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NFL descends on Arizona — again

Posted by Darren Urban on March 20, 2015 – 3:59 pm

The NFL universe came to town in late January when the Pro Bowl and then the Super Bowl were played at University of Phoenix Stadium. On a much lesser scale, it’s being repeated over the next few days. The Cardinals’ Tempe complex hosts the NFL’s Super Regional combine Saturday, which is the best of the best of five previous regional combines over the last six weeks — the players taking part are draft-eligible guys who were not invited to the main Scouting combine in Indianapolis. Sunday the facility will host the first NFL Veterans combine, which is around 100 NFL vets who are essentially working through a mass workout for all the teams.

The reason the Cards are playing host is because the teams were already going to be in town for the spring owners meetings, which go from Monday through Wednesday at the Arizona Biltmore. Among the highlights of the owners meetings will be work from the competition committee to potentially tweak/change rules, commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference Wednesday, and the coaches’ breakfasts on Tuesday (AFC) and Wednesday (NFC) when each coach talks for an hour in an informal setting.

We’ll have coverage of the Vet combine and the meetings, including whatever Bruce Arians might have to say Wednesday.

— Finally, a quick congrats to my cohort, Kyle Odegard, who is getting married to Kelsey Perry Saturday and will not be covering any of these events. I’m on my own for the week.


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Ellington’s no wideout, but 10 catches?

Posted by Darren Urban on March 26, 2014 – 12:17 pm

About five weeks into the season last year, Carson Palmer approached coach Bruce Arians to talk about rookie running back Andre Ellington.

“Let’s make him a wideout,” Palmer said.

“No,” Arians responded. “We can use him as a wideout as a running back.”

Arians recounted the conversation Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. Ellington’s receiving skills are not only well-known but have been discussed quite a bit, by Arians, Palmer and Ellington. “We are going to have a lot of fun this spring because his skill set is so unique,” Arians said. Once again, Arians talked about the Ellington workload and the fine line between riding the running back and not subjecting him to too much punishment.

“He is still not a guy who you will pound up the middle 30 times a game and survive,” Arians said. “He can run the football 30 times a game if you do it correctly, but you’d rather have him have 10 catches and 20 carries and let Stepfan Taylor or (Jonathan) Dwyer have the rest of the carries pound the rest of the ball up in there.”

(Noteworthy that Arians didn’t mention Ryan Williams as a possibility? Perhaps.)

Arians said the mismatches offensive coordinators find these days with tight ends used to be the ones for running backs, naming old-school guys like Ronnie Harmon and Todd McNair. “It will be fun with Andre, see how people play him,” Arians said.

One other Ellington note: Arians said the staff has to be careful with how much of the offense is actually built around the back. “You’ve got to watch that you don’t create too much stuff and then he sprains an ankle and you don’t have any offense because you put too much in one basket,” Arians said. “You still have to have your cinch-it-up, grind-it-out football.”

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Arians: “No reason” Cards can’t have home Super Bowl

Posted by Darren Urban on March 26, 2014 – 9:07 am

The subject is not taboo in Tempe, that’s for certain. Super Bowl XLIX, coming early next year after the 2014 season, will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium, and the Cardinals — after 10 wins last season and improvement — have mentioned the possibility of playing in the game. Just last week, when cornerback Antonio Cromartie was signed and team president Michael Bidwill appeared with Cromartie at his press conference, both alluded to the idea.

“You look for a team that has been a big-time contending team that is coming up for a Super Bowl,” Cromartie said. “A chance to play a Super Bowl in your own stadium would speak volumes.”

But coach Bruce Arians had the ear of the national media Wednesday morning at the NFL owners meetings, and not only did he address the idea, he emphasized his belief in his team making such a run.

“I ain’t afraid of it,” Arians said. “We played well at the end of the season. If we can do that early, the confidence of the core of the team is back. Our leadership is back. We are talented enough. Talent is not the issue. I told them that last year but they didn’t believe me until it was too late. There is no reason we can’t be the first team to play a home Super Bowl. Absolutely no reason.”

Arians has never shied away from being confident, in both himself and his players. He sets the bar high.

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On comp picks and TD “dunks”

Posted by Darren Urban on March 25, 2014 – 11:03 am

A few things as the owners meetings continue in Florida and things around the Cardinals’ Tempe complex have slowed down considerably:

— The Cardinals, as expected, did not receive a compensatory draft pick, meaning they still have six selections in May’s draft (the seventh round pick went to Oakland in the Carson Palmer trade.) The first three picks are No. 20, No. 52 and No. 84 overall. It is not surprising the Cards didn’t get any comp picks.

A quick review: Teams get comp picks based on a formula that starts with the free agents signed and free agents lost from the previous offseason. Included in the NFL’s secret formula are the size of the contracts signed by those players and various honors they earn that season. So the comp picks for the 2014 draft are based on the 2013 offseason, and so forth. If you come out “negatively” in the formula and seem to have lost more than you gained in free agency, you get as many as four extra comp picks. Those picks can come at the end of the third round at the earliest and cannot be traded.

Looking ahead, there will be a chance the Cards could come up with a comp pick next year. It’ll depend on the rest of the offseason and what all these players do. Something to keep in mind: Only true free agents — those whose contracts expired — count in the formula. That means the Cards’ signings of tight end John Carlson and cornerback Antonio Cromartie will not hurt them because those players were free because they were released, not because their contracts ran out. On the flip side, if Daryn Colledge signs somewhere, he won’t help the cause.

So for those scoring at home, the Cards (in comp pick math) have added Jared Veldheer, Ted Ginn, Ted Larsen and Jonathan Dwyer. They have lost Karlos Dansby, Andre Roberts, Javier Arenas, Antoine Cason and Jim Dray. Veldheer signed a pricey contract, but so did Dansby and Roberts. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

— The NFL will be tweaking a few rules. The biggest one is outlawing the dunk of the football on the goalpost. There’s been a lot of blowback on this, but truthfully, as soon as Jimmy Graham bent the crossbar last season and delayed a game while it was fixed, you knew it was a matter of time before the NFL said no more.

Also coming is the ability for a central replay booth based in New York to begin video replays before a referee even gets under the hood, hopefully to speed up the process and to let the official know for what exactly to be looking. The referee on-site will still make the final call.

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Center of NFL universe comes to Phoenix

Posted by Darren Urban on March 18, 2013 – 9:22 am

The NFL owners meetings are underway at the Arizona Biltmore for the next few days, with the power brokers of the league coming together to talk about various topics and the league’s media stalking them on sidewalks and lobbies. From a Cardinals’ perspective, the last three owners meetings to come to town have coincided with two coach hires (Arians this year, Whisenhunt in 2007) and the splashy Emmitt Smith signing in 2003.

Comissioner Roger Goodell will have a press conference today, but we’ll see if there is more local news beyond that. I know the question keeps coming up — over and over — about Josh Cribbs, and there is again another report out of Cleveland today that Cribbs and the Cardinals are talking. To have it termed that he will “possibly” sign does leave the door wide open for nothing to go down. I don’t see the Cards taking on Cribbs unless it was totally on their terms. They don’t need a receiver per se, although I am sure they could fit Cribbs in in a role similar to LaRod Stephens-Howling if they wanted. At this point, when it’s done — if it’s done — is when it’s done.

And for those who still wonder, Rey Maualuga re-signed with the Bengals today. His door closed in Arizona once they signed Jasper Brinkley.


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