Vikings (late) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2014 – 11:35 pm

It’s preseason, and rarely do things matter less in the NFL than a touchdown scored in the waning minutes of the second oreseason game. The reality is almost every player on the field at that point in the game won’t be in the NFL in a month.

In the grand scheme of things, Zach Bauman’s six-yard lateral run (?) of the loose ball batted backward by center John Estes was the play of Saturday night, right? It’s the kind of play that might’ve lived forever had it happened in a regular season game. It was fourth down, the Cardinals were going for it down three on the Minnesota 6-yard line because there is no way Bruce Arians was going to go to overtime in the preseason, and then Estes’ snap didn’t connect with quarterback Ryan Lindley. The ball rolled around. Estes, in the officials’ eyes, batted it backward, although oblong as it is, the ball took a turn toward the Vikings’ goal line, and Bauman scooped it up and improbably scored.

“Saw a play I haven’t seen in 22 years,” Arians said, before deadpanning, “that touchdown … that was designed.”

Even Lindley was willing to have fun with it.

“You know when we ran (at practice) and coach went off the field?” Lindley said, referring to the fight-induced punishment Thursday. “That’s really what we did, we got the defense some scout team reps, and we let it ride.”

For those wondering, here was the official comment from referee Craig Wrolstad:

“The ball was snapped, it was a backwards pass. The snap is considered the backwards pass. Any backwards pass can be advanced by any team, any direction, on any down. It wasn’t a fumble because the snap was never possessed by any of the players. The ball was snapped, it rolled around, it was knocked around a couple times, nobody ever had control of the ball. Nobody ever had control of the ball, so nobody ever had possession, so it was not a fumble.”

Wild. It worked out for Bauman too, clearly.

Some other quick thoughts before I try to actually get some sleep on this flight home:

— The Cardinals know they have to be better on special teams. This goes beyond who the kicker might be. The coverage wasn’t good – Arians said as much – and Lorenzo Alexander knows it needs to improve quickly.

“They probably have one of the premier return units in the league, but as a cover unit, we definitely have to step up and put our defense in better field positions, and also create turnovers,” Alexander said, adding “we still have a lot of moving parts, lot of young guys, but it’s no excuse. Special teams is about want-to, effort and heart.”

— The only injury Arians knew of was tackle Max Starks, who tweaked the same left ankle that has been giving him trouble.

— Newly signed linebacker Desmond Bishop wasn’t supposed to dress but he did and he played. He flashed a couple of times too. The veteran was a very good player before he had serious injuries the past two years. His progress bears watching.

— The starting defense did OK. I think they’d like to do better. I thought Calais Campbell was effective early, and I thought linebacker Larry Foote was too. That group is going to jump a level when DC Todd Bowles starts game-planning.

— It was too bad the crazy Bauman play didn’t win the game, but the third unit defenders didn’t have a good night. The Cardinals probably shouldn’t have been in the position late anyway, at least not how they got there. I thought the long pass interference drawn by receiver Kevin Ozier to set up the Cards’ final TD wasn’t a good call.

— The 19-play drive that scored a touchdown to open the third-quarter was a thing of beauty in terms of possession (and in terms of a preseason game and running the clock, but that’s me being selfish). It ate up 10:06 on the clock, and 14 of the plays were runs. No runs for more than seven yards and the Cards needed to convert a couple of fourth downs, but it was an exercise in being physical.

That’s enough for now.

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Cards sign LB Bishop

Posted by Darren Urban on August 14, 2014 – 8:27 am

The Cardinals have filled one of their three empty roster spots, and as Bruce Arians promised, it’s with someone the team hopes can be more than just a camp body. Veteran inside linebacker Desmond Bishop arrived Thursday with a couple of weeks to try and make enough of an impression to stick around.

Bishop was drafted by the Packers in 2007 and won a Super Bowl while in Green Bay in 2010. But his time with the Packers ended after he missed the entire 2012 season following a preseason hamstring injury that needed surgery. He signed a one-year contract with the Vikings last season, but in the fourth game he played for Minnesota he tore his ACL, ending his season. In his last full season, Bishop had more than 100 tackles and five sacks.

So, with that background of very few football games played in two years, Bishop comes to Arizona. After cutting inside linebacker Ernie Sims, the Cardinals could use more numbers inside, especially with starter Kevin Minter nursing an injured pectoral muscle. The top four inside linebackers have been Minter, Larry Foote, Lorenzo Alexander and Kenny Demens. That’s the group Bishop probably needs to crack to stick around.

It’ll be the second linebacker the Cards get today, since John Abraham is expected to arrive after missing camp thus far for personal reasons.

Desmond Bishop, Frank Gore

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First practice, first thoughts

Posted by Darren Urban on July 26, 2014 – 5:43 pm

The first practice for the Cardinals is over. With that, a few observations I made today, knowing that the Cardinals still aren’t wearing pads:

— The first units were how the Cardinals ended the offseason work. Bobby Massie and Paul Fanaika were running first-unit right tackle and right guard respectively. With LB John Abraham still absent, Alex Okafor ran with the first team on the other side from Matt Shaughnessy. In nickel defense, as expected, rookie safety Deone Bucannon was essentially the second linebacker along with Larry Foote as the Cardinals used six defensive backs.

— Justin Bethel had a good start to camp and it’s easy to see why Bruce Arians has been impressed with his play. He is definitely coming along as a cornerback.

— That said, a play after Bethel won a battle with Michael Floyd, Floyd came right back and beat Bethel on the sideline. Floyd continues to look like a beast, using his big body to make plays. It will be interesting to see him in pads.

— CB Antonio Cromartie has a good day in his Cardinals’ camp debut.

— Injured safety Tyrann Mathieu came on to the field after practice was well underway, and was greeted with loud cheers from the fans as he crossed the sideline.

— Rookie wide receiver Walt Powell made an impressive full-speed fingertip grab of a Logan Thomas bomb and managed to keep his feet to complete the 60-or-so yard TD pass.

— The Cardinals worked on a lot of screens, and there is little question the plays will be in the arsenal for the tight ends this season if Arians chooses to dial them up.

— Thomas had his moments, good and bad, as has been his reputation. In one early drill with no defense, rookie tight end Troy Niklas didn’t get his head around on a Thomas bullet and the pass slammed against the side of Niklas’ head. On this first day, Thomas got almost all of the third-team reps as Ryan Lindley did a lot of watching.

— The Cardinals announced that about 10,000 fans showed up to the first day of practice at University of Phoenix Stadium.



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For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 26, 2014 – 12:15 pm

As we come to the end of June (and the beginning of a little time off), it’s time for my annual pre-vacation pair of posts – the ones in which I take a stab at who will be in the starting lineup on opening day, which in this case will be Monday night against the Chargers. Some picks are obvious. Some are not. We’ll defense today, offense tomorrow. And then we’ll wait to see what training camp brings.

(For the offense, click here.)

DE – Darnell Dockett. There are a lot of questions, given Dockett’s age and 2015 salary, about what his situation will be next season. But this season, Dockett will be right where he always is – in the starting lineup. The Cards do like to rotate on the line. It’s necessary for good defenses to stay effective. And rookies Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson will get some time.

NT – Dan Williams. It’s a big year for Williams, who goes into the last year of his contract. He might have been pushed by Alameda Ta’amu, but Ta’amu is coming off knee surgery. Ta’amu will return early in the season, and the one-two combination will help. It has to start with Williams, though.

DE – Calais Campbell. He’s deserved Pro Bowl consideration the last couple of years, even if he hasn’t gotten it. When the Cardinals’ braintrust say they hope Martin turns into another Campbell, that says something.

ROLB – John Abraham. Abraham turned into a real find last year. He was supposed to be a part-time pass rusher and proved to be much more. He’s ahead of Sam Acho these days, but at some point, Acho (who’s in the last year of his contract) or someone has to step forward to provide a future.

ILB – Kevin Minter. He was going to be a starter as soon as Karlos Dansby left. Now, with Daryl Washington absent, there is a lot on the second-year man.

ILB – Larry Foote. There is a chance Lorenzo Alexander could win this job, but I think Alexander will end up filling multiple depth roles and Foote will get the starts. His signing has proved to be fortuitous given Washington’s situation.  What will be interesting to watch will be where someone like Kenny Demens fits in – with Washington out, there’s an opportunity for someone.

LOLB – Matt Shaughnessy. The Cardinals had the best run defense in the NFL last season in large part because Shaughnessy was so solid. It’s what you’d expect when you have a former defensive end playing outside in the 3-4. The Cardinals are hoping Alex Okafor develops down the road, but his inexperience leaves him a question mark for now.

CB – Patrick Peterson. Forget the criticisms (yes, he needs to get better, like everyone) and forget the chatter of who is the best, which is really meaningless anyway. He’s an anchor, and he’ll be an anchor for a long time.

CB – Antonio Cromartie. He looked healthy in the offseason and that’s a good sign. If he can regain the consistent level of play he’s had in the past, the Cardinals will be in great shape for their coverage.

FS – Rashad Johnson. With Tyrann Mathieu on the mend, Johnson is the natural choice. He’s a vet who won’t make mistakes. Tony Jefferson has been playing strong safety in offseason work, but Jefferson should be in the mix when dime packages are used.

SS – Deone Bucannon. The aforementioned Jefferson was running first unit in the offseason but the Cardinals are going to play their first-round pick if he shows anything in camp. I expect that to happen and Bucannon will get his shot as the season begins.

Tomorrow, we’ll have the offense.


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Lining up to begin OTAs

Posted by Darren Urban on May 20, 2014 – 10:05 am

There are, in the end, few starting spots that will truly be up for grabs as the Cardinals move toward the regular season. That’s reality. But as the Cards begin organized team activities today, there are some things to watch for. Through the Phase 2 work, there have been certain people running with the first unit. For instance, on the offensive line, Bradley Sowell is the first-team right tackle and Paul Fanaika remains the starting right guard. Bobby Massie and Earl Watford are with the second team. I don’t know if that is going to change before we get to training camp — I’d be a little surprised if it did — and camp will be when Massie and Watford will have to make their push.

At tight end, there’s been a lot of work for John Carlson and Jake Ballard and I think Rob Housler is going to have to work hard to stay up on the depth chart, although with his skill set and Bruce Arians’ love for multiple tight ends there will be plenty of work to go around. On defense, Kevin Minter and Daryl Washington are your inside linebackers, although Larry Foote is there to step in if Washington can’t be there. On the outside, Matt Shaughnessy and Sam Acho are getting reps although I’d expect John Abraham to be the starter when he’s around (remember, all this work is voluntary right now).

The rookies, meanwhile, will be worked in slowly. It was interesting to see first-round pick Deone Bucannon basically shadow Tony Jefferson at strong safety during the Phase 2 run-throughs of defensive plays. That’s one way to learn on the job. I anticipate a two-field system like last summer for the young players, although we’ll see if Arians sticks with that. I’ll have more after today’s workout.


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Foote will make his presence felt

Posted by Darren Urban on May 13, 2014 – 4:45 pm

Larry Foote had considered coming to the Cardinals before. A couple of times, in fact. “It didn’t quite work,” the veteran inside linebacker said. “This time, perfect timing.”

Foote signed a one-year deal right before the draft, coming in to provide depth at a position that needed it. The Cardinals did not select an inside linebacker with any of their seven draft choices, going with Foote and bringing in undrafted rookies Jonathan Brown and Glenn Carson. With the uncertainty of Daryl Washington’s status after his legal issues (going with a plea on an assault charge) and even Kevin Minter’s inexperience, having Foote around is a plus.

“It’s a perfect match,” Foote said.

Foote is entering his 13th NFL season. His 12th was hard, earning a starting role with the Steelers and then going down in the first game of the year with a ruptured biceps. Foote is healthy again, but that didn’t make last year’s sting any less.

“It was frustrating watching my boys struggle,” Foote said. “The middle linebacker really sets the tone and you do that the first week, throws people in different positions.”

Foote, who will wear his longtime No. 50 (pictured below), said the defense Todd Bowles runs and the one he played in for Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh are similar. That will ease his transition.

“Twelve years in the league, you don’t bring anything but presence,” Foote said. “Guys know how hard it is to last that long in the league. I’m knowledgable. Once I pick up the terminology, I can start helping the young boys out instead of them helping me out. That’s been awkward.”


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Cards add LB Foote

Posted by Darren Urban on May 6, 2014 – 10:20 pm

The draft is coming Thursday, but the Cardinals decided not to wait until then to add to the roster. The news came out Tuesday night that veteran linebacker Larry Foote is signing a one-year contract with the Cards. Foote confirmed the move to the Associated Press and later tweeted about coming to the Cards. (The team has yet to officially announce the move. Now it has.) With the uncertainty of what will happen with Daryl Washington and any possible suspension along with depth needs in general, a Foote signing makes a lot of sense. It shouldn’t impact the draft and it’s not even a lock the 34-year-old Foote will make the final roster depending on who else ends up on the team. This is a depth move. Nothing has been handed to Kevin Minter, but I don’t think this has anything to do with dissatisfaction with him either.

Foote considered coming here as a free agent back in 2010, He spent most of his career with the Steelers, including last year, although Foote played in only one game before rupturing his right biceps. He coincidentally was cut by the Steelers in March on the same day Pittsburgh released former Cards tackle Levi Brown.

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Foote picks Steelers

Posted by Darren Urban on March 14, 2010 – 7:31 pm

Well, I guess I was off-base — or something didn’t mesh here in Arizona. Linebacker Larry Foote is telling people he is going to sign with the Steelers. I outlined why I didn’t think that was going to happen, but again, something didn’t click with the Cards. I will be interested in seeing the numbers. And I am curious to know if it was completely contract-related. I thought it was interesting that the original talks about him going to Pittsburgh said something about passing a physical (which he couldn’t have done yet if he hasn’t gotten to Pittsburgh) and I wonder if there is a medical issue.

Regardless, it doesn’t look like it’s going to work out in Arizona. Oddly, Foote told the reporter he was going back to the Steelers, but also said the Cards remain an option. Until Foote signs, anything can happen. I remember Dexter Jackson once upon a time (and ironically enough) picking the Steelers as a free agent and shunning the Cards, until the Cards swooped in at the last second and changed Jackson’s mind.

We’ll see if the Cards turn elsewhere on the FA market or if inside linebacker becomes the priority in the draft.I know a lot of people have asked about the recently released Andra Davis, although the ex-Bronco is about to visit the Bills tomorrow (and I have no idea if he would even fit here). Still no word on any more visits anywhere by Joey Porter.

UPDATE: Foote signed with the Steelers this morning, a three-year deal worth a reported $9.3 million, with $3.9 million in the first year.

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In a holding pattern

Posted by Darren Urban on March 12, 2010 – 4:42 pm

Sorry, no signing news yet. Judging by the comments/Facebook entries/tweets I see, it could be a rough weekend out there. But as of this posting, no one else has agreed to terms, although general manager Rod Graves has been behind closed doors most of the day. I already addressed the linebackers earlier today so I’m not going to go into that all over again. There is news that Larry Foote is scheduled to visit Pittsburgh, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. He’s trying to create some leverage, which makes sense. But the Steelers want him as a reserve and it doesn’t make much sense to me that a) that would be something Foote wants or b) the Steelers would throw a lot of money at a backup.

As for Joey Porter, there have not been any reports of any more visits scheduled. Here’s the thing with Porter, besides the money thing I had addressed earlier. He said yesterday he wants to be in the West and be closer to home, and that he fits better in a 3-4 defense. Aside from the Cards, that leaves the 49ers, Chargers and Broncos, by my calculations. The Niners are in good shape at linebacker and have shied away from adding older free agents. The Chargers have been trimming payroll, and they already have Shawne Merriman and Larry English at Porter’s position. The Broncos, I suppose, could be a wild card, but I don’t know if he fits in a place getting a roster overhaul from Josh McDaniels. So the Cards really seem like the place that would want him, without as many other options. That will help set the market.

The visits today could be interesting. Linebacker Paris Lenon, as I mentioned before, would be a depth guy, but he’s a sparkplug and good in the locker room. Then there is quarterback Derek Anderson, who had a brief reunion — pictured below — with strength and conditioning coach John Lott today (Lott was with the Browns in 2005-06, Anderson’s first two years in the NFL). Anderson visited the Seahawks and the Cards, but it’s difficult to tell the interest. I don’t know if Anderson is a guy they want to ink to a longer deal, or if they want to get him on, for example, one or two years and see what he can do before committing. It’s tough to tell what Anderson will want either; he doesn’t want to get stuck here long-term if Matt Leinart pans out.

So stick with the site and Twitter over the next couple of days. Things tend to come together quickly once they start to come together, if you can follow that line of thinking. The Foote thing, for instance, makes me smile. The article I linked to above said Foote could sign with the Steelers if he passes a physical. Well, yeah. He could. He also might not.

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The linebacker situation

Posted by Darren Urban on March 12, 2010 – 9:03 am

As the Cardinals continue the free-agent parade at the complex — QB Derek Anderson and LB Paris Lenon are visiting today — I know everyone is waiting for signings (besides Rex Hadnot, which will be official today). Here’s how I handicap the “big two” of Joey Porter and Larry Foote. Foote, I would suspect, would come quicker. To start, he sounds more determined to make the Cardinals his next team (not that Porter didn’t, but I think everyone could tell the difference). Porter is a bit older and knows this is probably his last significant contract, so he’s not going to settle and — unless he’s straight money-whipped, and I don’t see the Cards bidding against themselves — he’s going to look around and see if he can drive up the market.

I’m looking to the side of my screen here and see I have 50 comments to approve from last night, and I am guessing a chunk of them will be browbeating the team to pay Porter whatever it takes to get him in. We all know it doesn’t work like that, nor should it.

Speaking of linebackers, Lenon’s background puts him in the depth/special teams category I would guess.

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