The Cardinals finished their final full practice of the week today. After that rocky start to the week, with a practice that could have been poor Wednesday because of the rain and the near-flooded field (pictures here) but went, by all accounts, pretty well. The sun came out Thursday (with the IMG fields remarkably dry 24 hours later) and the Cards got in all their necessary work for Sunday’s game against the Bucs.
“The adversity kind of helped make it more focused,” coach Bruce Arians said. “It was something we needed this week.”
We’ll have a “Friday Before” post in a bit, but here are a couple of quick notes:
— S Rashad Johnson was limited in practice today and will be questionable for the game. Arians sure made it sound like he would play, although Johnson said he and the team will still check it out Saturday. He tried to work a cast that would give a couple fingers freedom, but it was determined it wasn’t going to work, so if he does play, he will do so with a big ball cast on his left hand. Arians said he’d be a backup and play special teams.
— Are the Cards ready for the humidity? Sure, Arians said, deadpanning, “I think we had seven IVs yesterday. It was about what we needed.”
— Arians said Wednesday the linebackers would be Matt Shaughnessy and John Abraham and the young guys would fill in behind them. But Arians was a little less detailed Friday talking about who would start at outside linebacker, with heat and weather conditions playing factors as well.
“Depend on the packages,” Arians said. “Todd has a number of different packages. There could be any number of mix and match scenarios.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, linebackers, Rashad Johnson
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Before the draft, it seemed — at least, in my opinion — the Cards had three areas that most warranted help: offensive line, pass rusher and receiver. The Cards took care of the latter right away with the Michael Floyd pick. They obviously hit the line hard with three choices, including potential right tackle starter Bobby Massie. But, sticking to their board — and perhaps revealing just how much they think of their young players — the Cardinals didn’t take a pass rusher. Didn’t take a linebacker at all.
Right now, the Cards have 14 linebackers on the roster. Six could be classified as outside linebackers, seven as inside guys and Stewart Bradley as a swing guy (although obviously guys can always move around.) Three of the inside linebackers are undrafted rookies (Marcus McGraw, Colin Parker and Paul Vassallo) and one is definitely untested (Quan Sturdivant.) But one the inside, Darryl Washington is established, Paris Lenon continues to outperform everyone’s expectations and both Bradley and Reggie Walker have shown they can fill in.
But it’s on the outside that will always get the attention. Young players usually have a ton of confidence that they will do the job as long as they get the opportunity, and that’s certainly the vibe you get from O’Brien Schofield when you talk to him. Sam Acho had seven sacks after barely playing the first five games, so he seems to be a potential game-changer. Both must up their games. And then what? Will Brandon Williams, signed late last season on to the practice squad after not finding a place with the Cowboys, surprise some people? Can the Cards find a diamond among free agent Antonio Coleman or undrafted rookies Zach Nash and Broderick Binns? (Clark Haggans could also still return.)
It’s not like the Cards didn’t sack opposing quarterbacks last year. As a team, they had 42, tied for seventh in the NFL. The Cards had an NFL-best nine different guys with at least two sacks. The way defensive coordinator Ray Horton does things, pressure by committee works and is much harder for which to handle. But developing those linebackers, especially the rushers on the outside, is one of the keys to any 3-4 scheme. After passing in the draft, development will be one of the things to watch at the position.
Tags: Reggie Walker, draft, Paris Lenon, O'Brien Schofield, Ray Horton, Sam Acho, Quan Sturdivant, Stewart Bradley, Brandon Williams, Antonio Coleman, Broderick Binns, Marcus McGraw, Zach Nash, Paul Vassallo, Colin Parker, linebackers, Darryl Washington
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