Rashad Johnson had already pulled off his jersey and shoulder pads as he made his way off the field Sunday, the Cardinals’ 31-19 win official. The shirt he wore under his jersey for the game, now drenched in sweat? None other than one that proclaimed “9 More” – or the saying the veteran safety uttered back in 2013, after the last time the Cardinals played the Saints and Johnson lost a fingertip.
He was back with the team a couple days later, telling everyone he was fine because he still had nine more fingers.
It was kind of cool that Johnson got the Cardinals’ lone interception Sunday – he nearly had a second later on. He wasn’t going to get his finger back, but he was able to extract a small revenge.
The offense got gutsy with their playcalls and ended up putting 31 points on the board, but the new James Bettcher defense did a lot of the same things the old Todd Bowles defense did, including stiffening in the red zone to force field goals instead of touchdowns. The defense must be better – as acknowledged by many, way too many yards surrendered on short passes-and-long-runs by running backs – but it was a good enough start.
— The right knee injury to Andre Ellington was scary-looking. But as we got into the postgame, both Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer sounded optimistic that the injury – Arians said the belief is that Elllington hurt his PCL – wouldn’t sideline Ellington permanently.
— That said, we see where the running back depth makes so much sense. Ellington goes down, and you turn to a veteran who still has a little juice left in Chris Johnson. Then you let speed merchant David Johnson loose on the pass – I was down on the sideline when the rookie blew past everyone, and I have to say I didn’t expect that kind of speed – and you figure the Cards can weather an Ellington absence.
— Bruce Arians said he was “anxious” to make the play call that ended in Johnson’s 55-yard touchdown. Which is odd because few do such a thing. ESPN’s Mike Sando tweeted this great stat: From 2010 through last season, NFL teams ran 94.8 percent of the time on second down in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter when leading by six or fewer points.
— Then again, Arians does not lay up. He goes for the pin.
— There were many upset at the sequence at the end of the first half that ended with two incomplete bombs and a Palmer scramble as time ran out, costing the Cards a field-goal try. But remember, that’s the mentality that led to the Johnson touchdown. No risk it, no biscuit. That’s B.A.
— The offensive line did solid. There were hiccups. There always are. But there were not a lot of them and for the most part, there is little to complain about. Earl Watford hung in there at right tackle against the very talented Cameron Jordan. Jonathan Cooper had a rough start but rallied. Most importantly, Carson Palmer was not sacked.
— Backup center/guard A.Q. Shipley played fullback and was lead blocker on Ellington’s touchdown run. Fantastic, and good use of the 46-man active roster on game day.
— Tyrann Mathieu kept promising his savage season and he was all over the field Sunday. He had a team-high eight tackles and three passes deflected while the Cardinals went heavy with their four safety-packages.
— I thought Patrick Peterson played well. Yes, he got beat once by Brandin Cooks for a 30-yard gain. But mostly, Cooks – the Saints’ best offensive weapon – was a non-factor. And mostly, Cooks was covered by Peterson.
— It’s hard to find a better story or more likeable guy (and the Cardinals’ locker room is filled with likeable guys) than tight end Darren Fells. To see him break out is cool, and reinforces what Arians has been saying about his development. There are times when Arians moves into hyperbole with his players, but Fells is proving his coach right on target.
— Michael Floyd played, and had an 18-yard catch early. Arians said he wasn’t on a “pitch count” to hold down his plays, but Floyd certainly didn’t play as much as he normally would.
Road game in Chicago next weekend. One down, at least 15 to go.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Andre Ellington, Chris Johnson, Darren Fells, Earl Watford, James Bettcher, Jonathan Cooper, Michael Floyd, offensive line, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Saints, Tyrann Mathieu
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All those game-day decision Bruce Arians said he had turned into guys that are playing, which is good news for the Cardinals. Tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas are both active, as is wide receiver Michael Floyd — who just had surgery on his dislocated fingers on Aug. 5. An impressive comeback for Floyd, although after watching him dive on the turf in the practice bubble this week for onside kick recoveries it sure seemed a good bet he’d be playing.
Because of that, the inactive list contains few surprises:
— QB Matt Barkley
— WR Brittan Golden (meaning David Johnson probably will return kickoffs)
— LB Shaq Riddick
— T D.J. Humphries
— G Mike Iupati (knee)
— TE Joseph Fauria
— DT Xavier Williams
Tags: inactives, Jermaine Gresham, Michael Floyd, Troy Niklas
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We’ve delved into why the Cardinals took Matt Barkley at quarterback already, but General Manager Steve Keim — during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Tuesday morning — got into a little more detail.
“When you are looking at a quarterback … and you’re saying, ‘What are the traits you look for,’ the first thing you don’t say is arm strength, or foot speed or mobility,” Keim said. “To me, when you look at quarterbacks, the first thing you want is mental toughness, the second thing is the ability to process and learn.
“Those are the things that excited us about Matt Barkley. When he came out of college we spent a lot of time with him. We liked him coming out. We know he is a football junkie. The mental part of the game is not too fast for him. Now, we bring him in, not a lot of risk involved, and you see what he’s got physically. To me, that’s how you have to approach that position because they are so hard to find.”
Other Keim’s points:
— The roster is “always in flux.” Keim wouldn’t even say the current 53 would stay static through Sunday’s opener against the Saints. Something to watch, although I’d be surprised if there was a move at this point just given what is out there (and assuming no one gets hurt in practice.)
— The fact the Cardinals have only three cornerbacks on the roster isn’t lost on Keim. Having safety Tyrann Mathieu there is a bit reason the Cards were comfortable with the move, but Keim did point out there is a reason the team has three cornerbacks on the practice squad. Any one of them could be pulled up in a given week.
— Once Bobby Massie is reinstated from his two-game suspension, then Keim and Bruce Arians will figure out who might be released to make room on the roster. No reason to talk names now, Keim said, because no one knows what injuries may happen, if any, over the first two games. Keim was pleased with the way Earl Watford played right tackle in the final preseason game.
— That said, Keim deferred to Arians on any starting lineup announcements, including center. He also said he had nothing concrete to report on injury updates of G Mike Iupati and WR Michael Floyd. Arians already said Iupati wouldn’t be playing this week.
— Keim said it was “good to see” both RB Chris Johnson and LB Sean Weatherspoon play “extremely well” in the final preseason game. Keim reiterated the Cards were excited for both additions when they signed and the team is counting on their contributions.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Chris Johnson, Earl Watford, Matt Barkley, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Roster, Saints, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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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.
Tags: Logan Thomas, Michael Floyd, Phillip Sims, Shaq Riddick, Troy Niklas, Xavier Williams
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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.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Darren Fells, Ifeanyi Momah, Jermaine Gresham, Michael Floyd, Rodney Gunter, Steve Keim
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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.
Surgery went well as expected. Thanks everyone for the love and support. https://t.co/QQ21xpVMBf
— MichaelFloyd (@MichaelMFloyd) August 6, 2015
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.
Tags: Brittan Golden, Carson Palmer, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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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.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Kevin Minter, Michael Floyd, training camp
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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.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Andre Ellington, Bobby Massie, Carson Palmer, D, Darren Fells, J. Humphries, Jared Veldheer, John Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Ted Larsen, Troy Niklas
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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.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, D.J. Humphries, Jonathan Cooper, Kareem Martin, Matt Shaughnessy, Michael Floyd, offseason
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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.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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