Blogs

Friday before the Raiders

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2017 – 3:02 pm

Finally, some starters.

It could be quick for either of the units against the Raiders. As in years past, if the Cardinals carve up Oakland for an 80-yard touchdown drive on the first possession, or the defense forces a couple of quick punts, I could see Bruce Arians sitting down his main guys. To me, this game is important for the offense and the collective confidence. Carson Palmer sat out Wednesday and Thursday practices, so I’m curious to see how that comes together – especially since the receiving crew, beyond Fitz, has been up and down and injured in camp thus far.

Defensively, it sure seems the confidence is there. Robert Nkemdiche is breaking out. Tyrann Mathieu is full-fledged Honey Badger-y. And Palmer and Bruce Arians believe this has been Patrick Peterson’s best camp yet.

Peterson, as usual, is thinking big.

“If you want to be remembered somewhere where you can be forever – which is Canton – those are the things I can control, make sure to continue building up my résumé,” Peterson said (pictured here with Cardinals Hall of Fame cornerback Aeneas Williams).

Some other things to think about before the Cards get to a second preseason game, and the Raiders play their first:

— The players in particular I want to watch in the game, even if it is for limited time: CB Justin Bethel, LB Haason Reddick, DT Olsen Pierre, G Evan Boehm, RT Jared Veldheer, WR Jaron Brown and all three QBs: Palmer, Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert.

Some played last week, some did not. Veldheer still hasn’t played right tackle in a game. Seeing Bethel under the lights is important. I want to see how Gabbert follows up with his impressive debut and how Stanton responds to all the Gabbert discussion.

— Arians again praised Stanton all week. I also thought it was interesting to hear Arians speak about Stanton and his hits and misses in practice:

“There has been an interception or two, some are not his fault,” Arians said. “Sometimes when you are running with those twos and threes, guys aren’t where they are supposed to be and you try to force one. I do like that, see if you can get it in that window and see if you can or can’t. No big deal if you throw a pick.”

Dunno if that applies to preseason games as well.

— Punter is something to watch as well. Arians said he wanted to see more from either Matt Wile or Richie Leone (preferably both, but one is enough). I’d guess they will split the punts again. If you can’t punt well at University of Phoenix Stadium – where this and next week’s games are – that’s a red flag.

— We’ll get to see Kerwynn Williams get run as a return man. We know Williams can return kicks OK. How he will do on punts – and whether he could manage that job with T.J. Logan out – is what is in the spotlight.

— Two weeks of training camp left at the stadium. As of now, seven practices are scheduled to be open to the public: Monday through Thursday next week, and Monday through Wednesday the week after.

— Finally, for those who are looking for my constant in-game tweeting, that will drop off quite a bit in the preseason. For the next four games, with Paul Calvisi in the radio booth doing play-by-play, I will be on the sideline as the reporter for the radio broadcasts on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. (And for those who don’t like my constant in-game tweeting, you win!)


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 22 Comments »

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.


Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 16 Comments »

Wednesday before the Hall of Fame game

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

Well, here we are. A game is about to be played and we just got to August, and there is still about a month’s worth of training camp to go. Still, once the games arrive, things get into more of a rhythm, work for a week and then a game, and so on. The players like it when we get to that point (and so do writers.) This game is a little different, of course. There is only so much you will get out of your main guys in any preseason game and of course, in this one, Bruce Arians already said there will be no starters. All about the young guys. Makes sense. The starters barely play in the first preseason game normally — and that game is still more than a week away.

This is about the young guys, as Arians said. Seeing what happens when the lights go on. Even last weekend, at the Red-White practice, which was still just a practice but had 25,000 in the stands, one particular rookie struggled with things he hadn’t previously struggled with. That’s the power of “under the lights” that coaches always talk about. There have been plenty of players who have looked good in the offseason and in camp and then looked different in preseason games. That won’t get you on a roster.

— It’s early but we’re already talking about injuries. Cornerback less so, especially with the signing of Tramon Williams and the return of Justin Bethel to practice. But inside linebacker will be interesting. Karlos Dansby was never going to play, but he’s nursing a sore knee. Gabe Martin is out for a while with an Achilles problem. Newly-signed Philip Wheeler is sidelined with some sort of leg issue, which shouldn’t be long, Arians said, but it will almost certainly keep him out Thursday. Of course, Deone Bucannon is still on PUP.

Rookie Haason Reddick will play (one starter who will be out there; I’m guessing there might be a couple of others), but Arians doesn’t want it to be long. One guy to watch is Scooby Wright. Wright has had a solid offseason of work. He’s good on special teams. If he can make a push in these preseason games, he’s got a good chance to make the roster.

— There’s a lot of talk about Blaine Gabbert and his start Thursday, but there will also be a half of play for undrafted rookie QB Trevor Knight. Knight is a major longshot, but he’ll have a couple opportunities. Thus far, Knight in camp has been the Knight people know from college — good athlete, can run, inconsistent with accuracy.

— This will become a growing storyline as we go, but while the starting offensive line is all but set, those backup spots on the 53-man roster are not. There are a lot of guys who are fighting for a place. I want to see Cole Toner, who is basically the backup center, in a game situation. Rookie guard Dorian Johnson, and rookie tackle Will Holden are third string trying to move up the depth chart. Unknowns like tackle Givens Price and guard Kaleb Johnson, both current second-stringers, who want to provide the upset by sticking around.

— Of course, all the draft class tends to get your attention. I do like what I have seen from safety Budda Baker. It’s tough, because of his stature, you’re always going to compare him to Tyrann Mathieu and Mathieu is having a great camp as we go. But you can see why the front office was so enamored by Baker.

— Don’t know how much Robert Nkemdiche we will see, but I am anxious to watch him against another team. He’s looked very good thus far.

— I will be staying in Canton for the Kurt Warner Hall of Fame induction. I have a big Warner story posting Friday morning which I think you’ll enjoy, and all our Warner coverage — including a series of videos from our sit-down interview — can be found by clicking here on our Warner Hall of Fame page.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 15 Comments »

Corners wrecked by injuries again

Posted by Darren Urban on July 30, 2017 – 10:47 am

Sometimes, especially in training camp, it seems like a rash of injuries stays concentrated to a certain position. It’s got no empirical evidence to back it up, but Bruce Arians has alluded to it. Back in 2015, it was the running backs. Now, for a second straight season, it’s cornerback.

Yes, Justin Bethel should only be out a few days after hyperextending his knee. And the ankle issue for Elie Bouka isn’t supposed to be long-term. But the Cardinals already released Jumal Rolle with an injury settlement after Rolle couldn’t get straight with his hamstring, and now it seems Ronald Zamort — who had slid into Bethel’s first-team role while Bethel sat out — has torn his ACL and would be lost for the season.

It is reminiscent of last season, when the Cards had a bunch of cornerbacks get hurt. It started when Bethel, who was supposed to be the starter, broke his foot again in the offseason, needed surgery and never could get quite right. The Cardinals signed veteran Mike Jenkins, who tore his ACL. They signed veteran Alan Ball, who received an injury settlement after hurting his quadriceps muscle. Bouka ended up on IR after a hamstring issue.

UPDATE: The Cardinals are signing CB Tramon Williams.

It would make sense that the team sign someone sooner rather than later. Right now, the healthy cornerbacks on the roster are Patrick Peterson, Brandon Williams, and undrafted rookies Sojourn Shelton, Gump Hayes and Ryan Lewis. One plus: safety Harlan Miller has gotten a lot of reps at cornerback. Rookie safety Rudy Ford can also play there.

The Cardinals recently worked out veteran cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Tramon Williams.


Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 36 Comments »

Cornerback shuffle continues

Posted by Darren Urban on July 29, 2017 – 12:37 pm

Bruce Arians wants the Cardinals to add a veteran cornerback, but defers to GM Steve Keim as to when (not really an if, it doesn’t seem) that happens. Nevertheless, with Justin Bethel out a couple of days after hyperextending his knee in a collision with tight end Jermaine Gresham the other day, Ronald Zamort is running with the first unit. Brandon Williams, who was supposed to be behind Bethel, is behind Zamort.

— Rookie T.J. Logan should be the kickoff return man for the Cardinals, Arians said (unless he is bad in preseason, Arians added.) But in a small surprise, Arians said Logan has been doing well on punt returns and might have a chance to do that as well. Logan has never returned punts, so it’s a work-in-progress.

— Arians wasn’t happy with the offense in Friday’s practice, disappointed in the execution. Carson Palmer technically practiced, but he didn’t do anything after individual drills. (Palmer is practicing fully today.) Arians added that Drew Stanton had a good day at practice but could have had a great day. At the same time, he acknowledged Palmer’s absence obviously impacted the offense. “That’s why he’s Carson.”

— It’s tough to be happy after a camp practice, Arians said, and he rarely is. “That’s the problem. Cardinals always win, but offense or defense, one side always beats the other. You hope it happens in and out of practice, rather than one-sided.”

 


Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 5 Comments »

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.


Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 5 Comments »

Arians confirms Flowers visit

Posted by Darren Urban on July 25, 2017 – 12:04 pm

Bruce Arians confirmed today that free-agent veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers is visiting the team — Arians said he’s getting a physical today — as a potential addition to the roster. Flowers has had concussion issues, so the physical is important. Arians also emphasized adding Flowers doesn’t necessarily mean a reflection on the play of current first-stringer Justin Bethel. The Cardinals want to add pieces, and besides, it’s worth noting the Cards lost a pair of cornerbacks who had been up the depth chart for a couple of weeks — Elie Bouka (ankle) and Jumel Rolle (hamstring).

— Arians again praised the work if Bethel. Bethel made more plays Monday, and Arians even likes the fact Bethel is getting better responding when he makes a bad play. “He’s learning to get amnesia,” Arians said, which is such a great quote.

— DT Ed Stinson hurt his hamstring while LB Alani Fua and S Ironhead Gallon each hurt a knee. No timetable was given for those players. (Tough for both Stinson and Fua, who seemingly are both always battling injury.)


Tags: , , ,
Posted in Blog | 11 Comments »

Fitz plays for a ring and “wide open” CB spot

Posted by Darren Urban on July 23, 2017 – 12:02 pm

Some quick news and notes from media availability here on a quiet Sunday:

— Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald spoke for the first time. Of course, his future came up. He wants to win a Super Bowl. (Duh.) “That’s the only reason I’m playing at this point,” Fitzgerald said. He also said he doesn’t know what the future holds, and that he won’t make his decision about playing or not playing beyond 2017 based on what Carson Palmer or Bruce Arians do with their similar decisions.

(Full story coming right here).

— Arians said the No. 2 cornerback spot is “wide open” although he praised Justin Bethel’s play. Still a lot of speculation about whether the Cardinals bring in a veteran cornerback. It seems like Bethel — and Brandon Williams for that matter — will get a little time to show what they have.

— Along those lines, the two injured players from Saturday’s first practice were cornerbacks. Elie Bouka (ankle) and Jumel Rolle (hamstring) both were having MRIs Sunday. They both were hoping to be in that CB mix. We’ll see how much of a setback this is.

— On how No. 2 rookie Budda Baker has done early after missing all the offseason because of the school graduation rule: “He looks like a damn rookie.”

— Arians said he wants his defenders to get more hands on the ball after that first practice. He doesn’t want a rash of interceptions from his quarterbacks, mind you, but he would like a couple of picks a day.

— Lastly, there’s still a chance to get your picture in a Kickoff Magazine, the Cardinals’ official game program. Send your best photo of yourself, friends, or family wearing your favorite Cardinals gear. Submit the picture, your name and the town where you live to photos@cardinals.nfl.net. Fan photos will be selected based on size and photo quality.


Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 16 Comments »

For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 22, 2017 – 11:33 am

What’s frightening – at least to someone that hasn’t been on vacation yet – is that the first practice of 2017 training camp is exactly one month away. This is where I’d like time to slow down a bit. But this is also the time, before I take a step away for a bit and with the Cardinals a couple weeks already gone after wrapping minicamp, that I take a too-early shot at what the starting lineups will be Sept. 10 in Detroit.

Today, we’ll do defense. Tomorrow, the offense (right here). Most of these are pretty obvious. There are no real titanic battles on the camp docket. These can change if Steve Keim chooses to bring in a vet, but right now, nothing is imminent.

DT – Josh Mauro. Quietly, Mauro a) started almost all last season and b) has become one of the favorites of this coaching staff. No gaudy stats, but DL coach Brentson Buckner said Mauro is always effective when he’s on the field.

NT – Corey Peters. Speaking of quietly, Peters too played well in 2016. Came back strong off his Achilles injury. Proving to be a solid 2015 free-agent signing, even if he missed a year.

DT – Frostee Rucker. Always a chance Robert Nkemdiche could slip in, but I’m guessing Rucker – now healthy when he wasn’t in 2016 – takes hold of this spot, at least in the beginning. There will be plenty of rotating across the defensive line at all three spots.

OLB – Chandler Jones. No more uncertainly. Jones has his long-term contract, and so you pencil him in.

ILB – Haason Reddick. This is supposed to be Deone Bucannon’s spot, and there is still a chance he’s ready by the opener. I’m going to guess it’ll take Buc a little longer than that to be ready, and so I think the rookie will be the anti-Nkemdiche/Humphries and be in the lineup from jump.

ILB – Karlos Dansby. Dansby is supposed to be a bridge guy to the Bucannon/Reddick ILB lineup. But he still sees himself as “legendary,” and to the benefit of the Cards, he’ll work as hard as he can to stay in the lineup.

OLB – Markus Golden. Had a breakout second season, leading the team in sacks. Will be an interesting year too, since he (like David Johnson) will be eligible for a contract extension after the season, with 2018 his final year under contract.

CB – Patrick Peterson. A star, and he’s earned that title. Sometimes he gives up something, but that happens when you cover the other team’s best every week. Most of the time, Peterson makes the play.

CB – Justin Bethel. One of the biggest questions. Wouldn’t be shocked at all if Bethel is not the starter against the Lions. If Keim were to sign a veteran on defense, this is the spot I would bet it’d be for. All that said, Bethel looked better than Brandon Williams in the offseason, he is healthy, and if the roster stays as is, Bethel makes the most sense in this role.

FS – Tyrann Mathieu. The Cardinals need full-on Honey Badger. That is all.

SS – Antoine Bethea. There are options at the other safety spot. I don’t see Budda Baker in this role, not yet. Tyvon Branch remains an option. But there is a reason the Cardinals signed Bethea, and I think they will want his experience and leadership on the field.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 25 Comments »

Across from Patrick Peterson, a revolving door

Posted by Darren Urban on June 16, 2017 – 10:05 am

It’s the dead time between the end of minicamp and training camp, and again, there is the question: Who will be the cornerback starting across from Patrick Peterson? As it stands, Justin Bethel is the leader in the clubhouse, although he was that at this time last year (despite a foot injury) and he never started a game. As we talked about in the latest Cardinals Underground podcast, Bethel has looked better than he had. Health helps. But until the pads come on and the games count, it’s impossible to know for sure.

But it got me to thinking about the position since Patrick Peterson arrived. Peterson, the fifth overall pick in 2011, had a learning curve himself when he was drafted. He wasn’t a great cornerback as a rookie, but he was solid. And he started all 16 games. His cohort opposite? It has not been the same player two years in a row, and that’s a trend that will continue this season regardless of whether it is Bethel or a veteran who might sign before camp or whoever.

2011 — Richard Marshall 9 starts/A.J. Jefferson 7 starts: Jefferson actually was the starter coming out of camp, but he faded quickly and was replaced by the veteran Marshall. Marshall was OK. He was probably better known as one of the better punt return blockers that got Peterson loose for his spectacular rookie year as a return man.

2012 — William Gay 15/Greg Toler 1: Gay signed as a free agent but was up and down. He immediately went back to Pittsburgh, where he was better suited and still starts. Then again, 2012 wasn’t good for any of the Cardinals. Remember 4-0 that year?

2013 — Jerraud Powers 16: One of the first free agents signed after Steve Keim and Bruce Arians took over. Powers was steady, although he was probably better suited in the slot. The Cardinals had Tyrann Mathieu plans there, so Powers dutifully worked the outside, and he was fine.

2014 — Antonio Cromartie 16: Cro was the ultimate Keim blue light special. Came in, was mostly good (although there were a few high-profile hiccups, especially later in the season when the team struggled) and made the Pro Bowl. But he wasn’t going to re-sign for cheap again, the Jets made him a big offer, and Cromartie started showing his age in New York.

2015 — Powers 13/Justin Bethel 3: Powers was disappointed but a team player when the Cards upgraded to Cromartie, and stepped back in the breech as the only two-time Peterson companion (Bethel’s starts came during Powers’ injuries.) Again, he was solid for a team that made the NFC Championship. But the Cardinals wanted to upgrade, there was belief Bethel could take a step forward, and Powers was allowed to leave in free agency when the sides couldn’t match up on the money it would take to keep him around.

2016 — Marcus Cooper 13/Brandon Williams 3: We know the story by now. Bethel was the pick, but was hurt. Mike Jenkins was the likely starter before blowing out his knee in preseason. The veteran Cooper was the late trade before the season, and got the spot after the rookie Williams showed he was clearly not ready after being the early choice. Cooper left as a free agent, getting a surprisingly nice deal in Chicago. And here we are again.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Blog | 46 Comments »