NFL Nation: Onrea Jones

Steve Breaston inactive for Cardinals

October, 24, 2010
SEATTLE -- The weather forecast calling for rain at Qwest Field has proved more accurate than reports suggesting Steve Breaston would likely return from injury to start for the Arizona Cardinals in Week 7.

Breaston was named among the Cardinals' inactive players minutes ago. Rookie Andre Roberts starts in his place. Receiver Stephen Williams is also inactive. He has a back injury. Arizona's active receivers include Larry Fitzgerald, Max Komar, Early Doucet and Onrea Jones.

Also inactive for Arizona: safety Hamza Abdullah, cornerback Trumaine McBride, center Ben Claxton, linebacker Alex Hall and nose tackle Gabe Watson. John Skelton is the third quarterback.

Doucet's return from injury should help Arizona deal with Breaston's continuing absence. Breaston did provide a deep threat, however, and the Cardinals could miss his ability to strike downfield. Seattle has one fewer top-flight target to worry about defending, welcome news for the Seahawks as they play without starting corner Kelly Jennings.
Depth at receiver is a problem for the Arizona Cardinals.

Imagine that. The team that fielded three 1,000-yard wideouts two seasons ago suddenly might have a roster spot for a rookie free agent at the position (Stephen Williams). Onrea Jones, a veteran of six NFL teams since 2007, might be needed for more than depth.

These could be short-term troubles for Arizona given that Larry Fitzgerald's sprained MCL should be healed in time for the regular season. The team still has Steve Breaston, whose speed sets him apart among Arizona wideouts. But with Anquan Boldin playing for Baltimore, the Cardinals lack the front-line receiver depth they once enjoyed. And they're feeling it now.

"Breaston stretches the field a little more, but the physical presence that Anquan has in the run game and also run-after-catch, he was the ultimate receiver -- what every team looks for in a receiver," San Francisco 49ers cornerback Shawntae Spencer said. "Him going to Baltimore is the perfect fit for that team and that conference."

The Cardinals have strong leaders, putting them in better position to part with Boldin.

"I really believe that from the time that [Boldin] was there, you have seen the transformation of their team from the old Arizona Cardinals to the Arizona Cardinals that you see now," Spencer said. "He embodied that mentality and I think he pushed the guys to achieve more, to want more. No doubt in anyone’s mind, he was a vocal person on that team and pretty much the heart and soul of that team. Everyone on that team really looked to him and respected him. With him gone, you lose a great player. It’s up to those other guys that play behind him to fill those shoes, which are big shoes to fill."
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Thoughts and observations after watching the Arizona Cardinals relocate their Sunday practice indoors to avoid rains at Northern Arizona University:
  • Offensive line coach Russ Grimm's selection to the Hall of Fame raises his profile among Cardinals players who might have known he played without knowing he was one of the great guards. Grimm and Pro Bowl defensive lineman Darnell Dockett spoke for about 15 minutes at one point during practice. Grimm was sharing pointers based on his knowledge of the game and personal experiences. The two shook hands about 10 minutes into the conversation as if they were finished, only to quickly reconvene and continue. I'll have more on this subject another time.
  • [+] EnlargeCardinals
    AP Photo/Matt YorkRain forced the Cardinals and their defensive line to practice indoors on Sunday.
    Defensive tackle Alan Branch, facing a make-or-break season is obviously lighter. He even led teammates in sideline-to-sideline runs before practice. I caught him stopping about 5 yards short of the sideline on one of the runs, though.
  • It's tough for the offense to function sometimes with Dockett blowing up plays. He drove right guard Reggie Wells into the backfield on one play, sending Wells flying into quarterback Matt Leinart, who hit the FieldTurf surface at the 16,000-seat Walkup Skydome. Dockett expanded his offseason training regimen to include pushing his Cadillac for 30 to 40 feet at a time, with 2-minute breaks between sets (former Seattle Seahawks tackle Walter Jones used to push around a pickup truck as part of his training). Dockett said it's "no sweat" matching up against 340-pound offensive linemen after pushing around a vehicle weighing several thousand pounds.
  • Second-year safety Rashad Johnson might be making a conscious effort to become more physical, something he must do to challenge for playing time. The Cardinals practiced in pads and Johnson took advantage of the opportunity to hit. He tagged receiver Onrea Jones on one play when both met at the ball.
  • Stephen Spach made a one-handed grab to beat new Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes for a 35-yard touchdown up the left seam.
  • Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is not yet full strength following knee surgery, coach Ken Whisenhunt said. It was obvious between plays because Rodgers-Cromartie sometimes moved with a limp. But he was very active and ran well when plays were live. Learning to play through injuries and at less than full strength can be difficult for some young players. I thought that was a challenge for Rodgers-Cromartie late last season.
  • The first-team offensive line, from left to right: Levi Brown, Alan Faneca, Lyle Sendlein, Wells, Brandon Keith.
  • The second-team offensive line, left to right: Jeremy Bridges, Rex Hadnot, Ben Claxton, Deuce Lutui, Herman Johnson.
  • Lutui weighs about 360. I would have guessed 345 to 350. He's a big guy and he can hide weight. He did not appear sloppy to me. The Cardinals would like him to play in the low 340s.
  • Keith looks the part at right tackle. He appears strong. I didn't see the Cardinals hold full-speed pass-rush drills, however. The offensive and defensive lines took a break lasting perhaps 15 minutes at one point during practice.
  • A long-term extension for Dockett remains a possibility this season, Whisenhunt said. The Cardinals want to reward him.
  • The Cardinals think Faneca still has something left even though the Jets ate millions in salary to remove Faneca from their roster. Dockett and Whisenhunt both said they've seen good things from Faneca. "Very athletic," Dockett said.
  • For a minute, I thought the Cardinals had an elite new prospect at safety, but Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson was wearing No. 9 instead of his usual No. 24. He wore No. 9 in high school and recent returned to have his jersey retired.
  • Beanie Wells, Steve Breaston and Charles Ali were among the players I saw drop passes. Breaston couldn't make the grab on what would have been a long touchdown pass.
  • Rookie receiver Max Komar made the best catch of the day, snatching a pass while lying on his back.

I'm looking forward to spending the next few days at Cardinals camp. I'll have more observations Monday.

Cardinals: Cutdown analysis

September, 5, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

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

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

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

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

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Cardinals play their exhibition home opener against the Chargers in a 10 p.m. ET kickoff from University of Phoenix Stadium. A few things I'd like to see:

  • The backup quarterbacks. Matt Leinart fared better than Brian St. Pierre in the first exhibition game. He can tighten his hold on the No. 2 job behind Kurt Warner. Fourth-stringer Tyler Palko looks like an exciting prospect, but he has virtually no shot at earning a roster spot in Arizona.
  • First-round choice Beanie Wells. The rookie running back could make his exhibition debut. He probably will not play extensively, but let's see what he does when he's in the game and how he holds up physically.
  • Backup receivers. Early Doucet has moved past a shoulder injury, but he hasn't yet validated his status as a third-round choice in 2008. The Cardinals don't really need him after Steve Breaston developed into a solid third option, but they would like to know Doucet can step up if a need does arise. Lance Long and Onrea Jones might also be fighting for a roster spot. Veteran Sean Morey's prowess on special teams might set him apart from the other receivers fighting for roster spots.
  • Rookie tackle Herman Johnson. He impressed against the Steelers last week. Another strong showing at tackle in a backup role would be welcome for Arizona. Depth at offensive tackle is a luxury in the NFL. Johnson is 380 pounds. His continued development -- as a tackle, not a plodding guard -- could help this team long term. The Cardinals will become more of a power team once Kurt Warner retires in a couple of years.
  • The pass rush. The Cardinals know what Chike Okeafor, Darnell Dockett, Bertrand Berry, Adrian Wilson and Clark Haggans offer in terms of getting after quarterbacks. They would like rookie Cody Brown to provide an emerging option in that area.
NFL Network is replaying the Cardinals-Chargers game at 1:30 a.m. ET. I'll take a closer look at the game on replay. Anything you'll be watching to see? LaRod Stephens-Howling is another player to watch for Arizona.