Long before he came to the Cardinals, even before he rushed for 2,000 yards and became the only player in NFL history to have more than 2,500 yards from scrimmage in a season, Chris Johnson caught everyone’s attention when he ran a 4.24-second 40-yard dash at the 2008 Scouting combine (I think, had he lasted until the second round, the Cardinals were very interested at the time. They took Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 16th; Johnson went 24th to the Titans.)
So this year, adidas is offering up $1 million for any player who can top Johnson’s speed at the combine. (The catch: A player has to wear the company’s Adizero 5-star 40 cleats.) In previous years, adidas has been offering 40 money — $100,000 at a time. Two years ago, $100,000 went to current Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who went 4.33 seconds. That still gets a wistful shake of the head from Cardinals wideout Smokey Brown, who ran a 4.34 and understands how close he came to the cash.
Last year, the prize was going to be a custom Porsche, but it conflicted with NFL endorsements, so three guys collected $100,000 each instead: Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes (4.31), Colts wideout Phillip Dorsett (4.33) and Bears wideout Kevin White (4.35). The painful Cardinals connection was that it was actually wide receiver J.J. Nelson who ran the faster 40 time at the combine last year, at 4.28. But to win the money the player had to be signed to an adidas endorsement contract before he ran. The other three were. Alas, Nelson was not.
Tags: Brandin Cooks, Chris Johnson, J.J. Nelson, John Brown, Scouting combine
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Let the Scouting combine begin. There’s snow on the ground (hey, that’s unique for someone like me) and we’ll quickly get to a talk with General Manager Steve Keim. Keim is speaking on the podium at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday (9:30 a.m. Arizona time). Interestingly, he’s sandwiched between two guys with Cardinals ties. Before him, good friend and former Cardinals VP of player personnel Jason Licht, now the Buccaneers GM, talks. After Keim, it’s former Cardinals coach and current Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Just to add to the Cardinals’ flavor Wednesday, Jets coach and former Cards defensive coordinator Todd Bowles speaks at 2:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m.) Wednesday as well.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians talks at 10:15 a.m. Thursday (8:15 a.m.)
Keim is also supposed to be speaking with Larry Fitzgerald’s agent while both are here in Indianapolis. While I continue to get questions about where negotiations might be, I don’t think anything is about to happen yet. We still have a lot of time before the league year starts March 10.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Larry Fitzgerald, Scouting combine, Steve Keim
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It feels like that interception was just made to end the Super Bowl, and here we are in Scouting combine week. Time to head full speed into the 2015 season.
I, along with a few of my co-workers, are headed Tuesday to chilly Indianapolis (high of 16 degrees Wednesday and 14 Thursday, so there’s that) to cover the week. The combine has been moved up a day compared to years previous, so media availability runs Wednesday through Saturday as opposed to Thursday through Sunday. Cardinals GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians are speaking to the masses again, tentatively scheduled to talk Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
And, as has become the custom, 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 email@example.com. Make sure you specify for whom the question is intended — either Keim or Arians.
Things will start to move quickly here. Free agency officially opens March 10 (which is also when teams must be salary cap compliant.) The Cardinals’ offseason conditioning program starts April 20. And the draft is set to start on April 30.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Scouting combine, Steve Keim
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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.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Branden Albert, Bruce Arians, Eric Winston, offensive line, Rodger Saffold, Scouting combine
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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.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Heath Miller, Rob Housler, Scouting combine
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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.
Tags: draft, Scouting combine, Steve Keim
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Tags: Bruce Arians, draft, Scouting combine, Steve Keim
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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.
Tags: Bruce Arians, draft, James Sanders, Pat's Run, Scouting combine, Steve Keim
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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.
Tags: NFLPA, offseason, Scouting combine
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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.”
Tags: Beanie Wells, Bruce Arians, Ryan Williams, Scouting combine, Steve Keim
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