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Fitzgerald, now “limited,” is a game-day decision again

Posted by Darren Urban on November 28, 2014 – 12:54 pm

Officially, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was able to practice on a limited basis Friday, and coach Bruce Arians said he was “progressing nicely” as he heads into Sunday’s game in Atlanta as a game-day decision. Arians did say Fitzgerald’s lack of practice time does impact the situation, noting that even when Fitz was dealing with the hamstring issue last season he was at least able to practice some. “This is a little bit more severe than that,” Arians said.

If Fitzgerald does play, Arians said, it won’t be just as a decoy or in a partial role. “If he goes, he goes,” Arians said. “That’s the only reason he would play, because he can play.”

– LB Kenny Demens (hamstring) is out for the game. DT Ed Stinson had a setback with the toe and “probably will not play,” Arians said, but it will be TBD.

FitzBlog1


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Sizzling Campbell knows he could be better

Posted by Darren Urban on November 28, 2014 – 9:48 am

Defensive end Calais Campbell is playing exceptionally well. He deserves to be considered for the Pro Bowl. He had three sacks last week in Seattle, and then this is how Bruce Arians evaluated Campbell’s game: “Calais played his normal game. He could play better. He had potential for a five-sack day. Three sacks is nice when it comes to sacks, but he’s a better player than that.”

Not exactly a huge pat on the back — and Campbell said B.A. said exactly what he should say.

“It’s true,” Campbell said. “I didn’t do enough to help my team win. I missed tackles, coach gave me credit on the sheet for two missed tackles but there were three or four other plays I could’ve made but I didn’t. I have a lot of pride in my game and I want to make those plays. I am glad Coach has high standards for me. I love his honesty. Otherwise it lets me take a step to be less that I was.”

Campbell missed two games with a knee injury and has been wearing a brace (and dealing with pain and a not-100-percent knee since). Yet he’s tied for the team-lead in sacks (six, coincidentally the same as linebacker Alex Okafor, who missed three games with injury this season), a team-high eight tackles for loss and leads all defensive linemen in tackles, with 37.

Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles like the way Campbell is playing, but both see a guy who is dominant and should produce on a dominant level all the time. Campbell embraces that line of thinking.

“If (Arians) was ‘Calais played great’ and I didn’t feel I played great, eventually I might be like, ‘Well, at least coach is happy,’ ” Campbell said. “Not to say he wasn’t happy, because he was, but he should expect more from me, because I expect more from me. I respect that part of him, because he knows how good I can be.”

CampbellBlogUSE

 


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Fitzgerald remains DNP-wait-and-see

Posted by Darren Urban on November 26, 2014 – 1:53 pm

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald isn’t practicing again today because of his knee sprain. He has made some progress, coach Bruce Arians said, and Fitzgerald did jog across the field when he came out this afternoon headed to the bikes and athletic trainers. But a sore knee is a sore knee, and there is artificial turf in Atlanta, and getting him back on the field again could be tough. We’ll see how the week plays out. Fitzgerald is wearing a brace (seen below, talking with assistant strength and conditioning coach Roger Kingdom, running back Michael Bush (29) and running back Andre Ellington (38).

Linebacker Kenny Demens (hamstring) was the only other guy supposed to miss practice today. Defensive tackle Ed Stinson (toe) was going to try and work on a limited basis.

FitzBraceUSE


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Both Peterson, Cro crack Pro Bowl top 10

Posted by Darren Urban on November 26, 2014 – 10:23 am

In the most recent results of the ongoing Pro Bowl voting, both of the Cardinals’ starting cornerbacks show up among the top 10 for their position. Patrick Peterson is seventh among cornerbacks, while Antonio Cromartie appears 10th on the list. It is good to see Cromartie there because he has played at a high level all season.

Peterson and Cro aren’t the only Cardinals in the top 10. Andre Ellington is eighth among running backs. Chandler Catanzaro is ninth among kickers. And Justin Bethel is eighth among special teamers.

Alas, Calais Campbell is still not in the top 10, despite having a Pro Bowl-type season (although as he said previously, he’d rather not play if it means the Cards are preparing for the Super Bowl.)

You can vote for the Pro Bowl here.

ProBowlPPCroyse


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Bush becomes potential help in run game

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2014 – 4:58 pm

Who would have believed that it was the loss of Jonathan Dwyer that might’ve been one of the harshest the Cardinals suffered this season? But after the way Bruce Arians used Rashad Mendenhall and Andre Ellington last year at running back, he seemed poised to have a similar-if-flip-flopped move of Ellington this year getting more of the carries but Dwyer as a key component. Then Dwyer got into trouble off the field, was lost for the season, and there seemed to be an absence the Cards couldn’t make up. Not with Stepfan Taylor, not with Marion Grice.

So the Cardinals signed vet Michael Bush Tuesday and at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, he’s the inside load Ellington isn’t. Bush was cut by the Bears in March right around the beginning of free agency and didn’t get a gig until now. So he’s had no offseason, no training camp, no practice, and it would be foolish to expect him to step right in and make a huge impact. We’ll see if he can make any impact; I remember when the Cards were looking for backs and signed Chester Taylor near the beginning of the season and he just had nothing left. Bush has 809 career carries so there is wear on those tires. Ellington is still going to get the bulk of the work if and when Bush becomes part of the offensive equation.

But it makes sense the Cards were going to be proactive. The running game hadn’t done enough of late, and here’s a potential player of help.

Michael Bush


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Before Beckham, there was Cro

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2014 – 11:08 am

Sunday night, the NFL world went crazy for the one-handed catch of Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and rightfully so. It was an amazing catch. It may be hard to top for catch of the year. But some were suggesting it might have been the best ever, and to that, it’s always good to tap the brakes. There are dozens of great plays made in the NFL every year. There have been great one-handed catches made in the NFL every year. And sometimes, they aren’t even made by wide receivers.

Back in 2007, Antonio Cromartie was in his second NFL season. Amazingly, halfway through that year Cromartie still hadn’t started at cornerback until the Chargers put him out the for a game against the Colts and Peyton Manning. Cromartie picked off Manning three times that night, including a spectacular one-handed, leaning-back grab — in fact, one that looked a lot like Beckham’s.

These days, Cromartie is manning one of the cornerback spots for the Cardinals. He saw someone bring up his INT on social media after the Beckham play. He shrugged it off.

“I’m not worried about that,” Cromartie said with a small smile. “That’s seven years ago.”

Still, it’s a good reminder that for every unreal play, it’s usually not unique.

“It’s been done before,” Cromartie said.

BeckhamCroUSE


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Keim: Cards didn’t match intensity

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2014 – 8:23 am

GM Steve Keim said he as a tendency to be a pessimist, and in some ways, his job is inherently so as the man in charge of trying to upgrade the team — even when they are 9-2. Sometimes, Keim said during his weekly appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7, he said he can think “the sky is falling.”

The sky isn’t falling after a lone loss following six straight wins, of course, but now it’s about curtailing that losing streak. To make sure it’s not a streak. Ron Wolfley made a cogent point following the interview too, noting that a GM and a coach probably see the video through a different prism given their jobs. But Keim and Bruce Arians could certainly agree on one main point after Sunday’s Seattle loss: “In a hostile environment, you have to match their level of intensity in all three phases,” Keim said. “We certainly didn’t do that in two.” Offense and special teams didn’t do nearly enough.

— Keim said he thought the offensive line needs to be more physical. Other that acknowledging a comment that right tackle Bobby Massie didn’t have his best game, Keim wasn’t specific on the offensive line but instead talking about them as a group. The entire offense has to play “in better unison” in the run game. The protection could have been better too.

— It was hard to evaluate QB Drew Stanton because the run game gave him no help, Keim said, but it wasn’t Stanton’s best game, noting Stanton’s inaccuracy at times.

— There was a miscommunication between cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Rashad Johnson on the early 48-yard pass to Ricardo Lockette, Keim said.

— Keim said he thought new defensive end Josh Mauro stood out (so did I). The rookie out of Stanford has long been on the Cardinals’ radar. Keim said the Cardinals tried to sign Mauro as an undrafted rookie back in May, but he decided to go to the Steelers. When the Steelers cut him at the end of the preseason, the Cards again tried to sign Mauro to their practice squad, but Mauro chose to stay with Pittsburgh’s practice squad. Finally, the Cards decided to sign Mauro off the Steelers’ PS to the active roster.

— Here’s why the sky isn’t really falling for Keim: “The thing that gives me confidence is men in that locker room and that coaching staff.”

 


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Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2014 – 10:17 pm

Drew Stanton said after Sunday’s game the Cardinals knew it would be difficult. I’m not sure it was supposed to be quite that difficult. The game played out as an ugly, smash-em-up affair, and that was OK. The Cards can do that. But the Cards can’t make mistakes while doing that, because those are the things that swing a close game. Whether it was the dropped TD pass or the punt block or just the inability of the offense to do anything of real substance save for the end-of-the-half drive (that closed with the TD drop), the Cardinals didn’t do the basic things. The Seahawks did.

Russell Wilson was special in the second half, escaping a few times when he really didn’t have the right to escape. But the Seahawks won because they patiently waited for the Cards to hand over field position, and simply kicked field goals when they did.

It has not been a particularly good offensive stretch to be sure. No touchdowns over the last seven quarters is not going to win any games, much less divisions or championships. These are the defenses you figure to see in the playoffs, too. It makes the game against the Falcons critical next week, especially for that side of the ball. Bruce Arians has to find something that works. Quickly.

— The Cards handled Marshawn Lynch. They couldn’t handle Wilson. In the second half especially, he made some magical plays. In an offense that really doesn’t have the right to be very effective, Wilson made it enough so on Sunday.

— Not having Larry Fitzgerald didn’t help. He couldn’t run, and the question is, how soon will he be able to run? Is another week off going to be enough? It might not be.

— More importantly, you’d think Michael Floyd would step to the forefront with Fitz down, but he was only targeted a couple of times and his one catch was negated by a penalty.

— Stanton hurt his left ankle late in the game, but he said was fine. He walked off the field without any issue and said he would’ve come back in the game. “It’s not anything major,” Stanton said.

— The Cardinals had eight sacks in the first eight games. After seven Sunday – including a career-best three from defensive end Calais Campbell – the Cards have 17 in their last three games. That thing when coaches are always saying sacks come in bunches? Yeah, that.

— It wasn’t the best special teams day for the Cardinals, but their field-goal block unit got another one thanks to Tommy Kelly (his second of the season) and Justin Bethel was irritated he didn’t get a piece of the first two Seattle field goals when he thought he had near misses.

— Arians gave Jaron Brown a pat on the back after his TD drop. Realistically, Arians said, the Cardinals at halftime were “where we’re at every week, within a score, up a score or down a score. We were right were we wanted to be.”

Then came the punt block, and the Cardinals never could get things right.

— The 204 yards of offense was the lowest total of the Arians era and the lowest amount of yards in a game since the Cards had 196 in a Ryan Lindley-started 38-10 win over the Lions Dec. 16, 2012.

— Newcomer Josh Mauro added some things on the defensive line at end, I thought. And further pushed the inactive-again Alameda Ta’amu down the depth chart.

— It was the best game of linebacker Kevin Minter’s year-plus: Five tackles, a first NFL sack, two tackles for loss.

— It’s about perspective. As someone mentioned on plane home, if someone would have said before the season the Cardinals were going to be 9-2 after the Seattle trip, no one would have turned it down. The Cards need to get it back quickly, though. Atlanta awaits.

Seablog1use


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Fitzgerald out, streak ends at 110

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2014 – 12:28 pm

It’s not a surprise since he didn’t practice all week, but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is inactive today against the Seahawks, snapping his consecutive games played streak at 110. It is the first game Fitzgerald has missed since Dec. 2, 2007. Fitzgerald was still limping late in the week and with the depth the Cardinals have at receiver — and the need for him later in the season to be healthy — helped make the decision, I’d think, but the most important reason is that Fitz just wasn’t going to be able to help much if at all in his current state.

The full inactive list:

— WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee)

— DT Ed Stinson (toe)

— RB Kerwynn Williams

— LB Desmond Bishop

— LB Glenn Carson

— DT Alameda Ta’amu

— TE Matthew Mulligan


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Watching Wilson and Friday before the Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on November 21, 2014 – 3:52 pm

When the Cardinals beat the Seahawks last season, they took a quarterback who at times had looked like an MVP candidate with his efficiency and made him look very, very bad. Russell Wilson’s stats that day: 11-for-27, 108 yards, one touchdown, one interception. More importantly, he had just two rushing attempts (for 32 yards, including one outlier 27-yard scramble).

There aren’t many quarterbacks who throw on the run as well as Wilson. Aaron Rodgers, maybe, but his is a different style. With Wilson there is the constant fear he will take off. And he’s done that a lot this season – already Wilson has rushed for at least 100 yards in three different games – or triple the amount he had in his first two seasons.

The Cardinals would love to make sure Wilson has the same kind of game Sunday as he had against the Cards last year, but “I don’t think there is a blueprint,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “It’s catch ’em if you can.”

The top priority will be to slow Marshawn Lynch, because it always is. The Seahawks, without any real dynamic receivers, don’t have a scary passing game. If there is a way to slow Lynch and not let Wilson go off on broken plays, the Cardinals will have gone a long way toward winning another one in the Pacific Northwest.

— A player to watch in this regard: Rookie Deone Bucannon, the safety who is playing linebacker in in nickel and who has essentially replaced Wilson antidote Daryl Washington this season.

— This game, even if the Cardinals win, does not clinch the NFC West. But it goes a long way in doing so, as long as there isn’t an epic collapse down the stretch. And teams that win in Seattle and are 9-1 before that don’t collapse. A loss, and things could get interesting, especially with another game left to play with the Seahawks. The tough games do not end yet.

— As I mentioned, my gut here on a Friday is that Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t play, and as I mentioned, I’ve been wrong on Fitz before. It’s hard not to remember the obvious confidence OC Harold Goodwin showed in the rest of the receiving corps though. They want Fitz to play, of course. But if Jaron Brown and John Brown and Michael Floyd are the top three guys, the Cardinals can live with that. They are better suited to survive a short-term injury at receiver perhaps more than anywhere else.

— The Cards have to find a way to run the ball with some success, and it can’t be all Andre Ellington, Rashard Mendenhall had 21 carries in the Seahawks game in Seattle last year, Ellington 15 as the Cards had the most rushing attempts in a game in more than a decade. Yes, it was Jamaal Charles, but the Chiefs were able to run a lot and well against the Seahawks last week. Ellington plus, Step Taylor? Marion Grice? They just need to give Drew Stanton a chance.

— Stanton needs to be smart, but the Cards can’t be too cautious either. So far, the Cardinals, with Stanton, have moved the ball immediately in all his starts. It speaks to the Arians/Goodwin plans, and how much Stanton understands the offense. They just have to have it carry through the game.

— Great note pointed out to me on Twitter by @DylanCarey11. Stanton will be the sixth different starter at quarterback the Cardinals have used in Seattle the last six trips there:

2014 – Stanton
2013 – Palmer
2012 – John Skelton
2011 – Kevin Kolb
2010 – Max Hall
2009 – Kurt Warner

— As an additional note to that, the Cardinals will have used eight QBs in those six games, because Ryan Lindley played in relief of Skelton in 2012 and Derek Anderson came in for Hall in 2010. Neither time it was injury related. Just bad football.

— If you haven’t seen it, Michael Silver did a great piece on Bruce Arians and his path to Cardinals’ head coach. Some of it goes over familiar territory, but there is some good stuff, like the just-fired Ken Whisenhunt telling Arians good things about the franchise and encouraging Arians to interview for the job.

— There is also this great story by David Fleming covering the family of the donor woman who gave Carson Palmer his original ACL replacement – and the feeling after it gave out against the Rams, sidelining Palmer.

— There is also this story on the rise to GM by Steve Keim. It happens to be my work, so if you haven’t read it, just sayin’ …

— Matt Shaughnessy was back on the field this week for practice for the first time since a knee injury forced him to the IR-designated to return list. He can’t play the next two games, but he will be back for the Dec. 7 game against the Chiefs. Arians wasn’t definitive in how Shaughnessy will fit in the lineup; Shaughnessy’s replacement, Alex Okafor, is playing the best of the outside linebackers. Could it be Shaughnessy and Okafor, with Sam Acho as a reserve? Possible. Arians said he wants to see where Shaughnessy is first; there’s going to be rust that must be knocked off.

— Last year at the end of the Seahawks’ upset, a handful of defensive linemen had a snack of Skittles on the sidelines in the waning moments. Skittles, for the uninitiated, are famously the favorite treat of Lynch. There won’t be any this year, alledgedly.

“Naw,” defensive tackle Dan Williams said. “I got to cut back on calories.”

— Last year, the win in Seattle was the Cards’ 10th win of the season. Can they do that two years in a row?

BeforeSeahawksBlogUSE


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