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Smokey on the move, and #CardsCamp notes

Posted by Darren Urban on August 12, 2015 – 8:46 am

Tangible evidence of the relationship last season between Carson Palmer and John “Smokey” Brown was seen every day after practice. The locker room at the team’s Tempe facility is generally separated into position groups — except Palmer insisted Brown’s locker be installed next to his, so his mentoring of Brown could find easier access. That’s changed. The locker room has been redone in Tempe — it’s really quite nice — but now Brown has been moved back to the wide receiver side.

“Drew (Stanton) said I’m not Hollywood anymore,” Brown said with a smile.

I think Brown would have been just fine staying where he was. That tight bond with Palmer isn’t changing anytime soon — and here’s where I point out if you haven’t had a chance to read my story about the two, please check it out: azcardinals.com/smokesignals. It’s also our first attempt at a special long-form layout.

— Palmer bounced back in a big way at Tuesday’s practice. The defense “won” Monday, and Palmer had three interceptions — one by Patrick Peterson, two by Tyrann Mathieu. It was really Palmer’s only not-good (he wasn’t bad, per se) practice, and he looked great Tuesday. The Cardinals worked on the deep ball, and he was on point all afternoon.

— One more story to see, in case you missed it: I thought Adrian Wilson had some interesting comments about Peterson. The fact Peterson weighed 203 coming into camp — after coming into the league at 219 — is pretty significant too.

Lyle Sendlein’s deal was for $1.4 million on one-year, $500,000 of that guaranteed. He reportedly was offered $1.5M non-guaranteed back when he was first released. The battle between he and A.Q. Shipley will be interesting (Ted Larsen hasn’t worked at center at all since Sendlein arrived, instead staying at guard.) I still think Sendlein ends up as the starting center when we get to the regular season, but we’ll see.

— No new news on the running back/Chris Johnson front. I could see Johnson taking his time on a decision, especially with the entire preseason still to go. I don’t know if he is concerned about money, as has been suggested, but I highly doubt the Cards are going to be upping their offer.

— Drew Butler kicked Monday in place of Chandler Catanzaro. Bruce Arians wanted to give Catanzaro a day off, but the Cards also wanted to work on extra points. If Butler made the team, it’d give the Cards a true emergency kicker. And make no mistake, as much as it seems many don’t want to hear it, Butler has a chance to beat out Dave Zastudil.

Smoke4blog


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Red-White aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2015 – 5:48 pm

There was a pretty big crowd for Saturday’s Red-White practice, to wrap up the first week of training camp. The crowd was announced at 23,750, the largest crowd the Cards have gotten on this Saturday practice — which has always been the biggest draw of camp. They got to see the first live goalline work, and a few nice throws by Carson Palmer.

It wasn’t all good. The Cards lost cornerback Jerraud Powers early in the practice and cornerback Darren Woodard later. Woodard went down with a non-contact injury, although he did walk off in a manner that maybe it was a groin or hamstring more than a knee. There won’t be any injury updates before Monday — the Cardinals get Sunday off.

As for the football, some things I noticed:

— Palmer looked sharp yet again. He found J.J. Nelson on a nice out pattern early, putting the ball in a perfect place, and Nelson may have made and even better catch. Later, Palmer hit Jaron Brown with a bomb of 45 or so yards, beating Patrick Peterson over the top. With Michael Floyd out and Larry Fitzgerald limited, Nelson and Brown getting a real chance to shine. They are doing a pretty good job of it.

— Kerwynn Williams, who had a tough practice Friday with a couple of fumbles, had a pair of tough moments again Saturday. He dropped a pass when he was wide open on third down, and that’s an area Bruce Arians said Williams needs to improve to get on the field. Later, Williams took a shot in that place that a guy would rather not get hit, and he had to come out for a few plays while he recovered.

— In the goal line drill, the defense looked stout. With the ball at the 1, the first-unit kept Williams out of the end zone on two of three plays. Ed Stinson blew up Jonathan Cooper on one play so Kevin Minter could make the tackle for loss. Williams did score going over the right side on the final play, helped by a pulling Mike Iupati. On the second unit, Paul Lasike was deemed just barely in the end zone on the first play, but he couldn’t break the goal line in the next two, Paul Lasike was stopped short in all three tries, although just short of the goal line. (On the first play, the official on my side of the field called touchdown, but watching the video it was clear he was just short, just like the official on the opposite side called.

— The defense won the “live scrimmage” of the third units to end the practice. Linebacker Edwin Jackson, whom Arians had just praised at lunchtime, slammed into Lasike for a big tackle that was probably the highlight of the practice. Then the practice ended when tight end Gerald Christian made a catch but fumbled when linebacker Alani Fua drilled Christian and the ball, and the defense recovered.

It’s been a long week. Time for a day off.

TC7FuaFFChrisianBLOG


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DBs live the scooter life — for now

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2015 – 9:15 am

When the Cardinals were in Flagstaff for training camp, Segways became popular with a few of the players so they could maneuver their way around the NAU campus. There isn’t as much walking to do now with camp at University of Phoenix Stadium and the Renaissance next door, but that didn’t stop Patrick Peterson from getting his defensive back mates (like Justin Bethel, pictured below) some hands-free scooters they are using for camp.

They are pretty cool. But it’s tough not to have an initial reaction of, well, yikes. The last thing you’d want to see is a player fall off one of those things and get hurt. Back in 2009, Antrel Rolle took a tumble on his Segway. He was OK, but it did make you hestiate seeing guys like Adrian Wilson and Larry Fitzgerald tooling around on them. Bruce Arians hasn’t banned the new toys, but there is a no-tolerance policy.

“One falls off they are all gone,” Arians said, noting a long-ago accident in a training camp where a player got hurt. “(Back then) all those brand new scooters got sold back for one-tenth of the price. The next day.”

That was in 1990, when Arians was coaching with the Kansas City Chiefs and linebacker Percy Snow — a former No. 1 pick who had a good rookie season — fell of his scooter and suffered season-ending injuries to his knee. He never was able to come all the way back, playing just four NFL seasons.

Peterson knows Arians’ concerns. All the players do.

“Everybody has been very very cautious and safe about it,” Peterson said. “We don’t have any bonehead players around here trying to put their career in jeopardy. It’s just something to keep our legs fresh. Everyone is being smart about it right now and hopefully we can keep it that way.”

ScootersBLOG


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Peterson does celebrity golf tourney again

Posted by Darren Urban on July 15, 2015 – 8:08 am

The American Century Celebrity golf tournament has been a place where the Cardinals have been well-represented over the past few years. Ken Whisenhunt was a regular there when he was head coach, and quarterback Carson Palmer has also played there (not this week though, not with ACL rehab and his time in San Diego this week working out with John Brown, Drew Stanton, Troy Niklas and Ifeanyi Momah.) Patrick Peterson has also played before, and this year, he’s officially landed in Lake Tahoe.

Clearly, Peterson has been working on his game:

Peterson was a minus-28 last year — which sounds like a good score, except that the tournament is scored with the modified Stableford system, meaning you get points for good holes. Former NFL QB Mark Rypien won the tourney last year at Plus-76.

PPgolfblog


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Peterson makes top 20 in NFL 100

Posted by Darren Urban on July 1, 2015 – 6:11 pm

There has been — and probably will continue to be — much debate about Patrick Peterson and where he stands among NFL cornerbacks after his 2014 season. As has been well-documented, he learned he had diabetes and he had much more of an up-and-down season than anyone would have liked. Bruce Arians talked about how Peterson’s weight is in a better place, and Peterson looked sharp during offseason work.

“I didn’t like the way I played last year so I wanted to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Peterson said at the end of minicamp. “I feel like 2011 Patrick. I feel rejuvenated.”

Even with uneven play in 2014, he was still voted to the Pro Bowl, in part because of the respect he has from his peers. Along those lines, Peterson again was voted — through a player tally — into the NFL Network’s Top 1oo players list this year. Peterson was unveiled as the No. 19 player Wednesday night, which was actually a jump of three places from his spot at 22 last season. It puts him ahead of both Seattle safety Earl Thomas (who was No. 21) and Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden (No. 23), which I’m sure in both cases will lead to debate. Darrelle Revis was No. 17. As for Richard Sherman, he was voted at No. 11.

Peterson is the third Cardinal on this year’s list. Calais Campbell was No. 99, while Larry Fitzgerald was 68th.


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For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 18, 2015 – 3:11 pm

The end of the offseason comes with it lots of speculation and analysis. That’s par for the NFL course these days, when even the parts that don’t mean a ton get parsed and dissected. The on-field work of OTAs and minicamp is the ultimate in that regard. Once, when the CBA was different and the league was different, minicamp was about pads and training camp got a brief yet important head start (ask Ron Wolfley.) Now minicamp, other than extra time on the field, is no different from OTAs in terms of (non-)contact and what it means. Shorts are shorts, and football isn’t played in shorts.

So when I get to this point in the offseason, when I put out my best guess at the starting 11 for the Cardinals when the regular season opens Sept. 13 before I take some vacation, it comes with the caveat: So much is still to be learned in training camp. At this point last year, Jonathan Cooper was a virtual lock to start at left guard, for instance. We know how that turned out.

That said, here are my thoughts on the defense. Offense will be posted tomorrow. Something to chew on while the temperature sizzles outside and the players get down time until the very-late July report day. One point to note — the Cardinals do open against the Saints, so the actual starting lineup may actually be the nickel sub-package or something like that. For this exercise, we’re going base defense:

(UPDATE: Here is the offense.)

DE — Frostee Rucker. The Cardinals are going to rotate their defensive linemen a lot (except for maybe Calais Campbell) but the veteran Rucker should be in the game to start. He was dropped into that role in training camp last year after Darnell Dockett got hurt and had a solid season.

NT — Corey Peters. Peters isn’t built the same as departed nose tackle Dan Williams, but the Cardinals are counting on him to have a similar impact. One of the reasons Williams was allowed to leave was because he wasn’t going to play the amount of snaps needed to give him the money he could make on the open market. Peters is a little more versatile. It’ll be interesting to see where someone like undrafted rookie Xavier Williams could eventually fit into this equation.

DE — Calais Campbell. He’s the Pro Bowler of the front seven and the guy who Bruce Arians wants to lead this defense. Interesting that a couple pof times Arians has talked about Campbell finding more consistency in his high play. If Campbell gets there, the Cards’ defense will be in good shape.

OLB — LaMarr Woodley. This is a big wild card going into training camp. Lorenzo Alexander has been with the first unit alongside Alex Okafor, but I think Woodley — or someone — finds a way to supplant Alexander by the time training camp ends. Maybe it would be rookie Markus Golden who pairs with Okafor. Maybe, since it’s the Saints in the first game, DE-turned-OLB Kareem Martin gets a shot. But right now, I’ll guess Woodley.

ILB — Sean Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon has to stay healthy, but if he is, he joins Campbell and Patrick Peterson as the three absolute locks to start.

ILB — Kevin Minter. He won’t play if the Saints run three and four receivers out there constantly, but Minter will be that run stopper inside in a season that really becomes ultra-important. He sat as a rookie because of Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby. His play last season was undercut by a training camp pectoral injury he played through. He’s healthy now, and needs to show why he was a second-round pick.

OLB — Alex Okafor. Okafor has gotten plenty of praise from Arians, who thinks Okafor would have gotten double-digit sacks (he had eight) had he just been healthy for all 16 games. Okafor probably isn’t the long-term dynamic pass rusher the Cards still need, but he has shown he can pressure the quarterback, and that makes him very valuable.

CB — Patrick Peterson. For whatever the reasons might have been, Peterson did not play as well in 2014 as the Cardinals needed or how anyone expected. Time to right that wrong. Peterson looked fit and active in the offseason work, which was a good sign.

CB — Jerraud Powers. There is still a chance Justin Bethel has a great camp and passes up Powers for a starting job, but in the end I expect Powers to be the guy. Arians has said good things about him constantly, and the Cards like his smarts on the field.

SS — Deone Bucannon. For a good chunk of offseason work, it was Bucannon and Rashad Johnson on the field with the first team base defense, with Tyrann Mathieu coming off the bench. But I think Mathieu will be a guy the Cards want to have on the field at all times, and right now, I think they’d like to find a way for Bucannon to have a role at safety. Now, the Cards will want to use Johnson — the on-field coach of the secondary, if not the defense — but I think it’ll be more like the role Johnson had in 2013 once Mathieu took his starting spot.

FS — Tyrann Mathieu. Again, the Cards have depth at safety. There will be times when Bucannon plays some linebacker in sub-packages and the Cards use Mathieu, Johnson and Tony Jefferson on the field at the same time. Arians has stressed the Cards want the best 11 on the field for each particular play. But a healthy, playmaking Mathieu is going to get a lot of snaps.

DefensiveHuddleBloguse

 


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Two Cards in a different top 100

Posted by Darren Urban on June 5, 2015 – 10:00 am

While the NFL Network continues to roll out its top 100 players — Calais Campbell and Larry Fitzgerald have been named, and I am assuming Patrick Peterson will find his way in there at some point — CBS’s Pete Prisco has put out his annual top 100 list. Two Cardinals make an appearance, the two you would think: Peterson and Campbell.

On Peterson (No. 39), Prisco writes “He started slowly last year, but we later found out he was dealing with a blood sugar issue. He came on strong and continues to be one of the better corners in the league. Watch him against Dez Bryant last year. You will see.”

That’s the plan from Peterson, who said soon after his season “I know what problems need to be fixed.” It wasn’t the year he wanted, but there is still certainly big belief in Peterson not only from himself but from his coaches and the Cardinals’ front office.

On Campbell (No. 44), Prisco writes “He doesn’t pile up big sack numbers in their scheme, but the personnel men and opposing offensive coaches know all about him. He is a good run player and he does have 16 sacks the past two seasons and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl last season.”

On a defensive line that will be about rotation, Campbell will be the star. He’s the guy who needs consistency of his often high level of play. Bruce Arians has made that point and Campbell understands where his coach is coming from.

— Apropos of nothing, I wanted to give a quick congrats to two men with Cardinals ties who have been named Arizona’s best this year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. The voice of the Cardinals, Dave Pasch, was named sportscaster of the year, while my competitor (and friend) Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic was named sportswriter of the year. Can’t speak for Pasch, but I know Kent is headed to beautiful Salisbury, North Carolina, this weekend for the banquet.

Peter100

 


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Tackling some work with different coaches

Posted by Darren Urban on May 21, 2015 – 1:48 pm

During a portion of today’s OTA when position groups were working on their own, each of the three lines of defense — the defensive line, the linebackers and the defensive backs — went to work with coaches. Except the coaches were not their own. The linebackers headed over to pass rush coach Tom Pratt. The defensive backs were with linebackers coaches Bob Sanders and Larry Foote. And the defensive line was working with secondary coaches Nick Rapone and Kevin Ross.

It’s part of the “tackling circuit,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. For instance, he said the defensive backs were working with Sanders on how to come off a cut block to make a play. “It’s just to work on all that,” Peterson said. “Get different looks.” The players rotate daily.

There is only so much tackling work you can ever do at practice. Getting after a tackling dummy and/or sliding off a blocking sled to get in the right position to tackle is about the extent. Added benefit of this sequence: All the defensive coaches get time with all the different players on that side of the ball.

tacklingBlog


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Campbell debuts on top 100 list

Posted by Darren Urban on May 6, 2015 – 8:53 pm

The NFL Network’s annual top 100 players list began to be revealed tonight, and the first 10 players included a Cardinal: Defensive end Calais Campbell.

It’s the first time Campbell has made the list (last year, Daryl Washington was named, as was Larry Fitzgerald and finally, Patrick Peterson.) There is little question the last year or two Campbell had a serious argument that he should have been in when he wasn’t. As for this year, Campbell clearly has mixed feelings.

“It’s a cool list to be on but I don’t feel they really get enough people to vote on it so I don’t know how accurate it is,” Campbell said. “But it is cool interacting with the fans and putting it on NFL Network and everyone likes to watch it. I just wish they did a better job getting more votes. Still it’s cool to be on the list and even if you are not it’s cool to watch it and see the other guys and see what people think of other players.”

It’s hard to argue the point about accuracy — as good as Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri is, can he really be considered better than Campbell? (Campbell was 99th on the list, Vinatieri is 98th.)


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Peterson makes his move for Madden cover

Posted by Darren Urban on May 5, 2015 – 9:06 am

Patrick Peterson is one of four finalists for the cover of Madden ’16, and the window for voting is a small one. It’s also not a straight vote; it includes signing on to Madden NFL Mobile (all the details can be found here.) Peterson joins Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown as the four candidates.

The Cardinals have had one Madden cover boy previously — Larry Fitzgerald shared the honor with Steelers safety Troy Polamalu on Madden ’10.

PPcover


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