The tweet came from SiriusXM NFL Radio over the weekend, with host and former NFL QB Jim Miller saying that it is the Cardinals with the best offensive line in the NFC West. (His partner, Pat Kirwan, has the Cardinals second behind Seattle.) My first reaction, which I tweeted, was that I couldn’t remember the last time someone held the Cardinals’ offensive line in such high regard. It makes sense, with the Cardinals’ big free-agent purchase the past two offseasons being offensive linemen (Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati) in addition to a No. 1 draft pick (Jonathan Cooper.)
Veldheer was asked about being compared — on both the offensive and defensive line — to the Seahawks, and the tackle was pretty blunt.
“I think they’re both solid lines, but I’d take our guys any day over those guys,” Veldheer said. “That’s part of the fun part, too, getting that rivalry going, wanting to puff your chest out more than the guy across the line from you.”
In terms of the division’s offensive lines, the reality is the bar has dropped some. The Seahawks traded their center Max Unger to get tight end Jimmy Graham, who may help in catching the ball but won’t much as a blocker. The Rams have added defensive linemen aplenty of late but seem to have ignored the need on the offensive line. The 49ers lost one of their better lineman when Iupati came to Arizona. As for the Cardinals, they have upgraded. You can see why someone would consider them the best unit in the division. But as always, it’s difficult to tell much of anything on the offensive line in the offseason. What is done in the offseason isn’t enough of football to be sure the line will translate once the games actually start.
Then again, it’s better to be thought of as the best this time of year than the alternative.
Tags: 49ers, Jared Veldheer, Jonathan Cooper, Mike Iupati, NFC West, offensive line, Rams, Seahawks
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GM Steve Keim said he as a tendency to be a pessimist, and in some ways, his job is inherently so as the man in charge of trying to upgrade the team — even when they are 9-2. Sometimes, Keim said during his weekly appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7, he said he can think “the sky is falling.”
The sky isn’t falling after a lone loss following six straight wins, of course, but now it’s about curtailing that losing streak. To make sure it’s not a streak. Ron Wolfley made a cogent point following the interview too, noting that a GM and a coach probably see the video through a different prism given their jobs. But Keim and Bruce Arians could certainly agree on one main point after Sunday’s Seattle loss: “In a hostile environment, you have to match their level of intensity in all three phases,” Keim said. “We certainly didn’t do that in two.” Offense and special teams didn’t do nearly enough.
— Keim said he thought the offensive line needs to be more physical. Other that acknowledging a comment that right tackle Bobby Massie didn’t have his best game, Keim wasn’t specific on the offensive line but instead talking about them as a group. The entire offense has to play “in better unison” in the run game. The protection could have been better too.
— It was hard to evaluate QB Drew Stanton because the run game gave him no help, Keim said, but it wasn’t Stanton’s best game, noting Stanton’s inaccuracy at times.
— There was a miscommunication between cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Rashad Johnson on the early 48-yard pass to Ricardo Lockette, Keim said.
— Keim said he thought new defensive end Josh Mauro stood out (so did I). The rookie out of Stanford has long been on the Cardinals’ radar. Keim said the Cardinals tried to sign Mauro as an undrafted rookie back in May, but he decided to go to the Steelers. When the Steelers cut him at the end of the preseason, the Cards again tried to sign Mauro to their practice squad, but Mauro chose to stay with Pittsburgh’s practice squad. Finally, the Cards decided to sign Mauro off the Steelers’ PS to the active roster.
— Here’s why the sky isn’t really falling for Keim: “The thing that gives me confidence is men in that locker room and that coaching staff.”
Tags: Drew Stanton, Josh Mauro, offensive line, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Seahawks, Steve Keim
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General Manager Steve Keim didn’t have much of an update on quarterback Carson Palmer this morning during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. Keim said Palmer will undergo “a number of tests” Monday and the Cardinals should have an update with Palmer’s knee injury later Monday. That Keim didn’t have much to say isn’t surprising, but as I mentioned last night, you hope for the best but plan for the worst.
After a win in which the Cardinals only rushed for 28 yards, though, Keim did have some thoughts on the offensive line. He was blunt: Keim said he thinks one of the “primary reasons” the Cardinals were 8-1 is the play of offensive tackles Jared Veldheer and Bobby Massie. As for the interior — guards Paul Fanaika and Ted Larsen and center Lyle Sendlein — Keim said he has concerns about their consistency.
Bruce Arians was asked after the game, following his talk about how the Cardinals got their “asses whipped” up front leading to a lack of a run game, whether there was a chance guard Jonathan Cooper could get a start against Detroit. Arians answered without hesitation: “None.”
Keim has suggested in recent comments that he thought Cooper could end up playing some, although that belief isn’t held by the coaching staff. And Keim said it’s up to the coaches.
“Anytime you are 8-1 there is a certain chemistry, and a lot of times coaches don’t want to mess with chemistry, which I certainly can’t argue with,” Keim said. “The other thing is, I’m the General Manager. It’s my job to add players to the roster, help pick the players. But I am always going to defer to the coaches when it comes to playing the players. It’s not my job to tell Bruce Arians or Harold Goodwin who to play from a personnel standpoint. That’s a decision those guys have to make, and if those guys think it’s in our best interests to play the two guards we currently have out there right now, that’s what I’m going to go with.”
— As for Drew Stanton, who will step in at QB assuming Palmer is out, Keim talked about the confidence the team has in Stanton. He made the point that, if the Cardinals didn’t think he would be able to step in after seeing him since the beginning of 2013 after Stanton signed, the Cards would have made a move to replace him.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Jared Veldheer, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, offensive line, Paul Fanaika, Steve Keim, Ted Larsen
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Look back to the year the Cardinals made the Super Bowl, and open the page of the season in review to the game-by-game starting lineups. On offense, it’s not hard to notice:
LT LG C RG RT
Gandy Wells Sendlein Lutui L. Brown
Gandy Wells Sendlein Lutui L. Brown
Gandy Wells Sendlein Lutui L. Brown
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, all the way through the Super Bowl.
Continuity on the offensive line isn’t the only reason the Cardinals got to the final game that season, but it was a reason. And it’s what popped into my head Tuesday as offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Harold Goodwin made very clear the offensive line wouldn’t be changing unless there is an injury. No, Jonathan Cooper will not be going back into the lineup at left guard for Ted Larsen. The Cardinals like the job Larsen has done. More importantly Goodwin doesn’t want to change what is working (I believe I’ve mentioned that a time or two) as the Cardinals have had much better line play and, of course, a 3-0 start.
It’s about communication, Goodwin said, and keeping that intact.
Look, Cooper isn’t going anywhere. He’s not a bust. Can’t say that yet. I will be stunned if he is not a starter in 2015. There is still a chance he could play this year. Goodwin expressed his confidence in Cooper as a player, and at this point, Goody has shown he’s not the kind of guy to hand out platitudes. But the slow start in camp of Cooper coming back from that broken leg, and the turf toe that delayed his progress, seems to have set his course in cement for 2014.
Tags: Harold Goodwin, Jonathan Cooper, offensive line, Ted Larsen
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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.
Tags: Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, Deone Bucannon, Earl Watford, Jake Ballard, Jalen Parmele, John Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Max Starks, Nate Potter, offensive line, Ted Larsen, training camp
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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.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Christian Johnson, John Estes, minicamp, Nate Potter, offensive line, Tyson Clabo
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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.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Daryn Colledge, Earl Watford, Eric Winston, Jared Veldheer, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, Nate Potter, offensive line, Paul Fanaika, Ted Larsen
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There is a really good article posted on SI’s MMQB, written by former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker, about how offensive linemen are graded in the NFL and the inexact science that it is. I recommend it. Cardinals tackle Eric Winston is quoted in the story a few times, noting “It’s very hard to do it independently. Last season was my eighth year and I still can’t always tell who messed up when watching film of other teams.” There is no question that evaluating the offensive line has been the hardest thing to do in my years of writing about an NFL team, for all the reasons contained in the article (although such analysis isn’t going away. I know coaches and players get frustrated sometimes, but in the end, they don’t want to say exactly what is going on either, so they don’t throw anyone under the bus. Totally understandable, but it’s why it’s so hard to get the real picture.)
Noted in the article is the work of profootballfocus.com, how their grades have their own flaws, and even how agents are using those grades in contract talks. Again, interesting stuff and worth the time.
— Nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu was an exclusive rights free agent, and even though he has to rehab a torn ACL, it was inevitable the Cards would keep him around. He turned out to be a fantastic waiver acquisition this season. Assuming he comes back OK, I could see him as a long-term component of that defensive line.
— Free agent talks with players from other teams can start Saturday morning, at least with their agents. The Cards will make their position known with a few players, but as GM Steve Keim said, the Cards are going to want a guy in for a visit before pulling the trigger. You want to be able to know the guy a little bit before cutting him a check.
— Free agent tight end John Carlson, cut by the Vikings this week, is reportedly visiting the Cardinals. Not a surprise, at least in terms of the position. The Cards have to stock up on tight ends, both in an attempt to upgrade and to make sure they have enough in the first place with so many with expiring contracts.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Eric Winston, John Carlson, offensive line, Steve Keim
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Today was the deadline for teams to use the franchise tag. There is still a week before free agency officially begins — although teams and free-agents-to-be can start talking Saturday — and there is still time for any of these players who are set to become free to still sign extensions and avoid hitting the market. That said, the tag was a possibility for a handful of prospective left tackle free agents, and all of them ended up dodging that tag Monday.
That means the left tackle market, barring a late extension, will include Kansas City’s Branden Albert, Baltimore’s Eugene Monroe, St. Louis’ Rodger Saffold, Oakland’s Jared Veldheer and Cincinnati’s Anthony Collins. (There are reports out of Oakland that think Veldheer’s non-tagging means he’s close to a deal, but if that is true, why not tag him just in case?)
Profootballfocus.com ranked the tackles on the market in this order: Monroe, Albert, Veldheer, Collins, Saffold. The money to sign these guys will not be insignificant, and the need remains high for such players across the league. But if the Cardinals are looking to grab a vet to plug in, there not only will be options but the ability to have a solid backup choice. That can’t be a bad thing.
Tags: Anthony Collins, Branden Albert, Eugene Monroe, free agency, Jared Veldheer, offensive line, Rodger Saffold
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With “official” talks with free agents allowed March 8 and actually agreements allowed March 11, the time when teams will actually be able to start finalizing such things is still more than a week away. Players are dropping off the “He’s going to be a free agent” list daily, like with the litany of Philadelphia Eagles who have signed extensions the past couple of days. That can still happen to any of these potential free agents being talked about.
It hasn’t cooled the speculation, however. Greg Bedard of SI.com’s MMQB ranked the top 100 free-agents-to-be and also listed what he thought would be the best fits. The Cardinals find themselves mentioned a few times.
— The only current Cardinal scheduled to be a free agent that made the list was linebacker Karlos Dansby. He was at No. 34. Not surprisingly, Bedard’s call for Dansby’s best fit was remaining with the Cardinals. I agree with that. Not only does the system best fit Karlos, but so does his working relationship next to Daryl Washington.
— There are three left tackles on the list from other teams: Kansas City’s Branden Albert (No. 7), Baltimore’s Eugene Monroe (No. 8) and Cincinnati’s Anthony Collins (No. 60). For both Albert and Collins, the Cardinals are listed as the best fit and the Cards are also noted for Monroe along with Miami. Obviously the Cardinals would sign more than one, but it’s obvious to the NFL world this team should be a landing spot for at least one. It will definitely be one of the more intriguing storylines of that first week (or less) of free agency.
— Packers DE/OLB Mike Neal was 95th on the list and the Cards were called his best fit. Neal’s name has already been floated as a potential Arizona target. It makes all the sense in the world if Matt Shaughnessy leaves as a free agent.
— In the most surprising post, for Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, 57th on the list, the Cards are called the best fit. I get it with the possibility free agent Rashard Mendenhall might not return. But the way Bruce Arians and Steve Keim think about running backs, and with Ryan Williams and Stepfan Taylor still around along with Andre Ellington (and we aren’t even talking about someone popping up draft-wise) I don’t see the Cards even thinking about a guy like MJD. Or more specifically, his price tag.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Anthony Collins, Branden Albert, Daryl Washington, Eugene Monroe, free agency, Karlos Dansby, Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Neal, offensive line, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor
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