OK, maybe it’s a little strong to say this is the John Wetzel game, but it’s definitely the beginning of the John Wetzel-half season. Wetzel is the guy who is replacing left tackle Jared Veldheer (torn triceps) for the rest of the season. He isn’t the only variable over which the Cardinals may or may not make the run they need to make, but he is definitely one of the biggest.
“The thing about Wetzel that you have to get over is every time you look at him, he looks freaking miserable,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “Just miserable. Makes you upset to your core too, like ‘What’s the problem?’ As long as he’s got that miserable look on his face, that means he’s ready to go, ready to play.”
Wetzel has apparently looked absolutely down in the dumps this week, so optimism reigns.
His appearance, however, is the perfect proof of how this season is different than the fun run of 2015. Somebody as crucial as Veldheer didn’t get hurt this early last season (Tyrann Mathieu’s injury came as the Cards were wrapping up the division.) All the key guys were basically healthy. The offense had no question marks. Not like now. The Cards should get better offensively Sunday, because the 49ers defense is simply bad. Can they keep up something consistent through the rest of the schedule? Through the rest of a five-road-games-in-the-final-seven-weeks schedule?
— Underscoring the injuries. The Cardinals have had 58 different players appear in at least one game this season. The Cards had only 56 players appear in at least one game all of last season.
— David Johnson ran for a season-high 157 yards against the 49ers. The Niners have allowed a 100-yard rusher in seven straight games, a ignominious NFL record. Everything points to a lot of Johnson this week.
“If you’re getting 5-to-10 (yards a try), you keep it up, but it’s hard to get 5-to-10,” coach Bruce Arians said. “If you’re giving up five, you’re not very good. Sooner or later, you’re not going to get five and your quarterback’s not in any kind of a rhythm to get a first down on third down. So, you’ve got to mix it up.”
— Granted, it’s because questions are asked, but there has been a lot of positive things spoken about both Smokey Brown and about Michael Floyd this week. The Niners aren’t exactly great against the pass either. Would it shock me to use Johnson sometimes as the decoy to open up the passing game? No.
— The Cardinals are No. 1 in the NFL in total defense. It’d be nice to stay there against this opponent.
— What’s missing on offense, according to Goodwin? (Hint: It’s no surprise): “Getting those explosive plays, which we have a number we want to hit, is key to our offense,” Goodwin said. “As far as getting enthusiasm going, getting excitement going, getting chunk plays. We have to get back to that.”
Goodwin said he wouldn’t say how many the Cards want to hit per game, but it was more than five. Let’s say an explosive play is at least 20 yards — the Cardinals have 31 such plays this season in eight games. That’s less than four per game.
— No Tyrann Mathieu and no Tharold Simon mean a pretty big opportunity for either Brandon Williams or Justin Bethel. The season hasn’t gone the way either of them have wanted, not at cornerback. This is an important moment for at least one to make a mark.
— While I hope everyone got a chance to see the recent Pat Tillman “A Football Life” episode, I hope you also check out our most recent Zoom episode on Tillman. That’s the full interview that Tillman gave in the summer of 2001 that gives an insight into Tillman the person. It’s fascinating, especially in hindsight.
— In each of his three previous Cardinals seasons, Arians has had his team with a winning streak of four games, six games and
eight nine games. The Cardinals have only a two-game winning streak this season so far.
— Don’t forget the annual food drive before Sunday’s game. Volunteers from St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and Cardinals Cheerleaders will be at collection points outside of all five stadium gates and the Great Lawn. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and/or money for donation.
— The second half has arrived. The Cardinals need it to be so much better than the first.
Tags: 49ers, Brandon Williams, Bruce Arians, David Johnson, Harold Goodwin, Jared Veldheer, John Brown, John Wetzel, Justin Bethel, Michael Floyd, Pat Tillman
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Is everything fixed? No. Even Bruce Arians noted, for instance, that the Cardinals have yet to break their zero-points-in-the-first-quarter streak, much to his chagrin. The Cards were 5-of-16 on third downs. But the bottom line is the Cardinals got that win they needed, within the division, on the road, with the backup quarterback. The 49ers are not a good team, but a 12-point road win still means something.
In this case, it means the Cardinals can feel better about this next week-plus as they try to climb back into the thick of things. There is time for starting QB Carson Palmer to get healthy (and there is significant optimism he will be OK by the time the Cardinals play Oct. 17 at home against the Jets). There is time to get others healthy. Or at least, healthier.
There is a big stretch coming. “Monday Night Football” versus the Jets. “Sunday Night Football” against the Seahawks. A road game in Carolina before the bye. This will determine if the Cardinals will be players in the second half of the season or not.
“We’re a team that can rip off a bunch of them,” defensive tackle Calais Campbell said.
A bunch would be nice. Tonight, about 30,000 feet up somewhere over California, one is a nice start.
— David Johnson, in case you weren’t sure, is a beast. The Cardinals needed to run against the league’s worst run defense, and they did. Johnson banged out 157 yards, and that’s what you need when you are starting the backup QB.
“I feel unstoppable, basically,” Johnson said.
He looked that way, too, basically.
— Johnson’s 695 yards from scrimmage through five games is a franchise-best. John David Crow had 665 through five games in 1960.
— I’m sure Drew Stanton would’ve liked to pass the ball better. Arians said Stanton was simply working too fast at times. But the goal – the main goal and by far the biggest goal – was engineering a win, and that’s what Stanton did. The second goal? Don’t turn the ball over. Check that box too. Goal three (OK, I’m speculating here) is ride Larry Fitzgerald. Always a good thing to do.
— Calais Campbell, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is only the second player since sacks became official in 1982 to get two sacks, an interception and a safety in a game. Baltimore’s Adalius Thomas did it in 2006.
— Markus Golden was great. He’s turning out to be a heck of a second-round pick.
— Fitzgerald was magnificent on his two TDs. Run an excellent route to shake a cornerback for one. Squeeze the cornerback until the last second before the oh-so-subtle shoulder push to create room for the second. That’s why he’s a future Hall of Famer.
–Speaking of Fitz, the chest bump he delivered to guard Earl Watford after a score knocked Watford to the ground.
“Earl always thinks he’s like a phenomenal athlete,” Fitzgerald said. “So, I always tell him, whenever I score, I’ll meet you down there and we’re going to jump as high as we both can and he’s never even close and now he fell down too. So, that was real bad for him. I’m going to stay on him for that.”
Caught on TV, it’s something the big lineman will have a tough time living down –although he’s cool enough to embrace the moment.
@LarryFitzgerald made me look silly. Haha Oh well. We will meet again in the endzone. Got the dubya.
— Earl Watford (@EWatts78) October 7, 2016
— The special teams has not played well and deserve the criticism they have gotten as a unit. But Thursday night, they were pretty great. J.J. Nelson breaking off a 40-yard kick return. Ifeanyi Momah causing a turnover on a kick return. Ryan Quigley booming punts that hung in the air for five seconds. Good coverage on kicks and punts. A good day all around.
— Tyrann Mathieu had his rough moments as he moved back to his familiar slot cornerback role, but he’ll live with the ups and downs after the win. “I got out of there alive, so that’s all that matters,” Mathieu said with a chuckle.
“Sometimes I felt great, other times felt I was too hesitant,” Mathieu added. “Hopefully the more I play the position the more comfortable I will be doing it.”
— Great job filling in on the offensive line for Watford and John Wetzel, although we will have to see how Evan Mathis and Mike Iupati are. Iupati hurt his ankle – that’s a player you don’t want to lose for any extended time.
But at least the Cards have a little time to sort it out. After a win.
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Evan Mathis, Ifeanyi Momah, John David Crow, John Wetzel, Larry Fitzgerald, Markus Golden, Mike Iupati, Ryan Quigley, Tyrann Mathieu
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Carson Palmer isn’t going to be ready. That was Bruce Arians’ gut reaction after the quarterback was concussed against the Rams Sunday and that was reality Wednesday as the Cardinals climbed aboard their flight to the Bay Area for Thursday night’s game against the 49ers. So it’ll be Drew Stanton at the helm as the Cards try to snap a two-game losing streak — they have never lost three straight under Arians, and only previously lost two straight three times.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald tried to stay lighthearted a bit with the quarterback situation. “Carson wouldn’t like me saying this, but if Drew plays, he’s probably a little bit better athlete,” Fitz said. “A little bit better. Last year Carson tripped on the goal line getting to the end zone with no one around (in San Francisco). Drew would never trip like that.”
The truth is Stanton did play a good chunk of 2014 with these receivers. That doesn’t mean he’s Palmer, but at this point, with the Cards’ offense less than they want it to be, perhaps Stanton can create a new dynamic.
Arians said Palmer was getting better and argued a bit for the chance to play, but it was a no go. Palmer hadn’t even been officially cleared by the time Arians spoke Wednesday. Optimism is there for Palmer to be OK the next time the Cardinals play, which won’t be until Oct. 17 on “Monday Night Football” versus the Jets.
— The record isn’t anywhere close to what the Cardinals hoped. But they remain in the top 10 in the NFL in both total offense and total defense, and have a plus-12 in point differential. That doesn’t point to a terrible season.
— Stanton had arguably his best game as a Cardinal against the 49ers back in 2014 when the Cards won in Arizona, 23-14. Stanton was 18-for-33 for 244 yards and two touchdowns.
— It’s been noted that, of all the guys who have thrown touchdown passes to Fitzgerald, Stanton is not one. Maybe that changes this week.
— One thing the Cards are missing this season; Playing from ahead. That goes hand-in-hand with their first-quarter woes (they are the only team in the NFL without a first-quarter point), but that was a big reason for success last year. The Cardinals scored the first time they touched the ball six times last season, and held a first-quarter lead 10 times.
— An under-the-radar move this week, all things considered, is the ascension of Brittan Golden to the roster. “Britt will be core special teamer,” Arians said. “He’ll help our special teams a bunch.” Arians also said Golden will likely take over on kickoff return from Andre Ellington, now that Ellington will be needed more at running back post-Chris Johnson’s injury.
— Here’s this week’s Cardinals Underground podcast.
— Someone asked Fitzgerald about fans upset with the Cardinals’ start. Fitzgerald smiled. “Funny, I drive down the street and I see people’s garages and they have the Cardinals flags out and I see some of those flags down now,” he said. “That’s disappointing, man. But we have to do our job so the people put the flags back up.”
— It doesn’t sound like Robert Nkemdiche is going to be active. Arians left the door cracked for that possibility, but also noted that — while Nkemdiche’s ankle is fine — the rookie defensive lineman might not be ready for an offense that can break huge run plays if not played correctly. Nkemdiche has yet to be active since playing a handful of snaps against the Patriots opening night.
— This is the first of three straight games for the Cardinals in prime time. “Thursday Night Football” is followed by “Monday Night Football” against the Jets and then “Sunday Night Football” against the Seahawks. The other two games will be at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Bay Area awaits.
Tags: 49ers, Brittan Golden, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Larry Fitzgerald, Robert Nkemdiche
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Bruce Arians may have been a little salty about how the offense played in the Cardinals’ win Sunday, but he has left no doubt how he feels about the team’s turnover margin. “That’s probably the best thing we’re doing right now,” Arians said. Then again, how could he not see it that way?
Yes, there have been a couple of near-picks for quarterback Carson Palmer, but they have not been picks. So after two games, the Cardinals have yet to turn it over, and have amassed seven turnovers themselves — four interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. Math and the law of averages says the fumbles won’t always bounce the Cards way, but they aren’t putting the ball on the ground themselves.
Right now, they lead the league in takeaways (Carolina, Minnesota and San Francisco each have six) and lead in turnover differential (two ahead of the Vikings’ plus-5.) Oakland and Philadelphia are the other two teams without a turnover yet.
The Cardinals were second in the league in takeaways last season with 33, and they are doing it right now without one of their dynamic back-end players playing at full Honey Badger. That’s a good sign. Another good sign? The only other time the Cards went the first two games without turning the ball in the first two games of the season since 1940 was 2008 — the year the franchise reached the Super Bowl.
(OK, as coincidences go, it’s a stretch. But we’ll see.)
Tags: 49ers, Carson Palmer, Eagles, Panthers, Raiders, turnovers, Vikings
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The Cardinals never played at home in Week 1 of the NFL season during their 18 seasons at Sun Devil Stadium. Sunday night will be the seventh time in 11 seasons at University of Phoenix Stadium that the Cardinals have hosted a Week 1 game. With the Patriots coming to town for “Sunday Night Football,” it makes a difference.
The Cards have won six straight home openers and have won 10 straight home games in September. It’s interesting to note that the last time the Cardinals lost at home in September was back in 2009, when the reigning NFC Champions lost not once but twice.
You remember that season, right? The Cards lost their opener, at home, to a lesser 49ers team. A couple of weeks later, Peyton Manning and the Colts blew them out of the building. The Cardinals were 1-2, everyone asked “What’s wrong?” — and then they got to 10-5 before shutting it down in the regular-season finale against the Packers.
Since then, the Cards’ home opener has been in Week 1 four times (wins over Carolina in Cam’s first start in 2011, Seattle in Russell Wilson’s first start in 2012, San Diego on “Monday Night Football” in 2014 and New Orleans last year), Week 2 once (beating Detroit in 2013) and Week 3 once (beating Oakland in 2010.)
You can argue, easily, that the Patriots represent the best team the Cardinals have hosted in the home opener in that span (although the 2012 Seahawks turned out to be pretty good). But the Cardinals have made that first home game advantageous.
Tags: 49ers, Chargers, Colts, Panthers, Patriots, Saints, Seahawks, University of Phoenix stadium
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Training camp officially begins tomorrow when the Cardinals get back together at University of Phoenix Stadium to hold their annual run test. The first practice of camp is Friday (keep in mind, because of the CBA-mandated “acclimation” period, the Cardinals won’t be in pads until Sunday, making these next two days a little bit like glorified OTAs.)
We know the Cardinals’ schedule for 2016, of course, which starts in the regular season with a home “Sunday Night Football” game against the Patriots.
But what about 2017, I’m sure you were about to ask? Fear not. Here are the opponents for 2017, home and away:
— Dallas Cowboys
— New York Giants
— Jacksonville Jaguars
— Tennessee Titans
— NFC South team that finishes in same 2016 divisional place as Cardinals
— Seattle Seahawks
— San Francisco 49ers
— Los Angeles Rams
— Philadelphia Eagles
— Washington Redskins
— Houston Texans
— Indianapolis Colts
— NFC North team that finishes in same divisional place as Cardinals
— Seattle Seahawks
— San Francisco 49ers
— Los Angeles Rams
Tags: 49ers, Colts, Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Jaguars, Rams, Redskins, schedule, Seahawks, Texans, Titans
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As if the Eagles-Browns trade wasn’t big enough news for the NFL Wednesday, this afternoon the Panthers in a stunning move rescinded the franchise tag from all-pro cornerback Josh Norman. Norman is now free to sign anywhere, and while in theory that includes back with the Panthers, it’s hard to see a scenario where that happens.
Norman had not signed his tender offer — worth nearly $14 million — and was in a position where he and Carolina had until July 15 to sign a long-term deal. Reportedly, Norman, 28, was looking for around $16M a year. Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said today it had become clear to him the team and Norman would never reach a long-term contract. Still, it’s odd the team would just let him go. Norman might have threatened to sit out (without signing the tender, he wasn’t obligated to show up, even to training camp) but he wouldn’t be the first, and he just said last month he was willing to play under the tag this season.
How does this impact the Cardinals? Not directly. Norman is a free agent, but the Cards a) only have about $6.5 million of cap space, b) are already paying a cornerback a ton of money (Patrick Peterson)and c) are on deck to pay another secondary member (Tyrann Mathieu) a lot of money. Norman isn’t coming here. But the Cardinals do visit the Panthers in 2016, so no Norman figures to help the Cards’ deep receiving corps.
That doesn’t mean the Cardinals won’t see Norman. Both the 49ers and Rams had been trying to sign premier cornerbacks in free agency, and the 49ers especially ($52 million in cap space) would seem to have the resources to give Norman what he wants.
Tags: 49ers, free agency, Josh Norman, Panthers, Patrick Peterson, Rams, Tyrann Mathieu
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It certainly hasn’t been quiet in the Cardinals’ division, even with the regular season over. The Cardinals and Seahawks are among the final eight teams in the playoffs. The Rams moved to Los Angeles. And now the 49ers, wanting to make sure no one forgot about them, went out and hired Chip Kelly as their new coach.
It’s an interesting pick. Whether Kelly was their first choice or — as some reports have said — they turned to Kelly after they couldn’t get Hue Jackson (who went to the Browns), it’s a drastic change from Jim Tomsula, that’s for sure. The immediate reaction? That assumed divorce between rehabbing QB Colin Kaepernick and the team might not happen — Kaepernick would seem to be the perfect type of QB for Kelly’s system, to the point many wondered this season if Kap was cut would the then-Eagles coach Kelly snap him up — and also how the relationship will work between Kelly and GM Trent Baalke. But we’ll see how quickly Kelly can get that team changed up after a very rough 2015.
The Cardinals have done fine against Kelly’s Eagles, winning two of three, including the division-clinching rout in Philly this season.
I’ll say this, the NFC West certainly isn’t boring.
Tags: 49ers, Chip Kelly, Colin Kaepernick, NFC West, Rams, Seahawks
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Nothing certain yet on the injuries to running backs Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, but General Manager Steve Keim said Monday during his appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Johnson (bone bruise on his left knee) and Ellington (toe on right foot) both are believed to be day-to-day for now. Both are awaiting MRI results.
As for Sunday’s win, Keim was, not surprisingly, filled with mixed emotions. He noted a phone call he got from close friend/former co-worker/current Bucaneers GM Jason Licht, who told him when watching film of a victory not to be mad just appreciative of a win. Keim said it was good advice. Nevertheless, after watching the 49ers game, Keim acknowledged he was “a little frustrated” and has a page full of notes that “aren’t very good.”
“But a win is a win,” Keim said. “Sometimes, there are letdowns, unfortunately.”
— Keim wouldn’t say the Cardinals got beat up physically up front by the 49ers defensive line. There were times when the Cards were physically beat for sure. Mostly though, Keim said the issues were fundamental, mistakes in passing off blocks on stunts and twists, getting the face across numbers, weakness in getting off combo blocks into the second level that often create the run lanes. It echoed Bruce Arians’ comments after the game that it was about mental lapses on the blocking more than physical.
— Asked about Patrick Peterson’s move to bring in the defense today for film work despite Arians giving the players a Victory Monday off, Keim noted how Peterson has grown into a leader. It doesn’t hurt that Peterson is playing (easily, in my opinion) the best football of his career. Keim: “I don’t know if there is a corner playing better football than Pat right now.”
— There were times when QB Carson Palmer looked a little rattled Sunday. Keim said Palmer can’t be expected to play perfect football every game. “I think Carson would tell you not one of his better games, but he made some huge plays,” Keim added.
— Not a great day for punter Drew Butler or kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who for a second time missed a point-after that could have cost the Cardinals big. Keim noted that the Cards had already brought in other punters and kickers for workouts recently.
“Since then (Butler and Catanzaro) have kicked pretty well,” Keim said. “Sunday, no question that was a concern.”
Tags: 49ers, Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, Chris Johnson, Drew Butler, Patrick Peterson, Steve Keim
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J.J. Nelson smiled. His thoughts on his soon-to-be 36-year-old quarterback racing toward the end zone for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown?
“A sigh of relief,” Nelson said.
It’s hard to think of it any other way. This wasn’t like the 47-7 beatdown the Cardinals put on the 49ers back in September. San Francisco has a better quarterback behind center (I can’t believe I typed that, but it is true) than it did then. Still, the Cards only allowed 13 points. What was the cold water on the face Sunday was the Cards’ inability to consistently score and definitely the inability to generate a steady run game. That’s the first game all season Carson Palmer didn’t throw a touchdown pass. It’s so odd to think the Cards won the turnover battle for the first time a month-plus yet had to work so hard to finish off the Niners.
Here’s all you need to know: Bruce Arians gave the players a Victory Monday off — and immediately, Patrick Peterson jumped in and told the defensive players they have to be in by 11 Monday. “We’ve got to fix this,” he said.
— I’ve been wracking my brain since the sequence happened early in the second half, but I cannot remember a weirder sequence than the one during which the Cards scored their first touchdown – nor can I remember a sequence in both sides were frustrated.
It started with a first-and-goal at the SF 3. The Cardinals ended up running nine plays inside the 5. Four were from the 1. And the Cardinals couldn’t push it in. No worries – the 49ers were flagged for four penalties, including three pass interference calls, all of which were automatic first downs. The Cards even tried trickeration, putting Drew Stanton in at QB and splitting Palmer out wide as a receiver, only to have Stanton hand the ball to Chris Johnson for a one-yard loss.
— The plays spotlighted the short-yardage issues the Cards had all game trying to run. Ironic that the score eventually came via the ground, with David Johnson punching one over. But the line of scrimmage was not won by the Cardinals’ offensive line most of the game.
— The Cards ended up with bigger problems running backs-wise than just missed third-and-1 tries. Chris Johnson exited with a left knee injury, and on the same drive, Andre Ellington left with a right foot injury. Their status is TBD. There is a reason the Cardinals built their running back depth, and rookie David Johnson isn’t a bad guy to turn to if the other two are sidelined.
But it’s a concern. Johnson tweeted out a handful of praying hands emojis after the game, although he said he doesn’t think it’s serious. What he is praying about is left to the imagination for now. They will get fully evaluated back in Arizona. Johnson has had issues with his knee all week.
— Tyrann Mathieu was all over the field Sunday with 13 tackles and he picked off Gabbert. He wasn’t satisfied – he was upset he allowed the touchdown pass the 49ers had – but he continues to have an all-pro season.
— The thin cornerback corps could get thinner. Bruce Arians said the Cards are hoping Jerraud Powers’ injury is a calf and not an Achilles issue, but either way, it puts Justin Bethel up again. Thank goodness for the Cards that Patrick Peterson looked fine on his injured ankle.
— It turned out not to matter, but that missed extra point by Chandler Catanzaro really, really could’ve mattered. Cat Man sees again how you can go from hero to near-goat in an awful hurry as a kicker.
— Larry Fitzgerald had 14 targets and 10 catches. He never could get loose – with 66 yards, he is still eight yards shy of 1,000 for the season – but he became the short-yardage answer on third downs when the Cards realized they couldn’t run it.
— On eight run plays in which the Cardinals needed three yards or less, the Cards lost yards on five of them. They were stopped for no gain on two. The other was David Johnson’s one-yard TD at the end of that nine-plays-inside-the-5.
— The 49ers are ticked off about the officials. The Cardinals weren’t thrilled either, but certainly not to the level of the game’s loser. It was not a great day for the officials in terms of making things clear, but their calls impacted the game. No doubt about that. I didn’t get a chance to study the Dial hit on Palmer on replay, but it’s not surprising a flag would be thrown. That’s the NFL we live in these days.
— Wide receiver Smokey Brown looked better than he has in weeks, running full speed down the field, his hamstring apparently not a problem. “I’m almost there,” he said. He had five catches for 99 yards.
— The Seahawks came from behind to win. The Vikings won. It was an important day for the Cards not to give up ground. Now a trip to St. Louis, where physical is going to be the word of the day. More NFC West fun.
Tags: 49ers, Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, Jerraud Powers, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, officials, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 30 Comments »