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Friday before the Titans

Posted by Darren Urban on December 8, 2017 – 3:49 pm

Patrick Peterson is the Cardinals’ Man of the Year for a second time, but his time as a punt returner, well, “that stage of my career is over,” he said. Not necessarily because he thinks he can’t do it anymore, but it’s not like the Cardinals are going to put him back there that much. He’s too valuable as a cornerback.

Now, if you asked to go play offense? “That chapter is not over,” Peterson said with a grin. “I’m going to leave that open, and I have a couple of blank pages for coach.”

Peterson said he wishes he could play offense. “I’m an offensive guy at heart,” he said. He wouldn’t even mind quarterback, although that’s not going to happen.

Catching a pass or two would be interesting. The Cardinals will be down John Brown Sunday against the Titans, and J.J. Nelson is nursing a sore knee. Chad Williams should get a little more work.

“(Patrick) used to be in the book, when we didn’t have any speed,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He may be back in there soon.”

*Editor’s Note: Peterson isn’t playing offense this weekend. Or this year, I’m guessing.*

— The other Peterson isn’t playing Sunday, but that isn’t a surprise any longer. Adrian Peterson still hasn’t practiced since suffering the neck injury and his road to return is vague, to say the least. Arians has no answers and Peterson has not yet spoken to the media since getting hurt. More chances for Kerwynn Williams.

— On the good side, having left tackle Jared Veldheer is crucial, especially when weighed against the fact the Titans are without pass rusher Derrick Morgan.

— Quietly, money linebacker Deone Bucannon returned to full practice this week from his ankle injury. Arians already said Josh Bynes – who is playing very well – will get snaps. It’ll be interesting to see how playing time is parceled out to Bucannon, Bynes and Karlos Dansby.

— Don’t forget that the Aeneas Williams episode of “A Football Life” is tonight.

— Also, there is a toy drive Sunday at the stadium, if you would like to contribute. Monetary donations or new, unwrapped toys will be accepted at the gates.

— Marcus Mariota is not Russell Wilson, not even close. Maybe someday, but not today. Still, there are some similarities in terms of mobility in the pocket. The one thing Mariota has (surprisingly) not done well this season (that Wilson absolutely does) is throw on the run. The Cardinals don’t want Mariota escaping for long runs, but if they can get him to move and still try to throw, maybe that is something they can exploit.

— Former Cardinals head coach Dave McGinnis is spending this season as the color analyst for the Titans’ radio network. Mac was a great personality to cover back in the day, and that final locker room speech he made after the famous McCown-to-Poole touchdown – knowing he’d be fired as coach – is as emotional as they get.

— The Titans visit University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday and that will complete the league – Tennessee is the only team not yet to have played in the Cardinals’ “new” stadium, which is in its 12th season. The Cardinals would prefer to be lousy houseguests – Arians is 6-1 against the AFC South since coming to Arizona.

— Larry Fitzgerald needs 26 yards to pass Randy Moss. I’m gonna guess he has that in the first quarter. No, I’m not putting any money on it.

See you Sunday.

 


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Five Cards hold steady in Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Darren Urban on December 7, 2017 – 9:40 am

With a week left in the Pro Bowl voting, the Cardinals still have five players among the top 10 at their positions, and are still led by rookie Budda Baker’s second-place overall among special teams players (and Baker is also second among NFC vote-getters, with Philly’s Kamu Grugier-Hill atop the standings.) What is a little surprising is that Patrick Peterson is eighth among cornerbacks and only fifth among NFC cornerbacks. Peterson certainly is deserving of Pro Bowl recognition this season.

Besides Peterson and Baker, the other Cardinals in the hunt are:

— WR Larry Fitzgerald (fifth overall, third in NFC)
— FS Tyrann Mathieu (eighth overall, fourth in NFC)
— OLB Chandler Jones (fourth overall, first in NFC)

The fan vote is only part of the equation for Pro Bowl selections, of course. The vote of both the players and the coaches is heavily weighted, but it sure seems like the Cards will be in line for a handful of selections. Voting goes through Dec. 14 and you can vote by clicking here.

 


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Dansby, chasing history, and his drops

Posted by Darren Urban on December 6, 2017 – 12:38 pm

Karlos Dansby is still chasing help for his legacy, even if he felt he became a “legend” when he made his 20th career interception in San Francisco in early November. He is hyper-aware of all the sack and interception totals of the other fellows who comprise the 40-20 club in NFL history (40 sacks, 20 picks), and the linebacker would love to top all of them in both categories. It’s become harder as he gets older of course, and his place in 2018 is murky — Dansby will be a free agent after the season, and the Cardinals, with Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick and a surging Josh Bynes (also an UFA-to-be), could very well look to build their ILB corps differently next season.

But this is the here and now. Dansby has 20 picks, but the argument can be made Dansby should have 23, because there were three other near-misses this season. The most recent was the most painful, a tipped pass against the Rams last weekend that looked tailor-made to be grabbed –until Los couldn’t hold on.

Dansby also could’ve had one against the Jaguars the week before (which would’ve been tough, but in this context, possible), and in the home game against the 49ers on Oct. 1 (In his hands, down the middle, in the fourth quarter). Those obviously would have buoyed his total.

What gets lost too is during his magnificent 2013 season with the Cardinals — a year Dansby should have earned that Pro Bowl berth he so desperately wants  —  there were missed picks then too. Dansby reminded everyone of that a couple of weeks ago on the Big Red Rage, which he co-hosts. Rookie safety Budda Baker was lamenting a dropped interception of his own, against Seattle in the Thursday night game.

“Budda, I’m going to make you feel a little bit better,” Dansby said. “In ’13, I dropped six. That’s why I said I can catch these guys (ahead of him). I know I can. I have confidence in what I am doing and how I am doing it. … Eventually, they are going to have to come to me, and they are going to have to come right to me.”

I’ll admit, I can’t remember six dropped picks from 2013. That’s a long time ago (Dansby, in 2013, had four interceptions, so 10 for a linebacker would’ve been … well, along with his 6 1/2 sacks, he would’ve been Defensive Player of the Year.) But let’s say he did have six and got them all, that’s nine more picks Dansby could have on his total.


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“A Football Life” for Aeneas Williams

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2017 – 3:17 pm

The Cardinals have gotten their share of “A Football Life” episodes over the years, whether it was Bruce Arians or Pat Tillman or Emmitt Smith or, just recently, Larry Fitzgerald. Friday, another Cardinal will get his time with a documentary: Hall of Fame cornerback Aeneas Williams.

The show will premiere Friday at 7 p.m. Arizona time on the NFL Network. Williams was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014. Of course, he was excellent for so many years in Arizona, really the first Arizona-bred Cardinal — drafted in 1991, he was the first great that played for the Cardinals that hadn’t come over from St. Louis during the 1988 move.

It isn’t just about football — in fact, the episode is built around Williams the man. He’s a pastor, who has his own church in Ferguson, Missouri, where race riots threw things into chaos after the Michael Brown shooting in 2014, a week after Williams went into the Hall of Fame. Williams, as is shown, helped bring the community back together. (Click here for the preview.)

Oh, and he was a heck of a player too. As one-time Cardinals defensive backs coach Rob Ryan noted, “He was the first Revis Island. He was Aeneas Williams Island.”


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Keim: Special teams “unacceptable”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 4, 2017 – 8:17 am

GM Steve Keim was, like Bruce Arians, satisfied with the effort from the Cardinals Sunday in a loss to the Rams, but noted that the execution “on all three sides of the ball” wasn’t good enough. Obviously, special teams was part of that, with the blocked field goal, the blocked extra point and a long punt return helping derail any Cardinals’ hopes.

Keim, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 was asked directly about the status of special teams coordinator Amos Jones.

“I’m never going to go on record or publicly and bash any of our players individually or one of our coaches,” Keim said. “The bottom line though is, there’s no excuse. Our special teams, it’s been unacceptable, point blank. It’s something that needs to improve and I’ll just leave it at that.”

— Keim reiterated that quarterback Blaine Gabbert has a “skillset that intrigues you,” but that Gabbert needs to find more consistency. Watching Gabbert play now, and what he does, are all “critical moments” in the evaluation of the future. Improvement is still possible, Keim said.

— Then again, when it comes to the QB spot for the Cardinals in 2018, Keim said the team will “leave no stone unturned” when it comes to filling the position. He obviously cannot talk specific players, but the search will include potential free-agent signings as well as the draft (and that doesn’t even include assessing the Carson Palmer situation.)

— The first player Keim mentioned by name, unprompted, was running back Kerwynn Williams, who stats included 97 rushing yards and a couple of cracked ribs. Keim loves Williams’ toughness, and “every time he’s gotten an opportunity, he’s stepped up.”

— The Cardinals indeed have had a ton of injuries. But “I don’t think you can ever use injuries as an excuse,” Keim said, noting that he has spent much time over the years looking at the depth chart in his office envisioning what would happen if this guy or that guy got hurt and what the Cards would be in position to do.

“That’s on me,” Keim said. “I have to do a better job going forward.” Keim added “the longer you do this, it teaches you different lessons in terms of building a team and building depth.”

— “There’s a chance” Adrian Peterson (neck) will be able to return this week, Keim said. DL Corey Peters and WR John Brown could return this week too.

— Signing Peters to an extension was important, Keim said. “He’s a player to me who is under the radar.” A leader in the locker room and who plays a crucial role in the defense, the Cardinals consider him a core member.


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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 3, 2017 – 7:54 pm

The past few years, when the Cardinals had been good and the Rams not so much, the Cardinals would go on the road and beat the Rams. Period. And now, the script has been flipped. The Cardinals are not as good as they once were, and the Rams most certainly are good, and that’s how you end up with results like Sunday. The Cardinals were better than London. It wasn’t 33-0, even though it started like it might have been. But 16 points – which is what the Cards finished with – isn’t enough to win most games and it definitely isn’t enough to beat a Rams team that even on a day where they weren’t completely clicking offensively, they still put up 32.

Blaine Gabbert will remain the starting quarterback, Bruce Arians said, and that, as last week, makes sense. It was a terrible start to the game for Gabbert Sunday, with two early picks. Gabbert said he needs to look at the film on the first throw, and on the second, he said the Rams went against what they had always shown on film in that formation – usually LB Alec Ogletree rushed and didn’t drop – and so Gabbert didn’t expect him there.

Gabbert settled down, and you can see the difference a running game makes. True for any QB, I suppose. There is a lot to take it. Gabbert now has thrown five interceptions in three games. The Cardinals will have to continue to evaluate where he might be as a QB candidate for 2018.

That’s what a lot of this must be. Arians talked about the young players Sunday, making plays and, understandably, making some mistakes. Evaluations are ongoing for everyone with four games left.

— There is no way to say how impressive it was to see Kerwynn Williams play the way he did, knowing his has broken ribs. I loved his response when he was asked if he was experiencing pain during the game: “I feel like everybody is in pain,” Williams said, and it just felt like the opening lyric of a very personal song rather than a postgame quote. It would’ve been nice to get him to 100 yards, given that he had 86 at halftime. All that guy does is produce whenever he is thrust into the lineup.

— With a decent day next week, Larry Fitzgerald is going to surpass Randy Moss for third-place all-time in NFL receiving yards. He needs 26 yards to do so.

— Back and forth with the Cardinals linebackers on picks. Karlos Dansby dropped one he should’ve had, and it cost the Cards at least three points, since the Rams went on to kick a field goal. “We didn’t make the plays that we needed to make, me included,” Dansby said. “I’ve got to make that play. That changed the whole dynamic of the game.”

Then there was the athletic pick by linebacker Kareem Martin, which short-circuited a Rams drive (although Gabbert threw a pick-six a couple of plays later.) “We work on screen drills a lot,” Martin said. “I pretty much just pressed off him to attempt to go pursue. By the time I was about to turn around, I see the ball.”

— There was some wondering how the Rams could go through the long snapper Justin Drescher for the blocked field goal. The rules don’t say you cannot hit the long snapper. You cannot line up over him when the snap happens. As long as you do not, and then go against him after the ball is snapped, contact with the long snapper is legal.

— For the most part, I thought the Cards did a good job on Todd Gurley when Gurley ran the football. The problem was, and this is what defenses must deal with against David Johnson, is that Gurley was so dangerous catching the ball. He had 84 yards receiving (compared to 74 rushing).

— Arians noted the young players. Ricky Seals-Jones dropped one, but he had a couple of nice catches and would’ve had a TD on a good throw from Gabbert on one play. Budda Baker continues to be all over the field, getting eight more tackles defensively (and maybe should’ve had a fumble recovery on the opening kickoff, if there had been Sunday Night Football-type cameras.)


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Adrian Peterson will not play versus Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on December 3, 2017 – 12:58 pm

I’ve covered the NFL for almost 20 seasons, and I can think of very, very few times when a Cardinal had not practice all week and then was still active on Sunday. Wide receiver Brittan Golden did it earlier this season (much to my surprise.) And Adrian Wilson did it the week of the Bills game in 2008, playing only six snaps but using one of the them to effectively end the Buffalo tenure of Bills quarterback Trent Edwards.

There will be no story like that today. Running back Adrian Peterson, who didn’t practice all week because of a neck issue, will be inactive for the Cardinals and won’t play. Again, not a shock, since he wasn’t out there, although he was officially questionable. It’ll make for an interesting running back rotation, since Kerwynn Williams is expected to start and is playing with bad ribs. How much Williams, how much D.J. Foster, how much Elijhaa Penny will be part of today’s storyline.

The full list of Cardinals’ inactives:

— QB Matt Barkley

— WR John Brown (toe)

— $LB Deone Bucannon (ankle)

— RB Adrian Peterson (neck)

— S Rudy Ford (knee)

— C Max Tuerk

— DL Corey Peters (ankle)


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Jim Hart, and Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on December 1, 2017 – 4:27 pm

When you’re talking about long-term quarterbacks, Jim Hart is a good example. Hart was basically the Cardinals’ starting quarterback from 1967 to 1981, work that is getting him inducted into the franchise’s Ring of Honor at halftime Sunday when the Cards play the Rams.

On either side of that halftime ceremony will be another guy who is trying to get himself in the discussion about being a long-term quarterback. Blaine Gabbert is back for round three – and from the sound of it, all the rest of the rounds this season. That doesn’t mean he’ll be the QB of the future, or what it might mean in terms of the thought process for Carson Palmer, but it’s a solid test drive.

It’s funny, since the Jaguars have arguably the best defense in the league, but it feels like the Rams present Gabbert’s biggest challenge. Given the questions about the running backs and Adrian Peterson’s health, maybe that’s why. The first time the Cards played the Rams in London, the run game was DOA, and that in no small part played into the 33-0 loss. A big reason why the Cardinals did just fine against that good Jacksonville defense was Peterson and the run game.

Perhaps Peterson can play with whatever problems his neck is giving him. Or Kerwynn Williams can deliver a herculean effort. As solidly as Gabbert has played, you don’t want everything offensively on his shoulders.

— If Peterson does play, he needs just 37 yards to surpass all-time great Jim Brown in career rushing yards. (Of course, Peterson, healthy, had just 21 yards rushing on 11 carries in the first Rams meeting.)

— I keep getting questions, but no, I do not think David Johnson is returning this season. He’s not even practicing yet, and he’s not talking like a guy who is expecting to play this season either.

— How far have the Rams come offensively? They scored on 21.8 percent of their possessions last season, according to profootballreference.com. This year, they are at 48.4 percent, second only to the Patriots.

— There will be a lot of work to do this offseason in terms of roster overhaul/building. Perhaps more than most years, depending on certain situations. But I think the Corey Peters extension was important. Of all their free-agents-to-be, there are only going to be a few I think that the Cards want to try and extend. Peters was one of them.

— Health matters. The Rams have started the same five offensive linemen in every game. The Cardinals, of course, have started six different offensive line combinations in 11 games. “Yeah,” Cardinals offensive coordinator/line coach Harold Goodwin said. “I’m jealous.”

— A focus of the defense Sunday will be Todd Gurley. I know. Duh. But defensive coordinator James Bettcher said the Cardinals focused on the London debacle, when the Rams ran for 197 yards on 40 attempts. The Cards went into that game having not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 19 games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Gurley gained 106 on 22 attempts. Gurley remains the only player to gain 100 yards rushing against the Cards this year.

— Bring your binoculars to see all the players taking part in My Cause, My Cleats Sunday. Or you can check out this photo gallery.

— LB Chandler Jones was fined $18,231 for his roughing the passer penalty last week on Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles. Kareem Martin and Frostee Rucker weren’t fined for their roughing the passer penalties. There was also no fine for Jags LB Myles Jack for his horsecollar tackle on Peterson.

— One big reason for the Cardinals’ current 5-6 record is the fact last week’s win against the Jaguars was the first time all season they were a positive in the turnover column for a game. In the seven games they have been even, their record is 4-3.

— It’s been a while since the Cardinals played the Rams at home with the Rams being the favorite. The Cards would like to mess with their playoff push. See you there.


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Budda now second in Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2017 – 9:25 am

Budda is now second.

A week after the rookie surprisingly led all NFL players in votes for the Pro Bowl special teams spot, Budda Baker dropped to second behind Philadelphia’s Kamu Grugier-Hill. You have to wonder if Grugier-Hill’s emergency turn as kicker — quite a sight on national TV for a 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker who looks even bigger — made an impact. Still Baker is in good shape, even if he shrugs off the current standings.

“It feels good but I don’t really pay attention to any of it,” Baker said. “I didn’t really even know about that. Chandler (Jones) told me about it. It’s cool, but it’s still early.”

A quick rundown on the rest of the Cardinals currently among the top 10 vote-getters at their position in the NFL:

— WR Larry Fitzgerald (fifth overall, third in NFC)
— OLB Chandler Jones (fifth overall, first in NFC)
— CB Patrick Peterson (eighth overall, fifth in NFC)
— FS Tyrann Mathieu (ninth overall, fifth in NFC)

Again, the voting goes through Dec. 14. Click here for a ballot.


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The end of Eli(?), and his Cardinals ties

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2017 – 8:39 am

The news of Eli Manning’s benching (and his emotional reaction) had me thinking of a lot of different ways Manning has direct and indirect ties to the Cardinals over the years.

— Tangibly, the Giants play in Arizona on Christmas Eve. Once it was supposed to be Eli versus Carson Palmer and possibly for playoff positioning. Now, we’re looking at a likely matchup of Blaine Gabbert against — if reports from New York pan out — rookie Davis Webb by then. Maybe Geno Smith. Probably not Eli though.

— The 2004 draft was pretty good for some big-name talents, but the years are starting to whittle at the list. Manning was the top pick, and now, what happens with him? Is it possible he is done for good? Just done as a Giant? Already, Larry Fitzgerald (No. 3 overall pick) and Ben Roethlisberger (No. 11) have talked about retirement being an option. No. 4 pick Philip Rivers once talked retirement instead of moving from San Diego to L.A., but then he re-thought things and shredded the Cowboys for 400-plus on Thanksgiving. (It was also the 10-year anniversary of the death of No. 5 overall pick Sean Taylor a couple of days ago.)

— Manning won an amazing Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium, when David Tyree pinned that ball to his helmet and then Manning made the perfect TD pass to Plaxico Burress — who was a Cardinals’ coaching intern this past training camp.

— And then, of course, it was Manning’s “role” in the Cardinals’ lone trip to the Super Bowl. If it wasn’t for Eli, Kurt Warner may never have come to the Cardinals. Warner signed with the Giants the same year Manning was drafted and everyone knew what was going to happen. (“We had a great understanding when he came, we were basically going to try and use each other,” then-Giants GM Ernie Accorsi told me the following offseason, after Warner signed with the Cards.) But it was the Cardinals who sped up the process.

It was the struggling Cardinals who sacked Warner six times at Sun Devil Stadium — four by Bertrand Berry, pictured — and had Giants coaches in the press box screaming “Throw the ball!” as Warner held on to it when he was taken down. The Giants had been 5-2, fell to 5-4 with the loss and were still in the playoff hunt — but the next game, Manning was in the lineup to begin the 210-consecutive-game starting streak that looks like it will end Sunday.

Warner came to Arizona the next year and eventually wrote the back half of his Hall of Fame career. Manning won two Super Bowls, so the Giants made out well. And today? Today we’re seeing the truth of all truths: Whether the Giants are making the right call or not to close out 2017, time is undefeated.


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