In the first OTA, breaking up the team (and other notes)

Posted by Darren Urban on May 14, 2013 – 1:12 pm

The Cardinals began OTAs today and coach Bruce Arians tried something new with his 90-man roster: A dual practice. For a good chunk of the time on the field, the main first- and second-units worked on the front field, while the younger players — including almost every rookie — went to the second field with a mirror type of workout.

“We wanted to make sure we maximized the opportunities our rookies got, to get repetitions,” Arians said. “You can’t find a diamond in the rough if he’s standing on the sideline watching. You can find one if he’s out there working. That’s our goal. Get every single guy here an opportunity to make the ballclub.”

Arians said he’s never seen it done in his time in the NFL. Usually there aren’t enough players. “Our offensive tackles got a good workout,” Arians said. “There’s only four of them.” (That’s Nate Potter, Bobby Massie, Jamaal Johnson-Webb and Paul Fanaika today. Levi Brown was limited in his rehab and UDFA Joe Caprioglio isn’t here yet because Colorado State hasn’t finished up the spring semester.)

— Arians noted the full participation and thanked his players for the voluntary work. That included Daryl Washington (who has been here the whole time, not that it is new). Washington did address the media. Here is the story right here.

— Karlos Dansby was running with the first unit with Jasper Brinkley at inside linebacker. Washington was with Kevin Minter with the second unit. That was tough not to notice. We’ll see how it progresses as we go. Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho are working as the first-unit outside linebackers. Jerraud Powers continues to work first unit at cornerback with Patrick Peterson.

— Jonathan Cooper was running second-team left guard behind Chilo Rachal. All the other draftees — save for Ryan Swope, who was pulled up after LaRon Byrd had a neck spasm — were working in the second practice.

— It was weird seeing Dansby wearing No. 55. It was more weird seeing him in Miami Dolphin blue cleats. I’m sure that’ll be fixed soon. “I told him he could have my red shoes tomorrow,” Arians said. “He looked good. He looked spry.”


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Four draft picks sign contracts

Posted by Darren Urban on May 10, 2013 – 10:29 am

The Cardinals have begun signing draft picks. The last four choices — fifth-round running back Stepfan Taylor, sixth-round wide receiver Ryan Swope, sixth-round running back Andre Ellington and seventh-round tight end D.C. Jefferson — have all signed their CBA-required slotted four-year contracts. Given that the rookies will be here until Sunday, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more (if not all) of the draftees under contract by the time it is all said and done.

Rookie minicamp began today (and here’s a pic of Taylor, Earl Watford, Jonathan Cooper and Swope. What, you didn’t see the photo gallery yet?)


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Swope, YPC and taking shots deep

Posted by Darren Urban on May 6, 2013 – 11:40 am

It was Bruce Arians’ introductory press conference when he first talked about his offense and how he wants to take shots down the field. That’s how he rolled in Pittsburgh, how the Colts played last year and how the Cards will do it now, because as Arians sees it, yards in big chunks helps a lot. Certainly, it’s something the Cards could use more of after 2012. It’s a big reason the club picked Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope, because he showed off some big-time speed at the Scouting combine, running a sub-4.4 40.

(Although the scouting reports wonder if Swope’s 40 times can translate on the field or if he is better suited for a quick slot game. Swope, speaking after he was picked, about being a deep threat: “I see that instantly.” He also said his speed is real: “A lot of people had me as just a possession receiver coming in.”)

If Swope can help stretch the field, that would be a big deal. But the Cardinals have gotten deep prior to last season with their other wideouts. Don’t forget Larry Fitzgerald had a sparkling and career-best 17.6 yards per catch in 2011, when John Skelton/Kevin Kolb weren’t as errant getting him the ball as last season. Fitz’s YPC got crushed in part last year because it seemed the team worked so hard to get him the ball on short stuff just so it’d be complete that he didn’t gain many yards. The longest pass play of the season was a 53-yarder to Michael Floyd in the finale, and that featured a lackluster tackling effort made (as you can see on the video below.) The Cards only had nine pass plays of at least 30 yards last season.

Floyd led the team with 12.5 yards a catch, and that was boosted from 10.7 only after his eight-catches-for-166-yards in the last game of the season. Fitz, in what was his most frustrating season as a pro, was at 11.2 (71 catches for 798 yards, ugh) and Andre Roberts was 11.9 (64 for 759).

There should be more accurate throws downfield from Carson Palmer this season. There should be better protection up front to actually allow the quarterback time to chuck it downfield this season. And there is no question there will be plays called to do it too, whether it’s to Swope, Fitz, Roberts or Floyd. Or someone else. The Cardinals need those kind of big plays.

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Time for some draft aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on April 27, 2013 – 5:42 pm

Some quick wrap-up notes after the draft, before I take my neglected sons to dinner:

— The Cardinals, obviously, did not take a quarterback. Keim admitted he had talked long about about subscribing to the theory he wanted to draft a QB every year. “I really still believe in that,” Keim said. So what happened?

“The difference is that our two draft choices came through free agency with Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton,” Keim said. “So we didn’t feel like that was a necessary move that we needed to make. Quite frankly, the way the board shook out, the quarterback at no point was the top player on our board. So it made the decision quite easy.”

That means Brian Hoyer and his potential $2 million salary is safe for now. I’d think a trade might still be possible for the Cards, but post-draft, it’d be tough. Of course, if the Cards were to sign an interesting undrafted rookie QB, that could change.

— Speaking of the undrafted rookies, that list will grow into the evening and names will leak. (I won’t be keeping constant watch; the official list will likely be released Monday.) Already, Oklahoma safeties Javon Harris and Tony Jefferson have tweeted out they are coming to the Cardinals. San Jose State cornerback Ronnie Yell tweeted the same as did Florida A&M defensive lineman Padric Scott. Tony Pauline reports the Cards also got Arizona receiver Dan Buckner. Keim said he expected to sign 15 undrafted rookies.

— The Cardinals want to get another nose tackle/defensive tackle. That didn’t present itself in the draft, so Keim said the Cards will not only look at it among the undrafted rookies but also with veteran free agents and possible cap casualties as we head toward training camp.

— The weekend gave the Cards some options at return men. They have Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Andre Ellington and maybe Stepfan Taylor.

— As for the overall haul Saturday? It’s always wait-and-see for me. I can’t get very emotional because it’s impossible to know. On the surface, I like getting the speed receiver Ryan Swope assuming he can stay healthy. I like adding fresh bodies to the running back room. I definitely like the possibilities of interviewing tight end D.C. Jefferson, assuming he can prove he can play. I hope Okafor can do some things as a pass rusher because that’s still a segment of the Cards’ defense that leaves some question marks. But that’s enough for now. We have a whole offseason to analyze.

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