It was mostly a routine final-practice-before-a-game Thursday at University of Phoenix Stadium, but then it got very interesting at the end. No, that’s not referring to the first meeting with the media for linebacker John Abraham, who returned to the team after missing the first 20 days of training camp. Instead, it came on the field. The Cardinals ran a nice pass play with tight end John Carlson coming across the field for the catch and heading for a touchdown. That’s where all the eyes were until suddenly there were coaches yelling and a host of players — it seemed like 15 or 20 already — near the line of scrimmage in a group. A scuffle had started, although with so many people, it was impossible to know who had been in it.
At this point, Bruce Arians had made very, very clear how he feels about things like that. The other day, Darnell Dockett and Bradley Sowell had been made to take laps, but obviously, the message didn’t stick. So Arians went to the next level, stopping practice altogether to make the entire squad — save for the guys sitting out because of injuries — run sprints from sideline to sideline. Up and back they went six times, before Arians called the team together in a huddle. It seemed like practice was over, and Arians even left the field. But the players did not, and after a couple of minutes, 11-on-11 commenced for a little while longer. Arians even came back on the field, although it was clear he was angry.
“It’s camp and stuff like that happens,” cornerback Justin Bethel said. “We’ve just got to know that we’re a team and stick together. We’re trying to win a championship, and we can’t be fighting amongst each other. It’s all about team. Team is what it takes is our slogan right now. We just had to do some extra conditioning and put it behind us.
“(Coach) made his point, and we already knew where he stood with that. Some guys, they lose their tempers, and it happens, but we’ve just got to keep on moving forward.”
As for the end of practice, “I think some of the players on the team just decided we wanted to finish up practice because every play is important for us,” Bethel said. “I think they decided among themselves, ‘Let’s go ahead and just finish up practice because we didn’t have much left.’ “
– Abraham did not practice in his first day back, getting a physical and meeting with the strength and conditioning coaches to see where his fitness was. Abraham said it might take a few days to get back on the practice field but said he was confident he’ll be ready for the regular season.
– Arians said wide receivers Michael Floyd and Ted Ginn will travel to Minnesota and could still possibly play against the Vikings. It does not look as good for guard Jonathan Cooper (toe), linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral) and defensive tackle Bruce Gaston (knee).
Tags: Bruce Arians, John Abraham, Justin Bethel, training camp
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It’s been hard not to notice that wide receiver named Brown during training camp. Then again, Jaron Brown has had a year under his belt to know what to do.
Sure, rookie John Brown is the breakout-star-in-the-making. And he’ll be on the roster. Jaron Brown, the 2013 undrafted man out of Clemson, has more of a fight on his hands. But this last week seemed to show that this J. Brown likely ends up on the roster as well. Part of it had to do with prepping for the Texans game, since Jaron will be part of that second group that figures to play a lot Saturday. He definitely has found a rapport with backup quarterback Drew Stanton. It felt like he was making a two to three nice plays a practice (including a couple of nice grabs Thursday, as you can see below). Better yet, Bruce Arians loves the fact that Brown not only plays special teams, but is big and rugged enough at 6-2, 205 to stick his nose in the middle of kickoff coverage.
Jaron Brown had a nice preseason last year as well, which got him on the team. He’s showing up again. Assuming Jaron Brown doesn’t get hurt, he seems to be playing from ahead for that spot on the 53.
– If Jaron Brown looks like the leader for the fifth receiver job, where does that leave others? Brittan Golden hasn’t been bad either, but after the Cardinals added Ted Ginn and John Brown, his speed is less needed. Sixth-round draft pick Walt Powell also has been solid with good hands. Perhaps he’s a practice-squad target. The Cardinals are not going to be able to keep them all.
– The Texans aren’t going to play wide receiver Andre Johnson or running back Arian Foster Saturday. Whether No. 1 overall draft pick Jadaveon Clowney plays seems to be up in the air. Clowney, dealing with an undisclosed injury, seems to think he will start. Texans coach Bill O’Brien refuses to commit to Clowney playing. Who says there’s no drama in the preseason.
– The starters are going to get about 15 plays, maybe two possessions. I would guess it will be determined by the success of the first possession for both sides of the ball. That’ll open up the vast majority of the playing time for the second- and third-units. Logan Thomas is going to play the last chunk of the game, and after his camp thus far — he’s gotten almost all of the third-team reps since camp opened — it’ll be a big test.
– Players to watch in the game? I’ll be curious to see how Bobby Massie looks at right tackle and how John Brown fits. I want to see how guard Jonathan Cooper does against someone who isn’t Calais Campbell. I want to see backup offensive linemen Max Starks — who has an inside track to the roster if he shows well — and Earl Watford. I want to see Justin Bethel at cornerback, Kevin Minter as he begins his starting role and rookies like Deone Bucannon and Kareem Martin on defense.
Mostly, I want to see zero injuries. In the end, that’s really the most important part of the preseason.
– Speaking of preseason, here’s a link to the reminders if you are going to the game. It is a sellout, so it will be televised on local TV, on ABC-15.
– The Cardinals will be off Sunday and back at (open) practice Monday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Deone Bucannon, Earl Watford, Jadaveon Clowney, Jaron Brown, John Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Justin Bethel, Kareem Martin, Kevin Minter, Max Starks, Texans
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The Cardinals got a day off today from practice before doing two more workouts Friday and Saturday, which is the Fan Fest workout. After slamming into each other for three straight days, it’s good to get a reprieve. And to think, with practice just across town at University of Phoenix Stadium, it’s easy to pop home for the day. I know I appreciate it.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” running back Jonathan Dwyer said. “Get your mind away from football for a day. Guys who have family can spend time with their young ones, like myself. Just rest our bodies and come back to work the next day.”
– Speaking of Fan Fest, click here for all the details of the practice.
– What stood out through the first five days of practice? WR John Brown, obviously. Confidence in CB Justin Bethel’s progress. Thinking that TE John Carlson, if he can stay off the injury report, could have a very nice year catching the ball. Kareem Martin is going to have a key role on the defensive line, I think. Michael Floyd is destined to improve on his season a year ago.
– I’m off to Canton tomorrow to cover the induction of cornerback Aeneas Williams into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday. I’ll still have stuff on the blog from both Canton and training camp, and my cohort Kyle Odegard will be the boots on the ground at University of Phoenix Stadium. He did a nice piece on Bobby Massie today. Speaking of Aeneas, I hope you’ve been checking out all the content on the special Aeneas Williams page (azcardinals.com/aeneas). I’ll have a big story on Williams posted tomorrow first thing.
Tags: Aeneas Williams, Hall of Fame, John Brown, John Carlson, Jonathan Dwyer, Justin Bethel, Kareem Martin, Michael Floyd, training camp
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The first practice for the Cardinals is over. With that, a few observations I made today, knowing that the Cardinals still aren’t wearing pads:
– The first units were how the Cardinals ended the offseason work. Bobby Massie and Paul Fanaika were running first-unit right tackle and right guard respectively. With LB John Abraham still absent, Alex Okafor ran with the first team on the other side from Matt Shaughnessy. In nickel defense, as expected, rookie safety Deone Bucannon was essentially the second linebacker along with Larry Foote as the Cardinals used six defensive backs.
– Justin Bethel had a good start to camp and it’s easy to see why Bruce Arians has been impressed with his play. He is definitely coming along as a cornerback.
– That said, a play after Bethel won a battle with Michael Floyd, Floyd came right back and beat Bethel on the sideline. Floyd continues to look like a beast, using his big body to make plays. It will be interesting to see him in pads.
– CB Antonio Cromartie has a good day in his Cardinals’ camp debut.
– Injured safety Tyrann Mathieu came on to the field after practice was well underway, and was greeted with loud cheers from the fans as he crossed the sideline.
– Rookie wide receiver Walt Powell made an impressive full-speed fingertip grab of a Logan Thomas bomb and managed to keep his feet to complete the 60-or-so yard TD pass.
– The Cardinals worked on a lot of screens, and there is little question the plays will be in the arsenal for the tight ends this season if Arians chooses to dial them up.
– Thomas had his moments, good and bad, as has been his reputation. In one early drill with no defense, rookie tight end Troy Niklas didn’t get his head around on a Thomas bullet and the pass slammed against the side of Niklas’ head. On this first day, Thomas got almost all of the third-team reps as Ryan Lindley did a lot of watching.
– The Cardinals announced that about 10,000 fans showed up to the first day of practice at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Antonio Cromartie, Bobby Massie, Bruce Arians, Deone Bucannon, John Abraham, Justin Bethel, Larry Foote, Logan Thomas, Matt Shughnessy, Paul Fanaika, training camp, Troy Niklas, Tyrann Mathieu, Walt Powell
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This isn’t necessarily about starters, since I have already addressed that directly. But the battles of training camp aren’t always about who plays first or the most. Sometimes it’s about roster battles and depth and who plays more than who. Some competition will come seemingly from nowhere — going into camp last season, no one would have guess Paul Fanaika would have gotten into the mix, but the Daryn Colledge injury helped that come into focus — so there will be other players to watch.
But for now, here is some of the competition I will be watching:
Guards Earl Watford, Paul Fanaika, Ted Larsen and Anthony Steen. Larsen has been backing up Lyle Sendlein at center while Steen, who can also back up both spots, didn’t do anything in the offseason recovering from injuries. Someone will be the starting right guard. The Cardinals would like for Watford to step up. It very well could be Fanaika for a second straight season. Watford should be on the roster regardless, so if he’s not starting, that will be a spot that must be won. The Cards likely will only dress seven on game days, making those swing interior guys valuable.
Tackles Bobby Massie and Bradley Sowell. OK, everyone knows this one. It doesn’t make it any less intriguing. Like Watford, Massie is the guy the Cardinals would like to win the job. But he’s got to win it. Sowell isn’t going away without a fight. Sowell, however, can be a valuable game-day backup since he played left tackle all last season and can play the right. That’s a one-for-two guy on your bench.
Cornerbacks Justin Bethel and Jerraud Powers. With Tyrann Mathieu still hurt, Powers is an important piece in nickle coverage to start the season. But when Mathieu gets back, can Bethel — who got so much love for his potential this offseason — find a way past Powers on the depth chart? Bethel still has much to prove. Powers has his limitations, but his smarts make him a favorite of Todd Bowles and Bruce Arians.
Inside linebackers Ernie Sims and Kenny Demens. Sims has the experience, but he also has the reputation of struggling the past couple of seasons, which is why he finds himself bouncing around the league. The Cardinals have been intrigued with Demens since his (undrafted) rookie year last year, when he spent most of his time on the practice squad. Sims came in late and is trying to catch up. Losing Daryl Washington sent a lot of things into flux at inside linebacker. One of these guys are vying for a depth role probably behind Kevin Minter, Larry Foote and Lorenzo Alexander.
Kickers Jay Feely, Chandler Catanzaro and Danny Hrapmann. This is another obvious one. Still it’s one to watch. It’s definitely a subject that seems to get the fans riled up — and looking around the league, it’s a position that tends to do that with the fan base, for whatever reason.
Running backs Robert Hughes, Jalen Parmele and Zach Bauman. Arians came out praising Hughes. He figures to be the top choice as the fourth running back behind Ellington, Dwyer and Taylor. But Parmele is another big guy who has played in the league and could sneak his way into the spot instead. What will be interesting is if the Cardinals want less of a bruiser as a fourth, like a Bauman, considering Dwyer is a big back and Taylor is more of a between-the-tackles guy too.
Wide receivers Jaron Brown, Walt Powell and Brittan Golden. The top four receiving spots are taken. Fitz is Fitz and Floyd is Floyd. Ted Ginn will have a role, as will third-round pick John Brown. Brown flashed last year but again, he’s got competition. He’s bigger than Powell and definitely Golden — Golden would seem to be in trouble given the arrival of Brown and Ginn — but Powell is a draft pick and that usually ends up playing a role if it’s close.
Quarterbacks Logan Thomas and Ryan Lindley. It’s hard to believe that, barring a meltdown, Thomas doesn’t find a way on to the roster. But you never know, and both players figure to get plenty of playing time in the preseason to let any battle play out in front of us.
Tags: Anthony Steen, Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Brittan Golden, Chandler Catanzaro, Danny Hrapmann, Earl Watford, Ernie Sims, Jalen Parmele, Jaron Brown, Jay Feely, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Kenny Demens, Logan Thomas, Paul Fanaika, Robert Hughes, Roster, Ryan Lindley, Ted Larsen, training camp, Walt Powell, Zach Bauman
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Bruce Arians said Tuesday’s minicamp practice was the Cardinals’ “best practice so far,” which it notable from the standpoint a) it was pretty freaking hot out there and b) it went longer than an OTA because it’s minicamp and they can go longer. Some of the quick hit notes before I post a Patrick Peterson story later this afternoon:
– Rookie TE Troy Niklas is sidelined again. He had actually returned to the practice field following his hernia surgery that kept him out of the first few OTAs but then got a finger caught and twisted in a jersey last week and broke his hand. And so Niklas goes back to the mental reps, although Arians said Niklas should be ready for training camp.
“It kind of sucks I’m missing out of the reps,” Niklas said. “It’s frustrating. … I feel like I know the offense and I know what to do. Now it’s about teaching my body how to do it.”
– Some good news from the injury front: First-round pick Deone Bucannon was on the field after missing some time with a turf toe. “He needs it psychologically and just to get out and play,” Arians said.
– A couple of high-profile guys out: LB John Abraham, who has sat out almost every OTA so as to not overextend his aging body, reported for minicamp, “threw up a few times,” Arians said, and was sent home. The Cards hope to have him back Wednesday. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald worked out on the side with strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris to protect a hamstring that had been giving him some issues.
– Big praise from Arians about safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Justin Bethel. He even said Bethel could become the Cardinals’ best cornerback at some point given his skill set. We’ll see with Peterson there, but it’s nice to have the confidence of the head coach.
– Who emerges as the starters at right tackle, right guard and tight end can only be determined when the pads go on, Arians reiterated, although he did say Bobby Massie has been “much better” with mental mistakes at right tackle.
– Arians said the reason the Cardinals tried out vet RT Tyson Clabo is because the team is going to look at available bodies, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they would sign someone with the sole reason to be the starter.
– Asked to assess what he had seen out of newly signed linebacker Ernie Sims, Arians had a five-second or so pause before saying “OK. OK.” A ringing endorsement it was not.
– The Cardinals have two more days of minicamp before the veterans are released until training camp.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Deone Bucannon, Ernie Sims, John Abraham, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, minicamp, Tony Jefferson, Troy Niklas, Tyson Clabo
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It’s been well reported by now former Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie is visiting the Cardinals. Kent Somers reported Cromartie will stay until Friday, which was the original plan. Negotiations are ongoing. Will he sign? I don’t know. I’m guessing there is a chance the Cards have at last set parameters about what they want to offer, and Cromartie has to decide if that is good enough. GM Steve Keim and his group spend a lot of time breaking down their free agent targets and what they are worth. They go into every negotiation with a player with a number in mind. I don’t see why Cromartie is any different.
The Cardinals need and want to add a cornerback. Cromartie might be at or near the top of the list, but I’m sure he’s not the only one on the list. As Keim has said a few times, they will extend offers they think make sense. If the player decides it doesn’t work, the Cards move on. Sometimes it can be revisited — I think Karlos Dansby was in that boat last offseason — but the Cards and Keim won’t be rash and they won’t panic into spending more than they should or want to.
If he did sign, you’d think he’d drop right into the other starting spot with Patrick Peterson. Reserves would be Tyrann Mathieu, Justin Bethel and Jerraud Powers, and there is still the draft and guys you could look at later in free agency. If he doesn’t sign, there are others on Keim’s board. (No, other than the much speculated upon Mike Jenkins, I have not heard any names.) Cromartie would be a nice addition, but it’ll be on the Cards’ terms if it happens.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, free agency, Jerraud Powers, Justin Bethel, Mike Jenkins, Patrick Peterson, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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