Arizona Cardinals: Jay Feely

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Sunday may be the last time either Jay Feely or Chandler Catanzaro don an Arizona Cardinals jersey. Of course, that depends on when head coach Bruce Arians wants to delay the inevitable.

Feely
 He has until Saturday to narrow the roster to 53 and could give both kickers another chance to prove their value in the preseason finale on Thursday in San Diego. Feely and Catanzaro will split the kicking duties Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium against Cincinnati on national television, with Feely kicking in the first half and Catanzaro in the second.

“I think you always have competition, whether you have somebody here or not,” said Feely, a 13-year veteran. “You’re always looking around the whole NFL. You’re not just competing against [another kicker] in the locker room, and I’m not just competing for this job. It’s just the reality of kicking in the NFL.

“I’ve been around long enough to understand that. You have to get better every day. You have to show that you can continue to do the job.”

When the kicking competition commenced this spring, Arians made his desires clear: He wanted a kicker whose kickoffs are high and deep, and who can make their field goals. At 38, Feely’s leg isn’t what it used to be, especially compared to 23-year-old rookie Chandler Catanzaro.

“As you get older, you’re not going to kick the ball as far, it’s a reality,” Feely said.

To stay competitive, Feely changed his approach to kickoffs, starting 13 yards behind the ball. The longer approach gave him more momentum, in theory leading to longer kicks. Minnesota returned all five of Feely’s kicks last weekend, more of an example of the Vikings’ coaches wanting to evaluate kick returners than how deep Feely’s boots were. However, none of his five kicks were in the air for at least four seconds, according to Pro Football Focus.

The best of his five kickoffs in Minnesota had a hang time of 3.92 seconds, according to Pro Football Focus. His other four were 3.71 seconds, 3.84, 3.62 and 3.67 seconds. In Arizona’s first preseason game, Catanzaro’s highest hang time was 4.31 seconds, according to PFF.

While changing his approach was a move to help Feely earn the job now, he had the long term in mind, he said. This week, Feely called his new approach a “progression,” and admitted it’ll take some time for him to feel comfortable with it and trust his new technique, even if it didn’t yield the results he wanted.

If Feely, who’s scheduled to make $1.02 million this year, ends up getting cut, he’ll likely find another home quickly. Denver may be an option after its kicker, Matt Prater, was suspended the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse program.

Sunday was originally expected to be Catanzaro’s game to kick. At the onset of training camp, Arians said the two kickers would alternate games, but that would’ve left Catanzaro only kicking indoors and Feely only kicking outdoors. Splitting Sunday gives Feely an opportunity to kick indoors and for each to face off head-to-head.

Feely said he’s grateful for Sunday’s opportunity, but the comparisons need to go beyond one game.

“Sure you want to be compared, but I think you’re going to compare not just what you do on a specific game day,” Feely said, “you’re going to compare everything you’ve done in practice as well as your career.”

W2W4: Arizona Cardinals

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24
12:00
PM ET
The Arizona Cardinals (1-1) and Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) play their all-important third preseason game Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” Here are three things to keep an eye on:
  • How the defensive line will adapt in its first game without Darnell Dockett will be telling, especially since the starters will be playing about a half Sunday. If veteran Frostee Rucker can slide into Darnell’s spot seamlessly and keep the Cardinals’ run defense at the level it was at last year, a deep sigh of relief can be exhaled. If the Bengals run through the Cards’ line, then it’s time to possibly be concerned because the starters will likely have Thursday against San Diego off, meaning the next time the defensive line will have a chance to play against a live offense will be in Week 1 on “Monday Night Football” in front of a national audience.
  • While Jonathan Cooper continues to rest his turf toe injury, Ted Larsen will be next up to compete for the starting left guard job. He left a good impression with coaches after filling in for center Lyle Sendlein for the past three weeks, but the question becomes: Can he slide over one spot and continue to perform at that high level? With Larsen being the third starting left guard of the preseason, he’s in a position to solidify the starting offensive line with a productive outing. Cooper may not see any action Sunday, which means he’ll have Thursday’s preseason finale as the only other chance for him to play in order to be ready for the season opener.
  • Sunday may be the last game either Jay Feely or Chandler Catanzaro will play in a Cardinals uniform. After each kicked in one full game thus far, the two kickers will split Sunday with Feely kicking the first half and Catanzaro kicking the second. Earlier this week, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was noncommittal about the kicking competition going all four preseason games. How the two kick Sunday will decide if Arians needs a fourth game to decide. If he doesn’t, Arizona will be down to one kicker after Tuesday’s first cuts.
Flush the Pocket will be your daily morning dose of the Arizona Cardinals. It will recap the top storyline from the previous day and give you a look at what everyone is saying locally and nationally.

Arizona's veteran kicker Jay Feely hasn't been shy about expressing his displeasure with the NFL's decision to toy with extra points during the first two weeks of the preseason. In an experiment by the league, the extra points were moved back to the 15-yard-line, turning a routine kick into a 33-yard attempt.

Instead of vocalizing his feelings, Feely put them on paper for Sports Illustrated's MMQB.com.

Feely has long felt that the change was baseless, that nothing provoked the change even if it was just something the league was trying out during preseason. He compared extra points to intentional walks in baseball.

"Certain plays, boring as they may be, are part of the fabric of the game and without a compelling reason should neither be abandoned nor changed," Feely wrote. "I have yet to hear that compelling reason when it comes to the extra point.

"I can however, give you a compelling reason not to change the extra point: increased injuries."

Feely argued that more defenses would rush extra points because they're longer and there's a better chance they're missed, compared to just going through the motions for a routine extra point, which would mean more opportunities for injuries.

Eight were missed during this preseason, according to NFL.com, compared to five last preseason.

The Cardinals were off Tuesday and it looked like the coverage took a breather, as well:

This doesn't have anything to do with the Cardinals but MMQB.com's Robert Klemko wrote a compelling and well-done story about the McCluer High football team, located near Ferguson, Missouri.

Bob Young of AZCentral.com writes that the Cards' season won't be a loss without Darnell Dockett.

Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com writes about Tyrann Mathieu returning from the physically unable to perform list.
When Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer marched the Cardinals 93 yards on their opening drive Saturday in Minnesota, it was déjà vu all over again. For the second straight week, the offense looked smooth and consistent, except Palmer wasn't perfect on that first drive, going 3-for-6. But the offense ate up yards in a hurry, taking just 3 minutes, 26 seconds to score.

The rest of Saturday's game, however, wasn't a repeat of Week 1 against Houston. The defense struggled against Minnesota's pass rush and the second- and third-team offenses didn't tick at the rate Cardinals coach Bruce Arians would've hoped.

Here are five things we learned from Arizona's 30-28 loss to Minnesota on Saturday:
  • Tight ends are still one of the Cardinals' defensive vices. Minnesota's Kyle Rudolph caught four of his five targets for 89 yards and a touchdown. On his touchdown, Rudolph sliced through the Cards' secondary basically untouched for 51 yards. He would've scored on the drive before when he beat rookie safety Deone Bucannon in the back right corner of the end zone but the pass went off Rudolph's hands. That type of play was what the Cardinals were hoping to avoid by drafting Bucannon. Granted, it's his second NFL game. At 6-foot-6 and 259 pounds, Rudolph is the size of tight ends Bucannon will be facing all season.
  • Special teams will be working overtime this week because of four penalties, three of which will land the offenders on the mental error list. The Cardinals had two offside penalties on kickoffs, one of which was by Bucannon that extended a Minnesota return to its 44. On an extra point in the second quarter, Frostee Rucker was flagged for a false start. And in the first quarter, the Cardinals were flagged for an illegal block above the waist.
  • Alex Okafor is stronger than the he was in 2013, when he played five snaps in less than three games. He returned from a biceps injury bigger and stronger, and it showed in the second quarter Saturday when Vikings running back Matt Asiata took a handoff and tried to bounce around the right side. Okafor shed a block by Rhett Ellison and brought Asiata down in one fluid motion. Okafor's been showing enough during camp to be part of the outside linebacker rotation once the season begins.
  • While Feely needs to be more consistent on his kickoffs to win the job, special teams failed to make him look as good as they made Catanzaro look with their return coverage. All but one of Feely's kicks were returned at least 25 yards. Some of that was due to poor coverage and missed tackles, and some was due to low kicks by Feely -- one of Arians' points of emphasis. It's the preseason so coaches want to see what their returners and blockers can do, which is why the Vikings returned all five of Feely's kicks, including the two that were caught 4 yards deep in the end zone and the one that was fielded 8 yards deep. In the end, however, Feely's kicks need to be higher to allow the coverage to get down field.
  • Jaron Brown is doing everything he needs to make the 53-man roster. When he owns the two biggest plays for the Cardinals in a game, Brown is doing something right. Brown had a 51-yard catch and run and then a 35-yard catch.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Cardinals coach Bruce Arians laid out the ground rules for Arizona’s kicking competition, which continues Saturday in Minnesota.

Rule No. 1: Make every field goal.

Rule No. 2: Kick off deep and high.

Between veteran Jay Feely and rookie Chandler Catanzaro, the kicker who can do both in games, wins. It’s as simple as that.

Feely brings a wealth of experience with 1,003 kickoffs throughout his 13-year career -- 290 of which have come with the Cardinals since 2010. Catanzaro has just seven kickoffs in an NFL uniform, and they all came in Saturday’s preseason opener against Houston. That’s not many more than the five he kicked through four years of college.

But a missed field goal or two likely won’t be the deciding factor in who wins the job. Both have been consistent throughout their careers. Feely’s career field-goal percentage is 82.6 while Catanzaro made 81.7 percent of his at Clemson -- and all three in Saturday’s game.

He also set the bar high in the kickoff duel.

Two of his five kicks were touchbacks and his average kickoff was 72.1 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. While his return percentage was 71.4, the average starting position for the Texans was the 15-yard-line.

Any coach would take that.

Last season, Feely’s average kickoff was 68.4 yards and even though 61.6 percent of his kicks were returned, opponents’ average starting position was the 22, according to Pro Football Focus.

But if all else is equal, what could be the deciding factor is Catanzaro’s hang time.

Feely’s kicks hung in the air for an average of 3.8 seconds, according to Pro Football Focus. Last Saturday, Catanzaro’s hang time average was 4.1 seconds.

The table has been set for Feely when he takes the field on Saturday outside in Minnesota. He just needs to kick his way into the lead.

“He’s always kicked off adequately,” Arians said of Feely. “But when someone is there that’s kicking off better and all the field goals are the same, you’re going to take the guy who can kick off.”

Cardinals Camp Report: Day 13

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
8:45
PM ET
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Arizona Cardinals training camp:
  • On the day that Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said safety Tyrann Mathieu was "pretty close" to being taken off the preseason physically unable to perform list, one of his replacements continued to make an impact. Free safety Rashad Johnson intercepted Carson Palmer about midway through practice. That makes three interceptions in two days by the players who have filled in for Mathieu during training camp. Jerraud Powers, who Arians called the defensive MVP of camp earlier Tuesday, picked off two passes Monday.
  • During a 7-on-7 drill later in camp, Palmer threw an interception right into the hands of safety Anthony Walters during a busted play.
  • It seems like it's becoming a daily habit for Jaron Brown to impress with his speed. He had another good catch-and-run through traffic and down the sideline. With the battle for the fifth receiver not sorting itself out yet, he's looking like the best candidate for that job.
  • Playing with the first team in place of Jonathan Cooper at left guard, Earl Watford has been holding his own and he brings a dynamic that Cooper still needs to improve on. Watford showed off his wheels getting downfield to block for running back Andre Ellington.
  • Tuesday was Jay Feely's day to kick and he took advantage of it. Feely went 7-for-8 on field goals, hitting 33 yards, 29, 39, 44, 47 and 50 twice. He missed wide left from 43.
  • Injury report: T Max Starks (ankle), OL Anthony Steen (neck), G Jonathan Cooper (toe), T Nate Potter(back), LB Kevin Minter (pec), WR Michael Floyd (groin), WR Ted Ginn(knee) and C Lyle Sendlein (calf) did not practice.
  • The Cardinals practice from 2-4:30 p.m. Wednesday local time at University of Phoenix Stadium. Admission and parking are free.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians spoke to the media on Wednesday morning. Here’s a quick recap of what he had to say:
  • Everyone except Lyle Sendlein and the physically unable to perform (PUP) guys will practice Wednesday.
  • Darnell Dockett is getting a scheduled day off.
  • Arians will base his decision on which kicker to keep based on how they perform in preseason games. Rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro and veteran Jay Feely will alternate games. Catanzaro is up first Saturday against Houston.
  • Arians said this week, with Houston coming to town for the first preseason game, will not mirror a regular-season game week.
  • Rookie tight end Troy Niklas will wear a smaller soft cast on his right hand for the game Saturday.
  • Arians would rather players impress during games instead of just practice, but he’s not a fan of those players called “gamers,” the ones who don’t practice well but show up when the lights are turned on.

Cardinals Camp Report: Day 8

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
8:30
PM ET
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Arizona Cardinals training camp:
  • Monday was an impressive day for rookie wide receiver Walt Powell. Fighting for the fifth receiver job, Powell plucked a pass over the head of cornerback Justin Bethel along the sideline and took off into open space. Powell showed his quickness on another catch, when he cut back after securing the pass, freezing cornerback Antonio Cromartie in his tracks. During a drill in which the offense had 19 seconds to go 60 yards, Powell hauled in a 32-yard pass from Drew Stanton that put the Cardinals in field goal range. Powell is making a strong case to make the 53-man roster because Powell is also taking reps as a kick and punt returner.
  • Ted Ginn also had a strong day, hauling in a couple of nice passes including one from Carson Palmer that he had to come back for. The offense was working inside the 10-yard-line when Ginn blew by the defense and overran the pass a little but was able to come back and make the catch. Ginn also drew a congratulatory high five from Palmer later in practice for landing a block that allowed another pass to be completed.
  • The third team, led by Logan Thomas, struggled to execute the no-huddle offense Monday. Starting around midfield, the third team couldn't get set in the right position and Thomas couldn't get the play off. Arians said the no-huddle offense will be used more this season because Palmer has experience in it.
  • Feely went 6-for-7 on field goals, hitting from 33, 37, 39, 44, 47 and 50. He missed from 47. During a drill in which the offense had to go 60 yards in 19 seconds, Feely missed two field goals, one of which was tipped.
  • Earl Watford split series with Jonathan Cooper at left guard during the last half of practice.
Welcome to #CardsMailbag, a weekly installment that allows you to ask me questions about the Arizona Cardinals throughout the week via Twitter @joshweinfuss. I'll answer them every week during training camp. Make sure to use the hashtag #CardsMailbag.

@joshweinfuss: As it stands right now, I think it's a close race. Jay Feely has the experience of a 14-year vet who's had plenty of big kicks, but Chandler Catanzaro has a bigger foot and is a cheaper option. Catanzaro has more of an upside long term than Feely does. But what might win the job for Catanzaro is his ability to place kickoffs in the end zone, something Feely struggled to do at times last year. With the kickoffs starting at the 40-yard line, it's almost necessary and expected for every kick to end up either being booted out of the end zone or deep enough to where teams have to settle for a touchback. Catanzaro's leg is strong enough for that. As for rookies who are standing out besides wide receiver John Brown, I think all the draft picks have impressed at some point. Walt Powell is making a name for himself with his speed. Ed Stinson and Kareem Martin will have major roles as backups on the defensive line as well. Linebacker Glenn Carson, an undrafted free agent, is working as the backup long snapper.

@joshweinfuss: Darren Fells has looked good, but he won't be winning a job over Rob Housler any time soon. Fells will likely be on the practice squad again until he's smoother as a receiver and route runner. Remember, he just started playing football a couple years ago, so his progress is pretty incredible. But he still has work to do.

@joshweinfuss: Well, if John Brown's teammates' words mean anything, he's doing great. And it's pretty obvious from our standpoint on the sideline. He's as fast with pads on as without them, which is what a lot of coaches and players were waiting to find out. The next step is to see how he does against live defenses, which won't occur until the preseason starts Saturday.

@joshweinfuss: Short answer: No. Jonathan Cooper has been struggling to get back in the groove he had last year coming out of North Carolina as a rookie, and the Cardinals have noticed. In Saturday's practice, he split time with Earl Watford at left guard, the first sign that there's been an issue with Cooper's game. It'll take him some time to grow back into the player he entered the league as.

@joshweinfuss: I think that's the safe bet. Tyrann Mathieu has said that Week 4 is his goal, and I think it would be the best option for him at this point for the earliest he can return. He recently started making football moves, which is significant progress, but he needs to be able to be fluid and confident in his moves before he can return to the field.

@joshweinfuss: I think Bradley Sowell may end up getting squeezed out of the rotation with Max Starks' addition. Sowell lost the battle for the starting right tackle job to Bobby Massie and was playing as his backup until Starks came along. Now, Sowell is playing with the third team. While his ability to play left and right tackle could keep him on the roster, Starks is capable of playing both positions also. And with Starks already running with the second team, it's more likely he'll be the swing tackle.

@joshweinfuss: The pros are that he can begin going through drills and getting back into football shape. He'd be able to rejoin his teammates and continue building that bond with them. And he'd be able to start working into the defensive rotation, practicing any new plays or schemes, instead of just watching them on film. There is one major con, however: He may not be ready to practice, and knowing that it's tough for these guys to slow down once they hit the field, he could reinjure himself and set himself back for months and potentially miss the whole season. 

Cards react to new rule changes

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2
11:00
AM ET
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Jerraud Powers sees the future, and he’s accepted it.

The Arizona Cardinals cornerback said the NFL is becoming a passing league and there’s nothing defenses can do about it – except hope officials call a fair game. Three of this year’s officiating points of emphasis involve limiting where defensive backs and wide receivers can put their hands.

[+] EnlargeJay Feely
AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinArizona's Jay Feely said he's not a fan of the NFL experimenting with moving extra-point attempts to the 15-yard line.
“At the end of the day, the fans like seeing points scored; that helps sells tickets, that helps TV ratings go up,” Powers said. “I think all the rule changes for the receivers are starting to go in a way that just show the league is transitioning to an offensive league. We just got to make the adjustments and play.

“Hopefully they call it both ways because receivers do a lot of stuff and vice versa, but you rarely see it called.”

The points of emphasis are being reaffirmed in Arizona this week by NFL referee Bill Vinovich and a few officials, who worked Friday’s practice and will be on the field again Saturday. Before Friday’s practice, Vinovich met with the media to go over six upcoming changes. Among them is a zero tolerance for verbal abuse, specifically for racial and sexual slurs. Vinovich said the referees haven’t been given exact guidelines to govern under only that if the language is used in a taunting manner, it’ll automatically be flagged.

Cut blocks from the side are now illegal, meaning an offensive blocker cannot roll up on the side of a defensive player’s legs. It was already against the rules to roll up on the back of a defensive player’s legs. The clock will continue running after a sack unless it’s stopped for a different reason, such as a timeout or penalty. During replays, referees can have contact with the NFL’s officiating department in New York City to discuss reviews. Vinovich said he expects the officiating department to help queue up the best angles for refs before they reach the hood, but in the end Vinovich emphasized that the referee will have the final call on reviews. Loose balls recovered in the field of play are now able to be reviewed.

And starting with Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game and lasting through the first two preseason games, extra points will be kicked from the 15-yard line in an effort to make the play more competitive. This isn’t a rule change but merely an experiment, according to the league’s rules video. But Cardinals kicker Jay Feely, who hasn’t missed an extra point since 2003, doesn’t see the need for it.

“Every rule change that they’ve implemented has been for player safety,” Feely said. “You really aren’t rushing that hard so you don’t have guys that get injured that much on an extra point. Move it back to the 15-yard line, you’re going to rush a lot harder, a lot of the offensive linemen are going to be put in precarious situations, there’s going to be a lot more injuries.

“So, you’re creating 70 more plays for no tangible benefit where the guys can get hurt. So it kinda runs counter intuitive to the changes that they’ve made.”

Verbal abuse wasn’t the only unsportsmanlike conduct penalty addressed. In the wake of New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham delaying a game in November because his dunk over the crossbar bent the goal posts, the league now considers the goal posts a prop and using a prop in a celebration is illegal.

Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd guessed he dunked the football four times last season. When asked what he’ll do now, Floyd said he’ll just lay it up. But how Vinovich explained the rule, that still might be a penalty.

One point of emphasis will be limiting the use of hands to the face, head or neck. This is a change from last year when quick hits to the face that weren’t prolonged were legal. Now neither offensive nor defensive linemen are allowed to put their hands on an opponents’ face, head or neck -- even for a second.

“That’ll be nice if it gets called,” Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer said. “I just remember getting bull-rushed and getting the helmet lifted up [and thinking], ‘Alright, can't recover off this.’"

Among other points of emphasis is that a defensive player can’t have contact with a receiver after five yards from the line of scrimmage when the quarterback is in the pocket with the football. This has long been a rule but the definition of five yards was always a grey area. Some crews, Powers said, would allow contact for six or seven yards. Now it’s being called for illegal contact after a hard five yards.

“We’ll see how it goes in preseason,” Powers said. “Last year, in preseason it was called strict. Then once the season got along it was a little lenient depending on whose crew it was.”

Any grabbing of a jersey, whether it impedes a receiver or not, is considered defensive holding

“Sometimes it’s like a reaction,” Powers said. “Like, if you think he’s going one way and he goes the other you might get a little tug.”

Another point of emphasis this season will be offensive pass interference. Officials will keep a close eye on receivers who push off to give themselves space, especially at the end of their routes. They’ll also be watching for sudden or abrupt moves on the offensive line, which will be called for false starts.

Powers said he won’t try to think about the new rules and points of emphasis much while he plays. He’ll continue to play how he plays and if he gets a flag, he’ll adjust mid-game.

The Cardinals' coaching staff has been pointing out penalties on tape throughout camp, especially coach Bruce Arians when it comes to a defensive penalty.

“Any time it’s anything close to a pass interference, of course he’s ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that,’” Powers said. “If the offense does something [worth being penalized for] he might not say a word. That’s just being with an offensive coach. It’s definitely a point of emphasis. I mean, us as a defense, we call out what we know is a penalty and what’s not.

“If they’re going to make these rule changes and call it how it’s supposed to be called both ways, you probably won’t hear too many complaints. But as a defender we won’t really get too many calls.”
Thursday was the Arizona Cardinals ’ first day off during this year’s training camp, and it gave me a chance to reflect on what I’ve seen, heard and learned thus far about this year’s team. A quick rundown of the Cards’ timeline last week: They reported Friday for the conditioning test, which second-year safety Tyrann Mathieu was able to shadow alongside his teammates. Camp started Saturday and pads were added Monday.

What I’ve learned since Friday:
  • It’s very clear that quarterback Carson Palmer has picked up this offense and all its nuances, even if he’s telling us the same thing. I’ve seen Palmer often pull a running back or wide receiver aside after a play and start motioning with his hands where he should be lined up. He’s done it a couple times with new tight end John Carlson, who’s just learning the offense. Palmer's ability to teach more shows how far he's come, but Palmer's also getting help. His receivers know exactly where they’re supposed to line up, compared to last year, when both often looked confused.
  • All the hype about John Brown is looking legitimate so far. He’s been fast off the line and quick once he catches the ball. It’s obvious his time in San Diego with Palmer paid off as the two have a burgeoning connection. While Brown looked just as fast in pads as he did out of them, it will be hard to tell if he’s a true standout until he goes across the middle when a safety or linebacker is actually trying to take his head off. If he can take an NFL hit and bounce back and still be fast, then he might be a star in the making.
  • It’s pretty clear that right tackle isn’t up for grabs anymore. Bobby Massie has been running with the first team since camp started and three days into padded practices, it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere. However, it’s still early. He’s worked hard at overcoming mental errors and the coaching staff has noticed. But Massie’s downfall earlier in his career was his inability to learn the playbook. If he begins slipping mentally, it sounds like Arians won’t have a problem replacing him.
  • Larry Foote has looked better than I expected during camp. At 34 and coming off a season in which he played just one game, Foote would’ve been excused for being a step or two slow. But he’s been steady in the box and is providing the type of leadership needed as his compatriot at inside linebacker, Kevin Minter, is a second-year player.
  • Jay Feely’s job might be in jeopardy. It’s plain and simple. The way rookie Chandler Catanzaro has been kicking has to make Feely sweat a bit. Catanzaro missed his first kicks – albeit three of them in a row – of camp on Tuesday but he’s recovered since. The decision on which kicker to start won’t be made until Catanzaro and Danny Hrapmann have kicked in preseason games, but for now, it looks to me as if Catanzaro has a leg up on the other two.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With another summer in the books, it’s that time of the year again. Football is back. The Arizona Cardinals report to training camp Friday and will have their conditioning test in the early afternoon. Camp starts in earnest Saturday with the first of five straight practices.

And with the beginning of camp comes a plethora of questions. Here are my top 10, and No. 1 should be no surprise:

When will defensive back Tyrann Mathieu return?

Mathieu
It is looking less likely that Mathieu will return during any part of training camp. He was put on the preseason physically unable to perform list, which means he can do everything with the team except practice. And as soon as he is able to practice during training camp or preseason, he is allowed to come off the PUP list. If that occurs, it likely won’t be until the final weeks of August. Arizona doesn’t want to rush Mathieu back. Any setback with his LCL could lead to long-term issues. The Cardinals are not in a rush, even though I have heard his rehab is ahead of schedule.

Will the offense be able to pick up where it left off?

Like any new season, there will be an adjustment period so new and old players can get used to each other, but that shouldn’t last very long. The Cardinals can make major strides during camp if the offense doesn’t digress much from where it left off in the final nine games of the season. They seem to have added the missing pieces, so all signs point to them building quickly on the foundation set in 2013.

Who will win position battles at right tackle and right guard?

Each battle has essentially come down to a two-man race. At right tackle Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie will continue to duke it out. Will the time away have helped either? Only the next month can answer that. Next to them, second-year guard Earl Watford will be pushing starter Paul Fanaika. The coaching staff knows what Fanaika is capable of, so Watford needs to impress during camp to win the job. Then there is the possibility of someone not on the roster now starting Week 1.

Who will replace linebacker Daryl Washington?

Washington
At this point there is really one legitimate option -- a linebacker by committee, leading with Larry Foote -- unless head coach Bruce Arians has changed his opinion that Foote is not a three-down linebacker. During camp, Foote, Ernie Sims and Lorenzo Alexander will be given an opportunity to earn the job, but rookies Glenn Carson and Jonathan Brown would have to really impress to find the field. As with right guard, there is the possibility of someone not on the roster now starting Week 1.

Can place-kicker Jay Feely keep his job?

Yes and No. Feely knows Arians isn’t afraid to try someone else out for the job. Arians loves competition, which is why he brought in two other kickers to push Feely. Danny Hrapmann is a journeyman, but rookie Chandler Catanzaro might have what it takes to outkick Feely. I wouldn’t be surprise if Catanzaro wins the job.

Can running back Andre Ellington carry a full load?

Ellington
Ask anyone who knows Ellington and the answer is yes. But in order for Ellington to succeed in that role as Arizona’s feature back, he needs to stay healthy. Arians said during the offseason that he wants Ellington to get 25-30 touches per game. A little ambitious, but we’ll see how he is used during camp.

How healthy are the injured players?

The list is long, but the first few days of camp will be telling. A lot of eyes will be on left guard Jonathan Cooper (leg) and left tackle Jared Veldheer (tricep). Cooper missed all of his rookie season with a broken leg, and Veldheer returned from a tricep injury for the final five games. Three linebackers -- Sam Acho (leg), Alexander (foot) and Alex Okafor (biceps) -- will also be returning to practice, and each of them has something to prove after John Abraham and Matt Shaughnessy filled in for them and flourished last season.

Are cornerback Antonio Cromartie's hip issues a thing of the past?

Cromartie
A hip flexor hampered Cromartie for the majority of 2012, but he claims he’s fine. In order for the Cardinals’ secondary to be as good as advertised, he needs to be as healthy as he says he is. A lot of attention will be paid to him in the first week of camp.

Can Carson Palmer cut down his interceptions?

Palmer tied for second-most interceptions in the NFL last season. Of his 22, 14 were in the first eight games when the Cardinals were figuring out Arians’ scheme. Logic would say the interceptions will go down, but Palmer has a penchant for underthrowing deep balls. With an improved knowledge of the offense and the lessons learned from last season, his interceptions should be reduced.

Will the defense regress without Karlos Dansby and Washington?

Arians came out this week and said it would not, but it will be tough for the defense not to regress at least a little. Not only is the veteran quarterback of the defense gone (Dansby), but so is its most athletic player (Washington). What they were able to do by covering sideline-to-sideline, helping plug the run and lining up in coverage might not be replaced by Kevin Minter and Foote, or whoever takes over for Washington. In place of the veteran Dansby setting up the defense, the inexperienced Minter will be charged with that role, at least for the time being.
Among the five staples on the Arizona Cardinals' special teams -- kicker, punter, long snapper, kick returner, punt returner -- only two positions are a given heading into camp.

Veteran long snapper Mike Leach, who's entering his 15th year in the NFL, and punter Dave Zastudil won't be competing for their jobs. The rest of special teams, however, will be decided during the next month.

Leach is one of the league's iron men, having played in 184 straight games entering this season. Zastudil is coming off one of his strongest seasons despite finishing 2013 with his fewest punts in 15 or more games since 2008. But his average of 45.7 yards and net of 40.1 yards were both the second highest for his career.

The battle at kicker is a three-legged race between incumbent Jay Feely, Danny Hrapmann and rookie Chandler Catanzaro. That Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is making Feely compete for his job comes as no surprise since Arians gave Dan Carpenter a shot to unseat Jay Feely late in camp a year ago. Feely hit 30 of 36 field-goal attempts last season, including game winners at Tennessee in overtime and at Tampa Bay. He missed two from 20-29 yards and from longer than 50 throughout the season. Hrapmann kicked in college in 2011 but hasn't caught on with an NFL team for regular-season action. Catanzaro missed 15 field goals during his four years at Clemson but just one in each of his last two seasons.

When it came to returning punts for the Cardinals for the past three years, there was no doubt who'd be deep to receive. Patrick Peterson made his name in the NFL as a punt returner as a rookie in 2011 but he's evolved into one of the league's top cornerbacks since. That's why Arians said earlier this offseason that Peterson's days as a punt returner are limited. His replacement will be determined during camp but it'll come down to either Ted Ginn, John Brown, Walt Powell or Bryan McCann. Jerraud Powers, Antonio Cromartie and Justin Bethel will also probably take reps during camp. Last season, Ginn returned 26 punts for 316 yards.

But when it comes to kick returns, it's likely Ginn's job to lose.

Arizona didn't re-sign last year's primary kick returner, Javier Arenas, and inked Ginn during the offseason as a third receiver and returner. In 2013, Ginn returned 25 kicks for 595 yards with the Panthers. Arians also mentioned during the offseason that John Brown will be given a chance to return kicks. While the battle will come down to those two, Ginn holds the upper hand.
A lot has been made of the devaluation of running backs throughout the league.

The premium on running backs is dropped because more teams are running spread offenses and the passing game is taking a priority over the run game. Of the 19 free-agent running backs who have signed since March 11, only one has a deal that's worth an average annual value of at least $3.5 million.

The devaluation of running backs isn't new in 2014. During the first round of last year's NFL draft, not a single running back was chosen. And neither of ESPN NFL draft insiders, Mel Kiper Insider nor Todd McShay Insider, have a running back going in the first round of their latest mock drafts.

It's gotten to the point that in some cases, punters are earning more than running backs. This tweet by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, shows difference in the guaranteed money between the top kicker, punter and running back contracts signed this offseason.

 

The Arizona Cardinals are among the teams who are paying their punter more than most or all of their running backs.

Dave Zastudil signed a two-year contract in January and will earn $1.5 million in 2014. The Cardinals' highest-paid running back? Ryan Williams. He'll make $1.05 million next season, a year after not being active for any of Arizona's 16 games. The Cardinals' top two returning running backs, Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor, will each make $495,000 next season. Recently acquired running back Jonathan Dwyer is scheduled to earn $795,000 in 2014.

At $1.02 million, kicker Jay Feely will make more than every running back except Williams.

The NFL is in the midst of another paradigm shift. It could be a fad or it could be here to stay. Good running backs will get paid but the rest will enter a league that devalues them for years to come.
With the Arizona Cardinals' remaining cap space steady the last couple of weeks, it’s a good time to look at who’s taking up the largest portion of the Cardinals’ cap space. According to the most recent numbers by ESPN Stats & Information, Arizona’s cap space this week is $4,522,983, which changed slightly from last week because of the release of LaRon Byrd and Dan Giordano.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider