It was hard to imagine Sunday happening with Bruce Arians as playcaller. Not so much that the Cardinals ran it so many times compared to passing it, but that they did it with only one running back. The Cards are, after all, on a short week, facing the physical Seahawks Thursday night.
But Adrian Peterson got the rock Sunday. A lot. The most he’s had in his career, a crazy notion given the fact he is both 32 and needed Thursday against those Seahawks. The Cardinals needed a win. As offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said last week, feeding Peterson is like throwing wood into the old stove, getting it hotter as the night goes on. Peterson really is a marvel, and he was crucial Sunday.
Now comes the Seahawks, who lost themselves at home. The Cards would pull even in the standings by beating Seattle. This is the formula, like the Cards had been saying (and interestingly, even with Palmer, is often the formula against the Seahawks anyway.) Run a lot, lean on the defense. Ask Drew Stanton to do some things but not a lot of things.
— Even with all the running, one guy who wasn’t about to declare the Cardinals now a running team was Larry Fitzgerald, who quietly had a solid game (five catches, 70 yards, a couple of key first downs).
“To say we have a whole new identity, I don’t know about that,” Fitzgerald said.
— The 37 Peterson carries set a franchise record. I hate to do this, but he broke the record of — wait for it – Edgerrin James, who had 36 in the Monday Night Meltdown game against the Bears. Edge was slightly less productive, gaining just 55 yards that game.
On the all-time lists, Fitzgerald surpassed Tim Brown for sixth place in NFL history for receiving yards. Peterson, who went past the 12,000-rushing yard mark, passed Thurman Thomas and Franco Harris and is now 14th all-time.
— Budda Baker was great in punt coverage, making an impact especially in the first half.
— It was a chippy day across the NFL – google Mike Evans and A.J. Green – so it kind of fit into things when it got heated late in the Cards’ game. Safety Antoine Bethea hit 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard as Beathard slid and the 49ers deemed it late. They had something to say. When it was over, Haason Reddick and Frostee Rucker were ejected, as was 49ers running back Carlos Hyde. We’ll see what the punishments and/or fines might be later this week. The sliding thing has been in the forefront ever since last week’s Kiko Alonso hit on Joe Flacco.
— Congrats to Karlos Dansby for getting his 20th career interception, as he became the fifth player in NFL history with 20 picks and at least 40 sacks. Dansby also had a sack in the game, so it will be a memorable one for him. So will the fact the ball bounced off the helmet of an offensive lineman, but they can’t all be gorgeous.
Dansby said Adrian Wilson had been giving him grief the other day in the team cafeteria about getting the pick. “Stop floating in the zone,” Dansby said Wilson told him. “It’ll come right to you.”
— It came late, but Chandler Jones got sack No. 9 in his eighth game, one of five sacks in the game. It was necessary to pressure Beathard all game given his beat-up offensive line, and for the most part, the Cards did.
— It was a nice day for the offensive line. Peterson ran for 159, and Pro Football Focus said the line allowed just two hurries, and Stanton wasn’t sacked.
— Finally, a few words about Stanton. He was solid Sunday. I understand there will still be those calling for Blaine Gabbert. I don’t expect that to change. But I don’t expect Stanton to go anywhere anytime soon. He took the blame for his interception in the end zone, although Arians interestingly took the blame for the same play. Stanton made a nice play to scramble around and find Jaron Brown on the first TD. He made a nice run on a planned play on third-and-1 to get a big first down.
He did enough to get a win. Yes, the Seahawks’ defense is another animal altogether, but Stanton did his job. The Cardinals are back at practice tomorrow. It’s just a walkthrough, but the week has already started. Not much time to enjoy a win.
Tags: 49ers, Adrian Peterson, Adrian Wilson, Bruce Arians, Budda Baker, Chandler Jones, Drew Stanton, Edgerrin James, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald
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The newest “A Football Life” episode debuts tonight, that of Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith. After getting a chance to screen it early, truth be told, I was surprised with how much was included about his final two seasons playing with the Cardinals. I originally thought it might just have a quick mention, but it was covered in decent detail — it didn’t hurt that the Cardinals played in Dallas early in the 2003 season, so the drama of Smith returning to play in his former home right after leaving was there.
Smith admitted that for a while after signing with the Cards, especially after that ugly trip back to Dallas, he was questioning why he did it. He admitted he “cried like a baby” in the locker room 45 minutes before the Cardinals played the Cowboys. That can’t be beneficial to playing a good game. Smith only had six carries for minus-one yards that day before he hurt his shoulder.
But he later came to grips with the choice to be a Cardinal.
“I was sent to Arizona to be a bridge,” Smith says in the episode. “And to help others along the way, share my life experiences with them. Them asking me questions and me being able to download this information of life, to people who really wanted it, that was an amazing experience.”
“Honestly, I was like, ‘This is a publicity stunt,’ ” Cardinals teammate Adrian Wilson said in the show. “But he was such a model of professionalism. He brought the same energy every single day and I didn’t understand how he could do that at such an older age.”
It’s a well-produced show, as all of them are. The episode debuts tonight at 6 p.m. Arizona time (9 p.m. Eastern) on the NFL Network. It’s the first of three Cardinals-related “A Football Life” episodes coming. The stories of Aeneas Williams and Larry Fitzgerald will also be seen.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Emmitt Smith, NFL Network
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It’s late here in Canton — past 2 a.m. — so this is going to be an efficient post, in part because it’s the first of five preseason games and yeah, the preseason. That doesn’t mean things of importance can’t happen. You wish the head coach wasn’t saying “fingers crossed” about an injury to the rookie who was already showing he could be that dynamic return man you had been seeking.
But it was hard not to notice quarterback Blaine Gabbert as the top story of the evening. With all the caveats of preseason/the Cowboys only using three defensive starters, Gabbert looked very good in completing 11-of-14 passes for 185 yards. What does this mean? It means that Gabbert succeeded when, frankly, he should have. Beyond that, we’ll still see.
The last time a new Cardinals QB played so well in the preseason opener? (It just happened to be the last time a Cardinal was going into the Hall of Fame, Aeneas Williams.) Logan Thomas completed 11-of-12 passes against the Texans, for 113 yards and a TD. We all know how that turned out. Now, Gabbert is not Thomas. As much as Gabbert has struggled, his NFL career was still light years better. But it’s a reminder to hold off on grand pronouncements.
— Speaking of the Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner had his party Thursday night, and both Larry Fitzgerald and Adrian Wilson made it over there to celebrate post-game.
— Logan really looked good as a return man. For a guy who hadn’t returned punts in college, he impressed.
— Tight ends Troy Niklas and Ifeanyi Momah also made some plays. Momah in the passing game, grabbing three receptions. If he is able to play special teams like he did last year before getting hurt, Momah has a place on this roster.
— Andre Ellington scored on a three-yard run that showed some grit, fighting his way between the tackles. If you recall, Bruce Arians said Ellington had to run tougher. The TD run was a good sign.
— Rookie safety Budda Baker made some plays. Arians praised Haason Reddick too.
— Robert Nkemdiche took a step forward again, playing much of the time in the first half. He busted up a couple of plays. He says being healthy, he feels more like himself. Again, he’s going in the right direction.
— The backups who played the offensive line for Gabbert mostly held up (from left tackle, Wetzel, Kaleb Johnson, Toner, Bergstrom, John.) The second-unit pass rushers who started didn’t generate enough pressure.
— The Cardinals return to practice Saturday (it’s closed to the public). Meanwhile, I’ll be here in Canton, covering Warner’s induction. Look for my big Warner-years-in-Arizona story tomorrow (today, here in the Eastern time zone).
— UPDATE: Some are wondering why I didn’t bring up the missed field goals, and it’s simple. Phil Dawson didn’t kick. The punters, Richie Leone and Matt Wile, kicked, each missed a field goal, but the punter will only be kicking when it counts if Dawson goes down in a game. That’s unlikely to happen.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Andre Ellington, Blaine Gabbert, Cole Toner, Cowboys, Ifeanyi Momah, John Wetzel, Kaleb Johnson, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Logan Thomas, Matt Wile, Phil Dawson, Richie Leone, Robert Nkemdiche, Tony Bergstrom, Troy Niklas, Ulrick John
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This is going to sound random — and, truthfully, it is — but there is a reason I am talking about the Cardinals and the 2009 Pro Bowl. I’ve been working on a piece about Larry Fitzgerald and his epic playoff run during the Cardinals’ Super Bowl season. That will be posted Monday. But one thing struck me as I looked back and researched things, especially when it comes to the Pro Bowl.
As everyone knows, the Pro Bowl is now held the week before the Super Bowl. Players chosen from the Super Bowl teams obviously don’t play, and at this point, many, many others find reasons not to play. Injuries, yes. And also, “injuries.” Back for the 2008 season, five Cardinals were picked to play in the Pro Bowl: Fitz, Kurt Warner, Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin and Sean Morey. That made sense. They all were excellent that season.
That year, the Pro Bowl was still being played the week after the Super Bowl. Everyone could still make it, but guys would still drop out. If anyone would drop out for a non-injury reason, it could understandably be players from the losing Super Bowl team — especially if it was a heartbreaking loss. But what I had forgotten was that all five Cardinals still showed up in Hawaii a couple of days later and player. In fact, Fitzgerald capped his great regular season and legendary playoff performance with a 5-81-2 line in the Pro Bowl and won MVP. That’s not a surprise, really. What was was the fact the Cards were 5-for-5.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Pro Bowl, Sean Morey
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Antrel Rolle retired Monday, although the former Cardinals safety retired a lot like many players end up doing — the decision was pretty much made for him, with no interest out there. Rolle admitted on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” spending the back half of the 2015 on injured reserve with the Chicago Bears and being 33 didn’t help his current status.
“I’m done,” Rolle said, adding, “I’m at total peace with that.”
Rolle — who left the Cardinals after the 2009 season, and more on that in a moment — was just in Arizona this summer attending the retirement press conference of fellow former Card Darnell Dockett. (That’s Rolle to the left in the photo below, talking to Adrian Wilson.) Wilson was already retired, and another former teammate who was there — Antonio Smith — sounded like he was considering it, although Smith ended up re-signing with the Texans after J.J. Watt got hurt.
Rolle’s five years with the Cardinals were interesting, as was his departure. Drafted eighth overall in 2005 to play cornerback for Dennis Green, Rolle eventually moved to safety — a position many assumed he’d eventually play even from the time he was drafted. He had a memorable game in 2007 in Cincinnati, returning two Carson Palmer interceptions for touchdowns and actually did it a third time only to have the score called back on a questionable roughing call post-pick on none other than Smith.
He was young and brash, like Dockett and Karlos Dansby, on a defense that wasn’t always consistent but that stood up during that 2008 Super Bowl run. His six-year rookie contract was bulky though, put together in a day long before rookie slotting. So coming into 2010, with a $4 million roster bonus due and an $8 million salary, the Cardinals — who tried and failed to get an extension done — released Rolle. He became part of the star-studded exodus that offseason (Kurt Warner, Dansby, Anquan Boldin as well) that shifted dramatically the Ken Whisenhunt era.
Rolle went on to get not only his big money (there was a similar offer from the Cards Rolle turned down) but big attention in New York with the Giants, making three Pro Bowls, making many headlines with his blunt talk on a weekly radio show, and winning a Super Bowl. It turned out to be a nice career. Although his stint in Arizona feels like a lifetime ago.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby, Kurt Warner
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The 2016 class of the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame — which has been around since 1957 — has been announced, and former Cardinals Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson was among the inductees.
Wilson is in a class with former Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson, former Suns coach John MacLeod, high school basketball coaching legend Royce Youree, race car driver Bob Bondurant and former Grand Canyon State Games director Erik Widmark (himself a one-time Cardinals employee).
“Just looking at the last few classes, Charles Barkley last year, Randy Johnson this year, those guys mean a lot to the Valley, and it’s just a culmination of everything I’ve done here as a Cardinal,” Wilson said. “I feel I’ve done everything right in the community as well.”
Wilson remains in the community, now that he is a scout for the Cardinals. Along with every other member of the personnel department, he’s out at training camp practices on a daily basis. The High Point, North Carolina, native said he feels just at home in Arizona.
“Everyone has taken me in. Nobody has told me to go back to North Carolina,” Wilson said with a chuckle. “I feel good as far as where I am at, being here in Arizona and what I have done.”
The induction ceremony will be held Oct. 27.
Tags: Adrian Wilson
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The Cardinals made no more trades. And they didn’t get a quarterback.
Those were the top two things on the possibilities list going into the draft, in part because of Paxton Lynch and his presence at the back half of the first round. If Lynch had been on the board for the Cardinals, it would have been intriguing — would a team tried to trade up for him with a sweet deal? Or might the Cardinals go ahead and take him as that long-awaited shot at a QB of the future? But it became moot when the Broncos traded up to 26 to get Lynch.
After that, the Cards didn’t have the capital to trade up into the second round and didn’t see a reason to move back. Meanwhile, if there were other quarterbacks around in whom the Cards had interest, they didn’t excite them enough to pull the trigger. And frankly, once you get to the fourth or fifth round, those QBs left are likely backups at best.
Instead, the Cards went heavy on defense, and heavy on the secondary. You can say what you want about needs and best player available, but often for teams those things dovetail as they set their draft board and it’s really not a surprise the Cards ended up with a potential starting center and depth in the secondary, in addition to an upgrade on special teams.
— All things considered, Robert Nkemdiche should be an excellent piece if he can go hard and stay away from any off-field issues. There’s a reason someone so physically gifted was there at No. 29. The reality is he would have gone soon after if the Cards hadn’t picked him, so the Cardinals didn’t stretch to take him. But they need something out of him this season, and he he needs to become that guy on the defensive line as that position evolves over the next couple of seasons.
— All three of the defensive backs taken are in the same mold: Brandon Williams, Marqui Christian and Harlan Miller have speed, can significantly help on special teams, and aren’t ready to drop in and play a major role on defense yet. The Cards have had success in this area with Justin Bethel, but in truth they still need Bethel to become a better cornerback and not just a Pro Bowl special teams guy.
— I like that Christian won the Cliff Harris award for the nation’s best defensive player in small college (Divisions II, III and NAIA) and I like that Adrian Wilson was impressed by him at a college all-star game. Wilson has a talent for scouting — Keim wouldn’t have given him this job if he didn’t believe that — and we will see if he has forecasted correctly.
— Would the Cardinals have liked Ryan Kelly at center? I’m sure. But I think the pick of Evan Boehm makes so much sense. He’s got the credentials, even as a fourth-rounder, and he’s got the mentality that not only fits Bruce Arians but Harold Goodwin. Lyle Sendlein started for many years as an undrafted rookie. It’s easy to picture Boehm doing the same.
— Does the youth at cornerback mean the Cardinals bring back Jerraud Powers? Arians said they don’t need to add any vets. If he did come back, do they keep five cornerbacks (Peterson, Bethel, Powers and the two draftees)? Last year they only had three cornerbacks on the roster because they kept five safeties.
— Among the positions I’d expect the Cards to hit in the undrafted rookie market: long snapper, quarterback, wide receiver. All three things weren’t hit in the draft. They will need another arm behind center and they certainly need a long snapper.
— That’s it. We’ll see how this draft class truly pans out around the 2019 season. In the meantime, rookie minicamp is next weekend.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Brandon Williams, Broncos, draft, Evan Boehm, Harlan Miller, Jerraud Powers, Marqui Christian, Paxton Lynch, Robert Nkemdiche, Ryan Kelly
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Soon, the Cardinals will know if they will play in Super Bowl 50. Not that they are looking at this game – Sunday night, NFC Championship, in Carolina – along those lines.
“You can’t get the Lombardi without winning the Halas,” Larry Fitzgerald said.
The veteran receiver knows how it works. He’s reminded of it all the time when he walks through the lobby of the team’s Tempe complex and sees the Halas Trophy from the 2008 season displayed. That trophy signifies the key to what was a marvelous two weeks back then, an ending that wasn’t derailed until the last minute. (We won’t go into that now.)
But those two weeks are a crucial point. The Super Bowl seems so far away, both in time and as a journey. Traveling to Carolina comes first – that’s Saturday morning when the Cards leave – and then a game.
I believe the Cardinals are mentally in the right place for this game. A lot can happen in the game itself. I expect a close game. And the Cardinals can try and close in on an NFC title. After that, there will be plenty of time to talk about what’s next.
— It’s hard to get past the feeling that a turnover or two will decide this. These two teams are the ones who have forced the most turnovers in the league (39 for the Panthers, 33 for the Cardinals).
— The most glaring issue on offense in the Cards’ last two games was how the offensive line/protection/blocking got off to slow starts. Something to watch for in the first quarter Sunday night. The Panthers have a helluva front seven. The Cards have to hold up.
— During the Biggest Red Rage Thursday night, cornerback Patrick Peterson said he’s actually down to 199 pounds, a far cry from the listed 219 he played at last season, and down a few from the beginning of the season. He said he could still hang with tight end Greg Olsen if needed, though.
— I’m interested to see if they indeed would put Peterson on Olsen at any point.
— Will weather be a factor? I don’t think it will, as long as the forecast doesn’t change. It might be cold – it’ll dip to near freezing during the game – but Fitzgerald was telling me a couple of weeks ago before the Seattle-Minnesota freezefest that it’s actually not bad for players. Heaters on the sidelines, in the mat the players stand on, big coats. It may be chilly when a drive starts, but that changes quickly as the plays mount.
— For the record, three coldest games (by kickoff temperature) the Cardinals have played this season: 37 degrees at Philadelphia, 45 degrees at Pittsburgh, 49 degrees at Seattle. The Panthers were 41 degrees at NY Giants, 43 degrees at home against Seattle in the playoffs, and 50 degrees home against Washington.
It is supposed to be about 37 degrees and clear at kickoff for the NFC Championship.
— Arians, asked how valid it was that players will listen to players more than they listen to coaches.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” Arians said with a smile. “If I want to get a message to Carson, I tell Drew (Stanton), you know.”
— Not only is Fitzgerald the only player (minimum three postseason games) to average 100 yards and a touchdown in his postseason career, he could go catchless Sunday and he would still average 100/1. Right now, Fitzgerald has 912 yards and 10 touchdowns in only eight postseason games.
— Fitzgerald, by the way, was fined $23,152 for his illegal crackback block against the Packers last week.
— Ring of Honor member and former safety Adrian Wilson, now working in the Cardinals’ personnel department as a scout (and famously celebrating with Fitzgerald after his touchdown last week) is the Cardinals’ honorary captain for the game Sunday.
— If you want to see the Cardinals off Saturday, there is a rally at the airport starting at 10 a.m. Click here for the details.
— Defensive tackle Calais Campbell was a rookie in 2008, when the Cardinals went to Carolina to play in the Divisional round and were viewed, as Fitzgerald put it, as “roadkill.” That was the day the defense ruined Jake Delhomme for good, and because of a turn of events, earned a chance to host the NFC Championship game against the Eagles.
Campbell was a backup fill-in then. Now, he’s a Pro Bowl star trying to lead the defense. Yet, as he considered things, he’s not sure things on a fundamental level, are much different.
“Back then you just didn’t want to mess up,” Campbell said. “You just wanted to do your job. It’s still kind of the same case. The biggest thing is just doing your job. Making it just another game of football. It is just one game. You can’t go out there and try to do too much more than your job.
“As a captain and a leader of the team, I want to make sure that I work with the younger guys. Make sure they’re focused and they’re disciplined, and they can realize that it just takes doing your job. You don’t have to do anything extra. Just do what you’ve been doing all year. Do what got us here.”
The Cardinals are 14-3 after all. Maybe Campbell once again will be able to celebrate in a drizzle on the Panthers’ home field. Maybe he and his teammates will bring home that Halas Trophy.
See you in Carolina.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Larry Fitzgerald, NFC Championship, Panthers, Patrick Peterson, playoffs
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Where to begin.
Let’s start here: I can’t recall a crazier ending for the Cardinals. Ever. That playoff win against the Packers back in the 2009 season was back-and-forth too, wild swings of emotion, but that was simply offensive football played at an incredibly high level. I’m not sure exactly what Saturday night was.
There was one guy playing at a high level. It was Larry Fitzgerald, and that’s the best place to start. I think Fitz had already made a strong Hall of Fame case. But what he did Saturday, basically jump-starting a moribund Cardinals offense by himself, and then making that play in overtime to race 75 yards and set up the (well, his) game-winning touchdown. I know there isn’t much more to be said about Fitz that hasn’t already been said, but Saturday night? That’s how legends are made. They are made with epic playoff performances like Fitz had in the 2008 Super Bowl run, and they are made with 176 yards on eight catches in a dramatic overtime win against the Packers to put your team in the NFC Championship.
— Next, Carson Palmer. It wasn’t Palmer’s best game. During the game there were plenty in the Twitterverse that blamed Palmer’s issues with his Bengals background. There is no question Palmer was off at times and that end zone interception was, in a word, terrible. You can’t do that in that situation.
But Palmer bounced back as Bruce Arians always says he does. He was under more pressure than the Cardinals can afford to let him be under – the Packers had the better pass rush this time around. And the way Palmer miraculously spun out of what should have been a sack and somehow found Fitz on the 75-yard play was as critical and clutch as Fitzgerald’s effort on the other end.
— Palmer gets his first playoff win. It wasn’t perfect, but who cares? Not Palmer, that’s for sure.
— The first person in the end zone after Fitz’s TD to congratulate Fitz was former teammate-turned-scout Adrian Wilson. A great moment.
— Speaking of Wilson, he stood next to Justin Bethel tucked in Bethel’s locker after the game, quietly talking to the cornerback for a long time. I would guess it was words of encouragement after some tough moments for Bethel, not the least of which being Jeff Janis getting behind him to convert that fourth-and-20 play at the end of the game.
— The game was so nuts that the touchdown pass to Michael Floyd that was intended for Fitz, deflected high into the air and toward the back of the end zone, over the head of another Packer and Jaron Brown, is a footnote.
— Floyd, about that play: “I think God was on our side on that one.”
— Here’s a new one: Patrick Peterson was sitting on the floor in the locker room having athletic trainer Michael Blankenship remove tape off his ankle, when a reporter wandered over to ask him a question. Soon, Peterson was surrounded by media – so he sat on the floor, outstretched legs in front of him, propped up by his arms, doing his entire media session.
— Linebacker Kevin Minter, on watching Fitz tonight: “That’s that guy I watched growing up.”
— The Cardinals blitzed Aaron Rodgers on the Hail Mary. They did it from his right so he couldn’t roll into his power. And he still escaped and flung a great pass so his guy would have a chance. Sometimes, you have to tip your cap to the other guy. I’m guessing the Packers – after the hurt wears off – will do that with Fitz. And you have to do it to Rodgers.
— Sure, the Cardinals could have run the ball on second down, right before the two-minute warning and their final field goal. They could’ve burned up another 35 or 40 seconds. But Arians went for the kill. “I play to win,” Arians said. No risk it, no biscuit. I’m sure there are those who have issues with the call, but folks, if you are following/rooting for this team, this is what you signed up for.
— I could write more, but it’s time to go home. Got to get some sleep so that I’m up in time for Seattle-Carolina. It’s on to the NFC Championship.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Wilson, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Packers, Patrick Peterson, playoffs
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Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin was blunt talking about rookie running back David Johnson.
“He could be special,” Goodwin said. “Very special.”
That’s an easy conclusion to reach after three touchdowns on just nine NFL touches, including a 55-yard touchdown reception and a 108-yard kickoff return. One thing coaches and teammates love about him isn’t his talent – although, yes, they love his talent – but his ability to be humble. Of course, he does have to absorb some grief.
“I don’t believe no one in this locker room is really reading their press clippings,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “Well, maybe David. David is probably reading his.” Mathieu chuckled. “I’d be reading them too.”
Johnson chuckled himself when he heard Mathieu’s comments. “It was a little harder this week,” Johnson said, “but the coaches made sure I stayed grounded, and the players around me reminded me it’s a long season.”
It is going to be a long season. That’s why almost everyone around the Cardinals followed Bruce Arians’ lead this week in brushing off the 2-0 start. Playing the 49ers Sunday is both a step up in opponent and a foray into the NFC West, and the Cards understand both cannot be underestimated.
— No word on the offensive line as of yet. The fact Mike Iupati still has not been able to practice fully any one day has to raise a red flag, but we’ll see if he’s able to go against his former team Sunday. As for right tackle, Arians said Bobby Massie is better at pass protection and Earl Watford is better in run blocking. He’s also noted Watford has given up too many quarterback hits. The Cards like to the throw the ball. We’ll see if that impacts the decision.
— The 49ers are a grind-it-out team. That makes sense because a) they have a talented running back in Carlos Hyde and b) quarterback Colin Kaepernick, while he has made strides as a passer, still isn’t someone you’ll lean on the majority of the time.
Then there is Kaepernick’s ability to run himself, which will force the Cardinals to be on top of things while he scrambles around back there.
“From an awareness standpoint, I think our guys have to know that any down, any distance, he could tuck the ball and run with it,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said.
— Goodwin, talking about the Bears game Thursday: “Last week there were a lot of things I didn’t agree with in terms of hitting the quarterback, a couple of shots he took. (Carson Palmer) is going to get hit. We just have to minimize it.”
Friday, Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee was fined $17,363 for his low hit on Palmer on the flea-flicker touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald. McPhee was flagged for a personal foul on the play.
Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson was also fined $17,363 for his hit to the helmet of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Johnson did not draw a flag on the play.
— Don’t forget Adrian Wilson will be inducted into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor at halftime of Sunday’s game. What was behind Wilson growing into one of the best players in franchise history? Take a look back at my “Making of A-Dub” piece from 2010.
— Bettcher said the defensive line has a “great rotation” right now, and that includes some snaps for Calais Campbell at nose tackle. In reality, the Cards don’t really use a true nose tackle – Xavier Williams has been inactive, and starter Rodney Gunter (whom Bettcher said is doing well) is more like a Campbell. Again, the Cards were going for versatile on the line this season.
— Campbell makes it on Sports Science.
— Will Larry Fitzgerald go off again this week? Who knows? Arians is always coming up with different things. Even Fitz knows things can change.
“Coach Arians is like a mad scientist,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s always finding ways to get guys involved, to create mismatches for his playmakers.”
— Anquan Boldin gets another chance at his former team. He’s said in the past playing the Cardinals is just another game, but frankly, I don’t believe him. Q is too intense along those lines to have it be otherwise.
“He’s a physical receiver,” Mathieu said. “He’s 100 percent for 4 quarters. I’ll be matched up with him so I have to bring my big boy pads.”
Tags: 49ers, Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Bobby Massie, Calais Campbell, Carlos Hyde, Carson Palmer, Coline Kaepernick, David Johnson, Harold Goodwin, Jay Cutler, Pernell McPhee, Rashad Johnson, Tyrann Mathieu
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