Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals need to tackle a big problem

By The Sports Xchange  |  Aug. 21, 2017 at 8:17 PM
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Of all the things he didn't like after reviewing the tape from Saturday night's 24-23 preseason loss to the Chicago Bears, it was tackling -- or the lack thereof -- that irritated Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians the most.

And he was still plenty peeved about it on Monday when he addressed reporters before his players returning to practice for the final week of training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium.

There was plenty of blame to go around, he said, from the outside linebackers failing to set the edge to defensive backs arriving late on help.

But it's at the inside linebacker position, where the Cardinals have been extremely thin, where most of the concerns lie. Four inside linebackers weren't available against the Bears because of injuries, including starters Karlos Dansby (leg) and Deone Bucannon (ankle).

That forced the Cardinals to start rookie first-round pick Haason Reddick at one spot and second-year pro Scooby Wright at the other.

"I hope to hell they get healthy," Arians said. "I'll be concerned if we're playing with that group we had out there."

Reddick and Wright both got exposed on a handful of occasions by a fast Bears team that saw fourth-string running back Tarik Cohen gash the Cardinals for 77 yards on 11 carries, including runs of 9, 16, 16 and 25 yards.

"Haason got better; he looked more like a linebacker, but he blew a couple coverages that led to easy receptions," Arians said. "When he's on the right guy, he's doing really well (in coverage). When he doesn't have Karlos in there saying: 'That's your guy, go get him,' then he struggles a little bit. But that part of it is fine when those two guys are in there together."

The good news is Dansby was a full participant in practice on Monday and Bucannon is on the verge of being activated off the physically unable to perform list. He won't begin full practice for at least another week, but he'll be able to participate in walkthroughs right away.

"We haven't been counting on Deone; that's going to be a blessing," Arians said. "We're counting on Karlos and I think he'll be fine. Haason has gotten better. Josh Bynes has been a great find. Scooby, when he's playing his own position, was OK and plays well on special teams. So I don't look at it as a gloom or doom thing, because I think Karlos will be fine."

Bynes, who was signed off the street midway through camp, also returned to practice on Monday after missing a week because of a pulled hamstring. Philip Wheeler, another inside linebacker with NFL experience, is still day-to-day because a foot problem.

Outside linebacker Markus Golden said the entire defense will pick up once Dansby is back at full strength.

"When (Dansby) gets back there everything will be good," Golden said after the Bears' game. "We'll be set up right and be able to fly around together. We'll be all right. But no excuses, we need to do better."

NOTES: ILB Deone Bucannon (ankle) will be activated off the PUP list any day now, according to coach Bruce Arians. Bucannon will be cleared to participate in morning walkthroughs, but it will be at least another week until he is set to begin full practice with the rest of the team. The target date for his full returns remains the season opener on Sept. 10 against the Lions. ... RB Chris Johnson hasn't had any highlights during the preseason schedule as of yet, having rushed seven times for only 10 yards and catching three passes for five yards. Coach Bruce Arians said he isn't concerned, but said Johnson didn't have his best game against the Bears on Saturday night. "He had a couple runs where he bounced and could have just crammed it up in there for four or five (yards)," Arians said. "I think the one could have been as much as 10 or 12. (He's) pressing a little bit." Asked if Johnson still possesses breakaway speed, Arians said: "I've seen it in practice, yeah. There's been a bunch of times he's exhibited it." ... QB Carson Palmer looked a little off his game against the Bears, primarily because he held onto the ball too long and took too many hits. But coach Bruce Arians said much of the lack of sharpness was a result of the Cardinals not putting much study work into Chicago's defense. "Not studying them to the extent of what coverages they were going to be in, who was where, and not putting a thorough game plan together to beat their coverage," Arians said. "We were just running some of the stuff we've been working on; it just didn't pan out,"Arians said. "But we'll have a full four days of Atlanta Falcons prep this week." ... RB David Johnson has appeared in two preseason games and has carried the ball three times in each of them. That probably will be about the number of rushes he can expect to get this week, too, when the Cardinals visit the Falcons on Saturday. "He don't like it," coach Bruce Arians said. "He'll like it in November." ... WR John Brown (quadriceps) was back at practice after sitting out Saturday's game against the Bears. He left the team Monday night to attend a funeral and will meet the team in Atlanta on Friday. ... WR Aaron Dobson has returned to practice after missing most of training camp because of a hamstring injury. "Aaron showed the ability to go behind people all spring," coach Bruce Arians said. "It's a shame he hasn't had a chance to play." ... QB Blaine Gabbert has completed 30 of 48 passes for 412 yards (62.5 percent) with one touchdown and one interception. Signed to a one-year deal, the Cardinals are curious to learn if Gabbert might be the bridge to eventually replacing Carson Palmer as the team's starting quarterback. "When you watch Blaine the way he's played this preseason, he could potentially be competing for some other team's starting position," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "Again, that's just my opinion. He's played well. He's played within the system. He's made big throws. He's been able to show people how his athleticism and his feet can get him out of trouble in the pocket because be really does have good wheels."

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