With the possibility Rashard Mendenhall might not play this week (I think he will) because of his toe injury, I’ve heard plenty of questions about Ryan Williams and his status. Bottom line, if Mendenhall is healthy enough to be active Sunday, I don’t see why the running back situation would change – and that would mean Williams would be inactive again.
I asked Bruce Arians about Williams today. “Working his tail off and getting better,” Arians said. “Making up for that lost time. I have no doubt when he gets his opportunity, which he will, he’ll do extremely well with it.”
Many have asked if Williams could be traded (never say never, but as of now, I’d doubt it.) I get that. Many have also wondered why the Cards just don’t release Williams. That I don’t get. If you feel like he can play a little, and he’s a former second-round pick, why just let him go? At this point, they don’t feel he deserves to be active over the top four guys – and again, I see that as a special teams thing as much as anything – but if someone gets hurt, he’s a nice backup plan to have.
OK, with that out of the way, here are some end-of-the-week notes heading into New Orleans weekend:
– The Cardinals have a lot of players heading back to familiar stomping grounds in Louisiana thanks to the LSU pipeline, but Arians has worked hard to limit the distraction. “This,” former LSU star Patrick Peterson said, “is a business trip.” A business trip in which the Cards don’t even get to their hotel until close to 7 p.m. and have a noon game the next day, so there will be very little time for anything but football.
– Given how important this trip is to Tyrann Mathieu, going home and everything, it’s hard not to think he’ll make some sort of big play Sunday. Then again, predicting Mathieu is going to make an impact play isn’t exactly going out on a limb.
– The Saints are just a different team now that Sean Payton is back as head coach after his year-suspension for the bountygate scandal.
“As a head coach, you oversee everything, so I think we missed that the most,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “There are just certain messages that I think only he can convey in his way.”
– Of course, it also helps that Rob Ryan has rehabbed a wretched defense. It wasn’t as if the Saints were bad last year offensively. But defensively, yikes. The one good thing for the Cards? They don’t really have a major pass rusher (although Valley native Cameron Jordan is off to a good start). The Saints also might have some injury issues. Their injury report is loooong, and one of the guys who might miss is guard Jahri Evans, which would be a big deal.
– Rookie running back Andre Ellington had his 36-yard touchdown catch last week and he should have had one in the first game. Someone asked Carson Palmer if Ellington was developing into one of his favorite receivers. There was a little bit of a “Come on, man” answer from Palmer.
“I like the kid, but I have some other guys,” Palmer said. “Number 12 (Roberts), number 11 (Fitz) and number 15 (Floyd), those are my favorite guys to throw to. I would love it if Andre worked his way into that group, but it’s going to take some time and some trust you have to develop. He’s very talented. He’s a tailback and those guys are receivers and there are a lot of differences between the two. I definitely like throwing the ball to those receivers.”
– I just realized, typing that quote, that none of the Cards’ main three receivers have a classic number-in-the-80s jersey. I’d have to look, but I bet no other team has their top three guys in the teens, jersey-number-wise. (As @jrleko points out on Twitter, all five receivers have numbers in the teens, with Jaron Brown at 13 and Kerry Taylor 18. That’s got to be an NFL-first.)
– Justin Bethel’s field-goal block was the Cardinals’ 15th since 2008, most in the NFL in that time span.
– Lions defensive tackle Israel Idonije was fined $15,750 for his hit on Palmer in last weekend’s game.
– Peterson was talking about how much the Saints are loved and he recalled being at LSU when the Saints won the Super Bowl. “I was there when the Saints won their first championship,” Peterson said. “It was like Christmas, every day.”
It wasn’t so much like Christmas the last time the Cards were in New Orleans. That didn’t end so well (and then Kurt Warner retired.) We’ll see if the result is different this time.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Justin Bethel, Patrick Peterson, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, Saints, Sean Payton, Tyrann Mathieu
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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
Tags: inactives, Larry Fitzgerald, Ryan Lindley, Ryan Williams
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The new depth chart revealed a new option on the left side with newcomer Bradley Sowell listed as Levi Brown’s backup. Sowell was on the right side last week, but he’s been flipped and Nate Potter now officially listed as the left guard backup to Daryn Colledge.
A lot of people have asked about Bobby Massie playing the left side, but he’s never done it. In college, in fact, Massie was also a right tackle at Ole Miss — because the left tackle was none other than Sowell. Sowell played in only six games as a rookie for the Colts (including the playoff game), and was right tackle in all but one, in which he played left guard. In college, however, he started 36 of his final 37 games at left tackle.
None of this means Sowell is on the verge of starting or taking Levi Brown’s place. Bruce Arians sounded pretty sure the last couple of days that there was no plan on changing out Brown now. But the Cards will probably get Sowell work there like Potter is working at guard, and we will see what happens — both with Sowell’s development and Brown’s play on the field.
– The running back depth chart was officially changed too, and Ryan Williams — as how it played out in the opener — is indeed listed fifth, behind Rashard Mendenhall, Alfonso Smith, Stepfan Taylor and then Andre Ellington (even though Ellington got eight offensive snaps and Taylor none against the Rams.)
– Speaking of the offensive line, I caught up with Jonathan Cooper. He isn’t worried about being a rookie again next year when he returns from his broken leg, because of his confidence gained from playing in the preseason.
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Andre Ellington, Bradley Sowell, Jonathan Cooper, Levi Brown, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor
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In what isn’t a surprise, running back Ryan Williams is indeed inactive today for the Cardinals. You figured one of the backs would be down. Since there is special teams aspects to the other guys, Williams was a natural choice. Defensive end Calais Campbell (quad) is active. In fact, tight end Rob Housler (ankle) is the only inactive based on an injury. Another interesting move: Bruce Arians has kept all three quarterbacks, including Ryan Lindley, active today.
Eight offensive linemen are active, but all three backups can give multiple looks: Nate Potter can play G/T, Mike Gibson can play C/G and newcomer Bradley Sowell not only could play T but also blocking TE. Jim Dray is the lone starting tight end. Andre Roberts will be a third starting wide receiver.
The other first-week inactives for the Cardinals:
– CB Jamell Fleming
– LB Alex Okafor
– DT Alameda Ta’amu
– T Bobby Massie
– G Earl Watford
Tags: Bradley Sowell, Calais Campbell, inactives, Milke Gibson, Nate Potter, quarterbacks, Rob Housler, Ryan Williams
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The Cardinals have five running backs. That’s not a complete surprise, given who the backs are and the fact the team doesn’t carry a fullback. But in a system where the offense calls for just one back on the field the vast majority of the time, the math doesn’t exactly work out. What that means for the roster Sunday remains a bit of mystery.
Asked about his plans for his running backs, coach Bruce Arians said “We have plenty. We have plenty.” And that was as far as he went.
“I think it’s based on how Rashard (Mendenhall) plays, how he’s going and when he gets tired,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “We feel good about all our backs, so whoever is in there, he’s our starter.”
Mendenhall is the clear No. 1 guy. He looked good against the starting defenses he played against in the preseason, and he’s the well-rounded veteran Arians trusts. Now, he’s wearing a brace on his knee and he’s been listed as limited thus far this week, so there is always the hesitation on the injury front. Arians said Mendenhall was healthy coming into the week, so the limited part of practice may just be precautionary. Either way, how does it play out behind him?
Rookie Stepfan Taylor seems to be the one who will grind it out in needed short-yardage — there was a play in the preseason when he lined up in the backfield with Mendenhall essentially as a fullback in an offset I, and made a fourth down-and-short carry for a first. The wild card in all this is Ryan Williams. He’s behind the other backs on the special teams depth chart — Taylor, Alfonso Smith and rookie Andre Ellington all perform in the transition game — and while he is listed as second behind Mendenhall on the depth chart, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him inactive either.
Ellington, who showed up on the injury list Thursday limited with a hamstring, also might be a candidate to sit. Smith, because he can be a key on special teams, would figure to be active. He’s probably best in pass protection too, aside from Mendenhall. But again, this is the first game and it’s hard to get a true sense of how Arians will construct his roster. It was a slight surprise Arians kept five backs on the 53-man roster in the first place. Perhaps having all five playing Sunday isn’t that much of a leap, although if Mendenhall is OK, it’s hard to believe the need for four others.
UPDATE: Arians said after practice that while the rotation behind Mendenhall is situational, Alfonso Smith will be the No. 2 guy in many instances. If that’s the case, Williams indeed could be inactive Sunday.
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Andre Ellington, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor
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The first depth chart of the regular season — officially unofficial that it is — is out. Yes, the team puts one out but let’s face it, there is nothing making the coaches stay true to it, so as usual, there is a grain of salt aspect that must come with it. That said, Ryan Williams, after everything he went through in training camp, is still listed as the No. 2 running back behind Rashard Mendenhall. Stepfan Taylor is three, Alfonso Smith four, Andre Ellington fifth.
The rest of the chart doesn’t change much. Jim Dray is listed as a starter now with Rob Housler in the two-tight end sets. That’s no surprise. Dray has been the steadiest tight end the Cards have had. New tackle Bradley Sowell is listed as a right tackle, third on the depth chart behind Eric Winston and Bobby Massie. As always, you can view the whole chart here: http://www.azcardinals.com/team/depth-chart.html
– The Cardinals had a handful of jersey number changes too, the most significant being veteran linebacker John Abraham’s ability to go back to wearing No. 55. That comes compliments of fellow veteran LB Karlos Dansby, who will take the No. 56 of the departed Reggie Walker. Also changing were Winston, who takes No. 73 from No. 65, linebacker Jasper Brinkley, who takes No. 52 from No. 54, and safety Tony Jefferson, who goes to No. 22 from No. 36.
– UPDATE: The Cards filled out the final three spots on the practice squad with LB Kenny Demens (cut earlier this week), DT Anthony McCloud (cut by Minnesota) and WR Sam McGuffie (cut by Oakland).
– Don’t forget the first of weekly Tuesday chats today at 2 p.m. The link is right here.
– In case you missed it, here is a photo gallery from Larry Fitzgerald’s trip to Pitt last night to get his No. 1 jersey retired.
Tags: Anthony McCloud, depth chart, Eric Winston, Jasper Brinkley, jersey numbers, Jim Dray, John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, Kenny Demens, Larry Fitzgerald, practice squad, Rob Housler, Roster, Ryan Williams, Sam McGuffie, Tony Jefferson
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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 for 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.
Tags: Broncos, Bruce Arians, D.C. Jefferson, David Carter, Jaron Brown, Jeff King, Jonathon Amaya, Kerry Taylor, Mike Thomas, Ricky Lumpkin, Ronald Talley, Roster, Ryan Lindley, Ryan Williams, Tony Jefferson
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There was no not-playing-tonight list from the Cardinals, probably because it would have been so lengthy. Most starters aren’t playing by design, including QB Carson Palmer. One notable absence: TE Jeff King. Bruce Arians said this was going to be a big game for King and he is not in uniform. I assume it is knee-related. It does not bode well for King’s future, I wouldn’t think.
Only offensive starters were WR Andre Roberts, WR Michael Floyd and TE Jim Dray. Only defensive starters to play were LBs Karlos Dansby and Jasper Brinkley.
General Manager Steve Keim went on the pregame show with Jody Jackson. It’ll be a busy time for him, obviously. He said the Cardinals should be able to pare the roster down to 53 by noon Friday. That will include moving Jonathan Cooper to one of the injured reserve lists.
“The next 24 hours to 48 hours we are going to have a lot of meetings,” Keim said.
Big game for Ryan Williams, although Keim didn’t seem like someone who is ready to cut the running back loose. “We need more consistency,” Keim said. “He’s frustrated, we’re frustrated. … We still think the guy has some ability.”
Keim also said the team has already fielded some calls from other teams about trading for surplus defensive backs. A deal like that would not be a surprise.
Tags: Broncos, Roster, Ryan Williams, Steve Keim
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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:
Tags: bubble, Rashard Mendenhall, Rob Housler, Ryan Lindley, Ryan Williams
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Coach Bruce Arians said today that the surgery on Jonathan Cooper’s fractured left fibula was a success and the Cardinals are holding out hope he can return later in the season. His status is yet to be determined in terms of injured reserve. The Cards will wait to make that decision until the end of preseason. They still have to make one more roster move by tomorrow to get down to the league-mandated 75.
Cooper’s best-case scenario in coming back is 10 to 12 weeks, Arians said. If he could return for the last six games or so, that would makes sense. Arians wants him to get real regular-season playing time this year if at all possible.
“We don’t want him to be a rookie again next year,” Arians said.
– To replace Cooper, Daryn Colledge will be moved to left guard. Paul Fanaika will move into the starting lineup as right guard. “(Daryn) is not as athletic as Coop, but he’s more than adequate,” Arians said of Colledge’s ability to do the job in Arians’ offense, when the left guard pulls often.
– The rest of the injuries aren’t nearly as bad. Arians described almost all of them as day-to-day, and the hope is that most will be OK by the time the Cards have to play in St. Louis for the opener. Defensive tackle Dan Williams re-aggravated the ankle he hurt earlier in camp, but he was not concerned about it. Running back Rashard Mendenhall has a knee sprain, he too is day-to-day although he won’t play in Denver. Tight end D.C. Jefferson (knee sprain) is going to try and play. TE Rob Housler has a high-ankle sprain, and is probably the most questionable of the bunch. WR Andre Roberts (quad) and LB Matt Shaughnessy (ankle) are “fine.”
– Arians said he cut K Dan Carpenter because he didn’t like the way he was kicking. Penetration was not a problem on Carpenter’s blocked field goal, Arians said — which leaves it to be too low of a kick by the kicker.
– Starters will probably play Thursday, but not much. QB Carson Palmer may not play, however.
– RB Ryan Williams will get the bulk of the work against the Broncos. Arians had no comment on the report the Cardinals were “shopping” Williams. “I’m shopping him as far as getting me some groceries,” Arians said with a smile.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, D.C. Jefferson, Dan Carpenter, Dan Williams, Daryn Colledge, Jonathan Cooper, Paul Fanaika, Rashard Mendenhall, Rob Housler, Ryan Williams
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