It’s basic football. Convert third downs, you stay on the field.
That was Bruce Arians’ lament about the end of the Rams game. “The fourth quarter for us came down to two third downs,” Arians said.
The obvious one was the third-and-2 at the two-minute warning, the wheel route out of the backfield by running back Andre Ellington in which he was wide open and the right pass from Carson Palmer would have found a streaking Ellington for what very well could have been a touchdown. The play was designed so well, with Michael Floyd sitting down just past the first down marker and drawing not only the cornerback but also the safety, allowing Ellington lots of room past (too-slow-to-cover-him) linebacker James Laurinaitis.
The other was a third-and-8 the possession before, when Palmer tried to get the ball on an out pattern to Andre Roberts and couldn’t connect. (The play before, Fitz was open deep down the middle of the field but Laurinaitis made a nice play to tip it away.)
But the reality is that the Cardinals did a pretty good job on third downs. For the game, the Cards were 7-for-14 on third downs (and held the Rams to 4-for-11 … even if the defense didn’t force St. Louis into enough third down situations.) Fitz’s 24-yard TD catch was a third down play. Yes, the fourth quarter was an issue, with the Cards only 1-for-4, but 50 percent was still a massive improvement over last season.
Last year, the Cards converted just 25.2 percent of their third downs. They had at least seven third-down conversions just once in a game — seven exactly — and that was, coincidentally in St. Louis and out of 19 attempts. (We won’t talk about the ugly 0-for-15 day in New York against the Jets.) They never in a game converted more than 40 percent of third downs.
Arians is right, the Cards have to convert at crucial times late. It probably would have changed the outcome. But it’s an important sea change going forward.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Michael Floyd
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It was toward the wrong end zone, and it was the Cardinals’ defense instead of its offense, but it was difficult not to look at Tyrann Mathieu racing down the middle of the Edward Jones turf Sunday behind a breakaway Ram and not think of Steve Breaston.
In 2010, Breaston, the wide receiver, had a wasn’t-gonna-give-up play after a Cardinal turnover, and a sure Rams TD was undercut when Breaston knocked the ball loose and into the end zone, where the Cardinals recovered. This time, it was Mathieu, flying up behind Rams tight end Jared Cook and improbably popping it loose – into the end zone, where linebacker Karlos Dansby jumped on it.
Honey Badger – remember, he’s good with it again – said he was just always going to try and make a game-changing play, and that could have been it. Perhaps should have been. The Cards save seven points there and when they took the 11-point lead into the fourth quarter, you were thinking that should have been enough.
That wasn’t the only déjà vu I had Sunday though. Watching running back Andre Ellington run that key third-down wheel route – and see him get wide open beyond the linebacker – reminded me so much of the one LaRod Stephens-Howling ran in Philadelphia in 2011 on a key third down during the Cardinals’ game-winning drive that game. Ellington was in position to do the same – except the pass never really had a chance.
(By the way, Stephens-Howling tore his ACL Sunday playing for the Steelers and is out for the season. Brutal.)
The Cards won the Breaston game. The Cards won that Hyphen game. They couldn’t win Sunday.
– We’ve had this discussion before, about Levi Brown. I’m guessing this won’t be the last time. He didn’t play well enough against the Rams. Got a holding call and was beaten three times by Robert Quinn for sacks. And then, after the game, Bruce Arians first said – before he even got a question – that he wasn’t worried about his offensive line. Then, asked about Brown specifically, said Brown was his guy and made the point there was no one better to replace him with.
I know everyone says it should be Nate Potter, but Arians gave Potter a lot of opportunity in the preseason and Potter did not seize the moment (in fact, struggled at times like Brown did, mostly against guys deeper on the depth chart.) The way Arians talked Sunday, he feels strongly there is no one on the roster for which to bench Brown. Steve Keim is always looking for upgrades, but I’m not sure you’re going to find a left tackle on the street. The Cards would have loved for one of those tackles to fall to seven in the draft, but it didn’t happen. They took Jon Cooper, and yes, I am sure left tackle will be a point of emphasis next offseason.
– Carson Palmer looked like he had plenty left to me.
– Andre Roberts had the stuffing beaten out of him, and he held the ball every time. It may have been Roberts’ best game as a pro.
– The Cardinals missed Daryl Washington. It’s obvious to say a team misses a Pro Bowl player, but he would have been able to make an impact. Maybe been a better matchup for Rams tight end Jared Cook.
– Speaking of linebackers, Arians said John Abraham was fine. He didn’t play a ton though.
– With 26 seconds left and the ball on their own 20 in the first half, it would have been easy for Bruce Arians to sit on the ball. But the man who says “No risk it, no biscuit” risked it, and Carson Palmer, after a completion, hit three straight long passes to set up a 50-yard field goal. Unfortunately, Jay Feely pushed it a bit wide right, painful in a three-point loss.
“We couldn’t have executed it any better,” Arians said. “You have to make that kick and that was the deciding factor in the ball game.”
– Javier Arenas didn’t play defense, but the veteran cornerback was in there to return kickoffs. It didn’t go well. One time he fielded the ball deep in the end zone and was stuffed short of the 10-yard line. Another time, a return from deep ended up being fumbled, although the Cards fell on it.
“You have to make better decisions,” Arians said. “Stay in there.”
– We’ll see how the Cards adjust this week. And we’ll see if the Cards make any roster moves too.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Carson Palmer, Daryl Washington, Jared Cook, Javie Arenas, John Abraham, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Levi Brown, Nate Potter, Rams, Steve Breaston, Tyrann Mathieu
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Tags: Andre Roberts, Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, NFL, Rams, St Louis Rams
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Tags: Andre Roberts, Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Cardinals, NFL
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Coach Bruce Arians said today that the surgery on Jonathan Cooper’s fractured left fibula was a success and the Cardinals are holding out hope he can return later in the season. His status is yet to be determined in terms of injured reserve. The Cards will wait to make that decision until the end of preseason. They still have to make one more roster move by tomorrow to get down to the league-mandated 75.
Cooper’s best-case scenario in coming back is 10 to 12 weeks, Arians said. If he could return for the last six games or so, that would makes sense. Arians wants him to get real regular-season playing time this year if at all possible.
“We don’t want him to be a rookie again next year,” Arians said.
– To replace Cooper, Daryn Colledge will be moved to left guard. Paul Fanaika will move into the starting lineup as right guard. “(Daryn) is not as athletic as Coop, but he’s more than adequate,” Arians said of Colledge’s ability to do the job in Arians’ offense, when the left guard pulls often.
– The rest of the injuries aren’t nearly as bad. Arians described almost all of them as day-to-day, and the hope is that most will be OK by the time the Cards have to play in St. Louis for the opener. Defensive tackle Dan Williams re-aggravated the ankle he hurt earlier in camp, but he was not concerned about it. Running back Rashard Mendenhall has a knee sprain, he too is day-to-day although he won’t play in Denver. Tight end D.C. Jefferson (knee sprain) is going to try and play. TE Rob Housler has a high-ankle sprain, and is probably the most questionable of the bunch. WR Andre Roberts (quad) and LB Matt Shaughnessy (ankle) are “fine.”
– Arians said he cut K Dan Carpenter because he didn’t like the way he was kicking. Penetration was not a problem on Carpenter’s blocked field goal, Arians said — which leaves it to be too low of a kick by the kicker.
– Starters will probably play Thursday, but not much. QB Carson Palmer may not play, however.
– RB Ryan Williams will get the bulk of the work against the Broncos. Arians had no comment on the report the Cardinals were “shopping” Williams. “I’m shopping him as far as getting me some groceries,” Arians said with a smile.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, D.C. Jefferson, Dan Carpenter, Dan Williams, Daryn Colledge, Jonathan Cooper, Paul Fanaika, Rashard Mendenhall, Rob Housler, Ryan Williams
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Bruce Arians was talking at lunch about some of the moves the team has been making and noted that new wide receiver Mike Thomas had a résumé none of the other young receivers did. He also noted Thomas had speed, something the Cards are always looking for at wideout. Arians was asked again later how important that résumé was. Arians didn’t hesitate.
“That should help him, (but) the deciding factor though was speed,” Arians said. “He does have the résumé, But if he were slow and had that résumé, he probably wouldn’t be here.”
You need a total package. The Cards had undrafted rookie Robby Toma, who seemed to catch everything thrown his way. But he didn’t have the speed, he didn’t have the size and he definitely didn’t have the experience. Robert Gill had the speed but he didn’t have the experience, he struggled catching the ball of late and before that, he was battling a bad hamstring too often. Those were the reasons those guys were cut Wednesday. And it’s a reminder you need to total package to stick around.
Besides, at 87 players, the Cards have to slice 35 more guys before the regular season, not including anyone else they claim/sign. A lot of the current guys are going to have to go.
– WR Andre Roberts (ankle) was back at practice Tuesday. Arians said the Cards will take it slow with him.
– Arians still has hope TE Jeff King (knee) will be able to practice some this week and maybe play in Saturday’s game.
– If Roberts is down, it is Jaron Brown and Kerry Taylor the next in line — not Thomas — to get the bulk of the work in the game. With Patrick Peterson and Rob Housler as receiving options, I think the Cards keep at most five receivers. There’s a lot on the line for Brown/Taylor/Thomas. The other young guys will get more work in the preseason finale.
– Arians won’t have a lot of time to evaluate Thomas, but that’s a reality of the situation. “There are guys you claim off the waiver wire where you get one day and they have to play on Sunday sometimes,” Arians said. “That’s the hardest part of coaching, get a guy on Tuesday and have to play him Sunday.”
– Arians said he hopes to play Daryn Colledge about 10 snaps at center against the Chargers. “Ten to 12, all in one good long drive for a touchdown,” Arians added.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Daryn Colledge, Jaron Brown, Jeff King, Kerry Taylor, Mike Thomas, Robby Toma, Robert Gill
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Bruce Arians wasn’t thrilled with his team’s practice Monday. It’s the third time the Cards have come back from an off day to a practice and the third time, Arians said, they have had a poor practice. The first two came outside in the heat in Tempe in full pads, so he was crediting that with the problem before now. But Monday the Cards were inside and Arians now sees it as a problem.
“It was the first practice where I thought we took a step backward,” Arians said. “Hopefully it was a good lesson for us. There were few mental errors but the tempo and speed of practice wasn’t quality.
“Now it’s a matter of learning how to practice after a day off. I noticed it early. Probably should have started the practice over.”
That’s a message I’d think will quickly be understood.
– LB Reggie Walker missed practice Monday with food poisoning. WR Andre Roberts sat out with a slight ankle sprain, and Roberts is expected to miss practice again today. The rest of the injury situation remains unchanged, Arians said. The players coming off injuries are day-to-day, he said, and that will be the approach of the team whether they play in the game Saturday.
– Arians said the team, once it is settled, will have a vote to see who the captains are prior to the first regular-season game.
– Arians reiterated that he has been generally pleased with his offensive line play. That confidence hasn’t changed since the time he showed up. “I told them, ‘Either you are going to be a woe-is-me group of guys or you are going to take this as a challenge and a slap in the face,’ ” Arians said. “They knew how talented they were, they knew who was injured and who wasn’t playing.”
– The potential roster breakdown in the secondary was discussed when Arians was asked about UDFA S Tony Jefferson. (Jefferson, he said, is at least in the discussion for practice squad, but no sure thing.) The breakdowns Arians kept giving was nine defensive backs — maybe six corners and three safeties, was one Arians example — which is interesting. You could make, with special teams involved, the case for 10. Arians did insist they will go short elsewhere if the players dictated such. “We’re not going to cut a good player,” Arians said.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, offensive line, Reggie Walker
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Tags: Andre Roberts, Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Cardinals, Mos Def, NFL, Yasin Bey
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The Cardinals got Rashard Mendenhall on the field for the first time Saturday and got a little taste of what their starting running back would look like. It turned out OK. Mendenhall gained 32 yards on seven carries, and for a guy who has a reputation for getting better as his carries move along, that 4.6-yard average was encouraging.
A look at Mendenhall’s seven carries (and a couple of other plays in which Mendenhall was meaningful):
1st and 10, AZ 20 – With three tight ends in the game for the first offensive play of the day, left guard Jonathan Cooper pulls right and tight end Jim Dray also pulls from the same side. There is no real running room as Mendenhall gets to the right tackle area, and Mendenhall loses a yard.
1st and 10, DAL 22 – Two wide receivers, two tight ends. The Cards come off the ball straight ahead. Tight end Rob Housler manages a decent block to pinch a Dallas defender into the line as Mendenhall goes behind the block and hit apparent daylight – except linebacker Sean Lee, diving, gets enough of Mendenhall’s foot and leg to trip him up so he gains just five yards.
1st and 15, AZ 6 – One tight end and three wide receivers. After a holding penalty, With Mendenhall the lone guy deep in the backfield (actually in the end zone), he gets a delayed handoff. He’s nearly tackled at the goal line by charging Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Ware but Mendenhall escapes. Unfortunately, it slows him down enough that the Cowboys collapse, and Cooper is unable to hold off defensive end George Selvie as Selvie tackles Mendenhall after a one-yard gain.
1st and 10, AZ 26 – Two tight ends, although Housler is playing fullback. He and wide receiver Michael Floyd are the key blocks as Mendenhall heads over the Cooper/Levi Brown area on the left side for seven yards.
1st and 10, DAL 26 – Two tight ends lined up on the left. Floyd comes in motion from the left wide to come in tight on the left end of the line. Mendenhall grinds out three yards up the middle with the Cowboys not really giving any room.
2nd and 7 DAL 23 – Three wide receivers. Cards block hat-on-hat. Housler at tight end does OK on his block on the right side. WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts do a nice job on the right side too, and Mendenhall goes over right tackle for six yards.
3rd and 1 DAL 17 – On a short play, rookie running back Stepfan Taylor lines up as a fullback in the offset I with Mendenhall. Taylor gets the handoff as the up back for a two-yard gain.
4th and 2, DAL 7 – The Cardinals call a perfect play-action pass on fourth down. Mendenhall slips into the flat wide-open for what should be an easy first down. Quarterback Carson Palmer is pressured, but the underthrown ball at Mendenhall’s feet is a disappointing end to the play. Incomplete.
1st and 10, AZ 4 – Three wideouts and a tight end. Mendehall is four yards deep in the end zone. Cooper pulls again (see a trend?) and seals linebacker Brandon Magee to create a hole near right tackle. Fitzgerald has a nice second-level block on the defensive back. Mendenhall breaks a tackle and has good power on the finish, driving for a first down.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Cowboys, Jim Dray, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Michael Floyd, Rashard Mendenhall, Rob Housler
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So much has been made about Larry Fitzgerald’s work at all the receiver positions, but in truth, Bruce Arians likes testing out all his receivers. When he talks about young wideouts making errors half the time in the Green Bay game, part of that has to be attributed to what is on their plate. It’s part of the process.
“Coach Arians wants to see guys do things they may not be comfortable with, he wants to see what everyone is good at,” Fitzgerald said. “He wants to see you uncomfortable to push you, to get the best out of you. Everybody is on edge, on their toes. There are plays off the script that you’ve never been prepared for, but he wants you to be thinking, to be studying.”
It goes past the receivers. Arians thinks of camp — especially the early time — as a time for “experimentation.” That may have been one reason, for instance, that the Patrick Peterson-as-receiver scheme picked up steam as the days went past and the Cards saw on the field that he could flourish in such a role.
“Right now you have to press the element to figure out what guys can do,” Arians said. “You have to take them out of their comfort zone too, because they don’t know what their comfort zone is until they try something else. The more tricks you can learn, the more you can do. Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Larry Fitzgerald, they’re all learning all three (receiver) positions. You keep pressing the envelope. That’s how you find special niches — (for instance,) this guy is an outside player, but he’s a hellacious inside pass rusher. You won’t know it until you put him in there.”
– Forbes came out with its latest valuations of each NFL teams, with the Cardinals ranking 24th in the league at a worth of $961
billion million (Oops. Man, if it was billion, I better ask for a raise) in 2012 and an operating income of $9.7 million. The team with the biggest value? Saturday’s opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, at more than $2 billion. For the full list, go here.
– The Cardinals are off today. They resume practice tomorrow at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Forbes, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, training camp
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