As the Cardinals look to reshape their offensive line, it looks like one key member will be remaining. Guard Mike Iupati has restructured his contract, according to ESPN’s Field Yates, so he can remain on the roster this season. Iupati took a pay cut, from a scheduled salary of $7.75 million to $5 million for 2018, in addition to giving up a $250,000 roster bonus due Friday. In return, his 2018 salary is guaranteed, and — much like cornerback Justin Bethel did a season ago — his 2019 season, the final year of his deal, can now be voided, allowing him to reach free agency after this season.
The move earns the Cardinals some cap space, and it gives Iupati flexibility. It also points to Iupati remaining the starting left guard. The Cardinals have D.J. Humphries at left tackle, and they are reportedly signing Andre Smith, who could become the new right tackle (and leaving Jared Veldheer’s status up in the air.) There is also a report that the Cards will be visiting with free-agent guard Justin Pugh of the Giants.
Tags: Mike Iupati, offensive line
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Bruce Arians had said a roster move was likely with the news Mike Iupati was likely headed to injured reserve, and the Cardinals did so Saturday, promoting tackle/guard Vinston Painter from the practice squad. Iupati was officially placed on IR with a triceps injury.
Painter was just added to the practice squad a couple of weeks ago, and has been around in his brief NFL career. Painter — 6-foot-4 and 318 pounds — was a sixth-round pick of Denver in 2013. Since then he has spent time with the Browns, Giants, Dolphins and Redskins. With all the injuries, another offensive lineman was needed. If D.J. Humphries can’t go Sunday and Will Holden has to play, Painter would join Daniel Munyer as the only healthy backups on the line.
Tags: Mike Iupati, Vinston Painter
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Well, this is where the Cardinals are. In a week in which Friday finally felt like the day where the offensive line wouldn’t be the major topic, it became the major topic. It’s not so much that Mike Iupati is likely headed for IR – he hadn’t been playing – but Alex Boone is also missing time and Bruce Arians was anything but clear about D.J. Humphries’ availability.
I mean, even OC/OL coach Harold Goodwin is working on the gallows humor. “I’m planning on suiting up sooner or later,” he said.
It’s not like the game is going to be canceled. If Humphries is in there, fine, but if he can’t go, it’s probable we’ll see rookie Will Holden in the lineup, with he and John Wetzel in some combo of guard/tackle on the left side. Not ideal, and that’s even if the right side of Evan Boehm and Jared Veldheer were playing well, which has not happened of late.
Carson Palmer played well last week. The Cards moved the ball. Offensively, with John Brown back to at least play a little, the Cards have some guys who can help gain yards. But the line has to keep Palmer upright. It’s not unfair to wonder how that can happen.
“As you saw, because (the media) was writing earlier in the season Carson doesn’t have it anymore, that’s not the issue,” Goodwin said. “As long as he is protected, the ball is going to come out, it’s going to go to the right place and we’re going to score points. If he’s not protected, we’re going to struggle.”
— Bruce Arians was asked, now that the Cards have been through a couple of games, when the offense most misses the injured David Johnson.
“Every play,” Arians said. “Either fake it to him hand it to him or throw it to him.”
Sounds about right.
— I am curious to see how Andre Ellington is deployed. Brown may be back and I expect J.J. Nelson to play, but both probably won’t be their explosive selves. Ellington is really that only guy right now.
— Having Larry Fitzgerald go deep for a couple of long passes Monday night was some excellent nostalgia. How much it can happen, realistically, is another story. It’s not so much Fitz can’t make the catch in traffic. You still trust him in jump ball situations. But Fitz’s ability to get down the field fast to be in position to try for one isn’t what it was, and with the problems with protection, can the Cards keep Palmer up long enough to get Fitz where he needs to be?
— Deone Bucannon won’t be playing all the time, not yet, but this is where we get to see how the Cardinals want to deploy him with Haason Reddick and Karlos Dansby. I want to see the package – assuming there is one – that has both Bucannon and Reddick. DC James Bettcher said you don’t want to have too many specific packages, because it hampers the other nine or 10 players who would be on the field.
— Two numbers that, to me, are poison to the Cardinals right now: Allowing opponents to score TDs on 87 percent of red-zone visits, and averaging 2.8 yards per carry rushing the ball. One on each side of the ball. They have to change.
— Don’t forget Kurt Warner’s Hall of Fame bust will be on display at University of Phoenix Stadium Saturday from 12-4 p.m. if you want to get a picture. Warner will be presented with his Hall of Fame ring at halftime of Sunday’s game.
— Holden proposed to his girlfriend on the 50-yard line after the Monday night game.
“Football has been a big part of my life and a big part of her life now,” Holden said. “She’s been with me since day one at Vanderbilt. I felt like that was a special place.”
— See you Sunday. The Cardinals want to at least be .500 after the first quarter of the season. Even though the 49ers are 0-3, that’s not a lock.
Tags: 49ers, Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, Deone Bucannon, Haason Reddick, Harold Goodwin, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Iupati, Will Holden
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D.J. Humphries was upbeat. “Can’t wait to get out there,” the tackle said Wednesday, although technically he had just been out there for practice. The Cardinals didn’t go hard just two days after a game — Bruce Arians called it a walkthrough, although the guys had helmets, unlike what I would consider a normal walkthrough — and Humphries needs to be in the mix in a harsher environment. So too does guard Mike Iupati (although Iupati has been practicing limited the last couple of weeks even though he hasn’t been playing.)
If Humphries and Iupati can play, however, does that get the Cardinals their original, anticipated offensive line on the field. From left to right, it was supposed to be Humphries, Iupati, Shipley, Boehm, Veldheer. That’s what it was in the opener for a little bit, until Humphries had his leg rolled up on and suffered his knee sprain. Iupati was never 100 percent, with the triceps injury lingering since training camp. (Alex Boone, who hurt his pectoral muscle, is a guy Arians said will be reevaluated Thursday, and frankly, if there is a guy who would try and play through something, Boone is that guy — especially against the 49ers, his former team.)
The problems with the offensive line aren’t a secret or even very hard to see. The right side, with Boehm and Veldheer, is struggling, and that has nothing to do with injuries. I’ll admit, I am surprised at the Veldheer issues. Out of whatever concerns you might have had about the line as constructed, Veldheer would’ve been last on the list, regardless of a move to the right side. If he and Boehm don’t significantly up their level of play, the rest of the line won’t matter. But it would be something to see the Cardinals’ original lineup on the field for a whole game and see what it might mean.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Alex Boone, Bruce Arians, D.J. Humphries, Evan Boehm, Jared Veldheer, Mike Iupati, offensive line
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It’s not a surprise at this point, but defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche will not play in the opener today against the Lions because of his calf injury. He and $LB Deone Bucannon (ankle) are the two inactives due to injury. The others are all healthy scratches. Guard Mike Iupati is starting coming off the triceps injury.
Newcomer Scooby Wright will be inactive after being promoted Friday — as has been noted, veteran LB Philip Wheeler was released for Wright but that may have more to do with Wheeler’s veteran status. Any veteran on the Week 1 roster has his salary guaranteed for the season, so this way, the Cards could bring back Wheeler if they want and they would keep flexibility down the road with his spot.
The full inactive list:
— DL Robert Nkemdiche (calf)
— G Will Holden
— T Ulrick John
— LB Scooby Wright
— WR Chad Williams
— QB Blaine Gabbert
— $LB Deone Bucannon (ankle)
Tags: inactives, Lions, Mike Iupati, Robert Nkemdiche
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The past is the past, and each team is different, and I get that. Matthew Stafford isn’t the same guy who was benched the last time the Cardinals visited Detroit in 2015, and that’s not just because he got a new mega-contract. The Cardinals aren’t the same team that floundered disappointingly in 2016.
But the past still can be fun to revisit. The last time the Cards opened up in Detroit was a memorable one for me. That was the day Anquan Boldin burst on the scene with his 10 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns, back in 2003. How about you, Tyrann Mathieu? Do you have a memorable opening game at any point in your life?
“I always think about my rookie season and nobody thought I was going to be able to play, and I go ahead and make that big-time play against St. Louis,” Mathieu said. “That was one of those special moments for me.”
See, that moment, to me, does have some bearing. That Mathieu that burst on the scene in 2013? That Mathieu who dominated in 2015? That’s the guy we’ve been seeing in camp and the preseason. He’s a big reason why there is optimism about this defense. Sometimes, you look backward to see what is coming. With the Badger, that seems fitting as the Cardinals finally get started in the regular season.
— To me, the keys Sunday are fairly simple. Offensively, can you allow Carson Palmer to have time to throw the ball down the field once in a while, protecting against an at-best average pass rush? I know John Brown keeps saying he’s not totally healthy, but I think Smoke is healthy enough to make at least some sort of impact.
— Defensively, it’s that defensive line. If I had to guess, I’d guess Robert Nkemdiche wouldn’t play, but we are still two days away. In the end, with seven defensive linemen, at least one is probably inactive every week anyway, and I just don’t think they’ll risk Nkemdiche coming back too fast when there is confidence in the other guys. That said, they have to hold up. This defense has the pass rushers. They definitely have the playmakers in the secondary. But to get there, you have to lock down the run, something this defense has done well the last couple of years.
— Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, on newcomer Alex Boone – who was a right guard those years in San Francisco when playing with old/new teammate Mike Iupati, and then went to the left side after Iupati came to Arizona: “We all know that’s Mike’s position,” Goodwin said with a chuckle. “Kind of funny, I was talking to Mike, he said, ‘Alex called and he wants to come here but he’s not playing left.’ ”
Reminded me of Evan Boehm insisting he wasn’t going to be displaced on the right side either.
— Goodwin said Boone fits the Cardinals’ style, but “you know I don’t like anybody,” he added. “That’s just my nature. I won’t like anybody until I’m standing on the podium holding a Super Bowl trophy. Then I’ll start liking guys.”
— The Lions have a pair of former Cardinals tight ends. Darren Fells is there as a starter, a guy who will try and get going again after having a disappointing 2016 in Arizona, which is one reason the team let him leave in free agency. The Lions also signed Hakeem Valles to the practice squad this week. Any little edge, right?
— Speaking of tight ends, Goodwin chuckled again when asked if the tight ends would be more involved in the passing game. (In my opinion, I wouldn’t hold your breath.) Goodwin knows Jermaine Gresham got a big contract, and Troy Niklas has looked solid and stayed healthy. But as he as mentioned before, from a long ago warning from Arians in a meeting, “We pay Larry (Fitzgerald) a whole lot of money.”
— Stafford’s numbers since being benched in Week 5 against the Cardinals in 2015: 50 touchdown passes, only 15 interceptions, 67 percent completions and a 99.1 quarterback rating. Also, in what is coincidence, but take it for what it is worth, that 2015 Detroit game was a late kickoff – 4 p.m. locally, 1 p.m. in Arizona. It wasn’t early, like Sunday’s will be.
— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher, like the other coaches, is convinced Justin Bethel has earned that starting job. The reason, among others, is that health allowed him to practice.
“When you are finally healthy, and you get a whole offseason to work your craft, it does wonders how you progress as a player,” Bettcher said.
— Fitzgerald needs 82 yards receiving to become only the fifth player to have 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns over a career in season openers. The fabulous four so far? Don Maynard, Andre Reed, Randy Moss and Jerry Rice.
— Finally, back to Mathieu. One of the things the Cardinals lost last year when the Honey Badger was not Badgeriffic went beyond dynamic play in the secondary. It lost an emotional jet engine, which Mathieu simply couldn’t be when he isn’t playing like he knows he can. That component is back.
“I try to feel out games,” Mathieu said. “Some games I won’t say a word. Other games I’m pretty well vocal. I won’t know until I actually get to game day.”
It’s meaningful. Said Patrick Peterson, “He finds ways to pass his energy to his teammates.”
See you Sunday. The regular season is here.
Tags: Alex Boone, Andre Reed, Anquan Boldin, Carson Palmer, Don Maynard, Evan Boehm, Harold Goodwin, Jermaine Gresham, Jerry Rice, John Brown, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Lions, Mike Iupati, Rams, Randy Moss, Robert Nkemdiche, Troy Niklas, Tyrann Mathieu
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The last preseason game is upon us. None of the starters will be playing, and neither will some key backups. There are, in reality, very few spots left and while the game could mean something in a spot or two decision-wise, most of the choices could already be made now. The Cardinals know what they have. These next few days are about adjusting the roster, comings and goings that will be impacted by waiver claims, signings and maybe a trade.
— Lot of questions about whether the Cardinals would chase soon-to-be free-agent CB Joe Haden. I don’t expect it to happen, and there is a simple reason why. Haden isn’t close to the same player he was just a couple years ago, when he deserved to be in the same discussion with the Patrick Petersons of the world. He struggled last season and has struggled a lot this preseason. I’ll be interested to see what he can get on the open market, since the Browns do have a $4 million offset, and we’ll see if he signs for more than one year. But his body has been breaking down over the last couple of seasons. As with every player, I fully expect the Cardinals to at least evaluate the possibility. The likelihood of the Cards chasing him, when there are probably going to be many suitors, I would think would be low. Mostly because he isn’t the player he once was.
UPDATE: Adam Schefter reports the Steelers are signing Haden for a 3-year, $27M deal including $7 million this season. So that’s that.
— There is the punting battle between Matt Wile and Richie Leone, knowing that veteran Jeff Locke has been cut and reports say still-effective veteran Andy Lee could traded by Carolina. Lee took a pay cut, which makes his salary more manageable, and if the Panthers are willing to take a low-round pick, maybe that is a path the Cardinals consider.
— Other stuff to watch in the game, especially when the final roster, at least at the bottom, may come down to who will be active on game days (which means a lot for guys who play special teams.): Rookie Rudy Ford on special teams, since he is likely battling Harlan Miller for a final safety spot. Wide receiver Aaron Dobson on offense, against Brittan Golden on special teams. How well do guys like Cole Toner hold up on the offensive line? Can the Cardinals be comfortable with their offensive line depth?
— There will not be an injury report until a week from today. That gives three key players — G Mike Iupati (triceps), DT Robert Nkemdiche (calf strain) and LB Deone Bucannon (ankle) — one more week before we really get a sense of whether they will be ready to play the regular-season opener.
— Speaking of the waiver claims and trades that could happen (remember, any player claimed off waivers must remain on the 53-man roster for at least three weeks), in the Keim era, the Cardinals have been awarded three players on waiver claims (Thomas Kaiser, Alameda Ta’amu and Bradley Sowell) and aquired two players in trades (Marcus Cooper and Matt Barkley) during final roster cutdown time.
— I’ll post a guess at the 53-man roster soon after the last preseason game.
Tags: Aaron Dobson, Brittan Golden, Broncos, Cole Toner, Deone Bucannon, Joe Haden, Matt Wile, Mike Iupati, Richie Leone, Robert Nkemdiche, Rudy Ford
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Karlos Dansby, veteran linebacker and southern gentleman (he’s from Birmingham, Alabama), was asked about adding a Chick-Fil-A store to the new Atlanta Falcons stadium and how Chick-Fil-A will still be closed on Sundays, even there. Los had a lot to say.
“That ain’t right, man. That ain’t right,” Dansby said with a grin. “How do you do something like that? You put a Chick-Fil-A in the stadium, and y’all play on Sundays. It just don’t add up. Know what I’m saying? Everybody is going to be expecting Chick-Fil-A to be open on Sunday at the game. That’s tough, man. I feel sorry for the people. That’s embarrassing. You can’t do that to the fans. It’s not right. Hey man, it’s not right. Hopefully, Chick-Fil-A will step their game up.”
It should be noted that the Cardinals’ game this weekend at brand-new Mercedes Benz Stadium — literally brand-new, since Cardinals-Falcons will be the first event held there — is on Saturday. Los can get some sweet tea if he wants.
— Left guard Mike Iupati left practice early on after trainers were looking at his right elbow/arm. Cole Toner took his spot on the first unit. Receiver Brittan Golden and linebacker Josh Bynes were back limited. Linebacker Philip Wheeler (foot) isn’t back, but he was in uniform with helmet when he was running rehab sprints.
— Wide receiver John Brown did well in his only practice of the week (he is headed to a funeral back home in Florida and will meet the team in Atlanta). He was in the mix through the entire practice and afterward said he was feeling better and wanted to play Saturday. At this point, I’d be surprised if he did not.
— Practices this week are more like the regular season, with scout offenses and defenses prepping the other side of the ball for the opponent. So the actual play isn’t quite like we’ve seen earlier in camp.
— The Cardinals closed with length-of-field two-minute drill work. It was apparently cleared with strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris, who with his staff monitors the players’ steps to make sure they don’t over-extend themselves. Larry Fitzgerald good-naturedly called Morris out for letting it happen. Then Fitzgerald delivered his normal “punishment” — a Fitz sneak-attack tackle.
Tags: Brittan Golden, Buddy Morris, Chick-Fil-A, Cole Toner, John Brown, Josh Bynes, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Iupati, training camp
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For the first time in a couple of weeks, John Brown worked in 11-on-11 situations in practice Tuesday. He didn’t run every rep he normally would, because he is, by his own admission after practice, not healed from his quad injury. It was a sullen Smoke who talked about his situation. He clearly knows his absence is felt, and he realizes many want him back on the field. But the wideout made it plain he wasn’t going to rush the process.
“I understand the situation at receiver but I’m just going to come back when I’m ready,” Brown said.
Brown knows his injury history. He’s also key to this offense. If he can get healthy in another week or two, that’s probably good enough. He needs to be healthy when the games count.
“I can’t rush it,” Brown added. “My body is different than others. They expect me to come back fast, but I can’t.”
All the receivers heard Bruce Arians’ message from the day before. Larry Fitzgerald was supposed to have a rest day Tuesday. He was out there practicing. On one touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Hubert — who didn’t catch the ball as much as he was forced to catch the ball, barely turning around before a Trevor Knight laser lodged in his stomach — Fitzgerald bellowed “We’ve got 12 who can play! We’ve got 12 who can play in the league!”
— It wasn’t a perfect day for on-notice receivers. Rookie Chad Williams got two yards behind a defender and QB Blaine Gabbert dropped in a gorgeous 39-yard bomb perfectly, only to have the ball go through Williams’ arms. But the dropsies went both ways. Safety Tyrann Mathieu, safety Harlan Miller and linebacker Cap Capi all dropped sure interceptions. Capi would easily have had a pick-6 on a throw to the flat.
— Robert Nkemdiche was getting reps in one-on-ones against offensive linemen every time through a unit — first-string, second-string, third-string. The last time through he exploded into and through the chest of rookie guard Dorian Johnson. Clearly, Nkemdiche still needs to work on proper technique. But if he doesn’t get it, it won’t be for lack of coaching.
— DT Frostee Rucker was also supposed to have an off day but like Fitz, he practiced. Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson and Karlos Dansby sat. G Mike Iupati stopped taking reps midway through practice — not sure if it was injury-related, but Cole Toner worked with the first unit — and linebacker Josh Bynes also left practice early. Linebacker Markus Golden (ankle) missed a second straight practice.
— Finally, if there was any question about how hard it is to cover running back David Johnson on pass plays, it was painfully evident. Linebackers have no chance — Johnson twisted up Haason Reddick, Chandler Jones and Scooby Wright at different times. It’s not fair, really.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Cap Capi, Chad Williams, Chandler Jones, Chris Hubert, David Johnson, Dorian Johnson, Frostee Rucker, Haason Reddick, Harlan Miller, John Brown, Josh Bynes, Larry Fitzgerald, Markus Golden, Mike Iupati, Robert Nkemdiche, Scooby Wright, Tyrann Mathieu
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With about a month left before training camp (already?!?), it’s time to take a look at who I think the offensive starters will be come Sept. 10, when the Cardinals play the Lions in Detroit to begin the regular season. Could a training camp signing change things? Sure. I see more of a chance of that defensively than offensively.
My defensive thoughts are here. And after that, the blog posts will slow. Time off coming.
QB – Carson Palmer. You can’t get anywhere without a quarterback. Palmer finished strong in 2016. He’s a year older, yes, and no one is calling him a top-five QB. But he’s still very good when the offense functions well, and when his receivers don’t let him down.
RB – David Johnson. MVP-type player. Is he going to get 100 scrimmage yards every game? Maybe not, but he’s certainly going to have the opportunity. With his skills, and health, I’m not ruling out a 1,000-1,000 season.
WR – Larry Fitzgerald. After Bruce Arians had said more than once Fitz’s 100-catch days were behind him, Fitz has had two straight 100-catch seasons. Won’t be surprised to see him do it again. The question will be, is this his last season?
WR – Smokey Brown. He says he’s healthy. The Cards need him to be. Rookie Chad Williams may have an intriguing future, but this year, the Cardinals need the I-can-get-1,000-yards John Brown.
TE – Jermaine Gresham. So many have questioned his new large contract. But he’s been the best tight end the Cards have had since he showed up, and he does deliver some intangibles on the field this team can use.
TE – Troy Niklas. It’s a leap, yes, to assume Niklas will stay healthy. But every time, in the brief times, Niklas has been on the field, they like what he has brought. He’s not going to be a big pass-catcher. But he can block and he’ll play an important role – again, if he’s on the field.
LT – D.J. Humphries. He’s better suited for the left side. It’s tough for Jared Veldheer, but given ages and the future, this was all but predetermined when Humphries was drafted.
LG – Mike Iupati. Wasn’t as good in 2016 as he was in 2015, but I expect a rally. It’s important too – given his salary going forward, his age and the drafting of Dorian Johnson, the spotlight will be bright.
C – A.Q. Shipley. Showed the Cardinals he could start in this league. No reason to think he won’t again.
RG – Evan Boehm. I don’t see Johnson jumping into this job. Not yet. This is probably the second-most likely spot Keim could grab a vet, behind only No. 2 cornerback. But as it stands, Boehm is probably going to be out there.
RT – Jared Veldheer. Veldheer didn’t want to move from left to right tackle, but he did for the good of the team. Is there a transition to be made? Yes. Somehow, I don’t have much concern that Veldheer will make it work successfully.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Carson Palmer, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, Evan Boehm, Jared Veldheer, Jermaine Gresham, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Iupati, Troy Niklas
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