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
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The first Cardinals draft I covered as a beat guy was back in 2001, which just so happened to be the highest pick the Cards have had since I have been around the team — second overall. That’s 13 drafts overall and 14 first-round picks. As the Cards get closer to this year’s draft (jeez, is it ever going to get here?) I thought I’d hit the first-round picks I’ve seen, with both my initial thoughts at the time and what hindsight has brought.
– 2001: T Leonard Davis. It was a no-brainer. Davis was a sure thing, taken right after Michael Vick. He’d be the 10-year left tackle the Cardinals sought since Lomas Brown had left. Bigg (he went by the nickname “Big” and at some point, started adding an extra “g”) was just that, a mammoth man. Sure, the Cards decided to play him at guard his first season, but that was so he could get used to the game. Dave McGinnis even brought myself and Kent Somers to his office one day to show us Davis manhandling a couple of defenders. I remember him totally rag-dolling Bears safety Mike Brown on one play. Problem was, he never really panned out as a left tackle, even though Denny Green insisted on shoe-horning him there. He was a better guard, and the Cards weren’t going to break the bank on a guard, so he later got big money from the Cowboys. And made the Pro Bowl. As a guard.
– 2002: DT Wendell Bryant. What I really remember is hearing how then-defensive line coach Joe Greene had been so impressed with Bryant the player and the person during a workout up in Wisconsin. Uh, yeah, not so much. Bryant was a holdout until the regular season started of his rookie year, and he never climbed out of that hole. A total bust.
– 2003: DE Calvin Pace and WR Bryant Johnson. Ahh, the everyone-assumed-Terrell-Suggs-was-coming-to-the-Cards draft. This was the most surprising first round. The Cards traded down from No. 6 overall, thinking in part they could get DE Jerome McDougle. The Eagles jumped to No. 15 to get McDougle, and the Cards reached for Pace at 17 and then took Johnson at 18. Pace ended up a decent player, although he didn’t really hit his stride until Ken Whisenhunt showed up. This was a thank-goodness-for-Anquan-Boldin-in-the-second-round class.
– 2004: WR Larry Fitzgerald. And to think, if Josh McCown’s pass falls incomplete, would it have been Eli Manning? Or would Denny Green have made sure Fitz was No. 1 overall?
– 2005: CB Antrel Rolle. This was pretty straight-forward. Rolle was considered a top-10 talent, the Cards needed a corner. The problem was Rolle came into the league with most assuming he’d be better at safety. He was.
– 2006: QB Matt Leinart. Green said when the pick was made that Leinart falling to the Cards at 10 was really a “gift from heaven.” Seems really silly now. But it wasn’t at the time. (The Cards likely would have taken Jay Cutler, who went No. 11, if Leinart had been off the board.) Truth be told I thought it was a good pick, and I was convinced he would be that QB the Cards needed after his first two starts, come-from-ahead losses — but not his fault — to Kansas City and Chicago (“We let ‘em off the hook!”) Time proved I was way wrong. But it allowed Kurt Warner’s rebirth, so there’s that.
– 2007: T Levi Brown. The Cards wanted a left tackle. Joe Thomas was already taken. The Cards already had Edgerrin James, so Adrian Peterson didn’t make enough sense. And I’ll move on.
– 2008: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. DRC was odd. He was raw. He was good. He frustrated sometimes, going from Pro Bowl talent to a guy who wouldn’t pay attention in stretches. But it was the right call. If only he hadn’t been the price for Kevin Kolb …
– 2009: RB Beanie Wells: Beanie was never really healthy. A prime example of why teams don’t look to running backs early anymore.
– 2010: NT Dan Williams. Williams has been a starter and has improved. He forms a nice tandem with Alameda Ta’amu. Funny, the biggest thing I remember of when the Cards took him was that Tim Tebow was picked right before him — virtually eliminating any chance he was going to get mentioned on national TV broadcasts.
– 2011: CB Patrick Peterson. Yeah, a good pick. Obvious, but good.
– 2012: WR Michael Floyd. He’s turned into a good player in a short time. He wasn’t the left tackle everyone said they wanted, but he was better than the tackles on the board.
– 2013: G Jonathan Cooper. Coop should turn out to be a wise choice. If any of the big three tackles had been left at No. 7, the Cards probably would have nabbed one, but GM Steve Keim was about best players, and he believes Cooper was that.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, Bryant Johnson, Calvin Pace, Dan Williams, draft, DRC, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Leonard Davis, Levi Brown, Matt Leinart, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Wendell Bryant
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One of the reasons Steve Keim liked hiring Bruce Arians as head coach was because Arians was so blunt in proclaiming his ability to go young. Young, in this league, often means inexperienced and with the potential for mistakes, and that’s not always a coach’s favorite thing. Of all the ways Arians and predecessor Ken Whisenhunt are different, it is the use of the inexperienced that stands out the most.
Last year, first-round pick Jonathan Cooper and third-round pick Tyrann Mathieu each were inserted into the starting lineup (although Cooper’s injury sidelined him). Andre Ellington got more and more time as the season went on. It’s not as if Whisenhunt didn’t play rookies, but looking at first-round picks alone — the guys you would think would play a lot from the outset — Whiz clearly moved them in slowly. Patrick Peterson was an anomaly (and don’t forget, if it wasn’t for a Greg Toler injury, even PP might’ve started the year on the bench.) Michael Floyd, Dan Williams, Beanie Wells, DRC all were slow to be worked in. Levi Brown needed Oliver Ross’ injury.
Meanwhile, Arians doesn’t bat an eye to go to a Mathieu, or to stick a Bradley Sowell in at left tackle when Brown fails. It leads you to a couple of thoughts. One, whomever is drafted May 8-10 could make an immediate impact. It’ll depend on who it is and what position they play, but even though Arians has repeatedly said this team could go play the season as is and it would work, I’m guessing there will be draft picks that make a difference a la Mathieu and Ellington. The other is that if you are a young player upon whom this staff hesitates, you clearly need to ramp it up, for example, Bobby Massie. It’s not age alone that will provide hesitation in getting you on the field.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, Dan Williams, draft, DRC, Jonathan Cooper, Ken Whisenhunt, Levi Brown, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Michael Floyd, NFL, NFL Draft
Posted in Since1898 | 4 Comments »
The Cardinals made a pair of not-surprising moves Friday, cutting two players who missed all of 2013 because of injury: wide receiver LaRon Byrd and linebacker Dan Giordano. Byrd suffered a concussion in the preseason and was placed on injured reserve. Giordano, an undrafted rookie last year, suffered a toe injury during the offseason and was never able to come off the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Byrd had been waived-injured last season, but after he wasn’t picked up by anyone, he reverted back to injured reserve. He had been back at the facility working out recently. Giordano had been faithfully rehabbing daily since the season ended.
Both play positions that figure to be further addressed this offseason, either in the draft or otherwise. The Cards certainly will be adding some outside linebackers and seemingly are a lock to draft one at some point. Receiver is another spot where the Cards will add bodies, although with a top four right now of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn and Jaron Brown, it isn’t a pressing need.
Tags: Dan Giordano, Jaron Brown, LaRon Byrd, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn
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The Cardinals grabbed a headline when they signed a speed receiver in Ted Ginn. And Larry Fitzgerald remains at the top the receiving food chain in Arizona, especially after he restructured his contract. But the team leader in yards and yards per catch last season was former first round pick Michael Floyd, who broke out in his second season to surpass 1,000 yards and remains — because of the lengthy shadow of Fitzgerald — somewhat under the radar.
That can change, coach Bruce Arians thinks, because Floyd is still developing.
“He became a 1,000-yard receiver,” Arians said, “but he can improve as much this year as he did last year.”
If Floyd legitimately makes as big a leap in his third season as he did in his second, the Cardinals would be looking at a superstar. The Cards could use that on multiple levels, one of which being what could happen with Fitzgerald’s future given his unwieldy 2015 salary cap number. Because of the way the Cards run the offense and the way they want to use Fitzgerald now that he has moved inside because of his age, Floyd will get the shots down the field (although some figure to go to Ginn). At some point, defenses may start to see him as a double-team candidate, but can they risk leaving Fitz one-on-one? Or Ginn deep? Or Ellington split out wide? These are the problems the Cards are trying to create.
Floyd can get better. Arians wants to see more consistency, although Floyd had a stretch last season where he looked pretty darn consistent, grabbing first down catch after first down catch. He is so physical in his battles with defenders.
“He learned how to play hurt, play through injuries, but he lost some big plays,” Arians said. “We have tape for him to watch when he gets back. A real good one and a real bad one. He needs to eliminate the real bad one.”
That should be a natural progression anyway.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn
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The season started great for Andre Roberts. And it finished on a high note. In between, it wasn’t what Roberts wanted, and now it also looks like it was the last season for Roberts — at least as a Cardinal. This is not a shock. Roberts will be an unrestricted free agent in a week and the math has said for a while now it probably didn’t make much sense for the relationship to continue. The Cardinals, with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, don’t need anything more than a third receiver. Roberts would like to be at least a No. 2, and certainly wants to be paid like that. Parting ways seemed the logical conclusion, and Roberts drove that home during an interview Tuesday on NBCSN’s “Pro Football Talk.”
“I don’t think I’ll be back in Arizona,” Roberts said. “I haven’t received any phone calls from Arizona and free agency is coming up here in about a week. I definitely feel I did the most with my opportunities, but I thought I would get a little bit more coming my way balls-wise. It’s part of the business. But I don’t think I’ll be back in Arizona. I’ll be testing the market.”
Roberts had 43 receptions for 471 yards and two touchdowns in 2013, his numbers dropping with the emergence of Floyd. In Bruce Arians’ offense and the desire to use two tight ends, three receivers just weren’t used as much, and Roberts was the odd man out. Can Roberts get the contract he wants this spring, with numbers that were down and a glut of receivers destined to be available? Probably not. He’s probably in a position like many free agents last year (some who signed with the Cards) to be better off inking a one-year deal and playing in a place that could feed him the ball. Where that is — and whether that team wants Roberts — is TBD. Roberts grew close to Fitzgerald over the years, and in their friendship, I’m sure Fitz has given counsel to find the money.
The Cards, meanwhile, will need another wideout. But they probably will seek one with more speed, and certainly one that will be cheaper.
– Speaking of free agency, Kent Somers reported today that the Cards and the agent for free-agent-to-be Matt Shaughnessy have been negotiating. After Karlos Dansby, Shaughnessy made the most sense of a guy whom the Cards would like to re-sign.
Tags: Andre Roberts, free agency, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Shaughnessy, Michael Floyd
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Andre Roberts had a solid year in 2013, considering he played about 140 fewer snaps from the season before and he was behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd at wideout. He still had 43 receptions (for 471 yards and a couple of touchdowns.) He also smartly never complained about his situation. He certainly wished he could be a bigger part of the offense, especially headed into free agency, but the Cardinals were winning and you can’t raise a ruckus when things are working.
That didn’t help him personally, though. And this morning, it’s easier to see what a daunting situation Roberts is looking at in a month, when the market will be flooded with wide receivers. Profootballtalk.com posted about it this morning, and a quick perusal of the list of available wideouts is going to make it a buyer’s market indeed. PFT lists the top 10 most “intriguing” names to watch as Anquan Boldin, Riley Cooper, Eric Decker, Julian Edelman, Jacoby Jones, Jeremy Maclin, Dexter McCluster, Hakeem Nicks, Emmanuel Sanders, and Golden Tate. That’s a formidable group and Roberts isn’t on it. Roberts is better than many guys on the list, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll see a larger demand.
Roberts’ best course of action might be to do what many free agents did last season — take a one-year deal in a good situation, have a good season, and then try the free-agent thing again in a year. The problem with that is there are no guarantees he’ll be able to improve his lot. What will be really interesting is whether Roberts, in this spot, has a chance to return to the Cardinals. Here, he will be third on the depth chart again, and with the desire to use tight ends by Bruce Arians, Roberts probably isn’t going to get more snaps barring injuries.
Tags: Andre Roberts, free agency, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
Posted in Blog | 23 Comments »
As the Cardinals head toward the draft — a week later, May 8-10 this year — there will be a lot of talk about what positions will be targeted. There will be discussion about offensive tackles, defensive linemen, pass rushers, tight ends and defensive backs. But one thing that can’t be dismissed is the quest for a speed receiver.
The Cardinals can’t overlook the position anyway, given the impending free agent status of Andre Roberts (who likely will want to look what’s available on the open market since he’s destined to stay behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd) and the ongoing desire to have someone be able to run down the field and take the top off the defense. It was a constant quest last season. The Cards took a draft risk on Ryan Swope, and that didn’t work. Robert Gill was a track guy who they hoped would work out. Later, it was Brittan Golden and Teddy Williams.
According to profootballfocus.com, quarterback Carson Palmer threw 74 passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air last season. He completed only 23 of them, and while longer passes will inevitably have a lower completion percentage, coach Bruce Arians does want to get more production out of those six deep shots a game he’d like to take. The Cards didn’t take as many as that as the season went along, in part because there was an understanding the protection wasn’t always good enough for such long plays and in part because the was a search for the right target. Floyd and Fitz can do the jump ball thing, but to be able to just tell a guy to go long and watch him speed by in one-on-one coverage would be ideal.
Where that guy will come from isn’t set in stone. Will the Cardinals draft one? I wouldn’t be surprised. But Steve Keim will comb other options too. Williams and Golden are still around and in the mix (although they have to stay healthy.) It’s an Arians want, and an Arians need, and that isn’t going to change until the Cards find their answer.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Brittan Golden, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, draft, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Robert Gill, Ryan Swope, Steve Keim, Teddy Williams
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Defensive end Calais Campbell had a Pro Bowl year, although he didn’t make the team. (He was an alternate, but alas, no bump up.) Linebacker Karlos Dansby had a Pro Bowl year (yet, stunningly, he wasn’t even an alternate). But they haven’t been completely overlooked, with both showing up on a couple of more all-star-type postseason lists.
Profootballfocus.com did their all-NFC West team, and given the strengths of the defenses in the division, cracking that lineup is impressive. Campbell and Dansby did, along with cornerback Patrick Peterson (and there was also a mention of Daryl Washington as a strong candidate, too.) Offensively, the Cardinals got wide receiver Michael Floyd and running back Andre Ellington on the team, as well as special teamer Justin Bethel, whom PFF considers the best special teams player in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the USA Today has put out its annual “All-Joe” team, which is a nod to the under-appreciated around the league. Two Cards found their way on to that list: Campbell and Dansby.
The line on Campbell: “The best 3-4 end in the NFL not named J.J. Watt, Campbell posted a career-best nine sacks while crushing tailbacks for the NFL’s top run defense. He also excels at blocking kicks with his 6-8 frame.” The line on Dansby: “Returned to the desert after three years in Miami and turned in his best season. His career-high 114 solo tackles complemented 6.5 sacks. He also picked off four passes (returning two for scores) and broke up 19 passes, tied for most among linebackers.”
Tags: Andre Ellington, Calais Campbell, Justin Bethel, Karlos Dansby, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Pro Football Focus, USA Today
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