The Cardinals ran for 120 yards against the Saints, 115 against the Bears and 139 Sunday against the 49ers. It is the first time the Cardinals have rushed for at least 115 yards in each of the first three games of the season since 1988. The 374 rushing yards are the most for the franchise in the first three games of the season since the Cards had 416 in 2002. (That 2002 start was aided by Thomas Jones’ 173 yards in the first regular-season game ever at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, a Cardinals’ win, the second week of the season. The Cardinals had 249 yards rushing in that game alone.)
The Cardinals have done it with nearly equal contributions from Andre Ellington — who looked great against the Saints before he got hurt — and David Johnson and Chris Johnson. Chris Johnson had 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns against the 49ers, and showed plenty of burst just a couple of days after his 30th birthday. Better yet, after Bruce Arians said that generally Earl Watford was a better run blocker than Bobby Massie at right tackle, the Cards had their best rushing game against San Francisco with Massie in there. And this team hasn’t even gotten to see what guard Mike Iupati — arguably their best run blocker — has to offer yet.
“It’s just a start,” veteran center Lyle Sendlein said. “You can’t just show up and expect you’ll get that kind of yardage every week.
“Obviously it had a level of importance in the offseason that they had been working on, and when I got here (in training camp) it was pretty apparent we were going to commit to getting yardage in the run game.”
Under Arians, the Cardinals are 14-1 when rushing for at least 100 yards. That can be misleading; Arians always says being committed to balance only counts in the first three quarters and then the game itself dictates how the fourth quarter will be called. Against the 49ers, for instance, the Cardinals went into the fourth quarter with a 40-7 lead and 10 of 13 Arizona offensive plays were runs as they drove for one more touchdown. (The final “drive” was three Drew Stanton kneeldowns, which count as “runs” but also screw up the stats with minus-one yard on each kneel.)
Like everything else, Sendlein emphasized it’s only a start. But it’s a start. The Cardinals, since 1995, have ranked higher than 21st in the NFL just once — 15th in that 2002 season — and haven’t been higher than 23rd since 2004. Seven times they have been ranked 30th or lower. This year, the Cards are currently 11th in the NFL.
Tags: 49ers, Andre Ellington, Bears, Bobby Massie, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Lyle Sendlein, Saints
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An inability to get on the practice field fully wasn’t a good sign for Mike Iupati this week. The guard is not going to play today against his former team, his knee not quite ready to go yet after surgery. Ted Larsen remains the left guard for the Cards — although there is a change on the offensive line with Bobby Massie playing right tackle.
Because of injuries, the inactive list against the 49ers was predictable today:
— QB Matt Barkley
— WR J.J. Nelson (shoulder)
— RB Andre Ellington (knee)
— LB Shaq Riddick
— T D.J. Humphries
— G Mike Iupati (knee)
— DT Xavier Williams
Tags: Bobby Massie, inactives, Mike Iupati
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Given Bruce Arians’ comments that Bobby Massie is a better pass protector – and given that Carson Palmer’s health is paramount to the success of the Cardinals this season – there was not much surprise Saturday night when Arians said Massie would be moving into the starting lineup at right tackle against the 49ers, replacing Earl Watford, who had started the first two games of the season.
“We’re going to go with Bobby Massie and see how it goes,” Arians said during his weekly TV show, “Flight Plan with Bruce Arians.”
“Earl did a heck of a job. We had a few too many hits on the quarterback. I’ll say this: Bobby is on a short leash.”
Massie missed the first two games of the season because of suspension.
“It’ll be good to get back on the field with those guys and help them win,” Massie said this week.
Arians also said he’d like running backs Chris Johnson and David Johnson to each get 10-to-15 touches this week. David Johnson only has nine touches in two games so far, including two kickoff returns.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Earl Watford
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Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin was blunt talking about rookie running back David Johnson.
“He could be special,” Goodwin said. “Very special.”
That’s an easy conclusion to reach after three touchdowns on just nine NFL touches, including a 55-yard touchdown reception and a 108-yard kickoff return. One thing coaches and teammates love about him isn’t his talent – although, yes, they love his talent – but his ability to be humble. Of course, he does have to absorb some grief.
“I don’t believe no one in this locker room is really reading their press clippings,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “Well, maybe David. David is probably reading his.” Mathieu chuckled. “I’d be reading them too.”
Johnson chuckled himself when he heard Mathieu’s comments. “It was a little harder this week,” Johnson said, “but the coaches made sure I stayed grounded, and the players around me reminded me it’s a long season.”
It is going to be a long season. That’s why almost everyone around the Cardinals followed Bruce Arians’ lead this week in brushing off the 2-0 start. Playing the 49ers Sunday is both a step up in opponent and a foray into the NFC West, and the Cards understand both cannot be underestimated.
— No word on the offensive line as of yet. The fact Mike Iupati still has not been able to practice fully any one day has to raise a red flag, but we’ll see if he’s able to go against his former team Sunday. As for right tackle, Arians said Bobby Massie is better at pass protection and Earl Watford is better in run blocking. He’s also noted Watford has given up too many quarterback hits. The Cards like to the throw the ball. We’ll see if that impacts the decision.
— The 49ers are a grind-it-out team. That makes sense because a) they have a talented running back in Carlos Hyde and b) quarterback Colin Kaepernick, while he has made strides as a passer, still isn’t someone you’ll lean on the majority of the time.
Then there is Kaepernick’s ability to run himself, which will force the Cardinals to be on top of things while he scrambles around back there.
“From an awareness standpoint, I think our guys have to know that any down, any distance, he could tuck the ball and run with it,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said.
— Goodwin, talking about the Bears game Thursday: “Last week there were a lot of things I didn’t agree with in terms of hitting the quarterback, a couple of shots he took. (Carson Palmer) is going to get hit. We just have to minimize it.”
Friday, Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee was fined $17,363 for his low hit on Palmer on the flea-flicker touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald. McPhee was flagged for a personal foul on the play.
Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson was also fined $17,363 for his hit to the helmet of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Johnson did not draw a flag on the play.
— Don’t forget Adrian Wilson will be inducted into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor at halftime of Sunday’s game. What was behind Wilson growing into one of the best players in franchise history? Take a look back at my “Making of A-Dub” piece from 2010.
— Bettcher said the defensive line has a “great rotation” right now, and that includes some snaps for Calais Campbell at nose tackle. In reality, the Cards don’t really use a true nose tackle – Xavier Williams has been inactive, and starter Rodney Gunter (whom Bettcher said is doing well) is more like a Campbell. Again, the Cards were going for versatile on the line this season.
— Campbell makes it on Sports Science.
— Will Larry Fitzgerald go off again this week? Who knows? Arians is always coming up with different things. Even Fitz knows things can change.
“Coach Arians is like a mad scientist,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s always finding ways to get guys involved, to create mismatches for his playmakers.”
— Anquan Boldin gets another chance at his former team. He’s said in the past playing the Cardinals is just another game, but frankly, I don’t believe him. Q is too intense along those lines to have it be otherwise.
“He’s a physical receiver,” Mathieu said. “He’s 100 percent for 4 quarters. I’ll be matched up with him so I have to bring my big boy pads.”
Tags: 49ers, Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Bobby Massie, Calais Campbell, Carlos Hyde, Carson Palmer, Coline Kaepernick, David Johnson, Harold Goodwin, Jay Cutler, Pernell McPhee, Rashad Johnson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Bruce Arians admitted he has an “pretty good idea” who will start at right tackle for the Cardinals Sunday. But he isn’t saying who. Arians declined to name his starting offensive line Friday. “We’ll wait and see what is best,” he said when it came to whether Mike Iupati is going to be able to go at left guard and whether right tackle is manned by Bobby Massie or Earl Watford.
Whoever starts at right tackle is the right tackle. There will not be any switching “unless it’s a problem,” Arians said. Iupati is officially listed as questionable, and he has yet to practice fully since returning to the field. The Cards may end up erring on the side of caution with him Sunday.
One minor upset: Running back Andre Ellington (knee) was limited in practice and Arians is calling him a game-day decision. There’s no need to rush him back, Arians acknowledged, but if he is ready to play he’ll play, because he provides a skillset David Johnson and Chris Johnson do not have. Ellington is listed officially as doubtful.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bobby Massie, Earl Watford, Mike Iupati, offensive line
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The Cardinals had to make a roster move to create room for reinstated tackle Bobby Massie, so Tuesday the team cut running back Kerwynn Williams — who had just been promoted from the practice squad Saturday. It wasn’t the only move. On the practice squad, the Cardinals released guard Anthony Steen and tight end Brandon Bostick, and signed to the practice squad running back Mike Gillislee, who had spent time with the Miami Dolphins.
With Massie back and Williams out, it means the Cardinals have decided to keep 10 offensive linemen on the 53-man roster. It’s a big group, especially considering that Mike Iupati is likely healthy enough to play. So there are no injuries of those 10 linemen. Who is active on Sunday against the 49ers will be an interesting choice. You figure first-round pick D.J. Humphries will remain an odd man out, but there are a lot of other variations available.
Tags: Anthony Steen, Bobby Massie, Brandon Bostick, D.J. Humphries, Kerwynn Williams, Mike Gillislee, Mike Iupati
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Bobby Massie comes back from suspension today, and so the question has to be asked: Does Earl Watford remain the starting right tackle for the Cardinals?
General Manager Steve Keim, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday, said that later today he, coach Bruce Arians and offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin will discuss the lineup. Keim acknowledged he usually defers to the coaches in such situations.
But, Keim said, “I know this: Earl has earned the right to be on the field.”
Watford has held up well in two games (against admittedly weaker defenses in the Saints and Bears), especially in run blocking. And perhaps the most important thing to remember is that Arians said it was Watford’s job to lose when Watford was inserted into the starting lineup. It’s hard to think Watford has done anything to lose the job.
As Keim said, “we’ll have some options” at offensive line. Left guard Mike Iupati is expected back this week from his knee surgery, and while Keim said he likes the job Ted Larsen has done, it’s hard to believe the big free-agent signee of the offseason won’t get back to the lineup once he’s ready. Especially going against his former team in the 49ers.
Other Keim comments:
— He said the Cardinals saw some similarities between David Johnson coming out of Northern Iowa and the Bears’ Matt Forte. You have to say Johnson was the more effective running back Sunday when the Cards and Bears played.
— Keim on the Cardinals’ 2-0 start: “More than anything we have a chance to be a pretty good football team if we eliminate the mistakes.”
— The blown coverage that led to the Bears’ first touchdown, Keim said, was a miscommunication between Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers trying to cover out of a bunch formation.
— He said he liked the cuts and patience of running back Chris Johnson, and also his toughness in pass protection.
— Keim’s call on quarterback Carson Palmer: “He’s been a godsend for this organization.”
Tags: Bobby Massie, Carson Palmer, Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Matt Forte, Mike Iupati, Steve Keim, Ted Larsen
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We’ve delved into why the Cardinals took Matt Barkley at quarterback already, but General Manager Steve Keim — during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Tuesday morning — got into a little more detail.
“When you are looking at a quarterback … and you’re saying, ‘What are the traits you look for,’ the first thing you don’t say is arm strength, or foot speed or mobility,” Keim said. “To me, when you look at quarterbacks, the first thing you want is mental toughness, the second thing is the ability to process and learn.
“Those are the things that excited us about Matt Barkley. When he came out of college we spent a lot of time with him. We liked him coming out. We know he is a football junkie. The mental part of the game is not too fast for him. Now, we bring him in, not a lot of risk involved, and you see what he’s got physically. To me, that’s how you have to approach that position because they are so hard to find.”
Other Keim’s points:
— The roster is “always in flux.” Keim wouldn’t even say the current 53 would stay static through Sunday’s opener against the Saints. Something to watch, although I’d be surprised if there was a move at this point just given what is out there (and assuming no one gets hurt in practice.)
— The fact the Cardinals have only three cornerbacks on the roster isn’t lost on Keim. Having safety Tyrann Mathieu there is a bit reason the Cards were comfortable with the move, but Keim did point out there is a reason the team has three cornerbacks on the practice squad. Any one of them could be pulled up in a given week.
— Once Bobby Massie is reinstated from his two-game suspension, then Keim and Bruce Arians will figure out who might be released to make room on the roster. No reason to talk names now, Keim said, because no one knows what injuries may happen, if any, over the first two games. Keim was pleased with the way Earl Watford played right tackle in the final preseason game.
— That said, Keim deferred to Arians on any starting lineup announcements, including center. He also said he had nothing concrete to report on injury updates of G Mike Iupati and WR Michael Floyd. Arians already said Iupati wouldn’t be playing this week.
— Keim said it was “good to see” both RB Chris Johnson and LB Sean Weatherspoon play “extremely well” in the final preseason game. Keim reiterated the Cards were excited for both additions when they signed and the team is counting on their contributions.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Chris Johnson, Earl Watford, Matt Barkley, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Roster, Saints, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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The roster will change. Now that the Cardinals are down to 53 players, the chances of it staying the same by the time the team comes back together Tuesday isn’t great. GM Steve Keim seems almost a lock to make at least one waiver claim that comes through. But for now, here’s some of the highlights to Saturday’s choices:
— The breakdown by position looks like this:
— The Cardinals will have four cornerbacks at some point. I don’t see how they don’t. It might not be until after the first game, but I am confident they will keep the search going.
— The trade for Matt Barkley ended the chances for Logan Thomas and Phillip Sims. I don’t see them keeping a fourth QB on the practice squad.
— Two undrafted rookies make the roster in nose tackle Xavier Williams and Alani Fua. Fua, at 6-foot-5, is one of those choices Keim wanted to make the team longer and more athletic. It’s why they still like Shaq Riddick even though Riddick has been hurt so much.
— Stepfan Taylor is your “big” back with the cut of Robert Hughes. Kerwynn Williams is a fan favorite but his skill-set is just too close to Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson.
— With the suspension of Bobby Massie, it might have saved Bradley Sowell a roster spot for now. When Massie returns, we’ll see what happens. By then, the Cards might have a better sense of who they want at center, or maybe they let a tackle go.
Tags: Alani Fua, Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell, Matt Barkley, Roster, Shaq Riddick, Stepfan Taylor, Steve Keim, Xavier Williams
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General Manager Steve Keim acknowledged the obvious from Sunday night: There were a lot of issues offensively.
“It was a great wake-up call,” Keim said Monday during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf show” on Arizona Sports 98.7.
Of the starting offensive line, Keim said guard Ted Larsen was the only to even have a solid game. But like Bruce Arians, he saw other problems, like Carson Palmer holding the ball too long a couple of times, some poor routes from receivers, and running backs failing to chip in certain situations.
“When you have so many things go wrong at the same time, it’s a recipe for disaster,” Keim said.
— Keim said the potential Bobby Massie suspension is “up in the air” until and if the Cardinals hear something from the league office.
— The battle at center between A.Q. Shipley and Lyle Sendlein remains ongoing, Keim said. (Shipley did have some issues Sunday night holding off the inside of the Raiders’ line, including ex-Cardinal Dan Williams.)
— Earl Watford played well, Keim said, reinforcing my view that Watford held up pretty good against stud Raiders pass rusher Kahlil Mack.
— Nothing has changed with Mike Iupati, other than he continues to rehab. Personally, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t miss some regular-season time, but we will see.
— Keim acknowledged there probably hasn’t been a preseason game the last two years where he hasn’t been concerned or there had not been some ups and downs. But he also said that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to feel good about. He thought the defense — other than a couple of blown assignments on coverage — played well. And he was happy with the play specifically of linebackers Alex Okafor and Kevin Minter and defensive end Calais Campbell.
— Keim said both running back Chris Johnson and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon “have a chance” to play in Thursday’s preseason finale.
— The 12 roster moves needed to get to 75 should come today. “No reason to waste any time,” Keim said. The Cardinals practice this afternoon.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Alex Okafor, Bobby Massie, Calais Campbell, Chris Johnson, Earl Watford, Kevin Minter, Lyle Sendlein, Mike Iupati, Roster, Sean Weatherspoon, Steve Keim, Ted Larsen
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