NFC West: Tyler Palko

Matt Cassel among active Chiefs vs. Rams

December, 19, 2010
12/19/10
11:43
AM ET
ST. LOUIS -- Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel has done little during warm-ups at the Edward Jones Dome.

He might play anyway.

Cassel's name was not among the list of inactive players Kansas City submitted 90 minutes before kickoff. The Chiefs named Tyler Palko as their third quarterback. The Chiefs did not immediately disclose any lineup changes. Cassel or Brodie Croyle could start at quarterback.

Cassel has already missed one game since having an appendectomy. He practiced on a limited basis during the week and did not participate fully in warm-ups at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday morning. Croyle and Palko threw intermediate routes to receivers running at full speed. Cassel tossed soft 8-yard passes to a team staffer while working off to the side.

The Chiefs' inactive list featured cornerback Mike Richardson, safety Ricky Price, fullback Mike Cox, safety Reshard Langford, linebacker Charlie Anderson, center Rudy Niswanger and defensive tackle Anthony Toribio.

Inactive for the Rams: safety Michael Lewis, cornerback Justin King, running back Kenneth Darby, fullback Mike Karney, linebacker David Nixon, guard John Greco, receiver Mardy Gilyard and tight end Mike Hoomanawanui.

The situation at running back is a little troubling for the Rams. Darby is the top backup for Steven Jackson. The team has been naming Karney inactive by choice.

Rookie Keith Toston is the No. 2 running back behind Jackson.

What I'm seeing from Matt Cassel

December, 19, 2010
12/19/10
11:16
AM ET
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams will be watching closely when the Kansas City Chiefs declare their inactive players Sunday.

At issue: whether or not Kansas City will have quarterback Matt Cassel in a game with playoff implications for both teams.

Cassel is among the players on the field warming up at the Edward Jones Dome. He is doing less than the other quarterbacks. Brodie Croyle and Tyler Palko are throwing game-speed passes to receivers running intermediate routes. They are throwing on rhythm from midfield between the hashes.

Cassel has thrown some soft 8-yard passes to a team staffer off to the side. Cassel has subsequently walked toward the middle of the field, nearer the other quarterbacks, but he is not throwing to receivers.

My initial impression: Cassel does not appear on track to start against the Rams.

We'll know more soon. Teams must submit inactive lists 90 minutes prior to kickoff.

Healthy perspective on Matt Leinart

August, 24, 2010
8/24/10
5:15
PM ET
Facebook friend E.J. reached out with a question about Matt Leinart's light workload against the Tennessee Titans on Monday night.

"When Kurt Warner was the starter," he wrote, "I always thought Leinart should play every snap of the preseason (when Warner wasn't in). But to my surprise, they often played Brian St. Pierre and even Tyler Palko. Now that Leinart's time has come, I'm again surprised to see how little Leinart has played."

E.J. pointed to other starters around the league playing longer.

"Could you shed some light on the Cardinals' approach to limiting Leinart's preseason work?" he asked.

Yes. I asked coach Ken Whisenhunt about this issue early in training camp and he surprisingly said there would be no extra effort made to get reps for Leinart. To the contrary, Whisenhunt was reasonably comfortable with what Leinart could do. Getting work for Anderson, who was new to the system, would be a higher priority than carving out extra time for Leinart.

That told me Whisenhunt felt good enough about Leinart to go into the season with Leinart as his starter, even if the offense played the way it played in past preseasons with Kurt Warner under center -- not very well.

Yes, it's more important for Leinart to look good during these preseason games because he's less established than Warner. It's also fair to wonder to what degree Leinart's performances might be affecting Whisenhunt's view of him. My sense early in camp was that Whisenhunt felt better about Leinart than he was letting on -- the last thing he wanted to see was Leinart getting complacent. Whisenhunt has handled other players similarly, so there's nothing out of the ordinary there.

At your request, E.J., I went through gamebooks from the recently completed second week of exhibition games to see how much starting quarterbacks played in general. Special circumstances limited A.J. Feeley, Josh Freeman and Brett Favre to only one series apiece.

The chart ranks preseason Week 2 starting quarterbacks by total plays. The chart also shows total possessions and pass attempts for each quarterback. Leinart could have gotten more plays by converting a first down or two, but I thought Whisenhunt could have given him another series or possibly gone for it on fourth-and-1.

Catching up with the Cardinals' cut list

September, 10, 2009
9/10/09
10:44
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Cardinals Player Released on Cutdown Pos. Current Team Capacity
Aaron Francisco
DB Colts Active Roster
Onrea Jones WR Redskins Practice Squad
Trevor Canfield OL Cardinals Practice Squad
Keilen Dykes
DL Cardinals Practice Squad
Alex Field
DL Cardinals Practice Squad
Ed Gant
WR Cardinals Practice Squad
Wilrey Fontenot
DB Cardinals Injured reserve
Chase Bullock LB -- --
Tim Castille RB -- --
Jameel Dowling
DB -- --
David Holloway
LB -- --
Reagan Maui'a
RB -- --
Carlton Medder
OL -- --
Tyler Palko
QB -- --
Leonard Pope
TE -- --
Steve Sanders
WR -- --
Pago Togafau
LB -- --
Chris Vincent
RB -- --
Melvin Fowler
OL -- --
Victor Hobson
LB -- --
Rodney Leisle
DL x x
Oliver Ross
OL x x
The tough decisions teams face in reducing their rosters to 53 players sometimes aren't so tough.

I've gone through the initial NFC West cut lists -- those players released at the 53-man deadline -- to see which ones have returned to their teams or caught on elsewhere.

The chart shows results for Arizona.

Veteran safety Aaron Francisco signed with the Colts. Receiver Onrea Jones signed with the Redskins' practice squad. Arizona re-signed four players to its practice squad.

Four others -- Wilrey Fontenot, Chris Vincent, Carlton Medder and Pago Togafau -- were injured when the Cardinals released them. All but Fontenot have reached injury settlements, leaving the roster. Fontenot remains on injured reserve. Update: Fontenot has also reached an injury settlement.

Some veterans on the list might have an easier time finding work after Week 1. Rules require teams to guarantee salaries to some veterans who are active for Week 1 and then released.
Ex-Cardinals eligible for
practice squad
Pos.
Chase Bullock
LB
Trevor Canfield
OL
Jameel Dowling
DB
Keilen Dykes
DL
Alex Field
DE
Wilrey Fontenot*
DB
Ed Gant
WR
David Holloway
LB
Onrea Jones
WR
Carlton Medder*
OL
Tyler Palko
QB
Steve Sanders
WR
Pago Togafau*
LB
Chris Vincent
RB

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


NFL teams can begin forming eight-man practice squads once released players clear waivers this afternoon.

I've put together a list of recently released Cardinals players with eligibility for the practice squad. Each was released on the reduction to 53 players. Wilrey Fontenot, Carlton Medder and Pago Togafau were injured when they were released. I've placed asterisks next to their names.

Quarterback Tyler Palko showed enough during preseason for consideration, although the Cardinals have not been inclined to carry a fourth quarterback during the regular season. Guard Trevor Canfield was a draft choice. Defensive end Keilen Dykes appeared to make a strong run early in camp. Receiver Onrea Jones showed promise at times.

Cardinals: Cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2009
9/04/09
6:18
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Biggest surprise: There weren'y any big ones. Undrafted rookie linebacker Reggie Walker did beat out veteran Victor Hobson. The team kept seven receivers for now, including Lance Long, after injuries affected Early Doucet, Anquan Boldin and (previously) Steve Breaston. I would not expect the Cardinals to keep seven receivers all season, a reminder that this is the team's initial 53-man roster, not the final one.

Arizona sought to upgrade its secondary through the draft and free agency. That spelled the end for veteran safety Aaron Francisco. I thought the team might keep veteran center Melvin Fowler as insurance. Rookie returner LaRod Stephens-Howling stuck around, costing fullback Tim Castille a chance to continue with the team. Tight end Leonard Pope's demise had been on the horizon for a while and it was a bad sign when he was playing deep into the second half of the fourth exhibition game.

No-brainers: The team also released quarterback Tyler Palko, receiver Steve Sanders, receiver Ed Gant, cornerback Wilrey Fontenot, running back Chris Vincent, cornerback Jameel Dowling, fullback Reagan Maui'a, guard Trevor Canfield guard Carlton Medder, defensive end Alex Field, defensive tackle Keilen Dykes, tackle Oliver Ross, receiver Onrea Jones, defensive tackle Rodney Leisle, linebacker Chase Bullock and linebacker David Holloway. Canfield, chosen in the seventh-round, was the only 2009 draft choice released.

What's next: The heirarchy at tight end will continue to shake out, with Dominique Byrd essentially getting an extended tryout while Ben Patrick serves a four-game suspension. The team still could use a backup center with some experience.

Observations from Cards' exhibition game

September, 4, 2009
9/04/09
10:08
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Thoughts and observations from the Cardinals' exhibition game Thursday night against the Broncos:
  • Fitzgerald cares. The Cardinals' first-team offense made little apparent progress following an "embarrassing" effort a week earlier, but receiver Larry Fitzgerald showed the unwavering focus and professionalism that help maximize his talents. He ran after the catch the way he would have in a Super Bowl. Receiver Steve Breaston, meanwhile, couldn't even get lined up properly, drawing two penalties for illegal formations. This is a recurring issue for Breaston and one that gets annoying if you watch enough Cardinals games. He committed three such penalties during the 2008 regular season. Details matter.
  • Action for Toler. I was a little surprised to read coach Ken Whisenhunt's comments about how the Cardinals' rookie defensive backs, including cornerback Greg Toler, have a long ways to go. Toler competes. He battled hard against Broncos receiver Brandon Lloyd, closing hard on the ball to break up a sideline pass. Lloyd did beat Toler for a long completion to the Arizona 1-yard line, but Lloyd used his left arm to push Toler past the play. It was a veteran move and one that worked, but Toler was there all the way. Officials flagged him for illegal contact on a deep pass in the third quarter. The contact was came early in the route as an act of aggressiveness, not panic. Toler was there all the way and nearly picked off the pass.
  • Updating Long. Receiver Lance Long didn't seem to make an emphatic statement in his quest to earn one of the final spots at receiver. Only Jerheme Urban played more than Long among Arizona receivers in the first half. Long finished the game with one reception for 9 yards. Officials flagged him for holding deep in Cardinals territory and it was a good call.
  • Playing time. First-half snap counts for the Cardinals' skill players broke down this way: Urban 20, Long 14, Warner 12, Stephen Spach 10, Breaston 10, Fitzgerald 10, Jason Wright 9, Beanie Wells 9, Sean Morey 8, Anthony Becht 7, Dan Kreider 6, Tim Hightower 6, Matt Leinart 6, Tyler Palko 6, Ben Patrick 4, Onrea Jones 4, Reagan Maui'a 2 and Tim Castille 1.
  • Wells catches naturally. The Cardinals' first-round choice made a reception out of the backfield for 12 yards, gathering the ball naturally and gaining several yards after the catch. It wasn't much to go on, but nothing about Wells seems to stand out as negative or limiting. We haven't seen enough to know for sure how he'll hold up in pass protection, a key variable for playing time.
  • Losing Pope. Tight end Leonard Pope's long-term future with the team appears shaky. The team could keep an extra player at the position while Ben Patrick serves a four-game suspension to open the season. Even that might not be enough for Pope, who did not play in the first half. When Pope finally got a chance, he showed zero tenacity while missing a block against Broncos defensive end Jarvis Moss. The early third-quarter play allowed Moss to tackle running back Chris Vincent for a loss.
  • Hobson shows. Cardinals linebacker Victor Hobson made a positive impression on a few plays. He was aggressive and put a big hit on the quarterback in the third quarter.

Practice-squad report: Cardinals

August, 21, 2009
8/21/09
12:33
PM ET
Cardinals eligible for
practice squad
Pos. Perceived Status
Michael Adams
DB
Bubble
Jameel Dowling
DB
Likely cut
Wilrey Fontenot
DB
Likely cut
Rashad Johnson
DB
Keeper
Greg Toler
DB
Keeper
Alex Field
DL
Likely cut
Keilen Dykes
DL
Bubble
Cody Brown
LB
Keeper
Chase Bullock
LB
Likely cut
Will Davis
LB
Bubble
Ali Highsmith
LB
Bubble
Pago Togafau
LB
Bubble
Reggie Walker
LB
Likely cut
Trevor Canfield
OL
Likely cut
Ben Claxton
OL
Likely cut
Herman Johnson
OL
Keeper
Carlton Medder
OL
Likely cut
Brandon Keith
OL
Keeper
Brandon Pearce
OL
Likely cut
Elliot Vallejo
OL
Bubble
Tyler Palko
QB
Likely cut
Brian St. Pierre
QB
Keeper
LaRod Stephens-Howling
RB
Bubble
Chris Vincent
RB
Likely cut
Beanie Wells
RB
Keeper
Early Doucet
WR
Keeper
Ed Gant
WR
Likely cut
Michael Ray Garvin
WR
Bubble
Onrea Jones
WR
Likely cut
Lance Long
WR
Bubble
Steve Sanders
WR
Likely cut

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt's recent comments about LaRod Stephens-Howling highlight a subject likely to shape the team's plans for its practice squad.

What to do with a talented player who doesn't fit neatly into a general position, in this case, running back?

Stephens-Howling would be a prime candidate for the practice squad if the Cardinals did not initially make room for him on their 53-man roster. Specialist Michael Ray Garvin also could be a factor depending on how he recovers from knee surgery.

Quarterback Tyler Palko made an impression during the Cardinals' exhibition opener, but the team generally does not keep a quarterback on its practice squad. The need for an additional arm seems diminished with new quarterbacks coach Chris Miller sometimes throwing during practice.

Defensive end Keilen Dykes was making a strong push for a roster spot before suffering an injury. His status seems a bit less settled.

Receivers Onrea Jones and Lance Long could also be strong candidates for the practice squad if they do not land spots on the 53-man roster.

The chart shows all 31 current Cardinals players with eligibility, arranged by position.

NFL teams must reduce rosters from 80 to 75 players Sept. 1. They must reduce to 53 players Sept. 5. They can begin forming eight-man practice squads Sept. 6 at noon ET.

As the NFL puts it:

After 12 noon, New York ti
me, clubs may establish a practice squad of eight players by signing free agents who do not have an accrued season of free-agency credit or who were on the 45-player active list for less than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season(s). A player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than three seasons.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals have gotten dramatically younger at running back this offseason. Edgerrin James and Terrelle Smith are gone, leaving Tim Hightower and Dan Kreider as the only current Cardinals running backs with starting experience.

The team kept three halfbacks and two fullbacks on its Week 1 roster last season. Nine other teams also kept more than one fullback for the opener.

Hightower, Chris Wells, Jason Wright, Kreider and Tim Castille entered camp as the likely choices for those spots, should the team keep five. LaRod Stephens-Howling would have to significantly liven up the return game to earn a spot, most likely.


Arizona Cardinals Week 1 Roster Counts since 2003 QB RB WR TE OL DL LB DB ST
Fewest 2
4 5 2 8 5 6 7 2
Most 4 7 7 4 10 9 8 10 3
Average 3.0 5.3 6.0 3.2 8.8 7.7 7.0 8.8 2.8
Currently on roster
4
8 10 5 15 10 11 14 3

The chart provides a framework for how many players the Cardinals might keep at each position heading into the regular-season opener against the 49ers.

Here's a quick look at which Cardinals players I might keep on the cutdown to 53 players:

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Thoughts and observations from the Cardinals' first exhibition game of the 2009 season, against the Steelers on Thursday night:

  • Calais Campbell made a very positive first impression as he moved into the starting lineup at right defensive end, replacing Antonio Smith, who signed with Houston. Campbell made an aggressive play against the run early. He tossed aside Steelers tackle Max Starks to pressure Ben Roethlisberger near the goal line. Campbell also pressured Charlie Batch on a third-and-3 play. This seemed to be exactly what the Cardinals wanted to see from Campbell.
  • The Cardinals spread the field and then ran the ball on third-and-2, something they did only three times all last season by my count, converting none. Tim Hightower picked up the first down this time. It's premature to read anything into the decision as Ken Whisenhunt takes back play-calling duties. But it stood out to me as something the Cardinals should do more frequently. Hightower looked good.
  • The Cardinals' starting offensive tackles had some problems in pass protection, just as they did against the Steelers in the Super Bowl. Levi Brown is a powerful run-blocker, though. He cleared out the Steelers' Aaron Smith, helping Hightower gain 9 yards on a first-and-10 play. Brown sometimes seems miscast for the Cardinals' pass-oriented offense. I can see why Russ Grimm liked him coming out of college, though.
  • No one will be writing about how Brian St. Pierre turned up the pressure on Matt Leinart for the No. 2 job at quarterback. Leinart overcame a shaky start to play well. He took a brutal hit early in the game. It's tougher to envision the Cardinals handing the No. 2 job to St. Pierre after this game.
  • The Cardinals do not want LaRod Stephens-Howling standing there as the last line of defense in blitz pickup. That happened a couple times against the Steelers and it wasn't pretty. Stephens-Howling is 5-foot-7 and 180 pounds.
  • Rookie offensive lineman Herman Johnson held up effectively in pass protection, a very good sign for the 380-pounder. Johnson projected as a guard coming out of LSU, but the Cardinals are trying him at backup right tackle. They had to like what they saw from him in this game. His protection helped set up an intermediate completion to Sean Morey. Jason Wright found running room behind Johnson on another play. Later, Johnson pushed the Steelers' Keyaron Fox 10 yards downfield while Wright picked up 6 or 7 yards. Johnson even caught and tackled Steelers cornerback Anthony Madison during an interception return. Nice work, big fella.
  • Defensive lineman Kenny Iwebema showed he's coming back strong following surgery to remove a tumor from his chest. Iwebema lifted and pancaked Steelers right tackle Jason Capizzi on one play. He was a force against the run on another.
I'm filing this with about 5 minutes left in the game. Figured I could follow up with anything else that jumped out the rest of the way, such as Tyler Palko stealing the show late.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Nate Burleson is headed to Arizona for a month-long workout program at Athletes Performance. Burleson, who is from Seattle: "I want to go into this last year in the best shape of my career. And I know if I'm out here I might have some distractions. I might be tempted to travel or be tempted to vacate. But if I'm in Arizona and I'm working out five times a week, twice a day, I'm not going to be tempted to go anywhere because it's what I have to do."

Also from Williams: Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp says he believes a team has to "platoon the [running] backs" to keep them fresh. Not that the Seahawks have a runner established enough to command nearly all the carries.

Gregg Bell of the Associated Press quotes Seahawks cornerback Kelly Jennings as saying he's "not sure" about his role for the upcoming season. Ken Lucas is starting ahead of him. Jennings: "Beginning of last season, I definitely didn't play the way I had hoped to. Now that the change has been made, it's more competition. It kind of helps me heighten my senses and know I've got to really bear down and show what I can do." 

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks expect Walter Jones, Patrick Kerney and all their rehabbing players to practice when training camp opens.

Also from O'Neil: Seahawks receiver Deon Butler runs in Aaron Curry's shadow when the two hang out away from the field. Butler: "People think I'm like his homeboy from Fayetteville. ... They're like, 'You play football?' "

More from O'Neil: a look at tight ends, fullbacks and linebackers battling in practice. John Carlson continues to impress. O'Neil: "Carlson made a ridiculous catch while being defended by linebacker Leroy Hill. It was a diving catch, in which Carlson deadened and controlled the ball with one hand -- his left hand no less -- before cradling it with two arms. Earlier in the drill, Carlson got by rookie linebacker Aaron Curry and turned on the jets."

Samuel Lam of examiner.com checks in with quarterback Alex Smith and linebacker Patrick Willis of the 49ers. Willis on life under defensive coordinator Greg Manusky: "I think our whole approach to how we work, how we execute with attention to detail is a lot different than it has been. We have a little bit more freedom to do our thing. Before it was a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It's his third year now as defensive coordinator and with time we get better. We have a lot of guys that want to do well and want to be one of the best defenses in the league, if not the best."

Demetric Evans of the 49ers blogs about his golf game and how he wanted the Nuggets to reach the NBA Finals so he could see Chauncey Billups play.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider quotes Mike Martz on NFL Network. Martz offers pointers to Alex Smith while using the word "subpar" to describe some of the 49ers' receivers last season.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says it's tough to know which quarterback is leading the 49ers' competition.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers' new offense isn't a boring one. Barrows: "I can report that the O is not nearly as bland as initially thought. The 49ers have worked on four-receiver package this past week. There are lots of passes between 20 and 40 yards. There's even a dash of razzle dazzle thrown in. And most important, they're making progress." It's the play calling that tends to determine whether an offense is daring, boring or somewhere in between.

Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com offers an appreciation for retiring former Rams quarterback Trent Green. Klutsarits: "What will go underrated in Green's career was his sense of confidence that he gave to the teams he played for. I heard Kurt Warner in an interview on WXOS less than a week ago say that Trent was more important to that Super Bowl Championship season than people give him credit for. He had that offense up and humming and had installed the belief that they were going to be a dominant offense long before Warner took over."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com expects little Cardinals news in the coming weeks, although he does point to a report about Luke Palko, brother of Tyler, joining the team as a scout. Luke Palko had been interning as a scout with the Steelers.

Also from Urban: The Cardinals have signed both seventh-round choices. He notes that the Cardinals will have to release a player each time they sign another choice as they comply with the 80-man roster limit.

Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind sizes up the Cardinals' situation at cornerback. It's an improved situation.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

A quick look at 53-man rosters from Feb. 1, date of Super Bowl XLIII, provides a reference point for seeing how NFC West teams have changed so far this offseason.

I'll continue with Arizona.

Gone from the Cardinals' 53-man roster and injured reserve list in the 58 days since the Super Bowl (9):

Offense

Pat Ross, C

J.J. Arrington, RB

Terrelle Smith, FB

Jerame Tuman, TE

Scott Peters, OL

Defense

Eric Green, CB

Monty Beisel, LB

Antonio Smith, DE

Special teams

Nathan Hodel, LS

(Read full post)

Roided-out NFC West rosters: Week 20.5

January, 24, 2009
1/24/09
10:58
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

I've updated the NFC West roided-out rosters to include moves made this week. Those are available for download.

I'll tack on a Steelers version in the next edition, scheduled for Super Bowl week. In the meantime, let's take a quick look at players NFC West teams have signed to future contracts. These players will become part of the 80-man rosters after the Super Bowl.
Arizona: punter Waylon Prather, quarterback Tyler Palko, running back Justin Green, guard Ben Claxton.

St. Louis: receiver Nate Jones, defensive tackle Willie Williams, receiver Joel Filani, receiver Travis Brown, running back Samkon Gado, defensive end C.J. Ah You.

San Francisco: tight end J.J. Finley, tackle Joe Toledo, receiver Mark Bradford, linebacker Justin Roland and kick returner Michael Spurlock.

Seattle: defensive back Marquis FLoyd, tight end Joe Newton, receiver Michael Bumpus, defensive tackle Kevin Brown, tight end John Tereshinski, long snapper Ryan Senser, receiver Mike Hass and Receiver Billy McMullen.

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