Quietly, Clemons among a handful of cuts

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2016 – 3:41 pm

The Cardinals have until Saturday afternoon to make their final cutdown to 53 on the roster, and Bruce Arians made clear earlier today that he wasn’t going to forthcoming with any information. But that doesn’t mean the Cardinals didn’t make a few moves — aside from the agreed-upon trade for Chiefs cornerback Marcus Cooper, which I would guess wouldn’t be official until Cooper passes a physical.

The team still hasn’t officially announced anything, but there were a handful of cuts listed on the official NFL transactions list today. Two veterans are out — S Chris Clemons (a minor surprise, given that he had been Deone Bucannon’s summer-long backup at moneybacker) and LB Donald Butler. They will each immediately become unrestricted free agents. That likely means good news for undrafted rookie ILB Lamar Louis. Waived were CB Cariel Brooks, RB Kerwynn Williams, T Rob Crisp, WR Marquis Bundy and G Antoine McClain. The team also had an injury settlement with C Taylor Boggs, who had been dealing with a calf injury.

That would be eight players off the roster of 75 in the quest to get to 53. The Cards actually have to move on from 23 total players, because Cooper is coming in. The other cuts will come out at some point Saturday.

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Wednesday before the Broncos

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2016 – 11:08 am

It’s an early edition of a “Before” post, but later today I will put up my guesstimate at the final 53-man roster — at least the one the Cardinals figure to have without knowing who is cut from other teams and who the Cards might try to claim on waivers or sign. Before then, there is a game to play.

It’s a different kind of game, since most starters won’t even be dressed. This game is about precious few rosters spots and the push to at least be asked on the practice squad (or trying to impress 31 other teams to pick someone up). Bruce Arians estimated the Cardinals have about 12 players fighting for about four spots. Impossible to know what we are talking about, but here are some of the positions/players that could be in that conversation:

Offensive line: Earl Watford as tackle/G Cole Toner/C Evan Boehm/T John Wetzel. Watford figures to make this team because he’s so versatile. And Toner has made a strong push to stay after seeming to be a long shot when camp opened. Boehm, as a fourth-round pick, will stick, but can he keep pushing to see if he gets playing time. Here’s the question: Can Watford show something at tackle so that, at least for now, he can back up there?

Secondary: CB Cariel Brooks/CB Harlan Miller/CB Ronald Zamort/S Matthias Farley. It was telling when Arians, asked about the cornerbacks beyond Justin Bethel and Brandon Williams at this point, only mentioned Brooks, who has put himself in a good place for the 53 especially given the Mike Jenkins injury. Can another cornerback step up? At safety, the Cards already have so many in play (Branch, Mathieu, Swearinger, Jefferson, Christian).

ILB: Chris Clemons/Lamar Louis/Donald Butler/Alani Fua/Gabe Martin. Technically, Clemons is listed as a safety but he’s basically been Deone Bucannon’s “moneybacker” backup. Do the Cards stick with the vet? Or is the youth of say, Martin make sense. Lamar Louis has been very good on special teams too. For these guys, special teams may be the place to watch.

There are others, but with everything done over the summer and camp and three preseason games, most decisions have already been made.

— The Broncos have already announced that their No. 1 pick, quarterback Paxton Lynch, will play the entire game Thursday. He’s their QB of the future. It’s something interesting even for Cardinals fans — and you wonder, had Lynch fallen to No. 29, if the Cards would have grabbed him.

— Arians isn’t sure cutting down the preseason will help the teams. Yes, injuries can happen, but he said doesn’t think two preseason games is enough to prep a team for the season.

“I think you have to build your roster, and the only way to build it is see these kids play,” Arians said. “The fourth preseason game is not for your starters. It’s for those guys who you build your roster on, build your practice squad on, the guys who need that week of work and that game. You’ll need them in November and December.”

— Arians isn’t worried about the leadership/knowledge lost in the secondary with the departures of Rashad Johnson and Jerraud Powers. Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Tony Jefferson have worked to fill that void. “All those guys making all the checks,” Arians said. “And with that, they’re not leaning on somebody. They used to lean on Rashad, so they wouldn’t study as hard.”

— Mathieu and John “Smokey” Brown have been cleared to play, but honestly, I’ll be surprised if either does play. As for Justin Bethel, with a sore foot, does he give it a try? He may just rest too. Arians said Bethel will have to play with a sore foot all season, but Bethel had already said he had to play with soreness last year as well.

— Final cuts won’t be announced until the weekend (they are due at 1 p.m. Arizona time Saturday). Until then, let’s finish up the preseason.



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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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Buc, Clemons and dollar linebacker

Posted by Darren Urban on May 20, 2016 – 9:46 am

Deone Bucannon came along at the perfect time two years ago, when Daryl Washington got suspended and the Cardinals wanted someone quicker and rangier to play in the box — as a linebacker — than most linebackers. So they took their first-round pick, a safety, and in two seasons Bucannon has not only done well but has redefined in some ways what it means to be a front-seven defender in this league.

But Bucannon is not an outlier. Not on the Cardinals. As defensive coordinator James Bettcher continues to compose the defense, any question to how the Cards want to line up is underscored not only with Bucannon playing his spot but also because when the Cards go to the second unit, it is safety Chris Clemons who is playing the Bucannon role — not a linebacker by trade.

Clemons, who at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds is a physical match for the 6-1, 220-pound Bucannon, has been around for the past couple of seasons. He was released early in the season after getting hurt, and then returned late with two games left and then played in the postseason.

Where guys are in the offseason isn’t necessarily permanent — if you recall, last offseason, Bucannon played true safety most of the time and Tyrann Mathieu was actually second-string — but again, it goes to how much Bettcher and the Cardinals like their versatility on defense, especially in the secondary. They like safeties who can play corner if needed (Mathieu, Marqui Christian, Tyvon Branch) and they like safeties that can drop into the box. Or in the case of Bucannon, stay in the box.


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Mathieu to IR, Clemons comes back

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2015 – 1:24 pm

The fact Tyrann Mathieu was headed to injured reserve was set Monday when the world found out he had torn his ACL. So to fill the roster spot once Mathieu was officially put on IR Tuesday, the Cardinals re-signed veteran safety Chris Clemons.

Clemons played the first five games of the season for the Cards before hurting his hamstring against Detroit Oct. 11. In need of roster spots at that point, Clemons was first put on IR himself and then given an injury settlement. In short, an injury settlement allows a player to be released from IR and sign anywhere else, and it allows a team to avoid having a player on IR all season (and get paid for sitting out). The settlement is an agreement on both sides on how long whatever the injury might be will take to heal — and then the player is paid as if he remained on the roster that many weeks.

The released player is free to sign anywhere immediately — except back with his own team. In that case, the player can’t return to the original team until the length of the injury settlement has passed, plus six weeks. So you figure Clemons was given a settlement of three or four weeks max, because 10 weeks have passed since he was let go. In any case, he never signed anywhere else, and now he returns to the Cardinals — for whom Clemons had played well on special teams before his injury.


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Clemons to IR; Okafor out up to a month

Posted by Darren Urban on October 13, 2015 – 6:00 pm

The Cardinals’ special teams took a hit despite their win in Detroit this past weekend: They have lost a pair of their best special teams players. Linebacker Kenny Demens tore his ACL and was replaced on the roster by Dwight Freeney, and then Bruce Arians said tonight on his weekly SiriusXM NFL radio appearance that backup safety Chris Clemons (hamstring) was also going on season-ending injured reserve.

In a little better news, Arians said linebacker Alex Okafor, who hurt his calf Sunday, was expected to be out 2-to-4 weeks, which isn’t a terrible timeline because Arians said it was once feared worse. Even a month out would include the bye, so it essentially gives Okafor an extra week to recover. Arians said the Cardinals worked out a handful of players today to see who would fill Clemons’ roster spot.

(It reminded me a lot of the last time the Cardinals spent a week away. Okafor got hurt that trip too, and it was on this Sirius spot on Tuesday night that Arians broke the news Okafor was out for the season. This time, much better.)

As for Freeney, Arians said the plan is to play Freeney as a pass rusher only in nickel and dime packages, around 15 or 20 snaps a game. Arians didn’t say whether or not that included this weekend in Pittsburgh, but he did say Freeney had already dived into the playbook today.


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Keim: CJ just hitting his stride

Posted by Darren Urban on October 12, 2015 – 8:23 am

Steve Keim said the one-year contract under which running back Chris Johnson is now playing is “something we will look at” in terms of a potential extension. That sounds about right — as good as Johnson has been, Keim and the Cardinals are very careful with older veterans who they have signed to one-year deals, and regardless of how well they play, the Cards will be smart with further contract offers (see Dansby, Karlos and Cromartie, Antonio.) They will have a number they are comfortable with, and if it isn’t good enough for Johnson, the Cardinals will be ready to move on. That’s the model.

Still, Johnson is tied for the second-most rushing yards in the league with 405 yards (the Bears’ Matt Forte has 438) and after not having an offseason and getting hurt (hamstring) almost as soon as he showed up to training camp, Keim noted Johnson is still on the upswing.

“Chris Johnson is just now starting to hit his stride,” Keim said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7.

— Keim said he had no updates yet on the injured players from Sunday: LB Alex Okafor (calf), LB Kenny Demens (knee) and S Chris Clemons (hamstring).

— Safety-as-dollar-linebacker Deone Bucannon had 11 tackles Sunday and played well. What is he? “He’s playing linebacker but there is no question to me it’s an advantage to have hybrid players,” Keim said.

“He’s one of the guys who stood out (Sunday),” Keim said. “When he runs to the football he looks like he was shot out of a cannon.”

— Keim said he was pleased with the performance in Detroit — how could he not? —  but “by no means did we play flawless.” Keim said the defense was opportunistic but gave up too many explosive plays. And offensively, the blocking is still allowing too many hits on quarterback Carson Palmer. Keim said there remain communication issues on the offensive line.

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Cromartie, newcomer Clemons active

Posted by Darren Urban on December 11, 2014 – 4:56 pm

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie is active tonight just a few days after he thought he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury, so that is a boost to the Cardinals’ secondary. Cromartie looked pretty nimble going through early stretching, running pretty well from what I could tell.

Interestingly, also active is new safety Chris Clemons, who just signed Monday and who really hasn’t even gone through a real practice thanks to the short week. Rookie defensive tackle Ed Stinson also returns tonight, sending Josh Mauro to the inactive list. It also looks like Glenn Carson has surpassed Kenny Demens on the depth chart.

The full inactive list:

— S Tyrann Mathieu (thumb)

— LB Kenny Demens

— DT Alameda Ta’amu

— G Anthony Steen

— DE Josh Mauro

— G Paul Fanaika (ankle)

— DE Kareem Martin

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