Cardinals notes: Roster cuts loom, Catanzaro’s boot and Barkley’s last stand
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The goal for most of the players on the field during Thursday’s preseason finale, in which the Cardinals defeated the Broncos 38-17, was to make the next couple of days difficult for the front office.
Final cuts are looming. Teams must trim their rosters down from 75 to 53 with a Saturday afternoon deadline.
Here’s wishing good luck to coach Bruce Arians and GM Steve Keim.
“Big decisions tomorrow on certain guys, but overall, I was pretty pleased,” Arians said following the game.
Arians singled out QB Matt Barkley and running backs Elijhaa Penny and Kerwynn Williams as players who stepped up and added that both the defensive and offensive lines played well.
Before the game, the coach said there were about four open spots and 12 players fighting for them, and chances are a little changed with Thursday’s outing.
“It’s very easy in some spots and very difficult in others,” he said Thursday night on the tough decisions that await. “In the last few, it’s who’s better at different positions, what depth do we need? And it all depends on special teams.”
The special teams, Arians said, took a hit Thursday when Kareem Martin went down with a knee injury. The coach believes it is an MCL issue that will sideline the linebacker for roughly two to three weeks, but while he’s out, his role will have to be filled.
One player who may benefit from Martin’s misfortune is Lamar Louis, an undrafted rookie out of Louisiana State.
“His stock has really risen in the last two weeks,” Arians said of the linebacker. “He’s one of those guys that might have played his way onto the football team.”
“Man, if that’s the case, mission complete,” Louis said when told of Arians’ comment on his chances. “That’s my goal, to make the 53, whether it’s here or whether it’s somewhere else. Like Coach Arians said, you’re playing for all 32 teams.
“If that’s not a big opportunity, I don’t know what is. I just like to take advantage of every opportunity because you never know what door is going to open. So I think I really accomplished that.”
Louis was credited with three tackles against the Broncos — one of which was for a loss — and added another on special teams. He was flying all over the field, disrupting much of what Denver was trying to do.
If Louis — or Penny or Barkley or any of the other players who came up big Thursday — is ultimately not one of the final 53, there is a strong chance the Cardinals would like to bring him back on the practice squad. That could be an option, of course, provided no other team makes a claim for them.
That concept, in theory, could make it challenging for Arians in a game like Thursday’s, where he does not want to play his starters but in turning to the young guys, risks them showing enough to pique another team’s interest.
But, Arians said, there is never a fear that a good performance Thursday may cost them a player they’d rather keep around.
“Those guys are out there auditioning for those other teams,” he said. “If you waive them, you can’t say, ‘Hey, we want to put those guys on the practice squad.’ We’ve had guys claimed a bunch since we’ve been here and this is a good football team. I would imagine some of these guys will be claimed.”
Cat-Man can do that?!
Chandler Catanzaro’s preseason did not get off to a particularly great start, but it certainly finished strong.
In Thursday’s win, the third-year pro connected on all three of his extra points and was three-of-three on field goals, connecting from 24, 41 and 59 yards out.
It won’t count, but the last one was the longest make of the kicker’s career. He said he knew it was good when it left his foot.
“That’s a long way, but I hit it really well,” he said. “I just wanted to hit it solid and keep my eyes back, and I did. Me and Drew (Butler), I can remember us just telling it to go; I just wanted it to go through, and it did.
“I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”
Over the first two seasons of his career, chances for field goals of anywhere near that length have been hard to come by. Last season, Catanzaro attempted just two field goals from 50 or more yards, missing both, and the year before he went 2-of-3 on such attempts.
Arians said they’ve tried kicks from that distance in training camp, so the make did not necessarily come as a surprise.
“He had all the leg, but he just kept missing them,” he said. “This was the time to do it and he hit it right down the pipe. It was a great kick.”
Catanzaro understandably celebrated the accomplishment pretty boisterously, and he was mobbed by teammates, too. Arians said he was not afraid that his kicker might have celebrated a bit too much, and for the player, it was something he won’t soon forget.
“That was really cool — yeah, I’ve got their back and it’s cool to see how many guys, how they reacted to that one,” he said. “Just a really fun moment that I’ll always remember. Definitely a career long, and hopefully build on that going into the regular season and hit another long one when we need it in the regular season.”
Barkley’s last stand?
Earlier in the week, Arians said the plan was for QB Matt Barkley to play the entire game, and given that the only other quarterbacks on the roster are Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, neither of whom the coach wanted to play Thursday, there was really no other choice.
For Barkley, who is hoping to make the roster as the team’s third quarterback, it was one last opportunity to show the coaches what he could do when given an entire game to run the offense.
“It was really nice, especially this whole week,” he said after completing 20-of-29 passes for 262 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. “Just getting all the reps and the gameplan; it was a short week, but getting all those reps, knowing what you’re getting into, the gameplan felt really comfortable.
“I liked what we were doing and it showed tonight.”
Barkley was impressive, showing accuracy on short passes as well as balls down the field. Eight different players caught at least one pass, with the scores going to J.J. Nelson and Jaxon Shipley.
“We ran the ball so well and he got us moving on third down,” Arians said. “When you run the ball, play-action is easy. So, I thought he handled himself well. He got luck and threw it into double-coverage and got a big catch, and that happens sometimes, too.”
Arians said he believes Barkley has grown in protecting the football, while noting the QB got away with some risky passes against the Broncos.
Now, was it enough to earn a spot on the roster? Barkley said he cannot think about that but hopes that he showed enough to warrant consideration.
“We’re not going against All-Pros, but we moved the ball and we put points on the board,” he said. “That’s what our goal was. I think we did a good job of doing it tonight.”