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Blogs

A few cuts left to go, and no more Coop

Posted by Darren Urban on August 30, 2013 – 2:14 pm

The other day, Bruce Arians was saying he was hoping Jonathan Cooper could come back this season. He didn’t want his first-round draft pick to be a rookie again next season. Turns out, that won’t be the case. The guard was put on the season-ending version of injured reserve Friday. Each team gets just one spot for the IR-to-return list each season, and Arians said the Cards felt it was smarter to hold it open than save it for the possibility of Cooper.

But either way, Cooper was going to be out the majority of the season. And as for the cuts Friday — the Cards still have seven moves to make, because linebacker Daryl Washington won’t count toward the 53 during his suspension — there were a couple of minor surprises. Defensive lineman David Carter was one, but he lost out in a battle with Ronald Talley. As I had noted a couple of times, Arians had turned up the compliments on Talley and his being “country strong.” It was tough not to notice. And indeed, when asked today about Carter, Arians said the strength was the difference.

“Talley’s strength at the point of attack and ability to play nose was better,” Arians said. “David has a lot of hustle, a lot of effort, but was struggling to hold the point.”

– The Cardinals still have seven defensive lineman, and there have been reports they are looking to find a nose tackle still. If that’s true, rookie Padric Scott still could be released and put on practice squad, for instance.

– Safety Tony Jefferson has been doing well in both games and practices, and the release of Jonathon Amaya probably means he’s going to stay, although Arians said Jefferson is “not through the woods yet.”

– Arians said he was “not totally, 90 percent sure” of the decision he is going to make on QB Ryan Lindley. I’ve said all along I thought he would stay, so I’m not going to change now. We’ll see.

– I found it interesting, after a training camp of talking about how inconsistent the young receivers are, Arians called both Jaron Brown and Kerry Taylor consistent. If there is a pecking order, I’d still put Brown over Taylor, and we will see what happens on the waiver wire.

– No word on Jeff King, but having knee surgery again certainly seems like King could be an IR candidate. If that came to pass, then the Cards only have six cuts to make.

– No draft picks cut yet, and with Rachal being cut it means Earl Watford is your top backup guard.

– The roster is built as of now like this: 7 DL, 11 LB, 7 CB, 4 S, 3 specialists, 11 OL, 5 TE, 5 RB, 5 WR, 3 QB. Obviously, a couple of positions seem out of balance — DL, LB, CB, OL for sure — and are places to look for the rest of the cuts. Which, according to Arians, should be done by noon Saturday.

And then we wait to see if/when/who the Cards pick up from other teams.

UPDATE: Later Friday, linebacker Reggie Walker tweeted out what sounds like his goodbye after being cut (nothing official yet):


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Bouncing back from a bad practice

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2013 – 12:11 pm

Bruce Arians wasn’t thrilled with his team’s practice Monday. It’s the third time the Cards have come back from an off day to a practice and the third time, Arians said, they have had a poor practice. The first two came outside in the heat in Tempe in full pads, so he was crediting that with the problem before now. But Monday the Cards were inside and Arians now sees it as a problem.

“It was the first practice where I thought we took a step backward,” Arians said. “Hopefully it was a good lesson for us. There were few mental errors but the tempo and speed of practice wasn’t quality.

“Now it’s a matter of learning how to practice after a day off. I noticed it early. Probably should have started the practice over.”

That’s a message I’d think will quickly be understood.

– LB Reggie Walker missed practice Monday with food poisoning. WR Andre Roberts sat out with a slight ankle sprain, and Roberts is expected to miss practice again today. The rest of the injury situation remains unchanged, Arians said. The players coming off injuries are day-to-day, he said, and that will be the approach of the team whether they play in the game Saturday.

– Arians said the team, once it is settled, will have a vote to see who the captains are prior to the first regular-season game.

– Arians reiterated that he has been generally pleased with his offensive line play. That confidence hasn’t changed since the time he showed up. “I told them, ‘Either you are going to be a woe-is-me group of guys or you are going to take this as a challenge and a slap in the face,’ ” Arians said. “They knew how talented they were, they knew who was injured and who wasn’t playing.”

– The potential roster breakdown in the secondary was discussed when Arians was asked about UDFA S Tony Jefferson. (Jefferson, he said, is at least in the discussion for practice squad, but no sure thing.) The breakdowns Arians kept giving was nine defensive backs — maybe six corners and three safeties, was one Arians example — which is interesting. You could make, with special teams involved, the case for 10. Arians did insist they will go short elsewhere if the players dictated such. “We’re not going to cut a good player,” Arians said.


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Making plays, and not, in practice

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2013 – 5:15 pm

Nothing super exciting today, other than a chance to talk to Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter on the Cardinals Daily Report (below). But here are some notes and observations:

– Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Tyrann Mathieu forced a fumble, punching a ball lose after a catch by tight end Jeff King. It’s going to be very interesting to see him in games because over the last week or so, Mathieu has been a playmaking machine.

– We’ve mentioned Jaron Brown, Charles Hawkins and Robert Gill as receiving options, and after the depth chart came out it was clear Kerry Taylor had made inroads as the No. 4 receiver. Someone who hasn’t been mentioned (and I will admit I didn’t think we would be) is recent rookie signee Robby Toma out of Notre Dame. He’s not big, he’s not real fast. But it’s tough not to notice him catching almost every pass thrown to him.

– Veteran safety Yeremiah Bell made a very impressive diving interception — he fully laid out to grab it — against Ryan Lindley. Who says being 35 has to hinder athletic plays?

– (By the way, both the Bell pick and the Mathieu play are caught in today’s highlight package you can see here.)

– Bell said he hadn’t expected QB Ryan Lindley to throw the pass. It’s been a rough stretch for Lindley, and now Arians is talking about keeping only two QBs. It’ll be very interesting to see how Lindley does in preseason games.

– Drew Stanton did hit Andre Roberts with a long touchdown pass at one point.

– RB Andre Ellington left practice early on Tuesday with what looked like some sort of neck issue. It didn’t look serious (he walked off the field fine) but he did not return.

– Those sitting included DT Ricky Lumpkin (ankle), RB Ryan Williams (knee), LB Karlos Dansby (hamstring), G Daryn Colledge (leg), WR Robert Gill (hamstring), WR Kerry Taylor (hamstring), TE Kory Sperry (ankle), CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring), LB Alex Okafor (ankle), DT Dan Williams (ankle) and LB Kenny Demens (not sure on his injury).

– Just when Arians was asked about a lack of scuffles in camp, there was a scuffle. Guard Scott Wedige and defensive end Ronald Talley got into it a little bit after one play, but teammates quickly broke it up. Perhaps they were all warning the pair about Arians’ rule against camp fights.

– Officially John Abraham is listed third on the depth chart at linebacker. But as proof as why the depth chart is dangerous, Abraham — as he has been since he showed up — is running first unit nickel as the right side pass rusher. Matt Shaughnessy is on the left, with Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell in the middle. The linebackers are Reggie Walker (with Dansby out) and Jasper Brinkley. The corners are Patrick Peterson and Antoine Cason on the outside, with Jerraud Powers as nickel slot. Bell and Rashad Johnson are the safeties.

– Random note: Prior to Tuesday’s roster moves (which are unlikely to impact the salary cap anyway), the Cardinals had $5.76 million in salary cap space.


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Arians: About jobs right now, not chemistry

Posted by Darren Urban on July 29, 2013 – 5:46 pm

Here’s one way to look at it, and a good one, from coach Bruce Arians when talking about gaining team chemistry in training camp: “This is not a time for chemistry. My philosophy is, we’re not the Cardinals yet. Now we are 90 guys trying to get a job. We’ll become the Cardinals when 53 of them are picked. Then we will be a team.”

Along those lines, since we are talking about guys winning jobs, here are some observations a few days into camp that could play into that:

– One cornerback who has made a lot of plays is Javier Arenas. It could turn into a nice pickup given the price to get Arenas — FB Anthony Sherman — was going to be released anyway. Arenas broke up a bomb to Patrick Peterson yesterday and fought Larry Fitzgerald into one incompletion today. He’s not perfect, of course, but given all the other cornerbacks, he’s just going to make cutdown harder. The fact he could be the kickoff return man also plays into his favor.

– I think CB Jerraud Powers has made some plays too.

– Michael Floyd has looked good. Not that it’s a surprise. It’s a continuation of what he did this summer.

– Bruce Arians noted that Paul Fanaika, the Arizona State product who signed as a tackle, has done well in transition to guard. Lo and behold, he’s second-string right guard, which means he’s starting while Daryn Colledge is sidelined with his leg injury.

– That also means fourth-round pick Earl Watford is pretty far down the depth chart right now. Watford looks the part but he’s raw. He’s got work to do and it will be interesting to see how he does in preseason games.

– Didn’t see tight end Jeff King, who sat out Sunday’s practice, at Monday’s afternoon practice. Not sure what it is. Maybe it is related to the knee issue he was rehabbing from this offseason. Alex Gottlieb is already nursing a sore hamstring. And then Kory Sperry left the field early in Monday’s work. Newly acquired Mickey Shuler was there but he had arrived so close to practice he wasn’t even wearing Cardinals gear yet, much less practicing. The Cards are thin at the spot right now. Rookie D.C. Jefferson got a ton of reps (along with Rob Housler and Jim Dray.)

– The defensive coaches continue to mix-n-match a lot of the lineups. One nickel package had four linemen, although John Abraham was on the right side standing up, with Calais Campbell at RDE/RDT (depending on if you’re counting Abraham as a linebacker or end), Frostee Rucker as DT/NT and Matt Shaughnessy as LDE. Reggie Walker and Karlos Dansby were the linebackers (although Walker was in for Jasper Brinkley, sidelined with a sore knee).

– The first-string base defense continues to include Campbell, Dan Williams, Dockett up front; Alexander, Dansby, Brinkley, Acho at linebacker; Powers and Peterson at cornerback and Johnson and Bell at safety. Tyrann Mathieu continues to get lots of reps, not only at safety but nickel cover corner too.

– Running back talk is always going to start with Mendenhall and Ryan Williams while Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington have impressed Arians too. But to me, Alfonso Smith is going to make it very hard to cut him loose. The guy competes and he’s looked good when he’s gotten chances. He may again run into a numbers game, but Smith has made an impression.

– Speaking of making an impression, the defensive linemen tend to do that when they hit the sled:


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Padded plans and a rising bubble

Posted by Darren Urban on July 27, 2013 – 12:43 pm

Bruce Arians was happy with the first practice yesterday, but “If you can’t have energy and enthusiasm in the first one, something is wrong.”

“Hopefully,” he added, “we can maintain that level of intensity and enthusiasm in practices eight, nine and 10, after we knock the crap out of each other for a few days.”

That starts Sunday with the first padded practice. The hitting always makes coaches tense up — injuries happen in camp, and they are happening around the league — but it’s necessary. Arians knows this.

“That’s always a day you want to say, ‘Whoa,’ ” Arians said. “It can get real loud, real fast, especially with a big crowd. It’s the part where you cross your fingers, but we have guys who know how to practice.”

Arians was asked if he is the kind of coach who’d use something like the Oklahoma drill. He said no, which isn’t a big surprise. Those days in the NFL are basically in the past.

“We’ll have one-on-ones, pass rush, run block two-on-one,” Arians said. “We won’t do any tackling.” Arians paused. “Oklahoma drill I loved when I was in college.”

– G Daryn Colledge was back Saturday after missing Friday’s work because the birth of his second daughter. He admitted he probably would have missed the birth of Reagan Grace Colledge (8 pounds, 6 ounces if you are scoring at home) if the team was still holding camp in Flagstaff. They had a water birth with a midwife. “My wife’s a champ,” Colledge said.

– Arians reiterated his plan was to use both Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson as punt returners, sometimes at the same time.

– He doesn’t have as clear of a plan for kickoff return yet.

– Very curious to see how the linebacker corps filters out. Arians has been very complimentary of Reggie Walker. With Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter and Jasper Brinkley, that’s a lot of inside ‘backers to keep.

– Meanwhile a practice bubble rises in Tempe:


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One year at a time

Posted by Darren Urban on July 26, 2013 – 9:28 am

Eric Winston, a player who when he was first released was expected to command a healthy contract for multiple years, signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals. It was another impressive step for GM Steve Keim, who has managed to corral quite a few players in one-year deals, providing flexibility going forward and incentive to those players to try and earn an extension.

It also has created quite a lengthy list of players that, as of now, are set to become unrestricted free agents after the season:

– S Jonathan Amaya

– CB Javier Arenas

– S Yeremiah Bell

– CB Antoine Cason

– LB Karlos Dansby

– TE Jim Dray

– K Jay Feely

– TE Jeff King

– RB Rashard Mendenhall

– G Chilo Rachal

– WR Andre Roberts

– DE Frostee Rucker

– DE/LB Matt Shaughnessy

– TE Kory Sperry

– S Curtis Taylor

– LB Reggie Walker

– T Eric Winston

– P Dave Zastudil

Obviously, not every name on that list is someone that the Cards are going to want to keep around long-term. Others will have to earn that right. It also doesn’t include other situations, like the inevitable Patrick Peterson extension that is assumed to be coming at some point after the season. The Cardinals definitely have a plan, however. Flexibility is key for Keim, who is trying to rebuild the roster.


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How those draft choices could fit

Posted by Darren Urban on June 10, 2013 – 9:46 am

It’s still way early. Bruce Arians won’t even commit to starting positions — which isn’t a surprise — and training camp will sort through players much better than any of this summer stuff. Players can’t even hit right now, and so this isn’t really football, as the coaches will be quick to point out. But this team will be much different than the past few years, when rookies had a climb akin to Mount Everest to jump into the fray from the outset. Arians wants to use young players and this team wants to, philosophically, grow from a younger base.

That said, what exactly can be expected from this draft class sitting here in June (and with minicamp starting tomorrow, with the long anticipated Fan Fest Tuesday night)? We know, barring a shocking development, first-round pick Jonathan Cooper is going to be the starter at left guard. The only other player that seems to be a lock for significant playing time at this juncture is third-round pick Tyrann Mathieu, and part of that has to do with his skill set and the existing roster situation at safety. Mathieu is getting his reps, and last week spent more time on the main field with the veterans (whereas he had been starting out on the second field with the inexperienced players — and yes, I’m trying really hard not to call it the JV field.)

The only other draft pick who has been working mostly on the main field has been second-round linebacker Kevin Minter. Minter is an interesting guy to keep an eye on. Second-round picks are supposed to step in right away and do something. But the Cards, who signed Jasper Brinkley and Karlos Dansby and still have Daryl Washington, all of a sudden have a ton of options at inside linebacker (and that doesn’t even include veteran Reggie Walker, who has found himself on the second field this summer looking very much out of place.) Inside linebacker will be one of those places where the spotlight will shine in camp, because they all can’t play.

The rest of the draft class is working on the second field and have a steeper hill to climb. That said, I can totally see a scenario where outside linebacker Alex Okafor, guard Earl Watford and running back Stepfan Taylor find their way into the mix. Arians made it clear he wanted his depth to be such that the Cards didn’t have to rely on a rookie, and that gives those three some room to breath (and since Taylor has basically been absent so far because of school, he has some ground to make up.) It’s easy to see Watford’s time being a year away. Okafor could step in, but with Matt Shaughnessy pretty clearly playing OLB and not DE, along with Sam Acho, O’Brien Schofield and Lorenzo Alexander at OLB, Okafor has to get through some guys on the depth chart.

The last three draft picks have a harder row to hoe. Wide receiver Ryan Swope needs to get back on the field first. Running back Andre Ellington has a lot of competition. Tight end D.C. Jefferson could make inroads given the lineup at his position, but he remains fairly raw. The biggest thing in all their favor? Arians seems willing to live with growing live with inexperience, which wasn’t there before.

– Apropos of nothing, the Jets hired former Cardinals GM Rod Graves as their senior director of football administration under their GM John Idzik. The move was long anticipated. Graves and Idzik have known each other from their youth when they both worked as Eagles ballboys as their fathers worked for Philly. Idzik worked under Graves with the Cardinals in the Denny Green era as the Cards’ cap guy.

RookieBlogTyrann


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What Dansby’s return means

Posted by Darren Urban on May 10, 2013 – 11:05 am

A few days before Karlos Dansby made his first appearance at University of Phoenix Stadium after leaving the Cardinals – this past season when the Miami Dolphins visited – the veteran linebacker was asked his opinion of the man the Cards had drafted to replace him: Daryl Washington. Dansby replied in classic Dansby fashion.

“He’s a dynamic player, what more can I say about him,” Dansby said. “He’s very athletic, very fast. He reminds me of myself. They did a great job of getting the guy to fill that void.”

It was that moment when there was a little Dansby-envy swirling for those of us listening who had covered Los when he was in Arizona. He was always energetic and always could give a good quote. (One of the all-time favorites was when I was doing a story on teammate Sean Morey agreeing to donate his brain to science right at the beginning of the concussion talks first exploded. I asked Karlos what he thought: “That’s huge, man.” That was always one of his go-to expressions. Trust me, you had to be there.)

The man could play some football too. The Cards never wanted to let him go — they thought they had an extension ironed out before the 2009 season but that fizzled when Dansby changed agents — and his price tag got too high. His price tag might’ve been too high again (there was a reason he wasn’t signed yet) but Dansby’s chance to return home where he still has a home was too important. “I told my agent to bring (the salary) down,” Dansby said to me this morning, motioning his hands down like he was doing a version of his old dirty bird celebration. Dansby couldn’t stop smiling. Regardless of what the contract is, he is happy.

– He doesn’t have a jersey number yet. He won’t get 58. That’s Daryl Washington’s.

– No, his return doesn’t mean Washington is on his way out. Actually, you have to think the Cards have some decent plans to play them together. That would make sense, and Los could be a rusher from the outside if needed. He is versatile.

– DC Todd Bowles knows Dansby, because Bowles was in Miami in 2010 when Dansby was there. Bowles understands what Dansby can do.

– Between the addition of Kevin Minter in the draft and Jasper Brinkley and Dansby, the linebacker corps looks pretty decent right now, when it was a huge question mark back in early March.

– Only eight players remain on the roster that played with Dansby the first time around: Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Leach, Reggie Walker, Rashad Johnson, Calais Campbell, Levi Brown and Lyle Sendlein.

– It’d be great if Dansby comes full circle and could end his career here, but let’s remember this is a one-year contract. Right now, he’s in the same boat as guys like Rashard Mendenhall, Antoine Cason and Matt Shaughnessy. They all want to be getting paid more money, and are counting on good years to improve their stock and earn them that kind of contract. Dansby will be trying to do the same. We’ll see if Dansby-the-sequel has a long run in Arizona the second time around.

– That said, did I mention he was pretty happy?

DansbyBlogMeanUSE


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Work to do on the linebacking lineup

Posted by Darren Urban on February 11, 2013 – 11:46 am

With the news, reported multiple places, that the Cards are a little more than $3 million over the salary cap about a month away from needing to get in compliance, general manager Steve Keim still has some maneuvering to do. Knowing now that new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is sticking with the 3-4 base defense, the linebacker corps remains a crucial part of the equation.

What that means going forward is the question as free agency/cap compliance/the offseason gets closer.

Daryl Washington, the Pro Bowler and burgeoning star, isn’t going anywhere. He got his new contract last year and is the cornerstone of the position. But beyond that? The biggest part of the to-do list is got to be the other inside linebacker spot next to Washington. Paris Lenon is an unrestricted free agent, but he is also going to turn 36 in November. With a new staff, those are often the kind of players that are left to move on, or brought back later in the offseason. But Lenon has been playing, which in Stewart Bradley’s two Cardinals’ seasons hasn’t been the case. Bradley took a reduction in salary last season of 50 percent and still didn’t play much on defense at all, relegated to mostly special teams. Again, that could change with a new defensive coordinator, but up against the cap and with Bradley owning a $6.5 million salary cap number for 2013, his return under that deal doesn’t make sense. At best, renegotiation/pay cut would be coming, although the Cards may just part ways. UPDATE: I’m not sure why I forgot to mention Reggie Walker, who played solidly this season. Walker is under contract for another season and surpassed Bradley on the depth chart.

(That’s the dangerous part of this process, however. Bradley would still cost $3M of dead cap space if released, which is still a savings of $3.5M, but it’s not like it’s zero impact. The cap hit has always got to be considered with moving on from any player or trading him. Sometimes it can be spread out over a couple of years, but it’s still a hit of worthless space.)

O’Brien Schofield and Sam Acho, your outside starters, still have to prove themselves to the new staff too, although the decision to go with a 3-4 base helps both tremendously. They might have a much harder time in a 4-3 setup finding a place to play.

BradleyBlogUSE


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Beanie officially activated, Westerman cut

Posted by Darren Urban on November 21, 2012 – 9:17 am

Since coach Ken Whisenhunt basically announced it Monday, it’s no surprise that running back Beanie Wells was activated to the roster this morning from the injured reserve-able to return list and he is on schedule to play Sunday against the Rams. Will he start? That’s a big question and I am not sure Whisenhunt will be willing to answer before the game. But certainly, a healthy Wells — and he told me yesterday his knee indeed was not right early in the season before he went down with the toe injury, but now it’s good — will help the Cardinals’ struggling offense.

To make room for Wells on the roster, the Cardinals cut linebacker Jamaal Westerman, not a surprise either after he was surpassed on the depth chart by undrafted rookie Zack Nash. That leaves just one “official” backup outside linebacker, although backup ILB Reggie Walker was playing there some in Atlanta and fellow backup ILB Stewart Bradley can do the same.


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