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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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Keim: Working on Peterson’s focus, intensity

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

In his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports, General Manager Steve Keim noted that while he still has “100 percent faith” in the physical tools of cornerback Patrick Peterson, he still sees Peterson losing focus and/or intensity at times during a game. “I promise you, that’s something (defensive coordinator) Todd Bowles and defensive backs coach Kevin Ross will clean up.”

Peterson got beat by DeSean Jackson for a 64-yard slant-and-run touchdown Sunday, although it looked like Peterson should’ve had safety help from Tyrann Mathieu to at least make it a much shorter gain. It looked like Peterson was on Pierre Garcon on the Redskins’ final TD pass to Garcon late in the game too. It’s impossible to be perfect as a cornerback in today’s NFL — every guy is going to give up scores — but Keim reiterated he thinks Peterson has just scratched the surface of his talent and can be much better.

“I know Pat is a competitor, I know he’s a pro and I know he’ll work at it,” Keim said. “I also have a tremendous amount of faith and respect for our coaching staff. … No one in the league has (Peterson’s) physical tools. Now it is up to Pat from a mental standpoint, and a focus and an intensity standpoint, to become the best. And that’s on him. I think he’s the kind of competitor, at 24 years of age, that he’s going to grow and continue to get better. But there are times when he has plays you’d like to have back.”

Keim also said Peterson isn’t 100 percent healthy either, dealing with a sore ankle. Plus, as Keim acknowledged, the lack of a great edge pass rush by the Cardinals also can leave the secondary out to dry at times. That too does not help Peterson, who is often going against the most talented receiver on the other team.

“If you play 70 snaps and 65 of them are excellent and five you get exposed, you can’t hide,” Keim said. “But we have high expectations out of of Pat and so do the fans. We expect him to play at a high level and I think he’ll get things cleaned up in the next few weeks.”

– Keim was happy with the win, although he said after watching the video, the Cardinals “didn’t play particularly well.”

– He, like most, were thrilled with the play of Carson Palmer considering the circumstances. Keim said he could tell Palmer didn’t have 100 percent velocity, but had a great pocket presence in his first game back.

– Keim was concerned with run defense coming into the game (he wasn’t the only one) but but felt the Cards “stepped up to the challenge.” The Redskins only had 72 rushing yards.

– He praised a few young players, linebacker Alex Okafor in particular, but also defensive lineman Ed Stinson and safety Deone Bucannon.

 PPforblog


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QB normalcy in Redskins aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 12, 2014 – 8:07 pm

Late in the game Sunday, with the Cardinals trying to run the clock nursing a three-point lead, Carson Palmer thought it would be a good idea to call his own number on a bootleg. And he convinced Bruce Arians of that.

“I let them talk me into keeping that damn ball on third down, and I never should have done that one,” Arians said.

So, Palmer was asked, let’s get this straight: You hurt your shoulder, way back in the season opener, running the ball – and then Sunday, in your first game back, you talked Arians into letting you run the ball?

“That’s one way to put it,” Palmer said, to laughs. “I won’t say that. But you did.”

“I was talking (Bruce) into a lot of stuff,” Palmer said. “I was just excited to be out there.”

– It was easy to joke around after a win. After the debacle that was the Denver trip – a defensive breakdown and injuries galore – Sunday was the ultimate cheerup. Palmer was back as starting QB. The defense, while it had a couple breakdowns, held up decently. And then there was the cheer that reverberated around University of Phoenix Stadium late when the Cowboys’ win in Seattle was announced.

(Suddenly that trip to Dallas looks very, very difficult. But that’s a topic for another day.)

– The Cardinals’ play was far from perfect, with 14 penalties (yikes), an offense that couldn’t put the ball in the end zone even though the Redskins seemed to almost want them to be there, and a defense that had a couple of breakdowns. But these two weeks were about beating teams they should beat, and that’s one down. One trip to Oakland to go.

– Palmer said he “isn’t out of the woods” yet. The Cards will continue to approach this nerve deal cautiously. But he was no worse for wear after Sunday’s game. Call it a positive step.

– The play of the day for Palmer wasn’t the TD pass to Michael Floyd or the laser he completed to Smokey Brown for a first down, but the flip he somehow made to running back Robert Hughes on third-and-2 for seven yards. It kept alive a field-goal drive early in the fourth quarter, and it should have been a sack. Multiple Redskins were hanging all over Palmer, and frankly, I’m shocked they didn’t call it in the grasp.

“I should have gotten the ball out quicker,” Palmer said. “That’s kind of one of those things I’m talking about. I need to practice.”

Instead, he ended up with a I’m-a-warrior-type highlight.

– Great sign to see Alex Okafor with two sacks. If he can end up being a guy who can consistently pressure the passer, it would be a Godsend to this team.

– Tyrann Mathieu admitted he is “not really comfortable” with the knee brace he has to wear. “But I have to be comfortable with it, so I play these mind games with myself and tell myself I’m comfortable with it,” Mathieu said.

– Mathieu picked up the Andre Roberts fumble and starting running around in an old-school Honey Badger kind of way (which included holding the ball awfully loosely around the field …) but eventually decided discretion was the better part of valor. Why wouldn’t he, when he acknowledged he had some flashbacks to the punt return against the Rams – in which he was running around trying to make something happen – before he was caught and his knee was turned into spaghetti.

“No question,” Mathieu said. “Made two people miss and then I said time to get down. Very reminiscent of last year. Very.”

– Patrick Peterson got beat on DeSean Jackson’s 64-yard slant-and-run touchdown. Mathieu looked like he could have been over the top. Mathieu said the Cards “kind of messed up our coverage a little bit.” Plus, Mathieu said he took a “horrible angle” toward Jackson, costing him a chance at the tackle.

– Always nice to see Fitz get to the end zone. I’m guessing Fitz was the most happy about it.

– How many games can this team go without throwing an interception? No turnovers. Again.

– Speaking of turnovers, I was thinking to myself late in the third quarter the defense really needed to force one. Then came the questionable Roberts fumble – I could have sworn he was down, referee Ed Hochuli said after the game there was not conclusive evidence to overturn the fumble call – and then three straight picks. All in the last 13 minutes. All due respect to Rashad Johnson, but Jerraud Powers’ pick was the thing of beauty. He hid as the Redskins tried a wide receiver screen and popped out of nowhere to steal the pass.

– That’s enough for tonight. I can’t say the quarterback won’t be a story this week – Palmer gets to face his former team – but we are done with the QB-or-not-QB drama. Thankfully.

AfterRedskinsBLOG


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All three QBs active against Redskins

Posted by Darren Urban on October 12, 2014 – 11:55 am

It’s about 90 minutes before kickoff. The Cardinals, as expected, will have all three of their quarterbacks active for today’s game. And as of right now, we don’t know who is starting. If there is an update to give, I’ll post it here.

In any event, here is the inactive list:

– RB Marion Grice

– LB Desmond Bishop

– LB Thomas Keiser

– LB Glenn Carson (ankle)

– DT Bruce Gaston

– TE Troy Niklas (ankle)

– DE Calais Campbell (knee).


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QB-less, it’s Friday before the Redskins

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2014 – 4:21 pm

One year with Carson Palmer taking every snap, and it’s easy to forget what it can be like with quarterback uncertainty. Then a week like this happens and the memories all come crashing back. No one is saying this is like 2012 all over again, when Ken Whisenhunt, scrambling for a quarterback, kept mixing and matching. In fact, even that team never really had a situation like Bruce Arians is facing now, when injuries have precluded him from naming a starter here on Friday.

Realistically, both Carson Palmer and his funky shoulder and Drew Stanton, coming off a concussion, have injuries that could “go away” and then rear up again on Sunday morning. As of Friday afternoon, both guys are taking tests to see where they are in their recovery. It’s looked good up until this point, but it makes sense caution is the buzzword in this instance.

I will not be surprised if any of the three is behind center for the Cardinals’ first snap Sunday. There is still an eternity until 1:25 p.m. Sunday.

UPDATE: Multiple reports Friday night said Stanton passed his concussion test. That does not necessarily mean Stanton would start.

– If Logan Thomas does have to play? Larry Fitzgerald has one word: “Patience.”

“Got to be patient,” Fitz said. “Just try to make plays for them. Nothing more soothing for a young person than when you make a play and kind of be a security blanket.”

– Speaking of Fitz, he said he’s not thinking of his slow start. Of course he’s going to say that out loud. Of course I think he’s thinking about it. He’s a guy who wants to get to the Hall of Fame. A season playing out like this is not helping that cause.

– With everything going on around the quarterbacks and the injuries and the like, there’s been no room to mention the return of wide receiver Andre Roberts to University of Phoenix Stadium. Roberts signed with the Redskins as a free agent after four seasons in Arizona. “If something happens to Pierre (Garcon) or DeSean (Jackson), we feel just as good as him outside as our first or second guy,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said. “Really like him. Good kid, too.”

Roberts thought he was going to Washington to be the No. 2 behind Garcon. Then Jackson was acquired, and Roberts was stuck as the No. 3 guy again, exactly the situation he was trying to escape in Arizona.

– Last week’s offensive stats, thanks to needing to play the raw Thomas, were probably an outlier. But the Cardinals went just 3-for-16 on third downs last week. It was awful. That cannot happen. This defense needs time to rest on the sideline.

– Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin wasn’t thrilled with the run game last week. It’ll be more important if Thomas has to start, but even if Palmer or Stanton plays, the Cards need more on the ground.

“I don’t care who is playing quarterback,” Goodwin said. “We didn’t do a very good job last week. You’d get a positive run and then all of sudden you’d get minus-two on the next play.

“It’s going to take some of the pressure off (Logan) if he plays. Have to get positive yards on first and second downs. We had 12 runs of two (yards) or less. Not close to being good enough.”

– The Cardinals haven’t run enough, Arians said. Asked about getting more carries for Stepfan Taylor or even working Marion Grice, Arians said the Cards need to be more effective on the ground in the first place and then see where Andre Ellington is physically. Because at this point, Ellington is the man, Arians said. Ellington had 16 of the Cardinals’ 19 rushing attempts in Denver.

“(Andre) felt very, very fresh out there,” Arians said. “And if he’s fresh, he’s staying in.”

– Stanton and Redskins starting QB Kirk Cousins have a good relationship. Cousins was an incoming freshman at Michigan State at the same time Stanton was just leaving as QB. “Went out to dinner with him a couple of times when he was in school, talked with him on the phone and via text,” Stanton said. “I don’t want to be one of those guys who tries to tell him how to do everything.”

Said Cousins, “I’ve always looked up to him as a guy who had a lot of success at Michigan State and then as a high draft pick as somebody I could follow in the footsteps of,” Cousins said.

– The Redskins have beaten the Cardinals eight times in a row. The last Cardinals’ win? The game that might’ve clinched University of Phoenix Stadium.

– Hard to believe that before the Cardinals interviewed Arians for the head coaching job, they interviewed Gruden. Two things I remember from that day, when Gruden met with the media. If you closed your eyes, there were definitely times he sound like his brother Jon, and he didn’t exactly come across like he was super excited about the job. Now he’s got the Washington job and he’ll be on the opposite sideline.

Now, who he’ll be trying to defend as the Cardinals’ quarterback … well, I guess we’ll see, won’t we.

ThomasFriBeforeUSE


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It’s wait and see on Sunday’s QB

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2014 – 1:17 pm

Friday came and went, and the Cardinals do not know who will start at quarterback Sunday against the Redskins.

“Honest to God, for the first time in 20 years, I really don’t know who’s starting,” coach Bruce Arians said.

Some of that is because there are still things going on Friday that need to happen. All the quarterbacks were at practice and throwing Friday. But Drew Stanton had yet to take/pass his concussion test — he was headed there post-practice — and Carson Palmer was flying to Denver to have a late afternoon session at Muscle Activation Techniques, the place he got worked on last weekend.

Palmer is expected back for the mock game Saturday. Arians said Palmer was throwing at about 80 percent and had some decent velocity. But Arians also said it’s possible all three QBs will be active Sunday and a decision on who will play might not come until closer to game time. It’ll all depend on their health, Arians said, and at this point, that’s nothing concrete. Both Palmer and Stanton have issues that could rear their ugly heads Sunday morning. Officially, both were limited in practice Friday and both are questionable for Sunday,

– Guard Paul Fanaika was also back on a limited basis for Friday’s practice and is questionable. DE Calais Campbell (knee), TE Troy Niklas (ankle) and LB Glenn Carson (ankle) are all out for Sunday.

 


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Cards’ run defense must hold up

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2014 – 10:26 am

Before Calais Campbell got hurt a couple of plays into the second half of last weekend’s game in Denver, the Broncos had exactly four rushing yards. On seven attempts. With Campbell out of the game, the Broncos got 88 yards rushing on 21 tries.

There were, of course, other factors. The defense eventually got tired in the fourth quarter because the Cardinals could not generate any offense and stay on the field. But make no mistake, Campbell is an important part of the run defense. So too is Matt Shaughnessy, who was playing hurt in Denver and now is out a couple months with a knee injury. How the Cardinals deal with the loss of Campbell and Shaughnessy and hold up against the run, in my opinion, is the linchpin of keeping this season together as the Cardinals deal with all their injury-related setbacks.

If the Cardinals can continue to play like a top-five run defense — and they are fifth right now — they will stay in games. Certainly, the next stretch of the schedule will test that. The Redskins have Alfred Morris. The Eagles have Shady McCoy. And the Cowboys have the leading rusher in the NFL in DeMarco Murray. Getting Campbell back sooner rather than later will help, but there no way to know right now exactly when that will be. At this point, the Cards can’t afford to wait for reinforcements anyway. They must perform with who they have.

RunDefenseBLOG


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Stanton better, not cleared; QB situation still muddy

Posted by Darren Urban on October 9, 2014 – 2:23 pm

There was no real update in the Cardinals’ not-sure-who-is-gonna-start quarterback situation. Drew Stanton wasn’t at practice at the outset, when it is open to the media, but showed up later and was officially limited again, as was Carson Palmer. Stanton was in good spirits after practice, talking for the first time since suffering his concussion Sunday in Denver. Stanton said he’s been happy to at least be cleared for non-contact throwing — Stanton said with a smile it helps his position is non-contact in practice anyway — and that he will take the concussion tests again Friday.

Stanton still hopes to be cleared and be available Sunday. He said he is symptom-free. Palmer was throwing some at the outset of practice again, but it’s impossible to tell if he was truly improved. He wasn’t available to talk and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin did not address Palmer’s health directly. It’s a good sign Palmer hasn’t regressed at least.

At this point, it would not be a surprise in the least to not know who is starting at quarterback before Sunday. If Stanton is cleared but the Cardinals don’t deem him quite ready to start, I could see all three guys on the 46-man active roster for the game and not knowing who is going to start until near gametime (although it would probably leak before then.)

I can say this with certainty: All the players talking about it Thursday either don’t know themselves who will start or are doing a great job keeping up with a charade. I think it’s the former. Bruce Arians will talk again tomorrow. We’ll see what Friday brings.

– If starting right guard Paul Fanaika, who sat out again Thursday with ankle and calf problems, can’t play, then he will be replaced in the lineup by Jonathan Cooper. Ted Larsen will stay on the left side.


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Oh, captain, my captain — you OK?

Posted by Darren Urban on October 9, 2014 – 10:32 am

See that photo at the bottom? It’s a picture from the coin toss before the Monday night season opener against the Chargers. It is also the last time the Cardinals’ captains will have all played together in a game in 2014. It feels like the role has been cursed, right?

I mean, punter Dave Zastudil was already hurt in that game — the only reason he was active was to hold on field goals, while Drew Butler did the punting. Zastudil punted in one game (Denver, last weekend) before going on IR with his persistent groin injury, ending his season. Palmer, as we all know, has been hurting since the Chargers game and there is still uncertainty he can come back. Calais Campbell is now down with a knee injury, something that’s been at the forefront of the NFL world for a couple of days.

Wait, am I automatically jinxing Lorenzo Alexander now? (That’s rhetorical, folks. I don’t believe in such things.) Besides, Alexander got his bad luck last year when he got hurt, so …

Still, you have to like how coach Bruce Arians approaches the situation. When Darnell Dockett went on IR, he stayed involved. While hurt, Zastudil and Palmer have still been serving as captains. I can only guess Campbell will continue to do the same, and Zastudil too. “Dave is going to be very, very involved, like Darnell,” Arians said. “He’ll go out for the coin toss and do the things that captains do.”

And at some point, the Cardinals are hoping the other three captains are out there ready to play together on Sundays. Sooner rather than later.

CaptainsBLOG

 

 


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