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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.


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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.


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No Palmer or Fitz in Hall of Fame game

Posted by Darren Urban on July 22, 2017 – 1:02 pm

The Cardinals will have an extra preseason game this year but that doesn’t mean everyone will be playing in an extra game. Coach Bruce Arians said Saturday that quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will not play in the game against the Cowboys in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 3. Veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby may not play. “I doubt Karlos plays,” Arians said. “We’ll see.”

It’s not a surprise, nor will it be if there are others who also do not play (for instance, all-everything running back David Johnson, whom Arians was not asked about.)

Arians did say the more-rested Palmer will play more this preseason, although he followed up by saying that just meant that instead of six plays in a a game, he might get 12.

Most of the main players usually don’t play in the preseason finale either, a point Arians reiterated Saturday about Palmer in particular.


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For what it’s worth in June, offensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 23, 2017 – 11:40 am

With about a month left before training camp (already?!?), it’s time to take a look at who I think the offensive starters will be come Sept. 10, when the Cardinals play the Lions in Detroit to begin the regular season. Could a training camp signing change things? Sure. I see more of a chance of that defensively than offensively.

My defensive thoughts are here. And after that, the blog posts will slow. Time off coming.

QB – Carson Palmer. You can’t get anywhere without a quarterback. Palmer finished strong in 2016. He’s a year older, yes, and no one is calling him a top-five QB. But he’s still very good when the offense functions well, and when his receivers don’t let him down.

RB – David Johnson. MVP-type player. Is he going to get 100 scrimmage yards every game? Maybe not, but he’s certainly going to have the opportunity. With his skills, and health, I’m not ruling out a 1,000-1,000 season.

WR – Larry Fitzgerald. After Bruce Arians had said more than once Fitz’s 100-catch days were behind him, Fitz has had two straight 100-catch seasons. Won’t be surprised to see him do it again. The question will be, is this his last season?

WR – Smokey Brown. He says he’s healthy. The Cards need him to be. Rookie Chad Williams may have an intriguing future, but this year, the Cardinals need the I-can-get-1,000-yards John Brown.

TE – Jermaine Gresham. So many have questioned his new large contract. But he’s been the best tight end the Cards have had since he showed up, and he does deliver some intangibles on the field this team can use.

TE – Troy Niklas. It’s a leap, yes, to assume Niklas will stay healthy. But every time, in the brief times, Niklas has been on the field, they like what he has brought. He’s not going to be a big pass-catcher. But he can block and he’ll play an important role – again, if he’s on the field.

LT – D.J. Humphries. He’s better suited for the left side. It’s tough for Jared Veldheer, but given ages and the future, this was all but predetermined when Humphries was drafted.

LG – Mike Iupati. Wasn’t as good in 2016 as he was in 2015, but I expect a rally. It’s important too – given his salary going forward, his age and the drafting of Dorian Johnson, the spotlight will be bright.

C – A.Q. Shipley. Showed the Cardinals he could start in this league. No reason to think he won’t again.

RG – Evan Boehm. I don’t see Johnson jumping into this job. Not yet. This is probably the second-most likely spot Keim could grab a vet, behind only No. 2 cornerback. But as it stands, Boehm is probably going to be out there.

RT – Jared Veldheer. Veldheer didn’t want to move from left to right tackle, but he did for the good of the team. Is there a transition to be made? Yes. Somehow, I don’t have much concern that Veldheer will make it work successfully.


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Kurt Warner, deciding to retire, and 201 pounds

Posted by Darren Urban on June 21, 2017 – 11:16 am

Kurt Warner’s final season in the NFL was 2009, much to the chagrin of the Cardinals and their fans. Over the years, there have been some things left vague about Warner’s choice. There are still a segment of fans who are certain that nasty, nasty hit Warner absorbed in the season-ending playoff loss in New Orleans pushed Warner — especially since he said after that game he was going to take a little time to make his decision.

But the seeds were sown in 2008. Warner considered retiring after the Super Bowl, not because his contract was up but because of the toll the life was taking on his body. Not the hits, but the stress. As Warner prepares for his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in early August (and after I got a chance to talk to him for that story to come), Warner noted that he played the Super Bowl at 201 pounds (he was listed that year at 218).

By mid-season in 2009, Warner knew it was likely going to be his last year playing football, long before the end of the year.

“About halfway through ’09, I sat back and had thought about it a lot from the previous year as I was going through the season and just came to the conclusion that it had become such a job,” Warner said. “There had become such a high expectation and such a level of what I had to do for the team … week in and week out, that it was starting to affect me big picture. In the Super Bowl of ’08, I weighed in at 201 pounds, which I hadn’t been since I was a junior in college, and the stress and expectation of that was wearing on me physically. Not from the standpoint of what I could do between the lines, but big-picture-wise.

“Halfway through 2009, I just realized, ‘This is it. I’m just not willing to sacrifice that much anymore.’ Not very many people knew. My wife knew. Larry (Fitzgerald) knew — as he tried to convince me over the next eight weeks or so (to stay.)”

(Said Fitzgerald on the subject of trying to talk Warner into playing in 2010, “Of course. I knew what was to come after that. Selfishly, absolutely. I wasn’t foolish. I know in this business if you don’t have a quarterback, you don’t have much chance to win.”)

As for getting blasted by Saints defensive lineman Bobby McCray, “A lot of people look at the hit against New Orleans and said, ‘Yep, that is what caused him to retire.’ It didn’t at all. It might’ve been the perfect exclamation point on it, but I had known.”

So when Warner torched the Packers in the playoffs in what he considers his best game ever — five TD passes, four incompletions — he figured it would be his last game at University of Phoenix Stadium. He waved goodbye with that in mind.


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Fitz a humanitarian finalist

Posted by Darren Urban on June 14, 2017 – 12:20 pm

We already know the writers consider Larry Fitzgerald a good guy. But Fitz’s good works go well past a quote or two. That’s well documented, from his trips to foreign countries to his foundation raising money. He was named the NFL’s man of the year after all.

Now comes news that Fitz is a finalist for ESPN’s Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian award. He is up against Curtis Granderson of the Mets, golfer Ernie Els and Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames.

The award is part of a group of awards in the same vein — a team award will also be handed out, as well as a corporate award — with the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE awards. The honors will be handed out July 11.


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Arians delivers a soft warning

Posted by Darren Urban on June 8, 2017 – 1:25 pm

Larry Fitzgerald has already created a legacy that would look pretty nice even if he walked away from the game tomorrow, but that didn’t stop him from being angry (enough that he bellowed an expletive) for not being able to bring in a catch at one recent practice of what was basically an errant throw. That’s what you notice about Fitz, how much he works whenever he is on the practice field.

You also notice that he’s always on the practice field. He doesn’t get banged up often, not in the offseason. Not every player can say the same. It’s something Bruce Arians said he noticed when it comes to soft-tissue problems.

“He knows how to train,” Arians said of Fitz. “He’s tweaked (hamstrings), but he keeps going. He knows how to train. These young guys, they don’t know how to train when they go by themselves, or they hire somebody who trains them to run track. Not move around and hit the ground and push things. So they get soft-tissue injuries when they get to (training) camp.”

Arians said there was a “long conversation” Thursday morning on the topic with the team in their final meeting of the offseason.

“You get a soft-tissue injury this year (in camp), you’re probably going to get cut,” Arians said. “It’s just too competitive.”


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With Chad Williams, Fitz invokes the A-word

Posted by Darren Urban on May 31, 2017 – 9:12 am

As Larry Fitzgerald spoke on a variety of topics Tuesday, rookie third-round wide receiver Chad Williams came up. And Fitz delivered the eyebrow-raising comparison — kind of.

“He reminds me of Anquan Boldin, in terms of the strength of his hands,” Fitzgerald said. “Once it touches his hands, it just doesn’t move. He’s got unbelievably strong hands.”

Now, invoking the name of Anquan is pretty high praise around these parts. It’s never taken lightly, even if Fitz narrowed it to Williams’ hands. Boldin and Williams aren’t built the same, Boldin being thicker than Williams, but certainly, this franchise would take Williams being anywhere close to Boldin. After all, Boldin has carved out a marvelous NFL career, and it’s impossible to forget his best seasons came in an Arizona uniform.

(Before we go any further, Boldin has said he wants to play in 2017. But it won’t be with the Cardinals, even though many fans would love a reunion. As I have mentioned before. Boldin and Fitzgerald play essentially the same position at this point in their careers. Having them both on the roster makes little sense.)

It’s not the first time Fitzgerald has brought up a Boldin comparison with a young Cardinals wideout. A couple of times Fitzgerald made the Anquan-Michael Floyd comparison, in terms of those players playing “angry” — in a good way. Chad Williams has a long, long way to go to prove himself anywhere Anquan-worthy, especially since his opportunities are going to be much more limited as a rookie that Boldin had in 2003. (No one is forgetting 10-217-2 to start his career.)

Q hands or not, though, Fitzgerald says he’s bullish on the rookie Williams.

“(Chad) has got deceptive speed, when he’s running with guys, you see him and you’re like, ‘He’s really moving,’ ” Fitzgerald said. “He’s making his plays. … He’s going  to be a great help to us. He’s a very outgoing young man, has a high football IQ, which always helps.”


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Fitzgerald again lands in NFLN 100

Posted by Darren Urban on May 29, 2017 – 6:53 pm

As the NFL Network’s Top 100 rolls along, a second Cardinal has found a spot: Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was revealed as 45th on the list, Fitz’s seventh straight year to make it. After an NFL-leading 107 catches (1,023 yards and six touchdowns) Fitz becomes the second player thus far (Chandler Jones was No. 85.)

Over the years, Fitz has gone from 14th to seventh to 22nd to 38th to 68th to 27th before this year’s ranking. Regardless of whether 2017 becomes his final season, I’d expect him on next year’s list as well.

(It’s great to hear cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross telling Fitz “That’s gold jacket right there” after Fitz’s great TD catch against the Patriots last year. Gold jacket indeed. The Hall of Fame is when, not if.)

As for any other Cardinals on this year’s list, I’m still expecting two: cornerback Patrick Peterson and running back David Johnson. Johnson may actually make a run at a top 10 spot. That’ll be interesting to see (as well as where Le’Veon Bell and Zeke Elliott end up, comparatively.)


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Answer on Fitz future won’t be soon

Posted by Darren Urban on May 23, 2017 – 7:44 am

Larry Fitzgerald said last night at Bruce Arians’ charity event that he will only address his NFL future after 2017 one time, in training camp. That’s so he won’t have to keep answering questions. (Although, if he’s hoping no questions will be asked all season, well, good luck with that.) Here’s the thing: It would be a massive upset if, at that point in camp, Fitz says anything besides something along the lines that he’ll make a decision after the season. Just like 2016.

He’s not going to ever proclaim his last season — even if he were to know — as his last season. Fitz doesn’t want that. If you want tangible proof, look at the foreword Fitz wrote for the Kent Somers’ book “100 Things Cardinals Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die.” In Fitz’s own words: “Kent Somers covered my first press conference and he’ll probably be there for my last, unless I just quietly slip into retirement (That’s more my style).” I definitely believe that. I have long thought there is a better chance Fitz just says goodbye in a tweet, with no goodbye presser. We’ll see when that happens. But if that’s his style, then having a goodbye lap around the league by announcing his retirement early doesn’t make sense.

Carson Palmer recently said the same. He talked last week and was asked about 2017 being possibly his last year. Palmer’s response? How would he know in May? He won’t even know in November or December. That’s an after-season thing. He’s another guy I don’t think wants to make a big deal about whether he’s going to be done or not.

Bottom line, I think 2017 will be another vague season for Fitz (and Palmer) in terms of the end. I appreciate Fitzgerald wanting to try and contain such talk. I’m not sure it’s in his hands. That’s what happens when you are the face of the franchise. People want to know.


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