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Blogs

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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QB Logan Thomas comes to Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on May 10, 2014 – 10:19 am

So Friday night, Bruce Arians asked “Why” when he was asked why the Cardinals hadn’t taken a quarterback. Saturday morning, the Cardinals took Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, the definition of a project. As a QB, can Thomas beat out Ryan Lindley? Probably not. But Thomas, at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, has a giant arm and endless athletic talent. He’s not accurate. He is smart enough to play quarterback but all the analysts wonder about his technique and form. That, you figure is exactly what Arians and QB coach Freddie Kitchens think they have a chance to fix.

It’s a boom-or-bust choice, at least as a QB. Thomas could turn into one heckuva tight end. Arians, before the draft, was asked if Thomas could be a quarterback in the NFL. Arians said “he thinks he is,” and I’d think he will get his shot. Arians personally went to Virginia Tech for a pre-draft workout. He clearly likes his potential and he also thinks coaching changes and the talent around Thomas impacted Thomas’ play. But there is no getting around Thomas’ inconsistencies as a passer. This is incredibly intriguing and will be as this plays out.

LoganThomasUSE

 


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Finding that future quarterback

Posted by Darren Urban on April 15, 2014 – 4:00 pm

The three quarterbacks of the Cardinals were at the facility today, doing a workout, hanging out and prepping for when the team can officially get started with new strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris next week. Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley, a cohesive group all last season, looked like it again and made me think of something Bruce Arians told me a couple of months ago. “You have a (quarterbacks) room, (and) if you have a starter and you know who the backup is and you have a third guy who fits in the room, you don’t fool with it,” Arians said. “It’s too delicate of a learning place to fool with it.”

In the context of what the Cardinals might do in the draft, it’s a notable belief. Palmer said today he would understand if the Cardinals picked a quarterback in the draft. He’s not getting any younger, and the Cards would like to have a long-term answer at the position. What team wouldn’t? Arians is a major part of the draft meetings and he of course will have input on the top 120 board. But GM Steve Keim will have the final call, and like any GM viewing the big picture — which Keim most certainly does — settling on a young quarterback would be nice, to say the least.

Is there a guy in this draft worth it? Keim might think so, but he won’t be saying, wisely. Draft meetings are going on about 25 feet from me but there’s no way to know what this group of QBs will be graded by this scouting staff and front office. One thing that is interesting in this situation: Palmer is going to be due an extension after this season, and there is a large difference between paying a starting quarterback what Palmer would command (he’s getting $9 million this season) and what a guy under a rookie contract would cost. I don’t think that’s a determining factor (I don’t think the Cardinals would have a problem with Palmer as 2015 starting QB, assuming his level of play remains solid) but it is something to consider.

QB3usethis

 


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Fitzgerald, Housler active in Seattle

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2013 – 12:32 pm

As expected, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is active today for the Cardinals after suffering a concussion last week in Tennessee. That’s important, as is tight end Rob Housler (groin) as the Cards need all their weapons. Another interesting twist on today’s inactive list: Quarterback Ryan Lindley is active, meaning all three QBs are up. That is a nod to the gimpy left ankle of Carson Palmer, not that he won’t or can’t play, but more that if he is hit the wrong way and sent out, the Cards would want to make sure they still have two healthy quarterbacks once Drew Stanton was put in the game.

Safety Rashad Johnson (ankle) is indeed inactive, meaning rookie Tony Jefferson is starting. With Lindley up, the “new” inactive is offensive lineman Nate Potter.

The full inactive list is:

– S Rashad Johnson (ankle)

– RB Ryan Williams

– G Earl Watford

– DE Ronald Talley

– LB Dontay Moch

– T Nate Potter

– TE Kory Sperry


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Fitz active against Lions

Posted by Darren Urban on September 15, 2013 – 11:29 am

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, dealing with his hamstring problem, is not surprisingly active for the game against the Lions today. How much he is able to do will be the question played out on the field. Newly promoted wide receiver Kerry Taylor is also active. The inactive list actually is the same as the opener, except QB Ryan Lindley is inactive instead of the recently released CB Jamell Fleming. That also means running back Ryan Williams will sit again.

The rest of the inactive list besides Lindley and Williams:

– TE Rob Housler (ankle)

– LB Alex Okafor

– DT Alameda Ta’amu

– T Bobby Massie

– G Earl Watford


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CAPTION THIS – Ryan Lindley Edition

Posted by since1898 on September 11, 2013 – 4:34 pm

CAPTIONLINDLEY

 

BACK TO #since1898


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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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Broncos aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2013 – 11:46 pm

Tony Jefferson still had his uniform on, his shoulder pads pushing out his grass-stained jersey. After his last showing of the preseason, getting five tackles, a sack, two tackles TJusefor loss, a fumble recovery and a special teams tackle while battling for a roster spot, he was left to … do nothing.

“I’m just going to leave that up to the coaches, whether I am a fit for the team or not,” the undrafted rookie safety said, noting he would be going back to watch his former University of Oklahoma teammates in their opener this weekend.

“I’m going to try and keep my mind off it,” Jefferson said. “Just wait. It’s a waiting game. Just like draft day.”

The wait won’t take long (which is why this aftermath is going to be pretty short and sweet.) Steve Keim said the initial 53-man roster will be set by noon Friday, and Bruce Arians will make it public at 1 p.m. No reason to overly analyze Thursday night, which will be old news soon enough.

Some thoughts on what is coming, in light on what happened in Denver with context through my initial 53-man guess:

– Obviously strong games for QB Ryan Lindley and RB Ryan Williams. Enough to be on the 53? It would make sense, yet you could easily see a scenario where they wouldn’t be. Williams, I suppose, still could be traded, although I don’t see him being simply released. Personally I’d like Williams to stay, but we’ll see. “We’re not cutting good football players,” Bruce Arians said. (Although he didn’t say he wouldn’t trade them.)

– Teams don’t have to be to 53 until Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. So they might still keep 54 or 55 tomorrow if a deal is percolating.

– Lindley is “light years” ahead of where he was, Arians said. “Early on he had trouble processing as the play was happening. Now he has a quarterback rating of (104) and that was with guys busting routes on him. I thought he played extremely well. He was very comfortable out there.”

– All that said, Arians still wouldn’t say if Lindley had made the team for sure yet.

– Speaking of trades, will a defensive back be dealt? I’ve said since the offseason I wouldn’t be surprised in a deal like the A.J. Jefferson trade of 2012.

– I thought rookie wideout Jaron Brown was already on this team. I feel even more confident in that now.

– Beyond Brown? Mike Thomas did catch a touchdown late but he probably should have caught a bomb from Lindley earlier. It would have been a tough catch but it was makeable – and it was the kind of catch that helps you make rosters. Kerry Taylor had a quiet night.

– Arians said TE Jeff King is headed for knee surgery. Not sure if that’s significant enough for injured reserve or not. With Rob Housler still trying to come back from an ankle issue, I’m thinking King won’t be on the roster.

– To my untrained eye, I think Jefferson flashed enough to make them want to keep him. Would it be in lieu of Jonathon Amaya? Other than Jefferson, I didn’t really think any of the defensive backs battling for the roster played particularly well Thursday.

– The lone injury was a shoulder problem for defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin, unfortunate for a guy trying to make the roster. Ronald Talley, the man Arians has been talking up, seemed to make a couple plays. Wondering what that might mean for David Carter, who is on the bubble. Arians said he’d need to see the tape to really give decent analysis on the defensive line play in the game.

– In the locker room, Larry Fitzgerald pointed out the Cardinals logo rookie seventh-round tight end D.C. Jefferson has tattooed on his abdomen. Now that’s confidence in your ability to make the roster.

– I thought before the entire draft class still here (Ryan Swope already having retired of course) makes the 53. I haven’t changed my mind on that.

We’ll see. We’ll know in a little more than 12 hours.


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Revisiting the Lindley option

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2013 – 2:52 pm

After the Cardinals wrapped up their final practice before the Thursday preseason finale today, Bruce Arians talked about the importance of the game for the “Ryans” — QB Lindley and RB Williams. For Ryan Williams, we all know what that he needs to show where he is physically (although Arians said he was back at full speed.) For Lindley, it’s a little different. He’s been there, been playing. But Arians made it clear early in camp he might just keep two quarterbacks, and Palmer + Stanton = No Lindley.

Lindley’s Denver outing is about “making himself more valuable than the other four, five guys at the end of the roster,” Arians said.

Lindley is going to play a lot in Denver (and Palmer might not play at all.) Thus far, the second-year QB has completed 10-of-17 passes for 156 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions in the preseason. His 89.3 QB rating is actually best on the team. The decision is about “the other four, five guys at the end of the roster” and how Lindley stacks up. Is it worth keeping an extra linebacker over a third QB? An extra offensive lineman?

Arians has been on many teams with just two QBs. Here’s why I think they stick with Lindley: Because the alternative is dangerous. If they release Lindley, who isn’t practice squad eligible, they would likely need to find a practice-squad QB just in case, a guy who would have to play catch-up. Seems like it makes sense to keep Lindley for now.

– RB Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and TE Rob Housler (ankle) didn’t practice today. But most of the banged-up players were out there, like WR Andre Roberts, DT Dan Williams, OLB Matt Shaughnessy and TE D.C. Jefferson. That’s a good sign heading toward the opener.

– Arians said there are still a handful of roster spots he considers still up for grabs, including wide receiver, safety, cornerback, tight end and even offensive line.

– The Cards practiced in their new bubble in Tempe today for only the second time:

BubbleTwitter


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Sidelined Ryan Williams knows he’ll need “big plays”

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2013 – 12:27 pm

The Cardinals are getting healthier, although the main subject for Bruce Arians once again as his team starts a new week was the status of running back Ryan WIlliams. It’s only Monday, but already Arians said Williams “probably” will not play against the Chargers Saturday because of the knee. Answers are few and far between, but Arians was asked about Williams anyway.

About evaluating WIlliams, Arians said, “He needs to start playing. Can’t evaluate him unless you play.” Arians isn’t sure yet what it means for Williams’ chances at a roster spot, and there is still an opportunity for Williams to “play a bunch” against Denver in the preseason finale. That would mean Williams would actually have to come back first though.

“You can’t get these reps back,” Arians said. “He had an excellent OTAs, started with an excellent camp, running and cutting. Then just put the brakes on. You can’t get this back.” Asked if he thought it was more mental than physical with Williams, Arians said “I can’t answer that. He’s the only one who can answer that.”

UPDATE: Williams said it’s still the irritation under the “fatty pad” in his knee causing him sharp pain. He said he doesn’t even call it an injury. He also wasn’t willing to say he was nervous about his spot on the roster, mostly because he figures worrying about it wouldn’t help.

“I wouldn’t say nervous about my spot, I just don’t like taking time off,” Williams said. “But things like this happen. There was nothing more I could have done to prevent this from happening. I really not nervous, because I feel when I go out there, I’ll be able to erase the time that I’ve missed.”

Would there be enough time to convince the organization to keep him if he didn’t return until next week? “I don’t know,” Williams said. “We’ll have to see. I’d have to make a lot of big plays to erase the time that I’ve missed. I really don’t worry about things like that, because whatever is going to happen is going to happen.”

Williams added he was “pretty sure” the coaches are frustrated because he is too.

“I wouldn’t doubt that they were,” Williams said. “Can I sense it? No. If they are they are doing a good (job) of hiding it. I’m pretty sure they are, but it’s not to the point where they are mad at me. They are more mad at the situation like I am.”

– The good news is that Arians expects a handful of players to return to practice today. He didn’t name any particulars other than cornerback Javier Arenas, although he said last week he thought LB Karlos Dansby would be back on the field today. Those players may still be limited, but they will have a chance to play Saturday. TE Jeff King (knee) and WR Jarrett Dillard (concussion) remain out, although Arians said he thought King could play against San Diego.

– Backup tackles Nate Potter and Bobby Massie got extended playing time against the Cowboys because they needed extra work, Arians said, and he added he liked they way they played. They will get less work this week as the starters go longer, and while Arians said the depth chart at the position has not changed he still sees a competition not only between Massie/Eric Winston and Potter/Levi Brown but also at right guard between Daryn Colledge and Paul Fanaika.

– Colledge will get some snaps as center this week. Colledge said he has never played center in a game, but with only seven linemen that dress Sundays, having Colledge be proficient at the skill would mean the Cards wouldn’t need a specific backup center active on game days.

– Arians has mentioned a couple of times that Kerry Taylor dropped a touchdown pass against Dallas, as he did with tight end D.C. Jefferson in the first preseason game. In both cases, it looked like the pass from QB Drew Stanton was slightly off-target and would have made a grab difficult. Arians was asked if he ever thought about giving his receivers more slack. “No,” he deadpanned, before a smile crept over his face. “This is the NFL. When you get both hands on the ball, you’ve got to catch it.”

– The play of QB Carson Palmer was “average,” Arians said. “He’d probably say he was terrible,” Arians said. “He knows he can play better.”

– In the department of Ryan Lindley seems to have a good shot to stick, Arians said the third QB has done “extremely well” and his decision-making in games has been good. Lindley will get extensive time in the fourth preseason game, which will be important in his evaluation.

– Arians, asked to assess the camp of kicker Jay Feely, paused before calling it “solid.” But he said he made it clear to Feely missing a 30-yard field goal was unacceptable.

– Colledge, whose fractured leg was revealed last week by General Manager Steve Keim, said he was shaking off the rust. “A lesser man would have quit football,” Colledge quipped. As for the talk of the injury being a nerve problem and not a broken leg, Colledge said “What we tell people and what needs to be said are two different things.”


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