.


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Ryan Lindley as “NFL’s Greatest Stand-In”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 8, 2016 – 3:26 pm

NFL Films does some great work. I came across this short piece today that was posted, a six-minute video about former Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley as the “NFL’s Greatest Stand-In.” Obviously, Lindley’s turn(s) in Arizona didn’t go great. He’ll probably be most remembered for his hard, hard day against the Jets in 2012 or his struggles in the playoff game during the 2014 season. One of the things I always loved about Lindley, though, was that he never shied away from understanding and acknowledging his shortcomings. He did what he could when he was given the opportunity — which is outlined in this video.

I just remember a good guy, a guy who along with Logan Thomas helped Larry Fitzgerald shoot a commercial. A guy who knew he was probably in a losing battle when the team used a draft pick on a quarterback. A guy who did what he could when Thomas couldn’t do it and Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton got hurt. A guy who, when he threw a TD pass for the Colts, was still getting big support from his former Cardinals teammates.

“My man, Lindley” indeed.


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Keim: Palmer still in protocol, Iupati TBA

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2016 – 8:10 am

Injuries are starting to play a big role in what is happening with the Cardinals this season, and even though we are four days past the Cardinals’ last game, General Manager Steve Keim still didn’t gave anything concrete to say about guard Mike Iupati, who hurt his ankle against the 49ers. Keim, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, said the Cardinals would find out more either later Monday or Tuesday if Iupati would miss any time, although it would not be a surprise if Iupati did miss at least the game against the Jets a week from today. The Cardinals, of course, will definitely be without their other starting guard, Evan Mathis, who went on injured reserve over the weekend. (Keim said there was still a chance Mathis could be the one player to come back off IR this season.)

As for quarterback Carson Palmer, Keim said he remains in the concussion protocol, but Keim said in his communication with Palmer he was encouraged and Palmer is “doing great by all indications.”

The Cardinals don’t return to the practice field until Wednesday, and have an extra day to prepare because of “Monday Night Football.”

— Keim said the win over the 49ers “certainly instilled some confidence” although there remain concerns, like yet another slow start on offense.

— Losing Mathis cost the Cards a core player and strong leader, Keim acknowledged, but the Cardinals have some options. Earl Watford is expected to start in Mathis’ absence, and if Iupati is down, John Wetzel will likely get the call. Keim praised John Wetzel for filling in for Iupati in San Francisco.

— Overall, the offensive line played well, Keim said. Right tackle D.J. Humphries still has work to do in the passing game, but the GM really likes how Humphries is playing in the running game.

— Keim felt backup QB Drew Stanton “played solid.” He was hampered by a few dropped passes. As the backup, there is “no doubt we have a lot of confidence in him.”

— Keim echoed Bruce Arians about Michael Floyd’s issues, calling it strictly inconsistency and a loss of confidence. “We know what kind of player Michael can be,” Keim said. “When he gets hot, he can be a difference-maker for us.”

— Five games into the season, Keim remains optimistic. “I’m still confident it’s going to be a special year.”


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Palmer-less Wednesday before the 49ers

Posted by Darren Urban on October 5, 2016 – 4:01 pm

Carson Palmer isn’t going to be ready. That was Bruce Arians’ gut reaction after the quarterback was concussed against the Rams Sunday and that was reality Wednesday as the Cardinals climbed aboard their flight to the Bay Area for Thursday night’s game against the 49ers. So it’ll be Drew Stanton at the helm as the Cards try to snap a two-game losing streak — they have never lost three straight under Arians, and only previously lost two straight three times.

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald tried to stay lighthearted a bit with the quarterback situation. “Carson wouldn’t like me saying this, but if Drew plays, he’s probably a little bit better athlete,” Fitz said. “A little bit better. Last year Carson tripped on the goal line getting to the end zone with no one around (in San Francisco). Drew would never trip like that.”

The truth is Stanton did play a good chunk of 2014 with these receivers. That doesn’t mean he’s Palmer, but at this point, with the Cards’ offense less than they want it to be, perhaps Stanton can create a new dynamic.

Arians said Palmer was getting better and argued a bit for the chance to play, but it was a no go. Palmer hadn’t even been officially cleared by the time Arians spoke Wednesday. Optimism is there for Palmer to be OK the next time the Cardinals play, which won’t be until Oct. 17 on “Monday Night Football” versus the Jets.

— The record isn’t anywhere close to what the Cardinals hoped. But they remain in the top 10 in the NFL in both total offense and total defense, and have a plus-12 in point differential. That doesn’t point to a terrible season.

— Stanton had arguably his best game as a Cardinal against the 49ers back in 2014 when the Cards won in Arizona, 23-14. Stanton was 18-for-33 for 244 yards and two touchdowns.

— It’s been noted that, of all the guys who have thrown touchdown passes to Fitzgerald, Stanton is not one. Maybe that changes this week.

— One thing the Cards are missing this season; Playing from ahead. That goes hand-in-hand with their first-quarter woes (they are the only team in the NFL without a first-quarter point), but that was a big reason for success last year. The Cardinals scored the first time they touched the ball six times last season, and held a first-quarter lead 10 times.

— An under-the-radar move this week, all things considered, is the ascension of Brittan Golden to the roster. “Britt will be core special teamer,” Arians said. “He’ll help our special teams a bunch.” Arians also said Golden will likely take over on kickoff return from Andre Ellington, now that Ellington will be needed more at running back post-Chris Johnson’s injury.

— Here’s this week’s Cardinals Underground podcast.

— Someone asked Fitzgerald about fans upset with the Cardinals’ start. Fitzgerald smiled. “Funny, I drive down the street and I see people’s garages and they have the Cardinals flags out and I see some of those flags down now,” he said. “That’s disappointing, man. But we have to do our job so the people put the flags back up.”

— It doesn’t sound like Robert Nkemdiche is going to be active. Arians left the door cracked for that possibility, but also noted that — while Nkemdiche’s ankle is fine — the rookie defensive lineman might not be ready for an offense that can break huge run plays if not played correctly. Nkemdiche has yet to be active since playing a handful of snaps against the Patriots opening night.

— This is the first of three straight games for the Cardinals in prime time. “Thursday Night Football” is followed by “Monday Night Football” against the Jets and then “Sunday Night Football” against the Seahawks. The other two games will be at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Bay Area awaits.

beforeninersblog


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Friday before the (memorable) Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on September 30, 2016 – 3:10 pm

It’s the Cardinals vs. the Rams, a game that in Bruce Arians’ time as the Cards’ coach has often provided some memorable moments over six meetings.

  • In 2013 in St. Louis, Arians’ first game as coach, Tyrann Mathieu had his famous forced fumble from behind, although it wasn’t enough in a Cardinals’ loss;
  • In 2014 at home, Carson Palmer tore his ACL but the Cards, thanks to Drew Stanton and the defense, poured on late TDs to move to 8-1;
  • In 2014 on the road, Stanton suffered what turned out to be a season-ending injury, and the defense was brick-wall-esque in a brutal 12-6 win. That’s the game in which Arians talked about a team “always 8-8.”
  • In 2015 at home, Todd Gurley broke out and the Rams managed a big upset over the undefeated Cardinals.

What comes this Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium could determine the direction of the season. A 1-3 start is a difficult hole out of which to climb. The Cardinals are 2-2 — especially with a short week and trip to San Francisco coming Thursday — and life is much more settled.

— It will be helpful, to say the least, to have guard Evan Mathis in the lineup against that defensive line.

— I know the Cards knew the Bills were going to run last week and the Bills still killed them on the ground. I know Gurley is good. But I’m betting this defensive performance will look more how the Cardinals dealt with Gurley in St. Louis than that out-of-control 144-yard half in Arizona last year.

— Usually, no one pays attention to the long snapper. That hasn’t been the case with the Cardinals, and newcomer Aaron Brewer — who snapped for the Super Bowl champion Broncos last season — would like for that to change.

“Hopefully everybody forgets who I am and I kind of fall away into the shadows,” Brewer said. “That’d be the best. … That means you do your job well, when no one knows who you are.”

— It’s not ideal when two of the three pieces in the kicking operation changes in one week, but kicker Chandler Catanzaro said he’s already found a comfort level with Brewer and new holder/punter Ryan Quigley. “I understand the business of it, that it is a production business and things have happened,” Catanzaro said. “That’s something I can take on my shoulders and we can fight through it. That’s part of the deal as a specialist.”

— Yes, punter Drew Butler was supposed to hold but his bad calf won’t let that be possible. I don’t know what happens if Quigley impresses. Arians said this week Butler would remain on the roster unless an injury forced a move.

— Roy Green will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at halftime Sunday (we will have a story posted Saturday about Green.)

— Much talk this week about Mike Leach coming out of retirement. The former long snapper told the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports he actually went out and practiced snapping at his house with a helmet and pads on, to see if he could still do it. He could — except the way his body felt the next day reminded him why he retired. Few know how much time Leach spent in the training room the past few years getting his body ready to play every week.

— If you missed it, here’s the Cardinals Underground podcast from this week.

Black uniforms Sunday.

— This point was brought up to me by a fan, that the passing game stumbles through the first three games is reminiscent of similar issues Kurt Warner and the Cardinals had through three games in 2009 after big expectations. That year, the Cardinals found their rhythm and won nine of their next 12 games (although the passing game never quite reached 2008 levels.)

This isn’t about streaks right now, though. The Cardinals just want one win, at home, against a team they’ve played generally well against (even in last year’s loss the Cards moved the ball, they just lost the turnover battle and stalled in the red zone.)

— In 2002, the Rams — coming off a tough Super Bowl loss and bringing back basically the same powerful team — ended up starting 0-5. Then-quarterback Kurt Warner has said (and reiterated this week on Arizona Sports 98.7) it was because the Rams were pressing too hard to show how good they were.

Warner said he thinks that is happening to the Cardinals. Arians agreed. Now we’ll see if the Cards can adjust that and fix the direction they are going.

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Analyzing the initial 53-man roster

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2016 – 4:55 pm

The Cardinals have gotten down to the 53-man roster. Surprises? Perhaps a couple, although the way the wind was blowing over the last few days of the preseason, maybe not so much. Once we got to the end of the fourth preseason game, it was looking good for undrafted ILB Lamar Louis, and the knee injury of Kareem Martin might have helped ILB Gabe Martin on to the final roster (as well as his pick-6), although Martin has caught their collective eye for a while. I think cornerback Cariel Brooks had a good chance to make the team until he played so poorly against the Broncos.

The one legit surprise — in my eyes — was the Cardinals keeping Olsen Pierre, meaning there are nine defensive linemen on the final 53. Nine! That’s on a team with a 3-4 base defense that will use Chandler Jones as a defensive end in some passing situations. Then again, this could be partly for the future, not wanting to lose Pierre (and thinking he can play) when both Frostee Rucker and Calais Campbell are going into the last year of their contracts.

— The roster breakdown, right now, looks like this:
QB – 2
RB – 4
WR – 5
TE – 3
OL – 9
DL – 9
LB – 9 (counting Bucannon; sorry Deone)
CB – 4
S —  5
ST – 3

— So many wondered if Matt Barkley would stick, but as I have said many, many, many times, Drew Stanton was the No. 2 and Barkley simply didn’t show enough to pass him up. The Cardinals will have a QB on the practice squad — it could be Barkley — but it was clear listening to Bruce Arians over the time in camp he was disappointed Barkley didn’t come along faster.

— The trade for Marcus Cooper underscored the need for a veteran cornerback. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cards kept looking at that position.

— The same goes for backup tackle, although John Wetzel showed enough to stick for now.

— Only one draft pick wasn’t kept, cornerback Harlan Miller. I wouldn’t be surprised if Miller came back on the practice squad, but if you are Miller, knowing how much the Cards needed cornerbacks, you have to be disappointed you couldn’t make inroads in making the roster.

— When in doubt, teams go younger. That’s how you stay competitive.

— Teams will start making waiver claims tomorrow. There is still a (good) chance this 53 won’t be the 53 when the Cardinals return to practice Tuesday.

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Texans aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2016 – 7:45 pm

The preseason is over, essentially. The fourth preseason game is Thursday, but the main players will likely sit it out. So the Cardinals will go into the Patriots opener (assuming nothing happens bad in a practice) fairly healthy, with their quarterback ready. Did they accomplish everything they wanted in three preseason games? No. But I’m guessing, had Carson Palmer not thrown that last interception and the offense would have kept moving the ball as they were on that drive and they got at least a field goal, that would’ve been that.

Instead, there is concern with the fan base — as there has been — and little inside the team — as it has been.

Judgment is coming. Once the games count for real, we’ll see exactly how ready the Cardinals are. In the meantime:

— Nothing official on cornerback Mike Jenkins and his injury, but he was in a giant brace in the locker room and his mood hadn’t improved from when he was taken off the field. He had a chance to be a factor in the secondary configuration but that seems unlikely now. Bruce Arians said Justin Bethel was just rusty in his preseason debut but Bethel doesn’t have a lot of time to get up to speed either. Assuming Jenkins is down, the question is, will there be a cornerback the Cardinals want and can find after final cuts?

— The running backs all looked good. Every single one of them.

— Brittan Golden was down with his bad hamstring but he played well Sunday. The end of the wide receiver depth chart will be interesting. Golden probably would have an edge on Chris Hubert because of special teams. But will the Cards keep more than five receivers?

— D.J. Humphries seemed like he had his best overall game of the preseason. At least to someone who was watching out of the corner of his eye.

— The new thing to do is to complain about backup quarterback Drew Stanton, apparently. Not sure why. I thought he played better Sunday, and regardless, he’s not going anywhere.

— Bruce Arians insists that most of the tipped ball interceptions were more fluky than anything, and that Palmer is making the right reads.

— Chandler Jones got his first sack as a Cardinal, at least in the preseason. Stopped a potential TD drive when the Cards had been getting little pressure before that.

That’s all from Houston. Arians will speak to the media before practice tomorrow, and at some point, we’ll hear about the first cuts. The preseason is almost over. Thankfully.

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Raiders (preseason) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 13, 2016 – 12:29 am

The score ended up ugly, but this is the preseason, where scores matter little. (I won’t say they don’t matter at all, because sometimes, they do matter if, say, the third game is lopsided.) What the Cards got out of Friday night was safety for their players, especially their starters (always always always the most important thing), decent play from said starters, and a decent outing from a couple of key guys.

Those would be Brandon Williams and D.J. Humphries, and while neither were spectacular, they held up fine. Humphries didn’t fare well against Khalil Mack, but in reality, many do not anyway. He admitted he messed up against Mack, but believes it was mostly from him being overly hyped up to play. Time will tell, but he did play better as time went on (and admittedly, after Mack went out.) Humphries hasn’t answered all the questions yet. And there is probably still a need to consider bringing in a veteran backup tackle. But I still think Humphries will be OK.

At this point, same goes for Williams. He competed again against the Raiders. He thought he was going to be tested and he most certainly was. He gave up a TD. But he battled and the kid is going to learn. We still have almost a month before the Cards play for real. If Justin Bethel gets back soon, he still has a chance to take back the starting job. But Williams will play and he will get better, and even if he is the third cornerback, the Cards will be better for it.

— We barely saw the starters. I couldn’t tell you really what Chandler Jones had. Carson Palmer had a near-pick early with pressure in his face, but he led a scoring drive. The Cardinals have to get the ball in the end zone after getting a first down inside the 10, but that should come.

— David Johnson looked like he was in midseason form already. Midseason form during a really good season.

— Andre Ellington showed again why the Cards have liked him so much. Health makes a big difference.

— If the Cards can get that out of tight end Troy Niklas, he’ll be the guy they expected with a second-round pick. Again, health matters.

— Drew Stanton was high on some throws, and hopefully that was just first-game issues. I’m sure Arians was hoping to see more from Matt Barkley. I would expect Stanton and then Palmer to eat up most of the QB playing time the next two games, so we’ll see how many more opportunities Barkley gets in game situations.

— The Cards are off Saturday, and get back to practice Sunday morning. Remember, no open practice at University of Phoenix Stadium until after the Chargers game.

NiklasRaidersBlog


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