Carson Palmer walked off the field Sunday, baseball cap on his head, his look muted. He was by himself, and if it wasn’t for a brief stop to sign a Cardinals helmet for a disabled fan in a wheelchair when he entered the tunnel, he would have been alone in his thoughts until the locker room.
The quarterback said the same things as always when he met with the media – the team needs to figure out what mistakes they made and then set out on correcting them – but he knows the opportunities are slipping away for this team this season. All the Cardinals do. As safety Tony Jefferson said – quietly – “It’s never over ’till it’s over,” and mathematically the Cards aren’t really that close to eliminated.
But the tea leaves make it harder to remain optimistic, especially after a loss against a team the Cardinals are directly battling for a wild card spot. The Seahawks were handling the Eagles Sunday, and that’s another blow in the NFC West race.
It’s not like the Vikings were great Sunday. Bruce Arians said once again, it was his team beating itself. That’s happened way too often this season.
— Arians was asked if the special teams were being coached well enough. Special teams coordinator Amos Jones was not named specifically. “Extremely, extremely well,” Arians said.
— Special teams did have some good plays. Justin Bethel blocking an extra point. Brittan Golden getting a 49-yard kickoff return. But the kickoff return was a killer, and the failure of John Brown to catch the final punt hurt a lot too – although there was no guarantee the Cards would have moved it either.
— That was the first time a team had an interception return of at least 100 yards and a kickoff return of at least 100 yards since the Cowboys did it in 1962.
— According to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings targeted receiver Stefon Diggs eight times when Patrick Peterson was covering him. The result? Five receptions for 35 yards.
— The offensive line actually did a nice job blocking for the run all day – David Johnson was fantastic in both the run and pass game – but whatever it may have been able to do in the pass and play-action game was undone by the final quarter when Palmer was swamped repeatedly. Taylor Boggs was in at right guard at the end and not Earl Watford; there was no Watford injury reported.
— Palmer said he thought there was an obvious hold on John Brown on the 100-yard interception. Brown also said he was held although he was more muted in his statement.
— There was confusion – and anger – over the two 15-yard penalties called on Patrick Peterson (hitting QB-turned-wide receiver Sam Bradford) and Tony Jefferson (hitting what looked like a live Diggs on the sideline apparently too hard) and I personally am not sure why they were flagged. But it only lead to a field goal, and the Cards unfortunately couldn’t even generate enough to get into field goal range anyway. (UPDATE: This ESPN story contains a good analysis of the Peterson hit and the rule book.)
— Arians said the receivers didn’t run great routes. Michael Floyd can’t slow up on a deep ball, even if he isn’t sure if the ball will come his way. I’ll have to re-watch the end too, but when Palmer couldn’t find anyone open late, the wideouts seemed to have a tough time moving around to help him.
— It’s becoming weekly now – Chandler Jones with an important play. His strip-sack in the fourth quarter made it a game.
— Finally, it wasn’t a happy homecoming for Larry Fitzgerald. He started hot, with four catches for 53 yards in the first half, including a dazzling one-handed catch to get a first down inside the Minnesota 10 on the Cardinals’ first scoring drive. But he only had two catches for 10 yards after halftime. And the Cards suffered a painful loss.
“We had a bunch of yards and time of possession but at the end of the day it comes down to wins,” Fitzgerald said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s pretty or ugly. You are trying to come out with a win any way you can.”
Tags: Brittan Golden, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chandler Jones, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Stefon Diggs, Taylor Boggs, Tony Jefferson, Vikings
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Bruce Arians said the Cardinals will look at their options at wide receiver now that Jaron Brown officially is on injured reserve. Brown was put there today but the Cards did not make a corresponding roster move, meaning they have a slot open. The team did bring back training camp sensation Chris Hubert, who had begun the year on the practice squad, to the practice squad. That gives the Cards two wideouts on the practice squad right now: Hubert and Marquis Bundy.
The Cardinals also worked out veteran wide receiver Aaron Dobson Tuesday, according to Adam Schefter. Dobson, a former second-round pick of New England, has 53 career catches but also had a injury-plagued stint with the Patriots. He spent time with the Lions earlier this season after the Patriots cut him after the preseason.
If everyone currently on the roster is healthy, the Cardinals could get away with not making another receiver the 53rd player on the roster. But that’s the question. Michael Floyd should play this week, but he had to play through hamstring issues against the Seahawks. Smokey Brown should be back at practice, but his sickle-cell problem gives at least a little pause. That leaves Larry Fitzgerald, J.J. Nelson and Brittan Golden. Again, if Floyd and Brown are OK, then you’re OK. But the Cards might want to cover themselves too.
Bringing up either Bundy or Hubert is also an option. But as the Cardinals get ready to play a Carolina team with a struggling secondary, wide receivers figure to play a big role. The Cardinals want to be in position to use that to their advantage.
Tags: Aaron Dobson, Brittan Golden, Chris Hubert, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Marquis Bundy, Michael Floyd
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Carson Palmer isn’t going to be ready. That was Bruce Arians’ gut reaction after the quarterback was concussed against the Rams Sunday and that was reality Wednesday as the Cardinals climbed aboard their flight to the Bay Area for Thursday night’s game against the 49ers. So it’ll be Drew Stanton at the helm as the Cards try to snap a two-game losing streak — they have never lost three straight under Arians, and only previously lost two straight three times.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald tried to stay lighthearted a bit with the quarterback situation. “Carson wouldn’t like me saying this, but if Drew plays, he’s probably a little bit better athlete,” Fitz said. “A little bit better. Last year Carson tripped on the goal line getting to the end zone with no one around (in San Francisco). Drew would never trip like that.”
The truth is Stanton did play a good chunk of 2014 with these receivers. That doesn’t mean he’s Palmer, but at this point, with the Cards’ offense less than they want it to be, perhaps Stanton can create a new dynamic.
Arians said Palmer was getting better and argued a bit for the chance to play, but it was a no go. Palmer hadn’t even been officially cleared by the time Arians spoke Wednesday. Optimism is there for Palmer to be OK the next time the Cardinals play, which won’t be until Oct. 17 on “Monday Night Football” versus the Jets.
— The record isn’t anywhere close to what the Cardinals hoped. But they remain in the top 10 in the NFL in both total offense and total defense, and have a plus-12 in point differential. That doesn’t point to a terrible season.
— Stanton had arguably his best game as a Cardinal against the 49ers back in 2014 when the Cards won in Arizona, 23-14. Stanton was 18-for-33 for 244 yards and two touchdowns.
— It’s been noted that, of all the guys who have thrown touchdown passes to Fitzgerald, Stanton is not one. Maybe that changes this week.
— One thing the Cards are missing this season; Playing from ahead. That goes hand-in-hand with their first-quarter woes (they are the only team in the NFL without a first-quarter point), but that was a big reason for success last year. The Cardinals scored the first time they touched the ball six times last season, and held a first-quarter lead 10 times.
— An under-the-radar move this week, all things considered, is the ascension of Brittan Golden to the roster. “Britt will be core special teamer,” Arians said. “He’ll help our special teams a bunch.” Arians also said Golden will likely take over on kickoff return from Andre Ellington, now that Ellington will be needed more at running back post-Chris Johnson’s injury.
— Here’s this week’s Cardinals Underground podcast.
— Someone asked Fitzgerald about fans upset with the Cardinals’ start. Fitzgerald smiled. “Funny, I drive down the street and I see people’s garages and they have the Cardinals flags out and I see some of those flags down now,” he said. “That’s disappointing, man. But we have to do our job so the people put the flags back up.”
— It doesn’t sound like Robert Nkemdiche is going to be active. Arians left the door cracked for that possibility, but also noted that — while Nkemdiche’s ankle is fine — the rookie defensive lineman might not be ready for an offense that can break huge run plays if not played correctly. Nkemdiche has yet to be active since playing a handful of snaps against the Patriots opening night.
— This is the first of three straight games for the Cardinals in prime time. “Thursday Night Football” is followed by “Monday Night Football” against the Jets and then “Sunday Night Football” against the Seahawks. The other two games will be at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Bay Area awaits.
Tags: 49ers, Brittan Golden, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Larry Fitzgerald, Robert Nkemdiche
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The preseason is over, essentially. The fourth preseason game is Thursday, but the main players will likely sit it out. So the Cardinals will go into the Patriots opener (assuming nothing happens bad in a practice) fairly healthy, with their quarterback ready. Did they accomplish everything they wanted in three preseason games? No. But I’m guessing, had Carson Palmer not thrown that last interception and the offense would have kept moving the ball as they were on that drive and they got at least a field goal, that would’ve been that.
Instead, there is concern with the fan base — as there has been — and little inside the team — as it has been.
Judgment is coming. Once the games count for real, we’ll see exactly how ready the Cardinals are. In the meantime:
— Nothing official on cornerback Mike Jenkins and his injury, but he was in a giant brace in the locker room and his mood hadn’t improved from when he was taken off the field. He had a chance to be a factor in the secondary configuration but that seems unlikely now. Bruce Arians said Justin Bethel was just rusty in his preseason debut but Bethel doesn’t have a lot of time to get up to speed either. Assuming Jenkins is down, the question is, will there be a cornerback the Cardinals want and can find after final cuts?
— The running backs all looked good. Every single one of them.
— Brittan Golden was down with his bad hamstring but he played well Sunday. The end of the wide receiver depth chart will be interesting. Golden probably would have an edge on Chris Hubert because of special teams. But will the Cards keep more than five receivers?
— D.J. Humphries seemed like he had his best overall game of the preseason. At least to someone who was watching out of the corner of his eye.
— The new thing to do is to complain about backup quarterback Drew Stanton, apparently. Not sure why. I thought he played better Sunday, and regardless, he’s not going anywhere.
— Bruce Arians insists that most of the tipped ball interceptions were more fluky than anything, and that Palmer is making the right reads.
— Chandler Jones got his first sack as a Cardinal, at least in the preseason. Stopped a potential TD drive when the Cards had been getting little pressure before that.
That’s all from Houston. Arians will speak to the media before practice tomorrow, and at some point, we’ll hear about the first cuts. The preseason is almost over. Thankfully.
Tags: Brandon Williams, Brittan Golden, Chandler Jones, D.J. Humphries, Drew Stanton, Justin Bethel, Mike Jenkins, Texans
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The Cardinals’ first game is Friday night against the Raiders, so that means the first depth chart of the season was put out today. As always, it’s a preseason depth chart, and there is a ton of wiggle room in what it says and what happens once the games start and who plays on the field.
“It’s (in) invisible ink,” coach Bruce Arians said, laughing. “It ain’t even in pencil.”
That said, it’s always interesting to take a look at where the players are at this point.
— On offense, there is nothing really wacky. The starters, given what Bruce Arians has said about both A.Q. Shipley and D.J. Humphries, are as expected. Perhaps the only notable thing is that, as of now, tryout rookie Chris Hubert — who has flashed multiple times in practice — is ahead of veteran Brittan Golden at one of the wideout positions (behind Fitz and Jaron Brown.)
— On defense, even though Ed Stinson has been with the first-unit much of the offseason and camp, it is Rodney Gunter listed as a starter with Calais Campbell, and the now-injured Corey Peters as the starting nose tackle. Given the depth at the defensive line, the rotation will show starting means little since so many guys will be moved in and out.
— Brandon Williams, the rookie, is the starter at cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. That’s not a surprise since Justin Bethel has been hurt for so long. Bethel hasn’t been on the field to play since the NFC Championship, although he should be close to a return.
— At safety, something to watch. The starters are the injured Tyrann Mathieu, and he is backed up by Tony Jefferson. The strong safety starter right now is listed as D.J. Swearinger, ahead of Tyvon Branch. Before the offseason, you would’ve thought Branch or Jefferson would be penciled in there, but it is Swearinger right now. As much as the Cards have had to figure out their cornerback situation, their safety spot — especially with rookie Marqui Christian making strides — is pretty strong. There might have to be a tough choice made there too, especially once Mathieu is considered healthy.
Here’s the whole chart:
Tags: Brandon Williams, Brittan Golden, Chris Hubert, D.J. Swearinger, depth chart, Ed Stinson, Justin Bethel, Marqui Christian, Rodney Gunter, Tony Jefferson, training camp, Tyrann Mathieu, Tyvon Branch
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Sure, there are questions about the future for the Cardinals at wide receiver. Could Larry Fitzgerald retire after this season? Will Michael Floyd, also in the last year of his contract, be back? But those questions aren’t about the 2016 season. After the 2015 season — in which the Cardinals’ wide receivers were the highest graded among all the corps in the NFL last season according to profootballfocus.com — this season should be impressive for the Cards from that standpoint.
Even Fitzgerald noted last week that this is the first time he can remember being on a team where all the skill guys came back intact. That goes beyond just the receivers of course. But the upset of getting back both veteran running back Chris Johnson and veteran tight end Jermaine Gresham despite potentially more lucrative offers out there helped that along. At wideout, there was only one question, and Jaron Brown was tendered an offer. Once he signed that, the Cardinals had their top seven wide receivers returning from a year ago — when again, some considered them the best in the league as a group.
Health helped. Yes, Floyd was banged up in training camp and yes, Smokey Brown fought through an irritating hamstring injury in the middle part of the season (oh, you do remember that, fantasy football players), but for the most part, they were available. Fitzgerald in particular was healthy all the way through the season for the first time since Bruce Arians arrived. The depth also helped tremendously when guys did miss time. Floyd was huge in Cleveland when Smokey was held out. Fitz was huge early in the season when Floyd started slow. J.J. Nelson was a deep threat that could help when Brown couldn’t go full bore.
And the Cardinals will have them all again in 2016.
Tags: Brittan Golden, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, Jaxon Shipley, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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There is no guarantee Larry Fitzgerald will have eight catches Sunday in St. Louis, but how fitting would it be if he did. Eight receptions would mean Fitz would reach 1,000 for his illustrious career, and he would do it in the same building where he caught his first – that flea-flicker over Cardinal-turned-Ram Aeneas Williams way back in 2004.
Fitz is also just eight yards shy of getting to 1,000 yards for the first time since 2011, a dry spell that didn’t seem possible once upon a time. Now, Fitz is on pace for 120 receptions – which would be a career-best by far – and 1,442 yards, which would also be a career-best (he has surpassed 1,400 yards four times previous.)
Fitz, of course, isn’t going there. “It’s not time to start smelling the roses now,” he said. “We are in the middle of something special here.”
This is true. The fact Fitzgerald is in the middle of it so spectacularly after the last couple of seasons is one of those things where … well, let’s be honest, it’s one of those stories that is perfect for Super Bowl week and the glare of the NFL spotlight.
— The Fitz down period can be explained. In 2012, he had no quarterback. In 2013, well, Carson Palmer was learning a new system and Fitz was learning a new position.
“I think we both went through a period, year-long period, of just figuring out each other, and more importantly, figuring out the system,” Palmer said. “I think you learn by trial and error and trying to fit certain balls into him and trying not to.”
Last year, things were clicking before Palmer went down (and Fitz was hurting much of the year too.) Now, it’s all come together.
— Nick Foles will start for the Rams at quarterback – the same Nick Foles who was benched, only to be forced into playing because of Case Keenum’s concussion. Foles has been bad this season, but in his three games against the Cardinals, he has eight touchdown passes and just two interceptions. The defense has to make him look like the benched Foles (who has four TD passes and nine interceptions against non-Cardinals opponents.)
— Jonathan Cooper may still yet emerge as the guard the Cardinals want. But the fact he’s lost his spot in his third season, injuries or not, is not a good sign.
— Here’s a fun game you can play with your friends: More rushing yards Sunday, Todd Gurley or David Johnson? I think it’s a very good question.
— Bruce Arians, by the way, said Johnson should get around 25 touches. That may or may not come to pass, but it makes sense with Andre Ellington out.
— While 49ers defensive tackle Quinton Dial was indeed fined for his roughing-the-passer penalty he was flagged for last week — Dial thought it was a bad call; usually a league fine means the league agreed with the flag — 49ers offensive lineman Alex Boone told Matt Maiocco he was not fined for his (heavy) criticism of officials after the game.
— Arians reiterated Friday that there will be defensive snaps for wide-receiver-turned-(just-this-week)-cornerback Brittan Golden. He said the same for newly signed CB Corey White, but that makes some sense. Golden’s role, it’ll be interesting to see.
— As has been the custom in recent years, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill and the team will host old-school St. Louis alumni from the franchise Saturday night and then at the game. We will see if this is the Cardinals’ last trip to St. Louis, at least to play the Rams.
— A win Sunday would give the Cardinals 10 wins after 12 games for only the second time in franchise history. After that 11-1 1948 team you are so fond of.
— I don’t know how much J.J. Nelson will be in the gameplan, not with John Brown seemingly close to health and Michael Floyd getting better. But if he does make a catch, I’m guessing it’ll be down the field. Nelson has nine receptions this season and he’s averaging an astounding 29.4 yards per catch. And that’s with a 12-yard reception thrown in.
— The short week is coming. There would be nothing better for the Cardinals than to get a lead early and not have Sunday be as grind-it-out as it’s been against the Rams (or against the Niners last week.) Easier said than done, but it’s another source of motivation. That Thursday night game against the Vikings next week is gigantic in terms of the NFC playoff picture.
Tags: Brittan Golden, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Corey White, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Nick Foles, playoffs, Rams, Todd Gurley, Vikings
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Wide receiver Brittan Golden admitted he was surprised when he was told on the airplane ride home from San Francisco he was going to be moving to defensive back.
“I was … ‘OK, whatever. Whatever happens, I’m ready,’ ” Golden said.
It’s not as if Golden has never played defensive back. He played cornerback and safety all through high school, and even a little bit as a freshman at West Texas A&M on the scout team. But he’s a wide receiver. It’s just unfortunate he’s on a team with a lot of wide receivers ahead of him. Playing defensive back — Bruce Arians said Golden would get work at nickel — is a nod toward the thin secondary, with Jerraud Powers nursing a calf strain. It left only Patrick Peterson and Justin Bethel as true cornerbacks, although Tyrann Mathieu can play corner if need be.
So the Cards moved Golden. His use became less likely when the Cards signed veteran cornerback Corey White, who replaced the cut Robert Nelson Jr. (It says something that Nelson, despite being active, got zero snaps even after Powers got hurt Sunday.) Still, Arians is looking for a reason to keep Golden active on game days because Golden is so good on special teams — and the reality is there is no place to play wide receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald, Smokey Brown, Michael Floyd, Jaron Brown and J.J. Nelson.
As for defensive snaps, “it’ll really depend on what they see at practice and if they think I’m ready to be out there,” Golden said. “Of course, I’m going to miss running routes. I’ve been doing that forever and it’s my favorite thing in the world. But it’s another opportunity.”
The Cards have done this before, moving Teddy Williams to cornerback from receiver (Williams, however, had started as a defensive back.) Golden said he just had to work on technique — although Smokey Brown was giving him grief about how many mental errors could pop up.
“It isn’t as bad as, I don’t know what I’m doing,” Golden said.
“In this league, it’s the more you can do and I’m just going to try and see it as an opportunity and a blessing and another chance to get on the field.”
Tags: Brittan Golden
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The Cardinals have had excellent production from their top three receivers this season. It’ll be interesting to see just which ones will be able to help Sunday night against the Bengals. Michael Floyd looked to be sitting out practice for a second straight day Thursday, and judging by the way he came up lame on the play in which he got hurt against Seattle (if you have GamePass, it’s the fourth-quarter 10-yard reception he made at the 11:29 mark), it did not look good. We’ll see what he can do Friday, but it doesn’t seem like Floyd is trending the right way, which is too bad given how well he has played of late.
John Brown looked like he was going to at least be limited Thursday. What he can provide is also a mystery. He played 59 snaps in Seattle so it wasn’t like Smoke was limited; he was on the field for every play of the final two drives. But he didn’t have a catch. If Floyd can’t go, Brown’s ability to produce something will obviously increase in importance.
But the Cardinals and their No. 1-ranked offense do have some things that will help. One is Larry Fitzgerald, in the middle of one of his best seasons and totally healthy. Two is the way Jaron Brown stepped in and up with Floyd’s injury last week; the “other” J.B. made plays and that will help on a confidence level. Brittan Golden has made catches before, and J.J. Nelson, while inactive against the Seahawks, looked pretty good as the Smoke replacement at Cleveland a few weeks back.
Oh, the Cardinals also have a pretty good quarterback, who has some pretty good motivation this week. That alone tends to mitigate some short-term scrambling with the pass catchers.
Tags: Bengals, Brittan Golden, Carson Palmer, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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Considering how scary it was to see a 6-foot-5, listed-at-331-pound man down on the field to the point where an ambulance had to come on the field to take him away, the news about guard Mike Iupati was incredibly excellent after the game. Bruce Arians said last night Iupati has been cleared going forward. General Manager Steve Keim didn’t quite go that far during his appearance Monday morning on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7, but it sure sounds like there is at least a chance Iupati could be ready for next the upcoming Sunday night game against the Bengals. (Iupati looked like he was walking around fine when I saw him on the plane last night.)
“He’s pretty sore, but thank goodness there were no major issues from an injury standpoint,” Keim said.
Some other Keim points on a (very) short night, after the Cardinals didn’t even land at Sky Harbor until 3:15 a.m.:
— Keim wouldn’t say the Cardinals needed to win in Seattle, but echoed the sentiment of some of his players, that it was a “confidence-builder.”
“Playing up there you know you’re going to face adversity at some point,” Keim said. Yet the Cardinals rallied. The Cardinals, by the way, didn’t even win the turnover battle, with a minus-two for the game. No one expected that in Seattle, but now, that’s two Palmer wins there in a row despite losing the turnover faceoff.
— Keim noted the communication issues a couple of times with the pass protection.
— Keim said the drive that really stuck with him was the one ending with Jermaine Gresham to give the Cardinals a lead they didn’t relinquish. For Carson Palmer, that “was a statement drive.”
“That was a drive that really embodies the type of guy he is,” Keim said. “The leader he is, the mental toughness he has and the competitive spirit he has.”
Keim also marveled at the way Palmer continues to keep plays alive with his footwork in the pocket. Palmer was really, really good at that Sunday night.
— Props from Keim to wide receivers Jaron Brown and Brittan Golden, who came up big when no one expected.
— Some other players he noted for playing good games were defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker. As for wide receiver Michael Floyd, “he has really, really matured,” Keim said, adding that his practice habits are good and Floyd has “completely bought in.”
Tags: Brittan Golden, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Frostee Rucker, Jaron Brown, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Steve Keim
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