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With Fitzgerald done, next on to-do list

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2015 – 2:10 pm

The first thing the Cardinals needed to get done was re-doing Larry Fitzgerald’s contract. That’s done. Cap space has been cleared. But the Cardinals probably will look for more.

GM Steve Keim said today he will be talking to DT Darnell Dockett about his contract, which has one year left and a cap number of $9.8 million. That’s lofty anyway, but especially for an older player who is coming off major knee surgery. Ted Ginn, who sunk to the fifth receiver by year’s end, is another player who seems likely to be looked at, contract-wise. There are other veterans with higher cap numbers who could get a look from Keim. But there are lines to walk; CB Jerraud Powers is due more than $4 million in salary this season, for example, but if Antonio Cromartie leaves in free agency, you have to make sure you have the depth you want. A total of 13 Cardinals carry cap numbers of more than $3 million for 2015, including Powers ($5.3M), C Lyle Sendlein ($4.3M), Ginn ($4M), and QB Drew Stanton ($3.9M).

Keim’s point that the Cardinals, with Fitz’s new contract, will allow the Cards to be active in free agency is crucial. There is little doubt the Cardinals need to upgrade, but what will the market bear? I could see the Cardinals looking heavily at running back, at linebacker (both inside and outside), perhaps interior offensive line. If Cromartie doesn’t return, they could look at cornerback. And one of the quieter stories of the offseason is the potential loss of nose tackle Dan Williams and what the Cards do if Williams does not return.

Fixing the Fitz situation was important. But it wasn’t the only thing in front of Keim that needs tending.

“There are some additional tough decisions we will have to make,” Keim said.

Steve Keim


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Free agency looms big — next year

Posted by Darren Urban on January 6, 2015 – 4:21 pm

I have posted my annual roster breakdown, where you can see (right here) where everyone of note on the current roster stands in terms of how long their contract runs — at least right now, before guys are released or extended or otherwise restructured. If you want to see the details of this year’s free-agent concerns, here’s my story on that. But one of the things you notice when you peruse the list of players is just how many guys have their contracts expire after the 2015 season.

By my count, it’s 25 guys, and while that will most certainly change by this time next year — a rookie class will push some of those guys off the roster, for instance — it’s something to watch as General Manager Steve Keim maneuvers through this offseason. Many of these players are up so soon because they were found off the street or as undrafted rookies and had shorter-term contracts. But, at least for now, here are some of the names that are scheduled to be up after 2015:

— DT Darnell Dockett
— QB Drew Stanton
— WR Michael Floyd (who does have a 2016 team option)
— C Lyle Sendlein
— T Bobby Massie
— DE Frostee Rucker
— LB Matt Shaughnessy
— CB Justin Bethel
— CB Jerraud Powers
— S Rashad Johnson
— S Tony Jefferson

Again, I don’t expect all of them to remain on that schedule. The Cardinals will make an attempt to extend some of them. Others could be released as the normal roster overhaul takes place. But this is the way a team clears cap space and doesn’t get into cap problems, like Keim has worked to try and do. It means there are few real long-term deals. And more work every offseason.

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Some rough Falcons aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2014 – 8:29 pm

Everything Sunday was supposed to be for the Cardinals – everything the Cards needed it to be – it wasn’t. Bruce Arians called the loss to the Falcons disappointing, lots of players called it disappointing, but more importantly, they were asking themselves why it happened the way it did when they simply couldn’t afford such a performance.

“We didn’t wake up,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “It was like we were asleep the whole game. We’ve just got to do better, man. Do what got us here, as far as hitting people in the mouth, just playing hungry, playing nasty – play like we are one of the top teams in the league, which we supposedly were until these last two games. We’ve just got to wake back up and get back on this winning train.”

The offense wasn’t good, and we’ll get to that in a moment. But from the time that Steven Jackson – Steven Jackson? – reeled off a 55-yard run on the game’s first possession, it was the defense that simply didn’t do enough Sunday. No, the offense didn’t do enough either, but this year, with this team, the defense is held to the higher standard. The defense will be what takes the Cardinals however far they will go.

Jackson gained 101 yards. The Cardinals never give up 100 yards to a running back. Julio Jones put Patrick Peterson on blast to the tune of a career-high 189 yards, and Harry Douglas added 116 himself – you know, as long as Roddy White was hurt, why not?

The last time the Cardinals gave up at least 100 yards in a game to a running back and two receivers? Way (way) back on Nov. 12, 2000, when Robert Smith rushed for 117 yards, Cris Carter had 119 yards receiving and Randy Moss has 104 for the Vikings. Of course, that was for a bad, bad Cardinals team that went through a midseason coaching change. This was by a defense that not only is better, but when it is playing well is one of the best in the league.

Adversity has come to visit, linebacker Larry Foote said. With four games left – including the last three within the division – the Cardinals have to figure out how to overcome. It starts on defense.

— Stanton did seem to find a little bit of a groove after a very slow start. But the Cards kill themselves over and over. A Michael Floyd fumble here. A Ted Larsen holding penalty there. An incomplete bomb to Ted Ginn on third-and-2. The first thing Stanton talked about after the game was converting third downs, of which the Cards did only once Sunday.

— Andre Ellington said he’ll be OK after his hip pointer – he said it was a different injury than the one he has been dealing with – but the run game didn’t help again. Falling behind so big so early didn’t help, but Ellington and backup Marion Grice combined for just 10 rushing attempts, for just 35 yards.

— There were too many important players standing out of uniform on the sideline during the game – Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett, John Abraham – to not make you think if all the injuries are starting to catch up to this team.

— The Cardinals do get linebacker Matt Shaughnessy back this week and he can play against the Chiefs. That isn’t a small thing.

— Jaron Brown had his best game, with a team-best seven catches for 75 yards in Fitz’s absence, and absorbed one wicked blow late as he was tackled. Brown was fine with that, he said. He wasn’t fine with the ball that glanced off his hands early in the game, which turned into the Falcons’ first interception. The pass looked too high from Stanton, but to that Brown shrugged off.

“That catch I should have made,” he said. “It hit my hands. Those tips are something we can’t have.”

— Lyle Sendlein, who used to be an offensive captain before Carson Palmer took a foothold in the locker room, is wearing the “C” on his uniform again now that Palmer is out for the season.

— With the high-ankle sprain of Paul Fanaika, it sure looks like Jonathan Cooper will be in the lineup as a starting guard for a little while at least. Even before Fanaika got hurt, Cooper was swapping series with Ted Larsen at left guard. It looked like the effort to reintroduce him into the lineup had begun.

— Arians said he didn’t challenge the 41-yard catch by Julio Jones in the second half – the one in which numerous fans mentioned to me on Twitter Jones only got one foot down – because the coaches upstairs never saw a replay. Peterson was called for holding on the play, but a challenge could have saved the Cards 36 yards if the catch had been negated.

— The punt team nearly was burned on a 70-yard punt return touchdown by Devin Hester. But Hester was called for a facemask while trying to straight-arm punter Drew Butler, and then the Falcons were flagged for another 15-yard penalty for complaining about that call. Cost the Falcons four points in the end (Atlanta later got a field goal). Hester afterward insisted it was a bad call.

— That’s it from 30,000 feet. The Cardinals go back to work tomorrow, trying desperately to right what’s wrong.

AfterBruceuse

 


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Keim: Waiting on injury, and the offensive line

Posted by Darren Urban on November 10, 2014 – 8:10 am

General Manager Steve Keim didn’t have much of an update on quarterback Carson Palmer this morning during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. Keim said Palmer will undergo “a number of tests” Monday and the Cardinals should have an update with Palmer’s knee injury later Monday. That Keim didn’t have much to say isn’t surprising, but as I mentioned last night, you hope for the best but plan for the worst.

After a win in which the Cardinals only rushed for 28 yards, though, Keim did have some thoughts on the offensive line. He was blunt: Keim said he thinks one of the “primary reasons” the Cardinals were 8-1 is the play of offensive tackles Jared Veldheer and Bobby Massie. As for the interior — guards Paul Fanaika and Ted Larsen and center Lyle Sendlein — Keim said he has concerns about their consistency.

Bruce Arians was asked after the game, following his talk about how the Cardinals got their “asses whipped” up front leading to a lack of a run game, whether there was a chance guard Jonathan Cooper could get a start against Detroit. Arians answered without hesitation: “None.”

Keim has suggested in recent comments that he thought Cooper could end up playing some, although that belief isn’t held by the coaching staff. And Keim said it’s up to the coaches.

“Anytime you are 8-1 there is a certain chemistry, and a lot of times coaches don’t want to mess with chemistry, which I certainly can’t argue with,” Keim said. “The other thing is, I’m the General Manager. It’s my job to add players to the roster, help pick the players. But I am always going to defer to the coaches when it comes to playing the players. It’s not my job to tell Bruce Arians or Harold Goodwin who to play from a personnel standpoint. That’s a decision those guys have to make, and if those guys think it’s in our best interests to play the two guards we currently have out there right now, that’s what I’m going to go with.”

— As for Drew Stanton, who will step in at QB assuming Palmer is out, Keim talked about the confidence the team has in Stanton. He made the point that, if the Cardinals didn’t think he would be able to step in after seeing him since the beginning of 2013 after Stanton signed, the Cards would have made a move to replace him.


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Friday before the Rams, Palmer extension edition

Posted by Darren Urban on November 7, 2014 – 4:48 pm

And just when it felt like this week was going to be one of the least newsy in a long time, the Cardinals cap it off by signing quarterback Carson Palmer to a three-year extension – a move that isn’t unexpected, but one that is crucial for the team going forward.

Let’s face it, Palmer has provided the stability this team has needed at the position for a long time. He’s playing some of the best football of his career. Intelligent football. He has also become a rock-solid leader inside that locker room. That cannot be dismissed. As good as Palmer has been on the field, his leadership has been very, very important.

He’ll turn 35 next month. Reportedly, the deal guarantees $20.5 million up front between bonus and 2015 salary and nothing guaranteed after that. It gives the Cards flexibility going forward, yet makes sure they have a QB.

Another good move in a season of them for GM Steve Keim.

— The big deal Sunday will be keeping Palmer upright against the Rams. Last season when the Rams visited, Palmer hadn’t practiced all week but completed 27 of 34 passes and the Cards got a comfortable win. And that was without the currently upgraded offensive line.

— Everyone is going to want to knock off the Cardinals now. That’s part of the gig when you’ve fashioned the best record in the league.

“Every single week we’ll walk out there with a bulls-eye on our back,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “There is a big difference between being a hunter and being hunted. You have to have a much higher sense of urgency and focus to be able to deal with the pressure that comes with it.”

— The Cardinals used four-down linemen last week. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles hasn’t been shy about mixing and matching his lineups either. But Bowles said that isn’t him getting creative as much as making moves out of necessity.

“Last year we had three-down linebackers at both spots and we had (Darnell) Dockett who was on the field all the time,” Bowles said. “We didn’t have to change as much. We had (John) Abraham as a pass rusher. They were interchangeable because you let them do what they do best. This year with all the injuries, we have a bunch of moving part with different guys who do different things.”

— Bowles said safety Tyrann Mathieu (the one and only(?) Honey Badger) isn’t quite all the way back. Mathieu thinks he is. In fact, Mathieu really, really wants the decision-makers to let him take off his knee brace. I don’t think it’s going to happen — everyone wants to be smart here — but it let’s you know how Mathieu is feeling.

— Center Lyle Sendlein has had a good week. For one, he was not fined for the chop block he was flagged for in Dallas. Usually, that’s interpreted as a penalty that shouldn’t have been called (the Cardinals lost a 12-yard Andre Ellington run because of the flag, killing off a promising drive.) Regardless, the Cards won and no one dipped into his wallet.

— But the better part was the arrival of Sendlein’s first kid, a son that was born early in the week so Sendlein didn’t even have to miss practice.

“My wife is awesome, a great wife and mother,” Sendlein said. “She might let me sleep in the guest room until the season is over.”

She has to be better than that, though, after letting Sendein go with the name Crew Jack Sendlein for his newborn. Crew? Sendlein was asked where that came from.

“Well, I like the movie ‘Rad,’ ” Sendlein said, referring to a BMX racing bike movie from 1986. The main character was named Cru Jones. “It’s spelled a little different.”

— Bruce Arians was asked this week if he had ever this year drawn up any plays for cornerback Patrick Peterson on offense. The answer was no.

“(Expletive),” Arians said, “I can’t even get Jaron Brown in the game.”

True enough. After a big preseason, Brown has been a pick-and-choose guy, although he got his first touchdown catch against the Cowboys. “I wasn’t dropping that one,” Brown said, not after he was wide open for touchdown bombs twice this season, only to have the QB miss him.

Brown, however, only got so many opportunities in college at Clemson with a loaded roster. This isn’t new.

“I’ve been patient before, dealt with the same thing,” Brown said. “We were winning too, which always helps. I know my role. Hopefully it sets me up for down the road.”

At least he knows who is quarterback is going to be.

PalmerBeforeramsUSE


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Arians wants Dockett on sideline for games

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2014 – 12:32 pm

Bruce Arians said he wants Darnell Dockett to get his surgery as soon as possible and get him back to the Cardinals rehabbing, because the defensive tackle will remain a big part of the team even though he cannot play.

“I plan on having him on the sidelines all year long because of his spirit and leadership,” Arians said. “It’s something we need and don’t want to lose.

“Injuries, they happen. It’s terrible for him, a great opportunity for somebody else. Frostee (Rucker) will step into that role, the young guys will step up and we’ll keep moving on like we always do. One injury is not going to change who we are and what we do.”

Arians called Dockett’s history of health — he played in 158 of 160 possible regular-season games in his first 10 seasons, plus all six postseason games — “unbelievable.”

“It just shows how hard he trains and keeps himself in top physical condition all the time,” Arians said. “Unfortuantely, it was one of those non-contact deals. You put your foot in the ground and it’s over.”

— Arians said everyone will be back at practice today save for linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral), guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) and tackle Max Starks (ankle).

— That means center Lyle Sendlein will return after missing much of camp with a calf injury. That moves Ted Larsen out to left guard, and Arians confirmed Larsen will start at left guard Sunday night against the Bengals.

— S Tyrann Mathieu and DT Alameda Ta’amu will only do individual drills today in their first practice after coming off the PUP lists following major knee rehabs. They will work their way into practice slowly. Arians said whether one or both play in the regular-season opener will be up to their progress on the field, but clearly, both are aiming to play against the Chargers in that Monday night game.

“I want to earn my way on the field,” Mathieu said. “I don’t want anyone to give it to me.” Mathieu said he will wear a brace.

— Arians said Jay Feely will kick in the first half against the Bengals and Chandler Catanzaro will kick in the second half.


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Dockett, Sowell with first camp scuffle

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2014 – 4:42 pm

Finally, the Cardinals, under Bruce Arians, had a training camp fight.

The Cards didn’t have one during Arians’ first training camp last year. The streak held for two-plus weeks this year too. (I stand corrected. A fan reminded me that Bryan McCann and Charles Hawkins had a scrap late in camp last year, and lo and behold, they did.)

Monday, tackle Bradley Sowell and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett got into a post-play scuffle that wasn’t much of one. It was broken up quickly. But then we saw why Arians’ team doesn’t have such fights. Sowell and Dockett were made to run/walk/jog laps the rest of practice, which endd up being more than 30 minutes.

“It’s been a long time,” Sowell said of the last time he was made to run laps as punishment. “Dating back to probably middle school. Somewhere in there.”

It wasn’t a surprise though. At the outset of camp, Arians warned the team of the consequences of a fight. He frowns on that behavior. “The first thing you do is break your hand,” Arians said. “Might as well punch the wall. If you want to break your hand, break your hand. If you want to fight I’ll put boxing gloves on you and you can fight your ass off.”

There weren’t any broken hands Monday, or boxing gloves. Just the image of Dockett — who declined to comment — and Sowell circling the field over and over as practice went on as normal.

“We were coming off a big win where obviously as a team we looked good and the message today was don’t be complacent,” Sowell said. “Me and Dockett had the same mindset, neither one of us were going to go there (and be complacent). It happened the way it happened.”

Sowell said he and Dockett had been getting into it a little in each drill as practice had been going. “I knew it would eventually get heated,” Sowell said. At one point, Sowell caught up to Dockett during the laps and the two spoke briefly before continuing the punishment on their own.

“It was ‘We’re still teammates, let’s finish up this running and get by it.’ We both have played a little bit of football in the league. We both know how it is. Neither one of us want to lose,” Sowell said.

As teammate Lyle Sendlein said earlier in camp, “The Cardinals aren’t on the Cardinals’ schedule.”

“We’re teammates,” Sowell said. “It’s done.”

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Arians: Starters’ playing time to be limited

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2014 – 12:35 pm

When your head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators and many of the main players are the same as last season, and after the team has a whole looked pretty good in the preseason opener, the thought process for the preseason sometimes with be adjusted. That sounds like it might be true for coach Bruce Arians, who said today that he might “buck the trend” and not play starters as much as he might normally in the preseason. It’s obviously on his mind. He mentioned running back Andre Ellington in particular, who should play a little more Saturday in Minnesota but “Andre is not going to see a whole lot of action this preseason.” Arians wants to keep Ellington healthy. (I know. Stunner.)

— Speaking of healthy, the Cardinals didn’t suffer any major injuries in the preseason opener. A handful of guys will miss practice today and Arians said they are all day-to-day: G Jonathan Cooper (toe), T Max Starks (ankle), G Anthony Steen (neck), T Nate Potter (back) and LB Kevin Minter (pectoral). Arians said C Lyle Sendlein (calf) will miss the Vikings game and it’s possible WRs Ted Ginn (knee) and Michael Floyd (groin) will too, but all three are expected back next week at the latest.

— Arians on his running game, which had Ellington with only two carries and a total of three kneeldown plays: “I am not concerned. We ran the ball effectively even with some mental errors from some young guys.” The Cardinals had a total of 81 yards rushing on 37 official attempts.

— The fight for positions in the backfield, tight end, wide receiver, defensive line and secondary are all intense, Arians said. “You better not have a bad day,” he said. “One bad day could cost you your job.”

— As for the idea the Cardinals could keep six receivers, Arians said the roster makeup isn’t locked into certain numbers. “We won’t cut a player at one position to keep someone just for depth,” he said. “If he is a better player, we want the best players on the team. There are some great battles from 45 to 53. Knock on wood, hopefully injuries won’t deplete us.”

— No sign yet of linebacker John Abraham. Asked if he still expected Abraham to arrive this week, Arians said “we’re hoping.” As for what the Cardinals can expect from Abraham when he does get here, Arians said he isn’t worried. “He was in great shape when he showed up (last year) and I’d think he’d come back in just as good of shape,” Arians said. “Knocking that rust off and getting up to playing speed in a lot of the new stuff on defense (that) he hasn’t been exposed to. There will be a learning curve but he will hopefully have more than 20 days to be ready.”


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Healthy Cards cut another linebacker

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2014 – 9:45 am

Remember how Bruce Arians joked about how the Cardinals had “way too many” on the roster right now? It looks like there was some truth in that quip. I mean, Arians said that in response to when the Cards might fill to two open spots left with the departures of Jake Ballard and Ernie Sims. Not only have the Cardinals not filled those spots, but they created another one Friday when they cut outside linebacker Trevardo Williams, who had just been claimed off waivers last weekend.

Arians had already said the only player expected to miss Saturday’s preseason opener against Houston was starting center Lyle Sendlein, down with his calf injury. Even with Williams’ release, that leaves 85 players on the roster prepared to play (minus PUP guys Tyrann Mathieu and Alameda Ta’amu). That seems a bit much to juggle as it is (hence, Arians “way too many” comment.) A couple of guys aren’t expected to play because of position-battle preseason rotations — QB Ryan Lindley and K Jay Feely this week — but the Cardinals have plenty at all the positions, especially since they are trying to see the performance of some young guys.

This leaves three roster spots open, which is handy given that once you go through a preseason game, inevitably some guys will get banged up. The Cardinals can easily buoy those positions next week if needed.


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Defense knows too much (and other notes)

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2014 – 5:43 pm

The Cardinals’ defense will be good again this season. Just ask the Cardinals’ offense.

“Every day we go on the field is an unbelievable challenge for this offense,” coach Bruce Arians said.

It’s about more than talent, though. The defense not only has players but it has information. It has watched the offense run its plays over and over, in camp and this offseason. It has heard the audibles.

“Because we see so many pressures, blitz period or not, they are going to know our audibles,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “Coach Arians said it (Tuesday), as soon as we audibled one play the whole defense knew what was coming. He just wants to see the audible executed, (even if it is) completely covered and blown up. But you see it in a walkthrough and then in practice, it’s pretty easy to pick up. Once you go in a game, you only use that audible once every three weeks. You understand the situation for what it is. But that stuff does get frustrating.”

Palmer emphasized how much respect he has for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. “You can’t get a bead on what you think is coming,” Palmer said.

Still, it makes success during training camp much, much harder.

“When offense wins a few matches in practice, I am very proud our offense is getting better,” Arians said.

— Maybe that played a part in Wednesday’s practice. At one point during team work, the defense would have come up with a handful of sacks and/or heavy pressures on the passer. Then at the end of the day, when the offense took on the defense — first unit versus first unit, and so on — for an attempt at a mostly length-of-the-field drive, the defense was winning. The first-string offense drove all the way into the red zone, only to have cornerback Antonio Cromartie bring down a beautiful one-handed interception on a fade route to Ted Ginn. The second offense only had a couple of plays before a pass to Jaron Brown was deflected high in the air before linebacker Ernie Sims grabbed the ball. The third offense was successful, eventually scoring a touchdown on a short run by Jonathan Dwyer.

— Darren Fells would seem to have an inside track at a roster spot as the fourth tight end after Jake Ballard’s retirement, but he had his hiccups Wednesday after the news came out, dropping a couple of catchable passes.

— Everybody was out practicing except for DT Darnell Dockett (who was given a rest day by Arians) and center Lyle Sendlein, still out with a calf injury.

— Tyrann Mathieu, on the help he gives rookie safety Deone Bucannon: “I try to tell him what I know. I don’t try to tell him too much because I don’t know everything.”

— Arians said the kicking spot will come down to how the games play out. “All the eggs are in that basket,” he said. “It’ll be a tough decision.” Arians said each kicker will be given a full game to work, starting with Chandler Catanzano against Houston Saturday. Feely will kick in Minnesota the following week.

86CroINTuse

 


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