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Cards add A.Q. Shipley, Cory Redding

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2015 – 4:21 pm

The Cardinals added two more free agents Wednesday, bringing in a pair of ex-Colts: center/guard A.Q. Shipley and defensive end Cory Redding. Both are Bruce Arians specials; He coached both when he was in Indianapolis. Shipley has been with Arians three times now (he started in Pittsburgh when Arians was there) while Redding said he came to lean on Arians when Colts head coach Chuck Pagano got sick in 2012.

Both are the kind of depth signings GM Steve Keim has begun to master. Redding — below, signing his deal — will be great in the locker room and still can play, even though he contemplated retirement after the 2014 season. He’ll be perfect to mentor guys like Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson (as will fellow signee Corey Peters.)

Shipley fits into the mix on the interior of the offensive line. The numbers are starting to grow there, however, and it’s getting crowded for the current bunch even with a 90-man roster. Paul Fanaika is leaving (reportedly is going to sign with the Chiefs) but with Shipley and Iupati coming in, adding in with Lyle Sendlein, Ted Larsen, Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford, it’s a logjam. Sendlein’s $4 million-plus salary cap hit sticks out right now. We’ll see how it plays out, and who might be able to find their way onto the revamped offensive line.

ReddingBloguse


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Lacking sacks, Cards blitz for “distruptions”

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2014 – 10:17 am

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.

 

PressureBlogUSE


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Keim: Campbell prognosis to come, no new QB yet

Posted by Darren Urban on October 6, 2014 – 8:12 am

General Manager Steve Keim addressed the two biggest issues facing the Cardinals following Sunday’s loss/injuryfest in Denver during his Monday morning appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports. Obviously, both were injury-related.

Defensive end Calais Campbell is getting an MRI this morning, but Keim said the belief is Campbell has a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his right knee. Keim said Campbell’s prognosis is tough to predict because it can range quite a bit. But it felt like a little optimism. Keim didn’t even close the door on Campbell playing against Washington Sunday (although that would be amazing) although multiple games sitting is definitely possible.

Also clear: Keim wasn’t happy about the Julius Thomas low block that hurt Campbell, saying he’s never seen a player go low on what was essentially going to be a chip block before Thomas ran a pass route. “Hopefully, we’ll never see that again,” Keim said.

— As for the quarterback situation, Drew Stanton will go through concussion protocol and Carson Palmer will continue with his shoulder treatment. Because in theory both could be ready for the Redskins, Keim said the Cardinals aren’t going to add another quarterback. Not yet. That will be determined in the next 24 to 48 hours. Keim wouldn’t divulge what quarterbacks the team would be looking at if they would sign one, although he said there are a lot of considerations that go into it and what they need plays into any decision. Keim noted any practice squad addition means keeping that player for three games on the 53-man roster, which might not make sense if Palmer and Stanton are on the verge of returning (and why Ryan Lindley, on San Diego’s practice squad, might not make sense.) Keim also said it’ll depend what the Cards might be looking for — a third-string guy?  A backup? I don’t think there is any question Logan Thomas is the starter if Palmer and Stanton aren’t playing.

— Tight end Troy Niklas has a high ankle sprain. He too will get an MRI.

— Cornerback Patrick Peterson (ankle) will probably be day to day, but Keim didn’t sound concerned.

— Keim’s total of drops he counted for his receivers? Nine. More than I had. Obviously, not a good total. Keim definitely didn’t sound pleased. “You can’t play like that and expect to win,” he said.

— He didn’t sound pleased with the offensive line. Keim said they played “below average,” and didn’t play in unison.

— Keim on Logan Thomas’ play: “He’s got to learn to get the ball out quicker,” Keim said, “but that will come in time.”

— Keim was pleased with the play of draft picks Deone Bucannon and Kareem Martin. Martin improvement would be important if Campbell is sidelined.

— The injuries don’t feel good for a GM either. “It’s tough,” Keim said. “But again, no one else in the league is going to feel sorry for us.”


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Bowles analyzes where his defense stands

Posted by Darren Urban on August 21, 2014 – 7:30 pm

Earlier in the day, Bruce Arians said the Cardinals’ defense is better now than it was this time last year. Perhaps. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, speaking Thursday afternoon, simply said that in the wake of the Darnell Dockett injury, the unit simply has to adjust.

“It doesn’t impact what you want to do but it impacts who you want to do it with,” Bowles said. “Injuries happen in this league every year. No one is feeling sorry for us, not Darnell, not us or anyone else. It truly is next man up. You’ve got to prepare for injuries. That’s what you have depth for. Unfortunately, when it’s a star player, you make more of a big deal about it than if it is a practice squad player, and rightly so. We’ll just have to be aggressive in different areas.”

Bowles said he wasn’t worried about leadership because the defense has plenty of guys who can fill the role — “Dock was more vocal but (away) from cameras there are a lot of guys that are more vocal,” he said — and is reserving judgment on other pieces of the defense. Desmond Bishop will get a chance to show what he can do within the scheme against Cincinnati and we will see if Bishop can stick around and be a factor at inside linebacker. Linebacker John Abraham has looked “decent” in his first couple of practices, Bowles said.

As for rookie defensive linemen Ed Stinson and Kareem Martin, Bowles isn’t going overboard.

“You can’t make that much progress as a rookie in two-and-a-half weeks,” Bowles said. “But the smarts are there, the know-how is there. The rookies can only gain experience by playing in real games and playing in preseason games. So far, they have progressed little by little.”

— S Tyrann Mathieu moved into 11-on-11 work in his second day back at practice, as did DT Alameda Ta’amu. Mathieu was only working with the scout team and hitting was limited all the way around, but Mathieu did get shoulder knockdowns on wide receiver Ted Ginn and running back Andre Ellington after receptions.


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Time for the defense to recalibrate

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2014 – 9:52 am

Perhaps the day off Tuesday came at the right time for the Cardinals. The defense can digest the season-ending injury to Darnell Dockett, and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can start to sort out how exactly he will run his defense with the pieces he has left. You can sit and mull what the Cardinals don’t have now compared to 2013, but it’s a moot point.

Along the defensive line, the Cardinals are expected to add a vet to the roster (Brett Keisel went back to Pittsburgh) but veteran Frostee Rucker should end up as the starter alongside Calais Campbell and Dan Williams. There should be plenty of mixing and matching, though, with rookies Ed Stinson and Kareem Martin and now, Alameda Ta’amu, who comes back to practice today. There would have been mixing and matching even if Dockett was healthy. Getting a steady rotation on the defensive line has been one of the main themes GM Steve Keim wanted to accomplish while re-tooling the roster. The key here could be Ta’amu, because if he can return to form relatively quickly, it will impact the middle of that line.

At linebacker, there have long been concerns and whenever Kevin Minter returns to the field, that probably doesn’t go away. I thought Larry Foote played pretty well in Minnesota and it was encouraging to see newcomer Desmond Bishop do what he did in a handful of plays, but the question marks don’t go away and now you don’t have a guy like Dockett in front of them. The plus is that outside linebacker John Abraham is back (his return to practice, pictured below, was seriously overshadowed Monday by the Dockett news) but again, until he plays his way into shape, it’s tough to know what he’ll bring.

In the secondary, the Cardinals not only have all their guys still but now Tyrann Mathieu is back in the mix too. That group remains the strongest, although playing out on an island at times means they need the front seven to come through. That was a bit troubling to hear Bruce Arians talk about how many times the Cardinals did not run their blitzes correctly in Minnesota — Bowles was magical last year the way he schemed players to often get to the quarterback untouched — and that will be a key to this whole thing.

The Cardinals’ offense will be better this season and they will need to be. Regardless, the Cardinals aren’t going to get where they want to go unless the defense plays at a high level. They will have to do it differently than they once planned.

Abe2blogUSE


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The impact of losing Darnell Dockett

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 10:16 pm

Injuries happen every preseason. They are not all created equal.

Even the long-term injuries are not created equal. As much as Jonathan Cooper’s injury hurt the Cardinals last year — and at the time, GM Steve Keim felt Cooper was the Cardinals’ best offensive lineman — there is an jarring emotional slam with the news Darnell Dockett is done for the season. That comes on many levels. On a defense that already lost Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington from last year’s unit, losing Dockett is a difficult pill to swallow.

After Dockett was carted off and practice resumed with some 7-on-7 work, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner gathered his players on the field and they all took a knee. I don’t know exactly what was said, but it certainly looked like Buckner was helping his guys get through what already looked like a rough patch that was later confirmed.

Now though, it’s about moving on. It’s about the future, which is in the short-term the 2014 season and in the long-term where 2015 might take Dockett and the Cardinals. Veteran Frostee Rucker should move into Dockett’s starting role, but again, there was always going to be a rotation on the defensive line. There was a reason the Cardinals drafted Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson. Those rookies are going to have to play a bigger role. They are going to have to grow up very fast because Dockett won’t be there to anchor — along with Calais Campbell — the line. One potential free agent to look at is long-time 3-4 defensive end Brett Keisel, Keisel was cut by the Steelers this offseason but he knows Bruce Arians and Buckner from their time in Pittsburgh. I have no idea if it’s possible he could come — I have no idea what kind of money he might want — but the Cardinals will need to add someone.

What will happen next year becomes very interesting. Dockett will turn 34 in May. He will be coming off major knee surgery. He will be going into the last year of his contract and will be due $6.5 million in salary and will have a $9.8M cap hit. That’s a lot of money for an older lineman. Like Larry Fitzgerald and his $23.6M cap hit in 2015, Dockett’s bulky contract was always going to be an issue after this season. That certainly hasn’t changed, and perhaps, becomes more of an issue because of the injury.

In the moment, though, there is only the gut-punch to the Cardinals. And the long rehab Dockett faces while the Cards try to prepare for the season to come.


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Jaron Brown and Friday before the Texans

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2014 – 3:36 pm

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.

JaronBLOG


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A day off, camp observations and tidbits

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2014 – 2:59 pm

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.


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For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 26, 2014 – 12:15 pm

As we come to the end of June (and the beginning of a little time off), it’s time for my annual pre-vacation pair of posts – the ones in which I take a stab at who will be in the starting lineup on opening day, which in this case will be Monday night against the Chargers. Some picks are obvious. Some are not. We’ll defense today, offense tomorrow. And then we’ll wait to see what training camp brings.

(For the offense, click here.)

DE – Darnell Dockett. There are a lot of questions, given Dockett’s age and 2015 salary, about what his situation will be next season. But this season, Dockett will be right where he always is – in the starting lineup. The Cards do like to rotate on the line. It’s necessary for good defenses to stay effective. And rookies Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson will get some time.

NT – Dan Williams. It’s a big year for Williams, who goes into the last year of his contract. He might have been pushed by Alameda Ta’amu, but Ta’amu is coming off knee surgery. Ta’amu will return early in the season, and the one-two combination will help. It has to start with Williams, though.

DE – Calais Campbell. He’s deserved Pro Bowl consideration the last couple of years, even if he hasn’t gotten it. When the Cardinals’ braintrust say they hope Martin turns into another Campbell, that says something.

ROLB – John Abraham. Abraham turned into a real find last year. He was supposed to be a part-time pass rusher and proved to be much more. He’s ahead of Sam Acho these days, but at some point, Acho (who’s in the last year of his contract) or someone has to step forward to provide a future.

ILB – Kevin Minter. He was going to be a starter as soon as Karlos Dansby left. Now, with Daryl Washington absent, there is a lot on the second-year man.

ILB – Larry Foote. There is a chance Lorenzo Alexander could win this job, but I think Alexander will end up filling multiple depth roles and Foote will get the starts. His signing has proved to be fortuitous given Washington’s situation.  What will be interesting to watch will be where someone like Kenny Demens fits in – with Washington out, there’s an opportunity for someone.

LOLB – Matt Shaughnessy. The Cardinals had the best run defense in the NFL last season in large part because Shaughnessy was so solid. It’s what you’d expect when you have a former defensive end playing outside in the 3-4. The Cardinals are hoping Alex Okafor develops down the road, but his inexperience leaves him a question mark for now.

CB – Patrick Peterson. Forget the criticisms (yes, he needs to get better, like everyone) and forget the chatter of who is the best, which is really meaningless anyway. He’s an anchor, and he’ll be an anchor for a long time.

CB – Antonio Cromartie. He looked healthy in the offseason and that’s a good sign. If he can regain the consistent level of play he’s had in the past, the Cardinals will be in great shape for their coverage.

FS – Rashad Johnson. With Tyrann Mathieu on the mend, Johnson is the natural choice. He’s a vet who won’t make mistakes. Tony Jefferson has been playing strong safety in offseason work, but Jefferson should be in the mix when dime packages are used.

SS – Deone Bucannon. The aforementioned Jefferson was running first unit in the offseason but the Cardinals are going to play their first-round pick if he shows anything in camp. I expect that to happen and Bucannon will get his shot as the season begins.

Tomorrow, we’ll have the offense.

 DefenseWorthBlog


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A look at the rookies

Posted by Darren Urban on June 16, 2014 – 10:54 am

The rookie class had a (not surprisingly) mixed bag of results in OTAs and minicamp. That’s what rookies do. Still, they are going to mean something this season, especially with the way coach Bruce Arians is willing to play them.

“I like all the rookies,” veteran defensive lineman Darnell Dockett said. “There are three or four of those rookies that are going to make a big impact on our season. We don’t know which ones (yet), but it’s going to happen. You want to help them and let them know on the field and off the field, you have to be accountable and it’s not just about showing up for practice. We know we are going to need four or five of those rookies.”

Because the pads haven’t gone on yet, it’s possible two guys who have been way under the radar so far — defensive ends Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson — could be making large impacts. The way the Cardinals like to rotate the defensive line, both guys will get a shot to get in there, one would think. They also turn the defensive line from a thin area to one of serious depth, when you add in Frostee Rucker and (eventually) Alameda Ta’amu to Dockett, Calais Campbell and Dan Williams.

We all know safety Deone Bucannon is going to get his chance. That’s what happens with first-round picks. That turf toe slowed him, but it was a good sign Bucannon made sure to get back on the field in minicamp. Second-round Troy Niklas is behind and the idea he might still be sidelined into training camp with his broken hand isn’t the best news, but the kid is itching to get out on the field and do something. Adding John Carlson, and with the way Rob Housler has looked up until this point, helps, since Niklas doesn’t have to be out there right away if he isn’t ready. Speaking of not ready, that’s quarterback Logan Thomas, but he was always a long-term vision anyway.

That leaves the wide receivers. John Brown (below) has been mentioned a lot. No, I don’t see him displacing Ted Ginn. Not immediately. But at some point, could he be the No. 3 behind Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald? Very possible. He was the guy getting extra direction from both Arians and Carson Palmer in minicamp, more than any other wideout. That’s because he has a lot to learn, but also because the Cards need him to learn it quickly, because they want to use him. As for Walt Powell, he to showed some things, and after what the Cards got out of a sixth-round pick a year ago (Andre Ellington), who’s to say he can’t step in and do something? The receiving corps is loaded enough that it will be tough to have Powell move up the depth chart, however.

RookiesBlogBrown


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