Thursday, the Cardinals’ rookies arrive in Tempe. That’s the six-man draft class and the undrafted rookies (as well as a bunch of guys in on a tryout basis for the weekend. QB Philip Sims was among a few guys kept on last year after such a tryout.) We will see, as the offseason and training camp goes, who will make an impression. There has been a lot of talk about QB Jake Coker, but it’s much too early to assume he can supplant Matt Barkley as even a third-stringer much less anything else (and don’t forget, after the Logan Thomas-Sims battle all last year, neither one made the team).
There are guys that intrigue. Canadian cornerback Eli Bouka, who is coming off an Achilles injury, has the size (6-foot-1) and tape that has impressed from afar. We’ll see if punter Garrett Swanson can give Drew Butler a run. And it certainly seems like there will be one undrafted on the roster, since the Cardinals’ only current choices for a long snapper are undrafted rookies Kameron Canaday and Daniel Dillon.
Here is a list of the undrafted rookies to make the roster out of training camp since 2007 (many undrafted rookies have made it to the practice squad and were promoted at some point, but these are the guys from the 53 to start the season:
2015 LB Alani Fua, DT Xavier Williams
2014 K Chandler Catanzaro, LB Glenn Carson
2013 WR Jaron Brown, LB Kenny Demens, S Tony Jefferson
2012 WR LaRon Byrd
2010 QB Max Hall, CB A.J. Jefferson, WR Max Komar, WR Stephen Williams
2009 LB Reggie Walker
2008 LB Ali Highsmith
2007 FB Tim Castille, C Lyle Sendlein
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Alani Fua, Ali Highsmith, Chandler Catanzaro, Daniel Dillon, Drew Butler, Eli Bouka, Garrett Swanson, Glenn Carson, Jake Coker, Jaron Brown, Kameron Canaday, Kenny Demens, LaRon Byrd, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Barkley, Max Hall, Max Komar, Reggie Walker, Stephen Williams, Tim Castille, Tony Jefferson, undrafted rookie free agents, Xavier Williams
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With the season halfway over and talk here and there about possible contract extensions, it felt like a good time to note who is scheduled to have their contract run out after the season ends. We’ve talked for a while about the secondary decisions that are coming, but in terms of players that are making an impact, it’s a lengthy list. This is only the players set to be free agents; There have been some of you wondering if, for instance, Tyrann Mathieu could get an extension. He is under contract through 2016, so I don’t expect anything soon. The Cardinals, according to the NFLPA, have about $5.3 million of cap space right now.
CB Justin Bethel
LB Dwight Freeney
TE Jermaine Gresham
RB Chris Johnson
S Rashad Johnson
G Ted Larsen
LS Mike Leach
T Bobby Massie
CB Jerraud Powers
C Lyle Sendlein
T Bradley Sowell
QB Drew Stanton
LB Sean Weatherspoon
LB LaMarr Woodley
WR Jaron Brown
P Drew Butler
LB Kenny Demens
S Tony Jefferson
(Tight ends Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah and defensive tackle Josh Mauro are all exclusive rights free agents, meaning they can be tendered and not go anywhere.)
Again, a long list. The restricted free agents, if you want to prevent them from hitting the market unfettered, can be tendered with one of three designations: A first-round tender (a one-year contract of about $3.3M), a second-round tender (about $2.3M) or the original draft spot ($1.5M). That means, if tendered, if another team signs them away, that team owes the Cardinals the tendered pick. Given that all those guys were undrafted, the Cards would get nothing for the low tender. It makes for hard decisions on a Tony Jefferson, and even to Jaron Brown.
As for the unrestricted guys …
It seems likely that the older one-year guys — Chris Johnson, Gresham, Freeney — would want to see what they might get on the open market. The secondary is the most intriguing area. It wouldn’t be a surprise that some team might want to swoop in and Greg Toler-contract a guy like Bethel, especially if they’d want him to start right away at CB. The Cardinals like Powers. They like Rashad Johnson too, but with all the safeties around, what will be the offer? What does the future hold (or rather, where is the future) for Deone Bucannon? Is he a linebacker or safety? That’ll come into play.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Chris Johnson, Darren Fells, Drew Butler, Drew Stanton, Dwight Freeney, free agency, Ifeanyi Momah, Jaron Brown, Jermaine Gresham, Jerraud Powers, Josh Mauro, Justin Bethel, Kenny Demens, LaMarr Woodley, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Leach, Rashad Johnson, Sean Weatherspoon, Ted Larsen, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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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.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Bruce Arians, Chris Clemons, Dwight Freeney, Kenny Demens
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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.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Chris Clemons, Chris Johnson, Deone Bucannon, Kenny Demens, Steve Keim
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You know how it is when you’re packing for a trip. There are just times when you forget to stuff something in the suitcase. That’s what happened to Carson Palmer on the way out to Detroit – forgot to put his knee brace in his bag. So for the first time since he hurt his knee last year, Palmer played without it Sunday in the easy win.
What’s the best way to make that work? Run the ball. And that’s exactly what the Cardinals did: 187 yards on the ground. I mean, there were only 25 rushing attempts, and three of those were Drew Stanton kneeldowns to end the game, but the Cardinals only went back to pass 20 times total anyway.
(That’s what happens when the offense is efficient and the defense gets turnovers for short fields; 45 offensive plays, compared to 89 for the Lions. Detroit threw 70 passes, for goodness sake.)
Palmer was efficient, knee brace or no. He was 11-for-14 for three touchdown passes. But that run game … the Cardinals were fairly sure Chris Johnson had something left but like this? He has 405 yards in five games, and that’s after barely playing the opener. Toss in Andre Ellington – who showed what he can do with his 63-yard touchdown romp – and the Cards are in better shape running the ball than … well, a long time. I’ve been covering this team since 2000, and it’s easily the best running game the Cardinals have had since then.
— The Cardinals have to hope the calf injury of Alex Okafor isn’t serious. They need him as a pass rusher. It’s eerie – when Okafor suffered a serious biceps injury in 2013 against the Saints, it was in the game that was the front end of the Cards’ week away from Arizona. Let’s hope it’s not a repeat. Sean Weatherspoon doesn’t play that spot, although Weatherspoon will need to play given Kenny Demens’ knee injury. Weatherspoon hasn’t played special teams. Does that change now, with Demens – who was very good on special teams – down?
— Fitz had his quietest day of the year, but he had five catches for 58 yards and his sixth touchdown. And the 26-yard catch he had to set up his own TD? What hands, what concentration.
— Tight end Darren Fells scored the first touchdown of the game for the Cardinals on a nice catch of his own. It has to be an emotional time for Fells, whose brother Daniel, a New York Giants tight end, is battling a bad staph infection in his foot. Fells said he’d rather not talk about the situation.
— Arians said defensive line coach Brentson Buckner recognized the Lions’ formation and was able to predict the screen pass that was intercepted – oh so nimbly – by defensive end Cory Redding. Arians later said it was really a lucky guess, when he was asked if the Lions’ plays were telegraphed.
— The gutsy bomb from the Cardinals’ own end zone from Palmer to Smokey Brown, which went for 49 yards, was pure Bruce Arians. Sometimes I think Arians loves taking deep shots from deep in his own end more than anything.
— Patrick Peterson, who is one of the guys who runs the players-only defensive meeting Fridays, said if he would have realized Redding had been drafted by the Lions and played his first six years in Detroit, he would have had Redding speak. “It was a big game for him,” Peterson said, and Redding punctuated it with his pick.
— It’s late here in West Virginia. The Cardinals, for the first time on these East Coast-stay-back-a-week trips, have won the first leg (Lost in Washington in 2008, lost in New Orleans in 2013.) There’s work ahead at The Greenbrier, and the Cardinals will try for the sweep in Pittsburgh.
In the meantime, stay tuned to azcardinals.com. We’re here all week, chronicling the stay.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Andre Ellington, Brentson Buckner, Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson, Cory Redding, Darren Fells, Drew Stanton, Greenbrier, John Brown, Kenny Demens, Lions, Patrick Peterson, Sean Weatherspoon
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Officially, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was able to practice on a limited basis Friday, and coach Bruce Arians said he was “progressing nicely” as he heads into Sunday’s game in Atlanta as a game-day decision. Arians did say Fitzgerald’s lack of practice time does impact the situation, noting that even when Fitz was dealing with the hamstring issue last season he was at least able to practice some. “This is a little bit more severe than that,” Arians said.
If Fitzgerald does play, Arians said, it won’t be just as a decoy or in a partial role. “If he goes, he goes,” Arians said. “That’s the only reason he would play, because he can play.”
– LB Kenny Demens (hamstring) is out for the game. DT Ed Stinson had a setback with the toe and “probably will not play,” Arians said, but it will be TBD.
Tags: Ed Stinson, Kenny Demens, Larry Fitzgerald
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Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald isn’t practicing again today because of his knee sprain. He has made some progress, coach Bruce Arians said, and Fitzgerald did jog across the field when he came out this afternoon headed to the bikes and athletic trainers. But a sore knee is a sore knee, and there is artificial turf in Atlanta, and getting him back on the field again could be tough. We’ll see how the week plays out. Fitzgerald is wearing a brace (seen below, talking with assistant strength and conditioning coach Roger Kingdom, running back Michael Bush (29) and running back Andre Ellington (38).
Linebacker Kenny Demens (hamstring) was the only other guy supposed to miss practice today. Defensive tackle Ed Stinson (toe) was going to try and work on a limited basis.
Tags: Ed Stinson, Kenny Demens, Larry Fitzgerald
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The Cardinals released linebacker Desmond Bishop Saturday, and given the glut of linebackers on the roster, dropping one can’t be a shock. It leaves an opening on the roster, which tends to make you think with the status of Andre Ellington in doubt, but there was no one added to the 53-man squad yet. Coach Bruce Arians said Saturday Ellington did enough in his limited practice work that he thinks he would be able to play Monday, but it will be a game-day decision.
It’s also important to note that letting a guy like Bishop go – a vested veteran – before the first game means that his salary is not guaranteed. If he were brought back at a later date, the Cardinals would have more flexibility to let him go down the road if they needed a roster spot again or if he just wasn’t working out.
Even with Alex Okafor not expected to play Monday with a thigh injury, the Cardinals still have nine linebackers at their disposal, including Glenn Carson, Larry Foote, Kevin Minter and Kenny Demens on the inside.
UPDATE: Punter Dave Zastudil was also added to the injury report as limited/questionable with a groin issue. That’s another roster spot that might need help Monday if Zastudil can’t go.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Dave Zastudil, Desmond Bishop, Glenn Carson, Kenny Demens, Kevin Minter, Larry Foote
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No reason to overanalyze here tonight, not with Bruce Arians talking to the media again just 14 hours from now and a short week ahead. This is going to go quickly, from the 13 cuts that are coming in the next day or so (officially, they must be done by Tuesday at 1 p.m. Arizona time) to the “practices” the Cardinals will try and hold Monday and Tuesday even though everyone is beat up from Sunday night’s game and more football is on the horizon Thursday.
The big concern/talking point again was Carson Palmer. He deserved praise the first two games. He was not nearly as good against the Bengals, and even he would admit that. But watching the game, while Palmer wasn’t good enough for this team to keep up in the NFC West I did not think he was terrible. Arians backed that up afterward. “Carson is going to take the blame and the heat for his quarterback rating but there are two drops that are wide open,” Arians said. “I don’t put a lot of stock in that one.”
Arians said Palmer made the right read on his interception and that it was the receiver (who was Larry Fitzgerald) who made the mistake but not cutting across the face of the defender. Fitz owned up to it as well. Truth be told, it looked like there were so many defenders in the area maybe the throw was ill-advised, but it’s got zero chance if the receiver isn’t where the QB thinks he’ll be. Palmer can’t miss a wide-open Michael Floyd either — and when we say wide open, it is literal. The Bengals just forgot to cover him deep. That said, I saw a replay where Floyd stopped near his defender and then started running again, and if Floyd runs full out the whole time, maybe the ball is in the right place for the TD.
Doesn’t really matter. No one will remember this in a few days. The Cardinals will fix some things. It wasn’t a terrible game. It wasn’t what they wanted, but it wasn’t unforgivable.
— The run defense was impressive. Arians did say he is worried about the pass rush when it’s only four players, and that’s been an issue for a long time. LB John Abraham played for the first time and Arians said he actually played more than expected. Abraham also drew a holding penalty. But it can’t be all about Abraham when the Cards are trying to get non-blitz pass rush.
— It certainly looks like rookie John Brown is this team’s third wide receiver. And if a fourth is needed, it looks like Jaron Brown will get the call more often than Ted Ginn. There will be plays for Ginn in three-receiver sets I am sure, but right now, if I had to put together a depth chart, I’d peg Ginn as behind the Brown boys. Ginn is the return man and the “get deep” threat.
— Other notable spots on the live depth chart watching the game. UDFA Glenn Carson was with Desmond Bishop as second-unit ILBs, with Larry Foote and Kenny Demens starting. Kevin Minter is still out; Carson could be a practice squad candidate. Jonathan Dwyer is pretty clearly the No. 2 running back. Bradley Sowell was the second-unit right tackle, and Max Starks worked third team. Arians said Sowell had been doing better the last couple of weeks. It’ll be interesting to see if Starks or Sowell are kept, because the swing tackle backup job is between those two.
— No injuries Sunday night? That’s the best news of all.
— The offensive line played well. In protection and the run game. That’s an excellent development.
That’s good for now. I’ll make a stab at guessing the 53-man roster in the next couple of days. Time to go home. Back to work in a few hours.
Tags: Bengals, Bradley Sowell, Carson Palmer, Glenn Carson, Jaron Brown, John Abraham, John Brown, Jonathan Dwyer, Kenny Demens, Larry Fitzgerald, Larry Foote, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn
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Tyrann Mathieu was a little irritated with himself after his first practice Thursday in 11-on-11 work, lamenting a dropped interception. Then again, the safety got to move around well, in the estimation of coach Bruce Arians, and he even got a couple of hits in during a non-hitting practice, knocking down Ted Ginn and Andre Ellington after catches.
“I wasn’t really trying to hit them, but I put a little weight on,” Mathieu said with a chuckle, a nod to the “11 or 12” pounds he added in the offseason so he could get stronger.
Mathieu admitted he felt a little lucky he wasn’t booted out of the work. “I thought (Arians) was going to throw me out of practice,” Mathieu said, smiling again. “He doesn’t usually let people hit Andre.” (That hit is pictured below.)
Better yet, Mathieu said he wasn’t feeling sore and there has been no swelling. Arians said the status of Mathieu and fellow just-off-the-PUP defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu could still conceivably play Sunday against the Bengals, but give that neither will have even gone through a full practice (they aren’t expected to this afternoon either) it seems very unlikely the Cards would expose either this week.
— Along those lines, linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral) and guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) would be game-day decisions, Arians said, but neither are practicing today. I can’t see either playing Sunday. Arians said next week — a very short week with the final preseason game Thursday — would be crucial. If they don’t play in the preseason finale, Arians said, he can’t see them playing in the Monday night opener.
— Linebacker John Abraham does have a chance to play against the Bengals. Nothing set in stone yet, however.
— Tackle Max Starks (ankle) will return to practice today and has a chance to play Sunday. Interestingly, Bradley Sowell — who had been struggling earlier in camp — has made “really good progress” the last two weeks. It is a battle between Starks and Sowell for the backup swing-tackle spot on the roster.
— Kenny Demens is the inside linebacker starter with Larry Foote while Minter is sidelined. Lorenzo Alexander has actually been working more at outside linebacker again, Arians said.
— After Carson Palmer starts Sunday, Drew Stanton will come in at the start of the third quarter or possibly sooner, Arians said. Logan Thomas will quarterback the fourth quarter. Ryan Lindley is not scheduled to play and it’s clear he is behind Thomas.
Tags: Drew Stanton, Jonathan Cooper, Kenny Demens, Kevin Minter, Larry Foote, Logan Thomas, Lorenzo Alexander, Max Starks, Tyrann Mathieu
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