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Blogs

Palmer and battling the NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on June 12, 2015 – 10:40 am

The health of Carson Palmer is the linchpin to the Cardinals’ 2015 season. No one is disputing that, which is why it’s been so important for Palmer to get back on the field and why his full return in minicamp generated the headlines it did. It also (obviously) would make an impact on the NFC West race. Right after the season, Bruce Arians was asked about battling Seattle going forward.

“I’d like to play them with a first-string quarterback,” Arians said. “We beat them with our first-string quarterback. We didn’t get the chance to play them this year with our first-string quarterback.”

The fact is, the Cardinals hardly got any play from Palmer against their division rivals. Because of the schedule and thanks to the shoulder injury that cut down Palmer’s season early before the knee got him late, Palmer played a little more than three of a possible 24 quarters against the Rams, 49ers and Seahawks. That’s a tough way to maneuver through a difficult division. (The Cardinals ended up going 3-3 in six division games, rallying behind a Drew Stanton TD pass to beat the Rams in the one game Palmer did get to play.)

Palmer plans to change that in 2015, of course. While he only got six starts last season, Palmer was healthy in 2013, not only starting every game but taking every snap. If he can manage that again — or at least come close to it, since taking every single snap doesn’t necessarily have to happen — it’ll give the Cards even footing in the NFC West.

Carson Palmer


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The offensive line best in the West?

Posted by Darren Urban on May 27, 2015 – 3:03 pm

The tweet came from SiriusXM NFL Radio over the weekend, with host and former NFL QB Jim Miller saying that it is the Cardinals with the best offensive line in the NFC West. (His partner, Pat Kirwan, has the Cardinals second behind Seattle.) My first reaction, which I tweeted, was that I couldn’t remember the last time someone held the Cardinals’ offensive line in such high regard. It makes sense, with the Cardinals’ big free-agent purchase the past two offseasons being offensive linemen (Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati) in addition to a No. 1 draft pick (Jonathan Cooper.)

Veldheer was asked about being compared — on both the offensive and defensive line — to the Seahawks, and the tackle was pretty blunt.

“I think they’re both solid lines, but I’d take our guys any day over those guys,” Veldheer said. “That’s part of the fun part, too, getting that rivalry going, wanting to puff your chest out more than the guy across the line from you.”

In terms of the division’s offensive lines, the reality is the bar has dropped some. The Seahawks traded their center Max Unger to get tight end Jimmy Graham, who may help in catching the ball but won’t much as a blocker. The Rams have added defensive linemen aplenty of late but seem to have ignored the need on the offensive line. The 49ers lost one of their better lineman when Iupati came to Arizona. As for the Cardinals, they have upgraded. You can see why someone would consider them the best unit in the division. But as always, it’s difficult to tell much of anything on the offensive line in the offseason. What is done in the offseason isn’t enough of football to be sure the line will translate once the games actually start.

Then again, it’s better to be thought of as the best this time of year than the alternative.

OLbest

 


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A rough time for 49ers in the NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on March 17, 2015 – 1:42 pm

In a division where keeping up with the Joneses is important just to have a chance at the playoffs — and goodness knows the Seahawks have been the Joneses for a couple of seasons now — the Cardinals feel like they have made strides to compete with Seattle. Their free agent class filled holes in the front seven of the defense and on the interior of the offensive line. More importantly, their quarterback is doing well in rehab. The Seahawks, meanwhile, added arguably the most dangerous tight end in the NFL. The Rams bolstered their defensive line with Nick Fairley and think they have upgraded at quarterback with Nick Foles (at least, he should be healthy enough to play.)

Then there are the 49ers, who have gone through one rough offseason, which started when they moved on from successful coach Jim Harbaugh.

The Niners got the shocking news young linebacker Chris Borland decided to leave the game instead of risking his long-term health to play. Borland was supposed to be the guy who filled in for Pro Bowler Patrick Willis, who retired because his oft-injured feet ended his hopes for a comeback. Defensive lineman Justin Smith likely will retire. Then they allowed multiple free agents to leave, like running back Frank Gore, guard Mike Iupati (who came to Arizona), linebacker Dan Skuta and cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox. They probably won’t bring back Michael Crabtree either.

Now, the Niners have added some pieces. Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. Darnell Dockett. Lions running back Reggie Bush (although he may be beyond his productive years.) But the way things have gone, it’ll be tough for the 49ers to right the decline they went through in 2014. That comes with the QB caveat all teams have — if Colin Kaepernick emerges as a star, that covers most issues.

While it could be considered the “offseason from hell,” the Cardinals did have one of recent vintage that they could put up in any argument. It’s tough to forget the offseason after 2009. In case you have forgotten, a refresher: quarterback Kurt Warner retired, safety Antrel Rolle was released for cap reasons (and subsequently signed with the Giants), linebacker Karlos Dansby left as a free agent and Anquan Boldin was traded. All were still playing at high/Pro Bowl levels. Those were a gut punch of transactions that eventually took out a coaching staff and brought the Cardinals to the Bruce Arians/Steve Keim era.

John Brown, Leon McFadden

 


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A decade of Dockett

Posted by Darren Urban on March 5, 2015 – 9:15 am

I guess March 5th is a day that will live in Cardinals’ infamy, huh? At least when it comes to two of the bigger names on the Super Bowl team. It was on March 5 that Anquan Boldin was traded to the Ravens in 2010. And it was on March 5 — today — that Darnell Dockett chose to sign with the 49ers (and coincidentally, current 49ers Boldin) and not return to the Cards.

The emotions are pouring out as I write this, my Twitter feed blowing up with fans angry at the team for letting Dockett get away (not as many) or at Dockett for signing with an NFC West rival (the vast majority). They are mad he seemed to make a decision based on money after chiding Karlos Dansby for doing the same last offseason.

(Later Thursday, Dockett said the two situations between he and Dansby were “night and day.”)

I’ll say this on the latter — Darnell said many, many things in his decade-plus with the Cards. Heck, he tweeted in 2010 (from his old Twitter account) that he’d play for less money to go to the Seahawks than play for the 49ers should the Cardinals let him go. Obviously, things have changed. From my perspective, you cannot blame Dockett. He wanted the most money with his career coming to an end and him turning 34 in May. That’s the direction he decided to go. Perhaps getting cut stung Dockett enough, but in the end, this just feels like it was about cold, hard cash, and when you are still young in life terms, it’s hard to blame a guy for that. It’s why the Dansby criticism didn’t make much sense — I remember at the time thinking it could come back to haunt Dockett this offseason, because of exactly this. Jim Trotter of ESPN, who texted with Dockett, also said it was about “disrespect” of the Cards’ contract offer. Knowing how Dockett reacts to many things, that kind of blowback isn’t surprising either.

But we can parse this forever. Bottom line, Dockett is not coming back to the Cardinals. The Cardinals knew this could happen. Multiple reports say Dockett gave the Cards a chance to match the offer, but it doesn’t surprise me the Cards didn’t. They had the number at which they valued Dockett for 2015 given his age and knee injury.

None of this, however, should impact how Dockett’s career in Arizona is viewed. By any measure Dockett was an excellent draft pick and when you point out he was a third-round pick, it makes it an even better selection. So many guys talk about making teams regret passing them in the draft when they go in later rounds. Dockett said that, and he backed it up.

He was an emotional tornado. Sure, that got him into hot water at times on the field, and when mixed with social media and Twitter, it caused a headache or two within the Cardinals’ facility. In his heyday, he could be dominant. His performance in the Super Bowl was MVP-worthy, getting after Ben Roethlisberger as few have. There was little measured about him in the heat of battle, but he was the passion bellwether for the defense. And he was always there. He missed just two games before last season and, more impressively, just 13 practices in 10 years. Dockett was always there, an anchor.

But this is what happens with older players in this league. The happy ending is the outlier, like what the Cards are trying to have with Larry Fitzgerald. In this case, Dockett gets his money, and gets his chance to play the Cardinals twice a season. That’ll be interesting, right?

DockettGoneBlogUSE


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No Dockett decision yet UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on March 4, 2015 – 4:58 pm

UPDATE: Thursday morning, Dockett signed with the 49ers.

———

It sounded good when it came over Twitter a little after 6 a.m. Arizona time. Adam Schefter reported that Darnell Dockett’s decision on a new team would come at some point today.

It hasn’t happened, at least not yet. #DockettWatch2015 is ongoing. ESPN’s Jim Trotter, who has a good relationship with Dockett, said this afternoon it’s still possible Dockett takes another visit or two. Don’t know if that means the Rams and Seahawks — why wouldn’t he just cover the whole NFC West, right? — or elsewhere. No, I don’t know which way he is leaning, although you’d think if someone had really wowed him with an offer, he’d probably have taken it. It would also seem to me the Cardinals’ offer — reportedly $2.5 million for 2015, plus incentives — would at least be competitive to whatever else he has heard.

Could this stretch into Friday? Saturday? Maybe. You’d think some decision would come down by the start of next week, though, because free agency will start and other players will hit the market. Dockett’s early release leverage will be gone. And usually, teams will start moving on from (most) players if they haven’t gotten an answer. If you need a defensive lineman and are in on Dockett and he hasn’t committed, it’s probably necessary to go to Plan B.

DockwaitUSE


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Dockett to visit 49ers

Posted by Darren Urban on March 2, 2015 – 1:27 pm

Earlier today Darnell Dockett agent Drew Rosenhaus told Kent Somers he expected Dockett to be signed somewhere by the end of the week. Now comes news that Dockett will visit the 49ers and arrives in San Franci … err, Santa Clara, tonight. Kent is reporting the Cardinals have offered a one-year, $2.5 million deal to Dockett. We’ll see if the 49ers — or someone else — want to top that. The hard part for Dockett will be the fact he is still rehabbing from his knee injury. His timetable to get back on the field is up in the air. That’s a tough way to try and find a new deal.

It’s also interesting that it is the 49ers Dockett visits first. He is close with tight end Vernon Davis — they are both from around the Washington, D.C. area — but he’s spent a decade working up, not a hate for the Niners, but intense emotion against that team. The same would go for the Seahawks. That said, for someone like Dockett, especially after being released and surely not being pleased about it, going to an NFC West rival and getting to play the Cardinals twice in a season would be attractive.

Just because Dockett is going on a visit doesn’t mean he’ll sign there. There are a lot of moving parts here and the door is still open in Arizona. You figure the Niners and Rosenhaus have at least have some broad outline of money for Dockett to make the trip though, right? It will be interesting to see how this week unfolds.


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Bowles will be busy this week

Posted by Darren Urban on January 5, 2015 – 2:59 pm

Now that the Cardinals’ season is over, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can begin interviewing with various teams for their head coaching spots. And it sounds like that will make this a busy week.

Multiple reports have Bowles interviewing with the Jets on Wednesday, the Falcons Thursday, the 49ers on Friday and the Bears on Saturday. There are still rumblings that the Bills and Raiders could still ask to interview too. Either way, Bowles would seem to be a good chance to be promoted before too long, but after he signed his extension (which gave him a hefty raise) Bowles can afford to be choosy — which he was always going to be anyway. That’s just who Bowles is.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed both ways,” coach Bruce Arians joked Monday, on one hand hoping his friend and former player gets a head coaching gig and on the other hoping he stays in place.

We still don’t know who would be Arians’ choice to succeed Bowles as defensive coordinator (on staff, could it be Mike Caldwell? James Bettcher? Someone else?) but Arians has said a plan is in place. Now we wait for Bowles to go through the interview process.

Bowlesblogupdate


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Niners aftermath/Panthers prologue

Posted by Darren Urban on December 28, 2014 – 8:32 pm

It was a weird day Sunday.

It was weird because of what was swirling around the 49ers as Jim Harbaugh coached what everyone knew was going to be his last game as a 49ers boss but pretended nothing was going on yet (including the very awkward hug between Harbaugh and 49ers owner Jed York on the field pre-game). It was weird because Ryan Lindley threw three interceptions, but it was hard not to feel the Cardinals may indeed be able to tread water at quarterback if Drew Stanton can’t come back this week. It was weird because the game for a while felt like it would mean a heck of a lot, with the Seahawks trailing and the Packers losing Aaron Rodgers – and then the Seahawks pulled away and the Packers pulled away and the outcome meant just nothing.

Maybe that’s why the Cardinals falling short didn’t feel like that so much, that Lindley’s last interception was simply moot. It didn’t cost the Cardinals anything.

I’m not going to sit here and say Lindley was the second coming of Rodgers, or even Carson Palmer Sunday. The first half, he was pretty good, with 260 yards and his two touchdowns and yes, a very bad interception, but he had the Cardinals ahead. By all accounts – including his own and by my own eyes – it’s the best he’s played in the NFL. I thought he looked better than he had even in the practices I have seen. The second half, he and the offense dropped off, but the Cards stuck with the run more too.  You can’t turn the ball over. That’s obvious. But there’s a way to make this work, at least against a 7-8-1 Carolina team.

The Cardinals’ playoff game will kick off at 2:35 p.m. Arizona time Saturday and will be televised on ESPN.

Speaking of turnovers, the Cardinals suddenly aren’t getting any. The Cardinals forced two turnovers against St. Louis on that Thursday night win – although one came on the last play of the game – and haven’t forced one since. Those turnovers were a big reason the Cards were winning earlier in the season. They have to create something in Carolina.

— Arians said there was no new news on Stanton. We’ll see if he can go. My gut says the Cards will have to go with Lindley.

— Cam Newton doesn’t quite run as much as he used to (and he’s still dealing those back issues after his car accident.) But the way that both Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have sliced up the Cardinals running the football the past two games, the Cards have to be concerned.

— Safety Tyrann Mathieu, on the trouble stopping the run: “We have to play with more of an attitude. We have to play with that chip on our shoulder. We come into the game at 11-4 and in the playoffs and we’re not necessarily playing with a chip on our shoulder. Hopefully we can gain that edge again.”

— Tight end Darren Fells is still raw. But it looks like the Cardinals might have found something there. With him and Troy Niklas, it’s a nice young tight end foundation going forward.

— In case you missed it, click here to see the Cardinals’ opponents for 2015. The schedule comes out in April.

— I don’t think Bruce Arians will forget about Kerwynn Williams again. Williams wasn’t great but he’s a guy who needs to have carries for the Cardinals.

— The Cardinals did have a pretty good day the last time they played a postseason game in Carolina.

— That was the Michael Floyd the Cardinals have to have.

— This was the first season in franchise history four different quarterbacks have thrown a touchdown pass in one season. Not that you’d be striving for such a thing, but …

— Random quote, this one from Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, said during the NFL Network’s pregame show Sunday morning: “I would not pass up the opportunity to play for Bruce Arians. Bruce finds ways to win games without his best players. … The fact that he’s found a way to win 11 games after going 10-6 and missing the playoffs. You win 11 games this year and you’re missing probably four or five of your best players on your team. How do you do that? That means there is great coaching going on.”

— Short week. The players get their day off Monday, and all the practice days are moved up one with the Saturday game. The Stanton watch is on. Otherwise, more Lindley.

AftreninersUSE


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Foote sits for Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on December 28, 2014 – 12:52 pm

Starting inside linebacker Larry Foote, who had played all but two defensive snaps this season, is going to miss a few more today. Foote is inactive with a knee injury — and probably a need to rest him for the playoffs. The Cardinals also will be without guard Jonathan Cooper, who is dealing with the wrist injury. The full inactive list for the Cardinals:

— QB Drew Stanton (knee)

— WR Brittan Golden

— S Chris Clemons

— LB Larry Foote (knee)

— G Jonathan Cooper (wrist)

— G Anthony Steen

— DE Kareem Martin

It’s unknown if 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will be inactive as rumors swirl about his job status. (I kid. I kid.) But the 49ers will be without cornerbacks Tramaine Brock and Perrish Cox, as well as linebacker Ahmad Brooks.


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Packers loss gives Cards-Seahawks extra meaning

Posted by Darren Urban on December 14, 2014 – 3:11 pm

The Cardinals won in St. Louis Thursday, and can spend Sunday watching the rest of the NFC playoff picture unfold. Already, they caught a break. The Green Bay Packers went to Buffalo and lost, 21-13, to fall to 10-4 and a game behind the Cards. Ultimately, what does that mean? It means that regardless of the result of the Seahawks-49ers game going on right now, because of all the tiebreakers the Cardinals have spent the year building, if the Cardinals can beat the Seahawks a week from tonight on “Sunday Night Football,” the Cardinals will clinch the NFC’s No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

It would be an incredible feat given the injuries the Cards have absorbed.

(UPDATE: The Seahawks did beat the 49ers. As expected.)

A loss against Seattle would not necessarily eliminate the Cards from the No. 1 seed, but the math is much more simple if they win (and a loss versus the Seahawks would mean the Cards would need a lot of help as well as a season finale win in San Francisco.)

A No. 1 seed would mean a ton, from a first-round bye (time to heal Drew Stanton) to home-field advantage for as long as the Cardinals remained in the playoffs — including, of course, the Super Bowl if they got that far.

— ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday morning Stanton is expected to be out four weeks with his knee injury. The Cardinals have declined to get into specifics of Stanton’s issue other than it is his right knee that’s injured. The Cards do expect him back at some point.


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