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Keim: Peterson trade example of a “swing”

Posted by Darren Urban on October 16, 2017 – 8:25 am

Steve Keim had looked at all options when David Johnson first got hurt, and that included research on Adrian Peterson. But the push to trade for the veteran running back didn’t come until last week, when Keim said he “picked up the phone and it worked out pretty quickly.”

The “why” of the deal wasn’t complicated.

“I think it’s pretty simple,” Keim said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “At the end of the day, it made us better. The one thing I am committed to do as the General Manager, and I know Michael (Bidwill) and B.A. (Bruce Arians) is committed to do, we’re not going to sit on our hands if we think we can get better.

“It doesn’t mean we always make the right decisions. I’ve certainly made my mistakes here. But the one thing I’m going to do is I’m going to swing. To me, you can never hit a home run if you don’t step up to the plate and swing. I owe it to the organization, I owe it to the fan base, and that’s the mindset I’m always going to have.”

It was interesting to hear Keim, who mentioned at least a couple of times the “mistakes” he has made as a GM. And as good as Peterson was Sunday, he wasn’t proclaiming the move the end-all-be-all.

“Hopefully it would add a spark to the offense,” was Keim’s thought process. “More than anything, I think we created balance.”

It also helped morale, Keim said.

“It was about igniting a spark and creating an enthusiasm throughout the building, which was infectious the moment we did it on Tuesday,” Keim said.

— Keim said he thought what was overlooked Sunday was the return of the left side of the offensive line. It was going to be difficult, Keim reiterated, no matter who the running back was with all the injuries. Earl Watford already looks like he’ll settle in at right guard, but it was left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone who showed what impact they could have.

“For the first time this year, we saw five guys up front playing in unison,” Keim said. “I thought D.J. was excellent. We’ve always know he can run block. His ability to roll his hips and finish at the point of attack is something to me that sets him apart from a lot of other tackles. He and Alex on several of those ‘deuce’ blocks created five- and six-yards of run lanes for Adrian.”

Keim also praised the perimeter blocking of the wide receivers that helped Peterson.

— Keim said there was a lot of discussion with team president Bidwill about Peterson, both on and off the field (including, it stands to reason, the year-long suspension Peterson had after child abuse accusations.) Keim said as with every player, the decision-makers talk through every part of a player, on the field, off the field, in the locker room and in the community. “Both of us were comfortable with that,” Keim said.

— Keim was asked, if he had been GM and not just in the front office in 2007 when the Cards were drafting, if he would have drafted Peterson at No. 5 (The Cards took tackle Levi Brown; Peterson went two picks later.) “You can go back and say that about a lot of different players,” Keim said. “I was not the general manager and I’ve certainly made enough mistakes in the position I’m in now. I’m just trying to take every day, every year and get better at my craft. Hopefully I can put a product on the field that fans can be proud of.”

— About the defense, which allowed a big second half after the Cards built a 31-0 lead before holding on, 38-33: “There is something to be said about momentum,” Keim said. “Part of that momentum we created on offense was a good thing. Now we have to figure out why the momentum issues are happening to us on defense.”

Keim said the defense played well in spurts, but they need to rally better after giving up a big play. (An aside, the Bucs still converted 50 percent on third downs, which continues to be an issue for the defense.) Keim praised Corey Peters, Frostee Rucker and the work of cornerback Tramon Williams. Keim echoed Arians’ thought that Williams should get more playing time. Keim also said safety Antoine Bethea (three picks in three games) doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves.

— Keim said he is confident cornerback Patrick Peterson (quad) will be able to play in London against the Rams.


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Adrian Peterson’s debut, and Bucs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 15, 2017 – 7:15 pm

The plan started on a private plane, sent by the Cardinals Tuesday to pick up Adrian Peterson in New Orleans and bring him back to Arizona. Running backs coach Freddie Kitchens was on board, so that the return trip to Arizona could be spent on a crash course about the Cardinals’ offense.

“It sounded like Chinese,” Peterson said Sunday, after that five-day tutorial turned into a 134-yard rushing debut.

Peterson said Kitchens walked him through what he needed to learn, calling him at home just to go over things. By the time Peterson got to Sunday, he felt prepared, and he played that way.

Kitchens downplayed his role, saying only that he helped get Peterson in the building. And there is little question Peterson, motivated as he was to do well, had the talent if he knew what was called.

“It was the terminology of the plays,” wide receiver/Peterson landlord Larry Fitzgerald said. “You don’t tell a great back where to run.”

Fitz is going to gush about Peterson. They are friends. But Peterson deserves the praise. Not just for his production, but for the intangible vibe that surrounded this team right about the time Peterson and Kitchens were flying back from Louisiana.

“I wish he’d have been here 11 years from the beginning,” Fitzgerald said. “I’d have a Super Bowl ring already. But having him here, his leadership, his demeanor in the huddle, I think it’s reinvigorating everybody.”

— I can’t lie. I did not expect Peterson to make that kind of impact. I thought the Cards would be better. Not that much better. But when he ripped off two eight-yard runs on his first two carries, I quickly reconsidered.

— Chandler Jones got his sixth sack in six games and got a couple tackles for loss. That doesn’t do his game justice, especially early. He’s had a very good season.

— Still, you want to see the defense finish better. It’ll be interesting to see if Tramon Williams gets more playing time at cornerback.

— And not because of Patrick Peterson’s quad problem. If P2 is down, the Cards will feel it, although Peterson insisted he will be ready to play against the Rams next week. That was a big part of the fourth-quarter problems Sunday. No Patrick. Adrian isn’t the only necessary Peterson.

— The offensive line was better. It wasn’t perfect, but the return of left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone, along with Earl Watford taking over at right guard clearly made a difference. There was a lot of emotion Sunday with Adrian Peterson and the crowd and that adrenaline helps. But if this group can stay healthy and together – that was the fifth different offensive line in six games – the Cards should be OK.

— Fitzgerald said it was kicker Phil Dawson who told him to waste some time on the onside kick recovery at the end, to make sure the clock ticked under the two-minute mark (and stoppage at the two-minute warning) so the Cards could kneel three times and be done. “That was Phil all the way,” Fitz said.

— Ryan Fitzpatrick likes putting a scare into Bruce Arians. First it was 2013 in Tennessee, then Sunday.

— Arians took the blame for Palmer’s interception, saying he insisted on throwing it deep there to go for the throat. But Arians said he needs to stay greedy. “There’s no lead big enough in the National Football League,” Arians said.

— Palmer is expecting both David Johnson and T.J. Logan to come off injured reserve, apparently, since he mentioned both running backs playing with Peterson later this season.

“I can’t help but think what B.A. will come up with when we get T.J. Logan back and Dave back,” Palmer said. “I can’t wait to see that.”

— That would be interesting. Just like the Cards were Sunday. Tomorrow, a flight to London.


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A pair of Petersons, Friday before the Bucs

Posted by Darren Urban on October 13, 2017 – 3:59 pm

Adrian Peterson was the story of the week after he was traded to the Cardinals Tuesday. For a few days, all you can really have is speculation. The coaches and players are enthused about his arrival and what he might be able to do. Really, you’d expect nothing else. Optimism tends to reign in these situations.

“You got Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald on the same team, and Carson (Palmer) is delivering the ball to both of them,” tackle D.J. Humphries said. “It’s like, ‘What?’ That sounds like something you would do on ‘Madden,’ a team you’d create on ‘Madden.’ ”

The spotlight will be on “All Day” Sunday. If I had to guess – and this is purely a guess – I’m guessing on 12 or 15 touches. The revamped offensive line has to make some inroads, and that’s no guarantee. And while Peterson supposedly has looked good since arriving (we cannot watch practice), there’s no way to know exactly what the 32-year-old will do in a game situation.  Still, there is little arguing that, after a bad game in Philly, there was a vibe of hope around this offense this week.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think he’d be on my team,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “But he is.”

— The Cardinals have another Peterson. Patrick represents the other side of the ball. Unlike Adrian Peterson, who is still looking to prove he has a lot left, Patrick Peterson doesn’t need to, because he is at the height of his powers. But that can only go so far. And before the offensive Peterson arrived, it was the defensive Peterson’s overflowing passion in Philly that underscored some of the issues with a defense of which so much was expected.

Let’s say P2 does his job on Mike Evans this weekend. The Cards have to find a way to control DeSean Jackson and some good tight ends. They have to get off the field on third-and-long. (An aside, the Cardinals have been good at forcing third downs and even third-and-longs. They just have to close the deal.)

“It’s definitely something we’ve struggled with all season,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “I think it’s something we can correct. We’ve got a veteran group on the backend. Everything has to go together. If you call a zero blitz, the pressure has to get home. If you’re dropping zone, you’ve got to affect the passer. I think everything goes hand-in-hand.”

A zero blitz, like the one that didn’t get home at third-and-19 last week.

— Speaking of getting home, it was a tough first game at outside linebacker for rookie Haason Reddick. He made a couple of nice plays – there was one great stay-at-home play on a zone-read run by Eagles QB Carson Wentz – but mostly was locked up and a non-factor as a pass rusher.

“I don’t think he played as well as he wanted to play,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “He had four days playing the position. Play fast and play hard, he did that. Now we stack pieces on top of that.”

— Sunday is the Cardinals’ “Crucial Catch” game so if you have a chance to wear pink and represent, here’s your opportunity.

— Will be interested in seeing how the interior of the offensive line handles Gerald McCoy.

— With the running game having its issues and Palmer throwing all the time, he’s up to 1,573 yards passing. That’s a pace for 5,033 for the season, which would obliterate the franchise record.

— Another reason defense always seems to be a key: Under Arians, the Cardinals are 34-3-1 when holding the other team to 20 points or fewer.

— The Cardinals will wear their black uniforms Sunday (and for those who have forgotten, it was the Buccaneers who were the opponent in 2010 when the Cards wore their black alternates for the first time.)

That’ll be two straight home games in which the Cards wear black, because they’ll break out their Color Rush unis for the next home game Nov. 9, Thursday, against the Seahawks. The difference? The Color Rush jerseys will have red numbers instead of white. And the pants will be black, not white.

Here endeth the jersey conversation for today.

— OK, maybe not all the jersey conversation. After the talk about Adrian Peterson and Justin Bethel and wearing 28 (and there is a chance the league wouldn’t allow an in-season change, but I could not get an official answer on that), Larry Fitzgerald was asked if he went to a new team if he would expect whoever had No. 11 to give it to him.

“I would just go where I fit in,” Fitzgerald said. “It wouldn’t bother me. I wore No. 1 my whole life until I got here. They gave me 11. At the end of training camp a couple of 80-numbers were available, but I was like, I’ll stick with it, this is what they gave me. The number doesn’t make the player. The player makes the number. I’ve always thought that.”

— The Cardinals leave Monday night for London. But first, the Bucs. See you Sunday.


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David Johnson return not before Thanksgiving

Posted by Darren Urban on October 12, 2017 – 11:01 am

Now that Adrian Peterson has arrived, it’s fair to wonder about when — and if — David Johnson will be more than just a locker room-mate at running back. Johnson, on injured reserve with his surgically repaired left wrist, said rehab is “going great.”

“Just got my cast, it’s going good, wrist is feeling great,” Johnson said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Johnson wouldn’t put a timetable on his comeback. “Wait and see how it heals,” he said.

Coach Bruce Arians said on his SiriusXM NFL radio appearance Wednesday night that the “earliest” Johnson would return would be Thanksgiving. That weekend, the Cardinals host the Jaguars, and there would be six games left in the season. There are still five games in between then and now. Arians had previously put Johnson’s return sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so his comment this week remains in line with that.

Johnson said it was a “humbling moment” to see Peterson come in the locker room. “It’s going to be cool to pick his brain and learn from it.” (Johnson, however, was disappointed Chris Johnson was released, calling Johnson his mentor.)

“The opportunities I’ve had to talk to him were brief,” Peterson said of his relationship with David Johnson. “He came to Minnesota, and I just had to congratulate him on the things that he had accomplished so far and things like that. He was just like, ‘Hey man, I’m just trying to be like you. You’re one of the guys that have paved the way.’ So for me, I sit back and kind of just marvel and smile when I hear young guys like that say how I influenced them and their play and their work ethic.”


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Here’s the deal: Peterson 23, Bethel keeps 28

Posted by Darren Urban on October 11, 2017 – 2:40 pm

Adrian Peterson is wearing No. 23.

Did he ask for his longtime No. 28, currently being worn by cornerback Justin Bethel? “Of course he did,” Bethel said.

“We had a conversation,” Peterson said with a smile. “Didn’t last long at all. We discussed it a little bit, and at the end of the day, I’ll be wearing 23.”

Bethel said “it’s not my first time being in this situation,” he said. Bethel was No. 31 his first two years in the league, before he worked a deal with cornerback Antonio Cromartie when Cro wanted 31. Bethel switched to 28 then.

“I don’t mind keeping the number,” Bethel said.

When he was asked if the number was available for a price, Bethel didn’t want to get into specifics. Peterson simply said, “we just didn’t agree.”

Bethel didn’t close the door on Peterson getting 28 — “Anything is possible in this world,” he said — but Peterson sounded like a man who is at peace with new digits.

“I like (Bethel),” Peterson said. “He’s a guy I’ve watched and I appreciate. He’s one of those guys who came from the bottom who has made a name for himself, a hard worker. He represents that number well. If it was another guy, we probably would’ve been tussling in there but he can have it.”


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Adrian Peterson, and now what?

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2017 – 3:15 pm

Back in the stone ages of 2003, before social media, I was driving back to the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore from ASU’s pro day — featuring Terrell Suggs — when I was told the Cardinals were holding a press conference to sign free-agent running back Emmitt Smith. It wasn’t a total shock. Smith had already visited the Cards and even had a press conference, which the team did for visiting free agents at the time, even if they hadn’t signed. But Smith’s arrival was going to generate big headlines. (Emmitt was at the end of his career and the Cards weren’t very good, but he had an underrated second season in 2004, more effective for a bad offense than for which people give him credit.)

In 2006, with a new stadium coming online and Matt Leinart’s splashy draft arrival a month away, I stood in the drizzle at Kurt Warner’s flag football event at the Cardinals’ facility, knowing free-agent running back Edgerrin James was in there and the Cards were trying to nail him down. As it turned out, they did, and his arrival generated big headlines. (Edge didn’t perform as he once did and fell out of favor in 2008, but if it wasn’t for his ground game — he was good in the postseason — I don’t believe the Cardinals march through the NFC playoffs en route to the Super Bowl.)

In 2015, with Andre Ellington and rookie David Johnson pulling hamstrings, the Cards brought in Chris Johnson. While Ellington was the starter to begin the year, CJ2K was in the top three in the league in rushing before he got hurt.

So now, Adrian Peterson arrives. He has not played well this season in a situation where he wasn’t really wanted in New Orleans. He comes to a team that has not been able to run, even when David Johnson got his 11 carries (for only 21 yards) prior to his injury. But he’ll be the starter — not surprisingly, he just took Chris Johnson’s spot atop the depth chart — for now, at least until/if David Johnson returns. And we’ll see if it helps the 32nd-ranked run game.

There are intangible benefits here. Regardless of where he is in his career, he likely provides a boost for the locker room that couldn’t have been feeling great. (Clearly Larry Fitzgerald, a long-time friend of Peterson, is pleased.) It’s low-risk, given the $700,000 or so he’s still owed, and even the sixth-round pick given up can be made up when compensatory choices are awarded. Tangibly, at 2.6 yards a carry running the ball, even if Peterson is an average back, he still should improve things. It’s also a move, period, showing to the roster Steve Keim isn’t throwing in any towel.

There are limitations. Peterson’s strength isn’t pass protection, and while he has caught some passes, he is not Andre Ellington out there. Defenses are looking for the run whenever Peterson is on the field. Peterson is not an offensive lineman, either, and that’s the spot where the Cardinals really need help. But it’s something, a move that combined with a potential return of linemen D.J. Humphries and Alex Boone, could provide something akin to a jump-start.


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A trade for Adrian Peterson

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2017 – 9:52 am

The tweet came from ESPN’s Diana Russini this morning, a move that many had speculated about — the Cardinals were trading for running back Adrian Peterson. As of now, nothing is official, but multiple outlets are reporting that the trade is in process and even Peterson seems to think it will happen. I’ll have much, much more on both the blog and the site when/if it becomes official, but obviously, with the Cardinals struggling on the ground (2.6 yards a rush) this is an effort to help.

UPDATE: It’s official.

How much Peterson has left is fair to wonder. He only has 81 yards this season and couldn’t crack the Saints’ rotation. But the Cardinals don’t have to keep him past this season (he’s under contract through 2018) and maybe he can improve things while David Johnson heals.

After all the talk about Peterson through the years with the Cardinals — the 2007 draft and passing on him for Levi Brown, the 2015 trade speculation — Peterson may finally be coming to Arizona. And be teammates with buddy Larry Fitzgerald.


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Friday before the Vikings

Posted by Darren Urban on November 18, 2016 – 4:20 pm

The very first game Larry Fitzgerald played in the NFL was in Minnesota. That’s where the Cardinals opened the preseason in 2004. (He was targeted twice, making one catch for five yards.)

The first game Fitzgerald played that counted in Minnesota was in 2006, and that’s the game he set his regular-season best in yards, with 172 on 11 catches. (He had 176 yards against the Packers in the playoffs in 2015.)

Fitz insists this is just a business trip, and truth be told, he spends enough summer time in Minnesota where I could see how he would be able to separate. Shameless plug: Here’s the story I did after going to Minnesota in 2012 and talking to him at his house on the lake.

(By the way, one part of the interview burned into my brain from that Minny visit: Did you know Fitz wants to go into space?)

Besides, Fitzgerald has big enough reasons to want to get this one aside from his 0-4 record against the Vikings in Minnesota (The Fitz-era Cardinals are 2-1 against the Vikings in Arizona.) It’s not the fact the franchise hasn’t won there since a 1977 game, with an eight-game losing streak. It’s the fact the Cardinals need the win basically to stay in the playoff race. Mathematically they won’t be eliminated, but with a game coming in Atlanta and the Vikings struggling like they are, this one is crucial. No way to argue otherwise.

— It’s easy to wonder about the Cardinals’ offensive line, and John Wetzel and D.J. Humphries will be tested (yes, that is an understatement) against this front in this building. The Cards have to run the ball better than they did last week, you’d think.

But the Vikings are facing the same issues, if not moreso. With no Adrian Peterson and line injuries, the Vikings have one of the worst rushing offenses in the league. QB Sam Bradford has been solid when he has time – he’s only thrown two picks – but he can be sacked. For the noticeable hiccups the Cardinals have had on defense, and some blown coverages, the Cardinals have allowed a league-low 4.7 yards per play this season and their pass defense has nine interceptions and has allowed only six passing touchdowns.

— Along those lines, the Patrick Peterson-covering-Stefon Diggs matchup is incredibly intriguing. Diggs has made 26 catches total the last two games. That’s a huge number. By comparison, Pro Football Focus has Peterson allowing just 20 receptions all season.

— The Vikings have 38-year-old cornerback Terence Newman, who has played a significant role. Peterson shook his head at such longevity. Peterson, at age 26 in his sixth year, said he wants to make double-digits for a career before he thinks beyond that.

“My mindset is I want to go as long as my body will let me go,” Peterson said.

— Michael Floyd is also going home this weekend. He’s from St. Paul. He was asked if he looked forward to seeing some snow, since it’s supposed to snow tonight. “I’m glad they have a roof,” he said with a smile, referencing the new stadium.

— We’ll see on Tyrann Mathieu playing. It felt like a red flag when Bruce Arians said he was sore on Friday. It’s hard to tell if the safety will be playing Sunday. It could be a true game-day decision.

— You feel better about Deone Bucannon playing, despite only one day of limited work. Arians said he was “fine.” He’d be an option on tight end Kyle Rudolph. The good thing for the Cardinals is that this is the first time in a while they aren’t dealing with a mobile QB (Wilson, albeit gimpy; Newton; Kaepernick).

— Fitz, by the way, had ditched the knee brace for Friday’s practice after wearing one Thursday (and in the second half of the 49ers game.)

— Will be cool to see the new building. Everything I have heard (and seen on TV) makes U.S. Bank Stadium the jewel it was supposed to be. We’ll see if the Cardinals can find a way to break their losing streak now that they’re in a new place.

befreminny


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Vikings aftermath, with a playoff berth

Posted by Darren Urban on December 11, 2015 – 12:33 am

Sure, Michael Floyd had his fourth 100-yard outing in his last five games and Smokey Brown broke off a 65-yard touchdown catch and Larry Fitzgerald is (probably) headed to the Hall of Fame. But look out for Mike Iupati as a receiving option.

The mammoth guard caught a batted Carson Palmer pass on what turned out to be the Cardinals’ game-winning field-goal drive and plowed forward 10 yards for a first down.

“He got some yards,” Palmer said. “We might have to put a screen in for him or maybe a quick flat route down on the goal line. We have one in for (backup center/jumbo tight end) A.Q. (Shipley). But I think Mike is proven now. We have it on film. He can go in and I’ll fight for him. I’ll lobby for him to get a pass.”

Palmer called it a weird night, and it doesn’t get much weirder than Iupati not only making a catch, but averaging 10 yards per reception. It might’ve been weird because of the short week, although the players said no. What it was was a team in the Vikings who were embarrassed at home by Seattle and desperately needed to rebound.

It’s not like the Cardinals were bad. They looked like a team dead set on stopping Adrian Peterson which, except for the first drive, they pretty much did. Teddy Bridgewater completed passes, but the defense forced fumbles, and whether you say it was lucky they did – the Vikings were in at least field-goal range on all three of the fumbles – or you say they made the plays they needed to make for a stop, it still equates to a good enough defensive effort.

“We’d like to keep them out of the red zone if we can,” defensive tackle Calais Campbell said. “But they played great.”

Hey, a win is a win. The Vikings are going to be in the playoffs, in all likelihood.

— The Cardinals clinched a playoff spot. Their magic number to clinch the NFC West is one. Interestingly, the Seahawks play twice before the Cardinals play another game – this Sunday against the Ravens, and then the Seahawks will play their game Dec. 20 against the Browns before the Cardinals kick off their game in Philadelphia on “Sunday Night Football” – so the Cards have two opportunities they could win the west before playing again.

— No, I don’t think the Seahawks are going to lose to the Ravens or the Browns.

— Adrian Peterson had just 13 yards on 11 carries in the second half.

— Palmer’s footwork within the pocket on the touchdown pass to Brown needs to be on an instructional video for young quarterbacks.

— Here’s why it was good that Dwight Freeney made that great strip-sack at the end of the game: It was inevitable that Blair Walsh would boot the game-tying field goal. It’s statistically odd, but Cardinals’ opponents have yet to miss a field goal this season – now 22-for-22.

— Wide receiver blocks were big. Fitzgerald led the way for Floyd’s long TD, and J.J. Nelson had a Brittan-Golden-in-Seattle-on-the-sideline block to free Brown streaking to the end zone.

Fitz pancaked Vikings safety Anthony Harris, but as usual, he didn’t want to dwell on his blocking. He’s a receiver.

“It’s part of the job, but catching touchdowns is much more glorious,” Fitzgerald said. “You’re not as sore, you don’t have to get in the cold tub as much, but it’s a role I’m privileged to have because I know it’s a dirty job but I’m capable of doing it.”

— There is nothing better than a mini-bye if you can get the win in a Thursday game. The Cardinals should be getting a good chunk of their banged-up guys back for Philly. Even running back David Johnson could use a couple of days. He said he was fine, but admitted he took a shot to his right thigh early in the game, which is why he limped off after his final catch. He came back in, but rest will do everyone some good.

— Rest sounds good about now anyway. I’m going home.

Campbellaftervikes


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Wednesday before the Vikings

Posted by Darren Urban on December 9, 2015 – 3:56 pm

The closing stretch for the Cardinals makes everyone take notice. Sure, the Cards are home for three of the four games, but thanks to the Eagles’ upset of the Patriots last weekend, every opponent is in playoff contention.

“Makes it real easy to practice every week,” coach Bruce Arians said. “I don’t have to say (expletive).”

Next week is “Sunday Night Football” in Philadelphia. The last two games are home games against the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. And tomorrow, of course, is “Thursday Night Football” against the Vikings.

(For the many wondering about a flex to SNF for the Packers game, it seemed unlikely after the Cards’ game in Philly was switched and in fact, Arians said he’s hearing it will stay as an afternoon game. “I don’t think FOX is giving that one up,” Arians said.)

— The Cardinals, by the way, clinch a playoff spot with a win. They clinch the NFC West if they win (or tie) and the Seahawks lose in Baltimore Sunday.

— Arians said the Cards have three padded practices left this season but he isn’t sure if he will use them, or when. The most important thing is keeping players fresh at this point.

— Adrian Peterson can be a scary matchup. But even if he gets loose a little, it’s hard to imagine the Vikings having enough offense to hang with the Cards – assuming the Cardinals play as they are capable and don’t turn the ball over. The Vikings are missing four defensive starters. Advantage, Carson Palmer.

— Larry Fitzgerald this week, when I asked him about this receiving corps compared to 2008’s Fitz-in-his-prime, Q-in-his-prime, Steve Breaston group, said it’s the versatility that is so much different. Fitz is a better wide receiver in terms of knowledge and range these days. And while Brown and Nelson and Floyd are the deep threats, what strikes me about this group is the fact that Fitz could still go deep if needed. And Smokey Brown or even Nelson have shown they can go over the middle.

All that said, Fitz is satisfied right now of his role and why he has his role (setting a pace to set career-highs in catches and yards doesn’t hurt.)

“I can still go down and make plays,” Fitzgerald said. “But the fact is Mike and Smoke and JJ are much faster than I am at this point. They can get behind the defense easier.

“Everyone is comfortable in their roles and I think everyone is genuinely happy when they have success. We’re a close-knit group.”

That happens when you are throwing for at least 350 yards a game and everyone gets their bite at the apple.

— Adrian Peterson, by the way, drew some attention this week when he said the Vikings, among other things, were outcoached in their blowout loss to Seattle last week. Peterson didn’t see his criticism as a big deal, and actually made a good point about it.

“When the players don’t play well, or a guy throws an interception, or a guy fumbles, or a guy gives up a sack, or the defense doesn’t play well, it’s so quick for people to say, ‘Oh, the defense didn’t play well,’ or ‘This guy threw an interception at a critical time,’ ” Peterson said. “Like, that’s always OK. But, then when someone mentions something about coaches and being outcoached, it’s always like a big issue. To me, it’s not a big issue. We are a team, so we win together and we lose together. And we lost together, you know? We didn’t play well as players and the coaches didn’t coach well.”

— New safety D.J. Swearinger, who was signed to the practice squad when running back Chris Johnson was put on injured reserve, was promoted to the active roster when guard Earl Watford was put on IR this week and Arians said Swearinger will have a role in the defense. True, Tony Jefferson might not be able to go (or be limited) with a hamstring issue, but either way, Arians said Swearinger – a former second-round pick of the Texans – will have a defensive role.

— There is a toy drive at the game Thursday. If you are attending, please bring a new or gently used toy to any of the stadium entrances.

— John Brown hurt his hamstring way back in the Detroit game Oct. 11. He is still listed on the injury report as the Cardinals try to protect him, but Smokey is just about healthy. He showed that in his 68-yard bomb last week in St. Louis. And even with the injury, and a game he didn’t play in Cleveland and being slowed other times, Brown is just 183 yards shy of 1,000 this season.

— Excellent video of the quarterbacks getting their coach, Freddie Kitchens, a former Alabama signal-caller, to run a 40-yard dash.

— Set the DVR: “Bruce Arians: A Football Life” will debut on NFL Network Friday at 7 p.m. Arizona time, 9 p.m. Eastern.

— Speaking of TV, yes, the Vikings game will be on the NFL Network, but locally it will also be on CBS, Ch. 5, in the Valley.

— Interesting story in the Wall Street Journal, ranking the 10 most “unwatchable” teams in the NFL this season based on eight factors, such as fair catches, fewest big plays, pre-snap penalties, things like that. (The Colts topped the list.) No, the Cardinals aren’t in there, but I did notice that the Cardinals lead the league in a couple of their categories – most failed challenges of replay, and most rushes for no gain.

— One final anecdote: Rookie running back David Johnson had a good first start last week (Arians said he’d get 25 touches, D.J. ended up with 24) as the Cards rushed for 175 yards. Johnson came out late to give Kerwynn Williams and Stepfan Taylor some work, and it cost him a 100-yard game. Johnson finished with 99 yards on 20 carries.

The funny thing is, Johnson not only knew he was close to 100 yards, he actually thought he got it – to the point where he took the ball and brought it to the sideline so he could have a memento.

Guess he’ll have to do it all over again. The Vikings await.

WednesdayVikings


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