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Chargers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 23, 2015 – 12:11 am

Let’s be real — Bruce Arians would have liked to get a preseason win Saturday night, but he couldn’t have wanted extra football in the form of overtime. Injuries happen that late with tired bodies, and there is no upside of a fifth quarter this time of year. It shouldn’t have come to that anyway, of course, if Marion Grice doesn’t drop a wide open pass on the Cardinals’ previous drive, or if Phillip Sims doesn’t overthrow 6-foot-7 tight end Ifeanyi Momah soon after. Or if Logan Thomas and Momah don’t get crossed up on a pass where Momah was wide open in the third quarter, failing to connect on a pass that seemed like it could have been a touchdown.

In the preseason, these things get forgotten, however. In the regular season, Thomas or Sims would (hopefully) never throw a pass. So, with a nod to the football gods for letting us get out of this one in regulation time, my thoughts:

— Carson Palmer said he wanted to take a couple of hits. Not sure he wanted to be buried on two sacks and get whacked another time. But he didn’t break and that pass to J.J. Nelson was a thing of beauty. So was that touchdown dart to John Brown.

— If David Johnson really can perform like that in the backfield, and Andre Ellington — who had a very nice 11-yard run himself — stays healthy, the Cardinals are going to be fine running the ball.

— Chris Johnson out a week or two with a hamstring pull. He might not get any preseason carries now. You wonder where it might put him after David Johnson’s performance.

— It’s always good to be a young player on the bubble to be named by name by the head coach as playing well. So linebacker Alani Fua, cornerback Cariel Brooks and defensive end Josh Mauro, that’s a good thing.

— Arians also praised Sims, as he should. Sims did miss Momah late, but Sims looked incredibly cool in the pocket and patient. Arians said there is no leader at third quarterback between Sims and Logan Thomas, but Sims is making his push.

— After all the Rodney Gunter talk, it was Matt Shaughnessy out there in the starting lineup with Frostee Rucker and Calais Campbell. Gunter did play with the starting unit, however.

— The Cardinals are off tomorrow, and practice Monday before taking Tuesday off. They play next Sunday in Oakland.

— Arians screamed at the officials much of the game but at no time was it more noticed that late when he (and Patrick Peterson) kept yelling for some flag on Chargers’ defensive backs guarding Jaxon Shipley. That Cardinals cornerback C.J. Roberts was flagged for holding on what turned out to be the game’s deciding play on a pass that wouldn’t have been completed stuck in Arians’ craw too.

“Don’t ask me about officials. Please,” Arians said, after he was asked about the officials. “That’s why I’m hoarse. We need to relearn the rules they changed two years ago. This crew might need eight preseason games to get ready.”

That’s a good way to end it. G’night all.

BAchargerafter

 


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Keim: Johnson update and Chiefs review

Posted by Darren Urban on August 17, 2015 – 8:14 am

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf Show” on Arizona Sports 98.7, acknowledged he has had discussions with the agent for running back Chris Johnson. But as of Monday morning, “there is nothing on the horizon,” Keim said. Johnson was expected to work out for the team. As I’ve said a few times, we’ll see what pans out.

As for Keim’s view of the game:

— He praised a handful of young players for their initial performances: Defensive end Rodney Gunter and linebacker Markus Golden (although he wants to see Golden finish more often), and from the non-rookie side, cornerback Justin Bethel and linebacker Kevin Minter. The latter two are in big years in terms of earning regular position spots on defense.

— As for the first units on both sides of the ball, “I don’t think you could have scripted a better start,” Keim said.

— On Logan Thomas, Keim said he liked the quarterback’s pocket presence. “There are times when he makes some really ‘Wow’ throws,” Keim said. “The question is consistency and I think he played a consistent game.” Keim did note that Thomas completed 11-of-12 passes in the preseason opener last year, so again, it’s about consistency going forward.

— Not surprisingly, he thought tight end Ifeanyi Momah competed and looks like a nice option as receiver, but needs to get better as a blocker in terms of technique since he won’t have the bulk or body type to ever maul as a blocker.

— Keim was happy with the “excellent” play of the starting offensive line and also thought the backup offensive line did a good job. It should, really, since it’s populated with three one-time starters (Sowell, Larsen, Sendlein) and a first-round pick (D.J. Humphries). Keim said Humphries had some technical issues in his first game but showed the physical play and the athleticism the Cards liked when he was drafted.

— Going forward, Keim said there are still many questions open, such as fourth and fifth cornerback, the back end of the wide receiver depth chart, core special teamers. The Cards did come out of the game “relatively healthy,” Keim said.

— As for wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald getting munched by pulling guard Mike Iupati on the Cards’ touchdown run — Fitz was blocking a Chiefs’ defensive back when Iupati came in to clean up and looked like he got mostly Fitz — Keim was blunt. “We all know Larry is a tough guy. He’ll stick his face in the fire.”


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Chiefs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 15, 2015 – 10:52 pm

There will be frustration of missing tackles and poor plays from Saturday night, but there is a reason teams have 90 men on the roster now and when the games count there are 53 — many of those guys who were playing and struggling won’t be play this time next month. That’s why you look at what the Cards did at the start, both with their offense and defense, and if you are Bruce Arians, you have to be generally pleased. That and there were no serious injuries, and in the end, that might be the most important thing to come out of any preseason game.

Before it gets too late, a few thoughts after the opener — understanding there are still two week of training camp left. And three preseason games. We’re still a long way from anything counting.

— Carson Palmer was sharp, smart and altogether untouched. “I could’ve hitched three or four times on any of the passes we threw tonight,” he said. “Very clean pocket.” This gets repeated often yet can’t be understated: If Palmer is healthy and performs like this, the Cards will be in good shape.

— It didn’t take long for Andre Ellington to show what he can do, even after the hamstring issues kept him out of practice. No, he shouldn’t have been caught — “I just need to get my cardio back up” — but again, he’ll be the main guy in the backfield because of what he showed.

— Who will join him back there is still up in the air. Chris Johnson is coming in Sunday for his physical/tryout. Again, he’d have to be signed and he’d have to show well, but he could still be Ellington’s mate back there. The run game still only produced 2.8 yards a carry Saturday.

— The Chiefs went after Justin Bethel, starting for Jerraud Powers, on the very first play. Bethel was there to break it up. The Cards need Bethel to play well at cornerback. They are very thin there beyond Patrick Peterson and Powers. Jimmy Legree, the one who looked like he might have an inside track at a roster spot this summer, struggled.

— In the first salvo of the punting battle, Dave Zastudil’s night was four punts, 40.5 average, 35.3 net. I’d guess Drew Butler will punt next week against the Chargers.

— I thought Logan Thomas looked better in the game than he has at practice. Which is a good thing.

— The Chiefs’ lineman turned the wrong way to let Rodney Gunter blow past him, but Gunter showed impressive quickness to blaze into the backfield for that safety. Gunter is going to be someone to watch.

— That said, while I’d need to watch the replay of the game, there weren’t any of the non-draftees that really stood out to me as guys that popped, other than maybe Jaxon Shipley on his returns and one catch — and it’s hard to see Shipley as anything more that a practice squad guy given who is in front of him.

— The Cardinals are off until Monday, and like last Monday, do not have a morning walkthrough. The next time Arians will address the media is Monday afternoon. We’ll see if the Cards have a new running back by then.

EllAfterblog


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Friday before the Chiefs

Posted by Darren Urban on August 14, 2015 – 11:19 am

The training camp of Palmer, Mathieu and hamstrings takes a brief break so the Cardinals can open the preseason Saturday night against the Chiefs. It figures to be what should always be expected in the first preseason game of the season — some good play, but also some stumbling out of the blocks. Vanilla offense and defense. A big game for those playing especially in the second half, because those are the guys fighting to stay on the roster. And as always, fingers crossed no one gets hurt.

Carson Palmer will get to make an appearance and that’s amazing, given that he tore his ACL last November. But as we’ve said multiple times, Palmer has been excellent in camp and now, it’s about the reality of exposing him to another team. He has to get ready for the regular season, even if Bruce Arians acknowledged he’d rather put him in bubble wrap for now.

Some other things to watch Saturday:

— It’s about time for Logan Thomas. He will get a lot of playing time. This is where he has to make a push to convince the Cardinals he will fit. His performance in the preseason opener last year was what first caught everyone’s eye. We’ll see if he can repeat that, and push aside a lot of the questions that surround him these days.

— Arians said there were a ton of players he wants to see, and it’s hard to disagree. Among what I’ll be watching: Jonathan Cooper as starting right guard. Tackle D.J. Humphries. Outside linebackers Markus Golden and LaMarr Woodley. Summer sensation tight end Ifeanyi Momah. Wide receiver J.J. Nelson. Undrafted rookie cornerback Cariel Brooks. All those undrafted inside linebackers, including Gabe Martin (pictured below).

— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher moves from the press box to the sideline. He’s been calling plays in practice, but now we get a chance to see what it’s like in a game.

— It’s a great story from the Chiefs side that safety Eric Berry — who was battling cancer last year — will be back on the field and playing.

— Watch the defensive linemen. With all those guys, someone is going to be out by the end of the preseason, either through trade or being cut. That’ll make for an intense competition.

OK. Football is back.

FridayChiefs


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The battle for third QB

Posted by Darren Urban on May 20, 2015 – 4:29 pm

Bruce Arians made it pretty clear the other day where his quarterback depth chart stood. The third quarterback spot is “wide open” as a competition, a comment that both solidified Drew Stanton’s status as Carson Palmer’s backup (not a surprise at all) and left the rest of the offseason and training camp to an interesting situation for Logan Thomas (which might be a little more surprising.)

When the Cardinals signed Chandler Harnish, it was easy too look at it as adding an extra camp arm — the Cards always have four quarterbacks around — who was familiar with Arians’ system. Thomas was a guy who figured to be around at least one more season so the team could figure out if the 2014 fourth-round pick could indeed develop into an NFL quarterback. Then the Cardinals decided to sign tryout QB Phillip Sims and suddenly, the Cards had five quarterbacks. Maybe, if Palmer was further back in his rehab, all those arms would be important. And, truth be told, the full boat of QBs could still be partially about Palmer relief this summer. But after Arians praised Sims recently and then noted the whole wide-open thing, well, then you wonder where this could go.

With two practices running simultaneously during OTAs and minicamp, there are reps to share. Thomas is getting work, as is Sims — which normally does not happen much for a fifth QB. It’s so early, and right now, Thomas still seems to be the probable guy who ends up as the No. 3 QB on the depth chart once the Cardinals host the Saints Sept. 13. But Thomas still has work to do on all the things that were giving him issues as a rookie, and Sept. 13 is a long way away. While in theory the third QB spot isn’t one to focus upon in the grand scheme, the Cardinals unfortunately found out last season just how valuable that spot can become — and why this is a deep depth chart battle that still bears watching.

O1D2.LoganBLPOG


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Cardinals signing tryout QB

Posted by Darren Urban on May 10, 2015 – 6:18 pm

It’s not unusual for the Cardinals to sign a player or two who attend their rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. This year, that reportedly includes a quarterback. NFLdraftdiamonds.com said Sunday the Cards are signing Winston-Salem State’s Phillip Sims, who along with Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly, was a QB the Cards brought in for minicamp. There has been no official announcement from the team as of yet (and the Cards will have to cut someone once it’s official) but the post did include a picture of Sims in the Cards’ offices. (al.com also reported the signing.)

The Cardinals already have four quarterbacks on the roster — Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas and Chandler Harnish. It’s possible Palmer will be dialed back for OTAs, and the Cards just want to have an extra arm around for the next few weeks of the offseason. Or maybe Sims impressed enough to displace Harnish. Sims started his college career at Alabama and was in the mix as Tide QB before eventually losing out to A.J. McCarron. Sims, 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, had 15 touchdowns and four interceptions as a redshirt senior at Winston-Salem while sharing playing time.

Phillip Sims

 


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The tao of Arians: “Dude, you got a cup”

Posted by Darren Urban on March 25, 2015 – 8:39 am

Bruce Arians talked for an hour today on a lot of subjects at the NFC coaches breakfast during the NFL spring meetings. We’ll have a lot of stories and video on the various topics today and in the coming days. Among the things Arians touched on:

— The Cardinals would still like to bring back Lyle Sendlein to compete for the center position;

— Logan Thomas will get a ton of reps in the offseason and could even get some “field one” work (the Cards have players working on two fields) depending on the health of Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton;

— There was nothing to say on Adrian Peterson (“Are you trying to get me fined?” he said);

— The Cardinals will look at Kareem Martin at outside linebacker. Arians thinks Martin has the body-type of Aldon Smith.

— He wants DE Calais Campbell to be more consistent, saying “he disappears too much.”

There was much more. But the line of the day came when Arians was talking about the reluctance of General Manager Steve Keim to accept his award for Executive of the Year from the Sporting News the other day in front of the other GMs and coaches. The trophy itself was a big glass vase-looking thing.

“You check your ego at the door, because everything is for the Cardinals,” Arians said. “We’ve both been fortunate enough to get some accolades. You can’t take them. The entire room got you there. Don’t think you’re special. We both laughed, he was embarrassed as hell the other day to get his. I said, ‘Dude, you got a cup. We can drink out of that.”


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Palmer health and an offseason of Logan Thomas

Posted by Darren Urban on February 20, 2015 – 11:27 am

Someone asked Bruce Arians how Carson Palmer was progressing in his knee rehab, noting by all accounts Palmer was doing well.

“Don’t jinx me, baby,” Arians said with a grin.

Palmer is doing well, Arians acknowledged, and Palmer is apparently still making noise that he hopes to be back for some offseason work. That, Arians added, is no lock if the Cardinals decide it might not be worth it. It’s not like they don’t already know what Palmer can do, and having Palmer available for training camp is much more important. Drew Stanton is also doing “extremely well,” his own knee issues nowhere near as severe as Palmer. Both are ahead of schedule, Arians said.

And if the Cardinals are limited in their quarterback availability this offseason? Not a problem, Arians said, because this will be the offseason of Logan Thomas.

“This will be a big spring for Logan because of the two guys,” Arians said. “We’ll see how much Drew can do. But I want to give Logan a ton of work anyway. If Carson is cleared and ready to go, we’ll put him out there.”

This is a big spring for Thomas regardless of where the other QBs were health-wise anyway. His rookie year is over. This is the offseason in which Thomas should be able to make the largest strides learning the offense. There is no transition to the NFL like he had as a rookie. He’s been around it for a year. His accuracy remains a question mark and while the Cardinals do not need him right now — again, assuming health for both Palmer and Stanton — there is in today’s NFL a short shelf life for “potential” and how long you work with it to see if it can eventually pay off.

LoganWorkinguse


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Cardale Jones, Logan Thomas and developing QBs

Posted by Darren Urban on January 15, 2015 – 3:27 pm

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones — who just led the Buckeyes to a national championship but has played just three games — held a press conference today to say he was staying in school and not coming out for the draft, which was a possibility. Ohio State has, right now, all three of its QBs from this year returning next season (although that could change) and there is no lock that Jones will get to start. He was third-string to start the season, after all.

But even with only three games under his college belt, I can understand why someone could think about coming out to the NFL. There is the current and longstanding debate about college athlete compensation, which isn’t the case if you go pro. More importantly, there are the devastating injuries suffered by Marcus Lattimore and Todd Gurley and the two OSU QBs in front of him — Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett — that would make a kid think twice about staying in school when you can get paid to have the same injury risk on the next level.

The idea of Jones coming out, though, made me think of Logan Thomas.

The situations are not completely parallel. Thomas was in school for a long time and played plenty, and Jones — now that he’s returning — still gets that opportunity. But Thomas, like Jones, needs development. That was the book on Thomas when he came out and that’s what Bruce Arians continues to say. Many have asked what kind of progress Thomas made during the regular season and the reality is, it wasn’t much. Even Arians acknowledged that late in the year, one of the reasons Thomas didn’t get playing time despite the Cardinals’ QB situation.

Once training camp ends, it’s the starting quarterback who gets the practice reps. The few leftovers go to No. 2. Yes, Thomas gets reps as the scout team QB, but that’s running plays from another team and there’s only so much you can get from that. Yes, you can work on some fundamentals, but that only gets you so far. There is only so much progress you can make in that situation. It’s the great QB conundrum for  young quarterbacks. You have to play a lot to get good, usually, and unless you are good, teams don’t want to play you a lot.

That’s what I thought of when it was possible Jones would come out. He’d be so raw, who’s going to play him early? How would he get that experience that he’ll not get (in theory) by staying in school? It’s a big reason why it’s tough to find a quarterback these days, because the time and games needed to properly develop a guy simply aren’t available.

LoganCardale


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Panthers playoff aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on January 3, 2015 – 10:53 pm

The Cardinals didn’t have enough. They just didn’t, and while Bruce Arians said he doesn’t buy into that line of thinking – “We have to gameplan to win games” – it doesn’t make it any less true. For weeks even some of the players kept noting that eventually, Next Man Up would run out of bodies. It wasn’t just the quarterback situation, even though that was the most important position. Guys looked like they wore down in certain positions, and that’s what happens when you ask some guys to play at an ultra-high level for so many games and so many plays above what you originally intended.

It spoke to their effort that the Cards won 11 games, and to the coaching. That’s why Bruce Arians insisted there was no missed opportunity, because the Cardinals with what they had created the big season in the first place. I get the teeth gnashing and frustration over certain parts of both Saturday and the end of the season. But this was a good season, it was the most wins this franchise has had in Arizona, and it was another step forward under the Steve Keim/Arians regime.

That said, there are a ton of difficult and major decisions coming in the offseason and a lot of important question marks. I’m not going to address them all here now, because that’s what the coming weeks are for and I’m sure I will post about them soon (and often, I’m guessing my Larry Fitzgerald post from Friday will be the first of a few between now and early March, when his roster bonus comes due.)

— I’d have to dig it out, and I’m not sure if I tweeted it or wrote it in a post or said it on a podcast or on the radio, but at some point I know I said something along the lines – in regards to Logan Thomas as being raw – “if you are down to your third-string quarterback, you’re in trouble anyway.” That’s what the Cardinals had at the end, even if the third-stringer eventually became Ryan Lindley because Thomas was so raw he dropped on the depth chart.

That’s the NFL. You lose your best quarterback – and that’s assuming you have someone who you think is good, and the Cardinals believe they have that in Carson Palmer – and the road will be difficult. Everyone knew that’s what would happen with Lindley, and that’s what did happen. The Cardinals got the turnovers Saturday night and were trying to make it work, but the margin for error was thin at best, and had been for the last month.

— The officials had a bad game, starting when Ed Hoculi tried to give the Panthers the win of the coin toss when the Cardinals, in fact, had just correctly called it. Arians was right, it wasn’t why the Cards lost. But a couple of the calls didn’t help, particularly the Michael Floyd non-pass interference.

— Top things, in my mind, the Cardinals need to upgrade in the offseason (assuming there isn’t a good quarterback there to be drafted and Palmer is the choice for 2015): Linebacker (both inside and outside), more speed on offense, more defensive line depth. These things can change if certain veterans aren’t back.

— Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will now organize his head coaching interviews. He reportedly has five teams that want to talk to him. I’ll be surprised if he interviews with all five.

— I’ll also be curious to see if Bowles leaving, if it happened, would be the only change on the coaching staff or if Arians makes any moves.

— I think, with the way Drew Butler finished up, Dave Zastudil has to be confident when he comes back this offseason.

— Arians, on the missed tackles in the game: “Missed tackling, that was way overblown for this game, that’s not even the story line.”

— That’s about it. Going to try and get a little rest on this flight back. The final locker room cleanout and wrap-up interviews are early tomorrow morning. And then we’re into the offseason.

CAR.LindleyThrowUSE


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