Rehabbing safety Tyrann Mathieu will tackle during the Cardinals’ one padded practice next week heading into the Sept. 8 season opener against the Chargers. Will he play? Coach Bruce Arians left that door cracked for now, but asked about his statement that Mathieu would have needed to play in Thursday’s game in order to play a week from Monday, Arians quickly said “I wasn’t kidding.”
Arians did chuckle as he said it. “We’ll see how he tackles, though.”
That’s the problem of this time of year, Arians said. Players like Mathieu, linebacker Kevin Minter and guard Jonathan Cooper need to put on pads and play football. “You really can’t do that this time of year,” Arians said.
Mathieu knew going into Thursday he wouldn’t be playing, and all the warmup with pants on was a ruse. “I was just teasing everybody,” he joked. As for the opener, “If the doctors, the trainers, (GM) Steve (Keim) and everybody comes together and think I should play and if it’s best for me, hopefully I can get out there,” Mathieu said.
Put me in the doubtful category, giving what everyone has been saying on the subject. First he has to tackle, and we will see who gets the honor of getting hit.
“That’s what practice squad is for,” Arians quipped.
– Arians did give a James Harrison update. The veteran linebacker met with the Cardinals Friday. “We’ll see what happens,” Arians said, confirming that yes, Harrison would bring a bit of the same attitude to the team lost when Darnell Dockett got hurt. UPDATE: Harrison apparently won’t be coming to Arizona.
Tags: James Harrison, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals have 75 on the roster now. By Saturday at 1 p.m. Arizona time, they must be down to 53. As always, we have a caveat whenever talking about that initial 53-man roster. I would be surprised if the Cardinals don’t claim at least one guy from waivers. Veterans don’t have guaranteed contracts if they are not on the Week 1 roster, so sometimes that’s a factor. If anything, GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians have shown many times the roster is a living, breathing thing subject to change at any and all times. That was apparent again today when the team signed Tommy Kelly, and news broke veteran James Harrison was going to visit. I can’t see Kelly signing and then being cut Saturday, but you never know.
Plus, the final preseason game can have some bearing on a couple of roster spots (Arians said it’d be about five.) And that doesn’t even include any potential injuries that could affect a guy who was going to make the team.
All that must be taken into account as I make my prediction at the 53-man roster (assuming no waiver claims, which I have already assumed will happen, so …):
QB (3): Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas. Ryan Lindley getting cut made this obvious, although it had been obvious for a while.
RB (4): Andre Ellington, Jonathan Dwyer, Stepfan Taylor, Robert Hughes. Jalen Parmele has been good on special teams, but I don’t see it. I could see the Cardinals searching for a back with some speed for the practice squad.
WR (6): Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown, Jaron Brown, Ted Ginn, Walt Powell. Powell has played well enough that I don’t think they can sneak him on to the practice squad. I thought Brittan Golden had a pretty good camp too. He is practice-squad eligible, though.
TE (4): John Carlson, Rob Housler, Troy Niklas, Darren Fells. I could see Andre Hardy sticking on the practice squad too.
OL (8): Jared Veldheer, Ted Larsen, Lyle Sendlein, Paul Fanaika, Bobby Massie, Jonathan Cooper, Bradley Sowell, Earl Watford. This one is a tough one and the play of Sowell and Nate Potter in the finale could go a long way in making a decision on the backup tackle. I am also guessing that Watford, despite not being able to take hold of an available starting job for two straight years, gets another year. This is also one of those spots I’d think is vulnerable to a waiver claim.
DL (7): Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Frostee Rucker, Kareem Martin, Ed Stinson, Alameda Ta’amu, Tommy Kelly. This is one of those places that is tenuous. Kelly’s addition — he is with the team in San Diego, so does he play tomorrow? — adds another intriguing question. I’d guess a final spot will go to either him or Isaac Sopoaga. Can rookie Bruce Gaston make a push or is he practice-squad bound? The Cards are still seeking depth here, wherever they can find it.
OLB (5): Sam Acho, Matt Shaughnessy, John Abraham, Alex Okafor, Marcus Benard.
ILB (4): Kevin Minter, Larry Foote, Kenny Demens, Lorenzo Alexander. These two spots need to be seen in total, and nowhere else was more difficult to sort through. Alexander, I think, is one of those guys who survives because of his special teams work. Marcus Benard has pass-rushing skills that this team could use, but obviously, this leaves Desmond Bishop out. I’d think Thursday night’s game will be important for him. (UDFA Glenn Carson would be a practice-squad candidate). One thing I can’t get out of my head is Arians talking about keeping players at positions that are hard to replace if injuries hit. The Cards may want to stay deep at linebacker given the injury situation. None of this allows for a signing of James Harrison, of course, if that were to happen. This is the position I am least sure about.
CB (5): Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Bryan McCann. I would think the final spot comes down to McCann or Teddy Williams. Williams seemed like a lock to me with his size and special teams ability, but McCann is pretty good on special teams too and Williams has had his ups and downs as a cornerback. Thursday night would seem to be a big game for both.
S (4): Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Deone Bucannon, Tyrann Mathieu. This is assuming Mathieu is close to contributing soon, but even if he isn’t, the Cardinals have a nice trio as Bucannon grows into this role.
Specialists (3): K Chandler Catanzaro, P Dave Zastudil, LS Mike Leach. Pretty straightforward. The Cardinals haven’t come out and said Catanzaro is guaranteed to stick around all season, but I’d think he’ll have his shot to prove himself in games that count.
Tags: Bruce Arians, James Harrison, Roster, Steve Keim, Tommy Kelly
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The fourth preseason game is what it is. Teams are leery about playing anyone of any starting importance, because whatever little you might gain in a few more game reps is highly outweighed by the opportunity to get injured. How the actual game plays out — like the Cardinals going against the Chargers — means nothing. This one may mean even less, since the two teams have to play their very next game against each other. No reason to show anyone anything. At all.
That being said, there are some things to watch in the game tomorrow night, thanks to injuries, a new quarterback and a couple of roster spots that look like they could go either way:
– Logan Thomas is going to get to play the whole game, for the first time in the NFL and likely for the last time in a long time. The rookie fourth-round quarterback looked really good in his debut against Houston, he looked less comfortable against Cincinnati. He gets 60 minutes now, though. Bruce Arians said he just wants to see Thomas be efficient and take care of the ball. Thomas admitted he already has become more settled now since arriving in Arizona, and he knows he’s about to sit and not play (and really, not practice much either) for a long time. He has the right attitude. There’s really nothing on the line since he’s a lock to be on this roster. Take the pressure off, and let’s see what he can do.
– Very curious to see if S Tyrann Mathieu plays. I have long felt that the Cardinals are OK in the secondary to not have any reason to want/need to rush Mathieu back. I don’t think they will rush him. The question is how comfortable/confident Mathieu is to get back into live action. This is about mental as much as physical by now.
– The other guys coming off injuries all are also worth watching. We know the story of Jonathan Cooper at this point, and dealing with his turf toe. The Cardinals are probably best suited to deal with his recovery too with the way Ted Larsen is playing. The team needs Kevin Minter at inside linebacker, and we will see how he can perform. Minter seemed very confident earlier this week. That’s a good sign. Like Mathieu, you want to see nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu in real game action — especially where he plays and how there are always bodies down by your legs — a scary thought for a guy coming off a torn ACL. Again, mental as much as physical.
– As for the battles for rosters spots, these are the ones I see out there (and the ones to watch in the game): The backup tackle spot between Bradley Sowell and Nate Potter, both who figure to start. Potter will be on the left and Sowell on the right Thursday, but it’ll be surprising if both can make the cut. The special teams/cornerback slot with Teddy Williams and Bryan McCann. It figures one will be in, the other out. McCann is a little more polished as a cornerback, but Williams definitely can be more physical. This comes down to who they like better for special teams. And then there are the many linebackers who seem to be on the bubble. Desmond Bishop. Alex Okafor. Lorenzo Alexander. Marcus Benard. Glenn Carson too. You’ve only got so many spots. Pay attention to their play.
– Finally, reports are that the Cardinals will at least work out veteran linebacker James Harrison. Sounds like it’ll be less about anything immediate and instead seeing what is available. Veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly may be the same situation. Something to keep in mind this time of year, signing a veteran after Week One means the salary is not guaranteed, so there will be some vets signed after the first game around the league — especially those who might not have a lot left in the tank.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Alex Okafor, Bradley Sowell, Bryan McCann, Chargers, Desmond Bishop, Glenn Carson, James Harrison, Jonathan Cooper, Kevin Minter, Logan Thomas, Lorenzo Alexander, Marcus Benard, Nate Potter, Ted Larsen, Teddy Williams, Tyrann Mathieu
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The NFL Network’s summer tour of the top 100 players — as chosen by a vote of players — wraps up tonight. Somewhere in the final 10, Larry Fitzgerald will have his named called.
(The show airs at 5 p.m. Arizona time. And I am sure we will have Fitz’s segment available on the site soon after. … And here it is.)
Last year, Fitz was No. 14. Where will he be in a couple of hours? Don’t know. Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson and Patrick Willis remain. I will be interested where Fitz is in relation to Johnson. Something tells me that could get the fans riled up. I already know — since I watched it unfold on Twitter — that people aren’t thrilled Calais Campbell/Adrian Wilson/Darnell Dockett didn’t make the list. Only Patrick Peterson will join Fitz.
Is Campbell or one of the others one of the current 100 best players in the league? An argument can be made, sure. I don’t know how many players participated in the voting, but someone came up with this list. (I mean, is Eli Manning really only the 31st best player? Worse than James Harrison? Or Wes Welker? Um, no.) This is about talking about the NFL in the deadest time of the NFL calendar, however. Don’t ever forget that. Lists are popular to make because they generate such conversation. And we are certainly talking about it, right?
UPDATE: Fitz was seventh. Calvin Johnson was third, behind Rodgers and Brees. Said Fitz on Twitter, “Honored 2 b voted a top 10 player by my peers. Congrats 2 all others. I will continue striving 4 perfection. 6 spots 2 go.
UPDATE, THE SEQUEL: Fitz had an even longer — and poignant — response on Facebook:
“Having been voted a Top 10 NFL player for the 2012 season is a cherished honor because the selection was made by my peers, and a player can have no greater accolade nor satisfaction than knowing that those he lines up against for 60 minutes every week value to the highest degree his talent, competitiveness, effort, productivity and achievement.
“I’ve completed 8 NFL seasons, & while I am somewhat satisfied with personal achievements, I have come close only once to achieving the ultimate team goal.
“Being a productive WR is no longer enough. I’ve grown into a position of leadership as a Cardinals team captain and have tried to expand my role as a mentor and example for our core of young players.
“My sincere hope is that we can get back to the playoffs on a regular basis and become Super Bowl Champions.
“Our team was 2minutes away from that goal on February 4, 2009, and similarly, my 7th rank of NFL top players leaves room for improvement.
“I will strive as always to expand my role and contributions to team success, be as productive as possible,and win a Championship…..”
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Calvin Johnson, Darnell Dockett, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, James Harrison, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Willis, Tom Brady, Wes Welker
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It doesn’t take much to change the outcome of a game. Ray Horton has seen that a couple of times, in a couple of instances when it couldn’t have been on a bigger stage.
In doing an interview with the Cards’ new defensive coordinator the other day, the subject of the little things – and Super Bowls – came up. Don’t forget, Horton was on the defensive staff of that Steelers’ team that beat the Cards a couple of years ago. We started talking about the interception return of linebacker James Harrison right before halftime (careful, don’t throw things at the computer screen).
Afterward, Horton said, he figured the coaching staff watched that play 50 times over and over. He can tell you exactly where everyone on both teams was and ended up. Despite claims by Kurt Warner to the contrary, Horton said the Cards lined up for that play just like they had all season. But Harrison, a linebacker, decided not to blitz as called and for some reason stayed home.
(This is the stomach-punch part of the post, so if you’re faint of heart, look away now).
“You can look at each guy and think, ‘If one guy does one thing different, he doesn’t score,’ ” Horton said of Harrison’s 100-yard touchdown. “It was a dramatic play and it turned the game around. It won or lost that Super Bowl.
“Really, if James Harrison would have done what he was supposed to do … the play (the Cards called) was a perfect play and they would have scored, walked in and probably won the game. But because one guy did something different … the ramifications …”
Horton knows of ramifications. Because if you ask him what play during his 10-year NFL career sticks out, it’s a play just like that – and for Horton, it had the same painful type of result.
He was playing for the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII, the one where Montana hit John Taylor for a game-winning 10-yard touchdown with 30-some seconds to go – just barely past the outstretched fingers of a diving Horton.
The play the Bengals had called was to double-team both Taylor and Jerry Rice (who had 11 catches for 215 yards that day), the right call for the formation. But then Rice went in motion – a change-up – and Horton thought, “We’re screwed.” He thought about calling time out but didn’t, which still sticks with him.
While we talked, Horton jumped up to scribble the play on a white board to explain what happened. Safety David Fulcher was supposed to come across for Taylor. Horton was supposed to stay with Rice, but he quickly realized Rice was the diversion. He tried to jump back and make the play. He just missed the ball, and was lying in the end zone as Taylor finished off the play.
“We are sitting on the bus on the way back and David said, ‘Ray, I could’ve picked that ball, I had nothing to do,’ ” Horton remembered. “I said, ‘I know. I know.’
“It still haunts me.”
Tags: 49ers, Bengals, David Fulcher, James Harrison, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, John Taylor, Kurt Warner, Ray Horton, Steelers, Super Bowl
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The building has gotten quiet here at 8701 South Hardy. The coaches are gone until tomorrow morning, getting some of their brief free time during the week tonight. The Texans will be waiting Sunday, in a game that obviously means a lot. The gap in this league between 2-2 and 1-3 is so much larger than one tick in the win-loss column. With that in mind, some things to chew on as we head into the weekend:
– So much has been said about coach Ken Whisenhunt’s playcalling (and he talked about it himself), but it got me to thinking about something I saw on NBC’s pregame stuff last Sunday before the Chargers-Steelers game about the infamous James Harrison interception. The story had already spread that Harrison wasn’t supposed to be there and that he has supposed to blitz, which would have left Anquan Boldin open. Turns out the Chargers had run the same play against the Steelers earlier in the playoffs and scored a touchdown on a pass to a slot receiver, as Boldin was. It worked because the Steelers had called a blitz and Harrison came, opening a sliver that Philip Rivers threw through.
This is the point: The Cardinals had sniffed out what should have been the perfect playcall against the Steelers’ call, because Harrison was indeed supposed to come again. But Harrison apparently (according to NBC analyst Tony Dungy) felt wrong with blitzing and, unbeknownst to his teammates decided to not do his job on the play. It worked. It could have backfired. And for all the talk of Kurt Warner making a bad throw or Boldin not getting wide enough or even that it was a poor call, it certainly seems that Harrison just made a Pro Bowl hunch and it paid off. Sometimes, the other guy just beats you.
– What could help the Cards’ defense Sunday? How about safety Matt Ware? Sure, Ware isn’t a Pro Bowler. But his absence from a shoulder injury affects this team more than most understand, because when he can’t play Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson’s opportunities to move around are much more limited. Whisenhunt acknowledged “there’s no question” Wilson will be freed up with Ware back. The Cards, who have so many options in their multiple-safety package, just weren’t going to use it as much when the third safety is rookie Rashad Johnson.
“We feel more comfortable with what Matt is going to do in the back half as opposed to what Rashad is going to do just because of his status as a young football player,” Whisenhunt said. “There is no question we have confidence in Rashad as we go forward, but Matt has done it.”
– The Cards may use Beanie Wells more Sunday (and it’s hard to think he won’t get more work than his two-carry game against the Colts) and Whisenhunt said — with a knowing smile, since he knows he says it often – that the Cards want more balance. But, he added with emphasis, “I’ll tell you this, if we come out and we are hitting on all cylinders in the pass game, we’re going to throw it.”
– Speaking of Beanie, if you talk to him, he doesn’t think he has any shortcomings in his game. There’s a fine line between confidence and, as my radio partner Bill Lewis likes to say, “not knowing what you don’t know.” Beanie is clearly frustrated that he isn’t getting much more time on the field (and yes, I know there are plenty of fans who agree with him).
– If Warner throws for 300 yards, it’ll be the 50th time in his career he’s done that. For some reason, I think he definitely gets there this game – yet the Cards still run for enough yardage that Whisenhunt will be happy.
– So much talk about Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson this week. All I can say is, don’t sleep on Anquan. Especially with all the youth in the Texans’ secondary.
It’s getting late (at least, work-wise) and I too want to get what free time I can at home. Think pink Sunday at the game with Breast Cancer Awareness (there will be collection buckets at stadium entrances for anyone looking to make a donation). The Cardinals want to look the part too, so they are breaking out (I think, off the top of my head, for the first time at UoP) the white-on-white uniforms this time around. Red tends to clash with pink and all that. Maybe it changes up the Cards’ home luck, too.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Beanie Wells, Bill Lewis, James Harrison, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Ware, Super Bowl
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