The Cardinals began OTAs today and coach Bruce Arians tried something new with his 90-man roster: A dual practice. For a good chunk of the time on the field, the main first- and second-units worked on the front field, while the younger players — including almost every rookie — went to the second field with a mirror type of workout.
“We wanted to make sure we maximized the opportunities our rookies got, to get repetitions,” Arians said. “You can’t find a diamond in the rough if he’s standing on the sideline watching. You can find one if he’s out there working. That’s our goal. Get every single guy here an opportunity to make the ballclub.”
Arians said he’s never seen it done in his time in the NFL. Usually there aren’t enough players. “Our offensive tackles got a good workout,” Arians said. “There’s only four of them.” (That’s Nate Potter, Bobby Massie, Jamaal Johnson-Webb and Paul Fanaika today. Levi Brown was limited in his rehab and UDFA Joe Caprioglio isn’t here yet because Colorado State hasn’t finished up the spring semester.)
– Arians noted the full participation and thanked his players for the voluntary work. That included Daryl Washington (who has been here the whole time, not that it is new). Washington did address the media. Here is the story right here.
– Karlos Dansby was running with the first unit with Jasper Brinkley at inside linebacker. Washington was with Kevin Minter with the second unit. That was tough not to notice. We’ll see how it progresses as we go. Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho are working as the first-unit outside linebackers. Jerraud Powers continues to work first unit at cornerback with Patrick Peterson.
– Jonathan Cooper was running second-team left guard behind Chilo Rachal. All the other draftees — save for Ryan Swope, who was pulled up after LaRon Byrd had a neck spasm — were working in the second practice.
– It was weird seeing Dansby wearing No. 55. It was more weird seeing him in Miami Dolphin blue cleats. I’m sure that’ll be fixed soon. “I told him he could have my red shoes tomorrow,” Arians said. “He looked good. He looked spry.”
Tags: Bobby Massie, Bruce Arians, Chilo Rachal, Daryl Washington, Jamaal Johnson-Webb, Jasper Brinkley, Jerraud Powers, Joe Caprioglio, Jonathan Cooper, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Levi Brown, Nate Potter, OTAs, Paul Fanaika, Ryan Swope
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The NFC coaches breakfast was this morning — bright and early at 7:15 a.m. — here at the NFL coaches meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. That meant an hour hanging out with Cardinals coach Bruce Arians. There will be plenty more in-depth of what was said, but for now a few of the main highlights — the biggest being that the reality of Drew Stanton being the 2013 starting quarterback feels very close right now.
– Asked if this was a tough year to be going into the draft needing a quarterback, Arians didn’t blink. “I don’t feel we need one.”
– Along those lines (and again, I will have an article up later today on the subject) Arians said he wasn’t worried about the quarterback situation. He doesn’t know enough about Brian Hoyer, Ryan Lindley or John Skelton yet, because he hasn’t had a chance to go over video and ask “why” on various plays. He obviously has done that with Stanton. But he said he thinks he can win with Stanton, and he said he won’t have a problem if things stay status quo starting Stanton this season.
– Yes, such QB talk is possiblely a smokescreen. Or just hard driving optimism so players (and fans) don’t want to write off 2013. But Arians sure sounded genuine.
– He wants to name a starting QB before training camp. That’s best for the team, he said, making sure the locker room knows who “The Man” will be.
– It hurt Kevin Kolb that Arians couldn’t sit down with him and talk about his play last season and again, figuring out the whys and why nots of decision-making. Without that information, moving on (given the contract) was the best decision, Arians said.
– He talked a little bit about the possibility of adding free agent Josh Cribbs, assuming at some point Cribbs is healthy and the Cards still have interest by that point. He wouldn’t mind having both Cribbs and Patrick Peterson back for a kick or two. “It’d be a nice addition if it works out.” One thing Cribbs won’t do is be QB in a wildcat formation. “I’m not a wildcat dude,” Arians said.
– Not only will Lorenzo Alexander play outside linebacker, new defensive end Matt Shaughnessy can also stand up and play OLB. That could make for an interesting pass rush situation.
– Asked about the tight ends, he was blunt: “I’m not a fullback guy, never have been.” Not great news for Anthony Sherman, at least on the surface. Arians wants two tight ends when one can maneuver into the backfield, making it much harder for the defense to know what’s coming. Having a fullback restricts that flexibility, he said.
– He said the speed at receiver with Fitz, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd is “plenty fast enough.” He added with a chuckle, wide receiver “is not the position I’ve worried about.”
– Rehab has gone well for center Lyle Sendlein, tackle Levi Brown and running back Ryan Williams, but Arians isn’t sure how much they will do in the early on-field work.
– It’ll be wait-and-see where second-year offensive linemen Nate Potter and Bobby Massie play, either guard or tackle. But Arians is confident they each can do both.
– Levi Brown could play right tackle. But Arians right now sure sounds like a guy expecting to have Brown at left tackle.
– The coaching staff are still trying to figure out what position Justin Bethel will play, cornerback or safety. They will pick one and let him learn it well.
– The Cardinals color Kangol was on display again Wednesday morning. Could we see something similar on Sundays? Arians is talking with with New Era and the NFL on that subject. “I’m not getting fined,” Arians joked. “There’s got to be more than baseball caps, know what I mean?”
Tags: Andre Roberts, Anthony Sherman, Bobby Massie, Bruce Arians, Drew Stanton, Josh Cribbs, Justin Bethel, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Lorenzo Alexander, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Shaughnessy, Michael Floyd, Nate Potter, quarterbacks, Ryan Williams
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Bruce Arians sat at the interview table next to his new offensive coordinator, Harold Goodwin, and was asked — bluntly — what they were going to be able to do so that the Cardinals didn’t have the “worst” offense in the NFL, after the team was last statistically in 2012.
“There’s nowhere to go but up,” Arians said with a smile, cracking Goodwin up next to him and drawing laughs from the media. “I guarantee we won’t be there this year.”
There were a few smiles between the two of them Wednesday as Goodwin, 39, got to be a coordinator in public for the first time. The one-time college offensive lineman at the University of Michigan (he played there with Cardinals kicker Jay Feely) has a background in offensive line and was the offensive line coach for the Colts last season. That will remain important in his role. Arians emphasized there will be a “group of people” teaching blocking on the Cardinals, including Goodwin, assistant head coach Tom Moore, assistant offensive line coach Larry Zierlein, tight ends coach Rick Christophel and assistant tight ends coach Steve Heiden.
Goodwin will indeed be the coordinator of the offense, however. Arians said that too, noting that while Arians will call plays, Goodwin will work all the other normal coordinator duties.
– Goodwin and Arians didn’t get super specific on the offensive linemen, although Goodwin mentioned Levi Brown and Nate Potter in passing and said he thinks the group has some talent. He wouldn’t speculate why the unit would have been so poor last season. Said Arians about the line, “We’re not far off.” Injuries were a factor, both of them said.
– There were a couple of jokes about how intense Goodwin can be. If it gets emotional it will be a change for the offensive linemen. Russ Grimm saw his players through the “they are professionals and know what they need to do” lens.
– Arians opened the presser before anyone could ask about the quarterbacks by talking about the quarterbacks. “Nothing has changed on my comments on quarterbacks since the last time we talked,” Arians said, adding, “the quarterback situation will take some time.”
A full story coming later on azcardinals.com. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is set to meet with the media tomorrow, with Moore and special teams coordinator Amos Jones coming on Friday.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Harold Goodwin, Larry Zierlein, Levi Brown, Nate Potter, offensive line, Rick Christophel, Steve Heiden, Tom Moore
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The day Steve Keim was named general manager, the one-time offensive lineman spoke about his offensive line — the much-maligned line in 2012, for a variety of reasons.
“I think we have some pieces in place,” Keim said. “The level of physicality, the ability to run the ball consistently, that is a huge issue and that needs to be fixed.”
Last week before the Super Bowl, new head coach Bruce Arians said the offensive line situations is “not as dire as some might make it out to be.”
So what does that all mean? Certainly, injuries took their toll on the unit last season. Reading between the lines — and that’s all it is right now — it seems to me there is a good chance Levi Brown will be part of the unit in some way, shape or form. I don’t know if that means at guard or tackle. It would seem to be Bobby Massie has a chance to be a tackle going forward after he finished well in his rookie year after a difficult start. Where does Nate Potter fit in? And how do the current interior starters — guards Daryn Colledge and Adam Snyder, with center Lyle Sendlein — fit?
It’s still early. First, the new staff, which will have multiple coaches that will teach the offensive line, need to go through the video and analyze what players are already in place. Free agency gives the Cards some options, especially at tackle, although the cap implications of a big-dollar signing will have to be carefully considered. (Among the tackles currently slated for free agency — knowing a couple could get the franchise tag — include Denver’s Ryan Clady, Kansas City’s Branden Albert, New Orleans’ Jerrod Bushrod and the Giants’ Will Beatty.)
As for the guys already on the roster, the 2013 salary cap numbers for the four vets are as follows: Brown $7.65M, Colledge $7.3M, Snyder $4M, Sendlein $3.1M. (And before you ask, the “dead” money if those players were released would be $5.6M, $4.5M, $4M and $2.1M, respectively.) The draft seems like a more likely spot to add a piece, but whether that would be a tackle (like Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher) or guard (like Alabama’s Chance Warmack) or even after the first round, well, it’s way to early to have a good sense of that. The Cards have to have their meetings and again, the coaches need to evaluate what they have.
There has been a lot of talk about the quarterback and what the Cards will do about it, and that’s clearly the top topic. But what happens with the offensive line — and how that unit is addressed by Keim and Arians — will play into the quarterback story as well.
Tags: Adam Snyder, Bobby Massie, Branden Albert, Bruce Arians, Chance Warmack, Daryn Colledge, Eric Fisher, Jerrod Bushrod, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Nate Potter, offensive line, Ryan Clady, Steve Keim, Will Beatty
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Left tackle Nate Potter is inactive today because of his sprained ankle, putting D’Anthony Batiste back in the lineup for the first time since Potter replaced him during the Green Bay game prior to the bye week Nov. 4. That will make for an interesting matchup when he goes against 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith (19.5 sacks). Fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) is also inactive, meaning tight end Jim Dray will fill in for the fullback duties.
Rookie guard Senio Kelemete is active for the first time this season, too.
Also inactive for the Cards today are:
– QB John Skelton
– WR LaRon Byrd (knee)
– G Mike Gibson (calf)
– WR Early Doucet (concussion)
– DE Ronald Talley (ankle)
Tags: Aldon Smith, Anthony Sherman, D'Anthony Batiste, Early Doucet, inactives, Jim Dray, John Skelton, LaRon Byrd, Mike Gibson, Nate Potter, Ronald Talley, Senio Kelemete
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Next week, Ray Horton figures to get at least one if not several inquiries to interview for vacant head coaching jobs. He already had one last year – with the Rams – and as a minority candidate whose unit has played very good football this season, Horton figures to attract interest.
Horton didn’t want to necessarily go there today, his final day of meeting the media this season.
“I would say today I’m just trying to be the best D-coordinator in the league and I didn’t do it (this season),” Horton said. “We didn’t accomplish our goals. The rest of that stuff usually takes care of itself and usually teams that win more are rewarded that well.”
That said, when asked when he would know if he was ready for a head coaching job, Horton acknowledged, “A couple years ago – (although) you never know until you get there.”
Horton’s interview with the Rams reportedly went well and he had no reason to think he wouldn’t duplicate the feat. “I think if you are confident in what you do, every interview would be good,” he said. “I feel I’m prepared, smart, knowledgeable, humble and whatever goes with whatever that entails.”
None of that means Horton won’t be defensive coordinator in Arizona next year. A lot will happen across the league over the next few weeks. There is a lot of unknown about the Cards themselves. Horton said he isn’t thinking about that.
“All I know is I am going to San Francisco in the morning and I’m not going there to get any sourdough bread,” Horton said. “I’m going there to play a football game.”
– With left tackle Nate Potter upgraded to limited Friday and listed as questionable to play, we’ll see who gets the call at the spot – him or D’Anthony Batiste. You wonder how much the 49ers will work to get Aldon Smith the three sacks he needs to tie the NFL record in that stat, and you wonder if Brian Hoyer – who looks pretty aware in the pocket – can make a difference with his decision-making.
– It does help that the 49ers will be without DT Justin Smith, however.
– Horton said he thought the 49ers have changed their playcalling after installing Colin Kaepernick as starting quarterback in place of Alex Smith.
“You don’t see as many shifts, as many extra linemen in the game,” Horton said. “(Kaepernick) adds an element to run the ball. It will be an interesting experiment to see what they think after the season is over.”
– In case you missed it, here’s the list of 2013 opponents for the Cards, home and away.
– Heading into the league’s final weekend, the Cardinals currently have the ninth pick in the first round of the draft. Given the matchups in the final game – and given the Cards’ fairly strong strength of schedule – it’s going to be difficult to move much higher if the team loses to the 49ers (a win would drop them mid-first-round. About 15 or 16, I would guess). There might be a chance to move to No. 7, realistically.
– Veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday – who could be playing in his final NFL game Sunday as he contemplates retirement once again – has high hopes for a lot of the younger defenders on the Cardinals and what they can become.
One of those guys is nose tackle Dan Williams, about whom Holliday is bullish about his future.
“He can be one of the best nose guards in this league,” Holliday said. “Because of his athleticism, because of his size and strength. And now he’s become a student of the game.”
– For this week’s episode of “Season In Focus” (airing Saturday at 7 a.m. on ABC-15), there will be Adrian Wilson Wired, the best of Cardinals Chronicles for 2012, the best moments of the season at University of Phoenix Stadium, and a spotlight on record-breaking punter Dave Zastudil.
– I will admit I hope Daryl Washington can get his 10th sack.
– The Cardinals had all kinds of problems tackling the 49ers the last time they met, one of the reasons Smith’s 18-for-19 passing day turned so effective (232 yards, three touchdowns). Can’t have that happen again.
– The 49ers have a lot on the line. We’ll see if the Cardinals can mess with that at all.
Tags: 49ers, Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, D'Anthony Batiste, Dan Williams, Daryl Washington, draft, Justin Smith, Nate Potter, Ray Horton, Vonnie Holliday
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Linebacker Daryl Washington, snubbed for the Pro Bowl Wednesday, is still chasing his 10th sack of the season. Notching one more would not only tie the franchise mark for sacks by a linebacker, but also make him the first guy with 10 since Bertrand Berry had 14.5 in 2004 and the first Cardinal ever to have 100 tackles and 10 sacks. Of course, Washington as been stuck with nine sacks since getting one against the Rams Nov. 25. Chasing down mobile 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for one might not be easy. Washington did have two sacks the last time the Cards played the 49ers, but at that point, Alex Smith was still playing QB for San Francisco.
– Left tackle Nate Potter sat out Wednesday’s practice with a bad ankle. If Potter isn’t able to play Sunday, his backup is D’Anthony Batiste — who struggled so much when he was in there earlier in the season — and I’d think Batiste would likely get another start. That would definitely be something that bears watching.
– The Big Red Rage tonight at Majerle’s in Chandler will feature not only host Kerry Rhodes but also wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, so reserve your table quickly. The show starts at 6 p.m.
Tags: Bertrand Berry, Big Red Rage, Colin Kaepernick, D'Anthony Batiste, Daryl Washington, Kerry Rhodes, Larry Fitzgerald, Nate Potter
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Two of the four players in NFL history who have four punt return touchdowns in a season will be returning punts Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“I think it’s going to be fun, having Devin Hester on one end and Patrick Peterson on the other,” Peterson said. “I believe that calls for a good show.”
Whether it actually produces anything remains to be seen. Both Peterson and Hester have been quiet this season on punt returns. Hester has averaged just nine yards on 34 tries, with a long of 44. His average is well below his career average of 12.3 yards a return. Peterson, of course, has also been slowed. He has an average of 8.6 yards on 47 tries (and has lost three fumbles). Neither Peterson or Hester has a touchdown this season.
Peterson has talked a few times about trying to break out on punt returns. But he is playing well at cornerback, and the always confident Peterson will not sway from his belief the big punt return will still come.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Peterson said. “At the end of the day the Arizona Cardinals drafted me to be a defensive back. The punt returns are a plus. When my opportunities comes, I will try my best and I want to break one. But teams now are so dialed in, when (number) 21 has the ball in his hands, bottle him up on the sideline and if you don’t, have all 11 hats to the ball.”
– Wide receiver Early Doucet (concussion) and newcomer offensive lineman Mike Gibson (calf) — who apparently got hurt in practice this week after re-signing — are both out Sunday. The Cardinals have a bunch of players questionable, although both safeties Rashad Johnson and James Sanders were upgraded to limited Friday. In addition to those two, the questionable list includes T Nate Potter, FB Anthony Sherman, LB Quentin Groves, TE Rob Housler, DE Ronald Talley and NT Dan Williams.
The Bears will be without LB Brian Urlacher. DT Henry Melton is doubtful. Questionable are NFL interceptions leader Tim Jennings, LB Blake Costanzo, WR Earl Bennett and T Jonathan Scott.
Tags: Anthony Sherman, Bears, Dan Williams, Devin Hester, Early Doucet, James Sanders, Mike Gibson, Nate Potter, Patrick Peterson, Quentin Groves, Rashad Johnson, Rob Housler, Ronald Talley
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The Cardinals used their fifth different starting offensive line this past weekend, and that doesn’t include missing Levi Brown since the preseason. And things, right now, have been a little better. Part of that is some improvement by the rookie tackles.
“We’ve gotten the ball out,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We’ve done a better job with that, but we’ve changed our protections up. Like we’ve said all along during this stretch, we’ve been trying to find out what we can do and what we can do better.”
The Cardinals have made more of an effort to give their tackles more help, which has made a difference. Since rookie Nate Potter went into the lineup full-time at left tackle, the Cards have given up a little more than two sacks a game — which isn’t ideal, but still much better than the average of 6.5 or so the Cards gave up during the five-game stretch before that.
“We had a chance (Sunday) on the one sack where we had a huge play down the field and we couldn’t get the ball off,” Whisenhunt said. “We made a mistake because we were supposed to help out on that block and we didn’t get that done, so we are still by no means even close to being perfect, but we’re varying our protections and doing different things, and our players are doing a good job with that.”
This doesn’t mean the Cardinals won’t work on their offensive line in the offseason. That would seem to be a foregone conclusion. But considering how much the unit was struggling earlier in the year, there has been a change worth noting.
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Nate Potter, offensive line
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Sunday, the Cardinals have a chance to fully wipe away last weekend’s loss in Seattle. But that’s all it was, a loss, and given the tragic events in Connecticut today, it’s difficult to get worked up over it as any more than that. The Lions come to town also as a 4-9 team, and this is one – if the Cardinals are going to get one – to get. Ryan Lindley will be back at QB, and if he can play more like the guy in the first 30 minutes of his lone start at University of Phoenix Stadium and not the last 30 minutes, the Cards should have a chance. I definitely don’t see the defense melting down again.
– It’s amazing, and I know it’s because of the quarterback situation, but there has been very little discussion about the Cards’ offensive line in recent weeks. The unit is far from perfect, but rookie tackles Bobby Massie and Nate Potter have been doing well enough. Coach Ken Whisenhunt wouldn’t disclose who the new starting center will be Sunday – “I think we need every little element of surprise that we can get. We can certainly use it,” Whisenunt said – but we’ll see if that group can hold up.
– As for needing a new center, “there’s continuity with the quarterback and the snaps and that’s something you can’t always simulate or get in practice,” Whisenhunt said. “We’ve struggled with that a little bit the last couple of games with adjusting to (now injured) Rich (Ohrnberger). Then just when he starts to get comfortable and you feel good about that, he goes out.”
– The Lions have a good defensive line, although with DT Nick Fairley doubtful and unlikely to play, the Cardinals catch the break. They still have ends Cliff Avril and nearing-the-end Kyle Vanden Bosch, the one-time Cardinal. They have defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who can be dominant at times. It will be a good test for the Cards’ line.
– On the flip side, the Lions’ secondary isn’t stellar. If Larry Fitzgerald is going to be anything more than a leader for this team and actually contribute to the offense on the field, Lindley hopefully can make that happen this week.
– Speaking of Fitz, I’m not sure acting is in his future.
– He turned 91 today, so former Cardinals star back Charley Trippi can’t help on the field, but he will be at UoP Sunday so the team can celebrate his career and his place in the Ring of Honor. If you don’t know about Trippi, check out Josh Weinfuss’ great story.
– FYI, the security screening locations will be opening early (10:45 a.m.) for both the Detroit and Chicago games, with portable food and beverage stands open on the plaza for those that get there early. Actual stadium access for non-premium seat holders remains the same (90 minutes before kickoff).
– There is a toy drive at the game. Bring unwrapped toys and donations to any stadium entrance to help needy children at this time of year.
– Speaking of good stories, all the state high school championship football teams will be honored Sunday, including Queen Creek High School. If you haven’t heard, the Queen Creek team befriended a very special girl this season, and she too will be at the festivities. Check out the story – although it might get a little dusty wherever you are.
– Because people want to know, here is an early list of offensive free agents-to-be. Chew on that if you’d like.
– Finally, I just want to send thoughts and prayers to those affected in the Connecticut shootings. It’s been tough making sense of writing about football today given what happened, especially when I think of my own kids and my wife – who is a teacher – and worrying about what could happen to them.
Just remember there are bigger things when we sit here and talk about football losses or bad play or whether someone should be fired. I’m not saying you can’t say that. This is a site about the Cardinals and that’s what we all talk about. I’m just asking to be civil when talking about it, when addressing others, when criticizing players, coaches or management. We are all just people — fans, me, guys on the team — trying to get along here. The vitriol isn’t necessary to get the point across. If it’s frustrating you that much, imagine what some back East are going through this weekend.
That’s it. I’m climbing off the soapbox. On to Sunday.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Charley Trippi, Ken Whisenhunt, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Larry Fitzgerald, Lions, Nate Potter, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Seahawks
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