Nothing official yet, but multiple reports have veteran safety Tyvon Branch agreeing with the Cardinals on a two-year contract. Branch, who was in Kansas City one year after seven years in Oakland, is 6-foot, 210 pounds and also ran a 4.26 40-yard dash when he first came into the league. GM Steve Keim had said he wanted to add speed in the secondary.
In 16 games – one start – for the Chiefs last season, Branch had 43 tackles, a sack and an interception. Branch, 29, was a long-time starter with the Raiders, but played in just five games his final two seasons in Oakland because of injuries.
The safety position is one in flux for the Cardinals right now. Rashad Johnson is a free agent, and his spot is the one most likely taken by Branch as free agency gets underway. Tony Jefferson is a restricted free agent who could still sign an offer sheet elsewhere — the Cardinals have the right to match any offer — and Wednesday was the first day Jefferson was able to discuss options with other teams.
Tags: Chiefs, Raiders, Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Tyvon Branch
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There was a lot of talk about needing to watch the video before anyone could say for sure what the biggest problems were for the starting offense Sunday night in Oakland. Bruce Arians insisted there were no pass protection problems, although for whatever reason – whether it was line breakdowns or running backs not helping enough or Carson Palmer holding the ball too long in certain circumstances – it can’t be denied that Palmer was pressured more than anyone would like.
But again, there wasn’t any panic after. There weren’t any major injuries, so in the end, that probably qualifies any preseason game a success. It is true that the starting offense won’t really get a chance to work in a game before the opener. If that side of the ball is worried, nobody showed it afterward in the locker room.
On the flip side, I thought the starting defense held up well. They were put in some tough positions by the offensive struggles, but I thought they were solid, save for that one third-and-16 conversion they allowed.
— Palmer, who had his right knee wrapped with ice in the locker room after the game, took some hits. But it was his own journey outside the pocket that made everyone gasp a bit. It was third-and-9 and Palmer took off up the middle of the field – diving headfirst to make sure he picked up 10 yards and a first down.
“Larry (Fitzgerald) was screaming at me to get down,” Palmer said. “There is no hesitation. You want to get the first down, you want to stay on the field and keep playing. I probably shouldn’t have done it, but it worked out and I got away with it so I got lucky.”
— The second unit offensive line – from right tackle to left tackle, Earl Watford, Anthony Steen, Lyle Sendlein, Jon Halapio and D.J. Humphries – acquitted itself well, I thought. After the way Palmer was harassed, Drew Stanton had some time against the Raiders’ starting defense during his 12-play, 80-yard TD drive.
— Watford, in particular, played well against Khalil Mack. Watford quietly has been pretty solid, and that’s playing through a bad ankle.
— Defensively, Calais Campbell and Alex Okafor were stout against the run, and Kevin Minter made some good plays. Jerraud Powers showed up in coverage.
— I don’t know if Cariel Brooks makes the 53-man roster but making a play like the 81-yard touchdown return tends to help. I think he’s the leader in the clubhouse if the team’s fourth cornerback is already on the roster – I just don’t know if he’s already on the roster.
— Arians said a couple of times that Phillip Sims would come in first in this game because he wanted Logan Thomas to potentially get a two-minute drill. He couldn’t have come up with a better scenario – tie game, 2:18 left on the clock. Thomas came up big, especially after taking a huge hit on his knee at the outset of the drive.
— Speaking of huge hits, tight end Ifeanyi Momah took a big hit too on his catch-and-rumble to set up that game-winning score. It looked worse than it was, Momah said.
“I’m good,” Momah said. “We ran the play a couple times today. The safety kind of cheated over and the middle of the field was wide open and Logan made a good read. I was expecting the safety. I tried to stick my shoulder into him. It was a big hit but I initiated it too. It wasn’t too much of a blindside.”
— Interesting that tight end Jermaine Gresham, who was expected to play, did not. It did not come up when Arians spoke afterward. Chris Johnson said he thinks he’ll play Thursday after skipping Sunday – he could run full speed straight ahead but was having trouble cutting in pre-game warmups.
— It’s a short turnaround. We’re on this plane flying back to Phoenix now, and the Cardinals have practice Monday afternoon to prepare for Thursday’s preseason finale.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Anthony Steen, Calais Campbell, Cariel Brooks, Carson Palmer, D.J. Humphries, Earl Watford, Ifeanyi Momah, Jermaine Gresham, Jerraud Powers, Jon Halapio, Kevin Minter, Logan Thomas, Lyle Sendlein, offensive line, Phillip Sims, Raiders
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The Cardinals made a roster move Saturday morning, releasing safety Ross Weaver. That Weaver was cut isn’t a surprise, since he was likely going to be in the batch that was included in the first round of cuts early next week as the team gets to 75. What it does mean is that the Cardinals are down to 87 on the roster, meaning they only have to pare 12 from the roster to get to the 75-man limit.
Again, teams don’t have to get to 75 until Tuesday but with a Thursday game and a Monday practice, I expect it to be earlier than that after the Cards play Sunday night.
That short week will make for an interesting couple of days, by the way. The Cards play in Oakland Sunday night and won’t get back to Arizona before midnight, and then have a practice beginning at 1:20 p.m. Monday. Granted, the vets won’t do much since they won’t play much if at all in the preseason finale, but still, it’s a short turnaround.
Tags: cuts, Raiders, Ross Weaver, Roster, training camp
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It’s a special two-headed blog post, combining a “Friday before” with an “aftermath.” We’ll see if I can get out alive. Seriously, camp is over, and thank goodness for that. I know I have tired of hotel life. Even if we are just a short drive from home, home seems so far away in the middle of the month.
What is there to say about camp? The Cards had their injuries, although beyond losing starting nose tackle Corey Peters to his Achilles tear — which is a big deal, but not crippling given the defensive line depth — the Cards came out OK. We’ll see where Michael Floyd and Mike Iupati and Sean Weatherspoon are in a week as the Cards prep for the Saints on opening day.
Best players in camp? Hard to go anywhere but Carson Palmer. Tyrann Mathieu was very good. I thought Patrick Peterson played well. There has been a lot of praise doled out to inside linebacker Kevin Minter, which is a huge deal given Weatherspoon’s absence. Of course, with still two preseason games to go, there is still some time before the roster is shaped. The Cards — at 88 on the roster right now — have to be down to 75 by Tuesday at the latest (although I expect those cuts sooner) and then to 53 a week from Saturday. All for a season where much is expected of the team.
“For us to reach where we want to go, we can’t be potential,” Bruce Arians said. “We have to be damn good.”
— I have a hunch running back Chris Johnson plays in Oakland. He practiced Friday, but he didn’t do a lot beyond individual drills, mostly running off by himself to keep loose. But Arians said he wants to be on the field, and while Johnson said he wasn’t sure if he’ll be ready, I just have a gut feeling he’ll get a little time. If not, it’ll be the Denver game.
— Let’s hope the MRI needed for rookie Xavier Williams on his left elbow isn’t a big deal. He got hurt at the end of practice Friday.
— Arians started calling CB Jerraud Powers “Milkman” because he wanted to needle Powers for needing so many days off with his hamstring injury. (Powers was milking the injury — get it?) Then Powers came back to practice Friday and made a couple of interceptions. “The Milkman delivered today.”
— The players aren’t the only ones who likes finally breaking camp to be able to sleep in their own bed. Arians does too.
“My liver likes a break too,” Arians deadpanned.
— Earl Watford will get second-team work at right tackle in Oakland Sunday. How much backup quarterback Drew Stanton will play will depend on how much Carson Palmer ultimately plays. In this game, Phillip Sims will get in the game first as third QB with Logan Thomas finishing up.
— Arians likes the depth that’s been created with the young inside linebackers, but I’d think the spotlight will still be bright on those guys Sunday (although it’ll be brighter in the preseason finale.) I’m interested to see how D.J. Humphries looks at left tackle, how DT Rodney Gunter looks in extended time and whether the Cardinals can put together a couple of sacks with their first-unit defense. Josh Mauro was getting a lot of work as an edge guy in first-unit sub-packages this week.
In a week, the preseason will be over, and it’ll be time to talk regular season. Finally.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Chris Johnson, D.J. Humphries, Drew Stanton, Earl Watford, Jerraud Powers, Josh Mauro, Logan Thomas, Phillip Sims, Raiders, Rodney Gunter, training camp, Xavier Williams
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The Cardinals now have some official free agent additions, with Mike Iupati, Sean Weatherspoon and Corey Peters. (#asexpected). But they will also have some departures from that defense that played so very well in 2014.
Nose tackle Dan Williams played very well last season, and it was becoming clear his future might not be in Arizona because he’d find free agent riches elsewhere. Turns out those riches were in Oakland. Williams will get, according to Kent Somers, about $15 million guaranteed and an average of $6 million a season, which is a lot more than the Cardinals were ever going to give him. Once the Cards turned to Peters, it was pretty clear that was going to be the sign Williams would exit.
Meanwhile, all signs out of New York continue to point to cornerback Antonio Cromartie getting something done with the Jets, where he can be reunited all at once with fellow cornerback Darrelle Revis and new coach and former Cards defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. If he gets Cro, Bowles will go from Patrick Peterson and Cro as his cornerbacks to Revis and Cro. That’s the way to run a defense.
As for the Cardinals, their own defensive overhaul continues. Peters and Weatherspoon are here, the Cardinals are trying to get deals done with Colts defensive end Cory Redding and perhaps Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo and Broncos linebacker Nate Irving. The front seven could look a lot different this season (especially if Daryl Washington is reinstated) and these are all the moving pieces with which new coordinator James Bettcher must work.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Brian Orakpo, Corey Peters, Cory Redding, Dan Williams, James Bettcher, Jets, Nate Irving, Raiders, Sean Weatherspoon
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If you were Jared Veldheer, Sunday’s trip to Oakland meant a lot. If you were Tommy Kelly, it meant a lot. If you were Carson Palmer, well, you tried to downplay it, but your teammates and coach weren’t so sure. It was an obvious storlyline though, with the Raiders sitting at 0-6, that Oakland writers wanted to hit the Raiders-return-home narrative.
Was it nice to get Carson a win, Kelly was asked? “Yeah, you want Carson to win, but I think more about myself,” Kelly said. “I wanted to win for myself.”
Makes sense to me.
The Cardinals had a lot of different reasons to get Sunday’s game, not the least of which the fact both Seattle and San Francisco lost and the Cards now have a two-game lead in the loss column. The brutal part of the schedule now commences –home against Philly, at Dallas, and we go from there. A lot can still happen. Bruce Arians was quick to emphasize the Cards hadn’t won jack yet and shouldn’t overestimate themselves. Nevertheless, it’s better to be up two in the loss column right now than the other way away, and while the Cards have their warts, so too do the Seahawks and 49ers.
— The Cards do get a victory Monday. Although as B.A. makes clear, anyone in their first- or second-year still has to come in tomorrow. Something tells me a good chunk of guys will still show up to get a lift in at least. That’s what happens when a team is winning.
— It was great to hear Andre Ellington say it was his call to come out at the end of the Cardinals’ long touchdown drive – the one in which Ellington had been the ball carrier on every play – so Stepfan Taylor could get a TD shot. First, I heard from a lot of fans (I’m guessing, Ellington fantasy owners) wondering why Arians had made such a move. But it wasn’t B.A., it was Ellington asking for a blow.
More importantly was why Ellington came out. Ellington knows he doesn’t have to practice a ton because of his bad foot. Taylor has to do extra work in practice and often there’s no payoff in games because Ellington gets the snaps. That Ellington would think of his draft classmate is cool.
— The Cards were still having some problems getting consistent pressure on the quarterback. Linebacker Larry Foote got the lone sack (although the Cards a couple times seemed like they would get to Carr and Carr escaped) but headed into games against Philly’s offense and Dallas – where a great running game buys time for Tony Romo – you have to wonder how that plays out.
— I’ll be curious to see how OC Harold Goodwin analyzes Sunday’s run game. The Cards got 123 yards. Goodwin probably wanted more production, but it was the key, especially on that TD drive that took control of the game.
— Palmer throws a pick. It was going to happen. In some ways, it might be good the streak is over.
— After a few games of bad third-down conversions, the Cards converted 9 of 15 third downs Sunday. That’s excellent. The Cards also held the ball for more than 36 minutes. That’ll win games even if the offense isn’t perfectly sharp.
— Patrick Peterson got caught for a couple more penalties Sunday. He has seven in seven games – four pass interference and three holds. He’s a physical cornerback, and this is life in the NFL this days for those guys. He’ll have to continue to adapt.
— Kicker Chandler Catanzaro is now 15-for-15 on the season kicking field goals, tying the mark of the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein as the most consecutive makes to start a rookie season (Washington’s Kai Forbath made 17 to start his career, but he wasn’t considered a rookie at that point, having been on injured reserve his entire rookie season.)
“It’s pretty cool a rookie record, definitely humbling,” Catanzaro said. “It’s my job. As much as I say it, it’s my job, that’s what they signed me up for.”
— Michael Floyd went up and got a 33-yard TD catch one-on-one in a battle with Terrell Brown and it seems like he always does that these days. In fact, Floyd in the jump ball area right now feels a lot like watching Larry Fitzgerald circa 2008.
— That’s enough for this game. The Cardinals are 5-1 for the first time since 1976. An impressive start. But there are still 10 to go. A lot can happen.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Chandler Catanzaro, Harold Goodwin, Larry Foote, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Raiders, Tommy Kelly
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The inactive list is out for today’s game against the Raiders. Running back Marion Grice is inactive again, which sounded about what the case would be when Bruce Arians was talking about him Friday. The full inactive list:
— RB Marion Grice
— DE Calais Campbell (knee)
— TE Troy Niklas (ankle)
— DT Bruce Gaston
— LB Desmond Bishop
— LB Thomas Keiser
— LB Glenn Carson
The Raiders have some key players inactive today: OL Khalif Barnes, DT Justin Tuck and FB Marcel Reece.
Tags: inactives, Raiders
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Oh, there was still drama Friday that impacted the Cardinals, but for the first time in a couple of weeks, it wasn’t directly related to the Cardinals themselves. Instead, the Seahawks traded (the guy who seemed to be a dangerous) playmaker Percy Harvin to the Jets. That means the Cards never had to play against the guy when he was in Seattle – he was injured for both 2013 meetings, and the Cards have yet to play the Seahawks this season. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about why Harvin was dumped soon – a lot of stuff out there already basically saying Harvin had worn out his welcome – but the Cards aren’t going to be dealing with him.
Otherwise, it was a boring Friday for the Cards as they prepare for their road trip to Oakland. That’s a good thing. No quarterback questions. No wondering about chop block fines. No new injuries. Just a game.
How about that?
— Bruce Arians all but scoffed at the idea of trap games, and the way he and his staff operates, that doesn’t surprise me. There has been zero looking ahead (Philly and Dallas are up next) from what I have heard/can tell. Arians did say the Cards can’t be as listless to start in Oakland as they were against Washington and I totally agree. The lesson hopefully was learned.
— Speaking of listless, the last time the Cardinals went to Oakland for a regular-season game was 2006. It was a disaster. It was a week after the Cardinals had the infamous Monday Night Meltdown and Denny popped off (hey, that eight-year anniversary, by the way, was yesterday!) The Cardinals had fallen to 1-5, but we’re playing the 0-5 Raiders and the I-don’t-give-a-flip version of Randy Moss. The Cards were terrible. Moss actually scored a TD. That was a long time ago.
— Andre Ellington believes the run game is close. He actually said he feels more fresh right now than he probably should, because his foot injury means he doesn’t do as much as practice as he normally would. Ellington has also be careful, as he was going to have to, of getting down on plays once he figures out he’s not going to gain any more yards.
It was noticeable against Washington, and I even heard from a couple of fans wondering why he was going down so easily. In the end, Ellington said, it’s about thinking big picture.
“I don’t have the strength to fight away from tackles,” Ellington said. “I try to do myself justice by getting down and getting ready for the next play.
“(Other people) are not out there taking those hits like I have to. I feel like once I get all I can get, I’m going to go down. I moreso do it on plays when I get a big gain. If it’s third-and-one, I’m going to fight for that yard.”
— Ellington also said the Cardinals would have “some surprises” in the run game Sunday. We’ll see what that means.
— Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker was fined $10,000 for ripping the helmet off quarterback Carson Palmer on that in-the-grasp-probably-should-have-been-a-sack pass completion Palmer made to Robert Hughes. Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson was fined $16,537 for a horsecollar tackle on the sideline made on safety Rashad Johnson after Johnson’s first interception. Neither play drew a flag from the officials (although Dan Williams, Jared Veldheer and Tony Jefferson tried to get in Jackson’s face after the play.)
— Running back Marion Grice got a few first-team reps at running back this week, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said, although Goodwin made it sound it was more exploratory rather a harbinger of anything imminent. Goodwin also reiterated he thinks Grice can perform all the same tasks as Ellington.
— The Cardinals are third in the NFL in run defense, meaning they moved up in the rankings even after losing Calais Campbell and Matt Shaughnessy. Now they face the next-to-last rushing team in the league.
— How about Dan Williams playing some defensive end? The nose tackle likes it. “I’ll take it where I can get it,” Williams said. “It kind of reminded me of college a little bit. I haven’t played that much end since my rookie year.”
— You just get a feeling Patrick Peterson is motivated to have a big game Sunday.
— You know the Raiders buried a football? That’s what interim coach Tony Sparano did with his team, symbolizing the end of the poor play that culminated with coach Dennis Allen’s firing.
“If you keep looking back with that same old mindset like, ‘Oh, yeah man, we can’t do it because this, this and that, we already lost five games,’ well you defeated yourself before you even tried to get on the field and to make something happen,” Raiders defensive end and former Cardinal Antonio Smith said. “I think that was the main thing that Tony was trying to symbolize when burying that ball—burying whoever you were before that day, whatever team we were before that day.”
The Raiders played better last week. But they still lost. The Cards don’t want that changing. Not yet.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, fines, Marion Grice, Patrick Peterson, Percy Harvin, Raiders, Rashad Johnson
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Had Derek Carr lasted on the draft board until the Cardinals picked 20th in the second round this past May, Carr might have been in Tempe (and Logan Thomas wouldn’t, assuming the Cards would have drafted only one quarterback). Carr, now the rookie starter for a Raiders team that will host the Cardinals Sunday, was instead drafted with the fourth pick of the second round.
Arians said personally he had Carr ranked “fairly high” going into the draft. But he also said he saw Carr as a second-round talent. The Cardinals spent their first-round pick, 27th overall and 10 picks before Carr was actually selected, on safety Deone Bucannon. Bucannon has turned into a godsend for the defense, not necessarily as a safety with the Cards deep at that spot right now but as a fill-in for suspended linebacker Daryl Washington in the nickel package. When Bucannon was drafted, Washington was still on the roster. Bucannon’s play has helped the defense survive Washington’s absence.
Still, the constant search for a young, long-term QB was on, which is why the Cards eventually drafted Thomas. It would have been interesting to see what Arians could have done with Carr, who is off to a decent start even if his team is 0-5. Carr is coming off a four-touchdown, one-interception game against San Diego, by far his best performance. Through five starts, Carr’s passing rating is 81.1, with eight TDs and five interceptions.
“Man, that kid’s got heart,” said Raiders defensive end Antonio Smith, a former Cardinal. “He’s got heart and he’s got faith in what he wants to be and who he is, and he’s continually getting better and better each week.”
Arians said Carr, young brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr, was “very mature” coming out of Fresno State.
“Really liked him,” Arians said. “It’s one of those things like Peyton (Manning) and Andrew Luck – when you grow up in a football family like he did, you don’t go in the locker room in awe of anything because you’ve been in one your whole life. It’s another day in the gym. That part of it is easy for those guys to overcome quickly. He was in a good offense that spread the ball around, so, yeah, I liked him. I thought he would be a successful quarterback.”
Tags: Antonio Smith, Bruce Arians, Derek Carr, Raiders
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There has been talk about the NFL returning to Los Angeles for, well, ever. At least since the Raiders and Rams bailed so many years ago. Stadium issues remain for a few teams, making them candidates. So here’s one theory, floated by Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole. In Cole’s scenario, both the Chargers and the Raiders would move, from down south and up north, respectively, to the Los Angeles area. Both teams haven’t been able to make inroads on new stadiums in their current homes.
Both teams are in the AFC West. Cole makes the (good) point it’s tough to have two teams in the same city in the same conference, much less the same division. Cole said the Raiders would be willing to move to the NFC West in this scenario. A team would have to go from the NFC West to the AFC West, and Cole speculates that Seattle — which was in the AFC West from 1976 to 2002 — would just go back. And then new NFC West would be the 49ers, Raiders, Cardinals and Rams.
That would definitely make for an interesting change (and a personal bummer, since I enjoy visiting the city of Seattle.) Seems like a major longshot to me. Actually, any team in L.A. still seems like a longshot to me until a stadium is actually being built. But it’s something to debate. The L.A. question always is. Remember when the Cardinals were deemed the logical team to move to L.A.? Then this game happened, a stadium was approved, and that talk went away.
Tags: Los Angeles, NFC West, Raiders, Seahawks
Posted in Blog | 26 Comments »