Breakfast with Bruce: WRs, RBs, Vegas and London

Mar 31, 2017, 9:21 AM
(Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)...
(Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)
(Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

Wednesday morning at the Arizona Biltmore, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians sat down to chat with members of the media for nearly an hour.

Arians was there for the NFC Coaches Breakfast, which helped to wrap up the NFL’s annual meetings.

The topics Arians discussed were wide ranging — some had to do with his team as well as the NFL Draft, while others had to do with how some his former players will fit in new locales. He was also asked about his role on the competition committee, and prodded to share his thoughts on some of the rule changes.

It was a casual setting for a coach who fares well in most media sessions, and below is the first installment of our “Breakfast with Bruce” series, in which we will highlight the best of what Arians had to offer.

Part one of the three-part series can be found here, and part two is available here.

On Andre Ellington moving to wide receiver 

“Yeah, Andre is coming back as a wide receiver. We know what he can do as a running back. I want to see him go to the wide receiver room and he’ll fight for a position as a wide receiver. If it works out that he can crack that, because he’s done some great things for us as a wideout since his rookie year, that could give us great position flexibility on Sunday game roster on the 46. ”

On replacing Michael Floyd

“I love Mike. I wish it had never happened for him, but he dropped way too many balls here. Whoever we put out there is gonna be fine. Height does not bother me. You catch it over your shoulder fast, they’re gonna get off of you. If you’re a big guy and you’re slow, you’re gonna have to have a guy on you because he’s gonna be on you. I liked Aaron Dobson coming out. Really excited to have an Aaron. Jaron Brown has had such a great camp. Jaron is that guy, too.”

On having a young quarterback work with the veterans

“You feel great. When you think of Drew (Stanton), Tom (Moore) and Carson (Palmer), the guys who are up there now, their bodies are still as when they were 28. Their knowledge is so much greater that you feel really comfortable with that guy, and Carson’s, in a sense, virtual reality has helped him so much. He can literally get many more reps just sitting at home. So without physically getting reps on us, he gets every single one on a virtual reality headset like he actually did it practice, throwing the ball and seeing the blitzes. That tool has helped a veteran guy if they’re using it to keep them off the practice field for their arms and their legs, but they’re still getting the mental seeing reps.”

On whether Palmer will play after this year

“I wouldn’t doubt it. I think every year it’s going to come up. How’s he feel? All these guys, it’s gonna be ‘how does my body feel?’ Give them time, ‘Yes, I’ve recovered. I’m ready to roll again.’ So you’re gonna have to give them time every year.”

On his excitement for a young quarterback

“That’s always been probably the most fun I’ve ever had in the 40 some years I’ve been coaching, going back to college and having ninth, tenth graders come to camp and watch like ‘Oh shoot. He’s only a high school prospect now, that kid we had in camp.’ Then getting your hands on him and seeing if you can develop him. So yeah, probably the most excited I got when I was re-fired to go back and work with Andrew (Luck), you know. That really rejuvenated me and gave me a whole new perspective on the game again.”

On what Arizona has to offer a rookie quarterback

“It would probably be one of the best situations for any of these kids to fall into. You’ve got two guys that are mentors, they’re gonna probably listen to them more than they will us. Sometimes we have too many eyes on that position, between me, Tom and now Byron (Leftwich), so I think (it) will be a great situation for as long as it takes for him to become a player and how long Carson and Drew want to play.”

On who could be the kick/punt returner 

“I think that is one of the wide open things in the draft. Andre, I was a little disappointed in, but I know this: His foot is now finally healed. He’s another guy who’s been hurt for two and a half years. He’s finally healthy and we’ve talked about that he came out and caught punts nothing, no problem. Then we put the jugs the opposite way for the first, left-footed and couldn’t catch anything, so he lost his confidence. He should have a chance as kickoff returner/punt returner, but he’s got to do a hell of a lot better than he did last year and he knows it. J.J. (Nelson), that’s why we drafted him. He broke the thumb early in camp last year and lost confidence catching them and didn’t want to get back there. John Brown was doing a heck of a job until he got hurt, so we’ve got some guys. Jeremy (Ross), he’s a proven guy, a veteran guy, but I’m looking for a guy in the draft to come and really compete with those guys for that job.”

On Mitch Trubisky-Aaron Rodgers comparisons

“I don’t know how you could compare those two. When Aaron was coming out, he was in a totally different offense. I’m old enough to know when Aaron came on because I evaluated him, and I think Mitch probably has a stronger arm coming out than Aaron did. But to say anybody here reminds you of somebody, to me it’s just physically stature-wise, or arm-strength wise. I wouldn’t put that much pressure on a guy to say that he’s Aaron Rodgers, but Aaron started a bunch of games in college.”

On using David Johnson too much

He’s still too young to overuse, but again, we want to limit the number of carries. If you go back, his number of carries weren’t that bad. His number of touches, because he’s such a dynamic pass-receiver, I don’t want those to go down at all.  I want to have 30 touches out of him, if possible, because that’s going to be a lot of offense. Because when he’s got his hands on the ball, either as a wide receiver coming out of the backfield, in the slot, and running, that’s a lot of potential offense for us.”

On the Raiders and a geographic rivalry

“I would definitely say if we were in the same division, but I think it’s great for the Raiders to finally have a home. It’ll be fun for fans. I don’t know if it’ll be that much fun for the Raiders to have so many opposing fans coming in there, but I think it’s good for the league to have stability everywhere. I think it’s bad for Oakland, having gone to the black hole so many times. I hate to figure I’m not going back there, because it’s not going to be the same black hole in Vegas that it was in Oakland.”

On doubts about taking the team to Vegas

“We’re taking them to major cities every day now. If you’re looking for trouble, there’s trouble to find everywhere. Any team that comes to Phoenix, there’s a casino on every corner. That’s not gonna be a problem. We’re on business trips, and if you have a team that’s not on a business trip, you’re probably getting fired anyway, so don’t worry about it.”

On watching assistant coaches during trips

“You gotta watch them too. That can be a problem. Make sure we have an 8 o’clock staff meeting, make sure they’re all in.”

On the attitude of young players last season

“We needed more leadership, and the young guys are coming out with a sense of entitlement that they haven’t had much in the past, and you gotta break that. They were highly recruited. Especially when you’re coming out of the SEC, you were a highly recruited player, you were pampered, and when you see those facilities, they were pampered the whole way through. Now that competition sometimes strikes them in the face and they can’t handle it. You gotta break that sense of entitlement. I don’t care how you got here. You’ve gotta fight for what’s yours. So if you sit for a year and boop, the light comes on, you sit for a year. ”

On the offensive line’s health

“To get Q (A. Q. Shipley) back was huge because he knows the offense and is so comfortable with Carson. Evan (Boehm) did such a good job at guard I wanted to leave him there. But the biggest thing was getting everybody healthy. We got all the guys from IR back and now we have nine guys who played a bunch last year, so that competition to get the 107 on Sunday should be really good. Knock on wood they all stay healthy this year.”

On Harlan Miller’s role in the defense

“We’re gonna start him, leave him at safety, and knowing that we have an extra corner. He’s trained his whole life as a corner, we’ll train him at safety.”

On adding a young inside linebacker to learn from Karlos Dansby

“I’d love to get a guy under Antoine (Bethea). I’d love to get a guy under Karlos. I’d love to get another corner, a wide receiver under Larry (Fitzgerald). I don’t know if we can get all those high picks, know what I mean? We’ve been really, really lucky from round three to round six, getting some quality guys and college free agents, too.”

On coaching Ben Roethlisberger again

“I’d love to, but I don’t think it’s ever gonna happen. I ain’t going back to Pittsburgh and he ain’t leaving.”

On the inside linebackers in the draft

“There are some really, really good ones, especially down the line that don’t have the big, big names.”

On the Cardinals’ good luck in the third round of the draft

“I think it’s the scouting and building of your board. For me personally, I love the third round. I think of Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders. T.Y. Hilton, just recently. Ty (Mathieu), David (Johnson), John Brown. Usually, for whatever reason, really good players that didn’t fit somebody’s eye fall right there, and if you love them, go get them. I think that’s a round where you don’t have to worry about reaching. Just take the guy you love and make your team.”

On running back depth behind David Johnson

“I’m fine right now. I think Kerwynn (Williams) has proven every time he plays, he gets 100 yards. You know, everybody says he’s too small, he’s this or that, he just gets 100 yards every time he steps out there, with all that Wildcat stuff. Not one of those plays was blocked right, alright? He made somebody miss and went and got 15, 20 yards. That’s his ability. He’s a real good low pass blocker, ain’t afraid to stick in in there. I think Elijhaa Penny has got a lot of talent. He learned what it’s like to be an NFL player now, and he’s slimming down. He’s 235 right now, might be a little to high for him, but he’s got real light feet and great hands. If we make him a little more shifty and then then we’ll just see what goes from there. We can always put Andre back, push him to make his decision sometime soon. We’ll see.”

On running backs coach Stump Mitchell leaving for the Jets

“Stump is one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around, one of the great players I’ve ever coached. I had the fun of coaching him for a few months before he ended his career with a knee injury and I wish him all the best.”

On whether he wants an east coast game before the team travels to London

“No. Our plan is to leave from here. We haven’t gotten it all finalized, but Michael (Bidwill) has made that trip so many times. We feel right now we would probably leave Monday night, and get off the plane, like when we went to Berlin quite a few years back, we got off the plane and went right to practice and broke a sweat. It was ‘Get off and we’ll do a glorified walk-through practice, break a sweat, and then get acclimated to that time and then go into our normal week.”

On the effects traveling has on the players

“The jet lag’s a [expletive] when you get back. I mean, I can’t imagine, even on the east coast where even though it’s a five-hour flight, it’s probably not as bad as going from Miami to Seattle and then playing the next week just kinda like that. That’s really hard on your guys. You have to be aware of how tired they are. With all these sports science monitors we have now, we can tell a lot about their bodies’ sleep patterns and how you practice that week, where in the past you just went with your schedule. You just did what you did. There’s so much more availability of information if you’re willing to use it. Not saying it’s garbage. There is really good [expletive].”

On coach Amos Jones not being to blame for last season’s special teams problems

“I’ve been around here for so long, I know who the coach is. I watch him coach and when you take away your five best cover guys and your kicker doesn’t have his best year and your punter isn’t having the year he’s capable of having, it ain’t got nothing to do with coaches. He doesn’t kick. He doesn’t snap. The young snapper had the best offseason of anybody we had, was as consistent. The first one (Chandler Catanzaro) missed, that wasn’t a terrible snap. It got down on the spot. We just missed it. The the one in Buffalo cost us an ability to come back in that game. It doesn’t have a [expletive] thing to do with our coach. If I thought it had something to do with the coach, we’d address it. ”

On special teams guys coming back from injury

“Getting (Alani Fua) back, (Ifeanyi Momah) back, Gabe (Martin) back, they’re all in competition. Our core five cover guys were all on IR.”

On Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown coming out of college

“His 40 time wasn’t as fast as he played, that’s why you have to stay with the tape. He played fast and he can make one cut as quick and as sharp as anybody in the draft that year. I remember in the draft meeting, I kept calling him the one-cut player and Mike Tomlin said, ‘You like your little one-cut guy here?’ and I said ‘I love him right here.’ Extremely explosive, but again, you never know how hard of a worker a guy is until you get him and nobody works harder than Antonio Brown, to this day.”

On what Brown being drafted late says about the draft process

“Too much stock in the combine. Because he ran not the fastest time at the Combine, but his tape was great.”

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Breakfast with Bruce: WRs, RBs, Vegas and London