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Top questions for Cardinals – answered?

Posted by Darren Urban on September 8, 2016 – 10:06 am

Before training camp got underway, I posted 10 of the top questions facing the Cardinals — Part I and Part II — as they began their season. Now that the games that count are here, were those questions answered? Let’s take a brief look:

— Can Carson Palmer do it again? Clearly this isn’t something that could be answered yet. The preseason had some rough moments. But Palmer is unflinching and so is his coach and his teammates. The confidence is there that the quarterback will be just fine.

— Who is the starting center? It’s A.Q. Shipley, and it was never really even close. Rookie Evan Boehm is getting better, but he doesn’t look like he’s close to usurping Shipley. And the Cardinals never looked on the street for another option. It’s possible that could change, but Shipley is entrenched for now.

— Will D.J. Humphries become the right tackle? Yep. Again, never really was a question once it was all said and done. There was no real competition, and to Humphries’ credit, he improved as camp went on. In my opinion, while he won’t be perfect, Humphries should be fine.

— How much will David Johnson carry the offense? Again, we’ll only know once the games start, but it’s hard to think he won’t be the anchor to how this all goes down. Looked good in camp and the preseason.

— How important was it to keep every single skill player? This matters when there was worry about the offense. The idea is that they know each other well. So hopefully, even though Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown played little in the preseason, they know what to do. And the other skill vets like Jaron Brown showed why it’s good to have their knowledge too.

— Who will be the cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson? Brandon Williams, almost by default, because of the injuries to Justin Bethel and Mike Jenkins. The rookie will get tested early and often. He had a strong start to camp and then slowed a bit, and his work is going to be under the microscope.

— What will be the impact of Chandler Jones? More TBD, but you have to love how he looked during camp.

— How is the health of the Honey Badger? Healthy enough that he’ll start and is expected to be full go against the Patriots. We’ll see how Tyrann Mathieu looks compared to all-pro-pre-ACL-tear Badger of 2015.

— Can Robert Nkemdiche play a big role right away? Maybe not a big role, not after missing a chunk of camp with an ankle sprain. But he’ll definitely play a role.

— What is Larry Fitzgerald’s future? You never know what he’ll do after the season, but at least the Cardinals made sure, if he plays in 2017, it’ll be in Arizona.

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15 Responses to “Top questions for Cardinals – answered?”

  1. By John The Draft Guy on Sep 8, 2016 | Reply

    Darren,

    Love the questions and answers.

    I do think most of them can’t be answered till late in the season, but game one will give us a hint.

  2. By Marlin on Sep 8, 2016 | Reply

    GO CARDINALS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. By Joe C. on Sep 8, 2016 | Reply

    Corner is one of those positions that confidence really matters. I hope Williams can hang tough enough to remain confident. He’s going to get burned a couple times this season. That’s okay if it contributes to his development. Pass rush is really going to impact how he looks.

  4. By mitchaz on Sep 8, 2016 | Reply

    To try to answer your questions with some hunches, Darren:

    * Palmer—he faces quite the test from Bill Belichick who can get into QBs heads very adeptly—thus, Palmer may continue to struggle early on. He’s been carrying the Carolina monkey on his back and while he has been trying to shed it through hard work, it might not be as easy as he would hope. The other thing is—with more attention being paid to the running game—it may be more difficult for him to get into a rhythm—Kurt Warner often spoke about this very thing when he was here—he wanted to throw to set up the run and by doing so, establish a rhythm.

    * Boehm—he might be closer to earning the starting job than people think. Here’s a tweet that K-Somers received today from Doug Farrar:

    Doug Farrar
    ‏@BR_DougFarrar
    As far as rookies, Ryan Kelly impressed me, but man — Evan Boehm kinda blew me away. Power, agility, meanness. He’ll be a starter soon IMO.

    Boehm has a very good chance to be the starter by mid-season—kind of the way BA was patient last year with David Johnson.

    * Humphries—needs to be thought of as a rookie and will need the TE to his side versus fast and physical edge rushers. He has a big test versus DE Chris Long who played a ton of snaps this pre-season and looked very good. In game adjustments will be key for DJH.

    * David Johnson—he will be featured, but with BA using some new 2 RB sets and a consistent RB rotation, Chris Johnson and Ellington will get their fair share of snaps. BA put some added pressure on David Johnson by comparing him to Kevin Faulk, which incurred a stiff rebuttal from Bill Belichick. Faulk was perhaps BB’s all-time favorite player and the quintessential dual threat RB.

    * Keeping all skill players—with more emphasis on the running game and throwing to the RBs, it is going to be difficult to keep the WRs and TEs happy. Gresham turned down more money on a longer term deal to return—but, realistically how often will he get targeted? Carson Palmer likes to spread the ball and he helped talk Gresham into returning—but sometimes trying to spread the ball can be a deterrent. If the players check their egos, just as the coaches have been asking the to do, then chances are Palmer won’t find himself wanting to force the ball as much to WRs and TEs he wants to keep happy.

    * Brandon Williams—in the pre-season he was given the opportunity to cover some #1 WRs. Now, his assignment will be the #2 or #3 WR and it would be wise for the coaches to shade the FS to his side more often than not. If the coaches stay patient with BW, by mid-season he could be very good. But these first 8 games he needs safety help.

    * Chandler Jones—he is going to get chipped and double teamed a lot. Hopefully Calais Campbell will make teams regret doubling Jones. The key with Jones is moving him around—which one would imagine the coaches are planning to do.

    * Honey Badger—BA says that HB will play every snap in game one after saying all off-season that they won’t rush him back. There is no way that HB is in tip-top game shape after tow weeks on non-contact practices. Yes, HB is the Energizer bunny—but expecting him to play every snap this early is throwing caution to the wind.

    * Nkemdiche—BA got away with playing him on way too many consecutive series and snaps versus Denver. But now that the real games begin and the DE/DT rotations are in place, Nekmdiche could be a very nice surprise as an interior disruptor off the bench and in short yardage situations. With Kareem Martin out, the coaches could rush Nkemdiche from the edge some too!

    * Fitzgerald—was kind of surprised to hear Larry call training camp a “drudgery.” For most players they understandably think of it that way, but typically Larry Fitzgerald loves to carpe every football diem. Is it a mistake to play Larry so much as an in the box blocker in the run game?—the pounding is getting to him, even though he hates to admit stuff like that. Plus, he needs to keep his legs fresh and out of the way from getting rolled on from behind. He’s great running routes from the slot and out of motion—but—at his age he needs to spend more time running and blocking in the open field, than hammering away down in the box. Plus, he’s already nursing a leg injury. Thus, to answer the question about this being Fitz’s final year, if the physical toll and responsibility remains extensive, it may break his will to return. One usually wouldn’t think so, but Fitz is a genuine philanthropist and a man of the world—so much so that he will embrace life beyond football.

  5. By Scott H on Sep 8, 2016 | Reply

    I remain in a wait and see mode with Shipley. He may not have been challenged this off-season by anyone on this roster, but…..I don’t know that that means he is even an above average center in the NFL right now. Hoping he is up to it this year.

    And corner is just a concern, period. Our pass rush needs to help us out here.

  6. By creditcard on Sep 8, 2016 | Reply

    The biggest question, might have been answered with the Cards keeping nine D-Linemen on the team. Nine talented D-linemen will keep the interior fresh throughout the entire season.

    Denver won the super bowl mainly due to the interior push from Wolfe and Jackson. Anytime 2 guys are both double teamed the entire game, and still are major disrupting factors — good if not great things will happen on defense. I know Miller and Ware got all the credit, but to me, the real “victory’ was won by Wolfe and Jackson.

    If the Cards can mimic Denver with combination efforts from Peters, Williams, Gunter, Campbell, Nkemdichie, Stinson, Rucker, Olsen, and Mauro; good things will happen for Jones, Golden, and the secondary.

    To me this is the primary question: can the interior linemen stop opposing team’s run game, and provide a constant interior push so that the edge rushers are not doubled teamed, and the opposing QB has less than 2-seconds to survey the field.

    If the answer is yes: a super bowl ring will come to AZ. This formula led to more than just last year’s Denver SB victory, but to previous SB victors as well.

  7. By Dr. G. on Sep 8, 2016 | Reply

    Well, Darren, I think you are right on with your assessments. I agree with recent dialogue that defending TEs and Williams at CB will cause some increase in BA’s blood pressure occasionally.

    But as you posted recently, PPXXI and others can roam around making opponents guess a bit. With our Offense firing WELL, our opponents will have to score a bunch to have a chance of victory.

    This concept reminds us of the days when Frank Kush was at ASU…an Offense that put up serious numbers and going to the Fiesta Bowl nearly every year. He would say, “”They will have to score at least 35 to have a chance to beat us.””

    So now, it’s maybe the year that our Offense will compensate for some of the faux pas the Defense will have. Still though, I think our D is going to be scary for the entire league this year. HOW CAN IT MISS with the horses we have? ((and the leadership schemes))

    Thanks, as usual, for the Blog efforts every season, which for you seems to be 13 months…be well

  8. By Scott H on Sep 9, 2016 | Reply

    Man, we saw again last night how important defense is. Cam Newton is Superman against the rest of the league but the Broncos’ defense is definitely his kryptonite. They KNOW how to get to him and it has been impressive to watch both last night and during the Super Bowl.

    I’ve also enjoyed it because I’ve enjoyed seeing that smug smile and overboard celebrations wiped right off his face.

  9. By TLT fka DTL on Sep 9, 2016 | Reply

    Agree, in time, with Urb’s Qs as answered by Pasch, B Williams and DJ Humphries might be pluses by playoff time. Boehm could be plus as well if AQ gets hurt (don’t see him failing, fwiw).

    Captain Obvious comments: Panther loss last night so sweet, “could” be decider of home field advantage in NFC Championship game. Too early, I know…

    Heard absurd comments on local talk radio that hits on Cam last night were dirty, shameful on Broncos, failure of league policies, yada yada. Again, fwiw, Cam dipped head into head of on coming 2nd tackler on sack when threw ball short and grounded. Dirty play my ___. He plays like a RB and is huge so drilling the guy is football. Noticed that familiar look on his face disappeared in 4th Q as the hits came and adversity set in. If last night begins a trend, he might not last the season…

  10. By Dr. G. on Sep 9, 2016 | Reply

    Mktch…normally, I scan quickly the lengthy posts, but as I read your observations, it is obvious you follow the team in detail, not just from an emotional perspective as many of our good fans will…your take-outs are based on factual things you see…good stuff.

    When we post some factual critique on a player, his fans sometimes come roaring back in disbelief. But, as I responded to ScottH, we experienced a revolution with the new venue…. The majority of our great fan base just wants to go out, have fun and party down for a winner. Having a brew in 100++ weather has little appeal…g’day to ya…

  11. By clssylssy on Sep 9, 2016 | Reply

    Scott…
    Probably helped that none of the four helmet-to-helmet hits got called, absolutely ludicrous! If that was Carson who had been targeted, I’m sure the uproar would have shook the earth (although not much happened when Kurt Warner was targeted).
    I worry that the Cards are “putting all our eggs in one basket”, remembering what happens to our team when we lose our QB, and hate to see any QB in such a vulnerable position by such flagrant “overlooking” of these very serious hits by the officials. Wonder if Carson could handle four helmet-to-helmet hits?If this is how we are to begin the season with the zebras, I don’t think that’s good for anybody..
    I think Cam Newton handled the situation with a great deal of class and professionalism.
    I would be careful about celebrating someone else’s loss under such circumstances as that could very easily be our QB another day!

  12. By clssylssy on Sep 9, 2016 | Reply

    On a different note…I see Bethel is out with his foot and have to wonder if this is going to be a repeating verse throughout the season as BA inferred it could be and if so, who’s the next man up to fill his shoes? With an inexperienced Corner who will be targeted, our secondary is looking pretty vulnerable.
    I still think there are more questions than answers on the defense, which is not a good feeling!

  13. By Big Ken on Sep 9, 2016 | Reply

    All though camp I got the feeling all our O-linemen are very well schooled. You expect that from the core starters, but even the back ups and PS guys. No longer were drives stalled because of dumb penalties like in past years.

  14. By mitchaz on Sep 9, 2016 | Reply

    Dr. G—thanks so much for the kind words. I have been an avid Cardinals’ fan since November 24, 1963 when, as a wide-eyed 8 year old kid, my uncle took me to see the Cardinals play the Giants at Yankee Stadium. That afternoon I fell in love with the milk white helmets, the deep red Cardinals and the acrobatic FS Larry Wilson. Good old #8.

    How did your love for the Cardinals all begin?

    I tip my glass to you and wish you the best!

  15. By Dr. G. on Sep 9, 2016 | Reply

    Mitch…to answer…the appeal of the Cards for me came slowly beginning with the move to Tempe. I was on a committee to bring MLB and the NFL to Phoenix. There were lots of rumors; even the 49ers talked about a move…Candle Stick was worse than ASU even. In a perfect world, we wanted 2 expansion teams.

    Just as we finished sketching out a fantastic downtown dual-team stadium with all the legal issues covered, ASU struck a deal with Bidwill, Sr. that moved the team to Tempe. We were incredibly disappointed, because it even delayed a MLB expansion team for AZ. The costs of the stadium was justified with both teams being the tenants….any deal was dead dead.

    Without a team in Arizona, I followed the Dolphins and the 9ers during their glory days….Montana & Griese…who was better? And as a football fan we always had ASU tickets, and then got the Cards tickets when they came, met many of the players, played golf with many players and did the charity things. My favorite was always Aeneas – he signed a jersey with a bible verse, and later became a minister. But, he was incendiary on the field. I never asked for autographs; the jersey was a silent auction item…

    So now, I always say I still have 2 favorite teams:: the Cardinals and whoever is playing the Cowboys..! …be well… gonna be another great year…!

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