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Blocking communication an issue against Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on October 5, 2015 – 3:49 pm

Bruce Arians called the Cardinals’ pass protection “very iffy” against the Rams — not a total shock given the talent the Rams have up front — and said it extended to the tight ends and the running backs at various times.

“Our communication was terrible in this ball game,” Arians said. “With the three-man line and nickel blitzes, we did not do well.”

Center Lyle Sendlein acknowledged the need to communicate better. “There was a lot for us to talk about,” Sendlein said. “That’s a good defense. They did a good job disguising their blitzes, and they’ve always done a good job bringing their linebackers through if the back blocks. That’s something that lands on me, getting everyone on the same page.”

— Arians said again that running back Andre Ellington was close to playing against the Rams. It came down to having Ellington available in case versus having a healthy player active. I’d guess Ellington would be available against the Lions barring a setback this week.

— On the late TD pass to Tavon Austin surrendered by cornerback Jerraud Powers, Arians said it wasn’t Powers’ responsibility.

“Jerraud gave inside leverage to a guy who was supposed to be waiting for him,” Arians said. “Wasn’t there.”

— The holes for Todd Gurley came from various mistakes, almost all from trying to do to much. Arians said one example was rushing the passer instead of squeezing what turned into a cutback lane. In another case, linebacker Kevin Minter — who had taken much of the Gurley blame himself Sunday — tried to spin off a block and by doing so vacated his lane.

“Something as simple as that,” Arians said.

— Arians thought the Rams fumble-that-wasn’t was “obvious,” but he shrugged it off by noting the Rams fumbled moments before. “We should’ve recovered the fumble the play before and it would’ve never happened, when it was laying between our legs. We had our chances.”

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Todd Gurley comes to the NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2015 – 6:26 pm

The Rams pulled a mild surprise with the 10th pick of the draft tonight, taking Georgia running back Todd Gurley — considered by most the top back in the draft and a potential star. If Gurley, who isn’t even 21 years old yet, pans out it’s going to be a tough matchup twice a year for the Cardinals. Then again, the Rams still don’t have much of an offensive line. In the short-term, Gurley is coming off an ACL injury and while he said he is hoping to be ready for training camp, the chances he is at full speed Oct. 4 when the Cardinals host the Rams in Week 4 seems unlikely. Their second 2015 matchup, in St. Louis Dec. 6, could be a different story. The draft hasn’t been chaotic as expected thus far through 12 picks. No trades, Marcus Mariota goes to Ken Whisenhunt’s Titans.

It seems unlikely RB Melvin Gordon lasts until the Cards at 24 now that Gurley is gone. Not with as many teams figuring to consider backs. Not that it matters — I thought all along it was unlikely the Cards went running back in round one anyway. (UPDATE: Gordon to the Chargers at No. 15, who traded up with the 49ers.)

Todd Gurley, Brison Williams


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Cards’ 24th pick could go a million different ways

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2015 – 3:08 pm

OK, maybe it couldn’t go a million different ways. A million is a lot. But the closer the draft gets, it’s clear no one really has a good handle on how the picks will play out — and thus, no one has a good handle on who might be there for the Cardinals when pick No. 24 arrives. There are a lot of reasons for that. You have guys that would be locks to be top 10 or top 15 picks if not for off-field problems (Shane Ray, Randy Gregory, Dorial Green-Beckham.) You have a quarterback — probably Marcus Mariota, if you subscribe to the idea that the Bucs take Jameis Winston — that could go No. 2 but certainly seems to be anything but a sure thing, opening up the possibilities of trades very early. You have a ton of wide receivers that are talented and who goes before whom may come down to a matter of preference. You have probably the best running back dealing with a little thing called an ACL rehab, changing his stock.

There could be some serious talent sitting there for the Cards at No. 24. It may have an injury red flag or, more likely, a character red flag of some sort. This team desperately needs a good pass rusher, but they probably don’t need another linebacker who gets suspended. They could use a running back, but the draft is so deep with them, would they pass in the first round even if a Gurley or Gordon were there? (I’ve always thought yes, but I’ve been wrong before.)

Then there was this from the Voice of the Cardinals, Dave Pasch:

Pass rusher is not a surprise, nor is cornerback. And Pasch and I (and Kyle Odegard) discussed the reality of looking offensive line a couple weeks ago. Steve Keim is still looking to solidify the group up front to turn them into a unit that can grind out a ground game (and keeping in mind RG Jonathan Cooper remains unproven and RT Bobby Massie is a free agent after the season.) So a tackle makes sense too.

But I guess I’d be surprised if a wide receiver were the pick. Then again, there are some significant game-breaking wideouts that can be had in this draft — it’s the strength of the 2015 class — and another playmaker that can catch/return is always welcome. This all also plays into the very real possibility of a trade-down-for-an-extra-pick scenario for Keim, something of which Keim loves to do. I know this, that picking at 24 can provide a surprise. Last year, the Cards didn’t shock by taking a safety, but I don’t think anyone saw Deone Bucannon ahead of time.

2015 NFL Draft


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So, when Cards draft a running back early …

Posted by Darren Urban on April 16, 2015 – 12:51 pm

It is a deep draft for running backs. And the Cardinals are expected to take one at some point. It seems a favorite thing for mock drafters to do, putting a running back next to the Cardinals at their No. 24 first-round pick. I still don’t see this as likely, not with Andre Ellington around, the depth of the available prospects and the question about the top back in the draft (Todd Gurley’s ACL injury.) Another potential part of this equation? What the Cardinals have gotten, or haven’t gotten, out of the backs they have drafted early.

Since the team moved to Arizona in 1988, the Cardinals have drafted a running back in the first or second round nine times:

1988 Tony Jeffery (8 yards in one year in Arizona)
1990 Anthony Thompson (774 yards in three years)
1993 Garrison Hearst (1,503 yards in three years)
1994 Chuck Levy (15 yards in one year)
1996 Leeland McElroy (729 yards in two years)
2000 Thomas Jones (1,264 yards in three years)
2005 J.J. Arrington (654 yards in four years)
2009 Beanie Wells (2,471 yards in four years)
2011 Ryan Williams (164 yards in three years)

Obviously, it’s not a list with spectacular results. Hearst and Jones both had solid NFL careers, but only after they left Arizona. And while only three of those picks have come in the last decade, Arrington and Wells and Williams never made a big enough impact. Wells did have a 1,000-yard season in 2011, but injuries doomed him as they did Williams.

In two seasons, Ellington has already made more of an impact, as a sixth-round pick, than most of the guys on that list — and Ellington produced some in 2014 even though he was never healthy. Given the health concerns of Ellington, and the past issues of Wells and Williams, it’s hard to imagine the Cards taking a flyer on Gurley unless they were completely convinced he was a) not have any lingering effects and b) a special talent. Some believe both those to be the case. But there would be a certain leap of faith. I could see a second-round running back, but again, in this day and age of finding backs later — and with a team that is still going to use Ellington a lot — I think Steve Keim will carefully consider his options.

Beanie


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Cardale Jones, Logan Thomas and developing QBs

Posted by Darren Urban on January 15, 2015 – 3:27 pm

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones — who just led the Buckeyes to a national championship but has played just three games — held a press conference today to say he was staying in school and not coming out for the draft, which was a possibility. Ohio State has, right now, all three of its QBs from this year returning next season (although that could change) and there is no lock that Jones will get to start. He was third-string to start the season, after all.

But even with only three games under his college belt, I can understand why someone could think about coming out to the NFL. There is the current and longstanding debate about college athlete compensation, which isn’t the case if you go pro. More importantly, there are the devastating injuries suffered by Marcus Lattimore and Todd Gurley and the two OSU QBs in front of him — Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett — that would make a kid think twice about staying in school when you can get paid to have the same injury risk on the next level.

The idea of Jones coming out, though, made me think of Logan Thomas.

The situations are not completely parallel. Thomas was in school for a long time and played plenty, and Jones — now that he’s returning — still gets that opportunity. But Thomas, like Jones, needs development. That was the book on Thomas when he came out and that’s what Bruce Arians continues to say. Many have asked what kind of progress Thomas made during the regular season and the reality is, it wasn’t much. Even Arians acknowledged that late in the year, one of the reasons Thomas didn’t get playing time despite the Cardinals’ QB situation.

Once training camp ends, it’s the starting quarterback who gets the practice reps. The few leftovers go to No. 2. Yes, Thomas gets reps as the scout team QB, but that’s running plays from another team and there’s only so much you can get from that. Yes, you can work on some fundamentals, but that only gets you so far. There is only so much progress you can make in that situation. It’s the great QB conundrum for  young quarterbacks. You have to play a lot to get good, usually, and unless you are good, teams don’t want to play you a lot.

That’s what I thought of when it was possible Jones would come out. He’d be so raw, who’s going to play him early? How would he get that experience that he’ll not get (in theory) by staying in school? It’s a big reason why it’s tough to find a quarterback these days, because the time and games needed to properly develop a guy simply aren’t available.

LoganCardale


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