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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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Niners aftermath, after a headbutt

Posted by Darren Urban on September 21, 2014 – 7:37 pm

Tony Jefferson had himself a game Sunday. The safety lead the Cardinals with 10 tackles, he had the huge second-down sack of Colin Kaepernick on the 49ers’ last true chance to score and, of course, he absorbed the headbutt that changed the game.

Former Cardinal Anquan Boldin, who has been known to let his emotions get away from him on the field, got angry at Jefferson after catching a pass for a first down on the Cardinals’ 6-yard line with the Cards nursing a 20-14 lead. Boldin headbutted Jefferson, and the 15 yards eventually derailed the drive into a field goal attempt that was blocked by Cardinals’ defensive end Tommy Kelly. The 49ers never did score again.

“People give him (Boldin) so much respect out on the field, and I respect him as a player, but anybody who is going to jaw at me, I’m going to jaw back,” Jefferson said. “I’m all about the action. I’ll jaw. But I won’t retaliate like he did.”

But the play was more than that for the Cardinals. Boldin ranted after the game Jefferson had been delivering cheap blows and he was simply fed up. After the game, however, the Cardinals were talking about finally standing up to bully in the 49ers that had knocked them around in recent years.

“I think they are kind of used to us backing down once the game gets started,” Jefferson said. “But we were in their face. We were going after it. We let them know, this is a different team.”

It seems like a different team. It’s definitely an undefeated team, and one that has earned that distinction.

It was a big deal winning Sunday, not the least of which was with Drew Stanton behind center. Bruce Arians kept saying Stanton could get the job done, but he (rightfully) said Stanton had to show everyone else. He has. Stanton managed the game in New York. He won the game against the 49ers. B.A. clearly didn’t pull back the reins.

Stanton had a great press conference. He was happy, as he should be, and knows how to be funny. Someone asked him why he clicks with Arians. Stanton said he wasn’t sure. “To be honest with you, in Indianapolis, I didn’t even know if he liked me,” Stanton said.

I don’t think Drew needs to worry about that anymore.

- -That said, please don’t ask about a quarterback controversy. There isn’t one. When Palmer is ready, he’ll be back in there.

– As good as John “Smokey” Brown –and that’s what the Cards call him, Smoke or Smokey – was on his TD catches, the pass interference he drew on the game-clinching field goal drive was just as big a play. Without that, the Cardinals are punting with more than three minutes left.

“Once I got past five yards, (I knew) if he got hands on me, it was an automatic pass interference,” Brown said. “Drew made a great throw and (cornerback Chris Cook) did what I wanted him to do.”

– Brown said the gameplan all week was to feature him, thinking the 49ers would focus on Fitz and Floyd. Brown was asked, was that because the 49ers don’t really know who you are? Brown smiled. “No one knows me.”

– Stanton became the first Cardinals’ QB to not throw an interception and not be sacked since 2010. So once again, Stanton has a link back to 2010.

– You can’t go sackless, especially with as many deep throws as the Cardinals tried, without very good pass protection. Yes, the Niners are without guys like Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman, but this upgraded line is doing very well (including that parting of the Red Sea to spring Andre Ellington for that last 20-yard gain.)

– The Palmer/Stanton quarterbacked-Cards have yet to throw an interception this season.

– Amazing. On Tommy Kelly’s blocked field goal for the Cards, the Cardinals only had nine men on the field.

– It was with a lot less in-game attention as the Cardinals rallied, but Larry Fitzgerald didn’t get his first catch Sunday until the fourth quarter again. Then it looked like he’d be the key factor in the game-clinching drive – and then he fumbled the ball at the San Francisco 5. It was shades of last year’s lost fumble in San Francisco that short-circuited a possible go-ahead drive. This time, the Cardinals weathered the turnover. I’m not sure Fitz talked to anyone after – I know I didn’t get a chance to see him – but I’m sure he breathed a sigh of relief the turnover turned out not to matter.

– Michael Floyd, two long (39 and 45 yards) catches among his 5-for-114 day. That’s two 100-yard games in three weeks.

– Is there a better defensive coordinator in the league at making halftime adjustments than Todd Bowles?

– I’m not sure how the defense went from being unsure how to handle Colin Kaepernick to shutting him down. This defense just keeps making it work. Losing Antonio Cromartie with a knee injury could have been a blow, but Bowles was already going to use Justin Bethel in this game. That’s foresight. I thought Patrick Peterson played pretty well too. The Cards started getting to Kaepernick with pressure, but the coverage was a big part of that.

So the Cards head into the bye. A short week of practice, needed time off and a 3-0 record. Can’t complain.

TJeffBlog


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Palmer inactive; Rucker to play

Posted by Darren Urban on September 21, 2014 – 11:28 am

Carson Palmer will not be the backup quarterback today. Not surprisingly, he is inactive for a second straight game. Defensive end Frostee Rucker, coming back from a calf injury, is active so that will help on the defensive line. Actually, there are no surprises on the inactive list today really, taking away some of the 90-minute-before-drama that has been there the last first two games. Tight end Rob Housler (hip) will sit today, so Darren Fells gets into his first NFL game. DT Alameda Ta’amu is sitting but since the Cards are trying to hard to generate a pass rush, I’d guess an extra body is favored there over another run stuffer.

The full inactive list:

– Palmer (shoulder)

– P Dave Zastudil (groin)

–LB Victor Butler

– LB Glenn Carson

– LB Alex Okafor (thigh)

– Ta’amu

– Housler (hip)

TE Vernon Davis (ankle) is inactive for the 49ers, as is starting tackle Anthony Davis (hamstring) and No. 2 tight end Vance McDonald (knee). Given the Cards’ issues with tight ends, avoiding both is a big deal.


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Friday before the Niners

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2014 – 4:19 pm

What a week.

What a month, really, or six weeks, whatever the timeframe upon which you want to make the prism to look through. The Cardinals have encountered turbulence for sure, and it just doesn’t seem like that seat belt light is ever gonna go off so they can walk about the cabin. That bye week after this 49ers game looks so inviting, and maybe the football gods do know what’s what when that schedule comes out.

Bruce Arians thought back Friday to his 2010 season with the Steelers, when QB Ben Roethlisberger was suspended to start the season and Byron Leftwich broke his leg in preseason and third-stringer Dennis Dixon got hurt and Charlie Batch still got Pittsburgh off to a 3-1 start. The Steelers made the Super Bowl that year (although they lost to Green Bay.) The Cardinals can take that to heart.

The bumps aren’t over yet, either. “It’s only Week 3,” Arians said. “Something’s coming.”

Goodness, after Washington and Minter and Cooper and Dockett and Abraham and Palmer and Dwyer and now Abraham again, let’s hope not.

There just happens to be a pretty important football game Sunday.

– Drew Stanton gets the start (and no, I don’t think Carson Palmer will be healthy enough to be his backup.) It’s a big deal for Stanton. The Giants are, well, the Giants. The 49ers are a different beast, which Arians’ tone hinted toward Friday when he was asked if Stanton should be better this week. Stanton can’t turn the ball over, like he was able to do in New York.

– The fact tight end Vernon Davis, if he plays, will be gimpy at best is huge news for the Cardinals. Davis has done very well against this team. It’s a plus in the Cards’ corner if he’s not 100 percent.

– It’ll be interesting to see how the Cardinals cover the 49ers, and how much Patrick Peterson is on Michael Crabtree. Crabtree has had the upper hand thus far in the matchup, but I just have a gut feeling Peterson is going to have a good game.

– Peterson was not fined for his contact with an official in New York. Giants linebacker Jameel McClain was fined $8,268 for his hit on Stanton after the whistle had been blown for a Cardinals’ delay of game penalty.

– Many have complained about punter Drew Butler on his two blocked punts, even though Arians has reiterated they were on blockers Deone Bucannon and Robert Hughes. Now that Butler is back again with Dave Zastudil hurting, Arians said today Butler has a “real quick two-step release.” Again, noted it was the protection failures that went into the punt blocks.

– Logan Thomas did his best Colin Kaepernick impression this week for the scout team. “He’s not Kap, but he’s close with athletic ability and arm strength,” Arians said. The Cards hope so. Containing Kaepernick will go a long way in determining if the Cards can win.

– With Andre Ellington set to see cousin Bruce Ellington – a Niners receiver – Sunday, here’s a link to Kyle Odegard’s story on the two, from around the combine.

– Newcomer Jalen Parmele “probably” will slide into Jonathan Dwyer’s role as the short-yardage and goal-line back, Arians said. Stepfan Taylor isn’t that guy. Parmele is bigger than Taylor, but with Ellington’s talent, you have to wonder how much more Taylor will ever do here, or if he just will stay in the packages that they use him in now.

– Ellington is probable. The foot has definitely gotten better. And they will need him to play well. You figure the passing game will likely have a ceiling with the backup QB in the game.

– The Cardinals have been spectacular in a pair of rallies, outscoring opponents 27-0 in the fourth quarter. The 49ers have gotten out to fast starts and fizzled down the stretch, and last week’s second half cost them a win. The Cards need to start a little faster, or at least slow San Francisco. Last year’s game at University of Phoenix Stadium was a game in which the Cards had to rally, before losing late.

– Here’s hoping the Cardinals’ fans show up in force and, as Arians has said, kept their tickets. The Cards will need that home-field advantage Sunday and it’d be a shame if too many tickets were in the hands of Niner fans.

– If you are going to the stadium, don’t forget the Cardinals will be wearing black.

On to the game.

PPCrabblogUSE


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Stanton to start against 49ers

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2014 – 1:01 pm

Bruce Arians made it simple Friday, announcing that Drew Stanton will start at quarterback for the Cardinals Sunday. Carson Palmer still is not throwing passes, and even if he for some reason were ready to play Sunday at this point, he would be active as the backup quarterback with Logan Thomas inactive. Regardless, Stanton will start.

“We’ll put that to bed right now,” Arians said.

It’s not a surprise. Palmer’s right shoulder is getting better, Arians said, but if he can’t even throw — never mind if he has any power behind it — he can’t do the job. Arians said Stanton should be better than last week, but also acknowledged the 49ers have one of the best defenses. This isn’t an ideal situation for the Cardinals, but it is where they are at the moment.

– Arians said doctors told John Abraham after he failed another concussion test Thursday that he needed to sit out at least a year, which led to the IR move. It certainly looks like Abraham’s career is over, and that’s probably a good thing.

– Newcomer Jalen Parmele, not Stepfan Taylor, will take over Jonathan Dwyer’s short-yardage/goal-line back responsibilities.

– Dave Zastudil (groin) is indeed out, so Drew Butler will be punter Sunday. LB Alex Okafor (thigh) won’t play again either.

– Defensive end Frostee Rucker (calf) did do some things in practice and Arians said he could play Sunday. Rucker will be a game-day decision.

Stantonstartbloguse


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Cardinals go black for Niners game

Posted by Darren Urban on September 16, 2014 – 12:05 pm

The Cardinals will be wearing their black alternate uniforms Sunday against the 49ers. I’m not sure how many times they are going to use them — the rule was that the alternate unis couldn’t be used once games started being flexed, and the flex schedule starts early this season, as soon as the Cardinals come off their bye. It will be interesting to see the color scheme at University of Phoenix Stadium. The 49ers, who had a ton of fans in Dallas for the regular-season opener, are trying hard to do the same in Arizona this coming weekend. Cardinals fans will be under the microscope to make sure the game has a home-field advantage for the actual home team.

(Although it’s funny — by all accounts, new Levi’s Stadium where the 49ers now play, was not very loud in Sunday night’s 49ers-Bears game and the twitterverse seems to believe it never really will be given the cost of tickets and the demographic of who is going to games — fewer die-hards and more there just for the event.)

BlackBloguse


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The hard, hard NFC West

Posted by Darren Urban on July 21, 2014 – 10:39 am

Some NFL training camps are underway. The Cardinals get started themselves by the end of the week, with the team’s “Quarterback School” going on in a couple of days. The season is here. Many believe the Cardinals — including those who work at 8701 South Hardy — are going to be competing for a playoff spot again this season. It makes a lot of sense. But the raw reality of the division is also apparent, driven home this morning by Peter King’s initial “Fine Fifteen” ranking in the NFL.

King has the Cardinals 11th in the NFL, not altogether a bad spot (and about where many of these types of things put the Cards). There are 12 playoff teams in the NFL, so conferences aside, there is the thought the Cards belong in the postseason. But it is interesting to note that, if King’s rankings were to hold, the Cardinals would also be the last place team in the NFC West.

He has Seattle No. 1 and San Francisco No. 3, and also as St. Louis as No. 10. In the end, such rankings mean little, because they play the games on the field and not on paper and yada, yada, yada. But it does underscore what everyone talks about when it comes to the “NFC Best.” The division still plays a role in your season, although not as big as it once did — you can in theory go winless in your division and still finish with 10 victories. Last year, the Cardinals lamented their 2-4 division record, especially two close losses to the 49ers they felt were within their grasp.

It makes for an interesting question: Is it better to have your division be the best in football? Or would it be better to harken back to the days of 2008-2010, when the Cards not only were able to see lesser teams around them but in the case of 2010, remain in the hunt for the division title late in the year even though it was a bad year? Carson Palmer votes for the way it is now. “It’s a great challenge the competition within the division,” Palmer told NFL Network. “I think it really kind of hardens you as the season goes on. … It’s a grind getting through this division, but I think with Seattle and San Francisco getting to the championship game, a lot of that has to do with playing within this division. It gives you an edge.”

 


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Cardinals among top 50 valued sports teams

Posted by Darren Urban on July 16, 2014 – 9:54 am

Forbes came out with another list ranking the (estimated) value of sports teams, in this case, the world’s 50 most valuable franchises. The Cardinals make the list at No. 40, with an estimated worth of $961 million. Only the Raiders and Jaguars don’t make the top 50 list among NFL teams, meaning that even though it is top-heavy with soccer clubs (the top three are soccer, a major nod to the global fan base the sport produces) the list still provides context of how powerful the NFL — which dominates the United States — remains.

The top team is the soccer club Real Madrid, valued at $3.44 billion. The top non-soccer franchise is the New York Yankees, worth $2.5 billion, at No. 4. The top NFL team is at No. 5, with the Dallas Cowboys coming in at $2.3 billion. The Patriots, Redskins and Giants are also in the top 10.

Among NFC West teams, the San Francisco 49ers ($1.224 billion) are 20th, the Seattle Seahawks ($1.081 billion) are 28th, and the St. Louis Rams ($875 million and hoping for a new stadium, which would boost their value) are 45th.

Forbesuse


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Bright lights, big schedule for 2014

Posted by Darren Urban on April 23, 2014 – 6:05 pm

The Cardinals know when they are playing their games and they know people will be watching. The 2014 schedule has been announced and it includes the prime-time games that the Cards have been pining for. Monday night to open the season at home? Bruce Arians couldn’t have drawn it up any better. And while the Dec. 11 Thursday night game in St. Louis is no picnic, at least the Cards are coming off a home game against Kansas City. Plus, it will give the Cards an extra few days before hosting Seattle in “Sunday Night Football” on Dec. 21.

There is little reason to completely analyze a schedule because, frankly, it can mean little when the games are played months from now. Still, there are takeaways to note (and here is a schedule you can print/download):

– Cool to open on Monday night in a home game. Last time the Cards opened on a Monday night, it was Ken Whisenhunt’s debut in 2007 in San Francisco. Could’ve been a win if Eric Green had just fallen on the ball.

– Strange, however, to open with a team you just closed the preseason with. My guess is that the starters might not even play in the preseason finale now, as opposed to their usual one series.

– Season closes with three straight division games. Given this era of the NFC Best, perhaps that’s only fitting.

– Bye week in Week 4. Early. Too early? Well, given that it is after what figures to be a rough-and-tumble 49ers game and gives the Cards two weeks to prep for Peyton Manning, maybe it’s just right.

– No more than two straight weeks either at home or on the road. Can’t complain there.

– It could be chilly in Seattle in late November. Maybe SF in late December too, although Santa Clara will be warmer than the ‘stick. But New York in September is perfect, Denver in early October … weather should not be a factor.

But now that the schedule is out, I guess it’s time for the draft. It’s always something, right?


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“Throw gas” on a potentially dominant defense

Posted by Darren Urban on March 28, 2014 – 12:09 pm

The Cardinals’ initial foray into free agency was offense-heavy. Not a big shock, since that side of the ball need the most work. As the draft approaches, however, the focus may just shift. Because even though Bruce Arians is an offensive guy, GM Steve Keim has a belief that the good teams in this salary cap work have a dominant side of the ball. And the Cardinals — with the No. 1 rush defense and the sixth-ranked defense overall — aren’t in that realm on the offensive side of the ball.

“Seattle was a dominant defense with a solid offense,” Keim said. “Denver was a dominant offense with an OK defense. In our situation, we are closer to having a dominant defense. So I think you have to continue to throw gas on the fire. Continue to build the strength.”

That’s why cornerback Antonio Cromartie shot to the top of the to-do list after he was cut by the Jets. The move surprised the Cards — they did not think New York would let him go — but rallied to understand the situation and aggressively court him. It was only a one-year contract, but the team proved last year with linebacker Karlos Dansby that could be a golden type of situation. There are still spots defensively that need shoring up (like the need for a safety or inside linebacker depth), and there is also Keim’s quest to get longer and more athletic with his 3-4 defensive ends and the pass rushers outside. The draft could very well provide those things. But when you start looking at the top end talent on the roster, it is the defense that claims many of the spots, whether it is Patrick Peterson, Calais Campbell or Daryl Washington. (Or even, as Ron Wolfley points out, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who fortunately for the Cards did not get a head coaching job.)

The offense isn’t going to be ignored — “We know we have areas we need to fix and it certainly needs to catch up with the defense,” Keim said — but a defensive juggernaut is the first goal. It’s what has put the Seahawks and 49ers into the stratosphere they are in, and why the Cards returned to relevance last season.

DefenseGasBLOG

 


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