The Cardinals made their first “big” free-agent signing Friday, getting tight end John Carlson to sign a two-year contract. Given the uncertainty at the position — Jeff King, Jim Dray, Jake Ballard and Kory Sperry all have expiring contracts — someone was going to have to sign to fill the spots.
Tags: Arizona State, free agency, Jake Ballard, Jeff King, Jim Dray, John Carlson, Kory Sperry, Will Sutton
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Ugly doesn’t even begin to describe what happened to the Cardinals Saturday night. If the Cards could have only left it at the stadium. If only a bad night for special teams or dropped passes or anything like that was the worst that happened.
But the long list of injuries the Cards had been avoiding – they only had five guys not able to play coming into the game, for goodness sake, and frankly, only Jeff King was among those guys who have a shot at the roster – came back hard. The most devastating is Jonathan Cooper’s broken leg. Here’s the guy who was drafted to jump start an offensive line resurgence. And now he could be out for the season.
There are lots of ways to look at this and we won’t know exactly what can happen with Cooper yet. There are options to put him on short-term, bring-’em-back IR if the prognosis goes the right way. But that doesn’t make it any easier to replace him. Do we get more Chilo? Do we get a Paul Fanaika-Daryn Colledge guard combo? Bruce Arians isn’t sure yet. There will be much brainstorming tomorrow, I am sure. But it hurts.
“To see a guy like that go down, a young guy trying to go out there and prove himself, that’s always hard,” Colledge said. “Especially with an offensive line that lost a lot of guys last year. We’re used to this, but it’s always hard to see a friend and a teammate go down. I know it hurts him. I know he’s probably emotionally distraught right now.”
— It can’t be easy for Cooper. It might not be easy for the Cards. MRIs are coming for all the other injuries, but the offense alone saw Cooper, Rob Housler (ankle), Andre Roberts (quad) and Rashard Mendenhall (ankle) leave the game. Scary.
— As for the game, not good. The Rashad Johnson lateral was bad. Funny, Arians actually praised the lateral linebacker Jasper Brinkley made to Patrick Peterson earlier in the game following an interception, saying it was a legitimate choice. Johnson’s lateral? “Absolutely asinine.”
Johnson knows that. He was upset after a pass interference call on teammate Jerraud Powers a couple of plays before and let his emotions ride the moment. “I just felt like we needed to make a play, which we did, instead of thinking of the situation we were in and playing smart football,” Johnson said. “Coach is always talking about ‘Cardinals beating Cardinals.’ That was a big Cardinals-beating-Cardinals play.”
— Powers was hit with three pass interference flags. He said he felt a couple of them shouldn’t have been thrown, but took responsibility for not adjusting to the way the officials were calling the game.
— Ryan Williams said he was “fine” after a pair of carries (for 10 yards) and a catch in his first preseason action of the season. I thought he looked aggressive for what little time he got. He needed to be. With Alfonso Smith coming out and looking good as Mendenhall’s backup, this running back battle is very interesting. Could the Cards keep five?
— Not a good night for the tight ends. Housler dropped a touchdown (Arians didn’t seemed all that concerned about it), while Kory Sperry and D.C. Jefferson also had drops. Jefferson’s miss ended up an interception.
— Not a ton learned in the kicking battle, since neither got much opportunity. Dan Carpenter had a field goal blocked on what looked like protection issues. Jay Feely made an extra point. Feely had both kickoffs.
— Arians wasn’t overly critical of Levi Brown’s play against Dwight Freeney because, well, it was Dwight Freeney. Nate Potter had his own issues, so it’s not like there is someone there that would step in.
— Michael Floyd made a nice catch in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. Larry Fitzgerald’s one-handed catch to start the game was amazing. Other than that, a night to forget.
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Chargers, Chilo Rachal, D.C. Jefferson, Dan Carpenter, Daryn Colledge, Dwight Freeney, Jay Feely, Jerraud Powers, Jonathan Cooper, Kory Sperry, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Michael Floyd, Nate Potter, Paul Fanaika, Rashad Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams
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When Bruce Arians walked in the door, one of the first things he emphasized was that he was a two-tight end man.
The tight end was a key in his offense. Fullbacks were unnecessary (and in this case, a surprising bargaining chip of the offseason, after Anthony Sherman was traded for the impressive cornerback Javier Arenas.) The roster was shaped, a (seventh-round) draft pick was spent on a tight end and Arians went about building his offense. As training camp comes to a close, tight end remains important to the Cardinals. But questions swirl around the position, especially since they are so important.
Tight end starts with Rob Housler. He’s had a quiet preseason, but Arians said that is because he wanted to look at other players. “It’s more blocking and I think he’s improved tremendously,” Arians said. “He’s had some he could have finished better, but I think he’s improved in his all-around. We know he can run and catch. We’ve got a bunch of packages where we can feature him. He’s a given to me. I don’t need to see that part.”
Housler will be a given as receiver (and in my opinion, he has improved as a blocker.) Beyond him? Right now, factoring in practice reps, health, production, the under-the-radar Jim Dray is No. 2. Dray is fascinating in some regards. The one-time seventh-rounder keeps sticking around, an excellent special teams player under Ken Whisenhunt and now the kind of guy drawn up perfectly for Arians — with the ability to drop into the backfield as an H-back/fullback if needed. Veteran Jeff King was supposed to be in the mix, but continuing knee troubles have kept him sidelined a ton, and you have to wonder about his future. Kory Sperry was impressing Arians early and he’ll need to be around.
D.C. Jefferson, the seventh-round rookie, looks the part and seems like he has promise. But he is so raw he may be better suited to the practice squad, if he can clear waivers. I’m not sure Mickey Shuler has made enough in-roads to stick around.
You figure the Cards need at least four tight ends on the active roster. Tight end remains, in my mind, the number one position Steve Keim will watch as cuts are made across the league. While it’s no lock the Cards claim/sign another tight end, it wouldn’t be surprising at all. It’s too important to Arians not to keep searching.
Tags: Anthony Sherman, Bruce Arians, D.C. Jefferson, Javier Arenas, Jeff King, Jim Dray, Kory Sperry, Mickey Shuler, Rob Housler
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Nothing super exciting today, other than a chance to talk to Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter on the Cardinals Daily Report (below). But here are some notes and observations:
— Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Tyrann Mathieu forced a fumble, punching a ball lose after a catch by tight end Jeff King. It’s going to be very interesting to see him in games because over the last week or so, Mathieu has been a playmaking machine.
— We’ve mentioned Jaron Brown, Charles Hawkins and Robert Gill as receiving options, and after the depth chart came out it was clear Kerry Taylor had made inroads as the No. 4 receiver. Someone who hasn’t been mentioned (and I will admit I didn’t think we would be) is recent rookie signee Robby Toma out of Notre Dame. He’s not big, he’s not real fast. But it’s tough not to notice him catching almost every pass thrown to him.
— Veteran safety Yeremiah Bell made a very impressive diving interception — he fully laid out to grab it — against Ryan Lindley. Who says being 35 has to hinder athletic plays?
— (By the way, both the Bell pick and the Mathieu play are caught in today’s highlight package you can see here.)
— Bell said he hadn’t expected QB Ryan Lindley to throw the pass. It’s been a rough stretch for Lindley, and now Arians is talking about keeping only two QBs. It’ll be very interesting to see how Lindley does in preseason games.
— Drew Stanton did hit Andre Roberts with a long touchdown pass at one point.
— RB Andre Ellington left practice early on Tuesday with what looked like some sort of neck issue. It didn’t look serious (he walked off the field fine) but he did not return.
— Those sitting included DT Ricky Lumpkin (ankle), RB Ryan Williams (knee), LB Karlos Dansby (hamstring), G Daryn Colledge (leg), WR Robert Gill (hamstring), WR Kerry Taylor (hamstring), TE Kory Sperry (ankle), CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring), LB Alex Okafor (ankle), DT Dan Williams (ankle) and LB Kenny Demens (not sure on his injury).
— Just when Arians was asked about a lack of scuffles in camp, there was a scuffle. Guard Scott Wedige and defensive end Ronald Talley got into it a little bit after one play, but teammates quickly broke it up. Perhaps they were all warning the pair about Arians’ rule against camp fights.
— Officially John Abraham is listed third on the depth chart at linebacker. But as proof as why the depth chart is dangerous, Abraham — as he has been since he showed up — is running first unit nickel as the right side pass rusher. Matt Shaughnessy is on the left, with Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell in the middle. The linebackers are Reggie Walker (with Dansby out) and Jasper Brinkley. The corners are Patrick Peterson and Antoine Cason on the outside, with Jerraud Powers as nickel slot. Bell and Rashad Johnson are the safeties.
— Random note: Prior to Tuesday’s roster moves (which are unlikely to impact the salary cap anyway), the Cardinals had $5.76 million in salary cap space.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Andre Ellington, Antoine Cason, Calais Campbell, Charles Hawkins, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Jamell Fleming, Jaron Brown, Jasper Brinkley, Jerraud Powers, John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, Kenny Demens, Kerry Taylor, Kory Sperry, Matt Shaughnessy, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Reggie Walker, Ricky Lumpkin, Robby Toma, Robert Gill, Ronald Talley, Ryan Williams, Scott Wedige, Tyrann Mathieu, Yeremiah Bell
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It’s hard not to notice Patrick Peterson on offense (I’ll have more tomorrow on the subject). Every day there seem to be more plays using the Pro Bowl cornerback on that side of the ball. Friday, he caught a long bomb from Carson Palmer over Tyrann Mathieu and later completed a pass to Larry Fitzgerald. Palmer said the Cards actually have a “pretty big package” in for Peterson on offense, and it certainly looks that way. Why not? He’s that good.
“If he wasn’t playing corner he’d probably be just as good of a receiver, H-back or Percy Harvin-type player,” Palmer said.
We all know Peterson doesn’t mind. The only concern would have to be Peterson getting tired playing so much offense when he’s needed on defense. Who knows, maybe that’s why GM Steve Keim collected so many experienced cornerbacks in the offseason — he wanted to give Peterson some leeway to get a blow if needed.
— OK, maybe I don’t think that’s why the Cards have their cornerbacks. Peterson is going to be on the field on defense, don’t worry.
— Palmer reiterated he’s still learning a good chunk of the offense, but it will come. He wanted to come to Arizona in part to learn Bruce Arians’ offense (check out this story here) and embraces the challenge of learning yet another new scheme after going through a couple between Cincinnati and Oakland the past few years.
“I’m very comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Palmer said.
— Along with Darnell Dockett, K Jay Feely was also absent from practice because of a personal reason.
— RB Rashard Mendenhall was fully dressed out for practice but for a second straight day was very limited, spending much of the time on a bike. The rest of the injury list remained static: G Daryn Colledge (calf), TE Kory Sperry (ankle), RB Ryan Williams (knee), CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring), LB Alex Okafor (ankle), NT Dan Williams (ankle/knee), TE Alex Gottlieb (hamstring), WR Robert Gill (hamstring) and TE Jeff King (knee.) (My mistake, I forgot LaRon Byrd, out with a concussion.)
Tags: Alex Gottleib, Alex Okafor, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Jamell Fleming, Jay Feely, Jeff King, Kory Sperry, LaRon Byrd, Patrick Peterson, Rashard Mendenhall, Robert Gill, Ryan Williams
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The Cardinals have the day off, so the NFL did us a favor and threw out a little news: The Pro Bowl is changing. The biggest news of these changes is that, instead of AFC-NFC, the Pro Bowlers will be picked and then “drafted” on to two separate teams. Could that mean Patrick Peterson covering Larry Fitzgerald in the Pro Bowl? Yes. Then again, we see this all the time in camp. (It’s been suggested this won’t work, that say Terrell Suggs can’t be asked to sack Joe Flacco, or Aldon Smith to Colin Kaepernick. Maybe. Seems like, in general, a good idea for a game looking for good ideas.)
There will be other changes too. From the NFL release:
- Game within the Game – A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the ball will change hands after each quarter. This will increase the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct “two-minute drills,” which are especially exciting for fans.
- No Kickoffs – The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first. The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
- Rosters – The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad. The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
- Cover Two and Press Coverage – The defense will be permitted to play “cover two” and “press” coverage. In previous years, only “man” coverage was permitted, except for goal line situations.
- Stopping of the Game Clock – Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass. This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.
- Game Timing – The game clock will start after an incomplete pass on the signal of the referee, except inside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.
- Play Clock – A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-second/25-second clock.
- Sacks – The game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game. Currently, the game clock stops in these situations outside of two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.
We’ll see how it works.
— The Cardinals are off today. They resume meetings tonight and have practice outside at the team’s Tempe facility tomorrow. I’ll be curious to see how many of the injuries can be cleared up by then. (The team goes back to University of Phoenix Stadium Friday and Saturday, with Saturday being the Red-White practice.) Here’s the list of players who were still out yesterday: G Daryn Colledge (calf), WR Robert Gill (hamstring), TE Alex Gottlieb (hamstring), TE Jeff King (knee), TE Kory Sperry (ankle), RB Ryan Williams (knee), CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring), WR LaRon Byrd (concussion).
— With six days of camp and five practices in the books, it’s a good time to recap. So here’s the first mashup of camp. Truth be told, it’s very cool.
Tags: Alex Gottlieb, Daryn Colledge, Jamell Fleming, Jeff King, Kory Sperry, LaRon Byrd, Pro Bowl, Robert Gill, Ryan Williams, training camp
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Bruce Arians likes the depth he’s built in the defensive line, and it’s necessary. “We want to be able to tap out and play fast,” Arians said, and staying fresh is important to production. Can guys balk at coming out? Maybe. But “the guy knows when to come out,” Arians said. “Some guys won’t come out. Other guys like to play fresh.”
Then sometimes there is the issue Arians had last season with the Colts. “I had a problem last year in Indy,” he said. “(Pro Bowlers Robert) Mathis and (Dwight) Freeney tapped out in the same time, I was , ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. You can’t both come out. I just learned the two guys’ names behind you. One has to stay in there.’ ”
— It turned out RB Ryan Williams did not have the precautionary second opinion he planned on yesterday. Arians said he was feeling better and decided just to rehab at the stadium. He will sit out today, but with the off day tomorrow, Williams is hoping to return to practice Thursday.
— The new injuries are TE Kory Sperry (ankle) and CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring). That’s a tough one for Fleming, who is battling in a very competitive secondary. Sperry, way under the radar after signing late last year, is playing well enough that Arians is bummed out he is out. “I’m a little ticked because Kory is having a heck of a camp.” Sperry can play in the backfield too, which is key.
— TE Jeff King is sitting because of fluid on the knee, which after offseason surgery isn’t surprising. Arians said the Cards just want to be cautious.
— G Daryn Colledge is still out. Arians said it is an unknown with the nerve issue. He could be back Thursday, he could be out another week. No way to know.
— Arians said he wants to play David Carter at nose tackle, not end.
— That battle for fourth and fifth receiver is open. LaRon Byrd is dealing with the concussion. But it should be noted that when Arians was asked about undrafted guys who have caught his eye, he said Jaron Brown and Charles Hawkins have “done really well. Really well.” Something to keep in mind.
— And here are some highlights from yesterday:
Tags: Bruce Arians, Charles Hawkins, Daryn Colledge, Jamell Fleming, Jaron Brown, Jeff King, Kory Sperry, LaRon Byrd, Ryan Williams
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Here’s one way to look at it, and a good one, from coach Bruce Arians when talking about gaining team chemistry in training camp: “This is not a time for chemistry. My philosophy is, we’re not the Cardinals yet. Now we are 90 guys trying to get a job. We’ll become the Cardinals when 53 of them are picked. Then we will be a team.”
Along those lines, since we are talking about guys winning jobs, here are some observations a few days into camp that could play into that:
— One cornerback who has made a lot of plays is Javier Arenas. It could turn into a nice pickup given the price to get Arenas — FB Anthony Sherman — was going to be released anyway. Arenas broke up a bomb to Patrick Peterson yesterday and fought Larry Fitzgerald into one incompletion today. He’s not perfect, of course, but given all the other cornerbacks, he’s just going to make cutdown harder. The fact he could be the kickoff return man also plays into his favor.
— I think CB Jerraud Powers has made some plays too.
— Michael Floyd has looked good. Not that it’s a surprise. It’s a continuation of what he did this summer.
— Bruce Arians noted that Paul Fanaika, the Arizona State product who signed as a tackle, has done well in transition to guard. Lo and behold, he’s second-string right guard, which means he’s starting while Daryn Colledge is sidelined with his leg injury.
— That also means fourth-round pick Earl Watford is pretty far down the depth chart right now. Watford looks the part but he’s raw. He’s got work to do and it will be interesting to see how he does in preseason games.
— Didn’t see tight end Jeff King, who sat out Sunday’s practice, at Monday’s afternoon practice. Not sure what it is. Maybe it is related to the knee issue he was rehabbing from this offseason. Alex Gottlieb is already nursing a sore hamstring. And then Kory Sperry left the field early in Monday’s work. Newly acquired Mickey Shuler was there but he had arrived so close to practice he wasn’t even wearing Cardinals gear yet, much less practicing. The Cards are thin at the spot right now. Rookie D.C. Jefferson got a ton of reps (along with Rob Housler and Jim Dray.)
— The defensive coaches continue to mix-n-match a lot of the lineups. One nickel package had four linemen, although John Abraham was on the right side standing up, with Calais Campbell at RDE/RDT (depending on if you’re counting Abraham as a linebacker or end), Frostee Rucker as DT/NT and Matt Shaughnessy as LDE. Reggie Walker and Karlos Dansby were the linebackers (although Walker was in for Jasper Brinkley, sidelined with a sore knee).
— The first-string base defense continues to include Campbell, Dan Williams, Dockett up front; Alexander, Dansby, Brinkley, Acho at linebacker; Powers and Peterson at cornerback and Johnson and Bell at safety. Tyrann Mathieu continues to get lots of reps, not only at safety but nickel cover corner too.
— Running back talk is always going to start with Mendenhall and Ryan Williams while Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington have impressed Arians too. But to me, Alfonso Smith is going to make it very hard to cut him loose. The guy competes and he’s looked good when he’s gotten chances. He may again run into a numbers game, but Smith has made an impression.
— Speaking of making an impression, the defensive linemen tend to do that when they hit the sled:
Tags: Alex Gottlieb, Alfonso Smith, Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, D.C. Jefferson, Dan Williams, Earl Watford, Frostee Rucker, Jasper Brinkley, Jeff King, Jerraud Powers, Jim Dray, John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, Kory Sperry, Lorenzo Alexander, Matt Shaughnessy, Michael Floyd, Mickey Shuler, Paul Fanaika, Rashard Mendenhall, Reggie Walker, Rob Housler, Ryan Williams, Sam Acho, Stepfan Taylor, Tyrann Mathieu
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Eric Winston, a player who when he was first released was expected to command a healthy contract for multiple years, signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals. It was another impressive step for GM Steve Keim, who has managed to corral quite a few players in one-year deals, providing flexibility going forward and incentive to those players to try and earn an extension.
It also has created quite a lengthy list of players that, as of now, are set to become unrestricted free agents after the season:
— S Jonathan Amaya
— CB Javier Arenas
— S Yeremiah Bell
— CB Antoine Cason
— LB Karlos Dansby
— TE Jim Dray
— K Jay Feely
— TE Jeff King
— RB Rashard Mendenhall
— G Chilo Rachal
— WR Andre Roberts
— DE Frostee Rucker
— DE/LB Matt Shaughnessy
— TE Kory Sperry
— S Curtis Taylor
— LB Reggie Walker
— T Eric Winston
— P Dave Zastudil
Obviously, not every name on that list is someone that the Cards are going to want to keep around long-term. Others will have to earn that right. It also doesn’t include other situations, like the inevitable Patrick Peterson extension that is assumed to be coming at some point after the season. The Cardinals definitely have a plan, however. Flexibility is key for Keim, who is trying to rebuild the roster.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Antoine Cason, Chilo Rachal, contracts, Curtis Taylor, Dave Zastudil, Eric Winston, Frostee Rucker, Javier Arenas, Jay Feely, Jeff King, Jim Dray, Jonathan Amaya, Karlos Dansby, Kory Sperry, Matt Shaughnessy, Rashard Mendenhall, Reggie Walker, salary cap, Steve Keim, Yeremiah Bell
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A recent ESPN Insider article breaking down the holes remaining for each NFC West team marked tight end as the spot in which the Cards have a question mark. Some of that — much of that — has to do with the scheme of new coach Bruce Arians and the fact he likes to use two tight ends. Arians has made that abundantly clear.
The main focus will be the play of Rob Housler, in many ways. Arians has said, as Steelers OC, he considered Housler as a big wide receiver prospect when he was coming out for the draft. Does that color his perspective for Housler as tight end? Housler definitely has potential skills as a seam threat. He remains a work-in-progress as a blocker. This is a big year for him. Veteran Jeff King remains in the final year of his contract. He’s coming off recent knee surgery and hasn’t been practicing but the hope is he will be back soon (Veterans have next week off completely, and the final four OTAs take place the first week of June, when King could return.) Jim Dray played a little fullback last season when Anthony Sherman was hurt, has been good on special teams and has turned into a solid seventh-round pick from 2010. Those are your top three tight ends right now.
The Cards drafted D.C. Jefferson in the seventh round this year, and he certainly looks the part, especially of a pass catcher. But the former quarterback — he didn’t become a tight end until getting to Rutgers — is definitely raw at this point. And it’s tough to figure out if he can block yet given that the Cards aren’t in pads and in shorts. They also have holdover Kory Sperry, who was on the roster part of last season, and recent inexperienced signees Alex Gottlieb and Kyle Auffray.
There are a few tight ends still out there, but probably not an upgrade. Dallas Clark? The Colts let him walk away last year as Arians was coming in as offensive coordinator. Kellen Winslow? Injuries have robbed him of what he provided. Chris Cooley, again, another older player who may not have much left. It’s not like the Cards aren’t doing their due diligence on these guys and if they felt bringing someone in would be worth it, they would — could you doubt that after all the changes this offseason?
That said, I could see them adding someone later, after they get an offseason to sort out what they have.
Tags: Alex Gottlieb, Bruce Arians, Chris Cooley, D.C. Jefferson, Dallas Clark, Jeff King, Jim Dray, Kellen Winslow, Kory Sperry, Kyle Auffray, Rob Housler
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