Editorial: What's with all the injuries?
Sept. 12, 2015 -- Perception or reality? (1) The Cards get injured more than other teams. (2) Rehab of injured Cardinal players is slower/too fast/iffy. (3) Cardinals
training procedures/artificial practice turf/training and medical staff is responsible for most ofthe Cardinal injuries.
I'm not sayin'; I'm just sayin'. Well, actually, I'm not. It's not so much me (although I'll confess to having those thoughts and then dismissing them) as it is Cardinal fans voicing their concerns in comment sections, chat rooms or Tweets.
The expected team or League response to these types of questions is likely to be: "Enough with the conspiracy theories; 'football is football.'" I look at things a bit differently. I hate when an athlete is injured. In extreme cases, it can be career-ending for an athlete and (as last season proved) season-cripping for a football team.
Seems to me that, as a diehard fan, if (a) you want your team to win and (b) want to see your favorite players healthy and playing at a high level, you'd want your team - on a daily basis - to (1) assess the relative health of its players (in absolute terms and compared to other NFL teams), (2) determine if there are things your team is or isn't doing that teams are doing or not doing, (3) correlate team health with better or worse W & L' records and (4) determine what changes the team might want to make.
Maybe it's ripping up unsafe practice turf. Maybe it's a change in blocking, tackling or coverage techniques. Perhaps it's greater emphasis on cool-down stretching after practice (& not just before). Or a change in the lifting programming. (Or maybe less beer after practice - There's evem an old theory that - blames excess consumption of alcoholic beverages for hamstring injuries). Or maybe the Cards are doing everything they need to do and should change nothing.
Whatever the case, the Cardinals (if they're not already doing so) ought to be constantly questioning and re-questioning how what they do (whether it be the groundskeepers, medics, weight guys or nutricianists or psychologists) impacts their players, how what they do compares to other teams and what they can do to maintain a competitive edge (just as they scout other teams or look for ways to draw up plays more effectively).
And, if previously stated, the Cardinals are already doing all of this, at the very least, it would be good PR and good for football if they would let their fans and the media know about what they're doing health & conditioning-wise.
"The Friday Before..."
Sept 11, 2015 - Sometimes there's late-breaking news right before a Sunday game. Sometimes there's not. This time there is. TE Ifeany Momah - who was arguably the talk of preseason - tore his MCL and was placed on IR. The TE-thin Cardinals signed veteran Joseph Fauria (plagued by ankle injuries last year and recently cut by Detroit. In 2013, his rookie year, he caught 7 TD passes and, each time, put the dot in the proverbial exclamation point with a different end zone dance each time. With Gresham and Niklas recently returning from hamstring injuries (Darren Fells is our only healthy TE) it's uncertain what the rehab timeline and ultimate role will be for each. What we do know is that Fauria (and for that matter Gresham and Niklas) can catch.
OL Roster Moves- The Cards moved OT Rob Crisp from the practice squad to the practice squad - IR list. They replaced him on the practice squad with second year G Anthony Steen \.
NYC Cardinal Rooters - With the Giants playing Sunday night, local Cardinal fans will be treated to a local windfall. The Cardinal - Saint game will be televised on Channel 5 at 4 pm. And for you New Yorkers who love to watch pro football at a local sports bar, , the NY Daily News has been kind enough to mention that Cardinal lovers who want to congregate to watch the game will be gathering at Foley's, 18 West 33rd St. in Manhattan.
The way I view this game - based on limited info, given the high Saint roster turnover and lack of recent regular season tape - It should be the Cardinal's high powered offense - led by the returning Carson Palmer and fronted by a somewhat iffy OL - vs. a banged up Saint secondary and possible distraction created by an off-the-field incident involving pass rusher Cameron Jordan. On the other side of the ball, it figures to be a smart NO quarterback (Brees) and a dynamic WR (Cook) counterbalanced by an overhauled running attack featuring Mark Ingram and (a banged up) CJ Spiller. On paper, I think the Saints have more questionmarks and the Cards should prevail, but with the NFL "anything can happen."
Practice squad keeps 6 from original camp roster
Sept 7, 2015 - I aways thought the Cards had an excess of talent at the back end of their roster. It's why many Cardinal fans were on pins and needles after the final cutdown to 53 players. Several very good young players were dropped, and we were worried that few if any would make it through waivers onto the Cardinal practice squad. Well, the news is in. We got to keep 6 from the original roster and added 4 newbies. Back with us are:
RB Kerwynn Williams, WR Jaxon Shipley, TE Brandon Bostick, OL Antoine McClain, OT Rob Crisp, DL Lawrence Okoye, LB Gabe Martin, CB Cariel Brooks, CB Robert Nelson and CB Leon McFadden.
What's neat about this group is that guys like Willams, Shipley, Martin and Brooks saw a lot of action in preseason game, look like keepers s and can be counted on to step up when called on and not embarrass themselves or the team. Welcome aboard guys.
Cuts - Cards go conservative route...
Sept. 6, 2015 - Final cuts were made last evening. A bunch of them involved talented football players. If there was one overriding patterm, it's that BA and SK generally opted to keep "safe" players who could be relied upon over flashier, high-potential guys who might blow an assignment and cost you a game when the chips are down. (One exception to that pattern - we rolled the dice on a couple of athletic, prototyically-sized linebackers in Riddick and Fua who were either raw or icoming off injuries). Cards started things off and shocked the world (well maybe "shocked" is a bit over-the-top) by trading a conditional 7th round pick for Philly QB, Matt Barkley (who presumably had lost his backup job to Tim Tebow). This placed Cardinal backups, Phillip Sims and Logan Thomas at the wrong end of the domino-line and, in fact, they were both cut. Here's the list of players who turned in their playbooks:
Phillip Sims QB
Logan Thomas QB
Kerwynn Wiliams RB
Robert Hughes FB
Paul Lasike FB
Marion Grice RB (Waived-Inj)
Gerald Christian TE (IR)
Trevor Harman WR
Jaxon Shipley WR
Antoine McClain OL
Cameron Bradfield OL
Anthony Steen G-C
Joh Halapio G
Matt Shaughnessy DE/LB
Alameda Ta'amu NT
Gabe Martin LB
Cariel Brooks CB
Jonte Green CB
CJ Roberts CB
Jimmy Legree CB(Waived- Inj)
Harold Jones-Quartey S
Anthony Walters S
The roster moves impacted the 53-man roster of remaining players in various ways:
QB - Barkley becomes our #3. Thomas and/or Sims might be sneaked onto PS
RB - We kept 4 (Ellington, C Johnson. D Johnson and Taylor. Gone (for now): K Williams (cut) and Grice (inj) are gonzo
FB - BA doesn't like FB's anyway, but Hughes could double as a thumper and Lasike was a beast.
WR - Golden (speed) beat out Shipley (routes and hands) for #6 WR. Ship and Harmon are PS candidates
TE - We're down to 4 (which should be OK if they can all remain healthy).
OL - No surprises other than, perhaps losing Steen. How long Iupati is out is cause for concern.
DL - I'm a big advocate of being 3-deep in big dudes (like Ta'amu). The younger K Mart replaces Shaughnessy as another tall DE who can also double as OLB
LB - We kept longsters Riddick and Fua. Hope we can re-sign Gabe Martin to the PS
DB - We opted to keep a 5th safety (Clemons) instead of a 4th CB (Cariel Brooks). We have a bevy of capabable young DB's we cut. Perhaps we can re-sign Brooks, Roberts or Jones-Quartey to the PS. (Legree-fans - in case you were wondering, he is on the Reserve-Injured list).
So that's the deal - It hurts to lose both our promising young QB's to an a 3 year vet who hasn't exactly set the world on fire. I hope Sendlein holds up at center. I'm nervous about not having Ta'amu as our #3 backup to our 2 rookies (X Wiliams and Gunter). I'm excited to see how our two long rookie LB's develop. Having only 3 CB's scares me. Butler? Seriously? (Oh well, prove me wrong, Drewster). Hope we don't lose too many young guys on their way to the practice squad. Final parting shot: After all was said and done in Philly, Chip Kelly cut Tebow anyway.
Sept. 3, 2015 - Final preseason game in Denver is upon us. BA says he'll rest the starters, leaving it up to the remaining guys to battle for what figures to be 12 open spots on the final 53-man roster. This will be a very tough final cut, reflecting an overall upgrade in Cardinal backup talent. It seems as if every serious Cardinal rooter is taking a whack (poor choice of words: better word: "stab") at what the final roster might look like. Here's mine:
Conventional wisdom has the Cards keeping 2 (Palmer and Stanton) with either SIms or Thomas on the Practice Squad (PS) because "you can always activate the 3rd guy should either Carson and/or Drew get hurt." I think we'll keep three (with the fourth guy - either Logan or Phillip who are neck and neck - winding up on the PS).
Running Back (4 or 5)
We figure to keep Ellington, D Johnson and C Johnson. Whether we go 4-deep and keep Taylor is iffy, but RB's aren't known for their durability. If we keep Hughes, we'll keep one less TE.
Wide Receiver (5 or 6)
Fitz, Floyd, the two Browns and Nelson are locks for the top 5. If we keep a 6th, it will be Golden.
Tight End (3 or 4)
We'll keep 4 if we don't keep Hughes at FB. Fells, Momah and Nikklas (if healthy) seem certain. Gresham had better get healthy in a hurry. I don't think we keep Christian.
Offensive Line (9)
Injuries and Massey's suspension make this a scrambled up unit. Veldheer, Larsen, Shipley, Cooper, Watford appear to be the current starters. Iaputi will regain his LG spot and Massey the RT when they return. Sendlein and Humphrey round out this group. (Sowell may warm a seat until Iaputi or Massey return).
Defensive Line (7)
Normally you'd keep 6 (in this case, Campbell, Rucker, Gunter, X Williams, Redding and either Shaughnessy, Mauro or Stinson). But NT (like RB) is a physically-demanding position and I think we'll keep Ta'amu as our 7th dude. The Shaughnessy, vs. Mauro vs. Stinson is a toss-up - Stinson is younger, Mauro is younger and more versatile. Shaughnessy is more experienced and, like Mauro, can play several positions. My call: Shaughnessy can help the team the most.
Outside Linebacker (5)
Normally, we could get by with 4, but we're still trying to find our pass rush mojo and will continue to audition from a slightly bigger talent-pool. Okafor, Woodley provide experience. Golden, K Martin and Riddick figure to round out the group. If we need to fill a roster spot at another position, we could trim this unit to 4 (with one of the youngsters falling victim to The Turk)
Inside Linebacker (4)
Minter, Weathewrspoon, Demens and Fua. Gabe Martin could challenge Fua, but I think BA likes Fua's size and system-fit.
Peterson., Powers and Bethel are locks. I think Cariel Brooks makes this roster (because he's made big plays and shown he can be trusted).
The "Three Presidents" (Johnson, Jefferson, Bucannon) and Mathieu are locks to be big contributors Darren Urban feels we'll keep 3 corners and 5 safeties, with Clemons the 5th safety. I think we'll go 4 and 4.
Catanzaro, Butler and Leach are our guys - I share the concern of many Cardinal fans (who suffered through last year's playoff game) whether Butler can be trusted
Some of these guys may make it to the Practice Squad or sneak back onto the bottom of the roster should guys ahead of them get injured, but if they don't - so long, farewell, godspeed:
QB: Either SIms or Thomas; RB: Grice, K WIlliams, Lasike; WR: Golden, Shipley; TE: Christian; OL: Sowell, Steen; DE: Mauro &/or Stinson &/or Shaughnessy; ILB: G Martin; CB: J Green, Legree, ROberts; S Jones-Quartey
Cards Release 10 - Now One Above 75-Man Limit
Aug. 31, 2015 - The Turk paid a visit to the following players:
Travis Hardy WR (Waived-Injured)
Ryan Spadola WR
Gannon Sinclair TE
Nate Isles OL
Lorenzo Alexander LB
Glenn Carson LB
Edwin Jackson LB
Andrae Kirk LB
Shaq Richardson S
Darren Woodard S
Dave Zastudil P
(Update) Rob Crisp OT
Alexander and Zastudil came as minor surprises, but I guess we can expect more hard decisions to be made as the roster continues to improve.
Oakland - The One Preseason Game "that Counts":
Aug. 30, 2015 -
Game #3 is typically the one where you play your starters longer (to get them acclimated to NFL hitting and speed) while sorting out some more roster openings and answering any lingering questions. I'll try to highlight those open issues by position:
We hope we've put any durability issues behind us. Palmer thus far has looked solid, but that one errant Stanton pass last week opens the door to questions about whether he's ready to rock & roll (To be honest, his two brief appearances in Games #1 and #2 didn't offer any current evidence that he's ready to step in and make plays when called on. - not that he won't; we just haven't had the opportunity to see it. The battle for #3 spot on the roster between Logan Thomas and Phillip Sims is pretty close to dead-even but might be moot (If BA decides to only keep 2 QB's on the active roster and soil-bank Thomas and Sims on the practice squad).
Durability remains a concern. We haven't seen Chris Johnson yet. Can David Johnson perform like he did in Game #2? HAve we cleaned up blit-pickup? Will we keep a #4 (probably a thumper)? Would it be Hughes or Taylor?
Or could Lasike (who hits like a truck) sneak up and steal a roster spot? Or could we keep an extra TE/H-Back instead?
Floyd's status? Can Jaron hold onto the #3 spot or will Smoke or Fire mount a successful challenge? Will we keep a #6 and, if so, will it be Golden or Shipley?
Four TE's (
Fells, Nikklas, Gresham, Momah) or three (with possibly Nikklas or Gresham winding up on reclaimable IR)?
Better pass pro than last week? Iupati's pace of recovery?
How solid will Larsen be as his replacement? Can Humphrey regain his mojo? Shipley vs. Sendlein? I didn't like Massie's lack of intensity late in last week's game. How much action will he see (& will he "bring it")? How does Watford look behind Sowell?
Logjam of talent - 5 guys (Campbell, Redding, Rucker, Shaughnessy, K Martin and Mauro fighting for 4 DE spots. 3 guys (Gunter, X Wiliams and Ta'amu) figure to be fighting for 2 or 3 spots. Severity of X-Man's injury? Stinson may be odd man out. Mauro's versatility might earn him a spot.
Weatherspoon's health. Will we get to see him in Oakland? Bucannon's ability to move from safety to ILB makes ILB a less iffy position.
I'm rooting for Fua to stick as a backup ILB and hope to see whether Riddick (who may see action for the first time coming off injury) can show us some pass rush zing that's been sorely missing among OLB's. How much gas do Woodley and Weatherspoon have in the proverbial tank. There will be some classic battles for roster spots among guys like G Martin, Kirk, Carson, Ed Jackson, Demens and Fua. Alexander, Golden and Okafor seem safe, but something's got to give and "you never know.
Looks like we'll keep 8. Three corner spots are locked up among PP21, Powers and Bethel. I like what I've seen from Cariel Brooks (& to a lesser extent CJ Roberts) and am pulling for Brooks to be our #4. Barring injuries, we're pretty well set at safety with Jefferson, R Johnson, Mathieu and Bucannon holding doen the fort. I was impressed by Jones-Quartey - more as a hitter than as a cover guy (although his coverage has improved with his game time).
Despite some buzz that BA may keep Butler instead of Zastudil, I'm not sold on Butler's leg or his directional punting skills and, therefore, will be pulling for Zasti. Catanzaro struggled in the kicking game last week after having a near perfect rookie season. I'll be looking for him to bounce back tomorrow. Some of his problems may have been more due to poor holder/long snapper issues - but, whatever the case, they need to be cleaned up. Liked Nelson on at least one return, but want to see more. The issue of who will be our KR or PR is far from being resolved.
Th...th....that's all folks! No injuries in Oakland tomorrow. Sic 'em!
Iupati's Knee - Gollin Curse Surfaces Once More...
Aug. 20 - Things were looking so unpbeat for the Cardinals that I bit the bullet and sprung for a home boom box SIRIUS radio receiver (so I could bask in the fall sunshine on my back deck and, among other things listen to NFL news on Channel 88.
Just seconds after I filled in my credit card security code to finalize my order to SIRIUS-XM, an innocent-looking but same-time ominous tweet crossed my computer screen: "Tell us more about Iupati. I can't stand the suspense." (Cripes! What was the dude talking about)? For several hours yesterday afternoon, I scoured the Internet for more news on the starting Cardinal RG who was supposed to be the key to transforming am, at best meh offensive line into an All Pro meatgrinding machine. Finally, close to the dinner hour in the East, came news buried in Wednesday practice recap: Iupati left practice with swelling on his knee, would have it checked out, but Coach Arians didn't seem too concerned about it.
Then came the killer in a Thursday morning update by D Urban and others: Iupati would have his knee scoped and would be out of action for 6 to 8 weeks.
What looked like a powerhouse OL of Veldheer, Iupati, Larsen, Shipley or Sendlein, Cooper and Massie coming into preseason now seemed peppered with questionmarks: Iupati's health at LG, uninspired play at center, Cooper's durability at RG and Massie's suspension issues at RT. Chalk it up to "The Gollin Curse."
Last year, BA showed the world that his team and its "next time up" philosophy could overcome that kind of adversity, but what looked like a "breathe easy - our OL has the team's back" year has, at the very least, turned into one of nervous watchfulness.
Two things learned from the Iupati injury: (1) In the NFL. bleep inevitably will happen. (2) Although there should be no doubt about BA's sincerity in downplaying the severity of Iupati's condition, I strongly suggest - for our own emotional sanity as fans- that we take anything that BA or any other HC says about the severity of an injuryi and the speed of a player's recovery with a grain of salt (because these dudes aren't medical experts/they're coaches).
Meanwhile, it's time for the Cardinal front office and coaching staff to pull Plan B out of their butts and (to paraphrase the late Satchel Paige) "don't look back..." Onward!
Shhh! Cards Sign Chris Johnson
Aug. 18 - I cannot remember the last time a relatively high-profile player transaction was reported by the Cardinals with so little fanfare.
Last night (EDT), confirmation that the club had signed RB Chris Johnson to a one-year deal appeared as a one-sentence announcement at the top of the official Cardinal website. It was probably too late to meet deadline in the east; with the news made it into a small handful of dailies this morning. Makes you beg the question: "Why is this story seem to be lowballed? Normally, an announcement like this would be followed closely by a comment by the head coach or GM and a brief presser by the signee. But nada. Here's what I think is going on:
The Cards found themselves in a delicate situation - their running attack last season ranked close to last in the league. Their remedies included strengthening their offensive line, returning Andre Ellington to good health and signing a big rookie RB with good hands in David Johnson. But both RB's had been sidelined by nagging injuries for most of the off-season. They did get Ellington back, and he had that nifty 57-yard catch and run and a short-yardage TD in his brief appearance Sat.
It still left Coach Arians with (a) a bell-cow of questionable durability and (b) a rookie who hadn't played a down. And he evidently wasn't satisfied with what he had backing them up - three big north-south thumpers in Taylor, Hughes and Lasike and "Ellington Lite" in Kerwynn WIlliams.
The Cards had the opportunity to sign CJ - a high-profile RB with an impressive resume and few miles left on the tread. Problem was: his production dropped off last year as a Jet, and RB's aren't known for having longt shelf-lives - their production frequently declines abruptly after a half-dozen years or less followed by a romantic ride off into the sunset. In his prime, CJ was known for his blazing speed and consecutive 1,000+ seasons. But there was that down-year with the Jetslast year topped off by an off-season gunshot wound to the shoulder. Question: "What will the Cards be getting - gold or tarnished brass?"
I think SK and BA are making a percentage-play in signing CJ: They needed more depth at RB behind Ellington and (hopefully) David Johnson. They could use a veteran presence in the so-called "RB Room." And, they might get lucky and CJ might return to pre-Jets form.
Or not. Maybe CJ will lack the proverbial "gas in the tank." Would he be motivated if forced to ride the pines behind Ellington and/or D Johnson. Couid his presence crush the swagger of the RB's we've already got. And what about the gunshot wound - what's the deal with that?
Bottom line: CJ appears to be high-risk in absolute terms but not so high a risk within the context of who the Cards already have at RB (i.e. if CJ doesn't pan out, it's not the end of the world, but if he delivers on his remaining high upside, it could mean the Super Bowl). In other words, a smart move by the Cardinals, but probably even smarter to low-key it and keep expectations low.
If Reports are True - "That Guy" May Turn Out to be Massie...
Aug. 12 - A story broke this morning that OT Bobby Massie will be suspended for 3 games due to a substance abuse violation. This report - apparently tweeted by Rappaport and Schefter - has not been corroborated by the Cardinals nor other credible media sources during the 9+ hours since the story broke). I caution the reader to accept the report with a grain of salt until we know more.
BA has repeatedly cautioned his troops not to be "that guy" (i.e. the dude who, during his down time, finds himself taised in Miami). Well...if reports are accurate, "that guy" may have turned out to be starting OT Bobby Massie. ROTB is reporting that, during Super Bowl week, Massie got wasted (supposedly alcohol)
and wound up sleeping it off in his car. (Note: Massie is said to be appealing the number of suspended games).
When the Cardinals chose DJ Humphrey in the most recent draft, a few eyebrows were raised (since we didn't need a premier OT) but most of us chalked it up to Steve Keim's picking the "best player available." But -as ROTB most aptly put it - maybe Steve "knew something." As is so typical of each preseason, it looks as if depth has a habit of melting away in a NYC minute. Assuming all or part of the story is true, stay tuned
The Tuesday Before...
Aug. 11 -
Preseason is chugging along like an express train - first exhibition game is scheduled for Saturday (Note - Latest NFL Net TV schedule - subject to change - slates the rebroadcast for 3am the next morning (Sunday). Battles for roster positions can best be described as "fluid." A depth chart was published a few days ago, but how accurate it really is must be open to question. (For example: Mathieu and Jefferson are listed as starting safeties; so does that maker Johnson and Bucannon chopped liver)? But just for fun, I'll attempt to lay out a vague sense of how I think the roster will line up - position by position - with my standardqualifier that injuries and rookie/FA surprises could screw up the best of predictions:
Looks like Carson, Stanton with Sims a longshot to beat out Logan Thomas
Somewhat of a jumble. BA ain't happy. Ellington and rookie David Johnson are at the top of the pack, but have been sidelined with nagging injuries as hs Marion Grice. Backups (K Williams, Taylor, Hughes, Lasike) were unable to beat their remaining tackler in one on one sitations nor make it into the end zone in 5 of 6 goal-line situations in Saturday's scrimmage. Strong rumor surfacing overnight has the Cards making an offer to Chris Johnson.
Even without Floyd (expected to be out for about 3 - 6 weeks), this imay be the deepest, most talented group of receivers in the NFL with FItz and Jaron Brown becoming a matched starting pair, with "Smoke & Fire" (Jon Brown and JJ Nelson) two blazers who can cut on a dime out of the slot) and Golden and possibly Shipley slotted at 5 & 6 respectively until Floyd gets back.
Somewhat jumbled - due to injuries and retirements, but not as confused as RB.
Fells has taken advantage of a thin unit and is adding pass-catching and an understanding of the nuts and bolts of the position to a 6-7 281 frame. Troy Nikklas is close to coming off the MASH list and newly acquired Jeremy Gresham (superb pass catcher if healthy - but that's a big "if") should bolster this unit.
Solid at both tackles (Veldheer & Massie backed up by Humphrey) and both guards Iupati & Cooper backed up by Watford), with a few questions at center (where Shipley and Larsen were struggling in practice matchups with the Cardinal front seven, paving the way for the return of smart and scrappy (but physically challenged) Lyle Sendlein.
Anthony Steen, Brad Sowell and UDFA Rob Crisp along with Larsen and Shipley (who can play guard) should form a pool of likely candidtes to fill out any remaining OL slots in the Cardinal 53-man roster.
Unsung (compared to other teams in terms of talent and depth but lethal. Looks like Campbell, Peters and Rucker will line up as starters with Redding. Shaughnessy, Stinson as well as rookies Gunter and X Williams having the best shots at the remaining 3 or 4 backup positions. Ta'amu should definitely be looking over his shoulder.
Injuries, suspensions and lack of dominating pass rush rush talent continue to give this unit a somewhat jumbled look. It looks like our 4 starters will be Minter and Weatherspoon on the inside flanked by Alexander and Okafor. (Weatherspoon has been injured most of preseason. Likely ILB backups include Sharpton, Fua, E Jackson and G-Mart (Gabe Martin). The oft' overlooked Lamar Woodley, K-Mart (K Martin) and rookie Markus Golden are most likely to fill out the OLB backup positions with anyone who flashes pass rush explosiveness and production having a good shot at starting or at least coming in on passing downs.
Confusing. Can best be profiled as "3 starting corners and 4 starting safeties." Right now, it looks like our starting corners will be Peterson and Powers (with Bethel - who's come across as somewhat invisible during preseason - as our 3rd corner expected to challenge Powers). In terms of size, experience and skill-set, you'd expect our starting safeties to be Johnson and Bucannon; yet Mathieu and Jefferson are slotted as starting safeties. Due to the mix & match character of the Cardinal defense, Bucannon and Mathieu can be expected to fill certain predesignated rolles, thereby making all four safeties "starters" depending on down, distance and game-situation. If there are any additional open backup spots (especially at corner) the battle for these remaining positions at this early stage should be considered a wide-open free-for-all.
Looks like it will be Zastudil and Catanzaro, but I note (with considerabale nervousness) that Butler remains on the roster and has been working on his field goal kicking to go with his less-than-admirable punting skills (or lack thereof).
Right now it looks like Golden and Nelson will battle it out for return responsibilities (possibly with one returning punts and the other returning kickoffs.
So that's the deal. Keep an eye on the RB position - there could be news sooner than later.
Cards on TV...
Aug. 5, 2015 - Plenty of live practice coverage on NFL Network yesterday afternoon. Kudos to NFL Net. Unlike typical Cardinal practice coverage in the past - where they'd rely soley on members of the channel's "traveling circus of national media experts to ask all the usual hackneyed shallow stuff (like "Old Man, Larry"; "Carson's back", , there's no Darnell Dockett" or "The Honey Badger sure is colorful") - NFL Net paired Cardinal alum Kurt Warner with former Cardinal and Cardinal commentator Ron Wolfley to provide 2 hours of running commentary over continuous "inside Cardinals" practice footage. It made for very good practice coverage and left me wondering when (as we enter an era of Netflix-type digital video streaming) Cardinal fans might get to view one or two hours of practice coverage on their laptops or TV screens every evening. Thanx, NFLN and way to go, guys.
The actual practice was without Carson Palmer (who took a veteran's day off, but we got to see a lot of Logan Thomas. Wolf pointed out that the 2nd year QB showed improvement (My eyeballs confirmed this - he looked noticeably better) but that he needed to show more consistency....Not mentioned by Wolf or Kurt but seen on the screen were a couple of wide open drops by Brittany Golden (who is in a battle of the century with JJ Nelson)...Nice in-depth interview with Michael Bidwill (Warner didn't mince words about a "culture change" in the few years since Kurt was a Card)...Keep an eye on an intriguing roster issue - it's common knowledge that Coach Arians is not a big fan of traditional fullbacks (because TE's - H-Backs can handle the same blocking assignments without tipping off the play). But Robert Hughes and Paul Lasike - both listed as "running backs" - have been lighting up opposing defenders with their hard-nosed play. Ideally, you'd like to keep both of these animals on your fottball team, but it may turn out that there's no roster slot available for either of them...Mentioned by D Urban - Cards O-line took (what is hoped will only be) minor hits with injuries to Humphrey, Watford and Crisp...Ellington. D Johnson, Weatherspoon, Gresham and Nikklas didn't practice..Jaron Brown (often overlooked in the battle for starting roster spots among Fitz, Floyd and Smokey and the roster-survival battle between Nelson and Golden) had a Beckham-like one-handed "catch of the practice."...Additional stuff courtesy ROTB observer thread - Sims looked as good if not better than Logan Thomas (you have to take this with a grain of salt, because the comments may reflect some fan-bias...the left side of the O-line looked on running plays, and the entire OL looked good in pass pro (except for a few times when the QB held onto the ball too long). I still have no clue as to (1) how defensive roster battles are shaking down and (2) how the Bethel/Powers CB battle is shaping up. That's it for now.
Upbeat Vibe Evident as Camp Opens
Aug. 2, 2015 - Cards officially opened camp yesterday. Highlights:
BA nicknamed the preseason venu "Camp Cupcake" (because the team got to stay in a fancy hotel and practices are being held in an enclosed air-conditioned stadium). Contrast this with that happened in Tampa Bay (where Monsoon-like whether caused Buc workouts to be postponed and NFL Net commentator, Jeff Darlington could be seen flip-flopping around a squishy, flooded practice field).
NFL Net covered the Cardinal practice "live" - much of their coverage consisting of footage of Cardinal players running around, without much indication of what the dudes (and, most notably, intern Jen Welter) were actually doing - it seemed as if she were playing the role of a"runner who was cutting back to force LB's not to get sucked in, but I'm really just guessing.
Biggest media gaffe of the session was Heath Evans creating an "urban legend' around Jonathon Cooper "being stolen from division rival Seattle to help bolster the Cardinal O-line (Yo, Heath - Coop was our first round draft pick a couple of years ago. His development has been hindered by injuries, so he, in effect, comes to the O-line from the Cardinal mash unit and not the Seahawks).
I thought the Cardinals looked surprisingly crisp in passing drills. What looked different from past years was the emphasis on tight QB movement within the pocket under pressure. On one play, Palmer broke contain and rambled 20 yards for a TD (Not bad for a crippled, old man).
Sean Weatherspoon was injured (hammy) and didn't practice. Fells left practice early with leg cramps.
It's awfully early to make anything over who did or didn't line up with which unit, but "in general" according to Revenge of the Birds (ROTB), QB, WR and OL players lined up pretty much as expected; Kerwynn Williams got the most reps at RB, TE is so injury-riddled that you can't make head nor tail right now; Bucannon and Johnson were our 2 starting safeties; Powers paired up with PP21 ahead of Bethel at CB; with Mathieu in the slot and Bucannon moving to Mike backer (like he did much of the time last season). Starting OLB's predictably were Okeafor and Alexander. Woodley, Martin and Golden split time on the second unit. Wagenmann (sidelined for most of the preseason) finally made his way on the practice field (lining up with Riddick on the 3rd unit). Ellington and the Badger were said to be moving well. Shaughnessy continues shuttle back & forth between DE and OLB. Minter and a couple of rooks held down the forte at ILB in light of (among other things) Spoon's injury
Keep an eye on WR/PR JJ Nelson (who, in addition to his blazing speed, was said by ROTB to catch balls he had no business catching. Good things are also being said about LB/DE Kareem Martin.
Cards released CB Alfonso Dennard and added CB Shaquille Richardson
NFL Net plans to cover Cardinal camp in depth this Tuesday (Aug. 4) at 5 pm and again at 9 pm EST. (I'm not sure if the 9 pm program will be fresh coverage or a rerun of the 5 pm show).
That's it for Saturday. Back atcha as new things develop.
Pre-Camp Roster Tidying
July 30, 2015 - Cards made s small number or soter moves on the cusp of the opening of training camp:
TE Jermaine Gresham (still rehabbing from back surgery) was plac3d on th PUP list.
CB Alfonso Dennard (a recent veteran pickup) was released (leaving something like 8 corners on the roster and one remaining corner spot).
TE Troy Nikklas and LB Zach Wegmann were placed on the Reserve - Non-Football Injury List
Announcement was a bit unclear, but evidently, WR Damond Powell (who had been placed on the Reserve - Non-Football Injury List after being shot in the face a week ago). was waived.
"Vacation" is Just About Over
July 28, 2015 -
Camp opens Saturday (Aug. 1) with the Red & White Practice scheduled a week later (Aug. 8). As we approach "zero hour", meaningful things are starting to heat up:
Cards won the battle to sign TE Jeremy Gresham. It gives the Cards a veteran presence on an otherwise young and relatively inexperienced group of tight ends while providing a much-needed target and TE security blanket for Carson Palmer.
I felt full of pride waking up this morning to news that Coach Arians had signed the first female coach in the history of the NFL. Jen Welter has been hired as a Training Camp/Preseason coaching intern. This did not go unnoticed by the national media. (Yo! Darren; you looked nifty on CBS News in NYC this morning). It was pointed out in USA Today that Coach Arians continues to add diversity to a coaching staff already boasting of folks of all ages, sizes and backgrounds (Former Steeler, Levon Kirkland also was named first "Bidwill Coaching Fellow").
The older I get, the more reluctant I become to get involved in the prediction game. What I can say right now, however, is that I'm proud to be a Cardinal fan. Sic "em!.
'The Brady/NE Thingy...
May 12, 2015 - (I guess I gotta say something). I found myself hitting the mute button or changing channels every time the Pats or Tom Brady appeared on my TV screen, and I wondered "Why is that?" It finally occurred to me that pro football has become a niche sport and I'm only strongly concerned with a few of those niches.
What do I mean by "niche sport?" Well, there are a lot of esoteric parts of pro football; some of which I am fascinated by and others I feel more...er...meh. I love the draft (used to attend the event back in the late 1960's)...I'm fascinated by X's and O's...I love Madden...I love watching actual Cardinal football games usually with the sound off - I don't need anybody telling me what I just saw)...I dig the uniforms...I like highlight and preview shows if they're Cardinal related...But I could care less about celebs like Tebow, #1 picks or Rex Ryan...I don't have the energy anymore to be concerned about The Top 100 Plays, the Top 100 Players, The Top 100 screwups etc...I'm inspired by the community work done by NFL players, but have to admit embarrassingly that it's never been my passion (except as an onlooker)...I'm not big on fearless forecasts of W's & L's ((but can't get enough of mock drafts)...I'm not big on face-painting...I've always felt that the actual names of football players have a certain type of poetry...I get a kick out of seeing smiles lighting up kids' faces at games or autograph sessions but have no patience with "football moms or dads."
I'm guessing that football provides each of us with unique sets of neat things we get a kick out of (& those we could care less about).
I know Deflate-Gate raises unique questions of life, death and competitive fairness. But, to be honest, it just doesn't ring my bell. I'm more into "who is this dude named Harold Jones-Quartey and can he hit and/or cover?
State of the Roster - Post-Draft:
May 7, 2015 - Here's how I see it position-by-position:
You could say that "nothing has changed" (true in that we didn't lose or gain key personnel), but a big time change when you consider that we didn't have Palmer and Stanton for the latter part of last season due to injury. The relative durability of both men are what will keep many Cardinal fans up all night. Backups are L Thomas, Harnisch and tryout QB Phillip Sims. (Keep an eye on Sims - who has a world of talent but who bounced around from school to school (Alabama, Virginia and Winston Salem).
Like Palmer and Stanton, Ellington is expected to be AOK after his injury, but like both QB's, there are questions which make us nervous about his durability . Ellington provides the quick-twitch, home run element to the Cardinal running attack. Taylor provided the between-the-tackles thump a year ago, but the Cardinal brass was hoping for something more. They used a 3rd down draft pick to add Johnson (who has a "big back with soft hands" resume coming out of No. Iowa, but must remain a question remaining to be answered this early in the post-draft process). Keep an eye on UDFA Paul Lasike - a 248 lb former Rugby player from BYU who can bring it between the tackles. Like Johnson, he's intriguing but it's too early to know what we've got.
Remains strong and deep - with Fitz, Floyd and the 2 Browns solidly entrenched. Cards sought speed in the draft and post-draft free agency and, among the bunch of other Cardinal wannabees, picked up two dudes (Nelson and Powell) who run the forty in the 4.2's/4.3's.
Most teams don't have four solid receivers. The Cards start with four and hopefully will find at least one more diamonds in the rough.
With the departure of Carlson (who retired right after the draft) this is arguably the thinnest and least talented Cardinal roster position.
Nikklas and Fells are high potential youngsters going into their second year but still a bit on the raw side. Arians said nice things about Momah after rookie camp, but we don't know much about what Bolser and Momah will bring to the party. Draft pick Christian provides a "total-package with no single "wow"quality. UDFA Sinclair has a nice small college resume and becomes more important roster-wise with Carlson gone. All will remain relatively unknown qualities until we see what they can do over the late Spring/Summer.
Keim concedes that the O-Line has been a weak-link since before he joined the Cardinal front office and continued to bolster it in the off season with the addition AQ Shipley and Pro Bowler Iaputi. He strengthened it even more by drafting DJ Humphries (considered by some to be the best pure pass blocking tackle in the draft) and adding UDFA tackle Rob Crisp. All tolled, the Cards are bringing 2 centers, 8 tackles and 6 guards- a total of 16 offensive lineman -to training camp. On face value, the starting offensive front looks like it will be: Vleldheer, Iupati, Shipley, Cooper and Massie - backed up/pushed by Humphries, Sowell and Larsen with one or two other guys (possibly Crisp or Steen) emerging from the rest of the pack. More and more, this looks like the year the Cardinals fixed their O-line for once and for all.
Things can get pretty complicated on the front seven of a 3-4/hybrid defense because it's hard to know whether that lightish DE will be more suited as an OLB or your new 300 lb DE winds up taking a lot of snaps inside at DT. That said -
the Cards lost two D-line mainstays (run-stuffer Dan Williams and penetrator Darnell Dockett) to free agency. To help fill the void, they shifted 6-5 Ed Shaughnessy back to DE from OLB, signed veteran FA's Cory Redding (listed as a DE) and DT Corey Peters, traded-up to draft 305 DE Rodney Gunter and signed 309 lb NT Xavier Williams. While the Cards figure to start out with a 3-man front consisting of Redding, Peters and current Pro Bowler, Calais Campbell, I'm excited about seeing which backups emerge to secure their place in rotation or possibly beat out one or more of the starters. Likely candidates figure to be Shaughnessy, Gunter and X Williams, but don't rule out Ta'amu, Stinson or Rucker. It sounds the 2015 defensive scheme will stress tough, solid all-around defensive play from Cardinal linemen with most of the outside pass-rush coming from the Cardinal OLB's, with an occasional bliizing ILB or safety mixed in.
This unit kicks off the 2015 season in somewhat depleted shape. Daryl Washington's status remained unresolved. John Abraham is no longer on the active roster. Larry Foote has switched over to "the dark side" (i.e. he's now a Cardinal coach). He could, however, wind up return to active duty at LB. Sam Acho has headed to greener pastures. To plug those gaps, the Cards (after 2 or more years of trying to land Woodley) finally signed the former Steeler and also added Atlanta veteran ILB Sean Weatherspoon. A very insightful analysis of the Cardinal linebacking roles on passing downs has their OLB's rushing the QB like 4-3 DE's; with their ILB's dropping into coverage the way OLB's traditionally do. Last year's pass rush was "by committee (with OLB OKafor leading the team with 8 sacks followed by DE Campbell lwith 7. Until what looks to be a group of deep and talented rookie LB's proves otherwise, we go into Training Camp with a starting four of Woodley, Minter, Weatherspoon and Okafor. But there appears to be several new interesting pieces of the puzzle in rookies, Markus Golden, Shaquille Riddick, Zack Wagenmann and Alani Fua. (We continue to hope that DWash will be available at least during the second half of regular season to pair up with Weatherspoon, but for now, that possibility has to be considered "icing on the cake").
By the end of last season, the Cardinal defensive backfield seemed pretty much "locked up " with Antonio Cromartie joining Patrick Peterson as lockdown corners backed up by Powers and Bethel in nickel and dime roles. Tony Jefferson and Rashad Johnson were our starting safeties with rookie S Deone Bucannon used as a hybrid "floating LB" and The Honey Badgerour nickel corner nickel who pushed for more and more starting time at one of the safeties. This year's main mission - filling Cromartie's large shoes - is a formidable one. The hope is that either Powers or Bethel will be step up to replace Cromartie. Right now, the starting DB front runners figure to be Peterson, Powers, Mathieus and Johnson; with Jefferson and Bethels in key backup roles. But there are plenty of other contenders waiting in the wings: The Cards are currently carrying 11 corners and 6 safeties on their roster. (17 is a lot of DB's). We've got to hope that - out of this large group of young. relatively unknown DB's - mostly corners - will emerge 2 or more guys who are fast, can hit and can cover. Key candidates: Legree, C. Brooks and the recently added veteran Alfonzo Dennard.The odds are that this unit will be as good as it was a year ago. You never know with new guys plugged into new positions, but all in all, I think this unit looks to be in relatively good shape.
Barring injuries, we seem to be set with Catanzaro, Zasutdil and Leach as kicker, punter and snapper. THe decision not to re-sign Tedd Ginn Jr. leaves us back at square-one in the return game. The injury to Tyrann Mathieu 2 years ago should have taught us not to mess with fixtures at other positions (Translation: Do not risk injuty to Patrick Peterson by having him return punts or kicks). That said- the Cards will place a high priority on finding one or more speedy home-run hitters for the return game. They may want to look at a couple of veterans like John Brown or Brittan Golden. Or, more likely, they might turn to a couple of 4.2/4.3 rookie burners like JJ Nelson or Damond Powell.
One of the beautiful things about watching Bruce Arians in action is his emphasis on teaching. This makes Arians-coached teams less predictable than most other NFL teams, because the one bit of information missing from most draft guides,Mayock, Brooks etc. is how well a young man responds to being coached-up (Is he fast learner? Is he committed to becoming better day by day? Or is he stuck in a rookie rut)? That's the fun of off-season: tracking the improvement of those guys who overachieve...and of those guys who don't.