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Floyd enters concussion protocol

Posted by Darren Urban on September 26, 2016 – 1:10 pm

Wide receiver Michael Floyd was taken off the field in the first half of Sunday’s game after the independent spotter decided Floyd’s banging of his head on the turf after going up for a pass warranted a concussion check. Floyd came out briefly before returning, having been cleared. But coach Bruce Arians said Floyd will enter the concussion protocol after he had a headache Monday.

“We just want to be very safe with him,” Arians said.

Floyd is off to a slow start this season, although he did have four catches for 65 yards Sunday (on 11 targets). But Floyd also wasn’t on the same page as Carson Palmer on a Palmer end-zone interception, with Palmer expecting Floyd to cut in front of the defensive back, Arians said. Floyd also dropped a probable first-down catch on the very first play of the game, which seemed to set a tone for a rough day.

It wasn’t the only injury news. Tight end Troy Niklas has a wrist injury “that could be severe,” Arians said, while punter Drew Butler is dealing with an ankle sprain and Achilles problem that will prevent him from punting. Arians said the Cardinals may have two punters active on Sunday so Butler can continue to hold for kicker Chandler Catanzaro.

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Keim: Nine tryout players after loss

Posted by Darren Urban on September 26, 2016 – 8:14 am

The Cardinals are 1-2. They played one of their worst games of the Bruce Arians era Sunday in Buffalo — GM Steve Keim noted it might have been topped only by the NFC Championship game — and not surprisingly, changes could be made.

Keim, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday, said the Cardinals will bring in nine players for tryouts Tuesday. If any of them can help, Keim said, “we will churn this roster.” (He didn’t say who or what positions were coming in.)

It’s not about sending a message. “I don’t make moves just to send a message,” Keim said. “but there is no doubt if you show a tendency to pull the trigger, they understand downstairs (in the locker room) if you don’t consistently produce, there will be changes made.”

One of those players could be long snapper Kam Canaday. Keim was asked if the big hit Canaday took on the first punt of the day — the one on which Drew Butler re-sprained his ankle — could have impacted his bad snap later. Keim noted Canaday’s other snaps seemed fine. “It’s not about excuses,” Keim said. “Bottom line, he’s got to get it done. He hasn’t on at least two instances.”

— Keim talked much about his disappointment, and reiterated his feelings after the first game (which, as a quick aside, too many fans thought he was jabbing fans, when he was talking about the everyone’s feelings, including his own.) “When you lose it feels like the sky is falling, when you win everything is great,” Keim said, noting that not only were there problems in all three phases of the game, but the team’s best players, the Pro Bowl players, did not play well.

Still, “I feel confident coach will have these guys ready to go Sunday,” Keim added.

— Admittedly frustrated, figuring out answers “is what I get paid to do,” Keim said. “The difficult balance is making smart decisions and making decisions based on emotions.”

“You have to do what is best for the organization and you have to keep that in mind,” he added.

— The talent is there, Keim said. Playing consistently is another matter, and the number of “mental busts” on both sides of the ball after three weeks is distressing. He wants the Cardinals to be more physical up front. He didn’t like the confusion on the offensive line dealing with stunts by the Bills defensive lines, and he noted how many bad routes and bad throws messed up the passing game. (Another aside: It does seem like Carson Palmer and his pass catchers have nowhere near the chemistry they featured in 2015.)

— There were many things to want to see get better, but the slow start bothered Keim the most. The Cardinals got a nice defensive stop and great field position to start the game. But Michael Floyd dropped what would have been a nine- or 10-yard pass on the first play, leading to a three-and-out when that one catch would have likely set up a field goal at least.

— “It’s disappointing to be 1-2 when you have expectations,” Keim said.


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Bills aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 25, 2016 – 6:10 pm

That first possession – the one the Bills had – went pretty well. A three-and-out, a Kevin Minter sack, and the Bills fans were already itchy in their seats.

But as the fruitless possessions for the Cardinals’ offense piled up, the defense couldn’t match. For a chunk of the game, it felt  like many of the East Coast games of Cardinals yesteryear. This was a team that, frankly, hadn’t been part of the Bruce Arians era. At all. Even the NFC Championship game felt like an overwhelming performance by a better team. This just felt like the Cardinals never got into sync.

It’s certainly not where you want to be three games into the season. Carson Palmer and Michael Floyd still don’t seem to be on the same page. The run defense slipped hard, especially when the Cards all but predicted LeSean McCoy and, as a scrambler, Tyrod Taylor, were going to be the key to the Bills’ offense.

Now comes two straight NFC West games in what will be a five-day window. They are crucial, against two teams you expected to find behind you in the division standings. They won’t be if the Cardinals don’t find consistency.

— Not a lot of good in the game. But the Patrick Peterson one-handed interception was an incredible athletic feat.

— Speaking of incredible athletic plays, Tyrann Mathieu made one to force that fumble. If he could have only picked it up. He would’ve scored a touchdown. It could’ve been a one-score game with eight minutes left.

— There are – obviously – some decisions coming on the special teams front. Punter Drew Butler was clearly limping every time he was on the field and when he was headed to the locker room. It would seem likely they’ll need someone to at least fill in a week. The long snapper issue isn’t about injury. The Cardinals never had to worry about the position for the longest time. Mike Leach was as close to perfect as you could get. Kam Canaday is struggling. Arians had already acknowledged it. And with that position, it’s tough to wait out growing pains.

— As they did in the first two games, both Chandler Jones and Markus Golden got a sack. They each have three sacks in three games.

— The Cardinals had no turnovers. Now they have five, including four straight interceptions by Palmer to end the game.

— Painful stat of the day: Beginning with the first drive of the game, when the Bills set the Cards up with a punt and the Cardinals began at the Bills’ 36 and went nowhere, the Cardinals got to the Buffalo 36 or closer seven times but only scored twice.

Then again, most of the stats ended up painful.

LeSean McCoy


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Nkemdiche sits again against Bills

Posted by Darren Urban on September 25, 2016 – 8:32 am

No surprises on the Cardinals’ inactive list for the game against the Bills. Rookie defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, battling an ankle and a deep defensive line room, will sit out the game. Although it is interesting that the Cards, with nine defensive linemen on the roster, will have four of them inactive.

Meanwhile, the Bills won’t have wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who has a bad foot, and won’t have receiver Greg Salas either or cornerback Ronald Darby.

The full inactive list for the Cards:

— S Marqui Christian

— G Evan Mathis (toe)

— LB Kareem Martin (knee)

— DT Frostee Rucker (knee)

— DT Robert Nkemdiche (ankle)

— DT Olsen Pierre

— DT Xavier Williams


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Fitz’s lone shutout, Friday before the Bills

Posted by Darren Urban on September 23, 2016 – 2:30 pm

Larry Fitzgerald did not catch a pass, and that was only the beginning of the brutality that was the Cardinals’ last trip to Buffalo.

It was way (way) back in Fitz’s rookie year of 2004. It was Denny Green’s first season. Anquan Boldin was coming back that day after missing the first six games with a knee injury suffered in training camp. Boldin had four catches for 50 yards. Fitz, alas, was shut out – the only time in his career he has not caught a pass in a game.

“That was probably the first time in my life I didn’t catch a ball,” said Fitzgerald, whose consecutive-games-with-a-catch streak is at 181. “Ever since I started playing football. There’s a first for everything.”

(Fitz did have a rushing attempt, for four yards.)

Of course, there weren’t many completions, period. Josh McCown completed just 9-of-24 passes, Drew Bledsoe just 8-of-17, as the teams played in nasty winds up to 30 miles an hour plus rain. It was a joy to watch. (It ended with a 38-14 Bills win).

The weather isn’t supposed to be bad Sunday. The temperatures will be mild, the sun is supposed to be out, the wind at a minimum. And of course, Fitz is playing with a team 12 years later that is light years better than that group that went to New York.

— No Evan Mathis this week, cut down by the dreaded turf toe. Earl Watford gets the start in his place. That’s an interesting development, in part because …

— Sunday will be a big test for right tackle D.J. Humphries. The defense played by the Ryan brothers usually features high-pressure from the outside. Do they go after Humphries? Goodwin said Humphries is doing better, although he noted there were mental lapses both against the Buccaneers and in practice this week. “He is always going to feel the pressure from me and coach (Arians),” Goodwin said.

Now you have Watford and Humphries on the right side of the line without Mathis.

— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher, on his reaction after hearing Bruce Arians accepting the blame for the zone-first defensive philosophy in the Patriots loss: “The first thing I thought was, we needed to tackle better in that game … our communication wasn’t good enough.”

“I love coach’s input,” Bettcher added. “He is one of the smartest men I have ever worked around. Not only is he the best head coach in the National Football League, he is a smart, smart football coach.”

— The Cardinals have yet to turn the ball over. Carson Palmer should have been picked a couple of times so far – the drop by Bucs CB Brent Grimes on the bad route by David Johnson last week the most memorable – but overall the QB has been good protecting the ball. In an offense like this, where the passing game will go down the field, a minimum of interceptions is impressive.

“Experience is one thing,” Palmer said in his explanation why. “You know when to take your shots. You know whether it’s the right type of third-down situation to be in, the right time of the game. You’ve got to be smart.

“(Interceptions are) going to happen. You try to avoid them as long as you can and when they do happen, you bounce back and go down and score on the next drive. That’s something that I pride myself on.”

— While Arians said the cornerback spot across from Patrick Peterson would be shared work-wise between Marcus Cooper and Brandon Williams, Bettcher said whoever had the better week of practice was going to earn the playing time Sunday.

— As we go, don’t discount the idea that newcomer Tharold Simon could also start to get some defensive snaps at cornerback.

— Former Cardinals linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, now 33 years old, is starting in Buffalo and has 1½ sacks and nine tackles in two games, plus a forced fumble and tackle for loss. “Lorenzo is playing really, really well,” Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “He’s got a sack and a half and he’s missed two or three. Just missed.”

— So far, Markus Golden is keeping up with the higher-profile Chandler Jones in sacks. Both have two in two games. Golden shrugged off his pace, but admitted he’ll be looking at it at season’s end.

“At the end of the year, of course, numbers mean something to everybody,” Golden said. “You want to do stuff people didn’t think you could do, so of course the numbers matter, but I feel like if you compete at the high level and play to win, you’ll get the numbers no matter what.

“Just got to keep hunting.”

Buffalo awaits.

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Arians believes in his brutal honesty

Posted by Darren Urban on September 22, 2016 – 12:48 pm

In case anyone hasn’t been paying attention yet this season, Bruce Arians has never been shy of being blunt (including with himself.) It’s been apparent since the day he arrived, and I have noted before how amazing it has been to watch a coach who can be so hard on a player on the practice field and be able to let it go moments later. He makes his point, and then it’s over.

“Because I think guys like honesty,” Arians said. “If it’s brutal, it’s still honest.”

Arians said when he walked in the door he just wanted to be straightforward with players. He threw some people this week when he publicly called out David Johnson (never forget, Arians doesn’t say anything publicly he hasn’t already said privately.) But Johnson was on the same page with his coach, lamenting missed opportunities when it looked like Johnson had played pretty well. He has said things about Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Calais Campbell. It’s hard not to think of a player who didn’t get mentioned in such a way since Arians arrived in 2013.

And like his need for honesty, there really isn’t any subtext to Arians’ callouts.

“The method is to get guys to do the right thing,” Palmer said.  I don’t think it’s a motivational thing. I know it’s not to prove a point like, ‘I can yell at anybody.’ It’s he expects it to be done right, whether it’s David, Andre (Ellington), Chris (Johnson), myself, Larry, whoever it is. He expects things done right and when they’re not, he’s not subtle about it. You’re going to find out.”

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Arians takes blame, “Bettch took a bullet”

Posted by Darren Urban on September 21, 2016 – 9:52 am

The Cardinals were better defensively against the Buccaneers — NFL.com’s NextGenStats had them blitzing more than 43 percent of the snaps, highest in the league, against Tampa Bay — and Bruce Arians was happy about that. The Cardinals played a lot of zone the previous week against the Patriots, and Arians wasn’t happy about that. Especially since it was his call.

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said last week the breakdowns “start with me.” But the defense was better in Week 2, Arians said, because “I got out of it.”

“I got too involved in the New England (defensive) gameplan,” Arians said on Sirius XM NFL radio. “That’s not my forte. Bettch took a bullet for playing more zone than we normally play. I had a lot to do with that. It was my mistake. We were playing our style of defense (against Tampa).”

Here’s a guess the Cardinals will stay aggressive defensively. Arians certainly didn’t sound like he’d be delving back too deep into the defensive gameplan anytime soon.

“It’s happened once and it didn’t go too well,” Arians said.

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“Best thing” for Cards now — turnover margin

Posted by Darren Urban on September 20, 2016 – 11:33 am

Bruce Arians may have been a little salty about how the offense played in the Cardinals’ win Sunday, but he has left no doubt how he feels about the team’s turnover margin. “That’s probably the best thing we’re doing right now,” Arians said. Then again, how could he not see it that way?

Yes, there have been a couple of near-picks for quarterback Carson Palmer, but they have not been picks. So after two games, the Cardinals have yet to turn it over, and have amassed seven turnovers themselves — four interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. Math and the law of averages says the fumbles won’t always bounce the Cards way, but they aren’t putting the ball on the ground themselves.

Right now, they lead the league in takeaways (Carolina, Minnesota and San Francisco each have six) and lead in turnover differential (two ahead of the Vikings’ plus-5.) Oakland and Philadelphia are the other two teams without a turnover yet.

The Cardinals were second in the league in takeaways last season with 33, and they are doing it right now without one of their dynamic back-end players playing at full Honey Badger. That’s a good sign. Another good sign? The only other time the Cards went the first two games without turning the ball in the first two games of the season since 1940 was 2008 — the year the franchise reached the Super Bowl.

(OK, as coincidences go, it’s a stretch. But we’ll see.)

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Nkemdiche still has much work to do

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2016 – 2:59 pm

Rookie Robert Nkemdiche was injured late last week in practice, tweaking the same ankle that kept him out of a good chunk of training camp. The hope is that he’ll be able to work again in practice this week, but even if he does, coach Bruce Arians didn’t sound like someone who would automatically just drop the team’s No. 1 pick back into the defensive line rotation.

“Those other guys are playing pretty damn good,” Arians said Monday.

Yes, the ankle was a problem when he hurt it Friday. But Arians noted that “it wasn’t the best week of practice for him” anyway.

“There’s too much competition in that (defensive line) room to have a bad day and dress out and play on Sunday,” Arians said.

The hope is still that Nkemdiche will find a rhythm and make an impact on the rotation. Who knows, it may be as soon as this weekend in Buffalo. But it’s becoming clear that Arians is going to keep the pedal pressed in pushing the big defensive lineman. And as the Cardinals and Arians proved last year with No. 1 draft pick D.J. Humphries, they are not shy of keeping even a top draft pick from active duty on game days if it makes better sense to use someone else. There’s little question Nkemdiche is going to have to earn his time, regardless of his ankle woes.

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Keim: Cooper took advantage of opportunity

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2016 – 8:13 am

Last week, Steve Keim talked about the sky falling after the loss to the Patriots. This week, the Cardinals’ General Manager played off the theme, noting that despite getting into the office before the sun was up Monday, “there didn’t appear to be a cloud in the sky.”

Such is the reaction after a 40-7 win Sunday. The vibe tends to be better. Mostly, Keim — during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 — saw positives, including the play of cornerback Marcus Cooper. It doesn’t hurt that Cooper was acquired for a seventh-round draft pick in 2018, a cheap price even if the Bucs’ performance ends up being Cooper’s best. Keim said Cooper was high on the Cards’ potential trade list in the preseason. (That includes not only scouting players, but also guesstimating what players teams might be willing to give up or cut at some point.)

Cooper has the length the Cards like and a “feel for the game,” Keim said.

“He’s just a savvy guy,” Keim said. “I don’t want to anoint him as the next coming of Deion Sanders quite yet, but at the same time, very excited with the way he played.”

— Keim said he was “still extremely high” on rookie cornerback Brandon Williams. He thought Williams played well Sunday in limited defensive snaps. “I have no concerns that Brandon won’t develop, but still, it’s nice to see competition at the position.”

— The only reason rookie DT Robert Nkemdiche was inactive Sunday was because of the ankle tweak he suffered late last week in practice, Keim said. He added Nkemdiche should be back this week.

— Right tackle D.J. Humphries played well, Keim said, and added that right guard Evan Mathis was the “epitome of a pro” for coming back from his foot/ankle injury.

— Keim liked the game nose tackle Xavier Williams played, as well as fellow nose tackle Corey Peters. Keim said moneybacker Deone Bucannon had an excellent game.

— Early in the game, Keim admitted he wanted the pass rush to get home more often, but felt that the pressure eventually started getting to Bucs QB Jameis Winston even without sacks, given how many passes of Winston came out high. “I thought Chandler (Jones) did a nice job being disruptive, even though it didn’t show up in the sack column until later in the game,” Keim said. “I think they got into Jameis’ head enough.”


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