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The race at running back

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2015 – 9:30 am

So now Chris Johnson joins the Cardinals and the team did not get rid of a running back as he walked in the door. It’s a crowded backfield. For the record, the Cards now have Andre Ellington, two Johnsons — David and Chris — Kerwynn Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Marion Grice, Robert Hughes and Paul Lasike.

Johnson — the new one — only signed a one-year contract. He becomes the latest in a line of vets who were wooed by GM Steve Keim for the chance at getting a shot on a good team to revive their contract worth. Frostee Rucker. Matt Shaughnessy. Karlos Dansby. Eric Winston. Antonio Cromartie. LaMarr Woodley. Jermaine Gresham. Even Lyle Sendlein. Johnson reportedly will only make the minimum salary too, unless he rushes for at least 1,300 yards (which a back has never reached since the team moved to Arizona.)

What does all that mean? Well, for starters, if Johnson doesn’t work out the way the Cardinals want through the rest of the preseason, he can be released without much impact on the salary cap ($400,000 is guaranteed.) More likely he’ll simply be part of the rotation. If I had to guess right now, the Cardinals will keep five running backs. Ellington will be the starter. The two Johnsons will be there. After that? I’d think there would be one between Hughes and Lasike as the “big” back — Hughes has the inside track there — and one among Taylor, Williams and Grice. Taylor is good on special teams, and Williams’ game is similar to Ellington’s and Chris Johnson’s (plus, he could go on the practice squad if necessary.)

As for the desire to pick up a veteran and supplanting a recent draft pick, this too is something Keim has already done. The Cardinals drafted inside linebacker Kevin Minter in 2013 in the second round and turned around and signed Dansby just couple weeks later, and Dansby’s play left Minter on the bench all season. Now, David Johnson may have the same thing with Chris Johnson. For Keim, it’s about what the Cardinals can do this year.

RunningBacksShot

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With Washington wait, a new #58

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2015 – 9:47 am

There is no new news on the status of Daryl Washington — I don’t know why it’s been so long, and no one I have talked to has answers, or is giving any — but there is news about his jersey No. 58. Undrafted rookie linebacker Edwin Jackson will now be wearing that number. That’s the reality of a preseason game coming up, a 90-man roster and a handful of jersey numbers already retired (and not that the Cards are necessarily moving on from Washington.)

The NFL has a rule that says two players on the same team cannot be on the field at the same time wearing the same number. This time of year, it’s not unusual for the Cards (or other teams) to give an offensive and defensive player the same number, since offense and defense wear opposite colors in practice. That doesn’t happen in a game, of course.

As of Saturday, the Cardinals had two sets of players sharing numbers. Running back Marion Grice and safety Harold Jones-Quartey each wore No. 23. Safety Brandon Person and running back Paul Lasike each were wearing No. 34. Because there was a good chance those players could end up on the field at the same time for special teams, multiple shuffles were in order.

That led to Jackson, who had been wearing 45 (and who had a big finish Saturday lighting up Lasike on a hit, pictured below), ending up with the linebacker-friendly No. 58.

The Cardinals could “unretire” one of their retired numbers, but that wasn’t going to happen. For a linebacker, the only options there were Pat Tillman’s 40 or Marshall Goldberg’s 99. (The Cards have five retired numbers: Tillman, Goldberg, 8 for Larry Wilson, 77 for Stan Maudlin and 88 for J.V. Cain. This the biggest reason why the Cardinals don’t retire numbers and instead use a Ring of Honor — NFL teams need jersey numbers.)

Once the Cardinals cut to 53, some jersey numbers inevitably will change again. That always happens. We’ll see where Jackson is at that point, and what happens with 58 then.

Jackson


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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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