There are almost always “important” media interview sessions here at the Scouting combine. Most of the time it has to do with players with potential red flags. Any position can be represented — think Vontaze Burfict, Manti Te’o or even Tyrann Mathieu — but many times, it has to do with the quarterback. That’s the position that leads most often, and the one the gets the most scrutiny. Ryan Mallett was grilled in Indy, as was Cam Newton. Johnny Manziel too.
I remember back in 2006, not knowing much about a Vanderbilt quarterback who was gaining steam as a prospect, and after his session, thinking if I was the Cardinals I’d be wary. Jay Cutler could play, but he definitely gave off a lousy vibe.
Friday, the quarterbacks all talked. All the top guys have some kind of scrutiny. But after getting a chance to hear all of them, all left good impressions, albeit in different ways. Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson definitely showed the most personality, with Mayfield coming strong with his confidence he will be the best QB and emphasizing he will be honest with whatever missteps he might have made. “I want teams to know what they are getting,” he said.
Jackson could only chuckle at the idea he might be asked to move to receiver. “Man, I thought I did pretty good at quarterback,” he said with a smile. (He did.) He said no teams have talked to him about a position switch but it doesn’t matter, because he isn’t going anywhere. The other top guys — Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen — were solid themselves. Nothing flashy, but they didn’t come across poorly.
Of course, it’s the interview process with the teams behind closed doors that will ultimately mean more. But teams do pay attention to how these players handle their business in front of the cameras. That box has been checked.
Tags: Baker Mayfield, Jay Cutler, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Scouting combine
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It’s the buzzword that the Cardinals — and many teams — use this time of year: “Aggressive.”
It came up with both GM Steve Keim and coach Steve Wilks here at the Scouting combine, when both were asked what exactly it meant when they said they were going to be aggressive in their pursuit of a quarterback.
“When you don’t have one, there is no other way,” Keim said, and that’s hard to argue.
Still, both men described being aggressive pretty much the same way they have been talking about the quarterback search in general.
“We will have plans in place for free agency, but again, a trade option potentially, and the draft, it’s all three because we don’t have any on the roster currently,” Keim said. “Whether we are going to keep two or three, we’re going to have to have someone that’s experienced, and you’d like to be able to take a young guy and develop him.”
Wilks was a little more specific.
“What I mean by aggressive right here is when free agency starts, we’re going to try to get the best one, not only have a plan A but a plan B and a Plan C,” he said. “You also have to look at trades. And then, there’s the draft. We’re sitting at 15. Do we feel there is a guy we have to move up for? All those things come into play when I talk about being aggressive, not sitting back.”
Tags: quarterback, Scouting combine, Steve Keim, Steve Wilks
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Another Scouting combine is here. It’s shockingly warm here in Indianapolis — I’ve never taken my usual drugstore trip upon arrival wondering if I even needed the light jacket I was wearing — but the rest is the same as usual. The Cardinals’ braintrust speaks to the media Wednesday (7:45 a.m. Arizona time for Steve Wilks and 9:30 a.m. for Steve Keim), and footage shot the rest of this week will end up in one of the episodes of the Flight Plan docu-series. We will also record a special Cardinals Underground podcast Wednesday afternoon, and we will have a series of articles not only the balance of this week but also into next week based around Indy information.
By the time the combine ends, we’ll be within a week of free agency (at least the “tampering” front end.) Here, the quarterbacks have their media responsibilities on Friday and then get to the field Saturday as the draft process ramps up for that position.
But as Keim has said multiple times — and as Wilks also believes — it’s the interviews that ultimately are the most crucial here in Indy (along with the medical checks.) Keim said recently that “maybe you need to take a player who is less talented who loves it a little more.” That definitely makes the face-to-face talks crucial.
Check back here often for all the updates.
Tags: Scouting combine
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Chris Johnson has long been proud of his record 40-yard dash time at the Scouting combine. His 4.24 at the 2008 combine has been the benchmark that is annually talked about when the NFL and its potential draftees go to Indianapolis this time of year. University of Washington wide receiver John Ross turned lots of heads Saturday morning when he ran the 40 in 4.22 seconds, drawing an audible reaction in the media room here at the Convention Center.
It was unofficial at first. When it became the official time about 45 minutes later, Johnson was no longer the record-holder.
Ross, talking to the media Friday, said he had been “gifted with speed.” And he was asked specifically about breaking Johnson’s record.
“I’m going to try, I’m going to try,” said Ross, who noted his fastest time previous was 4.3. “I don’t want to say too much, but I’m going to try. I’ll give it a shot.”
Johnson, on Twitter, certainly noticed.
Johnson had a good run. (Pun intended.)
(Speaking of CJ2K, coach Bruce Arians said he hoped the Cardinals could re-sign Johnson, who is about to become a free agent again.)
Tags: Chris Johnson, John Ross, Scouting combine
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Steve Keim is headed to his 19th Scouting combine. A GM now, Keim started as an area scout, has his roots in scouting and still enjoys the evaluation process of college prospects most of all. It’s one of the reasons he likes heading to Indianapolis each year.
“It brings everything full circle, and it reminds me of why I got in this business,” Keim said. “Sometimes, in this position (of GM), you get pulled in a lot of different directions. And I have said many times, you feel like one of things you do well and that put you in this position, is one of the things you do the least nowadays.”
Indy is the place that truly seems to be the kickoff of the new league year. Officially, the new league year (and free agency) begins March 9, but this is really when talk of the new season, and the draft, begins in earnest. The Cards are sending 64 total staff out there to assess various things: Potential draftees, situations with impending free agents, medical updates. It’s the off-field stuff — the medical and the interviews — that are the most important. Everyone has seen these kids play, and what they can do on the field. It’s so much about projection in that regard anyway. Part of that projection is whether the guy can hold up mentally, on the field, in the classroom, in the locker room (and also stay healthy — again, the medical part).
It’s also a time for Keim to speak face-to-face with the agents of impending free agents, most notably those of safety Tony Jefferson and defensive lineman Calais Campbell. Time is running out before free agency. Things are going to move quickly here, and rosters for 2017 will begin to take shape.
Tags: Scouting combine, Steve Keim
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Long before he came to the Cardinals, even before he rushed for 2,000 yards and became the only player in NFL history to have more than 2,500 yards from scrimmage in a season, Chris Johnson caught everyone’s attention when he ran a 4.24-second 40-yard dash at the 2008 Scouting combine (I think, had he lasted until the second round, the Cardinals were very interested at the time. They took Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 16th; Johnson went 24th to the Titans.)
So this year, adidas is offering up $1 million for any player who can top Johnson’s speed at the combine. (The catch: A player has to wear the company’s Adizero 5-star 40 cleats.) In previous years, adidas has been offering 40 money — $100,000 at a time. Two years ago, $100,000 went to current Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who went 4.33 seconds. That still gets a wistful shake of the head from Cardinals wideout Smokey Brown, who ran a 4.34 and understands how close he came to the cash.
Last year, the prize was going to be a custom Porsche, but it conflicted with NFL endorsements, so three guys collected $100,000 each instead: Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes (4.31), Colts wideout Phillip Dorsett (4.33) and Bears wideout Kevin White (4.35). The painful Cardinals connection was that it was actually wide receiver J.J. Nelson who ran the faster 40 time at the combine last year, at 4.28. But to win the money the player had to be signed to an adidas endorsement contract before he ran. The other three were. Alas, Nelson was not.
Tags: Brandin Cooks, Chris Johnson, J.J. Nelson, John Brown, Scouting combine
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Let the Scouting combine begin. There’s snow on the ground (hey, that’s unique for someone like me) and we’ll quickly get to a talk with General Manager Steve Keim. Keim is speaking on the podium at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday (9:30 a.m. Arizona time). Interestingly, he’s sandwiched between two guys with Cardinals ties. Before him, good friend and former Cardinals VP of player personnel Jason Licht, now the Buccaneers GM, talks. After Keim, it’s former Cardinals coach and current Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Just to add to the Cardinals’ flavor Wednesday, Jets coach and former Cards defensive coordinator Todd Bowles speaks at 2:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m.) Wednesday as well.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians talks at 10:15 a.m. Thursday (8:15 a.m.)
Keim is also supposed to be speaking with Larry Fitzgerald’s agent while both are here in Indianapolis. While I continue to get questions about where negotiations might be, I don’t think anything is about to happen yet. We still have a lot of time before the league year starts March 10.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Larry Fitzgerald, Scouting combine, Steve Keim
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It feels like that interception was just made to end the Super Bowl, and here we are in Scouting combine week. Time to head full speed into the 2015 season.
I, along with a few of my co-workers, are headed Tuesday to chilly Indianapolis (high of 16 degrees Wednesday and 14 Thursday, so there’s that) to cover the week. The combine has been moved up a day compared to years previous, so media availability runs Wednesday through Saturday as opposed to Thursday through Sunday. Cardinals GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians are speaking to the masses again, tentatively scheduled to talk Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
And, as has become the custom, I will host a pair of short video chats with each man while in Indy, asking questions from the fans. If you’d like to submit a question, you can do so in the comments below, you can submit it via Twitter using the hashtag #CardsCombine or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you specify for whom the question is intended — either Keim or Arians.
Things will start to move quickly here. Free agency officially opens March 10 (which is also when teams must be salary cap compliant.) The Cardinals’ offseason conditioning program starts April 20. And the draft is set to start on April 30.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Scouting combine, Steve Keim
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Bobby Massie finished his 2012 rookie season playing pretty well at right tackle after a horrendous start to his career. He seemed like a natural piece of the 2013 offensive line, until the Cards signed veteran Eric Winston as training camp began. Over the season, Massie eventually got a few snaps at right tackle, but he never displaced Winston, who is an unrestricted free agent. If Winston comes back, Massie will be his competition. Massie isn’t playing guard or on the left side, as the Cardinals try to improve the offensive line.
“(Bobby) is a right tackle,” Arians said. “He’s not a left tackle. We experimented with that and he struggled with it. He’s a right tackle and he’s talented. The biggest thing right now is to be more consistent every day in his work habits.”
Does Massie fit in to the 2014 starting line? He very well could. But so much is up in the air, and it goes well beyond Massie and Winston. It’s assumed, and probably not incorrectly, that the Cardinals will seek an offensive lineman or two in free agency. It’s likely they will look into Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert if he reaches free agency (Kansas City GM John Dorsey said Friday the Chiefs have talked to Albert’s agent at the combine about an extension) and reports surfaced Friday that the Cards might also look into Rams tackle.guard Rodger Saffold (Rams GM Les Snead said Friday re-signing Saffold was a priority.)
It is realistic to think the Cards could have new starters at four of five positions on the line by the time games count in 2014 (center Lyle Sendlein is likely safe.). It’s also possible the line doesn’t change. Friday, Arians wouldn’t commit to the Cards having a new player in the lineup (other than the return of injured guard Jonathan Cooper), saying only the line needed to get bigger and stronger.
“Whether it is adding pieces to the puzzle or improving the players we have, we have Coop back, Earl (Watford) to the development, you add those two young guards will make us more athletic and create good competition with the veterans,” Arians said. “We are looking at adding pieces, one tackle, two, whatever we find is best to fit our locker room.”
The Cardinals also probably want to get cheaper at parts of the line, especially if they pay a premium for a free agent. That too can impact the equation — and make a guy like Massie more attractive.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Branden Albert, Bruce Arians, Eric Winston, offensive line, Rodger Saffold, Scouting combine
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The best tight end in the NFL? Bruce Arians doesn’t name Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. He picks Heath Miller. “Not because he catches 90 passes,” the Cardinals’ coach said at the Scouting combine Friday. “But because he blocks big defensive ends.”
Herein lies the Arians philosophy on tight ends, and why those guys piling up catch totals in spread college offenses might not be the guy the Cardinals will want going forward: “Tight ends for me block first, catch second,” Arians said.
Those guys are pretty rare these days. Rob Housler was a catch-first guy when he was drafted, and while he isn’t great blocker, Arians said he has leaned to block “adequately.” The Cardinals need tight ends, depending on the free agents they might bring back. Arians does believe a pass-catcher can be taught to block, but they have to have the right body type and they have to be willing to do it. “A lot of guys are not willing to stick their face in the fan,” Arians said with a chuckle.
Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro is considered a catch-first tight end and probable high draft pick who flourished in Kliff Kingsbury’s up-tempo offense. But Amaro said when Tommy Tuberville was coaching Tech, Amaro had to block first.
“I think it’s just a want-to thing,” Amaro said. “I’ve always had the technique; I’ve always had the drive. When I’m asked to block, I know I can block. I feel like it’s something that’s very overlooked of what I can do and then it’s something I’m going to have to show at the next level. But I know I’m willing to.”
It’s something that’s going to come up with any of the highly rated college tight ends. And it’s something Arians and the Cardinals are going to have to believe before they draft one, especially with a high pick.
“It’s such a unique position,” Arians said. “The best tight ends never go to the Pro Bowl because the best tight ends don’t catch 80 passes or 90 passes. Those are wide receivers.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Heath Miller, Rob Housler, Scouting combine
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