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After practice: The Governor visits

Posted by Darren Urban on August 23, 2017 – 4:49 pm

It was the last regular schedule day at #CardsCamp Wednesday (as well as the last open practice.) There is a morning practice closed to the public Thursday, and then training camp is (mercifully) over. Last year, the last regular practice had visitors — the Phoenix Suns. This year, there was also a special visit — Govenor Doug Ducey, who arrived with team president Michael Bidwill and talked with Bidwill through the length of the workout.

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald actually left practice at one point (the setup of practice left the starting offense and the starting defense on the sideline for extended period of time while the other side of the ball worked) to say hello to Ducey and to threaten to give Bidwill a hug despite being sweaty as hell by that point. (That, like tackling, is a favorite thing for Fitz. I speak from experience.) Later in the practice, Fitzgerald brought David Johnson over for an introduction. Then Fitzgerald had another post-practice conversation with Ducey. Fitz understands how to make all the connections.

— CB Tramon Williams did not practice, apparently taking a rest day. RB Kerwynn Williams sat again with a sore foot, after it had been stepped on.

— At one point, S Budda Baker went down after a play and hobbled off with the assistance of head athletic trainer Tom Reed. But Baker turned out to be OK and came back to practice.

— Fitz made a spectacular diving one-handed catch on the sideline. Tight end Gerald Christian made a great leaping TD catch in the back of the end zone, and fellow tight end Ricky Seals-Jones made an equally impressive grab over (literally) linebacker Philip Wheeler. Wide receiver Krishawn Hogan made an improbable catch with CB Brandon Williams in a perfect spot.

— One day left.


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Red-White aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2015 – 5:48 pm

There was a pretty big crowd for Saturday’s Red-White practice, to wrap up the first week of training camp. The crowd was announced at 23,750, the largest crowd the Cards have gotten on this Saturday practice — which has always been the biggest draw of camp. They got to see the first live goalline work, and a few nice throws by Carson Palmer.

It wasn’t all good. The Cards lost cornerback Jerraud Powers early in the practice and cornerback Darren Woodard later. Woodard went down with a non-contact injury, although he did walk off in a manner that maybe it was a groin or hamstring more than a knee. There won’t be any injury updates before Monday — the Cardinals get Sunday off.

As for the football, some things I noticed:

— Palmer looked sharp yet again. He found J.J. Nelson on a nice out pattern early, putting the ball in a perfect place, and Nelson may have made and even better catch. Later, Palmer hit Jaron Brown with a bomb of 45 or so yards, beating Patrick Peterson over the top. With Michael Floyd out and Larry Fitzgerald limited, Nelson and Brown getting a real chance to shine. They are doing a pretty good job of it.

— Kerwynn Williams, who had a tough practice Friday with a couple of fumbles, had a pair of tough moments again Saturday. He dropped a pass when he was wide open on third down, and that’s an area Bruce Arians said Williams needs to improve to get on the field. Later, Williams took a shot in that place that a guy would rather not get hit, and he had to come out for a few plays while he recovered.

— In the goal line drill, the defense looked stout. With the ball at the 1, the first-unit kept Williams out of the end zone on two of three plays. Ed Stinson blew up Jonathan Cooper on one play so Kevin Minter could make the tackle for loss. Williams did score going over the right side on the final play, helped by a pulling Mike Iupati. On the second unit, Paul Lasike was deemed just barely in the end zone on the first play, but he couldn’t break the goal line in the next two, Paul Lasike was stopped short in all three tries, although just short of the goal line. (On the first play, the official on my side of the field called touchdown, but watching the video it was clear he was just short, just like the official on the opposite side called.

— The defense won the “live scrimmage” of the third units to end the practice. Linebacker Edwin Jackson, whom Arians had just praised at lunchtime, slammed into Lasike for a big tackle that was probably the highlight of the practice. Then the practice ended when tight end Gerald Christian made a catch but fumbled when linebacker Alani Fua drilled Christian and the ball, and the defense recovered.

It’s been a long week. Time for a day off.

TC7FuaFFChrisianBLOG


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In the short term, tight end still a concern

Posted by Darren Urban on July 30, 2015 – 11:13 am

Heading into camp, the Cardinals will ease Jermaine Gresham back into football. He’s coming off back surgery and hasn’t done anything football-related this summer, and so slow going makes sense. Gresham can come off the PUP list at any point, and like Tyrann Mathieu last year, I’d expect Gresham to be on the roster by early September. Hopefully, a return to the field will be even quicker for Troy Niklas, who ended up on the active non-football-injury list yesterday at the same time the Gresham news was announced. Niklas has a bad hamstring, I would assume hurt while working out in prep for camp.

But that’s two tight ends the Cardinals don’t have for the outset of training camp, and the one open roster spot the team currently has may end up being spent on another tight end just to keep the numbers up — depending on what the timetable might be for Niklas and/or Gresham. It’s another setback for Niklas too, who had his rookie season shredded with injuries — from a broken finger to a bad ankle that needed surgery.

Even without the latest hamstring issue, Niklas acknowledged his ankle isn’t quite 100 percent, noting that his doctor told him it’ll probably be into the season before he builds up all his strength and flexibility.

“I’m not going to make that an excuse,” Niklas said before his hamstring injury. “(The ankle) has healed to a point where I can do mostly everything I want to do.”

As it stands, the Cardinals still have five tight ends ready for camp’s first practice Saturday: Darren Fells, Ifeanyi Momah, Ted Bolser, Gerald Christian and Gannon Sinclair.

GresTEs


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Signings not quite the news they used to be

Posted by Darren Urban on May 13, 2015 – 2:11 pm

The Cardinals now have signed four of their seven draft picks — second-rounder Markus Golden, fourth-rounder Rodney Gunter (pictured below) and fifth-rounders Shaq Riddick and J.J. Nelson. First-rounder D.J. Humphries, third-rounder David Johnson and seventh-round Mr. Irrelevant Gerald Christian all should end up signing sooner rather than later. This is where are now with rookie contracts. Since the new CBA was put into place in 2011, there are no more tension-filled offseasons for teams when it comes to getting their draftees to sign on the dotted line.

It wasn’t always that way. Back in the early 2000s, in my previous life as a newspaper reporter covering the team, signings took the summer. No Cardinal ever seem to sign before July 4th. The days leading into training camp — and often, at least a day or two after training camp started — were spent on contract watch. Sometimes it was just the first-round pick. Sometimes, there were a couple of other contracts that were also pushing the deadline.

Now, all these guys are signed by the time the Cardinals are done with minicamp in mid-June. Everything goes faster. The Bears have made it their mission to get all their picks signed within a day or two of the draft.

(For those asking, players who have not yet signed still can work out. The team and player sign an agreement saying contract negotiations will proceed in good faith even if the unsigned rookie gets hurt. That’s what happened with Dante Fowler and the Jaguars. Fowler blew out his ACL in his first minicamp practice. A few days later, he signed his deal with the Jaguars getting the same money he would have gotten as the No. 3 overall pick had he not been injured.)

There are no more ifs with rookie contracts. It’s when, and there’s not much waiting.

Guntersignsuse


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Louisville TE is Mr. Irrelevant

Posted by Darren Urban on May 2, 2015 – 3:42 pm

The Cardinals closed out the 2015 NFL draft with the pick of “Mr. Irrelevant,” choosing Louisville TE Gerald Christian. At 6-3 and 244, Christian is a little undersized as a true tight end but he could fit that H-back role that Bruce Arians likes to use at times. He had 32 catches for 384 yards and five touchdowns last season, and also has his degree. The Cards, with top tight ends John Carlson, Troy Niklas and Darren Fells, have an opening available on the roster.

And so the Cards go through the draft without taking an inside linebacker or cornerback.

Gerald Christian


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