The first round of Pro Bowl voting results were announced this week. There aren’t a lot of Cardinals who have cracked the top 10 at their respective positions, but Patrick Peterson is second among cornerbacks (trailing only Seattle’s Richard Sherman) although he is only 56 votes ahead of New England’s Aqib Talib (when both have more than 189,000) right now.
The voting this year is different than in year’s past, since the Pro Bowl is going to be “unconferenced” and players chosen will be picked by captains for the game after the season. So instead of having the top five NFC and top five AFC vote-getters on the list each week, there is now the top 10.
The other Cardinals appearing in the top 10 at their respective positions:
– Darnell Dockett is ninth among defensive tackles with 78,308 votes (leader: K.C.’s Dontari Poe with 181,342 votes)
– Karlos Dansby is eighth among inside linebackers with 64,091 votes (Buffalo’s Kiko Alonso, 188,153)
– Tyrann Mathieu — despite not getting on the ballot until after he was made a starter — is 10th among free safeties with 22,100 votes (Seattle’s Earl Thomas, 195,586)
– Justin Bethel is eighth among special teamers with 27,649 votes (Denver’s David Bruton, 75,118)
Not surprising but still jarring: Not seeing Larry Fitzgerald among the top 10 in the NFL at wide receiver.
Tags: Pro Bowl voting
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Bruce Arians knows Andrew Luck knows Jerraud Powers knows Chuck Pagano knows Harold Goodwin knows Robert Mathis.
So where does that leave Sunday, when the Cardinals play the Colts? It’s a great question. Do these teams know a little bit about each other? Sure. But with the amount of video out there for everyone to study anymore, I’m not all that sure it changes the equation much.
“I’m sure (Bruce) will try to use it to his advantage,” Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said. “But I think in the NFL you know so much about every other team I’m sure it gets thrown out the window at some point.”
The Cardinals know, for instance, that Luck doesn’t really want to run but will if he has an opportunity. That won’t help bring him down if Luck escapes the pass rush and gets his 240-pound frame streaking forward in space. Cardinals offensive coordinator Goodwin has a pretty good idea what Mathis is going to do to get to Carson Palmer. Will that allow the Cards to slow him? It reminds me a little of all the fringe players cut around the league and then picked up by rivals or teams on the upcoming schedule of that player’s former team. I don’t know exactly how much they can really provide in the context of a particular game. The game plan changes week-to-week.
(And sometimes, another team is just picking up a player because they need a player. That’s what happened when the Titans, who the Cards play in December, signed John Skelton to be a backup QB. Skelton was cut so early in the Arians tenure he would be no help as a “spy,” although I had some fans suggest that’s what the move was for.)
“They are going to know us, we’re going to know them,” Cardinals left tackle Bradley Sowell, a former Colt, said. “It’s whoever prepares better.”
Tags: Andrew Luck, Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, Colts
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I know many, many people have asked for it, and now you shall have it: The Cardinals will be wearing their red-on-red uniform look for Sunday’s game against the Colts at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals haven’t worn red-on-red since the season finale against the Seahawks in 2011.
– For those who might have missed it, I wrote a short story this morning about offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and the little girl who taught him an important lesson during the journey he went through the past year-plus. And, of course, there is the story of the meaning of this game for Bruce Arians and his Colts coaching transplants.
– Larry Fitzgerald was asked if he followed the magical season of the Colts a year ago, even if it was from afar. “No,” Fitzgerald said. “We had enough turmoil here last year. When I went home I didn’t watch any football.” He did realize Arians had won NFL coach of the year though — because “I was at the awards ceremony.”
Tags: Harold Goodwin, Larry Fitzgerald, uniforms
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The Cardinals are second in the NFL in rushing defense heading into Week 12, allowing just 81.4 yards a game (The Jets are first, at 73.2.) But as the Cardinals head down the stretch with their final six games, that ranking will be tested and how the Cards hold up may go a long way in determining how real their playoff hopes will be.
Of the Cards’ final six opponents, all but one rank in the top half of the NFL rushing the ball and three are in the top six — including the top two rushing teams in the league, Philadelphia (150.6 yards a game) and Seattle (147.9). The others are San Francisco (sixth, 141.0), Indianapolis (15th, 112.9), Tennessee (16th, 112.3) and St. Louis (22nd, 99.4).
(How the Cardinals run the ball themselves will make a difference too — Arizona is 25th in the NFL at 85.6 yards a game — but that’s a topic for another post.)
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles came into the season saying he wanted the Cardinals to stop the run first and his players have often echoed it. That wasn’t the case last season and it often bit the Cards. This year, only three times have the Cards given up more than 56 yards to the other team’s leading rusher. Of course, in all three instances, the Cardinals will play those teams again, with the Rams (Daryl Richardson, 63 yards), 49ers (Frank Gore, 101 yards) and Seahawks (Marshawn Lynch, 94 yards) still out there. Richardson is no longer the Rams go-to guy but Zac Stacy, although Stacy has looked good. No reason to dwell on what Gore and Lynch bring; they are among the best in the NFL and the Cards have seen that up close and personal too many times.
Next week against NFL leading rusher Shady McCoy and Chip Kelly’s new-look offense will be interesting as well.
There’s a reason it’s a football cliché that teams must first stop the run. The Cardinals need to live it as gospel.
Tags: 49ers, Colts, defense, Eagles, Rams, schedule, Seahawks, Titans, Todd Bowles
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In the week of Arians vs. His Former Team (that story coming later on the homepage), here’s a few non-that-story notes from Wednesday:
– Running back Andre Ellington talked about Dreadsgate a final time. The most interesting part? Being asked if he was upset some people did not believe his hair was real but instead extensions. Ellington had said after the game it was real, but many (and I heard from some) did not buy it. “I knew it was real,” Ellington said. “I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I took me five years to grow it.”
Ellington reiterated he wasn’t hurt on the play. As for going forward, he said he hasn’t given any thought to cutting his hair. “They are probably going to start targeting it now,” Ellington said. “Just means I have to run a little faster.”
Certainly, the Cards need more than the three yards on eight carries Ellington provided in the game.
– Bruce Arians had a fantastic press conference today. Among the highlights: Andrew Luck, on his own conference call, said Arians had an “incredibly young soul.” Told this, Arians smiled. “I don’t feel like I’m 62. I feel like I’m 22.” (Of course, Arians is only 61, but who’s counting?)
– Second Arians highlight: Asked how improbable the last two years had been, which began when Arians was no longer the offensive coordinator for the Steelers to NFL coach of the year of the Colts to now his permanent job with the Cards: “From refired — excuse me, retired — to this, I don’t think anyone would have dreamed this.” If you remember, the Steelers had announced Arians had retired. Clearly, Arians did not see it the same way.
– Arians said Patrick Peterson will remain the punt returner this week, after saying they might consider something else.
– CB Justin Bethel has been cleared through concussion protocol, but is limited right now. The Cards re-signed CB Bryan McCann yesterday and Arians said McCann almost made the team out of training camp because of his special teams work. You’d think that’d put McCann in good shape to take over for the injured Teddy Williams across from Bethel on punt coverage.
– Still not certain of WR Brittan Golden returning. Arians said the problem with Golden’s hamstrings are more about scar tissue right now.
– Arians appeared on the Rich Eisen Podcast this week, if you want to take a listen.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andrew Luck, Brittan Golden, Bruce Arians, Bryan McCann, Justin Bethel, Patrick Peterson
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The press release came out this morning, announcing that Dan Dierdorf was finally stepping away from the NFL. Dierdorf is best known to many as a TV color analyst for NFL games — he’s done it for 30 years — but he left his mark as a Hall of Fame offensive tackle for this franchise as an anchor to some great offensive lines for 13 years.
“I have been blessed to spend my entire life in the game I love,” Dierdorf said in the press release.
Drafted out of Michigan in 1971 — a second-round pick — Dierdorf ended up playing center too on the line, but was mostly on the right side as he made six Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro three times. He retired after the 1983 season and made it into the Hall of Fame in 1996. He was also inducted into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor, with a ceremony (pictured below) during halftime of the infamous Monday night game against the Bears in 2006.
Dierdorf was part of a line that allowed a mere eight sacks in all of 1975, an amazingly low total. Dierdorf was also credited for allowing zero sacks personally in two different seasons: 1976 and 1977.
What always struck me about Dierdorf was his loyalty to the franchise, even after it moved to Arizona. Last year, Dierdorf was talking about the Cardinals after they started 2-0, since he had been part of the last Cards’ team to start 3-0 (back in 1974), and emphasized he was rooting for the Cards.
“I’ll be thrilled for them,” Dierdorf said last year. “I’ll be very happy. People in St. Louis might think I was a traitor but they’ll have to deal with that. I’m proud of the fact that I’m in the Ring of Honor out there. They’re my team.”
Tags: Dan Dierdorf
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Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim believes injured first-round pick Jonathan Cooper is a “slam-dunk” as a starter in the NFL. The Cardinals have found gold in third-round pick Tyrann Mathieu and running back Andre Ellington, and the draft class is off to a decent start because of it. But out of sight, out of mind is linebacker Kevin Minter, the team’s second-round pick. Minter plays, but only on special teams. He’s gotten one defensive snap in 10 games. In a league where second-round picks usually come in and play right away, it’s noticeable.
Minter’s situation is easily explained, and fortunately for the Cardinals, it doesn’t have anything to do with Minter being a bust. To the contrary, it has everything to do with veteran Karlos Dansby, who ended up signing — somewhat surprisingly — as a free agent with the Cards after Minter was drafted and who has found a fountain of youth season in his return to Arizona. In the meantime, Minter plays special teams. And waits.
“I mean, it’s alright,” Minter said. “I’m not comfortable with it. I’m ready to play and whatnot, but I know I need to learn more. What he’s got on me is experience and I can envision in the future being able to take that spot. I’m just trying to contribute as much as I can to the team.”
Keim acknowledges the draft class already had a couple of misses in late-round picks Ryan Swope and D.C. Jefferson. Minter is not one of them.
“The one guy who has an asterisk beside him is Kevin Minter,” Keim said. “Kevin just has a unique situation, he came in behind Karlos Dansby who is having a fantastic year. We didn’t draft Kevin thinking he had to come in a start right away. We were drafting him with the mindset we are drafting a really good football player at a position that is going to be a need, whether it was now or the future. He is continually growing.
“We have high expectations for him. It just so happens after the draft we had a chance to sign Karlos and the rest is history. It goes back to not only wanting to improve starting talent but also depth. There’s noting wrong with bringing in a Kevin Minter, who you have high hopes for, playing behind a talented veteran like Karlos, learning the mental side of things.”
That doesn’t make it easier for Minter. Dansby is only signed to a one-year contract and his status for 2014 is up in the air. Dansby has played really well, but he is 32 and it will be interesting to see how both he and the team approach contract negotiations. It’s possible Dansby tests the market value first, although it was that stark reality last year that finally allowed him to accept the Cards’ offer (and one of the reasons it took so long for him to sign, after the draft.) Dansby is happy in his spot, regardless of his contract.
Minter said his role makes him almost feel like he is redshirting in college again. He is playing (and Bruce Arians has praised his special teams play) though, and he understands what Dansby is giving the Cardinals as well.
“He’s doing his thing,” Minter said of Dansby. “He’s playing lights out, playing out of his mind. You just compete every day.”
Tags: Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Steve Keim
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It may have been the timeout that save the game (although the way the Cardinals were playing defense, it might not have been that dire). Still, Arians called timeout right before Carson Palmer threw his interception and wiped out the QB’s lone turnover. The official simply couldn’t find his whistle, Arians said, and that’s why the glitch in the snap still being made, and not because Arians called it late.
Arians said he made a bad play-call and instead of going with, he realized discretion was the better part of valor.
“It was a play with Andre Ellington in the backfield,” Arians said. “I was tired of being stuck down there (deep in the Cards’ own territory) and I wanted to try and take a shot and flip field position. It was a bad time. So I called timeout. … It was one of those gut feelings it was going to be the wrong play for that time.”
It was the wrong personnel, Arians said, the wrong time to call it on second-and-long (instead of first down) and just nothing was right no matter how badly Arians wanted to make something happen.
“At times it gets frustrating,” Arians said. “But you have to be careful (as a play-caller) and not lose your patience and lose the football game.”
– The availability of special teams ace Justin Bethel is up in the air after he suffered a concussion Sunday. He will go through concussion protocol and the Cards will see where he is at the end of the week. Fellow special teamer Teddy Williams, who tore his Achilles, will be placed on injured reserve.
– Arians talked about facing the Colts this week (and this won’t be the last time you hear about this storyline). “The prep will be easy,” he said. “It’s seeing them that will be emotionally involved because it was such an emotional year last year. You’ll get through that hopefully in warmups.”
“I was hoping this would never be on the schedule. Because there are too many emotional ties to what happened last year.”
– Arians said the coaching staff for two weeks has been talking about the possibility of using Tyrann Mathieu as punt returner instead of Patrick Peterson. Those discussions will continue, Arians said. One concern is the amount of snaps Mathieu is already playing as a rookie. Clearly, though, Peterson hasn’t been his rookie self when returning punts.
– There was talk of the Cardinals-Eagles game being flexed to “Sunday Night Football.” That was officially put to rest Monday when the league announced the Sunday night game that weekend will remain Giants-Redskins.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Colts, Justin Bethel, Patrick Peterson, Sunday Night Football, Teddy Williams, Tyrann Mathieu
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That’s five years worth of hair growing on the head of Andre Ellington, so he doesn’t want to lose it. He especially doesn’t want to lose it on the football field, but he lost
some of his beloved dreadlocks Sunday, which might have been the strangest part of a strange game. The rookie running back was tackled, Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin ended up with a handful of it (right) and it ended up on the ground, only to have Cardinals defensive end Frostee Rucker rescue and return it.
“I didn’t think I was going to get it back,” Ellington said. “I was talking to (Jaguars defensive end) Andre Branch, we are pretty good friends, I told him, ‘I’m gonna get your boys, they pulled my hair out.’ But it’s all good.”
Amazingly, Ellington said he didn’t feel it, although “you don’t feel it when you are being tackled by 300-pounders.” He didn’t even realize it had happened until he saw Babin holding it up. “I was like, ‘Oh man.’ He was like, ‘It’s part of the uniform.’ I was like, ‘Alright. I’ll remember that.’ ”
Ellington later tweeted out he’d just stich back in the loose part. I didn’t really know you could do that, but hey, Rucker is a hero, apparently. Ellington did say he was just happy with the win, which is good, because not only did he have hairs yanked out (ouch, by the way) but he was held to three yards on eight carries (ouch again.)
This game had a little of everything. Big plays, bad officiating, crazy calls, a few turnovers and yet another dominant defensive showing after not exactly a bad but more of a weird start. But lookie here: The Cardinals are 6-4, reeling off three wins in a month after that Seattle loss. The schedule gets tougher, with division leaders Indy and Philly next. But the Cards are where they want to be.
– The Newark Star-Ledger reported the Cardinals game in Philly will be flexed to “Sunday Night Football.” Not a surprise. It is supposed to be Giants-Redskins, and with all the Thanksgiving games (and with Chiefs-Broncos Part II unavailable after Part I was on SNF tonight) there aren’t a ton of choices better than two potential playoff teams. It would be the Cards’ first Sunday night appearance since the Vikings game in Arizona was flexed into the spot in 2009. UPDATE: Here’s an opposing report saying it won’t happen. We’ll see this week. UPDATE II: Monday morning the NFL announced that “Sunday Night Football” was going to stay Giants-Redskins, and the Eagles-Cardinals game is staying as a 1 p.m. kickoff in Philly.
– Michael Floyd was spectacular Sunday. Forget the 91-yard play for a moment, he made a catch on the sideline for 22 yards that was incredible. He made a nice play on the long TD, too. His 193 yards are a career-high, and that threat means a lot for the Cards going down the stretch.
– Carson Palmer did not throw an interception Sunday. (OK, he did, but it didn’t count.) First time that’s happened this season.
– Palmer looked good. He said afterward he had a clean pocket, and again, that’s the book on Carson – if you give him a comfortable place within which to throw, he will do well. That’s exactly what happened.
– The Cardinals didn’t have a turnover for the first time since the third week of last season.
– The lopsided way the Cards had their offense today – 419 yards passing, 14 yards rushing – reminded me of the 2006 game in Minnesota when Matt Leinart threw for 405 yards but the Cards just ran the ball five times. The Cards lost that game. It’s not like the Cards didn’t try Sunday, with 24 attempts, but against the worst rushing defense in the league? It was surprising, to say the least.
– Special teams did not have a good day at all. The Cards allowed 36 yards a kickoff return, Dave Zastudil looked like he didn’t hit some punts as solidly as usual and more importantly – much more importantly – there were injuries. Justin Bethel went out of the game early after an illegal blindside block left him with a possible concussion, while fellow gunner Teddy Williams was lost for the season after tearing his Achilles. It hurts to lose Williams. Bethel’s status is up in the air, but it was clear how much the special teams need him after he left the game. That’s what happens when a Pro Bowl-caliber player goes down.
– Among the special teams problems, Patrick Peterson muffed a fair catch. He got it back somehow, but punt returning has turned into such tough sledding for him.
– One of the reasons the Cards had a tough time putting the game away? Field position was rarely in their favor, at least until late. The Cards started possessions on their own 3, 16, 9, 10, 2 and 10.
– There wasn’t a big crowd. It was kind of sad. “It’s like a morgue,” Cardinals tackle Eric Winston said. “It makes a three-point lead seem like 20.”
That’s good for now. Lot of flight left, but I have some other stuff I need to get to. Tomorrow, it’s Colts week, Arians against his ex-team week. It will be fun.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Dave Zastudil, Eric Winston, Jaguars, Justin Bethel, Matt Leinart, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Sunday Night Football, Teddy Williams
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This is an infrequent occurrence: The inactive list is exactly the same as last week. That means questionable players like wide receiver Michael Floyd and linebacker John Abraham are playing. And as a quick aside, it is incredibly quiet here both in the stadium and in the press box considering we are 90 minutes from kickoff.
The inactive list is:
– WR Brittan Golden (hamstring)
– QB Ryan Lindley
– RB Ryan Williams
– LB Dontay Moch
–G Earl Watford
– TE Kory Sperry
– DE Ronald Talley
Tags: inactives, John Abraham, Michael Floyd
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