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Blogs

Photo day, Clabo, and a minor move

Posted by Darren Urban on June 9, 2014 – 2:20 pm

On a day in which the Cardinals took their physicals ahead of this week’s mandatory minicamp (with many top players shooting special pictures and video for various forms of TV for the upcoming season, like Fitz below), the Cardinals are still roster shuffling. The team made a change Monday by releasing guard Christian Johnson and re-signing center John Estes. Estes was just cut by the team a couple of weeks ago after the Cards signed tryout players following rookie minicamp.

Of potentially more impactful news is the report the Cardinals tried out veteran right tackle Tyson Clabo Monday. Clabo, 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, could end up being this year’s Eric Winston (at this point, no, I do not expect Winston to return.) Clabo played with Miami last season, but he spent the vast majority of his career with the Falcons and made a Pro Bowl at one point. If he were to sign, it’d throw another potential starter in the mix and would make a cluttered right tackle competition (already with Bradley Sowell, Bobby Massie and Nate Potter) even more chaotic. At some point, someone isn’t going to get many reps, even with training camp coming. We’ll see if Clabo ends up with a deal, or if that becomes a waiting game closer to training camp.

UPDATE: Clabo and the Cardinals did not come to an agreement.

Regardless, minicamp starts tomorrow. And by Thursday afternoon, the veterans will have scattered for the rest of the offseason, returning in late July for training camp.

FitzBlogPHOTOuse

 

 


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Ongoing task of rebuilding the O-line

Posted by Darren Urban on March 17, 2014 – 12:15 pm

The Cardinals got themselves a left tackle. That was the main goal of free agency, and it was accomplished with the Jared Veldheer signing last week. Questions remain about what the offensive line will look like for the Cards in 2014, with veteran Eric Winston still a free agency and Daryn Colledge released. In reality, three of the positions are set, barring something crazy:

LT — Veldheer
LG — Jonathan Cooper
C — Lyle Sendlein

There are questions about the other two spots. At right guard, the Cardinals are hoping 2013 fourth-round pick Earl Watford can step into the starting role after watching all last season. Watford looks the part, a big, athletic, not-sloppy-at-all 295 pounds. On the roster right now, the main competition should come from either Paul Fanaika, who started at the spot all last season after Cooper’s injury, or free-agent signee Ted Larsen. I don’t see them adding another guard in free agency, but we’ll see. The draft is a different animal, but again, I don’t see another guard in the offing.

Right tackle is a different story. With Winston unsigned — and who knows if he is coming back here — the options are Bobby Massie (the leader in the clubhouse right now), Bradley Sowell and Nate Potter. I think they see Sowell as a reserve swing tackle who could back up both spots. Potter is in a big offseason; he had a lot of chances last year to step up and he did not. He’ll be fighting for a spot on the roster. I could see them still signing a vet right tackle as a free agent at some point, and it would definitely be an option in the draft.

The Cardinals are not done trying to upgrade the line, one way or the other.

WatfordForBLOG


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With Sowell ill, left tackle in limbo

Posted by Darren Urban on November 7, 2013 – 2:23 pm

Starting left tackle Bradley Sowell missed practice for a second straight day Thursday because of an illness — offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said he didn’t know exactly what it was, but since it is flu season, that was the assumption he was making — and left Nate Potter to take snaps at the starter at the position. Goodwin said he does think Sowell will return to practice Friday, but there is still an unknown of whether Sowell will be prepared to go Sunday or if the Cards will have to turn to Potter.

“It is what it is,” Goodwin said. “I’m sure he’ll be here (Friday) and we’ll give it a whirl, see where he’s at. If he’s not ready, Potter is up.”

Backup right tackle Bobby Massie was also missing Thursday for a non-injury related reason.

Goodwin said Potter has been “good” working at tackle — he had been playing backup guard prior to the Levi Brown trade — and quietly goes about his business. “I have confidence in him if he has to play,” Goodwin said, adding “Missing two days of practice hopefully hasn’t affected him too much. Hopefully he’s been studying.”

SowellshotUSE


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Keim with an eye on 2015

Posted by Darren Urban on September 24, 2013 – 3:40 pm

The Cardinals have a three-year outlook for their roster, the prism in which the front office and General Manager Steve Keim views the team. That’s how they look at the salary cap, and how they evaluate contracts.

Not surprisingly, the sorting of big contracts that occurred this past offseason, contracts that were put in place before he became GM, will happen again after this season. And Keim thinks the Cards are still an offseason away from being able to get where the Cards want to be.

“There are going to be some tough decisions to be made after the season based on the numbers, just looking at the three-year view,” Keim said on a special edition of the Cardinals Underground podcast. “We will obviously have to make some tough decisions like we did this past year after the season. The one thing fans and other people don’t realize (is) there are certain contracts that bind you and you can’t do anything (with) and you have the dead money factor.

“Once we get to 2015 I feel really good where we are going to be from a salary-cap standpoint.”

Keim made tough decisions this past offseason, jettisoning Adrian Wilson, among many others. He didn’t name names. But the contracts that will likely be under the microscope aren’t hard to narrow down. Big money is owed to offensive linemen Daryn Colledge (with Earl Watford, Nate Potter and Paul Fanaika as cheaper options) and Levi Brown. Darnell Dockett is due a lot of money, although he just had a big three-sack game and dominated. Patrick Peterson is in line for an expensive extension. Larry Fitzgerald and his $18 million salary cap number might have to be reworked. None of this means the Cards have to cut people, but guys might be asked to take pay cuts. There are minefields to maneuver for Keim, and he acknowledged, the Cards are “handicapped to a degree.”

Philosophy-wise, it dovetails with Keim’s thoughts anyway. “I’ve always felt it was more important to get rid of a player a year too early than a year too late, because when players get to a certain point in his career and he starts to decline it can have a negative effect on your football team.”

(There’s Keim below, talking to Tyrann Mathieu’s parents before the Saints game. I feel confident Mathieu will not be going anywhere next year.)

The full Cardinals Underground podcast is posted right here.

KeimpicUSE


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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 8, 2013 – 8:53 pm

It was toward the wrong end zone, and it was the Cardinals’ defense instead of its offense, but it was difficult not to look at Tyrann Mathieu racing down the middle of the Edward Jones turf Sunday behind a breakaway Ram and not think of Steve Breaston.

In 2010, Breaston, the wide receiver, had a wasn’t-gonna-give-up play after a Cardinal turnover, and a sure Rams TD was undercut when Breaston knocked the ball loose and into the end zone, where the Cardinals recovered. This time, it was Mathieu, flying up behind Rams tight end Jared Cook and improbably popping it loose – into the end zone, where linebacker Karlos Dansby jumped on it.

Honey Badger – remember, he’s good with it again – said he was just always going to try and make a game-changing play, and that could have been it. Perhaps should have been. The Cards save seven points there and when they took the 11-point lead into the fourth quarter, you were thinking that should have been enough.

That wasn’t the only déjà vu I had Sunday though. Watching running back Andre Ellington run that key third-down wheel route – and see him get wide open beyond the linebacker – reminded me so much of the one LaRod Stephens-Howling ran in Philadelphia in 2011 on a key third down during the Cardinals’ game-winning drive that game. Ellington was in position to do the same – except the pass never really had a chance.

(By the way, Stephens-Howling tore his ACL Sunday playing for the Steelers and is out for the season. Brutal.)

The Cards won the Breaston game. The Cards won that Hyphen game. They couldn’t win Sunday.

– We’ve had this discussion before, about Levi Brown. I’m guessing this won’t be the last time. He didn’t play well enough against the Rams. Got a holding call and was beaten three times by Robert Quinn for sacks. And then, after the game, Bruce Arians first said – before he even got a question – that he wasn’t worried about his offensive line. Then, asked about Brown specifically, said Brown was his guy and made the point there was no one better to replace him with.

I know everyone says it should be Nate Potter, but Arians gave Potter a lot of opportunity in the preseason and Potter did not seize the moment (in fact, struggled at times like Brown did, mostly against guys deeper on the depth chart.) The way Arians talked Sunday, he feels strongly there is no one on the roster for which to bench Brown. Steve Keim is always looking for upgrades, but I’m not sure you’re going to find a left tackle on the street. The Cards would have loved for one of those tackles to fall to seven in the draft, but it didn’t happen. They took Jon Cooper, and yes, I am sure left tackle will be a point of emphasis next offseason.

– Carson Palmer looked like he had plenty left to me.

– Andre Roberts had the stuffing beaten out of him, and he held the ball every time. It may have been Roberts’ best game as a pro.

– The Cardinals missed Daryl Washington. It’s obvious to say a team misses a Pro Bowl player, but he would have been able to make an impact. Maybe been a better matchup for Rams tight end Jared Cook.

– Speaking of linebackers, Arians said John Abraham was fine. He didn’t play a ton though.

– With 26 seconds left and the ball on their own 20 in the first half, it would have been easy for Bruce Arians to sit on the ball. But the man who says “No risk it, no biscuit” risked it, and Carson Palmer, after a completion, hit three straight long passes to set up a 50-yard field goal. Unfortunately, Jay Feely pushed it a bit wide right, painful in a three-point loss.

“We couldn’t have executed it any better,” Arians said. “You have to make that kick and that was the deciding factor in the ball game.”

– Javier Arenas didn’t play defense, but the veteran cornerback was in there to return kickoffs. It didn’t go well. One time he fielded the ball deep in the end zone and was stuffed short of the 10-yard line. Another time, a return from deep ended up being fumbled, although the Cards fell on it.

“You have to make better decisions,” Arians said. “Stay in there.”

– We’ll see how the Cards adjust this week. And we’ll see if the Cards make any roster moves too.


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Campbell active, Ryan Williams sits

Posted by Darren Urban on September 8, 2013 – 11:52 am

In what isn’t a surprise, running back Ryan Williams is indeed inactive today for the Cardinals. You figured one of the backs would be down. Since there is special teams aspects to the other guys, Williams was a natural choice. Defensive end Calais Campbell (quad) is active. In fact, tight end Rob Housler (ankle) is the only inactive based on an injury. Another interesting move: Bruce Arians has kept all three quarterbacks, including Ryan Lindley, active today.

Eight offensive linemen are active, but all three backups can give multiple looks: Nate Potter can play G/T, Mike Gibson can play C/G and newcomer Bradley Sowell not only could play T but also blocking TE. Jim Dray is the lone starting tight end. Andre Roberts will be a third starting wide receiver.

The other first-week inactives for the Cardinals:

– CB Jamell Fleming

– LB Alex Okafor

– DT Alameda Ta’amu

– T Bobby Massie

– G Earl Watford


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Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2013 – 4:23 pm

First year with a new coach, tough division, players still getting comfortable with schemes. Maybe, just maybe, as the Cardinals prepare to fly to St. Louis tomorrow for the season opener against the Rams, a little patience is called for.

“No,” Bruce Arians very bluntly put it. “There’s no patience. I have no patience.”

If the Cardinals believe anything, it is that. Waiting around for success, or to build up to it, makes no sense to plenty of people, including the head coach. “Those days of building for the future in the NFL, I see them as gone,” Arians added.

When you put together the veterans like the Cardinals have, holdovers like Larry Fitzgerald and Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell and mix in guys like Carson Palmer and Karlos Dansby and Yeremiah Bell, no one wants to talk about down the road. That’s what makes this season so interesting. I’ve seen some pundits picking the Cards to have a three-win season, in large part because of the division they play within. I’ve seen many picking the Cards to have nine or 10 wins and sneak into the playoffs. If there is another team whose potential season holds with it such a wide berth, I’d like to see it.

It’s good the Cardinals open in the division, but against the Rams. There’s a certain symmetry to it. The Cards have, over the last decade, had their most road success in St. Louis. The Edward Jones Dome is also where the Cards’ season went off the rails last year, their first loss in what turned out to be a string of many.

So it’s time to start anew, with a new staff, a new offense, a (slightly) new defensive scheme, a new quarterback, a ton of new players and a new optimism.

“It’s win now,” Arians said. “Too many teams have done it, I’ve been around teams that have done it, and there’s no reason why you couldn’t get it done.”

Sounds like a pregame speech to me.

– This is Arians’ offense, but offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin has his role too. Arians is obviously the playcaller, but “leading up throughout the week a lot is on my shoulders,” Goodwin said. “So far, so good.” Goodwin, however, still focuses on coaching the line, which has always been his primary job in his coaching career.

“At the end of the day, in my belly, I’m still a line coach,” Goodwin said.

– The rumblings that Nate Potter would be tried at guard came as far back as the start of Arians’ first minicamp before the draft. But Potter didn’t get any work there until this week, when it became necessary. And it becoming necessary is why it took so long.

“We didn’t expect Coop to get hurt,” Goodwin said of the out-for-the-season guard. “That threw a monkey wrench into a lot of things.”

– Potter has gotten enough work at guard that he could play there Sunday if someone were to get hurt, Goodwin added. That means Potter will be in the mix to be active. All along, Arians has said he will have seven linemen active for the game, but he wouldn’t commit to that number Friday.

Good story from Jim Trotter about Arians, based around the anecdote about how close he came to cutting Robert Gill this summer after Gill accidently hurt Patrick Peterson during a practice. I didn’t know Gill might be cut, but I saw the play and I remember thinking that’s not a good thing for a guy trying to fight his way on to the roster. The day before, Peterson had made a one-handed interception over Gill on the same play. The next day, the ball was well overthrown Gill, Peterson was beyond him, and Peterson gathered in the interception over his shoulder. In the same motion, Gill leaped to tackle him, dragging him down from behind.

It was scary, with Peterson down on the ground for what probably seemed like longer than it was. You don’t want your Pro Bowl corner getting a major injury in May. Needless to say, Peterson ended up OK. Gill stuck around (only to be cut later). But those are the kind of plays that make coaches hold their breath every offseason (and practice and OTA and anytime their players step off a curb.)

– How much will we see Peterson on offense? “I can’t tell you that,” Goodwin said with a smile. “He’ll be in there some.” I’m looking forward to seeing Peterson in that role.

– Maybe it’s because everyone has been factoring it into the equation so long, but it seems like the absence of Daryl Washington has been under the radar. His suspension will hurt. Rules let Washington be at the facility and be around the team, but no practice, and no games.

– Peterson is anxious not to play offense or defense, but to get a shot at punt returns again. He clearly isn’t happy – nor should he be – after what he went through returning punts last season. He wants to get back to 2011 levels.

– There has been some speculation that the Rams, adding Tavon Austin and with Chris Givens, etc., might start throwing the ball a lot more often. That would be against everything coach Jeff Fisher has done in his career, and because of that, veteran safety Yeremiah Bell doesn’t see it.

“For the most part, coach Fisher is coach Fisher,” Bell said. “Once you are a coach in this league a long time and you kind of do things your own way, you are set in that. I wouldn’t go out on a limb and say he’s going to stray from anything he’s done in the past.”

– Larry Fitzgerald isn’t going to predict anything for himself, but you know the wide receiver wants to get back to his pre-2012 lofty heights. I expect he will.

“Last year is last year,” Fitzgerald said. “I put that to bed. Every year is different. When you see things in the rear view mirror, you can’t see what’s in front of you. Obviously I am aware of what happened last year and I don’t ever want to repeat last year, but moving forward I have to focus on what’s asked of me.”

That’s usually at least 1,200 yards and double-digit TDs. Anything short of that? Hey, we have no patience for that.

On to St. Louis.

BeforeRamspicUSE

 


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Captains named, and Potter gets guarded

Posted by Darren Urban on September 4, 2013 – 1:24 pm

The Cardinals have named their captains for the season, and they really come as no surprise: On defense, it is cornerback Patrick Peterson and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. On offense, it is quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. And on special teams, it is linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and kicker Jay Feely. Center Lyle Sendlein isn’t a captain for the first time in a couple of years, but I’m sure he doesn’t mind. There had been a void since there really hadn’t been a quarterback to step into that role. Palmer is definitely that guy. The choices were made through a player vote.

– Tackle Nate Potter will start playing guard as well in practice. It’s something Bruce Arians has long hinted at, but Potter is just now starting out. The more you can do …

– Tight end Rob Housler remains day-to-day with his bad ankle. He’s getting better, Arians said, but the coach added the Cards do not want this to be a lingering problem and would rather have him miss time now and knock it out than deal with it long-term. We’ll see whether Housler does anything at practice today. Otherwise, the Cards are healthy.

– Arians had his line of the day, when asked if patience was needed when judging this team out of the gate. “No,” Arians said. “I have no patience.”

– The Cardinals are just getting out to practice now (media availability this season will be before practice on Wednesdays.) More bubble work today.


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Two waiver claims add offensive, defensive linemen

Posted by Darren Urban on September 1, 2013 – 2:00 pm

The Cardinals ended up with two linemen today awarded on waiver claims: tackle Bradley Sowell (late of the Colts) and defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu (cut by the Steelers). The corresponding cuts were linebacker Kenny Demens (who is practice squad eligible) and cornerback Bryan McCann (which takes the Cards down to six cornerbacks).

Bringing in a nose tackle-type like Ta’amu is no surprise. The Cards had been looking for one behind Dan Williams. Adding another offensive tackle is interesting, since the Cards already have four on the roster. You have to wonder if they check out Sowell, see if he fits their bill, and then choose between him and another (Nate Potter, perhaps?) Sowell had also been used sometimes to line up as a tight end with the Colts — I’m sure in jumbo packages — so there’s that aspect. He played 10 games last year for the Colts, so offensive coordinator/O-line coach Harold Goodwin and coach Bruce Arians are both very familiar with him.

The release of Ta’amu was notable in Pittsburgh. He was a fourth-round pick in 2012 who didn’t have much of a rookie season after being involved in an auto accident after which he was placed on probation. The Cardinals now have six defensive linemen and 10 offensive linemen.


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Levi will stay outside

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2013 – 9:55 am

With the injury of Jonathan Cooper, the Cardinals have gone with with the Daryn Colledge-Paul Fanika guard combination. There has been a lot of speculation on the outside that the Cards, at some point, could end up trying one of their tackles inside. Maybe Bobby Massie. Maybe Nate Potter. Maybe, even, Levi Brown.

None have been a consideration. Bruce Arians was asked specifically about Brown being considered inside. “Not until I find someone to take his place at left tackle,” was Arians’ reply.

The reality is that Brown is going to be the left tackle. It doesn’t look like Nate Potter has made any in-roads in displacing Brown (in fact, Potter seems to has struggled.). Arians, meanwhile, wasn’t showing any panic about Brown even after San Diego’s Dwight Freeney got to him — and therefore, the quarterback — some Saturday night.

“Overall, pass protection has not been a problem, until the other night,” Arians said. “We didn’t game-plan Dwight Freeney as much as we would have and Dwight beat Levi. It comes down to a one-on-one game. If we feel that way going into a game (that the tackle might get beat), we’ll help the guy.”

One of the things Arians liked the most of his Colledge-Fanaika decision was it was only moving one player — Colledge, to left guard. And Colledge has experience there. Brown hasn’t ever played guard and hasn’t practiced there. Neither have Massie and Potter for that matter (Arians gave a quick “nope” when asked if one of those guys could be moved inside.) Arians had said this offseason that the time for that experimentation was during OTAs. We’re well past that now.

Clearly, Brown’s work at left tackle will remain under the spotlight. It’s hard not to notice. Could the Cards find someone to, as Arians said, take his place? Even with all the tackles that likely will make this roster (Brown, Massie, Potter, Eric Winston) I’m sure the Cards will continue to look at the spot.

LeviUSE

 

 


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