TEMPE, Ariz. — On Tuesday, the Cardinals held their final practice with media availability before the conclusion of the preseason slate, and with its completion the team is one day closer to the Sept. 11 season opener against the New England Patriots.
Afterwards there was a sensible buzz in the locker room, perhaps because most of the starters could relax some knowing that they’ll hardly play — if at all — Thursday, and the games that count are just around the corner.
Now, some notes.
Things are mostly positive on the injury front
Head coach Bruce Arians said both receiver John Brown and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu have been cleared to play in games.
“Whether I play them, we’ll wait and see,” he said. “Both of those guys practiced well today.”
As for Justin Bethel, who saw his first preseason action Sunday but afterward complained of soreness in his surgically-repaired foot, Arians said the cornerback will be a game-time decision.
Wait, what’s that about Bethel?
Yes, Bethel is still dealing with pain in his foot. It’s a bit of a concern, of course, since the team was relying on him to play cornerback and now with Mike Jenkins gone for the year will really need him to at least be available.
Bethel already missed the majority of camp after being out for all of mini-camp and OTAs, and showed visible rust in his performance against the Texans.
Monday, Bethel said after talking to doctors he is confident that the bone in his foot has healed fine, and now it’s just about pain tolerance.
That’s how Arians sees it, too.
“Justin’s foot is going to be that way, just like it was last year,” he said. “He’s got to play in pain.”
Four games is fine for preseason
As is the case every year, there has been talk about the NFL’s preseason and whether or not four games is too many.
Given that most teams do not let their starters anywhere near the field in the fourth exhibition contest, the question may have some validity.
However, Arians — who has made it a point to barely play his key guys much at all over the first three preseason games — sees value in the fourth contest.
“You have to build your roster, and the only way to build it is to see these kids play,” he said. “The fourth preseason game is not for the starters. It’s for those guys that you build your roster on, you build your practice squad on.
“The guys that need that week of work and that game, you’re going to need them in November and December.’
Deone Bucannon is a year older
Tuesday was Deone Bucannon’s 24th birthday, and he got to celebrate it in part by having teammate Tony Jefferson interview him for the cameras in front of assembled reporters.
Asked what he was going to do on his big day, Bucannon said chilling with his teammates, practicing and just trying to get better.
Bucannon, who was laughing for most of the time when Jefferson was asking him questions, was asked to talk about his violent hit on San Diego’s Dontrelle Inman, and he answered by saying it’s his style of play and he was blessed with the talent to do it, so he wants to show what he can do.
Jefferson then turned his attention to Bucannon’s position on the field, which is known as $LB.
“The Cardinals, they drafted me and they allowed me to be able to come in here and play,” he said. “They created this position for me and just truly blessed to be part of this organization.”
Finally, Jefferson thanked Bucannon, a safety in college, for moving into the box.
“Because you moving up to a backer gave me an opportunity to play the safety position,” he said. “So happy birthday.”
Asked afterward who asks tougher questions, the media or Jefferson, Bucannon said Tony.
A bevvy of options in the backfield
The Cardinals have historically never really been a team whose strength is the running game, but a look at their depth chart as well as preseason statistics indicates that it could very well be what carries the team through this season.
Whether it’s David Johnson, Chris Johnson or Andre Ellington, the team has no shortage of options. Asked if when assembling a running back room Arians tries to find a good mix of talents, sizes and speeds, he said what actually happens is the offense is catered to what he has.
“So you would like them all to be three-down backs,” he said. “We’re very fortunate in that we have three guys that could play all three downs and two of them are real strong runners for short yardage and goal line; and Andre has never shied away down on the goal line.”
Arians was not willing to give any kind of numbers with regards to how many carries each of the three primary runners will receive, saying it will be a game-time feel and game planning.
“Making sure we have the best guys in doing the things they do best,” he said.
David Johnson is clearly atop the depth chart, though it excites Arians that he has a couple of backups who he said look like they’re going to “break it to the house” every time they touch the ball.
“That’s a beautiful thing when David doesn’t have to play tired whatsoever,” he said.
As for David Johnson, Arians said the second-year pro has not shown him anything this offseason that he didn’t realize was there, but pointed out how the Northern Iowa product has shown more consistency and is relaxed.
“Asks more questions on why he’s doing certain things and how he does them, to become a better player,” he said.
As for how the former third-round pick never seems to be satisfied, Arians said, “I hope he never is.”