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Taylor injury thins RB options

Posted by Darren Urban on October 28, 2014 – 9:57 am

Andre Ellington has been the Cardinals’ running back workhorse, with increasing carries the past couple of games. This team was always in a position where they needed Ellington to stay healthy and perform, given his skill set. That just becomes more important now, as Stepfan Taylor — Ellington’s backup — is expected to miss “significant time,” according to coach Bruce Arians, because of a calf injury.

(Feels like the Ellington-Taylor story might have been a jinx. … OK, not really.)

Taylor didn’t have a carry against the Eagles before going out with the injury in the second half. But it now means that the top two backs that were supposed to support Ellington — Jonathan Dwyer and Taylor — are not around. And this is all while Ellington is playing through a bum foot. The Cardinals have explored adding a running back through trade but nothing has been that close to happening and now, Marion Grice — a rookie sixth-round pick of San Diego who was cut and on a practice squad before the Cards signed him — is the Ellington backup. You’d think at some point, the Cards will have to add a back to the 53-man roster. Kerwynn Williams is an option from their own practice squad. Robert Hughes simply has a different role.

Of course, if Ellington can stay on the field, maybe it doesn’t matter as much. Ellington took every one of the Cardinals’ 23 rushing attempts against Philly. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin has said a couple of times he thinks Grice can play the same kind of role Ellington does. The Cardinals may have to find out, at least on a limited basis.

UPDATE: The Cardinals made a practice squad move to give them running back options, bringing local guy Zach Bauman back to the practice squad and releasing cornerback Anthony Gaitor.

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QB-less, it’s Friday before the Redskins

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2014 – 4:21 pm

One year with Carson Palmer taking every snap, and it’s easy to forget what it can be like with quarterback uncertainty. Then a week like this happens and the memories all come crashing back. No one is saying this is like 2012 all over again, when Ken Whisenhunt, scrambling for a quarterback, kept mixing and matching. In fact, even that team never really had a situation like Bruce Arians is facing now, when injuries have precluded him from naming a starter here on Friday.

Realistically, both Carson Palmer and his funky shoulder and Drew Stanton, coming off a concussion, have injuries that could “go away” and then rear up again on Sunday morning. As of Friday afternoon, both guys are taking tests to see where they are in their recovery. It’s looked good up until this point, but it makes sense caution is the buzzword in this instance.

I will not be surprised if any of the three is behind center for the Cardinals’ first snap Sunday. There is still an eternity until 1:25 p.m. Sunday.

UPDATE: Multiple reports Friday night said Stanton passed his concussion test. That does not necessarily mean Stanton would start.

– If Logan Thomas does have to play? Larry Fitzgerald has one word: “Patience.”

“Got to be patient,” Fitz said. “Just try to make plays for them. Nothing more soothing for a young person than when you make a play and kind of be a security blanket.”

– Speaking of Fitz, he said he’s not thinking of his slow start. Of course he’s going to say that out loud. Of course I think he’s thinking about it. He’s a guy who wants to get to the Hall of Fame. A season playing out like this is not helping that cause.

– With everything going on around the quarterbacks and the injuries and the like, there’s been no room to mention the return of wide receiver Andre Roberts to University of Phoenix Stadium. Roberts signed with the Redskins as a free agent after four seasons in Arizona. “If something happens to Pierre (Garcon) or DeSean (Jackson), we feel just as good as him outside as our first or second guy,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said. “Really like him. Good kid, too.”

Roberts thought he was going to Washington to be the No. 2 behind Garcon. Then Jackson was acquired, and Roberts was stuck as the No. 3 guy again, exactly the situation he was trying to escape in Arizona.

– Last week’s offensive stats, thanks to needing to play the raw Thomas, were probably an outlier. But the Cardinals went just 3-for-16 on third downs last week. It was awful. That cannot happen. This defense needs time to rest on the sideline.

– Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin wasn’t thrilled with the run game last week. It’ll be more important if Thomas has to start, but even if Palmer or Stanton plays, the Cards need more on the ground.

“I don’t care who is playing quarterback,” Goodwin said. “We didn’t do a very good job last week. You’d get a positive run and then all of sudden you’d get minus-two on the next play.

“It’s going to take some of the pressure off (Logan) if he plays. Have to get positive yards on first and second downs. We had 12 runs of two (yards) or less. Not close to being good enough.”

– The Cardinals haven’t run enough, Arians said. Asked about getting more carries for Stepfan Taylor or even working Marion Grice, Arians said the Cards need to be more effective on the ground in the first place and then see where Andre Ellington is physically. Because at this point, Ellington is the man, Arians said. Ellington had 16 of the Cardinals’ 19 rushing attempts in Denver.

“(Andre) felt very, very fresh out there,” Arians said. “And if he’s fresh, he’s staying in.”

– Stanton and Redskins starting QB Kirk Cousins have a good relationship. Cousins was an incoming freshman at Michigan State at the same time Stanton was just leaving as QB. “Went out to dinner with him a couple of times when he was in school, talked with him on the phone and via text,” Stanton said. “I don’t want to be one of those guys who tries to tell him how to do everything.”

Said Cousins, “I’ve always looked up to him as a guy who had a lot of success at Michigan State and then as a high draft pick as somebody I could follow in the footsteps of,” Cousins said.

– The Redskins have beaten the Cardinals eight times in a row. The last Cardinals’ win? The game that might’ve clinched University of Phoenix Stadium.

– Hard to believe that before the Cardinals interviewed Arians for the head coaching job, they interviewed Gruden. Two things I remember from that day, when Gruden met with the media. If you closed your eyes, there were definitely times he sound like his brother Jon, and he didn’t exactly come across like he was super excited about the job. Now he’s got the Washington job and he’ll be on the opposite sideline.

Now, who he’ll be trying to defend as the Cardinals’ quarterback … well, I guess we’ll see, won’t we.

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Stanton better, not cleared; QB situation still muddy

Posted by Darren Urban on October 9, 2014 – 2:23 pm

There was no real update in the Cardinals’ not-sure-who-is-gonna-start quarterback situation. Drew Stanton wasn’t at practice at the outset, when it is open to the media, but showed up later and was officially limited again, as was Carson Palmer. Stanton was in good spirits after practice, talking for the first time since suffering his concussion Sunday in Denver. Stanton said he’s been happy to at least be cleared for non-contact throwing — Stanton said with a smile it helps his position is non-contact in practice anyway — and that he will take the concussion tests again Friday.

Stanton still hopes to be cleared and be available Sunday. He said he is symptom-free. Palmer was throwing some at the outset of practice again, but it’s impossible to tell if he was truly improved. He wasn’t available to talk and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin did not address Palmer’s health directly. It’s a good sign Palmer hasn’t regressed at least.

At this point, it would not be a surprise in the least to not know who is starting at quarterback before Sunday. If Stanton is cleared but the Cardinals don’t deem him quite ready to start, I could see all three guys on the 46-man active roster for the game and not knowing who is going to start until near gametime (although it would probably leak before then.)

I can say this with certainty: All the players talking about it Thursday either don’t know themselves who will start or are doing a great job keeping up with a charade. I think it’s the former. Bruce Arians will talk again tomorrow. We’ll see what Friday brings.

– If starting right guard Paul Fanaika, who sat out again Thursday with ankle and calf problems, can’t play, then he will be replaced in the lineup by Jonathan Cooper. Ted Larsen will stay on the left side.


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No changes on the line — meaning Coop delayed

Posted by Darren Urban on September 24, 2014 – 9:26 am

Look back to the year the Cardinals made the Super Bowl, and open the page of the season in review to the game-by-game starting lineups. On offense, it’s not hard to notice:

LT           LG          C                  RG         RT

Gandy    Wells     Sendlein     Lutui     L. Brown

Gandy    Wells     Sendlein     Lutui     L. Brown

Gandy    Wells     Sendlein     Lutui     L. Brown

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, all the way through the Super Bowl.

Continuity on the offensive line isn’t the only reason the Cardinals got to the final game that season, but it was a reason. And it’s what popped into my head Tuesday as offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Harold Goodwin made very clear the offensive line wouldn’t be changing unless there is an injury. No, Jonathan Cooper will not be going back into the lineup at left guard for Ted Larsen. The Cardinals like the job Larsen has done. More importantly Goodwin doesn’t want to change what is working (I believe I’ve mentioned that a time or two) as the Cardinals have had much better line play and, of course, a 3-0 start.

It’s about communication, Goodwin said, and keeping that intact.

Look, Cooper isn’t going anywhere. He’s not a bust. Can’t say that yet. I will be stunned if he is not a starter in 2015. There is still a chance he could play this year. Goodwin expressed his confidence in Cooper as a player, and at this point, Goody has shown he’s not the kind of guy to hand out platitudes. But the slow start in camp of Cooper coming back from that broken leg, and the turf toe that delayed his progress, seems to have set his course in cement for 2014.

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Game day for Andre and Saturday before the Chargers

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2014 – 3:02 pm

Will he or won’t he? I’m sure the last thing the Cardinals wanted going into the opener was having their key offensive piece be a game-day decision, but that’s where we are left with running back Andre Ellington and his pesky foot problem. Bruce Arians said Ellington did enough in practice Saturday (pictured right) to convince him that Ellington could possibly play Monday, so there is that.

“We can’t worry about injuries,” Arians said. “Nobody cares but us.”Andre3MAINblog

Even if he doesn’t play, the beat moves on. If you look at the key guys not playing in total that you had hoped would – Washington and Mathieu and Dockett and Cooper, aside from Ellington – it can be a daunting list. But these are things that don’t make Bruce Arians flinch. He will forever have that 2012 season with the Colts burned on his brain, when everyone seemed to get hurt for Indy (except for Andrew Luck) and they still won 11 games. That will be the memory Arians will fall back upon, and why his “Next Man Up” battle cry isn’t just lip service. Whether the Cardinals can too make it work, we’ll see. The Chargers are just the first in a tough schedule.

– Punter Dave Zastudil was added to the injury list as questionable Saturday with a groin injury. That’s not good, obviously. The Cardinals did cut linebacker Desmond Bishop Saturday, so maybe the Cardinals fill that spot with a new punter if Zastudil can’t go. (Kicker Chandler Catanzaro punted once last season in college at Clemson.)

– If I had to pick just one major key to the game Monday, I’d have to go with the pressure the Cardinals need to put on Philip Rivers. There are other important aspects, of course. The Cardinals need to show they can stop the run again, and they need to protect Carson Palmer as promised. But after the vanilla preseason, it’s important that the Cards can hurry Rivers in the pocket. Once in a while without a blitz, preferably.

– Here is not a surprise in the least: The presence of new left tackle Jared Veldheer has completely changed the tension level for offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin.

“For me, for Carson, it’s about being comfortable,” Goodwin said. “For me, I can worry about other things. I don’t have to worry about chip-help for the tackle all the time. That relieves a whole lot of stress.”

No question Veldheer gives the Cardinals something Levi Brown simply did not, and that Bradley Sowell can not. In the end, Veldheer is seen by many fans as a savior to that position, although Veldheer isn’t all that comfortable with the notion.

“I guess that’s an OK thing, but to me, the biggest thing is being accountable to the guys on the line and the offense and the team,” he said. “And that’s me doing my job.”

– Got a chance to catch up briefly with Darnell Dockett yesterday, and he was as Darnell as always. He’s already pushing himself hard on his knee, even this early.

“You put the time in, got nothing else to do,” he said. “My coaches are supporting me, they know my work so they give me the green light to do everything I can to come back faster. There can’t be a better situation other than not being in this situation in the first place.”

– I’ve had many people ask me what the ramifications might be for suspended linebacker Daryl Washington if the new drug policy – rumored to be close – is passed. The truth is, I have no idea. Part of the problem is that it hasn’t publicly been said why Washington was suspended. He said in his statement it was for marijuana, but you’d need more details than that. Let’s put it this way, first this new policy actually has to be put in place – and it hasn’t yet. I still wouldn’t hold my breath for Washington even if it does.

– It’ll be an emotional night Monday. Aside from the game itself and the knowledge it is on national television, Kurt Warner gets inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime. I’d guess there will be some well-remembered highlights played too. Don’t leave your seats.

– Carparks open at 3 p.m. Monday. Don’t forget your clear bags.

– With all the Ellington news, the possibility of Tyrann Mathieu playing has seemingly been pushed to the background. I still think the Cardinals are going to err on the side of caution and keep him out for now, but Arians said again it’ll be a game-day thing.

– Crazy to think Alameda Ta’amu is fine after tearing his ACL in the 2013 season finale, but the nose tackle should be in the defensive line rotation and his biggest issue is his stamina. “He’s full go. He runs on and off the field and gets out of gas. That’s a lot of ass to carry back and forth out there.”

So, on that note, on to Monday night.

 


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Goodwin, not B.A., calling plays in San Diego

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2014 – 6:36 pm

There is not an official “not expected to play” list tonight, since so many players are not expected to play. Already, Larry Fitzgerald is on the field without even having his uniform on, and Bruce Arians said earlier in the week no starters would play (although I would guess there might be one or two.)

That’s not the only change tonight. Because of the circumstances of it both being a fourth preseason game and because the Cardinals have to face the Chargers again in the regular-season opener, Arians decided to hand over the reins of playcalling duties to offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin tonight. It’s the first time in many, many years Arians has not called plays. He made clear when he showed up in Arizona he would be calling plays, and that will remain true. (The last time Arians wasn’t in a position to call plays was 2006 in Pittsburgh, when he was wide receivers coach and the offensive coordinator/play caller was a man named Ken Whisenhunt.)

“It’s going to be different for me,” Arians said.

This not only gives Goodwin a chance to practice doing it for the first time, but it also helps the Cards somewhat in the the back-to-back Charger battles. It’s hard to get a read on what the Cardinals like to call in certain situations if the playcaller changes.

“This will screw up the computer pretty good for three days,” Arians said.

Arians will of course be calling the plays Sept. 8. Already, Arians said the offensive game plan will be basic and tailored to things rookie quarterback Logan Thomas is comfortable with. It’ll be an interesting thing to watch for tonight.

– Arians also said Tyrann Mathieu will not play tonight. No need to rush him.


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Cards bring in vet T Starks

Posted by Darren Urban on August 1, 2014 – 10:27 am

For a second straight year, the Cardinals have brought in a veteran tackle around the beginning of training camp. Unlike last year, the addition of Max Starks will in theory be about depth than starting — which is really why the Cards grabbed Eric Winston a year ago.

Last year, the Cardinals were not comfortable with Bobby Massie at right tackle, and when Winston was available, they made it work. Winston ended up starting all season. This year, the feeling on Massie has changed. This is likely more of a depth move — Bruce Arians will address it in a bit — and who knows? Maybe this is more about Bradley Sowell or Nate Potter. In the end, it’ll be about the competition it creates. At this point in his career, Starks is no lock to make the roster. He started all 16 games at tackle for the Steelers in 2012, but last year, he played only two games with the Rams after the Chargers cut him in the preseason.

UPDATE: It’s definitely about depth and not Massie.

What he does do is give Arians and OC/OL coach Harold Goodwin someone with whom they are familiar from their time in Pittsburgh.

The Cardinals also cut kicker Danny Hrapmann, so that battle is down to Jay Feely and Chandler Catanzaro. Tackle Cory Brandon was released too, so the Cardinals now have an open roster spot.

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The black stripes are not a band

Posted by Darren Urban on June 3, 2014 – 7:32 am

Those looking at the photos from yesterday’s OTA or the video seemed to notice the black stripe on the Cardinals’ helmets. OK, it wasn’t on all their helmets. It was only on the helmet of the quarterbacks. That alone should give you a hint that it was something else besides some interesting new tweak to the team’s headgear. So no, the Cardinals aren’t going for a new look (although it is kind of catchy, no?)

In fact, it’s a simple way for the coaching staff to have an easier time to see what way the quarterback’s eyes are pointed when watching some of the videoed-from-high-above practice footage every day. The shots that include all 22 players on the field can make everyone look a little small on the screen. This is just another tool to make sure Bruce Arians, assistant head coach Tom Moore, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens have all the information they can in their work with the QBs.

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Splitting right side reps and OTA notes

Posted by Darren Urban on May 27, 2014 – 1:27 pm

Last week, Bobby Massie (at right tackle) and Earl Watford (right guard) started getting some work with the first unit. It wasn’t that surprising, given how open the job is right now. Bruce Arians clarified it a little more after Tuesday’s OTA, which again featured Massie and Watford with the first unit. By the time the Cards go through six OTAs, Arians said, Massie-Watford and Bradley Sowell-Paul Fanaika will each get three with the first unit. The reps will continue to be divvied up, and let’s face it, nothing can be determined now because offensive linemen aren’t even blocking now. There’s no way to prove yourself in the time of year when, as Arians likes to say, the Cardinals are just playing soccer. The true depth chart/starting jobs won’t be figured out until training camp and the preseason.

(Although, for instance, Massie must sidestep too many mental errors right now, the bugaboo that Arians and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Harold Goodwin like to bring up.)

– Tuesday’s workout was moved an hour earlier with the heat. No bubble will be used when there are this many players. You can only have so many guys inside. Besides, Arians said, “we need the heat to get in shape.” They’ll get in shape, that’s for sure. With some missing players and the fact Arians uses two fields, all the main guys were taking a ton of reps Tuesday. If you were looking to see, for instance, Larry Fitzgerald vs. Antonio Cromartie, there were plenty of opportunities.

– The rookies are a little banged up after minicamp. First-round pick Deone Bucannon has a minor turf toe, Arians said. WR Walt Powell also had to sit out.

– The early thoughts on Andre Ellington from Arians? Hopefully 25 to 30 touches a game, which is a ton and basically unheard of these days for a running back. A lot of that will have to do with Ellington’s receptions (Arians has made no secret he wants to use Ellington a bunch as a receiver). There’s no question Ellington is the No. 1 back. How that translates to the stat sheet, we will see.

– Arians did say the Cardinals will use more two-back packages than last season, and that’s not the time when a tight end moves back there. There will be no true fullback on the roster, but both Jonathan Dwyer and Robert Hughes are beefy enough to be in there, I’d think.

– As the team waits on word about Daryl Washington’s status, Arians said he would like to add a veteran inside linebacker if the right guy came available. That’s not a big surprise.

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Todd Bowles and a head coaching future

Posted by Darren Urban on December 19, 2013 – 10:04 am

When Bruce Arians announced the hiring of his defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles, and his offensive coordinator, Harold Goodwin, neither had spent even a day in the Cardinals’ facility when Arians was saying he wanted them to be head coaches sooner rather than later.

Bowles, with a defense ranked seventh and playing excellent football all season for a team that’s 9-5, rightly has to be noticed as a potential candidate. That was emphasized by a report on mmqb.si.com, which said that the NFL created a group of former coaches and GMs to help identify some top head coaching and GM candidates heading into the offseason. The list reportedly is only available to teams that have a vacancy — so the Texans would have it now, for instance, because they fired Gary Kubiak — and has an emphasis on minority candidates after 14 consecutive white coaches and general managers were hired last year.

The Cardinals actually interviewed three of the names for the job Arians eventually got — former defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. But also on the list is Bowles, who replaced Horton and has done a nice job with the expectations that came with it.

Bowles has spent a brief amount a time as a head coach, serving as the interim boss for the Miami Dolphins at the end of the 2011 season. When I did a story about him recently, I also had a chance to ask him about Arians’ desire to have him become a head coach, and his own thoughts on the subject.

“I just want to be the best coach I can possibly be,” Bowles said. “Coming in here, regardless if you are replacing someone good or bad, you have to prove yourself. No different than a player. That’s all I was concerned about. I don’t worry about being a head coach. I worry about being a good coach. I know what I am. They know what I am.”

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