NFL Nation: Jerraud Powers

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Sunday wasn’t the true barometer of how Carson Palmer's shoulder was feeling.

Palmer
That came when Palmer woke up Monday morning, after the pain subsided and Palmer had a chance to sleep on it. But according to Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, the axillary nerve in Palmer’s right throwing shoulder did not regress after Sunday’s 30-20 win over the Washington Redskins.

“I was concerned until I saw him today,” Arians said. “And then now he feels great, so we should just get better and better and just get stronger.”

Arians said his 34-year-old starting quarterback will hopefully be doing everything in practice this week. Also from the coach:
  • There’s a chance defensive end Calais Campbell can return from his MCL injury but Arians said it’s “very slim.”
  • Right tackle Bobby Massie played “by far his best game.”
  • Defensive tackle Frostee Rucker left the game after re-injuring his left calf. On Monday, Arians compared the injury to Andre Ellington’s foot. “It’s going to be there all year and [he’ll have to] play through it and gut it out,” Arians said. “It was a great performance by him coming back out and giving his presence because he’s a great leader.”
  • Arians said Palmer’s 44 pass attempts was the “norm.” “When we have it that many times and they stack the box like that to stop the run, then we’re going to throw the football. When he says he’s OK, we’re going to go with it.”
  • Arians said he feels the reason defensive backs Jerraud Powers and Rashad Johnson have been playing at such a high level is because of their brains: “Two very, very smart players,” Arians said.
  • The Cardinals had 40 mental errors -- 20 offensively and 20 defensively.

Cards react to new rule changes

August, 2, 2014
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GLENDALE, Ariz. – Jerraud Powers sees the future, and he’s accepted it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“If they’re going to make these rule changes and call it how it’s supposed to be called both ways, you probably won’t hear too many complaints. But as a defender we won’t really get too many calls.”
TEMPE, Ariz. -- When there are three players vying for two spots, there's always an odd man out.

Ponder
Powers
When Arizona signed cornerback Antonio Cromartie on Thursday, Jerraud Powers found himself on the outside looking in. But he'll land on his feet with the Cardinals, Arizona general manager Steve Keim said.

Powers will be Arizona's primary nickel back until second-year safety Tyrann Mathieu returns from ACL and LCL surgery.

“The good thing about (Powers) is that he's really versatile,” Keim said. “Not only can he play outside, he can play inside.”

Of the three, Powers has the most experience at nickel and it's likely Cromartie wouldn't have come had Arizona made him play in the slot.

Keeping Powers and his $3.75 million salary and $4.75 million cap hit gives Arizona some lineup flexibility when it comes to Mathieu's health, Keim said.

“If (Mathieu is) not back early, we have a guy who can be a standout nickel because in today's NFL, we know that nickel corners are generally playing anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of the time,” Keim said.

When Mathieu returns, Powers' role will be altered because Cardinals coach Bruce Arians likes using Mathieu as a free safety and nickel back so the defense doesn't have to substitute.

Cards' free-agency look: Cornerback

February, 13, 2014
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There is one certainty at cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals in 2014.

That is Patrick Peterson. The three-time Pro Bowl corner enters his fourth season as one of the foundations of the Cards’ defense. He will for sure be on one side of the field, lining up across the opponent’s best receiver. But it's unclear who will start opposite Peterson.

Ponder
Powers
Last season it was Jerraud Powers, a cerebral player who Cardinals coach Bruce Arians brought with him from Indianapolis. Despite leading the Cardinals’ corners with nine missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, he was the most productive cornerback on the roster. He had a secondary-best 14 pass breakups and disrupted 15 dropbacks according to ESPN Stats & Information. He also led Arizona's cornerbacks with 65 tackles.

But there is a chance -- a good chance -- that Powers could be a cap casualty because his cap number jumps to $4.75 million in 2014. Then what would the Cardinals do?

Arizona is scheduled to lose cornerbacks Antoine Cason, Javier Arenas and Bryan McCann to free agency on March 11, but that might not be a bad thing. The crop of free agent cornerbacks is strong, but could be expensive. Last offseason, Arians and general manager Steve Keim stocked the position with inexpensive talent. Only Cason of that group made more than $1 million.

There are some big names on the market this year, such as Asante Samuel, who was cut by the Atlanta Falcons, Chicago’s Charles Tillman, former Cardinal and current Denver Bronco Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New England’s Aqib Talib, Miami’s Brent Grimes and Washington’s DeAngelo Hall. And there is a slew of cornerbacks who made less than $1.5 million in 2013 who would be solid additions to the Cardinals, but most aren’t standouts.

While Arizona won’t shell out a lot of money to a backup cornerback, it will be looking for a versatile defensive back to fill the role of Tyrann Mathieu, who will most likely be out until at least September. And the Cardinals might have to pay for that.

Among the best options at cornerback within the Cards’ price range are Rodgers-Cromartie at the high end and Seattle’s Walter Thurmond at the low end. In between includes Green Bay’s Sam Shields, Oakland’s Tracy Porter, and Tennessee’s Alterraun Verner.

Arizona could also consider someone like Giants cornerback Aaron Ross, who missed significant time last season with a back injury but would be healthy this year, or San Francisco’s Terrell Brown, who made $1.5 million last season, but was injured.

If the Cardinals choose to release Powers to save money, they could opt to make the cornerback opposite Peterson as tough to play against as the two-time All-Pro with someone like Rodgers-Cromartie, Talib, or Shields. Two of Washington’s cornerbacks, Hall and Josh Wilson, could also fill that void.

How the Cardinals handle their own free agents will determine how much they want to spend on other free-agent cornerbacks.

PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles quarterback Nick Foles' biggest mistake so far this season might be setting unreasonably high expectations for himself.

Foles has been so good, so statistically close to flawless, that it is easy to forget he hasn't started a full season's worth of games yet. He is 23 and still facing new challenges and unfamiliar situations almost weekly.

That's why it isn't a criticism of Foles to suggest that the Eagles' second-half offensive troubles Sunday against Arizona had more to do with the quarterback than with Chip Kelly's play calling.

On three possessions in a row, with a 24-14 lead, Kelly remained aggressive with his play calling. Foles simply didn't throw the ball very well on several plays. He was under intense pressure on a few others.

After the Cardinals scored to make it 24-14, the Eagles got the ball back on their 29-yard line. The first-down call was for a pass to DeSean Jackson, who was running a shallow crossing route from right to left. Jackson was wide-open.

Last week, Kelly was asked whether those flyswatter contraptions in practice could help explain how Foles had avoided having a single pass batted at the line of scrimmage. Well, Calais Campbell didn't have a flyswatter, just a long reach. He smacked Foles' low throw away.

After a LeSean McCoy run was stuffed for a 2-yard loss, Foles dropped back to pass again. This time, linebacker Daryl Washington blitzed behind two linemen, sliding off and making a beeline for the quarterback. Foles stepped to his right and into the arms of Matt Shaughnessy for the easy sack.

A Cary Williams interception gave the Eagles the ball at their own 49 with 51 seconds left in the third quarter. Not only did they fail to take advantage of the field position, they had to punt on the first play of the fourth quarter. They took less than a minute to go three-and-out.

The first two plays were both passes. Foles missed Brent Celek, who had a step on safety Yeremiah Bell. A better throw and the Eagles are nearly in field goal range with a first down. On second down, Foles overthrew McCoy on a swing pass to the right. Kelly called a run on third down, and the Eagles punted again.

The final relevant sequence came on the Eagles' first possession of the fourth quarter. It was still 24-14. They needed to move the ball and score or at least kill a chunk of the remaining time. They used just under two minutes.

Foles threw two deep balls on this possession. On the first play, from his own 36, he had tight end Zach Ertz matched up one-on-one with safety Tyrann Mathieu down the left sideline. Foles overthrew Ertz when a back-shoulder throw might have gone for a long gain. Ertz made a great effort, nearly catching the ball by diving forward.

After getting a first down at the Arizona 46, Foles went deep down the left sideline again. This time he had Riley Cooper matched up with cornerback Jerraud Powers. This time, Foles underthrew the receiver. There was contact as Cooper tried to fight his way back. He got his hand on the ball, but couldn't gather it in. The TV cameras caught Cooper on the ground, looking up at an official and saying, it appears, “He grabbed my arm.”

The next two plays were pass calls. Foles was sacked both times, as unblocked Arizona defenders blitzed him and forced him into the arms of teammates.

Three of the Cards' five sacks took place during those three possessions. Foles and the offensive line, usually so adept at reacting to blitzes, were overcome by the pressure. On the next series, Foles was hit as he threw the interception that was negated by a penalty. Frequent hits will do that to even the most experienced quarterback.

Foles is not that, not yet. The Arizona defense raised its game in the second half, desperately trying to get back into a game with huge playoff implications for the Cardinals. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was more aggressive, taking risks in order to stop McCoy and create turnovers.

“People aren't playing the normal defenses they normally play in the first, second and third quarter,” Kelly said. “They're putting an extra guy on the line of scrimmage. If you bring in an extra tight end, they're going to have two more than you -- one for the quarterback and one for the extra player. That is a difficult situation to run the ball against. The answer is easy: Hey, throw it. If you throw it and it's incomplete, the clock stops.”

When Foles threw Sunday, it was incomplete. With experience, he will get a better feel for how to deal with situations like that. For now, he handled it well enough to avoid killer mistakes and secure the win. That's good enough.
TEMPE, Ariz. – Last week, Atlanta Falcons receiver Harry Douglas caught seven passes for a career-high 149 yards. The week before that he had two catches, one for 7 yards and the other for minus-1 yard.

That’s just how Douglas’ career has gone. One game he can blow up, the next he’s barely a glimmer in quarterback Matt Ryan’s progressions. That’s what happens when you’re the fourth option behind two of the game’s best in wide receiver Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez and another top receiver in Roddy White.

[+] EnlargeJohnthan Banks and Harry Douglas
AP Photo/David GoldmanWith their top receivers injured, the Falcons have turned to Harry Douglas as their go-to option.
But that’s all about to change for Douglas. Jones is out for the season, and White’s status for Sunday’s game is uncertain as he recovers from hamstring and ankle injuries. Douglas was Ryan’s primary option last week without White, and that title will most likely carry over to this weekend.

And the Arizona Cardinals are preparing as such.

“Harry Douglas is, I think, one of the most underrated receivers in the league,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.

Falcons coach Mike Smith said Douglas is a product of an overcrowded situation. There are only so many passes to go around, and those are typically earmarked for Jones, White and Gonzalez. But Atlanta’s staff was confident he’d respond if ever needed, Smith said.

Sure, Douglas, who’s had 31 and 48 yards receiving in his two games against the Cardinals, has been overshadowed by his talented peers, but he proved he was capable of being a reliable threat last weekend. And that didn’t surprise Cardinals cornerback Jerraud Powers.

“He’s definitely Ryan’s No. 1 target and Ryan gave him the ball,” Powers said. “He’s been doing what he’s always done and he’s caught the ball well and gets a lot of yards-after-catch, so he’s definitely a dependable receiver. I think Matt knew he was very dependable and what he was capable of. So I don’t think it was surprising to anybody.”

Last weekend was Douglas’ second career game of more than 100 yards, and he has three others with more than 90. This season, Arizona has allowed four players to get at least 100 receiving yards, and three were tight ends.

To avoid another 100-yard day by an opponent, Powers said there’s no special formula to stopping Douglas. If White doesn’t play, the passing game will be funneled through Douglas again, making the Cardinals’ focus obvious.

But that doesn’t mean Douglas will go down without a fight.

“Just know that he’s going to try all the savvy vet moves to get open,” Powers said. “You just got to retaliate and make sure you do your job better than he does his.”
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Something was said at halftime of the Arizona Cardinals-Carolina Panthers game on Oct. 6.

What it was may be lost in the annals of locker room lore, but whatever the Cards coaching staff told its players, it was short and poignant. And it worked. Arizona came out looking like a new team. Its 18 rushing yards in the first half turned into 90. A deficit turned into a win.

Halftime has been the turning point for Arizona all season. And all it takes is a brief huddle and a few quick decisions. But, like any meeting, there’s an order, a Robert’s Rules of sorts, but for halftime meetings.

[+] EnlargeBruce Arians
Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY SportsCardinals coach Bruce Arians has earned praise from his players for his work during halftime.
“We all come in and we all get together, and pretty much all of us kinda congregate together, and obviously we talk about the run game, protection and adjustments that need to be made and go for the passing game after that,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “That’s about all we do. It’s real brief because, you know, halftime is real short.

“So I throw in my two cents, Coach [Tom] Moore throws in his two cents and move on.”

But the changes aren’t major.

Usually, it’s something minor yet important enough to make a difference, like changing assignments in coverage or tweaking a route.

“It’s just small things that can determine an outcome of the game,” cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “Small things, but a big deal.”

There have been two common halftime adjustments this season for Arizona: Throw to Larry Fitzgerald and start running the ball more.

Or both.

Against the Panthers, the Cardinals came out on their first drive of the third quarter with a pass to Fitzgerald for 6 yards and then ran the ball seven times. They scored and went on to win 22-6.

But why is this staff so good about noticing what works and what doesn’t, and then fixing it? Quarterback Carson Palmer said it’s because of their longevity in the league.

“There are a lot of games under those belts,” he said. “You look at Coach [Tom] Pratt, he’s been around forever. Coach Moore’s been around forever. There is a lot of time logged, a lot of halftimes they’ve been in where they’ve been behind or been up and had to make adjustments.”

All those halftimes have also helped Arizona coach Bruce Arians develop a philosophy he instituted last season in Indianapolis and carried over to Arizona. He breaks the game into two 30-minute segments, the first and second half.

Arians' message is the same every game: Play the first 30 minutes to see what has to happen the second 30. If the Cardinals play well in the first half, they build on it. If they don’t, Arians has been known to wipe the first 30 minutes clean at halftime and start over.

“We go out there up 14 after the first half or down 14 after the first half, he’s still thinking about the next 30 minutes and what we got to do to win the game,” Powers said. “He was like that last year when he was in Indy. When he took the job that’s one of the first things he said.”

The coaches are all on the same page when it comes to halftime adjustments, Powers said. That may not be the case elsewhere, but it works for Arizona.

As any coach would, Arians would prefer not to have to adjust drastically during halftime, but he works with what he’s given. And most importantly, he has a staff that’s able to not just adjust and do it quickly, but it makes the right corrections to fix the Cardinals’ issues.

“I’ve been around some pretty good ones and these are about as good as it gets,” Arians said of his staff. “I think the second half proves it.”
Colin Kaepernick/Daryl WashingtonGetty Images, AP PhotoIf 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick wants to run, he'll have to contend with Cardinals LB Daryl Washington.
A battle of 3-2 NFC West teams is on hand as the San Francisco 49ers welcome the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. ESPN.com's Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and 49ers reporter Bill Williamson discuss the key division game:

Weinfuss: Has Colin Kaepernick hit any form of a sophomore slump?

Williamson: I can see why you'd think that -- his numbers are down. However, he is not playing terribly. The big issue is the 49ers really miss injured receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. Frankly, other than Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis, Kaepernick is not throwing to NFL-quality receivers. So the 49ers are relying on the run game. Still, Kaepernick is the long-term prospect we all thought he was after his Super Bowl run last season.

Do you get the sense the Cardinals think they can shut down Kaepernick?

Weinfuss: After what the Cardinals were able to do last Sunday against Cam Newton -- all but shutting him down in the second half -- their confidence is sky-high right now, especially the defensive line. There’s no shutting down a quarterback as good as Kaepernick, but with linebacker Daryl Washington back, the Cards have someone athletic enough to put on spy patrol, which could limit some of the things Kaepernick can do running-wise. Arizona saw what Kaepernick did last year, but the Cardinals are feeling good about their chances.

What has Boldin, a former Cardinal, added to the 49ers' offense?

Williamson: Oh, the 49ers would be lost without Boldin. Acquiring him for a sixth-round pick from Baltimore was a potential season-saver. He is Kaepernick’s safety net. He had a whopping 13 catches in the season-opening win over the Packers, and though he hasn’t made quite that big an impact since, he has been vital to this offense. I think he will be even more dangerous when Crabtree and Manningham come back because of the matchup issues he'll present.

Do you think the Cardinals’ secondary can contain Boldin?

Weinfuss: Yes, I do, but only to a certain point. If cornerback Patrick Peterson lines up on him, Boldin could have a tough day just based on what Peterson has done to guys like Calvin Johnson. Expect to see the Niners run Boldin over the middle, because in their last few games the Cardinals have left that part of the field wide open. If cornerback Jerraud Powers is on Boldin, expect the receiver to get some big yards before contact. But with Arizona’s recent success against wide receivers, I can see Boldin being limited.

Can the 49ers repeat in the West and the NFC and head back to the Super Bowl?

Williamson: The 49ers trail Seattle by a game in the division. They simply want to stay on the right track after their 1-2 start and get into the playoffs, and then try to repeat as conference champions. But if the 49ers can get all their injured players back, and Aldon Smith can come back from his treatment for substance abuse, there is no reason to think this team can’t make a serious Super Bowl run.

Do you think the Cardinals can get in the way of the 49ers’ and Seahawks’ plans?

Weinfuss: That’s a great question. Not sure if they can get in the way, but the Cardinals have the potential to be nipping at their heels -- if only they could get their offense going. Coach Bruce Arians seems to think they’re getting closer, and to his credit, they are eliminating more mistakes every game. But the offense still has a way to go. The only way the Cards can get in the way of the Niners -- I don’t see them bothering the Seahawks -- is if the defense starts scoring points and lessening the load on the offense. Then we might see the Cardinals making a race out of the second spot.

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Cardinals see 3 areas of improvement

September, 10, 2013
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When the Cardinals took an 11-point lead in St. Louis with 1 minute, 53 seconds left in the third quarter, the Bruce Arians Era looked like it was getting off to a good start.

Then it all started to unravel.

First, the Cardinals let Rams quarterback Sam Bradford orchestrate an 80-yard drive capped by a two-point conversion. Then Arizona’s offensive line woes continued, leading to a strip-sack of Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. The Rams recovered and four plays later they tied the game at 24. All it took was 7:46.

[+] EnlargeSt. Louis' Daryl Richardson
Scott Rovak/USA TODAY SportsDaryl Richardson and the Rams picked up 184 yards after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus.
St. Louis’ game-winning field goal with 45 seconds left came after the Cardinals failed to convert two crucial third downs.

But Arians wasn’t dejected Monday morning.

“You never accept losing, but there are some very good things and some very correctable things,” he said. “I think disappointed? Yes. Discouraged? Not at all, would be the way we describe where we’re at right now.

“We wanted that win desperately. It’s a big win in the division on the road. We had it on our grasp.”

And part of the reason the Cardinals lost was that they literally let the Rams out of their grasp. Arians identified the following three areas of concern stemming from Sunday’s game.

Here’s how they impacted the Cardinals’ 27-24 loss:

“Really poor tackling”

The Cardinals’ inability to bring down the Rams wasn’t just an isolated incident that happened a time or two. It was an issue all game. Cornerback Jerraud Powers missed a tackle on Rams running back Daryl Richardson on the first drive, which led to a 15-yard gain. Arians pointed out another missed tackle on Richardson in the right flat two plays before St. Louis’ game-winning field goal.

In all, 184 of the Rams’ passing yards were after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus.

Eight Cardinals missed at least one tackle in the game and they finished with 10 total, according to PFF. Powers and Jasper Brinkley had two each.

This was an issue for last year’s team, as well, which is ironic considering the amount of turnover on defense. Like Arians pointed out with almost all the concerns after the game, these are correctable mistakes.

2-minute defense

Arians said Monday the Cardinals prided themselves on being a good situational football team, but that wasn’t the case in the final 2 minutes of each half.

In the second quarter, the Rams had gone 40 yards in 3:23 when the 2-minute warning hit. Then they went another 40 yards in six plays in the last two minutes with three plays of 9 or more yards.

In the fourth, the Rams regained possession with 1:45 left at their own 20. They only went 50 yards in 1 minute to set up kicker Greg Zuerlein's 48-yard game-winner.

When the Rams were pressing, the Cardinals couldn’t respond and let medium-sized chunk plays lead to scores. The Cards gave up a total of 10 points inside the 2-minute warning Sunday. Hold the Rams to either a field goal or no points, and the Cardinals leave with a win.

Pass rush lacking

Arians was pleased with the drive Calais Campbell and Dan Williams provided up the middle, but he was less than thrilled with the edge rush from the rest of the defensive linemen.

Darnell Dockett played 58 snaps -- 25 runs and 33 passes -- and managed just one quarterback hurry, according to PFF. Just six of the Cardinals’ 17 total hurries came from the edge. Arians chalked up the underwhelming pass rush to the need for better technique and fatigue from the starters.

It was also the defensive line’s first game in defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ new one-gap system, which allows the front three to attack the line instead of reacting to which way the center moves.

The line, however, did pave the way for the linebackers. Lorenzo Alexander had five quarterback hurries in 16 pass rushes, while Brinkley hit Rams quarterback Sam Bradford three times.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dreadful. Just dreadful. The Dallas Cowboys (1-2) completed the West Coast portion of training camp with a 12-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals (2-0) on Saturday afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Cowboys' first-team offense was able to move the ball but failed to score, in large part because of turnovers that gave the Cardinals prime field position.

Here are some thoughts on the Cowboys' loss:

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers: The Cowboys committed six turnovers against Arizona. Kyle Orton threw two interceptions, both on bad throws. Lance Dunbar and Dez Bryant fumbled after long receptions, and for the second consecutive week, the Cowboys' special-teams unit muffed a punt. This time, it was Dwayne Harris losing a fumble. Alex Tanney also threw a late pick. But Arizona managed only 12 points (four field goals on five tries).

First-team offense shut out: Tony Romo completed 7 of 10 passes for 142 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions during three drives. Romo looked in tune once again with Bryant, who caught four passes for 74 yards. But the Cowboys' two best plays led to turnovers. Romo connected with Dunbar on a catch-and-run, but the running back fumbled while being tackled after a 43-yard gain. The play would have given the Cowboys the ball at the Arizona 7. Bryant fumbled on the next possession after making a catch in the middle of the field. He was stripped by cornerback Jerraud Powers while being pulled down, giving the Cardinals the ball at their own 24.

Arkin starts at left guard: With Ronald Leary out while recovering from right knee surgery, David Arkin got the start and played a little more than three quarters. Arkin did a nice job as a run- and pass-blocker. There did, however, seem to be confusion on a pass play when Arizona's defensive linemen used a stunt against Arkin that resulted in a sack.

Tanney leads scoring drive: After not scoring for three quarters, Tanney connected with Gavin Escobar on a 5-yard touchdown pass with 10:55 to play in the fourth quarter to bring the Cowboys to within 9-7. The score ended a 16-play, 89-yard drive that lasted just under 10 minutes. Tanney had two chances to give his team the lead in the final five minutes, but one drive ended with a punt and the other on an interception. Tanney finished 14-of-19 for 136 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Surprise decisions: Jermey Parnell, who returned to practice late last week from a strained hamstring, was a healthy scratch. Demetress Bell was the right tackle with the second team in the second half. Darrion Weems was the left tackle. The Cowboys might have played Bell just to get a good look at him against another opponent. He was signed after camp started but failed the conditioning test. Coach Jason Garrett said Bell needed to get in shape. Phillip Tanner, who was getting snaps behind starter DeMarco Murray and Dunbar at running back, didn't get any snaps Saturday. Instead, rookie Joseph Randle was the running back with the third team. Tanney took all the snaps after Romo and Orton were done for the day. The Cowboys didn't give Nick Stephens any snaps in the second half. It's doubtful if the Cowboys go with three quarterbacks, but Tanney played better than Orton.

What's next? The Cowboys finally come home after a month on the West Coast. They will be off Sunday and resume practices at 8 a.m. Monday in Irving.
The St. Louis Rams said they would rather sign a couple big-money free agents than several mid-priced ones.

Quality over quantity was the rationale.

That approach helps explain why the Rams rank sixth among NFL teams in contractual commitments for unrestricted free agents signed from other teams this offseason despite landing just two of them in Jake Long and Jared Cook.

Maximum potential contract value can be misleading, but in general, the more aggressive teams will commit larger total dollar values toward free agents. As the chart shows, St. Louis ranks relatively high in total dollar values despite signing fewer UFAs than any other team ranked among the top 10.

ESPN.com's John Clayton takes a closer look in his column Sunday. While the Rams focused their UFA resources narrowly, the Arizona Cardinals added a long list of players at relatively low cost. Clayton liked the approach from a value standpoint.

"Three winners emerged from the post-frenzy shopping market -- Arizona, Chicago and Tennessee," Clayton writes. "Based on playing time from last year, I'd give the Cardinals the slight edge from the post-March 17 market."

The chart below, updated from the version published here March 27, lists playing time and contract information for all the UFA players Arizona has signed or re-signed this offseason.

The Arizona Cardinals' one-year deal with Miami Dolphins safety Jonathon Amaya appears designed to help their special teams while providing depth in the secondary.

The deal, announced by the team, brings to 11 the the total of unrestricted free agents to sign or re-sign with Arizona since the signing period opened March 12.

Amaya joins Lorenzo Alexander and Rashad Johnson as primary special-teams players from the list of 11 signings. Financial details were not yet available, but Amaya surely signed a modest deal. That has been the trend for Arizona, as the chart shows. The team has unloaded several weighty contracts while restocking the roster with lower-priced talent on shorter-term deals. The approach will provide greater flexibility in the future. It also reflects coach Bruce Arians' stated belief that Arizona could be better than advertised at several positions, including the offensive line and at quarterback.

Scouts Inc. ranked Amaya 57th out of 58 potentially available safeties Insider this offseason, noting that Amaya's contributions would come on special teams.

"He shows great effort and is an excellent open-field tackler on coverage units," Scouts Inc. wrote in part. "He appears to have limitations as a pure defender in the secondary, but brings attitude and consistency on special teams."

Amaya played for the Dolphins in 2010 when Todd Bowles was on the Miami staff. Bowles is the new defensive coordinator for the Cardinals.

The chart shows 2012 playing time on offense or defense for the 11 players Arizona has signed. Those figures are from ESPN Stats & Information. Johnson (66.2 percent), Alexander (63.7) and Amaya (52.9) also logged significant snaps on special teams.

PHOENIX -- A few NFC West notes before heading to the airport for a trip home following the NFL owners meeting, which concluded Wednesday:

Arizona Cardinals: The team is leaving open the door for signing Cleveland Browns unrestricted free-agent receiver Josh Cribbs, who is recovering from knee surgery. Cribbs visited the Cardinals this week, but he could be weeks away from passing a physical. ... The Cardinals have signed nine players at a combined charge of $12.9 million against the 2013 salary cap after clearing $13 million in space by releasing Kevin Kolb and Kerry Rhodes. The nine: Rashard Mendenhall, Jerraud Powers, Drew Stanton, Antoine Cason, Jasper Brinkley, Lorenzo Alexander, Rashad Johnson, Matt Shaughnessy and Yeremiah Bell. ... Coach Bruce Arians said he sees six quarterbacks in the 2013 draft with clear potential to stick in the NFL for the long term. Arians also said he thought the Cardinals could win regular-season and playoff games with Stanton as the starter. The team could still add to the position, of course, but Arians plans to name a starter sooner rather than later -- definitely before training camp.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams expect to add another big running back after parting with Steven Jackson. Coach Jeff Fisher wants second-year back Daryl Richardson to get more touches, especially as a receiver. He also expects more from 2012 second-round pick Isaiah Pead. ... Fisher said he goes strictly by feel with no regard for advanced stats when making in-game decisions such as when to go for it on fourth down. ... The Rams will look to re-sign veteran safety Quintin Mikell, who was released with salary-cap savings in mind. The team's other starting safety from last season, Craig Dahl, signed with San Francisco last week. ... Fisher sees receiver Chris Givens as more than a deep threat, noting that one of Givens' five receptions covering 50-plus yards came on a slant route. ... Fisher, unlike Pittsburgh Steelers counterpart Mike Tomlin, thinks the read option will be around for a while.

San Francisco 49ers: Coach Jim Harbaugh gushed over receiver Ricardo Lockette, a physically gifted prospect signed last season after stints on Seattle's practice squad and 53-man roster. "There is something special there -- I can feel it," Harbaugh said. Lockette had 44- and 61-yard receptions for Seattle late in the 2011 season. ... Colin Kaepernick is the 49ers' undisputed starting quarterback, but Harbaugh would like to make the position more competitive after Alex Smith's departure by trade. Harbaugh said the quarterback position is "no sacred cow" in terms of being immune from competition. ... Harbaugh and his brother, John, spent Sunday afternoon playing in the hotel pool like a couple of kids. "Did you see us breaking all the rules on the slide?" John Harbaugh asked. "It was a race down the slide. Two guys diving at the same time and racing down the slide. The only time we didn't go down [the slides] together was when we had two kids stacked on us."

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks think former Cardinals receiver Stephen Williams could have a bright future. ... Defensive end Cliff Avril's addition could affect the Seahawks' needs at linebacker. Coach Pete Carroll compared Avril in body type to Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews, two players Carroll coached at USC. He said Avril could play strong-side linebacker at times. That arrangement could work because K.J. Wright has the flexibility to play the weak side, something Wright already does in the nickel defense. Those roles will sort out through training camp. ... Carroll said he "reached out" to Richard Sherman after the cornerback's contentious exchange with Skip Bayless on ESPN's First Take. Carroll said they discussed humility and said Sherman is "working on ways to express himself." Carroll supported Sherman and said the team has no concerns with the All-Pro corner. I'll revisit that one separately.
NFC West teams have signed, re-signed or acquired 18 players since the NFL's free-agent signing period opened not quite one week ago.

The division has favored adding relatively young players.

The 18 players average not quite 28 years old, a figure inflated by the additions of 35-year-old safety Yeremiah Bell (Arizona Cardinals) and 32-year-old receiver Anquan Boldin (San Francisco 49ers).

Sixteen of the 18 are not yet 30 years old. Fourteen of the 18 are not yet 28. The median age for the full group is 27.5.

The chart ranks these 18 players by age and team. I've listed the ages to the tenth of a year to differentiate players recently having birthdays from those about to have them.

Five of the 18 players are reportedly earning more than $5 million per season. Of those, Boldin is the only older player. Jake Long (28 in May), Cliff Avril (27 in April), Jared Cook (26 in April) and Percy Harvin (25 in May) were the other higher-paid additions to this point in the signing period.

By definition, unrestricted free agents have played at least four NFL seasons. Most will be close to 26 or 27 years old when hitting the market for the first time.
Pending terms for linebacker Jasper Brinkley's new contract with the Arizona Cardinals, I've put together a list showing NFC West signings, re-signings and trade acquisitions by reported average annual salary.



It's a quick way of looking to see how many players teams have signed and at what cost.

The averages can be subjective. For example, Percy Harvin's contract with the Seattle Seahawks could be seen as a new deal or as an extension, affecting the average. The figure could be $12.9 million or $11.2 million.

The numbers in the chart are ballpark figures. They're probably on the high side in some cases, particularly relative to what the player will likely receive over the life of the contract.

There are some discrepancies. The San Francisco 49ers will pay a $6 million to Anquan Boldin on the contract they acquired from Baltimore. I've listed that as the average. However, Boldin's deal carries an $8.3 million average over its life, which predates his arrival in San Francisco.

So, again, the numbers provide general reference points. I'll update them once the contracts are on file and the numbers can be verified.

Brinkley, signed to pair with Daryl Washington at inside linebacker for Arizona, averaged less than $500,000 per year on his rookie contract with Minnesota, which expired this week. Beyond Brinkley's deal, we're awaiting word on the one Arizona struck to keep safety Rashad Johnson.

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