It was Bruce Arians’ introductory press conference when he first talked about his offense and how he wants to take shots down the field. That’s how he rolled in Pittsburgh, how the Colts played last year and how the Cards will do it now, because as Arians sees it, yards in big chunks helps a lot. Certainly, it’s something the Cards could use more of after 2012. It’s a big reason the club picked Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope, because he showed off some big-time speed at the Scouting combine, running a sub-4.4 40.
(Although the scouting reports wonder if Swope’s 40 times can translate on the field or if he is better suited for a quick slot game. Swope, speaking after he was picked, about being a deep threat: “I see that instantly.” He also said his speed is real: “A lot of people had me as just a possession receiver coming in.”)
If Swope can help stretch the field, that would be a big deal. But the Cardinals have gotten deep prior to last season with their other wideouts. Don’t forget Larry Fitzgerald had a sparkling and career-best 17.6 yards per catch in 2011, when John Skelton/Kevin Kolb weren’t as errant getting him the ball as last season. Fitz’s YPC got crushed in part last year because it seemed the team worked so hard to get him the ball on short stuff just so it’d be complete that he didn’t gain many yards. The longest pass play of the season was a 53-yarder to Michael Floyd in the finale, and that featured a lackluster tackling effort made (as you can see on the video below.) The Cards only had nine pass plays of at least 30 yards last season.
Floyd led the team with 12.5 yards a catch, and that was boosted from 10.7 only after his eight-catches-for-166-yards in the last game of the season. Fitz, in what was his most frustrating season as a pro, was at 11.2 (71 catches for 798 yards, ugh) and Andre Roberts was 11.9 (64 for 759).
There should be more accurate throws downfield from Carson Palmer this season. There should be better protection up front to actually allow the quarterback time to chuck it downfield this season. And there is no question there will be plays called to do it too, whether it’s to Swope, Fitz, Roberts or Floyd. Or someone else. The Cardinals need those kind of big plays.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ryan Swope
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It’s inevitable, really, the physical strides a player makes in the time after his rookie season to his second NFL season. It’s not always in-your-face, but guys usually understand what it takes to prep their body for the NFL rigors after being in it a season. For a guy from a smaller school, it does become apparent. I remember that’s what happened with Greg Toler, and now that he’s been back a few days, the same can be said for second-year defensive back Justin Bethel.
Bethel came into the week looking pretty powerful. He said at week’s outset he wanted to be bigger if he was going to have to play safety. Then Bethel found out in the initial meetings with the coaches they want to work him at cornerback. Bethel weighed in at 201 pounds Thursday and said he’s in a much better place taking care of his body.
“I had to learn,” Bethel said. “I didn’t eat well at all. I’d eat here, go home, watch TV, come back the next day. If I wasn’t getting it (at the facility) I wasn’t eating. That messed me up weight-wise.”
Bethel wanted to be beefed up a bit to be physical at safety, but he said he doesn’t feel it has affected his speed, which already has made him a special teams demon. He plans to see how he feels on the field first before trying to figure out the right playing weight — “If I lose, I lose,” he said — but wants to keep his speed. Bethel (below, between Andre Roberts and Patrick Peterson) wouldn’t even credit himself for his bigger upper body, saying it was hereditary, and acknowledged it is work to keep weight on.
“It’s easy for me to drop weight,” Bethel said. “I go to sleep and drop like three pounds.”
Tags: Andre Roberts, Justin Bethel, Patrick Peterson
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The NFC coaches breakfast was this morning — bright and early at 7:15 a.m. — here at the NFL coaches meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. That meant an hour hanging out with Cardinals coach Bruce Arians. There will be plenty more in-depth of what was said, but for now a few of the main highlights — the biggest being that the reality of Drew Stanton being the 2013 starting quarterback feels very close right now.
– Asked if this was a tough year to be going into the draft needing a quarterback, Arians didn’t blink. “I don’t feel we need one.”
– Along those lines (and again, I will have an article up later today on the subject) Arians said he wasn’t worried about the quarterback situation. He doesn’t know enough about Brian Hoyer, Ryan Lindley or John Skelton yet, because he hasn’t had a chance to go over video and ask “why” on various plays. He obviously has done that with Stanton. But he said he thinks he can win with Stanton, and he said he won’t have a problem if things stay status quo starting Stanton this season.
– Yes, such QB talk is possiblely a smokescreen. Or just hard driving optimism so players (and fans) don’t want to write off 2013. But Arians sure sounded genuine.
– He wants to name a starting QB before training camp. That’s best for the team, he said, making sure the locker room knows who “The Man” will be.
– It hurt Kevin Kolb that Arians couldn’t sit down with him and talk about his play last season and again, figuring out the whys and why nots of decision-making. Without that information, moving on (given the contract) was the best decision, Arians said.
– He talked a little bit about the possibility of adding free agent Josh Cribbs, assuming at some point Cribbs is healthy and the Cards still have interest by that point. He wouldn’t mind having both Cribbs and Patrick Peterson back for a kick or two. “It’d be a nice addition if it works out.” One thing Cribbs won’t do is be QB in a wildcat formation. “I’m not a wildcat dude,” Arians said.
– Not only will Lorenzo Alexander play outside linebacker, new defensive end Matt Shaughnessy can also stand up and play OLB. That could make for an interesting pass rush situation.
– Asked about the tight ends, he was blunt: “I’m not a fullback guy, never have been.” Not great news for Anthony Sherman, at least on the surface. Arians wants two tight ends when one can maneuver into the backfield, making it much harder for the defense to know what’s coming. Having a fullback restricts that flexibility, he said.
– He said the speed at receiver with Fitz, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd is “plenty fast enough.” He added with a chuckle, wide receiver “is not the position I’ve worried about.”
– Rehab has gone well for center Lyle Sendlein, tackle Levi Brown and running back Ryan Williams, but Arians isn’t sure how much they will do in the early on-field work.
– It’ll be wait-and-see where second-year offensive linemen Nate Potter and Bobby Massie play, either guard or tackle. But Arians is confident they each can do both.
– Levi Brown could play right tackle. But Arians right now sure sounds like a guy expecting to have Brown at left tackle.
– The coaching staff are still trying to figure out what position Justin Bethel will play, cornerback or safety. They will pick one and let him learn it well.
– The Cardinals color Kangol was on display again Wednesday morning. Could we see something similar on Sundays? Arians is talking with with New Era and the NFL on that subject. “I’m not getting fined,” Arians joked. “There’s got to be more than baseball caps, know what I mean?”
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Levi Brown, Andre Roberts, quarterbacks, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Williams, Anthony Sherman, Bruce Arians, Michael Floyd, Bobby Massie, Justin Bethel, Nate Potter, Josh Cribbs, Lorenzo Alexander, Drew Stanton, Matt Shaughnessy
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Just in case anyone wasn’t sure about new coach Bruce Arians wanting to get the ball downfield if possible in the running game, Arians makes it pretty clear what he wants to see in his running backs.
He wants someone who can run, of course. And block. Beyond that? Let’s just say that fantasy football players in points-per-reception leagues aren’t going to look at the Cardinals first.
“They are back there because they are runners and pass protectors,” Arians said. “Will we throw to the backs? Yeah. But the receivers are the ones paid to catch it. (Running backs) are helping but it’s doubtful our running back leads the team in receiving.”
Last season, injuries crushed the Cards’ running backs, so reception totals don’t correspond perfectly in what the prior staff wanted to do in the passing game, but even Ken Whisenhunt’s pass game didn’t use the backs a ton as receivers (especially after Tim Hightower left.) William Powell had the most catches for a running back last year (19), and that was sixth on the team behind Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Michael Floyd, Rob Housler and Early Doucet. LaRod Stephens-Howling was tied for seventh with tight end Jeff King with his 17 catches. Ryan Williams had seven receptions, Anthony Sherman five and Beanie Wells only had one.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Anthony Sherman, Beanie Wells, Bruce Arians, Early Doucet, Jeff King, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Rob Housler, Ryan Williams, Tim Hightower, William Powell
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The Cardinals will have WR Andre Roberts and DE Calais Campbell active today, which is a good sign. The surprise inactive today is rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming, who has been dealing with a back issue but more importantly has lost snaps over recent weeks falling down the depth chart.
– QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)
– DE Ronald Talley (ankle)
– WR LaRon Byrd
– G Senio Kelemete
– T Pat McQuistan
– TE Kory Sperry
Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is active, but given his on-field argument with Kerry Rhodes last weekend and his disagreement with the decision of the coaching staff at the end of the Jets game, he is expected to lose some playing time. With Talley out, the Cards figure they will need Dockett.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, inactives, Jamell Fleming, Kory Sperry, LaRon Byrd, Levin Kolb, Pat McQuistan, Ronald Talley, Senio Kelemete
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Defensive end Calais Campbell (calf) and wide receiver Andre Roberts (ankle) both are inactive today. So too is tight end Todd Heap, who has recovered from his knee injury but apparently isn’t in the Cards’ plans unless there is an injury to another tight end. With Roberts out — and he is, not Larry Fitzgerald, leading the team in yards receiving and receiving touchdowns — that means rookie Michael Floyd will get his first start. David Carter will start in Campbell’s place.
The rest of the inactive list isn’t a surprise:
– QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)
– G Senio Kelemete
– T Pat McQuistan
– RB Alfonso Smith
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Andre Roberts, Calais Campbell, inactives, Kevin Kolb, Michael Floyd, Pat McQuistan, Senio Kelemete, Todd Heap
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Wide receiver Andre Roberts did not practice again Friday, meaning he sat out the entire week with his bad ankle. But he is still listed as questionable to play against the Jets, one of three receivers for the Cards who are questionable. On the good side, the other two questionable — Early Doucet (back) and LaRon Byrd (head) — each we’re upgraded to full practice Friday.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he also expects two other players listed as questionable to play barring an unforeseen setback between now and game day: DE Calais Campbell (calf) and running back Beanie Wells (knee). I thought all week Beanie was just precautionary, but if he is listed as questionable, perhaps not.
The other questionable player, QB Kevin Kolb (ribs), seems like a long shot to be active Sunday given his circumstances.
One of those listed as questionable for the Jets, backup QB Tim Tebow, is dealing with fractured ribs. ESPN reported Tebow will be inactive Sunday.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell, Early Doucet, Kevin Kolb, LaRon Byrd, Tim Tebow
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Rookie first-round pick Michael Floyd is going to be playing more. That’s obvious. But if Floyd plays more, there is a trickle-down effect. In three-receiver sets, that means Early Doucet, coming off a rough game in Green Bay with drops, probably is the odd man out. In two-receiver sets, I still expect Andre Roberts to line up most of the time with Larry Fitzgerald. Roberts has earned that. But in three-receiver sets, Floyd is the prototypical outside receiver. Roberts fits both outside and inside, so it would make sense that in those situations, Roberts would be the slot receiver.
“If Mike played more, he’s just learning the ‘Z’ (position) and I would be forced to go into the slot,” Roberts said. “I don’t know what that would do to my reps. We have a whole bunch of formations. We’ll see.”
Roberts said in his third season, he is expected to be a playmaker. Sometimes those bigger plays are easier done on the outside. But Roberts also understands the need to fill in wherever the team might need him.
“I love playing on the outside,” Roberts said. “You get a lot more deep passes. But I love working in the slot too. The matchups (are good), I think I have a good feel for it. Like Fitz always says, he’s going against the No. 1 corner. And usually the No. 2 guy is on the outside, so the slot gets, not lesser talent but on the depth chart, the No. 3 guy.”
Tags: Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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Wide receiver Andre Roberts has already scored more touchdowns this season in seven games — five – than he had total in his first two seasons — four. I’m not sure he saw such an outburst coming, but he was ready for it. Right before the season, he started contemplating a post-touchdown celebration, although it wasn’t really a celebration. A salute “just came to me,” Roberts said, and it made sense, because Roberts attended the military school The Citadel in South Carolina.
“I remember where I came from,” Roberts said. “Going to The Citadel, I learned to work hard and be disciplined. Hard work always pays off. If it wasn’t for The Citadel, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Which, more often than the past, includes trips to the end zone. Roberts already has 29 receptions for 389 yards too, and has developed into the kind of receiver the Cards were counting on when they drafted him. He’s able to block, he’s a smart player, he’s got a pair of 100-yard games already, and as he has proven, he can make the important plays, like scoring.
“I’ve already got five,” Roberts said. “That works for me.”
Tags: Andre Roberts
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Early last week, guard Daryn Colledge talked about how the offense had to play better, but that the defense was always going to keep the Cardinals in the game. Then came Sunday, what may have been the harshest way to demonstrate the point.
I’m not sure what the hardest thing to handle was for the Cardinals. The first stop that led to a punt giving the Cards the ball first in Minnesota territory, only to have the drive go nowhere? The following long drive into the red zone that ended with a fumble and no points? The gift interception at the end of the first half – why on God’s green earth were the Vikings throwing at that point anyway – only to have Jay Feely’s field goal miss? The pick-6 to start the second half that made it a two-score game?
“The plays that were there to be made were being made earlier in the year,” quarterback John Skelton said. “Now we are missing.”
It’s going to be hard not to re-play what could have been in the collective minds tonight.
– The Cardinals have now lost two games this season in which the opposing quarterback had fewer than 10 pass completions (the Rams’ game was the other.) That’s unheard of in today’s NFL. The Vikings ended up with a net of 43 passing yards.
– Those 43 net passing yards – and Christian Ponder’s 58 gross – were the fewest allowed in an NFL game this season, by the way. The Cards hadn’t allowed so few in a game since giving up 37 net passing yards to the Ravens in December of 2000 – a game the Cards also lost, 13-7, to the Trent Dilferific Super Bowl-bound bunch.
- The Cards had the ball for more than 10 minutes more than the Vikings, including holding the ball for more than 11 minutes of the 15-minute third quarter.
– LaRod Stephens-Howling had been off to the worst start of his career running the ball, but he was back on track Sunday. Yes, it was partly due to the Vikings’ defensive alignment, but that doesn’t diminish the accomplishment of his first 100-yard game. You figure next week’s game against the 49ers will be much more difficult, but considering where the Cards were when they lost both Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, it’s a start.
– Guard Adam Snyder was limping around pretty good because of the quad contusion that sent him out of the game and brought Rich Ohrnberger in for relief. You know Snyder is going to badly want to play against his former teammates a week from tomorrow. We’ll see if he can recover in time.
– Adrian Peterson sure didn’t look like a guy who had ACL surgery less than a year ago. He looked like 2008 Adrian Peterson with his 153 yards on just 23 carries, ramping up to full speed seemingly as soon as he was handed the ball in the backfield.
– Larry Fitzgerald called the offense’s overall lack of production scoring “disheartening.” It seems like the Cards have had more issues this year getting Fitz freed up than ever before. The offense is missing that kind of playmaking.
– I know the TD came late, but Andre Roberts quietly had a productive day (7 catches, 103 yards).
– The one thing Kevin Kolb was doing really well when the Cards were winning – and what has gotten lost a bit when the Cards ended up on the wrong side of things a couple weeks ago and then again today with John Skelton – is the turnovers. They cost at least 10 points today, with the Vikings getting seven on the interception return and the Cards losing at least three on the red-zone fumble by Skelton. Many teams can’t afford turnovers, but for the Cards, that margin is even smaller. The Cards generated a pair of turnovers themselves, but couldn’t win the turnover battle.
That’s enough from 30,000 feet. The Cards will have an extra day to regroup for the 49ers. That game was always big. Now it’s probably something that will determine where they go the balance of the season.
UPDATE: The Cardinals aren’t going to work out quarterback Vince Young, despite rumors to the contrary.
Tags: Adam Snyder, Adrian Peterson, Andre Roberts, Daryn Colledge, John Skelton, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Rich Ohrnberger, Vikings
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