As mentioned the other day, the Cardinals still have a vacancy on their 90-man roster. Bruce Arians, during an interview on Arizona Sports, indicated that the Cards could still re-sign veteran running back Chris Johnson, which has always been a possibility as long as Johnson remained on the market.
With all that in mind, a quick look at the notable veterans General Manager Steve Keim has signed in the days prior or during training camp while the Cardinals are at University of Phoenix Stadium:
2013 — T Eric Winston (started all season), LB John Abraham (led team in sacks), K Dan Carpenter (signed as competition to Jay Feely, lost battle.)
2014 — T Max Starks (eventually released at end of camp), DT Tommy Kelly (had a solid season as a replacement for the injured Darnell Dockett.)
2015 — TE Jermaine Gresham (has been team’s top tight end since), C Lyle Sendlein (started all season), RB Chris Johnson (played well before late-season injury.)
2016 — LB Donald Butler (released during final cuts), CB Mike Jenkins (was in line to start until tearing ACL).
Odds favor a couple more signings in this camp, necessary either because of play or injury. Whether they make a difference (see: 2016) we will see, but as always, the roster is churning.
Tags: Chris Johnson, Dan Carpenter, Darnell Dockett, Donald Butler, Eric Winston, free agency, Jay Feely, Jermaine Gresham, John Abraham, Lyle Sendlein, Max Starks, Mike Jenkins, Steve Keim, Tommy Kelly, training camp
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Monday, Bruce Arians said the Cardinals would look to add a running back. Tuesday morning, ESPN reported that the Cardinals had offered a one-year contract to veteran Chris Johnson and that Johnson is mulling the opportunity. The Cardinals aren’t the only team out there openly looking for a running back; the Texans would like to add one after Arian Foster’s sports hernia surgery. One hitch, reportedly, is that Johnson isn’t sure he would make the team with the Cardinals. To me, it’s a fair concern. If Andre Ellington is healthy, he’s your top guy, and as frustrating as it is not to have third-round draft pick David Johnson at this point — he remains out with a hamstring injury and Arians said he could miss another week – when those guys are healthy, it would get awfully crowded in that backfield.
But this is about putting the best team together (as Arians talked about last week about the business of Lyle Sendlein) and a chance to add a vet who could help makes sense for the Cards right now. Ellington is just now getting back to practice. Johnson provides speed in the backfield, and while he didn’t reach 1,000 yards for the first time in his career last season with the Jets, he still averaged a healthy 4.3 yards a carry. It’s a waiting game now. The Cards make their free agent play. Many times it works, but other times, a player will pass (remember Brett Keisel this time last year? The Cards still ended up with Tommy Kelly.)
Tags: Andre Ellington, Brett Keisel, Bruce Arians, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, free agency, Lyle Sendlein, Tommy Kelly, training camp
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Do the Cardinals have a Pro Bowl player?
I’m not saying the Cardinals don’t have any players talented enough to make it. But usually, in seasons where your team is 11-3, there are at least a couple of locks. You would be hard-pressed to come up with any locks for the Cardinals. Offensively, the production hasn’t been consistent enough to see anyone getting a major push. Defensively, there are possibilities, but it’ll be interesting to see how many can find a way in, at least before guys start dropping out.
In the latest Pro Bowl voting numbers this week, it was interesting to see that safety Rashad Johnson — who I do agree has had a very good season for this team — has found his way into the top 10 among safeties. Johnson is eighth, and judging by those who keep tweeting that they want him to get even more votes, maybe Johnson can climb the ladder.
In fact, it’s only the secondary that is represented for the Cardinals right now, at least among the top 10 vote-getters at their positions. Patrick Peterson is eighth and Antonio Cromartie 10th among cornerbacks, while cornerback Justin Bethel is ninth among special teamers.
If you want to vote for the Pro Bowl, click here.
Now for some housekeeping items as the week comes to a close and the Cards get a mini-bye:
— Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali was fined $16,357 for hitting Cardinals QB Drew Stanton low in last week’s game. You remember the play, the one where it looked then for a split-second Stanton was lost for a long time. There have been a couple of those. Cardinals defensive tackle Tommy Kelly was fined the same amount for roughing Chiefs QB Alex Smith.
Chiefs safety Kurt Coleman, who decked wide receiver Smokey Brown by what looked like it might have been a possible helmet-to-helmet, was not fined. He wasn’t flagged for that play either.
— Bruce Arians wasn’t backing down from his comment after Thursday’s game, when he said “I love it when nobody says you’re going to have a chance to win. There’s an 11-3 team and a team that is always 8-8. You figure it out.” Many took it as a shot to the Rams — and obviously, it wasn’t a compliment — but I took it more as a jab against the media picking against the Cardinals in the game rather than the Rams themselves.
Not that it really matters. Asked why he made such a comment, Arians responded simply, “I just tried to state the facts.”
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Bruce Arians, Drew Stanton, John Brown, Justin Bethel, Patrick Peterson, Pro Bowl, Rashad Johnson, Tommy Kelly
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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.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Ed Stinson, Frostee Rucker, John Abraham, Kareem Martin, Marcus Benard, Rashad Johnson, Sam Acho, Steve Keim, Thomas Keiser, Tommy Kelly, trade
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There isn’t much new to report on cornerback Patrick Peterson this morning, but General Manager Steve Keim said during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Peterson was “in good spirits” as he left the stadium last night and will go through the concussion protocol before he can return to the field. “It’s not different than Drew Stanton’s (situation),” Keim said, referring to when Stanton suffered a concussion earlier this season. Stanton eventually was able to pass his concussion tests and was active the following week, although Carson Palmer was back by then and Stanton didn’t have to play. You figure if Peterson is active, he’s going to play a lot, so we’ll see how he reacts to the tests and the exertion he would have to give. Every concussion is serious, but every one is also different, and there’s no way to know right now how this will affect Peterson.
— The other “news” from Keim: Keim said Bruce Arians and the coaches have been praising how well guard Jonathan Cooper has been looking in practice and how he is beginning to look like the guy everyone in the organization was so high on last year before Cooper broke his leg.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next couple of weeks we try to work him back in there,” Keim said. “I know he was in there a little bit (Sunday) on some short-yardage stuff and some unbalanced, but he continues to improve and we certainly have not lost any faith in him.”
Keim was asked to define what he meant to work Cooper in. “Little bit of guard, and it’s been no secret Paul Fanaika has been banged up a little bit and when you have a player with Coop’s ability, you have to try and get him some snaps sooner rather than later.”
— Keim said he could’ve given a game ball to a bunch of different players, not surprising the way it turned out. “It was nice to see Larry (Fitzgerald) have such a good game,” Keim said, and agreed that veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly has been a major addition. “Sometimes you worry about the amount of snaps he’s playing, but he has been a breath of fresh air,” Keim said.
Tags: Jonathan Cooper, Patrick Peterson, Steve Keim, Tommy Kelly
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If you were Jared Veldheer, Sunday’s trip to Oakland meant a lot. If you were Tommy Kelly, it meant a lot. If you were Carson Palmer, well, you tried to downplay it, but your teammates and coach weren’t so sure. It was an obvious storlyline though, with the Raiders sitting at 0-6, that Oakland writers wanted to hit the Raiders-return-home narrative.
Was it nice to get Carson a win, Kelly was asked? “Yeah, you want Carson to win, but I think more about myself,” Kelly said. “I wanted to win for myself.”
Makes sense to me.
The Cardinals had a lot of different reasons to get Sunday’s game, not the least of which the fact both Seattle and San Francisco lost and the Cards now have a two-game lead in the loss column. The brutal part of the schedule now commences –home against Philly, at Dallas, and we go from there. A lot can still happen. Bruce Arians was quick to emphasize the Cards hadn’t won jack yet and shouldn’t overestimate themselves. Nevertheless, it’s better to be up two in the loss column right now than the other way away, and while the Cards have their warts, so too do the Seahawks and 49ers.
— The Cards do get a victory Monday. Although as B.A. makes clear, anyone in their first- or second-year still has to come in tomorrow. Something tells me a good chunk of guys will still show up to get a lift in at least. That’s what happens when a team is winning.
— It was great to hear Andre Ellington say it was his call to come out at the end of the Cardinals’ long touchdown drive – the one in which Ellington had been the ball carrier on every play – so Stepfan Taylor could get a TD shot. First, I heard from a lot of fans (I’m guessing, Ellington fantasy owners) wondering why Arians had made such a move. But it wasn’t B.A., it was Ellington asking for a blow.
More importantly was why Ellington came out. Ellington knows he doesn’t have to practice a ton because of his bad foot. Taylor has to do extra work in practice and often there’s no payoff in games because Ellington gets the snaps. That Ellington would think of his draft classmate is cool.
— The Cards were still having some problems getting consistent pressure on the quarterback. Linebacker Larry Foote got the lone sack (although the Cards a couple times seemed like they would get to Carr and Carr escaped) but headed into games against Philly’s offense and Dallas – where a great running game buys time for Tony Romo – you have to wonder how that plays out.
— I’ll be curious to see how OC Harold Goodwin analyzes Sunday’s run game. The Cards got 123 yards. Goodwin probably wanted more production, but it was the key, especially on that TD drive that took control of the game.
— Palmer throws a pick. It was going to happen. In some ways, it might be good the streak is over.
— After a few games of bad third-down conversions, the Cards converted 9 of 15 third downs Sunday. That’s excellent. The Cards also held the ball for more than 36 minutes. That’ll win games even if the offense isn’t perfectly sharp.
— Patrick Peterson got caught for a couple more penalties Sunday. He has seven in seven games – four pass interference and three holds. He’s a physical cornerback, and this is life in the NFL this days for those guys. He’ll have to continue to adapt.
— Kicker Chandler Catanzaro is now 15-for-15 on the season kicking field goals, tying the mark of the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein as the most consecutive makes to start a rookie season (Washington’s Kai Forbath made 17 to start his career, but he wasn’t considered a rookie at that point, having been on injured reserve his entire rookie season.)
“It’s pretty cool a rookie record, definitely humbling,” Catanzaro said. “It’s my job. As much as I say it, it’s my job, that’s what they signed me up for.”
— Michael Floyd went up and got a 33-yard TD catch one-on-one in a battle with Terrell Brown and it seems like he always does that these days. In fact, Floyd in the jump ball area right now feels a lot like watching Larry Fitzgerald circa 2008.
— That’s enough for this game. The Cardinals are 5-1 for the first time since 1976. An impressive start. But there are still 10 to go. A lot can happen.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Chandler Catanzaro, Harold Goodwin, Larry Foote, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Raiders, Tommy Kelly
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It comes as no surprise that the Cardinals want to extend quarterback Carson Palmer. GM Steve Keim said he has had initial discussions with Palmer’s agent, and given the landscape, keeping Palmer around makes sense for both sides. For Palmer, who will turn 35 in December, he has found a comfort — and success — working in Bruce Arians’ system. Considering there probably aren’t many teams that are going to want to bring in a 35-year-old QB, at least not believing in him at the level the Cardinals do, Palmer wanting to remain is only logical.
The Cardinals have a quarterback who works for them, not only passing the ball but as a leader, a guy who easily was voted captain by his teammates. Palmer stands tall in that locker room, and it has nothing to do with his 6-foot-5 frame but the way he carries himself and plays off every guy in there. At some point, the Cardinals will have to find their long-term QB answer, and maybe it’s Logan Thomas and maybe Keim sees the franchise QB sitting there late in the first round this coming April, but there are no certainties and having Palmer in place is almost obvious for the team too.
The shoulder nerve issue probably threw a wrench into things somewhat. You have to believe Palmer will stay healthy. But assuming that, this should work. If it makes so much sense for both sides, it almost has to, right?
But that also leads into this incredibly interesting offseason to come for Keim. Last year, he said the 2015 season was really when the Cards would be in better shape in terms of the salary cap. You can only assume he was already taking into account the Larry Fitzgerald situation, and what he may or may not do with Darnell Dockett’s contract (a spot that’s gotten stickier now that Dockett, who turns 34 in May, will be coming off major knee surgery.) That doesn’t include the scheduled free agents: Antonio Cromartie, Dan Williams, Sam Acho, Tommy Kelly, Larry Foote and Paul Fanaika among them.
If there is anything Keim has shown with a couple of offseasons under his belt, it’s that the Cardinals have a plan on how they spend. And going overboard isn’t part of it. There is a number the Cardinals have in mind they will want to give to any of these guys for 2015 — for a Fitz, for a Dan Williams. For a Palmer. Selling a chance to stay with a winner helps.
Of course, winning only happens when there is a QB in place. Palmer is that guy for the Cardinals. You want him to stick around.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, free agency, Larry Fitzgerald, Larry Foote, Logan Thomas, Paul Fanaika, Sam Acho, Steve Keim, Tommy Kelly
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Veteran Tommy Kelly, about whom I will be writing a story about next week, was talking about his relationship with the Cardinals’ coaching staff. The big defensive tackle didn’t feel like he had the best communication with Patriots coach Bill Belichick down the stretch of his time there. It’s been a lot different for Kelly with Bruce Arians and company.
“People get much more out out of a veteran player if you’re just up front with them,” said Kelly, who came into the league in 2004. “(Arians) don’t sell no one no dreams.”
Maybe more than anything, that’s been the biggest thing Bruce Arians has brought to the Cardinals. He’s talked many times about his “Coach ’em hard, hug ’em later” philosophy, which includes more than a couple of curse words most practices but an ability to have that tension wash away as soon as the final horn for practice sounds. More importantly, Arians is across the board doesn’t lay the manure on when he talks to his players. Arians is blunt when meeting the media and he’s the same with his roster. “Players respect the truth,” Arians said, and sometimes, that means being brutally honest. His assistants do the same.
Yes, it can sting, I am sure. But there isn’t anyone on the Cards that can can claim they are in the dark about their role. I remember at one point last year — in the summer of 2013 — when a coach let Larry Fitzgerald know that sometimes, his job was to attract the defense so the ball could go elsewhere. That (among other things) was probably hard for Fitz to hear, but he knew where he stood. When Arians let the world know — presumably after he had let Cooper know — that Jonathan Cooper wasn’t playing the way the Cardinals hoped he would, that’s the message received.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the player is always going to be happy about hearing what he’s hearing. But as long as Arians isn’t selling any dreams, the truth works more than it hurts.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Tommy Kelly
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Tony Jefferson had himself a game Sunday. The safety lead the Cardinals with 10 tackles, he had the huge second-down sack of Colin Kaepernick on the 49ers’ last true chance to score and, of course, he absorbed the headbutt that changed the game.
Former Cardinal Anquan Boldin, who has been known to let his emotions get away from him on the field, got angry at Jefferson after catching a pass for a first down on the Cardinals’ 6-yard line with the Cards nursing a 20-14 lead. Boldin headbutted Jefferson, and the 15 yards eventually derailed the drive into a field goal attempt that was blocked by Cardinals’ defensive end Tommy Kelly. The 49ers never did score again.
“People give him (Boldin) so much respect out on the field, and I respect him as a player, but anybody who is going to jaw at me, I’m going to jaw back,” Jefferson said. “I’m all about the action. I’ll jaw. But I won’t retaliate like he did.”
But the play was more than that for the Cardinals. Boldin ranted after the game Jefferson had been delivering cheap blows and he was simply fed up. After the game, however, the Cardinals were talking about finally standing up to bully in the 49ers that had knocked them around in recent years.
“I think they are kind of used to us backing down once the game gets started,” Jefferson said. “But we were in their face. We were going after it. We let them know, this is a different team.”
It seems like a different team. It’s definitely an undefeated team, and one that has earned that distinction.
— It was a big deal winning Sunday, not the least of which was with Drew Stanton behind center. Bruce Arians kept saying Stanton could get the job done, but he (rightfully) said Stanton had to show everyone else. He has. Stanton managed the game in New York. He won the game against the 49ers. B.A. clearly didn’t pull back the reins.
Stanton had a great press conference. He was happy, as he should be, and knows how to be funny. Someone asked him why he clicks with Arians. Stanton said he wasn’t sure. “To be honest with you, in Indianapolis, I didn’t even know if he liked me,” Stanton said.
I don’t think Drew needs to worry about that anymore.
– -That said, please don’t ask about a quarterback controversy. There isn’t one. When Palmer is ready, he’ll be back in there.
— As good as John “Smokey” Brown –and that’s what the Cards call him, Smoke or Smokey – was on his TD catches, the pass interference he drew on the game-clinching field goal drive was just as big a play. Without that, the Cardinals are punting with more than three minutes left.
“Once I got past five yards, (I knew) if he got hands on me, it was an automatic pass interference,” Brown said. “Drew made a great throw and (cornerback Chris Cook) did what I wanted him to do.”
— Brown said the gameplan all week was to feature him, thinking the 49ers would focus on Fitz and Floyd. Brown was asked, was that because the 49ers don’t really know who you are? Brown smiled. “No one knows me.”
— Stanton became the first Cardinals’ QB to not throw an interception and not be sacked since 2010. So once again, Stanton has a link back to 2010.
— You can’t go sackless, especially with as many deep throws as the Cardinals tried, without very good pass protection. Yes, the Niners are without guys like Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman, but this upgraded line is doing very well (including that parting of the Red Sea to spring Andre Ellington for that last 20-yard gain.)
— The Palmer/Stanton quarterbacked-Cards have yet to throw an interception this season.
— Amazing. On Tommy Kelly’s blocked field goal for the Cards, the Cardinals only had nine men on the field.
— It was with a lot less in-game attention as the Cardinals rallied, but Larry Fitzgerald didn’t get his first catch Sunday until the fourth quarter again. Then it looked like he’d be the key factor in the game-clinching drive – and then he fumbled the ball at the San Francisco 5. It was shades of last year’s lost fumble in San Francisco that short-circuited a possible go-ahead drive. This time, the Cardinals weathered the turnover. I’m not sure Fitz talked to anyone after – I know I didn’t get a chance to see him – but I’m sure he breathed a sigh of relief the turnover turned out not to matter.
— Michael Floyd, two long (39 and 45 yards) catches among his 5-for-114 day. That’s two 100-yard games in three weeks.
— Is there a better defensive coordinator in the league at making halftime adjustments than Todd Bowles?
— I’m not sure how the defense went from being unsure how to handle Colin Kaepernick to shutting him down. This defense just keeps making it work. Losing Antonio Cromartie with a knee injury could have been a blow, but Bowles was already going to use Justin Bethel in this game. That’s foresight. I thought Patrick Peterson played pretty well too. The Cards started getting to Kaepernick with pressure, but the coverage was a big part of that.
So the Cards head into the bye. A short week of practice, needed time off and a 3-0 record. Can’t complain.
Tags: 49ers, Anquan Boldin, Antonio Cromartie, Drew Stanton, John Brown, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Todd Bowles, Tommy Kelly, Tony Jefferson
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Before anyone takes this out of context, when veteran safety and ex-Cardinal Adrian Wilson came to visit practice today, it was just that — a visit. It wasn’t a tryout. Wilson wasn’t working out for General Manager Steve Keim but conversing with him, wearing — as A-Dub often does — a trendy outfit and carrying what looked to be a notebook and pen. He and Keim go way back, with both North Carolina State products and Keim the one who scouted Wilson and pushed for his selection in the 2001 draft.
I only got to talk to Wilson briefly, and he said he was doing well. There was no talk of football per se, or his recent release by the Bears. He, as you can see in the picture below, still very much looks the part. (One young Cardinal saw him from afar and noted, “I thought he’d look older than he does.” Take it as a compliment, Adrian.)
I’m not sure of the drop-by, but it isn’t surprising. Someday, Wilson will be going into the team’s Ring of Honor. That’s been known since it was put in the official press release the day Wilson was released. I am one of many who thinks that, whenever Wilson decides to retire, he could very well sign a one-day contract with the Cardinals to end it with this franchise. And I would not be surprised to see Wilson end up with some kind of role within the organization at some point. I think the organization thinks that much of Wilson, and I think Wilson thinks that much of this organization.
— The Cardinals had a another mini-practice Wednesday. With a Monday game, the real “week” of practice starts Thursday, with pads and hitting. That’s the day safety Tyrann Mathieu will give hitting a try.
— Arians said new defensive lineman Tommy Kelly is picking up the defense just fine — “Defensive line, the playbook isn’t real deep,” Arians quipped — and it looks like Kelly should slide in just fine into the defensive rotation.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Steve Keim, Tommy Kelly, Tyrann Mathieu
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