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Keim: Minter, Cooper should be back

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2014 – 8:14 am

GM Steve Keim said on his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports’ “Doug and Wolf” show that the Cardinals expect linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral) and guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) to return to practice today. That is good news, although it should probably come with a caveat: Because the Cards just played last night, I am guessing practice will be very light today. But it’s a start. Bruce Arians had said this is a big week for both if they have any hope of playing in the opener. We’ll see how it plays out.

– Keim confirmed what I thought I had seen, that wide receiver Michael Floyd did hesitate in his route on the play where Carson Palmer overthrew him despite no defender in the area. “Michael slowed down in his ‘go’ route and the fact is if he would have kept running Carson would have hit him in stride for a touchdown. I expect that to be cleaned up.” Keim said he checked with Bruce Arians to see if Floyd was actually running a double move, but that Arians told him it was a straight fly pattern.

Overall, “it just didn’t seem like our quarterback and our receivers were in sync last night,” Keim said.

– He said after watching video, he was even more impressed with the offensive line play, especially the protection.

– Keim said a big concern of his coming into camp was right tackle but said that no longer is an issue. “Bobby Massie played very well last night,” he said.

– He said he thought DT Dan Williams had his best game of the preseason. In light of Darnell Dockett’s absence, that’s a good thing.

– Keim was very high on the play of rookie safety Deone Bucannon, and said he hopes Bucannon gets more playing time.

– Asked if the Cardinals were going to take one kicker or two kickers to San Diego, Keim said they would make that decision “later today.” UPDATE: The Cardinals cut Jay Feely.


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Friday before the Bengals, as camp ends

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2014 – 4:25 pm

As cuts approach – down to 75 by Tuesday, down to 53 by next Saturday – it’s getting a lot clearer who will likely be around for the Cardinals. (I will have a post on my predicted 53 next week.)

But coach Bruce Arians made a great point Friday about the last few spots on that 53-man roster, and what the decisions can be based upon.

“It’s going to be hard. It’s going to come down to positions of strength and we have about four or five positions of strength,” Arians said. “You always have to measure those last five guys and what is harder to find if another injury occurs.”

The injury component is important. Maybe keeping an extra defensive lineman makes sense if you are already thin. I’d think that definitely could come into play at inside linebacker with Kevin Minter’s situation. It’s hard enough finding guys sitting around to fill in there. Maybe less so on the offensive line. We shall see.

– Arians said there are still players that could stave off getting cut Sunday through their play, especially if they shine on special teams. If you are looking for hints of who will make it through to at least the final preseason games, look for the players that flash in the “transition game,” as Ron Wolfley likes to call it.

– Not that Jaron Brown’s place on this team has been in much doubt after an impressive training camp and preseason, but this was General Manager Steve Keim’s comment about Brown on this week’s edition of the “Big Red Rage” radio show: “He may be one of the most improved players from year to year I’ve seen in my NFL career.”

Brown simply didn’t get the reps in college playing behind future first-rounders Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. He’s gotten that work now.

– I don’t know how much time linebacker John Abraham might play Sunday, if at all, but there is clearly little concern from either Abraham or the coaches that the veteran will be ready for the regular season. There is still a lot of talk about him getting into shape, and it lead to a funny exchange when Abraham was asked about his current weight.

“I didn’t check,” Abraham said. “I’ll let you know, though. Some time next year.”

Seriously, though Abraham said weight has never been an issue in his career and he doesn’t think it will be now.

– Arians has been happy with the progress of rookie defensive lineman Ed Stinson. Stinson isn’t someone who is going to fill up your notebook when you talk to him, but “of course when the head coach brings your name up in anything you are happy,” he said. “I just want to make sure I put my 100 percent effort in and show what I’ve got.”

– Keim said safety Tyrann Mathieu has been fully cleared and essentially, it will be up to Mathieu to decide when he can play in games again. “We’re not going to press him,” Keim said.

– Keim reiterated he thinks guard Jonathan Cooper, somewhere down the road, is going to be “fine” and he is reveling in the fact that neither tackle position has been a constant source of chatter this camp. That’s a nod to Jared Veldheer and Bobby Massie.

“It’s been refreshing,” Keim said. “They don’t talk about the right or the left side. Both have had very good camps.”

– If you are going to the game Sunday (or any home game for that matter), don’t forget about the NFL bag policy instituted last year. Click here for more info.

– Arians acknowledged “I would be surprised” if an NFC West team was not the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. Asked if he expected an NFC West team to win the Super Bowl, Arians didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”

– Arians, as he opened his final press conference of training camp: “I know you guys are really upset of this being the last day here,” Arians said.

Then B.A. referenced the next practice-day presser, which will come at the team’s Tempe facility. If you recall, construction there means the famous “interview tree” is no more. “The biggest thing, I don’t want to see any tears when we don’t meet underneath that tree next week,” Arians said.

Camp is over. Bring on the Bengals.

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The impact of losing Darnell Dockett

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 10:16 pm

Injuries happen every preseason. They are not all created equal.

Even the long-term injuries are not created equal. As much as Jonathan Cooper’s injury hurt the Cardinals last year — and at the time, GM Steve Keim felt Cooper was the Cardinals’ best offensive lineman — there is an jarring emotional slam with the news Darnell Dockett is done for the season. That comes on many levels. On a defense that already lost Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington from last year’s unit, losing Dockett is a difficult pill to swallow.

After Dockett was carted off and practice resumed with some 7-on-7 work, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner gathered his players on the field and they all took a knee. I don’t know exactly what was said, but it certainly looked like Buckner was helping his guys get through what already looked like a rough patch that was later confirmed.

Now though, it’s about moving on. It’s about the future, which is in the short-term the 2014 season and in the long-term where 2015 might take Dockett and the Cardinals. Veteran Frostee Rucker should move into Dockett’s starting role, but again, there was always going to be a rotation on the defensive line. There was a reason the Cardinals drafted Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson. Those rookies are going to have to play a bigger role. They are going to have to grow up very fast because Dockett won’t be there to anchor — along with Calais Campbell — the line. One potential free agent to look at is long-time 3-4 defensive end Brett Keisel, Keisel was cut by the Steelers this offseason but he knows Bruce Arians and Buckner from their time in Pittsburgh. I have no idea if it’s possible he could come — I have no idea what kind of money he might want — but the Cardinals will need to add someone.

What will happen next year becomes very interesting. Dockett will turn 34 in May. He will be coming off major knee surgery. He will be going into the last year of his contract and will be due $6.5 million in salary and will have a $9.8M cap hit. That’s a lot of money for an older lineman. Like Larry Fitzgerald and his $23.6M cap hit in 2015, Dockett’s bulky contract was always going to be an issue after this season. That certainly hasn’t changed, and perhaps, becomes more of an issue because of the injury.

In the moment, though, there is only the gut-punch to the Cardinals. And the long rehab Dockett faces while the Cards try to prepare for the season to come.


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Larsen a top lineman, and trade calls

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 9:16 am

Ted Larsen at left guard? It wouldn’t be a total surprise. Larsen was working at guard a lot before starting center Lyle Sendlein got hurt and General Manager Steve Keim said today during his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Larsen “has been one of our five best offensive linemen” during training camp. The veteran free agent who had played for Tampa Bay has been solid at center for Sendlein and at this point, there are still questions about when Jonathan Cooper will come back and how he will do when he does come back.

Keim said Cooper’s turf toe was “significant” and he isn’t sure if Cooper will be back this week or next. It would make sense when Sendlein returns from his calf injury — Keim said that could be Wednesday — that Larsen could be in the left guard mix. (That also likely means Earl Watford has not left as good of an impression playing left guard as the Cardinals would have liked.)

– The Cardinals have not received any phone calls about someone possibly interested in a Ryan Lindley trade, Keim said. The reality is that barring injury, Lindley will be the odd man out at QB. Keim said such calls wouldn’t hear up until next week anyway. Keim said the Cardinals have had a few calls about their wide receivers. In what really isn’t a surprise, Keim said it is “more realistic” the Cardinals will keep six wide receivers. I’ve thought that for a while, given the play of Jaron Brown and rookie Walt Powell behind Fitz, Floyd, Ginn and John Brown.

– Stuff Keim liked from the Vikings game: linebacker Larry Foote’s play, quarterback Carson Palmer, Jaron Brown and how all the wide receivers did blocking on the perimeter.

– Stuff Keim didn’t like: The inability to create pressure on the quarterback, blown coverages and the lack of explosive runs (although he admitted not playing Andre Ellington much didn’t help the latter.)

– New linebacker Desmond Bishop, who dressed for practice Thursday but didn’t practice much at all, looked good in his 12 snaps, Keim said. I think Bishop, assuming he progresses, has a chance to stick. It’ll be interesting to see who that might cost in terms of a roster spot.

– Speaking of inside linebackers, Kevin Minter may still sit because of his pectoral injury. Keim said the Cards will be careful with Minter. No reason to risk anything right now.

– Linebacker John Abraham could return to individual drills either today or Wednesday.

 


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Keim: Abraham, coming soon, will contribute

Posted by Darren Urban on August 13, 2014 – 4:49 pm

General Manager Steve Keim said this afternoon he expects absent linebacker John Abraham “in the very near future.” Asked if that was next week, Keim said “sooner than next week.”

And when Abraham does arrive, Keim sounded like a man who has no doubt that his veteran will play a role in the 2014 defense.

“It’s the same thing as a guy who is injured,” Keim said. “He has to work his way into playing shape and a guy coming off 11½ sacks at 35 years old, you’d like to think he’s still going to be able to contribute,” Keim said. “He just has to get his legs back under him.”

Keim declined to say specifically why the 36-year-old Abraham, who had been arrested for a DUI in Georgia in late June, has been missing. The Cardinals had already made clear Abraham has been excused to deal with a personal matter.

“It’s always a concern when there are off-field issues to deal with,” Keim acknowledged. “At the same time I think it’s given him an opportunity to step back and look at the situation and realize if he wants to continue playing football he has to get his life in order.”

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Keim: Six receivers possible

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2014 – 9:32 am

The Cardinals, not surprisingly, should keep “potentially” five of six wide receivers on the 53-man roster, GM Steve Keim said Monday during his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7. That math isn’t hard to follow. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn and rookie John Brown are the top four and the locks. Barring something changing, it seems hard to believe Jaron Brown — given his special teams ability — won’t be the fifth. Beyond that, it looks like it could come down to rookie Walt Powell and Brittan Golden — or, possibly, no one. Powell is practice-squad eligible, although you’d have to get him through waivers.

“That’s the kind of problem you want to have as a General Manager,” Keim said.

Some other Keim thoughts after the first preseason game:

– He was generally pleased with the work of the offensive linemen. Jonathan Cooper “rebounded nicely” after giving up the early sack to J.J. Watt. Keim thought Cooper looked athletic in space a couple of times, which is why the Cardinals liked Cooper so much in the first place. More importantly, Keim liked how Cooper got back in the fray after having his leg (the same one that had been broken) rolled up on early. The O-line “certainly looks like an area we have upgraded.”

– Keim liked the ability to create mismatches in the passing game. That was obvious a few times, especially with tight ends getting wide open on delayed routes. John Carlson caught a touchdown (called back), Rob Housler had a 38-yard catch-and-run, and Darren Fells dropped what should have been a TD catch or near-TD catch.

– He praised John Brown and Jaron Brown, but that’s no surprise. Nor was it a shock to hear Keim appreciated the “accuracy and poise” of QB Logan Thomas.

– Keim liked how second-year inside linebacker Kenny Demens — another guy who looks like a lock to make the 53-man roster at this point — played, especially on special teams. The GM noted guys like Demens, Jaron Brown, running back Robert Hughes, cornerback Justin Bethel and guard Paul Fanaika and how their games have changed. “It gives me great faith in our coaching staff,” Keim said. “(Those are) guys that not only have improved but improved considerably.”

– It all comes with a caveat that it is only a preseason game and the first one at that. Staying injury-free and fixing what Keim saw as multiple mental errors are still topping the to-do list.


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Keim isn’t worried about Coop

Posted by Darren Urban on August 4, 2014 – 9:25 am

During his weekly radio spot on Arizona Sports 98.7 with Doug and Wolf, General Manager Steve Keim said he really wasn’t worried about left guard Jonathan Cooper, even though Bruce Arians had said he was disappointed in how the 2013 first-round pick had played up until this point. Keim noted Cooper’s “pretty significant injury” and said it’s just a matter of Cooper getting through his rust. The nature of the broken leg doesn’t help either.

“When you are in a serious car accident, when you get behind the wheel the next several times there is going to be some concern and a mental hurdle to get over,” Keim said. “But the more you drive your car, the more comfortable you’ll feel.”

It does not help that Cooper is battling Calais Campbell, whom the Cardinals see as a Pro Bowl type and who Keim said continues to get better. Cooper, Keim believes, will be fine. “When you think about where he was at this time last year, he walked through baggage claim and he was our best offensive lineman,” Keim said, “so our expectations are a little higher than most.”

Other Keim obersevations:

– He thought Kevin Minter’s showing Saturday, especially in the live goal line drill, was an example of why Minter’s game will help the Cards so much against the run.

– He likes what he has seen in the growth from running back Andre Ellington and Michael Floyd and is intrigued by the battle for fifth receiver between Jaron Brown and Walt Powell.

– Keim liked how Bobby Massie has looked in practice. The comments around Massie are 180 degrees from what decision-makers were saying about him a year ago.

– He’s excited how physical rookie safety Deone Bucannon has been once the pads went on. “My man looks like he’s possessed out there, to the point where Bruce has had to pull him asisde and remind him he can’t hurt our own players,” Keim said.

– On a side note, John McClain, the Texans beat writer and the Godfather of media out in Houston, tweeted today that starters like Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and Jadaveon Clowney are not expected to play at University of Phoenix Stadium Saturday in the preseason opener against the Cardinals.


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Keim perspective as pads go on

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2014 – 9:25 am

The Cardinals will put on the pads for the first time this afternoon, which changes the dynamic of training camp. That was part of the theme today when GM Steve Keim went on the Doug and Wolf show on Arizona Sports 620 this morning — what will happen when the pads go on.

– Keim wants to see rookie WR John Brown in pads, and see what the kid can do coming across the middle when, say safety Deone Bucannon is about to drill him. That’s not a big surprise, since it’s what everyone has been saying about Brown. He’s been impressive. “We haven’t been able to cover him,” Keim said. But that could change when the pads go on. As Patrick Peterson said, after Brown burned him on a play, “I told him he’s not going to be that much faster than me when he’s got those shoulder pads on.”

– Keim said he thought right tackle Bobby Massie looks like he’s in the best shape of his career (and I have always thought Massie was in pretty good shape anyway) and “he looks focused.” But Keim wants to see Massie in pads too, and frankly, that’s the only real way to judge linemen.

– The GM admitted to having a concern in the offseason for guard Jonathan Cooper after noticing a “little limp,” but the first two practices have erased those concerns.

– Keim acknowledged that taking Patrick Peterson off punt returns is in part because the Cardinals haven’t had as much return success with Peterson doing that job the last couple of years.

– Asked about absent linebacker John Abraham, Keim said “I’m not concerned at all. He’ll be back at some point here and Bruce (Arians) has excused him for personal matters.”

– With Aeneas Williams going into the Hall of Fame Saturday, we have created a page for Aeneas (azcardinals.com/aeneas) where all the stories and videos about Williams will live. Check it out.

 


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Camp gives Cooper “plenty of time”

Posted by Darren Urban on June 24, 2014 – 10:24 am

All along, Jonathan Cooper was going to play it smart.

The guard did participate in all of the offseason work as the first-unit left guard, just as was planned. Coach Bruce Arians raised a couple of eyebrows at the end of minicamp when he said it as “obvious” Cooper was “not the athlete he was last year at this time and I wouldn’t expect him to be.” Such is the downfall of coming back off a broken leg (and doing it at 312 pounds, which isn’t simple.) But Arians also finished his statement with a very important qualifier: “He has plenty of time to get there.”

Cooper knew it was going to take a while to get back to normal. In a lot of ways, the offseason was a perfect jumping off point for Cooper. He could ease back into the flow of the offense and starting without the punishment and rigors of actually playing offensive line. By the time Cooper has to really start hitting people in pads a few days into training camp, my guess is he’ll be in a much better place. The Cardinals have zero doubt that a) Cooper will be ready by the time games count for real and b) that Cooper will be able to perform like the former first-round draft pick that he is.

The Cardinals are counting on that left side of the line. Between Cooper and Jared Veldheer at left tackle, they represent two well-planned for pieces in GM Steve Keim’s rebuilding of the offensive line. Cooper, yet to play a regular-season down, must still prove himself. But barring another injury, I don’t see health being an impediment as the Cards move into the 2014 season.


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Ramifications of Washington’s suspension

Posted by Darren Urban on May 30, 2014 – 11:00 am

This one I’m not sure anyone saw coming. Forget the length of Daryl Washington’s suspension, which is not good for a defense that figured to miss him for a couple of games but certainly not 16. It’s at least 16, by the way. He has to be reinstated. It’s not automatic. It’s just that, with the news Washington violated the league’s substance abuse policy again (no, this has nothing to do with his assault case), I can’t help but think back to Washington’s tweet last summer after it came out that violating that same policy was going to cost him a four-game suspension to start 2013.

I promise to work even harder and to not let you guys down anymore.”

That was before his arrest and obviously long before this latest news, which comes with no details, including how this impacts Washington beyond the 2014 season. What this means for Washington’s future in Arizona would only be a guess right now, although coach Bruce Arians is scheduled to meet the media after Monday’s OTA. Speaking of Washington as a person, he’s obviously made some bad, bad decisions and if he doesn’t figure it out at some point he’s in danger of losing his livelihood. Just last week, Washington was sounding genuinely in the dark about his situation.

In a statement released to the media, Washington acknowledges the violation was related to marijuana. Under the league’s substance abuse policy, punishment for being in Stage 2 of the league’s system is a four-game suspension. Washington got a four-game suspension last year. It is in Stage 3 where the minimum suspension is for at least one year. According to that policy, the player has to apply to be reinstated after that year. A return is not automatic. He spends the rest of his career in Stage 3, with unannounced testing and the ability to be tested up to 10 times a month.

GM Steve Keim left no doubt where he stood: “It’s completely unacceptable that Daryl has once again put us in this position.” Football-wise, the Cardinals don’t need this. The organization made the prudent decision to let Karlos Dansby go and not try and overpay him given his age. But I’d guess that was based partly on knowing Washington – even if he had been out a couple of games suspended through his assault plea – was mostly going to be around. Now Washington is not going to be around. It makes the step forward from Kevin Minter that much more important. It makes the signing of Larry Foote that much more crucial. And I’d guess sooner rather than later, the Cardinals will bring in another veteran linebacker. (Ernie Sims visited the other day.)

Washington can’t be at the facility. He won’t get his $2.9 million salary. (For a full breakdown of the suspension’s financial impact on Washington, check out this stuff from overthecap.com.) Cap relief might not come until 2015.

There is time to regroup. Arians will undoubtedly push next man up, and, again from a football perspective, this is just like losing a player with a major injury before the season begins. It happens. But given Washington’s history and cloudy future, there is obviously more that goes into it. And that makes this a difficult situation.

I know some have said cut Washington. That won’t happen. He just got his huge bonus. He doesn’t get paid while he is suspended. He will only be 28 next year, and depending on what happens over the next year (and whether Washington can get his life in order), he figures to return to the field. Of course, things can always change.

“I sincerely apologize for the effect of my actions on my teammates, coaches and other colleagues at the Cardinals,” Washington said in his statement. “I also apologize to Cardinals fans for the time I will miss. I will work diligently during this suspension and will return as a better man and football player.”

We’ll see.

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