The “pressure” of OTAs

Posted by Darren Urban on June 1, 2017 – 4:32 pm

Bruce Arians was talking about a play near the end of Thursday’s OTA, a two-minute drill in which the “young guys panicked.”

“When the clock’s running, we have a certain play we go to and (expletive), they lined up all over the place,” Arians said. “Those are the type of things that get you beat.”

Arians has talked about the team being more intelligent on the field. Asked if the staff didn’t emphasize that enough last year, Arians said no, simply that the Cardinals didn’t make important plays at the end of games  — in all three phases — last season as they had in 2015.

“We made mental errors in critical situations that we hadn’t made in the past,” Arians said. “That’s been a big point of emphasis.”

Hence Arians’ issues with the mistake in the two-minute drill. This is why Arians and the Cardinals like to work on specific situations here in the heat of June — so many seconds left, the team trailing by “x” amount  of points. The Cards do it in training camp and the regular season as well, but now is when the rookies and the newbies get a taste of how Arians wants things done. Obviously, as Arians noted Thursday, the pressure can still build without pads and in shorts months from football that counts.

“I’ve seen some really bright young players that don’t make those mistakes and are calm under pressure,” Arians said. “Pressure is usually something (where) you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. That’s why you feel it. If you know what you’re doing, you never feel it.”

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An early appearance for the accountability board

Posted by Darren Urban on May 17, 2017 – 8:19 am

The accountability board is something Bruce Arians brought with him when he came to the Cardinals, in use since his very first training camp. But it always had its place — camp and then the fall. It was put away in the offseason. Until now.

Arians said he was making a new move this year, putting up the accountability sheet starting this morning — now that OTAs had started Tuesday.

“We never do it in OTAs but we’re doing it this year,” Arians said.

It falls in line with everything else Arians has talked about wanting to do differently this season, all in an effort to rebound from a disappointing 7-8-1 record in 2016. Tackle more in training camp. Prep Carson Palmer now for later. Add more leaders in the locker room. And make sure the Cardinals don’t beat themselves — hence, the accountability board earlier than normal.

“We had too many mental errors in games last year,” Arians said. “It’s a point of emphasis.”

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No Budda until after the vets leave

Posted by Darren Urban on May 15, 2017 – 12:47 pm

Timing is everything, and the timing for this season means safety Budda Baker won’t get any work with the veterans of this roster until training camp. Baker, the second-round safety, took part in this weekend’s rookie minicamp (even coming up with a pick on Friday). But he had to leave Sunday, part of a long-time NFL rule that says a rookie cannot participate (other than the rookie minicamp) until his college’s spring class has graduated — whether or not the player has remained in school.

The point of the rule is to make sure a player doesn’t feel he has to leave school to get to his NFL team’s workouts when he is trying to finish out the semester. Most players have already dropped out to focus on the NFL anyway, but some still are going to class.

Washington, like a handful of schools (UCLA, Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State among them), is on a quarters system. Graduation for Washington for the current quarter doesn’t come until June 9. It means Baker cannot take part in the offseason work until June 10. Unfortunately for Baker, the Cardinals finish up on-field work with their mandatory (except for Baker) minicamp June 6-8.

There is a couple of weeks of rookie work after that, so Baker’s return does mean something. Baker can talk to coaches on the phone or FaceTime in the meantime (as well as teammates; I’d guess at some point he’ll touch base with Tyrann Mathieu.) How he fits with Mathieu and Patrick Peterson and the rest of the secondary will have to wait until mid-July.

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OTAs end on a high note (and other notes)

Posted by Darren Urban on June 4, 2015 – 10:35 am

The Cardinals did a lot more on their final OTA day than they had in a long time — in years previous, the team would often get excused after the opening special teams period (or, under Ken Whisenhunt, after a stretch). There was full work today, although a Chandler Catanzaro field goal clipped the end about 30 minutes earlier than normal. The Cards had also eschewed the two-practice-field work the last few days of OTAs. Next week is the last work of the offseason — mandatory minicamp Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

— Bruce Arians said he was happy with the competition, although again, with no pads, it’s hard to know exactly where anyone is. That won’t change next week, because the rules are exactly the same for minicamp.

— In particular, Arians said the final roster for both the defensive line and outside linebackers will be “interesting” in terms of the numbers kept. “We are going to keep the best 53.

— Arians passed over the chance to say Bobby Massie has a strong hold on the right tackle job right now, instead pointing out how good of an offseason Earl Watford has been having at multiple positions — including right tackle. (We’ll have more on Watford later on the homepage.)

— Michael Floyd has been sitting out this week with an undisclosed ailment and Larry Fitzgerald missed the last couple days of the voluntary work, leaving lots of reps for John Brown — who Arians said has been “great” in OTAs.

— Arians said rookie running back David Johnson looks very good as a receiver. As for being a running back, that evaluation can only come when the pads are on, Arians said.

— Quarterback Carson Palmer briefly appeared in 11-on-11 work although it was in a walk-through drill. Palmer could get more no-huddle work in minimcamp, Arians said, “depending who’s on defense.” That means Arians has to trust the defenders to stay well away from Palmer and his knee. The vets know what’s what.

— The final OTA opened with the big boys of the offensive and defensive lines catching kickoffs. It’s always a sight to behold (and yes, there should be video on it later today.)



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Palmer on the run and other OTA notes

Posted by Darren Urban on May 26, 2015 – 10:51 am

The Cardinals started their second week of OTAs today after the long weekend, a session that coach Bruce Arians said started a little slowly in mental and communication terms before the Cardinals straightened things out. Quarterback Carson Palmer continues to sit out 11-on-11 work but in 7-on-7, on a play where coverage was good, he even took off on a scramble. Now, obviously there is no contact anyway and in 7-on-7, there are really no defenders matched up with the QB anyway, but still, a scramble.

“I’ve watched him run all over this place for the last month,” Arians said. “That part doesn’t bother me at all.”

Now for a couple of offensive line tidbits, with the caveat that, in the offseason, little can be determined about the offensive or defensive line.

— Arians, for that reason, didn’t have much to say about how new guard Mike Iupati looks. “Mike’s not a soccer player,” Arians said. “He’s a physical guy and now’s not a time to be physical.”

It doesn’t mean the Cardinals don’t have high hopes for Iupati. But that’s a discussion for training camp.

— As for the battle at center between Ted Larsen and A.Q. Shipley, there is a little more to that because the center can at least snap the ball. “It’s been back and forth every day,” Arians said. “Teddy had some problems snapping the ball in shotgun the first couple of days. ‘Q’ knows the offense inside and out. It’ll be a battle until the end.”

— As for first-round pick D.J. Humphries, Arians said the tackle “needs to mature a little bit” and that his progress has been slow.


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Tackling some work with different coaches

Posted by Darren Urban on May 21, 2015 – 1:48 pm

During a portion of today’s OTA when position groups were working on their own, each of the three lines of defense — the defensive line, the linebackers and the defensive backs — went to work with coaches. Except the coaches were not their own. The linebackers headed over to pass rush coach Tom Pratt. The defensive backs were with linebackers coaches Bob Sanders and Larry Foote. And the defensive line was working with secondary coaches Nick Rapone and Kevin Ross.

It’s part of the “tackling circuit,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. For instance, he said the defensive backs were working with Sanders on how to come off a cut block to make a play. “It’s just to work on all that,” Peterson said. “Get different looks.” The players rotate daily.

There is only so much tackling work you can ever do at practice. Getting after a tackling dummy and/or sliding off a blocking sled to get in the right position to tackle is about the extent. Added benefit of this sequence: All the defensive coaches get time with all the different players on that side of the ball.


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The black stripes are not a band

Posted by Darren Urban on June 3, 2014 – 7:32 am

Those looking at the photos from yesterday’s OTA or the video seemed to notice the black stripe on the Cardinals’ helmets. OK, it wasn’t on all their helmets. It was only on the helmet of the quarterbacks. That alone should give you a hint that it was something else besides some interesting new tweak to the team’s headgear. So no, the Cardinals aren’t going for a new look (although it is kind of catchy, no?)

In fact, it’s a simple way for the coaching staff to have an easier time to see what way the quarterback’s eyes are pointed when watching some of the videoed-from-high-above practice footage every day. The shots that include all 22 players on the field can make everyone look a little small on the screen. This is just another tool to make sure Bruce Arians, assistant head coach Tom Moore, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens have all the information they can in their work with the QBs.


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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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Cardinals get back on the field

Posted by Darren Urban on May 5, 2014 – 1:26 pm

It’s a holiday. Kind of. And not Cinco de Mayo, but instead that day in the offseason when the players officially return to the field for football. It’s called Phase 2 in the parlance of the collective bargaining agreement. The rules are simple: Coaches can finally talk to players on the field. Offense can work with offense, defense with defense. No mixing. No helmets. The hour allowed on the field looks a lot like the first chunk of a regular practice, with individual drills and walkthrough-type situations with each unit.

There will be two weeks of this before organized team activities — the ones with the helmets and portions that are offense versus defense — begin May 20. Had the draft happened 10 days ago as usual, the rookies could have been out here but instead, they must wait. It also remains a voluntary situation, so while there was good participation, some players were not here. Interestingly — and not surprisingly — it was Paul Fanaika at first-unit right guard and Bradley Sowell at first-team right tackle to open things up.

We’ll have a photo gallery and a video up later today.


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Rookies get to show — good and bad

Posted by Darren Urban on June 4, 2013 – 6:22 pm

At some point, as I watched Earl Watford and Alex Okafor sign their first contracts Tuesday, it was tough not to picture them — at some point — getting their chance to play. That would have been true anyway, and even moreso under a regime that clearly values the idea of playing young players.

That also is underscored by the decision by Bruce Arians to hold virtually two separate practices this summer. It makes a ton of sense given that Arians walked in preaching that his staff would be teaching and then hiring a ton of coaches to do just that (Arians talked about smaller class sizes, something every school teacher wishes for every day.) Undrafted rookie safety Tony Jefferson also said that to me the other day, that Arians gives everyone a chance to show what they can do — which is a great thing for the young guys.


Arians noted Monday that in the last period of Monday’s OTA, the final period was done on one field with everyone together. That meant about two reps for the young players who are usually on the second field.

“This last period, all they did was stand and watch,” Arians said. “That’s how it is most places.”

There’s a lot more to see on the tape each day when Arians and the staff who spend their time with the first two units on the main field break down field two. Players doing well can catch the eye. But what if a player struggles? Certainly, the staff is going to see that a lot sooner than they would have most years. You wonder if it could cost a guy a chance at getting to training camp.

“On the other field, you get 30 to 40 (reps),” Arians said. “They are weeding themselves out quickly. It’s easy for us as coaches to evaluate, to see if there are things worth salvaging.”

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