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Canton means more time on 2017 road

Posted by Darren Urban on February 23, 2017 – 2:18 pm

The Cardinals will get a fifth preseason game. That was announced Thursday, with the Cards facing the Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game (the Cardinals also have to play Dallas during the regular season). While the game likely eases the problem of having to be out of University of Phoenix Stadium Aug. 4 for a concert — the game in Aug. 3, and it’s possible the Cards could just take a couple days off and start again Aug. 6 or 7 — it does make camp longer. The official start date of camp won’t be announced for a while, but teams can begin up to 15 days before their first game. Mid-July, anyone? OK, it probably is going to play to mixed reviews.

Another interesting part of this is Bruce Arians’ recent comments about hitting/tackling more in training camp. An extra week of practice plus another game adds to the risk.

But it also plays into a 2017 season that will already feature a trip to London. Those dates and length of the trip still have to be announced, but it seems likely the Cardinals will be across the pond for a week or so. The schedule also includes trips to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia (which could be wrapped into the London trip, possibly), Indianapolis, Houston and Detroit, the two remaining NFC West rivals, and whomever the Cards may play on the road in the preseason. The miles will add up.

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Bidwill: Franchising Jones, and London talk

Posted by Darren Urban on February 14, 2017 – 10:30 am

It’s been no secret — Bruce Arians made it pretty clear the day after the season — that the Cardinals are planning on using the franchise tag on linebacker Chandler Jones if necessary. Team president Michael Bidwill reiterated that Tuesday during an appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7.

“We’re not going to mess around with that,” Bidwill said. “He’s a great pass rusher, but if we can’t agree to terms that work for us, we’re just going to franchise him. His people know that.”

Some of the other points Bidwill made (aside from a concert moving training camp for a few days):

— On the Cardinals’ own significant free agents: “We’re going to be negotiating with these folks and we already are, and we’re hopeful to get everyone under contract,” Bidwill said. “If we get everybody under contract, that’ll be a huge win for us. If we get most of them, that will be very good for us.”

Bidwill wasn’t specific about the players, but among them are defensive keys, Jones, defensive lineman Calais Campbell and safety Tony Jefferson.

— On the London game against the Rams, which will be either Oct. 22 or 29. “We’ve been lobbying for us to get over there,” Bidwill said. “(The league) wanted us to give up a home game, which we will have to do as part of the next bid for the Super Bowl, but we really wanted to be a visiting team. This year we finally got the call.”

Bidwill said the NFL is “overdue” in making the announcement over the specific date, and he will be pushing for that decision so that the team and fans can plan for the trip.

— Wide receiver John Brown should regain his form after battling his sickle cell issues, Bidwill said. “He is very healthy,” Bidwill said. “It looks like they found the issue and we’ll get Smoke back the way we had him.”

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Arians: Sideline video “helps bad coaches”

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2016 – 1:47 pm

The NFL is testing out the ability to use Microsoft tablets and video on the sidelines, seeing what it could mean for the future of the game. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians noted they had them in the first preseason game against the Raiders.

“I watched one play the referee called holding and it wasn’t holding and I showed it to him,” said Arians, referring to a hold called on tight end Troy Niklas that Arians had previously complained about. The penalty negated a touchdown.

“I said (to the official) this would be your worst nightmare if I had this on the sideline,” Arians added.

That drew a chuckle in the press conference, but Arians was serious when he said he hoped video was never part of in-game use on the sideline.

“Helps bad coaches,” Arians said. “You spend six hours on a blitz (for your defense) on Tuesday, he can watch it … offensively you don’t run the same plays very often but defensively, you spend a lot of hours and time on a blitz that a guy can watch it on tape and show his guys and fix it in the first quarter.

“That’s not what it’s all about.”


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Fitz: Contract about keeping good thing going

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2016 – 12:22 pm

The recent contract Larry Fitzgerald signed — keeping the wide receiver in Arizona in 2017, assuming he is still playing — wasn’t something he was looking for, but he emphasized that winning and the Cardinals’ ability to win played a role.

“It wasn’t my idea,” Fitzgerald said. “I didn’t go and stand on Steve (Keim)’s table and asked for an extension. If that’s what you’re asking, that wasn’t the case. I’m down for whatever is going to keep this thing going as long as we can.

“As you know, it goes in spurts in this league. A while back we had some teams that were pretty good, had a couple down years, and now we’re at that point where we have a really good thing going. We have a good mesh of older veteran guys and a mesh of good younger guys like Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Chandler Jones, D.J. Humphries. That’s a great blend to have.”

That wouldn’t be the only reason Fitz would want to play in 2017, but at this point in his career, it’s a must-have.

Other lunchtime stuff after a day off:

— WR Smokey Brown (headache) might not practice this afternoon. With Brown coming off a concussion, it’s something to watch.

— Fitzgerald isn’t practicing because of the slight MCL issue in his knee, but he waved off any concern. “I’m good,” he said. “I could probably go out there and be effective and do my job, but a setback now with less than two weeks to go would be less than ideal. I want to do what I can to help my team now but obviously Sept. 11 is when it really hits the fan.”

— QB Carson Palmer is getting a day off today. The injury list is pretty short right now, though. A good sign.

— Coach Bruce Arians shrugged off the idea the offense needs to get into a rhythm in a preseason game. “Not really,” he said. “I see it enough in practice.”

— Arians wouldn’t comment on the report he will be named the NFL’s competition committee. “Hasn’t been announced yet,” he said.


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Ellington takes his shot at punt returns

Posted by Darren Urban on August 23, 2016 – 10:13 am

Andre Ellington is now listed as the top kickoff and punt returner on the depth chart. The kickoff part isn’t that surprising. The punt return part is, since a) Ellington has never really done it and b) it wasn’t really a consideration when camp started. But Ellington, who finally got a chance to return one in a game in San Diego, is going to have the opportunity.

We’ll see how comfortable Ellington can get back there. This possibility has been building since the day Chris Johnson re-signed. When the three top running backs were healthy last season, David Johnson was returning kickoffs and there was a reason to have all three active on game days. Now that David Johnson is going to be the main back, he won’t be returning kickoffs — so to have all three active, someone has to play special teams. That’s not Chris Johnson. So you try and see what Ellington can do as the dual return man. (You don’t really want Patrick Peterson returning punts anymore either.)

Watching him in practice, Ellington looks very much like a work in progress. But Bruce Arians is right — if Ellington does get his hands on a punt, he’s the kind of player that fits such a return perfectly, getting the ball in space on what essentially is an extended stretch running play, in which Ellington can use his burst to blow up the field.

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Keim: “Good chance” Nkemdiche plays Sunday

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2016 – 8:16 am

The Cardinals had a bunch of players come back to practice this week, and — barring anything between then and Sunday’s third preseason game in Houston — General Manager Steve Keim said the team will be in pretty good health against the Texans.

During his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, Keim said that, after talking to head athletic trainer Tom Reed, the Cardinals may only have “one or two” players too injured to be available for the next game. Keim also said that rookie defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who has been out since suffering a high-ankle sprain during quarterback school work and hasn’t practice in camp, has a “good chance” to play against the Texans. Coach Bruce Arians said that Nkemdiche should be back at practice Wednesday.

Other news and thoughts from the Keim conversation:

Like Arians, Keim isn’t worried about the Cardinals or their preseason performances in terms of how they will do in the regular season. But “we need to pick up our level of urgency.” Keim said. “You can’t go out when the season starts and turn the switch on. … You can’t sleepwalk through the preseason. (Friday) was a great lesson for our players.”

— Keim told MMQB.com’s Peter King that it was a “chicken(expletive) call by me” not to take a chance on quarterback Russell Wilson in the 2012 draft, and that he “didn’t have the balls to take Russell Wilson.” Keim is constantly preaching the need to self-evaluate, and that certainly qualifies.

“He is a great learning lesson for all of us,” Keim told Arizona Sports.

— Aside from allowing a pressure on the first snap, Keim said he thought right tackle D.J. Humphries was better than his first game. Keim also liked how guard Evan Mathis played, and he likes the progress — although it’s slower — of rookie OLs Cole Toner and Evan Boehm.

— On the idea Arians would like the Cardinals to practice against another team a couple of times in next year’s training camp: “I love it,” Keim said. The Cardinals might try to visit one team for a week and host a team another week. A handful of NFL teams did that this year. Keim (and Arians) love the idea of going up against another team as a measuring stick and to break up the monotony of camp.

— Keim said potential trade talks, with the Chargers or any other team, are ongoing and usually don’t heat up until the end of the preseason.

— There is still a learning curve for rookie cornerback Brandon Williams, Keim said, but “quite frankly, I thought (his struggles) would be a little worse.” Keim is pleased with Williams’ progress thus far.


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Arians: Doomsday hasn’t arrived

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2016 – 7:29 am

Bruce Arians watched his team Friday night. And he knows the Cardinals did not play well, especially offensively. But he said this week was like any other, noting that Carson Palmer has played only about 20 plays thus far — not even a half’s work most games.

Arians also knows there is concern out there from the fan base. He matter-of-factly said while that’s expected, maybe it shouldn’t be.

“Tendency is to ‘Woe is me,’ ” Arians said. “But when our starters have played 15 plays, 20 plays maybe, that’s not even a good half. We’ve had bad halves before and come back and won games. It’s not a doomsday situation by any stretch of the imagination.”

The game in Houston this week is going to be a better and more important barometer. But with all due respect to Denny Green, it still will not be the end-all, be-all as a foretelling of the regular season, whether the Cardinals play well or play poorly.

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Fitz among players sitting out Chargers game

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2016 – 5:08 pm

Many of the names on tonight’s not-expected-to-play list for the Cardinals are known because they have missed practice time. The biggest name is wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who sat out practice Wednesday and who is resting his knee — although Fitzgerald was running sprints pregame and looked fine. Realistically, Fitz doesn’t need much time in the preseason to be ready.

It means two of the top three receivers are sitting, because John Brown is still sidelined because he has not cleared concussion protocol. Is that a concern? Of course. You hate to have one of your top pass catchers missing most of training camp and that’s what is going to happen to Smokey.

Philip Rivers is among those not playing for the Chargers.

The full list of those not expected to play tonight. (Some injuries haven’t been specifically announced):

— CB Alan Ball
— CB Justin Bethel (foot)
— WR John Brown (concussion)
— C Taylor Boggs (calf)
— CB Elie Bouka (hamstring)
— WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee)
— WR Brittan Golden (hamstring)
— DT Iosia Iosia
— CB Asa Jackson (ankle)
— CB Mike Jenkins (hand)
— S Tyrann Mathieu (knee)
— DT Robert Nkemdiche (ankle)
— LB Alex Okafor
— DT Frostee Rucker (foot)
— DT Ed Stinson
— G Earl Watford (knee)


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Thursday before the Chargers

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2016 – 2:26 pm

The work in San Diego is almost over. The Cardinals have their preseason game against the Chargers Friday night, and to be frank, the attention has shifted from what the team might do this week and to what Bruce Arians might do after his health issues. The reality is that offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin was already set to call plays, and Arians had joked previously that he doesn’t have much to do during a game in those cases anyway. Still, all eyes are going to be on B.A. That’s only natural.

— Because of Arians’ illness, there wasn’t much discussed about the how the game will play out in terms of snap distribution, but the first units will probably get a chunk of the first quarter you’d figure. It always depends on how they perform, but maybe two or three series, depending on the number of plays. I’d expect this game to be a lot more Drew Stanton at QB, as Carson Palmer’s big third preseason game looms and the fourth game likely will be all Matt Barkley and Jake Coker.

— Another big game for CB Brandon Williams. Also curious to see what veteran Mike Jenkins can do now that he’s back on the field, albeit with a cast.

— Another guy to watch is DT Corey Peters, who returns to a game for the first time since blowing out his Achilles after just one preseason game in 2015.

— Not only were there no fights during the two practices between the Cards and Chargers, no situation really ever came close as far as I could tell. Don’t know if it was because Arians and Chargers coach Mike McCoy made such a big deal about no fights or if the Arians situation changed how practice was approached. Question is, does Friday night get chippy at all?

— Arians has said there are four inside linebackers fighting for one spot, which includes Chargers castoff Donald Butler. But you figure the Cards are going to have Deone Bucannon and Kevin Minter in there. I’m guessing Chris Clemons, who has been working behind Bucannon, likely is in. So that would leave Butler vs. Alani Fua vs. Gabe Martin vs. Lamar Louis. So again, a battle to watch.

— One more week of training camp to go. Four more open practices.

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Williams’ crash course continues in San Diego

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2016 – 10:47 am

The No. 2 cornerback for the Cardinals remains a work in progress.

Justin Bethel came off the PUP list this week but still isn’t ready to practice. Mike Jenkins finally returned to practice this week, although the surgery for a broken bone in his hand means he has to wear a cast. Meanwhile, rookie Brandon Williams remains the starter and still figures to be the best bet to be starting Sept. 11 even with his growing pains.

That’s why Williams should’ve benefited big from a couple of practices against the Chargers, to work against different receivers than just the Cardinals and to see different looks. Williams got a healthy dose of Amari Cooper last week and now Keenan Allen — who has been a tough cover in practice — was this week.

“(Brandon) is a guy who were are going to lean on in the season so we want to see how he was living, how he was going to respond when the ball is coming his way,” all-pro cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “Not to toot my own horn, but after the year I had last year, if there is a rookie defensive back, nine times out of 10 they’re going to pick on the young pup. So (cornerbacks) coach (Kevin) Ross wanted to throw him into the fire and to see how he would respond.”

Peterson is right, of course. Whomever is playing across from Peterson will be targeted often. Look at what happened to Bethel late last season. That’s not going to change in 2016, whether it is Williams or Bethel or someone else.

“I can only imagine how tough it is getting 13, 14 targets a game,” Peterson said. “That’s tough for anyone. biggest thing is keeping the confidence up and relying on the technique. You are prepared for the moment, it’s just about taking what you learned on the practice field to the game. That’s the biggest thing for young cornerbacks.”

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