NFL Nation: Daryn Colledge

Ryan Tannehill preps for nemesis Bills

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
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DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill owns career wins over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts and even Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.

Tannehill
But, surprisingly, the one team Tannehill has struggled most against throughout his NFL career is the Buffalo Bills. Tannehill is 1-3 against Buffalo, completing just 48 percent of his passes in those four games and averaging only 136.7 yards per contest.

Tannehill’s most recent outing against Buffalo was arguably his worst game. He was 10-of-27 passing for 82 yards in a 19-0 loss to the Bills in Week 16.

Tannehill will get to meet his personal nemesis when the Dolphins (1-0) travel to face the Bills (1-0) on Sunday. Tannehill knows he wasn’t his best in Week 1 against the Patriots but still put together a winning performance. He completed 18-of-32 passes for 178 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

“We left a lot of plays out there. I left a lot of plays out there, personally,” Tannehill admitted. “Location of throws, missing throws, [I] had a couple of dropped passes. Details like that where we left a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns out on the field. ... But you can’t leave that many plays on the field consistently and expect to win week-in and week-out. Definitely, we want to clean those details up this week.”


Tannehill will have to play better this week. Buffalo has found a way to batter Tannehill and force Miami's offense to be one-dimensional in the past. That was especially the case during last season's season sweep when the Bills' defense registered nine quarterback sacks on Tannehill in two games.

Those two contests helped convince Miami to do a major makeover of its offensive line via free agency and the draft. The Dolphins signed veteran left tackle Branden Albert to a $47 million contract, drafted rookie right tackle Ja’Wuan James in the first round and added center Samson Satele and veteran guards Daryn Colledge and Shelley Smith in free agency.

Miami had five new starting offensive linemen in Week 1, and the unit thrived against New England. The Dolphins had impressive balance with 191 rushing yards and 169 passing yards, which caught the attention of Bills head coach Doug Marrone.

“As far as just a unit, in general, they’re working extremely well together and I think that’s the most impressive thing,” Marrone said in a conference call with the Miami media. “They’re knocking people off the ball.”

Both teams enter this game with momentum. That sets up this interesting matchup of surprise undefeated teams where the winner will be 2-0 and in first place in the AFC East.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, 63 percent of teams that start 2-0 since 1990 have gone on to make the playoffs. Whoever wins Sunday will be well-positioned to end a lengthy postseason drought. The Dolphins haven’t made the playoffs since 2008, and the Bills have the NFL’s longest playoff drought dating back to the 1999 season.

“Very important just because we need to get this lead. We don’t need to be playing catch up,” Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said. “We’ve been there before. We need to see how it feels to play as the division leaders the whole time. We can do that. We have the team to do it. We just have to continue to put in the work every single week, every single day."

Dolphins Camp Report: Day 7

August, 1, 2014
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DAVIE, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Miami Dolphins training camp:
  • It was a semi-light day at Dolphins camp. Miami has its annual team scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday. Therefore, Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin gave many of his veterans a light day of work. Veterans such as defensive end Cameron Wake, cornerback Brent Grimes, left tackle Branden Albert, guard Daryn Colledge and safety Louis Delmas dressed but did not take part in team drills and most individual drills. Friday wrapped a physical week of practice where the Dolphins had three sessions in full pads.
  • Dolphins backup receiver Rishard Matthews continued his solid week with another strong practice on Friday. Matthews made a series of nice catches in team and one-on-one drills. Matthews received increased reps after Mike Wallace rested this week with a hamstring injury. Matthews is on the roster bubble this summer because the Dolphins are very deep at that position. Matthews is battling with veteran Brandon Gibson and rookie second-round pick Jarvis Landry for the slot-receiver position.
  • This was the first practice out of several where the Dolphins didn’t have issues with the snap. Since Tuesday, Miami centers Nate Garner, David Arkin and Shelley Smith all had botched snaps throughout the week. Friday’s practice was clean in that regard. Also, backup center Nate Garner returned to practice from an ankle injury. However, he did not participate in team drills.
  • More on the injury front, quarterback Matt Moore hurt his shoulder this week and will miss multiple practices. He will not play in Saturday’s scrimmage. The same goes for rookie receiver Matt Hazel (concussion) and linebacker Tariq Edwards (knee).
  • Here is the Dolphins’ weekend schedule: Miami will hold its annual scrimmage Saturday at 9:30 a.m. ET at Sun Life Stadium. Then, the Dolphins will take the day off Sunday. Their first preseason game is Aug. 8 against the Atlanta Falcons.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins will produce a rarity in the NFL when they take the field Sept. 7 for their regular-season opener against the reigning AFC East champion New England Patriots. Miami will boast five new starters on the offensive line, which has raised some concerns in South Florida.

[+] EnlargeDallas Thomas
Alan Diaz/AP PhotoThe Dolphins will be counting on second-year guard Dallas Thomas to bolster the offensive line.
Granted, last year’s offensive line struggled mightily and set a franchise record for quarterback sacks allowed in 2013 with 58. But wholesale changes at every position present new concerns about continuity.

Although things could change due to injuries and competition, Miami’s new starting five is rookie right tackle Ja'Wuan James, right guard Dallas Thomas, center Shelley Smith, left guard Daryn Colledge and left tackle Branden Albert.

After three days of practices, Miami’s new offensive line has struggled against its veteran defensive line in team drills. There have been multiple sacks allowed. Sometimes the running game is inconsistent. On the first day, there were two fumbled snaps between Smith and starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

The Dolphins have about five weeks and four exhibition games to iron things out before the regular season.

“We’re always attempting to get the five best players that we possibly can out on the field at one time,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said over the weekend. “I will tell you that we’re going to be looking at a number of combinations.”

The Dolphins are without Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey, thanks to hip surgery this summer. He's expected to miss anywhere between four-to-eight games. Pouncey was the only holdover from last season’s starting lineup.

But perhaps the biggest concern is the inexperienced right side of the offensive line with Thomas and James. They are former college teammates at the University of Tennessee, but neither player has started an NFL game. Opponents certainly will attack this area to see if they can rattle Miami's offense.

"No concern," Albert said bluntly of the right side of the line. "We’re professionals. I don’t care how young you are, we’re professional athletes. Each and every day they’re getting better, we’re getting better, and that’s all we need to worry about."
One term you hear over and over from the Miami Dolphins' coaching staff is "position flexibility." Head coach Joe Philbin values players who can be plugged in at multiple spots, even if they're better at some positions than others, because injuries happen.

Colledge
Philbin wants as many versatile players on his roster as possible. Going by that train of thought, Monday’s signing of veteran offensive lineman Daryn Colledge to a one-year contract made sense for the Dolphins. Miami did not sign a true center to replace injury Pro Bowler Mike Pouncey, who is out for at least 3-4 months following hip surgery. The Dolphins got a dependable, durable player who provides options for Miami’s offensive line.

Colledge, 32, is a longtime starter for the Green Bay Packers, where Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was an assistant, and most recently the Arizona Cardinals. He’s started 97 consecutive games dating back to the end of the 2007 season. Colledge is a "plug-and-play" veteran who could be ready by Week 1 despite missing Miami's entire offseason program.

The bigger question is this: Where would Colledge play?

Most of Colledge’s experience is at guard, and moving a new player out of his natural place may be a bit risky. The Dolphins have plenty of in-house options, such as moving starting right guard Shelley Smith to center or playing backups Sam Brenner or Nate Garner at center. The Dolphins will have a full training camp and preseason to work through their options. Colledge provides flexibility to move players around. They can try his hand at center or he can become a valuable backup.

Either way, Miami is expected to have five new starters on its offensive line when it hosts the New England Patriots in the regular-season opener. It’s not an idea situation, especially when learning a new scheme under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. But the Colledge signing at least is a step in the right direction.

Super XLV: Where are they now?

February, 6, 2014
Feb 6
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Exactly three years ago -- on Feb. 6, 2011 -- the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV.

Since then, much has happened to the 53 players who were on the roster for that 31-25 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Arlington, Texas.

Free agency, injuries, retirement and declining performance cause roster turnover.

Still, it’s eye-opening that from the group that suited up for the Packers’ last championship, only 12 players (just 22.6 percent) remain under contract with the team for 2014. Another 11 are still officially members of the Packers, but have contracts that expire next month. There are 13 players with other NFL teams, and 17 are out of football -- perhaps for good.

Here’s a look at the status of every player who was on the active roster three years ago today at Super Bowl XLV:

Under contract for 2014

  • [+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
    Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesThree years after being named MVP of Super Bowl XLV, Aaron Rodgers is still leading the Packers.
    QB Aaron Rodgers: Threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns on the way to winning the Super Bowl XLV MVP, then won the NFL MVP award the next season. Signed a five-year, $110 million contract extension last April.
  • G Josh Sitton: Started Super Bowl XLV at right guard, but moved to left guard in 2013 and was a second-team, All-Pro selection. Signed a five-year contract extension on Sept. 2, 2011 that averages $6.75 million per season.
  • T Bryan Bulaga: Started at right tackle, but moved to left tackle last offseason. A training camp knee injury ended his 2013 season, and he now enters the final year of his rookie contract.
  • G: T.J. Lang: Served as a backup, but became the starting left guard the next season. Signed a four-year contract extension on Aug. 14, 2012 that averages $5.2 million per season. Moved to right guard last season.
  • WR Jordy Nelson: Caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl, and went on to post 1,000-yard receiving seasons in two of the next three years. Entering the final year of his contract in 2014.
  • OLB Clay Matthews: Forced a fumble in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl that the Packers recovered and turned into a touchdown to pad the lead. Four-time Pro Bowler signed a five-year, $66 million contract extension last April.
  • LB A.J. Hawk: Started and made seven tackles in the Super Bowl. Was released two months later, only to re-sign a more salary-cap friendly deal. Is under contract through 2015.
  • CB Tramon Williams: Broke up three passes in the Super Bowl, including the one that sealed the game on fourth-and-5 from the Steelers’ 33-yard line in the final minute. Entering the final year of his contract. Scheduled to make $7.5 million in 2014, and could be a candidate to be released or restructured despite a strong finish to last season.
  • K Mason Crosby: Made a 23-yard field goal in the game and signed a five-year, $14.75 million contract on July 29, 2011. Struggled in 2012, but bounced back last year to post his best season.
  • P Tim Masthay: Capped his first season with the Packers by averaging 40.5 yards and allowing the Steelers just 5 yards on punt returns in the game. Signed a four-year, $5.465 million contract extension on July 26, 2012.
  • LS Brett Goode: Has been the long snapper since 2008 and signed a three-year, $2.715 million contract extension on Oct. 13, 2012.
  • CB Jarrett Bush: Special teams player who was pressed into defensive duty in the game after injuries to Sam Shields and Charles Woodson, and intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass in the second quarter. Signed a three-year, $5.25 million contract on March 26, 2012.
Headed for free agency next month

  • RB James Starks: Started the Super Bowl and rushed for 52 yards on 11 carries. Battled injuries most of his career, and might not be re-signed.
  • WR James Jones: Caught five passes for 50 yards in the game, and signed a three-year, $9.6 million contract on Aug. 2, 2011. Caught 59 passes for a career-high 817 yards in 2013, and could be a re-signed despite his age (will turn 30 next month).
  • DT Ryan Pickett: Started the game, made two tackles and was in on the play in which Matthews forced Rashard Mendehall's fourth-quarter fumble. Played in all 16 games last season with a base salary of $5.4 million, but might be at the age (34) where the Packers let him walk.
  • DT B.J. Raji: Capped a strong 2010 postseason with a pair of tackles in the game. Finished his rookie contract in 2013, and reportedly turned down an $8 million-per-year offer last season.
  • DE C.J. Wilson: Started the game, but played only 14 snaps. Biggest impact came the night before the game, when he kept things loose in the team hotel by playing piano and leading a team sign-along. Finished his rookie contract in 2013.
  • FB John Kuhn: Played on both offense and special teams in the game. Signed a three-year, $7.5 million contract on Aug. 1, 2011.
  • CB Sam Shields: Suffered a shoulder injury in the second quarter of the game. Had his best season in 2013 while playing under the restricted free agent tender of $2.023 million. Will command a big contract either from the Packers or another team in free agency.
  • LB Robert Francois: Went back and forth from the practice squad to the active roster throughout the 2010 season, and played on special teams in the game. Played last season under a one-year, $725,000 deal, but tore his Achilles tendon on Oct. 6.
  • TE Andrew Quarless: Caught one pass for 5 yards in the game. Suffered a major knee injury the next season and missed all of 2012. Returned last season to catch 32 passes for 312 yards (both career highs) in the final year of his rookie deal.
  • QB Matt Flynn: Served as Rodgers’ backup but did not play in the Super Bowl. Left after the 2011 season as a free agent, and after stints with Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo, he returned to the Packers last season for a one-year minimum deal and played in five games after Rodgers broke his collarbone.
  • C Evan Dietrich-Smith: Was inactive for the Super Bowl. Became a starter late in 2012 and for all of 2013, when he played under the restricted free agent tender of $1.323 million deal.
With other teams

  • [+] EnlargeMcCarthy
    Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsCoach Mike McCarthy and the Packers have seen a lot of roster turnover since winning Super Bowl XLV.
    WR Greg Jennings: Started and became just the third player in team history to catch multiple touchdowns in a Super Bowl by recording touchdowns of 21 and 8 yards. Signed a five-year, $45 million contract with the Vikings last March.
  • G Daryn Colledge: Started at left guard, but left in free agency a few months later to sign a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Cardinals. Has started every game for the Cardinals since.
  • C Scott Wells: Started at center and remained with the Packers through the 2011 season before signing a four-year, $24 million contract with the Rams. Has missed 13 games over the past two seasons because of injuries.
  • LB Desmond Bishop: Became a starter earlier in 2010 after Nick Barnett's wrist injury and made nine tackles in the Super Bowl. Also recovered the fumble that Matthews forced. Signed a four-year, $19 million contract in 2011, but was released after missing the entire 2012 season because of a hamstring injury. Signed with the Vikings last offseason, but appeared in only four games.
  • OLB Frank Zombo: Started the game and had the Packers’ only sack of Roethlisberger but battled injuries the next two years and was released. Signed with the Chiefs last year and appeared in all 16 games.
  • CB Charles Woodson: Started at cornerback, but broke his collarbone late in the second quarter and missed the remainder of the game. Played two more seasons with the Packers, who released him last year. Returned to his old team, the Raiders, and played in all 16 games last season.
  • DE Cullen Jenkins: Played 36 snaps and had a pair of quarterback pressures. Left in free agency the following year and signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Eagles, who released him after two years. Signed a three-year, $8 million contract with the Giants last season.
  • TE Tom Crabtree: Played on both offense and special teams in the Super Bowl, catching one pass. Left last year to sign with the Buccaneers as an unrestricted free agent, but was limited to seven games because of injuries.
  • CB Josh Gordy: Was inactive for the game, and the next season was signed off the practice squad the by the Rams. Spent the past two seasons with the Colts.
  • G Nick McDonald: Was inactive for the game, like he was for every game that season. Was released in training camp the next year, and spent parts of the next two seasons with the Patriots. Did not play in 2013, but was recently signed by the Chargers.
  • OLB Erik Walden: Was inactive after suffering an ankle injury in the NFC Championship Game. Played the next two seasons before signing a four-year, $16 million contract with the Colts last year.
  • DE: Jarius Wynn: Was active but did not play. Played in Green Bay through 2011, and with the Titans and Chargers before landing with the Cowboys last season.
  • FB Quinn Johnson: Inactive for the game. Was traded to the Titans in 2011. Has played in 24 games for the Titans over the past three years.
Out of football

  • T Chad Clifton: Started at left tackle, but his long career with the Packers ended when they released him after he played in only six games in 2011. Was never signed by another team.
  • WR Donald Driver: Started the game and caught two passes for 28 yards before leaving with an ankle injury in the second quarter. Retired after the 2012 season as the team’s all-time leading receiver.
  • S Nick Collins: Started and made a key early play when he returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Suffered a neck injury in Week 2 of 2011 and hasn’t played since.
  • DT Howard Green: Claimed off waivers earlier that season and started the game. His hit on Roethlisberger led to Collins’ interception return for a touchdown. Returned in 2011 and played in all 16 games, but has not played since.
  • WR Brett Swain: Posted a team-high four special teams tackles. Was released the following season and played briefly with the 49ers. Was cut in training camp last season by the Seahawks.
  • S Atari Bigby: Played on special teams. Signed with the Seahawks the following season and played in 15 games. Played in eight games with the Chargers in 2012, but did not play in 2013.
  • CB Pat Lee: Special teams player who saw action on defense after injuries to Woodson and Shields. Played one more season in Green Bay before splitting time in 2012 between the Lions and Raiders. Did not play in 2013.
  • RB Brandon Jackson: Played as the third-down back, but did not have any carries in the game. Caught one pass for 14 yards. Signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Browns in 2011, but missed all of that season and played in only two games in 2012.
  • FB Korey Hall: Caught one pass for 2 yards and made one special teams tackle in the game. He played in 13 games with the Saints in 2011, and retired after going to camp with the Cardinals in 2012.
  • S Charlie Peprah: Led the Packers with 10 tackles (including nine solo stops). Returned as a starter in 2011, when he had five interceptions, but was released shortly before training camp in 2012. Played in five games for the Cowboys in 2012.
  • LB Diyral Briggs: Made one special teams tackle in the game, but never played in another NFL game.
  • LB Matt Wilhelm: Made two special teams tackles, but seven-year career ended after that game.
  • G Jason Spitz: Played on special teams. Left in free agency the next year and signed a three-year, $4.05 million contract with the Jaguars, who released him in training camp last summer. He signed with the Seahawks, but was released on Oct. 12.
  • TE Donald Lee: Played in the game, but did not have a catch and was released two months later. Played in nine games for the Bengals in 2001.
  • QB Graham Harrell: Inactive for the game. Remained with the Packers until he was released in training camp last summer. Also spent time briefly with the Jets before being released.
  • RB Dimitri Nance: Inactive for the game. Was released by the Packers the following summer and never played in another NFL game.
  • CB Brandon Underwood: Inactive for the game. Was released in 2011. Went to camp with the Raiders in 2012 and Cowboys in 2013, but did not make either team.

All Cardinals ready to play vs. 49ers

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
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TEMPE, Ariz. – If there is one game all season anyone on the Arizona Cardinals’ roster didn’t want to miss, this is it.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said “basically” everybody practiced Friday leading up to Sunday’s game against San Francisco. Linebacker John Abraham (groin), guard Daryn Colledge (back) and safety Rashad Johnson (ankle) were all limited Friday and are listed as questionable.

Everyone else practiced in full and is probable, including quarterback Carson Palmer (ankle and elbow), linebacker Daryl Washington (ankle), defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (shoulder) and running back Rashard Mendenhall (finger).

“It looks like we’ll be full-go and ready to play,” Arians said. “It’s a big game. It’s fun to have the last one count. That’s what we wanted all year, for this game to matter and it matters.”
TEMPE, Ariz. – The NFL’s active leader in sacks may be stuck at 133.5 until next season.

Arizona Cardinals linebacker John Abraham will be a game-time decision because of a groin injury that has sidelined him from practice this week, coach Bruce Arians said.

Abraham
“It’s pretty sore,” Arians added.

While Abraham may be out, Arizona could get back safety Rashad Johnson from a high-ankle sprain he suffered against Tennessee. Johnson practiced Thursday for the first time in two weeks and “did very well,” Arians said.

Backup quarterback Drew Stanton practiced in full but was added to the injury list because of a knee issue. Linebacker Daryl Washington was also added to the injury report with an ankle injury.

Guard Daryn Colledge (back), Johnson and Washington were limited.

Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (shoulder), tight end Rob Housler (groin), running back Rashard Mendenhall (finger), quarterback Carson Palmer (right elbow/ankle), tackle/guard Nate Potter (ribs) and linebacker Matt Shaughnessy (groin) were upgraded from limited to full.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Though the headlines in the past five years of Vikings-Packers matchups have been dominated by quarterbacks from both teams (Brett Favre vs. Aaron Rodgers in 2009 and 2010, Christian Ponder's debut as a starter in 2011, and the biggest win of his career against Rodgers in 2012), defensive end Jared Allen has been a constant presence for the Vikings. And in the games Minnesota has won, Allen has often been the equalizer.

His first game with the Vikings was the same as Rodgers' debut with the Packers, when Allen talked during the week about how he wanted to "put my helmet square in the back of (Rodgers) spine" and left Lambeau Field without a sack or a tackle. But in a 28-27 win that November, Allen's sack of Rodgers for a safety was the difference.

[+] EnlargeJared Allen
Adam Bettcher/Getty ImagesJared Allen has had some memorable games against the Packers, but was shut down by Green Bay's David Bakhtiari in October.
And though Favre's revenge against the Packers as a Viking was the main storyline the next year, Allen made it possible, blowing through backup tackles Daryn Colledge and T. J. Lang to sack Rodgers 7 1/2 times in two games, forcing another safety in the Metrodome when Rodgers was called for intentional grounding. Even last December, when the Vikings beat the Packers 37-34 to reach the playoffs on the final day of the season, Allen recovered Rodgers' fumble to set up a third-quarter touchdown.

Allen has recorded 15 1/2 sacks in 11 regular-season games against the Packers, and before last month's game at the Metrodome, he'd only been held without a sack in two games against Green Bay. But Packers rookie David Bakhtiari shut him out in Green Bay's 44-31 win last month, and as Allen goes to Lambeau Field for possibly the final time as a member of the Vikings, he won't be chasing Rodgers, with whom he's developed a friendship and mutual respect over the years.

Instead, it will be Scott Tolzien at quarterback for the Packers, filling in for Rodgers against a 2-8 Vikings team with seemingly little to play for. Allen has just five sacks this season, and will hit free agency in a few months. It doesn't seem like the way his time in the Vikings-Packers rivalry should end, which is perhaps why Allen was trying to rekindle some of the old fire when talking about the matchup on Thursday.

"Obviously at 2-8, you’re trying to ruin everybody else’s season as well as yours, right?" Allen said. "So, they say, misery loves company. I hope this year no one makes the playoffs. So, it’s a division rival, going to win in Green Bay. I think it's one of those places where it don’t matter what our record tends to be, but if we went up there and beat them in Green Bay, we got a little bit of bragging rights, especially after the whooping they gave us here. I try to tell our guys, ‘Heck, every week is like our Super Bowl.’ You go up to Green Bay, you might as well treat it as such, as a playoff game, and spoil their dreams along with whatever they’re trying to get accomplished.”

Allen called Lambeau Field one of his favorite road venues, along with his former home stadium in Kansas City, and Oakland ("That stadium's terrible, but I'm from the Bay Area," he said). He'll likely play in Lambeau again, but possibly not as a central figure in a major rivalry.

"There’s a lot of history there. I’m just a fan of the game, so a fan of just playing on the same field, the same stadium a lot of those greats played," Allen said. "Their crowd is cool. It’s just a fun atmosphere to play in. I’ve never played there as the home team, obviously. But playing there over the years, it’s great. It’s always fun and competitive games, the weather, outdoor football, it’s kind of throwback football in this age of, even though they’re an up-tempo, throw-it-first, but that atmosphere of Lambeau just kind of reminds you of this is some old school football. If it snows, we’re still going to play.”

And is he happy not to see Rodgers? "Yeah, I guess, after what he did to us last time. I like playing against Aaron though. It’s fun to play against top-quality guys.

"People always say they want people at their best, I’m going, ‘Fine, I’ll take them at their weakest.’”

Cards target 3rd down with run game

November, 17, 2013
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's taken 10 weeks, but the Arizona Cardinals' offense is finally forming into what coaches and players expected it to be when they set out to install Bruce Arians' high-octane, high-yardage scheme back in April.

But there's a tempered excitement.

For as much as it's evolved, mainly because the running game has decided to wake up, the Cardinals' offense still gets snagged on third down.

“I think it's coming,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “I think one of the biggest things you gotta do is do a better job on third down. I think we had 3-of-10 last week, but a play here, [a] play there [and] we're over 50 percent on third down. That's the biggest area we're working on.”

Some players estimated that Arizona spends about half its practices on third-down situations and its production warrants the extra time. The Cardinals are ranked 31st in the league in third-down percentage, converting 31.5 percent this season.

Their 34 third-down conversions are less than four a game and the fewest in the league. Jacksonville, Arizona's opponent Sunday, has the next fewest with 36.

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesCarson Palmer and the Cardinals know they need to improve their production on third down.
But there hasn't been a common answer as to how to fix the Cards' third-down woes. Some inside the Cardinals' locker room say it's in the execution or getting all 11 players on the same page or paying more attention to detail.

Whatever the reason, it hasn't improved in 10 weeks and has been the difference between the Cardinals being inside the playoff picture with seven games left compared to looking at it from the outside.

Arizona's third-down scheme is different from the rest of the offense, quarterback Carson Palmer said. It usually features four or five receivers without a running back -- of Arizona's 108 third downs this season, only 13 were runs. And the scheme gets more complex depending on how far from a first down Arizona is.

“It's a make-or-break down,” Palmer said. “You don't get another opportunity. You see different coverages, you see a lot of different pressures, you see a lot of formations defensively. It's a completely different scheme.

“You have entirely different players, you have schemes that you don't run on first or second, so it's a completely different defense and scheme in itself.”

But what third down has that first and second downs don't is the pressure to get past the sticks. That has been an issue for the Cardinals, whose rookies have come up a half-yard or yard short of a first down throughout the season. As a blocking back on third down, rookie running back Stepfan Taylor said the need to recognize coverages, blitzes and defense is also greater on third down.

Palmer said there are “a million things that can go wrong,” but he chalks up the Cardinals' inability to convert to not being able to “out-execute” opponents.

But the third-down scheme gives him the ability to control the offense from the line of scrimmage.

“Most of the time it allows the opportunity for those guys to run numerous different routes based on coverage and leaves them a little bit of freedom,” left guard Daryn Colledge said. “Carson is free to just throw the ball he wants. Whatever he sees out there he has the ability to makes shifts and motions and change guys' routes to give him the best opportunity. For us, we need to get everybody on the same page and make sure we're blocking enough and give him the opportunity to throw those balls.”

With the running game finally hitting a stride, the Cardinals need to be better on third down to be considered a serious contender for the postseason. They've rushed for 201 and 97 yards, respectively, in their last two games, and that balance has allowed the offense to do more, such as play-action and bootlegs.

While the Cardinals can't find any answers as to why third down continues plague them, they also can't find a reason why the running game woke up Willie Mays Hayes style.

“I can't put my finger on it,” center Lyle Sendlein said. “We worked the same every week. I think a lot of it has to do with the better success on first down. And if we're able to get yardage on first down then it opens up a lot on second and third down. The previous seven games we weren't getting as much success on first down.”

As another option to eat yards, the running game has alleviated pressure from the Cardinals' passing attack. After throwing the ball 40 or more times in four of Arizona's first seven games, Palmer has just 18 and 32 attempts in his last two, respectively. Both, not coincidentally, were wins.

If the Cards get better on third down, their drives are extended which means more opportunities to put points on the board. And, at the end of the day, that's every team's goal.

For Arizona, its mission is 30 points per game. That's the sign the offense is firing on all cylinders, that it's finally hitting its stride. Through nine games, however, the Cardinals have yet to hit 30, topping out at 27 the past two games. The difference between 27 and 30 can be a converted third down or two. Since he was hired in January, Arians has said he wants the Cardinals to match their point total to their time of possession.

“If you're scoring 30 points a game, you're going to be winning a lot of football games in a season,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “I think that's a benchmark that we all are anxious to get past and anxious to do, but we have to continue to get better in third downs.”

With the running game having turned the corner, the only hurdle between the Cardinals and them having the type of offense Arians has always envisioned is converting on third down. If they can consistently reset the down marker, Arizona has the potential to make a run in these final seven games.

If it can't and is forced to punt or settle for field goals, a .500 record will be the standard in Glendale.

“I feel like we're taking steps in the right direction to have a great second half of the season” Colledge said, "and peaking at the right time to make us competitive in December."

The problems Jared Allen, dome present

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
11:15
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If Green Bay Packers rookie David Bakhtiari needs a lesson in what can happen when a left tackle allows Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen to get going, he might want to watch the tape of the 2009 game at the Metrodome.

Or maybe that might scare him even more.

The Vikings sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers eight times in that 2009 game at Minnesota, and Allen was responsible for 4 of them.

[+] EnlargeJared Allen
AP Photo/Genevieve RossKeeping Jared Allen away from QB Aaron Rodgers will be a tough task for the Packers' David Bakhtiari.
In the noise at the dome, things can snowball in a hurry for an offensive lineman.

“If you allow it to,” Packers offensive line coach James Campen said this week. “That’s the thing, you want to make sure you’re off on the snap and you get into a rhythm from Play 1 and keep going. Once you’re in your rhythm, then you’re fine. But it is tough.”

Rodgers has never been sacked more times than he was in that 2009 game, a 30-23 loss to the Vikings. The Packers used a fill-in left tackle, Daryn Colledge, that day because regular starter Chad Clifton was injured. Then Colledge went down and was replaced by T.J. Lang. Neither Colledge nor Lang were tackles by trade. Both play primarily guard.

While Bakhtiari is a natural tackle, this will be his first game against Allen and his first in a dome, where it often gets so loud when the visiting team has the ball that the tackles can’t hear anything the quarterback or the center says.

“Everyone has said it’s going to be loud,” Bakhtiari said. “Loud games are loud games. I think at every away game it gets to the point where you really can’t hear anything, and then from there it gets louder, but you still already can’t hear anything.”

The Packers simulate crowd noise in practice by blasting it over the speakers inside the Don Hutson Center, but even that might not reach the same decibel level compared to the dome.

“It’s different,” Campen said. “But as much as you can simulate that noise, that helps, too, because the communication is really off in practice. You just simulate it, and getting off on the snap count is a priority, but we’ve been doing our snap counts for a long time. The best way to prepare for it is to get out there, and once you get that first series done and you come back, you’re good then.”

So far, Bakhtiari has handled most challenges. After allowing two sacks to San Francisco 49ers’ Pro Bowl defensive end Aldon Smith in Week 1, the fourth-round pick from Colorado has allowed just two more sacks in the next five games combined, according to ProFootballFocus.

Life as an NFL left tackle means facing elite pass-rushers almost every week. Although Allen is 31 years old and perhaps in decline, and the Vikings have struggled to get to the quarterback -- their 12 sacks ranks 28th in the league -- Allen has still managed 4 sacks in six games.

In five home games against the Packers, Allen has combined for 9 sacks. He has registered at least one sack in every home game against the Packers.

“He’s had some success against us in the past,” Rodgers said. “He’s a great competitor. I enjoy playing against him. He gives you a lot of different challenges, especially for a young guy like David, with the many things he can do with his pass rush ability.”
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.
When the Arizona Cardinals' injury report came out late Wednesday, the list of limited players was long.

Only rookie linebacker Kenny Demens (hamstring) didn't practice but that was expected. Limited, however, were linebackers John Abraham (shoulder), Daryl Washington (knee), Jasper Brinkley (groin) and Kevin Minter (hamstring), defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (groin), wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring), safety Rashad Johnson (finger) and defensive end Ronald Talley (wrist).

Left guard Daryn Colledge (shin) practiced in full.

A few players stood out on the report. Washington played in his first game of the season Sunday and was all over the field. As long as that knee doesn't bother him, he can continue to have a Pro Bowl-caliber season. Cardinals fans -- and players -- never like seeing Fitzgerald on the list. He was hampered by his hamstring during the Detroit game earlier this season.

On Monday, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Dockett "was not close to being himself" in Sunday's 22-6 win over the Panthers. The Cardinals' training staff initially expected Dockett's groin injury, which caused him to leave the Tampa Bay game, to be a two-week injury but he returned in just a week.

Johnson returned to the practice field Wednesday for the first time since losing the tip of his left middle finger Sept. 22 in New Orleans. He practiced with a splint wrapped in black tape.
TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has joked all week that Daryl Washington’s return was like trading for a Pro Bowler.

Washington
Well, it took a trade to get Washington on the roster.

The Cardinals made their trade of tackle Levi Brown trade to the Pittsburgh Steelers official Wednesday afternoon. Brown’s vacated roster spot went to Washington, who returns from a four-game suspension.

Arizona also placed linebacker Vic So’oto (chest) on injured reserved and signed linebacker Marcus Benard. Benard played in 25 games from 2009 to 2011 with Cleveland, and spent the 2013 preseason with New England.

At practice Wednesday, linebacker Jasper Brinkley (groin), guard Daryn Colledge (shin) and safety Rashad Johnson (finger) did not participate.

“We’re going to still be iffy with [Johnson] today,” Arians said. “We’re going to take our time with that finger and make sure there’s no infection that could possibly happen.”

Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (groin), linebacker Kevin Minter (hamstring) and defensive end Ronald Talley (wrist) were all limited.

“They’ll be fine,” Arians said.

OC Goodwin learning from Arians, Moore

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
11:30
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TEMPE, Ariz. – A lot has been made about the Arizona Cardinals spending all offseason learning a new offensive scheme.

Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin can relate.

Since he was hired in early February, Goodwin has been learning how to direct an entire offense, from the run to the pass, from the first string to the practice squad. Until this year, Goodwin had only been an offensive-line coach. He knew two things: pass protection and run blocking.

When new head coach Bruce Arians brought him on board in Arizona, he entrusted Goodwin with the keys to the Cardinals’ new offense, one that featured All-Everything receiver Larry Fitzgerald and would soon have a name quarterback in Carson Palmer. But there was one caveat. Goodwin wouldn’t be calling the plays.

“It’s still a work in progress for me as being the O-line coach trying to grasp that kind of stuff,” Goodwin said. “Every day I get more and more apt at being able to do it, and being able to see it and tell you what those guys are doing.”

[+] EnlargeHarold Goodwin
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliHarold Goodwin, in his first stint as an offensive coordinator, relies on the experience of fellow coaches Bruce Arians and Tom Moore.
For now, Goodwin is content being a sponge, watching and learning from two football geniuses. Arians was the mastermind behind a Super Bowl victory with the Pittsburgh Steelers and is known for his vertical passing game. Tom Moore, the assistant head coach, made Peyton Manning into who he is today.

“At the end of the (day), he’s still a great mind as far as the passing game,” Goodwin said of Arians. “I just throw in my two cents every now and then for the most part.

“Those guys are doing it because they’ve been doing it for along time.”

But Goodwin still gets his chance to mold the offense in his image. He said the majority of the work during the week is on his shoulders.

For now, however, Goodwin will continue to learn from two of the brightest minds in the game.

“At the end of the day,” Goodwin said, “in my belly, I’m still a line coach.”

  • The fact that Patrick Peterson will also be playing wide receiver this season isn’t a secret. But how the Cardinals will unveil Peterson on Sunday still is.

“I can’t tell you that,” Goodwin said with a smile. “He’s going to be in there some. Who knows? That’s up to coach (Arians) and what he calls. Obviously they’ve seen some stuff in the preseason, but they haven’t seen it all.”

  • Goodwin believes left tackle Nate Potter is good enough to make the transition to guard, which the second-year pro started doing this week at practice.

“Nate’s a good athlete,” Goodwin said. “It’s still a little bit of an adjustment to him, but I think he’s capable.”

  • The Goodwin family is a house divided these days. Harold’s younger brother, Jonathan, is an offensive lineman for NFC West rival San Francisco. But don’t expect a good-luck phone call. Harold hasn’t heard from his brother as his coordinator debut nears.

“I haven’t talked to him,” Harold Goodwin said. “He’s the enemy now.”

  • While he was in Indianapolis, Goodwin was impressed enough with tackle Bradley Sowell that when the Cardinals were looking for a little more stability on the offensive line, they turned to the former Colt.

“He knows the system because he was in it last year,” Goodwin said. “It’s still a little bit of a learning curve because he forgot a little bit, but for the most part you see him out there getting reps, so he knows most of it.”

  • With Potter now an option at guard, Goodwin said guard Daryn Colledge along with backup center Mike Gibson will be the “exchange guys inside.”

2013 NFL age rankings at reduction to 53

September, 1, 2013
9/01/13
12:16
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The mandatory reduction to 53-man active rosters Saturday provides an opportunity to pass along average age ranks for NFL active rosters overall as well as for offense, defense and specialists.

The chart shows the Detroit Lions as the oldest team and the St. Louis Rams as the youngest. Where the Rams rank comes as no surprise if you've been following their building process in the NFC West recently.

The Seattle Seahawks rank among the younger teams overall. They have the youngest offensive players after releasing fullback Michael Robinson.

The rankings exclude players placed on various reserve lists (physically unable to perform, non-football injury, injured and suspended). Note also that rankings are based on ages calculated to the day, not rounded backward to the nearest birthday. A player born in January will be older than a player born in October of the same year, for example. I've taken into account the difference in making these calculations. Rounding backward to the nearest birthday shaves about a half-year off the average ages.

I've shaded the NFC West teams in the chart for easier reference.

While the Arizona Cardinals did part with older players such as Adrian Wilson, they still have veteran flavor with Yeremiah Bell, John Abraham, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Larry Fitzgerald and the NFL's oldest specialists.

Seattle got younger by releasing Robinson and 36-year-old cornerback Antoine Winfield. No player on the active roster has had his 32nd birthday. By comparison, six San Francisco 49ers are at least 32 years old.

The 49ers parted with 36-year-old long snapper Brian Jennings, 33-year-old Kassim Osgood and 33-year-old Seneca Wallace. They also added some veteran players this offseason, including Anquan Boldin, Phil Dawson, Nnamdi Asomugha and Adam Snyder. Asomugha and 32-year-old Carlos Rogers help give the 49ers the NFL's oldest defensive backs by average age. We should expect the team to get younger there over the next year, possibly by using an early draft choice for a cornerback.

Note: I have not visited courthouses to pull birth records for NFL players. Neither have teams. As someone who has tracked dates of birth for NFL players since 2007, I know there are times when listed birth dates change or conflict with records listed elsewhere. I make efforts to verify the dates. The team rankings at the extremes are more valuable than the ones in the middle because there is very little difference in average age for some teams.

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