The offensive line best in the West?

Posted by Darren Urban on May 27, 2015 – 3:03 pm

The tweet came from SiriusXM NFL Radio over the weekend, with host and former NFL QB Jim Miller saying that it is the Cardinals with the best offensive line in the NFC West. (His partner, Pat Kirwan, has the Cardinals second behind Seattle.) My first reaction, which I tweeted, was that I couldn’t remember the last time someone held the Cardinals’ offensive line in such high regard. It makes sense, with the Cardinals’ big free-agent purchase the past two offseasons being offensive linemen (Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati) in addition to a No. 1 draft pick (Jonathan Cooper.)

Veldheer was asked about being compared — on both the offensive and defensive line — to the Seahawks, and the tackle was pretty blunt.

“I think they’re both solid lines, but I’d take our guys any day over those guys,” Veldheer said. “That’s part of the fun part, too, getting that rivalry going, wanting to puff your chest out more than the guy across the line from you.”

In terms of the division’s offensive lines, the reality is the bar has dropped some. The Seahawks traded their center Max Unger to get tight end Jimmy Graham, who may help in catching the ball but won’t much as a blocker. The Rams have added defensive linemen aplenty of late but seem to have ignored the need on the offensive line. The 49ers lost one of their better lineman when Iupati came to Arizona. As for the Cardinals, they have upgraded. You can see why someone would consider them the best unit in the division. But as always, it’s difficult to tell much of anything on the offensive line in the offseason. What is done in the offseason isn’t enough of football to be sure the line will translate once the games actually start.

Then again, it’s better to be thought of as the best this time of year than the alternative.

OLbest

 


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OTAs open with a determined Palmer, and other notes

Posted by Darren Urban on May 19, 2015 – 11:07 am

The Cardinals had the first of their 10 organized team activities of the offseason this morning. Coach Bruce Arians called it crisp and noted the work got done quickly enough that the team ended early. Quarterback Carson Palmer looked good in limited work — more on Palmer’s drive to get back on the field in a bit when I have a story on the homepage — and Arians said there is a chance that Palmer could be back for even more reps (regular reps?) by the time the Cards reach their minicamp in mid-June. I’ll admit, when they said that once upon a time I was thinking it was much too optimistic, but clearly, Palmer has a good chance to prove me wrong.

Some other quick notes/thoughts from the first OTA:

— The draft class is doing work on Field 2 during 11-on-11 (except for OLB Shaq Riddick, who tweaked his hamstring last week.) D.J. Humphries is the third-string left tackle for now, a long way from usurping Bobby Massie. Arians said the rookies have a lot of work to do to get on Field 1, although it could happen as we go. (This is the first of the draft classes from Keim/Arians that I can remember all the draftees on Field 2. Usually someone is working on the main field.)

— Arians praised everyone’s conditioning but he particularly noted the good shape of guard Jonathan Cooper and wide receiver Michael Floyd.

— Speaking of Cooper, Arians was asked if Cooper was better at knowing when to “gut it out” and play. Arians said it’s tough to gut it out when you are simply injured as Cooper had been, including his broken leg. “You can’t gut out broken bones, unless you’re Jack Youngblood,” Arians said. “Then the coach gets sued these days. Back then, it was cool.”

— As I’ve noted before, Matt Shaughnessy has moved to defensive end in the 3-4, which Arians called his more natural spot. He’s flipped with Kareem Martin, who is at linebacker now.

BlogFirstOTAuse


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Palmer on field as Phase 2 begins

Posted by Darren Urban on May 4, 2015 – 11:33 am

The caveats: In Phase 2 of the offseason program, there is no defense and there are no helmets. The work is only one hour. Offensive and defensive players are working on separate fields. But in terms of good signs, Carson Palmer taking snaps as the first-unit quarterback — after tearing his ACL in November — has to be considered as one. Palmer was out there and, aside from the knee brace, didn’t look any different than last offseason as he threw passes. (We’ll have more in a homepage story later today.) This doesn’t mean Palmer is ready to play in a game, or even that he’ll be able to do a lot during OTAs or minicamp. We’ll see on all that. But it definitely underscores the optimism Palmer has for training camp.

A couple of other notes from this still-voluntary phase:

— The rookies are not here yet. They arrive Thursday afternoon with rookie minicamp starting Friday.

— The first-unit offensive line looks as expected right now: From left tackle to right tackle, it was Jared Veldheer, Mike Iupati, Ted Larsen, Jonathan Cooper, Bobby Massie.

— Not only is Kareem Martin getting work at outside linebacker, but it looks like Matt Shaughnessy working as a 3-4 defensive end after playing linebacker in 3-4 alignments previously.

— First-unit safeties on this first day were Deone Bucannon and Rashad Johnson.

PalmerPahseBloguse


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The battle coming at center

Posted by Darren Urban on April 6, 2015 – 11:30 am

Since 2008, every single position on the offensive line has had some kind of competition at one point for the Cardinals — except at center. That’s where Lyle Sendlein manned the job, and there was never really anyone around to truly push the status quo. That’s changed, now, with Sendlein getting released (after being asked to take a paycut and being informed that indeed, there would be a competition this year.) A.Q. Shipley was signed as a free agent and more importantly, the Cardinals have Ted Larsen — who started at guard all last season but did a solid job in for an injured Sendlein during the preseason in 2014.

The door remains open for Sendlein to return if he wanted, but he’ll explore all his other options for now. If he were to return, it’s probably safe to say one of those vets won’t be with the team by the time final roster cutdowns happen. There is a chance a center/guard could find his way on to the team through the draft or as an undrafted rookie, although the team still has last year’s UDFA Anthony Steen who would be in that role. (There were times when Jonathan Cooper took some pre-game snaps as the third center last year, but I highly doubt he will be in the mix. For Coop, it’s about winning that right guard spot.)

That the Cardinals decided to shift things around at center isn’t a huge surprise, especially when it comes to the money. The team now has significantly more invested at guard after signing Mike Iupati (plus a seventh-overall draft pick contract with Cooper) and while Bobby Massie is playing out a fourth-round rookie deal at right tackle, Jared Veldheer is making big bucks at left tackle. You can’t pay them all, and center was a spot they were looking to address. If I had to guess at a starter right now, I’d guess Larsen. (Bruce Arians declined to say who it would be as of right now.) We are a long way from seeing what direction that storyline goes come September.

CenterBlogUSE


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Cards add A.Q. Shipley, Cory Redding

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2015 – 4:21 pm

The Cardinals added two more free agents Wednesday, bringing in a pair of ex-Colts: center/guard A.Q. Shipley and defensive end Cory Redding. Both are Bruce Arians specials; He coached both when he was in Indianapolis. Shipley has been with Arians three times now (he started in Pittsburgh when Arians was there) while Redding said he came to lean on Arians when Colts head coach Chuck Pagano got sick in 2012.

Both are the kind of depth signings GM Steve Keim has begun to master. Redding — below, signing his deal — will be great in the locker room and still can play, even though he contemplated retirement after the 2014 season. He’ll be perfect to mentor guys like Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson (as will fellow signee Corey Peters.)

Shipley fits into the mix on the interior of the offensive line. The numbers are starting to grow there, however, and it’s getting crowded for the current bunch even with a 90-man roster. Paul Fanaika is leaving (reportedly is going to sign with the Chiefs) but with Shipley and Iupati coming in, adding in with Lyle Sendlein, Ted Larsen, Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford, it’s a logjam. Sendlein’s $4 million-plus salary cap hit sticks out right now. We’ll see how it plays out, and who might be able to find their way onto the revamped offensive line.

ReddingBloguse


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Report: Cardinals could get Iupati

Posted by Darren Urban on March 9, 2015 – 4:36 pm

Well, if you are hoping for a splashy free agent move from the Cardinals, you may just get your wish: Three-time Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati, who has been with the 49ers, could be coming to Arizona.

Again, nothing is done at this point. (And if you aren’t sure about that, former 49ers running back Frank Gore was reported by many as a done deal to go to the Eagles — until the reports came out Monday that he now could back away from Philly. Until a guy is signed, he’s not signed.) That said, Iupati is considered by many as the top interior lineman on the free agent market. So when Bruce Arians said he wanted competition on the interior of the offensive line, that’s one way to get it, although it kind of ends the competition before it even begins. It’d be naive to think, if they sign Iupati, he wouldn’t be an automatic starter.

Iuapti is known as a devastating run blocker. His pass blocking is not nearly as revered, especially when trying to block for scrambler Colin Kaepernick. But if he is signed it would give the Cardinals a lot of flexibility on the line. You still have to figure Jonathan Cooper is penciled in to be a starter as the 2013 No. 1 draft pick. He, like Iupati, has been a left guard, so one of them would have to play the right side. Ted Larsen could battle Lyle Sendlein at center (although with his $3 million salary, Sendlein could still be a cap casualty at some point.) The Cardinals could still look for a center in free agency too.

It’s not as if the 49ers were planning to have Iupati come back, but still, it’s a shot against an NFC West rival. And it hasn’t been a good day for the 49ers anyway, since the news that linebacker Patrick Willis likely will retire and so too might defensive lineman Justin Smith. At this rate, Darnell Dockett is going to be one of the longest tenured vets on the 49ers in a short period of time.

Mike Iupati

 

 


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No Cooper again for Panthers game

Posted by Darren Urban on January 3, 2015 – 12:57 pm

There are no surprises on the Cardinals’ inactive list today. Guard Jonathan Cooper (wrist/knee) is going to sit out again, but otherwise, pretty straightforward — especially after coach Bruce Arians told everyone QB Drew Stanton was already going to be out with his bad knee. DT Dan Williams (foot) is playing, and with Alameda Ta’amu inactive, it means the Cardinals have to be comfortable Williams will hold up.

The full list:

— QB Drew Stanton (knee)

— WR Brittan Golden

— S Chris Clemons

— G Jonathan Cooper (wrist/knee)

— DT Alameda Ta’amu

— G Anthony Steen

— DE Kareem Martin


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Foote sits for Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on December 28, 2014 – 12:52 pm

Starting inside linebacker Larry Foote, who had played all but two defensive snaps this season, is going to miss a few more today. Foote is inactive with a knee injury — and probably a need to rest him for the playoffs. The Cardinals also will be without guard Jonathan Cooper, who is dealing with the wrist injury. The full inactive list for the Cardinals:

— QB Drew Stanton (knee)

— WR Brittan Golden

— S Chris Clemons

— LB Larry Foote (knee)

— G Jonathan Cooper (wrist)

— G Anthony Steen

— DE Kareem Martin

It’s unknown if 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will be inactive as rumors swirl about his job status. (I kid. I kid.) But the 49ers will be without cornerbacks Tramaine Brock and Perrish Cox, as well as linebacker Ahmad Brooks.


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Friday before the (biggest) Seahawks (game)

Posted by Darren Urban on December 19, 2014 – 4:56 pm

First, a history lesson. Or at least a flashback.

I was there in New Jersey in 2012 as the life drained out of the Ken Whisenhunt regime and the Cardinals, when Ryan Lindley started against the Jets in what might have been the ugliest game ever. You remember, when the Cards nursed a 3-0 lead into the fourth quarter and eventually lost, 7-6. The game was striking because Lindley simply could not move the offense that day, and Whisenhunt refused to put in backup John Skelton.

Lindley completed just 10 of 31 passes for 72 yards, and that, more than the four interceptions he had against the Rams in a loss the week before or his Lions start that the Cards won because of defense and Beanie Wells, is what I remember most of Lindley 1.0.

What will Lindley 2.0 look like?

He’s had a week to practice with the first unit, and he’ll be playing with a better offensive line than he had back then. Honestly, I have no idea what Lindley will do Sunday, or how he will play. Sure, we could see the guy who has the 0-to-7 TD-to-interception ratio in his career. The Seahawks can make a lot of quarterbacks look poor (Drew Stanton didn’t exactly dominate against the Seahawks in the earlier game). But maybe he’ll be enough. Maybe, in a year where the Cards simply find a way to win at home every time, he’ll make the plays. Carson Palmer threw four interceptions just about this time last year against the Seahawks – in Seattle – and the Cards still managed to win.

That was because of defense and a commitment to the run, and the Cards should have both again Sunday. Lindley doesn’t have to be Aaron Rodgers. He just can’t be Lindley 1.0.

— The biggest thing that struck me this week was the confidence around the team. I’ve been around this franchise for 15 years, in this building the last eight. I know when the mood in the locker room skews bad, or when there is concern where the team sits. And from my vantage point, that isn’t the case right now.

I don’t know if that’s confidence in Lindley, or knowledge a playoff berth is already secure regardless of the outcome Sunday, or Arians’ trickle-down mindset. But mentally, the Cardinals are in the right place. We’ll see if that translates against the Seahawks.

— The Cardinals will wear their red-and-red uniform combo for the game. I could talk about what a great record they have wearing that combo, but I’m one of those that doesn’t believe uniforms make a difference, so, yeah. They are wearing red-and-red.

— Palmer was in the locker room after practice today, walking around although noting that was about all he can do at this point. He won’t be attending Sunday’s game, he said, because after about an hour of standing his surgically-repaired knee would swell considerably. He also wouldn’t want to think about getting hit on accident on the sideline – he’s not super mobile – and hurting his knee all over again.

“I’m too old for that,” he said.

— A hint for halftime Sunday if you are going to the game: You might not want to leave your seats. A special six-minute laser light and video show that highlights the season and pays tribute to the fans will be played. It incorporates 12 laser light projectors to create graphics on the field and the roof. Should be fun.

— Goodness, these Tim Tebow fans

— Defensive end Frostee Rucker played for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC, and this week, Carroll  talked about how Rucker was a tailback coming out of high school.

“When we got him we weren’t sure where to play him because he was growing at an alarming rate,” Carroll said. “He was no longer in tailback kind of profile. We moved him around. He was such a good athlete and such a good player that we finally found a place for him to play on the D-line where he wound up.

“But he dotted the ‘I’ pretty well there at tailback in the old days — wing-T, he brought it to life when he was in the game.”

Rucker smiled when told Carroll remembered back then. “That was back in my heyday,” Rucker said, noting that his position change was the best thing for him. “I still need to thank him for that.”

The Cards will too. Frostee has been a lifesaver.

— The Cards need the run game. There are some wondering if the two-game surge in running production – 141 and 143 yards the last two games – was because of Jonathan Cooper’s insertion into the lineup, and if it goes away now that Cooper is out with a wrist injury. I think Cooper might have helped. It might have helped that Ted Larsen was playing the right side. It definitely helped that Kerwynn Williams got on the field. And if the Cards take a step back, it may be more about the defense they are playing than anything else.

— Got to keep Russell Wilson contained. Can’t give the Seahawks short fields, whether off turnovers or bad special teams play or poor punts. The Cardinals do that, I think they are in this game.

And if they are in the game in the fourth quarter, we’ll see what happens.

B4seablog


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Keim talks Stanton rehab, QB situation

Posted by Darren Urban on December 15, 2014 – 8:14 am

Steve Keim had a way to put things in perspective.

“The three best records in the NFL after the fourteenth game are Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ryan Lindley/Logan Thomas,” the Cardinals General Manager said Monday morning during his regular appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “It’s a credit to our organization and the job all the way down from Michael Bidwill to Bruce Arians, our coaching staff, our players, they have all done a fantastic job.”

There wasn’t a ton of specific info coming from the GM about his team’s quarterback situation. But he did acknowledge that the Cardinals will be going with some combination of Lindley and Thomas to play against the Seahawks Sunday. The Cards will add a quarterback, but it will be to the practice squad “for emergency purposes.” No, Kurt Warner is not walking through that door. (Which he never was, but I just wanted to use that line. Rick Pitino keeps on giving.)

UPDATE: The practice squad QB is Jeff Mathews, an undrafted rookie from Cornell who spent time earlier with Atlanta and Indianapolis.

Who the starting QB will be is TBA. Keim said simply “that’s a better question for Coach Arians.”

As for the injured Drew Stanton, Keim also sidestepped a timetable, because he said it’s really impossible to give one.

“With that type of knee injury, everybody heals different,” Keim said. “I know ESPN and some other outlets have put a timeline on it, which is extremely difficult to do. You can say it’s going to be four weeks, I’ve heard people say one-and-a-half weeks.

“Drew will be in there around the clock rehabbing. I know he’ll be ready to go as soon as possible.”

Keim reiterated Thomas could get a package of plays for the Seahawks game (that’s was as detailed as he’d get), so again, it sounds like both QBs could see the field. (Or the Cardinals are just building a nice ruse for the Seahawks to worry about during prep work.) Running the ball will be important, which really goes without saying.

“The thing that is extremely difficult to replace at any level is the quarterback,” Keim said. “I’ve said many times, there’s not even 32 quarterbacks to go around (to all the teams), so let alone you lose your starter — and it really hurt us because Carson (Palmer) was playing at a high level — and then you saw what Drew could do when he had the opportunity, which was win games for us and play solid football.

“To lose both those guys, it’s been extremely difficult to go through. But again, it goes back to the resiliency of our team.”

— It was the offensive line’s best game to date, Keim said. Guard Jonathan Cooper is “playing like a rookie” and needs to improve technically quite a bit, but it’s a start, Keim said.

— Keim called defensive end Frostee Rucker “an unsung hero” for his work of late. I’d second that. Rucker has been crucial in his role this season.


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