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Keim talks Stanton rehab, QB situation

Posted by Darren Urban on December 15, 2014 – 8:14 am

Steve Keim had a way to put things in perspective.

“The three best records in the NFL after the fourteenth game are Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ryan Lindley/Logan Thomas,” the Cardinals General Manager said Monday morning during his regular appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “It’s a credit to our organization and the job all the way down from Michael Bidwill to Bruce Arians, our coaching staff, our players, they have all done a fantastic job.”

There wasn’t a ton of specific info coming from the GM about his team’s quarterback situation. But he did acknowledge that the Cardinals will be going with some combination of Lindley and Thomas to play against the Seahawks Sunday. The Cards will add a quarterback, but it will be to the practice squad “for emergency purposes.” No, Kurt Warner is not walking through that door. (Which he never was, but I just wanted to use that line. Rick Pitino keeps on giving.)

UPDATE: The practice squad QB is Jeff Mathews, an undrafted rookie from Cornell who spent time earlier with Atlanta and Indianapolis.

Who the starting QB will be is TBA. Keim said simply “that’s a better question for Coach Arians.”

As for the injured Drew Stanton, Keim also sidestepped a timetable, because he said it’s really impossible to give one.

“With that type of knee injury, everybody heals different,” Keim said. “I know ESPN and some other outlets have put a timeline on it, which is extremely difficult to do. You can say it’s going to be four weeks, I’ve heard people say one-and-a-half weeks.

“Drew will be in there around the clock rehabbing. I know he’ll be ready to go as soon as possible.”

Keim reiterated Thomas could get a package of plays for the Seahawks game (that’s was as detailed as he’d get), so again, it sounds like both QBs could see the field. (Or the Cardinals are just building a nice ruse for the Seahawks to worry about during prep work.) Running the ball will be important, which really goes without saying.

“The thing that is extremely difficult to replace at any level is the quarterback,” Keim said. “I’ve said many times, there’s not even 32 quarterbacks to go around (to all the teams), so let alone you lose your starter — and it really hurt us because Carson (Palmer) was playing at a high level — and then you saw what Drew could do when he had the opportunity, which was win games for us and play solid football.

“To lose both those guys, it’s been extremely difficult to go through. But again, it goes back to the resiliency of our team.”

– It was the offensive line’s best game to date, Keim said. Guard Jonathan Cooper is “playing like a rookie” and needs to improve technically quite a bit, but it’s a start, Keim said.

– Keim called defensive end Frostee Rucker “an unsung hero” for his work of late. I’d second that. Rucker has been crucial in his role this season.


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Rams (and 11-win) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 12, 2014 – 2:02 am

Yes, Drew Stanton is hurt, and yes, there is a fear this could be a serious thing – ACL? – to take yet another quarterback away from the Cardinals.

But first, let’s talk about what the Cardinals did Thursday night (the Cards’ first Thursday win since 1948, albeit only with a handful of Thursday opportunities over the years), on a short week. They won on the road without a touchdown for the first time since 1935, and became the first team in the NFL to win without a touchdown since the Ravens did in in Detroit Dec. 16, 2013.

They’ve won 11 games for the first time as a franchise in 39 years. They’ve all but made the playoffs, unless the Eagles and Cowboys conspire for a backbreaking tie (Not gonna happen.) It’s been an amazing run even as the body shots accumulate, and if Bruce Arians doesn’t win another coach of the year award, I’ll be truly surprised.

(If the Cardinals manage to beat the Seahawks a week from Sunday, you might as well engrave his name on it that evening.)

That’s why there were so many laughs and smiles coming off the field Thursday night. This isn’t how you’d draw up a Super Bowl team, not losing all these guys. But the Cards have won in spite of all of it anyway. To paraphrase a former Cardinal great, it’s hard to win in the NFL. (I’m leaving off the expletive at the end.)

– OK, spinning this forward: Is Stanton done? We will see. No one is saying one way or the other, at least not at 1:45 a.m. on this plane ride home. But let’s assume, for the moment, Stanton won’t be available. That means Ryan Lindley, I’d think.

Arians made it clear Logan Thomas isn’t ready yet. And no, Lindley doesn’t have a great track record after his disastrous 2012 rookie stretch – when, like Thomas, he shouldn’t have been playing – but at least he has played. He was gone until Carson Palmer blew out his ACL, a cut so that the prospect of Thomas could be kept, and that’s why he was third-string when he returned. But it always made more sense that, if the Cards had to turn to the backup’s backup, that guy would probably be Lindley.

– As my cohort Kent Somers tweeted, Arians is going to talk about how much confidence he has in Lindley. Because that’s what B.A. does, especially with QBs. If that’s the guy who is playing, he’s going to have Arians’ full support.

– I expect the Cards to sign a third QB, maybe bring back Dennis Dixon. But for those on Twitter tonight (at 1 a.m. Arizona time on a Friday? Don’t you people have to work in a few hours?) asking about who the Cards are going to get, I don’t see any earthly way it’s someone who they plan to play. These are the cards these Cards have been dealt. The top two QBs could be done. You gotta make it work.

– Amazing that Antonio Cromartie thought he ruptured his Achilles five days ago, and not only played Thursday night but did it without looking like he was ever hurt.

– They take a lot of heat, but Arians was right, special teams was excellent. Chandler Catanzaro drilled his field goals. Drew Butler, after a horrible first punt, was great the rest of the night, constantly pinning the Rams deep, with help from his coverage units. (Long snapper Mike Leach with the awesome downing of the ball around the 5.) Six punts were downed inside the 20 out of eight. Ted Ginn broke off a 42-yard punt return. A very nice night for special teams coordinator Amos Jones’ guys.

– Quiet MVP from Thursday: Left tackle Jared Veldheer. Not only led a great night for the offensive line, but jumped on that late Kerwynn Williams fumble that could have changed the game.

– Frostee Rucker caused all kinds of havoc in the backfield. He’s been quietly great the past few games.

– Another guy causing backfield havoc was … cornerback Jerraud Powers? Yep. He was the blitzer a lot of the night. One delayed blitz was timed perfect and he drilled Shaun Hill late in the first half. It caused an incompletion and was a split second from causing a fumble. On the Rams’ last legit drive, his blitz on fourth down and leap allowed him to knock down Hill’s pass.

“I had some guys in my group texts, (former teammate) Antoine Bethea and a couple other guys, saying, ‘Who do you think you are? Dwight Freeney?’ ” Powers said. “I’m like, ‘Nah.’ ”

– So the last three times the Cardinals have played the Rams they have lost Tyrann Mathieu to an ACL tear, Palmer to an ACL tear and now, maybe Stanton has a serious injury? Unreal.

– Williams looked like the real deal again. Didn’t get 100 yards splitting time with Stepfan Taylor, but he averaged five yards on 15 carries and a couple of times was one defender away from breaking a TD run.

– The Cards are (probably) in the playoffs. They have more than a week to prep for the NFC West-deciding home game against Seattle. That will be an event on “Sunday Night Football.” It’d be nice if somehow, Stanton is OK.

“Obviously we’d like a full deck of cards, no pun intended,” Larry Fitzgerald said.

If not, there will probably be a shrug of the collective shoulders. Why should the end-all, be-all NFC West showdown be any different than the rest of the season?

AfterRamsBlog1use


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All three QBs active for Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on November 16, 2014 – 12:54 pm

The first game of the post-Carson Palmer part of the season will feature three active quarterbacks. Drew Stanton starts, with Logan Thomas No. 2 and Ryan Lindley No. 3. It makes a lot of sense. While Thomas will go in if something happens to Stanton, Lindley provides a little bit of a safety net with a player who at least has starting experience.

Alameda Ta’amu is also active, since DT Ed Stinson is sitting with his toe injury.

The full inactive list:

– RB Kerwynn Williams

– LB Desmond Bishop

– LB Glenn Carson

– DT Ed Stinson (toe)

– DE Josh Mauro

– G Earl Watford

– TE Darren Fells

The Lions are without starting running back Reggie Bush and starting tight end Brandon Pettigrew today.


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Cardinals bring QB Lindley back

Posted by Darren Urban on November 11, 2014 – 12:28 pm

Carson Palmer was officially put on injured reserve today, ending his season. In his place comes Ryan Lindley, signed back from the Chargers’ practice squad, where he’s been since the Cardinals cut him near the end of the preseason. It makes all the sense in the world. Bruce Arians has talked about the advances Lindley made in his game all last season and into camp, and if it wasn’t for Logan Thomas’ upside, Lindley might’ve stuck around as a third QB.

It makes all the sense in the world. At this point, the Cards want someone that knows the system. Lindley knows it, having played in it for more than a year. He knows the quarterbacks in the room. He’s a smart guy.

Earlier this season, the Cardinals signed Dennis Dixon to the practice squad for a few days before the Washington game, when the statuses of Palmer and Drew Stanton were up in the air. I think the Cards might’ve have grabbed Lindley at the time — except, because he was on the San Diego practice squad, they would’ve had to put him on the active roster and kept him there for at least three weeks. Knowing Palmer and Stanton wouldn’t be down that long, that didn’t make sense. Now that Palmer is out for the season, it does.

What would be interesting will be if something happens to Stanton long-term. I think Thomas is the backup for now. But if the Cards need to go to the bench for a start, would Lindley jump to the head of the line? He’s at least started in this league, and it’s hard to see Thomas being ready for that yet.

– In a related note, Stanton’s pregnant wife gave birth to his daughter, so Stanton has had this week work out nicely — baby on the off day, practice as starter set for Wednesday.

Lindley1USE

 


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Fitzgerald ad gets help from Thomas, Lindley

Posted by Darren Urban on October 2, 2014 – 3:05 pm

So the latest big-time ad featuring Larry Fitzgerald came out recently, a pretty cool concept of Fitz catching passes one-handed from Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick and Drew Brees in FitzNFriendsUSEan empty University of Phoenix Stadium (while he used the other hand to buy jerseys, through Visa, on his phone. It was, after all, a commercial.) It was through the magic of TV however. Luck, Kaepernick and Brees weren’t there — except Luck and Kaepernick were, sort of, thanks to ex-Cardinal QB Ryan Lindley and the man who beat him out for a roster spot, Logan Thomas.

Fitzgerald enlisted the help of his teammates (the Brees part, Fitzgerald said, was done by an arena league quarterback.) The shoot was during one of the Cardinals’ off days in training camp, and Thomas estimated it was a seven-hour day, with four of those spent on and off with Andrew Luck Lindley and Colin Kaepernick Thomas flinging a total of about 300 passes.

“We just had to keep throwing to the same hand,” Thomas said. “But it was fun.”

Thomas and Lindley each were dressed as their Pro Bowl alter egos. Thomas even got his arm treated to simulate the tattoos on Kaepernick’s arm. At the time, Lindley was sporting a full beard and looked a lot like Luck (no word, in hindsight, if Lindley grew the beard just for the part.) It’s only too bad there isn’t a picture out there of the three of them in uniform to commemorate the moment. Ask and you shall receive, as you can see.

Still, “anything to help a teammate,” Thomas said with a smile. “You get to see the personality, especially for Fitz. If it becomes my turn down the road (for a commercial), that would be cool.”


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Practice squad now gets 10 — and vets

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2014 – 2:02 pm

The NFL and the NFLPA have agreed to expand the practice squad from eight players to 10 in a pact that right now only lasts for the 2014 and 2015 season. That’s good news for coaches who like having more players for practice and for general managers who like the possibility of keeping young talent around to develop. It also helps a team to have more players who are familiar with the system if a roster move is necessary during the season.

The new practice squad rule has also brought with it a couple of adjustments. Players can spend up to three seasons on the practice squad if eligible, and now a player has to be on a PS six games (up from just three) to have a PS year count against one of those three seasons.

Second, and the much, much bigger news, is that two players of the 10 may now have up to two accrued seasons in the NFL. Before, a player with at least nine games on the 46-man roster in a season was not practice-squad eligible. That means that almost every player who has come into the league since 2012 is eligible this season. In the most obvious current case with the Cardinals, that suddenly means that quarterback Ryan Lindley, who was not practice-squad eligible a couple of hours ago, now is eligible.

In Lindley’s case, I still don’t know if the Cards would want to keep him around. There are very few reps for reserve QBs once the season starts and the Cards are going to want to get rookie Logan Thomas as much work as they can. Having a fourth quarterback in the mix would make that tougher for both Thomas and Lindley. But you never know.

Practice squad players still have to clear waivers. That hasn’t changed, so if you think a guy can play, he may never make it through for you to put him back on your practice squad. But with the two-years-and-OK change, the pool for the squad just got really, really big. (Brittan Golden on the practice squad? Even Earl Watford?)


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Larsen a top lineman, and trade calls

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 9:16 am

Ted Larsen at left guard? It wouldn’t be a total surprise. Larsen was working at guard a lot before starting center Lyle Sendlein got hurt and General Manager Steve Keim said today during his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Larsen “has been one of our five best offensive linemen” during training camp. The veteran free agent who had played for Tampa Bay has been solid at center for Sendlein and at this point, there are still questions about when Jonathan Cooper will come back and how he will do when he does come back.

Keim said Cooper’s turf toe was “significant” and he isn’t sure if Cooper will be back this week or next. It would make sense when Sendlein returns from his calf injury — Keim said that could be Wednesday — that Larsen could be in the left guard mix. (That also likely means Earl Watford has not left as good of an impression playing left guard as the Cardinals would have liked.)

– The Cardinals have not received any phone calls about someone possibly interested in a Ryan Lindley trade, Keim said. The reality is that barring injury, Lindley will be the odd man out at QB. Keim said such calls wouldn’t hear up until next week anyway. Keim said the Cardinals have had a few calls about their wide receivers. In what really isn’t a surprise, Keim said it is “more realistic” the Cardinals will keep six wide receivers. I’ve thought that for a while, given the play of Jaron Brown and rookie Walt Powell behind Fitz, Floyd, Ginn and John Brown.

– Stuff Keim liked from the Vikings game: linebacker Larry Foote’s play, quarterback Carson Palmer, Jaron Brown and how all the wide receivers did blocking on the perimeter.

– Stuff Keim didn’t like: The inability to create pressure on the quarterback, blown coverages and the lack of explosive runs (although he admitted not playing Andre Ellington much didn’t help the latter.)

– New linebacker Desmond Bishop, who dressed for practice Thursday but didn’t practice much at all, looked good in his 12 snaps, Keim said. I think Bishop, assuming he progresses, has a chance to stick. It’ll be interesting to see who that might cost in terms of a roster spot.

– Speaking of inside linebackers, Kevin Minter may still sit because of his pectoral injury. Keim said the Cards will be careful with Minter. No reason to risk anything right now.

– Linebacker John Abraham could return to individual drills either today or Wednesday.

 


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Vikings (late) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2014 – 11:35 pm

It’s preseason, and rarely do things matter less in the NFL than a touchdown scored in the waning minutes of the second oreseason game. The reality is almost every player on the field at that point in the game won’t be in the NFL in a month.

In the grand scheme of things, Zach Bauman’s six-yard lateral run (?) of the loose ball batted backward by center John Estes was the play of Saturday night, right? It’s the kind of play that might’ve lived forever had it happened in a regular season game. It was fourth down, the Cardinals were going for it down three on the Minnesota 6-yard line because there is no way Bruce Arians was going to go to overtime in the preseason, and then Estes’ snap didn’t connect with quarterback Ryan Lindley. The ball rolled around. Estes, in the officials’ eyes, batted it backward, although oblong as it is, the ball took a turn toward the Vikings’ goal line, and Bauman scooped it up and improbably scored.

“Saw a play I haven’t seen in 22 years,” Arians said, before deadpanning, “that touchdown … that was designed.”

Even Lindley was willing to have fun with it.

“You know when we ran (at practice) and coach went off the field?” Lindley said, referring to the fight-induced punishment Thursday. “That’s really what we did, we got the defense some scout team reps, and we let it ride.”

For those wondering, here was the official comment from referee Craig Wrolstad:

“The ball was snapped, it was a backwards pass. The snap is considered the backwards pass. Any backwards pass can be advanced by any team, any direction, on any down. It wasn’t a fumble because the snap was never possessed by any of the players. The ball was snapped, it rolled around, it was knocked around a couple times, nobody ever had control of the ball. Nobody ever had control of the ball, so nobody ever had possession, so it was not a fumble.”

Wild. It worked out for Bauman too, clearly.

Some other quick thoughts before I try to actually get some sleep on this flight home:

– The Cardinals know they have to be better on special teams. This goes beyond who the kicker might be. The coverage wasn’t good – Arians said as much – and Lorenzo Alexander knows it needs to improve quickly.

“They probably have one of the premier return units in the league, but as a cover unit, we definitely have to step up and put our defense in better field positions, and also create turnovers,” Alexander said, adding “we still have a lot of moving parts, lot of young guys, but it’s no excuse. Special teams is about want-to, effort and heart.”

– The only injury Arians knew of was tackle Max Starks, who tweaked the same left ankle that has been giving him trouble.

– Newly signed linebacker Desmond Bishop wasn’t supposed to dress but he did and he played. He flashed a couple of times too. The veteran was a very good player before he had serious injuries the past two years. His progress bears watching.

– The starting defense did OK. I think they’d like to do better. I thought Calais Campbell was effective early, and I thought linebacker Larry Foote was too. That group is going to jump a level when DC Todd Bowles starts game-planning.

– It was too bad the crazy Bauman play didn’t win the game, but the third unit defenders didn’t have a good night. The Cardinals probably shouldn’t have been in the position late anyway, at least not how they got there. I thought the long pass interference drawn by receiver Kevin Ozier to set up the Cards’ final TD wasn’t a good call.

– The 19-play drive that scored a touchdown to open the third-quarter was a thing of beauty in terms of possession (and in terms of a preseason game and running the clock, but that’s me being selfish). It ate up 10:06 on the clock, and 14 of the plays were runs. No runs for more than seven yards and the Cards needed to convert a couple of fourth downs, but it was an exercise in being physical.

That’s enough for now.


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Arians: Pads are on to stay

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2014 – 12:25 pm

Coach Bruce Arians said he was happy padded practice arrived Monday afternoon because Sunday “we were way too active to be in shorts.” The pads will make it seem a lot like football — the first two days of camp just seem like a continuation of the offseason OTAs (which gets old after a while). The pads will stay on too, Arians said.

“With the limited time you can hit now, you can’t hit enough in my opinion,” Arians said. “You only get 15 practices before you are playing games. The evaluation process … most of it has been about how mentally can they handle the job, now it’s whether they can actually play. You can’t get enough evaluations in that situation.”

Arians will dial it down when the Cardinals trim to the 53-man roster. Until then, though, let the hitting commence.

– The swollen left knee of DT Dan Williams is not serious, Arians said, stemming from an old injury. Williams is getting an MRI but he should not miss much time. Everyone else is ready to practice, save for absent LB John Abraham.

– Thus far, Logan Thomas has received all the QB 11-on-11 reps that have not gone to Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton. That will change, Arians said, but we’ll see how soon. “Ryan is going to get the short end of the stick for a little bit because Logan is new,” Arians said.

– Arians said he considered center Lyle Sendlein underrated. Sendlein does fly under the radar but he is respected by this staff, which — if you can do after a full coaching change — is impressive.

– When the pads go on, there is always the threat of a scuffle breaking out. It’s unlikely at Cards camp, though, because Arians leaves little doubt how he feels about in-fighting.

“The first thing you do is break your hand,” Arians said. “Might as well punch the wall. If you want to break your hand, break your hand. If you want to fight I’ll put boxing gloves on you and you can fight your ass off. That’s what Coach (Bear) Bryant used to do. Want to fight? Wear 18-pound gloves, and they were not allowed to stop swinging.

 

Arians was asked how it would end. “They both passed out. It only happened once. (Now,) the CBA might frown on it.”

Arians did say he wouldn’t fine a guy for fighting. “No. I’ll cut ‘em,” Arians said. “There’s always a threat of that.”

 


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Considering intriguing camp battles

Posted by Darren Urban on July 18, 2014 – 4:17 pm

This isn’t necessarily about starters, since I have already addressed that directly. But the battles of training camp aren’t always about who plays first or the most. Sometimes it’s about roster battles and depth and who plays more than who. Some competition will come seemingly from nowhere — going into camp last season, no one would have guess Paul Fanaika would have gotten into the mix, but the Daryn Colledge injury helped that come into focus — so there will be other players to watch.

But for now, here is some of the competition I will be watching:

Guards Earl Watford, Paul Fanaika, Ted Larsen and Anthony Steen. Larsen has been backing up Lyle Sendlein at center while Steen, who can also back up both spots, didn’t do anything in the offseason recovering from injuries. Someone will be the starting right guard. The Cardinals would like for Watford to step up. It very well could be Fanaika for a second straight season. Watford should be on the roster regardless, so if he’s not starting, that will be a spot that must be won. The Cards likely will only dress seven on game days, making those swing interior guys valuable.

Tackles Bobby Massie and Bradley Sowell. OK, everyone knows this one. It doesn’t make it any less intriguing. Like Watford, Massie is the guy the Cardinals would like to win the job. But he’s got to win it. Sowell isn’t going away without a fight. Sowell, however, can be a valuable game-day backup since he played left tackle all last season and can play the right. That’s a one-for-two guy on your bench.

Cornerbacks Justin Bethel and Jerraud Powers. With Tyrann Mathieu still hurt, Powers is an important piece in nickle coverage to start the season. But when Mathieu gets back, can Bethel — who got so much love for his potential this offseason — find a way past Powers on the depth chart? Bethel still has much to prove. Powers has his limitations, but his smarts make him a favorite of Todd Bowles and Bruce Arians.

Inside linebackers Ernie Sims and Kenny Demens. Sims has the experience, but he also has the reputation of struggling the past couple of seasons, which is why he finds himself bouncing around the league. The Cardinals have been intrigued with Demens since his (undrafted) rookie year last year, when he spent most of his time on the practice squad. Sims came in late and is trying to catch up. Losing Daryl Washington sent a lot of things into flux at inside linebacker. One of these guys are vying for a depth role probably behind Kevin Minter, Larry Foote and Lorenzo Alexander.

Kickers Jay Feely, Chandler Catanzaro and Danny Hrapmann. This is another obvious one. Still it’s one to watch. It’s definitely a subject that seems to get the fans riled up — and looking around the league, it’s a position that tends to do that with the fan base, for whatever reason.

Running backs Robert Hughes, Jalen Parmele and Zach Bauman. Arians came out praising Hughes. He figures to be the top choice as the fourth running back behind Ellington, Dwyer and Taylor. But Parmele is another big guy who has played in the league and could sneak his way into the spot instead. What will be interesting is if the Cardinals want less of a bruiser as a fourth, like a Bauman, considering Dwyer is a big back and Taylor is more of a between-the-tackles guy too.

Wide receivers Jaron Brown, Walt Powell and Brittan Golden. The top four receiving spots are taken. Fitz is Fitz and Floyd is Floyd. Ted Ginn will have a role, as will third-round pick John Brown. Brown flashed last year but again, he’s got competition. He’s bigger than Powell and definitely Golden — Golden would seem to be in trouble given the arrival of Brown and Ginn — but Powell is a draft pick and that usually ends up playing a role if it’s close.

Quarterbacks Logan Thomas and Ryan Lindley. It’s hard to believe that, barring a meltdown, Thomas doesn’t find a way on to the roster. But you never know, and both players figure to get plenty of playing time in the preseason to let any battle play out in front of us.

battlesuse

 


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