Arizona Cardinals: Matt Shaughnessy

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.

Carson PalmerSam Greenwood/Getty ImagesCarson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals just missed out on the playoffs this past season.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday the NFL owners meetings that the Arizona Cardinals could be the first team to play a home Super Bowl.

“There's no reason we can't be the first team to play a home Super Bowl,” he said, according to multiple reports. “Absolutely no reason.”

Doing it would be as hard as a college basketball team playing in the Final Four in its home city. A lot has to happen; a lot of pieces have to fall into place.

After a 10-6 season in 2013, the Cardinals are closer than most teams in the NFL. Even more so after solidifying left tackle, cornerback, third receiver and kick returner during free agency. Those additions give Arians a case for the Cardinals making a run to Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Then again, at this point in the year, every coach believes his team can do the same thing -- although some coaches know it’s more likely while others are crossing their fingers and toes.

But as Arians sat in Orlando, Fla., talking to the media during this week’s meetings, the Cardinals aren’t Super Bowl ready just yet. They’re close, but they’re not there.

The offense is the primary reason. Sure, the adage is defense wins championships -- it also wins games, as was the case at Seattle in December when quarterback Carson Palmer threw four interceptions and the defense still led Arizona to a win -- but the offense needs to produce consistently for the Cardinals to even think about making a deep run in January. The Cards have to convert more third downs and keep drives going longer than in 2013.

Throughout last season, they showed glimpses of a high-octane offense hidden under the plethora of interceptions and failed drives, scoring 10 offensive touchdowns on five plays or fewer. The Cardinals failed to convert on 136 of 210 third downs in 2013. If they can convert even 25 percent more of those drives into a field goal or a touchdown, a Super Bowl may start coming into focus.

[+] EnlargeKevin Minter
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesKevin Minter has some big shoes to fill on the Arizona defense.
On paper, the offense looks like a playoff-caliber unit. The question then becomes: Can the Cardinals start training camp at the same place offensively as they ended 2013? And can they continue to improve without taking one step back to take two steps forward?

The defense, as it is today, is a playoff-caliber unit, but it’s a few pieces away from being a championship-level defense. The Kevin Minter experiment, finding a safety who will neutralize tight ends and Tyrann Mathieu returning from his knee injury are three factors standing between the Cardinals and a Feb. 1, 2015, home game.

Minter will be given the starting job at inside linebacker, which was vacated when Karlos Dansby left for Cleveland, until he loses it, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said last week. How Minter can adapt to the NFL speed as an undersized thumper who played just one down on defense last season will dictate how effective Arizona’s secondary will be.

The defensive line will again be strong, especially with the return of Sam Acho and Lorenzo Alexander from injuries. With John Abraham and Matt Shaughnessy coming off the edges, the linebackers will need to be responsible for the second layer so the secondary can focus on slowing down receivers. Last season, Dansby’s speed allowed him to get from sideline to sideline effectively. But does Minter have that same quickness? Only time will tell.

By adding cornerback Antonio Cromartie, the Cardinals’ secondary was drastically improved, but there’s still a major gap at strong safety. Last year, that position was filled by Yeremiah Bell, who at 6-foot-0, struggled against tall tight ends. A bigger safety will have to be one of Arizona’s top priorities in May’s draft because Tony Jefferson, Bell's apparent successor on the current roster, is only 5-11. With 17 of the 29 touchdowns thrown by opponents going to tight ends last season, slowing them will be the difference between 10 wins and 12 or 13.

The last major piece on defense that could make the Cardinals into a championship-caliber team is Mathieu. He missed the final three games with ACL and LCL injuries, and a return date hasn’t been set because recovery from an LCL injury typically has an indefinite timetable. If Mathieu can return to form quickly, he’ll add another playmaking dynamic to the Cardinals’ secondary that has the potential to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks.

With his versatility, Mathieu can play three positions -- inside and outside corner and safety -- while filling in at nickel without the Cardinals needing to substitute. That seamless flexibility will keep the defense as one coherent unit and allow defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to alter the scheme on the fly.

It’s clear a lot needs to happen for Arizona to enjoy the comforts of home during Super Bowl week, but for all the right reasons. It’s possible, but there’s plenty of work to be done.
With free agency two weeks old and the rush to sign players beginning to slow down, a panel of ESPN NFL Insiders graded the haul for every team Insider.

ESPN Insiders Mike Sando, Bill Polian, Louis Riddick, Matt Williamson and Field Yates gave the Arizona Cardinals a B+, one of just three such grades parceled out throughout the league. The quartet felt Arizona's six free-agency signings were smart moves yet not national news that made the Cardinals better overall.

The Jared Veldheer signing, in particular, drew praise from Yates because of how Arizona didn't back up the Brinks truck to lure him to the desert.

"Not a ton of moves here, but I really liked their decision to aggressively pursue Veldheer, the best left tackle out there in my estimation," he said. "Additionally, the money was fair value given the market."

Yates also liked the re-signing of outside linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, even if it didn’t make a national splash.

Sando may have ruffled the feathers of some Seattle Seahawks fans by writing the signing of cornerback Antonio Cromartie gave the Cardinals "arguably" the best cornerback duo in the NFC West.

But for as well as Arizona did by signing players, the Insiders believed Arizona's best play was to not overspend on linebacker Karlos Dansby and let him go.
Two weeks ago, free agency kicked off with a flurry of moves. The Arizona Cardinals joined the frenzy almost immediately. During the last 14 days, the Cardinals have been steadily active and made improvements to their lineup -- some significant, some not so much.

Only two positions are truly open at the moment: right tackle and strong safety. The Cardinals will try to fill both of those in the draft if they can’t find other options through a trade or the rest of free agency.

Here’s an updated look at Arizona’s 2014 lineup as of today (new starters in bold):

OFFENSE

QB: Carson Palmer

RB: Andre Ellington (Rashard Mendenhall retired)

TE: Rob Housler

TE: Jake Ballard (Jim Dray signed with Cleveland)

WR: Larry Fitzgerald

WR: Michael Floyd

RT: (Eric Winston -- free agent)

RG: Paul Fanaika

C: Lyle Sendlein

LG: Jonathan Cooper (Daryn Colledge released)

LT: Jared Veldheer (Bradley Sowell)

DEFENSE

DE: Calais Campbell

NT: Dan Williams

DT: Darnell Dockett

OLB: John Abraham

ILB: Kevin Minter (Karlos Dansby signed with Cleveland)

ILB: Daryl Washington

OLB: Matt Shaughnessy (re-signed)

CB: Patrick Peterson

CB: Antonio Cromartie (Jerraud Powers)

FS: Rashad Johnson/Tyrann Mathieu

SS: (Yeremiah Bell -- free agent)

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Jay Feely (re-signed)

P: Dave Zastudil

LS: Mike Leach

KR: Ted Ginn Jr. (Javier Arenas signed with Atlanta)

PR: Patrick Peterson
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The NFL isn't a league where everyone gets a medal or a ribbon and a juicebox just for participating.

There are winners and losers, very definitive ones at that, and they're not just decided during the season. There are winners in the combine, in the draft and, of course, in free agency. But "winning" free agency is not always an objective.

Two of my colleagues, John Clayton and Field Yates, recently took on the unenviable task of evaluating the 32 NFL teams and deciding who's had the best free agency thus far and who hasn't.

Yates went first, deciding Wednesday, the second day of free agency, that the Cardinals were the early winners. On Friday, Clayton took his stab, not including Arizona in his five winners or five losers. Everyone evaluates free agency differently, there's no right or wrong away.

With all the moves that have taken place since 1 p.m. MST Tuesday, the race to be a winner has been neck-and-neck, but Arizona has staked a claim at having one of the best hauls this season.

As the sun sets on Week 1 of free agency, Arizona has signed left tackle Jared Veldheer, wide receiver Ted Ginn, running back Jonathan Dwyer and offensive lineman Ted Larsen, while re-signing tight end Jake Ballard, kicker Jay Feely, defensive end Frostee Rucker and linebacker Matt Shaughnessy.

As a whole, the Cardinals' moves have all been strategic, targeting specific areas of need and improving significantly with each one. The offense made major strides with the addition of Veldheer to anchor the left side of the line. Coupled with the addition of Jonathan Cooper, who missed his rookie season with a broken leg, the Cardinals should be better than having the worst line in the league -- Pro Football Focus graded them as such after last season. Ginn's signing strengthened the wide receiving corps and gave Arizona a legitimate threat at kick returner. Larsen has a reputation as a strong, hard-working swing offensive lineman while Dwyer can add more thump to the Cardinals' backfield.

After the kind of turnaround season Arizona had in 2013, the Cardinals were able to be picky in free agency. They didn't have to overhaul a roster, as they did when head coach Bruce Arians was hired and general manager Steve Keim was promoted. Going 10-6 and sitting on the verge of the playoffs showed the Cardinals' brain trust where it needed to improve. And they focused on those areas.

There's still work to be done, such as building depth on both lines and finding a safety while stocking up on cornerbacks.

But there's also still plenty of time left in free agency.

Through the first week, Arizona put itself in a better situation to compete for an NFC West title. And by doing so, the Cardinals had one of the best free agencies across football.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Wednesday night closed with a flurry of free-agent activity – and we’re not even talking about the Rodger Saffold ordeal.

The Arizona Cardinals were busy as the sun set on Day 2 of free agency, re-signing a couple of players and bringing two new faces on board.
  • According to Kent Somers of AZCentral.com, the Cardinals agreed to a two-year contract with outside linebacker Matt Shaughnessy. And according to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, Shaughnessy visiting New England on Wednesday, which, if the timeline of events is correct, means Shaughnessy agreed to the deal either during or right after his visit to New England.However, it’s likely that the Cardinals re-signed Shaughnessy after hearing that former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Al Woods, who was scheduled to visit Arizona on Friday, signed with Tennessee on Wednesday.
  • The Cardinals announced the re-signing of linebacker Marcus Benard to a one-year contract. He had 16 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 12 games.
  • Arizona also signed running back Jonathan Dwyer, who played the past four seasons with Pittsburgh, and guard/center Ted Larsen, who played the past four seasons with Tampa Bay. It’s likely that Larsen’s signing means the end of Mike Gibson’s tenure with the Cardinals.
  • ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan reported that former Cardinals tight end Jim Dray signed with the Cleveland Browns.
  • Another note from Thursday: Cardinals general manager Steve Keim confirmed on the radio that former Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn is visiting Arizona.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Tuesday was a busy day, especially the first few hours after free agency began at 1 p.m. Arizona time. Wednesday probably won't be as hectic, but expect some news and Arizona to announce the signing of left tackle Jared Veldheer at some point.

But there were a few items of note that didn't make it into my coverage yesterday.
  • Defensive end Ronald Talley said on Twitter that he wouldn't be back in 2014. Tally was a restricted free agent and tweeted that he was informed Tuesday by the team that they wouldn't re-sign him. Talley was inactive for 10 of Arizona's 16 games last season, mainly because of a wrist injury. In six games, he had seven tackles.
  • My esteemed colleague who covers the New England Patriots for ESPN.com, Mike Reiss, reported that outside linebacker Matt Shaughnessy was visiting the Patriots on Wednesday.
  • With Talley not returning and the potential of Shaughnessy not re-signing, Arizona may be on the lookout for an outside pass rusher. And the Cardinals are in luck. Three of the game's top pass rushers were on the market Wednesday morning -- Jared Allen, DeMarcus Ware and Julius Peppers. I wouldn't expect Arizona to make a run at them simply from a financial standpoint, and Ware has apparently agreed to a contract with the Denver Broncos. Allen made $14.2 million in 2013, Ware made $6 million and Peppers made $13 million.

Free-agency primer: Cardinals

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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: LB Karlos Dansby, RT Eric Winston, S Yeremiah Bell, K Jay Feely, LB Matt Shaughnessy

Where they stand: Arizona has talked to all of them, but it's unlikely the Cardinals re-sign any of the team's key free agents until after March 11. Dansby could be the trigger, however. If he re-signs for an affordable price or doesn't re-sign, Arizona may be able to re-sign some of their veteran free agents instead of opting for cheaper options. According to reports, Arizona has been negotiating with linebacker Shaughnessy. Bell has expressed his desire to return to Arizona mainly because of what the Cardinals' defense started last year. Winston may be the Cardinals' best option at right tackle for another season and his camp has begun talks with the Cardinals. Feely has said he talked to the Cardinals this week.

What to expect: Don't expect Dansby to re-sign before free agency begins. If it hasn't happened yet, it probably won't until he tests the market to see what his worth is. Then the Cardinals could come into play again. Winston could be whom Arizona needs to anchor the line for another year. He, along with the rest of the offensive line, matured together and were protecting quarterback Carson Palmer better in the second half of the season than the first, momentum that can only continue to grow. Bell isn't likely to return because his size and speed make him a liability against bigger, faster receivers and tight ends. Even though he was in Bruce Arians' dog house at the end of the season, Feely can return because of the limited number of good kickers available. Shaughnessy is also likely to re-sign because of his value at a low cost.
Starters: John Abraham, Lorenzo Alexander, Sam Acho, Matt Shaughnessy

Backups: Marcus Benard, Dontay Moch

Under contract in 2014: Abraham, Alexander, Acho, Dontay Moch and Alex Okafor.

Cash committed in ‘13: $7.39 million

Cap committed in ‘13: $5.75 million

Recap: Any plans defensive coordinator Todd Bowles had for the Cardinals’ outside linebackers were blown up in New Orleans. Within the course of one game, Arizona lost Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander and rookie Alex Okafor. The fretting over who would fill the roles of two starters and a seldom-used substitute lasted a week when John Abraham and Matt Shaughnessy filled in at left and right outside linebacker, respectively, and never looked back. Abraham added to his impressive résumé with 11.5 sacks in 2013 -- all coming after Week 6. That gave him 133.5 for his career and moved him into ninth on the all-time sack list. Healthy, Shaughnessy flourished as a 3-4 linebacker with is hand in the dirt, finishing with 62 tackles and three sacks. The Cardinals got a brief spark from Moch, who was promoted to the 53-man roster after Week 3 and then played well at Tampa Bay with two tackles and a sack. But he finished the season inactive for nine of the past 10 weeks. And Benard was signed after Week 4 and played a solid role coming off the bench with 17 tackles and 2.5 sacks. With Alexander, Acho and Okafor back, Arizona’s depth is set for 2014, but it’s unlikely that Alexander regains his starting spot with the kind of season Abraham is coming off.
The Arizona Cardinals won’t draft Missouri defensive end Michael Sam in May.

And it has nothing to do with his sexual orientation.

The Cardinals are stocked, if not overstocked, at outside linebacker, the position Sam will most likely have to transition to if he gets drafted in a 3-4 scheme, which the Cardinals run. At about 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, he’s too short to play off the edge for Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles – especially when Arizona’s starting defensive end is 6-8, 300-pound Calais Campbell.

Sam would be better fit as an OLB, but during their mad dash through free agency last year, the Cardinals made the position a point of emphasis. Already with Sam Acho, Arizona added Lorenzo Alexander, Matt Shaughnessy and John Abraham through free agency and drafted Alex Okafor. During the season, the Cardinals signed Dontay Moch and Marcus Benard, who also contributed this past season.

Sam’s spot on the Cardinals' roster is essentially filled by Acho, who at 6-3, 257, has the most similar body type to Sam. And Acho, most likely, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Arizona was able to fight through a decimated OLB corps last season to still register the top-ranked run defense in the league and the sixth-best defense overall. In Week 3 against New Orleans, the Cardinals lost Acho, Alexander and Okafor in a freak series of injuries within one game. In their place, Abraham became an every-down linebacker and Shaughnessy stepped up and proved worthy of his one-year deal.

Sam came out publicly Sunday night, making him the first openly gay college prospect in the history of the NFL. By now, less than 24 hours after his story was aired on ESPN and printed in The New York Times, it’s well known. He came out to his Missouri teammates back in August and proceeded to have a stellar season.

If the Cardinals pass on Sam, it’s not because he’s gay. It’s because they don’t need him. It’s a football decision.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- With the ink on Larry Fitzgerald's restructured contracted barely dry, it's time to look at what Arizona may do with the extra cap room the Pro Bowl receiver provided them. Arizona has 15 free agents left to sign after securing punter Dave Zastudil last month, but they won't bring them all back.

I ranked all 15 from highest priority to lowest and told you why:
  1. Karlos Dansby -- He's coming off a career season and was a main cog in a defense that kept getting better. Arizona would take a step back without him.
  2. Matt Shaughnessy -- He filled in better than expected at outside linebacker after injuries decimated the unit, and his length and power coupled with his speed make him a threat from the outside in Todd Bowles' defense.
  3. Andre Roberts -- The Cardinals need a speed receiver to take the top off defenses, but then again, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had Roberts last year and barely used him.
  4. Antoine Cason -- He proved himself as a tough corner and nickel back after Tyrann Mathieu went down late last season. That could be valuable tape come time to prove his worth to the powers that be.
  5. Eric Winston -- As the season went on, Winston got better, allowing just one sack in the final nine games, according to Pro Football Focus. While left tackle is more important for the Cards, Winston could be the right fit to return at right tackle.
  6. Rashard Mendenhall -- Bringing back Mendenhall isn't a huge priority because it's likely that Andre Ellington takes over the every-down role, but Mendenhall can return in his previous role and continue to mentor Ellington.
  7. Frostee Rucker -- Rucker was the perfect kind of backup for the Cardinals' vaunted defensive line, and at the right price, he could be continue in that role and be a good mentor as the defense continues to grow.
  8. Jay Feely -- Feely was consistent last season, even clutch at times, but a few late season misses left his future with the team in question.
  9. Yeremiah Bell -- Bell provides veteran leadership in a very young secondary but at 35, he's slowing down.
  10. Javier Arenas -- Arenas saw the field most on special teams as a kick returner but was only able to return 23 kicks this year and often frustrated Arians with his decision making. He's a defensive back, too but hasn't impressed in either role.
  11. Jim Dray -- A starter in 2013 Dray was a run blocker but never blossomed into an offense weapon. The Cardinals could find another option who's a combination of both.
  12. Bryan McCann -- McCann filled a much needed role as a gunner across from Justin Bethel when Teddy Williams went down. McCann's role next year will depend on if Williams is brought back.
  13. Mike Gibson -- Gibson was a steady backup on the offensive line and a special teams player in all 16 games, but his return in 2014 will depend on if his $715,000 is worth it for a backup.
  14. Kory Sperry -- Active for just eight of 16 games, Sperry saw most of his playing time on special teams.
  15. Jeff King -- Injured all of last season, King's role was filled by Jake Ballard, a restricted free agent this year.
Larry Fitzgerald and LeSean McCoyGetty ImagesLarry Fitzgerald and LeSean McCoy will look to keep their teams streaking on Sunday.
Bruce Arians and Chip Kelly come at their news jobs from very different places.

Kelly was the hot college head coach of the moment, hired by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to replace the institution that was Andy Reid. Arians was a college head coach, too, at Temple back in the 1980s. He got his job with the Arizona Cardinals, though, based upon years as an often-overlooked NFL assistant.

And now here they are. Arians’ Cardinals are 7-4 with a four-game winning streak, while Kelly’s Eagles are 6-5 after a three-game winning streak. Their teams meet at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday in a game with major NFC playoff implications.

ESPN.com reporters Josh Weinfuss, who covers the Cardinals, and Phil Sheridan, who covers the Eagles, take a closer look at the matchup.

Phil Sheridan: Bruce Arians is best known in Philadelphia as one of the rare coaches to survive a stint at Temple University. Nationally, he’s known for winning the Coach of the Year Award after filling in for Chuck Pagano last year in Indianapolis. How has he conducted business and how much of this four-game winning streak results from that?

Josh Weinfuss: I think all of it. Arians is the ultimate players coach and from everything I’ve heard about him from former players and current Cardinals who were with him in other places, he hasn’t changed a bit. He’ll tell the players like it is and if they can’t handle it, they have to figure out a way to deal with it. He’s not big on the sugarcoating, and the players appreciate it. As a head coach, he’s taken a little bit from each of the coaches he worked for and put it into play in Arizona. He’s learned how to delegate and put together a staff that complements him very well. On top of it all, he’s an offensive genius who stayed patient with this team while they learned his scheme, and it’s paying off.

On the topic of schemes, is Kelly’s high-octane offense here to stay or will he need to adapt as the season progresses?

Sheridan: Probably a little of both. Kelly already has adjusted to some degree. The foundation of his approach seems to be figuring out how a defense is designed to stop his offense and then exploiting whatever weaknesses and mismatches created by that design. When teams played man coverage and pressed to eliminate his bubble screens, Kelly shrugged and started throwing deep. When the Giants and Cowboys found a weakness in his run-blocking scheme, Kelly adjusted and got LeSean McCoy back on track. Kelly seems to enjoy the cat-and-mouse game with opposing coaches. That said, the foundations of what he does -- creating mismatches and exploiting weaknesses -- are as old as football. He just has some intriguing ways of getting there.

While we’re on that side of the ball, how has Todd Bowles been able to win the hearts and minds of a defense that thrived under former coordinator Ray Horton? And how important is having Karlos Dansby back in the fold?

Weinfuss: Bowles made one minor change up front and he’s been the glimmer in the defensive line’s eyes ever since. He went from a multi-gap system to a one-gap scheme, which has taken out the thinking from football. Now, the Cardinals front line can just rear back and go, and the changes are obvious. Darnell Dockett is having his best season in a while, Calais Campbell has emerged as one of the toughest defensive ends in the league and nose tackle Dan Williams has plugged the holes in the middle, forcing plays out to the edges -- and right into the hands of guys like John Abraham, Matt Shaughnessy, Daryl Washington and, of course, Dansby. He’s playing at the lowest weight of his career and he’s been able to fly around, going from sideline to sideline with relative ease for a guy who’s been in this league for 10 years. While everything for the Cardinals’ defense starts up front, each level has been benefiting from the line’s presence.

Let’s stay on defense. The Eagles have the worst pass defense in the league. How can they muster enough plays to slow the Cardinals' recently high-flying passing game under Carson Palmer?

Sheridan: Josh, that could be the question that determines the outcome of this game. The only answer I have is that, somehow, that’s just what the Eagles' defense has been doing in the seven games since Peyton Manning hung 52 points on them. They give up a lot of yards, but they haven’t given up more than 21 points in a game since then. They’ve been good in the red zone and have started generating pressure and, in turn, turnovers. Palmer provides a very good measuring stick. The Eagles have thrived against the Mike Glennons and Scott Tolziens of the world, although in fairness they played well against Eli Manning and Tony Romo, too. But Palmer and that Larry Fitzgerald fellow definitely represent the kind of test the Eagles must pass before being considered a good defense.

Speaking of Palmer, the NFC Offensive Player of the Week, there seems to be a Kurt Warner vibe at work here -- veteran guy getting one more shot to prove he still has it. Warner did -- does Palmer? What’s the ceiling on the offense with him at the helm?

Weinfuss: All the evidence from the past four games points to yes -- Palmer does have a Warner-esque resurgence in him, but that’s only because the Cardinals’ offense is finally working. If it was still struggling, we’d be talking about Palmer being replaced either now or after the season. Crazy how that works. Palmer is the perfect quarterback for a Bruce Arians scheme. He has a big arm and can make throws on a dime. And those two things will carry this offense as far as it can until Palmer makes bad decisions. Even though the bad decisions have been cut down during the Cards’ four-game winning streak, it would be naïve of anybody to think they’re totally done with. Arizona is just getting lucky. Twice against the Colts, Palmer had probable interceptions dropped, and against Jacksonville two weeks ago, a well-timed timeout by Arians saved Palmer from a potentially costly interception. If Palmer can take chances without making ill-advised throws, the ceiling is quite high, especially with the depth at receiver, tight end and running back.

A lot of University of Arizona fans out this way are loving the fact that Nick Foles is starting and playing well. Is he Mr. Right for the Eagles in Kelly’s offense or Mr. Right Now?

Sheridan: That’s the question that will haunt the Eagles through the offseason. Foles has had some of the luck you described Palmer having. That seven-touchdown game against Oakland was partly the product of some of the worst defensive football I’ve ever seen (and I watched Nnamdi Asomugha jog through two years here). But Foles is smart, he’s accurate and you can see him gaining confidence and comfort with every game. Clearly, he is not the quarterback Chip Kelly would order from the factory. But as he continues having success and winning games, you have to wonder how far Kelly is willing to tailor his offense to Foles for the long haul. It’s the decision that will define the Kelly era, at least for the next few years. My gut says Foles is a good NFL quarterback, but Kelly will make a move to find his guy at the earliest possible convenience. If Foles keeps this up, though, my gut might be proven wrong.

Fitzgerald, Mendenhall getting better

November, 6, 2013
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- It looks like the time off helped Larry Fitzgerald.

Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
The Arizona Cardinals wide receiver wasn’t listed on Wednesday’s injury report, but coach Bruce Arians wasn’t sure if his star was back to 100 percent. Quarterback Carson Palmer said Fitzgerald didn't do much in practice Monday, most likely giving his left hamstring an extra two days to heal before Wednesday's practice.

Before the Cardinals play Houston on Sunday, they will have played just one game in the last 23 days, and that's been the best therapy, Palmer said.

"You can get treatment on a lot of things, but a lot of the time the best remedy is just rest," Palmer said. "For Larry to have a good 10-day period where he really didn't do much and just had a chance to let that thing heal up, that will be really good for us in the second half of the season."

Running back Rashard Mendenhall was still on the injury report, however. He was limited with turf toe. Arians said Mendenhall isn’t quite healthy just yet.

“It’s not completely healed, but it’s a lot better,” Arians said.

Two Cardinals – right tackle Bradley Sowell and linebacker Daryl Washington – missed practice because of illness. Wide receiver Brittan Golden is still recovering from a pulled hamstring and was on the stationary bike for the open portion of practice.

Linebacker John Abraham (shoulder) and defensive tackle Frostee Rucker (calf) were both limited. Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy (knee) practiced fully.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals rookie guard Earl Watford was on the field during the open portion of practice Thursday, two days after he was in a car accident.

Arizona coach Bruce Arians ended his Wednesday news conference by saying Watford was rear-ended Tuesday en route to the practice facility for treatment on the team’s day off. Watford missed practice Wednesday, but was back Thursday working with the offensive line and on kickoff returns.

Watford was competing for playing time at left guard while Daryn Colledge was out with a lower back injury. But Colledge, who also missed Wednesday’s practice, returned to the field Thursday, as well.

Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, who didn’t practice Wednesday, was back on the field with a brace over his left knee.

The only Cardinal to not practice during the open portion on Thursday was running back Rashard Mendenhall.
SARASOTA, Fla. -- With the possibility of the Arizona Cardinals being down as many as four starters for Sunday’s game, I took it upon myself to lend a helping hand sorting through the injury-riddled mess. Here’s my breakdown of the projected depth chart Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay. Arizona coach Bruce Arians said Friday that he couldn’t name starters at outside linebacker because they’ll be determined by the defensive packages.

The key: Bold -- My projected starters. Crossed out -- Players that will not be playing Sunday. Italicized crossed out -- Players who may play but won't start.

Here’s my best shot:

DE: 93 Calais Campbell, 96 Ronald Talley

NT: 92 Dan Williams, 66 Alameda Ta’amu

DT: 90 Darnell Dockett, 98 Frostee Rucker

SAM: 57 Alex Okafor, 50 Dontay Moch, 59 Vic So’oto

ILB: 52 Jasper Brinkley, 51 Kevin Minter

ILB: 56 Karlos Dansby, 51 Kevin Minter

WILL: 91 Matt Shaughnessy, 55 John Abraham

LCB: 21 Patrick Peterson, 35 Javier Arenas

RCB: 25 Jerraud Powers, 20 Antoine Cason, 31 Justin Bethel

SS: 37 Yeremiah Bell, 22 Tony Jefferson

FS: 26 Rashad Johnson, 32 Tyrann Mathieu

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