NFL Nation: Anthony Sherman

Chiefs need to get swagger back -- soon

November, 18, 2013
11/18/13
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Justin Houston, Dontari PoeAP Photo/Joe MahoneyThe Chiefs entered Sunday leading the NFL in sacks, but they could not once get to Peyton Manning.

DENVER -- Forget about the rematch against the Denver Broncos in two weeks. There's only one game on the Kansas City Chiefs' schedule that matters now, and it's next Sunday's meeting with the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs have to get their swagger back. They haven't played their game in several weeks, and on Sunday night they paid for it by losing for the first time this season, 27-17 to the Broncos.

It's just one game, and at 9-1 the Chiefs are still tied for first place with the Broncos in the AFC West. Still, their world suddenly feels like it's teetering. That's what happens when a defense that had carried the Chiefs through the first nine games collapsed, failing to make a single impact play in Denver's 76 offensive snaps.

Think about that for a second. The Chiefs, the league leader in sacks, never got to Peyton Manning, rarely even got a hand on him.

The Chiefs, the league leader in turnovers forced, got one takeaway, but it wasn't forced. A bad exchange on a handoff between Manning and Montee Ball wound up on the ground, and the Chiefs' Derrick Johnson was there to pick it up.

"That's us. That's what we do," Johnson said, referring to the sacks and turnovers that fueled the Chiefs through their 9-0 start. "It's just one game where we didn't do what we usually do."

Similarly, coach Andy Reid described the loss as just one bad day.

"We played a good football team," Reid said. "They got us today."

The Chiefs had better not fall into that trap. They haven't been themselves for weeks, and to believe the Chiefs will return to their previous form is, in all likelihood, wishful thinking.

The Chiefs didn't get a sack in their previous game against Buffalo, either. The week before that, they had just one against Cleveland.

Not every opponent will be able to exploit Kansas City's defense like the Broncos, who have Manning at quarterback and an impressive array of receivers. But other opponents have caught on to Kansas City's methods of pressure and have adjusted. The Chiefs need to adjust as well.

"It's one thing to say offenses are catching up to us just because we lost one game," cornerback Sean Smith. "Our defense is still very good. We're not hanging our heads low. You've got to give some credit to the offense. They're very efficient. They don't make too many mistakes. But still we have to find some kind of way to force turnovers. We definitely need more opportunities for our offense."

Perhaps the Chiefs will bounce back next week against the Chargers and return to their dominant form. Yet some ominous signs popped up against the Broncos that more likely mean it could be some time before the Chiefs right themselves defensively.

Rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper, who had been a gem since he was pulled off waivers from San Francisco to begin the regular season, had his worst game. Linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali looked like average pass-rushers.

When opposing quarterbacks get rid of the ball quickly, as Manning mostly did and Buffalo's Jeff Tuel frequently did, the Chiefs look average, and sometimes not even that. So expect San Diego's Philip Rivers and other opposing quarterbacks to continue to throw quickly to neutralize Kansas City's pass rush.

"This league is a copycat league," Johnson said. "Whenever things work against you, other teams are going to do it, too."

Indeed, the fate of Kansas City's season depends on the defense pulling itself together. The Chiefs certainly can't count on their offense to carry them.

The Chiefs blew their only realistic chance to win Sunday night in the first quarter. After Johnson returned Manning's fumble to the Denver 18-yard line, the Chiefs had a chance to recover from an early 3-0 deficit.

Earlier in the season, they would have jumped all over the opportunity. This time, they returned the favor on the first play when fullback Anthony Sherman fumbled. Denver recovered and, with the help of a 70-yard pass from Manning to Demaryius Thomas, soon had a 10-0 lead.

It was Kansas City's first double-digit deficit of the season. Predictably, they couldn't overcome it.

So after just one defeat, the Chiefs' season has that fragile feel. They don't have much time to fix their problems. If they don't do it by next week's game against the Chargers, the Dec. 1 game against Denver might not matter much, anyway.

"We have a big division game coming up next week, so there's no time to feel sorry for ourselves," Smith said. "You take [the Denver loss] with a grain of salt."

They'll do so at their own peril.

Friday's Chiefs practice report

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs could have their entire roster available to them in Sunday's game against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium. Starting free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis and was listed on their injury report as having a 50-50 chance to play.

The other 12 players on their report were listed as probable. That includes cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee) and tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle/knee). Both were listed as being limited practice participants on Friday.

Everyone else on their injury report was listed as a full practice participant: wide receiver Donnie Avery (shoulder), offensive linemen Branden Albert (knee/elbow), Jon Asamoah (knee) and Jeff Allen (groin/hand), nose tackle Dontari Poe (ankle), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), punter Dustin Colquitt (knee), tight end Kevin Brock (shoulder), linebacker Dezman Moses (toe) and defensive lineman Jaye Howard (non-injury related).
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rookie defensive back Sanders Commings, who has been on the Kansas City Chiefs' injured-reserve list all season, practiced for the first time on Wednesday.

The promotion of Commings, a fifth-round draft pick from Georgia, to the active roster, appears inevitable, with the only question being the timing of the move. Commings was a nickel safety for the Chiefs during offseason practice and would have challenged for playing time had he not broken his collarbone during the first practice at training camp.

The Chiefs are deep in the secondary, with the emergence of rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper and veteran safeties Quintin Demps and Husain Abdullah, but the return of Commings would provide even more security at the back end of their defense.

Starting tight end Anthony Fasano, who has missed the last four games because of knee and ankle injuries, returned to practice on a limited basis and said that barring a setback he would play Sunday against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium.

The only player who did not practice was starting free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle). The only other player who was limited in practice was cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee).

The Chiefs listed nine players as full practice participants: tackle Branden Albert (knee/elbow), nose tackle Dontari Poe (ankle), guard Jeff Allen (groin/hand), guard Jon Asamoah (knee), wide receiver Donnie Avery (shoulder), tight end Kevin Brock (shoulder), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), punter Dustin Colquitt (knee) and linebacker Dezman Moses (toe).

Friday's Chiefs practice report

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs ended the suspense with outside linebacker Justin Houston, listing him on their injury report as probable to play in Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.

Joseph
Houston
Houston, hit in the head and neck area in last week's game against Tennessee, missed practice Wednesday as the Chiefs put him through the NFL's concussion protocol. He returned to practice on a limited basis on Thursday and was a full practice participant on Friday.

Houston is second in the NFL with 8.5 sacks.

But cornerback Brandon Flowers, who missed a game against the New York Giants two weeks ago because of a sore knee, injured the other knee in practice and was listed as having a 50-50 chance to play against the Raiders.

Another starter, free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle) practiced for the first time this week and was also listed as questionable for Sunday's game. Tight ends Anthony Fasano (ankle/knee) and Travis Kelce (knee) did not practice all week. Fasano is listed as doubtful, and while Kelce will not play.

The Chiefs have nine other players on their injury report, and all were listed as likely to play: running back Jamaal Charles (toes), wide receiver Donnie Avery (shoulder), punter Dustin Colquitt (knee), tackle Eric Fisher (concussion), guard Jeff Allen (groin), tight end Sean McGrath (knee), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz (triceps), and linebacker Dezman Moses (toe).

Thursday's Chiefs practice report

October, 10, 2013
10/10/13
5:50
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Outside linebacker Justin Houston returned to Kansas City Chiefs practice on a limited basis but has yet to be cleared to play in Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.

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Houston
Houston was hit in the head/neck area last week against the Tennessee Titans. He remained in the game. He did not practice Wednesday.

The loss of Houston would be a major one for the Chiefs. Houston leads the Chiefs with 8.5 sacks.

If he doesn't play, Houston would be replaced by veteran Frank Zombo, a former starter with the Packers. Zombo had four sacks as a rookie in 2010.

Running back Jamaal Charles, who has blisters on his feet, also returned to practice on a limited basis after sitting out a day earlier.

Two starters, tight end Anthony Fasano (knee/ankle) and free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle) did not practice. Backup tight end Travis Kelce (knee) did not practice and will not play against Oakland.

Other players listed as practicing on a limited basis were wide receiver Donnie Avery (shoulder) and punter Dustin Colquitt (knee).

Listed as full practice participants: tackle Eric Fisher (concussion), guard Jeff Allen (groin), tight end Sean McGrath (knee), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee), offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz (tricep) and linebacker Dezman Moses (toe).
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs had 12 names on their injury report, so things are looking up for them in that category. They listed 14 players last week.

Four starters did not practice: linebacker Justin Houston (possible concussion), running back Jamaal Charles (toes), tight end Anthony Fasano (knee/ankle) and free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle). Backup tight end Travis Kelce (knee) also did not practice. Kelce, who had arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday, will not play Sunday against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.

Two other regulars were listed as being limited participants in practice: wide receiver Donnie Avery (shoulder) and punter Dustin Colquitt (knee).

Tackle Eric Fisher, who missed last week's game against the New York Giants because of a concussion, was a full practice participant. Others listed as full participants: guard Jeff Allen (groin), tight end Sean McGrath (knee), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz (triceps).
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Four starters are listed as questionable on the Kansas City Chiefs injury report for Sunday's game against the New York Giants. Cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee), free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle), guard Jeff Allen (groin) and tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle) are the players listed as questionable.

Flowers played on a sore knee in last week's game in Philadelphia, but aggravated the injury in the game. He practiced on a limited basis Thursday but did not practice on Friday. Lewis, Allen and Fasano were listed as being limited practice participants Friday.

Backup tight end Travis Kelce (knee) did not practice and will not play against the Giants.

Listed as probable for the Giants game and full practice participants on Friday were three starters: tackle Branden Albert (shoulder), defensive end Mike DeVito (neck) and fullback Anthony Sherman (knee). Backup linebacker Frank Zombo was also listed as probable for the game after participating fully in practice.

Thursday's Chiefs practice report

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
5:35
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Starting cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee) and free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle) returned to practice for the Kansas City Chiefs, though on a limited basis. The Chiefs also listed on their injury report two other starters, offensive tackle Branden Albert (shoulder) and defensive end Mike DeVito (neck), as being limited practice participants.

Otherwise, their injury report remained the same. Two starters, tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle) and guard Jeff Allen (groin) did not practice, increasing the likelihood they won't be available for Sunday's game against the New York Giants at Arrowhead Stadium. Backup tight end Travis Kelce (knee) also did not practice.

The other two players on the injury report, fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and linebacker Frank Zombo (elbow), were listed as full practice participants.

Wednesday's Chiefs practice report

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
5:45
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KANSAS CITY , Mo. -- The practice week began in earnest for the Kansas City Chiefs with five players, including four starters, not working. Cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee), free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle), guard Jeff Allen (groin) and tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle) were the starters who did not practice.

Dunta Robinson was starting in Flowers' spot. Quintin Demps filled in for Lewis, Geoff Schwartz for Allen and Sean McGrath for Fasano.

The fifth player who did not practice was backup tight end Travis Kelce (knee).

Two other starters, tackle Branden Albert (shoulder) and defensive end Mike DeVito, were listed on the injury report as being limited practice participants. Fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and linebacker Frank Zombo (elbow) were listed as full participants.

Monday's Chiefs practice report

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
2:52
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Five starters and one reserve did not participate as the Kansas City Chiefs returned to work and began preparations for Sunday's game against the New York Giants at Arrowhead Stadium.

Cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee), guard Jeff Allen (groin) and fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) were injured in last week's win over Philadelphia and did not practice. Sherman is the most likely player to return when practice resumes Wednesday and play against the Giants.

Another starter, free safety Kendrick Lewis, injured his ankle in Sunday's practice. The two other players who didn't practice, starting tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle) and backup Travis Kelce (knee) didn't play against the Eagles.

Chiefs' FB Sherman more than a blocker

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
1:52
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If you were looking for a most unlikely candidate to lead the Kansas City Chiefs in receiving, even after just one game, you’d couldn’t have done much better than fullback Anthony Sherman. The fullback in Andy Reid’s offense, as in many in the modern NFL, doesn’t have a huge role and indeed Sherman played on less than half of the offensive snaps in last week’s win against Jacksonville.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Sherman
Scott A. Miller/AP PhotoKansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman, a fifth-round pick out of Connecticut in 2011, had a solid Week 1 performance.
But Sherman wound up tied for the team lead in pass catches. Sherman and Dwayne Bowe each had four receptions, but Sherman had more yardage than Bowe and delivered the longest scrimmage play of the game, a 26-yarder catch and run.

Sherman’s receptions against the Jaguars weren’t fancy. Most were just dumps when quarterback Alex Smith was looking to get rid of the ball. The Chiefs don’t have many plays designed expressly for Sherman.

Sherman, at 5-10 and 242, is short and squatty like the typical fullback, but he’s quickly proving he can be more than just a battering ram on runs by Jamaal Charles or one of their other featured backs.

“You hear 'fullback' and you think he’s a big bruiser type of guy, which you need on your football team," offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “But when you study film, you see him run around, there’s some athleticism there."

The Chiefs acquired Sherman after the draft in a trade with Arizona. With the Cardinals, he was little more than a lead blocker, as he was handed or thrown the ball a total of 14 times in two seasons.

“I’m definitely more involved here," Sherman said.

Sherman won’t finish the season leading the Chiefs in receiving. If he does, they’re in serious trouble.

But he's more than an afterthought on a team that doesn’t have a lot of great skill players.

“He’s got great hands and he’s a good route runner," Pederson said. “If we continue to find ways to get him out in space and utilize him, we’re going to do that. He’s a big part of this offense."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs have more than a few reasons to feel encouraged by their passing game after Sunday’s 28-2 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars and here is another: nine different receivers caught at least one pass against the Jaguars.

Smith
Nine isn’t a colossal number, but it’s impressive for a couple of reasons. First, the Chiefs dressed 12 backs and receivers. One of them, tight end Travis Kelce, didn’t play. The two others who didn’t catch a pass, tight end Sean McGrath and wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, were between them in for 18 of the 63 offensive snaps.

More importantly, the Chiefs are searching for a reliable receiver to take some pressure off Dwayne Bowe, but that doesn’t have to be just one guy. It can be several and, for one day at least, it was.

“The more guys you utilize, the more pressure it puts on a defense,’’ coach Andy Reid said. “(Opposing defenses) have to cover everybody. You can’t favor one guy. That’s always been a part of this offense, to move it around and give everyone an opportunity.’’

The Chiefs, using the West Coast passing game in its purest form, gave everyone but McGrath and Jenkins an opportunity. Almost all of quarterback Alex Smith's throws were short. Only Dexter McCluster at 14.3 yards per catch averaged more than 11.

Bowe caught four passes, but he was almost an afterthought. Donnie Avery and Junior Hemingway had the touchdowns. McCluster was the big-play receiver.

Even fullback Anthony Sherman, in the game for just 26 offensive plays, got involved. He tied with Bowe for the lead with four catches, and even had the long gain when he took a short pass 26 yards.

“You’ve got to cover him,’’ Reid said, “or he’s going to do some damage.’’

Chiefs not afraid to admit a mistake

August, 27, 2013
8/27/13
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The Chiefs, who made the bulk of their roster moves Sunday, got down to the NFL's limit of 75 players by releasing wide receiver Jamar Newsome. If there's one thing the first round of roster cuts showed, it's that the new administration of general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid isn't afraid to admit a mistake.

That mistake, in this case, was rookie fullback Braden Wilson, a sixth-round draft pick from Kansas State. Previous general managers and coaches in Kansas City have been reluctant to acknowledge so early after a pick was made that it wasn't going to work out.

But, since drafting Wilson, the Chiefs traded for their starting fullback, Anthony Sherman, and signed undrafted rookie Toben Opurum. Both showed a better knack for the job than Wilson, which explains why they're still on the roster when Wilson isn't.

So Dorsey and Reid deserve some criticism for whiffing on a draft pick, even if it is a sixth-round selection. But they also deserve some credit for not playing roster politics and keeping a player who wasn't deserving just because they didn't want to look bad.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs and Andy Reid needed each other.

A year ago, as the Chiefs were toiling through their summer preparations, this pairing seemed more than unlikely. It appeared implausible.

The Chiefs were embarking on the Romeo Crennel era. The franchise was focused on salvaging the Scott Pioli leadership by having one of his former New England colleagues take over the coach's headset on a full-time basis after he had guided the team following Todd Haley's dismissal in December 2011. There were no thoughts of Crennel being a temporary caretaker for one of the biggest coaching names in the game. Reid was entering his 14th season in Philadelphia.

But 2012 ended up being an awful year for the Chiefs and for Reid. Change was necessary for both.

When Reid was let go by the Eagles, Kansas City owner Clark Hunt acted swiftly, turning from Pioli and Crennel to Reid. It was a bold move from the Heartland, where the Chiefs usually stay out of the national spotlight.

Hiring Reid was bold. And while technically neither Reid nor his new team has accomplished anything just yet, the fit seems right. Reid is resplendent in red. The Chiefs’ players are energized by the top-notch coaching and energy Reid has brought.

“I don’t look to the past and we can’t look to the future yet; all we got is right now,” Reid said. “And the 'right now' is pretty good. … I really like where we are and what these guys are doing.”

While it is just August, the Chiefs look nothing like the 2-14 team they were in 2012. Most teams that earn the No. 1 overall draft pick look like it the following training camp. Instead, the Chiefs look like a complete team with few holes, one that is ready to make a big move.

“We don’t even talk about 2-14 anymore,” said safety Eric Berry, one of six Pro Bowl players from what was, despite the record, a talented 2012 outfit. “We are all focused on getting better and getting coached by Coach Reid and his staff. … We can’t wait to get out here every day to see how we can get better. Everybody feels that way. We’re all so happy right now.”

THREE HOT TOPICS

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesAlex Smith's smooth transition at quarterback is just one reason behind the Chiefs' bright outlook.
1. The quarterback: Thus far, the transition to Alex Smith has been a success in Kansas City. Of course, we won’t find out anything tangible until we see if he can make a difference in the regular season. But so far, Smith has taken to Reid’s coaching and shown he is the leader of this team. He has been good in training camp, and he was excellent in the first preseason game. If Smith can be the smart, mistake-free player he was in his best San Francisco days, the Chiefs can be a real contender. This team has been screaming for solid quarterback play, and it may be about to get it.

“He’s a smart guy,” Reid said of his quarterback. “He gets it. He makes it easy. He doesn’t run out of gigabytes.”

2. Finding a No. 2 receiver: There aren’t a lot of issues with this roster, but finding a solid No. 2 receiver behind star Dwayne Bowe is a focal point of this camp. Free-agent pickup Donnie Avery will likely be the guy, and he has shown he can be a capable NFL player. He can get open. The team would like to see 2011 first-round pick Jon Baldwin finally develop. He has big ability but has failed to show the consistency to be a top-of-the rotation player. The Chiefs have a varied offense, so this will not be a huge problem, but it would be beneficial if Bowe had some legitimate help opposite of him.

3. Dontari Poe: If training camp is any indication, Poe has a chance to be among the breakout players in the NFL this season. The No. 11 overall pick of the 2012 draft has been terrific. He has taken to the new coaching. The light has come on. The super-athletic Poe is getting the playbook and has been dominant at times. Nose tackle sets the tone for the defense, and it seems Poe is up to the task. To his credit, Poe made strides late in his rookie season and seems to have carried it over to his second training camp.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

The Chiefs' roster is loaded. There are not a lot of holes. Sure, the Chiefs could use a deeper group of receivers, a deeper defensive line and a few odds and ends here and there. But in today’s NFL, that is not a deep list of concerns. Add a top coach like Reid, a capable quarterback like Smith and several fine free-agent additions to a roster that featured six Pro Bowl players, and there is a lot to like about this team. This is not your average club trying to rebound from 2-14.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

There isn’t much not to like here. The worst thing Kansas City has going for it is simply rebuilding from a 2-14 season. Just how many wins can a 2-14 team expect in the first year of a new regime? The Chiefs will be much better. But what does that mean? A 7-9 season in Kansas City would signify great progress. But if the Chiefs want to make a run at the playoffs, they likely will have to go 9-7 or better. A seven-win improvement is never an easy task in the NFL.

OBSERVATION DECK
    [+] EnlargeJamaal Charles
    AP Photo/Gerald HerbertJamaal Charles' role in the offense does not figure to be diminished considering he touched the ball eight times and scored a TD on the Chiefs' first drive of the preseason.

  • The Chiefs like their offensive line. They think they have a lot of depth. Jeff Allen, Geoff Schwartz and Donald Stephenson give the team a lot of options.
  • The Chiefs have no remorse over using the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft on right tackle Eric Fisher. He is a natural talent who works hard and fits in with his teammates. He is a hard-hat player who just happened to be the top pick in the draft.
  • The coaching staff is pleased with the way star running back Jamaal Charles has adapted to the offense. He has embraced the chance to catch more balls out of the backfield. For anyone who thought Charles’ role would be diminished because of Reid’s arrival, just look at the New Orleans game last week. Charles touched the ball on eight of the 14 plays the Chiefs’ first-team offense was on the field.
  • Players love the scheme of new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. It is aggressive and player-friendly.
  • One of the strengths of this team going into camp was the defensive backfield. It continues to be. This is a deep, talented unit.
  • One young player to keep an eye is undrafted rookie receiver Rico Richardson. He is catching everything that comes his way. He's a long shot, but there could be room for him.
  • Reid is pleased with the addition of spread game analyst Brad Childress and consultant Chris Ault. They are focusing on the pistol offense and working with both the offense and defense in installing it.
  • The Chiefs’ special teams look good. The return game was fantastic against New Orleans.
  • Berry came on strong at the end of last season after missing virtually all of the 2011 season with a torn ACL, and he looks to be in top form this camp. Expect a brilliant season from this young star.
  • The team likes the work of fullback Anthony Sherman, who was acquired in a deal with Arizona for cornerback Javier Arenas. Sherman will be a part of the offense.
  • Fourth-round pick Nico Johnson continues to push Akeem Jordan at inside linebacker. The instinctive, bright Johnson has been a camp standout.
A look at what to expect as the Arizona Cardinals begin the Bruce Arians era:

[+] EnlargeBruce Arians, Steve Keim
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsNew coach Bruce Arians and GM Steve Keim, right, have given the Cardinals' roster a major overhaul.
Biggest change to expect: The Cardinals, the only NFC West team with a new coach, were going to be better on offense this season even if they had retained the previous coaching staff. They have a chance to be much, much better with a more competent quarterback (Carson Palmer) and upgraded personnel on the offensive line. The scheme will change Insider as well even though Arians shares Pittsburgh roots with predecessor Ken Whisenhunt. Arizona will no longer play with a fullback, explaining why the team traded Anthony Sherman, who had been a draft pick from the Whisenhunt era. The offense will put greater emphasis on deeper pass routes.

What success would look like: Larry Fitzgerald smiling again. Running backs healthy enough to average better than 3.1 yards per carry. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles picking up where Ray Horton left off. Daryl Washington restoring the team's confidence in him. Tyrann Mathieu making his mark on the field, not off it. Patrick Peterson returning a punt for a touchdown again. Palmer reviving his career with a healthy Freddie Kitchens coaching him. Avenging 58-0.

Protecting the nest: Winning at home is where it starts for the Cardinals. They lost home games to Buffalo, St. Louis and a by-then-struggling Chicago team last season. The 2013 home schedule won't be easy with playoff teams such as Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Indianapolis and Atlanta scheduled to visit. Two visiting teams with losing records last season, St. Louis and Detroit, also could be tough. There is simply no realistic way to compete without winning at home, however.

More or fewer wins? "More" is the answer reflexively given how bad the Cardinals were while falling from a 4-0 start to 5-11 last season. We figured Palmer could be worth another three victories over last season if he played about as well as he did with Oakland. Arians and general manager Steve Keim have turned over much of the roster, however, so we're still getting a feel for this team. I'm looking forward to visiting Cardinals training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium beginning Sunday.

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