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.
Tags: Budda Baker, Cole Toner, Cowboys, Dorian Johnson, Gabe Martin, Givens Price, Haason Reddick, Hall of Fame game, Justin Bethel, Kaleb Johnson, Karlos Dansby, Kurt Warner, Philip Wheeler, Robert Nkemdiche, Tramon Williams, Trevor Knight, Will Holden
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The first depth chart is here, and mostly that means, dang, we are about to have a football game (and one week from Thursday, we will). This comes with all the same normal disclaimers — including the note that it was prepared by the media relations staff. Also good to note that rookies are always low when this first comes out, and indeed, in practice Budda Baker and Chad Williams, for instance, are running behind a handful of other guys. But they will be on the team, barring something unforeseen.
In fact, there aren’t any real surprises. Chris Johnson and Kerwynn Williams are listed as “co” No. 2 running backs, and that’s a good sign for Williams (although I expect CJ2K to have the job when it’s all said and done.) Olsen Pierre is ahead of Xavier Williams on the defensive line. The injuries of Elie Bouka and Jumel Rolle look like they’ve hurt their depth chart standing. And even though Harlan Miller is listed among the safeties, he’s done most of his work thus far at cornerback.
Tags: Budda Baker, Chad Williams, Chris Johnson, depth chart, Kerwynn Williams, Olsen Pierre
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Some quick news and notes from media availability here on a quiet Sunday:
— Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald spoke for the first time. Of course, his future came up. He wants to win a Super Bowl. (Duh.) “That’s the only reason I’m playing at this point,” Fitzgerald said. He also said he doesn’t know what the future holds, and that he won’t make his decision about playing or not playing beyond 2017 based on what Carson Palmer or Bruce Arians do with their similar decisions.
— Arians said the No. 2 cornerback spot is “wide open” although he praised Justin Bethel’s play. Still a lot of speculation about whether the Cardinals bring in a veteran cornerback. It seems like Bethel — and Brandon Williams for that matter — will get a little time to show what they have.
— Along those lines, the two injured players from Saturday’s first practice were cornerbacks. Elie Bouka (ankle) and Jumel Rolle (hamstring) both were having MRIs Sunday. They both were hoping to be in that CB mix. We’ll see how much of a setback this is.
— On how No. 2 rookie Budda Baker has done early after missing all the offseason because of the school graduation rule: “He looks like a damn rookie.”
— Arians said he wants his defenders to get more hands on the ball after that first practice. He doesn’t want a rash of interceptions from his quarterbacks, mind you, but he would like a couple of picks a day.
— Lastly, there’s still a chance to get your picture in a Kickoff Magazine, the Cardinals’ official game program. Send your best photo of yourself, friends, or family wearing your favorite Cardinals gear. Submit the picture, your name and the town where you live to email@example.com. Fan photos will be selected based on size and photo quality.
Tags: Budda Baker, Elie Bouka, Jumel Rolle, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald
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Timing is everything, and the timing for this season means safety Budda Baker won’t get any work with the veterans of this roster until training camp. Baker, the second-round safety, took part in this weekend’s rookie minicamp (even coming up with a pick on Friday). But he had to leave Sunday, part of a long-time NFL rule that says a rookie cannot participate (other than the rookie minicamp) until his college’s spring class has graduated — whether or not the player has remained in school.
The point of the rule is to make sure a player doesn’t feel he has to leave school to get to his NFL team’s workouts when he is trying to finish out the semester. Most players have already dropped out to focus on the NFL anyway, but some still are going to class.
Washington, like a handful of schools (UCLA, Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State among them), is on a quarters system. Graduation for Washington for the current quarter doesn’t come until June 9. It means Baker cannot take part in the offseason work until June 10. Unfortunately for Baker, the Cardinals finish up on-field work with their mandatory (except for Baker) minicamp June 6-8.
There is a couple of weeks of rookie work after that, so Baker’s return does mean something. Baker can talk to coaches on the phone or FaceTime in the meantime (as well as teammates; I’d guess at some point he’ll touch base with Tyrann Mathieu.) How he fits with Mathieu and Patrick Peterson and the rest of the secondary will have to wait until mid-July.
Tags: Budda Baker, OTAs
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The Cardinals got through the draft and made their picks. No QB. No cornerback drafted early, but the defense got some potential impact playmakers. They collected 17 undrafted rookies, adding an Ironhead and a Gump and QB was served by a Knight, although we’ll see what that truly means. The Cardinals are in the middle of Phase 2 work — that goes on exclusively for another week — and then OTAs will start May 16 and the meat of the offseason work will commence.
There will be moves here and there. There will be tryout players at the rookie minicamp next week and a couple will inevitably be signed, at the cost of a couple of other players on the roster. That’s happened every year in the Bruce Arians era. There will have to be a decision made about what to do with Daryl Washington (no, that has not yet happened.) And then there is the idea of a Keim Time Sign, a pickup of a veteran by GM Steve Keim anytime between now and into training camp that could end up making the roster by the beginning of September. A quick handicapping of the positions he could look at:
— Offensive line: The Cards signed Tony Bergstrom Wednesday. He’s likely a depth guy rather than someone who figures to have a chance to start should he make the team. He’s played center of late, and with Evan Boehm working as the first-string right guard, the Cards needed someone to back up A.Q. Shipley, if not compete with him.
— Quarterback: The news was out that the Cards at least worked out Blaine Gabbert. We’ll see if that turns into anything. It’d give them an extra arm with experience, and with as much as they have talked about managing Carson Palmer’s practice load, maybe adding another QB right now makes sense.
— Running back: I don’t know if the draft closed the door on Chris Johnson, but it seems like it might have. T.J. Logan is young, fresh legs, and they like what they have seen out of Elijhaa Penny. Kerwynn Williams has shown he can run the ball, and after all, David Johnson is David Johnson.
— Cornerback: This is the big position. Justin Bethel figures to run with the first unit, at least to begin with. It’ll be hard to see where Budda Baker fits in early because the Washington spring quarter doesn’t end until early June (the final minicamp day is June 8) and he’ll miss most offseason work. The Cards have some mix-and-match possibilities, but right now, it’s Bethel or Brandon Williams in line to start opposite Patrick Peterson. Could the Cards pick up a veteran cornerback? I wouldn’t rule it out, although they may want to see how the offseason plays out a bit.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Williams, Budda Baker, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Elijhaa Penny, free agency, Justin Bethel, Kerwynn Williams, T.J. Logan, Tony Bergstrom
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The draft is over. So Bruce Arians summed it up plainly. “Passion and speed.”
The Cardinals also went for versatility, guys that could play in a couple of spots. And it was also about what they didn’t get. With the much-anticipated temptation of taking a quarterback, “we talked about a couple of guys, but they were all gone,” Arians said. “As far as a temptation, no.” (A QB is already in hand, though. See below.)
— It didn’t look like the Cardinals had drafted a cornerback either, until they did. Sixth-round pick Johnathan “Rudy” Ford was a safety as he wrapped up at Auburn, but he began his career as a cornerback and the Cardinals will use him at cornerback. He’s been training there already, with former Cardinals cornerback (and two-time offseason coaching intern) Rod Hood.
— Ford got his nickname because when he was little, he wouldn’t give up. And his uncle nicknamed him that, yes, after the movie.
— Special teams was not forgotten. Clearly, the Cardinals see big special teams play to come from multiple picks: Budda Baker, Haason Reddick, Rudy Ford, T.J. Logan.
— Arians described Logan as more Andre Ellington than David Johnson. If Logan clicks in the backfield, it will certainly free up Ellington to be more of a receiver, which Arians already said would be Ellington’s role.
— The liver condition of fourth-round guard Dorian Johnson is not a problem. Not to the Cardinals. “Some people think me and Coach have liver issues but we’re just fine,” GM Steve Keim deadpanned.
“Terrible joke, but he’s fine,” Keim said. “It’s not been an issue in the past.”
“(Dorian) knows how to manage it,” Arians said with a grin. “I’m still learning mine.”
— The two offensive linemen (Johnson and Will Holden) can play multiple positions. Keim loves that. They are also considered very smart. “Not to get too detailed, but the less time we have with these players, the less time we can develop them, and the less we can get them to understand what we are trying to get across from a schematical standpoint,” Keim said. “It’s important to draft smart players, it’s important to draft passionate players, and it’s important to draft players with positional flexibility.”
— The Cardinals will start to work on their undrafted rookie list now. The official list likely won’t be out until Monday, although I am sure some names will trickle out before then. There will be a quarterback on that list. The Cardinals have 14 spots open on the offseason 90-man roster (although that includes one for Daryl Washington, whose actual spot on the roster figures to be determined sooner rather than later.)
(UPDATE: And there’s your UDFA QB. Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight tweeted out he’s coming to the Cardinals.)
Keim said the plan is to sign 15 to 20 undrafted rookies. A team isn’t going to land all their targets usually, but if there are more than 14, there may be some roster moves early next week to make room for newbies.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Budda Baker, Dorian Johnson, draft, Haason Reddick, Rudy Ford, T.J. Logan, Trevor Knight, Will Holden
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The Cardinals made a big trade to move up in the second round Friday. It gave everyone pause. Quarterback? Deshone Kizer was on the board. But then came safety Budda Baker. No QB there. In the third round, the Cardinals traded down, and still, no QB. Now there is a question of whether there will be one in this draft.
“Those guys aren’t always out there,” coach Bruce Arians said. What about the quarterbacks left on the board? “There are still a couple of quality arms out there,” Arians acknowledged. “Whether they are first-string arms or second-string arms is yet to be seen.”
It’s less than a ringing endorsement for a team looking for a quarterback of the future. But again, this class always was seen with warts, and the last thing the Cardinals have any desire to do is make a pick just because they feel they have to.
“Again, would you love to find one? Absolutely,” GM Steve Keim said. “But as I said, you can’t force a pick and you can’t leave better players on the board, and that would have done if we didn’t take the approach we did. It would be a disservice to the organization and everyone who works here if we were to press something that was out of the norm or to panic.”
The Cards pick eighth in the fourth round Saturday. They have five picks — one in the fourth, two each in the fifth and seventh. We will see if one is a QB.
— The Cardinals really, really wanted Budda Baker. And in the third round, they liked Chad Williams a lot. So it worked out for Keim to make the initial trade, however expensive as it might have seemed, to snare Baker. Because Williams was one of those players that the Cardinals liked probably more than most, they were able to drop down 21 spots in the third, still get him and get back a fourth-round pick.
— Arians believes with the addition of Baker, the Cardinals have one of the most dynamic secondaries in the league. He didn’t rule out drafting a cornerback Saturday — I would be a little surprised if they didn’t — but the addition of Baker gives the Cards flexibility even if there isn’t a ready-to-be-on-an-island corner across from Patrick Peterson.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Budda Baker, Chad Williams, draft, quarterbacks, Steve Keim, trade
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