Nkemdiche rises to the ones “a lot now”

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2017 – 2:01 pm

Robert Nkemdiche may not officially be a starter on the depth chart, but the way the Cardinals’ defensive line rotation is going to work, he’ll likely work as much as those on the field first. Coach Bruce Arians said he will likely dress six defensive linemen on game days this season, and it’ll be a rotation — probably moreso than when Pro Bowler Calais Campbell was there to eat up a lot of snaps. Nkemdiche, who has had a very good camp, is showing he should be near the front of the line.

“He’s playing with the ones a lot now,” Arians said Thursday.

Nkemdiche got a chance to take a rep against first-team guard Evan Boehm in one-on-ones Wednesday, and bested Boehm. Nkemdiche remains modest in how he talks about where he is as a player, but the head-down-full-speed approach has been working.

— Arians likes the improvement from all along the defensive line. One guy that seems to be an underrated lock to be in the rotation is Olsen Pierre, whom Arians continues to compliment.

— Two receivers, Chad Williams (shin splints) and John Brown (quad) are questionable to play Saturday. T D.J. Humphries (hamstring) is also a game-day decision, although Arians said if there is any question Saturday, he’ll sit.

— Arians said he’s looking for the wide receivers to get much better. “That’s the group that really needs to pick it up,” he said. Injuries have slowed the unit, but Arians had said Williams in particular had been disappointing before he was sidelined.

— Finally, a dose of Ironhead. Undrafted rookie safety Ironhead Gallon, besides having the best name on the team, had been impressing Arians. At least up until he hurt his knee in practice.

“He’s bright and tough,” Arians said. “He’s one-legged right now. He is finding a niche for himself.”

Arians said he actually coached the man Gallon is nicknamed after, one-time running back Ironhead Heyward. “It’s a lot smaller Ironhead,” Arians deadpanned.


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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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A car for Chad Williams’ mom

Posted by Darren Urban on July 29, 2017 – 9:41 am

One of the benefits of being a third-round draft pick in the NFL is being able to get a nice gift for your mom. Chad Williams, the wide receiver from Grambling State, had long known that his mom, Lisa Rowe, just wanted a car with air conditioning. Being from Louisiana, that can be kind of an important thing.

“My brother works, so my mom watches my niece a lot,” Williams said. “Man, my niece can’t be riding around in a hot car. She’s a year-and-a-half almost. She can’t be riding around in a hot car.”

Getting that car was “all I’ve ever thought about,” he said. So Williams, who signed his contract in mid-May, got his mother a 2016 Nissan Altima and when he gave it to her, “she cried like a baby.”

“My mom is a very thankful woman,” Williams said. “Great AC. No maintenance problems. A warranty on it. Heated seats. GPS. I mean, what else do you need? My mom is a very thankful woman. I had that in mind that she wouldn’t be the flashy type, like, ‘Why didn’t you get me a BMW?’ My mom’s a very thankful woman and I guess that’s the right car I picked for her.”

That doesn’t mean there won’t be a transition period now that her car can cool Rowe down.

“She called me the other day, and she’s like, ‘Man, I can’t put my air conditioning over two because it freezes me out,’ ” Williams said. “I said, ‘You wanted some air conditioning so you got it.’ ”


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Thoughts on the first depth chart

Posted by Darren Urban on July 26, 2017 – 3:33 pm

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.


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With Chad Williams, Fitz invokes the A-word

Posted by Darren Urban on May 31, 2017 – 9:12 am

As Larry Fitzgerald spoke on a variety of topics Tuesday, rookie third-round wide receiver Chad Williams came up. And Fitz delivered the eyebrow-raising comparison — kind of.

“He reminds me of Anquan Boldin, in terms of the strength of his hands,” Fitzgerald said. “Once it touches his hands, it just doesn’t move. He’s got unbelievably strong hands.”

Now, invoking the name of Anquan is pretty high praise around these parts. It’s never taken lightly, even if Fitz narrowed it to Williams’ hands. Boldin and Williams aren’t built the same, Boldin being thicker than Williams, but certainly, this franchise would take Williams being anywhere close to Boldin. After all, Boldin has carved out a marvelous NFL career, and it’s impossible to forget his best seasons came in an Arizona uniform.

(Before we go any further, Boldin has said he wants to play in 2017. But it won’t be with the Cardinals, even though many fans would love a reunion. As I have mentioned before. Boldin and Fitzgerald play essentially the same position at this point in their careers. Having them both on the roster makes little sense.)

It’s not the first time Fitzgerald has brought up a Boldin comparison with a young Cardinals wideout. A couple of times Fitzgerald made the Anquan-Michael Floyd comparison, in terms of those players playing “angry” — in a good way. Chad Williams has a long, long way to go to prove himself anywhere Anquan-worthy, especially since his opportunities are going to be much more limited as a rookie that Boldin had in 2003. (No one is forgetting 10-217-2 to start his career.)

Q hands or not, though, Fitzgerald says he’s bullish on the rookie Williams.

“(Chad) has got deceptive speed, when he’s running with guys, you see him and you’re like, ‘He’s really moving,’ ” Fitzgerald said. “He’s making his plays. … He’s going  to be a great help to us. He’s a very outgoing young man, has a high football IQ, which always helps.”


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No QB yet — and perhaps none at all

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2017 – 9:57 pm

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.

 


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