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Chargers (and preseason) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2014 – 11:52 pm

We’ll try not to get too verbose here. It’s late and in a matter of hours, the Cardinals are going to at least begin the process of making the final cuts to the 53-man roster. I’m just thrilled to have a computer to type this on, after leaving it in the taxi and watching it drive away before the game. But that turned out OK — obviously I got it back — and maybe it’s good the preseason is over for me as well.

Bruce Arians rarely pulls punches. He didn’t tonight saying some of the play was “disturbing” and that it will make some of the roster choices easy. We’ll see how it filters out. I don’t know if injuries will affect anything. Safety Eddie Whitley, with a potential broken foot, wasn’t going to make the team. Safety Curtis Taylor, who may have broken his arm, was trying to make a push, especially with the iffy status of Tyrann Mathieu. That option is now gone. Nate Potter was trying to make the team as a backup tackle — maybe, just maybe, the Cards would keep an extra two tackles — but hurt his shoulder. (I don’t know how Bradley Sowell did either; it’ll be interesting to see if Max Starks is ever brought back like Arians said he might be.)

I expect some cuts Friday, some Saturday. And then we’ll see what else comes in the form of waiver claims, maybe another signing. We have a long 10 days before the opener.

– The big mystery was whether Tyrann Mathieu would play. He did not, and yes, if you take Arians’ word for it, he won’t play in the opener. I’m beginning to think that’s not just lip service. Look, Arians can change his mind, but it’s feeling more and more like the Cardinals are going to handle this with kid gloves. And really, why not? Here’s the interesting question — does Mathieu come back after the bye (three games into the season), like Arians always thought he would?

– No way to know how they looked at the battles for spots. Undrafted linebacker Glenn Carson played well with 10 tackles and could’ve (should’ve?) had a leaping interception late in the game. That would have looked good on the résumé. You can’t help but notice the kid out there. Can he edge out a vet like Desmond Bishop? Carson said he’s done all he can do — “It’s in the hands of the coaches now,” he said — but he’s made a nice case. Practice squad certainly.

– Felt the same about Walt Powell. He looked good on kickoff returns and made a nice move after a catch to avoid tacklers and get a first down. Brittan Golden dropped a deep ball. One play does not a roster spot make, but if it’s close, you have to wonder (although Golden did make a nice play to open the second half and force a fumble on a San Diego kickoff return.)

– I agree with linebacker Kevin Minter that he looked OK. At least he was back on the field. Jonathan Cooper looked a little more shaky, but in his case, Ted Larsen is starting for the time being anyway. It’s going to take some time for Cooper, clearly. That’s just reality.

– Love the way Deone Bucannon hits. That is a physical aspect the Cards need in the secondary, their answer to Kam Chancellor. He got lost in tight end coverage once though, losing his man as he stared too long in the backfield. Got to be careful on that.

– The way Arians sounded talking about Tommy Kelly’s 15 or so plays, I got the impression he’s got a good chance to make the roster. Isaac Sopoaga, who had been battling an oblique strain, didn’t play. Will be interesting to see how the defensive line plays out.

OK, that’s a wrap. We’ll have some news tomorrow. I don’t know how headline-grabbing it will be, but the next two days will go a long way in shaping the roster for the season.

Bruce Arians


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Wednesday before the Chargers

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2014 – 9:47 am

The fourth preseason game is what it is. Teams are leery about playing anyone of any starting importance, because whatever little you might gain in a few more game reps is highly outweighed by the opportunity to get injured. How the actual game plays out — like the Cardinals going against the Chargers — means nothing. This one may mean even less, since the two teams have to play their very next game against each other. No reason to show anyone anything. At all.

That being said, there are some things to watch in the game tomorrow night, thanks to injuries, a new quarterback and a couple of roster spots that look like they could go either way:

– Logan Thomas is going to get to play the whole game, for the first time in the NFL and likely for the last time in a long time. The rookie fourth-round quarterback looked really good in his debut against Houston, he looked less comfortable against Cincinnati. He gets 60 minutes now, though. Bruce Arians said he just wants to see Thomas be efficient and take care of the ball. Thomas admitted he already has become more settled now since arriving in Arizona, and he knows he’s about to sit and not play (and really, not practice much either) for a long time. He has the right attitude. There’s really nothing on the line since he’s a lock to be on this roster. Take the pressure off, and let’s see what he can do.

– Very curious to see if S Tyrann Mathieu plays. I have long felt that the Cardinals are OK in the secondary to not have any reason to want/need to rush Mathieu back. I don’t think they will rush him. The question is how comfortable/confident Mathieu is to get back into live action. This is about mental as much as physical by now.

– The other guys coming off injuries all are also worth watching. We know the story of Jonathan Cooper at this point, and dealing with his turf toe. The Cardinals are probably best suited to deal with his recovery too with the way Ted Larsen is playing. The team needs Kevin Minter at inside linebacker, and we will see how he can perform. Minter seemed very confident earlier this week. That’s a good sign. Like Mathieu, you want to see nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu in real game action — especially where he plays and how there are always bodies down by your legs — a scary thought for a guy coming off a torn ACL. Again, mental as much as physical.

– As for the battles for rosters spots, these are the ones I see out there (and the ones to watch in the game): The backup tackle spot between Bradley Sowell and Nate Potter, both who figure to start. Potter will be on the left and Sowell on the right Thursday, but it’ll be surprising if both can make the cut. The special teams/cornerback slot with Teddy Williams and Bryan McCann. It figures one will be in, the other out. McCann is a little more polished as a cornerback, but Williams definitely can be more physical. This comes down to who they like better for special teams. And then there are the many linebackers who seem to be on the bubble. Desmond Bishop. Alex Okafor. Lorenzo Alexander. Marcus Benard. Glenn Carson too. You’ve only got so many spots. Pay attention to their play.

– Finally, reports are that the Cardinals will at least work out veteran linebacker James Harrison. Sounds like it’ll be less about anything immediate and instead seeing what is available. Veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly may be the same situation. Something to keep in mind this time of year, signing a veteran after Week One means the salary is not guaranteed, so there will be some vets signed after the first game around the league — especially those who might not have a lot left in the tank.

LoganB4ChargersBLOG


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Arians: Starters’ playing time to be limited

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2014 – 12:35 pm

When your head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators and many of the main players are the same as last season, and after the team has a whole looked pretty good in the preseason opener, the thought process for the preseason sometimes with be adjusted. That sounds like it might be true for coach Bruce Arians, who said today that he might “buck the trend” and not play starters as much as he might normally in the preseason. It’s obviously on his mind. He mentioned running back Andre Ellington in particular, who should play a little more Saturday in Minnesota but “Andre is not going to see a whole lot of action this preseason.” Arians wants to keep Ellington healthy. (I know. Stunner.)

– Speaking of healthy, the Cardinals didn’t suffer any major injuries in the preseason opener. A handful of guys will miss practice today and Arians said they are all day-to-day: G Jonathan Cooper (toe), T Max Starks (ankle), G Anthony Steen (neck), T Nate Potter (back) and LB Kevin Minter (pectoral). Arians said C Lyle Sendlein (calf) will miss the Vikings game and it’s possible WRs Ted Ginn (knee) and Michael Floyd (groin) will too, but all three are expected back next week at the latest.

– Arians on his running game, which had Ellington with only two carries and a total of three kneeldown plays: “I am not concerned. We ran the ball effectively even with some mental errors from some young guys.” The Cardinals had a total of 81 yards rushing on 37 official attempts.

– The fight for positions in the backfield, tight end, wide receiver, defensive line and secondary are all intense, Arians said. “You better not have a bad day,” he said. “One bad day could cost you your job.”

– As for the idea the Cardinals could keep six receivers, Arians said the roster makeup isn’t locked into certain numbers. “We won’t cut a player at one position to keep someone just for depth,” he said. “If he is a better player, we want the best players on the team. There are some great battles from 45 to 53. Knock on wood, hopefully injuries won’t deplete us.”

– No sign yet of linebacker John Abraham. Asked if he still expected Abraham to arrive this week, Arians said “we’re hoping.” As for what the Cardinals can expect from Abraham when he does get here, Arians said he isn’t worried. “He was in great shape when he showed up (last year) and I’d think he’d come back in just as good of shape,” Arians said. “Knocking that rust off and getting up to playing speed in a lot of the new stuff on defense (that) he hasn’t been exposed to. There will be a learning curve but he will hopefully have more than 20 days to be ready.”


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Sorting out keepers on the O-line

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2014 – 12:50 pm

Bruce Arians was short and sweet during his press conference today, which means the news is little and the grind of camp has officially set in. Until games begin to be played, players can start proving themselves on the field against another time and, you know — stuff happens — I’d imagine there won’t be a torrent of news. One thing from today is that guard Jonathan Cooper, tight end Jake Ballard and tackle Nate Potter are all taking the practice off because of sore knees, but all three are expected to practice against Wednesday.

That’ll give Earl Watford a chance to work with the ones all through practice today. He said he’s getting better in cutting down the mental mistakes. How that offensive line filters out will be one of the more intriguing parts of the camp and preseason. Arians usually dressed seven on game days. After the starters, that would mean a swing tackle (Starks?) and a G/C combo (Larsen, probably). So if Cooper starts, does that mean Watford is inactive again? Where does Potter stand, or Bradley Sowell (the latter of whom is probably in trouble roster-wise if Starks proves usable.)

Some of it will have to do with youth and keeping players around if you feel they can develop, as well as the numbers across the rest of the roster. But now that Starks is here, someone is going to be the odd man out. And there could be a couple that end up odd.

– WR John Brown, who has missed three practices with a bad hamstring, will be back out at practice.

– Arians is very happy with the way rookie safety Deone Bucannon is playing at dollar linebacker, which is his spot in the nickel defense.

– There is still a chance the Cardinals could keep five running backs on the roster, depending on special teams. That would seem to open a possible spot for Jalen Parmele. The first four of Andre Ellington, Stepfan Taylor, Jonathan Dwyer and Robert Hughes looks more and more solid.

 


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Cards bring in vet T Starks

Posted by Darren Urban on August 1, 2014 – 10:27 am

For a second straight year, the Cardinals have brought in a veteran tackle around the beginning of training camp. Unlike last year, the addition of Max Starks will in theory be about depth than starting — which is really why the Cards grabbed Eric Winston a year ago.

Last year, the Cardinals were not comfortable with Bobby Massie at right tackle, and when Winston was available, they made it work. Winston ended up starting all season. This year, the feeling on Massie has changed. This is likely more of a depth move — Bruce Arians will address it in a bit — and who knows? Maybe this is more about Bradley Sowell or Nate Potter. In the end, it’ll be about the competition it creates. At this point in his career, Starks is no lock to make the roster. He started all 16 games at tackle for the Steelers in 2012, but last year, he played only two games with the Rams after the Chargers cut him in the preseason.

UPDATE: It’s definitely about depth and not Massie.

What he does do is give Arians and OC/OL coach Harold Goodwin someone with whom they are familiar from their time in Pittsburgh.

The Cardinals also cut kicker Danny Hrapmann, so that battle is down to Jay Feely and Chandler Catanzaro. Tackle Cory Brandon was released too, so the Cardinals now have an open roster spot.

StarksBLOG


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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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