Vikings (late) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2014 – 11:35 pm

It’s preseason, and rarely do things matter less in the NFL than a touchdown scored in the waning minutes of the second oreseason game. The reality is almost every player on the field at that point in the game won’t be in the NFL in a month.

In the grand scheme of things, Zach Bauman’s six-yard lateral run (?) of the loose ball batted backward by center John Estes was the play of Saturday night, right? It’s the kind of play that might’ve lived forever had it happened in a regular season game. It was fourth down, the Cardinals were going for it down three on the Minnesota 6-yard line because there is no way Bruce Arians was going to go to overtime in the preseason, and then Estes’ snap didn’t connect with quarterback Ryan Lindley. The ball rolled around. Estes, in the officials’ eyes, batted it backward, although oblong as it is, the ball took a turn toward the Vikings’ goal line, and Bauman scooped it up and improbably scored.

“Saw a play I haven’t seen in 22 years,” Arians said, before deadpanning, “that touchdown … that was designed.”

Even Lindley was willing to have fun with it.

“You know when we ran (at practice) and coach went off the field?” Lindley said, referring to the fight-induced punishment Thursday. “That’s really what we did, we got the defense some scout team reps, and we let it ride.”

For those wondering, here was the official comment from referee Craig Wrolstad:

“The ball was snapped, it was a backwards pass. The snap is considered the backwards pass. Any backwards pass can be advanced by any team, any direction, on any down. It wasn’t a fumble because the snap was never possessed by any of the players. The ball was snapped, it rolled around, it was knocked around a couple times, nobody ever had control of the ball. Nobody ever had control of the ball, so nobody ever had possession, so it was not a fumble.”

Wild. It worked out for Bauman too, clearly.

Some other quick thoughts before I try to actually get some sleep on this flight home:

— The Cardinals know they have to be better on special teams. This goes beyond who the kicker might be. The coverage wasn’t good – Arians said as much – and Lorenzo Alexander knows it needs to improve quickly.

“They probably have one of the premier return units in the league, but as a cover unit, we definitely have to step up and put our defense in better field positions, and also create turnovers,” Alexander said, adding “we still have a lot of moving parts, lot of young guys, but it’s no excuse. Special teams is about want-to, effort and heart.”

— The only injury Arians knew of was tackle Max Starks, who tweaked the same left ankle that has been giving him trouble.

— Newly signed linebacker Desmond Bishop wasn’t supposed to dress but he did and he played. He flashed a couple of times too. The veteran was a very good player before he had serious injuries the past two years. His progress bears watching.

— The starting defense did OK. I think they’d like to do better. I thought Calais Campbell was effective early, and I thought linebacker Larry Foote was too. That group is going to jump a level when DC Todd Bowles starts game-planning.

— It was too bad the crazy Bauman play didn’t win the game, but the third unit defenders didn’t have a good night. The Cardinals probably shouldn’t have been in the position late anyway, at least not how they got there. I thought the long pass interference drawn by receiver Kevin Ozier to set up the Cards’ final TD wasn’t a good call.

— The 19-play drive that scored a touchdown to open the third-quarter was a thing of beauty in terms of possession (and in terms of a preseason game and running the clock, but that’s me being selfish). It ate up 10:06 on the clock, and 14 of the plays were runs. No runs for more than seven yards and the Cards needed to convert a couple of fourth downs, but it was an exercise in being physical.

That’s enough for now.

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Photo day, Clabo, and a minor move

Posted by Darren Urban on June 9, 2014 – 2:20 pm

On a day in which the Cardinals took their physicals ahead of this week’s mandatory minicamp (with many top players shooting special pictures and video for various forms of TV for the upcoming season, like Fitz below), the Cardinals are still roster shuffling. The team made a change Monday by releasing guard Christian Johnson and re-signing center John Estes. Estes was just cut by the team a couple of weeks ago after the Cards signed tryout players following rookie minicamp.

Of potentially more impactful news is the report the Cardinals tried out veteran right tackle Tyson Clabo Monday. Clabo, 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, could end up being this year’s Eric Winston (at this point, no, I do not expect Winston to return.) Clabo played with Miami last season, but he spent the vast majority of his career with the Falcons and made a Pro Bowl at one point. If he were to sign, it’d throw another potential starter in the mix and would make a cluttered right tackle competition (already with Bradley Sowell, Bobby Massie and Nate Potter) even more chaotic. At some point, someone isn’t going to get many reps, even with training camp coming. We’ll see if Clabo ends up with a deal, or if that becomes a waiting game closer to training camp.

UPDATE: Clabo and the Cardinals did not come to an agreement.

Regardless, minicamp starts tomorrow. And by Thursday afternoon, the veterans will have scattered for the rest of the offseason, returning in late July for training camp.




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Sendlein still at the center of things

Posted by Darren Urban on March 5, 2014 – 9:48 am

The Cardinals signed a center yesterday, bringing in John Estes. Estes doesn’t have a lot on the résumé since coming into the league in 2010, playing in just two games with Jacksonville and spending two seasons on injured reserve. He was out of football last season. It probably is more of a sign that backup center Mike Gibson is an unrestricted free agent and might not return more than anything else. The other reserve centers on the roster right now are Tommie Draheim and Philip Blake. Meanwhile, Lyle Sendlein, the starter, plugs along.

It’s a question I get not frequently but also not rarely: Are the Cardinals looking to replace Sendlein? The answer, as it’s been for many years, remains no. That can of course change, if the Cardinals fell into a center in the draft later on that they felt they couldn’t pass on. But I expect Sendlein to stay right where he is, even as the rest of the line could change around him. Sendlein is no longer the cheap one-time undrafted rookie — his salary is $2.85 million this season and $3 million in 2015, the final year of his current deal — but he provides some stability in a unit that hasn’t had a ton. Sendlein might not make a Pro Bowl push ( ranked him 18th overall out of 35 centers, 12th in run blocking and 28th in pass blocking) but he a solid pro who is excellent in the locker room and as a leader.

If there was a time the Cards were going to move on from Sendlein it would have been last year, when the coaching staff changed and offensive line coach Russ Grimm — who loved Sendlein — left. But clearly Sendlein made a good impression on Bruce Arians and Harold Goodwin.


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Buddy Morris added as strength coach

Posted by Darren Urban on March 4, 2014 – 11:51 am

The Cardinals have hired Buddy Morris, who had just been hired at the University of Buffalo and who once worked with Bruce Arians when Arians was in Cleveland, to morris-20140116-0005-2be their new strength and conditioning coach. He replaces John Lott, who was fired last week. Morris’ time in Cleveland was from 2002-05, and he also spent three stints as the strength and conditioning coach of the University of Pittsburgh. (Interestingly, the man who replaced Morris for the Browns? John Lott.)

Morris has a lengthy and impressive résumé — this blog post gives some good detail into his thinking. For the moment, Pete Alosi remains the assistant strength and conditioning coach. The Cardinals officially begin their offseason conditioning program April 21, but some have already trickled in here and there. CBA rules prohibit any coaching right now, but once Morris arrives, he can at least introduce himself.

“I’m a fanatic on technique,” Morris recently told the Buffalo News. “I’m a fanatic on the little things. The game’s still a game of discipline and it starts in the weight room.”

— The Cardinals also signed center John Estes Tuesday. Estes had spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars (where new Cardinals vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough was previously in the front office) before spending last season out of football.

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