TEMPE, Ariz. — As will be the case every day in which the Cardinals practice during the season, we will provide a notebook that features some interesting tidbits that will not necessarily be turned into full-fledged stories during the week. It will be called “Dealing Cards,” because puns are fun and a better name was not thought of.
The big difference between Thursday and every other practice day of the week is that afterwards, head coach Bruce Arians does not chat with the media. Instead, coordinators Harold Goodwin and James Bettcher get the honor, and while they are not Bruce, each is able to bring a different perspective to the table. Oh, and it’s usually the day in the week we all chat with Larry Fitzgerald, so that’s good, too.
First, an injury update
Try as we reporters might (and note, we didn’t try today), neither Goodwin nor Bettcher ever says much of anything when it comes to injured Cardinals. The good news is at this point in the season, Arizona’s list of the wounded is light. The only player who did not practice Thursday was linebacker Kareem Martin (knee), while running back Stepfan Taylor and linebacker Lamar Louis were upgraded from DNP to “limited.” The entire injury report, including the Patriots’ side of things, can be found by clicking here.
The offensive line is coming along
Goodwin, who also plays a key role in coaching the offensive line, is pleased with where his three new starters — A.Q. Shipley, Evan Mathis and D.J. Humphries — are at as the regular season begins.
“I think every day they get a little bit wiser,” he said. “D.J.’s come a long way, as you guys know. He still has some issues, but after those preseason games, working out those butterflies, hopefully he’s not too jacked up when he hits the grass on Sunday night; he can be calm, collected as he hits the grass.
“He’s come a long way, Evan’s fine, A.Q. is fine. So, I’m pretty happy about where they’re at right now.”
With regards to Shipley, who was able to hold onto the starting center job throughout camp, Goodwin said the fifth-year pro does not lack confidence, but had to wait his turn to be the guy for the Cardinals in Week 1.
“Just remain humble and always be a hard worker — he’s that type of guy,” Goodwin said, noting Shipley is from Moon Township, Pa. “So he knows about hard work, he knows about grinding. He knows about being told he’s short and he’s fat and he’s chubby and has short arms.
“He’s trying to prove everybody wrong, so I think he’ll be fine.”
Goodwin was asked how Shipley is different now than he was this time a year ago, and he pointed to the 30-year-old’s maturity.
And speaking of maturity there is Humphries, who was not active for a single game last season but will be lining up at right tackle in the opener. The 2015 first-round pick saw some action in preseason, but there will be new lessons to be learned starting Sunday.
“You’re going to play more than about 15-20 snaps, and every play counts,” Goodwin said. “Obviously there’s no do-overs. Every play in the game is a pivotal play, and you can’t have mental errors. He’s always going to be ‘Knee Deep.'”
Sticking with Humphries, Goodwin pointed out that having a veteran in Mathis lined up next to him has been valuable.
While those are the players who are expected to play Sunday, Goodwin also had good things to say about a trio who is not.
On rookies Evan Boehm and Cole Toner, he said each has a great future in the NFL and proved in training camp they are tough players.
“The one thing I like about both of them, they didn’t shy away from when the lights were on in the stadium,” he said. “They competed their butts off and they played hard. I thought they played solid throughout the preseason. I think they both kind of snuck up on us and surprised us, that they were 53 (man roster) capable.”
The third player Goodwin talked about, Earl Watford, is someone who has seen time all across the offensive line.
“Earl, I’ve said it before, he’s like a Swiss Army Knife: whatever you need, he’s there for,” he said. “I think, going into this game, he can play — possibly — any of the five positions. He’s the next man up, so we’ll see what happens. Hopefully — knock on wood — he doesn’t have to play.”
Game-planning for the Patriots offense, not Garoppolo’s
While the Cardinals are probably catching a break with Tom Brady being suspended, if there is one downside it is that they really have no idea what the Patriots’ offense looks like with Jimmy Garoppolo running it.
So, while they have made sure to study the third-year pro and try to get a reading on what he can do, what Bettcher said is the Cardinals are basically preparing to play the Patriots that they know.
“It’s the Patriots offense, it’s what they do,” he said. “I’m sure they’re going to have some certain things they really like for him just like, from a week-to-week basis you see from any quarterback; and we’re going to prepare for things we’ve seen on tape both with him and overall with their offense.”
The thought that Garoppolo will be able to do everything Brady does is one that the Cardinals must have. Sure, the odds (and history) say he won’t be nearly as effective, but with such a small sample size and virtually no track record, Arizona’s defense has to pretty much be ready for anything.
“At this point we have to prepare for everything because you don’t know what you’re going to get,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said before saying Bettcher has put together an “awesome gameplan” that they have been practicing this week. “But we have been preparing, as a defense, for anything is possible, because it’s basically a rookie quarterback getting his first start.
“We have to be alert for trick plays; we have to be alert for the triple passes; we have to be alert for all of the gimmicks, because at the end of the day, these guys, they feel that they have the opportunity to win, but coming in against us they have the mentality we don’t have anything to lose.”
Peterson has done the best he can to help prepare Brandon Williams for his rookie season, one that promises to be challenging as opponents throw the ball his way often.
In part of helping the rookie, Peterson said he left a note for him in his locker Thursday.
“We don’t want him out there thinking, we don’t want him out there wondering what’s going to happen; just want him to be patient, but play aggressive,” he said. “So that was my note I gave to him today.”
Peterson said the idea of giving Williams a note came from his desire to try and get the best out of his teammates.
“Because that’s what it’s all about,” he said, adding he leaves messages for himself, pointing to one that was in his locker. “It’s just ‘relentless, never satisfied’ — that’s something that gets me going, I’m hoping that’s something that gets him going as well.”