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Friday before the Bears, a preseason meme

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2017 – 2:49 pm

The Bears, the Cardinals and really, who takes the third game of the preseason like it’s bullspit? Bullspit!

I know it’s only Week 2 for the Bears — and frankly, for the Cardinals, who aren’t marching their main guys out for a half until next week’s Week 4/Week 3 game in Atlanta — so again, this is more of a ramp-up game. Bruce Arians isn’t calling plays until next week (that falls on QB coach Byron Leftwich again.) There will be around 20 plays for the starters, although as usual it could be less if each unit is effective. The biggest story in the game will probably be Chicago QBs Mike Glennon vs. Mitchell Trubisky, so we can see how Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson and company can mess with the immediate Bears future.

(In ’06, that Bears preseason game was Matt Leinart’s second appearance in the NFL, after playing on only a couple of days of practice — he signed late — in New England the week before. Leinart vs Warner. Those were the days.)

— It’ll be the first game for left tackle D.J. Humphries. Arians said Humphries did fine in his first practice Wednesday. I thought he had a slow start to Thursday’s work. As with the whole offensive line, he needs to ramp up — although again, with so much camp, there is plenty of time to get ready.

— Speaking of getting ready, the same goes for linebacker Karlos Dansby, who has been bothered by a leg issue. Deone Bucannon is ostensibly still on target to return to practice likely after the preseason games are over. Maybe a couple of days before. That inside linebacker crew could be a juggling situation for the first game. Haason Reddick is clearly still learning, and Scooby Wright, while solid on special teams, has shortcomings on defense. Both are players to watch against the Bears.

— DT Robert Nkemdiche has played well in the preseason but this week, the coaching clearly got harder. Nkemdiche is doing the right things as far as effort and intensity. But the technique must improve, because that is what will beat the better players in the regular season. Everyone has the talent.

— Others I’ll be watching in particular this week: Both punters; Kerwynn Williams on another punt return or two; the down-depth-chart receivers like Carlton Agudosi and Chris Hubert in particular since Brittan Golden (groin) likely won’t play; Justin Bethel and Tramon Williams (I haven’t forgotten about CB No. 2); and more Budda Baker.

— It’d be nice to see a little David Johnson but not too much.

— I’ll be curious to see how much John Brown plays. Smoke did much more in practice this week. But he certainly is not 100 percent, and the trainers keep a close eye on that quad injury. Still, Brown made some plays Thursday, and after one touchdown Larry Fitzgerald made sure everyone knew it was Smoke and then made sure to give Brown the side-five.

— Fitz, by the way, seemed like he was having a great time Thursday. For a guy who is usually tops on the list of wishing training camp wasn’t so long, it didn’t seem to be impacting him. That’s probably good, because after the game, there’s still one week left.


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After practice: Nkemdiche as teaching tool

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2017 – 4:51 pm

There is a flip side to teaching Robert Nkemdiche, who, make no mistake, is still trying to learn how to play his position on the defensive line. Every day, you can see Nkemdiche’s power and athleticism and effort as he tries to bury his disappointing rookie season, but in technique and discipline (making sure he doesn’t jump offsides), he is still in-progress.

But the power/athleticism/effort also gives offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Harold Goodwin a powerful tool when it comes to teaching his young players. Specifically, rookie fourth-round guard Dorian Johnson, who many times has been set up to face Nkemdiche. Before these matchups, Goodwin talks to Nkemdiche as much as Johnson, and given the intensity in which Nkemdiche attacks, it’s some serious on-the-job training.

The final one-on-one rep was a Nkemdiche win, pushing Johnson way back. Clearly Johnson isn’t ready to play this season, but this is how he gets better, and that Nkemdiche can help in the cause is an interesting turn, given where he was at as a player last season when he was a rookie.

— Left tackle D.J. Humphries was out working with the first unit most of practice for the first time since hurting his hamstring. “This whole situation kind of taught me to listen to my body a little bit, that you’re not in college anymore,” Humphries said. “It felt good today.”

— Wide receiver John Brown did look better at practice, making a handful of receptions in 11-on-11.

— Veteran receiver Jeremy Ross has picked up his play the last couple of days. And he looked like he was running ahead of J.J. Nelson Wednesday.

— Tight end Ifeanyi Momah made another nice reception and like previous camps, has proven himself as a receiver. They already like his special teams work. He should have a spot on the roster. He needs to continue to work on his blocking.

— LB Terrence Waugh left practice with some sort of leg injury.

— Earlier in the day, Bruce Arians noted that the best down-the-depth-chart receiver had been “‘Little Smoke” Chris Hubert. “He’s been wide-ass open,” Arians said. “We just haven’t hit him.” Early in practice, Hubert ran a nice route to the right sideline of the end zone, and he was wide open. Blaine Gabbert’s pass was too wide, however.

— Patrick Peterson made a nice interception, running the route ahead of wide receiver Jaron Brown. Safety Harlan Miller also had a pick. Rookie tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, back from an ankle issue, had an impressive diving TD catch.

— The first-team offense ran a quick screen to Jaron Brown. Tyrann Mathieu smelled it out and would have made a quick line-of-scrimmage tackle, if, you know, they were actually tackling. “C’mon dog, you gotta set it up better than that!” Mathieu yelled. “Too easy! Too easy!”


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“Bored” in camp and more receiverpalooza

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2017 – 1:05 pm

Bruce Arians was happier overall with practice Tuesday (although he’s still making them put on full pads again today), but the Cardinals are “getting bored with each other” at this point in camp.

“Have to fight through that,” Arians added.

Games mean something, even preseason games. And the players look forward to those. But with some teams already breaking camp around the league — teams that didn’t go to camp until well after the Cardinals — and the Cardinals still out at University of Phoenix Stadium and their hotel home through next week, the dog days are definitely here.

“That’s what training camp is,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “It hardens you, makes you a better team. … Everybody wants to get to the season but we still have a lot of work to do.”

— The ongoing story about the wide receivers remained ongoing. Arians was asked about wide receiver John Brown, who had noted that his sickle-cell issue slows his healing process. “That’s a fact,” Arians acknowledged.

As for having to wait on Brown’s return, “I don’t have any choice,” Arians said. “If he can’t run he can’t play. Now, if he can’t run long enough (after he returns), you’ve got to replace him.”

Brown’s stamina looked fine before the quad injury, so that shouldn’t be a problem once Brown gets back. But the Cardinals are clearly watching the situation. Palmer, noting there is still nearly a month before the regular season, isn’t worried about one of his close friends.

“He wants to be out there, but at the same time, we have a ways to go before we play our first game,” Palmer said. “He’s a big part of this offense. We want him in Detroit and we need him in Detroit.”

— Safety Tyrann Mathieu, asked for his perspective on the struggling wide receivers. As teammates, the secondary tries to help motivate, he said. He also noted (with a smile), “They’re not going up against any scrubs.”

— Larry Fitzgerald practiced yesterday when it was supposed to be a day off. “He wanted to help lead his group,” Arians said. What does that say about the veteran Pro Bowler? “You can’t say anything more about Larry that hasn’t been said,” Arians said. “He takes care of his room as good as anybody.”

— Arians said the Cardinals will “probably” keep six receivers on the 53-man roster.

— LB Josh Bynes (hamstring) will probably miss a week. LB Philip Wheeler (foot) is probably out another week, while LB Jarvis Jones (back) isn’t responding and may need another epidural. LB Markus Golden (foot) is day-to-day. T D.J. Humphries (hamstring) should get extended work today.


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After practice: Hurting John Brown “can’t rush it”

Posted by Darren Urban on August 15, 2017 – 5:32 pm

For the first time in a couple of weeks, John Brown worked in 11-on-11 situations in practice Tuesday. He didn’t run every rep he normally would, because he is, by his own admission after practice, not healed from his quad injury. It was a sullen Smoke who talked about his situation. He clearly knows his absence is felt, and he realizes many want him back on the field. But the wideout made it plain he wasn’t going to rush the process.

“I understand the situation at receiver but I’m just going to come back when I’m ready,” Brown said.

Brown knows his injury history. He’s also key to this offense. If he can get healthy in another week or two, that’s probably good enough. He needs to be healthy when the games count.

“I can’t rush it,” Brown added. “My body is different than others. They expect me to come back fast, but I can’t.”

All the receivers heard Bruce Arians’ message from the day before. Larry Fitzgerald was supposed to have a rest day Tuesday. He was out there practicing. On one touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Hubert — who didn’t catch the ball as much as he was forced to catch the ball, barely turning around before a Trevor Knight laser lodged in his stomach — Fitzgerald bellowed “We’ve got 12 who can play! We’ve got 12 who can play in the league!”

— It wasn’t a perfect day for on-notice receivers. Rookie Chad Williams got two yards behind a defender and QB Blaine Gabbert dropped in a gorgeous 39-yard bomb perfectly, only to have the ball go through Williams’ arms. But the dropsies went both ways. Safety Tyrann Mathieu, safety Harlan Miller and linebacker Cap Capi all dropped sure interceptions. Capi would easily have had a pick-6 on a throw to the flat.

— Robert Nkemdiche was getting reps in one-on-ones against offensive linemen every time through a unit — first-string, second-string, third-string. The last time through he exploded into and through the chest of rookie guard Dorian Johnson. Clearly, Nkemdiche still needs to work on proper technique. But if he doesn’t get it, it won’t be for lack of coaching.

— DT Frostee Rucker was also supposed to have an off day but like Fitz, he practiced. Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson and Karlos Dansby sat. G Mike Iupati stopped taking reps midway through practice — not sure if it was injury-related, but Cole Toner worked with the first unit — and linebacker Josh Bynes also left practice early. Linebacker Markus Golden (ankle) missed a second straight practice.

— Finally, if there was any question about how hard it is to cover running back David Johnson on pass plays, it was painfully evident. Linebackers have no chance — Johnson twisted up Haason Reddick, Chandler Jones and Scooby Wright at different times. It’s not fair, really.


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A quiet Arians is a scary Arians

Posted by Darren Urban on August 15, 2017 – 12:20 pm

J.J. Nelson mentioned Monday that while Bruce Arians had made it known he was not happy with the wide receivers, he was “saying it in a nice way.”

Yeah, well, that’s not a good thing.

“I was very nice about it,” Arians said Tuesday, very even-keeled while speaking on the subject. “I said (GM) Steve (Keim) is upstairs right now looking at tape for more new (receivers).”

That was probably a B.A.-mic drop moment. “I don’t really give a s*** what they think,” Arians said. “They were told real quietly and that scared them.”

It reminded me of my parents — and probably many parents. I know I’ve done it with my kids. Getting yelled at isn’t good, but when the tone gets quiet and perhaps a little more deliberate, something not so good is going down.

“If I’m hollering, I’m coaching ’em,” Arians said. “When I’m not hollering, it’s not a good thing.”

— Three receivers (coincidence? Probably not) are attempting to return to practice full today: John Brown (quad), Chad Williams (shin splints) and Aaron Dobson (hamstring). Tackle D.J. Humphries (hamstring) is going to try individual drills today, and Arians expects him back to practice later this week and to be able to play Saturday.


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After practice: Looking at the receivers

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2017 – 6:12 pm

Bruce Arians had just said earlier Thursday the wide receivers as a whole had to pick up their level of play. It was a little easier for the wideouts at practice because, with the team in shells, there wasn’t a lot of tight coverage (contact was relatively limited, especially downfield.) Rookie Krishawn Hogan stood out with a couple of nice early catches, but he couldn’t corral a couple others later on. It’ll be interesting to see how much certain guys play against the Raiders, especially given all the injuries. Chad Williams and John Brown are iffy, Aaron Dobson is sidelined, and there was another guy going down in practice.

— That guy was rookie wide receiver Carlton Agudosi, who suffered some kind of right leg/knee injury. I didn’t see what happened, but after one play Agudosi was down in the end zone. Larry Fitzgerald came over to see if he was OK, and eventually, he and Brittan Golden helped Agudosi up and served as crutches so Agudosi could hobble over to a cart, where he was driven to the locker room. Arians doesn’t talk again until after the game Saturday.

— Quarterback Carson Palmer was off of practice for a second straight day, interesting since Palmer will get the start Saturday. Arians didn’t mention at lunch Palmer would be sitting. Linebacker Karlos Dansby was also sitting out.

— Quarterback Drew Stanton had a beautiful deep ball early in practice, hitting J.J. Nelson well down the field.

— Assistant equipment manager Jeff Schwimmer made an outstanding one-handed grab of a Fitzgerald pass after one play. Fitz needs to get his passes down for his shorter receivers.

— C Daniel Munyer also limped to the locker room with a trainer at the end of practice.

— There was a nice TD pass from Trevor Knight to Golden at one point, but the pass only happened because Robert Nkemdiche wasn’t allowed to complete the sack he was inevitably going to get. The defense would have had quite a few sacks Thursday.

— Finally, a Knight bullet intended for Agudosi near the back of the end zone instead was picked off quite nicely at the goal line by leaping linebacker Josh Bynes.


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Nkemdiche rises to the ones “a lot now”

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2017 – 2:01 pm

Robert Nkemdiche may not officially be a starter on the depth chart, but the way the Cardinals’ defensive line rotation is going to work, he’ll likely work as much as those on the field first. Coach Bruce Arians said he will likely dress six defensive linemen on game days this season, and it’ll be a rotation — probably moreso than when Pro Bowler Calais Campbell was there to eat up a lot of snaps. Nkemdiche, who has had a very good camp, is showing he should be near the front of the line.

“He’s playing with the ones a lot now,” Arians said Thursday.

Nkemdiche got a chance to take a rep against first-team guard Evan Boehm in one-on-ones Wednesday, and bested Boehm. Nkemdiche remains modest in how he talks about where he is as a player, but the head-down-full-speed approach has been working.

— Arians likes the improvement from all along the defensive line. One guy that seems to be an underrated lock to be in the rotation is Olsen Pierre, whom Arians continues to compliment.

— Two receivers, Chad Williams (shin splints) and John Brown (quad) are questionable to play Saturday. T D.J. Humphries (hamstring) is also a game-day decision, although Arians said if there is any question Saturday, he’ll sit.

— Arians said he’s looking for the wide receivers to get much better. “That’s the group that really needs to pick it up,” he said. Injuries have slowed the unit, but Arians had said Williams in particular had been disappointing before he was sidelined.

— Finally, a dose of Ironhead. Undrafted rookie safety Ironhead Gallon, besides having the best name on the team, had been impressing Arians. At least up until he hurt his knee in practice.

“He’s bright and tough,” Arians said. “He’s one-legged right now. He is finding a niche for himself.”

Arians said he actually coached the man Gallon is nicknamed after, one-time running back Ironhead Heyward. “It’s a lot smaller Ironhead,” Arians deadpanned.


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Bethel’s level gives him chance for “great” year

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2017 – 12:26 pm

We’re a long, long way from “failure-in-progress.”

Bruce Arians was asked about Justin Bethel — who has looked pretty good in practice — and the coach was blunt in his assessment. This time, it was in a good way. “If he plays at the level he’s playing at right now, he’s going to have a great year,” Arians said. Bethel’s confidence has returned after his broken-foot-related struggles of a year ago, Arians added. Throw in some praise for Brandon Williams’ game against the Cowboys along with practices — Arians said as a press corner, Williams is going to get beat every so often, like he did on the long pass in the Hall of Fame game — and the coach sounds a lot more confident about his No. 2 CB role.

(Of course, after the signing of veteran Tramon Williams, this is what the Cards have to work with. Aeneas Williams isn’t walking through that door. But I do agree that Bethel has looked solid.)

“At the end of the day, I want to be the starter, but all three of us are going out there and work as hard as we can and we all want to see us all get better,” Bethel said on the “Red Sea Report” Tuesday.

— WR John Brown (quad) is back at practice today on a limited basis. T D.J. Humphries (hamstring) will miss another day.

— Arians said he wants to see more consistency from punters Matt Wile and Richie Leone. There is time to improve, Arians said. But over the next couple weeks, if he doesn’t see improvement, Arians said the Cards won’t be adverse to making a move there.


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John Brown to miss some days

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2017 – 12:53 pm

OK, so John Brown had a really good practice Thursday. But it came at a cost. Smoke strained a quadriceps muscle late in practice, and he’ll miss a few days — maybe up to a week. Not ideal, not after his injury issues, but coach Bruce Arians said it had nothing to do with the previous health problems and you hope it’s a few days off and then over. As Arians said today, this time in camp is all bonus time anyway because of the extra game (and I didn’t expect Brown to play much in the Hall of Fame game anyway.)

— The news for fellow WR Aaron Dobson is a little worse. His hamstring will keep him out longer than a week, Arians said.

— S Ironhead Gallon (knee) will return to practice on a limited basis today.

— T Jared Veldheer is back today after Arians gave him a personal day Thursday.

— Nothing new from Arians on the possibility of signing a cornerback. That’s Steve Keim’s department. CB Tramon Williams did work out for the team prior to Thursday’s practice, and we already know CB Brandon Flowers passed a physical too. I’m guessing this is about the contract to get someone in here at this point. “Hopefully,” Arians said. “I just look at them and say, ‘I like him.’ ”

— Arians on the work for Saturday’s Red-White practice: “There will be some live scrimmage we have not had in the past.”


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After practice: Peterson picks and some Smoke

Posted by Darren Urban on July 27, 2017 – 5:59 pm

The day off seemed to do good things for some guys on the practice field Thursday (and it didn’t hurt that the humidity, which was a killer Tuesday, was way better.) Some key guys looked good, not the least of whom being wide receiver John Brown. Brown looks past his health concerns. He is blazing when he runs around out there. One play in particular stood out to me Thursday, a 31-yard route to the pylon in which Brown went up and made the catch of a Drew Stanton throw with his hands, Justin Bethel right there in tight coverage. (There’s a picture of it below.) A healthy and fast Smokey Brown is a good Smokey Brown.

— Patrick Peterson made a couple of picks, once in a one-on-one drill with Brown (which is so hard for a defensive back) and again in 7-on-7 and in both cases it looked like Peterson was the one running the route.

— Robert Nkemdiche blew up a running play in 11-on-11 and looked explosive in one-on-one drills. It’s one day — and yes, in the video, he’s going against raw rookie Dorian Johnson — but the defensive tackle is going in the right direction. Nkemdiche tossed the 6-foot-5, 305-pound Johnson to the ground during one matchup.

— WR Aaron Dobson pulled up after a play with some sort of left leg issue and he was not happy. It’ll be interesting to see if it is anything serious.

— RB Chris Johnson joined Carson Palmer with a day off. Tackle Jared Veldheer also wasn’t out there.

— There was a play in which the pass protection started to break down and quarterback Blaine Gabbert basically had to sling a pass without any ability to step into the throw — and it was a laser to a wide-open Chad Williams 18 yards down the field. Gabbert unquestionably has arm strength, that’s for sure.

— If there is any question about Larry Fitzgerald’s mindset, I leave you with this: Fitz makes a catch coming across the field. Wide open. He leans a bit forward and ends up falling to the ground. Fitz was angry. “Stay on your damn feet!” he barked at himself.


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