NFL Team Report - Arizona Cardinals - INSIDE SLANT
The revamped offensive line should have started to take shape for the Cardinals with the signing of guard Jonathan Cooper, the seventh overall pick.
But on the same day that Cooper agreed to terms, the other starting guard, Daryn Colledge, suffered an injury to his right leg.
Colledge's injury isn't serious, apparently, but it does delay the starting time when the offensive line can start working together.
No one with the Cardinals is downplaying the significance of drafting, and signing, Cooper. People within the organization have compared him to players such as Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel and former Steelers guard Alan Faneca, a strong candidate for the Hall of Fame one day.
Cooper knows what's expected of him and he's a bit nervous about it.
"You feel immense pressure," he said. "I know I put a lot of pressure on myself. I know there's a bunch of people depending on me, from the people who drafted me, to my family, to former teammates.
"Sometimes you get a little nervous, like, 'will I live up to the hype?' I really have to sometimes tone that back and focus on my craft."
Coach Bruce Arians has said every position on the offensive line is open, but as with most coach-speak, that's really not true.
Cooper is the starter at left guard. Lyle Sendlein is the center. And Colledge seems secure at right guard, provided he's recovered from injury.
That leaves the two tackle positions, and there are plenty of questions there.
Levi Brown is the starter on the left side and Bobby Massie is on the right side. But their positions on the depth chart are tenuous.
According to a report, coaches were not pleased with Brown's performance this offseason and will look at alternatives.
The only one appears to be Nate Potter, a seventh-round pick in 2012. He played well over the latter half of his rookie year, but it's a stretch to think he's ready to be a starting left tackle.
On the right side, Eric Winston, signed at the start of training camp, is going to compete with Massie.
Winston has seven years of starting experience, six with Houston and one with Kansas City, while Massie has 16 total starts.
Massie has a bright future, and played well in the latter half of 2012.
It's possible he could move to the left side, and Winston start on the right, but it seems the team would have to make that move soon in order for it to work.
NFL Team Report - Arizona Cardinals - NOTES, QUOTES
--Guard Jonathan Cooper will make $14.5 million over four years, including a $10 million signing bonus, but he's not focused now on spending his money.
"Right now, I'm still focused on 'get your plays down and don't make mistakes,'" Cooper said after his first practice of training camp. "Once again, it comes back to trying to prove people right and not let people down. I can't really focus on the glitz and glamour of it until I've shown them I've earned this."
--Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is facing a bigger mental challenge than he has since 2007, when Ken Whisenhunt was named head coach. Fitzgerald is learning a new offense and is being compelled to learn three different positions. He feels further along than he did earlier this spring.
"If I didn't think he could do it, take him out of a comfort zone and get him into a new comfort zone, I wouldn't ask him to do it," coach Bruce Arians said. "I know he can handle it. It's a struggle right now because he's been in the same comfort zone for a long time and now he's being asked to do a lot of things. Just handling a lot of hots and sites he never had to learn before."
--Arians follows NFL news closely and is aware of the serious injuries teams such as Baltimore and Philadelphia have suffered early in camp.
"You cringe and say, 'Whew, thank God it wasn't us,' and you cross your fingers. Because you have to practice and you have to get ready and you just hope those things don't happen."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is not a time for chemistry. My philosophy is we're not the Cardinals yet. Ninety guys trying to get a job. We'll become the Cardinals when 53 of them are picked. Then we'll be a team." -- Coach Bruce Arians.
NFL Team Report - Arizona Cardinals - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Wide receiver Michael Floyd. The 15th overall pick in 2012, Floyd had an underwhelming rookie year. He caught 45 passes for 562 yards and two touchdowns. But he seems to have improved over the offseason. Under the tutelage of receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Floyd appears to be in better shape and he's improved his route-running, especially at intermediate distances. Quarterback Carson Palmer has thrown deep to him at least three times in the first days of practice, completing all three. Floyd and Fitzgerald could give the Cardinals two big, physical threats at receiver.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Right tackle Bobby Massie vs. Eric Winston. Winston was signed just as camp started and is more experienced than Massie, who is in his second season. Massie has great physical ability but Winston has been there, done that. This will be a competition that will continue through the preseason.
--G Daryn Colledge has nerve damage in his lower right leg. That sounds serious but it's less severe than the bone injury coaches first feared. He should return before the season.
--WR Robert Gill, a 29-year old rookie, made a positive impression during the offseason, but suffered a hamstring strain early in camp.
--TE Jeff King has been limited in practice because of a knee ailment. He underwent offseason surgery and it's believed the injury is lingering.
--RB Ryan Williams is dealing with a knee "flare-up" which is disappointing given that he thought he was over his knee troubles that date back to 2011. An MRI has revealed no damage, but Williams is seeking a second opinion.
QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Carson Palmer. Backups - Drew Stanton, Ryan Lindley, Caleb Turbush.
Coach Bruce Arians is convinced Palmer is still among the elite players at his position. But the Cardinals have been down this road before. Palmer will become the seventh quarterback to start for Arizona since Kurt Warner retired after the 2009 season. The failure to replace Warner cost coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves their jobs. Palmer seems to fit Arians' philosophy of standing in the pocket and throwing deep. He's not going to run, and Arians doesn't believe in using his quarterbacks that way. While Palmer might not be what he once as, his health is vital to the Cardinals' chances. Stanton has been a career backup, and Lindley didn't impress in four starts and six appearances a year ago.
RUNNING BACKS: Starter - Rashad Mendenhall. Backups - Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Andre Ellington, Alfonso Smith.
Mendenhall missed parts of the last two seasons due to injuries, a big reason he was a free agent. Arians coached him with the Steelers and is confident in Mendenhall. Coaches have other options, however. Williams has tremendous ability, but injuries kept him from playing much his first two seasons. The team drafted Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington. Those four backs show a common trait: versatility. They supposedly can catch and pass block, as well as run. Smith and Powell could creep into the mix, especially given Mendenhall's and Williams' recent injury history. There is no fullback on the roster; Arians doesn't believe in them. The Cardinals will use tight ends when they need a blocker from the backfield.
TIGHT ENDS: Starters - Rob Housler, Jeff King. Backups - Jim Dray, Kory Sperry, Alex Gottlieb, D.C. Jefferson, Mickey Shuler.
Housler caught 45 passes last season, but no one was satisfied with that production. That tells us how much talent Housler has. He is fast and has good hands. Quarterbacks consistently missed him on big-play opportunities, and Housler had some dropped passes, too. Arians loves using two tight ends, and if Palmer can stay healthy, Housler could have a breakout season. King's forte is blocking. While he's not fast, he can catch. And his blocking ability makes play-action passes to him effective. Dray is a serviceable backup who will be challenged by Sperry. Jefferson, a seventh-round pick, is a project.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd. Backups - Andre Roberts, Jaron Brown, LaRon Byrd, Kerry Taylor, Jarett Dillard, Charles Hawkins, Dan Buckner, Robby Toma, Nicholas Edwards.
Floyd, in his second year, was impressive in spring and summer workouts and moves into the No. 2 role. Roberts drops down to No. 3 but he'll play a lot. He played well last season, and helps give the Cardinals a promising trio. After that, however, there are concerns. There is no experience. Brown, a rookie free agent from Clemson, stood out in the spring and summer. Byrd made the team last year as a rookie free agent. Taylor has shown ability, and Brown, a rookie, impressed during the offseason.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Levi Brown, LG Jonathan Cooper, C Lyle Sendlein, RG Daryn Colledge, RT Bobby Massie. Backups - T Eric Winston, T Nate Potter, G/T Chilo Rachal, G Senio Kelemete, C Scott Wedige, T Jamaal Johnson-Webb, C Adam Bice, G/C Mike Gibson, G/T Paul Fanaika, G Earl Watford.
This group has been heavily criticized over the past few years, often with justification. But it could be the team's most improved unit this year. That's because Brown is back from a torn triceps that kept him out all season. Sendlein is back from a knee injury that caused him to miss the last five games of 2012. Massie and Potter gained experience last season. Cooper, the seventh-overall draft pick, is expected to become a Pro Bowl caliber player, and Watford, a fourth-round pick, certainly looks like an NFL player. Potter is pushing for playing time, probably at right tackle. Massie is getting some work on the left side, but that's mostly to prepare for possible injuries. Colledge moved from the left to right side to make room for Cooper. Arians also upgraded the way the unit is coached. For the first time in years, the Cardinals have two line coaches: coordinator Harold Goodwin and assistant Larry Zierlein. There is less downtime at practice and young players are receiving more personalized attention.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LE Darnell Dockett, NT Dan Williams, RE Calais Campbell. Backups - E John Abraham, T/E David Carter, T/E Frostee Rucker, E Ronald Talley, T Ricky Lumpkin, E Matt Shaughnessy, E Everrette Thompson, T Padric Scott.
Dockett believes the change in coordinators, from Ray Horton to Todd Bowles, will help him return to elite status. Horton preferred his ends to use two-gap technique, and Dockett felt that kept him from making big plays. Bowles prefers one-gap, which should allow Dockett to use his explosiveness. But Dockett also is 32, an age when most players are in decline. Campbell is the best lineman on the team, and perhaps its second best player, behind Fitzgerald. Williams continues to battle weight problems and this season, his fourth, is critical for him. He needs to prove himself. He will have competition from Rucker, Carter and Lumpkin. Shaughnessy and Rucker are quality backups so the Cardinals should be able to keep their starters fresh.
LINEBACKERS: Starters - LOLB Sam Acho, ILB Karlos Dansby, ILB Jasper Brinkley, ROLB Lorenzo Alexander. Backups - ILB Daryl Washington, ILB/OLB Reggie Walker, OLB Zack Nash, OLB Alex Okafor, ILB Kevin Minter, ILB Colin Parker, ILB Dan Giordano, OLB Korey Jones, ILB Kenny Demens.
Washington is the best player in the unit, but he is suspended for the first month for violating the substance abuse policy. He could face more trouble depending upon the outcome of two assault charges stemming from an alleged domestic incident. Dansby, a free agent, was signed to fill Washington's spot, and the two could play together when Washington returns. Brinkley was signed to play in the middle, but was available for a reason. He reportedly missed too many tackles while with the Vikings. Alexander is an excellent special teams player and he's being given a chance to start. Young players such as Minter, Okafor and Nash given the team some depth.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - CB Patrick Peterson, CB Jerraud Powers, FS Rashad Johnson, SS Yeremiah Bell. Backups -- CB Antoine Cason, CB Jamell Fleming, CB Javier Arenas, CB Ronnie Yell, CB Josh Hill, CB/S Justin Bethel, CB Bryan McCann, S Tyrann Mathieu, S Tony Jefferson, S Jonathan Amaya, S Curtis Taylor.
Peterson is the only returning starter in the secondary. He's emerging as one of the NFL's best corners, and the Cardinals likely will continue playing him against the best receiver. The other spot has been upgraded. Powers is the starter for now, and he's being challenged by Cason, another free-agent signee. Arenas was obtained in a trade, and along with Mathieu, gives the team plenty of options in nickel and dime packages. The biggest concerns are at safety. The team cut starters Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes, and replaced them with Johnson and Bell. Johnson is coming off his best season in four years, but he's never been a full-time starter. Bell has a ton of experience but he's 35. There isn't proven talent behind them. Mathieu, a third-round pick, is small (5-9, 207) and Bethel, in his second season, is still raw. He might be a better cornerback than safety.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Jay Feely, P Dave Zastudil, LS Mike Leach, PR Patrick Peterson, KOR Javier Arenas, P Will Batson, PR/KR Tyrann Mathieu.
Feely (37), Zastudil (34) and Leach (36) are at an age when most teams look to replace them. That's not likely to happen, and all three are coming off good seasons. Peterson's punt return numbers dropped off steeply last season from his rookie year, but he's still dynamic. So is Mathieu, and he could be used to give Peterson more of a rest.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--C Ryan Bartholomew (not tendered as ERFA).
--T D'Anthony Batiste (not tendered as UFA).
--DE Nick Eason (not tendered as UFA).
--DE Vonnie Holliday (not tendered as UFA).
--RB Javarris James (not tendered as ERFA).
--LB Paris Lenon (not tendered as UFA).
--T Pat McQuistan (not tendered as UFA).
--S James Sanders (not tendered as UFA).
--LB Brandon Williams (not tendered as RFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED (all picks signed)
--G Jonathan Cooper (1/7): $14.55M/4 yrs (all guaranteed).
--LB Kevin Minter (2/45): $4,390,298/4 yrs, $1,572,944 SB/$2,177,503 guaranteed.
--S Tyrann Mathieu (3/69): $3,052,500/4 yrs, $265,000 SB/$461,094 guaranteed; $627,500 combined RB/WO.
--LB Alex Okafor (4/103): $2,634,428/4 yrs, $474,428 SB.
--G Earl Watford (4/116): $2,594,864/4 yrs, $434,864 SB.
--RB Stepfan Taylor (5/140): $2,360,500/4 yrs, $200,500 SB.
--WR Ryan Swope (6/174): $2,275,788/4 yrs, $115,788 SB.
--RB Andre Ellington (6/187): $2,263,864/4 yrs, $103,864 SB.
--TE D.C. Jefferson (7/219): $2,220,248/4 yrs, $60,248 SB.
--S Rashad Johnson: Potential UFA; $4.8M/3 yrs, $1M SB.
--RB William Powell: ERFA; $480,000/1 yr.
--RB Alfonso Smith: ERFA; $555,000/1 yr.
--DE Ronald Talley: ERFA; $555,000/1 yr.
--DE John Abraham: FA Falcons; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Lorenzo Alexander: UFA Redskins; $9.5M/3 yrs, $3M guaranteed.
--S Jonathon Amaya: Not tendered as RFA by Dolphins; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--S Yeremiah Bell: UFA Jets; $905,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--LB Jasper Brinkley: UFA Vikings; $3.5M/2 yrs, $400,000 SB.
--CB Antoine Cason: UFA Chargers; $1.5M/1 yr, $600,000 SB/$1M guaranteed.
--LB Karlos Dansby: FA Dolphins; terms unknown.
--WR Jarett Dillard: FA; terms unknown.
--T Paul Fanaika: FA; terms unknown.
--CB Bryan McCann: Not tendered as RFA by Dolphins; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--RB Rashard Mendenhall: UFA Steelers; $2.5M/1 yr.
--QB Carson Palmer (trade Raiders).
--CB Jerraud Powers: UFA Colts; $10.5M/3 yrs, $3M SB.
--G Chilo Rachal: UFA Bears; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Frostee Rucker: FA Bengals; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Matt Shaughnessy: UFA Raiders; 1M/1 yr.
--QB Drew Stanton: UFA Colts; $8.2M/3 yrs, $3M guaranteed.
--S Curtis Taylor: FA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--T Eric Winston: FA Chiefs; terms unknown.
--CB Michael Adams: Not tendered as UFA/Buccaneers; terms unknown.
--LB Stewart Bradley (released).
--WR Early Doucet (released).
--CB William Gay (released).
--LB Quentin Groves: UFA Browns; $2.4M/2 yrs.
--QB Brian Hoyer (released; had been re-signed AS RFA).
--QB Kevin Kolb (released).
--G Rich Ohrnberger: UFA Chargers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--S Kerry Rhodes (released).
--QB Kevin Kolb (released).
--LB O'Brien Schofield (released).
--QB John Skelton (released).
--G Adam Snyder (released).
--RB LaRod Stephens-Howling: UFA Steelers; terms unknown.
--CB Greg Toler: UFA Cardinals; $14.25M/3 yrs, $5M guaranteed.
--RB Beanie Wells (released).
--S Adrian Wilson (released).