Another Tyrann pick and practice notes

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2013 – 5:23 pm

The Cardinals were running deep red-zone offense — passing situations around and inside the 10 — at one point in Monday’s practice when safety Tyrann Matheiu got a hand up to deflect a pass near the goal line, hitting it straight up in the air and tipping it to himself for an interception. I know this has been said before, but the kid just is always in the mix when the ball is around. Could an opponent burn him for his aggressiveness? Maybe. But if he’s on the field, he’s going to create his share of turnovers. It’s hard to see otherwise.

Other tidbits from the afternoon:

— RB Ryan Williams, dealing with the knee irritation that has been keeping him out of practice, basically ruled himself out of the Green Bay game Friday. It’s disappointing to him on multiple levels, since it was a preseason game in Green Bay in 2011 when he tore his patella tendon and suffered the first of a few NFL injuries. “They started this whole thing, man,” Williams said. “I was really hoping to get over this hump in the sense of playing on that field where it all started, but you know, I’m not able to. So I can’t think too much about it. It is what it is. I’ll be there for the Cowboys, though.”

— Ever since Bruce Arians mentioned that his defense wasn’t getting its collective hands on the ball enough, they have. LB Daryl Washington, CB Justin Bethel and CB Javier Arenas also made picks. (That isn’t to say there weren’t a couple of nice pass hookups too. Charles Hawkins had a couple of downfield plays I recall.)

— G Daryn Colledge isn’t back at practice, but he was able to move around well enough to do the some of the snapping for the 7-on-7 drills. He doesn’t look too far away from returning.

— The tight end group was helped when both Jeff King and Alex Gottlieb returned to work. WR Kerry Taylor is out with some sort of leg/hamstring injury.

— DT Ricky Lumpkin went down after a play and took a few moments to get up. They brought the cart out but Lumpkin later was able to get off the field himself, with a limp, with the aid of head athletic trainer Tom Reed. Lumpkin was trying to walk it off on the sideline. It’s been a tough run for the defensive line and injuries over the past week or so.


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Peterson’s plays and post-practice with Palmer

Posted by Darren Urban on August 2, 2013 – 5:06 pm

It’s hard not to notice Patrick Peterson on offense (I’ll have more tomorrow on the subject). Every day there seem to be more plays using the Pro Bowl cornerback on that side of the ball. Friday, he caught a long bomb from Carson Palmer over Tyrann Mathieu and later completed a pass to Larry Fitzgerald. Palmer said the Cards actually have a “pretty big package” in for Peterson on offense, and it certainly looks that way. Why not? He’s that good.

“If he wasn’t playing corner he’d probably be just as good of a receiver, H-back or Percy Harvin-type player,” Palmer said.

We all know Peterson doesn’t mind. The only concern would have to be Peterson getting tired playing so much offense when he’s needed on defense. Who knows, maybe that’s why GM Steve Keim collected so many experienced cornerbacks in the offseason — he wanted to give Peterson some leeway to get a blow if needed.

— OK, maybe I don’t think that’s why the Cards have their cornerbacks. Peterson is going to be on the field on defense, don’t worry.

— Palmer reiterated he’s still learning a good chunk of the offense, but it will come. He wanted to come to Arizona in part to learn Bruce Arians’ offense (check out this story here) and embraces the challenge of learning yet another new scheme after going through a couple between Cincinnati and Oakland the past few years.

“I’m very comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Palmer said.

— Along with Darnell Dockett, K Jay Feely was also absent from practice because of a personal reason.

— RB Rashard Mendenhall was fully dressed out for practice but for a second straight day was very limited, spending much of the time on a bike. The rest of the injury list remained static: G Daryn Colledge (calf), TE Kory Sperry (ankle), RB Ryan Williams (knee), CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring), LB Alex Okafor (ankle), NT Dan Williams (ankle/knee), TE Alex Gottlieb (hamstring), WR Robert Gill (hamstring) and TE Jeff King (knee.) (My mistake, I forgot LaRon Byrd, out with a concussion.)


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A new Pro Bowl, a day off and a mashup

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2013 – 12:25 pm

The Cardinals have the day off, so the NFL did us a favor and threw out a little news: The Pro Bowl is changing. The biggest news of these changes is that, instead of AFC-NFC, the Pro Bowlers will be picked and then “drafted” on to two separate teams. Could that mean Patrick Peterson covering Larry Fitzgerald in the Pro Bowl? Yes. Then again, we see this all the time in camp. (It’s been suggested this won’t work, that say Terrell Suggs can’t be asked to sack Joe Flacco, or Aldon Smith to Colin Kaepernick. Maybe. Seems like, in general, a good idea for a game looking for good ideas.)

There will be other changes too. From the NFL release:

  • Game within the Game – A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the ball will change hands after each quarter.  This will increase the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct “two-minute drills,” which are especially exciting for fans.
  • No Kickoffs – The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first.  The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
  • Rosters – The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad.  The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
  • Cover Two and Press Coverage – The defense will be permitted to play “cover two” and “press” coverage.  In previous years, only “man” coverage was permitted, except for goal line situations.
  • Stopping of the Game Clock – Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass.  This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.
  • Game Timing – The game clock will start after an incomplete pass on the signal of the referee, except inside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.
  • Play Clock – A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-second/25-second clock.
  • Sacks – The game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game.  Currently, the game clock stops in these situations outside of two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.

We’ll see how it works.

— The Cardinals are off today. They resume meetings tonight and have practice outside at the team’s Tempe facility tomorrow. I’ll be curious to see how many of the injuries can be cleared up by then. (The team goes back to University of Phoenix Stadium Friday and Saturday, with Saturday being the Red-White practice.) Here’s the list of players who were still out yesterday: G Daryn Colledge (calf), WR Robert Gill (hamstring), TE Alex Gottlieb (hamstring), TE Jeff King (knee), TE Kory Sperry (ankle), RB Ryan Williams (knee), CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring), WR LaRon Byrd (concussion).

— With six days of camp and five practices in the books, it’s a good time to recap. So here’s the first mashup of camp. Truth be told, it’s very cool.


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Good news on Williams and DL tap outs

Posted by Darren Urban on July 30, 2013 – 12:27 pm

Bruce Arians likes the depth he’s built in the defensive line, and it’s necessary. “We want to be able to tap out and play fast,” Arians said, and staying fresh is important to production. Can guys balk at coming out? Maybe. But “the guy knows when to come out,” Arians said. “Some guys won’t come out. Other guys like to play fresh.”

Then sometimes there is the issue Arians had last season with the Colts. “I had a problem last year in Indy,” he said. “(Pro Bowlers Robert) Mathis and (Dwight) Freeney tapped out in the same time, I was , ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. You can’t both come out. I just learned the two guys’ names behind you. One has to stay in there.’ ”

— It turned out RB Ryan Williams did not have the precautionary second opinion he planned on yesterday. Arians said he was feeling better and decided just to rehab at the stadium. He will sit out today, but with the off day tomorrow, Williams is hoping to return to practice Thursday.

— The new injuries are TE Kory Sperry (ankle) and CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring). That’s a tough one for Fleming, who is battling in a very competitive secondary. Sperry, way under the radar after signing late last year, is playing well enough that Arians is bummed out he is out. “I’m a little ticked because Kory is having a heck of a camp.” Sperry can play in the backfield too, which is key.

— TE Jeff King is sitting because of fluid on the knee, which after offseason surgery isn’t surprising. Arians said the Cards just want to be cautious.

— G Daryn Colledge is still out. Arians said it is an unknown with the nerve issue. He could be back Thursday, he could be out another week. No way to know.

— Arians said he wants to play David Carter at nose tackle, not end.

— That battle for fourth and fifth receiver is open. LaRon Byrd is dealing with the concussion. But it should be noted that when Arians was asked about undrafted guys who have caught his eye, he said Jaron Brown and Charles Hawkins  have “done really well. Really well.” Something to keep in mind.

— And here are some highlights from yesterday:


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Arians: About jobs right now, not chemistry

Posted by Darren Urban on July 29, 2013 – 5:46 pm

Here’s one way to look at it, and a good one, from coach Bruce Arians when talking about gaining team chemistry in training camp: “This is not a time for chemistry. My philosophy is, we’re not the Cardinals yet. Now we are 90 guys trying to get a job. We’ll become the Cardinals when 53 of them are picked. Then we will be a team.”

Along those lines, since we are talking about guys winning jobs, here are some observations a few days into camp that could play into that:

— One cornerback who has made a lot of plays is Javier Arenas. It could turn into a nice pickup given the price to get Arenas — FB Anthony Sherman — was going to be released anyway. Arenas broke up a bomb to Patrick Peterson yesterday and fought Larry Fitzgerald into one incompletion today. He’s not perfect, of course, but given all the other cornerbacks, he’s just going to make cutdown harder. The fact he could be the kickoff return man also plays into his favor.

— I think CB Jerraud Powers has made some plays too.

— Michael Floyd has looked good. Not that it’s a surprise. It’s a continuation of what he did this summer.

— Bruce Arians noted that Paul Fanaika, the Arizona State product who signed as a tackle, has done well in transition to guard. Lo and behold, he’s second-string right guard, which means he’s starting while Daryn Colledge is sidelined with his leg injury.

— That also means fourth-round pick Earl Watford is pretty far down the depth chart right now. Watford looks the part but he’s raw. He’s got work to do and it will be interesting to see how he does in preseason games.

— Didn’t see tight end Jeff King, who sat out Sunday’s practice, at Monday’s afternoon practice. Not sure what it is. Maybe it is related to the knee issue he was rehabbing from this offseason. Alex Gottlieb is already nursing a sore hamstring. And then Kory Sperry left the field early in Monday’s work. Newly acquired Mickey Shuler was there but he had arrived so close to practice he wasn’t even wearing Cardinals gear yet, much less practicing. The Cards are thin at the spot right now. Rookie D.C. Jefferson got a ton of reps (along with Rob Housler and Jim Dray.)

— The defensive coaches continue to mix-n-match a lot of the lineups. One nickel package had four linemen, although John Abraham was on the right side standing up, with Calais Campbell at RDE/RDT (depending on if you’re counting Abraham as a linebacker or end), Frostee Rucker as DT/NT and Matt Shaughnessy as LDE. Reggie Walker and Karlos Dansby were the linebackers (although Walker was in for Jasper Brinkley, sidelined with a sore knee).

— The first-string base defense continues to include Campbell, Dan Williams, Dockett up front; Alexander, Dansby, Brinkley, Acho at linebacker; Powers and Peterson at cornerback and Johnson and Bell at safety. Tyrann Mathieu continues to get lots of reps, not only at safety but nickel cover corner too.

— Running back talk is always going to start with Mendenhall and Ryan Williams while Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington have impressed Arians too. But to me, Alfonso Smith is going to make it very hard to cut him loose. The guy competes and he’s looked good when he’s gotten chances. He may again run into a numbers game, but Smith has made an impression.

— Speaking of making an impression, the defensive linemen tend to do that when they hit the sled:


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Palmer pitching, PP catching, and pads

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2013 – 5:19 pm

The first padded practice of training camp made for some interesting stuff to digest:

— It only happened a couple of times, but quarterback Carson Palmer (and backup Drew Stanton, for that matter), ran the read-option in 11-on-11. Both times Palmer ran it — once to each side — he ended up pitching it to wide receiver Andre Roberts. It doesn’t exactly look like Colin Kaepernick and I’m not sure it’s going to make it all the way into an actual game that counts. But it gives the defense something to think about in a season they will certainly see it (from Kaepernick and others) and it gives other teams at least a slight pause when this seemingly crazy notion gets out there.

— Speaking of offensive twists, there was Patrick Peterson (below) quickly throwing on a white tank top over his red defensive jersey (think a practice jersey in basketball) to jump in on offense at a moment’s notice. His first play was a straight go route down the sideline. The Ryan Lindley bomb was broken up by fellow cornerback Javier Arenas. Peterson shook his head about it after.

“I told Ryan, ‘When number 21 is out there, make him run,’ ” Peterson said. “I don’t want to have to try and turn around and have to catch the ball. I have enough speed I’m pretty comfortable, anywhere you throw the ball, I’m going to go get it.”

Unlike the Palmer option, I do expect such plays for Peterson to be in the playbook. I’m sure Patrick won’t mind.

— Don’t expect the same from Tyrann Mathieu though. Mathieu was asked if he too could be an offensive threat. “I’m not an offensive weapon,” he said. “I’m a defensive guy who looks good with the ball in his hands.”

— The injury list got a little longer for the Cardinals Sunday, in part because they are now hitting. WR Robert Gill (hamstring) and TE Alex Gottlieb (hamstring) were already sitting out. LB Daryl Washington (neck spasm) was sitting out for the first time, and then G Daryn Colledge (lower right leg) and RB Ryan Williams (right leg/knee) came out during practice. Williams, who had ice on his right knee for a while, had discarded the ice by the end of practice and was standing watching his teammates, a good sign it probably isn’t serious. TE Jeff King was also sitting out, possibly a nod to taking it easy early in camp after coming off his own knee rehab.


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One year at a time

Posted by Darren Urban on July 26, 2013 – 9:28 am

Eric Winston, a player who when he was first released was expected to command a healthy contract for multiple years, signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals. It was another impressive step for GM Steve Keim, who has managed to corral quite a few players in one-year deals, providing flexibility going forward and incentive to those players to try and earn an extension.

It also has created quite a lengthy list of players that, as of now, are set to become unrestricted free agents after the season:

— S Jonathan Amaya

— CB Javier Arenas

— S Yeremiah Bell

— CB Antoine Cason

— LB Karlos Dansby

— TE Jim Dray

— K Jay Feely

— TE Jeff King

— RB Rashard Mendenhall

— G Chilo Rachal

— WR Andre Roberts

— DE Frostee Rucker

— DE/LB Matt Shaughnessy

— TE Kory Sperry

— S Curtis Taylor

— LB Reggie Walker

— T Eric Winston

— P Dave Zastudil

Obviously, not every name on that list is someone that the Cards are going to want to keep around long-term. Others will have to earn that right. It also doesn’t include other situations, like the inevitable Patrick Peterson extension that is assumed to be coming at some point after the season. The Cardinals definitely have a plan, however. Flexibility is key for Keim, who is trying to rebuild the roster.


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For what it’s worth in June, offensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 19, 2013 – 10:58 am

Welcome to the second installment of For What It’s Worth, where I make guesstimates over who will be starting come the opener Sept. 8 in St. Louis – this time, on the offensive side of the ball – and my only fear is someone will dredge this up in a little less than three months to tell me I don’t know what I am talking about. The Cards’ offense is in somewhat of a weird situation. The unit struggled so much last season that the bar has been set pretty low in order to improve. Yet with Carson Palmer coming in at quarterback and Bruce Arians taking over as coach (not to mention Tom Moore as a top offensive assistant) expectations seem pretty high.

That said, and with time off calling me, here is my lineup for that day in the Edward Jones Dome. We’re going with a two-WR, two-TE set, but there will be plenty of three-WR looks I’d guess:

QB – Carson Palmer. Arians named him starter from jump. Made sense. Had some bumpy times in the offseason work, but he’s been very straight-forward about the process and didn’t seem surprised. You have to like the idea he and Fitz are spearheading workouts in San Diego and/or Minnesota before camp. The offense probably needs it.

WR – Larry Fitzgerald. I think I am willing to wager Fitz gets back to his lofty stats this season. Just a guess.

WR – Michael Floyd. In three-receiver sets Andre Roberts will get plenty of work. But Floyd has impressed coaches (and bystanders like myself) with his efforts this offseason. He seems primed for a leap in Year Two. Can he challenge Fitz? If the Cards can grind out more first downs, I can see Floyd having a big year.

TE – Rob Housler. Arians likes his pass-catching ability. We’ll see, in camp, how far his blocking has come.

LT – Levi Brown. Arians has spent so much time talking Brown up this offseason I don’t see any way Levi isn’t starting. He’ll be playing the left side, and we will find out if his strong finish to 2011 was a mirage or not.

LG – Jonathan Cooper. The only question with Cooper isn’t if he starts but when he signs his contract (and with the front office getting in their vacation, Cooper’s deal will probably be much closer to training camp. That said, it’s nothing to worry about. He’ll be done in time.)

C – Lyle Sendlein. The Cardinals haven’t really done much to create competition at the spot. That seems like a good sign for Sendlein, who remains a steadying influence in the locker room and a quality captain.

RG – Daryn Colledge. Colledge had to flip sides, but he’ll figure it out. He’s getting paid big money and that makes every offseason a little more dicey in a league that’s always looking at that stuff. But Colledge is a good fit right now, especially with rookie Earl Watford still raw in his development.

RT – Bobby Massie. Massie was playing backup left tackle the last week of minicamp, and Nate Potter was running as the No. 1 right tackle. But Arians insisted he will continue to move around guys to have them learn many positions, and that was one example. I still think Massie is the starter come Week 1. He played too well down the stretch last year. Plus, Potter – who also might get work at guard – could be getting groomed for the ultimate jack-of-all-trades offensive line spot as a reserve. It’s necessary after Adam Snyder was released.

TE – Jeff King. It’s hard to get a good handle on this one since King was out or limited almost all of the offseason work. Jim Dray got a lot of first-unit reps too. I still think when all is said and done it will be King opening day, but I think it’s no lock. Is there any chance rookie D.C. Jefferson could sneak his way in? That’s a long shot, but maybe hitting in training camp changes some minds. I wouldn’t be stunned to see them add a veteran tight end in camp.

RB – Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall had his best seasons under Arians in Pittsburgh. Ryan Williams remains a wild card. Stepfan Taylor is probably too far behind, at least at first. Mendenhall is still pretty young in running back’s terms, he’s motivated with a one-year deal and he insists he’s totally healthy. A good combination.

MendyWorthUSE


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Post-OTA talk from Arians

Posted by Darren Urban on June 3, 2013 – 1:46 pm

With the Cardinals returning to the field today, a few quick notes after coach Bruce Arians spoke to the media:

— He was asked about the health of rookie wide receiver Ryan Swope, who was not out there practicing. Teammate Larry Fitzgerald had said in a Sirius NFL radio interview that Swope had been out because of concussion-related issues. Arians did not get specific. “There’s nothing really to report,” Arians said. “We don’t have injury reports this time of year.” Asked if he was concerned about Swope, Arians said “He’ll be fine.”

— Arians was happy with the work after the team had a week off. “I expected it to be sloppier,” Arians said.

— Cornerback Patrick Peterson has missed the last nine days because of family issues, Arians said. Cornerbacks Jerraud Powers and Antoine Cason were also working on the side. Tight end Jeff King was limited as he rehabs his knee.

— Tackle Levi Brown was taking part in the work for the first time as he returns from his triceps injury. Arians said he was limited but he looked good in his reps.

— Rookie guard Jonathan Cooper is working with the first unit, which isn’t a surprise. As for his progress, “he’s getting so many reps he can’t help but but improve,” Arians said.

— Special teams coach Amos Jones was absent because his father passed away.

— Rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu made an interception that Arians was willing to call a Pick-6. (Since no one can tackle, you never really know.)

FitzOTABlogUSE


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Tight end options

Posted by Darren Urban on May 24, 2013 – 3:33 pm

A recent ESPN Insider article breaking down the holes remaining for each NFC West team marked tight end as the spot in which the Cards have a question mark. Some of that — much of that — has to do with the scheme of new coach Bruce Arians and the fact he likes to use two tight ends. Arians has made that abundantly clear.

The main focus will be the play of Rob Housler, in many ways. Arians has said, as Steelers OC, he considered Housler as a big wide receiver prospect when he was coming out for the draft. Does that color his perspective for Housler as tight end? Housler definitely has potential skills as a seam threat. He remains a work-in-progress as a blocker. This is a big year for him. Veteran Jeff King remains in the final year of his contract. He’s coming off recent knee surgery and hasn’t been practicing but the hope is he will be back soon (Veterans have next week off completely, and the final four OTAs take place the first week of June, when King could return.) Jim Dray played a little fullback last season when Anthony Sherman was hurt, has been good on special teams and has turned into a solid seventh-round pick from 2010. Those are your top three tight ends right now.

The Cards drafted D.C. Jefferson in the seventh round this year, and he certainly looks the part, especially of a pass catcher. But the former quarterback — he didn’t become a tight end until getting to Rutgers — is definitely raw at this point. And it’s tough to figure out if he can block yet given that the Cards aren’t in pads and in shorts. They also have holdover Kory Sperry, who was on the roster part of last season, and recent inexperienced signees Alex Gottlieb and Kyle Auffray.

There are a few tight ends still out there, but probably not an upgrade. Dallas Clark? The Colts let him walk away last year as Arians was coming in as offensive coordinator. Kellen Winslow? Injuries have robbed him of what he provided. Chris Cooley, again, another older player who may not have much left. It’s not like the Cards aren’t doing their due diligence on these guys and if they felt bringing someone in would be worth it, they would — could you doubt that after all the changes this offseason?

That said, I could see them adding someone later, after they get an offseason to sort out what they have.

HouslerShotUSE


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