In the brief time Steve Wilks has been head coach of the Cardinals, he does not come across as someone prone to hyperbole. So when he praises 2016 first-round draft pick Robert Nkemdiche after Nkemdiche’s first two underwhelming NFL seasons, it’s easy to take note.
“Robert is a very intriguing guy,” Wilks said of the defensive tackle. “I constantly talk to Robert all week about tempo … (because) I really have to slow Robert down. We don’t have on pads. And that’s a great thing. That’s a real good thing. You want to be able to slow guys down, not tell them to pick it up. Robert is going to be tremendous for us this year. He’s locked in, he’s focused, he came back in shape, he’s ready to go.”
Nkemdiche needs to do more on the field. He has acknowledged that. But all last season, his work ethic and practice habits earned him praise from coaches. Now he’s getting more from a new staff. He just needs to translate it to the football field. At this point, his draft status doesn’t mean much — one-time undrafted DT Olsen Pierre, who had a very nice breakout season last year, was more effective than Nkemdiche — but he still has a ton of tools.
He’s also now playing for a coach who is known for getting different personalities to play well (right, Josh Norman?) and for honing in on developing players. A big step forward by Nkemdiche would be an awesome way for Wilks to immediately put that player-development stamp on his new team.
“He said, ‘Coach, I’m committed to excellence this year,’ ” Wilks said. “So far, he’s been a plus on the football field. I’m excited about him.”
Tags: Josh Norman, Olsen Pierre, Robert Nkemdiche, Steve Wilks
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It was hard to disagree with Larry Fitzgerald Thursday night when he said it felt like every time he turned around, trainers were running on to the field. I don’t know if football on a short week had anything to do with some of the injuries – when a large man rolls up on your leg during a play, that’s not day-of-the-week-related – but nonetheless, when you are talking about looking forward, that’s where you start.
A loss is a loss and it took a late touchdown to get a six-point deficit, but mostly, the Cards felt they put themselves in a position where they could have beaten the Seahawks. They didn’t, they are in a bad place in terms of chasing a playoff spot with seven games to go, and part of the reason it’s a bad place is because the injuries are headed to insurmountable.
If D.J. Humphries is done with an ACL injury, it’s a killer. A big reason the Cards’ offensive line had so many problems earlier in the year was because their left tackle was hurt. He had truly taken a step forward, and now his 2017 season sounds like it could be over after just five games. As good as Tyvon Branch has been this season, that is a little different, because Budda Baker is there and he’ll get a chance to have some defensive snaps.
Meanwhile, John Wetzel will go back into the lineup. I don’t expect Jared Veldheer to flip sides, but we’ll see. And the Cardinals will have to make it work.
— Adrian Peterson got his carries. He just couldn’t get any yards. But the Cardinals stuck with it.
— It wasn’t a good game for Peterson with the fumble on the first play and the safety. But the Cardinals’ punt return team can’t put the offense on its own 2 against the Seattle defense, with Kerwynn Williams fielding a ball inside his own 5 and then Justin Bethel getting a second holding call.
— Also, for those complaining about the Peterson run on the safety with the loaded box, I’ll respectfully disagree. If Stanton had thrown on first down and there was a holding call in the end zone or he was sacked, the village folk would’ve come after Arians with the torches and pitchforks. I’m OK with a run. Just has to be executed much better.
— I understand Antoine Bethea might’ve played the Baldwin 54-yard catch differently, especially when it was second-and-a-mile. I get that. But don’t talk to me about Russell Wilson being lucky. When he’s done it dozens – he’s probably up to the hundreds at this point – of times, it’s not luck anymore. The guy is both amazing and frustrating. Knowing he’ll be a roadblock to the Cards for years makes him feel like Jordan with the Bulls and the Cards are those Cavaliers from back in the day.
— Drew Stanton made some bad throws. But I felt like his pass catchers let him down more than he had errant throws. (*Waits for everyone to say how Blaine Gabbert needs to start*)
— Fitz was solid. Another 100-yard game, and it might’ve been the quietest 100-yard game of Fitz’s career.
— The Seahawks had 12 penalties, and they were already leading the league with more than 10 a game. Six of them gave the Cardinals first downs.
— Chandler Jones gets another sack, his 10th. Of course, I’m sure he wishes he had gotten his 11th on that second-and-21.
— Defensive lineman Olsen Pierre had an excellent game. And cornerback Tramon Williams continues to show he has something left.
— OK, that’s enough for tonight. The mini-bye awaits, and the Deshaun Watson-less Texans, in Houston, are next. Time to regroup. Again.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Blaine Gabbert, Budda Baker, Chandler Jones, D.J. Humphries, Drew Stanton, John Wetzel, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Olsen Pierre, Seahawks, Tramon Williams, Tyvon Branch
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That Drew Stanton hard count. Those of us who were at training camp practice every day saw it … well, just about every day. There it was, with the Cardinals 21 yards from the end zone, and he barked and the Falcons jumped. He had done it earlier, but guard John Wetzel flinched too. (Bruce Arians let him know: “I already got Wetzel – he don’t have much ass left.”)
But this time, just the Falcons moved and it gave Stanton a free play, and he lobbed a 21-yarder to Smokey Brown that Brown somehow came down with over-the-shoulder.
“We went back to (the hard count) and they kept jumping,” Stanton said.
Those two TD passes to Brown, along with a defense that made Matt Ryan look miserable (preseason, yes, but an 8.1 passer rating is not what the Falcons wanted to see in the third game of the preseason) made Saturday pretty good for the Cardinals. Not great. But good. Much better than this time last year. The starters and main guys are done now. They won’t play Thursday in Denver. Anyone playing this coming game is either not going to be on the team or is likely fighting (a few locks will play – they have to – but the last preseason game is what it is, especially with 90-man rosters).
That opening trip to Detroit, when things count for real, is only two weeks away.
— The running backs situation is interesting. Arians would not say Chris Johnson has locked up a roster spot, notable after Johnson fumbled twice. Elijhaa Penny also lost a fumble. Kerwynn Williams is making this team as a return man, but beyond he and David Johnson, it feels like Penny, Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington are battling for two spots.
— DT Olsen Pierre is in concussion protocol. Hopefully he’s OK. If he’s down for any time, depending on what happens with Robert Nkemdiche’s calf strain, things could get dicey on the defensive line.
— Stanton quietly had a nice night, completing 4-of-6 passes for 53 yards and his score.
— Linebacker Cap Capi probably isn’t making this team (although Jarvis Jones’ lingering back issue might create a need for a fourth OLB; that guy could still come from final cuts or a trade too). But Capi was impressive Saturday, enough to earn props from Arians. He had seven tackles, 1½ sacks and a tackle for loss.
— The playmakers on defense made plays. Markus Golden gets a strip sack. Tyrann Mathieu a pick on a tipped pass by Karlos Dansby. Patrick Peterson should’ve had a pick, but he lost it as he was going to the ground. “He’s getting fined for his drop,” Arians deadpanned.
— Matt Wile seemed to have a much better night than Richie Leone punting, although the numbers weren’t all that different. Right now, I’d guess Wile has the lead for a roster spot.
— Huge comeback night for Brown. He spiked the ball on the pylon after his first score. “It was an emotional release to show people that I’m back and feeling good.” Brown said. Brown has to stay healthy. That’s a given. But the Cardinals need him out there and productive. His impact is obvious. We saw it Saturday.
— Arians acknowledged he considered not playing running back David Johnson Saturday until changing his mind, in large part because Johnson was part of the early script. Johnson made his lone catch of the preseason on the game’s second play, resulting in a first down. He came out after that.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Cap Capi, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Drew Stanton, Elijhaa Penny, Falcons, Jarvis Jones, John Brown, Karlos Dansby, Kerwynn Williams, Markus Golden, Matt Wile, Olsen Pierre, Patrick Peterson, Richie Leone, Robert Nkemdiche, Tyrann Mathieu
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Finally, some starters.
It could be quick for either of the units against the Raiders. As in years past, if the Cardinals carve up Oakland for an 80-yard touchdown drive on the first possession, or the defense forces a couple of quick punts, I could see Bruce Arians sitting down his main guys. To me, this game is important for the offense and the collective confidence. Carson Palmer sat out Wednesday and Thursday practices, so I’m curious to see how that comes together – especially since the receiving crew, beyond Fitz, has been up and down and injured in camp thus far.
Defensively, it sure seems the confidence is there. Robert Nkemdiche is breaking out. Tyrann Mathieu is full-fledged Honey Badger-y. And Palmer and Bruce Arians believe this has been Patrick Peterson’s best camp yet.
Peterson, as usual, is thinking big.
“If you want to be remembered somewhere where you can be forever – which is Canton – those are the things I can control, make sure to continue building up my résumé,” Peterson said (pictured here with Cardinals Hall of Fame cornerback Aeneas Williams).
Some other things to think about before the Cards get to a second preseason game, and the Raiders play their first:
— The players in particular I want to watch in the game, even if it is for limited time: CB Justin Bethel, LB Haason Reddick, DT Olsen Pierre, G Evan Boehm, RT Jared Veldheer, WR Jaron Brown and all three QBs: Palmer, Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert.
Some played last week, some did not. Veldheer still hasn’t played right tackle in a game. Seeing Bethel under the lights is important. I want to see how Gabbert follows up with his impressive debut and how Stanton responds to all the Gabbert discussion.
— Arians again praised Stanton all week. I also thought it was interesting to hear Arians speak about Stanton and his hits and misses in practice:
“There has been an interception or two, some are not his fault,” Arians said. “Sometimes when you are running with those twos and threes, guys aren’t where they are supposed to be and you try to force one. I do like that, see if you can get it in that window and see if you can or can’t. No big deal if you throw a pick.”
Dunno if that applies to preseason games as well.
— Punter is something to watch as well. Arians said he wanted to see more from either Matt Wile or Richie Leone (preferably both, but one is enough). I’d guess they will split the punts again. If you can’t punt well at University of Phoenix Stadium – where this and next week’s games are – that’s a red flag.
— We’ll get to see Kerwynn Williams get run as a return man. We know Williams can return kicks OK. How he will do on punts – and whether he could manage that job with T.J. Logan out – is what is in the spotlight.
— Two weeks of training camp left at the stadium. As of now, seven practices are scheduled to be open to the public: Monday through Thursday next week, and Monday through Wednesday the week after.
— Finally, for those who are looking for my constant in-game tweeting, that will drop off quite a bit in the preseason. For the next four games, with Paul Calvisi in the radio booth doing play-by-play, I will be on the sideline as the reporter for the radio broadcasts on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. (And for those who don’t like my constant in-game tweeting, you win!)
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Evan Boehm, Haason Reddick, Jared Veldheer, Jaron Brown, Justin Bethel, Kerwynn Williams, Matt Wile, Olsen Pierre, Patrick Peterson, Raiders, Richie Leone, Robert Nkemdiche, Tyrann Mathieu
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Robert Nkemdiche may not officially be a starter on the depth chart, but the way the Cardinals’ defensive line rotation is going to work, he’ll likely work as much as those on the field first. Coach Bruce Arians said he will likely dress six defensive linemen on game days this season, and it’ll be a rotation — probably moreso than when Pro Bowler Calais Campbell was there to eat up a lot of snaps. Nkemdiche, who has had a very good camp, is showing he should be near the front of the line.
“He’s playing with the ones a lot now,” Arians said Thursday.
Nkemdiche got a chance to take a rep against first-team guard Evan Boehm in one-on-ones Wednesday, and bested Boehm. Nkemdiche remains modest in how he talks about where he is as a player, but the head-down-full-speed approach has been working.
— Arians likes the improvement from all along the defensive line. One guy that seems to be an underrated lock to be in the rotation is Olsen Pierre, whom Arians continues to compliment.
— Two receivers, Chad Williams (shin splints) and John Brown (quad) are questionable to play Saturday. T D.J. Humphries (hamstring) is also a game-day decision, although Arians said if there is any question Saturday, he’ll sit.
— Arians said he’s looking for the wide receivers to get much better. “That’s the group that really needs to pick it up,” he said. Injuries have slowed the unit, but Arians had said Williams in particular had been disappointing before he was sidelined.
— Finally, a dose of Ironhead. Undrafted rookie safety Ironhead Gallon, besides having the best name on the team, had been impressing Arians. At least up until he hurt his knee in practice.
“He’s bright and tough,” Arians said. “He’s one-legged right now. He is finding a niche for himself.”
Arians said he actually coached the man Gallon is nicknamed after, one-time running back Ironhead Heyward. “It’s a lot smaller Ironhead,” Arians deadpanned.
Tags: Chad Williams, Ironhead Gallon, John Brown, Olsen Pierre, Robert Nkemdiche
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It didn’t take much to see what rookie running back T.J. Logan could do in the return game in the preseason opener. Every one saw it. It was a bummer for all when Logan dislocated a wrist, which will force surgery.
“I feel like I jinxed us because about halfway through the game I leaned over to (team president) Michael Bidwill and said, ‘We finally have our punt and kick returner,’ ” General Manager Steve Keim said during an appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “Because the things he showed, his fearless approach to catching the football in traffic, his footspeed, his acceleration, the burst you saw, gave me the feel he could be very explosive in the return game.”
Coach Bruce Arians said the hope is that Logan returns by midseason. But that isn’t just based on Logan’s recovery. It’s also based on other injuries. Logan is headed for injured reserve, and it’ll depend on circumstances for his return, Keim said.
“It’s hard to forecast injuries and how they heal,” Keim said. “There’s a chance potentially to get that thing to heal and get him back at some point in the season. Whether we do or don’t will be determined on some of the other injuries we incur. Hopefully we won’t have many.”
A new NFL rule says teams can bring two players — not just one — back from IR after eight weeks. And teams don’t have to designate who those players are until a week before their return, so there is flexibility.
Among Keim’s other comments:
— He said it’s premature to be talking about Blaine Gabbert overtaking Drew Stanton for No. 2 QB. But Gabbert has shown a quick grasp of the offense, and Keim liked that he didn’t always look to run if his first read wasn’t there.
— On defense, Keim raved about second-round safety Budda Baker, and liked the play of defensive linemen Robert Nkemdiche and Olsen Pierre.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Budda Baker, Olsen Pierre, Robert Nkemdiche, Steve Keim, T.J. Logan
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The first depth chart is here, and mostly that means, dang, we are about to have a football game (and one week from Thursday, we will). This comes with all the same normal disclaimers — including the note that it was prepared by the media relations staff. Also good to note that rookies are always low when this first comes out, and indeed, in practice Budda Baker and Chad Williams, for instance, are running behind a handful of other guys. But they will be on the team, barring something unforeseen.
In fact, there aren’t any real surprises. Chris Johnson and Kerwynn Williams are listed as “co” No. 2 running backs, and that’s a good sign for Williams (although I expect CJ2K to have the job when it’s all said and done.) Olsen Pierre is ahead of Xavier Williams on the defensive line. The injuries of Elie Bouka and Jumel Rolle look like they’ve hurt their depth chart standing. And even though Harlan Miller is listed among the safeties, he’s done most of his work thus far at cornerback.
Tags: Budda Baker, Chad Williams, Chris Johnson, depth chart, Kerwynn Williams, Olsen Pierre
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The Cardinals have gotten down to the 53-man roster. Surprises? Perhaps a couple, although the way the wind was blowing over the last few days of the preseason, maybe not so much. Once we got to the end of the fourth preseason game, it was looking good for undrafted ILB Lamar Louis, and the knee injury of Kareem Martin might have helped ILB Gabe Martin on to the final roster (as well as his pick-6), although Martin has caught their collective eye for a while. I think cornerback Cariel Brooks had a good chance to make the team until he played so poorly against the Broncos.
The one legit surprise — in my eyes — was the Cardinals keeping Olsen Pierre, meaning there are nine defensive linemen on the final 53. Nine! That’s on a team with a 3-4 base defense that will use Chandler Jones as a defensive end in some passing situations. Then again, this could be partly for the future, not wanting to lose Pierre (and thinking he can play) when both Frostee Rucker and Calais Campbell are going into the last year of their contracts.
— The roster breakdown, right now, looks like this:
QB – 2
RB – 4
WR – 5
TE – 3
OL – 9
DL – 9
LB – 9 (counting Bucannon; sorry Deone)
CB – 4
S — 5
ST – 3
— So many wondered if Matt Barkley would stick, but as I have said many, many, many times, Drew Stanton was the No. 2 and Barkley simply didn’t show enough to pass him up. The Cardinals will have a QB on the practice squad — it could be Barkley — but it was clear listening to Bruce Arians over the time in camp he was disappointed Barkley didn’t come along faster.
— The trade for Marcus Cooper underscored the need for a veteran cornerback. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cards kept looking at that position.
— The same goes for backup tackle, although John Wetzel showed enough to stick for now.
— Only one draft pick wasn’t kept, cornerback Harlan Miller. I wouldn’t be surprised if Miller came back on the practice squad, but if you are Miller, knowing how much the Cards needed cornerbacks, you have to be disappointed you couldn’t make inroads in making the roster.
— When in doubt, teams go younger. That’s how you stay competitive.
— Teams will start making waiver claims tomorrow. There is still a (good) chance this 53 won’t be the 53 when the Cardinals return to practice Tuesday.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Drew Stanton, Frostee Rucker, Gabe Martin, Harlan Miller, John Wetzel, Lamar Louis, Marcus Cooper, Matt Barkley, Olsen Pierre, Roster
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