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“Best thing” for Cards now — turnover margin

Posted by Darren Urban on September 20, 2016 – 11:33 am

Bruce Arians may have been a little salty about how the offense played in the Cardinals’ win Sunday, but he has left no doubt how he feels about the team’s turnover margin. “That’s probably the best thing we’re doing right now,” Arians said. Then again, how could he not see it that way?

Yes, there have been a couple of near-picks for quarterback Carson Palmer, but they have not been picks. So after two games, the Cardinals have yet to turn it over, and have amassed seven turnovers themselves — four interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. Math and the law of averages says the fumbles won’t always bounce the Cards way, but they aren’t putting the ball on the ground themselves.

Right now, they lead the league in takeaways (Carolina, Minnesota and San Francisco each have six) and lead in turnover differential (two ahead of the Vikings’ plus-5.) Oakland and Philadelphia are the other two teams without a turnover yet.

The Cardinals were second in the league in takeaways last season with 33, and they are doing it right now without one of their dynamic back-end players playing at full Honey Badger. That’s a good sign. Another good sign? The only other time the Cards went the first two games without turning the ball in the first two games of the season since 1940 was 2008 — the year the franchise reached the Super Bowl.

(OK, as coincidences go, it’s a stretch. But we’ll see.)

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Arians: Sideline video “helps bad coaches”

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2016 – 1:47 pm

The NFL is testing out the ability to use Microsoft tablets and video on the sidelines, seeing what it could mean for the future of the game. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians noted they had them in the first preseason game against the Raiders.

“I watched one play the referee called holding and it wasn’t holding and I showed it to him,” said Arians, referring to a hold called on tight end Troy Niklas that Arians had previously complained about. The penalty negated a touchdown.

“I said (to the official) this would be your worst nightmare if I had this on the sideline,” Arians added.

That drew a chuckle in the press conference, but Arians was serious when he said he hoped video was never part of in-game use on the sideline.

“Helps bad coaches,” Arians said. “You spend six hours on a blitz (for your defense) on Tuesday, he can watch it … offensively you don’t run the same plays very often but defensively, you spend a lot of hours and time on a blitz that a guy can watch it on tape and show his guys and fix it in the first quarter.

“That’s not what it’s all about.”


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Raiders (preseason) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 13, 2016 – 12:29 am

The score ended up ugly, but this is the preseason, where scores matter little. (I won’t say they don’t matter at all, because sometimes, they do matter if, say, the third game is lopsided.) What the Cards got out of Friday night was safety for their players, especially their starters (always always always the most important thing), decent play from said starters, and a decent outing from a couple of key guys.

Those would be Brandon Williams and D.J. Humphries, and while neither were spectacular, they held up fine. Humphries didn’t fare well against Khalil Mack, but in reality, many do not anyway. He admitted he messed up against Mack, but believes it was mostly from him being overly hyped up to play. Time will tell, but he did play better as time went on (and admittedly, after Mack went out.) Humphries hasn’t answered all the questions yet. And there is probably still a need to consider bringing in a veteran backup tackle. But I still think Humphries will be OK.

At this point, same goes for Williams. He competed again against the Raiders. He thought he was going to be tested and he most certainly was. He gave up a TD. But he battled and the kid is going to learn. We still have almost a month before the Cards play for real. If Justin Bethel gets back soon, he still has a chance to take back the starting job. But Williams will play and he will get better, and even if he is the third cornerback, the Cards will be better for it.

— We barely saw the starters. I couldn’t tell you really what Chandler Jones had. Carson Palmer had a near-pick early with pressure in his face, but he led a scoring drive. The Cardinals have to get the ball in the end zone after getting a first down inside the 10, but that should come.

— David Johnson looked like he was in midseason form already. Midseason form during a really good season.

— Andre Ellington showed again why the Cards have liked him so much. Health makes a big difference.

— If the Cards can get that out of tight end Troy Niklas, he’ll be the guy they expected with a second-round pick. Again, health matters.

— Drew Stanton was high on some throws, and hopefully that was just first-game issues. I’m sure Arians was hoping to see more from Matt Barkley. I would expect Stanton and then Palmer to eat up most of the QB playing time the next two games, so we’ll see how many more opportunities Barkley gets in game situations.

— The Cards are off Saturday, and get back to practice Sunday morning. Remember, no open practice at University of Phoenix Stadium until after the Chargers game.

NiklasRaidersBlog


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Thursday before the Raiders

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2016 – 7:09 pm

The Cardinals finally have a game to play.

The preseason opener will start a week that will feature two games and a week in San Diego, plus a couple of practices against the Chargers. First though come the Raiders, which will be a typical preseason matchup — a handful of snaps for the main vets, and then a training ground for the inexperienced.

Some thoughts as we head into the first game:

— Yes, you are going to watch D.J. Humphries at right tackle, which is how it should be. But I think I’m more interested in Brandon Williams at cornerback. Humphries is important, but he at least already played four preseason games a year ago. He’s done this. Williams not only is a rookie but he’s still only about a year into playing the position. Plus, it just feels — at least to me — that his performance will end up playing a larger role in the outcome of this team than Humphries.

— That doesn’t mean Humphries isn’t one to watch (or isn’t important for the outcome of this season.) He’s already a pretty good run blocker, and he’s shown a want-to that was missing a year ago. I’m not saying Humphries is ready to be an all-pro, but I think as a replacement for Bobby Massie, he will be fine.

— Some other new (and returning) players I’ll be watching: CB Alan Ball, CB Harlan Miller, G Antoine McClain, all the ILBs not named Kevin Minter — that’s a wide-open battle — TEs Troy Niklas and Ifeanyi Momah, and WR Chris Hubert.

— Matt Barkley is going to get a lot of playing time. We’ll see if he can leave an impression.

— And as always, let’s just not have anyone get too banged up.

BrandonWilliamsBLOG


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Goodwin to call plays Friday, and the “out” list

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2016 – 12:41 pm

Every preseason, Bruce Arians — who is the Cardinals’ playcaller and has been and always will be, as long as he’s coaching — turns the reins over to offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin to call plays. It’s to get Goodwin experience in the area, as Arians tries to prep him for a future head coaching job. This preseason, Goodwin will call plays (and gameplan, such that it is in the preseason) in three of the four games. The only one Arians will take is the third one, of course, the “most important” of the preseason games.

So what will that make Arians Friday night?

“Bored,” he deadpanned.

Arians loves to call plays. “That’s the fun in coaching for me,” he said. But he’s committed to helping coaches — in this case, Goodwin — grow. Exactly what will Arians do on the sideline? “Deciding if we are going for it on fourth,” Arians said. “Or go for two. Tough job. Someone has to do it.”

Arians also acknowledged it’ll free him up to bark at the officials too. But that’s something Arians is never going to give up.

UPDATE: Goody weighed in. “I love him for it,” said Goodwin, who also called the plays in three of the four preseason games in 2015. “He’s been a mentor for me since 2007, back in Pittsburgh. He’s always put me in a position to learn and grow as a coach. For him to do this for me is special. Tells me he thinks a lot of me, and I don’t ever want to disappoint him.”

Goodwin said he’s learned his lesson about taking shots down the field as a play caller as well. “The first time I called plays a couple years back, the halftime speech he gave me, it wasn’t very nice,” Goodwin said. “It was still professional, but he said ‘You’ve got to call more shots.’ ”

— The list of players officially not playing Friday against the Raiders because of injuries: Everyone on the PUP list, of course, plus CB Asa Jackson, CB Mike Jenkins, WR Smokey Brown, OL Earl Watford, OL Taylor Boggs, DT Corey Peters, LB Alani Fua, DT Robert Nkemdiche and WR Brittan Golden, who hurt his hamstring Tuesday.

Arians said CB Cariel Brooks, WR Jaxon Shipley and DT Olsen Pierre are all questionable right now. The Cards are hurting at receiver and cornerback, but “it’s a great opportunity for the ones that are out there,” Arians said.

— Watford is on crutches after hurting his knee, but Arians estimated he’d only be out a couple of weeks. Even if it’s a little longer, the good news is that Watford isn’t seriously hurt. He’s become important, as a guy who can legitimately play all five spots, as the top backup offensive lineman.

“His value is sometimes higher than a starter,” Arians said.

HappyGoodyBLOG

 


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Cardinals open camp July 28

Posted by Darren Urban on June 3, 2016 – 7:24 am

The full training camp schedule isn’t out yet — that’s usually later this month — but the Cardinals have announced that the team will report to camp out at University of Phoenix Stadium on July 28 (a Thursday) with the first practice coming July 29. Hard to believe we’re already talking training camp, but here we are. The Cards have wrapped up the OTA portion of their offseason, with the mandatory minicamp running Tuesday through Thursday next week. After that, the veterans are done until camp.

As for camp, the Cardinals’ first preseason game is home against the Raiders on Aug. 12. While details are still being finalized, the Cardinals are also expected to practice in San Diego the following week heading into the second preseason game there against the Chargers on Aug. 19.

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Branch, a safety, on the way

Posted by Darren Urban on March 9, 2016 – 3:32 pm

Nothing official yet, but multiple reports have veteran safety Tyvon Branch agreeing with the Cardinals on a two-year contract. Branch, who was in Kansas City one year after seven years in Oakland, is 6-foot, 210 pounds and also ran a 4.26 40-yard dash when he first came into the league. GM Steve Keim had said he wanted to add speed in the secondary.

In 16 games – one start – for the Chiefs last season, Branch had 43 tackles, a sack and an interception. Branch, 29, was a long-time starter with the Raiders, but played in just five games his final two seasons in Oakland because of injuries.

The safety position is one in flux for the Cardinals right now. Rashad Johnson is a free agent, and his spot is the one most likely taken by Branch as free agency gets underway. Tony Jefferson is a restricted free agent who could still sign an offer sheet elsewhere — the Cardinals have the right to match any offer — and Wednesday was the first day Jefferson was able to discuss options with other teams.

Tyvon Branch, Ryan Griffin

 

 


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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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Weaver cut to trim roster to 87

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2015 – 10:47 am

The Cardinals made a roster move Saturday morning, releasing safety Ross Weaver. That Weaver was cut isn’t a surprise, since he was likely going to be in the batch that was included in the first round of cuts early next week as the team gets to 75. What it does mean is that the Cardinals are down to 87 on the roster, meaning they only have to pare 12 from the roster to get to the 75-man limit.

Again, teams don’t have to get to 75 until Tuesday but with a Thursday game and a Monday practice, I expect it to be earlier than that after the Cards play Sunday night.

That short week will make for an interesting couple of days, by the way. The Cards play in Oakland Sunday night and won’t get back to Arizona before midnight, and then have a practice beginning at 1:20 p.m. Monday. Granted, the vets won’t do much since they won’t play much if at all in the preseason finale, but still, it’s a short turnaround.


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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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