TEMPE, Ariz. -- Besides closely watching a host of bubble players during Thursday night’s preseason finale against the San Diego Chargers, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was keeping a close eye on a handful of potential starters who were returning from injury.

Minter
Cooper
Arians wanted to see how linebacker Kevin Minter, guard Jonathan Cooper and nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu looked after missing significant time during training camp. For the first two, it was their first preseason games since Week 1, and for Ta’amu, it was his first game action since tearing his ACL in Week 17. Arians wants to see more of them -- he included safety Tyrann Mathieu in that -- in pads, but that will be tough with CBA restrictions.

Teams are allowed just 14 padded practices per season, 11 of which have to take place during the first 11 weeks of the season. Though there is a maximum of one padded practice per week, teams can choose to have two padded practices in one week as long as it's in the first 11, according to the CBA.

"They need to have their pads on and play football," Arians said. "You really can’t do it at this time of the year anymore."

Cooper would benefit from added practice time in pads, Arians said, because he needs to knock the rust off not just the past two weeks off, but the last year, having missed all of last season because of a broken leg.

Even though Cooper was beaten badly on a first-quarter sack of quarterback Logan Thomas, Arians felt he progressed Thursday.

"He got a little bit better as the game went on," he said.

Minter, who was out with a pectoral injury, finished with four tackles while wearing a protective sleeve on his left arm, which Arians said didn’t affect his play.

"Rusty but he flew around good," Arians said. "He was a little bit late on a couple reads, but he flew around good. It was good to see him out there."

Even though Ta’amu didn’t record a tackle, he was active in the running game, Arians said. The Cardinals held the Chargers to seven rushing yards in the first quarter.

But Ta’amu needs to improve his conditioning before Week 1.

"He got tired too fast," Arians said. "He doesn’t get moved, but he needs to move a little bit better."

James Harrison retires from NFL

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
12:23
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[+] EnlargeJames Harrison
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsJames Harrison struggled with the Bengals last season -- his only year in Cincinnati -- following his successful 10-year stint with the Steelers.

James Harrison, a five-time Pro Bowl linebacker and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is retiring from football.

Harrison, who spent 10 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and played his final NFL season with the Cincinnati Bengals last year, announced his decision Saturday on his Facebook page.

"I have made the difficult decision to retire as of today," Harrison's statement said. "My love for my family and the need to be there for them outweighs my desire to play the game. I have missed too many experiences with them because I devoted SO much time to my career.

"My love for the game isn't strong enough to make up for missing one more birthday or first day of school."

The 36-year-old Harrison entered the league in 2002 as an undrafted free agent out of Akron. He then played 10 seasons with the Steelers before spending all of last year with the Bengals.

On the heels of his least productive year since his second season in the NFL, Harrison was cut by the Bengals back in March. In 15 games, he had just 30 tackles and two sacks. Used primarily in run-stopping situations, Harrison didn't see the field much in those 15 games.


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Cardinals yet to announce cuts

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
10:35
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The Arizona Cardinals didn't announce their roster cuts Friday, even as head coach Bruce Arians met with the media in the early afternoon. They must be down to 53 players by 1 p.m. Saturday.

ESPN.com has confirmed, however, that Arizona released linebacker Marcus Benard, defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga and running back Jalen Parmele.

Cornerback Bryan McCann has also been released, according to his agent, John Biggins.

After final cuts last season, the Cardinals added two free agents who played significant roles throughout the season. Bradley Sowell became the Cardinals' starting left tackle and nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu became Dan Williams' backup.

When cuts are finalized this season and the waiver wire starts buzzing, Arians and general manager Steve Keim will be refreshing the page as often as possible.

"You're always searching that waiver wire because there's always a diamond in there, if you can find it," Arians said. "The bottom five guys on the roster are never safe. You want to keep it that way. You're always churning.

"If there's one better and [they] bring something, especially in a role, because you're talking about role players now, if you can find a guy who fits a specific role to help your team, then you definitely go get them."

Arizona has already begun churning through free agents. The Cardinals signed Sopoaga last week and defensive lineman Tommy Kelly this week. Sopoaga was cut and Kelly looks like he'll make the team.

"Tommy did alright for jumping on the plane and jumping in there," Arians said. "He did fine, and look forward to seeing him out there some more."

According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, free agent linebacker James Harrison won't be signing with the Cardinals despite a good visit with the team.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The only way Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu will play under the bright lights of "Monday Night Football" in their season opener is if he hits somebody. Soon.

Mathieu
"He's going to tackle somebody this week," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said.

Only after Mathieu tackles in practice will Arians decide if the Honey Badger will play Sept. 8 against the San Diego Chargers at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mathieu returned to practice Aug. 20, almost nine months after suffering an ACL and LCL injury in Week 14 of the 2013 season.

It took him a day to progress from individual defensive back drills to working with the scout team, but he didn't engage in contact. Mathieu was held out of the final two preseason games.

Throughout the past week Arians has maintained that Mathieu wouldn't play in Week 1 if he didn't play Thursday night in San Diego.

"I wasn't kidding," Arians said. "We'll see how he tackles.

Asked who'll be the lucky teammate to take the brunt of Mathieu's hits next week, Arians was ready with an answer.

"That's what practice squad is for," he said with a laugh.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said the film from Thursday night’s preseason finale didn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know.
  • Arians met with free agent outside linebacker James Harrison and said of Harrison: "he’s in good shape."
  • Arians said tackles Nate Potter and Bradley Sowell looked "average at best" after both allowed "too much pressure" on Thursday. Arians went on to say he was disappointed in both.
  • Safety Curtis Taylor did not break his arm, but Arians called it a serious hematoma.
  • Cornerback Eddie Whitley broke his foot.
  • Potter suffered a shoulder subluxation, which is a brief separation.
  • Arians was pleased with how offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin called the plays Thursday night, calling the 40-year-old "extremely poised." Arians said the communication between Goodwin and rookie quarterback Logan Thomas was good, although Goodwin had to relay the plays two or three times before Thomas got it. But not having any delay-of-game penalties or 12-man-on-the-field penalties was "pretty solid."
  • Arians thought Walt Powell's five returns for 140 yards were "OK" but were mostly a product of "some really good blocking."
  • Arians said Thomas was "a project, just like we thought. (Has) ups and downs, ‘wow’ throws and 'oh sh-- throws.' And that’s what we thought he would be. I think he’s got a good future."

Fantasy: Andre Ellington

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
5:22
PM ET


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Christopher Harris analyzes Andre Ellington's draft value.

Fantasy: Michael Floyd

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
5:03
PM ET


video

Christopher Harris analyzes Michael Floyd's draft value.
With cuts looming hours away, at least 22 players are wondering if they’ll have a job by time Saturday night rolls around.

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has been firm that five or six players were fighting for spots on Arizona’s roster Thursday night.

Here are four Cardinals whose stock dropped after Arizona's 12-9 loss to the Chargers:
  • Brittan Golden, WR: Deep in competition for a spot, Golden may have lost his shot at making the 53-man roster after Thursday’s outing. He had four receptions for 14 yards after being targeted nine times. But Golden didn’t have the big game needed to sway the Cards’ opinion.
  • Bryan McCann, CB: McCann got burned on a couple of critical passes as his size was exposed. McCann was openly competing against Teddy Williams for the last cornerback spot, according to Arians.
  • Bradley Sowell and Nate Potter, T: Both tackles needed to have clean games but neither was able to accomplish that. Both got beat badly on a two occasions which allowed defenders a direct path to Logan Thomas.
With cuts looming hours away, at least 22 players are wondering if they’ll have a job by time Saturday night rolls around.

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has been firm that five or six players were fighting for spots on the roster Thursday night.

Here are three Cardinals whose stock rose Thursday night:
  • Walt Powell, WR: With 140 return yards and a catch on third down in the fourth quarter that Powell turned into a first down, I think he landed himself a job on the roster. Arizona has been flirting with keeping five or six receivers, but always left the door open by saying that someone contributing on special teams would make the team. Powell is that guy.
  • Teddy Williams, CB: The last cornerback spot came down to Williams and Bryan McCann but Williams broke up a couple passes Thursday night and used his size – 6-foot-1, 207 pounds – to make his presence felt. He established last season he can play gunner and his transition from receiver to corner should help him make the roster.
  • Glenn Carson, LB: While a long shot to make the team, Carson had 10 tackles Thursday night – eight of which were solo – and he missed a huge interception by inches. He’s put enough on tape this preseason to get a good look from another team, but if he can slide through waivers, he might find himself on the Cardinals' practice squad.
Even though Thursday night was the last time rookie quarterback Logan Thomas would be playing for a while this season -- pending any injuries to either Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton -- the expectations were still high.

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had a laundry list of things he wanted to see out of his fourth-round pick. Efficiency. Checkdowns. Avoid forcing it. Don’t take sacks.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
AP Photo/Matt YorkRookie Logan Thomas was underwhelming in the Cardinals' final preseason game.
Thomas started out looking very good, hitting rookie tight end Troy Niklas for two straight completions to start the game. Then Thomas looked like a rookie, completing just seven more passes . He finished 9-of-21 for 73 yards as Arizona lost 12-9.

“Just very, very average,” Arians said. “You can’t take a sack there on the 1-yard-line patting the ball. It was a good learning experience for him.”

The sack Arians was referring to was in the first quarter when Chas Alecxih shed guard Jonathan Cooper at the line of scrimmage and then chased down Thomas for almost 15 yards before getting the sack. It was a situation like that one that Arians wanted to see Thomas, who was sacked three times Thursday night, throw the ball away or scramble out of it.

“We gave up some big hits on the quarterback,” Arians said.

Thomas said the offense couldn’t get clicking. The Cardinals finished with 98 yards compared to San Diego’s 347. They averaged 2.3 yards per play. They were 1-for-12 on third down.

“They played great defense and there were some things here and there that I could’ve have done better personally, but I’ve just got to watch the game and learn from it,” Thomas said.
Examining the Arizona Cardinals' roster.

QUARTERBACK (3)

Arizona will carry two active quarterbacks -- Palmer and Stanton -- again this season. Thomas was given the third job earlier in the week when Arizona released Ryan Lindley.

RUNNING BACK (4)

Dwyer continued to establish himself as the Cardinals' second back behind Ellington. He has the speed and power to be a third-down back that can catch a pass out of the flat. Taylor has been solid but has fallen behind Dwyer. Hughes' spot on the roster continues to be safe because of his ability to be a fullback.

WIDE RECEIVER (6)

It's safe to say the top four spots have been locked up, especially after how John Brown has been playing. Jaron Brown earned his spot with an impressive training camp and preseason while Walt Powell solidified his job as a special-teams addition during the final preseason game.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Larsen appears to be the answer for now at left guard while Cooper continues to work on regaining the form he displayed before his injury last August. Bradley Sowell has played his way back into contention for a position on the roster, especially with how other areas on the team will shake out because of injuries.

TIGHT END (4)

Fells has earned a spot as the fourth tight end because of his upside, although his job isn't 100 percent locked down. He'll still have to look over his shoulder the day after final cuts though when other tight ends are on the market.

DEFENSIVE LINE (7)

With Darnell Dockett out for the season with a torn ACL, the rotation shrunk by one but with Alameda Ta'amu’s return from injury and the addition of Tommy Kelly, the line’s depth grew to a good size for the regular season.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (5)

With Abraham back, outside linebacker becomes a focal point again. His starting job was promised to him but Shaughnessy, Acho and Okafor have all been playing above expectations in camp and the preseason. This unit is versatile enough to combat any offensive scheme it faces especially with Alexander playing more outside linebacker than inside.

INSIDE LINEBACKER (4)

With Alexander playing more outside linebacker, Desmond Bishop has been getting more reps and improving on a weekly basis. Arizona has time to see if Bishop can continue his comeback.

CORNERBACK (5)

Peterson and Cromartie are the starters. Powers is the nickel cornerback. Bethel will be in on dime situations. Williams won the fifth job with his performance Thursday and will find a role on special teams.

SAFETY (4)

Mathieu has returned to practice but has yet to play. Johnson and Jefferson continue to be steady at safety but Bucannon is learning the position and may become a starter before long.

PUNTER (1)

Zastudil has been steady and strong the past few seasons, and this year shouldn’t be any different.

KICKER (1)

Catanzaro won the job as Arizona’s kicker earlier this week and he looked good Thursday night.

LONG-SNAPPER (1)

Leach, who is as consistent as they come in the Cardinals’ locker room, will be their long-snapper until he either says it’s time to retire or he can’t walk anymore. Whichever comes first.

 
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Thursday night was Logan Thomas' chance to show Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians the progress he's made during his first training camp. But Thomas struggled to get the Cardinals' offense going, missing receivers short and high. The Cardinals' 12-9 loss to San Diego wasn't all on Thomas' shoulders, but his 73 passing yards on 9-for-21 passing didn't help. Arizona's offensive line didn't keep Thomas clean, but it was a chance for Thomas to find out what running for his life was about.

Here are some other thoughts on the Cardinals' final preseason game of the year:
  • Rookie wide receiver Walt Powell looked to have earned a spot on the 53-man roster with his special teams play Thursday. He returned five kicks for 140 yards and made a nifty move after his only reception. Before the game, Arians said three receivers are playing for one spot and Powell had the best showing Thursday night. The only major flaw he showed against the Chargers was how he carried the football during his returns, away from his body and reckless.
  • By the way he was trying to tackle, it doesn't look like linebacker Kevin Minter is back to 100 percent. He was wearing a black sleeve on his left arm, which could've limited him somewhat but his ability to grab and drag down didn't look like typical Minter.
  • In his first game since becoming the Cardinals kicker, rookie Chandler Catanzaro picked up where he left off, hitting all three of his field goals and scoring all of Arizona's points. He also fared well in kickoffs, including one that led to the Cardinals forcing a fumble.
  • Guard Jonathan Cooper played much of the first half and needed it. He looked adequate for the majority of his time on the field but there were a few instances where Cooper looked rusty. He was beat on a rush in the second half that led to Thomas getting hit.
  • Neither tackle trying to make the team looked impressive. Bradley Sowell and Nate Potter both got beat throughout the game, which led to Thomas having to scramble.
  • Arizona did a good job of protecting the end zone, deflecting potential touchdowns by the Chargers four times in the first half before Jimmy Legree came down with an interception.
During a pregame interview, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he won’t be calling the offensive plays Thursday night against the Chargers, instead handing the duties to offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin.

Goodwin, Arians said, put together the gameplan for rookie quarterback Logan Thomas, who’s slated to play the entire game.

It’s the first time since at least 2004 that Arians hasn't called the plays, according to the coach.

“It’s good growth for the staff and for those guys to expand themselves as coaches,” Arians said. “Again, you want to break all the tendencies that you can possibly break going into the season. This will screw up the computers pretty good for about three weeks.”

Arizona opens the regular season Sept. 8 against the very same Chargers.

Not calling the plays will give Arians a different perspective from the sideline.

“I’ll be able to look some players in (the) eyes on defense and special teams and not be as involved in calling the plays as much as watching the players, especially these young players, perform and see who has the look that you’re looking for,” Arians said.
Standing next to each other, it’s easy to see how Arizona Cardinals running back coach Stump Mitchell and rookie Zach Bauman are similarly built.

But their connection goes deeper than just looks.

[+] EnlargeZach Bauman
AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinZach Bauman has impressed the Cardinals with his willingness to get physical.
Mitchell, 5-foot-9, went to The Citadel and Bauman, 5-10, to Northern Arizona. Both are Football Championship Subdivision schools, the second tier of Division I. Even though Mitchell was drafted in the ninth round by the Cardinals in 1981 and Bauman was signed as an undrafted free agent in May, they both needed to impress in two specific areas to make their respective rosters: pass protection and special teams. Both came into their first training camp as an underdog to make the team.

But at 55, Mitchell can look back on a nine-year career that ended as the Cardinals’ franchise leader in all-purpose yards, and second in rushing yards, punt return yards and kick return yards. At 22, Bauman is a day or two away from finding out if he’ll be allowed to start such a run.

His final chance to impress upon the Cardinals that he’s worthy of being kept on either the 53-man roster or practice squad comes Thursday night at San Diego. Final cuts will take place either Friday or Saturday.

For the past few months, ever since offseason workouts began, Bauman, a Chandler, Arizona, native, has paid close attention to the best example of how to make it as a small back from a small school.

“He understands how the process works and being a back, he’s a little thicker than I am, but same height, kinda similar stature,” Bauman said of Mitchell. “He’s helped me out with that a little bit.”

With Bauman coming from a small school, Mitchell’s primary concern was how Bauman would adjust to pass protecting in the NFL, something he didn’t do much of in college. Bauman set school records in rushing yards, all-purpose yards and touchdowns. Blocking wasn’t a priority.

But it’s how he’ll earn his keep in the NFL.

Bauman has all the skills necessary to be a productive running back, Mitchell said, such as great vision and the ability to make defenders miss. His size, however, is another issue.

“He’s short but he’s strong,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “There’s a lot of backs that are a little bit shorter than him that are strong. I don’t judge them by height. It’s the strength of which they strike a blow to take on a linebacker.”

Arians has been judging Bauman’s decisions to bounce outside the tackles instead of running in between them, however. He wants Bauman to stay inside since at this level, Bauman’s not the fastest player on the field anymore.

Bauman said he’s been bouncing outside more so because of his reads on the defense than out of habit.

“Watching the tape of the first game, I saw that I was bouncing out a lot and it was funny to me because that’s not who I am,” he said. “I like to run between the tackles. I think over the weeks, I’ve been able to get more comfortable with the offense and understand the blocking and not just let my mind go so fast and not just feel where the hole is. I think I’ll have a much better showing this game.”

For Bauman to hang around the NFL, he needs to do one more thing in addition to pass protecting and playing special teams: stay mentally strong. Bauman joined a locker room full of players from college football’s bluebloods. In the running back room alone he’s sitting alongside someone from Clemson (Andre Ellington), Georgia Tech (Jonathan Dwyer), Stanford (Stepfan Taylor) and Notre Dame (Robert Hughes). Bauman needs to think he’s more than capable of competing with those players if he wants to make it. The second a running back doubts himself will be the second he doesn’t have a chance, Mitchell said.

Those four are likely to be Arizona’s running backs this season, leaving Bauman on the outside. If he gets cut and makes it through waivers, he can end up on Arizona’s practice squad. If not, he’s put together a tape that shows off his pass protection.

“He’s shown a good job of pass blocking, so he’s got a few of those on tape,” Arians said. “He’s not afraid to stick his face in the fan. Just continue to do what he does.”
Whether Arizona Cardinals tackle Bradley Sowell shows up on anybody's roster predictions depends on the day.

A few weeks ago, he was running with the third team, dropping out of the roster. When he played with the second team during Sunday night's game against Cincinnati, Sowell, who started at left tackle for the final 12 games last season, was back in the mix. Forecasting the Cardinals' 53-man roster has become as popular as mock drafts these days, but figuring out Arizona's offensive line has become easier by the week. Heading into Thursday night's preseason finale, the top eight are established. The only question becomes if the Cardinals stay with eight offensive linemen or keep nine.

Either way, Arizona has developed an offensive line that's deep and knows how to keep quarterback Carson Palmer clean, even if it's not with the lineup expected when training camp started.

A month ago, Bobby Massie wasn't expected to stick around at right tackle because of his history with issues grasping the playbook. Nobody would've expected that as final cuts approach, it'd be Massie who has a firm hold on his job and not second-year guard Jonathan Cooper.

Cooper, who struggled to return from a broken leg that sidelined him for all of last season, has been hampered by turf toe for the past two weeks. He's slated to play Thursday night, pushing through the pain, to make a run at earning his starting job back.

On this week's depth chart, Cooper has been supplanted by veteran swingman Ted Larsen. Cooper spent the week practicing for the first time since before the first preseason game, trying to push the pain out of his mind, but he needs to find a balance between resting the toe and playing through the pain. As he's acknowledged before, turf toe will linger and will only subside with rest. But Cooper was told his toe was as injured as it could get, so it could only get better.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians doesn't want Cooper's injury to linger but said the former seventh-overall pick has basically two options: Rest it or play on it.

"Rest is the last thing I'm concerned about right now," he said. "I need to be on the field and that's what I'm focusing on having a great game coming up against the Chargers. That's my biggest focus."

Although the toe is healthier than he expected at this point, Cooper doesn't think he's as fluid as he could be on pulls. Arians can only trust Cooper when it comes to his toe's health.

"You got to trust him," Arians said. "Sometimes you push him a little bit and if they can't do it, then they can't do it."

Larsen has been a consistent replacement for Cooper, despite having just a few days of practice with the first team at guard before starting against Cincinnati on Sunday. He filled in for center Lyle Sendlein for the three weeks prior while Sendlein recovered from a calf injury.

"It's just a different position," Larsen said. "You got to be a little more physical in there. You got to be a little more … just a little but different technique. You're playing football. You're using your hands, moving your feet, so there's definitely some carry over."

Earlier this week, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said he "loved" Larsen's versatility, even if he's 6-foot-2 and has arms shorter than Keim prefers.

"At the end of the day he's scrappy," Keim said. "He's explosive through his hips. He's tough as nails. He's smart and he went toe-to-toe with [defensive end] Calais [Campbell] early on in camp and did an excellent job, as well as anybody has in our roster."

Left tackle Jared Veldheer could also see how Larsen's time at center was beneficial, saying Larsen knew everything the line was doing without question. Counting Cooper and Earl Watford, who started in Minnesota, Veldheer has played alongside three left guards this preseason and said Larsen didn't slow the offensive line.

"I don't really feel like I have to change stuff much," Veldheer said. "I try to communicate to whoever's next to me. Once there's someone there, it can start building a lot of the [trust], not just the communication stuff but you kinda know where they are on certain techniques and they know where you are on certain techniques, all the intangible stuff."

Backups may find a role on this year's line, as Larsen has already proven.

Sowell, who's played left and right tackle during his young career, finds himself in a familiar situation. He's been released during final cuts the last two seasons but found jobs after both releases. Last season, he ended up starting 75 percent of the Cardinals' games.

"This is my last audition," he said. "I'm trying to get a roster spot. I don't know how many linemen they're going to keep. Right now, I'm not worried about that."

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