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Report: Chris Johnson suffers leg fracture

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2015 – 5:00 pm

There is no official word from the team, but Jay Glazer — the Fox Sports NFL reporter who worked out with Chris Johnson this offseason — reported Monday afternoon that Johnson has a fractured tibia, suffered when he took a helmet to his leg during Sunday’s game in San Francisco. (Multiple reports have since echoed Glazer’s news.) Glazer said the team is still trying to determine how long Johnson might miss, but it’s probably safe to assume he’s out for now.

On a personal level, it’s rough for Johnson, who has 814 yards rushing and has heavy incentives for yardage totals and also for a Pro Bowl berth (which was looking like a lock for a while there.) He had been slowed of late — he has just 138 yards rushing total the past three games — but he was still the starter and the guy the Cards were looking to to grind out yards.

On a team level, there was already a look toward rookie David Johnson since both Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington were hurting. Ellington has a turf toe, and his return is also up in the air. The Cards might be too deep in the season for IR-scheduled-to-return, so it’s an important question of when CJ can come back, or if he can come back. That’s a roster spot that’s valuable, especially with injuries piling up.


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Keim: MRIs pending, but hoping RBs day-to-day

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2015 – 8:12 am

Nothing certain yet on the injuries to running backs Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, but General Manager Steve Keim said Monday during his appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Johnson (bone bruise on his left knee) and Ellington (toe on right foot) both are believed to be day-to-day for now. Both are awaiting MRI results.

As for Sunday’s win, Keim was, not surprisingly, filled with mixed emotions. He noted a phone call he got from close friend/former co-worker/current Bucaneers GM Jason Licht, who told him when watching film of a victory not to be mad just appreciative of a win. Keim said it was good advice. Nevertheless, after watching the 49ers game, Keim acknowledged he was “a little frustrated” and has a page full of notes that “aren’t very good.”

“But a win is a win,” Keim said. “Sometimes, there are letdowns, unfortunately.”

— Keim wouldn’t say the Cardinals got beat up physically up front by the 49ers defensive line. There were times when the Cards were physically beat for sure. Mostly though, Keim said the issues were fundamental, mistakes in passing off blocks on stunts and twists, getting the face across numbers, weakness in getting off combo blocks into the second level that often create the run lanes. It echoed Bruce Arians’ comments after the game that it was about mental lapses on the blocking more than physical.

— Asked about Patrick Peterson’s move to bring in the defense today for film work despite Arians giving the players a Victory Monday off, Keim noted how Peterson has grown into a leader. It doesn’t hurt that Peterson is playing (easily, in my opinion) the best football of his career. Keim: “I don’t know if there is a corner playing better football than Pat right now.”

— There were times when QB Carson Palmer looked a little rattled Sunday. Keim said Palmer can’t be expected to play perfect football every game. “I think Carson would tell you not one of his better games, but he made some huge plays,” Keim added.

— Not a great day for punter Drew Butler or kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who for a second time missed a point-after that could have cost the Cardinals big. Keim noted that the Cards had already brought in other punters and kickers for workouts recently.

“Since then (Butler and Catanzaro) have kicked pretty well,” Keim said. “Sunday, no question that was a concern.”

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Niners aftermath, and a sigh of relief

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2015 – 10:10 pm

J.J. Nelson smiled. His thoughts on his soon-to-be 36-year-old quarterback racing toward the end zone for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown?

“A sigh of relief,” Nelson said.

It’s hard to think of it any other way. This wasn’t like the 47-7 beatdown the Cardinals put on the 49ers back in September. San Francisco has a better quarterback behind center (I can’t believe I typed that, but it is true) than it did then. Still, the Cards only allowed 13 points. What was the cold water on the face Sunday was the Cards’ inability to consistently score and definitely the inability to generate a steady run game. That’s the first game all season Carson Palmer didn’t throw a touchdown pass. It’s so odd to think the Cards won the turnover battle for the first time a month-plus yet had to work so hard to finish off the Niners.

Here’s all you need to know: Bruce Arians gave the players a Victory Monday off — and immediately, Patrick Peterson jumped in and told the defensive players they have to be in by 11 Monday. “We’ve got to fix this,” he said.

— I’ve been wracking my brain since the sequence happened early in the second half, but I cannot remember a weirder sequence than the one during which the Cards scored their first touchdown – nor can I remember a sequence in both sides were frustrated.

It started with a first-and-goal at the SF 3. The Cardinals ended up running nine plays inside the 5. Four were from the 1. And the Cardinals couldn’t push it in. No worries – the 49ers were flagged for four penalties, including three pass interference calls, all of which were automatic first downs. The Cards even tried trickeration, putting Drew Stanton in at QB and splitting Palmer out wide as a receiver, only to have Stanton hand the ball to Chris Johnson for a one-yard loss.

— The plays spotlighted the short-yardage issues the Cards had all game trying to run. Ironic that the score eventually came via the ground, with David Johnson punching one over. But the line of scrimmage was not won by the Cardinals’ offensive line most of the game.

— The Cards ended up with bigger problems running backs-wise than just missed third-and-1 tries. Chris Johnson exited with a left knee injury, and on the same drive, Andre Ellington left with a right foot injury. Their status is TBD. There is a reason the Cardinals built their running back depth, and rookie David Johnson isn’t a bad guy to turn to if the other two are sidelined.

But it’s a concern. Johnson tweeted out a handful of praying hands emojis after the game, although he said he doesn’t think it’s serious. What he is praying about is left to the imagination for now. They will get fully evaluated back in Arizona. Johnson has had issues with his knee all week.

— Tyrann Mathieu was all over the field Sunday with 13 tackles and he picked off Gabbert. He wasn’t satisfied – he was upset he allowed the touchdown pass the 49ers had – but he continues to have an all-pro season.

— The thin cornerback corps could get thinner. Bruce Arians said the Cards are hoping Jerraud Powers’ injury is a calf and not an Achilles issue, but either way, it puts Justin Bethel up again. Thank goodness for the Cards that Patrick Peterson looked fine on his injured ankle.

— It turned out not to matter, but that missed extra point by Chandler Catanzaro really, really could’ve mattered. Cat Man sees again how you can go from hero to near-goat in an awful hurry as a kicker.

— Larry Fitzgerald had 14 targets and 10 catches. He never could get loose – with 66 yards, he is still eight yards shy of 1,000 for the season – but he became the short-yardage answer on third downs when the Cards realized they couldn’t run it.

— On eight run plays in which the Cardinals needed three yards or less, the Cards lost yards on five of them. They were stopped for no gain on two. The other was David Johnson’s one-yard TD at the end of that nine-plays-inside-the-5.

— The 49ers are ticked off about the officials. The Cardinals weren’t thrilled either, but certainly not to the level of the game’s loser. It was not a great day for the officials in terms of making things clear, but their calls impacted the game. No doubt about that. I didn’t get a chance to study the Dial hit on Palmer on replay, but it’s not surprising a flag would be thrown. That’s the NFL we live in these days.

— Wide receiver Smokey Brown looked better than he has in weeks, running full speed down the field, his hamstring apparently not a problem. “I’m almost there,” he said. He had five catches for 99 yards.

— The Seahawks came from behind to win. The Vikings won. It was an important day for the Cards not to give up ground. Now a trip to St. Louis, where physical is going to be the word of the day. More NFC West fun.

J.J. Nelson, Jimmie Ward

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Bucannon, Floyd to play in SF

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2015 – 12:28 pm

The defensive line is thin today, but the Cardinals will have safety Deone Bucannon (coming off concussion symptoms) active, as well as cornerback Patrick Peterson on defense. On offense, Ted Larsen will stay at right guard with Jonathan Cooper still out, but receiver Michael Floyd (hamstring) is playing as expected.

The defensive line will need newcomer Red Bryant to be a factor and Calais Campbell will probably be leaned on to play more than usual. The full inactive list:

— QB Matt Barkley

— LB Shaq Riddick

— G Jonathan Cooper (knee)

— T D.J. Humphries

— DT Cory Redding (ankle)

— DT Ed Stinson (groin)

— DT Frostee Rucker (ankle)

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Leaving points, and Friday before the 49ers

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2015 – 3:41 pm

It’s hard not to talk about the points.

The Cardinals lead the NFL in points scored, in case you hadn’t heard. They also have a league-high 176 points on the road – with still three road games left – this season, with their 22 road TDs five more than the rest of the field (Cincinnati is second with 17). They just happen to be visiting San Francisco this weekend, to play a 49ers team that they happened to score a season-high 47 points against earlier this season.

So why is it, when talking to the players or coaches, they always seem to be a bit irritated with how the Cardinals play offense? It’s simple, really. They get ticked when they don’t convert a third down, when they have a red-zone hiccup, when they turn the ball over. Perfecting the “nuances,” as Larry Fitzgerald called them.

“Scary to think if we do, how many points we could score,” Fitzgerald said.

Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin was being asked about the running game and it needing to be more consistent. Even though the Cards have run it fine and again, most points in the league.

“It’s something good for me to get pissed off about,” Goodwin said. “Leaving points out there.”

Goodwin, and Bruce Arians, and everyone else, knows what they have (assuming Carson Palmer is healthy): A deep offense capable of scoring with a great many options, and a quarterback who knows how to make it all run.

“As long as the offensive line protects, we can dice anyone up in this league,” Goodwin said. “I stand on solid ground when I say that.”

— The Cardinals had a long injury list when the week began, but realistically, they aren’t going to be as short-handed as thought. Patrick Peterson looks like he’s going to play, receivers Michael Floyd and John Brown (Brown is “probable” for the first time in a while) both should be on the field and while they are down a couple of defensive lineman, the addition of Red Bryant should help.

— The idea of sitting players because it’s “just the 49ers” is never going to fly, by the way. The Cardinals need all these wins. If you are healthy enough to play, you play. If you aren’t, you don’t. Could that change in Week 17 if the Cards are locked into their playoff position? Sure. But not with six games left.

— Fitzgerald needs 74 yards to reach 1,000 yards receiving in a season for the first time since 2011. That’s been a pretty long drought too.

— Markus Golden already had started a couple of games when Alex Okafor was out, but that starting job is his for good now that LaMarr Woodley is out for the season. Golden is turning out to have the greatest impact from the draft class, with all due respect to Rodney Gunter and David Johnson. Profootballfocus.com has him among the top 10 rookies in the league, and he’s on his way to being a key part of this defense the next few years.

“Since the beginning of the season I’m way better,” Golden said. “I’m more focused, and I’m not thinking as much.”

— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said he loves the outside linebacker rotation, even with the Woodley loss. In a perfect world, he said, those guys would have snap counts in the 20s, although he said he was OK with veteran Dwight Freeney around 30 or 35 snaps.

— S Deone Bucannon was fined $23,152 for his unflagged helmet-to-helmet hit on Bengals receiver A.J. Green last week. It was a surprise the play didn’t draw a penalty. Could that have been the source of the concussion Bucannon suffered?

— One name that could appear now with Woodley out is rookie Shaq Riddick, who has been inactive every game. “We think he’s a guy who is going to be in the mix, could be this weekend, maybe the future,” Bettcher said.

— This will be Mike Iupati’s first game against his former team. If you recall, there was a chance Iupati, coming off training camp knee surgery, would debut against the 49ers, but he wasn’t quite ready that week. He admitted the game will have meaning for him.

“I do care about them,” said Iupati, who spent five seasons in San Francisco. “They are having a tough season. But that’s how it is. It’s football. I don’t know what’s going on over there.”

— The Cards have had a 100-yard receiver in six straight games against the 49ers – either Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd. Floyd in particular has done well in San Francisco. Perhaps he can get there again.

— Both Arians and Goodwin were hoping that the running game will find its way back after a couple of off games versus two good front sevens against the Seahawks and Bengals. The coaches are hoping for more steady plays – four yards every play, rather than getting one looking for a big one. It’s a concept running back Chris Johnson admitted isn’t always easy.

“Being the type of player I am, the type of back I am who is so used to breaking the long runs, getting big gains,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of tough being patient and waiting on it. It’s the sort of thing where you’ve got to understand the gameplan of the week and you’ve got to stick to it.”

— Johnson also said at age 30, the maintenance needed to stay ready at this point (he’s averaging 24 carries the past three games) is crucial.

“You’ve got to put more time in as far as off the field,” Johnson said, referring to massages and the training room. “You put more time in and you’ll be OK when Sunday gets here.”

— Crazy to think the Cards have had more trouble winning in San Francisco than Seattle. But a win this weekend, and the Cardinals are 3-1 in the NFC West. If there is anything Arians has yet to accomplish, it’s a winning record within the division. That’s something they’d like to check off the list.


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Fewer practice throws for Palmer

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2015 – 9:29 am

It’s that time of year. You can tell from the injury report — it’s the longest it’s been all season this week, and that addition of safety Deone Bucannon on Thanksgiving with a concussion makes you pause — and Bruce Arians said earlier this week the Cardinals were going without pads heading into the 49ers game. It only makes sense, as banged up as they are.

There are other places where they are going to be careful. That includes the passes thrown by Carson Palmer in practice. You don’t want to have the quarterback’s arm fade when you conceivably could still have as many as nine or 10 games left to play. Palmer only played six games last season, so he’s already thrown well beyond what he did last year (224 attempts in 2014, 339 attempts this season), although he is in great shape — and that includes his arm.

Nevertheless, Palmer acknowledged there will be fewer throws during the week.

“That’s something completely not in my wheelhouse,” Palmer said. “(Strength and conditioning coach) Buddy Morris is as smart of a guy in that department. He’s been studying it a long time. He understands mechanics. He understands the velocity of throws. He uses all these big words that I’m not even going to get into. He’s a researcher and he’s done a ton of research. Your age, your number of years, how many throws you have typically thrown this time of year or that time of year; whatever it is. There’s an equation he’s drawn out and there’s a certain number of throws we’ll hit, but I don’t get into that. I just do whatever he tells me.”

The Cardinals have been careful at practice in multiple areas. Morris had already put in place a harness system that measures the steps of each skill guy, as to make sure they aren’t running too much in practice. This is just another example of what Bruce Arians likes to call “sports science,” and Palmer isn’t going to argue.

“I’m trusting a professional,” Palmer said. “Buddy is as good as they get. He’s as good as they come in this league. I’ve been around a bunch of great strength coaches, but Buddy is hands down the best. He’s very focused. He’s very concerned with it. It takes up a lot of his day because he’s always talking about it, but I love having a guy like that on our side.”



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11 Cards still top 10 in Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2015 – 12:19 pm

The Cardinals continue to do well in Pro Bowl voting (which you can do yourself by clicking here or going to azcardinals.com/probowl. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has dropped out of the overall top 10, but quarterback Carson Palmer remains there, seventh overall and the fifth quarterback. Fitzgerald is now fourth among wide receivers, behind Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones.

The top Cardinal at a position remains free safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is still second among his position, 14,000 votes or so behind Carolina’s Kurt Coleman (the Panthers have a fanbase dedicated to the voting; they rank high at most positions.) The other Cardinals ranked in the top 10 at their respective positions:

— RB Chris Johnson is fifth.

— Mike Iupati fell to sixth among guards.

— DT Calais Campbell is fifth.

— CB Patrick Peterson is fourth.

— Rashad Johnson is sixth and Deone Bucannon is eighth among strong safeties.

— David Johnson is 10th among kick returners.

— Justin Bethel is fourth for special teamers.

Pro Bowl voting continues through Dec. 15.


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Story of Arians coming on “A Football Life”

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2015 – 5:20 pm

Time to set the DVR for Dec. 11 on the NFL Network. The ongoing series “A Football Life” will feature Bruce Arians, who as we all know has a fascinating story and is pretty interesting to boot. Plus the trailer looks pretty good too.

I don’t know how many chances there will be to give the Cool Uncle flavor during the broadcast, but we all know how good B.A. can be. Plus he’s winning yet again, and people love to hear from him. This should be a great show.

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Considering another flex for Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2015 – 10:53 am

The Cardinals have made it through their “Sunday Night Football” gauntlet of two weeks running. They have at least one more primetime game — their next home game is on “Thursday Night Football” against the Minnesota Vikings. But that might not be the only one. Their games down the stretch might mean something. Whether those games will be free to flex is another story.

As of right now, the game that would make the most sense to flex to “Sunday Night Football” would be the Dec. 27 home game against the Green Bay Packers. Two good teams, likely with something on the line as the Packers battle the Vikings for the NFC North title and with both teams possibly fighting for a first-round bye. Meanwhile, the scheduled “Sunday Night Football” game is Pittsburgh at Baltimore, normally a lock to stay there with such a great rivalry. But the Ravens have lost quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Steve Smith and linebacker Terrell Suggs all with season-ending injuries. They are struggling anyway. It’s not going to be the same.

Even if Cardinals-Packers makes sense, though, it’s far from a guarantee, because Fox has the ability to protect a game that week and Cards-Pack would seem a natural one to keep. It has national interest, and it’s a good game. The Panthers play the Falcons that week, so it might be worthy of Fox’s protection too — in fact, whichever one Fox doesn’t protect becomes a strong candidate to be flexed. (The Patriots play the Jets that week, but the Jets are fading fast.)

As for Week 17, which doesn’t have a named “Sunday Night Football” matchup — NBC gets to pick a game with playoff implications — the Cardinals and Seahawks is possible, but I’m guessing the NFC West will have been determined by then and there will be other games that mean more (Washington-Dallas? Minnesota-Green Bay? Philly-Giants?)


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Keim: Peterson’s value/injury, and rookie help

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2015 – 8:13 am

Before Patrick Peterson got hurt Sunday night, he was once again playing excellent cornerback, making life very hard for Bengals start wide receiver A.J. Green. Then he hurt his ankle, and General Manager Steve Keim said Monday morning on his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports that he had no new news and that Peterson was getting an MRI. But just listening to Keim, it drives home the critical nature of having Peterson — or potentially not having him — in the lineup.

“Last year, some of the concerns with Patrick … (were) issues with consistency,” Keim said. “A lot of it had to do with playing weight. He came back in phenomenal shape. Now his level of consistency, he’s taken to a whole different level.” And that’s even putting Peterson in “some really tough positions” on an island so the defense can do things elsewhere on the field.

If Peterson can’t go, the most likely scenario is Justin Bethel stepping in to the lineup and the Cardinals using former Arizona State corner Robert Nelson Jr., who has been on the roster but inactive the last two games. Nelson played for the Browns a little last season.

Other Keim thoughts from the win over the Bengals:

— The storyline that excited Keim the most (perhaps not all that surprisingly) was the big game from the rookie class. Led by J.J. Nelson and Markus Golden, the draftees were good, and that’s with No. 1 pick D.J. Humphries still inactive.

— The turnaround in the game started with Carson Palmer, Keim said, but he also said the Cardinals’ offensive line finally starting matching the intensity and physicality of the Bengals’ defensive line in the second half.

— Keim noted that defensive coordinator James Bettcher did a nice job dialing up some pressure on Bengals QB Andy Dalton, but it also left the Cards susceptible to mismatches — notably linebacker Kevin Minter trying to cover quick running back Gio Bernard. (That didn’t go so well most of the night.)

The Cardinals are talented, and Keim has noticed all the national analysts suggesting the Cardinals might have the most talented roster in the league. But “all I see is holes,” he said. “Areas where we need to improve, where we need to get better.” Not shockingly, those start up front — a better pass rush, and more consistency in pass protection.

— As for the national attention that’s beginning to build, “you have to embrace it when you consider where we’ve come from,” he said.

— The record of 8-2 is nice, Keim said, but it’s nothing right now.

“We haven’t arrived,” Keim said. “We haven’t won any championships yet. Last year was a great lesson for us, starting 9-1 and having things crumble away.”

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