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Weaver cut to trim roster to 87

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2015 – 10:47 am

The Cardinals made a roster move Saturday morning, releasing safety Ross Weaver. That Weaver was cut isn’t a surprise, since he was likely going to be in the batch that was included in the first round of cuts early next week as the team gets to 75. What it does mean is that the Cardinals are down to 87 on the roster, meaning they only have to pare 12 from the roster to get to the 75-man limit.

Again, teams don’t have to get to 75 until Tuesday but with a Thursday game and a Monday practice, I expect it to be earlier than that after the Cards play Sunday night.

That short week will make for an interesting couple of days, by the way. The Cards play in Oakland Sunday night and won’t get back to Arizona before midnight, and then have a practice beginning at 1:20 p.m. Monday. Granted, the vets won’t do much since they won’t play much if at all in the preseason finale, but still, it’s a short turnaround.

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Friday before the Raiders/Camp aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2015 – 4:14 pm

It’s a special two-headed blog post, combining a “Friday before” with an “aftermath.” We’ll see if I can get out alive. Seriously, camp is over, and thank goodness for that. I know I have tired of hotel life. Even if we are just a short drive from home, home seems so far away in the middle of the month.

What is there to say about camp? The Cards had their injuries, although beyond losing starting nose tackle Corey Peters to his Achilles tear — which is a big deal, but not crippling given the defensive line depth — the Cards came out OK. We’ll see where Michael Floyd and Mike Iupati and Sean Weatherspoon are in a week as the Cards prep for the Saints on opening day.

Best players in camp? Hard to go anywhere but Carson Palmer. Tyrann Mathieu was very good. I thought Patrick Peterson played well. There has been a lot of praise doled out to inside linebacker Kevin Minter, which is a huge deal given Weatherspoon’s absence. Of course, with still two preseason games to go, there is still some time before the roster is shaped. The Cards — at 88 on the roster right now — have to be down to 75 by Tuesday at the latest (although I expect those cuts sooner) and then to 53 a week from Saturday. All for a season where much is expected of the team.

“For us to reach where we want to go, we can’t be potential,” Bruce Arians said. “We have to be damn good.”

— I have a hunch running back Chris Johnson plays in Oakland. He practiced Friday, but he didn’t do a lot beyond individual drills, mostly running off by himself to keep loose. But Arians said he wants to be on the field, and while Johnson said he wasn’t sure if he’ll be ready, I just have a gut feeling he’ll get a little time. If not, it’ll be the Denver game.

— Let’s hope the MRI needed for rookie Xavier Williams on his left elbow isn’t a big deal. He got hurt at the end of practice Friday.

— Arians started calling CB Jerraud Powers “Milkman” because he wanted to needle Powers for needing so many days off with his hamstring injury. (Powers was milking the injury — get it?) Then Powers came back to practice Friday and made a couple of interceptions. “The Milkman delivered today.”

— The players aren’t the only ones who likes finally breaking camp to be able to sleep in their own bed. Arians does too.

“My liver likes a break too,” Arians deadpanned.

— Earl Watford will get second-team work at right tackle in Oakland Sunday. How much backup quarterback Drew Stanton will play will depend on how much Carson Palmer ultimately plays. In this game, Phillip Sims will get in the game first as third QB with Logan Thomas finishing up.

— Arians likes the depth that’s been created with the young inside linebackers, but I’d think the spotlight will still be bright on those guys Sunday (although it’ll be brighter in the preseason finale.) I’m interested to see how D.J. Humphries looks at left tackle, how DT Rodney Gunter looks in extended time and whether the Cardinals can put together a couple of sacks with their first-unit defense. Josh Mauro was getting a lot of work as an edge guy in first-unit sub-packages this week.

In a week, the preseason will be over, and it’ll be time to talk regular season. Finally.




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Friday before the Chargers

Posted by Darren Urban on August 21, 2015 – 10:53 am

Is it me, or does it always seem to be this way about this time, where everyone is just so ready to have football games that count and instead there is still so much time left on the preseason schedule. The Cardinals still have a week left at University of Phoenix Stadium for training camp, three preseason games and another nine days before they even have to have first roster cuts. Yet so much has happened — including the harsh news that Corey Peters is out for the season, which covered up the less-harsh-but-still-harsh Mike Iupati injury news — it just feels like it’s time for the regular season.

But it’s not.

— The Cardinals will play their starters about a quarter against the Chargers, and let’s be real, everyone will cross their fingers on Carson Palmer’s uprightness on every play. The first offense looked so good in the first game. Let’s see how game two goes, with Ted Larsen in the mix at left guard. Another part to watch there is Earl Watford and how much time he’s given at left guard after playing right guard all camp. Can he make inroads to possibly get on the field? It’s year three for Watford. Eventually, he’s going to run out of time to show he belongs in the starting lineup, and Iupati’s injury opens a door.

— I am interested to see Andre Ellington’s work a week later. He looked very promising in the first game. We are supposed to see Chris Johnson, but after he came off the field Thursday with a leg wrap, it’s possible his preseason debut will be delayed.

— Peters, by the way, was officially placed on injured reserve Friday. The Cardinals have two open roster spots.

— We definitely are going to see David Johnson for a good portion of two quarters in his debut. I know he can catch, and I think he’ll be fine there in the games. What I want to see is how he does running the ball.

— Jermaine Gresham ended up not playing last week. Does he make his debut? Bruce Arians didn’t say Gresham wasn’t going to play last week either, so that’s a wait-and-see. Seeing more game time for Troy Niklas, and the continued development of Ifeanyi Momah at tight end are other things I’d to which I’ll pay attention.

— If it turns out that rookie Rodney Gunter can do the job as a starting nose tackle, that will make his tremendous story all the better. (And quite the opposite of first-round tackle D.J. Humphries, although I thought Humphries did OK in the first preseason game, even though Arians clearly wants to see more in practice.) But I also agree with the vets like Calais Campbell who note that the Peters’ injury will be filled by committee. The plan all along was to have all these defensive linemen so there would be a steady rotation. That hasn’t changed.

— I don’t think the Cards will look for a free agent defensive lineman or free agent offensive lineman — at least not at this point — because of the injuries. I do think they will continue to scour carefully what’s out there, both in free agency and once teams start making cuts, to add another cornerback. This is a big game for any cornerback not named Peterson, Powers or Bethel.

— With a game on “Sunday Night Football” next week in Oakland, there is a funky start to the final week of camp. The Cards are off Sunday, practice Monday but then are off again Tuesday. They finish Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, but the Friday schedule has been adjusted to the morning (Check our camp page for details.)


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Gunter’s turn, and “ask Daryl”

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2015 – 5:24 pm

The Cardinals have a week left of training camp. The current week ended a little rough, with the Corey Peters and Mike Iupati injury news, but these things happen. And as harsh as it sounds, defensive line was probably the best position from which the Cardinals could handle losing a starter for the season. It’s just as Bruce Arians said, though, you don’t want a rash of injuries at the position.

We’ll see how Rodney Gunter comes out as starter. He’s a long way from between the orchard and the graveyard. He crushed Chiefs quarterback Aaron Murray in last week’s preseason opener and the day Peters got hurt in practice, with Gunter at defensive end, he knocked back tackle Bradley Sowell so violently that it drew “ooohhhs” from the defensive players watching the play.

— Running back Chris Johnson came off the practice field when the workout was over Thursday with a wrap on the back of his upper right leg. Don’t know what it means yet. Earlier in the day Bruce Arians said Johnson would get five or six carries against the Chargers Saturday.

— Much deserved praise came Tyrann Mathieu’s way when he had his interception-fest in practice last week. It’s worth noting safety Tony Jefferson came up with his fourth pick in five practices Thursday. I do not expect anything to change with his Madden rating, however.)

— Many, many requests, both in the comments here and on Twitter, for Daryl Washington information. Arians too was asked for answers, with the reporter noting that many fans — the “Birdgang” — had been wanting to know what’s up.

“Ask Daryl,” Arians said. “I’m not allowed to talk to Daryl. The league hasn’t notified me of anything, so I would ask the Birdgang to please call Daryl.”


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David Johnson shows receiving skills

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2015 – 9:30 am

Jerraud Powers had joked about it with coach Bruce Arians on Monday — the day Chris Johnson arrived — and then repeated it again Tuesday. He was asked how Johnson’s signing would impact the young running backs, and the veteran cornerback was blunt. “They’re all back practicing.” Whether that’s truly why the hamstrings are healed can be debated, but here is one truth — rookie David Johnson has looked pretty good as a receiver out of the backfield the last couple of days.

Yes, Johnson is a running back. He still has to show he can carry the ball, and he talked Wednesday about learning a very big playbook. But while he cautioned that hamstrings can be “tricky,” Johnson has run well the past couple of practices. And catching the ball, he has looked every bit the player Bruce Arians said he’d be in that role. In drills coming out of the backfield, no one has really been able to cover him, making one think about the matchup issues Johnson can provide. Now, we wait to see what it looks like in a game.

“I’ve been waiting since January, since the draft, to prove what I’m worth,” Johnson said.

Arians likes to use his running backs as receivers, and this isn’t just about throwing swing passes to a guy — which is why it will be interesting to see how Chris Johnson adapts to the offense. Andre Ellington runs out of the slot and has shown good hands (remember, Arians has said he thinks Ellington could have been a wideout in this league) and that is something Johnson has already shown. There is no fighting the ball when it comes to him.



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Iupati to get left knee checked UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2015 – 12:11 pm

Bruce Arians said guard Mike Iupati will miss practice today and will get further tests to check out his left knee. Pressed on what was wrong, Arians chuckled. “I’m sending him to a doctor. I don’t know,” Arians said. “He’s got a knee swelling a little bit.” We’ll see what happens, but Arians’ mood was not of a man worried that his starting left guard was going to be out for a long time, so take that for what it’s worth.

UPDATE: Adam Schefter reported Iupati was “likely” to have surgery and would miss 6 to 8 weeks. No official word is expected until Arians talks Thursday. Defensive tackle Corey Peters was also carted off with a left leg/ankle injury Wednesday afternoon.

— The rest of the injury list is much shorter than it once was. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (hamstring) remains sidelined. Cornerback Jerraud Powers (oblique) is still limited. Still out are LB Shaq Riddick (hamstring), T Rob Crisp (knee), CB Jonte Green (hamstring) and WR Michael Floyd (hand).

— Arians is also giving all the 10-year vets a day off. So no Leach, Zastudil, Palmer, Redding, Fitzgerald or Rucker today.

— Arians said there were times Chris Johnson looked explosive Tuesday, although the running back has a lot to learn in the Cards’ offense.

Weren’t we just talking about this? Arians said he didn’t see why joint practices couldn’t be held without fighting. It’s on the coaches. “There’s no place in the game for (fighting),” Arians said. “Coaches that believe it that, they need to get new jobs.”


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No reason for Cards to put up a fight

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2015 – 9:06 am

Bruce Arians mentioned early in training camp he would have liked to have a joint practice with another team in training camp, to break up the monotony and to raise the level of practice that inevitably comes with going against another team rather than teammates. Given how averse Arians is to training camp fights, however, maybe it’s good that the Cardinals never did work that out.

The Rams-Cowboys joint practice donnybrook Tuesday was just the latest in joint practice battles. The Redskins and Texans got into it earlier this month and last training camp, it was the Cowboys and Raiders. The two this month were bad enough that the joint practices were called off and the teams went to practice on separate fields.

It would be interesting to see what Arians would do if his players got into a training camp tussle with another team. He’s made no bones about it happening with his own team — last summer’s Darnell Dockett/Bradley Sowell laps and then a separate abrupt end to practice underscored the head coach’s feelings on the subject. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the coaching tree either. Todd Bowles made the Jets run because of a practice fight recently.)

And while there are plenty that feel there is good that can come out of a camp scrap — ask Ron Wolfley — there is tangible evidence the downside is too great. The Cardinals know about injuries. Back in 2003, guard Leonard Davis broke his hand punching defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. (Amazingly, my story at the time is still floating around on the internet.) That’s never good.

Bruce Arians

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The race at running back

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2015 – 9:30 am

So now Chris Johnson joins the Cardinals and the team did not get rid of a running back as he walked in the door. It’s a crowded backfield. For the record, the Cards now have Andre Ellington, two Johnsons — David and Chris — Kerwynn Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Marion Grice, Robert Hughes and Paul Lasike.

Johnson — the new one — only signed a one-year contract. He becomes the latest in a line of vets who were wooed by GM Steve Keim for the chance at getting a shot on a good team to revive their contract worth. Frostee Rucker. Matt Shaughnessy. Karlos Dansby. Eric Winston. Antonio Cromartie. LaMarr Woodley. Jermaine Gresham. Even Lyle Sendlein. Johnson reportedly will only make the minimum salary too, unless he rushes for at least 1,300 yards (which a back has never reached since the team moved to Arizona.)

What does all that mean? Well, for starters, if Johnson doesn’t work out the way the Cardinals want through the rest of the preseason, he can be released without much impact on the salary cap ($400,000 is guaranteed.) More likely he’ll simply be part of the rotation. If I had to guess right now, the Cardinals will keep five running backs. Ellington will be the starter. The two Johnsons will be there. After that? I’d think there would be one between Hughes and Lasike as the “big” back — Hughes has the inside track there — and one among Taylor, Williams and Grice. Taylor is good on special teams, and Williams’ game is similar to Ellington’s and Chris Johnson’s (plus, he could go on the practice squad if necessary.)

As for the desire to pick up a veteran and supplanting a recent draft pick, this too is something Keim has already done. The Cardinals drafted inside linebacker Kevin Minter in 2013 in the second round and turned around and signed Dansby just couple weeks later, and Dansby’s play left Minter on the bench all season. Now, David Johnson may have the same thing with Chris Johnson. For Keim, it’s about what the Cardinals can do this year.


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Honey Badger — again! — with “Knee Deep,” Ellington

Posted by Darren Urban on August 12, 2015 – 5:29 pm

Tyrann Mathieu had another interception today. I still say Carson Palmer is the story of camp, given how good he looks coming off the ACL injury, including his arm strength. But Mathieu is right up there. It’s easy for players to talk big in training camp, about how ready they are to have a big season. But when the Honey Badger says it, it’s been tangibly backed up by what he’s done on the field. His game is to be all over the place and make things happen for the defense, and that’s exactly what Mathieu is doing.

— I know someone will ask. It was Drew Stanton who threw the pick. Stanton had a couple of nice TD passes later.

— D.J. Humphries was hoping to keep that “Knee Deep” nickname in-house, but Bruce Arians let it out of the bag. “I didn’t think that was going to make it to the media,” Humphries said. “I’ve been called that since OTAs.”

Is it valid? “Uhhhhh …. you’ll have to ask them about that,” Humphries said. “I hear it a lot, so I guess it is.”

Humphries said he feels no pain in his knee. He admits he can tell he missed some time, but not so much that he’s behind.

— Running back Andre Ellington got in some 11-on-11 work. While still limited, he did look impressively quick on one screen pass, the first real hint of what the Cardinals will have once he gets fully back on the field. Ellington said he’d play Saturday, but that’s still up in the air. Methinks the Cards will want to do everything in their power to make sure he reaches Sept. 13 healthy.


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Cardinals looking at Chris Johnson

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2015 – 8:53 am

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.)

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