Bruce Arians

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After a dismal 2016-2017 season, it is easy to start drawing conclusions. If any team has any sort of negative turnaround there starts to become speculation because well, it’s easy. One of the main questions that circles the Arizona Cardinals is, Does Carson Palmer have enough left in the tank? In an interview with “Tiki and Tierney” on CBS Sports, head coach Bruce Arians had something to say about that.

“Physically, body-wise, it’s like he’s 28 right now,” Arians said. “Sports science is amazing right now. He can play easily until he’s 42 if he wants to. He is hungry as hell right now. I wouldn’t let him go in OTAs. It was like taking candy away from a kid.” Arians continued.

As a coach dubbed “the quarterback whisperer”. I think he knows what he is talking about. Just in case, let’s see the numbers from last season. Carson finished the year with 26 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions, amassing a total of 4,233 yards on the season. He finished the year ranking ninth in yards and tenth in touchdowns among active quarterbacks. So even though the Cards had a bad year, he is still a top-ten quarterback.

Palmer is not stopping the Cardinals from reaching the next level. There needs to be a certain level of veteran leadership on any elite team. The only people that are in the way of that happening is themselves. Football is just as much of a mental game as it is physical.

Coach Arians blames the entire season on one game, the week one loss against the New England Patriots. Why?

“I think a lot of it goes back to the New England game,” Arians said. “Had we won the game like we should have, with the field goal, I think the whole season is different. Why we didn’t finish the (Week 4) Ram win? Those first two losses at home set us way back for the season, because you had to fight from the back end of the hole the rest of the way.”

The issue for the Arizona Cardinals in 2016 was not Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, the offensive line, or the defensive line. It was the inability to win close ball games. If Arizona won those two close games like they should have against a Tom Brady-less Pats team and the over-hyped Los Angeles Rams, the Cardinals would have made the post season as wild card team.

The 2016 season was a fluke for the Arizona Cardinals. Even with it being a fluke, they still finished second in the NFC West. This season they are going in with a completely new mindset and after some exciting picks in the draft and because of that, the Arizona Cardinals and their fans will be able to forget about last season completely.

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I was at the joint practice between our San Diego Chargers and the Arizona Cardinals at Qualcomm Stadium Tuesday night. Just before it started, it was announced on social media that Cardinals’ head coach, Bruce Arians, had been taken to the hospital experiencing stomach pains. Best wishes to him in his recovery.

The practice started with special teams drills (yawn). Then it was time for 1-on-1 drills,  consisting of wide receivers versus defensive backs that were much more exciting. Brandon Flowers was burned for several deep passes. His days as an outside cornerback are hopefully over. Jason Verrett also struggled early trying to cover Larry Fitzgerald.

After good coverage caused Philip Rivers to be unable to connect with Keenan Allen twice, the duo started lighting up the Cardinals secondary. First, with a deep bomb over coverage from Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals top defensive back. Allen looked unstoppable all night, catching nearly everything thrown his way, and getting open early and often.

Travis Benjamin made several nice and difficult catches where he used his quick twitch speed to change direction and come back to perfectly placed balls from PR17. Rivers later said that he and Benjamin “needed” that type of connection in practice. The duo looks to be gelling nicely.

During 11-on-11 drills the Chargers got the best of the exchanges on offense and defense. Melvin Gordon had several nice runs through the middle of the Cardinals’ defensive front seven. The Cardinals’ defense had trouble covering Tyrell Williams, because he is a beast.

Melvin Ingram looked like a man on a mission. He set the edge on back-to-back run plays to the outside with tackles for a loss or no gain. Early, Arizona was running almost every play to the outside, no doubt from watching the Chargers get gashed by the Titans on Saturday. With Ingram in the backfield on almost every run they changed the plays.

Casey Hayward looked very good; he had tight coverage on several plays resulting in pass breakups. In my opinion, Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward need to be the starting outside cornerbacks this season. Dexter McCoil ran stride-for-stride with Arizona receivers and had a great pass break-up in the end-zone.

Something interesting I saw during linebacker interception drills; both Manti Te’o and Jeremiah Attaochu had balls clank off their hands and land on the ground. As soon as they got to the huddle they were told to bust out push-ups in front of everyone. I personally love this kind of accountability. I have heard that this has happened before in some practices this year. In those cases, the whole front seven had to do push-ups during a practice when the unit was not getting enough pressure on the quarterback.   

Hunter Henry had a nice toe-tap touchdown, he looks to be a better red zone weapon than Ladarius Green was.

No major injuries to report. The “no-tackling” practice was competitive but not combative.

Quickly, I will give my thoughts on that sorry excuse for a preseason game that was played on Saturday between the Titans and Chargers:

Obviously it was great to see Ken Whisenhunt getting the Bolts’ offensive linemen coming forward on run plays instead of skating backwards. It was great to see Melvin Gordon finally get in the end-zone on a long catch-and-run. Gordon looked more confident and decisive. Not much bad to say about the first team offense. A low-light on offense was too many penalties on the line (coaching); hopefully they can get that cleaned up before they play Arizona on Friday.

The defense was terrible. They picked up right where they left off last season with not being able to tackle and giving up big plays in the run game. Of course this shouldn’t be a surprise because it’s been like this for five years now. John Pagano is still the defensive coordinator, and his defense still looks like they have no clue what they are doing with tons of missed assignments.

Now, I’ve heard people say it’s the first preseason game. Tackling across the league is bad right now since these players haven’t really tackled in 7-8 months. Okay, but this defense was missing it’s assignments, shooting the wrong gaps, and looked woefully unprepared. All of which is coaching. They have a lot to clean up.

One of the few bright spots on defense and special teams was Dexter McCoil. He blew up a Titans’ returner on a special teams play that caused him to lose about ten yards. He’s big, fast and can cover and tackle. He also had a fumble recovery. He needs to be one of the starting safeties. The kicking game and punt game both looked good. That’s all for now, thanks for reading.

 

#Preseason

 

@TravisBlake101            

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The San Diego Chargers host the Arizona Cardinals for a week of practice leading up to their game Friday. The Cardinals begin practice at Chargers Park on Tuesday after having their home turf taken over by Guns N’ Roses’ massive arena tour on Monday. On Tuesday, practice will be at Qualcomm Stadium, Wednesday at Chargers Park. Both teams will take the day off Thursday to rest before the game Friday.

The joint practice will be a nice change-of-pace for both teams. Undoubtedly, they’re all tired of hitting each other in practice. One could expect the intensity level of practice to heighten with men in different colored jerseys on the opposite sideline. This will be a big week for the players fighting to make the roster.

Living in Phoenix, I have heard plenty of juicy tidbits coming from the Cardinals’ side of the ball. The Arizona Cardinals are a Super Bowl favorite and a great way for the Chargers to test themselves against one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the league. Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians expressed his respect for Chargers’ head coach Mike McCoy on local radio Monday and talked about the joint practice.

“That’s the one thing, I enjoy working with Mike McCoy because we have the same philosophy.” Arians said. “We wouldn’t practice any different. We wouldn’t hit a guy going over the middle on our team in practice; we won’t hit one of their guys going over the middle. We always stay away from the quarterback.” Arians continued.

“It’s creating competition but it’s practice, and we’ve got 180 guys on the same team for three days. Then we’ll play them in the game and all bets are off.” Arians said on the Doug and Wolf morning radio show Monday.

More interestingly, Cardinals’ General Manager Steve Keim was also on the radio Monday talking about the road trip and made no bones about the fact he was looking to wheel and deal if the opportunity presents itself.

“I reached out to Tom Telesco last night and he and I will get together before practices start and talk about both of our rosters,” Keim started. “See where our deficiencies are you know; in hopes that you can always talk about, hey, is there an area where we can help each other improve?” Keim stated.

This kind of talk goes on behind-the-scenes at every joint practice if the front office is worth their salt. There are two 90-man rosters full of guys playing their hardest to showcase their talents for their current team and whomever else may be watching. What’s curious about this case is that Keim, who does a radio segment every week in Phoenix, has made it no secret over the past two weeks that he will be actively pursuing a healthy exchange of ideas and hopefully players during this trip to San Diego.

Sounds like the Chargers have something the Cardinals want…

Let’s look at the possibilities. The Cardinals have a wealth of depth at their defensive line, wide receiver, secondary and running back positions. They are lacking on their offensive line, especially at right tackle. The Cards are currently starting D.J. Humphries. Humphries was their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Arians listed Humphries as inactive for every game last season because of his inability to grasp the playbook and laziness on the practice field. Humphries earned the unfortunate nickname “knee-deep” referring to Arians’ disposition with Humphries in 2015.

Arizona’s deficiencies at linebacker have been hidden due to the effectiveness of the secondary and defensive line. If the Cardinals plan on carrying a third quarterback, it won’t be NFL journeyman Matt Barkley or Jake Coker, an undrafted free agent signee out of Alabama. Both quarterbacks have been unimpressive in camp and in their first preseason game.

San Diego has an abundance of talent at linebacker where they currently have 15 linebackers on their roster. The Chargers also have better depth at tight end, quarterback and offensive tackle. The possibilities for a talent exchange is endless but I will give you five names to watch.

RB Andre Ellington: The Cardinals drafted Ellington in the sixth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Lower leg and foot injuries have derailed what was a phenomenal start to his career. Ellington is finally back to full strength from his injuries but with Chris Johnson (who led the NFL in rushing yards before he went down to injury in 2015), the emergence of David Johnson, Stepfan Taylor (considered the best pass protector of the group) and Kerwynn Williams on board, Ellington may be the odd man out. Ellington would be a great insurance policy for Melvin Gordon and he is an electrifying return man as well. Just how fast is Ellington? He ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 4.51-seconds with a pulled hamstring!

QB Mike Bercovici and G Vi Teofilo: Both of these men played their college ball right down the I-10 at Arizona State University. Bercovici has been the most impressive of the quarterbacks the Chargers have brought in during the offseason. Kellen Clemens and Zach Mettenberger are likely to be second and third on the quarterback depth chart unless Telesco sees enough promise in Bercovici to make one of the two expendable. Teofilo is a 6″3′-inch, 315-pound guard who fills a need for depth at that position.

CB Justin Bethel: In a very crowded Cardinals’ secondary room, Bethel has sat on the sidelines with a foot injury and watched as his job is threatened by rookie third-round pick Brandon Williams. Williams has wowed the coaching staff with one head-turning practice after another and is making the most of his quick ascension to the first team.

Bethel was a key piece of the Cardinals’ 2015 secondary as the number two cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. With Peterson locking down his side of the field, lots of balls came Bethels’ way and he was up to the task with 46 combined tackles, nine passes defensed, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and two forced fumbles. Bethel was signed to a three-year, $15-million dollar contract extension in the offseason and made the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive year in 2015 as a special-teamer. Arians has a reputation for his disdain for players in the trainers’ room. Bethel could be moved if the price is right.

ILB Manti Te’o: Manti isn’t on the bubble but this is a contract year for him. Many stories are afloat about Te’o finally coming into his own as a leader. Foot injuries limited his effectiveness in his first two seasons but he finally showed what he is capable of in 2015 as he led the Chargers in tackles with 107 combined tackles. Te’o had a strong finish to his 2015 season, especially after Denzel Perryman was promoted to starter midway through the season. The two had an unspoken chemistry and played well off each other.

Why would the Chargers let him go now?

Te’o leaves you wanting more and not necessarily in a good way. Every missed tackle, every time a receiver catches a ball right in front of him, every time he’s left behind by a running back we shake our heads in frustration. To his credit, 2015 was hands down the best we’ve seen of him. However, there is a reason Telesco hasn’t offered him an extension when he has been diligently signing the Chargers’ core players to multi-year deals.

A Te’o-for-Bethel deal works for both sides.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Bolt Up!!

 

The Greg One

 

#TrainingCamp2016

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On Tuesday, Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians addressed the local media. Among the topics he covered, he mentioned his team is in talks with the San Diego Chargers to hold joint practices. The practices would be in held San Diego the week before their preseason game on Friday, August 19. The game would be the second preseason game for both teams.

The proposition is not a done deal but chances of it happening are very good. This is not a practice that is done as regularly as you would think. The last time the Cardinals held a joint practice was with Kansas City Chiefs in 2012. The last time the Chargers held a joint practice was with the Dallas Cowboys in 2012.

Another reason the Cardinals are interested in relocating is the fact that Guns N’ Roses will be taking over University of Phoenix stadium for a concert on August 15. It’s likely that the stadium will be occupied for a couple days by the band’s crew building their massive stage setup. Their prior tour date is in Seattle on August 12.

The joint practice will be beneficial for both teams. By August, teams are already tired of playing against one another and they are already frothing at the opportunity to hit someone in a different colored uniform. Rookies and veterans vying for starting roles will use this chance to step to the front of their respective position battles. Playing against another team with a different offensive and defensive philosophy will also help show who is ahead when it comes to mastering the playbook and using that knowledge in live-game situations.

For the Cardinals, getting out of 110-degree heat for the cool, tropical climate of San Diego won’t suck, either. For the Chargers, it presents a great chance to see how they measure up to a team that played in last season’s NFC Championship game.

A decision on the joint practice should come in the next few weeks. Here’s to hoping they come to an agreement to do the practices as it looks to be a win-win for both sides.

 

Bolt Up!!

 

The Greg One

 

#TelescoMagic

 

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