The injury bug didn’t take long to find the Cardinals in camp. Veteran cornerback Mike Jenkins, signed in part because Justin Bethel was going to miss time with a linger foot injury and who is on the PUP list, broke a bone in his hand Friday and is out indefinitely for now.
Arians also revealed that the ankle sprain of rookie defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche is of the high variety, meaning Nkemdiche will be out at least a couple of weeks.
— DT Red Bryant (Achilles soreness) and TE Jermaine Gresham (hamstring tightness) also aren’t expected to practice today.
— Arians said cornerback Brandon Williams “had a hell of a day” in his first practice. “He got beat by Smoke (Brown for a TD) but he was there, just turned the wrong way and got off balance. But he broke up some good balls. Nice thing was after the touchdown he came back and competed his ass off. Some guys would go in the tank.”
— Quarterback Matt Barkley has made steady improvement, Arians said, but there are things like seeing hots and sights that aren’t good enough. “As much as he’s grown, he’s still not making the progress I’d like to see him make,” Arians said. (An aside: It wouldn’t be a shock to see the Cards carry two QBs on the active roster either.)
— At one point in the first practice, QB Carson Palmer got partially rolled from behind by offensive tackle Jared Veldheer. Arians admitted he held his breath after that play, and a couple others. “There was a lot of ‘phew’ yesterday,” Arians said.
Tags: Brandon Williams, Carson Palmer, Jared Veldheer, Jermaine Gresham, Justin Bethel, Matt Barkley, Mike Jenkins, Red Bryant, Robert Nkemdiche
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Tyrann Mathieu is going to get a contract extension. When, exactly, remains an unknown, although Ian Rapoport reported Monday the team and Mathieu are “deep in negotiations” toward a deal. I’ve long felt this was a matter of when and not if with the all-pro safety. For a multitude of reasons for both sides, it behooves both to get a new contract done.
But from the Cardinals’ end, a big reason to want to lock up Mathieu is because of the laundry list of players who, as of right now, are free agents after this upcoming season. It’s a subject we’ve talked about before, and the reality is not everyone will be with the Cardinals after this year. Still, if you have hope to having some guys around, you’d think the Cards would want to pare down the work facing them before this year ends. Here is the list — and it doesn’t include every single FA-to-be — of guys who are contract-less after 2016, as it stands right now:
— S Tyrann Mathieu
— WR Larry Fitzgerald
— OLB Chandler Jones
— DT Calais Campbell
— WR Michael Floyd
— G Evan Mathis
— DT Frostee Rucker
— RB Chris Johnson
— RB Andre Ellington
— S Tony Jefferson
— TE Jermaine Gresham
— OLB Alex Okafor
— ILB Kevin Minter
— WR Jaron Brown
— S D.J. Swearinger
— RB Stepfan Taylor
That isn’t the entire list, but those are the bigger names. Obviously, each are taken individually to an extent. Some guys the team will just move on from in the normal course of roster change in a salary-capped world. But big picture, it’s a puzzle GM Steve Keim and his department are working on as this season approaches.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Andre Ellington, Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, Chris Johnson, D.J. Swearinger, Evan Mathis, Frostee Rucker, Jaron Brown, Jermaine Gresham, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Stepfan Taylor, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Tight end Jermaine Gresham, a free agent, had been looking around. He talked to the Bears, he talked to the Jets. But multiple reports have Gresham choosing to stick with the Cardinals, at least for another season. More interestingly, Adam Schefter reported that Gresham passed up a four-year deal with $12 million in guaranteed money to return the the Cards for less.
Gresham’s return would seem to solidify the tight end position if the Cardinals decide not to draft one. Already back after signing their tender offers were Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah, while Gerald Christian is coming off a knee injury and former second-round pick Troy Niklas heads into his third season. Gresham did have a career-low of 18 catches last season, although a career-best 12.4 yards per reception. The Cardinals liked the job he did blocking as well.
Schefter is also reporting that the Cardinals are getting a visit from Panthers free-agent guard Amini Silatolu. Silatolu played in only nine games, starting three, in 2015. He is coming off an ACL tear in his left knee suffered in November, and would be depth potential on an offensive line that is likely to lose Ted Larsen in free agency.
Tags: Amini Silatolu, Bears, free agency, Jermaine Gresham, Jets, Panthers
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The Cardinals will not have tight end Jermaine Gresham tonight because of his knee, but that wasn’t unexpected after he was listed as doubtful. More work for Troy Niklas alongside Darren Fells, and I’d think A.Q. Shipley or Jonathan Cooper could get tight end work in jumbo packages.
Injuries actually made the inactive list for tonight’s game fairly simple. With the short week, those extra couple of days might have helped a couple of guys. Safety Tony Jefferson (hamstring) is active, although the Cards have new safety D.J. Swearinger if needed.
The full list of inactives:
— QB Matt Barkley
— CB Jerraud Powers (calf)
— RB Andre Ellington (toe)
— LB Shaq Riddick
— T D.J. Humphries
— TE Jermaine Gresham (knee)
— DT Frostee Rucker (ankle)
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, inactives, Jermaine Gresham, Troy Niklas
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With the season halfway over and talk here and there about possible contract extensions, it felt like a good time to note who is scheduled to have their contract run out after the season ends. We’ve talked for a while about the secondary decisions that are coming, but in terms of players that are making an impact, it’s a lengthy list. This is only the players set to be free agents; There have been some of you wondering if, for instance, Tyrann Mathieu could get an extension. He is under contract through 2016, so I don’t expect anything soon. The Cardinals, according to the NFLPA, have about $5.3 million of cap space right now.
CB Justin Bethel
LB Dwight Freeney
TE Jermaine Gresham
RB Chris Johnson
S Rashad Johnson
G Ted Larsen
LS Mike Leach
T Bobby Massie
CB Jerraud Powers
C Lyle Sendlein
T Bradley Sowell
QB Drew Stanton
LB Sean Weatherspoon
LB LaMarr Woodley
WR Jaron Brown
P Drew Butler
LB Kenny Demens
S Tony Jefferson
(Tight ends Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah and defensive tackle Josh Mauro are all exclusive rights free agents, meaning they can be tendered and not go anywhere.)
Again, a long list. The restricted free agents, if you want to prevent them from hitting the market unfettered, can be tendered with one of three designations: A first-round tender (a one-year contract of about $3.3M), a second-round tender (about $2.3M) or the original draft spot ($1.5M). That means, if tendered, if another team signs them away, that team owes the Cardinals the tendered pick. Given that all those guys were undrafted, the Cards would get nothing for the low tender. It makes for hard decisions on a Tony Jefferson, and even to Jaron Brown.
As for the unrestricted guys …
It seems likely that the older one-year guys — Chris Johnson, Gresham, Freeney — would want to see what they might get on the open market. The secondary is the most intriguing area. It wouldn’t be a surprise that some team might want to swoop in and Greg Toler-contract a guy like Bethel, especially if they’d want him to start right away at CB. The Cardinals like Powers. They like Rashad Johnson too, but with all the safeties around, what will be the offer? What does the future hold (or rather, where is the future) for Deone Bucannon? Is he a linebacker or safety? That’ll come into play.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Chris Johnson, Darren Fells, Drew Butler, Drew Stanton, Dwight Freeney, free agency, Ifeanyi Momah, Jaron Brown, Jermaine Gresham, Jerraud Powers, Josh Mauro, Justin Bethel, Kenny Demens, LaMarr Woodley, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Rashad Johnson, Sean Weatherspoon, Ted Larsen, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday. Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said there are always talks going on, but there is “nothing imminent.”
“It’s always tough to pull off a deal,” Keim said Monday during his appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7. Teams often want more than other teams are willing to give up. “We’re in a position where we feel pretty good about our roster,” Keim said. “There is no reason to panic.”
He was asked specifically about finding a pass rusher. Keim noted teams aren’t trading pass rushers (they’re not) unless a) they make too much money for what they are or b) there is another issue off-the-field. That’s what happens. Teams need pass rushers too much to ever want to trade a decent one.
Keim was also asked about possible contract extensions. It was reported Sunday Keim has been talking extension with running back Chris Johnson, which isn’t a surprise (and I’d guess CJ isn’t the only one that the team has talked with about a deal.) But talks don’t mean a deal is close. Sometimes, it just means the team and the agent trade ideas of what they are looking for. There are a lot of variables that go into this.
“To get a deal done, it needs to be beneficial to both team and player,” Keim said. “Sometimes that’s difficult to do.”
When a player is eight games away (plus playoffs?) from unrestricted free agency and the open market, there are reasons to want to wait. And the Cardinals want to make sure their deals fit the budget and the future plan and all the puzzle pieces that come together for the 2016 roster, and the 2017 roster, etc.
As for the rest of Keim’s thoughts …
— Keim said he is not satisfied with the season given what the Cardinals still have to work on, but “but I feel good about the record. We’re in a pretty good position.” The Cardinals are 6-2, after all.
— Keim praised the “attitude and toughness” of tight end Jermaine Gresham, noting that Gresham is coming into his own. Gresham did make a couple of nice third-down catches Sunday.
— Michael Floyd also had his best game of the year. “With Mike, we were never down on him,” Keim said. Floyd just had to wait for his opportunities with all the weapons the Cardinals have. A quick aside: Floyd was big Sunday with John Brown not playing. We’ll see how they mesh when Brown gets back on the field.
— Keim was happy with the play of rookie wideout J.J. Nelson. The speed is obvious. Keim liked his stop-and-start ability and his precise route-running.
Tags: Chris Johnson, J.J. Nelson, Jermaine Gresham, Michael Floyd, Steve Keim, trade
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Tony Jefferson likes his Twitter. And so it wasn’t a surprise to see him sitting in his locker after the game Monday, sweat and eye black still on his face, scrolling through his phone following his game-clinching interception.
“Got to go straight to the Twitter, man,” Jefferson said.
The safety reveled in the fact he was trending, which is par for the course after getting a pick like he did on nationally televised “Monday Night Football.”
“That’s the worst part, sometimes you get on Twitter and they bash you,” Jefferson said (with Patrick Peterson chiming in with a “Yeah they do.”) “But now, they can’t really bash me. I got the game-winning (pick).”
There would be no bashing Monday. Or at least, only a little. You can wonder about the decision to throw the ball late by the Cardinals, a play that provided the Ravens an extra 40 seconds or so. (Bruce Arians said he just wanted to put the game away.) And the mistake that led to the blocked punt, which was the only reason there was a close game in the first place. Then again, people were wondering if the Cardinals would win a close game, and now they have. More importantly, they won a game they were supposed to win, so they stay in front in the division.
“Everyone is going home feeling good,” wide receiver Smokey Brown said.
— Speaking of Smoke, he made an emergency call to his trainer from Miami to come out and help rehab his bad right hamstring this weekend. That, and the work of head athletic trainer Tom Reed and his staff, is what Brown credited for his being able to play against the Ravens.
“I was kind of in doubt,” Brown said. “(Sunday) I was hurting. My trainer came out and did a little work on me … and Tom and his guys did a great job. I actually went out there feeling pretty good. Not 100 percent, but I made it through to help my brothers out.”
You wouldn’t have noticed by watching Brown. He looked fine, he caught four passes for 65 yards and a touchdown, and he looked fast as ever doing it.
— I think it’s fair that Ravens coach John Harbaugh was upset about the Chris Johnson 62-yard run after it looked like he was down. Johnson never touched the ground and the whistle didn’t blow, so he had the right to keep going. But I also understand Harbaugh’s point that had one of his players gone in to finish Johnson off, they likely would have been flagged for a personal foul.
— Again, though: Chris Johnson, quite the free-agent signing. He’s second in the NFL in rushing.
— Speaking of those one-year blue-light specials, tight end Jermaine Gresham had a solid day as receiver with Darren Fells out. And Dwight Freeney had his first sack and a couple of pressures.
— It was a weird red-zone day for the Cardinals. In the end, they scored TDs on two of their four trips, and 50 percent in the red zone usually will win you games. But the two fails finished inside the 5 and you need to finish those off. You don’t want any 21-yard field goals, much less two in one game.
— The hamstring injury to cornerback Jerraud Powers could be a blow, depending on the situation. The bye coming after this coming weekend’s game in Cleveland will be well placed. If Powers has to miss a game, Justin Bethel will have to start opposite Patrick Peterson and the third cornerback (who isn’t used much thanks to safety Tyrann Mathieu) would be undrafted rookie Cariel Brooks. It’s a situation to watch.
— Mathieu, by the way, lit it up on national TV. Seven tackles, three for loss, and a sack when blitzing Joe Flacco. “I’ve been begging for that all year,” Mathieu said.
— Now come the Browns. McCown? Manziel? Either way, the Cardinals walk right back into a need-to-win situation.
Tags: Cariel Brooks, Chris Johnson, Jermaine Gresham, Jerraud Powers, John Brown, John Harbaugh, Justin Bethel, Patrick Peterson, Ravens, Tony Jefferson
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Smoke said he was good to go and it turns out he is, so wide receiver John Brown is among the active players for tonight’s game against the Ravens, a positive thing for the Cardinals. It should be noted, however, that with Brown’s hamstring issues of the last two weeks, the Cardinals will have all six wide receivers active for the game — including both Brittan Golden and rookie J.J. Nelson, who is playing in his first games since hurting his shoulder in Chicago.
The Cardinals, with Darren Fells hurt, also only have two tight ends active — Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas — so I would guess in the situations where the Cards need a third tight end in jumbo situations, we’ll see reserve center A.Q. Shipley. (Or maybe, with the Ravens’ struggling secondary, we will just see lots and lots of three- and four-wide receiver sets).
The full inactive list for the Cardinals:
— QB Matt Barkley
— LB Alex Okafor (calf)
— LB Shaq Riddick
— T D.J. Humphries
— T Earl Watford
— TE Darren Fells (shoulder)
— NT Xavier Williams
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Brittan Golden, Darren Fells, inactives, J.J. Nelson, Jermaine Gresham, John Brown, Ravens, Troy Niklas
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All those game-day decision Bruce Arians said he had turned into guys that are playing, which is good news for the Cardinals. Tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas are both active, as is wide receiver Michael Floyd — who just had surgery on his dislocated fingers on Aug. 5. An impressive comeback for Floyd, although after watching him dive on the turf in the practice bubble this week for onside kick recoveries it sure seemed a good bet he’d be playing.
Because of that, the inactive list contains few surprises:
— QB Matt Barkley
— WR Brittan Golden (meaning David Johnson probably will return kickoffs)
— LB Shaq Riddick
— T D.J. Humphries
— G Mike Iupati (knee)
— TE Joseph Fauria
— DT Xavier Williams
Tags: inactives, Jermaine Gresham, Michael Floyd, Troy Niklas
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Big picture, there are a lot of expectations around the Cardinals this season, as the games that count begin Sunday against the Saints at University of Phoenix Stadium. But sometimes, there is the smaller picture, the one of the journey traveled by individual guys to get to this point, like with Carson Palmer’s intense ACL rehab or Earl Watford’s roller-coaster career to suddenly starting right tackle or rookie Rodney Gunter going from nobody to nose tackle.
There is running back Chris Johnson, who everyone knows as the 2,000-yard rusher (way back in 2009) and the guy who didn’t quite fit in with the Jets. But now he’s the running back who was shot in a drive-by in March, his shoulder still carrying the bullet and leaving him mentally shattered.
“Lot of nights crying myself to sleep,” he said Friday.
Johnson was in mourning at that point, fearing the loss of his career. When he was forced into bedrest for six weeks, “that’s when I wondered about what direction my life would take.”
Flash forward to today, where he’s part of the three-pronged running back attack with Andre Ellington and David Johnson, prepping for the Saints. Chris Johnson may not be running for 1,000 yards this season, but he certainly sounds motivated to make yet another one-year deal for a vet by GM Steve Keim look like a bargain.
— Speaking of Johnson, he switched from jersey number 27 to 23. Why? He just didn’t like 27. Neither did Palmer, it turned out.
“It didn’t look good,” Johnson said. “Playing in it, always knew I didn’t like it but once Carson said something to me I knew it was time for me to get out of it.”
The two were playing cards on the plane during the road trip to Denver, and Johnson said Palmer asked him point-blank, “Twenty-seven? You going to stay in that number?” Johnson made up his mind then. “I was like, ‘Nah, I gotta get out of that number.”
— Arians said Michael Floyd was a game-day decision, but it certainly seems like Floyd is trending toward playing. Whether he’d be the “normal” Floyd in terms of gameplan, I don’t know.
— The tight end situation, and the iffy status of both Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas, is the more interesting injury watch. Those two are also game-day decisions. If I had to pick one, I’d say Gresham would play, but we’ll see. If a choice had to be made is a gimpy Gresham or Niklas better than the just-got-here Joseph Fauria?
— There is a lot of talk about how Watford will hold up or the pressure on Palmer or the pass rush, but honestly, one of the top things I’m watching for is Patrick Peterson versus Brandin Cooks. Peterson has set himself up for a big year, a big year that’s needed. Cooks is a tough draw with his speed. Peterson said a key is to stay close, so a simple Cooks wiggle won’t let him get away and race for a big gain. The spotlight has never been brighter on Peterson, whose 2015 confidence is apparent.
— Bruce Arians had to be careful with the game plan this week. Don’t want to make it too hard on the players because of volume.
“You have so much offense and defense from training camp,” Arians said. “A lot of times you feel you have to use it all. That’s a bad feeling when you can’t practice everything you have. Then you have way too much in there.”
— Arians said the offensive prep remains the same with Palmer. Palmer gets to pick the top 15 pass plays with which he is most comfortable, and Arians puts in running plays for the top 30 calls for the game.
— If it’s the Saints, then you have to always tip your cap to the fingertip-less Rashad Johnson, still plugging away after that fateful day in New Orleans almost two years ago. “I’ve got nine more” remains one of the best quotes ever.
— The Cardinals have only lost once in nine home openers at University of Phoenix Stadium. That was 2009, a 20-16 loss to the 49ers coming off the Super Bowl appearance. Oh, and the Cards have yet to lose a home game to a non-NFC West team since Arians took over.
— There’s been a lot said and written the past week. If you missed Cardinals Underground, or Kyle Odegard’s story about the Saints-Cards trade that netted the Cards John Brown or my story on Fitz and where he is in his career, please check them out.
— Otherwise, it’s time for an actual game that counts. (OK, first I have to write a story about the facility renovations and the cool new Tillman locker tribute, to be posted soon). There’s been plenty of talk about it.
See you Sunday.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Chris Johnson, Earl Watford, Jermaine Gresham, Patrick Peterson, Saints, Troy Niklas, University of Phoenix stadium
Posted in Blog | 33 Comments »