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Jim Hart, and Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on December 1, 2017 – 4:27 pm

When you’re talking about long-term quarterbacks, Jim Hart is a good example. Hart was basically the Cardinals’ starting quarterback from 1967 to 1981, work that is getting him inducted into the franchise’s Ring of Honor at halftime Sunday when the Cards play the Rams.

On either side of that halftime ceremony will be another guy who is trying to get himself in the discussion about being a long-term quarterback. Blaine Gabbert is back for round three – and from the sound of it, all the rest of the rounds this season. That doesn’t mean he’ll be the QB of the future, or what it might mean in terms of the thought process for Carson Palmer, but it’s a solid test drive.

It’s funny, since the Jaguars have arguably the best defense in the league, but it feels like the Rams present Gabbert’s biggest challenge. Given the questions about the running backs and Adrian Peterson’s health, maybe that’s why. The first time the Cards played the Rams in London, the run game was DOA, and that in no small part played into the 33-0 loss. A big reason why the Cardinals did just fine against that good Jacksonville defense was Peterson and the run game.

Perhaps Peterson can play with whatever problems his neck is giving him. Or Kerwynn Williams can deliver a herculean effort. As solidly as Gabbert has played, you don’t want everything offensively on his shoulders.

— If Peterson does play, he needs just 37 yards to surpass all-time great Jim Brown in career rushing yards. (Of course, Peterson, healthy, had just 21 yards rushing on 11 carries in the first Rams meeting.)

— I keep getting questions, but no, I do not think David Johnson is returning this season. He’s not even practicing yet, and he’s not talking like a guy who is expecting to play this season either.

— How far have the Rams come offensively? They scored on 21.8 percent of their possessions last season, according to profootballreference.com. This year, they are at 48.4 percent, second only to the Patriots.

— There will be a lot of work to do this offseason in terms of roster overhaul/building. Perhaps more than most years, depending on certain situations. But I think the Corey Peters extension was important. Of all their free-agents-to-be, there are only going to be a few I think that the Cards want to try and extend. Peters was one of them.

— Health matters. The Rams have started the same five offensive linemen in every game. The Cardinals, of course, have started six different offensive line combinations in 11 games. “Yeah,” Cardinals offensive coordinator/line coach Harold Goodwin said. “I’m jealous.”

— A focus of the defense Sunday will be Todd Gurley. I know. Duh. But defensive coordinator James Bettcher said the Cardinals focused on the London debacle, when the Rams ran for 197 yards on 40 attempts. The Cards went into that game having not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 19 games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Gurley gained 106 on 22 attempts. Gurley remains the only player to gain 100 yards rushing against the Cards this year.

— Bring your binoculars to see all the players taking part in My Cause, My Cleats Sunday. Or you can check out this photo gallery.

— LB Chandler Jones was fined $18,231 for his roughing the passer penalty last week on Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles. Kareem Martin and Frostee Rucker weren’t fined for their roughing the passer penalties. There was also no fine for Jags LB Myles Jack for his horsecollar tackle on Peterson.

— One big reason for the Cardinals’ current 5-6 record is the fact last week’s win against the Jaguars was the first time all season they were a positive in the turnover column for a game. In the seven games they have been even, their record is 4-3.

— It’s been a while since the Cardinals played the Rams at home with the Rams being the favorite. The Cards would like to mess with their playoff push. See you there.


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The end of Eli(?), and his Cardinals ties

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2017 – 8:39 am

The news of Eli Manning’s benching (and his emotional reaction) had me thinking of a lot of different ways Manning has direct and indirect ties to the Cardinals over the years.

— Tangibly, the Giants play in Arizona on Christmas Eve. Once it was supposed to be Eli versus Carson Palmer and possibly for playoff positioning. Now, we’re looking at a likely matchup of Blaine Gabbert against — if reports from New York pan out — rookie Davis Webb by then. Maybe Geno Smith. Probably not Eli though.

— The 2004 draft was pretty good for some big-name talents, but the years are starting to whittle at the list. Manning was the top pick, and now, what happens with him? Is it possible he is done for good? Just done as a Giant? Already, Larry Fitzgerald (No. 3 overall pick) and Ben Roethlisberger (No. 11) have talked about retirement being an option. No. 4 pick Philip Rivers once talked retirement instead of moving from San Diego to L.A., but then he re-thought things and shredded the Cowboys for 400-plus on Thanksgiving. (It was also the 10-year anniversary of the death of No. 5 overall pick Sean Taylor a couple of days ago.)

— Manning won an amazing Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium, when David Tyree pinned that ball to his helmet and then Manning made the perfect TD pass to Plaxico Burress — who was a Cardinals’ coaching intern this past training camp.

— And then, of course, it was Manning’s “role” in the Cardinals’ lone trip to the Super Bowl. If it wasn’t for Eli, Kurt Warner may never have come to the Cardinals. Warner signed with the Giants the same year Manning was drafted and everyone knew what was going to happen. (“We had a great understanding when he came, we were basically going to try and use each other,” then-Giants GM Ernie Accorsi told me the following offseason, after Warner signed with the Cards.) But it was the Cardinals who sped up the process.

It was the struggling Cardinals who sacked Warner six times at Sun Devil Stadium — four by Bertrand Berry, pictured — and had Giants coaches in the press box screaming “Throw the ball!” as Warner held on to it when he was taken down. The Giants had been 5-2, fell to 5-4 with the loss and were still in the playoff hunt — but the next game, Manning was in the lineup to begin the 210-consecutive-game starting streak that looks like it will end Sunday.

Warner came to Arizona the next year and eventually wrote the back half of his Hall of Fame career. Manning won two Super Bowls, so the Giants made out well. And today? Today we’re seeing the truth of all truths: Whether the Giants are making the right call or not to close out 2017, time is undefeated.


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A tale of two fourth downs

Posted by Darren Urban on November 28, 2017 – 3:26 pm

Bruce Arians came out Sunday after his team beat the Jaguars and, during his opening comments, was blunt.

“Yes, I thought about going for it on fourth down,” Arians said. “It was real hard not to.”

It brought a smile to many listening. The week before, the Cardinals had tried to convert a fourth-and-1 with 6:33 left when losing to the Texans by three. Adrian Peterson was stuffed for a loss, the Texans ran for a touchdown on the next play, and that was that. It led to Arians taking the blame after the game for the call, and then reversing field the next day.

(There is a fascinating article about going for it on fourth down from the New York Times back in 2014. While critical situations have to be taken into account — like the ones Arians faced — that article says a team should always go for it on fourth-and-1 starting at a team’s own 9-yard line.)

A week later, a lesson apparently had been learned.

Against the Jaguars, there was 1:21 left in a tie game, and the ball was at the 50. Not converting there would have led to a very short field to get in field-goal range for the Jags, which would have been a disaster. Peterson ran the ball much better against Jacksonville, and the blocking was much better. But Arians wasn’t drawn in, and the Cardinals still won in regulation.

“Blaine (Gabbert) tried to talk me into it, and I just kept looking to see if it was going to be six inches or a yard,” Arians said the day after. “We knew we’d get the ball back, and I’m really pissed off because we didn’t line up properly on that one play; it cost us one of our timeouts, or we’d have two timeouts. But, we knew we were going to get the ball back if they threw it (on the possession after the punt), and they did.”

A couple of sideline passes later, Phil Dawson kicked a 57-yard field goal, and the fourth-down choice this time around paid off.


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Keim: Low risk, possible reward of Blaine Gabbert

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2017 – 8:23 am

Blaine Gabbert said after the game that he is just playing — there is no thinking about being on a one-year contract, or about the idea he is auditioning for a future role with the Cardinals. General Manager Steve Keim wasn’t saying he isn’t thinking about Gabbert in terms of the future, but even Keim — during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show Monday on Arizona Sports 98.7 — wasn’t saying exactly what Gabbert might be. He’d only say that, well, Gabbert might be something.

“It’s no different than the reason we signed him in the springtime,” Keim said. “It was very little risk to possibly a high reward. A lot of people scoffed at the fact that we signed him and I don’t think they were very high on that decision, but at the end of the day, I liked him coming out (of college), coach (Bruce Arians) liked him a lot coming out. He’s always had the physical gifts. What was the real risk involved to sign a guy to be the third quarterback?

“The fact that he has stepped up, he’s looked poised and he got a lot of patience in this offense, he’s been a great fit so far and he’s worked his tail off off the field. This gives you the confidence as a general manager and as a coach to make these decisions and hopefully it pays off moving forward.”

I don’t think there’s much question that Gabbert will continue to start regardless of Drew Stanton’s health, but I am sure Arians will be asked later today.

— More Keim on Gabbert: The GM said he couldn’t stop watching the final pass the QB threw, a dart on the run to running back D.J. Foster. Gabbert eluded the rush, running toward the line of scrimmage before he launched. “The way (the ball) jumps out of his hand is phenomenal,” Keim said. He added that he didn’t know what was more impressive on the play, Gabbert’s throw of Foster’s toe-tapping catch.

— He praised Gabbert and the whole team for staying with it despite losing a 16-3 lead and falling behind 17-16 on the Calais Campbell fumble return. “It was a point in the game when you could have had a ‘woe is me’ attitude,” Keim said. The Cards did not.

— Keim was asked about Campbell. He said “I love Calais” but then the GM noted that the big reason Campbell was allowed to walk as a free agent was because that was the money the Cards allocated for the huge contract of OLB Chandler Jones — who, with two sacks and five tackles for loss, leads the NFL in both categories.

— On kicker Phil Dawson, who made all four of his field goals, including the game-winning 57-yarder: “Phil was money,” Keim said. “That’s the guy we signed.”

— Keim said he was happy for safety Tyrann Mathieu, who had arguably his best game. “Sometimes you forget is that the guy has been through quite a few traumatic injuries,” Keim said. “It’s one thing to come back from the physical aliments but to come back and play with the confidence mentally. That’s an obstacle we all have to go through when we incur those types of injuries. He’s coming back into form, he’s always been an instinctive player, and to see him come up with that interception … that can build on the confidence going forward.”

— Keim said it was one of the offensive line’s best games as a unit. He also liked the play of young players like Budda Baker, Foster and Chad Williams, and raved about tight end-who-can-split-wide Ricky Seals-Jones. “He’s a guy we really haven’t had in this offense for a long time,” Keim said — a tight end that can create mismatches.

— On Arians passing up going for it on fourth down and punting, a smart move, after the Cards failed on fourth down the week before, Keim said he had no doubt Arians would make the safe play. “He’s beaten himself up pretty good,” Keim added.


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Splash plays, and Jaguars aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 26, 2017 – 8:16 pm

The Badger was active.

He made a huge interception at the most crucial of times – on a drive where it looked like the Jaguars had stolen momentum and were on their way for a game-winning field goal. But Tyrann Mathieu read the play perfectly and got the pick. That’s two this season, and while you’d hope for more, you can’t argue that the two could have come at better times.

The plays were there Sunday. Blaine Gabbert was pretty good again. You see what he can do when his legs are needed (although, as Bruce Arians pointed out, there are times when that can cause an issue too, because the fumble was a play that need not have happened.) Another touchdown pass to rookie Ricky Seals-Jones, and a run game too.

Defensively, Chandler Jones had two sacks and five tackles for loss and deserves consideration for all-pro. I don’t know if he’ll get any given the Cards’ record, but he has earned it thus far. The run game stops are what impressed me the most Sunday.

Next week will be interesting. The Rams come to town, playing so well, and the Cards are anxious to play them again after the London wax job. Jacksonville is a good team with a very good defense. That’s what this three-game homestand – good opponents – is about.

— Calais Campbell returned a fumble 10 yards for a touchdown, but otherwise was held in check. Gabbert spun away from a potential sack or two. But the Cards didn’t let their former star beat them, all the while welcoming him back. It was good to see the big guy.

“The Birdgang showed a lot of love to me and that felt pretty good,” Campbell said. “Definitely have me chills down my back. My old teammates on the Cardinals, talking to those guys and getting all the love before the game and during the game and even after. The coaching staff, I have a lot of friends in that building, so that was fun. I really wanted to get this win so it definitely hurts right now.”

— By the way, that’s two straight games in which Campbell has returned a fumble for a touchdown when playing at University of Phoenix Stadium. His final game here as a Cardinal was against New Orleans last season, when he scooped up a loose ball and rumbled 53 yards for a score. Campbell’s team has lost both games.

— A few weeks ago, I’m guessing not many thought Phil Dawson would be booting a 57-yard field goal to win a game. That would’ve been good from 62- or 63-yards, I’m thinking.

— D.J. Foster gets a spectacular 12-yard toe-catch to set up the field goal, and also had a very nice kickoff return. It was called back on a penalty, but you can see where he excels there. He’s got a chance to make an impact, especially with T.J. Logan still hurt. It’s a great story too, since he went to Scottsdale Saguaro High School and ASU.

“It’s pretty incredible, kind of a surreal moment to get out there on that field and represent Arizona,” Foster said.

— Mathieu talked this week about getting a chance to face friend Leonard Fournette on the field for their first time after the two came from the same neighborhood yet never played together. Mathieu did his job one specific time, tracking down Fournette on a screen pass and dropping Fournette for a loss of five.

“It’s a tough challenge, especially being 190 pounds and running a 4.5 and he’s 230 and runs a 4.4, so the advantage is on his side,” Mathieu said. “There was actually one play, he ran through the hole and then Budda (Baker) came flying in, so kudos to Budda. I was just waiting on (Fournette) and just trying to get in front of him but Budda made a great play. I might take him out to dinner after this.”

Mathieu smiled. It was a good day.

— There was a scuffle post-game between Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham and Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson, with some swings. It looked heated, but it was calmed quickly and as soon as it was over, Gresham was shaking hands with other Jaguars personnel. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Gresham. Jackson simply said “it was a misunderstanding.” Cardinals guard Alex Boone was there too, looking like he was trying to help end things. Asked about the emotions after a win like the Cards had, Boone said “I mean, I think they’re kind of high.”

— It was a quiet, workmanlike performance from running back Adrian Peterson, but those 79 yards on 20 carries were so important. The Cardinals gained 108 yards on the ground, which is the only way they are going to have a chance to win games.

— Fitz and Campbell swapped jerseys. As did Fournette and Mathieu, and Patrick Peterson and Jalen Ramsey. Lots of mutual respect there.


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Calais returns, Friday before the Jaguars

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2017 – 3:22 pm

The tale of the two players facing their former teams Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium also is a tale of their teams.

Calais Campbell comes back to the Valley with the Jaguars, after his nine seasons with the Cardinals and beloved by the fans. He’s already got a career-best 11½ sacks, he leads the best defense in the NFL and they are in first place in their division. Blaine Gabbert is long removed from his time in Jacksonville and he’s the starting QB for the Cardinals now – despite beginning the season third-string – as the Cards have endured so many injuries and have moved in a lot of ways to evaluation mode with many players.

On paper, it’s an uphill battle Sunday for the Cards. There is no other way to look at it. The Jags might be without top CB Jalen Ramsey, but in the end, they are playing better than the Cardinals right now and have momentum and the carrot of trying to secure the division. The Cardinals are without their top … well … too many to have it not matter.

The Cardinals can’t let Leonard Fournette run all over them, and they have to protect Gabbert. Maybe Adrian Peterson can get loose – the Jaguars are only middle-of-the-pack in run defense, although they give up a paltry 14 points a game. The spotlight will be on Campbell and Gabbert in a lot of ways, and the Cardinals have to reverse each player’s narrative to get a win.

— Another spot to watch Sunday is what running back D.J. Foster can do on third downs. Foster gets his chance now that the Cards let Andre Ellington go. He had nine snaps (and two catches) a week ago and he’s probably a better pass catcher than straight runner at this point. Coach Bruce Arians said receiving is what Foster does best.

“He’s a little bit small to be a pass protector but he’s tough enough,” Arians said. “That’s all you can ask a guy at his size, fight your tail off and get your ass kicked with dignity.”

— We all know Chad Williams, the third-round pick, will get snaps this weekend with John Brown injured. It’s a crucial time for Williams, who frankly is being counted on in as a key component of next year’s receiving corps. Larry Fitzgerald had good things to say about Williams’ maturity and work ethic. Now we see it on the field.

— Carlton Agudosi, whom Fitz and Arians also praised, also could play Sunday with Brittan Golden dealing with a groin issue – although the last time Golden battled that groin injury, he didn’t practice Friday and still played Sunday.

— If you didn’t see Fitz’s comments about Campbell, please check them out.

— Unfortunately for Fitz, he was fined $24,309 for the crackback block he was flagged for Sunday in Houston. The Adrian Peterson rush gained no yards, regardless.

— There has been a lot of talk about Campbell’s ability to get to play defensive end in the Jaguars’ 4-3 scheme and how it was his natural spot. Campbell was in a 3-4 in the base defense here in Arizona and then played inside in the Cards’ four-down-linemen passing down packages. Campbell still moves inside for the Jags on obvious passing downs. Here was his take:

“All of it plays a role,” Campbell said. “I always thought it’d be nice to play on the outside in the 4-3 scheme. That’s where I played in college and pretty much most of my life, but at the end of the day, I’m a football player. Put me anywhere you want me to, and I’m going to give my best shot. But, it’s cool being able to play on the edge a little bit, and I still get the rock inside and go back to the three-technique on third down, which is fun. I think that’s been beneficial. It’s a combination of a few things. A lot of good players around me make my job a lot easier.”

— There is one other “revenge” scenario for Sunday. Cardinals right guard Earl Watford signed a free-agent deal with the Jaguars last offseason, got $1 million guaranteed and was still cut at the end of the preseason. Jaguars coach Doug Marrone: “Unfortunately, he was hurt for a long period of time. Then, we just had players that were playing, and he did a nice job. It was a tough decision.” Watford declined to talk about his time in Jacksonville, brief as it was.

— Through 11 weeks, Fitzgerald had more receiving yards – 546, of his 768 – out of the slot than anyone else in the NFL, according to ESPN.

— A note from our esteemed social media manager Brandon Naidus, who once worked for the Jaguars (and who would undoubtedly be disappointed if I did not drop this in): The Jaguars have drafted three quarterbacks in the first round during their history, and all three will be on hand Sunday. Blake Bortles (2014) is their current starter. Gabbert (2011) is the Cardinals starter. And Byron Leftwich (2003) is the Cardinals’ quarterback coach.

— It’s interesting to see the dichotomy between the fan bases on Gabbert this week. Cardinals’ fans are (rightfully) encouraged by Gabbert’s play last week and are anxious to see him play again. Jaguars’ fans also are excited to see Gabbert this week – mostly because they feel he will not succeed. Clearly there are still hard feelings there with Gabbert’s failures as the Jacksonville QB.

— Don’t forget there is a food drive Sunday, so bring your canned goods and/or a monetary donation. They will be accepted at all stadium entrances.

— Might the Cardinals be able to run the ball a little? Adrian Peterson has a combined 55 yards rushing the last two games. If Gabbert’s task isn’t hard enough in the first place, another sluggish running effort could cripple the Cardinals.

“It’s something those guys are taking personal up front, and I’m taking it personally as well,” Peterson said.

— See you Sunday, where you come for the reunions, and stay for how the season begins to play out for the Cardinals.


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Keim: Looking at receivers, and Gabbert praise

Posted by Darren Urban on November 20, 2017 – 8:13 am

Bruce Arians said after the game Sunday he would be looking at different receivers potentially going forward. GM Steve Keim echoed that sentiment Monday during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7.

“We’ve been looking at wide receivers in a lot of different scenarios,” Keim said, noting that the current group — outside of Larry Fitzgerald — haven’t made the plays they had made in the past. That includes consideration of signing guys off the street, Keim said, as well as potentially poaching one from another team’s practice squad.

Who is catching the ball is one of the storylines going forward, as is who is throwing it. Keim praised Blaine Gabbert’s play —  calling him decisive, saying he got the ball out quick and was accurate “for the most part” — as one of three players who really jumped out to him on a positive note. (The other two, of course, were Budda Baker and Ricky Seals-Jones.) He said Gabbert wasn’t helped by a lack of run game or the drops. (A quick aside: Pro Football Focus said the Cardinals only dropped two passes but it’s clear Arians and Keim thought it was more. Keim said six in his interview. I’d have to go back and watch, but at first glance I didn’t not think Sunday was as bad as the Seahawks game.)

Keim gave no hints on who might start at quarterback this coming week. He did say Drew Stanton’s knee was healing quicker than expected. He also said the quarterback decision would be made by Arians, but “we’ll talk it through and it’ll be a team decision.” (In my opinion, it sounded like Keim would lean to giving Gabbert another start. We will see.)

— The inability to run the football is getting under Keim’s skin. “Some of it is getting our tail whipped at the point of attack, some of it is fundamentals,” he said. Keim was disappointed in the blocking from the tight ends, and it the ability to block at the second level.

— Baker is “fun to watch. He plays at a different speed.” Keim loves both his explosive movement, his physical play and how much ground he can cover. He is “fantastic” in pass coverage, Keim added.

— Asked about the fourth down call, Keim said “I have a lot of faith in Coach.” Noted that Arians did drop passes, miss tackles or get dominated on the line of scrimmage, all of which were issues Sunday.

— Keim was asked about, with a 4-6 record, he was now going to focus on the future in terms of roster building and also perhaps how the Cardinals determine playing time. Keim said he’s looking at every scenario as always, scanning practice squads for other players, scouting college players, combining a look at the future as well as now. In terms of playing time, he used the Seals-Jones example of giving a guy a shot who also in term makes things better short-term. “If other guys aren’t getting it done, give other guys an opportunity,” Keim said.


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Texans aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 19, 2017 – 4:25 pm

The focus going in to Sunday’s game was the quarterback. That made sense. The Cardinals were on their third one of the season and it is the most important position on the team. And for the most part, Blaine Gabbert acquitted himself pretty well. There were the two picks late, and you can’t have those, but the Cards were chasing 10 points by then.

No, it was the issues that have been around all season that doomed the Cards in Houston. A running game that has echoed the struggles of the pre-Adrian Peterson ground game. A defense that makes some plays but just can’t clamp down when the team desperately needs it. An offense that needs to find more consistency overall.

— Drew Stanton was healthy enough to be the backup Sunday. Could that mean he’s healthy enough to start next week – and does Bruce Arians drop him right back in? (I know the public-at-large’s answer.) Gabbert did look very comfortable, and he clearly has some chemistry with rookie tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. That makes sense, because Seals-Jones and Gabbert have been working together on third team since the offseason. We’ll see. It’s fair to point out the Texans secondary has struggled quite a bit against the passers it has seen, and next week’s game against the Jaguars will feature one of the better secondaries the Cardinals have seen.

— Speaking of secondary, the Cardinals sure look like they have a star-in-the-making back there with rookie safety Budda Baker. He was everywhere Sunday. He was great on defense and continues to play so well on special teams – I repeat that he deserves (heavy) consideration for the NFC’s Pro Bowl special teams spot.

— Bruce Arians opened his press conference by taking the blame on the failed fourth down. I’ll admit I was on the move when the play happened, seeing it on the TV screen as I made my way down to the field. But I agree that the Cards had been stuffed all day inside. There wasn’t much to get, but the Texans made it obvious the wanted Gabbert to try and beat them. It was going to be tough sledding for Adrian Peterson on every run play, and the fourth-down try was only the one in the spotlight.

–Peterson ended up with 13 yards on 12 carries after his first two totes gained six and seven yards.

— I do think the absent D.J. Humphries makes a big difference when it comes to the run game.

— The Patrick Peterson vs. DeAndre Hopkins battle was exactly how it was expected to go. Peterson did give up the back-to-back big plays, finishing with Hopkins’ TD. But he broke up/defended a bunch of other tries, and nearly got a second interception late in the game with perfect technique. It’s funny that his first pick was on a pass that wasn’t even thrown to Hopkins or at Peterson. A deflection, and the right place, right time.

— Speaking of missed chances on turnovers, the Cards were there. There were a couple of other fumbles on the ground by the Texans that the Cards just couldn’t fall on, in addition to Peterson’s near-pick. Tyrann Mathieu also dropped a deep pass that could’ve been an interception, although the play was wiped out by an Arizona penalty. The Cards need all the turnovers they can get. At least they converted their two short-fields into TDs.

— Arians said he’d be going to different receivers this next week. That would seem to me that Chad Williams has a chance to be active, but other than that, I’m not sure where you turn. Maybe more Brittan Golden? I don’t see them bringing up Carlton Agudosi from the practice squad, but who knows.

— As much as Tom Savage had struggled this season, it hurts to give up a 97.1 passer rating to him, and 31 points to the Houston offense without the aid of turnovers.

— Fitz was asked about playing in 2018. He did not answer, one way or the other, and wouldn’t even say if he’s still thinking about it. So he leaves everyone in suspense – and makes sure the questions keep coming probably more often than not the rest of the season.


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Fitz remembers all, Friday before the Texans

Posted by Darren Urban on November 17, 2017 – 3:48 pm

The last time the Cardinals played in Houston in a game that counted, Larry Fitzgerald was only 22 years old, in the days when the Cards never talked about the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t remember. Fitz was asked this week about a 12-yard touchdown pass he caught in the game – a loss to a Texans team so bad they ended up with the No. 1 overall draft pick – and it took him no time to recall that it was the great John Navarre who threw him the pass.

“I have a photographic memory,” Fitzgerald said. “Slant route in garbage time. Fantasy owners were happy.”

Fitz proceeded to say he remembers almost every catch he’s ever made, and that’s quite a few. I mean, that’s 1,185 in his career and counting – a number that came into even sharper focus Friday morning with Fitz’s contract extension through 2018. As I said before, it’s good he’s under contract but for me, it doesn’t guarantee Fitz playing next season. Good sign, yes. But until I hear it from his mouth – I am guessing it will be a topic postgame Sunday – I can’t go all in.

This season, though, Fitzgerald is here and playing very well. If you can have a quiet 10-113 as a receiver, Fitz did last week against the Seahawks. With Blaine Gabbert starting Sunday, I’m guessing the new QB will lean on Fitz targets again, both because, duh, he’s a Hall-of-Famer-to-be, but also because of the troubles the pass catchers not named Fitz had with drops/near-catches against Seattle.

— It made a lot of sense all week that Gabbert would get the nod to play Sunday. He’s healthy. Drew Stanton is not. Bruce Arians wanted to keep Stanton in the lineup, and I do agree with B.A. that Stanton played pretty well against Seattle. Gabbert is playing because of injury but I also understand the idea of getting a chance to see what Gabbert can do, in this offense, in a game that counts.

— Fitz was asked if Gabbert’s success in the preseason gives him confidence in the new QB. It led to a long pause. “I’ve been in it a long time,” Fitzgerald finally said. “Preseason is preseason. I’ve seen him have success in regular-season games.”

— Interesting (to me, at least) that the Cards become the first team to start three QBs this season, given that it comes against the Texans. The long-ago loss in Houston, in which Navarre found Fitz? It was the only time the Cardinals have played three quarterbacks in a game. Kurt Warner started, completed all 10 of his passes (Fitz isn’t the only one who remembers all this stuff off the top of his head) before exiting with a knee injury. Josh McCown was the backup and came in, but he was horribly ill that day and he couldn’t continue. So the Cards turned to Navarre.

— Arians was asked about those receivers this week after the struggles they had collectively. “Practice is fine,” he said. “When those lights turn on … it’s going to be a big week for them.”

— The Cardinals have only played the Texans three times in the regular season. The loss in 2005, and the Cardinals getting home wins in 2009 and 2013.

— Stanton hurt his right knee when he was hit low by Seattle defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who was flagged on the play (and it kept alive the TD drive that ended with the Stanton TD screen pass to Jermaine Gresham). Richardson was fined $18,231 for his play, and was not happy about it. Also fined $18,231 was Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby, who was flagged for the hit to Russell Wilson’s jaw. Dansby is appealing, and the Seahawks are still dealing with the fallout for not properly checking Wilson for a concussion.

— Corey Peters has been solid in the middle of the defensive line this season. Not having him in the lineup is notable. The Texans are going to want to run to protect struggling QB Tom Savage. We will see who plugs the middle of the line.

— The Texans are putting former all-pro wide receiver Andre Johnson, their version of Fitz, into their Ring of Honor at halftime Sunday. Current star receiver DeAndre Hopkins was asked to name his favorite Johnson play. It turned out he named a reception over Patrick Peterson in Arizona in 2013.

Late in the game, Johnson was blanketed by Peterson, who actually got his hand on the ball and looked like he might get an amazing end zone interception. Instead, the ball bounced and Johnson somehow tipped it to himself and kept his feet in. (Here, look for yourself, around the 52-second mark.)

“I don’t know how he caught it,” Hopkins said.

— Fitz on Johnson: “He exudes class. He’s one of the best to ever do it. This is just a precursor to greater things down the road. He’s a Hall of Fame talent. I’m happy as a fan of his to witness and see it go up.”

— One final Fitz note. It was mentioned in his “A Football Life” episode that he buys suits for all the coaches. Fitzgerald said he’s been doing that “forever.”

“Our success on the field, it says our numbers, but those guys spend hours … (assistant head coach) Tom Moore is here at 4 o’clock in the morning every morning figuring out new innovate ways to be able to feature guys like myself and Adrian (Peterson),” Fitz said. “A lot of hard work was put into those schemes and you want to do right by those guys.”

“They all get custom stuff, make sure they look good. Some of them look better than others.”

See you in Houston.


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Keim: “I would not bet against” Stanton

Posted by Darren Urban on November 14, 2017 – 8:11 am

Not surprisingly, GM Steve Keim didn’t have a lot of quarterback answers as he talked Tuesday morning on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. First thing was that he noted the Cardinals had yet to practice this week. The team gets a “bonus” practice today, and coach Bruce Arians will meet with the media later, with everyone wondering the health status of starter Drew Stanton’s knee.

“Drew is extremely tough,” Keim said “He’s the type of guy I would not bet against.”

If Blaine Gabbert did start, Keim said, Arians would cater to Gabbert’s strengths, which points to Gabbert’s athleticism. “I thought he looked comfortable when he had the opportunity to play early on (in preseason),” Keim said.

Keim said the idea of putting Gabbert in just to see what Gabbert can do going forward — balancing against the Cardinals having the best chance to win — is not a simple question. “You can go back and forth with that question,” Keim said, saying that if you turned permanently to Gabbert now and he struggled, “would you go back to Drew?” After Carson Palmer got hurt, Keim added, Stanton gave the Cardinals the best chance to win. Thursday was a good example, Keim said, because “Drew couldn’t have played much better. The receiving corps, frankly, let us down.”

— An interesting note with who could come off injured reserve. Keim called the process “fluid” and said there were five potential players who could still come back (the Cardinals can bring two players back total): Palmer, running backs David Johnson and T.J. Logan, guard Mike Iupati and … long snapper Aaron Brewer.

— Keim said there was no reason to overthink the signing of QB Matt Barkley. With Stanton banged up, it was an easy pickup of someone who has spent more than a year in the Arians offense and, if Stanton was out and Gabbert started and went down, Barkley “gives you an opportunity if he was forced into playing.”

— The move of Jared Veldheer back to left tackle was obvious at this point because the Cardinals wanted to have their best five offensive linemen on the field. “The sad part for me is that D.J. Humphries was playing so well,” Keim said. Keim reiterated Arians’ statement that Humphries should be healthy once the Cardinals’ offseason program commences in the spring.

— The Cardinals were already trying to get rookie safety Budda Baker more defensive snaps “because he earned it” but that will be accelerated with Tyvon Branch’s season-ending injury. Branch’s loss hurts on the field and the locker room, Keim said, but there is an excitement in seeing more from Baker, who has been the Cards’ best special teams player. “His ability to cover ground really puts him in a place where he can be a special player, in my opinion,” Keim said.


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