Offensively, the Cardinals need to take a step forward this year. They need to so they don’t pressure the defense as much as last year (especially after some unknowns with defensive changes) and they need to so they can keep up in the NFC West arms race. Good news – there is a confidence there it will happen. Who are the guys who will be at the forefront of that plan? Here’s my guess, at least for the regular-season opener. (If you want to see the defensive picks, click here.)
QB – Carson Palmer. Biggest question around Palmer at this point? What happens in 2015, considering Palmer is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. But he is the guy the Cards will ride or die with this season.
RB – Andre Ellington. No-brainer. He’s earned the right, and we’ll see about the touches per game, which I will guess will be 20 to 22 a game.
WR – Larry Fitzgerald. Big year for Fitz, who scored last year like he once did but is still searching for his first 1,000-yard season since 2011 and who is coming to a crossroads – along with the franchise – with his contract in 2015.
WR – Michael Floyd. He’s a star on the rise. He played well last year, and he should be better this season. The third wide receiver should be Ted Ginn, but I fully expect John Brown to at least have a chance to play a role in the offense.
TE – John Carlson. This is assuming he stays healthy, but Carlson has looked good in the offseason and could prove to be a very nice bargain.
TE – Jake Ballard. At some point – maybe not until 2015 – this will be Troy Niklas’ spot. The rookie is far behind right now. Rob Housler still has a chance to work his way into the lineup. But right now, Ballard is feeling good with his knee and he is closer to the blocker that Arians likes.
LT – Jared Veldheer. The left tackle they have always wanted.
LG – Jonathan Cooper. He’s going to be back to health. Time for the 2013 first round pick to get his time on the field and show why the brass so believes in him.
C – Lyle Sendlein. Old reliable is what they want in the middle.
RG – Earl Watford. Paul Fanaika has been running first unit and there is also veteran Ted Larsen lurking as a possibility. But the Cardinals are hoping Watford comes around and takes control of a job he was drafted to have.
RT – Bobby Massie. Another wide open spot. There’s always a possibility of a late-summer free agent signing. Bradley Sowell isn’t go to go away. But Massie has looked better in the offseason work and in a lot of ways, this is probably his last chance to take ahold of the place he held as a rookie.
So that’s that. There will be a lot of time and practices between now and the opener. Injuries happen. Battles will be won or lost. We will see how this guesstimate (educated as it might be) holds up.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Carson Palmer, Earl Watford, Jake Ballard, Jared Veldheer, John Brown, John Carlson, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Michael Floyd, Paul Fanaika, Rob Housler, Ted Ginn, Troy Niklas
Posted in Blog | 25 Comments »
The Cardinals have had good turnout at their voluntary work thus far, which is always good to see. I’ve seen almost everyone on the current roster at some point (I keep getting questions about players that aren’t in photos — Patrick Peterson, Ted Ginn and Carson Palmer in particular. I have seen all three. Workouts run at 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. after meetings. I’m not taking pictures at 6 and usually I’ve moved on in my day at 12:30, so just because they aren’t in a photo doesn’t mean anything.) It’s important to have guys around, as Darnell Dockett noted yesterday.
“This is voluntary, so when you have guys here, voluntary, and we grade out at 94 percent every day of people coming in, that shows the right direction we’re trying to go in,” he said. “Not showing up with 20 guys, missing 15 here and 30 here, 20 guys late, people missing in the classroom. That’s a bad sign. So right now every day we’re getting out this work, and we’re appreciating it and enjoying it. We’re getting better. Chemistry is not all about coming in talking about football and weights. We’re getting to know each other.”
Kent Somers does a nice job chronicling how Dockett’s mindset has changed after multiple offseasons when he wasn’t here. Part of the change for the Cards — and around the NFL for that matter — has been a proliferation of workout bonuses in contracts. Players get paid for their weekly attendance, but it’s not much really, $175 a day as stipulated by the collective bargaining agreement. If you make the workouts a fruitful part of the paycheck, you tend to motivate. Overthecap.com writes about this. Seven teams in the league have invested at least $2 million of cap space into offseason workout bonuses, including the Cardinals at $2.085 million. The most is the Packers, at $4.325M, and that’s not a surprise knowing that many players probably wouldn’t want to stick around Green Bay in the offseason if they could avoid it.
Nine Cardinals collect six figures just for showing up for whatever the prescribed amount of offseason workouts would be (it’s usually a high percentage of the total days available.) Dockett, DE Calais Campbell, WR Larry Fitzgerald and QB Drew Stanton get $250,000. C Lyle Sendlein and S Rashad Johnson get $150,000. Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy gets $125,000. Linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Daryl Washington get $100,000. And there are eight other players who get money.
Cash doesn’t explain everything. There are a ton of guys on the roster — big-name guys — who have been here and get no extra monetary reward for doing so, including new players like Jared Veldheer, Antonio Cromartie and Ted Ginn. There is a push from those on the roster to make sure teammates are hear for the reason of just making sure the team will be as good as possible. But as always, money plays a role.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Drew Stanton, Jared Veldheer, Larry Fitzgerald, Lorenzo Alexander, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Shaughnessy, offseason, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Ted Ginn, voluntary workouts
Posted in Blog | 26 Comments »
The Cardinals got themselves a left tackle. That was the main goal of free agency, and it was accomplished with the Jared Veldheer signing last week. Questions remain about what the offensive line will look like for the Cards in 2014, with veteran Eric Winston still a free agency and Daryn Colledge released. In reality, three of the positions are set, barring something crazy:
LT — Veldheer
LG — Jonathan Cooper
C — Lyle Sendlein
There are questions about the other two spots. At right guard, the Cardinals are hoping 2013 fourth-round pick Earl Watford can step into the starting role after watching all last season. Watford looks the part, a big, athletic, not-sloppy-at-all 295 pounds. On the roster right now, the main competition should come from either Paul Fanaika, who started at the spot all last season after Cooper’s injury, or free-agent signee Ted Larsen. I don’t see them adding another guard in free agency, but we’ll see. The draft is a different animal, but again, I don’t see another guard in the offing.
Right tackle is a different story. With Winston unsigned — and who knows if he is coming back here — the options are Bobby Massie (the leader in the clubhouse right now), Bradley Sowell and Nate Potter. I think they see Sowell as a reserve swing tackle who could back up both spots. Potter is in a big offseason; he had a lot of chances last year to step up and he did not. He’ll be fighting for a spot on the roster. I could see them still signing a vet right tackle as a free agent at some point, and it would definitely be an option in the draft.
The Cardinals are not done trying to upgrade the line, one way or the other.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Daryn Colledge, Earl Watford, Eric Winston, Jared Veldheer, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, Nate Potter, offensive line, Paul Fanaika, Ted Larsen
Posted in Blog | 15 Comments »
The Cardinals signed a center yesterday, bringing in John Estes. Estes doesn’t have a lot on the résumé since coming into the league in 2010, playing in just two games with Jacksonville and spending two seasons on injured reserve. He was out of football last season. It probably is more of a sign that backup center Mike Gibson is an unrestricted free agent and might not return more than anything else. The other reserve centers on the roster right now are Tommie Draheim and Philip Blake. Meanwhile, Lyle Sendlein, the starter, plugs along.
It’s a question I get not frequently but also not rarely: Are the Cardinals looking to replace Sendlein? The answer, as it’s been for many years, remains no. That can of course change, if the Cardinals fell into a center in the draft later on that they felt they couldn’t pass on. But I expect Sendlein to stay right where he is, even as the rest of the line could change around him. Sendlein is no longer the cheap one-time undrafted rookie — his salary is $2.85 million this season and $3 million in 2015, the final year of his current deal — but he provides some stability in a unit that hasn’t had a ton. Sendlein might not make a Pro Bowl push (Profootballfocus.com ranked him 18th overall out of 35 centers, 12th in run blocking and 28th in pass blocking) but he a solid pro who is excellent in the locker room and as a leader.
If there was a time the Cards were going to move on from Sendlein it would have been last year, when the coaching staff changed and offensive line coach Russ Grimm — who loved Sendlein — left. But clearly Sendlein made a good impression on Bruce Arians and Harold Goodwin.
Tags: John Estes, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Gibson, Philip Blake, Tommie Draheim
Posted in Blog | 7 Comments »
— MarkDalton (@CardsMarkD) November 5, 2013
Tags: Air Force, Andre Robertts, Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Jonathan Cooper, Karlos Dansby, Luke Air Force Base, Lyle Sendlein, NFL, Salute to Service
Posted in Since1898 | No Comments »
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Lyle Sendlein, NFL, NFL Network, Seahawks, Seattle Seahawks, Thursday Night Football
Posted in Since1898 | 1 Comment »
It’s easy to think of the Lions and wide receiver Calvin Johnson and get locked in on him, but Bruce Arians tried to zoom out a bit when talking Wednesday about the Cardinals’ Sunday opponent.
“Everybody that they have is capable of beating you,” Arians said. “You can’t just look at one guy.”
Of course, Johnson is the guy people think of first. Patrick Peterson will not cover Johnson one-on-one all the time, Arians said, but he will do it some. That will likely work for Peterson, who cherishes these matchups (Peterson was not available during the media session today, so we’ll have more on this tomorrow.) Arians smiled with that assessment of Peterson, though. “You have to watch what you wish for sometimes,” Arians said.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz did say, if officials hadn’t overturned two touchdowns in the opener, Johnson would have come out much better than his four-catch-for-37-yard day. “If he has those two, it’s a Megatron game.”
– The ability of Detroit DTs Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley will mean the pressure this week will be on the Cardinals’ interior line of Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein and Paul Fanaika, as opposed to the pressure the tackles were under in St. Louis, Arians said.
– This from Arians, which was important to note: He said newcomer tackle Bradley Sowell can play both sides. But he said Bobby Massie cannot play left tackle — which would be a reason, for all of you who have asked, why he has not been tried there. Arians did say he thinks Massie “has all the talent in the world.”
– Arians, asked for his evaluation of Suh’s reputation as a dirty football player, said he only thing he goes off of is the video. “When I watch tape I see a great football player,” Arians said. “All the rest of the stuff, I don’t have to deal with.”
– Arians said the only player sitting out of practice was tight end Rob Housler, whom Arians already said would probably miss the Detroit game. Some players will be limited today. We will see the official injury report later today.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Calvin Johnson, Daryn Colledge, Lions, Lyle Sendlein, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Patrick Peterson, Paul Fanaika, Rob Housler
Posted in Blog | 14 Comments »
The Cardinals did a good job hooking up on big-chunk passes Friday night in Green Bay. That was in no small part of the pass protection. From Bruce Arians’ scheme to Steve Keim’s personnel additions to the coaching of the line from Harold Goodwin and Larry Zerlein, the Cardinals’ line did a very nice job.
To that end, I re-watched the first portion of the Cardinals’ offensive line play. As Arians noted, it seemed like the quarterbacks stayed pretty clean. After a look back on the plays in which the starting offensive linemen played – which took the Cards through both touchdowns they scored – proved Arians (and most of us watching) right. Here are the plays and how they went. The starters were, from left tackle to right tackle, Levi Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, Paul Fanaika and Eric Winston.
1st and 10, AZ 20 – Carson Palmer fades to pass, the Packers rush five. The pocket is perfect. LT Brown has no trouble dealing with Packers star Clay Matthews. Palmer hits Michael Floyd with an 18-yard throw.
3rd and 6, AZ 42 – After two runs, Palmer is the shotgun. The Packers rush four. Again, no pressure. Again, Brown deals easily with Matthews. Palmer launches a bomb to Andre Roberts. Despite no pressure, the ball is slightly underthrown and that allows the defender to catch up to Roberts. Roberts still had a chance to catch the ball.
1st and 10, AZ 1 – Brown had been called for a false start, but the Cards were so close to their own goal line after their defensive stand the penalty was officially for zero yards. Arians calls for a play-action pass. Left guard Cooper pulls to the backside, somewhat risky given the spot on the field. After the fake, the Packers end up rushing only three with two other defenders backing out quickly to guard against the short stuff. Amazingly, it is wide receiver Michael Floyd, asked to stay in for protection, who locks up with Matthews. Even better, Floyd handles Matthews to a draw. Again, Palmer has plenty of time and space. He drills a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald for a 17-yard gain.
2nd and 9, AZ 19 – After another run, the Cards run a middle screen to Fitz in the slot. The Cards allow some pressure on the four-man rush as center Sendlein and right guard Fanaika jump out immediately to try and get some second-level blocks. The Cards get a modest four yards on the play.
3rd and 5, AZ 23 – Another four man rush. Matthews tries to stunt by looping from the far right side all the way inside. The Cardinals do a good job watching him as he is passed off responsibility-wise from Brown to Cooper to Sendlein. Brown does a nice job catching defensive end B.J. Raji on the hard push after Matthews leaves his sight. Palmer throws another long pass to Floyd. It’s incomplete and it doesn’t matter anyway. Floyd is called for offensive pass interference.
1st and 10, GB 38 – Following a Patrick Peterson interception, Arians goes for the jugular. Packers rush four and bring a fifth blitzer on a delay. Tight end Rob Housler, staying in to block, is prepared for the blitzer. Brown, Cooper and Sendlein all handle their men one-on-one. There’s a late chip on Matthews by the running back to help Brown, but it didn’t matter at that point. Matthews wasn’t going to get there, and Palmer was already delivering a 38-yard touchdown pass to Roberts on his final play of the game.
2nd and 8, 50 – The Cardinals had gotten the ball back on a John Abraham strip-sack. A run on first down got two yards. With backup quarterback Drew Stanton in the game, Arians calls for a play-action pass. Cooper and Fanaika remain in the game with new center Mike Gibson, left tackle Nate Potter and right tackle Bobby Massie. Packers rush four. Cooper pulls to right to take the edge rusher, and he has trouble getting over to make much of a difference. Gibson also fails to pick up his inside rusher heading into the gap Cooper vacated at left guard. Still, Stanton steps up in the pocket slightly right had has plenty of time to fire to wide-open tight end D.C. Jefferson. Jefferson ends up dropping the pass when he is hit on a play that should have picked up another 15 yards or so.
3rd and 8, 50 – Stanton in shotgun. The Packers rush five – three up front, and bring two linebackers after a brief delay. Potter and Massie easily handle their responsibilities, and Stanton has the perfect pocket. He completes a long pass to wide receiver Charles Hawkins for a 36-yard gain.
2nd and 7, GB 11 – After a run, the Packers rush four. Massie is in trouble from the start and ends up falling down on the rush by defensive end Mike Daniels. But Fanaika manages to jump back to help get a chip on Daniels, giving Stanton enough time to step up and complete an 8-yard pass to Hawkins.
2nd and G, GB 1 – After a two-yard run, Stanton runs play-action with both teams featuring goal line packages. Pressure isn’t a variable as Stanton lofts a pass to an open Jefferson in the end zone. Not a great pass, but Jefferson also needs to find a way to make such plays.
3rd and G, GB 1 – Again, with the Packers committing to the line and surging forward with eight, Stanton takes a quick drop and renders the rush moot with a quick back-shoulder lob to receiver Jaron Brown, covered one-on-one in the end zone. Brown makes the one-yard TD catch.
Again, the run blocking will need to be improved and will also likely be aided when starter Rashard Mendenhall is on the field. But the pass protection certainly gave the Cardinals and Palmer something to be encouraged about as the season begins.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Clay Matthews, Drew Stanton, Eric Winston, Jonathan Cooper, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Gibson, Nate Potter, offensive line, Paul Fanaika, Rob Housler
Posted in Blog | 33 Comments »
Bruce Arians said he was still a long way from choosing his starting offensive line. At the same time, he said he did know “who the eight are. Or nine,” ostensibly the guys who will be on the roster for the offensive line. In other words, the pool he’ll have to choose from when it comes to those starters.
The question is, to which eight — or nine — is Arians referring?
The list mostly seems straightforward. Barring any roster moves, you figure Jonathan Cooper, Eric Winston, Lyle Sendlein, Daryn Colledge, Levi Brown, Nate Potter and Bobby Massie will all be around. That’s already seven. But at the same time, that’s four guys who basically only play tackle — Brown, Massie, Potter, Winston — and that may be too many for guys who couldn’t move inside if necessary. Someone may need to show some versatility. Or maybe they all don’t make it.
I think Earl Watford, as a fourth-round pick, makes this team, but he may be this year’s Senio Kelemete — he may have a hard time being active on Sundays.
Let’s say, for a moment, Arians is planning on keeping around all those tackles, maybe working some at guard. Let’s say he leans toward keeping nine offensive linemen. With Watford, that’s eight already. Who else? Vet guard Chilo Rachal? Guard Paul Fanaika, who has come on and has been working with the first unit with Colledge out with injury? Do you consider Mike Gibson, who can be a guard and center, the backup center or is Cooper — who played a little center in college — your default backup at the position should something happen to Sendlein?
Or perhaps the Cardinals will end up picking up someone off the waiver wire after final cuts. That, with this front office, does not seem far-fetched at all.
Regardless, it sounds like Arians and his staff, a week into camp, have already narrowed down their potential linemen quite a bit. It’s not a surprise. What it does do it reiterate, once again, how many roster decisions are made long before we get to the end of the preseason.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Chilo Rachal, Daryn Colledge, Earl Watford, Eric Winston, Jonathan Cooper, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Gibson, Nate Potter, offensive line, Paul Fanaika
Posted in Blog | 12 Comments »
The Cardinals just got off the bus here in Tempe — they still had meetings and changed out in the locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium before coming to the facility to practice — and Bruce Arians met with the media before practice, so they can all hope on the bus and leave quickly when today’s outdoor practice is over. Some news and notes:
– Eric Winston’s ascension to the first-unit offensive line is just a start, Arians said. “We’re going to mix and match,” Arians said, noting that the line battles remain close and he wants to see how all of them work with starting QB Carson Palmer. Nevertheless, Arians added the Cards would like to settle on their starting offensive line in “seven or eight days” — which dovetails nicely with the Cardinals’ first preseason game in Green Bay in eight days.
– That said, Arians stressed, he wants to continue to build offensive line depth. That, in fact, is a bigger concern that the starting five, Arians said.
– Arians said C Lyle Sendlein has had a “fantastic camp” thus far. Important to note since center is the one spot that doesn’t seem to have any kind of intense competition.
– The coach said fourth-round pick G Earl Watford, who has been running third-string is getting better and the last couple of practices “have been a nice move for him.” He is cutting down on his mental errors. “When he gets his hands on you it’s over,” Arians said. “He’s just got to figure out who to get his hands on.” Watford’s development is key — you figure a fourth-rounder will be on the roster, but he’s got to be able to play if needed.
– Nothing new injury-wise, Arians said. RB Ryan Williams (knee) remains out one more day. G Daryn Colledge (calf) is “hopefully” a week away from practicing. It’ll be interesting to see if he can return for the preseason opener in Green Bay, although I don’t think the Cards will push it.
– The Red-White practice Saturday will be a normal practice, Arians said.
– There are officials at practice. Arians said he wants to have them a couple of times a week, at least with college officials.
Tags: Daryn Colledge, Earl Watford, Eric Winston, Lyle Sendlein, offensive line, Ryan Williams, training camp
Posted in Blog | 4 Comments »