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Cards cut to 53

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2012 – 4:52 pm

The key point anytime a team gets to the 53-man roster on final cuts is this: It’s never quite the final roster. That’s something to keep in mind when looking over the Cards’ cuts today, which leaves an unbalanced roster for now.

The team decided not to move tackle Levi Brown off of injured reserve, leaving 22 cuts to be made:

Injured reserve — RB Javarris James (knee), QB Rich Bartel (shoulder)

Waived-injured – LB Brandon Williams (shoulder), WR Stephen Williams (Achilles)

Released – CB Crezdon Butler, LB Antonio Coleman, S Blake Gideon, LB Clark Haggans, G Russ Hochstein, DT Ricky Lumpkin, LB Colin Parker, CB Larry Parker, WR DeMarco Sampson, TE Steve Skelton, RB Alfonso Smith, LB Quan Sturdivant, DE Ronald Talley, DE Everrette Thompson, TE Martell Webb, C Scott Wedige, WR Isaiah Williams, T D.J. Young.

So this is what we get out of this:

– The Cardinals cut Sampson and Stephen Williams, leaving five receivers and undrafted LaRon Byrd (pictured below) as No. 5.

– OLB Quentin Groves makes the cut but both Clark Haggans and Brandon Williams are out – you’d have to think another linebacker is on the way.

– Right now, the Cards have 11 defensive backs and nine offensive linemen, and you figure one or the other, if not both, will be trimmed down. All three OL draft picks are on the squad right now. The defensive backs will have to come down if you are looking for a place to cut to add at another position. In my guess at 53, I had guessed six WRs and eight OL, and the Cards took one from receiver to add to the line. And they took one of eight linebacker slots and added it to the 10 defensive back spots, so I was kind of close. We’ll see how it shakes out.

– Running back William Powell indeed makes the team too.

– This group probably won’t be the exact group that hits the practice field Monday. That’s the cold reality of the NFL.


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Wednesday before the Titans

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2012 – 4:27 pm

Ah, Nashville. The last two times we were here, the story was always the quarterback. In 2009, Kurt Warner, last moment, decided his concussion wouldn’t let him play, and Matt Leinart almost had the game he needed – until Vince Young put together a 99-yard drive to finish the game and the Cardinals. The last time here was the beginning of the end for Leinart, the preseason week spent in Tennessee where Leinart was demoted from the first unit in favor of Derek Anderson and we all know how that turned out.

Some things never change. Quarterbacks are still front and center. John Skelton gets the start and ostensibly, the chance to put a stranglehold on the job. Kevin Kolb will play. Coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn’t given any indication this battle is over. This game will mean something. Ron Wolfley made a point the other day both on the podcast and his radio show that Kolb has probably been better in practice where Skelton has been better in games, which is why this is probably closer for coaches than fans (who don’t watch practice daily but watch the games.)

In any case, it looks like this game will only add to the quarterback legacy that Cards’ trips to Nashville have built.

– Watching Beanie Wells in a game for the first time will be fascinating. We’re on the precipice of the regular season. It looks like Ryan Williams is in good shape to be ready as expected. It’s time for Wells to make a similar step. It has been suggested Beanie runs with a limp. Some of that has to do with getting used to his brace and getting back on the field for the first time in a while. But those of us who have observed Beanie have always noticed what to me, at least, seems like an awkward gait when Wells walks quickly or runs half-speed, even when totally healthy. When he turns it up, it disappears.

– Larry Fitzgerald said he knew all along there probably wouldn’t be a choice at quarterback just yet. “You can’t just give guys one game. That’s not much of a competition,” he said. “We knew it would probably come down to the wire.”

– D.J. Young and D’Anthony Batiste get their chance to show what they can do at left tackle. Will one emerge? Maybe. Conventional wisdom seems to be that Batiste has a better shot than Young. There are more options than Batiste at right tackle, which could be Jeremy Bridges or even just sinking or swimming with rookie Bobby Massie (although the Massie move might be easier to deal with if Brown was still in the lineup). A savior isn’t coming, though. The Cardinals might pick someone up in free agency or the waiver wire, but again, anyone on the street is on the street for a reason. Chad Clifton is available, for instance, because he’s been injured and is 36. Anyone cut next week will be cut because there were at least two guys better than him on his previous roster. That’s reality.

(And a quick side note on the depth behind Brown, and the Cards being caught unprepared – you always want the best depth you can get on the roster, but I’m not sure you build a roster with the idea of a guy possibly going down with a season-ending injury. You’re counting on the starter to be there, especially a guy like Brown, who had played every game for the last four seasons. I think they felt Batiste/Bridges would have been fine as a Brown fill-in for a game or two.)

– Brown had his surgery, by the way. The Cardinals have to trim 15 players off the roster by Monday (although it may come as soon as Friday.) One of those moves, I would think, would be Brown’s move to injured reserve. I just don’t see them saving a roster spot for an end-of-season return. We will see.

– Left guard Daryn Colledge on losing Levi: “If anyone was (indestructible) I thought it would be Levi. Anyone who tears a triceps and just takes a knee (after the play) and talks about it, that’s a pretty studly guy to me. But anyone can go down on any play, that’s the hard part about preseason. We lose him in Week 14, that’s something, but lose him in Minus-Week 3, that’s one of the worst things that can happen.”

– Lots of questions about whether Quan Sturdivant is going to make the team, but it seems like a longshot with the way Reggie Walker has been playing. Your starters are Daryl Washington and Paris Lenon, and I think both Walker and Stewart Bradley have played well in the preseason. Four inside linebackers seems like enough. It’s been suggested that maybe the $3 million for Lenon might put him on the bubble, but the way he has performed and with his durability, I just don’t see him anywhere but the roster.

– Besides the first cuts that I mentioned earlier, final cuts must be made the day after the final preseason game, Friday the 31st.


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Rookies wrap up camp

Posted by Darren Urban on May 13, 2012 – 12:20 pm

The final rookie minicamp practice of the weekend just ended. As usual, it’s too early to tell much.

“It’s hard,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Everybody looks good in shorts. You don’t want to get too excited. (At first glance), you like what you see. We had a number of guys look good. Everyone is on the same playing level today. We’ll have a better sense when they go against the veterans. But the first stage of the test, they passed.”

Whisenhunt said there was something missing without veterans, where a coach could grab a vet and have the vet show the newcomer how to execute something. But no veterans also meant more reps for the players who need it most. “It was a new experience with just rookies,” Whisenhunt said. “We’ll judge how productive it was once we get to OTAs and see how they respond.”

As for a final message for the group, Whisenhunt kept it simple. “I thanked them for their effort and their work,” Whisenhunt said. “I think for three days and five practices, we kind of knew what we were doing, so that was impressive. The credit goes to our coaches and the players. … For the guys who are going to be here, (I told them) ‘Be ready to work.’ “

– As Whisenhunt said, the draft class was noticed. Quarterback Ryan Lindley and wide receiver Michael Floyd hooked up on a nice downfield pass Friday, and both clearly looked more comfortable as the weekend went on. Cornerback Jamell Fleming had some impressive pass breakups over the days. Tackle Bobby Massie looks right, but again, so hard to tell how a lineman will really be when it counts. It’s the same for all of them really.

– You’d expect the guys who have already been in the league to stand out at least a little. A couple did, at least from my perspective. Linebacker Quan Sturdivant looked comfortable out there in his first offseason, while new tight end Martell Webb made impressions on a couple of catches, including a nice one-handed grab down the seam Sunday.

– The Cards officially have 85 on the roster. The remaining five spots should be filled before OTAs start a week from Tuesday. Linebacker Clark Haggans and defensive end Vonnie Holliday remain viable options for two of those spots.

– Whisenhunt did offer blanket Happy Mother’s Day wishes to everyone. “When you get into these camps, you can lose sight of the real world, you can forget today is Mother’s Day,” He said. “We were sure to tell the guys, ‘Be sure to call and thank your Mom.’ We wouldn’t be out here if it weren’t for our moms.’ “


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Cards looking for the Quan

Posted by Darren Urban on May 12, 2012 – 9:08 am

The Quan was in the Cardinals’ locker room long before the 2011 draft, thanks to Rod Tidwell and “Jerry Maguire.” But then the Cardinals refreshed their supply last year when they took linebacker Quan Sturdivant in the sixth round of the draft, a prospect for the inside of the 3-4 alignment that seemed promising.

But Sturdivant never was able to make a serious run at the roster. He was put on the practice squad, and while he stuck around there, he was the lone member of the 2011 draft class to not make the opening day roster (running back Ryan Williams was on injured reserve, but would have been on the team) and couldn’t even get a late-season promotion. Now he’s taking part as one of nine veterans at rookie minicamp, trying to get the work he didn’t get with the lost (to lockout) 2011 offseason.

“I know I’m just as young as (the rookies),” Sturdivant said, laughing, “but I do feel kind of old.”

Once the Cards signed Stewart Bradley, the need for Sturdivant wasn’t as urgent given the Cards’ rotation of starters Daryl Washington and Paris Lenon along with Bradley (who struggled himself) on the inside. It may not have mattered. Sturdivant acknowledged he had a tough time and a “big learning curve” trying to figure out the defense of Ray Horton.

It was also hard watching the rest of the draft class make the team without him. Only Williams, because of the injury, and seventh-round receiver DeMarco Sampson didn’t receive significant playing time. Sturdivant’s fellow sixth-round pick, nose tackle David Carter, actually was a key component of the defense as a rookie.

“It was hard, because I have always been able to play,” Sturdivant said. “Even when I was a freshman in college, I played. (Last year) was a learning experience, and hopefully I have learned enough that this year, I can make the team.”

There is a long way to go before that can happen (Sturdivant is also battling key special teamer Reggie Walker at inside linebacker, in addition to the top three guys.) He has embraced the need to be in minicamp this weekend, and came up with an interception in each of the first two practices Friday.

“I just compete and try and get better,” Sturdivant said. “I want to learn the defense even more and compete. That’s all you can do to get a roster spot.

“The defense, I think I am adjusted to it now. To not have an offseason (last year) … this offseason, I think it’ll help a lot.”


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No rush to linebackers

Posted by Darren Urban on May 7, 2012 – 3:48 pm

Before the draft, it seemed  — at least, in my opinion — the Cards had three areas that most warranted help: offensive line, pass rusher and receiver. The Cards took care of the latter right away with the Michael Floyd pick. They obviously hit the line hard with three choices, including potential right tackle starter Bobby Massie. But, sticking to their board — and perhaps revealing just how much they think of their young players — the Cardinals didn’t take a pass rusher. Didn’t take a linebacker at all.

Right now, the Cards have 14 linebackers on the roster. Six could be classified as outside linebackers, seven as inside guys and Stewart Bradley as a swing guy (although obviously guys can always move around.) Three of the inside linebackers are undrafted rookies (Marcus McGraw, Colin Parker and Paul Vassallo) and one is definitely untested (Quan Sturdivant.) But one the inside, Darryl Washington is established, Paris Lenon continues to outperform everyone’s expectations and both Bradley and Reggie Walker have shown they can fill in.

But it’s on the outside that will always get the attention. Young players usually have a ton of confidence that they will do the job as long as they get the opportunity, and that’s certainly the vibe you get from O’Brien Schofield when you talk to him. Sam Acho had seven sacks after barely playing the first five games, so he seems to be a potential game-changer. Both must up their games. And then what? Will Brandon Williams, signed late last season on to the practice squad after not finding a place with the Cowboys, surprise some people? Can the Cards find a diamond among free agent Antonio Coleman or undrafted rookies Zach Nash and  Broderick Binns? (Clark Haggans could also still return.)

It’s not like the Cards didn’t sack opposing quarterbacks last year. As a team, they had 42, tied for seventh in the NFL. The Cards had an NFL-best nine different guys with at least two sacks. The way defensive coordinator Ray Horton does things, pressure by committee works and is much harder for which to handle. But developing those linebackers, especially the rushers on the outside, is one of the keys to any 3-4 scheme. After passing in the draft, development will be one of the things to watch at the position.


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Adding bodies for the offseason

Posted by Darren Urban on January 5, 2012 – 2:36 pm

The Cardinals added nine players to the offseason roster Wednesday, signing them to “futures” deals. That included six from the Cards’ practice squad: C Ryan Bartholomew, CB Korey Lindsey, DT Ricky Lumpkin, RB William Powell, TE Steve Skelton and LB Quan Sturdivant (WR Jaymar Johnson, the seventh member of the practice squad, was not signed).

The Cardinals also brought in three new players: G Chris Stewart, who spent a little time with the Jets last season;, pass-rushing linebacker Antonio Coleman, who spent time with the Bills and Giants (and is pictured below); and tight end Martell Webb, who was briefly with the Eagles, Jets and Bucs.


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Sturdivant, Talley back on practice squad

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2011 – 4:39 pm

As expected, the last two Cardinals to be released — rookie linebacker Quan Sturdivant and defensive end Ronald Talley — were brought back Tuesday and signed to the practice squad. That fills out the eight-man unit, and likely locks down the Cards’ top 61 (53-man roster plus practice squad) until after the game against Carolina.

Sturdivant is the only member of the 2011 draft class that didn’t make the team (running back Ryan Williams is on injured reserve). The Cards still have hopes he can develop, but he, out of the entire rookie class, was the hardest hit by the lockout and the inability to have an offseason with coaches. Right now, the Cards have stuck with veteran Reggie Walker as their main  a top reserve inside linebacker. (I probably should clarify. Obviously Stewart Bradley is the top reserve inside, but since I figure he will get a chunk of playing time in the rotation, I don’t see him as a reserve per se.)


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The fragility of the roster’s end

Posted by Darren Urban on September 5, 2011 – 10:34 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Friday the roster was “written in pencil.” Two days later, three new names were coming in, and two known names were moving out (because running back Chester Taylor hadn’t officially signed yet, the Cards could wait until today to clear a roster spot for him — and no, I don’t know who it is yet).

Everyone knows the top, say 47 or 48 guys who make the team are going to be around, assuming they don’t get hurt. For the most part, teams don’t want to churn too much. The guys they have are the ones they have taught all offseason. They know the system. If you have one guy who knows what he is doing and another street free agent who might just be a tad more talented, you generally will stick with the guy who knows the system.

But injuries play a factor. So too do guys who come available whom the team has had an eye on. You know when you are the guys constantly on the bubble. Going into the final preseason game, there was a lot of talk about position battles and either/or spots. Stephen Spach and Jim Dray. Quan Sturdivant and Reggie Walker. So when moves had to be made when the Cards claimed a couple of cornerbacks off waivers, it wasn’t a shock to hear Spach and Sturdivant were the ones released. Soon, we will hear who was released for Taylor, and that won’t be a shocking name either.

It’s a difficult existence. Last year, guys like Max Komar and Cyril Obiozor were the ones bouncing around (and on to the practice squad). It’s the ongoing reality for a few guys, however, that keeps the stress level up beyond just the “final” cuts.


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Cards get Chester Taylor and DBs UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on September 4, 2011 – 12:42 pm

As long speculated, the Cards have acquired veteran running back Chester Taylor, at least according to multiple outlets (including his agent’s Twitter). That comes as no surprise. The Cards needed a veteran running back to join Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling. Taylor, even though he is older (will be 32 at the end of the month) and his numbers have been dwindling, seems a perfect fit. He can give you a few carries, he can catch the ball, he can block, he has long played a backup role (to Adrian Peterson and then Matt Forte) and most importantly, he was available. He was expendable in Chicago after the Bears signed Marion Barber.

I remember Taylor lighting up the Cards in November of 2006 for 136 yards in Minnesota when he was a starter for the Vikings (before Peterson came in the next year). He signed a big contract with the Bears before 2010, but only averaged 2.4 yards a carry.

The Cards have also apparently nabbed a couple of cornerbacks off waivers: Crezdon Butler of the Steelers and Korey Lindsey of the Bengals. The Cards need depth there and it can’t be a shock these were two names targeted: defensive coordinator Ray Horton coached Butler last year as DBs coach with the Steelers, and Cards defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi was in Cincinnati and still probably has knowledge of the Bengals situation (although Lindsey is a rookie).

Picking up three means the Cards will have to release three from the current roster — again, why coach Ken Whisenhunt mentioned the roster was “in pencil” Friday.

The practice squad won’t be announced until tomorrow. Wide receiver Isaiah Williams’ agent tweeted Williams would be coming back to the practice squad.

UPDATE: Some afternoon details that emerged on Twitter and elsewhere. An NFL source said the Cards had agreed on a practice squad deal for DT Ricky Lumpkin. St. Louis-based reporter Howard Balzer reported the Cards had released TE Stephen Spach, and Kent Somers reported the Cards also cut LB Quan Sturdivant. I’d expect Sturdivant to come back to the practice squad assuming no one claims him off waivers.


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“Final” roster still in motion UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2011 – 1:52 pm

The Cards have made their cuts to get down to the required 53-man roster. Some interesting names, but nothing shocking. Punter Ben Graham was let go in favor of Dave Zastudil, and that was something that had been possible ever since last year ended. The hope was to find a guy who was more consistent in changing field position after the Cards’ offense stalled deep in their own territory.

They obviously don’t think rookie LB Quan Sturdivant is ready but didn’t want to expose him to waivers, so he is kept along with Reggie Walker. Five tight ends stay for now, making you wonder about the short-term availability of Jim Dray after Dray hurt his pectoral muscle last night. The backup center is now starting guard Rex Hadnot, meaning Ben Claxton could be let go and the team could take young offensive tackle D’Anthony Batiste as an eighth offensive lineman. And Matt Ware being cut has to bode well for Adrian Wilson’s rehab.

Regardless, I expect this roster to change. Over this weekend, maybe early next week, and again possibly after the first regular-season game. That’s not unusual, and the guys at the bottom of the roster can’t rest easy.

UPDATE: Whiz said the roster is “in pencil” and will definitely change before playing Carolina. So there’s that. Biggest surprise to make it thus far: DE Ronald Talley. The roster breakdown is like this:

  • QB – 3
  • RB – 3
  • FB – 1
  • WR – 6
  • TE – 5
  • OL – 8
  • DL – 7
  • LB – 9
  • CB – 4
  • S – 4
  • ST – 3

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