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Niklas must sit again (and #CardsCamp notes)

Posted by Darren Urban on August 26, 2015 – 1:02 pm

Troy Niklas is sidelined again, done in by the same hamstring that put him out of practice at the beginning of camp. It’s another blow for the young tight end, who flashes what the Cardinals want to see on the field. He’s just never on the field, thanks to a broken thumb/bad ankle/hamstrings over the past year-plus.

“He’s the player we liked,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We just have to keep him healthy.”

Can that happen? Niklas is frustrated and I’d guess the team is frustrated. Arians said he isn’t sure how long this will sideline Niklas, and with Jermaine Gresham hopefully playing this week — but still not a lock — the Cards must still think about where they are at tight end.

— Arians is hopeful the hamstring trio of RB Chris Johnson, ILB Sean Weatherspoon and CB Jerraud Powers will all be back later this week (which is running out of days), but all are sitting Wednesday. OL Earl Watford (ankle) is sitting again too.

— WR Michael Floyd (hand) said he is sticking with his rehab protocol but he expressed optimism he could be back for the regular-season opener. Floyd isn’t catching yet, but said he thinks it will be mental hurdles and not physical hurdles that will be the key. Arians too is hopeful Floyd will return. “I wouldn’t be shocked if he was ready,” Arians said.

— Another sign undrafted rookie nose tackle Xavier Williams is going to make this roster — Arians’ comment Wednesday. “We’d be very, very happy if he was our third- or fourth-round draft choice right now.”

— Arians said he is “anxious” to see OLB Shaq Riddick on the field after missing, well, basically almost every practice since he was drafted. It’s Riddick’s potential speed off the edge that has the Cardinals wanting more. Might be hard to get him through to the practice squad — which is another thing to keep in mind with the final 53-man roster.

— Both Logan Thomas and Phillip Sims are expected to play Sunday (and the whole game in Denver, likely). That third QB battle will go through the Denver game, Arians added. Sims may come in before Thomas this week, however, because Arians wants Thomas to get a chance at a two-minute drill.

TC16.NiklasBLOG


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Keim’s first-week analysis of #CardsCamp

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2015 – 8:16 am

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim reiterated today that there could be a trade or two for the Cardinals as the regular season approaches and the team tries to figure out what they do with a couple positions of depth — in particular, the quality group of defensive linemen the team has compiled. He also said, during the first of his weekly appearances on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, that a trade usually comes down to a focus on positions of need rather than the best player available.

As for the Cards’ own positions of need right now, Keim named three spots, all of which have been impacted by early injuries: Running back, inside linebacker and offensive tackle. Running back and tackle, Keim said, are OK when the Cards are healthy and he added Andre Ellington should return to practice this week. (The Cards are also missing David Johnson and Marion Grice, while young tackles D.J. Humphries and Rob Crisp are also out.)

One position Keim is bullish on is tight end. He praised Ifeanyi Momah a ton, which just falls in line with what has been easy to see on the field. Momah has been OK blocking — he’s definitely missed a couple during 11-on-11, but he will be a receiver-first tight end, and he does that well — while Keim also is happy with Darren Fells and is excited about Jermaine Gresham. Now, if Troy Niklas can get back and going …

— Keim, like Bruce Arians, wouldn’t put a timeline on Michael Floyd’s return, but he noted how focused Floyd was before he got hurt and reiterated what a big season this is for Floyd and his future in Arizona.

— The defensive line is deep and talented. Rookie Rodney Gunter is flashing what the Cards had hoped, and there is a belief Gunter can work at nose tackle as well as defensive end. Keim also said Corey Peters is having a good camp.

 

— Keim believes guard Jonathan Cooper has lost the “hitch” he developed after breaking his leg and looks like he did when he was trending up in his rookie training camp. He also praised the camp of inside linebacker Kevin Minter and outside linebacker Alex Okafor.

 


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Surgery for Floyd and his hand

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2015 – 6:07 am

Let’s start by saying that the Cardinals have not said anything officially about the Michael Floyd timeline after he hurt his left hand in practice Wednesday. Floyd will miss time. How much? We’ll see, but Floyd himself confirmed as much when he tweeted out a picture from late last night after he had surgery.

Reports originally said Floyd could miss six weeks, or maybe five, or four or maybe even three, that his fingers were broken, or dislocated. The Cardinals probably won’t update Floyd’s status until Friday when Bruce Arians speaks to the media again. The good thing is the reports seemed to trend toward the lesser numbers, so maybe Floyd doesn’t have to miss any regular season time.

Regardless, the Cardinals have depth at receiver, even if Floyd’s absence were to trend into the regular season. Larry Fitzgerald — who was Carson Palmer’s top target for that brief stretch when Palmer was healthy post-shoulder last season — should be No. 1, and John Brown is primed to be a No. 2 target even with no Floyd. Jaron Brown, Brittan Golden and J.J. Nelson have all looked good in early camp. For the Cards, this is an injury that can be overcome, assuming Floyd doesn’t miss significant regular-season time.

FloydHurtBlog


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More than 11 starters, “too dumb” and other notes

Posted by Darren Urban on August 1, 2015 – 1:12 pm

Not a lot of news yet from Bruce Arians at training camp, in part because the Cards still haven’t had a practice yet (and even when they do today, it’ll be without pads. No pads until Monday.) But here are some quick tidbits:

— Carson Palmer’s arm is stronger, as Michael Floyd noted, because he has recovered from his shoulder issues of a year ago and also went through a rigorous rehab process on it while he was rehabbing his bad knee. He doesn’t know if it is stronger than it ever was, but he said he has noticed an uptick in velocity from last season.

— Arians on discussing starters, especially in this era of sub-packages and evolving gameplans:  “We have about 16 starters on offense, we have about 18 starters on defense depending on what package we play that week,” Arians said. “Don’t get caught up. We introduce more starters than most teams because you try not to hurt anybody’s feelings that way.”

— That said, Arians said the inside linebacker job next to Sean Weatherspoon is Kevin Minter’s to lose, at least in the base package. In other packages, Minter would come off the field, most of the time for a defensive back.

— Arians singled out undrafted rookie inside linebacker Gabe Martin as a player who he is intrigued by and will be watching closely.

— It’s rare for a team to have five quarterbacks in camp, Arians acknowledged. One of them could be the first to be cut off the roster if injuries force a move at say, wide receiver. It ups the pressure early in camp.

— On the heels of his “Camp Cupcake” comment, Arians noted that the daily work involves players going to meetings in the morning to go over that day’s plays, then the team has a morning walkthrough going through those plays, and then the team practice the same plays full speed in the afternoon.

“If you can’t get it by then you’re probably too dumb to play,” Arians deadpanned. “That’s the evaluation process.”

 


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For what it’s worth in June, offensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 19, 2015 – 3:03 pm

So, before it’s time to take leave for a bit, we come to the second part of the “for what it’s worth” posts. Yesterday, it was the defense. Today, the offense, which starts with a healthy Carson Palmer, always a good thing. This team should be in a better place offensively this season, if for no other reason than the system is set and the offensive line should be better than it’s been overall in a long time. Of course, the Cards have to show it. And Palmer needs to stay on the field.

QB — Carson Palmer. Whatever else the Cardinals might have done on the field this offseason, just having Palmer back and working in 11-on-11 by the end would deem it a success. We’ll see how it plays out in camp — and more importantly, the first preseason game he takes part in — but it’s important that he is on track to be the starter.

RB — Andre Ellington. Rookie David Johnson should end up playing a role and could end up as a key on offense. But right now, all things still figure to go through Ellington to begin with. The entire running back situation is an interesting one. Will the offensive line upgrade trickle down to help this position? How might Kerwynn Williams fit in? The Cards just want Ellington to stay healthy, and see what that means.

WR — Larry Fitzgerald. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact, after another year under 1,000 yards, that Fitz was really clicking with Palmer before Palmer got hurt. If the two vets can play together, I’m curious to see what Fitz’s numbers can be, even in this system when not one receiver figures to dominate the stat sheet.

WR — Michael Floyd. It’s a big year for Floyd. The quarterback situation did not help last season, but there were times even when Palmer played where, for whatever reason, Floyd didn’t produce. Sometimes, that was a lack of targets. The Cards certainly have other options too. But the former No. 1 draft pick needs to make a greater impact.

WR — John Brown. In this setup, the Cards go three wide receivers (I’ll hit the tight ends in a minute.) Brown has added a little muscle and had strong self-awareness of what happened to him last season, including wearing out at the end of the season. Palmer can’t say enough good things about Brown, with whom he developed a strong bond with last summer. Smokey will get his chances.

TE — Darren Fells. Troy Niklas is going to be in this mix and when the Cards go two tight ends on running downs, Niklas will likely join Fells. But right now, with Niklas still trying to get healthy, it is Fells who as emerged out of a very inexperienced tight end room. One caveat: Can’t exclude the possibility of the Cards signing a veteran at the position, which could change this dynamic.

RT — Bobby Massie. D.J. Humphries is making strides, but as of now, it’s hard to see Humphries surpassing Massie. Things could change when the pads go on. Another possibility is if Humphries makes enough strides, maybe Massie is a guy who the Cards would consider trading, especially if another team loses a tackle in injury in camp. But if Massie is around for the first game, I think he starts.

RG — Jonathan Cooper. He’s in great shape. He doesn’t have any of the issues left from a broken leg or turf toe or any of the other problems he might have had. If Cooper is going to become the player the Cardinals hope he can be, this is the season he needs to do it. His confidence clearly has never been higher, and he comes across as a different player than he was at this time last year. A big, big camp awaits.

C — A.Q. Shipley. This is an interesting spot. Shipley and Ted Larsen will battle in camp. OTAs and minicamp are what they are, but Shipley was the one getting more first-unit snaps by the end and he has history with both Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin. This will come down to how Shipley and Larsen perform in games. (And if they both struggle, I wouldn’t completely write off the idea of a Lyle Sendlein return either, as long as he remains a free agent.)

LG — Mike Iupati. For a second straight year, the big free-agent purchase was an offensive lineman. Iupati’s reputation is that of excellent run blocker and a guy who needs to work on his pass blocking. Iupati certainly looks the part, and it will be fun to watch him in pads during camp and see what collisions develop.

LT — Jared Veldheer. The Cardinals wanted a left tackle and after one season, it looks like they have gotten a pretty good one.

WorthOffense2use

 


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OTAs open with a determined Palmer, and other notes

Posted by Darren Urban on May 19, 2015 – 11:07 am

The Cardinals had the first of their 10 organized team activities of the offseason this morning. Coach Bruce Arians called it crisp and noted the work got done quickly enough that the team ended early. Quarterback Carson Palmer looked good in limited work — more on Palmer’s drive to get back on the field in a bit when I have a story on the homepage — and Arians said there is a chance that Palmer could be back for even more reps (regular reps?) by the time the Cards reach their minicamp in mid-June. I’ll admit, when they said that once upon a time I was thinking it was much too optimistic, but clearly, Palmer has a good chance to prove me wrong.

Some other quick notes/thoughts from the first OTA:

— The draft class is doing work on Field 2 during 11-on-11 (except for OLB Shaq Riddick, who tweaked his hamstring last week.) D.J. Humphries is the third-string left tackle for now, a long way from usurping Bobby Massie. Arians said the rookies have a lot of work to do to get on Field 1, although it could happen as we go. (This is the first of the draft classes from Keim/Arians that I can remember all the draftees on Field 2. Usually someone is working on the main field.)

— Arians praised everyone’s conditioning but he particularly noted the good shape of guard Jonathan Cooper and wide receiver Michael Floyd.

— Speaking of Cooper, Arians was asked if Cooper was better at knowing when to “gut it out” and play. Arians said it’s tough to gut it out when you are simply injured as Cooper had been, including his broken leg. “You can’t gut out broken bones, unless you’re Jack Youngblood,” Arians said. “Then the coach gets sued these days. Back then, it was cool.”

— As I’ve noted before, Matt Shaughnessy has moved to defensive end in the 3-4, which Arians called his more natural spot. He’s flipped with Kareem Martin, who is at linebacker now.

BlogFirstOTAuse


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Palmer, Fitz and Floyd work

Posted by Darren Urban on May 6, 2015 – 2:46 pm

Special teams work is usually all-encompassing. This time of year, there are few on the roster who aren’t taking part in the early stages of coverage work because you never know when you might be needed as part of the 53-man roster. There are exceptions, of course. Most of the defensive linemen aren’t involved, or offensive linemen. The quarterbacks. And, given their stature and status, wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd aren’t in there either.

So while the bulk of the team was specializing for the first part of today’s Phase 2 work, Carson Palmer was down on one end of a field with Fitz and Floyd, discussing in-tight red zone routes and then practicing them — how Palmer wanted the receivers to run the routes, discussing the timing and what the defensive back might do, and those sorts of things.

It was a little thing. But it’s one of those things where, when you see it, you understand why it was so important for Palmer to get back on the field this time of year after his knee injury. These are the little things that add up.

P2D2.ExplainUSE


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The options of Floyd’s option

Posted by Darren Urban on April 24, 2015 – 12:46 pm

The new collective bargaining agreement in 2011 provided a slotting system for rookie contracts, making the negotiating process much more simple than it used to be for first-round draft picks. It also creates a decision for teams after that initial three years of the four-year contract is up — like the Cardinals are facing with wide receiver Michael Floyd.

The Cards have yet to make a choice whether to invoke Floyd’s option, which would lock him up through the 2016 season. As the former 12th overall pick, Floyd would be due a salary of more than $7 million in 2016 if the Cards picked up the option — which must be decided by May 3, the day after the draft. That’s a lot of money, especially when Larry Fitzgerald is also being guaranteed $11 million for that season. Plus, Floyd’s play hasn’t reach that level yet either. He became a major deep threat for the Cardinals under Bruce Arians, and did average 17.9 yards a catch last season. But he had only 47 receptions, and while Arians said he thought Floyd ended up a “victim” of the quarterback injuries, Arians added “I think some frustration showed in his play sometimes.”

“He still needs to hit a consistency level,” Arians said. “He’s a 1,000-yard player. He should have had 1,000 easily. But there were some balls we expect him to come down with and he didn’t come down with and that’s what is holding him down from being elite.”

The Cardinals don’t have any reason to make a choice on the option before May 3. In a draft deep at wide receiver, it’s possible they could draft one higher, for the future, which could help a decision. The team would still have plenty of time to work out a contract extension before that option would kick in, even if they choose to exercise it. There is plenty of time for an extension even if they don’t, for that matter. There is little question this year is a big one for Floyd, but this particular contract choice has to be made without that able to play out first.

FloydOptionuse


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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.

behtelblog


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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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