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Friday before the Bears, a preseason meme

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2017 – 2:49 pm

The Bears, the Cardinals and really, who takes the third game of the preseason like it’s bullspit? Bullspit!

I know it’s only Week 2 for the Bears — and frankly, for the Cardinals, who aren’t marching their main guys out for a half until next week’s Week 4/Week 3 game in Atlanta — so again, this is more of a ramp-up game. Bruce Arians isn’t calling plays until next week (that falls on QB coach Byron Leftwich again.) There will be around 20 plays for the starters, although as usual it could be less if each unit is effective. The biggest story in the game will probably be Chicago QBs Mike Glennon vs. Mitchell Trubisky, so we can see how Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson and company can mess with the immediate Bears future.

(In ’06, that Bears preseason game was Matt Leinart’s second appearance in the NFL, after playing on only a couple of days of practice — he signed late — in New England the week before. Leinart vs Warner. Those were the days.)

— It’ll be the first game for left tackle D.J. Humphries. Arians said Humphries did fine in his first practice Wednesday. I thought he had a slow start to Thursday’s work. As with the whole offensive line, he needs to ramp up — although again, with so much camp, there is plenty of time to get ready.

— Speaking of getting ready, the same goes for linebacker Karlos Dansby, who has been bothered by a leg issue. Deone Bucannon is ostensibly still on target to return to practice likely after the preseason games are over. Maybe a couple of days before. That inside linebacker crew could be a juggling situation for the first game. Haason Reddick is clearly still learning, and Scooby Wright, while solid on special teams, has shortcomings on defense. Both are players to watch against the Bears.

— DT Robert Nkemdiche has played well in the preseason but this week, the coaching clearly got harder. Nkemdiche is doing the right things as far as effort and intensity. But the technique must improve, because that is what will beat the better players in the regular season. Everyone has the talent.

— Others I’ll be watching in particular this week: Both punters; Kerwynn Williams on another punt return or two; the down-depth-chart receivers like Carlton Agudosi and Chris Hubert in particular since Brittan Golden (groin) likely won’t play; Justin Bethel and Tramon Williams (I haven’t forgotten about CB No. 2); and more Budda Baker.

— It’d be nice to see a little David Johnson but not too much.

— I’ll be curious to see how much John Brown plays. Smoke did much more in practice this week. But he certainly is not 100 percent, and the trainers keep a close eye on that quad injury. Still, Brown made some plays Thursday, and after one touchdown Larry Fitzgerald made sure everyone knew it was Smoke and then made sure to give Brown the side-five.

— Fitz, by the way, seemed like he was having a great time Thursday. For a guy who is usually tops on the list of wishing training camp wasn’t so long, it didn’t seem to be impacting him. That’s probably good, because after the game, there’s still one week left.


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After practice: No hanging heads, and TWill pick

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2017 – 5:10 pm

Early in practice Tuesday, J.J. Nelson dropped a touchdown pass from Carson Palmer in the red zone. The wide receiver was clearly bothered, and walked slowly behind the line of scrimmage where the extra players stood — the second unit’s turn had come up — with his head down. Immediately, Palmer found him. What was said is unknown, but the message was clear, especially when Palmer imitated Nelson’s hanging head: Keep your head up, Palmer was saying, because it’s on to the next play.

Indeed, the next time Nelson was on the field, he caught a pass and Palmer — who this time was not the QB — made sure to seek out Nelson for the congratulatory slap. It’s one of the underrated parts of Palmer’s game, the leadership in such situations.

— It was an eventful practice. The defense was into the battles given that the No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense faced off. Linebacker Markus Golden, who loves to talk, was talking quite a bit when the defense was winning its plays.

— The Cardinals slid rookie safety Budda Baker into the first unit in their dime package. One time, both he and Tyrann Mathieu blitzed. Afterward, Baker talked about how much he loved to blitz — another parallel between he and Mathieu.

— Phil Dawson easily drilled a 58-yard field goal among his attempts (without a miss).

— This is how you cultivate a fan base. After the first unit got through part of one period — and Patrick Peterson knew he’d have a few minutes on the sideline — he sent an equipment intern to the sideline where a man and his two boys were sitting. All had Peterson jerseys. The intern fetched the jerseys and took them to Peterson, who quickly signed them all. It was such a brief moment, but the fans were thrilled.

— Interestingly, quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich got to call some offensive plays into the walkie-talkie during one period. It really shouldn’t be a surprise. Bruce Arians likes to groom his young coaches, and getting Leftwich a few reps in the middle of a practice is a good start. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin called the plays in the Hall of Fame game, and I’m guessing he’ll do at least one other game in the preseason.

— The practice ended with a special situation: Offense on the defense’s 8-yard line, 6 seconds left, third down. The first unit started with David Johnson drawing a pass interference in the end zone and then a fade to Larry Fitzgerald for a TD. The second unit was stopped when rookie Chad Williams couldn’t hang on to a pass at the goal line. The third unit scored on a laser from Blaine Gabbert to Carlton Agudosi.

— Newcomer Tramon Williams also got his first interception as a Cardinal, playing zone and jumping on a Drew Stanton pass. “Was able to kind of see the whole picture,” Williams said. “Read the quarterback and just kind of came off. I had a good jump on the ball.”


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Bethel’s level gives him chance for “great” year

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2017 – 12:26 pm

We’re a long, long way from “failure-in-progress.”

Bruce Arians was asked about Justin Bethel — who has looked pretty good in practice — and the coach was blunt in his assessment. This time, it was in a good way. “If he plays at the level he’s playing at right now, he’s going to have a great year,” Arians said. Bethel’s confidence has returned after his broken-foot-related struggles of a year ago, Arians added. Throw in some praise for Brandon Williams’ game against the Cowboys along with practices — Arians said as a press corner, Williams is going to get beat every so often, like he did on the long pass in the Hall of Fame game — and the coach sounds a lot more confident about his No. 2 CB role.

(Of course, after the signing of veteran Tramon Williams, this is what the Cards have to work with. Aeneas Williams isn’t walking through that door. But I do agree that Bethel has looked solid.)

“At the end of the day, I want to be the starter, but all three of us are going out there and work as hard as we can and we all want to see us all get better,” Bethel said on the “Red Sea Report” Tuesday.

— WR John Brown (quad) is back at practice today on a limited basis. T D.J. Humphries (hamstring) will miss another day.

— Arians said he wants to see more consistency from punters Matt Wile and Richie Leone. There is time to improve, Arians said. But over the next couple weeks, if he doesn’t see improvement, Arians said the Cards won’t be adverse to making a move there.


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Wednesday before the Hall of Fame game

Posted by Darren Urban on August 2, 2017 – 2:01 pm

Well, here we are. A game is about to be played and we just got to August, and there is still about a month’s worth of training camp to go. Still, once the games arrive, things get into more of a rhythm, work for a week and then a game, and so on. The players like it when we get to that point (and so do writers.) This game is a little different, of course. There is only so much you will get out of your main guys in any preseason game and of course, in this one, Bruce Arians already said there will be no starters. All about the young guys. Makes sense. The starters barely play in the first preseason game normally — and that game is still more than a week away.

This is about the young guys, as Arians said. Seeing what happens when the lights go on. Even last weekend, at the Red-White practice, which was still just a practice but had 25,000 in the stands, one particular rookie struggled with things he hadn’t previously struggled with. That’s the power of “under the lights” that coaches always talk about. There have been plenty of players who have looked good in the offseason and in camp and then looked different in preseason games. That won’t get you on a roster.

— It’s early but we’re already talking about injuries. Cornerback less so, especially with the signing of Tramon Williams and the return of Justin Bethel to practice. But inside linebacker will be interesting. Karlos Dansby was never going to play, but he’s nursing a sore knee. Gabe Martin is out for a while with an Achilles problem. Newly-signed Philip Wheeler is sidelined with some sort of leg issue, which shouldn’t be long, Arians said, but it will almost certainly keep him out Thursday. Of course, Deone Bucannon is still on PUP.

Rookie Haason Reddick will play (one starter who will be out there; I’m guessing there might be a couple of others), but Arians doesn’t want it to be long. One guy to watch is Scooby Wright. Wright has had a solid offseason of work. He’s good on special teams. If he can make a push in these preseason games, he’s got a good chance to make the roster.

— There’s a lot of talk about Blaine Gabbert and his start Thursday, but there will also be a half of play for undrafted rookie QB Trevor Knight. Knight is a major longshot, but he’ll have a couple opportunities. Thus far, Knight in camp has been the Knight people know from college — good athlete, can run, inconsistent with accuracy.

— This will become a growing storyline as we go, but while the starting offensive line is all but set, those backup spots on the 53-man roster are not. There are a lot of guys who are fighting for a place. I want to see Cole Toner, who is basically the backup center, in a game situation. Rookie guard Dorian Johnson, and rookie tackle Will Holden are third string trying to move up the depth chart. Unknowns like tackle Givens Price and guard Kaleb Johnson, both current second-stringers, who want to provide the upset by sticking around.

— Of course, all the draft class tends to get your attention. I do like what I have seen from safety Budda Baker. It’s tough, because of his stature, you’re always going to compare him to Tyrann Mathieu and Mathieu is having a great camp as we go. But you can see why the front office was so enamored by Baker.

— Don’t know how much Robert Nkemdiche we will see, but I am anxious to watch him against another team. He’s looked very good thus far.

— I will be staying in Canton for the Kurt Warner Hall of Fame induction. I have a big Warner story posting Friday morning which I think you’ll enjoy, and all our Warner coverage — including a series of videos from our sit-down interview — can be found by clicking here on our Warner Hall of Fame page.


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After practice: Better work before Canton

Posted by Darren Urban on August 1, 2017 – 11:42 am

Bruce Arians was much happier about Tuesday’s practice than he had been about Monday. “I knew they’d bounce back,” he said, and it was all but necessary with a game coming Thursday. For the first time in camp, Arians split the team to two fields, in order to ramp up the reps for the younger players that will be playing against the Cowboys.

Many vets, actually, will not play. Arians ruled out the starters (although we’ll see if that ends up being all of them; do you consider giving Evan Boehm a few reps at right guard, for instance?) as well as backup quarterback Drew Stanton and new cornerback Tramon Williams. Stanton doesn’t need more reps with four preseason games left, and Williams still needs to learn the playbook.

While things were better Tuesday, they weren’t perfect. At the end in particular, Arians said “some young guys” had trouble getting lined up correctly in a two-minute drill. There were a couple of guys who could’ve gotten out of bounds after catches who didn’t, and Arians ended practice upset on the last one.

“Run a  great route, fall down and catch it, don’t get up and get out of bounds,” Arians said. “There’s only nine seconds left those are things you hopefully learn from. Everyone else should learn from them also.”

The last two days have been about learning from B.A. “If you can’t learn it after I get after you, you’re in trouble anyway.”

— Injuries bit cornerback, and now they are biting inside linebacker. Karlos Dansby (knee) wasn’t going to play Thursday anyway, but he’s missed three straight practices. Arians isn’t concerned. But backup Gabe Martin is out for a while with an Achilles injury, and newcomer Phillip Wheeler is day-to-day with some unknown aliment. Arians would rather not play Haason Reddick a lot Thursday. Scooby Wright and Zaviar Gooden are in line to get a lot of playing time Thursday.

— On the good side, cornerback Justin Bethel returned — Arians Monday had said it’d be another week, but then again, Williams showed up — and Arians said “it was great to see him today. He was full speed.” Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is also doing more and more at practice.

— It’s been clear Tyrann Mathieu has been playing well as he rounds into Honey Badger shape, but he had a couple more interceptions during drills Tuesday. A high-level Mathieu is always fun to watch.

— Veteran kicker Phil Dawson was kicking at narrow practice goalposts at the outset of practice. No, there was no snap or rush. But Dawson nailed 60- and 63-yard field goals within the thin opening. It was impressive.


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Corners wrecked by injuries again

Posted by Darren Urban on July 30, 2017 – 10:47 am

Sometimes, especially in training camp, it seems like a rash of injuries stays concentrated to a certain position. It’s got no empirical evidence to back it up, but Bruce Arians has alluded to it. Back in 2015, it was the running backs. Now, for a second straight season, it’s cornerback.

Yes, Justin Bethel should only be out a few days after hyperextending his knee. And the ankle issue for Elie Bouka isn’t supposed to be long-term. But the Cardinals already released Jumal Rolle with an injury settlement after Rolle couldn’t get straight with his hamstring, and now it seems Ronald Zamort — who had slid into Bethel’s first-team role while Bethel sat out — has torn his ACL and would be lost for the season.

It is reminiscent of last season, when the Cards had a bunch of cornerbacks get hurt. It started when Bethel, who was supposed to be the starter, broke his foot again in the offseason, needed surgery and never could get quite right. The Cardinals signed veteran Mike Jenkins, who tore his ACL. They signed veteran Alan Ball, who received an injury settlement after hurting his quadriceps muscle. Bouka ended up on IR after a hamstring issue.

UPDATE: The Cardinals are signing CB Tramon Williams.

It would make sense that the team sign someone sooner rather than later. Right now, the healthy cornerbacks on the roster are Patrick Peterson, Brandon Williams, and undrafted rookies Sojourn Shelton, Gump Hayes and Ryan Lewis. One plus: safety Harlan Miller has gotten a lot of reps at cornerback. Rookie safety Rudy Ford can also play there.

The Cardinals recently worked out veteran cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Tramon Williams.


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John Brown to miss some days

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2017 – 12:53 pm

OK, so John Brown had a really good practice Thursday. But it came at a cost. Smoke strained a quadriceps muscle late in practice, and he’ll miss a few days — maybe up to a week. Not ideal, not after his injury issues, but coach Bruce Arians said it had nothing to do with the previous health problems and you hope it’s a few days off and then over. As Arians said today, this time in camp is all bonus time anyway because of the extra game (and I didn’t expect Brown to play much in the Hall of Fame game anyway.)

— The news for fellow WR Aaron Dobson is a little worse. His hamstring will keep him out longer than a week, Arians said.

— S Ironhead Gallon (knee) will return to practice on a limited basis today.

— T Jared Veldheer is back today after Arians gave him a personal day Thursday.

— Nothing new from Arians on the possibility of signing a cornerback. That’s Steve Keim’s department. CB Tramon Williams did work out for the team prior to Thursday’s practice, and we already know CB Brandon Flowers passed a physical too. I’m guessing this is about the contract to get someone in here at this point. “Hopefully,” Arians said. “I just look at them and say, ‘I like him.’ ”

— Arians on the work for Saturday’s Red-White practice: “There will be some live scrimmage we have not had in the past.”


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QB “talks,” Fitz and the NY Times

Posted by Darren Urban on May 6, 2011 – 3:29 pm

Very quiet around the complex today. That really shouldn’t surprise anyone. As we move into the weekend, a couple or three things to chew on:

— I am all for speculation about the quarterbacks, because in part I’m going to need to engage in some of it myself as we go forward as long as the labor situation is unsettled. But keep one thing in mind with whatever you hear reported — there haven’t been any talks between the Cards and any other team about a quarterback trade or potential trade, at least not in the last couple months. Even when there was that brief window last week to allow players to work out and speak to coaches, the rest of business was still on hold. As I have said before, I expect the Cards to explore a lot of QB options (kind of like how Sando breaks it down here; I like the analogy to the progressions on a pass play) but such exploration has been and will remain in a holding pattern until this is all sorted out.

In short, speculation is just speculation right now.

— I had someone ask me where Larry Fitzgerald will fit in the NFL Network’s current countdown of the top 100 players in the NFL today. I guessed somewhere in the 20 to 25 range. Profootballfocus.com did the top 101 players in the NFL last year, ranking them (the best they could) on metrics and the like. In its list, Fitzgerald was 52nd best in 2010, between No. 51 Tramon Williams, the cornerback from Green Bay, and No. 53 Joe Haden, the rookie cornerback from Cleveland. Yes, it took into account poor quarterback play, with which “lesser men would have crumbled.”

— The New York Times’ Fifth Down blog breaks down, briefly, the Cards from last season.


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