An afternoon move by Ryan Williams

Posted by Darren Urban on July 27, 2013 – 7:23 pm

It was a play that doesn’t technically mean anything, especially on a day when pads weren’t on and players aren’t hitting much anyway. But running back Ryan Williams

provided the highlight of the second practice of camp (sorry, we didn’t catch it on video I stand corrected — the play is the final one on the highlight video to the right). He ran left on a play, was hemmed in and made an incredible on-a-dime cutback that staggered a couple of defenders as he moved back right. It was the kind of play that reminds everyone while Williams has potential and why this team drafted him in the second round in the first place.

I’ve been asked a couple of times and, no, I don’t think Williams will be able to unseat Rashard Mendenhall as the starter. But I do think Williams has a chance to get playing time. Carson Palmer praised Williams’ blocking, which is a big deal in Bruce Arians’ offense. One play early in camp doesn’t sew anything up, but it does set a tone. We’ll see where Williams takes it.

— Wide receiver Tyler Shaw and tight end Alex Gottlieb were sitting out practice with undisclosed issues, while wide receiver Robert Gill left the field in the middle of practice with a trainer.

— The Cardinals signed undrafted rookie receiver Nick Edwards (Eastern Washington) and now have two open roster spots left (not including the one technically open while Jonathan Cooper remains unsigned.) Some have asked why the Cards aren’t looking for a vet with Ryan Swope now gone. Simple. They have plenty of capital — money and otherwise — invested in their top three receivers. Plus, they like some of the young receivers — Gill, Jaron Brown and Robert Hawkins in particular — a lot.

— QB coach Freddie Kitchens talked about coming back to work after his near-fatal issue with his aorta in early June. I’ll have much, much more in a story I am working on, but Kitchens said other than getting fatigued at the end of the day, he is doing well. “The worst thing that could have happened to me missed its opportunity,” Kitchens said.

— The first padded practice comes Sunday. I’m hearing there could be many of them, many more than what we saw under Ken Whisenhunt. The BA era will be fun to watch unfold.

— Finally, after I saw the Colts’ Reggie Wayne arrived at training camp in a helicopter, I had to needle Fitz a little bit on Twitter. As usual, he played it perfectly:

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Cards go camping in Minnesota

Posted by Darren Urban on July 10, 2013 – 1:26 pm

Every year, Larry Fitzgerald holds about a month’s worth of work at home in Minnesota. There is a little bit of throwing and mostly hardcore conditioning and weightlifting, all designed to help in the “downtime” an NFL player has right before training camp. I was fortunate enough to take a trip up to visit last year (here is the story and the resulting video of that trip.) The time there is great for these guys. Hard work through noon or 1, and then everyone is usually invited daily back to Fitz’s house to hang out or go jet-skiing on the lake. I’d take that life this time of year. This year, both Fitz and new quarterback Carson Palmer talked a few times how they were going to hook up during the workouts, and Palmer, a man of his word, is indeed up in Minnesota right now.

Apparently, most of the throwers and catchers are, for that matter. Fitz will take anyone across the league who wants to come — last year, Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts and Seahawks running back Leon Washington were among the guys there when I was there — but it’s never bad when Cardinals come. This year, there are a ton of Cardinals there. Fitz put out the picture below earlier today on social media (thanks for letting me “borrow” it, Fitz). From left to right, starting in the back, it is Michael Rios, Jaron Brown, Dan Buckner (I hope, always tougher with the undrafted rookies), Tyler Shaw, QB Ryan Lindley, LaRon Byrd, Kerry Taylor, QB Carson Palmer, Michael Floyd and QB Drew Stanton. In the front, it’s Andre Roberts, Charles Hawkins, Fitz and Robert Gill. (Here is a story from a local TV station with a little video.)

It’s a huge turnout, and seems to bode well. Then again, if you are a QB and Palmer is going to be there, or you are a receiver and Fitz, Floyd and Roberts are going to be there, it’s tough to say no. Either way, I think of Bruce Arians saying when the Cards come back for camp there can’t be regression — that at worst the Cards have to come in where they left off after offseason work, and maybe even a little ahead.

It’s hard not to think that the QBs and receivers will accomplish that goal after working in Fitz’s backyard.


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Gill tames the treadmill

Posted by Darren Urban on June 28, 2013 – 11:50 am

I know I’m a little late to the Robert Gill video party (you go on vacation, you tend to overlook some things) but that viral clip of the Cardinals wide receiver briefly running on a treadmill set at 25 miles an hour (below) is something to behold. If you’ve been reading the site, you already know Gill’s story and there is something intriguing about a 29-year-old still longing for a true NFL chance. (The treadmill video is only the latest on youtube of Gill, who has been posting various highlight videos over the years to draw attention to his possibilities.) The offseason at times was rough for Gill. It seemed like the coaches were barking at him more than anyone else for a while there. But Gill has pure speed, something the Cards would love to have in the wide receiving arsenal.

Gill was mentioned more than once by coach Bruce Arians as someone who caught his eye. If he has the hands to catch the ball when the lights come on, he’s got a good chance to make this team. Because he certainly has the legs.

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That UDFA receiver …

Posted by Darren Urban on June 17, 2013 – 1:14 pm

The fact Bruce Arians mentioned undrafted rookie receiver Jaron Brown the other day (and Charles Hawkins, for that matter) may in the end mean nothing. Impressing in June is not the same thing as impressing in August, when, as Arians has brought up time and time again, the lights go on and players can change. But it was tough not to notice that Brown got a lot of work in multi-receiver sets, especially late in the offseason work when Michael Floyd was protecting a testy hamstring. With Ryan Swope absent with his head issues, the door is open for some unknown receivers to make a push for a roster spot.

(The fact Arians bluntly said LaRon Byrd wasn’t exactly lighting it up also creates some possibilities at the back end of the wideout depth chart.)

The Cardinals have had a recent history of finding some receivers from nowhere this time of year. This was the time when Steve Breaston first turned some heads in 2008, and while Breaston was a fifth-round draft pick in his second season, he was never thought of as a guy with that potential before that summer. There was Stephen Williams in 2010. And Byrd last year. This time, it was No. 13 — Brown — who seemed to be everywhere.

“There is always room to improve, come out and get better every day,” Brown said, who said he didn’t know anything about the Cards and their history of undrafted receivers. “I know I’m undrafted and a rookie and I’m trying to learn as much as I can.”

Brown isn’t the only young candidate. Arians mentioned Hawkins and Robert Gill (who as an arena veteran isn’t exactly a rookie, but falls into the same kind of category) as guys who have stood out. Those guys have some speed, which is a component Arians seeks in the receiving corps. Brown, by the way, ran a 4.4 himself at his pro day, so he’s not exactly slow. The caveat that always comes with the receivers who flash in the offseason? It’s easy to flash in shorts, knowing you won’t get hit going over the middle.

“I know how good they play soccer right now,” Arians said. “Football is a noise-level game and the noise-level scares some guys. Other guys love it. That’s what we’ve got to find.”

Brown has made a good impression. So far.


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Stretched or not, offseason program is over

Posted by Darren Urban on June 13, 2013 – 11:35 am

It had been noticeable, after six years of watching John Lott gather the players at the outset of every practice and listen to him bellow instructions for a stretch, that the Cardinals weren’t stretching before their workouts since Bruce Arians arrived. The reason was simple. Arians wants his guys stretching on their own and being ready to practice when practice starts.

“I know this,” Arians deadpanned. “If a guy starts chasing you with a gun, you’re not going to stretch.”

Point taken. Obviously, players need to get loose (not that it can be that hard in 105 degrees right now) but Arians’ major point is that they should be professional enough to do it on their own. In the meantime, the Cardinals ended their minicamp today after a brief walkthrough. They were out there for about 30 minutes doing light work before backup kicker Will Batson was given the chance to boot a 48-yard field goal. Good, and the veterans saw the end of their offseason work. Miss, and practice would go on. Batson hit it, to the celebration of all (although I am really curious to know if it would have continued with a miss. We’ll never know.)

So here are some notes, thoughts and observations after an offseason of work:

— The Cardinals are pretty healthy, to which Arians was happy. “You cross your fingers every day,” he said, but rehabbing guys like Levi Brown and O’Brien Schofield had immersed themselves back into all the work by the time it was over. There were some dings but nothing that should be an issue by the time camp starts. That doesn’t include, right now, the very much unknown situation of rookie wide receiver Ryan Swope. Arians already said he was hopeful Swope would be ready for camp. I don’t know if anyone can know for sure right now.

— Arians said his guys have to be in better shape. He emphasized that should come if the players keep working. Carson Palmer already said that should be happening, and Larry Fitzgerald made it sound like he is expecting more Cardinals than ever before to show up at his Minnesota workouts (and also some in San Diego, where Palmer lives.)

— While I will take my pre-vacation guesstimates at lineups next week like I usually do, Arians clearly hasn’t set much in stone. That’s because football “is a noise-level game,” he said, and the noise level doesn’t exist in the offseason in shorts. Some things are guarantees as you would think, Palmer and Fitz and Peterson and Campbell and Dockett among them. But there is wiggle room for training camp upsets.

— We are far from setting a roster too. But some of the undrafted guys who made positive impressions include receivers Jaron Brown, Charles Hawkins and Robert Gill, nose tackle Padric Scott and tackle Jamaal Johnson-Webb. We’ll have to see if that can carry through training camp.

— Arians is going to spend a few weeks at his lake home in Georgia during his vacation, which for the coaches starts now as well. Arians will also be hosting his first charity golf tournament June 24-25 in Georgia. He made sure to invite anyone from Arizona who wants to come, so, if you are looking for something to do

— Rookies will stay one more week with Lott. The veterans are out.

— Arians said recuperating quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens stopped by the facility. Arians isn’t sure that was the best thing given Kitchens’ health but “he wanted to see his quarterbacks.”

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“I don’t think guys will be, or should be, taking time off”

Posted by Darren Urban on June 12, 2013 – 2:34 pm

Already, Larry Fitzgerald mentioned that the receivers and quarterbacks would work together, in part in Minnesota where Fitz holds his annual July work. Quarterback Carson Palmer confirmed he plans on getting that work done, because the work must continue even though officially, the Cards will be done tomorrow.

“I’m not going to get away from anything,” Palmer said, noting he’ll spend some time at home in California but not too much time. “I won’t be taking any time off and I don’t think guys will be, or should be, taking time off.”

And with that, some other notes after the penultimate practice of the offseason:

— The defense got interceptions from Patrick Peterson and Javier Arenas during the final two-minute drill sequence. Good for the defense, bad for the offense. Coach Bruce Arians will live with it.

“Cardinals win,” Arians said with a smile. “Shoot, I can’t lose. You get to cuss out one and cheer for the other. It’s fun.”

Palmer praised his teammates on the other side of the ball. “I’m excited about what we are seeing on defense because they are putting together packages that are really confusing, especially if you are playing against young quarterbacks,” he said.

— Rookie wide receiver Ryan Swope remains out with the reported concussion symptoms (Arians has never addresses Swope’s issues directly.) Asked if he planned to have Swope for training camp, Arians said “I’m hopeful.”

— Speaking of receivers, Arians was asked if he had seen strides forward of late from second-year wideout LaRon Byrd. Arians was blunt. “Not really, to be honest,” Arians said. “He had a couple nice catches that were unbelievable throws. (But) he’s too inconsistent right now. He has talent and a good future, but he’s got to get more consistent.”

Byrd said he is feeling more comfortable, but with guys like Jaron Brown, Robert Gill and Charles Hawkins playing well this summer, Byrd will have to make strides in camp.

— Nate Potter is getting extensive work at right tackle. And Bobby Massie was getting a lot of work as second-string left tackle. It may mean little — Arians said it was going to be a rotation through camp — but it would be an interesting turn of events if it stayed that way.

— Arians said he isn’t worried about running back Stepfan Taylor, who missed all of the offseason because of school (Taylor is expected back next week for the rookies’ final week, without veterans). Arians watched Andrew Luck, like Taylor a Stanford product, perform just fine last season after an offseason away.

“(Stepfan) has got a whole lot easier of a position,” Arians said. “His thing will be picking up the blitzes but he is a bright young man and he’s already had exposure to to it all. He knows what the rules are.”


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Adding four to the roster

Posted by Darren Urban on April 24, 2013 – 12:50 pm

The Cardinals brought in a few players on a tryout basis coming into their voluntary minicamp, and have decided to sign four of them: TE Alex Gottlieb, T Paul Fanaika and wide receivers Jarett Dillard and Robert Gill. Dillard has three years in the NFL, making 35 receptions in 21 games with Jacksonville. He was cut by the Lions after 2012 training camp. Fanaika, who went to Arizona State, was a seventh round draft pick in 2009 and has spent time with the Eagles, Redskins and Seahawks. Gill is an arena football veteran who ran track in college at Texas State. Gottlieb was cut by the Lions last year as an undrafted rookie out of William & Mary.

The additions bring the Cardinals’ roster number to 65. There are scheduled to be seven draft picks, and likely somewhere between 12 and 15 undrafted rookies, that would put the Cards around 84 to 87 players, leaving about three to six spots for veteran additions after the draft.

A couple other notes:

— New Era is holding a contest through May 17 with the chance for a fan from each team to win a trip to New York. Just put in a photo of yourself wearing a cap and show in the picture how you “speak with your cap.” All the details are right here at The winners get a chance to be in a New Era ad along with their trip.

— Strength and conditioning coach John Lott is holding a football camp May 4 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Gilbert. Open for kids from first through eighth grade, the camp covers football fundamentals as well as nutrition and strength and conditioning. Money raised goes to buying needed mosquito nets in Africa to prevent the spread of disease. Among the players scheduled to attend are Larry Fitzgerald, Calais Campbell, Lyle Sendlein, Ryan Williams, Levi Brown, Sam Acho, Rashad Johnson and Jay Feely. For more information, call 480-883-3733.

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