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Massie a right tackle and O-line improvement

Posted by Darren Urban on February 21, 2014 – 3:10 pm

Bobby Massie finished his 2012 rookie season playing pretty well at right tackle after a horrendous start to his career. He seemed like a natural piece of the 2013 offensive line, until the Cards signed veteran Eric Winston as training camp began. Over the season, Massie eventually got a few snaps at right tackle, but he never displaced Winston, who is an unrestricted free agent. If Winston comes back, Massie will be his competition. Massie isn’t playing guard or on the left side, as the Cardinals try to improve the offensive line.

“(Bobby) is a right tackle,” Arians said. “He’s not a left tackle. We experimented with that and he struggled with it. He’s a right tackle and he’s talented. The biggest thing right now is to be more consistent every day in his work habits.”

Does Massie fit in to the 2014 starting line? He very well could. But so much is up in the air, and it goes well beyond Massie and Winston. It’s assumed, and probably not incorrectly, that the Cardinals will seek an offensive lineman or two in free agency. It’s likely they will look into Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert if he reaches free agency (Kansas City GM John Dorsey said Friday the Chiefs have talked to Albert’s agent at the combine about an extension) and reports surfaced Friday that the Cards might also look into Rams tackle.guard Rodger Saffold (Rams GM Les Snead said Friday re-signing Saffold was a priority.)

It is realistic to think the Cards could have new starters at four of five positions on the line by the time games count in 2014 (center Lyle Sendlein is likely safe.). It’s also possible the line doesn’t change. Friday, Arians wouldn’t commit to the Cards having a new player in the lineup (other than the return of injured guard Jonathan Cooper), saying only the line needed to get bigger and stronger.

“Whether it is adding pieces to the puzzle or improving the players we have, we have Coop back, Earl (Watford) to the development, you add those two young guards will make us more athletic and create good competition with the veterans,” Arians said. “We are looking at adding pieces, one tackle, two, whatever we find is best to fit our locker room.”

The Cardinals also probably want to get cheaper at parts of the line, especially if they pay a premium for a free agent. That too can impact the equation — and make a guy like Massie more attractive.


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Arians: TEs block first, catch second

Posted by Darren Urban on February 21, 2014 – 11:17 am

The best tight end in the NFL? Bruce Arians doesn’t name Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. He picks Heath Miller. “Not because he catches 90 passes,” the Cardinals’ coach said at the Scouting combine Friday. “But because he blocks big defensive ends.”

Herein lies the Arians philosophy on tight ends, and why those guys piling up catch totals in spread college offenses might not be the guy the Cardinals will want going forward: “Tight ends for me block first, catch second,” Arians said.

Those guys are pretty rare these days. Rob Housler was a catch-first guy when he was drafted, and while he isn’t great blocker, Arians said he has leaned to block “adequately.” The Cardinals need tight ends, depending on the free agents they might bring back. Arians does believe a pass-catcher can be taught to block, but they have to have the right body type and they have to be willing to do it. “A lot of guys are not willing to stick their face in the fan,” Arians said with a chuckle.

Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro is considered a catch-first tight end and probable high draft pick who flourished in Kliff Kingsbury’s up-tempo offense. But Amaro said when Tommy Tuberville was coaching Tech, Amaro had to block first.

“I think it’s just a want-to thing,” Amaro said. “I’ve always had the technique; I’ve always had the drive. When I’m asked to block, I know I can block. I feel like it’s something that’s very overlooked of what I can do and then it’s something I’m going to have to show at the next level. But I know I’m willing to.”

It’s something that’s going to come up with any of the highly rated college tight ends. And it’s something Arians and the Cardinals are going to have to believe before they draft one, especially with a high pick.

“It’s such a unique position,” Arians said. “The best tight ends never go to the Pro Bowl because the best tight ends don’t catch 80 passes or 90 passes. Those are wide receivers.”


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Keim may quit smoking

Posted by Darren Urban on February 20, 2014 – 1:52 pm

Around the draft, it’s not unusual for a team or its decision makers to put out smokescreens ahead of time. No reason not to try and throw people off, right?

But General Manager Steve Keim said Thursday, when asked about if he had a certain plan to dole out misinformation, said he wasn’t that guy.

“I may be the wrong one to ask because clarity may be one of my issues,” Keim said. “I have a tendency to say what’s on my mind. My philosophy moving forward with players is that as well, I try to be honest with them. It’s not always what they want to hear but I think it’s necessary to build that kind of trust. Trust with your media, trust with your coaching staff and trust with your players is try to be as clear as you can.”

So, that being the case, will I be surprised if the Cardinals go ahead at take an offensive or defensive linemen — the positions Keim has tended to mention first when asked about what the Cards need — with the first-round pick? No.

Then again, maybe Keim’s claim of clarity is a smokescreen. Hey, you never know.

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The Combine and asking for questions

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2014 – 11:19 am

It’s that time of year again — the Scouting combine begins this week, the unofficial beginning of the 2014 season. I and a few of my azcardinals.com cohorts leave for Indianapolis tomorrow, with media access beginning Thursday. Cardinals GM Steve Keim will be at the podium Thursday morning (11:30 Indy time) and coach Bruce Arians will go Friday morning (10:15 Indy time.)

As we did last year, I will host a pair of short video chats with each man while in Indy, asking questions from the fans. If you’d like to submit a question, you can do so in the comments below, you can submit it via Twitter using the hashtag #CardsCombine or you can email me at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Make sure you specify for whom the question is intended.

Speaking of questions, I will host a pre-combine chat today at 1 p.m. The link is available by clicking here. Feel free to stop by and ask whatever as we are about to head hip-deep into free agency in early March.

As for Indy, it’ll be 57 degrees (allegedly) on Thursday, a somewhat surprising turn of events considering how it usually is this time of year. The interview portion starts Thursday while the on-field (and on NFL Network stuff) starts full bore on Saturday. The draft becomes the focus for a week or so, before backing off for the free agency portion of the offseason. Remember, the draft is later this year — May 8-10 — so there will be plenty of time to think about and dissect the draft. For those wondering, the players officially can return to the voluntary offseason program April 21. It’ll be interesting to see what the roster looks like by then.

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It’s about the video, not the workouts

Posted by Darren Urban on April 19, 2013 – 3:52 pm

General Manager Steve Keim mentioned yesterday about the fine line evaluating players and, more specifically, not wanting to overevaluate them. With so much time between the end of the season and the draft, that is a concern.

But both he and coach Bruce Arians agree it is the play on the college football field above all else that should be driving these player grades.

“I don’t grade anybody down at the (Scouting) combine,” Arians said. “The tape doesn’t lie. If a guy plays football fast and doesn’t run fast at the combine, that means he carries his pads pretty well. … I don’t believe in working out in shorts because the game is not played in shorts.”

Keim, not surprisingly, referred back to Anquan Boldin — he of the relatively slow 40 time when he was at the combine in 2003 (the 4.7 range) — and yet became a Pro Bowl receiver from his first game in the NFL.

“As much as combine numbers mean to you, and sometimes our guys will get enamored with a guy who ran a (tremendous) 6.55 three-cone, you have to remind them, unfortunately, at 1 o’clock on Sunday, we don’t get to run a three-cone drill,” Keim said, adding that the evaluator has to ask, “What are his compensating abilities” for whatever shortcomings he might have.

That doesn’t mean someone with an impressive combine gets thrown out, even if his stats weren’t great in college. Again, the evaluation is about what the team sees on video. Production counts but it isn’t the whole picture. The player had to have shown something in real games. It sounds simple. But every team doesn’t always adhere to it.

— Really good read from Josh Weinfuss collecting an oral history of various Cardinals players from their time around the draft.

— Safety James Sanders, who wasn’t going to return this year after his one year on the Cardinals, has been suspended the first four games of the NFL season.

— And with that, I am headed to this evening’s Tweetup with SI’s Peter King, Arians, Keim and a host of players downtown at Tom’s Tavern as we raise funds for a Tillman Foundation scholarship. Tomorrow, I’ll be running in Pat’s Run at ASU. Hope to see some of you.

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Potential new NFL calendar floated

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2013 – 7:48 am

The NFL is reportedly talking about changing the offseason calendar, which is an interesting concept, to say the least. The theory goes that the Scouting combine would be moved from February to March, free agency from March to April and the draft from April to May. The idea, according to ESPN, is to make the league more relevant through the calendar year. There has been more and more talk about the regional combines and the role they could play going into the main combine, which would be helped by a shift in timing.

How could that play out? The collective bargaining agreement is pretty set in stone for timing, and organizing a new offseason schedule that would fit with the new dates wouldn’t be a simple process (the NFL Players Association would have to sign off on any new timeline.) The hardest part to fathom is how the players would get a chunk of time off before training camp (which, in the plan, would begin on the same day for every team — again, making for an change for the teams playing in the Hall of Fame game, since they have always started earlier.)

Yesterday, Bruce Arians was lamenting how long he has to wait to talk football with his players and I’d assume moving the calendar back would delay that even more, since you need free agency at least to be underway you can get the offseason program started. Let the debate begin.

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Thoughts on Beanie and Ryan Williams

Posted by Darren Urban on February 21, 2013 – 2:49 pm

Both Steve Keim and Bruce Arians talked about the Cardinals’ top two running backs today. As you can imagine, injuries were at the center of their analysis with both Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams.

“I think Beanie had a tough stretch this year because of the injuries,” Keim said. “He showed a lot of grit, a lot of toughness late in the year when he was able to. Some of the lower extremity injuries, his ankles, his knees, his feet, he’s had a tough time with his cut ability and his lateral movement. But Beanie is still a big horse who can finish runs and create yardage after contact, which is something that excites us.”

Arians didn’t get around to Wells, and it would still seem that Beanie’s future — even though his salary is a manageable $1.4 million this season (assuming he is a main back) — is up in the air. He still remains a work-in-progress as a pass protector, and that is a prerequisite for Arians. As for Williams, there is something to work with — as long as he can get on the field. Keim spoke generally a couple of times about availability being as important as ability and that certainly applies to the 2011 second-round pick.

“Ryan has to stay healthy,” Arians said. “I actually ran the (Virginia Tech) Pro Day there when all those guys came out and he was a fantastic athlete. He has to get healthy and we’ll see how he fits. But as a running back, he’s got what it takes.”

Keim said he has seen Williams rehabbing and sounded optimistic about what the Cards could have.

“He’s a guy that, watching film with Bruce, because he got injured early in the season, you forgot the type of run skills Ryan had,” Keim said. “We watched him against Philadelphia, we watched him against New England, his lateral quickness, his natural run skills, his avoidability is something he brings to the table. Plus he’s a three-down back. We’re expecting big things out of Ryan moving forward.”


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Here in Indy, the combine (with chats) to start

Posted by Darren Urban on February 20, 2013 – 2:05 pm

So I have arrived at the Scouting combine for another year (that’s 13, if anyone is counting) to the chilly weather — it’s in the 20s today, so however poor the weather is back in Phoenix, it’s not Indy. We’ll have a bunch of content from here, both written and video, not only over the four days of our stay but extending into next week. It starts tomorrow when head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim each take their turn at the podium in front of the national media (and I will have a story).

Just because you aren’t here at Lucas Oil Stadium doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions yourself. I’ll be hosting a pair of live video chats on azcardinals.com on Thursday and Friday. Thursday will be Keim’s turn and Friday will be Arians, both taking place at 12:30 p.m. Arizona time. I’ve been taking questions already but if you have something to ask, shoot an e-mail to askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net or send a tweet to @azcardinals with the hash tag #AZCardsChat.

With free agency still a few weeks away, the heightened tension at a combine isn’t as great as it used to be once (I remember one year where free agency actually began while teams were here.) But this is really where it feels like the 2013 season gets underway.

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Ask questions of the decision-makers

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2013 – 11:15 am

With the Scouting combine this week in Indianapolis, azcardinals.com will be hosting a series of live video chats with key Cardinals decision-makers when it comes to the team and the draft, including general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians, among others. Specific times are still being hammered out, but they will take place Thursday, Friday and/or Saturday. More details to come.

In the meantime, we’re asking for your questions. Send them to askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net or tweet them to @AZCardinals using the hash tag #AZCardsChat.  Then, tune in to see if your question is used on the air.  You can watch on http://www.azcardinals.com/livevideo. Keep it tuned here for more info.

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Stories from the interview room

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2012 – 12:16 pm

While it’s the 40-yard dashes and the bench presses (with John Lott bellowing in the guy’s ear as he lifts) that get the TV time from Indy at the Scouting combine, it’s the medical checks and interviews that teams value the most.

The interviews are 15-minute quickies, impossible to learn everything about a kid in that time. But they are important to glean a little something. But it can be a grind, going back-to-back-to-back-to-whatever each night as teams try to stuff in up to 60 visits. You have to try and break it up.

During today’s final live chat from the combine (it’s probably not the last live talkback the team will do, so keep an eye out) someone asked coach Ken Whisenhunt and director of player personnel Steve Keim about memorable interview questions they had asked. They had a couple of good ones.

Whiz said the Cards were interviewing “one of the better guards in the draft” Friday night. “He is a very passionate, stone-faced guy, very intense,” Whisenhunt said. “He did 30-something reps in the bench press.

“I was kind of joking around but I wanted to see how he’d take it. I said, ‘So let me get this right, you did 18 reps in the bench press?’ I thought he was going to come out of his chair to fight me, because he was upset I had shorted him out of 14 reps on the bench press. We were laughing about that.”

Certainly it spoke well for the player’s passion. Sometimes, the teams have to ask about uncomfortable situations. Keim relayed an anecdote like that from last year’s combine when they needed to ask a player why, for goodness sake, was he texting on his phone at 2 a.m., which let to him driving into an apartment building.

“Coach got him on the grease board but didn’t have him diagram a play, he had him diagram how he ran his car off the road and drove 40 yards into a cement wall,” Keim said. “That was one of the more comical situations we’ve had.”

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