The preseason is over. The veterans and guys who know they have locked up roster spots, it’s a great time. Football counts the next time the Cardinals play a game. But the next hours and days are hard for many of the others on the bottom half of the list. Take guard/center Cole Toner, who looked like he might be the Cards’ choice as a seventh offensive lineman but then ran into some issues in Atlanta. It made Thursday’s game in Denver a little more important.
“I’m definitely not comfy,” Toner said. “I played the whole game today, so usually that doesn’t portend good things, but honestly I don’t know.
“I’m confident. I don’t know. We’ll watch the film tomorrow. I thought I played well. I didn’t play that well in Atlanta so I needed to come back and play a better game, which I did. So I’m proud of myself for that. It’s on to the regular season — if the opportunity presents itself for me.”
That was a lot of Thursday. Some impressed Bruce Arians, like Rudy Ford and Elijhaa Penny. Some didn’t, although Arians wasn’t being specific. This is about a “final” roster, but it’s also about a lot of guys getting their dreams crushed, and Arians is cognizant of that.
— The good news is the Cards came out of the preseason fairly healthy. Rookie defensive tackle Pasoni Tasini hurt his right knee, although Arians said it was likely a sprain and not serious. That’d be good, because Tasini figures to be a practice-squad candidate.
— No decision yet on the punter, although I thought Matt Wile probably won the job.
— I thought Ford, the rookie safety, looked good playing in the second half, and Arians noted him specifically. Ford and Harlan Miller looked like they were in a battle for a last secondary spot. Both are practice squad-eligible, so maybe that’s where the one goes who doesn’t make the roster.
— Here’s my guess — and it’s just a guess, although educated after watching the last six weeks — at the 53-man roster.
— The Cardinals will meet as a team Friday morning and then the players have a few days off. That’s good because the front office has plenty to sort through with all the cuts coming. I am not sure what the schedule is for releasing guys when it comes to the Cards, but names could start trickling out as it happens. Arians has a press conference late Friday morning.
Tags: Broncos, Cole Toner, Elijhaa Penny, Matt Wile, Pasoni Tasini, Rudy Ford
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Steve Keim figures there are four or five spots still left to be determined on the 53-man roster, with one preseason game left and the starters not playing Thursday. It seems that one would be at running back. It makes sense the Cardinals would only keep four running backs. David Johnson is in. Kerwynn Williams, as a back and return man, is in. (T.J. Logan will be going on injured reserve.) If you keep four, that would leave two spots for Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington and Elijhaa Penny. Penny, who is the only one of the three who plays special teams, seems to be trending as a guy who gets a spot. So does a final spot for to Johnson — who fumbled twice Saturday before coming back with a couple of good runs — or Ellington?
Keim, during an appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday, kept it vague when talking about Johnson’s situation. “I’m not going to critique Chris on the radio,” Keim said. “The one thing I’ll say is that he’s a pro’s pro, he gets it, and it’s not just his performance in one preseason game that is going to make a difference. It’s the body of work throughout camp that Coach and I will look at and we’ll determine the best 53 and more importantly, who is really going to be active on game day?”
(Johnson, for his part, feels like after an offseason off, he is finally getting his game legs under him.)
— The positions still most in the air, in Keim’s eyes: Punter, a fourth outside linebacker, inside linebacker and offensive line depth. Cap Capi flashed as he tries to make a push for a final OLB spot, but the Cardinals may still be looking for a fourth guy who may not be on the roster. Jarvis Jones was supposed to be that guy but he’s been hurt virtually all of camp.
— Keim did say the third OLB spot deservedly goes to Kareem Martin. “There’s no player who has worked harder this offseason than Kareem,” Keim said, calling him the most improved of anyone on the roster.
— Keim was happy to see John Brown play well. “We all know the player John Brown can be when he is healthy,” Keim said. “He is a dynamic player who can create mismatches, which is something we desperately need from him.” Keim added that Brown is a “very important part of this puzzle,” singling out Smoke and Tyrann Mathieu as the guys who change field position.
— Keim admitted he wasn’t feeling great about Brandon Williams early in camp but that the second-year cornerback has completely changed his mind. “I feel like we have four solid corners, which is a sigh of relief,” Keim said.
— The wide receiver group responded to Bruce Arians tough words. Keim said that has shown not only on the field but “they got out of the training room,” underscoring that Arians’ frustration a couple weeks ago may have been a little bit less about play and more about availability.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Brandon Williams, Bruce Arians, Cap Capi, Chris Johnson, Elijhaa Penny, Jarvis Jones, John Brown, Kareem Martin, Roster, Steve Keim
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That Drew Stanton hard count. Those of us who were at training camp practice every day saw it … well, just about every day. There it was, with the Cardinals 21 yards from the end zone, and he barked and the Falcons jumped. He had done it earlier, but guard John Wetzel flinched too. (Bruce Arians let him know: “I already got Wetzel – he don’t have much ass left.”)
But this time, just the Falcons moved and it gave Stanton a free play, and he lobbed a 21-yarder to Smokey Brown that Brown somehow came down with over-the-shoulder.
“We went back to (the hard count) and they kept jumping,” Stanton said.
Those two TD passes to Brown, along with a defense that made Matt Ryan look miserable (preseason, yes, but an 8.1 passer rating is not what the Falcons wanted to see in the third game of the preseason) made Saturday pretty good for the Cardinals. Not great. But good. Much better than this time last year. The starters and main guys are done now. They won’t play Thursday in Denver. Anyone playing this coming game is either not going to be on the team or is likely fighting (a few locks will play – they have to – but the last preseason game is what it is, especially with 90-man rosters).
That opening trip to Detroit, when things count for real, is only two weeks away.
— The running backs situation is interesting. Arians would not say Chris Johnson has locked up a roster spot, notable after Johnson fumbled twice. Elijhaa Penny also lost a fumble. Kerwynn Williams is making this team as a return man, but beyond he and David Johnson, it feels like Penny, Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington are battling for two spots.
— DT Olsen Pierre is in concussion protocol. Hopefully he’s OK. If he’s down for any time, depending on what happens with Robert Nkemdiche’s calf strain, things could get dicey on the defensive line.
— Stanton quietly had a nice night, completing 4-of-6 passes for 53 yards and his score.
— Linebacker Cap Capi probably isn’t making this team (although Jarvis Jones’ lingering back issue might create a need for a fourth OLB; that guy could still come from final cuts or a trade too). But Capi was impressive Saturday, enough to earn props from Arians. He had seven tackles, 1½ sacks and a tackle for loss.
— The playmakers on defense made plays. Markus Golden gets a strip sack. Tyrann Mathieu a pick on a tipped pass by Karlos Dansby. Patrick Peterson should’ve had a pick, but he lost it as he was going to the ground. “He’s getting fined for his drop,” Arians deadpanned.
— Matt Wile seemed to have a much better night than Richie Leone punting, although the numbers weren’t all that different. Right now, I’d guess Wile has the lead for a roster spot.
— Huge comeback night for Brown. He spiked the ball on the pylon after his first score. “It was an emotional release to show people that I’m back and feeling good.” Brown said. Brown has to stay healthy. That’s a given. But the Cardinals need him out there and productive. His impact is obvious. We saw it Saturday.
— Arians acknowledged he considered not playing running back David Johnson Saturday until changing his mind, in large part because Johnson was part of the early script. Johnson made his lone catch of the preseason on the game’s second play, resulting in a first down. He came out after that.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Cap Capi, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Drew Stanton, Elijhaa Penny, Falcons, Jarvis Jones, John Brown, Karlos Dansby, Kerwynn Williams, Markus Golden, Matt Wile, Olsen Pierre, Patrick Peterson, Richie Leone, Robert Nkemdiche, Tyrann Mathieu
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There isn’t as much to say about practice today. One, the main story has already been covered well by Kyle right here. Two, you aren’t going to get much detail about who did what — well or not well — because the back half of the outside practices are shut off from reporting. (Bruce Arians brought up the conditioning, so that became fair game). It was a physical practice, and if anyone is wondering if Arians was going to be true to his word about making this camp harder than last year’s, do not fret. He is doing just that.
As upset as Arians was, though, it wasn’t the end of the world.
“It’s just a practice,” he said. “We didn’t play anybody. We just failed to handle the heat and the time.”
— The young guys had their issues — you know, the young guys who are going to be playing the majority of Thursday’s game. Arians was asked how the team was positioned for the Hall of Fame matchup against the Cowboys. “If today’s practice was any indication, it’s going to be a fire drill.”
— I can say that Tyrann Mathieu looked good yet again. Arians said he thought it was the first time Mathieu looked totally healthy.
— The last (and only) other time the Cardinals were made to run at practice? Arians said it was his first season, but it was actually his second.
— Arians was asked about running back Elijhaa Penny’s performance Saturday. “Really good. Moved the pile, caught the ball well. He’s been having a good camp, and if he gets hurt, it’s your ass.”
That drew laughs, after what happened Saturday with Ronald Zamort. So Kent Somers asked the only thing he could: Should we just ask you about guys on other teams?
“That’d be good,” Arians said, breaking into a big smile. “Really good.”
— LB Alani Fua was waived-injured with his knee. He’ll likely revert back to injured reserve, so in theory — depending on how long it takes him to get healthy — he’d be a candidate to return this season. Remember, two IR guys can come back now after the new rule was put in. That said, Fua has had a lot of injuries in his short career. It’s tough not to remember something Dave McGinnis used to say a lot: Availability is as important as ability.
Tags: Alani Fua, Bruce Arians, Elijhaa Penny, Ronald Zamort, training camp, Tyrann Mathieu
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Famous last words.
Mike Jurecki asked about cornerback Ronald Zamort in Saturday’s lunchtime presser. And if he hadn’t, someone would have. Bruce Arians’ reaction was swift.
“You guys keep asking about individual guys and they keep getting hurt,” Arians deadpanned. “You and Josh (Weinfuss) are 2-for-2. If you get this one, you’re done.” (There had been previous questions about Aaron Dobson and the lack of soft tissue injuries at that point.)
He wasn’t chuckling a couple hours later, when Zamort indeed went down. At first it was scary — Zamort wasn’t moving — but he eventually got up. We don’t know what the injury was — an update likely won’t come until Monday — but we’ll see what kind of questions Arians will answer going forward. UPDATE: Kent Somers reports that Zamort tore an ACL.
As for the rest of the Red-White:
— Elijhaa Penny is trying to find a spot on the roster. The big second-year running back wanted to clarify some of the reports about his weight — he said he weighed 250 last season, and is now down to 236, feeling lighter on his feet — and he spends most reps looking for contact as he runs downfield.
“I want to be the linebacker on offense,” Penny said. “I want to deliver the hit instead of taking the hit. The main point is I want the offense to get the same mentality that the defense has. Hit them instead of them hitting us.”
He is in a fight with a crowded backfield. “Every day, I have to treat it almost like it’s game day.”
— It was interesting to watch the final three plays on the full-contact goalline scrimmage. Three straight carries for rookie T.J. Logan. Logan and fellow rookie linebacker Haason Reddick collided something fierce in the hole on the first two. On all three, Logan’s helmet popped off.
— Among the notable plays in 11-on-11 work: Patrick Peterson’s tip-drill interception in the end zone, tipped by Tyvon Branch; Jaron Brown hauling in a tipped pass that had been defended well by Zamort; Larry Fitzgerald’s sliding TD catch on the first play of red zone work from the 11-yard line; Krishawn Hogan’s juggling catch on the sideline; and Budda Baker’s nice from-behind pass breakup on Jeremy Ross.
— LB Karlos Dansby sat out the practice with a sore knee.
— The defenses and offenses essentially split success at the end-of-practice scrimmage plays.
— Robert Nkemdiche was a disruptive force much of the time again. The second-unit offensive line has a hard time blocking him.
— The crowd ended up being 25,000.
— The Cardinals are off tomorrow and don’t have another open practice to the public until Aug. 8. They play in Canton Thursday.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Elijhaa Penny, Haason Reddick, Josh Weinfuss, Karlos Dansby, Mike Jurecki, Robert Nkemdiche, Ronald Zamort, T.J. Logan
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After a request to get a little more detailed about how practice goes, Kyle Odegard and I will try to give a few notes after each practice along those lines. Here’s one from Tuesday, which starts with linebacker Scooby Wright. Scooby loves to hit.
There wasn’t any true tackling that was supposed to happen per se, but Wright and big running back Elijhaa Penny came together on one big collision in which Wright hauled Penny to the ground. Later, Wright had another big hit. It’s still early to know if Wright will make the 53-man roster, but he’s certainly made an impression in the offseason and the start if camp. He’s good on special teams and he’s got that aggressive mentality.
Wright even had an interception of a Drew Stanton pass that came off the hands of a receiver — although Stanton likely would have been sacked on the play had there been sacks. The defensive pressure likely would have caused a few sacks earlier in practice. The protection seemed to improve as time went on
— Blaine Gabbert had some nice throws Tuesday (although he threw an interception to rookie linebacker Tre’Von Johnson that never had a chance to be completed.) Gabbert’s future is going to likely rest on preseason games, but you can tell he’s at one level and undrafted rookie Trevor Knight is below. Knight mostly was a spectator during team work Tuesday with the other three QBs getting the work.
— It’s been humid inside the stadium. Not sure if it’s just moist grass being rolled in or the weather outside, but I’m guessing players are losing quite a few pounds each workout with the sweat.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Elijhaa Penny, Scooby Wright, training camp, Tre'Von Johnson
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When you have arguably the best running back in the league — certainly in the top two or three — who can both rush and catch the ball with any back out there, the notion of who is behind him can get lost. But then it was reported this week, before LeGarrette Blount signed with the Eagles, that the Cardinals showed some interest. It raises the question, with the team moving on from veteran Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington giving wide receiver a shot, just how that depth chart will fill out behind David Johnson.
As it stands right now, Kerwynn Williams figures to be the top running option behind Johnson. Williams has earned that nod over the years; he has produced on the ground when he has gotten the chance. T.J. Logan, the rookie fifth-round pick, is a virtual lock to make the roster. His kickoff return skills alone help, and from what little I have seen in the OTAs and rookie minicamp, the speed on display after catch a short pass is a very real threat.
Beyond that? Ellington could still officially end up as a running back, although it feels like in many ways his and Logan’s skillsets are similar. Big Elijhaa Penny seems to be the wild card. Is he the big back the Cards could use between the tackles if needed? Do the Cardinals need to add someone at some point? I’ve never gotten the sense the Cardinals felt a strong need to add another vet back — it was a little surprising to hear Blount caught their attention — but that’s part of what OTAs and minicamp will be for, to sort that need out. It would never be surprising to have the Cardinals decide to make a late signing either. That’s what happened with Chris Johnson, and with GM Steve Keim, you never rule out that possibility.
Tags: Andre Ellington, David Johnson, Elijhaa Penny, Kerwynn Williams, T.J. Logan
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The Cardinals got through the draft and made their picks. No QB. No cornerback drafted early, but the defense got some potential impact playmakers. They collected 17 undrafted rookies, adding an Ironhead and a Gump and QB was served by a Knight, although we’ll see what that truly means. The Cardinals are in the middle of Phase 2 work — that goes on exclusively for another week — and then OTAs will start May 16 and the meat of the offseason work will commence.
There will be moves here and there. There will be tryout players at the rookie minicamp next week and a couple will inevitably be signed, at the cost of a couple of other players on the roster. That’s happened every year in the Bruce Arians era. There will have to be a decision made about what to do with Daryl Washington (no, that has not yet happened.) And then there is the idea of a Keim Time Sign, a pickup of a veteran by GM Steve Keim anytime between now and into training camp that could end up making the roster by the beginning of September. A quick handicapping of the positions he could look at:
— Offensive line: The Cards signed Tony Bergstrom Wednesday. He’s likely a depth guy rather than someone who figures to have a chance to start should he make the team. He’s played center of late, and with Evan Boehm working as the first-string right guard, the Cards needed someone to back up A.Q. Shipley, if not compete with him.
— Quarterback: The news was out that the Cards at least worked out Blaine Gabbert. We’ll see if that turns into anything. It’d give them an extra arm with experience, and with as much as they have talked about managing Carson Palmer’s practice load, maybe adding another QB right now makes sense.
— Running back: I don’t know if the draft closed the door on Chris Johnson, but it seems like it might have. T.J. Logan is young, fresh legs, and they like what they have seen out of Elijhaa Penny. Kerwynn Williams has shown he can run the ball, and after all, David Johnson is David Johnson.
— Cornerback: This is the big position. Justin Bethel figures to run with the first unit, at least to begin with. It’ll be hard to see where Budda Baker fits in early because the Washington spring quarter doesn’t end until early June (the final minicamp day is June 8) and he’ll miss most offseason work. The Cards have some mix-and-match possibilities, but right now, it’s Bethel or Brandon Williams in line to start opposite Patrick Peterson. Could the Cards pick up a veteran cornerback? I wouldn’t rule it out, although they may want to see how the offseason plays out a bit.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Williams, Budda Baker, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Elijhaa Penny, free agency, Justin Bethel, Kerwynn Williams, T.J. Logan, Tony Bergstrom
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Sometimes, the mother of invention is simply right place, right time. Running back Kerwynn Williams has taken snaps before in his football career. He played quarterback in high school (surprisingly, Williams said) and at Utah State he was used in some wildcat formations. But with the Cardinals, it really hadn’t come up until the week of practice heading into the game against the Vikings.
The Vikings use the wildcat. So the Cardinals were practicing against it with their scout team. Normally, practice squad running back Elijhaa Penny would have served in that role. But Penny wasn’t at practice that day, his child being born. So Williams jumped in, and apparently, coaches liked what they saw.
“I guess the rest is history,” Williams said.
The next week, Williams had a part in the offensive package. Williams was in the wildcat twice in Atlanta. He handed off to David Johnson for a 16-yard gain on the first play. The second time, Williams broke for a nice 11-yard gain, although it was wiped out on an A.Q. Shipley holding penalty. It “adds a different wrinkle to the offense,” Williams said, and there is little question that Williams has proven over his years in Arizona — even though he has been on and off the roster — that he can run the ball. That’s never really been in doubt, and it flashed again against the Falcons.
As for playing wildcat quarterback, there is also the chance to pass the ball too, right?
“I did have a little bit of the laser back in the day,” Williams deadpanned. “It’s still there. I’ve still got the fundamentals.”
Williams smiled. “But that’s what Carson is for,” he added. “He’s a great quarterback, he makes a lot of great passes. I don’t think they need me to throw the ball.”
Tags: Elijhaa Penny, Falcons, Kerwynn Williams, Vikings
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The life of a player on the fringe of the roster is not easy. Kerwynn Williams knows this. The running back was re-signed by the Cardinals Tuesday. He had been signed a week ago after Chris Johnson went on IR, and then when the Cardinals needed an extra tight end because Darren Fells was injured — the Cards promoted practice squad tight end Hakeem Valles — Williams was the one they cut, just a few hours before kickoff against the 49ers. Now that Carson Palmer is just about healthy, the Cardinals found a roster spot for Williams again, letting go of quarterback Zac Dysert.
Williams lives a tough reality. He’s not a special teamer (he can return kickoffs, if needed) so he’s not a guy that makes sense to be active unless you need him to run the ball. He’s no longer practice-squad eligible. But he’s proven many times he can run the ball, and run it well. If he had been PS-eligible, he very well would have made it over Elijhaa Penny.
But with Johnson down (at least for now; there is a chance CJ2K will return this season) Williams makes a lot of sense as an extra runner. Andre Ellington will be David Johnson’s official backup, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Williams finds a way to get some carries over the next few weeks.
That is, of course, assuming the Cardinals don’t need to find a roster spot again.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson, Darren Fells, Elijhaa Penny, Hakeem Valles, Kerwynn Williams, Roster
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