With about a month left before training camp (already?!?), it’s time to take a look at who I think the offensive starters will be come Sept. 10, when the Cardinals play the Lions in Detroit to begin the regular season. Could a training camp signing change things? Sure. I see more of a chance of that defensively than offensively.
My defensive thoughts are here. And after that, the blog posts will slow. Time off coming.
QB – Carson Palmer. You can’t get anywhere without a quarterback. Palmer finished strong in 2016. He’s a year older, yes, and no one is calling him a top-five QB. But he’s still very good when the offense functions well, and when his receivers don’t let him down.
RB – David Johnson. MVP-type player. Is he going to get 100 scrimmage yards every game? Maybe not, but he’s certainly going to have the opportunity. With his skills, and health, I’m not ruling out a 1,000-1,000 season.
WR – Larry Fitzgerald. After Bruce Arians had said more than once Fitz’s 100-catch days were behind him, Fitz has had two straight 100-catch seasons. Won’t be surprised to see him do it again. The question will be, is this his last season?
WR – Smokey Brown. He says he’s healthy. The Cards need him to be. Rookie Chad Williams may have an intriguing future, but this year, the Cardinals need the I-can-get-1,000-yards John Brown.
TE – Jermaine Gresham. So many have questioned his new large contract. But he’s been the best tight end the Cards have had since he showed up, and he does deliver some intangibles on the field this team can use.
TE – Troy Niklas. It’s a leap, yes, to assume Niklas will stay healthy. But every time, in the brief times, Niklas has been on the field, they like what he has brought. He’s not going to be a big pass-catcher. But he can block and he’ll play an important role – again, if he’s on the field.
LT – D.J. Humphries. He’s better suited for the left side. It’s tough for Jared Veldheer, but given ages and the future, this was all but predetermined when Humphries was drafted.
LG – Mike Iupati. Wasn’t as good in 2016 as he was in 2015, but I expect a rally. It’s important too – given his salary going forward, his age and the drafting of Dorian Johnson, the spotlight will be bright.
C – A.Q. Shipley. Showed the Cardinals he could start in this league. No reason to think he won’t again.
RG – Evan Boehm. I don’t see Johnson jumping into this job. Not yet. This is probably the second-most likely spot Keim could grab a vet, behind only No. 2 cornerback. But as it stands, Boehm is probably going to be out there.
RT – Jared Veldheer. Veldheer didn’t want to move from left to right tackle, but he did for the good of the team. Is there a transition to be made? Yes. Somehow, I don’t have much concern that Veldheer will make it work successfully.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Carson Palmer, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, Evan Boehm, Jared Veldheer, Jermaine Gresham, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Iupati, Troy Niklas
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Wide receiver Michael Floyd was taken off the field in the first half of Sunday’s game after the independent spotter decided Floyd’s banging of his head on the turf after going up for a pass warranted a concussion check. Floyd came out briefly before returning, having been cleared. But coach Bruce Arians said Floyd will enter the concussion protocol after he had a headache Monday.
“We just want to be very safe with him,” Arians said.
Floyd is off to a slow start this season, although he did have four catches for 65 yards Sunday (on 11 targets). But Floyd also wasn’t on the same page as Carson Palmer on a Palmer end-zone interception, with Palmer expecting Floyd to cut in front of the defensive back, Arians said. Floyd also dropped a probable first-down catch on the very first play of the game, which seemed to set a tone for a rough day.
It wasn’t the only injury news. Tight end Troy Niklas has a wrist injury “that could be severe,” Arians said, while punter Drew Butler is dealing with an ankle sprain and Achilles problem that will prevent him from punting. Arians said the Cardinals may have two punters active on Sunday so Butler can continue to hold for kicker Chandler Catanzaro.
Tags: Bills, Drew Butler, Michael Floyd, Troy Niklas
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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.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Raiders, rules, training camp, Troy Niklas, video
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The score ended up ugly, but this is the preseason, where scores matter little. (I won’t say they don’t matter at all, because sometimes, they do matter if, say, the third game is lopsided.) What the Cards got out of Friday night was safety for their players, especially their starters (always always always the most important thing), decent play from said starters, and a decent outing from a couple of key guys.
Those would be Brandon Williams and D.J. Humphries, and while neither were spectacular, they held up fine. Humphries didn’t fare well against Khalil Mack, but in reality, many do not anyway. He admitted he messed up against Mack, but believes it was mostly from him being overly hyped up to play. Time will tell, but he did play better as time went on (and admittedly, after Mack went out.) Humphries hasn’t answered all the questions yet. And there is probably still a need to consider bringing in a veteran backup tackle. But I still think Humphries will be OK.
At this point, same goes for Williams. He competed again against the Raiders. He thought he was going to be tested and he most certainly was. He gave up a TD. But he battled and the kid is going to learn. We still have almost a month before the Cards play for real. If Justin Bethel gets back soon, he still has a chance to take back the starting job. But Williams will play and he will get better, and even if he is the third cornerback, the Cards will be better for it.
— We barely saw the starters. I couldn’t tell you really what Chandler Jones had. Carson Palmer had a near-pick early with pressure in his face, but he led a scoring drive. The Cardinals have to get the ball in the end zone after getting a first down inside the 10, but that should come.
— David Johnson looked like he was in midseason form already. Midseason form during a really good season.
— Andre Ellington showed again why the Cards have liked him so much. Health makes a big difference.
— If the Cards can get that out of tight end Troy Niklas, he’ll be the guy they expected with a second-round pick. Again, health matters.
— Drew Stanton was high on some throws, and hopefully that was just first-game issues. I’m sure Arians was hoping to see more from Matt Barkley. I would expect Stanton and then Palmer to eat up most of the QB playing time the next two games, so we’ll see how many more opportunities Barkley gets in game situations.
— The Cards are off Saturday, and get back to practice Sunday morning. Remember, no open practice at University of Phoenix Stadium until after the Chargers game.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Brandon Williams, Carson Palmer, Chandler Jones, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, Drew Stanton, Matt Barkley, Raiders, Troy Niklas
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The Cardinals finally have a game to play.
The preseason opener will start a week that will feature two games and a week in San Diego, plus a couple of practices against the Chargers. First though come the Raiders, which will be a typical preseason matchup — a handful of snaps for the main vets, and then a training ground for the inexperienced.
Some thoughts as we head into the first game:
— Yes, you are going to watch D.J. Humphries at right tackle, which is how it should be. But I think I’m more interested in Brandon Williams at cornerback. Humphries is important, but he at least already played four preseason games a year ago. He’s done this. Williams not only is a rookie but he’s still only about a year into playing the position. Plus, it just feels — at least to me — that his performance will end up playing a larger role in the outcome of this team than Humphries.
— That doesn’t mean Humphries isn’t one to watch (or isn’t important for the outcome of this season.) He’s already a pretty good run blocker, and he’s shown a want-to that was missing a year ago. I’m not saying Humphries is ready to be an all-pro, but I think as a replacement for Bobby Massie, he will be fine.
— Some other new (and returning) players I’ll be watching: CB Alan Ball, CB Harlan Miller, G Antoine McClain, all the ILBs not named Kevin Minter — that’s a wide-open battle — TEs Troy Niklas and Ifeanyi Momah, and WR Chris Hubert.
— Matt Barkley is going to get a lot of playing time. We’ll see if he can leave an impression.
— And as always, let’s just not have anyone get too banged up.
Tags: Alan Ball, Antoine McClain, Brandon Williams, Chargers, Chris Hubert, D.J. Humphries, Harlan Miller, Ifeanyi Momah, Matt Barkley, Raiders, Troy Niklas
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It’s that time of camp, Bruce Arians said.
It’s that time when players get a little bored, and no matter what the warning from the top, it shows up on the field. So Arians was irritated with the Cardinals’ practice Monday after a Sunday off.
“It hits you right in the face when you put the sheet up there and there are 18 penalties and 45 mental errors,” Arians said, noting that there were “some veteran Pro Bowlers who had five mental errors.”
Arians was confident the Cards would respond well later Tuesday, but lamented the fact Monday’s was practice time the Cards won’t be able to get back.
“I’m disappointed with leadership of the team, because that’s their job,” Arians said.
— WR J.J. Nelson (groin) is returning to practice, but Swiss Army knife OL Earl Watford is out after bruising his knee Monday (it actually looked like it could have been worse, although Watford didn’t miss a play) and CB Cariel Brooks (quad) is also out for now.
— Arians thinks WR Smokey Brown (concussion) will be cleared in the next day or two, but the coach ruled Brown out from playing Friday night.
— There is a chance DBs Tyrann Mathieu and Justin Bethel could come off PUP next week. But Arians said if they are not ready to take part in the two practices against the Chargers, the team will probably hold off.
— Current frontrunner for quote of camp: Arians said TE Troy Niklas has been playing well, playing like the guy the Cards drafted in the second round in 2014. About this, Niklas was happy. Always good to hear the boss is pleased. “He gets my name confused with dumb mother(expletive) a lot,” Niklas said with a smile.
Tags: Bruce Arians, John Brown, training camp, Troy Niklas
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Sunday night was a good night for the Cardinals. They dominated. They won the NFC West. They had a rookie running back rush for 187 yards and look tremendous doing it. They were happy to win the division, but know they haven’t yet accomplished what they want, which is the right mindset to have.
“We want to put banners up,” defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said. “We want to keep this thing rolling, and we’re on the right track.”
But it was hard not to see the stoic faces of both Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer after Tyrann Mathieu went down on a non-contact play late in the game, his knee buckling. Non-contact plays like that are a scary thing in this league, and when Palmer said he had already been praying for Mathieu, it shows where his head was at.
No, the Cardinals have not yet reached their goals. There are a lot of boxes left that need to be checked before/if the Cards can start thinking about a Super Bowl. It would really help if Mathieu is there to help. That answer isn’t out there yet as the Cards fly home from Philly in the middle of the night.
— David Johnson was tremendous. He provided an injury scare himself late in the first half – after he had already surpassed 100 yards for the first time in his career – but came back. He said he knew he was fine, and he was. Johnson had 187 yards rushing and 229 total yards and is firmly entrenched as this team’s No. 1 running back.
— This nugget from longtime Eagles beat writer Reuben Frank: Two players have ever rushed for at least 185 yards and three touchdowns in a game against the Eagles. David Johnson Sunday night … and Jim Brown.
— What was it with the drops? From jump, when Smokey Brown dropped what should have been a 78-yard touchdown on the game’s first play, it was something that receiving group never does. Brown ended up with three drops – including one in the end zone – and Michael Floyd had a couple himself. Bruce Arians said it should’ve been a big game for Brown. (There were about three other deep shots to Brown that just didn’t connect.)
— The Cardinals wanted to get better in short yardage and self-scouted to do so. Sunday night, the Cardinals had third down/goal to go and either one or two yards to make nine times. They passed it four times and ran it five – and they converted all nine attempts.
— A.Q. Shipley did a nice job in replacing the gimpy Lyle Sendlein at center.
— Two hardest hits of the night: New safety D.J. Swearinger hammering tight end Zack Ertz to prevent a completion in the first quarter to force a field goal, and tight end Troy Niklas, who accidentally belted punt returner Patrick Peterson hard enough that Peterson fumbled. Niklas jumped on the ball to save the play.
— Well, it’s very late. The attention is starting to wane, so I’m going to cut this off. The Cardinals may be 12-2, but they haven’t wrapped up a bye yet, and the team chasing them comes to town this week. Packers-Cardinals is a pretty good game, no?
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, D.J. Swearinger, David Johnson, Eagles, Frostee Rucker, Jim Brown, John Brown, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Troy Niklas, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals will not have tight end Jermaine Gresham tonight because of his knee, but that wasn’t unexpected after he was listed as doubtful. More work for Troy Niklas alongside Darren Fells, and I’d think A.Q. Shipley or Jonathan Cooper could get tight end work in jumbo packages.
Injuries actually made the inactive list for tonight’s game fairly simple. With the short week, those extra couple of days might have helped a couple of guys. Safety Tony Jefferson (hamstring) is active, although the Cards have new safety D.J. Swearinger if needed.
The full list of inactives:
— QB Matt Barkley
— CB Jerraud Powers (calf)
— RB Andre Ellington (toe)
— LB Shaq Riddick
— T D.J. Humphries
— TE Jermaine Gresham (knee)
— DT Frostee Rucker (ankle)
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, inactives, Jermaine Gresham, Troy Niklas
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Smoke said he was good to go and it turns out he is, so wide receiver John Brown is among the active players for tonight’s game against the Ravens, a positive thing for the Cardinals. It should be noted, however, that with Brown’s hamstring issues of the last two weeks, the Cardinals will have all six wide receivers active for the game — including both Brittan Golden and rookie J.J. Nelson, who is playing in his first games since hurting his shoulder in Chicago.
The Cardinals, with Darren Fells hurt, also only have two tight ends active — Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas — so I would guess in the situations where the Cards need a third tight end in jumbo situations, we’ll see reserve center A.Q. Shipley. (Or maybe, with the Ravens’ struggling secondary, we will just see lots and lots of three- and four-wide receiver sets).
The full inactive list for the Cardinals:
— QB Matt Barkley
— LB Alex Okafor (calf)
— LB Shaq Riddick
— T D.J. Humphries
— T Earl Watford
— TE Darren Fells (shoulder)
— NT Xavier Williams
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Brittan Golden, Darren Fells, inactives, J.J. Nelson, Jermaine Gresham, John Brown, Ravens, Troy Niklas
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Run versus pass. It’s always at the forefront of any analyzation of the Cardinals and the game Bruce Arians is calling. After the way the Cardinals had been running the ball, the team tried many fewer runs in Pittsburgh – and the run wasn’t as effective – than passes. What to expect Monday against the Ravens? Well, Baltimore has been susceptible to the pass and their secondary has had all kinds of trouble. So we’ll leave it to everyone’s imagination where this might be headed.
“As an offensive lineman and as an offensive line coach, I’m sure you want to run it,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “But at the end of the day, as long as we have more points than they have, so what. So what. At the end of the year, if we’re holding that trophy in San Jose, do we really care how much we ran the ball?”
It can be argued, of course, that the chance to hoist the Lombardi is impacted by offensive decisions. But Goodwin – who admitted he’d worry about run/pass ratios in the offseason when he was breaking down the previous season’s games – is not wrong.
— Goodwin wasn’t happy with the run blocking overall last week from the line, the tight ends and the wide receivers. That should improve this week with the focus on it during practice.
— There was a ton of talk about focus and finishing this week from the Cardinals after a second loss in which the defense seemed to soften up in the fourth quarter.
“Our confidence is still there,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “It’s just a reality check for us.”
Given the spotlight of “Monday Night Football” and the energy of a home game, I’m not expecting a letdown this week.
— It will be fun to watch Patrick Peterson versus the NFL’s own little ball of hate, Steve Smith Sr. Smith isn definitely a receiver who plays like he craves confrontation and given that he’s the lone standout receiver the Ravens have, he’ll need to be targeted.
“Can’t want to see some of his new antics and the emotion he has after each and every catch,” Peterson said. “Whether it’s a negative play or he felt you said something wrong to him the previous play, he always tries to get his get-back.”
— Peterson was talking about how he’s ended up with fewer penalties this season, and naturally, he talked about his improved technique and how he had to adjust after last season after the league put an emphasis on the contact defensive backs can have on receivers.
Interestingly, Peterson also said he didn’t know – until an official said something a few games ago – that once a defensive back releases his jam on a receiver, he cannot jam the receiver again even if they are still inside the legal five-yard chuck zone.
“I thought you could jam him as much as you wanted within five yards,” Peterson said.
— The Cardinals got 19 snaps out of new pass rusher Dwight Freeney last week. The hope is that the veteran will be a little more productive as the weeks go by and he both gets in football shape and learns the defense.
“I was doing May/July/training camp all in one,” Freeney said of his three practices leading into the Steelers game. “My body was confused.”
“We don’t have the easiest playbook – a lot of exotics – but I just have to cram,” Freeney added.
— A couple of quick reminders: If you are going to Monday’s game, remember the Cards are holding their annual food drive so please bring non-perishable food items (or donate some cash.) If you are watching the game at home, the ESPN telecast can also be seen on ABC-15 for those who don’t have cable.
— If you missed it earlier this week, here’s my story on tight end Troy Niklas and his potential everyone is waiting on. Niklas will have a bigger role this week with Darren Fells sidelined.
— Arians, on what the Cardinals are looking for in practice squad players: “We want somebody who knows football that has an upside. You can find a ton of guys who’ll come in and work their ass off, but you don’t want them playing on Sunday. They make good sons-in-laws.”
— A good sign D.J. Humphries is making progress. He won’t play unless there are injuries, but his target date was always 2016.
— The Cards could withstand a game without Smokey Brown. But they’d rather not.
— A parting “Monday Night Football” memory from Bruce Arians, who grew up in Pennsylvania: “It was late, that was the big thing,” Arians said. “I didn’t get to see the second half most of the time. My brother would always sign us up for altar boys at 6 o’clock mass, so I had to get up early.”
Why would he do that?
“He went away to be a priest in the eighth grade,” Arians said. “ I think the nuns talked him into that stuff.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, D.J. Humphries, Dwight Freeney, Harold Goodwin, John Brown, Patrick Peterson, Ravens, Steve Smith, Troy Niklas, Tyrann Mathieu
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