Robert Nkemdiche did his whirlwind introduction at the Cardinals’ facility today. The No. 1 pick came in just for the press conference, flying back home to Los Angeles in the afternoon. He’ll return later next week with the rest of the rookies for rookie minicamp. Until then, here are some thoughts and quotes about the defensive tackle:
— Last year’s No. 1 pick D.J. Humphries came in and was almost immediately believed to be a guy who would sit and watch as a rookie. The same is definitely not the case with Nkemdiche.
“I expect Robert to come in here and be the best D-lineman we got,” defensive line coach Brentson Buckner said. “I don’t want him to come here and think he’s being redshirted.”
— That doesn’t mean he will be the best lineman, only that Buckner is expecting an effort to get there. And he’s expecting the other defensive linemen to respond in kind to fight for that playing time. “There’s no sleeping on your laurels, now,” Buckner said.
— Asked about Nkemdiche’s reputation of taking some plays off, Buckner said he didn’t see it as an obvious issue. “You show me any player in the country, especially d-linemen, that plays every snap full speed, I’ll give you a million dollars,” Buckner said, noting that the best college d-linemen are usually playing the whole game. “It depends on what your eyes see. … In the NFL you’re not going to play 90 plays. With our (roster), he’ll play 30 plays. You take that energy and condense it to 30 plays, you tell me who wouldn’t want that type of player?”
— Nkemdiche was asked when he might start shopping for that pet panther he has said he wanted to get.“I haven’t had any time to think through it yet,” he said, although that was cut off by both Bruce Arians (“Game 8”) and Michael Bidwill (“In Charlotte”) chiming in from the side of the room.
— The Cardinals understand Nkemdiche’s December incident raises questions. They aren’t shy of saying they all believe it was a one-time mistake, nor are they afraid to inject a little humor.
“I made a kind of joke about it, you get a guy who falls out of a second-story building and walks away from it, that’s my kind of guy,” Buckner said. “Because he’s not afraid of a double-team anymore, know what I mean?”
Buckner added he’s watched Nkemdiche since high school and has never heard any coaches speak poorly of him.
— When Nkemdiche first arrived at the facility Friday, after an early morning flight from Chicago, he got in, said hello to a handful of players in the building (Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu included) and then, out of nowhere, asked if it was OK if he got a workout in before his press conference. That wasn’t a good idea, he was told, since, you know, he hasn’t signed any contract or waiver or anything yet. He seemed a tad disappointed.
— He looks like he will fit in well in the locker room. He greeted everyone — from Peterson to Chris Johnson to former practice squad tackle Rob Crisp — like he had long been teammates with them already.
— He’s been compared a bit to Darnell Dockett and he will wear Dockett’s former No. 90 (which spent last season with Cory Redding). And if you look at Nkemdiche, he looks a little like Dockett, especially with his profile.
Tags: Brentson Buckner, Patrick Peterson, Robert Nkemdiche
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As if the Eagles-Browns trade wasn’t big enough news for the NFL Wednesday, this afternoon the Panthers in a stunning move rescinded the franchise tag from all-pro cornerback Josh Norman. Norman is now free to sign anywhere, and while in theory that includes back with the Panthers, it’s hard to see a scenario where that happens.
Norman had not signed his tender offer — worth nearly $14 million — and was in a position where he and Carolina had until July 15 to sign a long-term deal. Reportedly, Norman, 28, was looking for around $16M a year. Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said today it had become clear to him the team and Norman would never reach a long-term contract. Still, it’s odd the team would just let him go. Norman might have threatened to sit out (without signing the tender, he wasn’t obligated to show up, even to training camp) but he wouldn’t be the first, and he just said last month he was willing to play under the tag this season.
How does this impact the Cardinals? Not directly. Norman is a free agent, but the Cards a) only have about $6.5 million of cap space, b) are already paying a cornerback a ton of money (Patrick Peterson)and c) are on deck to pay another secondary member (Tyrann Mathieu) a lot of money. Norman isn’t coming here. But the Cardinals do visit the Panthers in 2016, so no Norman figures to help the Cards’ deep receiving corps.
That doesn’t mean the Cardinals won’t see Norman. Both the 49ers and Rams had been trying to sign premier cornerbacks in free agency, and the 49ers especially ($52 million in cap space) would seem to have the resources to give Norman what he wants.
Tags: 49ers, free agency, Josh Norman, Panthers, Patrick Peterson, Rams, Tyrann Mathieu
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Earlier this month, Justin Bethel was at his former high school in South Carolina, giving them a $100,000 check as a way to give back. He did so while on crutches, telling reporters it was a foot injury but that he would be back for training camp. So it wasn’t a surprise when Bethel was one of the few who has yet to be at the voluntary work that began this week. Another guy who is sidelined, according to Kent Somers, is Patrick Peterson, who also had surgery (ankle) and is hopeful to be back for some of the organized team activities later in the offseason. (Peterson later tweeted out the news.)
Neither situation is expected to sideline them for training camp. But it does emphasize the need for cornerbacks, at least in the short term. Right now, if you include Tyrann Mathieu’s slot work, the Cardinals won’t have their top four cornerbacks from last season for at least some of the offseason on-field work: Peterson, Bethel, Mathieu and free agent Jerraud Powers. (Powers, unsigned, still could return, although at this point nothing is expected to happen before the draft.)
The other cornerbacks on the roster: Cariel Brooks (whom the coaches like), Carrington Byndom, Asa Jackson, Shaun Prater, Kevin White and former Australian Rules Football player Joel Wilkinson.
Tags: Asa Jackson, Cariel Brooks, Carrington Byndom, Jerraud Powers, Joel Wilkinson, Justin Bethel, Kevin White, Patrick Peterson, Shaun Prater, Tyrann Mathieu
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NFL.com and the NFL Network compiled a ranking of the top 20 games of the 2015 season, and the Cardinals were part of the game picked as the best.
It probably shouldn’t be surprising that the Divisional playoff game between the Cards and Packers earned the top spot, although it took the Cards allowing an emotionally crushing Hail Mary to get there. It was played less than three months ago, so it’s not hard to remember the highlights, like Michael Floyd’s rebound TD catch, the Aaron Rodgers miracle and, of course, Larry being Larry. (I have to admit thought I had forgotten about Patrick Peterson’s 100-yard interception return that would have been legendary itself had it not been called back because of a hands-to-the-face penalty). A truly classic game with many twists and a heckuva ending.
The Cardinals actually appear on the top 20 list two other times. Their 24-22 home loss to the Rams, when Todd Gurley broke out for the first time, was No. 20. The Cards’ big win in Seattle, capped by Andre Ellington’s TD run, was picked as No. 12.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, NFL Network, Packers, Patrick Peterson, Rams, Seahawks, Todd Gurley
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With free agent Jerraud Powers visiting the Giants last week (and the increasing reality that he is likely to move on), it underscores the shift at cornerback the Cardinals are going through this offseason. Drafting a cornerback at some point seems inevitable, although you never know how the draft will fall. As it stands, Justin Bethel — he of the 2015 contract extension — is in line to start across from all-pro Patrick Peterson. Tyrann Mathieu, once he returns to health, is a candidate to play the slot if needed too, especially since the Cardinals have Tyvon Branch and Tony Jefferson — assuming he signs his tender — at safety.
(Powers tweeted he isn’t in a rush while looking for the right situation.)
Beyond Peterson and Bethel, the cornerbacks on the roster include a couple with some experience (Asa Jackson, Shawn Prater), a couple who were on the practice squad last season (Cariel Brooks, Kevin White and Carrington Byndom), and one giant unknown in Aussie Joel Wilkinson. Not exactly the depth the Cards would like, which is why they visited with veteran free agent Leon Hall — who remains unsigned — earlier this month.
There could be a good cornerback sitting there at 29th overall and that will be tempting as a draft pick. And even if the roster stays status quo through the draft, finding another vet at some point before training camp wouldn’t be a surprise. We’ll see how the market plays out.
Tags: Asa Jackson, Cariel Brooks, Carrington Byndom, Jerraud Powers, Joel Wilkinson, Kevin White, Leon Hall, Patrick Peterson, Shawn Prater, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu, Tyvon Branch
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The NFL Players Association announced today that the 2016 salary cap will be $155.27 million, about a $12 million jump from 2015. It’s a sizable number. With the slightly more than $3 million the Cardinals carried over from their leftover 2015 cap, General Manager Steve Keim will have a salary cap of about $158 million with which to work this season.
With that number, both overthecap.com and spotrac.com estimate the Cards will have between $19M and $20M of cap space going into free agency. The Cardinals have seven players that are scheduled to have cap hits of at least $5 million in 2016:
— QB Carson Palmer $17.88M
— WR Larry Fitzgerald $15.85M
— DT Calais Campbell $15.25M
— CB Patrick Peterson $13.07M
— T Jared Veldheer $9M
— WR Michael Floyd $7.32M
— G Mike Iupati $5.7M
Of those players, it makes the most sense to adjust the numbers of Campbell and Floyd through extensions. Otherwise, Keim and the front office have already figured out their plan for free agency through these numbers. There will be teams with tons of cap room, in order to overpay a player if they chose. The Cards will do what they do — target free agents at a certain price, and if they can’t convince them to sign, then move on. The “legal tampering” part of free agency begins in a week. Actual agreements cannot begin until March 9, a week from Wednesday.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, free agency, Jared Veldheer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Patrick Peterson, salary cap
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Just two weeks ago, Steve Keim was emphasizing the need to improve the Cardinals’ pass rush. This is no state secret, or hard to analyze. After watching what the Broncos did to the Panthers in the Super Bowl — and what the Cardinals could not do to Cam Newton in the NFC Championship game — that plan of action couldn’t have been made any more crystal clear.
It changes the game to be able to pressure off the edge consistently. It makes a difference in the biggest games. After the 2007 season, the Patriots, with their 18-0 record and a passing game that scored more than 50 times by itself, stalled in the Super Bowl. The Giants’ defense wasn’t even that powerful overall, necessarily — but it had a front four that could get to the quarterback (and depth up front), that made life hellish for Tom Brady and brought down the undefeated season with a crash.
This has been a constant topic around the Cardinals in recent years. Even looking back at the 2011 draft, when the Cardinals picked future All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson with the No. 5 overall choice, the team was eyeing Super Bowl 50 star Von Miller had he dropped that far (although it became clear in the days leading up to the draft he would not.) You can scheme all you want and blitz more than any other team — which the Cards have done the last couple of years — but blitzing is a risk that can burn a club. And the Cards didn’t always provide the pressure even when they did blitz. The pass rush doesn’t guarantee a title (ask the Panthers, who harassed Peyton Manning pretty well themselves) but it’s an uphill climb without it.
Tags: Broncos, Panthers, Patrick Peterson, Steve Keim, Super Bowl, Von Miller
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Patrick Peterson was an All-Pro this season and is one of the cornerstones of the Cardinals’ franchise. How about the idea that he nearly wasn’t a Cardinal? That’s what former Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner claimed during a conversation on ESPN the other day.
In July, after the lockout was finally settled that year, the Cardinals traded cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round pick for quarterback Kevin Kolb. Banner said if it hadn’t been for the lockout, the deal would have done before the draft and DRC would have remained a Cardinal, with the Cards instead shipping the No. 5 overall pick to Philly — which would have still been Peterson.
A lot to take in here. I’ll admit, I thought the original price for Kolb was a little steep in the first place and to think the Cards would have given up the fifth pick overall alone for Kolb is kind of mind-boggling. The 2011 draft was and has proven to be crazy deep (check out the first round by itself of all the great players, and that doesn’t include a guy like Richard Sherman in the fifth round.)
Of course, the Cardinals were scrambling in 2011 for a quarterback. Derek Anderson/Max Hall/John Skelton were not the answer, so they took a flier — an expensive flier — on Kolb. We all know how that turned out. I have to wonder if the deal really would have been those two picks for Kolb or if the Eagles were trying to push the Cards to that end game (since the lockout was never seriously close to ending until long after the draft and even the brief opening in April came a day after Peterson was picked) and the Cards never seriously would have pulled the trigger. I’ll say this: If it had ended up being the pick and that pick was Peterson and Peterson did what he has done, are we talking about that trade like we talk about the Raiders giving away Carson Palmer for a song?
Tags: Eagles, Patrick Peterson
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The Cardinals had a long season with a crushing ending, and so, with the Pro Bowl coming Sunday only a week after the team’s NFC Championship loss, perhaps it shouldn’t be very surprising that most of the team’s Pro Bowl representatives will not be going to Hawaii.
Only two of the seven Pro Bowlers — defensive tackle Calais Campbell and special teamer Justin Bethel — are going. Safety Tyrann Mathieu (replaced by the Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins) was never going to go, since he was hurt before he was even named to the team. This week, quarterback Carson Palmer (replaced by the Vikings’ Teddy Bridgewater), wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (replaced by the Colts’ T.Y. Hilton), guard Mike Iupati (replaced by the Bills’ Richie Incognito) and cornerback Patrick Peterson (replaced by the Bengals’ Pacman Jones) all bowed out.
Palmer said he wanted to give his banged-up right hand a rest. Iupati cited shoulder issues. I’m not sure what the reasons were for Fitzgerald and Peterson, although in every case, it might’ve just been a need to just get some downtime after a rough end to the season.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Iupati, Patrick Peterson, Pro Bowl, Tyrann Mathieu
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Soon, the Cardinals will know if they will play in Super Bowl 50. Not that they are looking at this game – Sunday night, NFC Championship, in Carolina – along those lines.
“You can’t get the Lombardi without winning the Halas,” Larry Fitzgerald said.
The veteran receiver knows how it works. He’s reminded of it all the time when he walks through the lobby of the team’s Tempe complex and sees the Halas Trophy from the 2008 season displayed. That trophy signifies the key to what was a marvelous two weeks back then, an ending that wasn’t derailed until the last minute. (We won’t go into that now.)
But those two weeks are a crucial point. The Super Bowl seems so far away, both in time and as a journey. Traveling to Carolina comes first – that’s Saturday morning when the Cards leave – and then a game.
I believe the Cardinals are mentally in the right place for this game. A lot can happen in the game itself. I expect a close game. And the Cardinals can try and close in on an NFC title. After that, there will be plenty of time to talk about what’s next.
— It’s hard to get past the feeling that a turnover or two will decide this. These two teams are the ones who have forced the most turnovers in the league (39 for the Panthers, 33 for the Cardinals).
— The most glaring issue on offense in the Cards’ last two games was how the offensive line/protection/blocking got off to slow starts. Something to watch for in the first quarter Sunday night. The Panthers have a helluva front seven. The Cards have to hold up.
— During the Biggest Red Rage Thursday night, cornerback Patrick Peterson said he’s actually down to 199 pounds, a far cry from the listed 219 he played at last season, and down a few from the beginning of the season. He said he could still hang with tight end Greg Olsen if needed, though.
— I’m interested to see if they indeed would put Peterson on Olsen at any point.
— Will weather be a factor? I don’t think it will, as long as the forecast doesn’t change. It might be cold – it’ll dip to near freezing during the game – but Fitzgerald was telling me a couple of weeks ago before the Seattle-Minnesota freezefest that it’s actually not bad for players. Heaters on the sidelines, in the mat the players stand on, big coats. It may be chilly when a drive starts, but that changes quickly as the plays mount.
— For the record, three coldest games (by kickoff temperature) the Cardinals have played this season: 37 degrees at Philadelphia, 45 degrees at Pittsburgh, 49 degrees at Seattle. The Panthers were 41 degrees at NY Giants, 43 degrees at home against Seattle in the playoffs, and 50 degrees home against Washington.
It is supposed to be about 37 degrees and clear at kickoff for the NFC Championship.
— Arians, asked how valid it was that players will listen to players more than they listen to coaches.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” Arians said with a smile. “If I want to get a message to Carson, I tell Drew (Stanton), you know.”
— Not only is Fitzgerald the only player (minimum three postseason games) to average 100 yards and a touchdown in his postseason career, he could go catchless Sunday and he would still average 100/1. Right now, Fitzgerald has 912 yards and 10 touchdowns in only eight postseason games.
— Fitzgerald, by the way, was fined $23,152 for his illegal crackback block against the Packers last week.
— Ring of Honor member and former safety Adrian Wilson, now working in the Cardinals’ personnel department as a scout (and famously celebrating with Fitzgerald after his touchdown last week) is the Cardinals’ honorary captain for the game Sunday.
— If you want to see the Cardinals off Saturday, there is a rally at the airport starting at 10 a.m. Click here for the details.
— Defensive tackle Calais Campbell was a rookie in 2008, when the Cardinals went to Carolina to play in the Divisional round and were viewed, as Fitzgerald put it, as “roadkill.” That was the day the defense ruined Jake Delhomme for good, and because of a turn of events, earned a chance to host the NFC Championship game against the Eagles.
Campbell was a backup fill-in then. Now, he’s a Pro Bowl star trying to lead the defense. Yet, as he considered things, he’s not sure things on a fundamental level, are much different.
“Back then you just didn’t want to mess up,” Campbell said. “You just wanted to do your job. It’s still kind of the same case. The biggest thing is just doing your job. Making it just another game of football. It is just one game. You can’t go out there and try to do too much more than your job.
“As a captain and a leader of the team, I want to make sure that I work with the younger guys. Make sure they’re focused and they’re disciplined, and they can realize that it just takes doing your job. You don’t have to do anything extra. Just do what you’ve been doing all year. Do what got us here.”
The Cardinals are 14-3 after all. Maybe Campbell once again will be able to celebrate in a drizzle on the Panthers’ home field. Maybe he and his teammates will bring home that Halas Trophy.
See you in Carolina.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Larry Fitzgerald, NFC Championship, Panthers, Patrick Peterson, playoffs
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