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Williams was “scared” and running back questions

Posted by Darren Urban on February 13, 2013 – 10:40 am

When Bruce Arians was first hired, he talked about taking shots downfield, and people getting too hung up on how much a team runs the ball as opposed to how effective it was in the ground game, and how where a team stood on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter ultimately dictated how much a team was going to run.

But he also said “we will have an attack, and we will start with the run.”

Who will be running it? That’s a good question.

I expect Ryan Williams to have the chance to be one of them. As Williams said, he’s got the label of being “damaged goods,” and he has a lot to prove. Between a torn hamstring, ruptured patella tendon and fracture of his left shoulder, his last three years — one at Virginia Tech, two in the NFL — have been forgettable. But he’s feeling a ton better going into 2013 and thinks no one saw the real Williams last year in his brief time because his patella and knee weren’t ready, and he played like it.

“I won’t say I was rushed, but … people don’t even understand what was going through my head when I got that ball,” Williams said. “Say I was running to my left side, my whole right side is exposed. I’m ducking, I’m curling, I don’t want to get touched. The first thing as a running back, you can’t be scared, and those four games, I was scared. I’m not going to lie.”

Even if Williams returns and can do well, he can’t be the only option. Beanie Wells is here in the final year of his contract — he was rehabbing alongside Williams the other morning — and his status is also interesting. The relationship between he and former coach Ken Whisenhunt seemed strained by the end and perhaps Wells benefits from a fresh start. The Cards must decide what to offer unrestricted free agent LaRod Stephens-Howling, who seems likely to hit the open market at this point.

There has been speculation of a connect-the-dots variety that the Cards might go after unrestricted free agent Rashard Mendenhall, whose time with the Pittsburgh Steelers is coming to an end but who performed pretty well for Arians when Arians was offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh. Mendenhall has battled a lot of injuries the last two years, however. Then there is the real possibility the Cards use a draft pick at some point. Alfonso Smith and William Powell are still in the mix for now, but again, when you have a new staff and a new offense, it’s hard to know exactly the direction the roster might go.

(In a semi-related note, running back Javarris James, who spent the 2012 season on injured reserve after blowing out his knee in the preseason, has been suspended the first four games of the 2013 season, according to multiple reports. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network said it was for substance abuse. James is an exclusive rights free agent. I’m not sure if the Cards were planning on bringing him back, but this news doesn’t help. James can take part in the offseason/training camp if needed.)

RyWillBlogUSEthis


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Cards cut to 53

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2012 – 4:52 pm

The key point anytime a team gets to the 53-man roster on final cuts is this: It’s never quite the final roster. That’s something to keep in mind when looking over the Cards’ cuts today, which leaves an unbalanced roster for now.

The team decided not to move tackle Levi Brown off of injured reserve, leaving 22 cuts to be made:

Injured reserve — RB Javarris James (knee), QB Rich Bartel (shoulder)

Waived-injured – LB Brandon Williams (shoulder), WR Stephen Williams (Achilles)

Released – CB Crezdon Butler, LB Antonio Coleman, S Blake Gideon, LB Clark Haggans, G Russ Hochstein, DT Ricky Lumpkin, LB Colin Parker, CB Larry Parker, WR DeMarco Sampson, TE Steve Skelton, RB Alfonso Smith, LB Quan Sturdivant, DE Ronald Talley, DE Everrette Thompson, TE Martell Webb, C Scott Wedige, WR Isaiah Williams, T D.J. Young.

So this is what we get out of this:

– The Cardinals cut Sampson and Stephen Williams, leaving five receivers and undrafted LaRon Byrd (pictured below) as No. 5.

– OLB Quentin Groves makes the cut but both Clark Haggans and Brandon Williams are out – you’d have to think another linebacker is on the way.

– Right now, the Cards have 11 defensive backs and nine offensive linemen, and you figure one or the other, if not both, will be trimmed down. All three OL draft picks are on the squad right now. The defensive backs will have to come down if you are looking for a place to cut to add at another position. In my guess at 53, I had guessed six WRs and eight OL, and the Cards took one from receiver to add to the line. And they took one of eight linebacker slots and added it to the 10 defensive back spots, so I was kind of close. We’ll see how it shakes out.

– Running back William Powell indeed makes the team too.

– This group probably won’t be the exact group that hits the practice field Monday. That’s the cold reality of the NFL.


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Broncos (and preseason) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2012 – 12:25 am

The Cardinals avoided overtime Thursday night (thank goodness). And now the fun begins.

Final cuts are in a matter of hours, coach Ken Whisenhunt will have a press conference at 2 p.m. Arizona time. So, in the interest of getting some sleep, some highlights and thoughts from the preseason finale to tide you over until the real news tomorrow (which should be cuts and possibly could include a starting QB choice):

– Injuries probably didn’t make roster picks, but they might have cemented them. Rich Bartel was 4-for-5 before leaving with a right shoulder injury, although the way rookie Ryan Lindley performed, Lindley was probably always going to be the pick. He’s got a lot of upside. If Javarris James was in the mix at all at running back, that ended when he tore his ACL on Omar Bolden’s 103-yard kickoff return. That’s just unfortunate.

– If I had to do my 53-man roster over, I might change a couple of things. Or at least seriously consider it. Now I’m finding it hard to believe outside linebacker Quentin Groves doesn’t stick around. The other backup outside linebacker choice then would come down to Clark Haggans or Brandon Williams. In the secondary, undrafted rookie Blake Gideon got a ton of playing time, and while Rashad Johnson and Adrian Wilson sat out, I start to wonder if Gideon could have a chance to slip on the roster, in place of Johnson, maybe? And there is little question there is a decision coming between A.J. Jefferson, Greg Toler and Michael Adams. There will be some drama tomorrow.

– Ryan Williams did not play as Whiz took a long look at both William Powell and Alfonso Smith as they battle for a roster spot. Powell had 18 yards on nine carries, Smith five on five, and neither really stood out Thursday (although Powell did have a nice kickoff return late.)

– I thought Beanie Wells looked very good in his start. He had 35 yards on seven carries, although he said he needs to get better. “I have to get my leg drive and get my feet under me,” Wells said.

– LaRon Byrd had a couple of nice grabs among his three catches for 47 yards and if he didn’t solidify his spot, it’ll be because the Cards only keep five receivers. But if they keep six, he’s in, I’d think.

– Michael Floyd had an amazing touchdown catch for his first in the NFL. Ball bouncing around, Floyd grabbing it while he was hanging parallel to the ground and holding on as he crashed to the turf. “That was a much more acrobatic circus catch than I ever could have made,” fellow wideout Larry Fitzgerald said. Methinks Fitz is a bit modest, but no matter. It was a great play.

– The Cards have to be thrilled with what Lindley showed, especially for a rookie and a guy they picked in the sixth round. He had a couple of clunkers (although his one interception was a mistake by receiver Isaiah Williams, who didn’t pick up a checked call at the line, and the other pick was called back with a penalty). Bhe threw the TD and threw some darts and maneuvered the Cards to a late tying drive thanks to a 56-yard bomb to Williams (pictured below). The Cards couldn’t get it in the end zone, but again, Lindley looks like he has a potential future.

– Lindley had some decent protection early with the starting offensive line (although rookie right tackle Bobby Massie did have a couple of hiccups on an early drive with a holding penalty and to get beat for sack.) Will I be surprised to see the Cards pick up an offensive lineman via waivers as teams cut? Absolutely not.

– Whisenhunt said the Cardinals haven’t ruled out using the new IR rule – which allows players with major injuries to return later in the season without taking up a roster spot – on tackle Levi Brown. The Cards will talk more about Brown’s prognosis to return. The decision has to be made by Friday afternoon.

In fact, most of the news will come down Friday afternoon. So with that, I’ll say goodnight.


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The list of Not-Dressing for the Hall of Fame game

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2012 – 3:56 pm

There is no inactive list technically for the preseason because there doesn’t have to be any inactives, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be guys who will not dress. Most are injury related. Some we knew about, some we didn’t. Don’t Didn’t know the details on every injury, but I’ll try to track them down when I can know I do. Don’t expect any to be serious:

– CB Crezdon Butler (hip)

– DT Darnell Dockett (hamstring)

– DE Nick Eason (He isn’t here; His mother has been very ill, as he has pointed out on Twitter)

– CB Marshay Green (hamstring)

– RB Javarris James (abductor strain)

– TE Jeff King (PUP — quad)

– LB Zach Nash (ankle)

– RB Beanie Wells (PUP — knee)

– RB Ryan Williams (patella)

– WR Stephen Williams (hamstring)

– S Adrian Wilson (calf)


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Friday before the Hall of Fame game

Posted by Darren Urban on August 3, 2012 – 5:09 pm

It’s time to go to Canton.

From the day it was announced back in February, the Cardinals have looked forward to this weekend. As usual, it seems both that training camp just started and that camp has been going on for weeks rather than less than two. But the games are here, as the Cards and Saints begin the NFL preseason schedule Sunday night at 8 p.m. in Ohio (5 p.m. in Arizona). It’s an extra game. That’s good and bad. One more chance for guys to get hurt, one more chance to spread around some playing time.

Watching the quarterbacks will be interesting but not definitive – I mean, I guess it could be definitive depending on what happens, but that’ll only happen with an injury – because I would like to see both Kevin Kolb and John Skelton in a game to see if it looks much different. They spent the offseason working on fundamentals, and with Kolb in particular, he’s had his time to prep that he didn’t get last year.

Another thing I want to see is just how much attention the NFL Network pays to the Cardinals. The Saints have had one mess of an offseason. Hopefully that’s not all the crew talks about.

– Coach Ken Whisenhunt will have to juggle his running backs. Beanie Wells is still on the PUP list. Whisenhunt officially said Ryan Williams won’t play, although that seemed likely all week with Williams taking a couple of days off from practice to rest his rehabbed right leg. Javarris James has his abductor strain, and William Powell got hurt in the night practice Wednesday – something in his leg, I believe, although I wasn’t able to find out exactly what – and I would think is unlikely to play. That leaves LaRod Stephens-Howling, Alfonso Smith and newcomer Thomas Clayton (who barely was able to practice.) Maybe the Sherminator will be unleashed.

– Speaking of not playing, I don’t expect safety Adrian Wilson to go with his calf injury. It’s minor, but again, five preseason games. The first means nothing. (Besides, how many series will the starters play? Two at the most? What would Wilson really be missing?)

– It’s time to break in the newcomers. Wide receiver Michael Floyd is obvious, and so is cornerback Jamell Fleming. But drafted offensive linemen Bobby Massie at right tackle and Senio Kelemete are important. Those guys are supposed to be on the roster and be able to play if there is an injury (and Massie, in theory, could still start). This is the first test. Massie has looked better as camp has gone on. I’ll be honest, I haven’t watched Kelemete much yet.

– There won’t be gameplanning, but I remember how Aaron Rodgers ripped up the defense in the preseason last year. That was early, early, early in the defense’s understanding of the scheme. Now they get Drew Brees (even if it might only be a series). Let’s see how the Cards handle a high-powered passing attack.

– Individually, the passing would play well toward the Cards’ cornerback battle, right?

– If you don’t get NFL Network, the game will be televised locally in Phoenix on Ch. 5 KPHO.

– I’ll be with the team Saturday night when they get a private tour of the Hall of Fame, and we will have a story sometime before the game. This should be a pretty cool trip.


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A Hollywood star comes to practice

Posted by Darren Urban on August 2, 2012 – 5:58 pm

The lone practice Thursday afternoon had an unexpected side story — a celebrity fan. Movie star Channing Tatum was on hand watching the workout, thanks to a long-standing friendship with safety Kerry Rhodes. Not unexpected was the stir it created. Tatum’s appearance in Flagstaff had reached across the internet earlier in the afternoon, with people trying to confirm if Tatum was indeed there. After practice, Tatum spoke with coach Ken Whisenhunt, a handful of Cardinals player wives on hand took a picture with him and players were bombarded with questions.

As a team, “we kept our composure,” deadpanned quarterback John Skelton.

Rhodes and Tatum both grew up in Alabama, and met through Rhodes’ sister. “He’s like my brother,” Rhodes said. “We’ve known each other for a while. He’s blown up and done such a good job, I’m proud of him.” Tatum appeared on the season’s first edition of The Big Red Rage, which Rhodes hosts on Arizona Sports 620.

The players have seen their share of celebrity. “We’ve got Larry Fitzgerald and that’s pretty high-powered,” Rhodes said. “But I don’t think Larry can do the strip-tease Channing could do in ‘Magic Mike.’

In the end, Rhodes said, he was just happy to energize the crowd and maybe even bring out a few more fans, “because at the end of the day, it’s about the Cardinals.”

– S Adrian Wilson, CB Marshay Green, RB William Powell and WR Stephen Williams all were out of practices with unknown injuries. CB Crezdon Butler (hip) and RB Javarris James (abductor) remain sidelined as well. RB Ryan Williams took another rest day.

(Here’s a picture of Tatum, Whisenhunt and Rhodes, courtesy of media relations man Mark Dalton.).


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Cards add running back, offensive lineman

Posted by Darren Urban on August 1, 2012 – 8:11 am

With Javarris James (abductor) ailing, Beanie Wells (knee) still on the PUP list and Ryan Williams — who rested Tuesday, sitting out practice as his rehab continues — still a question whether he will play Sunday in the Hall of Fame game, the Cardinals signed an extra back. Thomas Clayton, who has 29 yards on 15 carries in six career games with three teams, was inked Wednesday. The Cardinals also added guard Rich Ohrnberger, who was drafted by the Patriots in 2009.

To make room on the roster, the Cardinals released wide receiver Stanley Arukwe and waived-injured center Ryan Bartholomew.

Clayton was a sixth-round pick of the 49ers in 2007 out of Kansas State. He has spent time with the Browns, Seahawks and Patriots as well. I wouldn’t expect this to be any more than a let’s-get-through-the-next-game-or-two kind of move. Ohrnberger could be more intriguing given the uncertain depth on the interior line, but like Russ Hochstein, we’ll see how he fits in.


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Beanie will play in preseason, may practice next week

Posted by Darren Urban on July 30, 2012 – 12:29 pm

Running back Beanie Wells, still on the PUP list with his knee rehab, will play in the preseason at some point, coach Ken Whisenhunt said. He may also come off the PUP list next week, when the team practices in Kansas City.

“He will probably start doing some work next week,” Whisenhunt said. “We’d like to get him involved in preseason games, probably a little bit later. We’ll see how it goes.”

Running back Ryan Williams isn’t a lock to play against the Saints in the Hall of Fame game Sunday. Whisenhunt said he definitely wants to get Williams preseason work, but he isn’t sure in what games yet. Playing against the Saints will depend on how he does in practice this week. The Cards are already missing running back Javarris James, who is sidelined with an abductor strain, leaving just LaRod Stephens-Howling, Alfonso Smith and William Powell as available running backs.

“We may unleash the Sherminator,” Whisenhunt said, referring to fullback Anthony Sherman (and trying to stifle a chuckle.) “We’re kind of holding that in our back pocket.”

Seriously, though, “what you worry about is one more (injury). Then you’re pretty thin.”

– As a Red-White follow-up, Whisenhunt said Saturday’s work “was a little bit of an eye opener.” A lot was thrown at the team “and they didn’t react very well.” More on this later.


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Thoughts in the wake of Red-White

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2012 – 9:35 pm

The first week is over, and what stuck with me after today’s Red-White practice (while I thought about it on my drive home to see the family) was John Skelton’s comment that there was a long way to go. Cliche, sure. But it’s truth. Take away walkthroughs, which are limited in their value, and the Cards had exactly three practices before today. Did the offense or the quarterbacks wow today? No. But we’re a week away from the first of five preseason games. There’s a long, long way to go.

– I know everyone wants to make assessments of Skelton and Kevin Kolb after today. Coach Ken Whisenhunt even said Friday he expected that to happen. But Whiz also said today there would be no snap judgements. He talked about dropped passes, about missed assignments. Bottom line, and I’m sure I’m sounding like a broken record, but this will come down to preseason games. Something tells me no one is going to reference Red-White whenever the regular-season starter is named.

– I thought Michael Floyd looked pretty good today. It’s early, but that would be nice to have him emerge. He made a couple of catches and you can see why his big body works in tight coverage, blocking out the defensive back.

– Cornerback A.J. Jefferson got a lot of action today. He gave up some catches but made some other plays. He’s intriguing. He’s kind of been lost in the CB discussion with William Gay signing and Greg Toler coming back and Jamell Fleming getting drafted.

– With the NFL in the middle of using replacement officials while contract negotiations go on with the regular officials, one possible replacement would be a woman, who was working today’s Red-White practice. I didn’t get her name, but Mike Jurecki got a picture.

– The abductor injury to running back Javarris James could cause some roster movement. It’s not that I thought James necessarily was going to make the roster, but James now won’t play against the Saints in all probability, and Beanie Wells was already going to miss that game. I’m not sure they’d want to use Ryan Williams either, given their desire to be conservative. So that leaves just LaRod Stephens-Howling, Alfonso Smith and William Powell. Not that Powell can’t do it — remember, when the Cards lost Williams and wanted to protect Wells last year, Powell had an astounding 29 carries in the final preseason game (and then was cut the next day.)

– A crowd of 14,500. Simply amazing. I ran into former Cardinals wide receiver and kickoff returner MarTay Jenkins (1999-2002) who looked over the throng for autographs and said, “Damn, it was never like this for us!” Which I can say since I was covering the team back then, it wasn’t.

– Finally, there seemed to be a difference of opinion between Williams and Patrick Peterson about whether Peterson would have made the tackle on Williams during his 44-yard run. I managed to get a shot of the moment of contact. You make the call.


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James among four tryout players signed

Posted by Darren Urban on May 14, 2012 – 2:52 pm

The Cardinals brought in 16 players for tryouts this past rookie minicamp weekend. They decided to keep around four of them, including running back Javarris James. The other three were kicker/punter Ricky Schmitt, safety Eddie Elder and cornerback Larry Parker.

James, of course, is the cousin of former Cardinals running back Edgerrin James. Javarris played in 10 games for the Colts as a rookie in 2010, scoring six touchdowns, but was out of the league last year. With top running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams on the mend from surgeries, the Cards needed another running back for offseason work. It will be interesting if James can perform well enough to make it to training camp.

Schmitt was actually with the Cards as an undrafted rookie back in 2007 before getting cut in training camp. He has since spent time with five other teams, including a pair of stints with the 49ers. Elder, from Arizona State, and Parker, from San Diego State, are both rookies.

The signings bring the Cards’ roster to a total of 89 now, with one spot left to get to 90. Certainly, the roster is not set in stone, and further player possibilities could mean that any of these players — or others already on the roster — could get released before the Cards even get to camp. For players on the fringe of the roster, this is always a fluid situation.


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