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Keim loves Cardinals’ balance, nitpicks aside

Posted by Darren Urban on October 20, 2014 – 8:13 am

Balance is what Steve Keim liked the most out of the Cardinals’ win Sunday in Oakland — “I can’t remember the last time we ran it five more times than we threw it” — though the General Manager noted during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports, “it wasn’t perfect.”

Every week Keim is asked about his concerns. He talked about not wanting to beat the “dead horse” of seeking more of a perimeter edge rush. “I’d like to see us put teams away a little earlier, not make it so dramatic,” Keim added. “But that’s being nitpicky.” Indeed, the Cardinals are 5-1, so they have to be doing something right. (As Adrian Wilson once infamously said during a live radio interview, “(Expletive), it’s hard to win in the NFL.”)

– A week after saying he was hoping cornerback Patrick Peterson had more focus, Keim said he thought Peterson played well on Sunday. There were two penalties, although Keim, without saying it, clearly wasn’t all that fond on the flag Peterson was given for pass interference. “I thought Pat played excellent, played with urgency,” Keim said. “I was really, really pleased with how Pat played.”

– Keim said he thought rookie defensive lineman Ed Stinson had his best game, and added fellow rookie defensive lineman Kareem Martin did some good things too. Also getting praise from Keim were linebacker Sam Acho and safety Tyrann Mathieu, who impressed Keim with some looks-like-2013 play against the Raiders.

– Running back Stepfan Taylor not only helped create confidence in his play for the coaching staff, Keim said, but probably gave himself some confidence too. That’s important when talking about having help for Andre Ellington.

– Carson Palmer’s poise in the pocket caught Keim’s eye, crystallized by Palmer’s improvised roll-out and throw to Ted Ginn on third-and-long. Keim thought Sunday showed Palmer’s strength and velocity was returning to the shoulder/arm.

– As for the potential Palmer contract extension, Keim reiterated how the Cardinals take a three-year view on the entire roster. And Palmer isn’t the only one the Cards are considering an extension for. “We are looking at others who have expiring contracts,” Keim said.


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Raiders aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 19, 2014 – 9:27 pm

If you were Jared Veldheer, Sunday’s trip to Oakland meant a lot. If you were Tommy Kelly, it meant a lot. If you were Carson Palmer, well, you tried to downplay it, but your teammates and coach weren’t so sure. It was an obvious storlyline though, with the Raiders sitting at 0-6, that Oakland writers wanted to hit the Raiders-return-home narrative.

Was it nice to get Carson a win, Kelly was asked? “Yeah, you want Carson to win, but I think more about myself,” Kelly said. “I wanted to win for myself.”

Makes sense to me.

The Cardinals had a lot of different reasons to get Sunday’s game, not the least of which the fact both Seattle and San Francisco lost and the Cards now have a two-game lead in the loss column. The brutal part of the schedule now commences –home against Philly, at Dallas, and we go from there. A lot can still happen. Bruce Arians was quick to emphasize the Cards hadn’t won jack yet and shouldn’t overestimate themselves. Nevertheless, it’s better to be up two in the loss column right now than the other way away, and while the Cards have their warts, so too do the Seahawks and 49ers.

– The Cards do get a victory Monday. Although as B.A. makes clear, anyone in their first- or second-year still has to come in tomorrow. Something tells me a good chunk of guys will still show up to get a lift in at least. That’s what happens when a team is winning.

– It was great to hear Andre Ellington say it was his call to come out at the end of the Cardinals’ long touchdown drive – the one in which Ellington had been the ball carrier on every play – so Stepfan Taylor could get a TD shot. First, I heard from a lot of fans (I’m guessing, Ellington fantasy owners) wondering why Arians had made such a move. But it wasn’t B.A., it was Ellington asking for a blow.

More importantly was why Ellington came out. Ellington knows he doesn’t have to practice a ton because of his bad foot. Taylor has to do extra work in practice and often there’s no payoff in games because Ellington gets the snaps. That Ellington would think of his draft classmate is cool.

– The Cards were still having some problems getting consistent pressure on the quarterback. Linebacker Larry Foote got the lone sack (although the Cards a couple times seemed like they would get to Carr and Carr escaped) but headed into games against Philly’s offense and Dallas – where a great running game buys time for Tony Romo – you have to wonder how that plays out.

– I’ll be curious to see how OC Harold Goodwin analyzes Sunday’s run game. The Cards got 123 yards. Goodwin probably wanted more production, but it was the key, especially on that TD drive that took control of the game.

– Palmer throws a pick. It was going to happen. In some ways, it might be good the streak is over.

– After a few games of bad third-down conversions, the Cards converted 9 of 15 third downs Sunday. That’s excellent. The Cards also held the ball for more than 36 minutes. That’ll win games even if the offense isn’t perfectly sharp.

– Patrick Peterson got caught for a couple more penalties Sunday. He has seven in seven games – four pass interference and three holds. He’s a physical cornerback, and this is life in the NFL this days for those guys. He’ll have to continue to adapt.

– Kicker Chandler Catanzaro is now 15-for-15 on the season kicking field goals, tying the mark of the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein as the most consecutive makes to start a rookie season (Washington’s Kai Forbath made 17 to start his career, but he wasn’t considered a rookie at that point, having been on injured reserve his entire rookie season.)

“It’s pretty cool a rookie record, definitely humbling,” Catanzaro said. “It’s my job. As much as I say it, it’s my job, that’s what they signed me up for.”

– Michael Floyd went up and got a 33-yard TD catch one-on-one in a battle with Terrell Brown and it seems like he always does that these days. In fact, Floyd in the jump ball area right now feels a lot like watching Larry Fitzgerald circa 2008.

– That’s enough for this game. The Cardinals are 5-1 for the first time since 1976. An impressive start. But there are still 10 to go. A lot can happen.

AfterRaidersNBlogUSE


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Still no Grice as inactives named

Posted by Darren Urban on October 19, 2014 – 12:02 pm

The inactive list is out for today’s game against the Raiders. Running back Marion Grice is inactive again, which sounded about what the case would be when Bruce Arians was talking about him Friday. The full inactive list:

– RB Marion Grice

– DE Calais Campbell (knee)

– TE Troy Niklas (ankle)

– DT Bruce Gaston

– LB Desmond Bishop

– LB Thomas Keiser

– LB Glenn Carson

The Raiders have some key players inactive today: OL Khalif Barnes, DT Justin Tuck and FB Marcel Reece.


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Fitz laughs off paying-for-Pro Bowl TD story

Posted by Darren Urban on October 18, 2014 – 11:17 am

Back in the 2012 Pro Bowl, Larry Fitzgerald — at the height of there-is-no-Pro-Bowl-defense-being-played — had three touchdown catches. The last was a 36-yarder in which Fitz easily beat Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. Brown had somehow talked his way into playing cornerback in a game the AFC was dominating at the time. You can see the TD at about the 49-second mark of this video here.

In itself, a forgettable play in a meaningless Pro Bowl. But then this week, former NFL coach Wade Phillips was doing a radio interview in Houston. With the Steelers playing the Texans this week, Brown became a topic of conversation with Phillips. And Phillips happened to be one of the coaches for Brown in that 2012 Pro Bowl. Phillips noted Brown wasn’t a very good defensive back.

“The first pass, he breaks it up, you know, makes a great play,” Phillips told SportsRadio 610. I said, ‘Wow this guy is a pretty good corner.’ The next play the guy torches him for about 40 yards. He just stands there and watches the guy catch the ball for a 40-yard touchdown. He comes off the field and I said, ‘Antonio what are you doing?’ He said, ‘Coach, he gave me five hundred dollars if I let him catch one.’ ”

Phillips never mentions any names, but it isn’t hard to figure out Fitzgerald was the receiver on the play. Now, I find it hard to think Fitz would pay $500 to catch a Pro Bowl TD, because for all the millions he has made, Fitz and his cash do not part easily. But I asked Fitz. He had not heard that story was going around. And he laughed at the idea, saying it wasn’t true.

“It’d cost a lot more than $500 for a touchdown,” Fitzgerald said, chuckling.

Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Brown


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(A quiet) Friday before the Raiders

Posted by Darren Urban on October 17, 2014 – 4:46 pm

Oh, there was still drama Friday that impacted the Cardinals, but for the first time in a couple of weeks, it wasn’t directly related to the Cardinals themselves. Instead, the Seahawks traded (the guy who seemed to be a dangerous) playmaker Percy Harvin to the Jets. That means the Cards never had to play against the guy when he was in Seattle – he was injured for both 2013 meetings, and the Cards have yet to play the Seahawks this season. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about why Harvin was dumped soon – a lot of stuff out there already basically saying Harvin had worn out his welcome – but the Cards aren’t going to be dealing with him.

Otherwise, it was a boring Friday for the Cards as they prepare for their road trip to Oakland. That’s a good thing. No quarterback questions. No wondering about chop block fines. No new injuries. Just a game.

How about that?

– Bruce Arians all but scoffed at the idea of trap games, and the way he and his staff operates, that doesn’t surprise me. There has been zero looking ahead (Philly and Dallas are up next) from what I have heard/can tell. Arians did say the Cards can’t be as listless to start in Oakland as they were against Washington and I totally agree. The lesson hopefully was learned.

– Speaking of listless, the last time the Cardinals went to Oakland for a regular-season game was 2006. It was a disaster. It was a week after the Cardinals had the infamous Monday Night Meltdown and Denny popped off (hey, that eight-year anniversary, by the way, was yesterday!) The Cardinals had fallen to 1-5, but we’re playing the 0-5 Raiders and the I-don’t-give-a-flip version of Randy Moss. The Cards were terrible. Moss actually scored a TD. That was a long time ago.

– Andre Ellington believes the run game is close. He actually said he feels more fresh right now than he probably should, because his foot injury means he doesn’t do as much as practice as he normally would. Ellington has also be careful, as he was going to have to, of getting down on plays once he figures out he’s not going to gain any more yards.

It was noticeable against Washington, and I even heard from a couple of fans wondering why he was going down so easily. In the end, Ellington said, it’s about thinking big picture.

“I don’t have the strength to fight away from tackles,” Ellington said. “I try to do myself justice by getting down and getting ready for the next play.

“(Other people) are not out there taking those hits like I have to. I feel like once I get all I can get, I’m going to go down. I moreso do it on plays when I get a big gain. If it’s third-and-one, I’m going to fight for that yard.”

– Ellington also said the Cardinals would have “some surprises” in the run game Sunday. We’ll see what that means.

– Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker was fined $10,000 for ripping the helmet off quarterback Carson Palmer on that in-the-grasp-probably-should-have-been-a-sack pass completion Palmer made to Robert Hughes. Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson was fined $16,537 for a horsecollar tackle on the sideline made on safety Rashad Johnson after Johnson’s first interception. Neither play drew a flag from the officials (although Dan Williams, Jared Veldheer and Tony Jefferson tried to get in Jackson’s face after the play.)

– Running back Marion Grice got a few first-team reps at running back this week, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said, although Goodwin made it sound it was more exploratory rather a harbinger of anything imminent. Goodwin also reiterated he thinks Grice can perform all the same tasks as Ellington.

– The Cardinals are third in the NFL in run defense, meaning they moved up in the rankings even after losing Calais Campbell and Matt Shaughnessy. Now they face the next-to-last rushing team in the league.

– How about Dan Williams playing some defensive end? The nose tackle likes it. “I’ll take it where I can get it,” Williams said. “It kind of reminded me of college a little bit. I haven’t played that much end since my rookie year.”

– You just get a feeling Patrick Peterson is motivated to have a big game Sunday.

– You know the Raiders buried a football? That’s what interim coach Tony Sparano did with his team, symbolizing the end of the poor play that culminated with coach Dennis Allen’s firing.

“If you keep looking back with that same old mindset like, ‘Oh, yeah man, we can’t do it because this, this and that, we already lost five games,’ well you defeated yourself before you even tried to get on the field and to make something happen,” Raiders defensive end and former Cardinal Antonio Smith said. “I think that was the main thing that Tony was trying to symbolize when burying that ball—burying whoever you were before that day, whatever team we were before that day.”

The Raiders played better last week. But they still lost. The Cards don’t want that changing. Not yet.

FriRaidersUSE


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Extending Palmer and the 2015 offseason

Posted by Darren Urban on October 17, 2014 – 10:21 am

It comes as no surprise that the Cardinals want to extend quarterback Carson Palmer. GM Steve Keim said he has had initial discussions with Palmer’s agent, and given the landscape, keeping Palmer around makes sense for both sides. For Palmer, who will turn 35 in December, he has found a comfort — and success — working in Bruce Arians’ system. Considering there probably aren’t many teams that are going to want to bring in a 35-year-old QB, at least not believing in him at the level the Cardinals do, Palmer wanting to remain is only logical.

The Cardinals have a quarterback who works for them, not only passing the ball but as a leader, a guy who easily was voted captain by his teammates. Palmer stands tall in that locker room, and it has nothing to do with his 6-foot-5 frame but the way he carries himself and plays off every guy in there. At some point, the Cardinals will have to find their long-term QB answer, and maybe it’s Logan Thomas and maybe Keim sees the franchise QB sitting there late in the first round this coming April, but there are no certainties and having Palmer in place is almost obvious for the team too.

The shoulder nerve issue probably threw a wrench into things somewhat. You have to believe Palmer will stay healthy. But assuming that, this should work. If it makes so much sense for both sides, it almost has to, right?

But that also leads into this incredibly interesting offseason to come for Keim. Last year, he said the 2015 season was really when the Cards would be in better shape in terms of the salary cap. You can only assume he was already taking into account the Larry Fitzgerald situation, and what he may or may not do with Darnell Dockett’s contract (a spot that’s gotten stickier now that Dockett, who turns 34 in May, will be coming off major knee surgery.)  That doesn’t include the scheduled free agents: Antonio Cromartie, Dan Williams, Sam Acho, Tommy Kelly, Larry Foote and Paul Fanaika among them.

If there is anything Keim has shown with a couple of offseasons under his belt, it’s that the Cardinals have a plan on how they spend. And going overboard isn’t part of it. There is a number the Cardinals have in mind they will want to give to any of these guys for 2015 — for a Fitz, for a Dan Williams. For a Palmer. Selling a chance to stay with a winner helps.

Of course, winning only happens when there is a QB in place. Palmer is that guy for the Cardinals. You want him to stick around.

PalmerCool1BLOG


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Arians liked the new Carr

Posted by Darren Urban on October 16, 2014 – 9:41 am

Had Derek Carr lasted on the draft board until the Cardinals picked 20th in the second round this past May, Carr might have been in Tempe (and Logan Thomas wouldn’t, assuming the Cards would have drafted only one quarterback). Carr, now the rookie starter for a Raiders team that will host the Cardinals Sunday, was instead drafted with the fourth pick of the second round.

Arians said personally he had Carr ranked “fairly high” going into the draft. But he also said he saw Carr as a second-round talent. The Cardinals spent their first-round pick, 27th overall and 10 picks before Carr was actually selected, on safety Deone Bucannon. Bucannon has turned into a godsend for the defense, not necessarily as a safety with the Cards deep at that spot right now but as a fill-in for suspended linebacker Daryl Washington in the nickel package. When Bucannon was drafted, Washington was still on the roster. Bucannon’s play has helped the defense survive Washington’s absence.

Still, the constant search for a young, long-term QB was on, which is why the Cards eventually drafted Thomas. It would have been interesting to see what Arians could have done with Carr, who is off to a decent start even if his team is 0-5. Carr is coming off a four-touchdown, one-interception game against San Diego, by far his best performance. Through five starts, Carr’s passing rating is 81.1, with eight TDs and five interceptions.

“Man, that kid’s got heart,” said Raiders defensive end Antonio Smith, a former Cardinal. “He’s got heart and he’s got faith in what he wants to be and who he is, and he’s continually getting better and better each week.”

Arians said Carr, young brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr, was “very mature” coming out of Fresno State.

“Really liked him,” Arians said. “It’s one of those things like Peyton (Manning) and Andrew Luck – when you grow up in a football family like he did, you don’t go in the locker room in awe of anything because you’ve been in one your whole life. It’s another day in the gym. That part of it is easy for those guys to overcome quickly. He was in a good offense that spread the ball around, so, yeah, I liked him. I thought he would be a successful quarterback.”

Derek Carr


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“It’s really nice to have three quarterbacks”

Posted by Darren Urban on October 15, 2014 – 1:49 pm

That sound you hear is zero drama coming from the Cardinals’ practice complex this week. All the quarterbacks are on the field today, full go, and after last week, even Bruce Arians can smile at that notion.

“It’s really nice to have three quarterbacks,” Arians said.

Carson Palmer’s arm isn’t 100 percent. It isn’t rest he needs but reps, Arians said, to build strength in that right arm. Nevertheless, Palmer’s arm is “more than serviceable,” Arians said.

“The thing he keeps telling me is that (his arm) is great,” Arians said. “I know it’s not great, but it’s a lot better.”

Palmer said he continues to work on his protocol to work on his shoulder, and he remains cautious about saying when he’ll be 100 percent. But he doesn’t sound worried about it much at all anymore, as long as he keeps doing the rehab he has been doing.

“I’m probably as excited a guy as there is in the league for practice today,” Palmer said.

– The official injury report probably won’t be out until later today, since the Raiders don’t even get off the practice field until after 5 p.m. Only four Cardinals are missing practice totally: DE Calais Campbell (knee), who just started jogging and would be a long shot to play this week; TE Troy Niklas (ankle); TE John Carlson (knee), who took that shot to his leg on the opening catch of the game last Sunday; and DE Frostee Rucker (calf), who is going to have to be smart with his injury likely for the balance of the season. Rucker and Carlson should be fine to play in Oakland, Arians said.

In the open part of practice, RB Andre Ellington (foot) was also sitting out. Like Rucker, he’s trying to manage his injury.


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Missing Jaron: Offensive issues in a nutshell

Posted by Darren Urban on October 14, 2014 – 10:42 am

On the season, Jaron Brown has one reception for six yards, and given the weapons ahead of him — Fitzgerald, Floyd, Ellington, Smokey Brown, even John Carlson — that’s not a surprise. But Jaron is, through no fault of his own, the tangible proof for coach Bruce Arians that the Cardinals’ offense isn’t playing well enough.

Talking about his frustration and inability for the Cards to score more touchdowns — it’s nice Chandler Catanzaro is 14-for-14 on field goals, but still — Arians said the first thing he thinks of is two targets of Jaron Brown.

“That’s 100 yards and two touchdowns in just two plays we’re leaving on the field,” Arians said. “We’ve got to start hitting those plays, and it’s not just him.”

It wasn’t quite 100 yards Brown would have had, but it was certainly two touchdowns. In the fourth quarter against the 49ers, Brown was wide open behind the defender on a 45-yard bomb, and quarterback Drew Stanton simply led Brown too far (as you can see below). Against Washington last weekend, Carson Palmer again had Brown open deep on what would have been a 35-yard score in the fourth quarter. The pass was pretty much on target — although a little longer throw might have done the trick — as defensive back E.J. Biggers barely knocked it away. In both cases, touchdowns would have crushed the opponent. In both cases, the games remained close. Certainly, Brown wouldn’t mind an extra 2-80-2 on the stat line.

“We haven’t even begun to scratch how good we can be,” Arians said. “Again, Carson being off a month, the timing … there are a lot of excuses you can make. None are accepted.”

BadOffense


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No picks thrown yet, Dixon cut and other B.A.

Posted by Darren Urban on October 13, 2014 – 1:17 pm

In five games, through three quarterbacks, the Cardinals have not thrown an interception. That’s 178 pass attempts this season, and 223 total in a row without a pick dating back to last season. Sure, Carson Palmer should have thrown one Sunday when Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo dropped one, but if, buts, candy, nuts and all that — right?

“It’s knowing where you are going with the ball,” coach Bruce Arians said. “But we’ve been lucky. We’ve had about three dropped.”

OK, that’s true. Arians did acknowledge the “experience and trust” the quarterbacks and receivers have built to make interceptions less likely. There is a luck component to it, but the same goes for making interceptions on defense (like Sam Acho’s pick off a batted pass in New York.) Arizona is only 74 passes from the NFL record for most attempts to start a season without an interception, or a little less than two-B.A.-called games.

All of that has helped the Cards to a plus-8 in turnovers thus far, third in the NFL behind New England and Green Bay, both of which are plus-9.

– Arians said he was still a little concerned about how Palmer would be after his 44 passes Sunday. “Until I saw him (Monday), Arians said. “Now, he feels great.” Arians said Palmer can “hopefully” do everything in practice this week. Drew Stanton had been ready to go in the game if Palmer had to have come out after getting poked in the eye during that sack-not-a-sack completion.

– With the health of the quarterbacks back to (almost) normal, the Cardinals cut QB Dennis Dixon from the practice squad.

– The Cardinals came out of the Redskins’ game relatively healthy. No one should miss any time from anything sustained against Washington.

– Defensive end Frostee Rucker should be OK to play, but his calf injury is going to be a constant issue he must deal with, like the foot problem with running back Andre Ellington, Arians said.

– There is a “slim chance” defensive end Calais Campbell plays this week, Arians said. I would be stunned if he played.

PicklessBlog

 

 


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