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Ellington starts, Ryan Williams not active

Posted by Darren Urban on October 27, 2013 – 11:53 am

Running back Rashard Mendenhall is sitting out today’s game against the Falcons with his bad toe. That was expected. Andre Ellington will start in his place. That too was expected. And Ryan Williams is inactive again, which, in the end, probably should have been expected too. If Williams isn’t playing special teams — which he isn’t, no matter what the reason — it’s tough to have him up. Newcomer WR Teddy Williams, who will play tandem speed guys on special teams with Justin Bethel, is active.

Besides Mendenhall and Ryan Williams, the rest of the inactive list:

– WR Brittan Golden

– QB Ryan Lindley

– G Earl Watford

– TE Kory Sperry

– DE Ronald Talley


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Friday before the Falcons (and Ryan Williams?)

Posted by Darren Urban on October 25, 2013 – 4:05 pm

What is it about Ryan Williams and his story that is so intriguing? The Cardinals go into an important game against the Falcons Sunday, and even if Williams – because of the toe injury of Rashard Mendenhall – is active, he might not even play much. Yet many are waiting to see if Williams is active and what he would do if he played, and I am one of them.

Williams (smartly) hasn’t said much about his situation, but you can tell he’s frustrated. “I’m probably the freshest guy on the team right now,” Williams said. “I’m ready to play. I’m just waiting.” Practices are closed so it’s impossible to know exactly what Williams has done, and since he is so far down the depth chart, he’s likely getting what work he is getting on scout team and not the regular offense. But Bruce Arians has said a couple of times he has been happy with the work Williams has done. Now Sunday, if the Cards, for instance, are going to have newcomer Teddy Williams active to play special teams, who sits instead? Would that be Ryan Williams’ potential spot?

In a lot of ways, Williams might be in a type of limbo. Clearly he isn’t ahead of the others on the depth chart. But Mendenhall’s injury potential is high enough that the Cards might not want to let him go. If Mendenhall goes down with a major injury, do the Cards really want to lean just on two rookies in Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor? (There is still a chance I suppose he could be dealt before Tuesday’s deadline, but I don’t expect it.)

I guess I’m looking forward to seeing that inactive list at 11:55 a.m. Sunday.

– Lot of talk about Ellington, and people keep trying to send me comparative measurements between the 5-foot-9, 199-pound Ellington and other backs, like Jamaal Charles, etc. Look, I can’t speak to those guys. And I don’t know if Ellington could absorb more. But I think what Bruce Arians is thinking about limited reps is the idea that a lot of punishment would take away the best thing about Ellington — his explosion and ability to get outside. I’m sure he’ll touch the ball plenty Sunday.

– The Falcons were a Super Bowl favorite coming into the season. Now, the defense is much more leaky, the offense doesn’t have Julio Jones and Roddy White has been hurt so much he’s a non-factor. Steven Jackson has barely played. Now, it’s not like Atlanta hasn’t been close – their four losses have been by a total of 19 points – but they aren’t as daunting of an opponent as they once might have been.

– Matt Ryan was miserable in last year’s meeting. Ray Horton’s defense made him look terrible. Horton isn’t here anymore, obviously, but Todd Bowles is, and the Cards got after Russell Wilson pretty good. I wouldn’t expect five interceptions again, but the Cards are going to pressure him. “We got in his face early, rattled him up a little bit,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “This is a new team. With them not necessarily having their top guys … we can’t fall into that they aren’t 100 percent. They still have guys who can get the ball in the end zone. But I believe if we do the same recipe as last year, we will have good success.”

– Profootballfocus.com noted that there have been two receivers targeted a league-high six times when an interception has been thrown. One was Giants wideout Reuben Randle. The other? Larry Fitzgerald. Something to consider when Carson Palmer talks about being leery when forcing the ball to Fitz.

– Speaking of Fitz, he hammered Walter Thurmond on a blind-side block last week against Seattle and did it again later to Richard Sherman. They were blows – but they could have been much harder and destructive. Fitz downplayed them, but Seattle coach Pete Carroll came out and praised Fitzgerald for playing football the “new” way – those Seahawks still got hit pretty good, but it didn’t go over the top. You can say what you want about what that means for football, but I have to admit I agree with Carroll. You can walk that line.

– Be sure to welcome our new writer at azcardinals.com when he starts next week: Kyle Odegard. I think you’ll find him a quality addition.

– Arians talks about starting fast and you wonder about the coin flip. Arians has said he will always take the ball if he is given the choice, so the Cards end up with the ball first almost every time. That makes getting off to a quick start even more important in my eyes.

– Arians reiterated what offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said yesterday, that the Cardinals are “hoping” to play Bobby Massie some at right tackle. It will depend on how the game plays out, Arians said, but it would be for a series or two.

– Defensive end Calais Campbell took left tackle Bradley Sowell aside earlier this week to try and give him some advice. “I felt like the offensive linemen, the younger ones, they need to learn what we are trying to do to beat them,” Campbell said on the Big Red Rage radio show. “We just went over how I play the game and what I’m looking for. I gave him my advice. I think he has potential and we need him to win.”

– The Cards do need better play from Sowell at left tackle. And from the offense in general.


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About that win, and the running backs

Posted by Darren Urban on October 7, 2013 – 1:13 pm

Some newsy quick hitters after Bruce Arians addressed the media today, the day after Daryl Washington’s return-to-action party:

– Arians sees Andre Ellington’s role at 30 to 35 plays a game. But that might top it out. Arians said he doesn’t see Ellington’s body type to hold up with a much heavier workload, and he emphasized Ellington will continue to get work as both running back and receiver.

– Stepfan Taylor is doing a “great job” on special teams. Ryan Williams, as we have said ourselves many times, doesn’t play special teams, Arians said. So Williams isn’t going to be active. I think that changes if there is an injury, but in the meantime, Williams will stay inactive, it looks like.

– The only injury from Sunday was a hamstring problem for linebacker Kenny Demens, which will likely sideline him this week, Arians said. Linebacker Jasper Brinkley (groin) and safety Rashad Johnson (finger) should return this week, the coach added. Arians said he didn’t want Johnson playing with a big “mitt” of a cast, but Johnson should be down to a small splint this week.

– He said Andre Roberts was playing inside early in the season when he was effective, and when tight end Rob Housler came back, Roberts went outside and became less effective. It’s something the coaches will look at.

– As far as Housler, he’s a “work in progress” Arians said. “He’s not on the same page as Carson (Palmer),” Arians added.

– Arians said there would be no change in the schedule to prepare for next week’s short week, which features a trip to San Francisco for Sunday and then a home game against Seattle a week from Thursday. The Cards won’t worry about Seattle until after San Francisco, Arians said.


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Friday before the Saints

Posted by Darren Urban on September 20, 2013 – 3:44 pm

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.


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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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A new left tackle backup

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

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.


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Campbell active, Ryan Williams sits

Posted by Darren Urban on September 8, 2013 – 11:52 am

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


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Doing the math on the running backs

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2013 – 10:27 am

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.

RBBlogUSE


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Depth charts and number changes

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2013 – 9:59 am

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.

FitzPitt12USE


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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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