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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Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon hurt his hamstring during the first practice Saturday, but coach Bruce Arians doesn’t think it’s serious and even joked Sunday that Weatherspoon “just wants to be fresh for pads” when the Cards finally put them on Monday. Meanwhile, rookie linebacker Shaq Riddick — who missed all but one practice in OTAs and minicamp with a bad hamstring — re-aggravated that hamstring injury and is undergoing an MRI. Linebacker Daryl Sharpton has a “very minor” hip flexor.
Other lunchtime notes:
— The Cardinals are hoping to take tight end Jermaine Gresham off the PUP list soon, so he can start playing his way into football shape. Arians compared Gresham’s situation to the one John Abraham was in last training camp when he showed up after missing most of the offseason.
— Arians said rookie wide receiver J.J. Nelson (pictured below) had a good first day. “I think he caught the DBs’ attention,” Arians said. Nelson can be a return man, but there should be a difficult fight for a fifth receiver slot with Brittan Golden, among others, and the top four spots going to Fitz, Floyd and the two J. Browns.
— There wasn’t much said about Jonathan Cooper by Arians except that he’s doing really well. There’s a reason. “Don’t want to jinx him,” Arians said.
— If there are any questions about Andre Ellington’s use after his injury-riddled 2014, there shouldn’t be. “I still want Andre to have in the neighborhood of 20 touches a game,” Arians said.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Brittan Golden, Bruce Arians, J.J. Nelson, Jermaine Gresham, John Abraham, Jonathan Cooper, Sean Weatherspoon, training camp
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It’s been a rough year-plus for John Abraham. The former Cardinals linebacker, who suffered a season-ending concussion in the opener last year, was a free agent after the season. I’ve gotten a few questions if there was a chance he would return. I’ve said more than once he wouldn’t be coming back — it didn’t make much sense, and that’s assuming doctors cleared him after saying he needed at least a year off because of his head — but the news last night that Abraham is wanted on a battery charge after allegedly hitting a business associate seems to cement the end of Abraham’s NFL career.
After his 11½ -sack season in 2013 for the Cardinals, Abraham didn’t participate in OTAs in 2014. Then he wasn’t at the start of training camp, showing up more than two weeks late saying he had to deal with personal issues. It also came out that Abraham had been arrested for a DUI in Georgia in late June. He geared up for the season, but against the Chargers in the opener, he got a concussion. It was bad enough that he briefly considered retirement before changing his mind (which was smart, because he could then collect his salary.) The concussion led doctors to tell Abraham he needed to take at least a year off from the game.
In his 15-year career, Abraham had 133½ sacks.
Tags: John Abraham
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O’Brien Schofield admits he was “definitely upset” the way his release from the Cardinals went down in 2013, the day when training camp opened and the team cut him as they signed veteran pass rusher John Abraham. Schofield had already walked on to the field for the team’s conditioning test before he was called back and given the news.
But this year, the linebacker said he came to peace with it. That happens when you have one Super Bowl ring — he was picked up by the Seahawks after the Cards cut him — and could have another by Sunday night.
“Without the Cardinals I wouldn’t have even been in the league,” Schofield said. “I’m very grateful for that. Every experience, every trial and tribulation I’ve been through in life has filled me as a person and a football player and taught me perservence and faith. to be here comepting for my second Super Bowl championship, it’s unreal. To look at a guy like Larry Fitzgerald, who’s only been there one time, and for as great of stats as he has and as much money as he has made, I think, ‘Man, I could have two, and he doesn’t have one.’ ”
Schofield was going to leave the Seahawks this season. As a free agent, he signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the Giants. The Giants voided the deal when they said he didn’t pass his physical. Schofield’s NFL career started bumpy, when he blew out his ACL in a Senior Bowl practice and the Cards took him in the fourth round anyway just a few months later.
Schofield also suffered a serious ligament tear in his ankle in his final Cardinals’ season when teammate Darnell Dockett fell on his leg during a game in Green Bay.
Schofield thinks he’s finally totally healthy, however. He thinks a good free-agent contract, whether it’s from the Seahawks or elsewhere, will be available this spring. He believes he has a lot more “in my toolbox” than he did once upon a time, even if he only had a couple of sacks this season. He also said that however his release went down in Arizona, he didn’t mean for his Tuesday media day comments to come across as “harsh” as they did.
He thinks back to his early days with the Cardinals and wishes he would have done things differently.
“I’m a lot more mature,” Schofield said. “I went about things the wrong way. I’d probably still do the mohawk, have fun with it, but that was my personality. As far as handling things on the field, I would’ve changed my study habits, and I just probably would have found different guys to follow as far as leadership. That’s what it’s all about.”
Tags: John Abraham, O'Brien Schofield, Seahawks
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The Cardinals are not the most injured team in the league, although there has been little argument they have been undercut by the players they have lost. In the NFL, of course, anytime you lose a starting quarterback, that automatically puts you near the top of the list.
Quantifying that compared to other teams in virtually impossible. There are dozens of ways to look at it. But here is one. Spotrac.com has compiled a list that adds up the salary cap hits each team have sitting on injured reserve, and, no surprise, the Cardinals have landed in the top five. The Cards are fourth, with eight IR’d players taking up $28.8 million in cap space. The three teams ahead of them: the Giants with $34.7M, the Rams at $30.6M and the Bears at $29.9M. The Giants are there in part because they have a whopping 22 players on IR. The Rams have one less player on IR than the Cards, but with QB Sam Bradford’s huge contract ($17.6M himself) the total is slightly ajar.
The eight Cardinals on IR: Carson Palmer, John Abraham, Darnell Dockett, Troy Niklas, Ed Stinson, Dave Zastudil, Andre Ellington and Eddie Whitley. That total doesn’t include linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, who was out eight weeks when he was on IR/designated to return.
You can argue that the money could be weighted — the Bears, for instance, just put wide receiver Brandon Marshall on IR — but the overall totals do speak to the “importance” of the players on IR, because you figure the guys with the highest cap numbers are usually the most crucial.
As for the full list of walking wounded Cards, here are the guys who have missed games this season because of injuries, with the total games they have sat out thus far:
DT Dockett (14)
LB Abraham (13)
P Zastudil (12)
LB Shaughnessy (8)
QB Palmer (8)
TE Niklas (7)
DT Stinson (5)
S Tyrann Mathieu (3)
LB Alex Okafor (3)
LB Glenn Carson (3)
WR Larry Fitzgerald (2)
LB Desmond Bishop (2)
DE Calais Campbell (2)
RB Stepfan Taylor (2)
G Paul Fanaika (2)
RB Ellington (2)
DE Frostee Rucker (1)
TE Rob Housler (1)
We’ll see if the final two games bring any more surprises.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Dave Zastudil, Ed Stinson, Eddie Whitley, John Abraham, Matt Shaughnessy, salary cap, Troy Niklas
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The Cardinals looked hard for a pass rusher prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline. Nothing materialized. That’s really not surprising. In this league — especially when a team can flip into a playoff contender in one offseason — you just don’t trade decent pass rushers. You need them too much. And if you are willing to trade, you’re probably asking for more than they are worth, because they are at a premium, and a team like the Cardinals can’t just shred their draft options for that.
(Now, if Justin Houston was being offered for a first-round pick, yes, I make that move. I’d think GM Steve Keim would too. But the Justin Houstons of the world aren’t being offered.)
That leaves the Cardinals wanting on the pass rush. Yes, I’d think that will be the top target of the offseason, whether it is through free agency or the draft (or even both.) But the offseason is the offseason. That doesn’t help now.
The Cardinals have only seven sacks in seven games, and two of those are from defensive backs and one is from an inside linebacker. It’s no secret the Cards are blitz-happy out of necessity. It’s the only way they can generate consistent pressure, and it’s been a Todd Bowles staple, with the Cards blitzing about half the time. Would more sacks be welcome? Of course. But Bruce Arians sounds OK with the results so far. The last play Sunday is a great example. The Cardinals brought the blitz. They couldn’t sack Nick Foles — they couldn’t sack him all day, through 62 pass attempts — but it was the heavy pressure up the middle that forced Foles to backpedal and throw off his back foot. Jordan Matthews had been open in the back of the end zone, but the bad throw under pressure gave safety Rashad Johnson just enough time to recover and make sure the pass wasn’t completed.
“The thing we want to do defensively is be disruptive,” Arians said. “I thought we were disruptive (against Philadelphia). We created turnovers. Yardage doesn’t really matter. We want to lead the league in points (allowed) and we want to lead the league in sacks and turnovers. Sacks are the one thing that are obviously down, but there are disruptions there.”
At this time last year, the Cardinals had 19 sacks, en route to 47 on the season. A big part of that was John Abraham’s 11.5, and obviously losing Abraham — when the team had been counting on him to create some of those sacks — has left a mark. It was interesting to see that Marcus Benard is part of the outside linebacker rotation to create pressure, when Benard was one of the guys originally cut to add outside linebacker Thomas Keiser, who has mostly been inactive. Getting Calais Campbell back on the field will help, but it is, as Keim has said, beating a dead horse when talking about the Cardinals and creating/finding more of a pass rush.
The snap breakdown for the defensive line/outside linebackers against the Eagles, on 92 defensive snaps (92 – yikes!): Okafor 69, Acho 65, Campbell 62, Kelly 62, Stinson 51, Rucker 31, Dan Williams 18, Benard 16, Martin 10.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Ed Stinson, Frostee Rucker, John Abraham, Kareem Martin, Marcus Benard, Rashad Johnson, Sam Acho, Steve Keim, Thomas Keiser, Tommy Kelly, trade
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There had to be some doubt, right? If not when Daryl Washington was suspended then when John Abraham didn’t show up to camp on time or Jonathan Cooper’s leg proved not-ready-for-primetime and for sure when Darnell Dockett went down. Maybe that was the day for me, when Dockett crumpled on the University of Phoenix Stadium turf during a run-of-the-mill training camp practice. At some point, it was all going to catch up with them, and maybe that was the day, with a guy who meant so much to the emotional tenor of the team and without whom depth was an issue.
That’s the day that keeps popping back into my head as the Cardinals sit here, going into a bye week, atop the NFC West standings at 3-0. Two wins over playoff teams. Two wins in games when starting quarterback Carson Palmer could not play, a mountain NFL teams these days often cannot climb. Where this goes isn’t easy to predict, but at the same time the belief is embedded by now.
The Cardinals won’t go undefeated. But at this point, there isn’t a game on the schedule – as difficult as it might be – that would cause someone to be surprised if the Cards won on that particular weekend.
— Since 1990, 75.2 percent of NFL teams that started 3-0 have made the postseason (91 of 121). Of course, we all know that one of those 30 teams was the 2012 Cardinals. But as I’ve said, this team is built much differently.
— In my eyes the biggest surprises? Well, beyond the play of Drew Stanton, which I really didn’t see coming, I’d say the defense as a whole. The pass rush, well, it is what it is, and in a vacuum, it’s not really that good. But defensive coordinator Todd Bowles makes it better with his schemes. I heard former offensive lineman/ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth on Arizona Sports’ “Bickley and Marotta” show today saying when watching video, he can’t believe how much the Cardinals actually blitz. Teams normally are burned by such maneuvering. The Cards are not, he said, because everyone is so in sync.
— I am a little surprised Jonathan Cooper is still on the bench. But Harold Goodwin is taking an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it approach with the O-line. Bruce Arians said once the season started it’d be hard for Coop to get on the field. He wasn’t lying.
— I am surprised rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro has been this steady. He’s 9-for-9 on field goals, tying he-was-a-Cardinal-for-few-days Dan Carpenter – now in Buffalo – for most in the league. He drilled a 51-yarder, a franchise rookie record, and impressively, 14 of his 17 kickoffs have left the opponent at no better than the 20-yard line, including nine touchbacks.
— Deone Bucannon has looked pretty solid in his dollar linebacker role, although he definitely has room to improve in pass coverage. Fellow safety Tony Jefferson has been a revelation. When Tyrann Mathieu is back to full strength, what a secondary this will be.
— Although no more scares like that Cromartie knee injury thing last week. Between the end of last season and Dockett, this team has had its fill of ACL tears.
— Just in case you want to make that story even better when the Cardinals, with just nine players on the field, blocked the 49ers’ field goal last week, how about this: The Niners actually had a fake called on the play, and then changed their mind, and not everyone got the message.
— The 49ers ended up with a trio of fines from last Sunday’s penalty-fest against the Cardinals, although neither hit on Cardinals QB Drew Stanton by linebacker Dan Skuta or Patrick Willis drew a fine (nor did Willis’ penalty flag on his helmet-to-helmet hit on wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.)
San Francisco wide receiver Anquan Boldin was fined $8,263 for his headbutt on Jefferson. Tackle Jonathan Martin was fined $8,263 for clipping Bucannon, and safety Eric Reid fined $8.263 for facemasking wide receiver John Brown.
— Good story from Kyle Odegard on Cardinals’ VP of player personnel Terry McDonough and his brother Ryan, who is GM of the NBA team in town, the Phoenix Suns.
— So this is what it’s like to have an offensive line you’re not stressing about every game?
— I do expect the offense to get better as the season goes along, assuming health. Andre Ellington will be better. And yes, I think Fitz will eventually get the ball more often.
I’m going to go enjoy the bye weekend now. Practice resumes Monday.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Antonio Cromartie, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, Darnell Dockett, Deone Bucannon, Drew Stanton, John Abraham, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, NFC West, Todd Bowles, Tony Jefferson
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Bruce Arians made it simple Friday, announcing that Drew Stanton will start at quarterback for the Cardinals Sunday. Carson Palmer still is not throwing passes, and even if he for some reason were ready to play Sunday at this point, he would be active as the backup quarterback with Logan Thomas inactive. Regardless, Stanton will start.
“We’ll put that to bed right now,” Arians said.
It’s not a surprise. Palmer’s right shoulder is getting better, Arians said, but if he can’t even throw — never mind if he has any power behind it — he can’t do the job. Arians said Stanton should be better than last week, but also acknowledged the 49ers have one of the best defenses. This isn’t an ideal situation for the Cardinals, but it is where they are at the moment.
— Arians said doctors told John Abraham after he failed another concussion test Thursday that he needed to sit out at least a year, which led to the IR move. It certainly looks like Abraham’s career is over, and that’s probably a good thing.
— Newcomer Jalen Parmele, not Stepfan Taylor, will take over Jonathan Dwyer’s short-yardage/goal-line back responsibilities.
— Dave Zastudil (groin) is indeed out, so Drew Butler will be punter Sunday. LB Alex Okafor (thigh) won’t play again either.
— Defensive end Frostee Rucker (calf) did do some things in practice and Arians said he could play Sunday. Rucker will be a game-day decision.
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Drew Butler, Drew Stanton, Frostee Rucker, Jalen Parmele, John Abraham
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On his weekly segment on Sirius XM NFL radio, coach Bruce Arians said linebacker John Abraham did not pass his concussion protocol test Tuesday. Until he does, of course, he cannot play. Arians said he will try again Wednesday, but there is a real possibility Abraham will not be back until after the bye. That’s assuming that he will at some point pass the test at all. Regardless, Abraham will go back on to the 53-man roster — you only get a roster exemption for so long — and the Cardinals will continue to mix-and-match the linebackers to make it work. Arians said he has no doubt that Abraham wants to play, if he gets back on the field.
“He’s excited (to play),” Arians said. “When you get that first concussion, and he had a big one, it shakes you up sometimes. I think the rest and sitting back this weekend at home, he missed it a lot. He’s more than ready to roll for down the stretch.”
Arians also reiterated that the Cardinals are in a day to day situation with quarterback Carson Palmer, and there is no way to know when he’ll return. Arians said Palmer can cock his arm to throw, but then it just won’t come forward. Palmer is getting constant treatment, Arians said, and the hope is still he can play this week. “Could be a day, could be a month,” Arians said.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, John Abraham
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The Cardinals made a couple of roster moves Tuesday, adjusting the lineup for injury and other reasons. The Cardinals released linebacker Marcus Benard and also cut punter Drew Butler. Butler’s release means Dave Zastudil should be healthy enough to punt this week against the 49ers. The Cardinals also signed outside linebacker Victor Butler, a 2009 fourth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys.
Victor Butler has 11 sacks in his career. He was with the Saints in 2013 but tore his ACL in a training camp practice. His addition could aid the pass rush — the Cardinals are going to continue to throw possibilities at the pass rush to see if something clicks — and of course, makes sure the Cardinals still have a Butler on the roster.
Another thing that can help the pass rush is the return of John Abraham, and with Tuesday’s 2-for-1 swap, the Cardinals still have an open roster spot for when Abraham is officially reinstated to the team.
Tags: Drew Butler, John Abraham, Marcus Benard, Victor Butler
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