Sure, there are questions about the future for the Cardinals at wide receiver. Could Larry Fitzgerald retire after this season? Will Michael Floyd, also in the last year of his contract, be back? But those questions aren’t about the 2016 season. After the 2015 season — in which the Cardinals’ wide receivers were the highest graded among all the corps in the NFL last season according to profootballfocus.com — this season should be impressive for the Cards from that standpoint.
Even Fitzgerald noted last week that this is the first time he can remember being on a team where all the skill guys came back intact. That goes beyond just the receivers of course. But the upset of getting back both veteran running back Chris Johnson and veteran tight end Jermaine Gresham despite potentially more lucrative offers out there helped that along. At wideout, there was only one question, and Jaron Brown was tendered an offer. Once he signed that, the Cardinals had their top seven wide receivers returning from a year ago — when again, some considered them the best in the league as a group.
Health helped. Yes, Floyd was banged up in training camp and yes, Smokey Brown fought through an irritating hamstring injury in the middle part of the season (oh, you do remember that, fantasy football players), but for the most part, they were available. Fitzgerald in particular was healthy all the way through the season for the first time since Bruce Arians arrived. The depth also helped tremendously when guys did miss time. Floyd was huge in Cleveland when Smokey was held out. Fitz was huge early in the season when Floyd started slow. J.J. Nelson was a deep threat that could help when Brown couldn’t go full bore.
And the Cardinals will have them all again in 2016.
Tags: Brittan Golden, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, Jaxon Shipley, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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There is no official news from the Cardinals today. Multiple outlets reported a total of 27 waiver claims after final cuts around the league, and the Cardinals don’t look like they were awarded any players. (The Cards may have claimed someone but were trumped in the waiver wire; the Cards are 24th in line for waiver claims.) So that means as of right now, the 53-man roster will remain as is, which is something of an upset.
Two players the Cardinals released were claimed. Quarterback Logan Thomas was taken by the Dolphins, while undrafted rookie safety Harold Jones-Quartey was grabbed by the Bears. That means both are on those team’s respective 53-man rosters. Thomas joins Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore with the Dolphins and will go in as the third QB. Jones-Quartey was likely going to be asked to come back to the Cards’ practice squad. Thomas’ time with the Cards was done, a point underscored when the team traded for Matt Barkley.
The same goes for QB Phillip Sims, who also went unclaimed. With Barkley, I’d be shocked if there was a fourth QB kept on the practice squad. Now, if Barkley isn’t what they wanted, could I see them releasing him later and bringing Sims back to the practice squad? Maybe. But for now, I just don’t see them keeping four QBs around.
With only two guys being claimed, it gives the Cards a lot of options for possibilities of the practice squad. For all the pre-cut fears that I was hearing from the fan base, guys like WR Jaxon Shipley, LB Gabe Martin, CB Cariel Brooks and even RB Kerwynn Williams are still out there and no one wanted them for the 53-man roster. I would not be surprised to see all four on the practice squad. We’ll see. I don’t expect the Cards to name their practice squad until Monday.
Tags: Cariel Brooks, Gabe Martin, Harold Jones-Quartey, Jaxon Shipley, Kerwynn Williams, Logan Thomas, Matt Barkley, Phillip Sims, practice squad
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Sean Weatherspoon as he noted the exact date when he had last played in an NFL game: Dec. 22, 2013. It took him a little longer to get back out there than he wanted – and the same goes for Chris Johnson – but there they were Thursday night. They didn’t play like superstars but they both played well, and that’s exactly what the Cardinals needed to see after aborted training camps for both.
Everyone can bag on preseason games if they want, but the two vets were exhibits 1 and 1A of why they are always a necessity for someone. Said Johnson, who hadn’t played in a game since last season and only had a handful of practices with the Cardinals with a bad hamstring, “I don’t think I needed to start the season not getting reps because I did it one time before and I just didn’t feel right the first game.”
Better yet, Bruce Arians said he expects both Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas to return to practice this week, so the feeling is that the Cardinals should have more tight ends available than just Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah. If Gresham does indeed return, it’ll turn out that those three vets signed on one-year deals – including Weatherspoon and Johnson – should be available for the opener against the Saints. And that’s what the Cardinals want to hear.
— Both Johnson and Weatherspoon said they need to work on their conditioning. “I’m just thankful to be part of the team and get a chance to go out there,” Weatherspoon said. “It’s good to make some hits, takes some hits.”
— Chandler Catanzaro missed two extra points but Arians didn’t even let the question come up. “No, I’m not concerned about Cat Man and the missed extra points,” Arians said in his opening remarks, saying the question didn’t even need to be asked. I’m sure Catanzaro knows it can’t happen again, but as Arians said, at least it was in a preseason game.
— There were two penalties called on rookie tackle D.J. Humphries on back to back drives, but both were iffy. The false start might not have even been that much of a move. And the holding given to him was apparently on No. 64, Cameron Bradfield, and the officials just messed up the number.
— I thought Earl Watford held up at right tackle, and I fully expect him to be the right tackle starter going into the regular season.
— Rookie wide receiver Jaxon Shipley had 11 targets and nine catches (for 58 yards) and continued to push the best he can. Still, I don’t see him as more than the practice squad right now. He’s not cracking the top five. Same goes for inside linebacker Gabe Martin, who was working hard on defense all night.
— On the flip side, the way Alani Fua was used, I’m guessing he’ll make the 53 at inside linebacker.
— Markus Golden played well at outside linebacker and if Golden isn’t starting early in the season, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get to the starting lineup at some point this year.
— He only had three carries, but Stepfan Taylor’s powerful run for 12 yards up the middle made an impression. Maybe he can be the Cards’ short-yardage guy over Robert Hughes, which could open a roster spot if the Cards only want to keep four running backs.
— I thought Phillip Sims came around. I thought Logan Thomas played better. I still think we are talking about the likelihood of carrying two quarterbacks, meaning Sims or Thomas would have to be practice squad. But we’ll see if, after the Cards watch the tape, they are convinced to do otherwise.
— Arians was asked if he was happy the preseason was over.
“Extremely,” he said, as a grin crept over his face.
You can’t see it, but I have a similar grin. Let’s get to the regular season.
Tags: Alani Fua, Broncos, Chandler Catanzaro, Chris Johnson, D.J. Humphries, Earl Watford, Jaxon Shipley, Jermaine Gresham, Logan Thomas, Markus Golden, Phillip Sims, preseason, Sean Weatherspoon, Stepfan Taylor, Troy Niklas
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Let’s be real — Bruce Arians would have liked to get a preseason win Saturday night, but he couldn’t have wanted extra football in the form of overtime. Injuries happen that late with tired bodies, and there is no upside of a fifth quarter this time of year. It shouldn’t have come to that anyway, of course, if Marion Grice doesn’t drop a wide open pass on the Cardinals’ previous drive, or if Phillip Sims doesn’t overthrow 6-foot-7 tight end Ifeanyi Momah soon after. Or if Logan Thomas and Momah don’t get crossed up on a pass where Momah was wide open in the third quarter, failing to connect on a pass that seemed like it could have been a touchdown.
In the preseason, these things get forgotten, however. In the regular season, Thomas or Sims would (hopefully) never throw a pass. So, with a nod to the football gods for letting us get out of this one in regulation time, my thoughts:
— Carson Palmer said he wanted to take a couple of hits. Not sure he wanted to be buried on two sacks and get whacked another time. But he didn’t break and that pass to J.J. Nelson was a thing of beauty. So was that touchdown dart to John Brown.
— If David Johnson really can perform like that in the backfield, and Andre Ellington — who had a very nice 11-yard run himself — stays healthy, the Cardinals are going to be fine running the ball.
— Chris Johnson out a week or two with a hamstring pull. He might not get any preseason carries now. You wonder where it might put him after David Johnson’s performance.
— It’s always good to be a young player on the bubble to be named by name by the head coach as playing well. So linebacker Alani Fua, cornerback Cariel Brooks and defensive end Josh Mauro, that’s a good thing.
— Arians also praised Sims, as he should. Sims did miss Momah late, but Sims looked incredibly cool in the pocket and patient. Arians said there is no leader at third quarterback between Sims and Logan Thomas, but Sims is making his push.
— After all the Rodney Gunter talk, it was Matt Shaughnessy out there in the starting lineup with Frostee Rucker and Calais Campbell. Gunter did play with the starting unit, however.
— The Cardinals are off tomorrow, and practice Monday before taking Tuesday off. They play next Sunday in Oakland.
— Arians screamed at the officials much of the game but at no time was it more noticed that late when he (and Patrick Peterson) kept yelling for some flag on Chargers’ defensive backs guarding Jaxon Shipley. That Cardinals cornerback C.J. Roberts was flagged for holding on what turned out to be the game’s deciding play on a pass that wouldn’t have been completed stuck in Arians’ craw too.
“Don’t ask me about officials. Please,” Arians said, after he was asked about the officials. “That’s why I’m hoarse. We need to relearn the rules they changed two years ago. This crew might need eight preseason games to get ready.”
That’s a good way to end it. G’night all.
Tags: Alani Fua, Bruce Arians, C.J. Roberts, Cariel Brooks, Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Ifeanyi Momah, J.J. Nelson, Jaxon Shipley, John Brown, Josh Mauro, Logan Thomas, Marion Grice, Matt Shaughnessy, Phillip Sims
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There will be frustration of missing tackles and poor plays from Saturday night, but there is a reason teams have 90 men on the roster now and when the games count there are 53 — many of those guys who were playing and struggling won’t be play this time next month. That’s why you look at what the Cards did at the start, both with their offense and defense, and if you are Bruce Arians, you have to be generally pleased. That and there were no serious injuries, and in the end, that might be the most important thing to come out of any preseason game.
Before it gets too late, a few thoughts after the opener — understanding there are still two week of training camp left. And three preseason games. We’re still a long way from anything counting.
— Carson Palmer was sharp, smart and altogether untouched. “I could’ve hitched three or four times on any of the passes we threw tonight,” he said. “Very clean pocket.” This gets repeated often yet can’t be understated: If Palmer is healthy and performs like this, the Cards will be in good shape.
— It didn’t take long for Andre Ellington to show what he can do, even after the hamstring issues kept him out of practice. No, he shouldn’t have been caught — “I just need to get my cardio back up” — but again, he’ll be the main guy in the backfield because of what he showed.
— Who will join him back there is still up in the air. Chris Johnson is coming in Sunday for his physical/tryout. Again, he’d have to be signed and he’d have to show well, but he could still be Ellington’s mate back there. The run game still only produced 2.8 yards a carry Saturday.
— The Chiefs went after Justin Bethel, starting for Jerraud Powers, on the very first play. Bethel was there to break it up. The Cards need Bethel to play well at cornerback. They are very thin there beyond Patrick Peterson and Powers. Jimmy Legree, the one who looked like he might have an inside track at a roster spot this summer, struggled.
— In the first salvo of the punting battle, Dave Zastudil’s night was four punts, 40.5 average, 35.3 net. I’d guess Drew Butler will punt next week against the Chargers.
— I thought Logan Thomas looked better in the game than he has at practice. Which is a good thing.
— The Chiefs’ lineman turned the wrong way to let Rodney Gunter blow past him, but Gunter showed impressive quickness to blaze into the backfield for that safety. Gunter is going to be someone to watch.
— That said, while I’d need to watch the replay of the game, there weren’t any of the non-draftees that really stood out to me as guys that popped, other than maybe Jaxon Shipley on his returns and one catch — and it’s hard to see Shipley as anything more that a practice squad guy given who is in front of him.
— The Cardinals are off until Monday, and like last Monday, do not have a morning walkthrough. The next time Arians will address the media is Monday afternoon. We’ll see if the Cards have a new running back by then.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Chiefs, Chris Johnson, Dave Zastudil, Drew Butler, Jaxon Shipley, Jimmy Legree, Justin Bethel, Logan Thomas, Rodney Gunter
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Andre Ellington isn’t limited anymore. That was clear at Thursday’s practice, the last full one the Cards have before Saturday’s preseason opener against the Chiefs (there is a “mock game” walkthrough Friday which is closed to both fans and media.) Ellington made catches and ran with ease and quickness. On one run he broke into the secondary and slowed, normal for a practice where there was just shells and shorts. But cornerback Patrick Peterson came running up behind, getting Ellington to sprint away from him, both of them smiling. Ellington’s explosion looked evident and there was no sign of his hamstring woes. A good sign.
— Coach Bruce Arians didn’t mention it at his presser earlier but defensive end Matt Shaughnessy wasn’t practicing. The day before Shaughnessy had come out and had ice on his left knee. He never left the field, but my guess is that they will be cautious with whatever it is.
— Quarterback Carson Palmer had one of his rest days, which makes sense because he’ll play the least against the Chiefs out of the four QBs on the roster.
— It was a day for interceptions. Once again, safety Tyrann Mathieu got a pick, although this time it came on a batted pass. Honey Badger is always around the ball. Safety Tony Jefferson and UDFA cornerback Cariel Brooks also had picks. Brooks is a name to remember — he’s making a push to find a way on to this roster.
— Shorty wide receiver Smokey Brown made a nice leaping TD catch over cornerback Jerraud Powers on a Drew Stanton pass, and Phillip Sims hooked up with WR Jaxon Shipley on a deep TD bomb later on.
— Injured wide receiver Michael Floyd got in some light conditioning with assistant strength and conditioning coach Roger Kingdom after practice.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Cariel Brooks, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Jaxon Shipley, Jerraud Powers, John Brown, Matt Shaughnessy, Phillip Sims, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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