So it was a week about the Cardinals’ offense and the struggles last week and the injuries they already have endured just one game into the season. This is a defense that is healthy – save for the nearing-a-return-but-not-yet Deone Bucannon – and about to face a Colts’ offense Sunday that scored only nine points in Los Angeles last week, has a quarterback crisis and a decimated offensive line.
It’s the kind of offense a defense can get after pretty hard, especially one like the Cardinals, which may be asked to shoulder a bigger load going forward.
“You’d be crazy if you thought like that,” linebacker Markus Golden said. “This is the NFL, man. That’s the real part about it. If you think like that, I don’t even want you on my team. That’s how I feel about it.
“It ain’t like we’re a super-team. We’re like them. We lost last week and we’re trying to get back on the winning side.”
The Cardinals get it. They get the position they are in, what they face after injuries. Anyone concerned about a trap game – which to me can’t be, no matter how rough the Colts looked, because of where the Cards are – shouldn’t be.
“We understand it’s the NFL,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “The Rams’ defense is tough on everybody. We don’t really look at that. If you look at it that way you’ll probably lose some respect for those guys (on the Colts).”
This was always going to be a big game. Bruce Arians back in Indy and all that. It was supposed to be Andrew Luck vs. Mathieu and Patrick Peterson, a clash of two playoff hopefuls. The Colts are anything but, thanks in large part to Luck’s injury. The Cards want to make sure their hopes aren’t dashed so soon themselves.
— Players like Golden and Mathieu were all saying Jacoby Brissett would be the QB they face, which was what had been reported by multiple outlets. Colts coach Chuck Pagano would not name a starter Friday, however, and Bruce Arians took his friend at his word.
“We’ll see who steps into that huddle,” Arians said. “Chuck hasn’t said s*** yet.”
— Given all the offensive shuffling, it’s almost lost that Robert Nkemdiche will be getting a chance to play. He’ll have a chance to go against undrafted rookie Deyshawn Bond, who is playing center with Ryan Kelly injured. If Nkemdiche can show a little of what he showed in the preseason, that’d be a nice start. Given everything he’s been through, he needs a good game in this situation.
— Not much more to say about Palmer this week. The injuries around him do not help. This is why you sign an Alex Boone, to fill in for Iupati. You hope John Wetzel plays better. Offensive line play across the league is not been great. The Cards are not alone. But they have to make it a little better for Palmer, and Palmer has to be a lot better.
— The blocking also has to be better for the running game, which didn’t produce much even before Johnson got hurt. Andre Ellington/Kerwynn Williams was the 2014 running tandem once Jonathan Dwyer was released, so it’s not unfamiliar. The Cards leaned on the defense that season a lot (Palmer only played six games because of injuries) but you need some production on the ground. Where Chris Johnson fits in — especially after Arians said Elijhaa Penny will have an offensive role — is anyone’s guess.
— We will see how much of a role Chad Williams actually has on offense with Smoke out. Still, the pass catching will probably come down more to Fitz, Jaron Brown and J.J. Nelson, with Andre Ellington out of the backfield. Nelson actually has eight touchdowns in his last 10 games (Thanks for the stat, Whiz!) He can’t be dropping bombs like he did last week, but Nelson has gotten better with Carson Palmer and as a deep threat, the Cards need him. Badly.
— Speaking of potential pass catchers, curious to see if Ifeanyi Momah can be a factor. Every time he plays in the preseason, he seems to have a few receptions. Now, with Jermaine Gresham missing practice all week, he’s got a chance to be involved. We talk “Next Man Up,” but the next men up understand more people fret about those injured than are comforted by who is stepping in.
“It almost can be a chip on the shoulder sometimes, but honestly, I just try to do the best I can every day,” Momah said. “It was a good experience for me, first game of the preseason, starters didn’t play and I got to play into the second half. From that game, I was able to build off that, someone who can fill in.”
— Ring of Honor member Roy Green is being inducted into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame tonight.
— Speaking of former Cardinals, this came out last week, but if you have not seen it, it is a well-produced mini-documentary into the free-agent decision of Calais Campbell when he left the Cards in the spring. It’s worth a watch.
— I’ll leave you with this: Defensive coordinator James Bettcher grew up in a small town (Lakeville) in Indiana, and told a story this week about the first time he went to an NFL game when he was a kid.
“I remember Pops took me to my first Colts game, one of my best friends and his dad,” Bettcher said. “It was in the RCA Dome and like I said, from a small town of extremely hardworking people and to be able to go to a game like that was something special. Then you see the size of the stadium and you think, ‘Wow, how could I ever be down on the sideline?’
“To think now how fortunate I am to be a coach in the National Football League. It means something to me to work with the players I work with here and how fortunate I am to be a Cardinal. Maybe that’s what I get out of (this trip). To reflect back.”
See you in Indy.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andrew Luck, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Chad Williams, Chris Johnson, Colts, Ifeanyi Momah, J.J. Nelson, Jacoby Brissett, James Bettcher, Kerwynn Williams, Markus Golden, Patrick Peterson, Robert Nkemdiche, Roy Green, Tyrann Mathieu
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So the latest big-time ad featuring Larry Fitzgerald came out recently, a pretty cool concept of Fitz catching passes one-handed from Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick and Drew Brees in an empty University of Phoenix Stadium (while he used the other hand to buy jerseys, through Visa, on his phone. It was, after all, a commercial.) It was through the magic of TV however. Luck, Kaepernick and Brees weren’t there — except Luck and Kaepernick were, sort of, thanks to ex-Cardinal QB Ryan Lindley and the man who beat him out for a roster spot, Logan Thomas.
Fitzgerald enlisted the help of his teammates (the Brees part, Fitzgerald said, was done by an arena league quarterback.) The shoot was during one of the Cardinals’ off days in training camp, and Thomas estimated it was a seven-hour day, with four of those spent on and off with Andrew Luck Lindley and Colin Kaepernick Thomas flinging a total of about 300 passes.
“We just had to keep throwing to the same hand,” Thomas said. “But it was fun.”
Thomas and Lindley each were dressed as their Pro Bowl alter egos. Thomas even got his arm treated to simulate the tattoos on Kaepernick’s arm. At the time, Lindley was sporting a full beard and looked a lot like Luck (no word, in hindsight, if Lindley grew the beard just for the part.)
It’s only too bad there isn’t a picture out there of the three of them in uniform to commemorate the moment. Ask and you shall receive, as you can see.
Still, “anything to help a teammate,” Thomas said with a smile. “You get to see the personality, especially for Fitz. If it becomes my turn down the road (for a commercial), that would be cool.”
Tags: Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, Drew Brees, Larry Fitzgerald, Ryan Lindley
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So if you are the Cincinnati Bengals, what are you thinking about with Andy Dalton? And what does it say about “finding” your long-term quarterback?
These questions are not easily answered. The Cardinals have been looking for their “long-term” quarterback since, well, since they moved to Arizona. There were the Kurt Warner years, but the time where Warner was both the unquestioned and winning (a key adjective) quarterback for this franchise was less than three seasons: A few games into the 2007 season through 2009. Carson Palmer has come along, and was 10-6 in his first season, and likely is the Cards’ starter in 2014, but how long does he have?
Again, finding the young replacement isn’t simple. Look at Dalton. He has won nine, 10 and 11 games in his three seasons in Cincinnati. The Bengals have made the playoffs every single season. It’s a foundation many teams — even the Cards — would love to have with a quarterback after he was drafted. He threw for almost 4,300 yards this season and already has 80 TD passes in his young career. It’s the definition of finding a long-term guy … right?
Yet the Bengals have lost all three playoff games Dalton has quarterbacked, and he has not played well in any of them. He is, not surprisingly, getting hammered about it again and there are some who think the Bengals should look elsewhere. Now, there are QB-needy teams across the league who would probably love to have Dalton. Yet his situation underscores the minefield that is filling that position.
Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton have worked well. It looks like Colin Kaepernick has too (although I think he still tends to be more up and down than you’d like at this early stage) and Nick Foles flourished in Chip Kelly’s offense. Side note, you look at the playoff teams and the winners and it drives home the point this league is about good quarterback play.
Is Matthew Stafford the answer, even with all his gaudy stats? (Ken Whisenhunt may be hired soon to find out.) Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder were not. Sam Bradford? It’s no wonder Steve Keim says he has to fall in love with a QB to want to draft him, because let’s face it, if you do draft one early, you are married to him for a few years to see if he works out.
And, in the case of someone like Dalton, you still may be wondering if he is working out even when it seems like he is.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Bengals, Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker, Kurt Warner, Matthew Stafford, Nick Foles, Russell Wilson, Steve Keim
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Bruce Arians knows Andrew Luck knows Jerraud Powers knows Chuck Pagano knows Harold Goodwin knows Robert Mathis.
So where does that leave Sunday, when the Cardinals play the Colts? It’s a great question. Do these teams know a little bit about each other? Sure. But with the amount of video out there for everyone to study anymore, I’m not all that sure it changes the equation much.
“I’m sure (Bruce) will try to use it to his advantage,” Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said. “But I think in the NFL you know so much about every other team I’m sure it gets thrown out the window at some point.”
The Cardinals know, for instance, that Luck doesn’t really want to run but will if he has an opportunity. That won’t help bring him down if Luck escapes the pass rush and gets his 240-pound frame streaking forward in space. Cardinals offensive coordinator Goodwin has a pretty good idea what Mathis is going to do to get to Carson Palmer. Will that allow the Cards to slow him? It reminds me a little of all the fringe players cut around the league and then picked up by rivals or teams on the upcoming schedule of that player’s former team. I don’t know exactly how much they can really provide in the context of a particular game. The game plan changes week-to-week.
(And sometimes, another team is just picking up a player because they need a player. That’s what happened when the Titans, who the Cards play in December, signed John Skelton to be a backup QB. Skelton was cut so early in the Arians tenure he would be no help as a “spy,” although I had some fans suggest that’s what the move was for.)
“They are going to know us, we’re going to know them,” Cardinals left tackle Bradley Sowell, a former Colt, said. “It’s whoever prepares better.”
Tags: Andrew Luck, Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, Colts
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In the week of Arians vs. His Former Team (that story coming later on the homepage), here’s a few non-that-story notes from Wednesday:
— Running back Andre Ellington talked about Dreadsgate a final time. The most interesting part? Being asked if he was upset some people did not believe his hair was real but instead extensions. Ellington had said after the game it was real, but many (and I heard from some) did not buy it. “I knew it was real,” Ellington said. “I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I took me five years to grow it.”
Ellington reiterated he wasn’t hurt on the play. As for going forward, he said he hasn’t given any thought to cutting his hair. “They are probably going to start targeting it now,” Ellington said. “Just means I have to run a little faster.”
Certainly, the Cards need more than the three yards on eight carries Ellington provided in the game.
— Bruce Arians had a fantastic press conference today. Among the highlights: Andrew Luck, on his own conference call, said Arians had an “incredibly young soul.” Told this, Arians smiled. “I don’t feel like I’m 62. I feel like I’m 22.” (Of course, Arians is only 61, but who’s counting?)
— Second Arians highlight: Asked how improbable the last two years had been, which began when Arians was no longer the offensive coordinator for the Steelers to NFL coach of the year of the Colts to now his permanent job with the Cards: “From refired — excuse me, retired — to this, I don’t think anyone would have dreamed this.” If you remember, the Steelers had announced Arians had retired. Clearly, Arians did not see it the same way.
— Arians said Patrick Peterson will remain the punt returner this week, after saying they might consider something else.
— CB Justin Bethel has been cleared through concussion protocol, but is limited right now. The Cards re-signed CB Bryan McCann yesterday and Arians said McCann almost made the team out of training camp because of his special teams work. You’d think that’d put McCann in good shape to take over for the injured Teddy Williams across from Bethel on punt coverage.
— Still not certain of WR Brittan Golden returning. Arians said the problem with Golden’s hamstrings are more about scar tissue right now.
— Arians appeared on the Rich Eisen Podcast this week, if you want to take a listen.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andrew Luck, Brittan Golden, Bruce Arians, Bryan McCann, Justin Bethel, Patrick Peterson
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Fifth-round pick Stepfan Taylor will be at the Cardinals’ rookie minicamp this weekend. All the rookies will. But the NFL rule that prohibits rookies from taking part in addition offseason work until their school has held final exams — regardless of whether the player is actually attending school or not (because many players leave school to prep for the NFL) — means Taylor, a Stanford product, won’t be around for much else.
Stanford isn’t scheduled to have final exams end until June 12. That happens to be the second day of the Cardinals’ mandatory minicamp at the end of the full team offseason work. There will be a final practice the next day. Rookies will likely stay around the facility beyond that (they usually do as the vets disperse for the rest of their offseason) but it’s not the same as the OTAs and minicamp.
The Cards do have a couple other rookies that could miss some time after rookie minicamp, but we’re talking one to three days in the other cases. The first OTAs are May 14-16, and there will be 10 total OTA days through June 6, before the June 11-13 minicamp.
Taylor does have a few things going for him. One, he’s from Stanford. I’m betting he’s pretty smart. Two, he’s a running back, and I’m guessing there isn’t as much needed to grasp to still be able to make an impact (and he still has all of training camp.) Finally, it’s not like he’s the first to ever go through this. Stanford products have to deal with this every year. Andrew Luck (below, handing off to Taylor in college) was gone from the Colts for more than a month, and that worked out pretty well for him and his team.
And who was there first-hand in Indy to see that play out? Bruce Arians.
— The rookies report tomorrow for physicals and other stuff. Draft picks Kevin Minter and Tyrann Mathieu will have a co-press conference at 2 p.m.
— No, as of now, nothing new to report on the Karlos Dansby situation. He did visit today and saw some of his old teammates. We’ll see if a contract can be worked out.
Tags: Andrew Luck, minicamp, OTAs, rookies, Stepfan Taylor
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Matthew Stafford. Tim Tebow. Andrew Luck. And now Carson Palmer.
If Drew Stanton was hoping his path would finally be cleared to be an NFL starter, well, another name is in front of him. Palmer is officially a Cardinal. He’ll collect $10 million guaranteed on a two-year contract that the Cardinals can easily shed after one year if need be. He gives the Cards a veteran signal-caller and their most proven QB since Kurt Warner. He steadies the offense even if he isn’t quite the guy he used to be. Palmer is in the building, attending meetings with his team and isn’t even behind, since today was the first day the players were going to be able to talk football with their new coaches anyway. Palmer is starting in the same place on the learning curve as Larry Fitzgerald, so that’s good.
We’ll have much more on Palmer later. This is about Stanton, the man who less than a month ago was hoping to have a shot at being a starter.
Stanton knows the NFL business better than anyone. (And in fact, apparently was told when he signed a Palmer arrival could indeed be in the Cards’ plans.) Stanton was a second-round pick in Detroit who missed his rookie season with knee surgery and fell behind in his second year as a Lion (behind Jon Kitna and Dan Orvlosky) when a thumb injury kept him out of the preseason. By 2009, Stafford arrived as savior and permanent starter. Stanton hoped he could at least be the backup with the Jets when he signed as a free agent last year — and with Mark Sanchez’s issues, maybe an opening at some point — but the Jets traded for Tebow five days later and, writing on the wall, Stanton asked to move on. The Jets sent him to Indy, where he was inevitably going to sit behind Luck.
Stanton hoped the combination of Bruce Arians and the Cards’ QB situation might be a little different. Arians talked him up but left the door ajar, the space within which Palmer now walks through. Palmer is going to be the starter. But Stanton will be the backup, and who knows, maybe Stanton will — through injury or otherwise — get a shot to start at some point.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Matthew Stafford, Tim Tebow
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Yes, yes, I know I am early. Way early. But as long as the info is out there — and while we still have a little bit before we get to training camp — here is a look at who the Cardinals’ opponents will be for the 2013 season.
— Indianapolis (Andrew Luck!)
— Carolina (Cam Newton!)
— Houston (Arian Foster.)
— Atlanta (Roddy White?)
— NFC North team that matches Cards’ spot in 2012 standings
— and of course, St. Louis, Seattle, San Francisco.
— New Orleans
— Tampa Bay
— NFC East team that matches Cards’ spot in 2012 standings
— and, of course, St. Louis, Seattle, San Francisco.
I was going to do a little analysis, but then I realized how foolish that was this far out.
Tags: 49ers, Andrew Luck, Arian Foster, Buccaneers, Cam Newton, Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, Panthers, Rams, Roddy White, Saints, schedule, Seahawks, Texans, Titans
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Thanks to some obvious rhyming and a “can’t miss” quarterback prospect, the phrase “Suck for Luck” has become all the rage among the fan bases of poor teams this season in the NFL. It’s catchy to a point, although for all the reasons expected, it’s never true. Sure, there are going to be bad teams and someone indeed will be bad enough to end up with the No. 1 pick, but there are never players who are thinking about who their team might draft the following April. If you are on that bad of a team, sweeping changes usually come to the roster anyway — so there is no reason to do anything but play hard and try to win. If someone is seen dogging in on video, who’s going to want them going forward?
But what I really found interesting in the whole Luck talk was what former QB Phil Simms said about the 0-7 Colts and whether Peyton Manning will try to come back this season from his neck injury: “There is no way if Peyton Manning is given a clean bill of health — I’m going to go on that assumption — that he is going to let them draft Andrew Luck.” If Manning does come back late this season, he’s going to find a way to win a couple games, you’d think.
Even though Manning is one of the best quarterbacks ever and just signed a new contract, Simms pointed out the pressure that would come in Indy with Luck lurking on the bench. “In this day and age, even with Peyton Manning, people would be crying, ‘We’ve got to see Andrew Luck.’ ”
To which I say, that’s absolutely true.
Think Favre-Rodgers, and how messy that got in Green Bay. Heck, more than a few eyebrows were raised in New England in April when the Patriots drafted Ryan Mallett, and that was with an extra third-round pick and not the first choice overall. I am reminded of an interview I had with Kurt Warner a couple weeks before the 2006 draft, when it seemed very possible the Cardinals would take a quarterback. Warner clearly did not want the Cards to take a QB. He had just been through the Eli Manning thing in New York a couple of years before. He wanted to play a few more years and get back to the Super Bowl.
“What’s the best way to do that?” he said. “Not to take a guy who is going to take over my job. Go get somebody who can help us next year.”
The Cards did take a QB, obviously, Matt Leinart (and they would have taken Jay Cutler had Leinart been gone). Warner wasn’t thrilled, and his concern about the pressure to play the rookie came to bear when Warner was bad in the first 3 1/2 games (fumbling 10 times!) and then being replaced. That doesn’t mean Manning will have the same problem. But it illustrates — especially knowing what we know now of how Warner/Leinart/post-Warner played out — how finding that good quarterback to carry you can be complicated. Even if you already have one of the greatest ever, yet still have ended up sucking for Luck.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, Phil Simms
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The subject grew in debate as the Cardinals’ losing streak grew — Wouldn’t it be better for the Cards just to lose out and nab the highest draft pick possible? Andrew Luck, for goodness sake!.
Well, we’ve heard coach Ken Whisenhunt keeps planning on winning. Players have their own reasons, but none point to losing as a good thing. Plus there is the schedule, which not only included the hapless Broncos visiting last weekend but a trip to reeling, one-win Carolina this weekend (I told you the Cards wouldn’t lose out).
Couple of points to make here. Talking to people, unless you can get QB Andrew Luck, there probably isn’t anyone else to be available that’s worth tanking for anyway. And the Cards were never getting Luck. The Panthers weren’t going to catch them in the standings, and I doubt the Bengals will fall behind (climb over?) the Cards. Yes, I think despite Clausen/Palmer, both the Bengals and Panthers would be all over Luck.
That’s assuming Luck comes out in the first place. Logically, you’d think he would. But he goes to Stanford, his family has money (his father Oliver was a NFL QB himself and now is West Virginia’s AD) and compared to most, he does have some reasons to stay (although he’ll never be drafted higher than first overall, and the risk to return is large — I’d think Jake Locker would have gone higher last year than this). There are also those who have heard rumblings that Jim Harbaugh won’t bail as Stanford’s coach. So there’s that.
As for the Cardinals, they have one major factor in their favor draft-pick-wise. Their strength of schedule is so poor that they will get the highest pick of any team(s) they tie with (because in the draft, ties are broken on strength of schedule; the team that played the weakest moves to the front). That’s assuming they don’t tie any NFC West brethren. Even then, the odd games on the sked — matchupes with incredibly disappointing Minnesota and Dallas — will help in that regard.
Tags: Andrew Luck, draft, Jim Harbaugh
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