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(A quiet) Friday before the Raiders

Posted by Darren Urban on October 17, 2014 – 4:46 pm

Oh, there was still drama Friday that impacted the Cardinals, but for the first time in a couple of weeks, it wasn’t directly related to the Cardinals themselves. Instead, the Seahawks traded (the guy who seemed to be a dangerous) playmaker Percy Harvin to the Jets. That means the Cards never had to play against the guy when he was in Seattle – he was injured for both 2013 meetings, and the Cards have yet to play the Seahawks this season. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about why Harvin was dumped soon – a lot of stuff out there already basically saying Harvin had worn out his welcome – but the Cards aren’t going to be dealing with him.

Otherwise, it was a boring Friday for the Cards as they prepare for their road trip to Oakland. That’s a good thing. No quarterback questions. No wondering about chop block fines. No new injuries. Just a game.

How about that?

– Bruce Arians all but scoffed at the idea of trap games, and the way he and his staff operates, that doesn’t surprise me. There has been zero looking ahead (Philly and Dallas are up next) from what I have heard/can tell. Arians did say the Cards can’t be as listless to start in Oakland as they were against Washington and I totally agree. The lesson hopefully was learned.

– Speaking of listless, the last time the Cardinals went to Oakland for a regular-season game was 2006. It was a disaster. It was a week after the Cardinals had the infamous Monday Night Meltdown and Denny popped off (hey, that eight-year anniversary, by the way, was yesterday!) The Cardinals had fallen to 1-5, but we’re playing the 0-5 Raiders and the I-don’t-give-a-flip version of Randy Moss. The Cards were terrible. Moss actually scored a TD. That was a long time ago.

– Andre Ellington believes the run game is close. He actually said he feels more fresh right now than he probably should, because his foot injury means he doesn’t do as much as practice as he normally would. Ellington has also be careful, as he was going to have to, of getting down on plays once he figures out he’s not going to gain any more yards.

It was noticeable against Washington, and I even heard from a couple of fans wondering why he was going down so easily. In the end, Ellington said, it’s about thinking big picture.

“I don’t have the strength to fight away from tackles,” Ellington said. “I try to do myself justice by getting down and getting ready for the next play.

“(Other people) are not out there taking those hits like I have to. I feel like once I get all I can get, I’m going to go down. I moreso do it on plays when I get a big gain. If it’s third-and-one, I’m going to fight for that yard.”

– Ellington also said the Cardinals would have “some surprises” in the run game Sunday. We’ll see what that means.

– Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker was fined $10,000 for ripping the helmet off quarterback Carson Palmer on that in-the-grasp-probably-should-have-been-a-sack pass completion Palmer made to Robert Hughes. Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson was fined $16,537 for a horsecollar tackle on the sideline made on safety Rashad Johnson after Johnson’s first interception. Neither play drew a flag from the officials (although Dan Williams, Jared Veldheer and Tony Jefferson tried to get in Jackson’s face after the play.)

– Running back Marion Grice got a few first-team reps at running back this week, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said, although Goodwin made it sound it was more exploratory rather a harbinger of anything imminent. Goodwin also reiterated he thinks Grice can perform all the same tasks as Ellington.

– The Cardinals are third in the NFL in run defense, meaning they moved up in the rankings even after losing Calais Campbell and Matt Shaughnessy. Now they face the next-to-last rushing team in the league.

– How about Dan Williams playing some defensive end? The nose tackle likes it. “I’ll take it where I can get it,” Williams said. “It kind of reminded me of college a little bit. I haven’t played that much end since my rookie year.”

– You just get a feeling Patrick Peterson is motivated to have a big game Sunday.

– You know the Raiders buried a football? That’s what interim coach Tony Sparano did with his team, symbolizing the end of the poor play that culminated with coach Dennis Allen’s firing.

“If you keep looking back with that same old mindset like, ‘Oh, yeah man, we can’t do it because this, this and that, we already lost five games,’ well you defeated yourself before you even tried to get on the field and to make something happen,” Raiders defensive end and former Cardinal Antonio Smith said. “I think that was the main thing that Tony was trying to symbolize when burying that ball—burying whoever you were before that day, whatever team we were before that day.”

The Raiders played better last week. But they still lost. The Cards don’t want that changing. Not yet.

FriRaidersUSE


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For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 26, 2014 – 12:15 pm

As we come to the end of June (and the beginning of a little time off), it’s time for my annual pre-vacation pair of posts – the ones in which I take a stab at who will be in the starting lineup on opening day, which in this case will be Monday night against the Chargers. Some picks are obvious. Some are not. We’ll defense today, offense tomorrow. And then we’ll wait to see what training camp brings.

(For the offense, click here.)

DE – Darnell Dockett. There are a lot of questions, given Dockett’s age and 2015 salary, about what his situation will be next season. But this season, Dockett will be right where he always is – in the starting lineup. The Cards do like to rotate on the line. It’s necessary for good defenses to stay effective. And rookies Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson will get some time.

NT – Dan Williams. It’s a big year for Williams, who goes into the last year of his contract. He might have been pushed by Alameda Ta’amu, but Ta’amu is coming off knee surgery. Ta’amu will return early in the season, and the one-two combination will help. It has to start with Williams, though.

DE – Calais Campbell. He’s deserved Pro Bowl consideration the last couple of years, even if he hasn’t gotten it. When the Cardinals’ braintrust say they hope Martin turns into another Campbell, that says something.

ROLB – John Abraham. Abraham turned into a real find last year. He was supposed to be a part-time pass rusher and proved to be much more. He’s ahead of Sam Acho these days, but at some point, Acho (who’s in the last year of his contract) or someone has to step forward to provide a future.

ILB – Kevin Minter. He was going to be a starter as soon as Karlos Dansby left. Now, with Daryl Washington absent, there is a lot on the second-year man.

ILB – Larry Foote. There is a chance Lorenzo Alexander could win this job, but I think Alexander will end up filling multiple depth roles and Foote will get the starts. His signing has proved to be fortuitous given Washington’s situation.  What will be interesting to watch will be where someone like Kenny Demens fits in – with Washington out, there’s an opportunity for someone.

LOLB – Matt Shaughnessy. The Cardinals had the best run defense in the NFL last season in large part because Shaughnessy was so solid. It’s what you’d expect when you have a former defensive end playing outside in the 3-4. The Cardinals are hoping Alex Okafor develops down the road, but his inexperience leaves him a question mark for now.

CB – Patrick Peterson. Forget the criticisms (yes, he needs to get better, like everyone) and forget the chatter of who is the best, which is really meaningless anyway. He’s an anchor, and he’ll be an anchor for a long time.

CB – Antonio Cromartie. He looked healthy in the offseason and that’s a good sign. If he can regain the consistent level of play he’s had in the past, the Cardinals will be in great shape for their coverage.

FS – Rashad Johnson. With Tyrann Mathieu on the mend, Johnson is the natural choice. He’s a vet who won’t make mistakes. Tony Jefferson has been playing strong safety in offseason work, but Jefferson should be in the mix when dime packages are used.

SS – Deone Bucannon. The aforementioned Jefferson was running first unit in the offseason but the Cardinals are going to play their first-round pick if he shows anything in camp. I expect that to happen and Bucannon will get his shot as the season begins.

Tomorrow, we’ll have the offense.

 DefenseWorthBlog


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Voluntary workouts can be rewarding

Posted by Darren Urban on April 25, 2014 – 12:49 pm

The Cardinals have had good turnout at their voluntary work thus far, which is always good to see. I’ve seen almost everyone on the current roster at some point (I keep getting questions about players that aren’t in photos — Patrick Peterson, Ted Ginn and Carson Palmer in particular. I have seen all three. Workouts run at 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. after meetings. I’m not taking pictures at 6 and usually I’ve moved on in my day at 12:30, so just because they aren’t in a photo doesn’t mean anything.) It’s important to have guys around, as Darnell Dockett noted yesterday.

“This is voluntary, so when you have guys here, voluntary, and we grade out at 94 percent every day of people coming in, that shows the right direction we’re trying to go in,” he said. “Not showing up with 20 guys, missing 15 here and 30 here, 20 guys late, people missing in the classroom. That’s a bad sign. So right now every day we’re getting out this work, and we’re appreciating it and enjoying it. We’re getting better. Chemistry is not all about coming in talking about football and weights. We’re getting to know each other.”

Kent Somers does a nice job chronicling how Dockett’s mindset has changed after multiple offseasons when he wasn’t here. Part of the change for the Cards — and around the NFL for that matter — has been a proliferation of workout bonuses in contracts. Players get paid for their weekly attendance, but it’s not much really, $175 a day as stipulated by the collective bargaining agreement. If you make the workouts a fruitful part of the paycheck, you tend to motivate. Overthecap.com writes about this. Seven teams in the league have invested at least $2 million of cap space into offseason workout bonuses, including the Cardinals at $2.085 million. The most is the Packers, at $4.325M, and that’s not a surprise knowing that many players probably wouldn’t want to stick around Green Bay in the offseason if they could avoid it.

Nine Cardinals collect six figures just for showing up for whatever the prescribed amount of offseason workouts would be (it’s usually a high percentage of the total days available.) Dockett, DE Calais Campbell, WR Larry Fitzgerald and QB Drew Stanton get $250,000. C Lyle Sendlein and S Rashad Johnson get $150,000. Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy gets $125,000. Linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Daryl Washington get $100,000. And there are eight other players who get money.

Cash doesn’t explain everything. There are a ton of guys on the roster — big-name guys — who have been here and get no extra monetary reward for doing so, including new players like Jared Veldheer, Antonio Cromartie and Ted Ginn. There is a push from those on the roster to make sure teammates are hear for the reason of just making sure the team will be as good as possible. But as always, money plays a role.

WorkoutCash

 


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Rashad Johnson voted Cardinals’ Ed Block Courage Award winner

Posted by since1898 on March 18, 2014 – 9:21 am

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Rashad Johnson enjoys vacation time in Paris

Posted by since1898 on March 10, 2014 – 1:21 pm

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Free-agent targets and their board

Posted by Darren Urban on February 13, 2014 – 12:00 pm

That the Cardinals will likely consider signing a left tackle in free agency would be no surprise. Who the targets might be remain mostly speculation, especially since there is still a chance some of them won’t make it to the open market, whether they are signed to an extension before March 11 or are given the franchise tag. Kansas City’s Branden Albert is the most notable choice (and there was a report out of Kansas City that the Chiefs will let Albert walk). There is also the Ravens’ Eugene Monroe, the Raiders’ Jared Veldheer or the Bengals’ Anthony Collins.

Whatever the Cards decide to do — at tackle or another spot — they will be prepared. That’s what General Manager Steve Keim and his front office group have been doing in the run-up to the Scouting combine, building their free-agent board for a second straight season. Last year, the Cards did the same, and ended up signing seven of the top nine players they had listed (which included one of their own free agents, safety Rashad Johnson.)

That board is more complicated than just listing the top talent on the market. It takes into account positions of need, of course, in addition to estimated salaries of what these players might want, what they should be worth when it comes to metrics, and what the Cards would be willing to offer. It delivers a blueprint so the Cards are prepared when free agency begins.

As the Cardinals proved last season, they have numbers in mind for all their offers. It doesn’t sound like Keim likes to do a ton of negotiating. Last season, for many free agents early in the process, the Cardinals told visiting players their offer could very well be off the table if they left without signing. That proved fruitful. The Cards didn’t sign everyone they went after last season, but that’s where the board helps.

“It will help us move on to the next guy if a guy decides to drag his feet or to not take the deal,” Keim said.

A lot can still change until March 11, because of the Cards’ own free agents that may or may not re-sign. The board, though, will be a crucial part of the process going forward.

FAboardbloguse


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#ThrowbackThursday – Young Rashad Johnson

Posted by since1898 on February 13, 2014 – 9:39 am

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Happy Birthday Rashad Johnson

Posted by since1898 on January 2, 2014 – 12:00 pm

RASHAD B DAY

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Abraham active for Niners; Ryan Williams sits

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2013 – 12:56 pm

The final inactive list of the season contains no surprises. Linebacker John Abraham is active despite groin issues, as is safety Rashad Johnson. Running back Ryan Williams completes a season where he was healthy and inactive for every game — the only Card to not dress at least once. What the Cardinals do with Williams this offseason is one of the more intriguing storylines, even if it might not mean a lot the way the team has been built/run.

The Cardinals full inactive list:

– QB Ryan Lindley

– RB Ryan Williams

– LB Dontay Moch

– S Curtis Taylor

– T Nate Potter (G Earl Watford active with Daryn Colledge starting but battling sore back)

– TE Kory Sperry

– DE Ronald Talley


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Safeties in numbers

Posted by Darren Urban on December 26, 2013 – 10:38 am

Tony Jefferson said he normally gets nervous before games. For some reason, he didn’t feel that way Sunday in Seattle. Forget about the part that he was making his first NFL start, or that it was coming in a hard place to play against arguably the best team in the NFL. And it’s not like defensive coordinator Todd Bowles took it easy on Jefferson, playing the undrafted rookie all 52 defensive snaps.

It’s not like the Cards had much of a choice, given the season-ending knee injury to starting safety Tyrann Mathieu and the bad ankle sprain of backup Rashad Johnson. But Jefferson had a solid game (one that could have been even more exciting had the rules not said a missed field goal is dead once the ball hits the upright, since Jefferson grabbed it on the fly and went to return it.) More importantly, it could have given the Cardinals a little breathing room going into the offseason at the position.

Johnson, who could be ready to play this week, will be back next year. But Bell is older and a free agent, and there will remain a big unknown of how long Mathieu will be out rehabbing his torn ACL/LCL. If Jefferson can work out long term, even as just depth, speaks again to the job GM Steve Keim has done building the roster. “I did (like what I saw),” Bowles said of Jefferson. “He’s a tough tackler. He has some things to learn mentally and needs to be a little more vocal, but as far as a straight football player, he was pretty good last week.”

Said Jefferson, “I was just ready to get out there and hit somebody.”

With Mathieu’s rehab, Keim’s approach to the offseason in terms of safety will be altered from what it would have been. But to have Jefferson hold up against the Seahawks gives the Cardinals more options than they might have had.

JeffSafetiyUSE


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