Karlos Dansby was an extra.
Yes, the Cardinals already had Daryl Washington and knew Washington was going to be suspended the first four games of this season. So the team brought in veteran Jasper Brinkley on a two-year deal and had just spent a second-round pick on Kevin Minter. They still had Reggie Walker at the time. They’d bid their time at inside linebacker until Washington returned. Dansby was too expensive anyway. But then Dansby wasn’t, dropping his price and his thoughts on an extended contract, and he was willing to sign in Arizona for one year and $2.25 million. It was a bargain if Dansby could play like the Cardinals remembered. Now, he is doing just that.
But again, in this ever-changing, fluid world of roster churn, Dansby wasn’t part of the plan when GM Steve Keim first started this overhaul. So now the question is whether Dansby is now part of the plan.
Dansby’s play has been fantastic. He is in great shape, he and Washington are pushing each other and ‘Los smiles all the time. He’s a happy man. Some have suggested that having Minter sit on the bench is crazy, that Minter is a second-round pick and should play. To that I answer this: For who? Minter was probably going to play at some point until Dansby landed in the Cards’ laps. Right now, both Dansby and Washington are playing well. You don’t break that up just to say you are playing your second-round pick. Minter, at some point, will get his chance.
As for Dansby, yes, he will turn 32 next month, but he would seem to be a candidate for a extension. Does that happen? There is no question Karlos was expecting more from the free-agent market last offseason and now he’ll be a year older. Does he want to test the market? He said he’s not worrying about his contract situation, and I believe him. He already had reality slap him in the face last offseason. But this is where Steve Keim earns his salary, determining not only if and how Dansby fits beyond this season, but also how much to offer. In this new world of football analytics, you just don’t pay a lot for aging inside linebackers, even if they have played well. You are adjusting for what you are going to get, not what you already have gotten, and it will be very interesting to see what the price point will be for Dansby.
Clearly, though, the return of ‘Los to Arizona has been a tremendous success. He may have started as an extra, but he’s become much more.
Tags: Daryl Washington, Jasper Brinkley, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Steve Keim
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Some newsy quick hitters after Bruce Arians addressed the media today, the day after Daryl Washington’s return-to-action party:
— Arians sees Andre Ellington’s role at 30 to 35 plays a game. But that might top it out. Arians said he doesn’t see Ellington’s body type to hold up with a much heavier workload, and he emphasized Ellington will continue to get work as both running back and receiver.
— Stepfan Taylor is doing a “great job” on special teams. Ryan Williams, as we have said ourselves many times, doesn’t play special teams, Arians said. So Williams isn’t going to be active. I think that changes if there is an injury, but in the meantime, Williams will stay inactive, it looks like.
— The only injury from Sunday was a hamstring problem for linebacker Kenny Demens, which will likely sideline him this week, Arians said. Linebacker Jasper Brinkley (groin) and safety Rashad Johnson (finger) should return this week, the coach added. Arians said he didn’t want Johnson playing with a big “mitt” of a cast, but Johnson should be down to a small splint this week.
— He said Andre Roberts was playing inside early in the season when he was effective, and when tight end Rob Housler came back, Roberts went outside and became less effective. It’s something the coaches will look at.
— As far as Housler, he’s a “work in progress” Arians said. “He’s not on the same page as Carson (Palmer),” Arians added.
— Arians said there would be no change in the schedule to prepare for next week’s short week, which features a trip to San Francisco for Sunday and then a home game against Seattle a week from Thursday. The Cards won’t worry about Seattle until after San Francisco, Arians said.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Daryl Washington, Jasper Brinkley, Kenny Demens, Rashad Johnson, Rob Housler, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor
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Injuries will keep safety Rashad Johnson (finger) and linebacker Jasper Brinkley (groin) sidelined today, as both were included on the Cardinals’ inactive list. One non-change, even with the trade of Levi Brown — Bruce Arians will still have eight offensive linemen active. Earl Watford — who has been running second unit left guard — will be up and available for the first time today.
Along with Johnson and Brinkley, the rest of the inactive list has familiar names:
— QB Ryan Lindley
— RB Ryan Williams
— WR Kerry Taylor
— T Bobby Massie
— TE D.C. Jefferson
Tags: Earl Watford, inactives, Jasper Brinkley, Panthers, Rashad Johnson
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This may be a game between the Cardinals and the Lions, but it feels like in some way, shape or form this week has been about arguably the best two wide receivers in the game (with a little Levi Brown sprinkled in.) Seeing how the Cardinals deal with Calvin Johnson – through Patrick Peterson, of course – was a natural, and then Larry Fitzgerald had to go and tweak his hamstring Wednesday and make his status a big part of the narrative.
The Lions are a better team and more importantly, in a better place, than the group that showed up to University of Phoenix Stadium last December and got pounded, 38-10. Then again, and I think this gets lost, so are the Cardinals. That Cardinals team was floundering on offense (and did so again in that game, mostly, even with the lopsided score) and on a nine-game losing streak. So it’s not like the Cards haven’t moved forward themselves.
It comes down to this: You can’t afford to start 0-2. Not in this division, not with this schedule, not with a team coming cross country to play in your home opener.
“We need a great crowd and the energy that will be there in the stadium,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Hopefully it will ignite us even more. Sometimes you use the opponent’s crowd cheering for them, but it’s nothing like when they are cheering for you.”
— Fitzgerald was asked this week if there are any matchups against a cornerback he relishes like Peterson does going against a guy like Johnson. Fitz said – no doubt knowing exactly what he meant – that it would be Peterson.
“Every day I match up with Patrick is special, in practice,” Fitzgerald said. “I have the benefit of having the top guy in my own locker room.”
We will take him at his word. Fitz did note how Peterson has gotten so much smarter as a cornerback, using safety help to create better leverage and just overall taking a step forward in the mental game when he already had a lot going for him physically. “That’s a deadly, deadly combination,” Fitz said.
— Life on an island against great receivers isn’t easy. But it can’t matter, cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “You know what you are getting into once you play this position,” Powers said. “You know some of the big-time names and guys in the league out there who have proved it, Calvin and Larry, that you know are top-notch. You have to believe in your technique and believe in your ability. They put their shoes on just like they do. You just have to have that type of confidence.”
— Big game for left tackle Levi Brown. It’s one thing to deal with speedster Robert Quinn on the turf. He’ll be back on grass, and the Lions don’t have an edge guy like Quinn. For all the focus on the Peterson-Megatron matchup, everyone knows Brown will be under the microscope too, after last week.
“We have a high expectation for that position and he has to meet that,” said offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Harold Goodwin. “(He needs to) carry over things he does in practice and take it to the game. That’s all he has to do and he’ll be fine.”
— Arians said he thought inside linebackers Jasper Brinkley and Karlos Dansby played “solid” in St. Louis, although he said Brinkley got caught in space a couple of times. Profootballfocus.com gave both good grades against the run but noted their struggles in pass coverage.
— Missed tackles were an issue last week too. “I’m not surprised,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “Probably disappointed. (The Rams) are a good football team. We just have to tackle better. We had been doing a good job of it, but we didn’t last week.”
— Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was credited with two tackles and one quarterback pressure last week, according to the coaching staff. Dockett will need to make more of an impact for this defense to really shine.
“I don’t feel I played bad,” Dockett said. “I played well in spurts. I can do better. No matter what the stats say I always feel I could have done something better. The biggest thing was creating pressure when I had one-on-one blocks, I could have done a lot better with those.”
— The Cardinals, if you wanted to know, will be wearing their red jerseys. I anticipate white pants.
— There were no fines last week for the Rams for any of the hits on Andre Roberts. But cornerback Cortland Finnegan was fined $7,875 for a late hit (I believe on Michael Floyd, that was the play Finnegan drew an unnecessary roughness flag) and so was St. Louis linebacker William Hayes, who hit someone late after the play on a punt.
— Almost a week later, Tyrann Mathieu still isn’t going to get all giddy about his forced fumble against Rams tight end Jared Cook last week. He’s much more matter-of-fact.
“It definitely boosts your confidence, let’s you know you can make plays in the NFL,” Mathieu said. “I am looking forward to making more plays like that in the NFL. It’s all about how you practice. If you practice those things, 100 percent of the time you will make those plays in games.”
I mentioned that both Arians and Hall of Famer Deion Sanders (who happens to be a Mathieu mentor) called it one of the best plays they had ever seen. Mathieu shrugged his shoulders. “If I forced a fumble and picked it up and ran it back 100 yards, that’s amazing to me,” Mathieu said. “But I understand why they said it. It was a big-time play. I’m happy those guys are rooting for me.”
OK, that’s plenty. Cards-Lions Sunday. I’ll be on pre-game radio at 10 a.m., on KTAR 92.3 FM, if you want to give a listen.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Calvin Johnson, Cortland Finnegan, Darnell Dockett, Deion Sanders, Harold Goodwin, Jasper Brinkley, Jerraud Powers, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Lions, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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The first depth chart of the regular season — officially unofficial that it is — is out. Yes, the team puts one out but let’s face it, there is nothing making the coaches stay true to it, so as usual, there is a grain of salt aspect that must come with it. That said, Ryan Williams, after everything he went through in training camp, is still listed as the No. 2 running back behind Rashard Mendenhall. Stepfan Taylor is three, Alfonso Smith four, Andre Ellington fifth.
The rest of the chart doesn’t change much. Jim Dray is listed as a starter now with Rob Housler in the two-tight end sets. That’s no surprise. Dray has been the steadiest tight end the Cards have had. New tackle Bradley Sowell is listed as a right tackle, third on the depth chart behind Eric Winston and Bobby Massie. As always, you can view the whole chart here: http://www.azcardinals.com/team/depth-chart.html
— The Cardinals had a handful of jersey number changes too, the most significant being veteran linebacker John Abraham’s ability to go back to wearing No. 55. That comes compliments of fellow veteran LB Karlos Dansby, who will take the No. 56 of the departed Reggie Walker. Also changing were Winston, who takes No. 73 from No. 65, linebacker Jasper Brinkley, who takes No. 52 from No. 54, and safety Tony Jefferson, who goes to No. 22 from No. 36.
— UPDATE: The Cards filled out the final three spots on the practice squad with LB Kenny Demens (cut earlier this week), DT Anthony McCloud (cut by Minnesota) and WR Sam McGuffie (cut by Oakland).
— Don’t forget the first of weekly Tuesday chats today at 2 p.m. The link is right here.
— In case you missed it, here is a photo gallery from Larry Fitzgerald’s trip to Pitt last night to get his No. 1 jersey retired.
Tags: Anthony McCloud, depth chart, Eric Winston, Jasper Brinkley, jersey numbers, Jim Dray, John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, Kenny Demens, Larry Fitzgerald, practice squad, Rob Housler, Roster, Ryan Williams, Sam McGuffie, Tony Jefferson
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Nothing super exciting today, other than a chance to talk to Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter on the Cardinals Daily Report (below). But here are some notes and observations:
— Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Tyrann Mathieu forced a fumble, punching a ball lose after a catch by tight end Jeff King. It’s going to be very interesting to see him in games because over the last week or so, Mathieu has been a playmaking machine.
— We’ve mentioned Jaron Brown, Charles Hawkins and Robert Gill as receiving options, and after the depth chart came out it was clear Kerry Taylor had made inroads as the No. 4 receiver. Someone who hasn’t been mentioned (and I will admit I didn’t think we would be) is recent rookie signee Robby Toma out of Notre Dame. He’s not big, he’s not real fast. But it’s tough not to notice him catching almost every pass thrown to him.
— Veteran safety Yeremiah Bell made a very impressive diving interception — he fully laid out to grab it — against Ryan Lindley. Who says being 35 has to hinder athletic plays?
— (By the way, both the Bell pick and the Mathieu play are caught in today’s highlight package you can see here.)
— Bell said he hadn’t expected QB Ryan Lindley to throw the pass. It’s been a rough stretch for Lindley, and now Arians is talking about keeping only two QBs. It’ll be very interesting to see how Lindley does in preseason games.
— Drew Stanton did hit Andre Roberts with a long touchdown pass at one point.
— RB Andre Ellington left practice early on Tuesday with what looked like some sort of neck issue. It didn’t look serious (he walked off the field fine) but he did not return.
— Those sitting included DT Ricky Lumpkin (ankle), RB Ryan Williams (knee), LB Karlos Dansby (hamstring), G Daryn Colledge (leg), WR Robert Gill (hamstring), WR Kerry Taylor (hamstring), TE Kory Sperry (ankle), CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring), LB Alex Okafor (ankle), DT Dan Williams (ankle) and LB Kenny Demens (not sure on his injury).
— Just when Arians was asked about a lack of scuffles in camp, there was a scuffle. Guard Scott Wedige and defensive end Ronald Talley got into it a little bit after one play, but teammates quickly broke it up. Perhaps they were all warning the pair about Arians’ rule against camp fights.
— Officially John Abraham is listed third on the depth chart at linebacker. But as proof as why the depth chart is dangerous, Abraham — as he has been since he showed up — is running first unit nickel as the right side pass rusher. Matt Shaughnessy is on the left, with Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell in the middle. The linebackers are Reggie Walker (with Dansby out) and Jasper Brinkley. The corners are Patrick Peterson and Antoine Cason on the outside, with Jerraud Powers as nickel slot. Bell and Rashad Johnson are the safeties.
— Random note: Prior to Tuesday’s roster moves (which are unlikely to impact the salary cap anyway), the Cardinals had $5.76 million in salary cap space.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Andre Ellington, Antoine Cason, Calais Campbell, Charles Hawkins, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Jamell Fleming, Jaron Brown, Jasper Brinkley, Jerraud Powers, John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, Kenny Demens, Kerry Taylor, Kory Sperry, Matt Shaughnessy, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Reggie Walker, Ricky Lumpkin, Robby Toma, Robert Gill, Ronald Talley, Ryan Williams, Scott Wedige, Tyrann Mathieu, Yeremiah Bell
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Here’s one way to look at it, and a good one, from coach Bruce Arians when talking about gaining team chemistry in training camp: “This is not a time for chemistry. My philosophy is, we’re not the Cardinals yet. Now we are 90 guys trying to get a job. We’ll become the Cardinals when 53 of them are picked. Then we will be a team.”
Along those lines, since we are talking about guys winning jobs, here are some observations a few days into camp that could play into that:
— One cornerback who has made a lot of plays is Javier Arenas. It could turn into a nice pickup given the price to get Arenas — FB Anthony Sherman — was going to be released anyway. Arenas broke up a bomb to Patrick Peterson yesterday and fought Larry Fitzgerald into one incompletion today. He’s not perfect, of course, but given all the other cornerbacks, he’s just going to make cutdown harder. The fact he could be the kickoff return man also plays into his favor.
— I think CB Jerraud Powers has made some plays too.
— Michael Floyd has looked good. Not that it’s a surprise. It’s a continuation of what he did this summer.
— Bruce Arians noted that Paul Fanaika, the Arizona State product who signed as a tackle, has done well in transition to guard. Lo and behold, he’s second-string right guard, which means he’s starting while Daryn Colledge is sidelined with his leg injury.
— That also means fourth-round pick Earl Watford is pretty far down the depth chart right now. Watford looks the part but he’s raw. He’s got work to do and it will be interesting to see how he does in preseason games.
— Didn’t see tight end Jeff King, who sat out Sunday’s practice, at Monday’s afternoon practice. Not sure what it is. Maybe it is related to the knee issue he was rehabbing from this offseason. Alex Gottlieb is already nursing a sore hamstring. And then Kory Sperry left the field early in Monday’s work. Newly acquired Mickey Shuler was there but he had arrived so close to practice he wasn’t even wearing Cardinals gear yet, much less practicing. The Cards are thin at the spot right now. Rookie D.C. Jefferson got a ton of reps (along with Rob Housler and Jim Dray.)
— The defensive coaches continue to mix-n-match a lot of the lineups. One nickel package had four linemen, although John Abraham was on the right side standing up, with Calais Campbell at RDE/RDT (depending on if you’re counting Abraham as a linebacker or end), Frostee Rucker as DT/NT and Matt Shaughnessy as LDE. Reggie Walker and Karlos Dansby were the linebackers (although Walker was in for Jasper Brinkley, sidelined with a sore knee).
— The first-string base defense continues to include Campbell, Dan Williams, Dockett up front; Alexander, Dansby, Brinkley, Acho at linebacker; Powers and Peterson at cornerback and Johnson and Bell at safety. Tyrann Mathieu continues to get lots of reps, not only at safety but nickel cover corner too.
— Running back talk is always going to start with Mendenhall and Ryan Williams while Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington have impressed Arians too. But to me, Alfonso Smith is going to make it very hard to cut him loose. The guy competes and he’s looked good when he’s gotten chances. He may again run into a numbers game, but Smith has made an impression.
— Speaking of making an impression, the defensive linemen tend to do that when they hit the sled:
Tags: Alex Gottlieb, Alfonso Smith, Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, D.C. Jefferson, Dan Williams, Earl Watford, Frostee Rucker, Jasper Brinkley, Jeff King, Jerraud Powers, Jim Dray, John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, Kory Sperry, Lorenzo Alexander, Matt Shaughnessy, Michael Floyd, Mickey Shuler, Paul Fanaika, Rashard Mendenhall, Reggie Walker, Rob Housler, Ryan Williams, Sam Acho, Stepfan Taylor, Tyrann Mathieu
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Bruce Arians was happy with the first practice yesterday, but “If you can’t have energy and enthusiasm in the first one, something is wrong.”
“Hopefully,” he added, “we can maintain that level of intensity and enthusiasm in practices eight, nine and 10, after we knock the crap out of each other for a few days.”
That starts Sunday with the first padded practice. The hitting always makes coaches tense up — injuries happen in camp, and they are happening around the league — but it’s necessary. Arians knows this.
“That’s always a day you want to say, ‘Whoa,’ ” Arians said. “It can get real loud, real fast, especially with a big crowd. It’s the part where you cross your fingers, but we have guys who know how to practice.”
Arians was asked if he is the kind of coach who’d use something like the Oklahoma drill. He said no, which isn’t a big surprise. Those days in the NFL are basically in the past.
“We’ll have one-on-ones, pass rush, run block two-on-one,” Arians said. “We won’t do any tackling.” Arians paused. “Oklahoma drill I loved when I was in college.”
— G Daryn Colledge was back Saturday after missing Friday’s work because the birth of his second daughter. He admitted he probably would have missed the birth of Reagan Grace Colledge (8 pounds, 6 ounces if you are scoring at home) if the team was still holding camp in Flagstaff. They had a water birth with a midwife. “My wife’s a champ,” Colledge said.
— Arians reiterated his plan was to use both Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson as punt returners, sometimes at the same time.
— He doesn’t have as clear of a plan for kickoff return yet.
— Very curious to see how the linebacker corps filters out. Arians has been very complimentary of Reggie Walker. With Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter and Jasper Brinkley, that’s a lot of inside ‘backers to keep.
— Meanwhile a practice bubble rises in Tempe:
Tags: Bruce Arians, Daryl Washington, Daryn Colledge, Jasper Brinkley, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Patrick Peterson, practice bubble, Reggie Walker, Tyrann Mathieu
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It’s that time of the offseason, when players scatter for some time away from the facility and so too does the author of a certain blog. Before that, however, I try and put on my analysis cap and attempt to project – sans injuries – who will be in the starting lineup come Sept. 8 when the Cardinals open the regular season in St. Louis trying to win their first game for a fourth straight season. This one is a little more difficult to sort out. By last year it was easier to get a sense of what Ken Whisenhunt wanted to do and who he wanted to do it with. No real way to know that with Bruce Arians yet.
For starters, he has said time and again judging players in shorts wasn’t enough to make any solid decisions – he said he knew how they could play soccer, for goodness sake – and so I’d expect training camp to be much more important than the past. The Whiz coaching staff, which generally stayed stable, knew very well what they were getting with holdovers. This staff is new and don’t know many of these players. Being unquestioned at your position is rare right now.
That doesn’t even take into account Arians’ desire to play young players. He clearly is much more willing to go with youth. He has also talked often about how the “starters” are more than just 11, especially on defense, thanks to the many packages a team has.
I suppose that’s all a roundabout way of saying this is my best guesstimate, and that’s all. We have defense today, offense tomorrow. There has been lots of speculation out there that the Cards may end up as a 4-3 team, and we’ll see how things are spread around, but they have been working in a 3-4 base the entire offseason.
Remember, this is only an exhibition and not a competition, so please, please, no wagering.
DE – Darnell Dockett. He will get more chances to get on the stat sheet. He will, probably, be used inside in certain packages and not just as a 3-4 end. He definitely is happier than he has been in regards to how he is being used. The Cards are counting on that showing on the field.
NT – Dan Williams. The team poked around potential free agents earlier in the offseason, and Williams came in to workouts needing to shed pounds. But he has, and Arians praised his condition last week. Like the ends, there is talk of Williams getting upfield and attacking more often. It’s so easy to forget he was a No. 1 pick, but the Cards need him to play that way.
DE – Calais Campbell. Had another very good year last season. He too sounds excited about his opportunities in Todd Bowles’ system, although he tends to be a little more muted than Dockett (who isn’t?) Has become one of the best in the league, period. At some point, it’d be nice to see him get a Pro Bowl nod.
ROLB – Lorenzo Alexander. This has been the spot for O’Brien Schofield, who recently told me camp was the place where jobs are won and lost. Could OB still make a starting run? Sure. But Alexander, wooed as a free agent partially on the strength of starting potential, is going to get his shot. I think, given his ability as a leader, he’ll end up there at least at first.
SILB – Jasper Brinkley. Brinkley was an early free-agent sign, but then the Cards drafted Kevin Minter. Minter is the kind of player who needs camp to show what he’s got. Arians thought he was getting too physical in the offseason. But I think Brinkley still holds him off at first, even if Minter pushes for playing time later this season.
WILB – Karlos Dansby. This is kind of cheating, because I don’t even have to factor Daryl Washington into this – Washington is suspended the first four games. When Washington returns, however, it will be very interesting to see how it plays out with him, Dansby, Brinkley and Minter. It’s been suggested Washington could end up outside in some scenario, but at no point in the offseason did Washington do any work there.
LOLB – Sam Acho. A very smart player and great in the locker room. He should start at the outset, but he needs to up his sacks to stay there. Otherwise they are going to start looking to upgrade.
CB – Patrick Peterson. Easiest position to peg.
CB – Jerraud Powers. The Cardinals did a good job building up depth at cornerback. Antoine Cason is slightly more established given Powers’ injury history, but Powers has an Arians connection from Indy and I think that will make a difference. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Cason start, though. Another thing to chew on: With so many corners, is one traded before the season starts? You still have Javier Arenas, Justin Bethel, Jamell Fleming, Bryan McCann.
FS – Rashad Johnson. Tyrann Mathieu is going to play in some way, shape or form, including nickel corner sometimes. You just don’t see it any other way. But I don’t see Mathieu starting. Johnson is helped because he played strong safety last season. I can see Johnson moving to strong safety if Mathieu bullies his way into the lineup.
SS – Yeremiah Bell. Bell brings experience and he knows Bowles well from their days in Miami. He is a short-term solution, though.
Tags: Antoine Cason, Bryan McCann, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, defense, Jamell Fleming, Jarraud Powers, Jasper Brinkley, Javier Arenas, Justin Bethel, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Lorenzo Alexander, O'Brien Schofield, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Sam Acho, Todd Bowles, Tyrann Mathieu, Yeremiah Bell
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It’s still way early. Bruce Arians won’t even commit to starting positions — which isn’t a surprise — and training camp will sort through players much better than any of this summer stuff. Players can’t even hit right now, and so this isn’t really football, as the coaches will be quick to point out. But this team will be much different than the past few years, when rookies had a climb akin to Mount Everest to jump into the fray from the outset. Arians wants to use young players and this team wants to, philosophically, grow from a younger base.
That said, what exactly can be expected from this draft class sitting here in June (and with minicamp starting tomorrow, with the long anticipated Fan Fest Tuesday night)? We know, barring a shocking development, first-round pick Jonathan Cooper is going to be the starter at left guard. The only other player that seems to be a lock for significant playing time at this juncture is third-round pick Tyrann Mathieu, and part of that has to do with his skill set and the existing roster situation at safety. Mathieu is getting his reps, and last week spent more time on the main field with the veterans (whereas he had been starting out on the second field with the inexperienced players — and yes, I’m trying really hard not to call it the JV field.)
The only other draft pick who has been working mostly on the main field has been second-round linebacker Kevin Minter. Minter is an interesting guy to keep an eye on. Second-round picks are supposed to step in right away and do something. But the Cards, who signed Jasper Brinkley and Karlos Dansby and still have Daryl Washington, all of a sudden have a ton of options at inside linebacker (and that doesn’t even include veteran Reggie Walker, who has found himself on the second field this summer looking very much out of place.) Inside linebacker will be one of those places where the spotlight will shine in camp, because they all can’t play.
The rest of the draft class is working on the second field and have a steeper hill to climb. That said, I can totally see a scenario where outside linebacker Alex Okafor, guard Earl Watford and running back Stepfan Taylor find their way into the mix. Arians made it clear he wanted his depth to be such that the Cards didn’t have to rely on a rookie, and that gives those three some room to breath (and since Taylor has basically been absent so far because of school, he has some ground to make up.) It’s easy to see Watford’s time being a year away. Okafor could step in, but with Matt Shaughnessy pretty clearly playing OLB and not DE, along with Sam Acho, O’Brien Schofield and Lorenzo Alexander at OLB, Okafor has to get through some guys on the depth chart.
The last three draft picks have a harder row to hoe. Wide receiver Ryan Swope needs to get back on the field first. Running back Andre Ellington has a lot of competition. Tight end D.C. Jefferson could make inroads given the lineup at his position, but he remains fairly raw. The biggest thing in all their favor? Arians seems willing to live with growing live with inexperience, which wasn’t there before.
— Apropos of nothing, the Jets hired former Cardinals GM Rod Graves as their senior director of football administration under their GM John Idzik. The move was long anticipated. Graves and Idzik have known each other from their youth when they both worked as Eagles ballboys as their fathers worked for Philly. Idzik worked under Graves with the Cardinals in the Denny Green era as the Cards’ cap guy.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Andre Ellington, D.C. Jefferson, Daryl Washington, Earl Watford, Jasper Brinkley, Jets, Jonathan Cooper, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Lorenzo Alexander, Matt Shaughnessy, O'Brien Schofield, Reggie Walker, Rod Graves, rookies, Ryan Swope, Sam Acho, Stepfan Taylor, Tyrann Mathieu
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