Thomas goes to Dolphins; No claims for Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2015 – 1:07 pm

There is no official news from the Cardinals today. Multiple outlets reported a total of 27 waiver claims after final cuts around the league, and the Cardinals don’t look like they were awarded any players. (The Cards may have claimed someone but were trumped in the waiver wire; the Cards are 24th in line for waiver claims.) So that means as of right now, the 53-man roster will remain as is, which is something of an upset.

Two players the Cardinals released were claimed. Quarterback Logan Thomas was taken by the Dolphins, while undrafted rookie safety Harold Jones-Quartey was grabbed by the Bears. That means both are on those team’s respective 53-man rosters. Thomas joins Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore with the Dolphins and will go in as the third QB. Jones-Quartey was likely going to be asked to come back to the Cards’ practice squad. Thomas’ time with the Cards was done, a point underscored when the team traded for Matt Barkley.

The same goes for QB Phillip Sims, who also went unclaimed. With Barkley, I’d be shocked if there was a fourth QB kept on the practice squad. Now, if Barkley isn’t what they wanted, could I see them releasing him later and bringing Sims back to the practice squad? Maybe. But for now, I just don’t see them keeping four QBs around.

With only two guys being claimed, it gives the Cards a lot of options for possibilities of the practice squad. For all the pre-cut fears that I was hearing from the fan base, guys like WR Jaxon Shipley, LB Gabe Martin, CB Cariel Brooks and even RB Kerwynn Williams are still out there and no one wanted them for the 53-man roster. I would not be surprised to see all four on the practice squad. We’ll see. I don’t expect the Cards to name their practice squad until Monday.


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Broncos/CJ and Spoon aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2015 – 10:52 pm

Sean Weatherspoon as he noted the exact date when he had last played in an NFL game: Dec. 22, 2013. It took him a little longer to get back out there than he wanted – and the same goes for Chris Johnson – but there they were Thursday night. They didn’t play like superstars but they both played well, and that’s exactly what the Cardinals needed to see after aborted training camps for both.

Everyone can bag on preseason games if they want, but the two vets were exhibits 1 and 1A of why they are always a necessity for someone. Said Johnson, who hadn’t played in a game since last season and only had a handful of practices with the Cardinals with a bad hamstring, “I don’t think I needed to start the season not getting reps because I did it one time before and I just didn’t feel right the first game.”

Better yet, Bruce Arians said he expects both Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas to return to practice this week, so the feeling is that the Cardinals should have more tight ends available than just Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah. If Gresham does indeed return, it’ll turn out that those three vets signed on one-year deals – including Weatherspoon and Johnson – should be available for the opener against the Saints. And that’s what the Cardinals want to hear.

— Both Johnson and Weatherspoon said they need to work on their conditioning. “I’m just thankful to be part of the team and get a chance to go out there,” Weatherspoon said. “It’s good to make some hits, takes some hits.”

— Chandler Catanzaro missed two extra points but Arians didn’t even let the question come up. “No, I’m not concerned about Cat Man and the missed extra points,” Arians said in his opening remarks, saying the question didn’t even need to be asked. I’m sure Catanzaro knows it can’t happen again, but as Arians said, at least it was in a preseason game.

— There were two penalties called on rookie tackle D.J. Humphries on back to back drives, but both were iffy. The false start might not have even been that much of a move. And the holding given to him was apparently on No. 64, Cameron Bradfield, and the officials just messed up the number.

— I thought Earl Watford held up at right tackle, and I fully expect him to be the right tackle starter going into the regular season.

— Rookie wide receiver Jaxon Shipley had 11 targets and nine catches (for 58 yards) and continued to push the best he can. Still, I don’t see him as more than the practice squad right now. He’s not cracking the top five. Same goes for inside linebacker Gabe Martin, who was working hard on defense all night.

— On the flip side, the way Alani Fua was used, I’m guessing he’ll make the 53 at inside linebacker.

— Markus Golden played well at outside linebacker and if Golden isn’t starting early in the season, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get to the starting lineup at some point this year.

— He only had three carries, but Stepfan Taylor’s powerful run for 12 yards up the middle made an impression. Maybe he can be the Cards’ short-yardage guy over Robert Hughes, which could open a roster spot if the Cards only want to keep four running backs.

— I thought Phillip Sims came around. I thought Logan Thomas played better. I still think we are talking about the likelihood of carrying two quarterbacks, meaning Sims or Thomas would have to be practice squad. But we’ll see if, after the Cards watch the tape, they are convinced to do otherwise.

— Arians was asked if he was happy the preseason was over.

“Extremely,” he said, as a grin crept over his face.

You can’t see it, but I have a similar grin. Let’s get to the regular season.

Stepfan Taylor, Josh Bush

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Wednesday before the Broncos

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2015 – 1:49 pm

It’s the fourth preseason game, and there is a short list of the things of which I’ll really focus upon when the Cardinals play the Broncos. Some are about the roster, some are about the lineup.

One of those things is the right tackle start for Earl Watford. It means so much both on the field and with the construction of the 53-man roster, because of the uncertainty with Bobby Massie and the rough camp of rookie D.J. Humphries.

To be fair to Humphries, and Bruce Arians acknowledged it this week, the idea was that Humphries was for the future, not necessarily 2015.

“We were hoping we had a full year to develop him,” Arians said, which speaks directly to the maturity issues Arians has talked about with Humphries, in addition to him being a natural left tackle trying to play the right side.

“But,” Arians added, “there is going to come a time when he’ll have to go out there and he better be ready.”

When you look how the roster is breaking down, and the very real possibility Humphries could be the backup swing tackle on Sundays, you understand Arians speaks the blunt truth. At least Arians added he thinks Humphries, over the last week or so, seems to have come to an understanding of the work ethic needed here. It’s going to take some time on Humphries, but Arians and OC/OL coach Harold Goodwin will work on him. And like Jonathan Cooper, it may take a little while, but there is confidence Humphries will get there.

The other places where I’ll be watching closely as the 53-man roster moves closer to reality (and I will have a post with my guess on that later today.):

— The first game action for running back Chris Johnson and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon after hamstring injuries.

— The last push by three undrafted guys: Inside linebackers Alani Fua and Gabe Martin and cornerback Cariel Brooks.

— And of course, the play of quarterbacks Phillip Sims and Logan Thomas.

— While there are some roster spots that are in the balance, it is the Johnson/Weatherspoon/Watford spotlight that truly affects this team when it comes to playing the Saints in a little over a week. I think the Cardinals have managed to get into a place where if they do not have Johnson or Weatherspoon, they are prepared. I wasn’t sure they’d be able to get to that place with Weatherspoon, but Kevin Minter has had a good enough preseason that they are in a much better place there.

— In case you didn’t see it, recently released linebacker Lorenzo Alexander signed with the Raiders. Happy to see him find a job, and it’s back home — Alexander went to Cal Berkeley.

It’s about time to get the preseason over with, isn’t it?


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Raiders aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 30, 2015 – 11:19 pm

There was a lot of talk about needing to watch the video before anyone could say for sure what the biggest problems were for the starting offense Sunday night in Oakland. Bruce Arians insisted there were no pass protection problems, although for whatever reason – whether it was line breakdowns or running backs not helping enough or Carson Palmer holding the ball too long in certain circumstances – it can’t be denied that Palmer was pressured more than anyone would like.

But again, there wasn’t any panic after. There weren’t any major injuries, so in the end, that probably qualifies any preseason game a success. It is true that the starting offense won’t really get a chance to work in a game before the opener. If that side of the ball is worried, nobody showed it afterward in the locker room.

On the flip side, I thought the starting defense held up well. They were put in some tough positions by the offensive struggles, but I thought they were solid, save for that one third-and-16 conversion they allowed.

— Palmer, who had his right knee wrapped with ice in the locker room after the game, took some hits. But it was his own journey outside the pocket that made everyone gasp a bit. It was third-and-9 and Palmer took off up the middle of the field – diving headfirst to make sure he picked up 10 yards and a first down.

“Larry (Fitzgerald) was screaming at me to get down,” Palmer said. “There is no hesitation. You want to get the first down, you want to stay on the field and keep playing. I probably shouldn’t have done it, but it worked out and I got away with it so I got lucky.”

— The second unit offensive line – from right tackle to left tackle, Earl Watford, Anthony Steen, Lyle Sendlein, Jon Halapio and D.J. Humphries – acquitted itself well, I thought. After the way Palmer was harassed, Drew Stanton had some time against the Raiders’ starting defense during his 12-play, 80-yard TD drive.

— Watford, in particular, played well against Khalil Mack. Watford quietly has been pretty solid, and that’s playing through a bad ankle.

— Defensively, Calais Campbell and Alex Okafor were stout against the run, and Kevin Minter made some good plays. Jerraud Powers showed up in coverage.

— I don’t know if Cariel Brooks makes the 53-man roster but making a play like the 81-yard touchdown return tends to help. I think he’s the leader in the clubhouse if the team’s fourth cornerback is already on the roster – I just don’t know if he’s already on the roster.

— Arians said a couple of times that Phillip Sims would come in first in this game because he wanted Logan Thomas to potentially get a two-minute drill. He couldn’t have come up with a better scenario – tie game, 2:18 left on the clock. Thomas came up big, especially after taking a huge hit on his knee at the outset of the drive.

— Speaking of huge hits, tight end Ifeanyi Momah took a big hit too on his catch-and-rumble to set up that game-winning score. It looked worse than it was, Momah said.

“I’m good,” Momah said. “We ran the play a couple times today. The safety kind of cheated over and the middle of the field was wide open and Logan made a good read. I was expecting the safety. I tried to stick my shoulder into him. It was a big hit but I initiated it too. It wasn’t too much of a blindside.”

— Interesting that tight end Jermaine Gresham, who was expected to play, did not. It did not come up when Arians spoke afterward. Chris Johnson said he thinks he’ll play Thursday after skipping Sunday – he could run full speed straight ahead but was having trouble cutting in pre-game warmups.

— It’s a short turnaround. We’re on this plane flying back to Phoenix now, and the Cardinals have practice Monday afternoon to prepare for Thursday’s preseason finale.


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Friday before the Raiders/Camp aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2015 – 4:14 pm

It’s a special two-headed blog post, combining a “Friday before” with an “aftermath.” We’ll see if I can get out alive. Seriously, camp is over, and thank goodness for that. I know I have tired of hotel life. Even if we are just a short drive from home, home seems so far away in the middle of the month.

What is there to say about camp? The Cards had their injuries, although beyond losing starting nose tackle Corey Peters to his Achilles tear — which is a big deal, but not crippling given the defensive line depth — the Cards came out OK. We’ll see where Michael Floyd and Mike Iupati and Sean Weatherspoon are in a week as the Cards prep for the Saints on opening day.

Best players in camp? Hard to go anywhere but Carson Palmer. Tyrann Mathieu was very good. I thought Patrick Peterson played well. There has been a lot of praise doled out to inside linebacker Kevin Minter, which is a huge deal given Weatherspoon’s absence. Of course, with still two preseason games to go, there is still some time before the roster is shaped. The Cards — at 88 on the roster right now — have to be down to 75 by Tuesday at the latest (although I expect those cuts sooner) and then to 53 a week from Saturday. All for a season where much is expected of the team.

“For us to reach where we want to go, we can’t be potential,” Bruce Arians said. “We have to be damn good.”

— I have a hunch running back Chris Johnson plays in Oakland. He practiced Friday, but he didn’t do a lot beyond individual drills, mostly running off by himself to keep loose. But Arians said he wants to be on the field, and while Johnson said he wasn’t sure if he’ll be ready, I just have a gut feeling he’ll get a little time. If not, it’ll be the Denver game.

— Let’s hope the MRI needed for rookie Xavier Williams on his left elbow isn’t a big deal. He got hurt at the end of practice Friday.

— Arians started calling CB Jerraud Powers “Milkman” because he wanted to needle Powers for needing so many days off with his hamstring injury. (Powers was milking the injury — get it?) Then Powers came back to practice Friday and made a couple of interceptions. “The Milkman delivered today.”

— The players aren’t the only ones who likes finally breaking camp to be able to sleep in their own bed. Arians does too.

“My liver likes a break too,” Arians deadpanned.

— Earl Watford will get second-team work at right tackle in Oakland Sunday. How much backup quarterback Drew Stanton will play will depend on how much Carson Palmer ultimately plays. In this game, Phillip Sims will get in the game first as third QB with Logan Thomas finishing up.

— Arians likes the depth that’s been created with the young inside linebackers, but I’d think the spotlight will still be bright on those guys Sunday (although it’ll be brighter in the preseason finale.) I’m interested to see how D.J. Humphries looks at left tackle, how DT Rodney Gunter looks in extended time and whether the Cardinals can put together a couple of sacks with their first-unit defense. Josh Mauro was getting a lot of work as an edge guy in first-unit sub-packages this week.

In a week, the preseason will be over, and it’ll be time to talk regular season. Finally.




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Niklas must sit again (and #CardsCamp notes)

Posted by Darren Urban on August 26, 2015 – 1:02 pm

Troy Niklas is sidelined again, done in by the same hamstring that put him out of practice at the beginning of camp. It’s another blow for the young tight end, who flashes what the Cardinals want to see on the field. He’s just never on the field, thanks to a broken thumb/bad ankle/hamstrings over the past year-plus.

“He’s the player we liked,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We just have to keep him healthy.”

Can that happen? Niklas is frustrated and I’d guess the team is frustrated. Arians said he isn’t sure how long this will sideline Niklas, and with Jermaine Gresham hopefully playing this week — but still not a lock — the Cards must still think about where they are at tight end.

— Arians is hopeful the hamstring trio of RB Chris Johnson, ILB Sean Weatherspoon and CB Jerraud Powers will all be back later this week (which is running out of days), but all are sitting Wednesday. OL Earl Watford (ankle) is sitting again too.

— WR Michael Floyd (hand) said he is sticking with his rehab protocol but he expressed optimism he could be back for the regular-season opener. Floyd isn’t catching yet, but said he thinks it will be mental hurdles and not physical hurdles that will be the key. Arians too is hopeful Floyd will return. “I wouldn’t be shocked if he was ready,” Arians said.

— Another sign undrafted rookie nose tackle Xavier Williams is going to make this roster — Arians’ comment Wednesday. “We’d be very, very happy if he was our third- or fourth-round draft choice right now.”

— Arians said he is “anxious” to see OLB Shaq Riddick on the field after missing, well, basically almost every practice since he was drafted. It’s Riddick’s potential speed off the edge that has the Cardinals wanting more. Might be hard to get him through to the practice squad — which is another thing to keep in mind with the final 53-man roster.

— Both Logan Thomas and Phillip Sims are expected to play Sunday (and the whole game in Denver, likely). That third QB battle will go through the Denver game, Arians added. Sims may come in before Thomas this week, however, because Arians wants Thomas to get a chance at a two-minute drill.


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Keim: Speed good, protection not as much

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2015 – 8:11 am

The Cardinals enter the dog days of training camp with one final week at University of Phoenix Stadium beginning today. And as GM Steve Keim talked about the Cards’ most recent performance, there was no eye-popping news — which, in a preseason where injuries are usually the biggest news, Keim noted correctly that coming out relatively healthy was the top story.

Otherwise, Keim’s thoughts when talking on the “Doug and Wolf Show” on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM:

— He likes the weapons on offense, with the speed at receiver and the versatility at running back, “if we can protect Carson,” Keim said.

“There’s no question in my mind there are some concerns,” Keim said.

Keim said the offensive line messed up a couple of times on combo moves from the defense. Watching the game back myself, it definitely looked like backs Andre Ellington and David Johnson at least once each (and possibly more) missed on chances either to pick up a blitzer or help chip block, one of the reasons there were multiple hits and six first-half sacks by the Chargers.

“It’s one thing to be beat physically, but to blow assignments mentally is unacceptable,” Keim said.

— Keim said he thinks new defensive coordinator James Bettcher is “doing an excellent job,” noting all the blitzing the Cards have done. It did seem like the Cards blitzed almost every play in the last half of the fourth quarter.

— Another Keim shoutout for undrafted rookie defensive tackle Xavier Williams. I will be shocked if Williams does not make this roster.

— Keim thought, other that one sack allowed, that right tackle Bradley Sowell played “pretty good” as a starter. D.J. Humphries, not as much. “He’s a guy on one play looks exactly like the first round pick we selected” and others, not very good, Keim said. “The bottom line is his consistency.” The Cardinals want more — much more — from Humphries. But Keim noted it’s still very early in Humphries’ process. (In other words, he’s not close to a bust.)

— Natural praise for running back David Johnson after that performance.

— There is no leader for the No. 3 quarterback job, although Keim said “Phillip (Sims) looked really patient and poised in the pocket.” I don’t think we’ll ever hear that one is ahead of the other one, not before a decision is made. Keim said both still aren’t consistent enough. And there is still the chance the Cards carry only two QBs on the 53=man roster.

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Chargers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 23, 2015 – 12:11 am

Let’s be real — Bruce Arians would have liked to get a preseason win Saturday night, but he couldn’t have wanted extra football in the form of overtime. Injuries happen that late with tired bodies, and there is no upside of a fifth quarter this time of year. It shouldn’t have come to that anyway, of course, if Marion Grice doesn’t drop a wide open pass on the Cardinals’ previous drive, or if Phillip Sims doesn’t overthrow 6-foot-7 tight end Ifeanyi Momah soon after. Or if Logan Thomas and Momah don’t get crossed up on a pass where Momah was wide open in the third quarter, failing to connect on a pass that seemed like it could have been a touchdown.

In the preseason, these things get forgotten, however. In the regular season, Thomas or Sims would (hopefully) never throw a pass. So, with a nod to the football gods for letting us get out of this one in regulation time, my thoughts:

— Carson Palmer said he wanted to take a couple of hits. Not sure he wanted to be buried on two sacks and get whacked another time. But he didn’t break and that pass to J.J. Nelson was a thing of beauty. So was that touchdown dart to John Brown.

— If David Johnson really can perform like that in the backfield, and Andre Ellington — who had a very nice 11-yard run himself — stays healthy, the Cardinals are going to be fine running the ball.

— Chris Johnson out a week or two with a hamstring pull. He might not get any preseason carries now. You wonder where it might put him after David Johnson’s performance.

— It’s always good to be a young player on the bubble to be named by name by the head coach as playing well. So linebacker Alani Fua, cornerback Cariel Brooks and defensive end Josh Mauro, that’s a good thing.

— Arians also praised Sims, as he should. Sims did miss Momah late, but Sims looked incredibly cool in the pocket and patient. Arians said there is no leader at third quarterback between Sims and Logan Thomas, but Sims is making his push.

— After all the Rodney Gunter talk, it was Matt Shaughnessy out there in the starting lineup with Frostee Rucker and Calais Campbell. Gunter did play with the starting unit, however.

— The Cardinals are off tomorrow, and practice Monday before taking Tuesday off. They play next Sunday in Oakland.

— Arians screamed at the officials much of the game but at no time was it more noticed that late when he (and Patrick Peterson) kept yelling for some flag on Chargers’ defensive backs guarding Jaxon Shipley. That Cardinals cornerback C.J. Roberts was flagged for holding on what turned out to be the game’s deciding play on a pass that wouldn’t have been completed stuck in Arians’ craw too.

“Don’t ask me about officials. Please,” Arians said, after he was asked about the officials. “That’s why I’m hoarse. We need to relearn the rules they changed two years ago. This crew might need eight preseason games to get ready.”

That’s a good way to end it. G’night all.



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Ellington extended in final K.C. tuneup

Posted by Darren Urban on August 13, 2015 – 4:37 pm

Andre Ellington isn’t limited anymore. That was clear at Thursday’s practice, the last full one the Cards have before Saturday’s preseason opener against the Chiefs (there is a “mock game” walkthrough Friday which is closed to both fans and media.) Ellington made catches and ran with ease and quickness. On one run he broke into the secondary and slowed, normal for a practice where there was just shells and shorts. But cornerback Patrick Peterson came running up behind, getting Ellington to sprint away from him, both of them smiling. Ellington’s explosion looked evident and there was no sign of his hamstring woes. A good sign.

— Coach Bruce Arians didn’t mention it at his presser earlier but defensive end Matt Shaughnessy wasn’t practicing. The day before Shaughnessy had come out and had ice on his left knee. He never left the field, but my guess is that they will be cautious with whatever it is.

— Quarterback Carson Palmer had one of his rest days, which makes sense because he’ll play the least against the Chiefs out of the four QBs on the roster.

— It was a day for interceptions. Once again, safety Tyrann Mathieu got a pick, although this time it came on a batted pass. Honey Badger is always around the ball. Safety Tony Jefferson and UDFA cornerback Cariel Brooks also had picks. Brooks is a name to remember — he’s making a push to find a way on to this roster.

— Shorty wide receiver Smokey Brown made a nice leaping TD catch over cornerback Jerraud Powers on a Drew Stanton pass, and Phillip Sims hooked up with WR Jaxon Shipley on a deep TD bomb later on.

— Injured wide receiver Michael Floyd got in some light conditioning with assistant strength and conditioning coach Roger Kingdom after practice.


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The battle for third QB

Posted by Darren Urban on May 20, 2015 – 4:29 pm

Bruce Arians made it pretty clear the other day where his quarterback depth chart stood. The third quarterback spot is “wide open” as a competition, a comment that both solidified Drew Stanton’s status as Carson Palmer’s backup (not a surprise at all) and left the rest of the offseason and training camp to an interesting situation for Logan Thomas (which might be a little more surprising.)

When the Cardinals signed Chandler Harnish, it was easy too look at it as adding an extra camp arm — the Cards always have four quarterbacks around — who was familiar with Arians’ system. Thomas was a guy who figured to be around at least one more season so the team could figure out if the 2014 fourth-round pick could indeed develop into an NFL quarterback. Then the Cardinals decided to sign tryout QB Phillip Sims and suddenly, the Cards had five quarterbacks. Maybe, if Palmer was further back in his rehab, all those arms would be important. And, truth be told, the full boat of QBs could still be partially about Palmer relief this summer. But after Arians praised Sims recently and then noted the whole wide-open thing, well, then you wonder where this could go.

With two practices running simultaneously during OTAs and minicamp, there are reps to share. Thomas is getting work, as is Sims — which normally does not happen much for a fifth QB. It’s so early, and right now, Thomas still seems to be the probable guy who ends up as the No. 3 QB on the depth chart once the Cardinals host the Saints Sept. 13. But Thomas still has work to do on all the things that were giving him issues as a rookie, and Sept. 13 is a long way away. While in theory the third QB spot isn’t one to focus upon in the grand scheme, the Cardinals unfortunately found out last season just how valuable that spot can become — and why this is a deep depth chart battle that still bears watching.


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