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Lacking sacks, Cards blitz for “distruptions”

Posted by Darren Urban on October 29, 2014 – 10:17 am

The Cardinals looked hard for a pass rusher prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline. Nothing materialized. That’s really not surprising. In this league — especially when a team can flip into a playoff contender in one offseason — you just don’t trade decent pass rushers. You need them too much. And if you are willing to trade, you’re probably asking for more than they are worth, because they are at a premium, and a team like the Cardinals can’t just shred their draft options for that.

(Now, if Justin Houston was being offered for a first-round pick, yes, I make that move. I’d think GM Steve Keim would too. But the Justin Houstons of the world aren’t being offered.)

That leaves the Cardinals wanting on the pass rush. Yes, I’d think that will be the top target of the offseason, whether it is through free agency or the draft (or even both.) But the offseason is the offseason. That doesn’t help now.

The Cardinals have only seven sacks in seven games, and two of those are from defensive backs and one is from an inside linebacker. It’s no secret the Cards are blitz-happy out of necessity. It’s the only way they can generate consistent pressure, and it’s been a Todd Bowles staple, with the Cards blitzing about half the time. Would more sacks be welcome? Of course. But Bruce Arians sounds OK with the results so far. The last play Sunday is a great example. The Cardinals brought the blitz. They couldn’t sack Nick Foles — they couldn’t sack him all day, through 62 pass attempts — but it was the heavy pressure up the middle that forced Foles to backpedal and throw off his back foot. Jordan Matthews had been open in the back of the end zone, but the bad throw under pressure gave safety Rashad Johnson just enough time to recover and make sure the pass wasn’t completed.

“The thing we want to do defensively is be disruptive,” Arians said. “I thought we were disruptive (against Philadelphia). We created turnovers. Yardage doesn’t really matter. We want to lead the league in points (allowed) and we want to lead the league in sacks and turnovers. Sacks are the one thing that are obviously down, but there are disruptions there.”

At this time last year, the Cardinals had 19 sacks, en route to 47 on the season. A big part of that was John Abraham’s 11.5, and obviously losing Abraham — when the team had been counting on him to create some of those sacks — has left a mark. It was interesting to see that Marcus Benard is part of the outside linebacker rotation to create pressure, when Benard was one of the guys originally cut to add outside linebacker Thomas Keiser, who has mostly been inactive. Getting Calais Campbell back on the field will help, but it is, as Keim has said, beating a dead horse when talking about the Cardinals and creating/finding more of a pass rush.

The snap breakdown for the defensive line/outside linebackers against the Eagles, on 92 defensive snaps (92 – yikes!): Okafor 69, Acho 65, Campbell 62, Kelly 62, Stinson 51, Rucker 31, Dan Williams 18, Benard 16, Martin 10.

 

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Keim: Roster could still change this week

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2014 – 8:09 am

General Manager Steve Keim is still looking at his roster. That can’t be a surprise. He said this morning during his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports’ “Doug and Wolf” show that the Cardinals will bring in “four or five” tryout players on Wednesday — this week’s “Tuesday,” given the Monday night opener next week — to see if any are worth signing. That thing about none of the bottom five guys on the roster getting comfortable? That’s serious reality.

— Keim acknowledged it’s a little bit of a concern there are only eight offensive linemen on the roster, but that’s what the Cardinals have right now. Nate Potter hurt his shoulder so there was really no choice but to keep Bradley Sowell. Interestingly, Keim said the Cardinals will begin trying Earl Watford at right tackle a little bit and see if he can be a help there as well as both guard positions. This is a big year for Watford. At some point, the Cards are going to want to see him step forward when he gets a chance.

— It sounds like one of the roster spots came down to sixth-round pick wide receiver Walt Powell and undrafted linebacker Glenn Carson. Carson is on the roster; Powell made it for a day and then when the Cardinals claimed outside linebacker Thomas Keiser, Powell was cut. He did not make it through waivers, getting claimed by the Jets. “There was a time when Walt Powell did a few nice things (in camp), but when we looked at Glenn versus Walt, we felt Glenn outperformed him and earned a spot on this team,” Keim said.

— Keim was happy to be able to get Keiser, who provides a natural pass rusher, “one thing I felt we were missing.” That speaks again to the concern about individual pass rush ability (although Keim said he is happy where John Abraham is going into the season.) The Keiser move was long hoped for, as Keim said he had been targeted for a long time if he was released by San Diego. The Cards did not get him just for Chargers’ intel going into the opener, Keim said, and Keim added that he doesn’t think the Chargers — who only carry two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster — signed Ryan Lindley to the practice squad for such purposes either. The Chargers’ QB coach is Frank Reich, who had been on the Cards’ staff with Lindley.

— Only eight defensive backs is no big deal, Keim said, because of how versatile the eight guys are. Tyrann Mathieu, as noted last week, will get some contact this week and it’s stil a we’ll-see situation for Mathieu in the opener.

— Some teams see the practice squad for just practice help but Keim said he sees the practice squad as a developmental extension of the roster, for guys who can eventually get on and help with the 53. Keep that in mind when you see who is put there. The final four PS names should be released soon.

 

 

 


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Cards claim linebacker Keiser, cut Powell

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2014 – 2:07 pm

The Cardinals got a player on waivers, claiming outside linebacker Thomas Keiser. Keiser was just released by San Diego – a team that just happens to be the Cards’ opponent for the opening game. To make room for Keiser, the Cardinals cut wide receiver Walt Powell. Powell now becomes a likely practice-squad addition.

It takes the Cards down to five wide receivers, but they now have 11 linebackers on the roster. That’s a healthy amount. That may be the only waiver addition by now. It doesn’t mean the Cardinals didn’t try to claim others, but right now, the waiver claim order is based on draft order, and at 20, there are a lot of teams players must get past before the Cardinals would be able to get them.

Keiser came in as an undrafted free agent with the Panthers in 2011 and has nine sacks in his career. The Stanford product (6-4, 260) forced a Logan Thomas fumble in Thursday’s preseason game.

The Cardinals also signed six to their 10-man practice squad: C/G Anthony Steen, T Kelvin Palmer, CB Jimmy Legree, LB Jonathan Brown, WR Brittan Golden and TE Andre Hardy.

UPDATE: In terms of ex-Cardinals, defensive tackle Bruce Gaston, who was a player the Cardinals would have liked on the practice squad, was claimed by the Patriots, where he will go right on to the 53-man roster. Quarterback Ryan Lindley landed on the Chargers’ practice squad, thanks to the new “veteran” exceptions.

Thomas Keiser, Micah Hatfield

 


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