Once, veteran teammate John Carlson said of rookie Troy Niklas, “He looks like a 12-year-old boy who swallowed a grizzly bear.” At 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, Niklas — the Cards’ second-round pick in 2014 — was a prototype tight end for coach Bruce Arians. He just couldn’t stay on the field enough, beset by ankle and wrist problems.
So Niklas moved on Wednesday, agreeing to a deal with the Patriots. It’ll be very interesting to see how Niklas performs there, especially in an offense that will throw to the tight end. Niklas is no Gronk athletically (no tight end is), but he figures to get more targets and he is coming off his best season, albeit with a low bar. In 2017, Niklas in 15 games had 11 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown, after totaling just eight receptions in 26 career games over his first three seasons.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are going to have to address the position. As long as Niklas was out there, there was a chance he could return (the Cards also lost a potential depth guy on the offensive line when Earl Watford moved on to the Bears this week.) Jermaine Gresham is coming off an Achilles injury and is limited right now in his offseason work, although I thought he looked better than I might have expected when he was doing what he could Tuesday. The Cards also have Ricky Seals-Jones, who flashed as an undrafted rookie but still skews heavily as a receiver and not a blocker (not a shock, given that he was a wideout in college.) Gabe Holmes also remains.
At this point, it might make more sense to wait until after the draft, see if a tight end emerges there, and then reassess the position afterward.
Tags: Earl Watford, Gabe Holmes, Jermaine Gresham, Ricky Seals-Jones, Troy Niklas
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The Cardinals’ inactive list isn’t that difficult to figure out, given the number of players listed out by the time we got to Saturday night. The latest man added to that group was tight end Jermaine Gresham, who was downgraded to out Saturday because he is sick. That meant the Cardinals promoted tight end Gabe Holmes from the practice squad — and he is active — but what is likely more important will be increased snaps for rookie tight end Ricky Seals-Jones.
How much more Seals-Jones plays will be something to watch. Holmes is a little bit thicker than Seals-Jones and might serve the Cards a little better as a blocker.
Defensive lineman Corey Peters also returns from his ankle injury today after missing the past four games.
— QB Matt Barkley
— WR John Brown (toe)
— CB C.J. Goodwin
— LB Gabe Martin (hamstring)
— G Earl Watford (ankle)
— TE Jermaine Gresham (illness)
— DL Josh Mauro (ankle)
Tags: Corey Peters, Gabe Holmes, inactives, Jermaine Gresham, Redskins, Ricky Seals-Jones
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The past few years, when the Cardinals had been good and the Rams not so much, the Cardinals would go on the road and beat the Rams. Period. And now, the script has been flipped. The Cardinals are not as good as they once were, and the Rams most certainly are good, and that’s how you end up with results like Sunday. The Cardinals were better than London. It wasn’t 33-0, even though it started like it might have been. But 16 points – which is what the Cards finished with – isn’t enough to win most games and it definitely isn’t enough to beat a Rams team that even on a day where they weren’t completely clicking offensively, they still put up 32.
Blaine Gabbert will remain the starting quarterback, Bruce Arians said, and that, as last week, makes sense. It was a terrible start to the game for Gabbert Sunday, with two early picks. Gabbert said he needs to look at the film on the first throw, and on the second, he said the Rams went against what they had always shown on film in that formation – usually LB Alec Ogletree rushed and didn’t drop – and so Gabbert didn’t expect him there.
Gabbert settled down, and you can see the difference a running game makes. True for any QB, I suppose. There is a lot to take it. Gabbert now has thrown five interceptions in three games. The Cardinals will have to continue to evaluate where he might be as a QB candidate for 2018.
That’s what a lot of this must be. Arians talked about the young players Sunday, making plays and, understandably, making some mistakes. Evaluations are ongoing for everyone with four games left.
— There is no way to say how impressive it was to see Kerwynn Williams play the way he did, knowing his has broken ribs. I loved his response when he was asked if he was experiencing pain during the game: “I feel like everybody is in pain,” Williams said, and it just felt like the opening lyric of a very personal song rather than a postgame quote. It would’ve been nice to get him to 100 yards, given that he had 86 at halftime. All that guy does is produce whenever he is thrust into the lineup.
— With a decent day next week, Larry Fitzgerald is going to surpass Randy Moss for third-place all-time in NFL receiving yards. He needs 26 yards to do so.
— Back and forth with the Cardinals linebackers on picks. Karlos Dansby dropped one he should’ve had, and it cost the Cards at least three points, since the Rams went on to kick a field goal. “We didn’t make the plays that we needed to make, me included,” Dansby said. “I’ve got to make that play. That changed the whole dynamic of the game.”
Then there was the athletic pick by linebacker Kareem Martin, which short-circuited a Rams drive (although Gabbert threw a pick-six a couple of plays later.) “We work on screen drills a lot,” Martin said. “I pretty much just pressed off him to attempt to go pursue. By the time I was about to turn around, I see the ball.”
— There was some wondering how the Rams could go through the long snapper Justin Drescher for the blocked field goal. The rules don’t say you cannot hit the long snapper. You cannot line up over him when the snap happens. As long as you do not, and then go against him after the ball is snapped, contact with the long snapper is legal.
— For the most part, I thought the Cards did a good job on Todd Gurley when Gurley ran the football. The problem was, and this is what defenses must deal with against David Johnson, is that Gurley was so dangerous catching the ball. He had 84 yards receiving (compared to 74 rushing).
— Arians noted the young players. Ricky Seals-Jones dropped one, but he had a couple of nice catches and would’ve had a TD on a good throw from Gabbert on one play. Budda Baker continues to be all over the field, getting eight more tackles defensively (and maybe should’ve had a fumble recovery on the opening kickoff, if there had been Sunday Night Football-type cameras.)
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Budda Baker, Justin Drescher, Kareem Martin, Karlos Dansby, Kerwynn Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Rams, Ricky Seals-Jones, Todd Gurley
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Blaine Gabbert said after the game that he is just playing — there is no thinking about being on a one-year contract, or about the idea he is auditioning for a future role with the Cardinals. General Manager Steve Keim wasn’t saying he isn’t thinking about Gabbert in terms of the future, but even Keim — during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show Monday on Arizona Sports 98.7 — wasn’t saying exactly what Gabbert might be. He’d only say that, well, Gabbert might be something.
“It’s no different than the reason we signed him in the springtime,” Keim said. “It was very little risk to possibly a high reward. A lot of people scoffed at the fact that we signed him and I don’t think they were very high on that decision, but at the end of the day, I liked him coming out (of college), coach (Bruce Arians) liked him a lot coming out. He’s always had the physical gifts. What was the real risk involved to sign a guy to be the third quarterback?
“The fact that he has stepped up, he’s looked poised and he got a lot of patience in this offense, he’s been a great fit so far and he’s worked his tail off off the field. This gives you the confidence as a general manager and as a coach to make these decisions and hopefully it pays off moving forward.”
I don’t think there’s much question that Gabbert will continue to start regardless of Drew Stanton’s health, but I am sure Arians will be asked later today.
— More Keim on Gabbert: The GM said he couldn’t stop watching the final pass the QB threw, a dart on the run to running back D.J. Foster. Gabbert eluded the rush, running toward the line of scrimmage before he launched. “The way (the ball) jumps out of his hand is phenomenal,” Keim said. He added that he didn’t know what was more impressive on the play, Gabbert’s throw of Foster’s toe-tapping catch.
— He praised Gabbert and the whole team for staying with it despite losing a 16-3 lead and falling behind 17-16 on the Calais Campbell fumble return. “It was a point in the game when you could have had a ‘woe is me’ attitude,” Keim said. The Cards did not.
— Keim was asked about Campbell. He said “I love Calais” but then the GM noted that the big reason Campbell was allowed to walk as a free agent was because that was the money the Cards allocated for the huge contract of OLB Chandler Jones — who, with two sacks and five tackles for loss, leads the NFL in both categories.
— On kicker Phil Dawson, who made all four of his field goals, including the game-winning 57-yarder: “Phil was money,” Keim said. “That’s the guy we signed.”
— Keim said he was happy for safety Tyrann Mathieu, who had arguably his best game. “Sometimes you forget is that the guy has been through quite a few traumatic injuries,” Keim said. “It’s one thing to come back from the physical aliments but to come back and play with the confidence mentally. That’s an obstacle we all have to go through when we incur those types of injuries. He’s coming back into form, he’s always been an instinctive player, and to see him come up with that interception … that can build on the confidence going forward.”
— Keim said it was one of the offensive line’s best games as a unit. He also liked the play of young players like Budda Baker, Foster and Chad Williams, and raved about tight end-who-can-split-wide Ricky Seals-Jones. “He’s a guy we really haven’t had in this offense for a long time,” Keim said — a tight end that can create mismatches.
— On Arians passing up going for it on fourth down and punting, a smart move, after the Cards failed on fourth down the week before, Keim said he had no doubt Arians would make the safe play. “He’s beaten himself up pretty good,” Keim added.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Chandler Jones, Ricky Seals-Jones, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Badger was active.
He made a huge interception at the most crucial of times – on a drive where it looked like the Jaguars had stolen momentum and were on their way for a game-winning field goal. But Tyrann Mathieu read the play perfectly and got the pick. That’s two this season, and while you’d hope for more, you can’t argue that the two could have come at better times.
The plays were there Sunday. Blaine Gabbert was pretty good again. You see what he can do when his legs are needed (although, as Bruce Arians pointed out, there are times when that can cause an issue too, because the fumble was a play that need not have happened.) Another touchdown pass to rookie Ricky Seals-Jones, and a run game too.
Defensively, Chandler Jones had two sacks and five tackles for loss and deserves consideration for all-pro. I don’t know if he’ll get any given the Cards’ record, but he has earned it thus far. The run game stops are what impressed me the most Sunday.
Next week will be interesting. The Rams come to town, playing so well, and the Cards are anxious to play them again after the London wax job. Jacksonville is a good team with a very good defense. That’s what this three-game homestand – good opponents – is about.
— Calais Campbell returned a fumble 10 yards for a touchdown, but otherwise was held in check. Gabbert spun away from a potential sack or two. But the Cards didn’t let their former star beat them, all the while welcoming him back. It was good to see the big guy.
“The Birdgang showed a lot of love to me and that felt pretty good,” Campbell said. “Definitely have me chills down my back. My old teammates on the Cardinals, talking to those guys and getting all the love before the game and during the game and even after. The coaching staff, I have a lot of friends in that building, so that was fun. I really wanted to get this win so it definitely hurts right now.”
— By the way, that’s two straight games in which Campbell has returned a fumble for a touchdown when playing at University of Phoenix Stadium. His final game here as a Cardinal was against New Orleans last season, when he scooped up a loose ball and rumbled 53 yards for a score. Campbell’s team has lost both games.
— A few weeks ago, I’m guessing not many thought Phil Dawson would be booting a 57-yard field goal to win a game. That would’ve been good from 62- or 63-yards, I’m thinking.
— D.J. Foster gets a spectacular 12-yard toe-catch to set up the field goal, and also had a very nice kickoff return. It was called back on a penalty, but you can see where he excels there. He’s got a chance to make an impact, especially with T.J. Logan still hurt. It’s a great story too, since he went to Scottsdale Saguaro High School and ASU.
“It’s pretty incredible, kind of a surreal moment to get out there on that field and represent Arizona,” Foster said.
— Mathieu talked this week about getting a chance to face friend Leonard Fournette on the field for their first time after the two came from the same neighborhood yet never played together. Mathieu did his job one specific time, tracking down Fournette on a screen pass and dropping Fournette for a loss of five.
“It’s a tough challenge, especially being 190 pounds and running a 4.5 and he’s 230 and runs a 4.4, so the advantage is on his side,” Mathieu said. “There was actually one play, he ran through the hole and then Budda (Baker) came flying in, so kudos to Budda. I was just waiting on (Fournette) and just trying to get in front of him but Budda made a great play. I might take him out to dinner after this.”
Mathieu smiled. It was a good day.
— There was a scuffle post-game between Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham and Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson, with some swings. It looked heated, but it was calmed quickly and as soon as it was over, Gresham was shaking hands with other Jaguars personnel. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Gresham. Jackson simply said “it was a misunderstanding.” Cardinals guard Alex Boone was there too, looking like he was trying to help end things. Asked about the emotions after a win like the Cards had, Boone said “I mean, I think they’re kind of high.”
— It was a quiet, workmanlike performance from running back Adrian Peterson, but those 79 yards on 20 carries were so important. The Cardinals gained 108 yards on the ground, which is the only way they are going to have a chance to win games.
— Fitz and Campbell swapped jerseys. As did Fournette and Mathieu, and Patrick Peterson and Jalen Ramsey. Lots of mutual respect there.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Alex Boone, Blaine Gabbert, Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, D.J.Foster, Jaguars, Jermaine Gresham, Leonard Fournette, Malik Jackson, Phil Dawson, Ricky Seals-Jones, Tyrann Mathieu
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The focus going in to Sunday’s game was the quarterback. That made sense. The Cardinals were on their third one of the season and it is the most important position on the team. And for the most part, Blaine Gabbert acquitted himself pretty well. There were the two picks late, and you can’t have those, but the Cards were chasing 10 points by then.
No, it was the issues that have been around all season that doomed the Cards in Houston. A running game that has echoed the struggles of the pre-Adrian Peterson ground game. A defense that makes some plays but just can’t clamp down when the team desperately needs it. An offense that needs to find more consistency overall.
— Drew Stanton was healthy enough to be the backup Sunday. Could that mean he’s healthy enough to start next week – and does Bruce Arians drop him right back in? (I know the public-at-large’s answer.) Gabbert did look very comfortable, and he clearly has some chemistry with rookie tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. That makes sense, because Seals-Jones and Gabbert have been working together on third team since the offseason. We’ll see. It’s fair to point out the Texans secondary has struggled quite a bit against the passers it has seen, and next week’s game against the Jaguars will feature one of the better secondaries the Cardinals have seen.
— Speaking of secondary, the Cardinals sure look like they have a star-in-the-making back there with rookie safety Budda Baker. He was everywhere Sunday. He was great on defense and continues to play so well on special teams – I repeat that he deserves (heavy) consideration for the NFC’s Pro Bowl special teams spot.
— Bruce Arians opened his press conference by taking the blame on the failed fourth down. I’ll admit I was on the move when the play happened, seeing it on the TV screen as I made my way down to the field. But I agree that the Cards had been stuffed all day inside. There wasn’t much to get, but the Texans made it obvious the wanted Gabbert to try and beat them. It was going to be tough sledding for Adrian Peterson on every run play, and the fourth-down try was only the one in the spotlight.
–Peterson ended up with 13 yards on 12 carries after his first two totes gained six and seven yards.
— I do think the absent D.J. Humphries makes a big difference when it comes to the run game.
— The Patrick Peterson vs. DeAndre Hopkins battle was exactly how it was expected to go. Peterson did give up the back-to-back big plays, finishing with Hopkins’ TD. But he broke up/defended a bunch of other tries, and nearly got a second interception late in the game with perfect technique. It’s funny that his first pick was on a pass that wasn’t even thrown to Hopkins or at Peterson. A deflection, and the right place, right time.
— Speaking of missed chances on turnovers, the Cards were there. There were a couple of other fumbles on the ground by the Texans that the Cards just couldn’t fall on, in addition to Peterson’s near-pick. Tyrann Mathieu also dropped a deep pass that could’ve been an interception, although the play was wiped out by an Arizona penalty. The Cards need all the turnovers they can get. At least they converted their two short-fields into TDs.
— Arians said he’d be going to different receivers this next week. That would seem to me that Chad Williams has a chance to be active, but other than that, I’m not sure where you turn. Maybe more Brittan Golden? I don’t see them bringing up Carlton Agudosi from the practice squad, but who knows.
— As much as Tom Savage had struggled this season, it hurts to give up a 97.1 passer rating to him, and 31 points to the Houston offense without the aid of turnovers.
— Fitz was asked about playing in 2018. He did not answer, one way or the other, and wouldn’t even say if he’s still thinking about it. So he leaves everyone in suspense – and makes sure the questions keep coming probably more often than not the rest of the season.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Blaine Gabbert, Bruce Arians, Budda Baker, Carlton Agudosi, Chad Williams, D.J. Humphries, DeAndre Hopkins, Drew Stanton, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Ricky Seals-Jones, Texans, Tom Savage, Tyrann Mathieu
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The return of Deone Bucannon will have to wait for now. After it looked like he was trending up and on track to at least play a little Monday night against the Cowboys, he will not. He’s officially inactive for the game. His role would have been limited anyway, but this does give a little flexibility. I’ll be curious to see if this is strictly Bucannon not being ready, or in part because of injuries and roster flexibility.
As it is, the Cardinals had to promote tight end Ricky Seals-Jones from the practice squad today (cutting, again, linebacker Philip Wheeler) as a hedge against limited tight end Jermaine Gresham, who is dealing with a ribs issue. Alex Boone is also going to start again, with Mike Iupati (triceps) sitting out another game. WR J.J. Nelson, as expected, is playing with his hamstring issue. We’ll see if he can go full speed.
The full inactive list:
— QB Blaine Gabbert
— WR John Brown (quad)
— LB Deone Bucannon (ankle)
— RB D.J. Foster
— T D.J. Humphries (knee)
— G Mike Iupati (triceps)
— DL Xavier Williams
Tags: Cowboys, Deone Bucannon, inactives, Jermaine Gresham, Ricky Seals-Jones
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It was the last regular schedule day at #CardsCamp Wednesday (as well as the last open practice.) There is a morning practice closed to the public Thursday, and then training camp is (mercifully) over. Last year, the last regular practice had visitors — the Phoenix Suns. This year, there was also a special visit — Govenor Doug Ducey, who arrived with team president Michael Bidwill and talked with Bidwill through the length of the workout.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald actually left practice at one point (the setup of practice left the starting offense and the starting defense on the sideline for extended period of time while the other side of the ball worked) to say hello to Ducey and to threaten to give Bidwill a hug despite being sweaty as hell by that point. (That, like tackling, is a favorite thing for Fitz. I speak from experience.) Later in the practice, Fitzgerald brought David Johnson over for an introduction. Then Fitzgerald had another post-practice conversation with Ducey. Fitz understands how to make all the connections.
— CB Tramon Williams did not practice, apparently taking a rest day. RB Kerwynn Williams sat again with a sore foot, after it had been stepped on.
— At one point, S Budda Baker went down after a play and hobbled off with the assistance of head athletic trainer Tom Reed. But Baker turned out to be OK and came back to practice.
— Fitz made a spectacular diving one-handed catch on the sideline. Tight end Gerald Christian made a great leaping TD catch in the back of the end zone, and fellow tight end Ricky Seals-Jones made an equally impressive grab over (literally) linebacker Philip Wheeler. Wide receiver Krishawn Hogan made an improbable catch with CB Brandon Williams in a perfect spot.
— One day left.
Tags: Brandon Williams, Budda Baker, Doug Ducey, Gerald Christian, Kerwynn Williams, Krishawn Hogan, Michael Bidwill, Philip Wheeler, Ricky Seals-Jones, training camp, Tramon Williams
Posted in Blog | 16 Comments »
There is a flip side to teaching Robert Nkemdiche, who, make no mistake, is still trying to learn how to play his position on the defensive line. Every day, you can see Nkemdiche’s power and athleticism and effort as he tries to bury his disappointing rookie season, but in technique and discipline (making sure he doesn’t jump offsides), he is still in-progress.
But the power/athleticism/effort also gives offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Harold Goodwin a powerful tool when it comes to teaching his young players. Specifically, rookie fourth-round guard Dorian Johnson, who many times has been set up to face Nkemdiche. Before these matchups, Goodwin talks to Nkemdiche as much as Johnson, and given the intensity in which Nkemdiche attacks, it’s some serious on-the-job training.
The final one-on-one rep was a Nkemdiche win, pushing Johnson way back. Clearly Johnson isn’t ready to play this season, but this is how he gets better, and that Nkemdiche can help in the cause is an interesting turn, given where he was at as a player last season when he was a rookie.
— Left tackle D.J. Humphries was out working with the first unit most of practice for the first time since hurting his hamstring. “This whole situation kind of taught me to listen to my body a little bit, that you’re not in college anymore,” Humphries said. “It felt good today.”
— Wide receiver John Brown did look better at practice, making a handful of receptions in 11-on-11.
— Veteran receiver Jeremy Ross has picked up his play the last couple of days. And he looked like he was running ahead of J.J. Nelson Wednesday.
— Tight end Ifeanyi Momah made another nice reception and like previous camps, has proven himself as a receiver. They already like his special teams work. He should have a spot on the roster. He needs to continue to work on his blocking.
— LB Terrence Waugh left practice with some sort of leg injury.
— Earlier in the day, Bruce Arians noted that the best down-the-depth-chart receiver had been “‘Little Smoke” Chris Hubert. “He’s been wide-ass open,” Arians said. “We just haven’t hit him.” Early in practice, Hubert ran a nice route to the right sideline of the end zone, and he was wide open. Blaine Gabbert’s pass was too wide, however.
— Patrick Peterson made a nice interception, running the route ahead of wide receiver Jaron Brown. Safety Harlan Miller also had a pick. Rookie tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, back from an ankle issue, had an impressive diving TD catch.
— The first-team offense ran a quick screen to Jaron Brown. Tyrann Mathieu smelled it out and would have made a quick line-of-scrimmage tackle, if, you know, they were actually tackling. “C’mon dog, you gotta set it up better than that!” Mathieu yelled. “Too easy! Too easy!”
Tags: Chris Hubert, D.J. Humphries, Dorian Johnson, Harlan Miller, Ifeanyi Momah, J.J. Nelson, Jeremy Ross, John Brown, Patrick Peterson, Ricky Seals-Jones, Robert Nkemdiche, Terrence Waugh, training camp, Tyrann Mathieu
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