It has been a constant subject for the Cardinals (and frankly, many other teams around the league). The effort to run the ball and committing to the run. I’ll preface this by saying I agree with Bruce Arians’ philosophy, which is basically, you need to run well enough to win. Sometimes, that may mean 20 attempts but big yards. Other times, it may mean grinding the ball 40 attempts even if you are only getting 3.5 yards a carry. I do not believe in the “Teams that run it 30-plus times win 70 percent of the games” or whatever the stat is because it isn’t cause and effect. Usually, you can afford to run a ton because you are winning. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to run, but it does mean you are going to run more with a lead.
All that said, the Cardinals — who went 10-6 this season — had 422 rush attempts as a team. (Yes, that includes kneel-downs and it also is some scrambles that were called passes, but let’s not get too deep in the weeds here.) That marked the most rushing attempts by the team in 10 years, since the Cards ran it 475 times in Denny Green’s first season of 2004.
Percentage-wise, it was the third-most rushing attempts over the last decade:
– 2004 45.4 percent rushes
– 2006 41.9
– 2013 40.7
– 2011 39.1
– 2009 37.1
– 2007 35.6
– 2012 34.6
– 2010 34.4
– 2008 34.1
– 2005 33.5
Arians isn’t going to start shying away from throwing the ball (and I would guess if he can get Carson Palmer and the unit clicking a little more, along with a pass protection upgrade, he might throw it a little more.) The Cardinals got the running attempts this season, though, and averaged (without Palmer’s three yards-on-27 “attempts”) an acceptable 3.9 yards a carry.
– The All-NFL team was announced from the Pro Football Writers Association. Cornerback Patrick Peterson and special teamer Justin Bethel got the nod (and were the only Cards on the all-NFC team as well.)
– Finally, to close, we have this old-school NFL Network promo ad featuring current defensive line coach Brentson Buckner. Just because.
Tags: Brentson Buckner, Bruce Arians, Justin Bethel, Patrick Peterson, PFWA
Posted in Blog | 11 Comments »
If the NFC West was the best division in the NFL this season, it’s only fitting that the NFC Championship comes down to the 49ers visiting the Seahawks. The Cardinals, of course, know both intimately. It hasn’t been a great matchup for the 49ers in Seattle — yes, the Niners beat the Seahawks in the last meeting, but the last two times the 49ers have gone to Seattle, the Seahawks have won 29-3 and 42-13. Pretty dominant and one-sided.
I’d be shocked if the 49ers don’t make it much closer. The Seahawks deservedly will be favored though, and it will be difficult to pull off a road win. Then again, the 49ers are playing very well, better than the team that went into Seattle much earlier this season. I’d also guess that regardless of the AFC team, the winner of 49ers-Seahawks will be favored in the Super Bowl in the cold of New York. Both teams have been the best in the NFC all season. And, with the Broncos possibly sprinkled in, they have reason to lay claim to being the best two teams in the NFL.
You can be sure there are a lot of Cardinals seeing the results of these playoff games and wishing they would have had a chance to be in the mix, especially with the way they played against both teams in the last two weeks of the regular season. With that, I have to include a tweet — a re-tweet, actually — from the Cardinals’ official Twitter account from earlier today. No, I was not the author.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) January 12, 2014
Tags: 49ers, NFC West, Seahawks, Super Bowl
Posted in Blog | 42 Comments »
Longtime NFL announcer and Hall of Fame Cardinals offensive lineman Dan Dierdorf will officially leave the game after 43 years today, when he analyzes the Patriots-Colts playoff game tonight in New England. You can check out a video of Dierdorf’s final thoughts right here. He talks about spending his entire adult life in pro football, 13 as a player and 30 as a broadcaster. To mark the occasion, the Cardinals took time to say goodbye with the ad below, which appeared in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper.
Tags: Dan Dierdorf, Hall of Fame
Posted in Blog | 11 Comments »
For the third year in a row, former Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams has been selected as one of the 15 modern-day finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Getting to that point is important. The group will be shaved to 10 and then the final group will be selected, up to five (plus the two senior nominees, punter Ray Guy and defensive lineman Claude Humphrey.)
Does Williams have a chance? Sure, but again, with only up to five others getting it, it’s tough sledding. (I wrote a post last year whether Williams or Kurt Warner would be the first to get into the Hall of Fame. Warner’s first year of eligibility after next season, and the voting will be held at the Super Bowl in Arizona.) Among the other finalists: Seahawks tackle Walter Jones, Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks, Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, Cowboys/49ers defensive end Charles Haley and Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison.
The vote will be Feb. 1, the day before the Super Bowl. Kent Somers, the Arizona Republic’s beat writer covering the Cardinals, is the Arizona voter in the room and will present Williams’ case as he has the past two years.
– The news came out this afternoon that the Dolphins, who are searching for a new general manager after firing Jeff Ireland, have asked permission to interview Cardinals vice president of player personnel Jason Licht. Licht was a finalist for the Bears GM job in 2012. Even if Licht doesn’t get the job, it won’t be the last time teams seek him out as at least a candidate for a GM job.
Tags: Aeneas Williams, Hall of Fame, Jason Licht, Kurt Warner
Posted in Blog | 7 Comments »
This is the time of year when not a lot of news happens. There was a little today, starting with the signing of another player to a “futures” contract: Pass rusher Adrian Tracy, who played 16 games at defensive end for the New York Giants in 2012 and was cut at the end of the preseason this past season. Tracy will be an outside linebacker for the Cardinals, who are looking for players like that.
(Again, futures deals are to lock down a player with a contract that doesn’t officially kick in until March 11, the start of the new league year. It doesn’t mean a player is absolutely going to have a shot at making it — don’t forget, teams need to get to 90 players for their offseason rosters. That’s a lot of extra bodies that won’t be around come September. We’ll see how these guys pan out.)
– Defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu had surgery Wednesday for his torn ACL. He said the procedure went well (when doesn’t it?). Too early to know what kind of timeline Ta’amu might follow to return to the field. He said he wasn’t rolled up on but instead was jumping to try and avoid stepping on a prone teammate. When he came down, the knee popped. Ta’amu is keeping his humor about the situation. “I should’ve just stepped on him,” he said.
– Safety Tyrann Mathieu is at the very beginning stages of the rehab process himself after his torn ACL/LCL. He was in this morning actually doing some exercises.
– Finally, if you didn’t get a chance to read it, here’s a story about Patrick Peterson, and some analysis through metrics about his performance. Those who chart such things back up the other accolades Peterson has received, that he is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. The tough thing to measure is the times teams don’t throw his way because of his play. As I said in the story, Peterson hasn’t been perfect. But it has been amazing to me, as I have said before, the amount of backlash Peterson has suddenly seen. The people I talked to had the same reaction I have had. I don’t get it.
Tags: Adrian Tracy, Alameda Ta'amu, Patrick Peterson, Roster, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 24 Comments »
The day after the season ended, Bruce Arians was asked if he expected to have his entire coaching staff back in 2014.
“I hope so,” Arians said, before acknowledging the head coaching interviews defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was certain to get and later did.
Will Bowles stay? He talked with the Vikings and Browns, although the latest report is that Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is the leading candidate in Minnesota and the Cleveland search is continuing with, among others, former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt — who had two interviews in Cleveland last year for the job before Rob Chudzinski was hired. Now comes a report that the University of Alabama, which lost offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to Michigan, could hire Cardinals quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens — a one-time Alabama quarterback — as the new OC. Alabama is interviewing former Raiders coach/USC coach Lane Kiffin for the post today.
It’s an interesting time as the coaching carousel spins. You never know — especially with a staff has big as the Cardinals have now — what other opportunities may change the landscape. For instance, if Whisenhunt gets a head coaching job, how many of his former staff would he try to bring in (and, in regard to the current Cardinals, might he try and get strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott?) Other things could pop up from nowhere, like the Alabama opening and Kitchens’ potential chance there.
I do think Kitchens, who had an impressive comeback season after his near-death experience of the summer, would like to be an offensive coordinator. Whether Alabama will chase him or whether he would be willing to go back to the college game, I’m not sure. But it’s an intriguing situation.
UPDATE: Multiple reports say Kitchens won’t be going anywhere because he wants to stay in the NFL. But again, will Arians’ staff stay completely intact? We’ll see.
Tags: coaching staff, Freddie Kitchens, John Lott, Ken Whisenhunt, Todd Bowles
Posted in Blog | 9 Comments »
A year ago today, the Cardinals hired Steve Keim to be their general manager.
It turned out to be a pretty good first year on the job.
Churning the roster quite a bit — there were 193 roster moves in that span — Keim orchestrated an overhaul that produced five more wins in 2013 than 2012, and while the playoffs didn’t work out, it was a remarkable turnaround. He got a solid starting quarterback for basically a sixth-round draft pick. He got a guy who looks like a viable long-term running back, a dynamic playmaker both running and receiving, with a sixth-round pick. He won the waiting game with what looked like would be high-priced veteran free agents, getting Karlos Dansby, Eric Winston and John Abraham at his price and then watching them produce. There are others, of course. You needed a lot of quality changes to get to where the Cards went.
Honestly, it’s hard to see many misses this first year out of the box. You wonder what second-round pick Kevin Minter will be, but it’s not like the linebacker flopped, he just didn’t get a chance to play because Dansby — a spectacular post-draft free agent signing, again, on the Cards’ terms — was so good. Yes, the Cards committed to left tackle Levi Brown last season (make no mistake, had their been a left tackle there at No. 7 last draft they would have taken him) but Keim was smart enough to cut ties relatively quickly when it wasn’t working out. You move on when you need to move on.
In many ways, Keim’s second offseason is going to be more difficult than his first. The bar was set low. This offseason, expectations are much higher, but the Cardinals face many of the same issues — unknowns at many positions because of impending free agency, a tight salary cap, and some nasty cap numbers on existing contracts. (And that doesn’t include the possibility of signing cornerback Patrick Peterson to a long-term and no d0ubt hefty contract extension.)
Keim has surrounded himself with quality guys, like vice president of player personnel Jason Licht (who figures to be a GM himself someday) and director of football administration/salary cap guru Mike Disner (who, if you missed it, was just named to the Forbes 30 rising stars under age 30 in sports list). The front office is strong right now. It starts at the top.
Tags: Jason Licht, Mike Disner, Roster, salary cap, Steve Keim
Posted in Blog | 21 Comments »
In October, the Cardinals signed tight end Darren Fells to the practice squad. Fells was a project, cut already by Seattle, a 6-foot-7, 280-pound former college basketball player who had already spent four years playing professional hoops overseas. The Cards liked what they saw out of Fells enough to re-sign him going forward to a “futures’ contract. Now, the Cards are doubling down on the whole basketball-player-could-be-a-football-player thing.
One of the three players the Cardinals signed to “futures” deals Tuesday is tight end Andre Hardy, who averaged 8.0 points and 6.7 rebounds a game his final two years at Cal State-Fullerton but did not play football in college. Hardy, 6-6 and 245, was briefly with the Raiders in the offseason of 2012. Whether he or Fells could turn into Antonio Gates or some facsimile thereof would be nice. The offseason is the time of year you mull such things, and the team is going to work on its tight end depth. The Cardinals also signed Brett Brackett, a tight end who has spent time on the Jaguars’ and Dolphins’ practice squads.
Guard Christian Johnson, the third signee, has spent the last three seasons in the Arena Football League.
A futures contract is signed locking a player into a team even though the new league year — and contracts — don’t kick in until early March.
Tags: Andre Hardy, Brett Brackett, Christian Johnson, Darren Fells, free agency
Posted in Blog | 11 Comments »
So it’s gonna be about 70 degrees today. Sunny. Just sayin’. Seems like everyone else is making comments about the weather, so I thought I’d chime in.
– Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles reportedly met with the Browns for their head coaching job on Friday and was supposed to meet with the Vikings about their opening Monday. Neither team seems close to making a decision on their coach, although Bowles reportedly made an impression with the Vikings. Both Minnesota and Cleveland continue to look at more and more candidates, and that doesn’t include coaches still in the playoffs. Bowles won’t be interviewing in Detroit, where he was a candidate back in 2009. That makes sense, because many reports say the Lions would likely hire Chargers offensive coordinator and ex-Cards boss Ken Whisenhunt for that job once the Chargers are knocked out of the playoffs.
– On the all-pro team from profootballfocus.com, Tyrann Mathieu makes first team as a slot cornerback, Justin Bethel first team for special teams. Patrick Peterson is second team at cornerback.
– Cardinals director of football administration (and salary cap guru) Mike Disner was named on Forbes list of top 30 rising stars under age 30 in sports. (The man next on the Forbes slideshow after Disner? Kevin Durant. LeBron and Gronk are among the athletes on the list too.)
– I am not a fan of messing with the playoff format. It caught up with the Cardinals this season yes, it benefited them in the 2008 season. I do not think extra teams should be added to the postseason. That said, it is still often discussed. That doesn’t mean anything is imminent, but things could change at some point.
– In case you missed it — and in case you’d like a smile or two — check out here the year in quotes and quips from coach Bruce Arians.
Tags: Browns, Bruce Arians, Justin Bethel, Lions, Mike Disner, Patrick Peterson, playoffs, Todd Bowles, Tyrann Mathieu, Vikings
Posted in Blog | 18 Comments »
So if you are the Cincinnati Bengals, what are you thinking about with Andy Dalton? And what does it say about “finding” your long-term quarterback?
These questions are not easily answered. The Cardinals have been looking for their “long-term” quarterback since, well, since they moved to Arizona. There were the Kurt Warner years, but the time where Warner was both the unquestioned and winning (a key adjective) quarterback for this franchise was less than three seasons: A few games into the 2007 season through 2009. Carson Palmer has come along, and was 10-6 in his first season, and likely is the Cards’ starter in 2014, but how long does he have?
Again, finding the young replacement isn’t simple. Look at Dalton. He has won nine, 10 and 11 games in his three seasons in Cincinnati. The Bengals have made the playoffs every single season. It’s a foundation many teams — even the Cards — would love to have with a quarterback after he was drafted. He threw for almost 4,300 yards this season and already has 80 TD passes in his young career. It’s the definition of finding a long-term guy … right?
Yet the Bengals have lost all three playoff games Dalton has quarterbacked, and he has not played well in any of them. He is, not surprisingly, getting hammered about it again and there are some who think the Bengals should look elsewhere. Now, there are QB-needy teams across the league who would probably love to have Dalton. Yet his situation underscores the minefield that is filling that position.
Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton have worked well. It looks like Colin Kaepernick has too (although I think he still tends to be more up and down than you’d like at this early stage) and Nick Foles flourished in Chip Kelly’s offense. Side note, you look at the playoff teams and the winners and it drives home the point this league is about good quarterback play.
Is Matthew Stafford the answer, even with all his gaudy stats? (Ken Whisenhunt may be hired soon to find out.) Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder were not. Sam Bradford? It’s no wonder Steve Keim says he has to fall in love with a QB to want to draft him, because let’s face it, if you do draft one early, you are married to him for a few years to see if he works out.
And, in the case of someone like Dalton, you still may be wondering if he is working out even when it seems like he is.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Bengals, Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker, Kurt Warner, Matthew Stafford, Nick Foles, Russell Wilson, Steve Keim
Posted in Blog | 41 Comments »