The ball came down basically directly above Mike Leach’s head, and much like Smokey Brown did against the Eagles, Leach played it perfectly. Of course, Brown caught the long pass, while all Leach — the Cardinals’ long snapper — had to do was smother the Drew Butler punt, which he did perfectly. The Cards won the game of field position in St. Louis, and the punt team was a big reason.
As for Leach, the 38-year-old veteran who never makes a snapping mistakes and who still covers punts like he’s 28, it was a fantastic play. It was one of the reasons the Cards have him around. Sure, he costs a little more than a young long snapper might, but you cannot put a price on near perfection at that spot. Leach will be there for you. He will do his job and do it well. And you can forget about it and worry about other stuff, like who will play quarterback or who contain Russell Wilson.
“I want to go out and not be noticed, to be honest with you,” Leach said. “It’s the nature of our position. Do your job and keep your head down and hope nobody sees you and Cat (Chandler Catanzaro) keeps making his kicks and winning his awards and Drew keeps doing great and Justin (Bethel) keeps making all the plays and those guys can get the attention. Then I can just kind of slide back into the bricks and not be noticed, that’s fine. If something happens, and if your teammates kind of give you a pat on the back, that’s good too.”
Leach, who has played in 198 consecutive games, is able to serve as an experienced mentor for the Cards’ two young kickers — a change from last season, when kicker Jay Feely and punter Dave Zastudil gave the Cards a much more experienced special-teams trio. Leach’s years playing tight end or wide receiver (he came into the league as a tight end) has given him the background to track the ball in the air like he did on that punt in St. Louis.
(Leach does a lot in the community too, although he’s usually shying away from the attention doing those things as well.)
It’s those little things Leach stays on top of, like at the end of the punt. Leach did the great job batting it down, but the ball was still loose near the goal line when reinforcements arrived. Wide receiver Jaron Brown was the one to jump on the ball to officially kill it — and while Brown was still a couple of yards from the end zone, Leach made sure to push his prone teammate in the back, away from the goal line. Those are the things that can possibly ruin a play. This, Leach knows.
“I’ve been around a little while,” Leach said.
It’s served the Cardinals well, too.
Tags: Mike Leach
Posted in Blog | 6 Comments »
The Cardinals are not the most injured team in the league, although there has been little argument they have been undercut by the players they have lost. In the NFL, of course, anytime you lose a starting quarterback, that automatically puts you near the top of the list.
Quantifying that compared to other teams in virtually impossible. There are dozens of ways to look at it. But here is one. Spotrac.com has compiled a list that adds up the salary cap hits each team have sitting on injured reserve, and, no surprise, the Cardinals have landed in the top five. The Cards are fourth, with eight IR’d players taking up $28.8 million in cap space. The three teams ahead of them: the Giants with $34.7M, the Rams at $30.6M and the Bears at $29.9M. The Giants are there in part because they have a whopping 22 players on IR. The Rams have one less player on IR than the Cards, but with QB Sam Bradford’s huge contract ($17.6M himself) the total is slightly ajar.
The eight Cardinals on IR: Carson Palmer, John Abraham, Darnell Dockett, Troy Niklas, Ed Stinson, Dave Zastudil, Andre Ellington and Eddie Whitley. That total doesn’t include linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, who was out eight weeks when he was on IR/designated to return.
You can argue that the money could be weighted — the Bears, for instance, just put wide receiver Brandon Marshall on IR — but the overall totals do speak to the “importance” of the players on IR, because you figure the guys with the highest cap numbers are usually the most crucial.
As for the full list of walking wounded Cards, here are the guys who have missed games this season because of injuries, with the total games they have sat out thus far:
DT Dockett (14)
LB Abraham (13)
P Zastudil (12)
LB Shaughnessy (8)
QB Palmer (8)
TE Niklas (7)
DT Stinson (5)
S Tyrann Mathieu (3)
LB Alex Okafor (3)
LB Glenn Carson (3)
WR Larry Fitzgerald (2)
LB Desmond Bishop (2)
DE Calais Campbell (2)
RB Stepfan Taylor (2)
G Paul Fanaika (2)
RB Ellington (2)
DE Frostee Rucker (1)
TE Rob Housler (1)
We’ll see if the final two games bring any more surprises.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Dave Zastudil, Ed Stinson, Eddie Whitley, John Abraham, Matt Shaughnessy, salary cap, Troy Niklas
Posted in Blog | 26 Comments »
Every week (practically) during the season, Calais Campbell is the host of the Big Red Rage radio show, held over at the Majerle’s Sports Grill at Chandler Fashion Center. For an hour, Campbell and co-hosts Paul Calvisi and Ron Wolfley talk Cardinals with a different player guest. That changes a bit this week, in an event called the “Biggest Red Rage” — fitting because it comes before the biggest game of the season.
Thursday night, the show’s time slot has been doubled, from 6-8 p.m., and the guest list expanded to the high rollers: Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson and team president Michael Bidwill.
If you can’t make it out there, the show will air live on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
Tags: Big Red Rage
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The Cardinals tried to get defensive tackle Ed Stinson rehabbed and ready, but the rookie never could quite get over the toe injury that has hobbled him for weeks now. So Tuesday, the Cards did what they had to and put Stinson on injured reserve, ending his season. Only makes sense in this unconventional year of winning despite guys going down left and right.
To fill his spot on the roster, the Cardinals promoted wide receiver Brittan Golden from the practice squad. They filled Golden’s practice squad spot by re-signing running back Zach Bauman.
Stinson was the hidden nugget of the 2014 draft class. He was playing well before the toe injury cropped up against the home game against the Rams Nov. 9. He missed the next four games and tried to give it a go Thursday in St. Louis against the Rams. He played just two defensive snaps.
“He tried to go on it, didn’t work,” coach Bruce Arians said Monday. “We’ll just see what’s in the best interest of him and us.”
The best interest was shutting Stinson down. In the search for silver linings, the Cards have essentially been without Stinson for five games and have been playing well, so they can deal with his absence. Plus, Golden did have a 63-yard catch in the Cardinals’ upset win over the Seahawks in the next-to-last game of 2013, so maybe it’s about tapping into history here.
Tags: Brittan Golden, Ed Stinson, Zach Bauman
Posted in Blog | 43 Comments »
Steve Keim had a way to put things in perspective.
“The three best records in the NFL after the fourteenth game are Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ryan Lindley/Logan Thomas,” the Cardinals General Manager said Monday morning during his regular appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “It’s a credit to our organization and the job all the way down from Michael Bidwill to Bruce Arians, our coaching staff, our players, they have all done a fantastic job.”
There wasn’t a ton of specific info coming from the GM about his team’s quarterback situation. But he did acknowledge that the Cardinals will be going with some combination of Lindley and Thomas to play against the Seahawks Sunday. The Cards will add a quarterback, but it will be to the practice squad “for emergency purposes.” No, Kurt Warner is not walking through that door. (Which he never was, but I just wanted to use that line. Rick Pitino keeps on giving.)
UPDATE: The practice squad QB is Jeff Mathews, an undrafted rookie from Cornell who spent time earlier with Atlanta and Indianapolis.
Who the starting QB will be is TBA. Keim said simply “that’s a better question for Coach Arians.”
As for the injured Drew Stanton, Keim also sidestepped a timetable, because he said it’s really impossible to give one.
“With that type of knee injury, everybody heals different,” Keim said. “I know ESPN and some other outlets have put a timeline on it, which is extremely difficult to do. You can say it’s going to be four weeks, I’ve heard people say one-and-a-half weeks.
“Drew will be in there around the clock rehabbing. I know he’ll be ready to go as soon as possible.”
Keim reiterated Thomas could get a package of plays for the Seahawks game (that’s was as detailed as he’d get), so again, it sounds like both QBs could see the field. (Or the Cardinals are just building a nice ruse for the Seahawks to worry about during prep work.) Running the ball will be important, which really goes without saying.
“The thing that is extremely difficult to replace at any level is the quarterback,” Keim said. “I’ve said many times, there’s not even 32 quarterbacks to go around (to all the teams), so let alone you lose your starter — and it really hurt us because Carson (Palmer) was playing at a high level — and then you saw what Drew could do when he had the opportunity, which was win games for us and play solid football.
“To lose both those guys, it’s been extremely difficult to go through. But again, it goes back to the resiliency of our team.”
– It was the offensive line’s best game to date, Keim said. Guard Jonathan Cooper is “playing like a rookie” and needs to improve technically quite a bit, but it’s a start, Keim said.
– Keim called defensive end Frostee Rucker “an unsung hero” for his work of late. I’d second that. Rucker has been crucial in his role this season.
Tags: Drew Stanton, Frostee Rucker, Jonathan Cooper, Logan Thomas, Ryan Lindley, Seahawks, Steve Keim
Posted in Blog | 65 Comments »
The Cardinals won in St. Louis Thursday, and can spend Sunday watching the rest of the NFC playoff picture unfold. Already, they caught a break. The Green Bay Packers went to Buffalo and lost, 21-13, to fall to 10-4 and a game behind the Cards. Ultimately, what does that mean? It means that regardless of the result of the Seahawks-49ers game going on right now, because of all the tiebreakers the Cardinals have spent the year building, if the Cardinals can beat the Seahawks a week from tonight on “Sunday Night Football,” the Cardinals will clinch the NFC’s No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
It would be an incredible feat given the injuries the Cards have absorbed.
(UPDATE: The Seahawks did beat the 49ers. As expected.)
A loss against Seattle would not necessarily eliminate the Cards from the No. 1 seed, but the math is much more simple if they win (and a loss versus the Seahawks would mean the Cards would need a lot of help as well as a season finale win in San Francisco.)
A No. 1 seed would mean a ton, from a first-round bye (time to heal Drew Stanton) to home-field advantage for as long as the Cardinals remained in the playoffs — including, of course, the Super Bowl if they got that far.
– ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday morning Stanton is expected to be out four weeks with his knee injury. The Cardinals have declined to get into specifics of Stanton’s issue other than it is his right knee that’s injured. The Cards do expect him back at some point.
Tags: 49ers, Drew Stanton, Packers, playoffs, Seahawks
Posted in Blog | 40 Comments »
Do the Cardinals have a Pro Bowl player?
I’m not saying the Cardinals don’t have any players talented enough to make it. But usually, in seasons where your team is 11-3, there are at least a couple of locks. You would be hard-pressed to come up with any locks for the Cardinals. Offensively, the production hasn’t been consistent enough to see anyone getting a major push. Defensively, there are possibilities, but it’ll be interesting to see how many can find a way in, at least before guys start dropping out.
In the latest Pro Bowl voting numbers this week, it was interesting to see that safety Rashad Johnson — who I do agree has had a very good season for this team — has found his way into the top 10 among safeties. Johnson is eighth, and judging by those who keep tweeting that they want him to get even more votes, maybe Johnson can climb the ladder.
In fact, it’s only the secondary that is represented for the Cardinals right now, at least among the top 10 vote-getters at their positions. Patrick Peterson is eighth and Antonio Cromartie 10th among cornerbacks, while cornerback Justin Bethel is ninth among special teamers.
If you want to vote for the Pro Bowl, click here.
Now for some housekeeping items as the week comes to a close and the Cards get a mini-bye:
– Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali was fined $16,357 for hitting Cardinals QB Drew Stanton low in last week’s game. You remember the play, the one where it looked then for a split-second Stanton was lost for a long time. There have been a couple of those. Cardinals defensive tackle Tommy Kelly was fined the same amount for roughing Chiefs QB Alex Smith.
Chiefs safety Kurt Coleman, who decked wide receiver Smokey Brown by what looked like it might have been a possible helmet-to-helmet, was not fined. He wasn’t flagged for that play either.
– Bruce Arians wasn’t backing down from his comment after Thursday’s game, when he said “I love it when nobody says you’re going to have a chance to win. There’s an 11-3 team and a team that is always 8-8. You figure it out.” Many took it as a shot to the Rams — and obviously, it wasn’t a compliment — but I took it more as a jab against the media picking against the Cardinals in the game rather than the Rams themselves.
Not that it really matters. Asked why he made such a comment, Arians responded simply, “I just tried to state the facts.”
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Bruce Arians, Drew Stanton, John Brown, Justin Bethel, Patrick Peterson, Pro Bowl, Rashad Johnson, Tommy Kelly
Posted in Blog | 51 Comments »
Multiple reports — first coming from Mike Jurecki but then spreading through a ton of national media — say quarterback Drew Stanton has a right knee sprain and will be week-to-week, which is a big deal and definitely not the bad news it could have been. Bruce Arians will speak at 12:15 to clarify, but there will likely still be a vague part of all of this. The good news is that Stanton has a couple of extra days to heal (and even extra hours on the back end, since the Cardinals next play on a Sunday night) before the Seahawks game. But will he be mobile enough to face a Seattle defense? Something tells me this will remain a mystery all week.
But the Cardinals are basically in the playoffs after Thursday night’s win, and this injury news sure makes it sound like Stanton has a chance to be back for at least those games — if not sooner.
UPDATE: Arians comfirmed Stanton’s knee injury is not season-ending. But the coach declined to put a timetable on Stanton’s situation and said Stanton was on crutches. Stanton figures to return. But when? And what could it mean to the Cardinals’ playoff positioning?
Tags: Drew Stanton
Posted in Blog | 43 Comments »
Yes, Drew Stanton is hurt, and yes, there is a fear this could be a serious thing – ACL? – to take yet another quarterback away from the Cardinals.
But first, let’s talk about what the Cardinals did Thursday night (the Cards’ first Thursday win since 1948, albeit only with a handful of Thursday opportunities over the years), on a short week. They won on the road without a touchdown for the first time since 1935, and became the first team in the NFL to win without a touchdown since the Ravens did in in Detroit Dec. 16, 2013.
They’ve won 11 games for the first time as a franchise in 39 years. They’ve all but made the playoffs, unless the Eagles and Cowboys conspire for a backbreaking tie (Not gonna happen.) It’s been an amazing run even as the body shots accumulate, and if Bruce Arians doesn’t win another coach of the year award, I’ll be truly surprised.
(If the Cardinals manage to beat the Seahawks a week from Sunday, you might as well engrave his name on it that evening.)
That’s why there were so many laughs and smiles coming off the field Thursday night. This isn’t how you’d draw up a Super Bowl team, not losing all these guys. But the Cards have won in spite of all of it anyway. To paraphrase a former Cardinal great, it’s hard to win in the NFL. (I’m leaving off the expletive at the end.)
– OK, spinning this forward: Is Stanton done? We will see. No one is saying one way or the other, at least not at 1:45 a.m. on this plane ride home. But let’s assume, for the moment, Stanton won’t be available. That means Ryan Lindley, I’d think.
Arians made it clear Logan Thomas isn’t ready yet. And no, Lindley doesn’t have a great track record after his disastrous 2012 rookie stretch – when, like Thomas, he shouldn’t have been playing – but at least he has played. He was gone until Carson Palmer blew out his ACL, a cut so that the prospect of Thomas could be kept, and that’s why he was third-string when he returned. But it always made more sense that, if the Cards had to turn to the backup’s backup, that guy would probably be Lindley.
– As my cohort Kent Somers tweeted, Arians is going to talk about how much confidence he has in Lindley. Because that’s what B.A. does, especially with QBs. If that’s the guy who is playing, he’s going to have Arians’ full support.
– I expect the Cards to sign a third QB, maybe bring back Dennis Dixon. But for those on Twitter tonight (at 1 a.m. Arizona time on a Friday? Don’t you people have to work in a few hours?) asking about who the Cards are going to get, I don’t see any earthly way it’s someone who they plan to play. These are the cards these Cards have been dealt. The top two QBs could be done. You gotta make it work.
– Amazing that Antonio Cromartie thought he ruptured his Achilles five days ago, and not only played Thursday night but did it without looking like he was ever hurt.
– They take a lot of heat, but Arians was right, special teams was excellent. Chandler Catanzaro drilled his field goals. Drew Butler, after a horrible first punt, was great the rest of the night, constantly pinning the Rams deep, with help from his coverage units. (Long snapper Mike Leach with the awesome downing of the ball around the 5.) Six punts were downed inside the 20 out of eight. Ted Ginn broke off a 42-yard punt return. A very nice night for special teams coordinator Amos Jones’ guys.
– Quiet MVP from Thursday: Left tackle Jared Veldheer. Not only led a great night for the offensive line, but jumped on that late Kerwynn Williams fumble that could have changed the game.
– Frostee Rucker caused all kinds of havoc in the backfield. He’s been quietly great the past few games.
– Another guy causing backfield havoc was … cornerback Jerraud Powers? Yep. He was the blitzer a lot of the night. One delayed blitz was timed perfect and he drilled Shaun Hill late in the first half. It caused an incompletion and was a split second from causing a fumble. On the Rams’ last legit drive, his blitz on fourth down and leap allowed him to knock down Hill’s pass.
“I had some guys in my group texts, (former teammate) Antoine Bethea and a couple other guys, saying, ‘Who do you think you are? Dwight Freeney?’ ” Powers said. “I’m like, ‘Nah.’ ”
– So the last three times the Cardinals have played the Rams they have lost Tyrann Mathieu to an ACL tear, Palmer to an ACL tear and now, maybe Stanton has a serious injury? Unreal.
– Williams looked like the real deal again. Didn’t get 100 yards splitting time with Stepfan Taylor, but he averaged five yards on 15 carries and a couple of times was one defender away from breaking a TD run.
– The Cards are (probably) in the playoffs. They have more than a week to prep for the NFC West-deciding home game against Seattle. That will be an event on “Sunday Night Football.” It’d be nice if somehow, Stanton is OK.
“Obviously we’d like a full deck of cards, no pun intended,” Larry Fitzgerald said.
If not, there will probably be a shrug of the collective shoulders. Why should the end-all, be-all NFC West showdown be any different than the rest of the season?
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Carson Palmer, Dennis Dixon, Drew Stanton, Frostee Rucker, Jared Veldheer, Jerraud Powers, Kerwynn Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Logan Thomas, Rams, Ryan Lindley, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 53 Comments »
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie is active tonight just a few days after he thought he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury, so that is a boost to the Cardinals’ secondary. Cromartie looked pretty nimble going through early stretching, running pretty well from what I could tell.
Interestingly, also active is new safety Chris Clemons, who just signed Monday and who really hasn’t even gone through a real practice thanks to the short week. Rookie defensive tackle Ed Stinson also returns tonight, sending Josh Mauro to the inactive list. It also looks like Glenn Carson has surpassed Kenny Demens on the depth chart.
The full inactive list:
– S Tyrann Mathieu (thumb)
– LB Kenny Demens
– DT Alameda Ta’amu
– G Anthony Steen
– DE Josh Mauro
– G Paul Fanaika (ankle)
– DE Kareem Martin
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Chris Clemons, inactives
Posted in Blog | 22 Comments »