Once, veteran teammate John Carlson said of rookie Troy Niklas, “He looks like a 12-year-old boy who swallowed a grizzly bear.” At 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, Niklas — the Cards’ second-round pick in 2014 — was a prototype tight end for coach Bruce Arians. He just couldn’t stay on the field enough, beset by ankle and wrist problems.
So Niklas moved on Wednesday, agreeing to a deal with the Patriots. It’ll be very interesting to see how Niklas performs there, especially in an offense that will throw to the tight end. Niklas is no Gronk athletically (no tight end is), but he figures to get more targets and he is coming off his best season, albeit with a low bar. In 2017, Niklas in 15 games had 11 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown, after totaling just eight receptions in 26 career games over his first three seasons.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are going to have to address the position. As long as Niklas was out there, there was a chance he could return (the Cards also lost a potential depth guy on the offensive line when Earl Watford moved on to the Bears this week.) Jermaine Gresham is coming off an Achilles injury and is limited right now in his offseason work, although I thought he looked better than I might have expected when he was doing what he could Tuesday. The Cards also have Ricky Seals-Jones, who flashed as an undrafted rookie but still skews heavily as a receiver and not a blocker (not a shock, given that he was a wideout in college.) Gabe Holmes also remains.
At this point, it might make more sense to wait until after the draft, see if a tight end emerges there, and then reassess the position afterward.
Tags: Earl Watford, Gabe Holmes, Jermaine Gresham, Ricky Seals-Jones, Troy Niklas
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The Cardinals’ inactive list isn’t that difficult to figure out, given the number of players listed out by the time we got to Saturday night. The latest man added to that group was tight end Jermaine Gresham, who was downgraded to out Saturday because he is sick. That meant the Cardinals promoted tight end Gabe Holmes from the practice squad — and he is active — but what is likely more important will be increased snaps for rookie tight end Ricky Seals-Jones.
How much more Seals-Jones plays will be something to watch. Holmes is a little bit thicker than Seals-Jones and might serve the Cards a little better as a blocker.
Defensive lineman Corey Peters also returns from his ankle injury today after missing the past four games.
— QB Matt Barkley
— WR John Brown (toe)
— CB C.J. Goodwin
— LB Gabe Martin (hamstring)
— G Earl Watford (ankle)
— TE Jermaine Gresham (illness)
— DL Josh Mauro (ankle)
Tags: Corey Peters, Gabe Holmes, inactives, Jermaine Gresham, Redskins, Ricky Seals-Jones
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The Badger was active.
He made a huge interception at the most crucial of times – on a drive where it looked like the Jaguars had stolen momentum and were on their way for a game-winning field goal. But Tyrann Mathieu read the play perfectly and got the pick. That’s two this season, and while you’d hope for more, you can’t argue that the two could have come at better times.
The plays were there Sunday. Blaine Gabbert was pretty good again. You see what he can do when his legs are needed (although, as Bruce Arians pointed out, there are times when that can cause an issue too, because the fumble was a play that need not have happened.) Another touchdown pass to rookie Ricky Seals-Jones, and a run game too.
Defensively, Chandler Jones had two sacks and five tackles for loss and deserves consideration for all-pro. I don’t know if he’ll get any given the Cards’ record, but he has earned it thus far. The run game stops are what impressed me the most Sunday.
Next week will be interesting. The Rams come to town, playing so well, and the Cards are anxious to play them again after the London wax job. Jacksonville is a good team with a very good defense. That’s what this three-game homestand – good opponents – is about.
— Calais Campbell returned a fumble 10 yards for a touchdown, but otherwise was held in check. Gabbert spun away from a potential sack or two. But the Cards didn’t let their former star beat them, all the while welcoming him back. It was good to see the big guy.
“The Birdgang showed a lot of love to me and that felt pretty good,” Campbell said. “Definitely have me chills down my back. My old teammates on the Cardinals, talking to those guys and getting all the love before the game and during the game and even after. The coaching staff, I have a lot of friends in that building, so that was fun. I really wanted to get this win so it definitely hurts right now.”
— By the way, that’s two straight games in which Campbell has returned a fumble for a touchdown when playing at University of Phoenix Stadium. His final game here as a Cardinal was against New Orleans last season, when he scooped up a loose ball and rumbled 53 yards for a score. Campbell’s team has lost both games.
— A few weeks ago, I’m guessing not many thought Phil Dawson would be booting a 57-yard field goal to win a game. That would’ve been good from 62- or 63-yards, I’m thinking.
— D.J. Foster gets a spectacular 12-yard toe-catch to set up the field goal, and also had a very nice kickoff return. It was called back on a penalty, but you can see where he excels there. He’s got a chance to make an impact, especially with T.J. Logan still hurt. It’s a great story too, since he went to Scottsdale Saguaro High School and ASU.
“It’s pretty incredible, kind of a surreal moment to get out there on that field and represent Arizona,” Foster said.
— Mathieu talked this week about getting a chance to face friend Leonard Fournette on the field for their first time after the two came from the same neighborhood yet never played together. Mathieu did his job one specific time, tracking down Fournette on a screen pass and dropping Fournette for a loss of five.
“It’s a tough challenge, especially being 190 pounds and running a 4.5 and he’s 230 and runs a 4.4, so the advantage is on his side,” Mathieu said. “There was actually one play, he ran through the hole and then Budda (Baker) came flying in, so kudos to Budda. I was just waiting on (Fournette) and just trying to get in front of him but Budda made a great play. I might take him out to dinner after this.”
Mathieu smiled. It was a good day.
— There was a scuffle post-game between Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham and Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson, with some swings. It looked heated, but it was calmed quickly and as soon as it was over, Gresham was shaking hands with other Jaguars personnel. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Gresham. Jackson simply said “it was a misunderstanding.” Cardinals guard Alex Boone was there too, looking like he was trying to help end things. Asked about the emotions after a win like the Cards had, Boone said “I mean, I think they’re kind of high.”
— It was a quiet, workmanlike performance from running back Adrian Peterson, but those 79 yards on 20 carries were so important. The Cardinals gained 108 yards on the ground, which is the only way they are going to have a chance to win games.
— Fitz and Campbell swapped jerseys. As did Fournette and Mathieu, and Patrick Peterson and Jalen Ramsey. Lots of mutual respect there.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Alex Boone, Blaine Gabbert, Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, D.J.Foster, Jaguars, Jermaine Gresham, Leonard Fournette, Malik Jackson, Phil Dawson, Ricky Seals-Jones, Tyrann Mathieu
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The return of Deone Bucannon will have to wait for now. After it looked like he was trending up and on track to at least play a little Monday night against the Cowboys, he will not. He’s officially inactive for the game. His role would have been limited anyway, but this does give a little flexibility. I’ll be curious to see if this is strictly Bucannon not being ready, or in part because of injuries and roster flexibility.
As it is, the Cardinals had to promote tight end Ricky Seals-Jones from the practice squad today (cutting, again, linebacker Philip Wheeler) as a hedge against limited tight end Jermaine Gresham, who is dealing with a ribs issue. Alex Boone is also going to start again, with Mike Iupati (triceps) sitting out another game. WR J.J. Nelson, as expected, is playing with his hamstring issue. We’ll see if he can go full speed.
The full inactive list:
— QB Blaine Gabbert
— WR John Brown (quad)
— LB Deone Bucannon (ankle)
— RB D.J. Foster
— T D.J. Humphries (knee)
— G Mike Iupati (triceps)
— DL Xavier Williams
Tags: Cowboys, Deone Bucannon, inactives, Jermaine Gresham, Ricky Seals-Jones
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Bruce Arians was just talking, going into the first game of the season, how the inactive list was going to have so many healthy scratches. That isn’t the issue anymore, unfortunately for the Cardinals. Tight end Jermaine Gresham, who didn’t practice all week after getting bodyslammed last week late in the game and hurting his ribs, won’t play. That means five offensive starters from the opener won’t play this week, including the now-on-IR running back David Johnson.
A quick look at the replacements in the lineup goes like this: Johnson will be replaced by Kerwynn Williams at running back. Mike Iupati will be replaced by Alex Boone at left guard. D.J. Humphries will be replaced by John Wetzel at left tackle. John Brown will be replaced by Jaron Brown at wide receiver. Gresham will be replaced by Ifeanyi Momah at tight end.
The full inactive list for the game against the Colts:
— G Mike Iupati (triceps)
— WR John Brown (quad)
— T D.J. Humphries (knee)
— QB Blaine Gabbert
— RB D.J. Foster
— LB Deone Bucannon (ankle)
— TE Jermaine Gresham (ribs)
On a good note, Johnson had successful wrist surgery, so step one of his process to come back has begun.
— David Johnson (@DavidJohnson31) September 17, 2017
Tags: Colts, David Johnson, Jermaine Gresham
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Troy Niklas appeared on the injury report today with a hip injury. Not great news anyway, but harder still with Jermaine Gresham yet to practice this week because of the ribs injury he suffered when he was bodyslammed at the end of the Detroit game. So when there were multiple reports Thursday night the Cardinals were bringing in veteran tight end Jim Dray — nothing has been officially announced by the team — it made sense.
UPDATE: The Cards have officially signed Dray, cutting LB Philip Wheeler.
Dray was drafted by the Cardinals in 2010 and played the first four years of his career in Arizona. He was in Cleveland the two years after that and then spent time with the 49ers and Bills last year. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be active Sunday in Indy — he might just be in case if Gresham and Niklas can’t go. But figuring you want three tight ends active on game day, with two hurting (Ifeanyi Momah is OK), having one extra in case is smart.
Tags: Jermaine Gresham, Jim Dray, Philip Wheeler, Troy Niklas
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The past is the past, and each team is different, and I get that. Matthew Stafford isn’t the same guy who was benched the last time the Cardinals visited Detroit in 2015, and that’s not just because he got a new mega-contract. The Cardinals aren’t the same team that floundered disappointingly in 2016.
But the past still can be fun to revisit. The last time the Cards opened up in Detroit was a memorable one for me. That was the day Anquan Boldin burst on the scene with his 10 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns, back in 2003. How about you, Tyrann Mathieu? Do you have a memorable opening game at any point in your life?
“I always think about my rookie season and nobody thought I was going to be able to play, and I go ahead and make that big-time play against St. Louis,” Mathieu said. “That was one of those special moments for me.”
See, that moment, to me, does have some bearing. That Mathieu that burst on the scene in 2013? That Mathieu who dominated in 2015? That’s the guy we’ve been seeing in camp and the preseason. He’s a big reason why there is optimism about this defense. Sometimes, you look backward to see what is coming. With the Badger, that seems fitting as the Cardinals finally get started in the regular season.
— To me, the keys Sunday are fairly simple. Offensively, can you allow Carson Palmer to have time to throw the ball down the field once in a while, protecting against an at-best average pass rush? I know John Brown keeps saying he’s not totally healthy, but I think Smoke is healthy enough to make at least some sort of impact.
— Defensively, it’s that defensive line. If I had to guess, I’d guess Robert Nkemdiche wouldn’t play, but we are still two days away. In the end, with seven defensive linemen, at least one is probably inactive every week anyway, and I just don’t think they’ll risk Nkemdiche coming back too fast when there is confidence in the other guys. That said, they have to hold up. This defense has the pass rushers. They definitely have the playmakers in the secondary. But to get there, you have to lock down the run, something this defense has done well the last couple of years.
— Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, on newcomer Alex Boone – who was a right guard those years in San Francisco when playing with old/new teammate Mike Iupati, and then went to the left side after Iupati came to Arizona: “We all know that’s Mike’s position,” Goodwin said with a chuckle. “Kind of funny, I was talking to Mike, he said, ‘Alex called and he wants to come here but he’s not playing left.’ ”
Reminded me of Evan Boehm insisting he wasn’t going to be displaced on the right side either.
— Goodwin said Boone fits the Cardinals’ style, but “you know I don’t like anybody,” he added. “That’s just my nature. I won’t like anybody until I’m standing on the podium holding a Super Bowl trophy. Then I’ll start liking guys.”
— The Lions have a pair of former Cardinals tight ends. Darren Fells is there as a starter, a guy who will try and get going again after having a disappointing 2016 in Arizona, which is one reason the team let him leave in free agency. The Lions also signed Hakeem Valles to the practice squad this week. Any little edge, right?
— Speaking of tight ends, Goodwin chuckled again when asked if the tight ends would be more involved in the passing game. (In my opinion, I wouldn’t hold your breath.) Goodwin knows Jermaine Gresham got a big contract, and Troy Niklas has looked solid and stayed healthy. But as he as mentioned before, from a long ago warning from Arians in a meeting, “We pay Larry (Fitzgerald) a whole lot of money.”
— Stafford’s numbers since being benched in Week 5 against the Cardinals in 2015: 50 touchdown passes, only 15 interceptions, 67 percent completions and a 99.1 quarterback rating. Also, in what is coincidence, but take it for what it is worth, that 2015 Detroit game was a late kickoff – 4 p.m. locally, 1 p.m. in Arizona. It wasn’t early, like Sunday’s will be.
— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher, like the other coaches, is convinced Justin Bethel has earned that starting job. The reason, among others, is that health allowed him to practice.
“When you are finally healthy, and you get a whole offseason to work your craft, it does wonders how you progress as a player,” Bettcher said.
— Fitzgerald needs 82 yards receiving to become only the fifth player to have 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns over a career in season openers. The fabulous four so far? Don Maynard, Andre Reed, Randy Moss and Jerry Rice.
— Finally, back to Mathieu. One of the things the Cardinals lost last year when the Honey Badger was not Badgeriffic went beyond dynamic play in the secondary. It lost an emotional jet engine, which Mathieu simply couldn’t be when he isn’t playing like he knows he can. That component is back.
“I try to feel out games,” Mathieu said. “Some games I won’t say a word. Other games I’m pretty well vocal. I won’t know until I actually get to game day.”
It’s meaningful. Said Patrick Peterson, “He finds ways to pass his energy to his teammates.”
See you Sunday. The regular season is here.
Tags: Alex Boone, Andre Reed, Anquan Boldin, Carson Palmer, Don Maynard, Evan Boehm, Harold Goodwin, Jermaine Gresham, Jerry Rice, John Brown, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Lions, Mike Iupati, Rams, Randy Moss, Robert Nkemdiche, Troy Niklas, Tyrann Mathieu
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Bruce Arians was talking at lunchtime about how healthy the Cardinals were getting. Then defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche limped off to the locker room, accompanied by a trainer. Looked like his left ankle or leg was bothering him. No way to know what it is — your first thought is that it isn’t serious, but we’ll talk to Arians tomorrow — yet with the very good preseason/camp Nkemdiche has been having, it’s certainly an undesirable situation.
— QB Carson Palmer took a rest day. So too did LB Karlos Dansby, who finally came back to practice Monday. I’m sure they are just being careful with Dansby, but it’s been a while since he’s had a couple practices in a row.
— With Dansby not out there, Josh Bynes was taking first-team reps at inside linebacker with Haason Reddick in Bynes’ first practice following a hamstring issue. It sure looks like Bynes has a roster spot, unless he collapses the rest of the preseason.
— RB Kerwynn Williams was also sitting out practice. Not sure his aliment. Arians did not mention him during his press conference.
— The last two days, Reddick has been taking reps as an OLB/pass rusher during one-on-one drills with the offensive line. (Actually, they have been two-on-two drills as the OL works on protecting on stunts and twists.) The Cardinals aren’t going to overwhelm Reddick with too many non-ILB things right now, but Arians had said they want to get him a little more exposure to pass rushing.
— Is David Johnson getting to do enough? It’s interesting to watch the running back sprint 30, 40, 50 yards through a play sometimes — occasionally he doesn’t even have the ball — in what looks like an attempt just to get some running in. (Side note: He’s fast. Faster than you think.)
— During “thud” tackling, whoever is covering TE Jermaine Gresham better be ready. Gresham still plows into a defender who chooses to get in front of him.
— During scout team work, rookie QB Trevor Knight had a couple of nice 44-yard bombs to RB James Summers (over LB Chandler Jones) and WR Krishawn Hogan (over S Budda Baker.)
— Mostly though, it was a practice of the defense. Tyrann Mathieu was actually getting irritated late in the work because scout-look QBs were holding the ball so long against the No. 1 D (there would have been multiple sacks). Mathieu would have had one airborne pick before he yanked his arms down at the last second, preventing any kind of in-air contact, and on another play where Knight short-hopped a receiver Mathieu had defended perfectly, Mathieu angrily batted the ball back into the turf. He knows he would’ve had the pick.
— Guys that did get interceptions: CB Patrick Peterson, S Ironhead Gallon, LB Philip Wheeler in his first practice back from injury, and Baker.
Tags: Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Haason Reddick, Ironhead Gallon, James Summers, Jermaine Gresham, Josh Bynes, Karlos Dansby, Kerwynn Williams, Krishawn Hogan, Patrick Peterson, Philip Wheeler, Robert Nkemdiche, training camp, Trevor Knight, Tyrann Mathieu
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As mentioned the other day, the Cardinals still have a vacancy on their 90-man roster. Bruce Arians, during an interview on Arizona Sports, indicated that the Cards could still re-sign veteran running back Chris Johnson, which has always been a possibility as long as Johnson remained on the market.
With all that in mind, a quick look at the notable veterans General Manager Steve Keim has signed in the days prior or during training camp while the Cardinals are at University of Phoenix Stadium:
2013 — T Eric Winston (started all season), LB John Abraham (led team in sacks), K Dan Carpenter (signed as competition to Jay Feely, lost battle.)
2014 — T Max Starks (eventually released at end of camp), DT Tommy Kelly (had a solid season as a replacement for the injured Darnell Dockett.)
2015 — TE Jermaine Gresham (has been team’s top tight end since), C Lyle Sendlein (started all season), RB Chris Johnson (played well before late-season injury.)
2016 — LB Donald Butler (released during final cuts), CB Mike Jenkins (was in line to start until tearing ACL).
Odds favor a couple more signings in this camp, necessary either because of play or injury. Whether they make a difference (see: 2016) we will see, but as always, the roster is churning.
Tags: Chris Johnson, Dan Carpenter, Darnell Dockett, Donald Butler, Eric Winston, free agency, Jay Feely, Jermaine Gresham, John Abraham, Lyle Sendlein, Max Starks, Mike Jenkins, Steve Keim, Tommy Kelly, training camp
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With about a month left before training camp (already?!?), it’s time to take a look at who I think the offensive starters will be come Sept. 10, when the Cardinals play the Lions in Detroit to begin the regular season. Could a training camp signing change things? Sure. I see more of a chance of that defensively than offensively.
My defensive thoughts are here. And after that, the blog posts will slow. Time off coming.
QB – Carson Palmer. You can’t get anywhere without a quarterback. Palmer finished strong in 2016. He’s a year older, yes, and no one is calling him a top-five QB. But he’s still very good when the offense functions well, and when his receivers don’t let him down.
RB – David Johnson. MVP-type player. Is he going to get 100 scrimmage yards every game? Maybe not, but he’s certainly going to have the opportunity. With his skills, and health, I’m not ruling out a 1,000-1,000 season.
WR – Larry Fitzgerald. After Bruce Arians had said more than once Fitz’s 100-catch days were behind him, Fitz has had two straight 100-catch seasons. Won’t be surprised to see him do it again. The question will be, is this his last season?
WR – Smokey Brown. He says he’s healthy. The Cards need him to be. Rookie Chad Williams may have an intriguing future, but this year, the Cardinals need the I-can-get-1,000-yards John Brown.
TE – Jermaine Gresham. So many have questioned his new large contract. But he’s been the best tight end the Cards have had since he showed up, and he does deliver some intangibles on the field this team can use.
TE – Troy Niklas. It’s a leap, yes, to assume Niklas will stay healthy. But every time, in the brief times, Niklas has been on the field, they like what he has brought. He’s not going to be a big pass-catcher. But he can block and he’ll play an important role – again, if he’s on the field.
LT – D.J. Humphries. He’s better suited for the left side. It’s tough for Jared Veldheer, but given ages and the future, this was all but predetermined when Humphries was drafted.
LG – Mike Iupati. Wasn’t as good in 2016 as he was in 2015, but I expect a rally. It’s important too – given his salary going forward, his age and the drafting of Dorian Johnson, the spotlight will be bright.
C – A.Q. Shipley. Showed the Cardinals he could start in this league. No reason to think he won’t again.
RG – Evan Boehm. I don’t see Johnson jumping into this job. Not yet. This is probably the second-most likely spot Keim could grab a vet, behind only No. 2 cornerback. But as it stands, Boehm is probably going to be out there.
RT – Jared Veldheer. Veldheer didn’t want to move from left to right tackle, but he did for the good of the team. Is there a transition to be made? Yes. Somehow, I don’t have much concern that Veldheer will make it work successfully.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Carson Palmer, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, Evan Boehm, Jared Veldheer, Jermaine Gresham, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Iupati, Troy Niklas
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