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Turnovers and a trip to Seattle

Posted by Darren Urban on November 9, 2015 – 9:30 am

It’s Seattle week. More specifically, at Seattle week, a game the Cardinals have been anxious to play for a long time now that Carson Palmer is healthy. It’s interesting that the Cardinals are coming off that four-turnover game in Cleveland, a game in which they won — because the last time they had turned the ball over four times in a road game, they had also won. That game was the 17-10 stunner in Seattle near the end of the 2013 season, the one in which Palmer threw four interceptions yet found Michael Floyd for a touchdown pass late in the game for the clinching points.

The Cardinals are now 2-1 in four-turnover road games under Bruce Arians. The one loss was a 32-20 defeat in San Francisco in 2013, a game that is remembered for a crucial Larry Fitzgerald fumble with the Cards driving for a go-ahead score — but what might be better remembered for the 18-play, smashmouth TD drive of the 49ers that took up 9:32 and 11 of the plays (including the final eight) were runs up the gut.

The point is that there are always ways to overcome even messy turnover days. The three-turnover games that led to the Cards’ two losses this season weren’t based on the turnovers alone — in both cases, the Cardinals still had chances to win the game late.

But turnovers make the job so much harder. The Cardinals have 14 turnovers total in eight games and 10 turnovers in the aformentioned three games — the win in Cleveland, the losses to the Rams and Steelers. Other than the Packers and Bengals, the Cardinals (while facing a much harder schedule) don’t see a lot of great offenses. None that match up to what the Cards can bring on that side of the ball. But turning it over can change those odds quickly.



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Rallying to Browns aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 1, 2015 – 7:20 pm

There are times when Larry Fitzgerald is, let’s say, careful with his words. The veteran receiver understands what and what not to put out for public consumption, so there are times when he’s delivering sanitized material. Not Sunday, not when the first question was what exactly happened at halftime to change the Cardinals’ fortune in Cleveland.

“We just pulled our heads out,” Fitz said, and thankfully he allowed us to fill in to ourselves from where the Cards were doing the pulling.

Between the turnovers and the sloppy defensive moments it wasn’t hard to figure out that the Cardinals were doing themselves dirty in that first half. They are fortunate they were able to turn it around. Why it took so long – “It seems like until we get pissed off or something, then we start playing and we can’t be like that to get where we want to be,” defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said – is something that will be a point of emphasis. But if there is always something to be learned, this week it is that this team can overcome turnovers and pull one out. Now, if you are a minus-two (and at one point, a minus-four) against a good team, that will be problematic. But this week, it was not.

— From the time the Browns scored their third and final touchdown, the Cardinals’ defense forced five punts, had an interception, forced a fumble and then got a stop on downs. The Browns gained a total of 92 yards on those eight possessions.

— The last time a Cardinal running back had 30 carries in a game before Chris Johnson’s 30 Sunday (for 109 yards?) Edgerrin James had 36 on Oct. 16, 2006. Perhaps you remember that one. James had only 55 yards in that game, and well, the Bears were who we thought they were.

— CJ2K is also the first Cardinal to have four 100-yard games in a season since … wait for it … Stump Mitchell, now Johnson’s position coach, who did it in 1985.

— Former agent/cap guru Joel Corry tweeted out that with his surpassing of 664 yards rushing on the season, Chris Johnson has earned the first $280,000 of the $1.13 million in incentives built into his contract. Why 664 yards? Because he had 663 yards rushing last season while playing for the Jets.

— The Cardinals did not get enough pressure on Josh McCown in the first half. That changed in the second half, and you could see the results. In a side note, Dwight Freeney had his second sack in as many weeks.

— Carson Palmer was just talking last week about how he doesn’t care about stats but how he cares about red-zone efficiency and third-down conversions. Sunday, the Cardinals were 3-for-5 in the red zone – a very solid 60 percent – and 13-for-16 on third downs – an amazing 81 percent.

— And this is a team that missed on two wide-open bombs down the field on overthrows both Bruce Arians and Palmer said were because of the wind.

— Palmer is on pace for 40 touchdown passes.

— The bye comes at a good time. Arians pegged both wide receiver John Brown and cornerback Jerraud Powers at “85 or 90 percent” Sunday, but were held out because the Cardinals could afford to hold them out. If that’s the case, you figure a week off will do wonders and set them up to be ready after the bye. Same goes for Larry Fitzgerald, who hurt his ankle late and will get some welcome rest.

— The players are off Monday – “Victory Monday” has arrived. With the bye week, they’ll have practice Tuesday and Wednesday, and then get the mandated four-day weekend. At 6-2 halfway home, and with a two-game lead in the NFC West, it’s been a solid start.


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John Brown active, as is Powers

Posted by Darren Urban on November 1, 2015 – 9:31 am

Once again, the Cardinals will have wide receiver John Brown active despite Brown battling a bad hamstring all week. It’s not a surprise. This is how it’s been for Brown the last couple of weeks. The hope is that he’ll play today and then the bye week can get him better for the back half of the season. In a surprise, cornerback Jerraud Powers (hamstring) — who didn’t practice all week — is active. A remarkable situation. We’ll see how much he can actually play.

For the Browns, Josh McCown is indeed starting at quarterback. McCown has been dealing with a shoulder injury.

The full inactive list:

— QB Matt Barkley

— LB Shaq Riddick

— LB Alex Okafor (calf)

— T D.J. Humphries

— T Earl Watford

— TE Darren Fells (shoulder)

— NT Xavier Williams

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Friday before the Browns

Posted by Darren Urban on October 30, 2015 – 3:10 pm

The one city Larry Fitzgerald has not yet played is Cleveland.

That shows you how long it’s been since the Cardinals visited the Browns. It was 2003, the Cards wore all-white uniforms, and if there was a game that sealed the season’s end firing of then-coach Dave McGinnis, it was probably that listless and ugly 44-6 loss to a mediocre Browns team. By the way, while Jeff Blake started at quarterback for the Cardinals that day, who played some in relief? Yes, that’s right, Josh McCown – the guy who despite his shoulder injury is still likely to start for the Browns Sunday, all these years later, for the Cards’ next trip to Cleveland.

The Cardinals aren’t losing like that in Cleveland again. They shouldn’t even lose. These are the days when they are the favorites in games like this. Twelve years ago, that Browns loss was the 10th straight road loss for the Cards, by an average of 23 points. These Cards go on the road and winning is the expectation. They need it too, with the bye coming up and back-to-back games against the Seahawks and Bengals the next on the schedule.

I’m not sure how Fitz does in his first (and only) trip to Cleveland. But I expect the Cards to play well offensively, and create some new memories about a visit to the Dawg Pound.

— The Browns have the league’s worst rushing defense and the Cards have the second-leading rusher in Chris Johnson. That seems to be a heavy advantage toward the Cardinals, no?

— One of the biggest threats the Browns have offensively is tight end Gary Barnidge, who has come up with some great chemistry with McCown and has posted offensive numbers the past five games that rival a healthy Rob Gronkowski (seriously!). But as Bill Barnwell noted, the Cardinals are only giving up 40 yards a game to tight ends this season. Impressive, given the tight end troubles the Cards have had defensively the last couple of years. Of course, they haven’t faced someone as productive as Barnidge yet. It will be a fascinating storyline to watch.

— The Cardinals have been close to perfect performances this season (see 49ers, San Francisco) but they haven’t gotten one yet. It’s a chase that really can never be achieved, and even Arians acknowledges that. And close won’t make Arians happy.

“That doesn’t happen until the season is over and we have a ring on our finger,” Arians said. “Then I’ll be happy as (expletive).”

— Fitz, by the way, would rather his stellar blocking not be such a thing anymore.

“If you look back, even when I was young, my guy was never in on a tackle,” he said. “If I’m going to block him, I’m going to block him. You guys (in the media) create the narrative. He’s a blocker. OK, that’s great. People start talking about it. But I’ve always blocked, even when I was playing ‘X.’ I’m a big guy, I’m relatively physical. It’s not something I really love to do, but I’m OK at it.”

— Arians said there will be more in the gameplan for Andre Ellington this week. Ellington did end up with 18 snaps last week (compared to 27 for Chris Johnson). But he may have more touches. Against the league’s worst run defense, it makes sense.

— Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin on visiting the Dawg Pound in Cleveland: “It’s pretty ugly. It’s loud, people with masks on. It can be pretty terrifying.”

— With McCown iffy because of his shoulder problem and the chance Johnny Manziel could play, the Cardinals prepared for both this week – like they did Steelers week for either Mike Vick or Ben Roethlisberger. That didn’t end well, against Landry Jones, although Arians acknowledged the Cardinals hadn’t prepped for Landry Jones. There won’t be a surprise again, though.

“We don’t want to go out there and be surprised,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “I think we were a little bit surprised with Landry Jones in Pittsburgh and how well he knew the offense. We don’t want to have letups like that. This is a game we feel we need to win to really put us in position going forward.”


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Hall of Fame offer for fans going to Cleveland

Posted by Darren Urban on October 28, 2015 – 10:40 am

For those Cardinals fans making the trek to Cleveland this weekend to watch the Cards play the Browns, the nearby Pro Football Hall of Fame is offering a deal for you.

Any Cardinals fan dressed in team gear who mentions the Cardinals discount to the Hall of Fame’s guest services staff will receive a $5 discount on regular museum adult, senior or child admission prices. The promotion runs from Friday through Monday this weekend. The Hall of Fame is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., although it will extend its hours for Cardinals fans on Saturday until 8 p.m.

The Hall of Fame is in Canton, Ohio, about 50 minutes south of Cleveland. Having been there a few times in my life — including the Cards’ Hall of Fame game trip in 2012 and Aeneas Williams’ Hall induction in 2014, it’s worth the trip if you have the time. For more information, go to profootballhof.com/visit.



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Dansby mentions Cards in Patriots debate

Posted by Darren Urban on May 14, 2015 – 2:44 pm

There has been a ton of things written and said about the Patriots, Tom Brady and deflategate of late. That all can stand on its own — no need to rehash it here. But because of the Patriots-deserved it-Patriots-didn’t-deserve-it portion of the conversation has tentacles everywhere, in a long and winding way the Cardinals have popped up in the debate. Current Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby spoke to PFT Live, and Dansby had a moment he recalled when he and the Cardinals went back to New England in 2008 in Week 16.

You remember that game, of course (unless you’ve tried to block it from your memory.) There was no Tom Brady in that game, because Brady had been injured the first game of the season. But Matt Cassell shredded the Cards that day in the nasty snow, the Cardinals were beat up, 47-7, and people were calling the already-clinched NFC West champions the worst playoff team ever.

(Then the Cardinals nearly won the Super Bowl.)

Dansby, as a linebacker the defender who got to wear the headset in his helmet for playcalls, said his headset had never had any problems all season — until that game in New England.

“We get in Foxboro, they couldn’t get my headset fixed, for nothing in the world,” Dansby said.

Cassell had 345 yards and three touchdowns passing, and in reality, it’s hard to think the headset issue can explain away a 40-point loss, just like a football’s air didn’t impact the Pats-Colts playoff game much at all. But for Dansby, it was about the Patriots in general, which is an outlook a few players have publicly expressed.

“It’s not a secret,” Dansby said. “They gotta do what they gotta do to win, man. They gonna do what they gotta do to win. It’s just how they operate.”




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Trading up to take DL Gunter in fourth round

Posted by Darren Urban on May 2, 2015 – 10:05 am

The Cardinals traded up in the fourth round, moving with the Browns to select Delaware State defensive lineman Rodney Gunter. At 6-5, 305 pounds, he fits the versatile frame the Cards have been seeking for their defensive lineman. Gunter had seven sacks and 13 tackles last season. He is the cousin of the Cards’ 2013 seventh-round draft D.C. Jefferson, a tight end who didn’t last long in Arizona despite his tattoo. GM Steve Keim said there was a good chance the Cards would trade up to get a player they wanted — they apparently wanted Gunter.

Gunter said he only played one year of high school football — ending up at Delaware State — because he had to work and help his single mother pay the bills and support he and his two brothers. He was clearly emotional on his conference call.

To move up the Cards swapped fourths and gave up their sixth-round pick and their original seventh-round pick. That leaves the Cards with three remaining picks today: Back-to-back choices in the fifth round and the final pick in the draft — Mr. Irrelevant — which is a compensatory pick they cannot trade.

It’s a big price but the reality is that nine draft picks weren’t going to make the roster. Now they will have seven picks.


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Housler signs with Browns

Posted by Darren Urban on April 9, 2015 – 2:19 pm

Rob Housler wasn’t coming back to the Cardinals. The team had decided to move on from the tight end and 2011 third-round pick, so he was always going to have a new address in 2015. It turned out to be Cleveland, where Thursday Housler worked out a one-year contract. He joins former Cardinals teammates Karlos Dansby and Jim Dray. Once the Cardinals drafted Troy Niklas last year, Housler’s days were probably numbered, and with Darren Fells emerging as a future possibility at tight end, the Cards had — along with John Carlson — the tight ends they needed.

Coach Bruce Arians has said he is hoping to add an H-back-type tight end. Right now, the Cards have five tight ends on the roster: Niklas, Fells, Carlson, Ted Bolser and Ifeanyi Momah.


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Glancing at the 2015 opponents

Posted by Darren Urban on July 14, 2014 – 2:46 pm

You know that it’s the dead of the offseason — real dead — when it comes to mind to point out who will be on the Cardinals’ schedule for 2015.

But here we are, inside of two weeks before training camp begins and a week away from the quarterbacks and a handful of other players reporting for a couple of days of “quarterback school” prior to the opening of camp. It’s the last hurrah for time off for both coaches and players. It doesn’t leave a lot to discuss right now. That’s all coming. But as I flipped through the new edition of the NFL Record and Fact Book, I came across the 2015 opponents for the Cardinals. So I thought I’d point them out.

As always, there are the home-and-away games against the NFC West opponents. The teams visiting University of Phoenix Stadium include the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings, the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals and then an NFC South team that ends up inhabiting the same position in their division that the Cardinals do in the NFC West by the time the 2014 season is over.

Road trips in 2015 for the Cardinals include the Chicago Bears, the Detroit Lions, the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the corresponding NFC East team.



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Odds, ends and Bowles

Posted by Darren Urban on January 7, 2014 – 10:27 am

So it’s gonna be about 70 degrees today. Sunny. Just sayin’. Seems like everyone else is making comments about the weather, so I thought I’d chime in.

Anyway …

— Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles reportedly met with the Browns for their head coaching job on Friday and was supposed to meet with the Vikings about their opening Monday. Neither team seems close to making a decision on their coach, although Bowles reportedly made an impression with the Vikings. Both Minnesota and Cleveland continue to look at more and more candidates, and that doesn’t include coaches still in the playoffs. Bowles won’t be interviewing in Detroit, where he was a candidate back in 2009. That makes sense, because many reports say the Lions would likely hire Chargers offensive coordinator and ex-Cards boss Ken Whisenhunt for that job once the Chargers are knocked out of the playoffs.

On the all-pro team from profootballfocus.com, Tyrann Mathieu makes first team as a slot cornerback, Justin Bethel first team for special teams. Patrick Peterson is second team at cornerback.

— Cardinals director of football administration (and salary cap guru) Mike Disner was named on Forbes list of top 30 rising stars under age 30 in sports. (The man next on the Forbes slideshow after Disner? Kevin Durant. LeBron and Gronk are among the athletes on the list too.)

— I am not a fan of messing with the playoff format. It caught up with the Cardinals this season yes, it benefited them in the 2008 season. I do not think extra teams should be added to the postseason. That said, it is still often discussed. That doesn’t mean anything is imminent, but things could change at some point.

— In case you missed it — and in case you’d like a smile or two — check out here the year in quotes and quips from coach Bruce Arians.

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