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Keim: Peterson trade example of a “swing”

Posted by Darren Urban on October 16, 2017 – 8:25 am

Steve Keim had looked at all options when David Johnson first got hurt, and that included research on Adrian Peterson. But the push to trade for the veteran running back didn’t come until last week, when Keim said he “picked up the phone and it worked out pretty quickly.”

The “why” of the deal wasn’t complicated.

“I think it’s pretty simple,” Keim said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “At the end of the day, it made us better. The one thing I am committed to do as the General Manager, and I know Michael (Bidwill) and B.A. (Bruce Arians) is committed to do, we’re not going to sit on our hands if we think we can get better.

“It doesn’t mean we always make the right decisions. I’ve certainly made my mistakes here. But the one thing I’m going to do is I’m going to swing. To me, you can never hit a home run if you don’t step up to the plate and swing. I owe it to the organization, I owe it to the fan base, and that’s the mindset I’m always going to have.”

It was interesting to hear Keim, who mentioned at least a couple of times the “mistakes” he has made as a GM. And as good as Peterson was Sunday, he wasn’t proclaiming the move the end-all-be-all.

“Hopefully it would add a spark to the offense,” was Keim’s thought process. “More than anything, I think we created balance.”

It also helped morale, Keim said.

“It was about igniting a spark and creating an enthusiasm throughout the building, which was infectious the moment we did it on Tuesday,” Keim said.

— Keim said he thought what was overlooked Sunday was the return of the left side of the offensive line. It was going to be difficult, Keim reiterated, no matter who the running back was with all the injuries. Earl Watford already looks like he’ll settle in at right guard, but it was left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone who showed what impact they could have.

“For the first time this year, we saw five guys up front playing in unison,” Keim said. “I thought D.J. was excellent. We’ve always know he can run block. His ability to roll his hips and finish at the point of attack is something to me that sets him apart from a lot of other tackles. He and Alex on several of those ‘deuce’ blocks created five- and six-yards of run lanes for Adrian.”

Keim also praised the perimeter blocking of the wide receivers that helped Peterson.

— Keim said there was a lot of discussion with team president Michael Bidwill about Peterson, both on and off the field (including, it stands to reason, the year-long suspension Peterson had after child abuse accusations.) Keim said as with every player, the decision-makers talk through every part of a player, on the field, off the field, in the locker room and in the community. “Both of us were comfortable with that,” Keim said.

— Keim was asked, if he had been GM and not just in the front office in 2007 when the Cards were drafting, if he would have drafted Peterson at No. 5 (The Cards took tackle Levi Brown; Peterson went two picks later.) “You can go back and say that about a lot of different players,” Keim said. “I was not the general manager and I’ve certainly made enough mistakes in the position I’m in now. I’m just trying to take every day, every year and get better at my craft. Hopefully I can put a product on the field that fans can be proud of.”

— About the defense, which allowed a big second half after the Cards built a 31-0 lead before holding on, 38-33: “There is something to be said about momentum,” Keim said. “Part of that momentum we created on offense was a good thing. Now we have to figure out why the momentum issues are happening to us on defense.”

Keim said the defense played well in spurts, but they need to rally better after giving up a big play. (An aside, the Bucs still converted 50 percent on third downs, which continues to be an issue for the defense.) Keim praised Corey Peters, Frostee Rucker and the work of cornerback Tramon Williams. Keim echoed Arians’ thought that Williams should get more playing time. Keim also said safety Antoine Bethea (three picks in three games) doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves.

— Keim said he is confident cornerback Patrick Peterson (quad) will be able to play in London against the Rams.


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Adrian Peterson’s debut, and Bucs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 15, 2017 – 7:15 pm

The plan started on a private plane, sent by the Cardinals Tuesday to pick up Adrian Peterson in New Orleans and bring him back to Arizona. Running backs coach Freddie Kitchens was on board, so that the return trip to Arizona could be spent on a crash course about the Cardinals’ offense.

“It sounded like Chinese,” Peterson said Sunday, after that five-day tutorial turned into a 134-yard rushing debut.

Peterson said Kitchens walked him through what he needed to learn, calling him at home just to go over things. By the time Peterson got to Sunday, he felt prepared, and he played that way.

Kitchens downplayed his role, saying only that he helped get Peterson in the building. And there is little question Peterson, motivated as he was to do well, had the talent if he knew what was called.

“It was the terminology of the plays,” wide receiver/Peterson landlord Larry Fitzgerald said. “You don’t tell a great back where to run.”

Fitz is going to gush about Peterson. They are friends. But Peterson deserves the praise. Not just for his production, but for the intangible vibe that surrounded this team right about the time Peterson and Kitchens were flying back from Louisiana.

“I wish he’d have been here 11 years from the beginning,” Fitzgerald said. “I’d have a Super Bowl ring already. But having him here, his leadership, his demeanor in the huddle, I think it’s reinvigorating everybody.”

— I can’t lie. I did not expect Peterson to make that kind of impact. I thought the Cards would be better. Not that much better. But when he ripped off two eight-yard runs on his first two carries, I quickly reconsidered.

— Chandler Jones got his sixth sack in six games and got a couple tackles for loss. That doesn’t do his game justice, especially early. He’s had a very good season.

— Still, you want to see the defense finish better. It’ll be interesting to see if Tramon Williams gets more playing time at cornerback.

— And not because of Patrick Peterson’s quad problem. If P2 is down, the Cards will feel it, although Peterson insisted he will be ready to play against the Rams next week. That was a big part of the fourth-quarter problems Sunday. No Patrick. Adrian isn’t the only necessary Peterson.

— The offensive line was better. It wasn’t perfect, but the return of left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone, along with Earl Watford taking over at right guard clearly made a difference. There was a lot of emotion Sunday with Adrian Peterson and the crowd and that adrenaline helps. But if this group can stay healthy and together – that was the fifth different offensive line in six games – the Cards should be OK.

— Fitzgerald said it was kicker Phil Dawson who told him to waste some time on the onside kick recovery at the end, to make sure the clock ticked under the two-minute mark (and stoppage at the two-minute warning) so the Cards could kneel three times and be done. “That was Phil all the way,” Fitz said.

— Ryan Fitzpatrick likes putting a scare into Bruce Arians. First it was 2013 in Tennessee, then Sunday.

— Arians took the blame for Palmer’s interception, saying he insisted on throwing it deep there to go for the throat. But Arians said he needs to stay greedy. “There’s no lead big enough in the National Football League,” Arians said.

— Palmer is expecting both David Johnson and T.J. Logan to come off injured reserve, apparently, since he mentioned both running backs playing with Peterson later this season.

“I can’t help but think what B.A. will come up with when we get T.J. Logan back and Dave back,” Palmer said. “I can’t wait to see that.”

— That would be interesting. Just like the Cards were Sunday. Tomorrow, a flight to London.


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Nkemdiche still out, but other Cards are playing

Posted by Darren Urban on October 15, 2017 – 11:32 am

In the world of questionable, most Cardinals are playing today, except for defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, who is still not ready with his calf injury after working out pre-game with head athletic trainer Tom Reed. All the other players listed as questionable — tackle Jared Veldheer, defensive lineman Corey Peters, cornerback Patrick Peterson and linebacker Karlos Dansby — are active for the Cardinals against the Buccaneers.

It’s good news to have all those guys available, especially on defense. We’ll see if Bruce Arians also uses some subs on the offensive line for Alex Boone and D.J. Humphries at some point. Both those guys are starting, but Arians did express concern about their game conditioning after all this time out.

The full list of inactives:

— QB Blaine Gabbert

— WR Chad Williams

— RB D.J. Foster

— C Daniel Munyer

— DL Olsen Pierre (ankle)

— TE Ricky Seals-Jones

— DL Robert Nkemdiche (calf)


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A pair of Petersons, Friday before the Bucs

Posted by Darren Urban on October 13, 2017 – 3:59 pm

Adrian Peterson was the story of the week after he was traded to the Cardinals Tuesday. For a few days, all you can really have is speculation. The coaches and players are enthused about his arrival and what he might be able to do. Really, you’d expect nothing else. Optimism tends to reign in these situations.

“You got Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald on the same team, and Carson (Palmer) is delivering the ball to both of them,” tackle D.J. Humphries said. “It’s like, ‘What?’ That sounds like something you would do on ‘Madden,’ a team you’d create on ‘Madden.’ ”

The spotlight will be on “All Day” Sunday. If I had to guess – and this is purely a guess – I’m guessing on 12 or 15 touches. The revamped offensive line has to make some inroads, and that’s no guarantee. And while Peterson supposedly has looked good since arriving (we cannot watch practice), there’s no way to know exactly what the 32-year-old will do in a game situation.  Still, there is little arguing that, after a bad game in Philly, there was a vibe of hope around this offense this week.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think he’d be on my team,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “But he is.”

— The Cardinals have another Peterson. Patrick represents the other side of the ball. Unlike Adrian Peterson, who is still looking to prove he has a lot left, Patrick Peterson doesn’t need to, because he is at the height of his powers. But that can only go so far. And before the offensive Peterson arrived, it was the defensive Peterson’s overflowing passion in Philly that underscored some of the issues with a defense of which so much was expected.

Let’s say P2 does his job on Mike Evans this weekend. The Cards have to find a way to control DeSean Jackson and some good tight ends. They have to get off the field on third-and-long. (An aside, the Cardinals have been good at forcing third downs and even third-and-longs. They just have to close the deal.)

“It’s definitely something we’ve struggled with all season,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “I think it’s something we can correct. We’ve got a veteran group on the backend. Everything has to go together. If you call a zero blitz, the pressure has to get home. If you’re dropping zone, you’ve got to affect the passer. I think everything goes hand-in-hand.”

A zero blitz, like the one that didn’t get home at third-and-19 last week.

— Speaking of getting home, it was a tough first game at outside linebacker for rookie Haason Reddick. He made a couple of nice plays – there was one great stay-at-home play on a zone-read run by Eagles QB Carson Wentz – but mostly was locked up and a non-factor as a pass rusher.

“I don’t think he played as well as he wanted to play,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “He had four days playing the position. Play fast and play hard, he did that. Now we stack pieces on top of that.”

— Sunday is the Cardinals’ “Crucial Catch” game so if you have a chance to wear pink and represent, here’s your opportunity.

— Will be interested in seeing how the interior of the offensive line handles Gerald McCoy.

— With the running game having its issues and Palmer throwing all the time, he’s up to 1,573 yards passing. That’s a pace for 5,033 for the season, which would obliterate the franchise record.

— Another reason defense always seems to be a key: Under Arians, the Cardinals are 34-3-1 when holding the other team to 20 points or fewer.

— The Cardinals will wear their black uniforms Sunday (and for those who have forgotten, it was the Buccaneers who were the opponent in 2010 when the Cards wore their black alternates for the first time.)

That’ll be two straight home games in which the Cards wear black, because they’ll break out their Color Rush unis for the next home game Nov. 9, Thursday, against the Seahawks. The difference? The Color Rush jerseys will have red numbers instead of white. And the pants will be black, not white.

Here endeth the jersey conversation for today.

— OK, maybe not all the jersey conversation. After the talk about Adrian Peterson and Justin Bethel and wearing 28 (and there is a chance the league wouldn’t allow an in-season change, but I could not get an official answer on that), Larry Fitzgerald was asked if he went to a new team if he would expect whoever had No. 11 to give it to him.

“I would just go where I fit in,” Fitzgerald said. “It wouldn’t bother me. I wore No. 1 my whole life until I got here. They gave me 11. At the end of training camp a couple of 80-numbers were available, but I was like, I’ll stick with it, this is what they gave me. The number doesn’t make the player. The player makes the number. I’ve always thought that.”

— The Cardinals leave Monday night for London. But first, the Bucs. See you Sunday.


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David Johnson return not before Thanksgiving

Posted by Darren Urban on October 12, 2017 – 11:01 am

Now that Adrian Peterson has arrived, it’s fair to wonder about when — and if — David Johnson will be more than just a locker room-mate at running back. Johnson, on injured reserve with his surgically repaired left wrist, said rehab is “going great.”

“Just got my cast, it’s going good, wrist is feeling great,” Johnson said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Johnson wouldn’t put a timetable on his comeback. “Wait and see how it heals,” he said.

Coach Bruce Arians said on his SiriusXM NFL radio appearance Wednesday night that the “earliest” Johnson would return would be Thanksgiving. That weekend, the Cardinals host the Jaguars, and there would be six games left in the season. There are still five games in between then and now. Arians had previously put Johnson’s return sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so his comment this week remains in line with that.

Johnson said it was a “humbling moment” to see Peterson come in the locker room. “It’s going to be cool to pick his brain and learn from it.” (Johnson, however, was disappointed Chris Johnson was released, calling Johnson his mentor.)

“The opportunities I’ve had to talk to him were brief,” Peterson said of his relationship with David Johnson. “He came to Minnesota, and I just had to congratulate him on the things that he had accomplished so far and things like that. He was just like, ‘Hey man, I’m just trying to be like you. You’re one of the guys that have paved the way.’ So for me, I sit back and kind of just marvel and smile when I hear young guys like that say how I influenced them and their play and their work ethic.”


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Here’s the deal: Peterson 23, Bethel keeps 28

Posted by Darren Urban on October 11, 2017 – 2:40 pm

Adrian Peterson is wearing No. 23.

Did he ask for his longtime No. 28, currently being worn by cornerback Justin Bethel? “Of course he did,” Bethel said.

“We had a conversation,” Peterson said with a smile. “Didn’t last long at all. We discussed it a little bit, and at the end of the day, I’ll be wearing 23.”

Bethel said “it’s not my first time being in this situation,” he said. Bethel was No. 31 his first two years in the league, before he worked a deal with cornerback Antonio Cromartie when Cro wanted 31. Bethel switched to 28 then.

“I don’t mind keeping the number,” Bethel said.

When he was asked if the number was available for a price, Bethel didn’t want to get into specifics. Peterson simply said, “we just didn’t agree.”

Bethel didn’t close the door on Peterson getting 28 — “Anything is possible in this world,” he said — but Peterson sounded like a man who is at peace with new digits.

“I like (Bethel),” Peterson said. “He’s a guy I’ve watched and I appreciate. He’s one of those guys who came from the bottom who has made a name for himself, a hard worker. He represents that number well. If it was another guy, we probably would’ve been tussling in there but he can have it.”


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Adrian Peterson, and now what?

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2017 – 3:15 pm

Back in the stone ages of 2003, before social media, I was driving back to the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore from ASU’s pro day — featuring Terrell Suggs — when I was told the Cardinals were holding a press conference to sign free-agent running back Emmitt Smith. It wasn’t a total shock. Smith had already visited the Cards and even had a press conference, which the team did for visiting free agents at the time, even if they hadn’t signed. But Smith’s arrival was going to generate big headlines. (Emmitt was at the end of his career and the Cards weren’t very good, but he had an underrated second season in 2004, more effective for a bad offense than for which people give him credit.)

In 2006, with a new stadium coming online and Matt Leinart’s splashy draft arrival a month away, I stood in the drizzle at Kurt Warner’s flag football event at the Cardinals’ facility, knowing free-agent running back Edgerrin James was in there and the Cards were trying to nail him down. As it turned out, they did, and his arrival generated big headlines. (Edge didn’t perform as he once did and fell out of favor in 2008, but if it wasn’t for his ground game — he was good in the postseason — I don’t believe the Cardinals march through the NFC playoffs en route to the Super Bowl.)

In 2015, with Andre Ellington and rookie David Johnson pulling hamstrings, the Cards brought in Chris Johnson. While Ellington was the starter to begin the year, CJ2K was in the top three in the league in rushing before he got hurt.

So now, Adrian Peterson arrives. He has not played well this season in a situation where he wasn’t really wanted in New Orleans. He comes to a team that has not been able to run, even when David Johnson got his 11 carries (for only 21 yards) prior to his injury. But he’ll be the starter — not surprisingly, he just took Chris Johnson’s spot atop the depth chart — for now, at least until/if David Johnson returns. And we’ll see if it helps the 32nd-ranked run game.

There are intangible benefits here. Regardless of where he is in his career, he likely provides a boost for the locker room that couldn’t have been feeling great. (Clearly Larry Fitzgerald, a long-time friend of Peterson, is pleased.) It’s low-risk, given the $700,000 or so he’s still owed, and even the sixth-round pick given up can be made up when compensatory choices are awarded. Tangibly, at 2.6 yards a carry running the ball, even if Peterson is an average back, he still should improve things. It’s also a move, period, showing to the roster Steve Keim isn’t throwing in any towel.

There are limitations. Peterson’s strength isn’t pass protection, and while he has caught some passes, he is not Andre Ellington out there. Defenses are looking for the run whenever Peterson is on the field. Peterson is not an offensive lineman, either, and that’s the spot where the Cardinals really need help. But it’s something, a move that combined with a potential return of linemen D.J. Humphries and Alex Boone, could provide something akin to a jump-start.


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A trade for Adrian Peterson

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2017 – 9:52 am

The tweet came from ESPN’s Diana Russini this morning, a move that many had speculated about — the Cardinals were trading for running back Adrian Peterson. As of now, nothing is official, but multiple outlets are reporting that the trade is in process and even Peterson seems to think it will happen. I’ll have much, much more on both the blog and the site when/if it becomes official, but obviously, with the Cardinals struggling on the ground (2.6 yards a rush) this is an effort to help.

UPDATE: It’s official.

How much Peterson has left is fair to wonder. He only has 81 yards this season and couldn’t crack the Saints’ rotation. But the Cardinals don’t have to keep him past this season (he’s under contract through 2018) and maybe he can improve things while David Johnson heals.

After all the talk about Peterson through the years with the Cardinals — the 2007 draft and passing on him for Levi Brown, the 2015 trade speculation — Peterson may finally be coming to Arizona. And be teammates with buddy Larry Fitzgerald.


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Keim: Cardinals need chip back on shoulder

Posted by Darren Urban on October 9, 2017 – 8:26 am

Steve Keim, not surprisingly, is frustrated. After Sunday’s bad game in Philly, Keim acknowledged while talking to the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 that “I don’t think we’ve played this bad in all three phases since the NFC Championship two years ago.”

Keim noted all the things that became painfully obvious. The defense could make third-down stops, with Keim blaming poor tackling and simple techniques in coverage. On offense, the lack of any kind of a run game makes it so easy for the opponent’s defense to tee off on Carson Palmer sitting in the pocket. And then “special teams didn’t help.”

It was interesting to hear Keim talk about the game reminding him how the Cards got their rears kicked around in Philly on Thankgiving night in 2008. That team, which also were whipped terribly in New York and New England that year, rallied, if you recall. “Am I suggesting we are going to the Super Bowl? No,” Keim said. “But there is something to be said about momentum and the team jelling together, and that’s the approach we have to take.”

First the Cardinals would have to find some momentum. There is none right now.

“Sometimes, when you get taken to the woodshed like this, if you’re going to use it for any positive, it’s to put that chip back on your shoulder,” Keim said.

— On the status of the offensive line, Keim said guard Alex Boone (chest) and tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) remain week-to-week and the Cards don’t want to put them in harm’s way by rushing them back.

“There is hope, once we get D.J. back and once we get Boone back, there’s no doubt in my mind it will improve,” Keim said. “That being said, there are some current players who will continue to play on this line who have to improve.”

— Keim, on Patrick Peterson’s sideline outburst. “There’s a part of me inside who loves it,” Keim said. “I like to see guys who don’t like to lose.

“It sincerely comes from Pat’s heart. I appreciate his competitiveness.”

— Keim was asked about special teams coach Amos Jones, and what goes on behind the scenes that make the Cardinals know Jones is the right coach.

“I think there are always things that people don’t see,” Keim said. “… More than anything, me or coach (Bruce Arians) or Michael (Bidwill) knowing that, the type of things that need to be taught are being taught. It’s whether the players are correcting those issues or not. We tried to really improve football I.Q. with our players, because that’s one of the issues we’ve had in the past. Once I think we get some of that stuff cleaned up and guys can play a little bit smarter, I think you’ll start to see some improvement.

“Again, week after week, the same mistakes keep happening. Quite frankly, if anything, we need to continue to rotate players in and out of here and find players who can help us. If a guy continually makes the same mistakes and isn’t going to fix it, we’ll go ahead and make a decision and look at ready list and bring in some guys and make some changes.”

— The Cardinals will bring in five long snappers for workouts today to find a replacement for the injured Aaron Brewer, who broke his hand/wrist Sunday.

— Keim reiterated that Palmer did not play well the first two games but the last three he has played “very good” given the circumstances, especially with the offensive line.

— Keim admitted he doesn’t have a lot of patience, but he doesn’t want this emotions to get the best of him. And he understands his players’ frustrations. “I think it’s a good thing from the standpoint of, if we had a bunch of guys downstairs just collecting their checks and they didn’t care, I’d be certainly concerned,” Keim said. “But there are lot of guys who are genuinely upset.”

 


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Eagles aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2017 – 3:23 pm

J.J. Nelson wore an ice bag on his side, courtesy of the first hit he took in the game Sunday. The last one left more of a mental bruise – one in which it looked like the wide receiver would make the final score look a tad better on a 29-yard touchdown catch from Carson Palmer, only to have the TD erased and the ball lost when replay showed Nelson losing a fumble at the 1 and through the end zone.

“I was just trying to make a play, stick it out there (across the goal line),” Nelson said, shaking his head. “The guy hit me, and made a nice play.”

The score wouldn’t have really made a difference, but it figured to end like that. The loss in Philly couldn’t have been much uglier (although someone on Twitter suggested it was the Cards’ worst game in 10 years, and wow, that anyone could forget the 2012 Seattle trip stuns me). All the Cardinals’ current issues were laid bare – a failure to run, problems on the offensive line, an inability to score, giving up too many big plays – and then you add it a breakdown on third down defense. The Eagles weren’t just converting third downs but long third downs.

The backbreaker, although the game was basically secured by then, was the 72-yard TD on third-and-19, with the blitzing Cardinals unable to get to the quarterback. That was a common theme. The pass rush took a step back, and whether that was Markus Golden missing or something greater, it’s not a great sign.

Bruce Arians took the blame a couple of times in his press conference. He said he didn’t have the Cardinals ready to play. From a 40,000-foot level, seems an apropos assessment.

— The offensive line started Earl Watford at left guard. At one point, when right tackle Jared Veldheer had to leave briefly with a knee issue, the line was, from left tackle to right tackle, John Wetzel, Watford, A.Q. Shipley, Evan Boehm and rookie Will Holden. Veldheer did come back into the game, although Arians said Veldheer will be sore (and said the same about DT Corey Peters, who also left for a time with a knee.)

If Veldheer is OK, and maybe D.J. Humphries and Alex Boone can come back next week …

— It did seem like Arians stuck to the run more. It still didn’t produce. Only 2.2 yards a carry.

— Larry Fitzgerald keeps grinding. He didn’t have a catch for a while until grabbing one for a reception in his 200th straight game. He finished with six receptions for 51 yards.

— The Cardinals have lost long snapper Aaron Brewer with a broken wrist/hand, Arians said. So they’ll be in the market. Josh Mauro and Boehm filled in and did OK. But the blocked field goal was because of the snap. It wasn’t bad, it was just a tick slow – which is all it takes for a guy coming off the edge.

— Haason Reddick did play some outside linebacker, but he was having trouble getting past the blocking when rushing the passer. There will definitely be a learning curve there.

— Palmer didn’t have bad stats, but they could have been. He was nearly picked off three times on plays that were broken up by his wide receivers. Nelson had one and John Brown had two, showing off two different cornerback skills. The first Smoke did a nice job simply knocking it away. The second was in the hands of Jalen Mills – and Brown timed his hit perfectly, landing a heavy body blow as Mills was coming down, jarring the ball loose.

It was a day to seek such silver linings.


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