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Blogs

Considering intriguing camp battles

Posted by Darren Urban on July 18, 2014 – 4:17 pm

This isn’t necessarily about starters, since I have already addressed that directly. But the battles of training camp aren’t always about who plays first or the most. Sometimes it’s about roster battles and depth and who plays more than who. Some competition will come seemingly from nowhere — going into camp last season, no one would have guess Paul Fanaika would have gotten into the mix, but the Daryn Colledge injury helped that come into focus — so there will be other players to watch.

But for now, here is some of the competition I will be watching:

Guards Earl Watford, Paul Fanaika, Ted Larsen and Anthony Steen. Larsen has been backing up Lyle Sendlein at center while Steen, who can also back up both spots, didn’t do anything in the offseason recovering from injuries. Someone will be the starting right guard. The Cardinals would like for Watford to step up. It very well could be Fanaika for a second straight season. Watford should be on the roster regardless, so if he’s not starting, that will be a spot that must be won. The Cards likely will only dress seven on game days, making those swing interior guys valuable.

Tackles Bobby Massie and Bradley Sowell. OK, everyone knows this one. It doesn’t make it any less intriguing. Like Watford, Massie is the guy the Cardinals would like to win the job. But he’s got to win it. Sowell isn’t going away without a fight. Sowell, however, can be a valuable game-day backup since he played left tackle all last season and can play the right. That’s a one-for-two guy on your bench.

Cornerbacks Justin Bethel and Jerraud Powers. With Tyrann Mathieu still hurt, Powers is an important piece in nickle coverage to start the season. But when Mathieu gets back, can Bethel — who got so much love for his potential this offseason — find a way past Powers on the depth chart? Bethel still has much to prove. Powers has his limitations, but his smarts make him a favorite of Todd Bowles and Bruce Arians.

Inside linebackers Ernie Sims and Kenny Demens. Sims has the experience, but he also has the reputation of struggling the past couple of seasons, which is why he finds himself bouncing around the league. The Cardinals have been intrigued with Demens since his (undrafted) rookie year last year, when he spent most of his time on the practice squad. Sims came in late and is trying to catch up. Losing Daryl Washington sent a lot of things into flux at inside linebacker. One of these guys are vying for a depth role probably behind Kevin Minter, Larry Foote and Lorenzo Alexander.

Kickers Jay Feely, Chandler Catanzaro and Danny Hrapmann. This is another obvious one. Still it’s one to watch. It’s definitely a subject that seems to get the fans riled up — and looking around the league, it’s a position that tends to do that with the fan base, for whatever reason.

Running backs Robert Hughes, Jalen Parmele and Zach Bauman. Arians came out praising Hughes. He figures to be the top choice as the fourth running back behind Ellington, Dwyer and Taylor. But Parmele is another big guy who has played in the league and could sneak his way into the spot instead. What will be interesting is if the Cardinals want less of a bruiser as a fourth, like a Bauman, considering Dwyer is a big back and Taylor is more of a between-the-tackles guy too.

Wide receivers Jaron Brown, Walt Powell and Brittan Golden. The top four receiving spots are taken. Fitz is Fitz and Floyd is Floyd. Ted Ginn will have a role, as will third-round pick John Brown. Brown flashed last year but again, he’s got competition. He’s bigger than Powell and definitely Golden — Golden would seem to be in trouble given the arrival of Brown and Ginn — but Powell is a draft pick and that usually ends up playing a role if it’s close.

Quarterbacks Logan Thomas and Ryan Lindley. It’s hard to believe that, barring a meltdown, Thomas doesn’t find a way on to the roster. But you never know, and both players figure to get plenty of playing time in the preseason to let any battle play out in front of us.

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Happy birthday Jay Feely

Posted by since1898 on May 23, 2014 – 11:30 am

FEELY-BDAY

BACK TO #since1898


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Posted in Since1898 | 2 Comments »

A summer of three kickers

Posted by Darren Urban on May 21, 2014 – 2:57 pm

I’ve been covering the Cardinals full-time since 2000. I don’t ever remember a time when there were three kickers on the roster, even in the offseason and even when the team was actively looking for a kicker. But that’s what the Cardinals have right now, even with incumbent Jay Feely. He is joined by undrafted rookie Chandler Catanzaro out of Clemson and Danny Hrapmann, who has had a couple of cups of coffee with the Steelers. Hrapmann has a big leg even though he’s the smallest of the three. You can see that. Cantanzaro had a solid college career, but because Clemson had a punter (Bradley Pinion) who could kick off, he hasn’t done a lot of it. Neither have the résumé of Feely, who has had a very good 14-year career and nailed 30 of 36 field goals last season.

Bruce Arians hasn’t hidden his desire to create competition at kicker since last training camp (Feely responded well then). Still, it’s odd to have three kickers around. What will be interesting to see is if the Cardinals decided to sign one or two of the tryout players in this weekend’s minicamp. Anyone signed means someone has to be cut. Would the Cards trim the kicking lineup to get back a spot on the 90-man roster, or will the Cards bring three kickers all the way to training camp? Or the preseason? Teams are usually loathe to spend too many roster spots on specialists, even in the summer.

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Eric Winston elected NFLPA president

Posted by Darren Urban on March 19, 2014 – 9:32 am

Eric Winston, currently a free agent but the Cardinals’ starter at right tackle last season, was elected president of the NFL Players Association Wednesday, replacing the outgoing Domonique Foxworth. Winston, who has started 119 straight games in his career, has been active in the NFLPA since 2010 when he was named one of the player reps for the Houston Texans. He has served on the NFLPA’s finance committee and the committee for agent discipline. It makes a ton of sense. Winston is intelligent and he understands the ins and outs of the business that is the NFL.

UPDATE: It’s been a big day for Cardinals and the top of the union food chain. Kicker Jay Feely and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander were elected to the NFLPA’s executive committee as well.

Winston said at the end of the season he wanted to return to the Cardinals, but he knows the reality. He made about $2 million last year in an incentive-laden deal. I’m sure he’d like more and for more years than just one, but the Cardinals will likely approach his situation much like last year — looking for younger options, and seeing where Winston stands after those options are explored. Bobby Massie is still around as a potential right tackle and there is also Bradley Sowell, but the Cardinals figure to add another possibility there.

Someone asked if I thought Winston’s position as NFLPA president would hurt his chances to return to Arizona. I don’t think so. What would hurt his chances is if the Cards sign a veteran right tackle, or if they draft one. Winston went unsigned until training camp was opening last season. I don’t know if that will happen again, but it wouldn’t be shocking if it did. He is a smart, stabilizing force in the locker room, however, so if he is on the roster, the Cards get more than just an offensive lineman.

WinstonPrezUSE


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As free agency draws near

Posted by Darren Urban on March 10, 2014 – 10:27 pm

Free agency arrives soon — 1 p.m. Arizona time Tuesday. So here area few thoughts on Monday night:

– It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens with Karlos Dansby. Kent Somers reported there is a two-year deal on the table worth between $10 million and $12 million — which is right around the APY that D’Qwell Jackson got from the Colts. I’m sure Dansby would like a longer deal. I’m sure the Cardinals, looking at a player who will turn 33 this season, aren’t going to go longer. Is there another team willing to pony up more? And is that enough to sway Dansby? No matter what happens, I expect Dansby’s decision to come quickly this week.

UPDATE: NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting Dansby likely going to Cleveland. They would money-whip him. It wasn’t going to happen in Arizona.

– There wasn’t much new percolating Monday about tackle Jared Veldheer, whom the Cards are expected to make a pitch to when free agency starts. Whoever the Cards chase at left tackle, that too figures to come together quickly. GM Steve Keim said that even with the early free-agent talks, the Cards want to talk to a potential signee (and check him out medically). So I’d guess this year’s free agency has a good chance to be like last year’s — quickly moving, but still nothing official until Wednesday at the earliest. Will the Cards add five players in the first two days, like last year? Probably not that many. But I’m thinking there will be some additions.

– Kicker Jay Feely re-upped with the Cards Monday (nothing officially announced yet.) There’s a possibility the Cardinals can re-sign a couple of other guys before they hit the market. The move to release Daryn Colledge is coming Tuesday too.

– Aside from a left tackle, linebacker and defensive back are other potential positional free agent targets. Mike Jurecki tweeted Monday night the Cards could look at veteran CB Mike Jenkins. Again, the Cards should move quickly this week. The idea in free agency isn’t to collect a bunch of starters necessarily as much as round out the roster so the Cardinals have a lot of flexibility come draft day.


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Feely re-signs before free agency

Posted by Darren Urban on March 10, 2014 – 3:55 pm

Kicker Jay Feely used Twitter to let everyone know Monday he had re-signed with the Arizona Cardinals less than 24 hours before he would have hit the free-agent market.

The move makes sense for both sides. The Cardinals want a veteran kicker going into the offseason — they already signed Danny Hrapmann as a young, big leg to compete — and Feely wanted to return. The team has yet to officially announce anything. Feely had 127 points this season, converting 30 of 36 field goals. It will be interesting to see if the team is done at the position or if it will be Feely trying to fend off Hrapmann in a battle for the job. The Cardinals would like to get more touchbacks on kickoffs and there is always a possibility of carrying a pair of kickers (although I would not expect it.)

Regardless, the Cards have stability in the kicking game now that both Feely and punter Dave Zastudil have avoided free agency as the offseason gets underway. UPDATE: Kent Somers reports it’s a one-year deal, and that Feely expects competition. Both make sense.

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Cards sign kicker – but not “Kickalicious”

Posted by Darren Urban on January 29, 2014 – 2:55 pm

The Cardinals had a handful of kickers in to try out a couple of weeks ago, including YouTube sensation Havard “Kickalicious” Rugland. They finally signed one — but it wasn’t Rugland. The Cards got a futures deal done with Southern Mississippi product Danny Hrapmann, who spent a couple of training camps with the Pittsburgh Steelers and who has also kicked for New Orleans of the Arena Football League. Hrapmann made all six of his field goals in the 2012 preseason and didn’t get a chance to try one last season.

As of now, Hrapmann is the lone placekicker the Cardinals have under contract for 2014, since veteran Jay Feely is set to become a free agent in March. It is no surprise the Cardinals signed at least one other kicker besides Feely. The question will become if Feely is also brought back, and/or if the Cards look in any other direction.

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Cardinals, the roster, and target areas

Posted by Darren Urban on January 27, 2014 – 11:33 am

Every time General Manager Steve Keim talks about his roster, he talks about looking to improve everywhere. That’s always the default. While the Cardinals probably need, say, offensive linemen or tight ends more than, running backs, you don’t turn down chances to upgrade your team at any position. (As for the latest talk-radio conversation about quarterback, I feel confident that a) Carson Palmer is going to be the starter in 2014 and b) if Keim has a QB sitting on the board in the draft that he really, really likes — whenever that is — the Cardinals will likely take him.)

All that said, there are spots that need addressing just for the sheer numbers. I’ve already posted this once, but below is a link to a roster breakdown done right after the season. It has changed a bit — punter Dave Zastudil has re-signed by now — but the rest of the contract situations remain the same. Keim has a little more than six weeks before contracts officially expire. In terms of strictly numbers, here are how impending free agency impacts the positions (not including all the futures deals/low-end free agents that have signed):

– QB: Cards are fine with all three guys under contract. You’d expect a fourth camp arm to sign if one isn’t drafted.

– RB: Rashard Mendenhall is unrestricted and plays a big role, although if the Cards rode Andre Ellington/Stepfan Taylor in 2014, no one would be surprised.

– WR: Assuming the Cards can get comfortable (if they aren’t already) with Fitz’s contract, the position is probably OK. They need to add someone if Andre Roberts leaves as a free agent, but they can ride with Floyd/Fitz as a top two.

– TE: A major question. Only Rob Housler is under contract for next season. This has got to be a spot where the Cards draft, right?

– OL: Upgrades are necessary and will happen, but as of now, only Eric Winston is a free agent of guys who played at all.

– DL: Need depth here. Do you bring Frostee Rucker back? And that rehab needed for Alameda Ta’amu’s ACL tear hurts the team as much as Ta’amu.

– LB: It’s hard not to notice two starters in Karlos Dansby and Matt Shaughnessy who could potentially walk away.

– DB: The Cards could probably use another young safety, although they may be in good shape if Tony Jefferson can step forward. But what about cornerback, with Tyrann Mathieu coming back from injury and Javier Arenas/Antoine Cason/Bryan McCann scheduled to be free agents. Depth is needed there. It’ll be interesting to see if Justin Bethel ends up playing a bigger defensive role.

– Specialists: Zastudil is back. We’ll see what the Cardinals do at kicker and impending FA Jay Feely.

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Whither the extra point

Posted by Darren Urban on January 22, 2014 – 10:12 am

There has been a lot of conversation of late about changes to the game (thanks to commissioner Roger Goodell talking about such things). It has included discussion about eliminating the kicked extra point. Now, I get that the extra point is basically automatic. Goodell said the change would just mean touchdowns would just be worth seven points — unless a team chose to go for two, which would make the touchdown worth six. Sure, more than 99 percent of extra points are made these days. But if it is so easy, why not just back the attempt up? Instead of 19 yards, make it, for example, 30 yards? Then it is still in the game and the difficulty is raised. If that’s not hard enough, back it up some more. I’ll also say this: The way most teams make their extra points makes a miss crushing a lot of the time.

So much of this goes back to the way kicking has evolved. Many think the goalposts should be narrowed or shorter field goals should be worth less points because of the high percentage by which kickers can make field goals now. To think, Jay Feely made 30 of 36 field goals this season — and many fans were ready to run him out of town because of it. That isn’t excusing Feely, because his misses ultimately were crucial to the Cards in a couple of games. But making better than 83 percent of your field goals over a season once would have made Feely the best in the NFL.

Back to the extra point. I won’t be surprised if it is taken out of the game, just like I won’t be surprised when/if the kickoff return is removed. There is a safety aspect to this too, and I understand that. If that is the reason you want it out, OK. If the reason it’s abolished is because it is boring, I don’t really understand that. Tweaking it somehow seems more reasonable.

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Jay Feely finalist for NFL Man of the Year

Posted by Darren Urban on January 19, 2014 – 6:47 pm

Jay Feely has made public service — especially helping the less fortunate in places like Haiti — an important part of his life. That’s a big reason he was named the Cardinals’ Walter Payton Man of the Year this season. Tonight, the NFL announced Feely is one of three finalists for the NFL Man of the Year award, joining Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis and Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman.

The award is given to players who recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.

“People look to you to be a leader, but also look at you in a certain way just because you are an athlete,” Feely said when he was named the Cards’ Man of the Year. “I think you can use that to your advantage to have an impact on people.”

The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will be announced at the Super Bowl during the third annual NFL Honors, a two-hour awards special Feb. 1 and televised on Fox. The Cardinals had an NFL Man of the Year for the 2008 season, when quarterback Kurt Warner won the award the same year the franchise played in the Super Bowl. Larry Fitzgerald was also a finalist for the award last season.


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