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Cardinals’ 2019 comp pick estimate: Just one

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2018 – 1:47 pm

Today is the deadline for free agents signed counting for or against a team’s compensatory pick haul for the 2019 draft. The Cardinals benefited greatly in 2018 with comp picks, earning three comp picks (and ultimately using all, to choose OL Mason Cole, RB Chase Edmonds and OL Korey Cunningham.) Next year, it won’t quite be the same.

According to Nick Korte of overthecap.com, the Cardinals — based on their free agent gains and losses this year — will get a lone extra seventh-round pick, attached to the departure of wide receiver Jaron Brown to the Seahawks. Three other losses qualified as potential seventh-rounders: quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert (to Tennessee) and Matt Barkley (Cincinnati), and offensive lineman Earl Watford (Chicago). But none figure to earn picks because there are only 32 comp picks awarded and all three fall in at 33 or higher.

(The Cards lost a couple of higher-value free agents but those are canceled out by the ones they signed themselves. And as always, players that had been cut — like Tyrann Mathieu — do not qualify in the equation.)

The list can change slightly depending on how much some guys play or if they are released. But it’s usually a pretty close estimate of where we will be when comp picks are revealed in late February or so.


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Niklas moves on, and the Cards at tight end

Posted by Darren Urban on April 4, 2018 – 1:17 pm

Once, veteran teammate John Carlson said of rookie Troy Niklas, “He looks like a 12-year-old boy who swallowed a grizzly bear.” At 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, Niklas — the Cards’ second-round pick in 2014 — was a prototype tight end for coach Bruce Arians. He just couldn’t stay on the field enough, beset by ankle and wrist problems.

So Niklas moved on Wednesday, agreeing to a deal with the Patriots. It’ll be very interesting to see how Niklas performs there, especially in an offense that will throw to the tight end. Niklas is no Gronk athletically (no tight end is), but he figures to get more targets and he is coming off his best season, albeit with a low bar. In 2017, Niklas in 15 games had 11 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown, after totaling just eight receptions in 26 career games over his first three seasons.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals are going to have to address the position. As long as Niklas was out there, there was a chance he could return (the Cards also lost a potential depth guy on the offensive line when Earl Watford moved on to the Bears this week.) Jermaine Gresham is coming off an Achilles injury and is limited right now in his offseason work, although I thought he looked better than I might have expected when he was doing what he could Tuesday. The Cards also have Ricky Seals-Jones, who flashed as an undrafted rookie but still skews heavily as a receiver and not a blocker (not a shock, given that he was a wideout in college.) Gabe Holmes also remains.

At this point, it might make more sense to wait until after the draft, see if a tight end emerges there, and then reassess the position afterward.


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Cards could still re-sign own FA or two

Posted by Darren Urban on March 28, 2018 – 7:36 am

The majority of the Cardinals’ own unrestricted free agents have found a home going into the 2018 offseason, but there are still some that have not yet signed anywhere. The door isn’t necessarily closed that one — or a couple — could come back.

“It’s still a possibility,” coach Steve Wilks said at the NFL league meetings in Orlando. “I know some of those guys have gone on and gotten with (other) teams, but in that second wave, third wave, we can circle back and find out from a financial standpoint if it is feasible (for someone to return.)”

Feasible usually means how much the player is willing to take monetarily. He also has to still fit in the depth chart, and we are creeping closer to the time when teams will simply put free agency on hold until after the draft, to see what holes are filled in that regard.

Of the remaining free agents the Cards still have, some could make sense to return: guards Alex Boone and Earl Watford, since the line could still use more depth; safety Tyvon Branch after the release of Tyrann Mathieu (although the significant knee injury Branch suffered last season will be a factor, as will his age); running back Kerwynn Williams; defensive lineman Frostee Rucker; and, given a position shortage, tight end Troy Niklas. (The full Cardinals’ free-agent tracker is here.)

The Cardinals will eventually get to 90 on the offseason roster, but they are at 63 now. (Update: Make that 64.) Usually, between draft picks and undrafted rookies, the Cards add around 25 players. That would leave a couple spots still — and, of course, if they found a better option, they could also eventually release someone already in place.


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Watford, Niklas playing; Bynes sits in finale

Posted by Darren Urban on December 31, 2017 – 12:59 pm

The Cardinals will have offensive lineman Earl Watford (ankle) and tight end Troy Niklas (ankle) in today’s season finale in Seattle. With John Brown playing again, Chad Williams will be inactive again one more time — he will be facing a big offseason heading into his second year. Linebacker Josh Bynes (ankle) was listed as questionable, but he was DNP all week so again, not a surprise to see him sit.

The final inactives for the season:

— QB Matt Barkley

— WR Chad Williams

— LB Edmond Robinson

— LB Josh Bynes (ankle)

— C Max Tuerk

— TE Gabe Holmes

— DL Xavier Williams


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Does Veldheer injury make Palmer decision?

Posted by Darren Urban on December 12, 2017 – 10:08 am

After Bruce Arians did his Monday press conference he did his weekly interview on the “Bickley and Marotta” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, and mentioned that he was still hopeful Carson Palmer would be able to play again this season. Palmer himself has said he’s working toward that, although it’s been left vague what exactly is the plan. Palmer would have to be healthy first, and he’s not even practicing yet. Slow healing could make all the discussion a moot point.

But you have to wonder, now that Jared Veldheer is done for the season and fellow starter Earl Watford will miss some time, whether that alone could force the Cardinals’ hand. Having a banged-up offensive line isn’t ideal for any quarterback, but it would seem less so for a quarterback who isn’t known for his mobility. It’s one thing to get Palmer healthy, it’s another thing to put him on a line with, for instance, rookie Will Holden at left tackle.

Again, this might all be moot. GM Steve Keim just said Monday that, aside from about-to-play long snapper Aaron Brewer, there is no one else trending healthy enough to come off IR. But when you start factoring in circumstances, maybe that’s for the best anyway.


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Calais returns, Friday before the Jaguars

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2017 – 3:22 pm

The tale of the two players facing their former teams Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium also is a tale of their teams.

Calais Campbell comes back to the Valley with the Jaguars, after his nine seasons with the Cardinals and beloved by the fans. He’s already got a career-best 11½ sacks, he leads the best defense in the NFL and they are in first place in their division. Blaine Gabbert is long removed from his time in Jacksonville and he’s the starting QB for the Cardinals now – despite beginning the season third-string – as the Cards have endured so many injuries and have moved in a lot of ways to evaluation mode with many players.

On paper, it’s an uphill battle Sunday for the Cards. There is no other way to look at it. The Jags might be without top CB Jalen Ramsey, but in the end, they are playing better than the Cardinals right now and have momentum and the carrot of trying to secure the division. The Cardinals are without their top … well … too many to have it not matter.

The Cardinals can’t let Leonard Fournette run all over them, and they have to protect Gabbert. Maybe Adrian Peterson can get loose – the Jaguars are only middle-of-the-pack in run defense, although they give up a paltry 14 points a game. The spotlight will be on Campbell and Gabbert in a lot of ways, and the Cardinals have to reverse each player’s narrative to get a win.

— Another spot to watch Sunday is what running back D.J. Foster can do on third downs. Foster gets his chance now that the Cards let Andre Ellington go. He had nine snaps (and two catches) a week ago and he’s probably a better pass catcher than straight runner at this point. Coach Bruce Arians said receiving is what Foster does best.

“He’s a little bit small to be a pass protector but he’s tough enough,” Arians said. “That’s all you can ask a guy at his size, fight your tail off and get your ass kicked with dignity.”

— We all know Chad Williams, the third-round pick, will get snaps this weekend with John Brown injured. It’s a crucial time for Williams, who frankly is being counted on in as a key component of next year’s receiving corps. Larry Fitzgerald had good things to say about Williams’ maturity and work ethic. Now we see it on the field.

— Carlton Agudosi, whom Fitz and Arians also praised, also could play Sunday with Brittan Golden dealing with a groin issue – although the last time Golden battled that groin injury, he didn’t practice Friday and still played Sunday.

— If you didn’t see Fitz’s comments about Campbell, please check them out.

— Unfortunately for Fitz, he was fined $24,309 for the crackback block he was flagged for Sunday in Houston. The Adrian Peterson rush gained no yards, regardless.

— There has been a lot of talk about Campbell’s ability to get to play defensive end in the Jaguars’ 4-3 scheme and how it was his natural spot. Campbell was in a 3-4 in the base defense here in Arizona and then played inside in the Cards’ four-down-linemen passing down packages. Campbell still moves inside for the Jags on obvious passing downs. Here was his take:

“All of it plays a role,” Campbell said. “I always thought it’d be nice to play on the outside in the 4-3 scheme. That’s where I played in college and pretty much most of my life, but at the end of the day, I’m a football player. Put me anywhere you want me to, and I’m going to give my best shot. But, it’s cool being able to play on the edge a little bit, and I still get the rock inside and go back to the three-technique on third down, which is fun. I think that’s been beneficial. It’s a combination of a few things. A lot of good players around me make my job a lot easier.”

— There is one other “revenge” scenario for Sunday. Cardinals right guard Earl Watford signed a free-agent deal with the Jaguars last offseason, got $1 million guaranteed and was still cut at the end of the preseason. Jaguars coach Doug Marrone: “Unfortunately, he was hurt for a long period of time. Then, we just had players that were playing, and he did a nice job. It was a tough decision.” Watford declined to talk about his time in Jacksonville, brief as it was.

— Through 11 weeks, Fitzgerald had more receiving yards – 546, of his 768 – out of the slot than anyone else in the NFL, according to ESPN.

— A note from our esteemed social media manager Brandon Naidus, who once worked for the Jaguars (and who would undoubtedly be disappointed if I did not drop this in): The Jaguars have drafted three quarterbacks in the first round during their history, and all three will be on hand Sunday. Blake Bortles (2014) is their current starter. Gabbert (2011) is the Cardinals starter. And Byron Leftwich (2003) is the Cardinals’ quarterback coach.

— It’s interesting to see the dichotomy between the fan bases on Gabbert this week. Cardinals’ fans are (rightfully) encouraged by Gabbert’s play last week and are anxious to see him play again. Jaguars’ fans also are excited to see Gabbert this week – mostly because they feel he will not succeed. Clearly there are still hard feelings there with Gabbert’s failures as the Jacksonville QB.

— Don’t forget there is a food drive Sunday, so bring your canned goods and/or a monetary donation. They will be accepted at all stadium entrances.

— Might the Cardinals be able to run the ball a little? Adrian Peterson has a combined 55 yards rushing the last two games. If Gabbert’s task isn’t hard enough in the first place, another sluggish running effort could cripple the Cardinals.

“It’s something those guys are taking personal up front, and I’m taking it personally as well,” Peterson said.

— See you Sunday, where you come for the reunions, and stay for how the season begins to play out for the Cardinals.


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Adrian Peterson’s debut, and Bucs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 15, 2017 – 7:15 pm

The plan started on a private plane, sent by the Cardinals Tuesday to pick up Adrian Peterson in New Orleans and bring him back to Arizona. Running backs coach Freddie Kitchens was on board, so that the return trip to Arizona could be spent on a crash course about the Cardinals’ offense.

“It sounded like Chinese,” Peterson said Sunday, after that five-day tutorial turned into a 134-yard rushing debut.

Peterson said Kitchens walked him through what he needed to learn, calling him at home just to go over things. By the time Peterson got to Sunday, he felt prepared, and he played that way.

Kitchens downplayed his role, saying only that he helped get Peterson in the building. And there is little question Peterson, motivated as he was to do well, had the talent if he knew what was called.

“It was the terminology of the plays,” wide receiver/Peterson landlord Larry Fitzgerald said. “You don’t tell a great back where to run.”

Fitz is going to gush about Peterson. They are friends. But Peterson deserves the praise. Not just for his production, but for the intangible vibe that surrounded this team right about the time Peterson and Kitchens were flying back from Louisiana.

“I wish he’d have been here 11 years from the beginning,” Fitzgerald said. “I’d have a Super Bowl ring already. But having him here, his leadership, his demeanor in the huddle, I think it’s reinvigorating everybody.”

— I can’t lie. I did not expect Peterson to make that kind of impact. I thought the Cards would be better. Not that much better. But when he ripped off two eight-yard runs on his first two carries, I quickly reconsidered.

— Chandler Jones got his sixth sack in six games and got a couple tackles for loss. That doesn’t do his game justice, especially early. He’s had a very good season.

— Still, you want to see the defense finish better. It’ll be interesting to see if Tramon Williams gets more playing time at cornerback.

— And not because of Patrick Peterson’s quad problem. If P2 is down, the Cards will feel it, although Peterson insisted he will be ready to play against the Rams next week. That was a big part of the fourth-quarter problems Sunday. No Patrick. Adrian isn’t the only necessary Peterson.

— The offensive line was better. It wasn’t perfect, but the return of left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone, along with Earl Watford taking over at right guard clearly made a difference. There was a lot of emotion Sunday with Adrian Peterson and the crowd and that adrenaline helps. But if this group can stay healthy and together – that was the fifth different offensive line in six games – the Cards should be OK.

— Fitzgerald said it was kicker Phil Dawson who told him to waste some time on the onside kick recovery at the end, to make sure the clock ticked under the two-minute mark (and stoppage at the two-minute warning) so the Cards could kneel three times and be done. “That was Phil all the way,” Fitz said.

— Ryan Fitzpatrick likes putting a scare into Bruce Arians. First it was 2013 in Tennessee, then Sunday.

— Arians took the blame for Palmer’s interception, saying he insisted on throwing it deep there to go for the throat. But Arians said he needs to stay greedy. “There’s no lead big enough in the National Football League,” Arians said.

— Palmer is expecting both David Johnson and T.J. Logan to come off injured reserve, apparently, since he mentioned both running backs playing with Peterson later this season.

“I can’t help but think what B.A. will come up with when we get T.J. Logan back and Dave back,” Palmer said. “I can’t wait to see that.”

— That would be interesting. Just like the Cards were Sunday. Tomorrow, a flight to London.


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Eagles aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2017 – 3:23 pm

J.J. Nelson wore an ice bag on his side, courtesy of the first hit he took in the game Sunday. The last one left more of a mental bruise – one in which it looked like the wide receiver would make the final score look a tad better on a 29-yard touchdown catch from Carson Palmer, only to have the TD erased and the ball lost when replay showed Nelson losing a fumble at the 1 and through the end zone.

“I was just trying to make a play, stick it out there (across the goal line),” Nelson said, shaking his head. “The guy hit me, and made a nice play.”

The score wouldn’t have really made a difference, but it figured to end like that. The loss in Philly couldn’t have been much uglier (although someone on Twitter suggested it was the Cards’ worst game in 10 years, and wow, that anyone could forget the 2012 Seattle trip stuns me). All the Cardinals’ current issues were laid bare – a failure to run, problems on the offensive line, an inability to score, giving up too many big plays – and then you add it a breakdown on third down defense. The Eagles weren’t just converting third downs but long third downs.

The backbreaker, although the game was basically secured by then, was the 72-yard TD on third-and-19, with the blitzing Cardinals unable to get to the quarterback. That was a common theme. The pass rush took a step back, and whether that was Markus Golden missing or something greater, it’s not a great sign.

Bruce Arians took the blame a couple of times in his press conference. He said he didn’t have the Cardinals ready to play. From a 40,000-foot level, seems an apropos assessment.

— The offensive line started Earl Watford at left guard. At one point, when right tackle Jared Veldheer had to leave briefly with a knee issue, the line was, from left tackle to right tackle, John Wetzel, Watford, A.Q. Shipley, Evan Boehm and rookie Will Holden. Veldheer did come back into the game, although Arians said Veldheer will be sore (and said the same about DT Corey Peters, who also left for a time with a knee.)

If Veldheer is OK, and maybe D.J. Humphries and Alex Boone can come back next week …

— It did seem like Arians stuck to the run more. It still didn’t produce. Only 2.2 yards a carry.

— Larry Fitzgerald keeps grinding. He didn’t have a catch for a while until grabbing one for a reception in his 200th straight game. He finished with six receptions for 51 yards.

— The Cardinals have lost long snapper Aaron Brewer with a broken wrist/hand, Arians said. So they’ll be in the market. Josh Mauro and Boehm filled in and did OK. But the blocked field goal was because of the snap. It wasn’t bad, it was just a tick slow – which is all it takes for a guy coming off the edge.

— Haason Reddick did play some outside linebacker, but he was having trouble getting past the blocking when rushing the passer. There will definitely be a learning curve there.

— Palmer didn’t have bad stats, but they could have been. He was nearly picked off three times on plays that were broken up by his wide receivers. Nelson had one and John Brown had two, showing off two different cornerback skills. The first Smoke did a nice job simply knocking it away. The second was in the hands of Jalen Mills – and Brown timed his hit perfectly, landing a heavy body blow as Mills was coming down, jarring the ball loose.

It was a day to seek such silver linings.


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Watford returns to get start in Philly

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2017 – 8:29 am

With no Alex Boone today (he’s unable to play because of his pectoral injury) the Cardinals will turn to Earl Watford to start at left guard, after Watford made his homecoming this week — both to the Cardinals, after leaving as a free agent, and here to Philadelphia, where he grew up. It’s yet another incarnation of the Cards’ in-flux offensive line, which will feature its third different starting lineup in five games.

The Cardinals will have their other two questionable players active: Wide receivers John Brown and J.J. Nelson. Cornerback Tramon Williams, who was inactive last week, is back to active status with new addition Scooby Wright not dressing.

— QB Blaine Gabbert

— WR Chad Williams

— RB D.J. Foster

— LB Scooby Wright

— T D.J. Humphries (knee)

— G Alex Boone (chest)

— DL Robert Nkemdiche (calf)


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That Philly feeling, Friday before the Eagles

Posted by Darren Urban on October 6, 2017 – 3:36 pm

The Cardinals are en route to Philly right now, the fifth trip there since 2008, and the previous four have had some memorable moments. The 2008 game was the ugly Thanksgiving night beatdown, with the Cardinals losing by four touchdowns yet coming out of it not afraid at all of the Eagles (which showed a couple months later when they beat the Eagles in the NFC Championship.) The 2011 game was an improbable 21-17 win with John Skelton throwing a pair of perfect passes on the game-winning drive, one on a wheel route to the Hyphen, LaRod Stephens-Howling, and then a bomb to Fitz. In 2013, Bruce Arians’ first year, the Cards lost 24-21 when a late pick by Patrick Peterson was wiped out by a flag on Tyrann Mathieu, a penalty the Cards weren’t thrilled was called.

But it was the last trip that encapsulated so much with the Cardinals, especially in relation to where they are now. It was a 40-17 domination by the Cardinals on “Sunday Night Football.” The Cardinals clinched the NFC West title that night, an accomplishment that seems so much longer ago than 22 months. It was David Johnson’s coming-out party, with his Beastmode-like run and his career-best 187 yards rushing. And it was Mathieu’s devastating second ACL tear, that took all the wind from the excitement of the night and might’ve cost the Cardinals a chance at the Super Bowl.

The Cards have been a .500 team since then. Mathieu is still trying to find his groove. Johnson is hurt and cannot help. Chasing a division title is still a goal, but there is much to be fixed for that to be a topic.

— The Cardinals not only will have the early start Sunday – 10 a.m. Arizona time – but there might be a little rain. Bruce Arians doesn’t care. “They are all excuses,” the coach said in his opening statement Friday. It’ll be the first game the Cards will have played outside this season.

— After two rough games, right tackle Jared Veldheer was the highest-graded offensive lineman from the San Francisco game and offensive line coach Harold Goodwin said he was “proud” of Veldheer. “The biggest thing for him is gaining confidence but I was pleased,” Goodwin said.

— Arians, who was hired as Temple’s head coach at age 30 and left the job in part because it literally was making him physically sick, was asked if in-his-30s Arians would have imagined himself still coaching now (Arians turned 65 earlier this week).

“I would hope so, if I wasn’t dead,” Arians said. “That job down there killed me.”

— Another Philly guy is Earl Watford, who just signed this week and now could be in the starting lineup at guard Sunday. It looked like Watford’s days as a Cardinal were over, having played out his contract and with both sides ready to start fresh. But here we are.

“A lot of people would think that, but it’s just another opportunity,” Watford said. “I’m glad to be back here. To be familiar with people, playbook, coaches, I’m excited to be here.”

— Linebacker Haason Reddick now finds himself in the outside linebackers meeting room, trying to cram for a new role after the loss of Markus Golden. I’m very curious to see the snap spilt between he and Kareem Martin.

— Reddick, who is technically from New Jersey but lived just five miles from Philly and went to school there at Temple, said his call for the best cheesesteak comes from Max’s and he’s going to try and get some teammates to join him there.

As for the best way to eat a cheesesteak, it’s American cheese for Reddick. “I don’t do Cheese Whiz.”

“Cheese Whiz is a tourist attraction,” Reddick said. “Anyone who is really from Philly, I’ve never seen them put Cheese Whiz on their cheesesteak. I think that’s a little bizarre.”

(To be fair, it looks like an ongoing debate.)

— Carson Palmer has taken a lot of hits – 43, officially, in four games. “Hey, I don’t want to see him get hit,” Goodwin said. “Mr. Bidwill is paying that guy a lot of money.”

Part of that is the Cards’ lack of run game. Palmer is passing so much he’s inevitably going to be hit more, just like he’s on pace to obliterate his personal highs in attempts, completions and yards. But that doesn’t absolve the pass protection – or the struggles therein. Goodwin said he woke up early last week and the protection issues popped into his mind so quickly he just got up and came to the office. It was 4:30 a.m.

“That’s my job,” Goodwin said. “I embrace the pressure though. It’ll never break me.”

— Finally, there’s the case of Fitz the Philly killer. He had a nondescript three catches for 43 yards in that 2015 blowout of the Eagles – and even with that game averaged in, he’s still averaged (including the NFC Championship game) more than six catches, 104 yards and more than a touchdown per game against the Eagles all-time.

“He’s the same guy all the time,” Eagles cornerback Malcolm Jenkins told ESPN.

The Cards wouldn’t mind some of that same ol’ Fitz Sunday.


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