Drew Stanton said after Sunday’s game the Cardinals knew it would be difficult. I’m not sure it was supposed to be quite that difficult. The game played out as an ugly, smash-em-up affair, and that was OK. The Cards can do that. But the Cards can’t make mistakes while doing that, because those are the things that swing a close game. Whether it was the dropped TD pass or the punt block or just the inability of the offense to do anything of real substance save for the end-of-the-half drive (that closed with the TD drop), the Cardinals didn’t do the basic things. The Seahawks did.
Russell Wilson was special in the second half, escaping a few times when he really didn’t have the right to escape. But the Seahawks won because they patiently waited for the Cards to hand over field position, and simply kicked field goals when they did.
It has not been a particularly good offensive stretch to be sure. No touchdowns over the last seven quarters is not going to win any games, much less divisions or championships. These are the defenses you figure to see in the playoffs, too. It makes the game against the Falcons critical next week, especially for that side of the ball. Bruce Arians has to find something that works. Quickly.
– The Cards handled Marshawn Lynch. They couldn’t handle Wilson. In the second half especially, he made some magical plays. In an offense that really doesn’t have the right to be very effective, Wilson made it enough so on Sunday.
– Not having Larry Fitzgerald didn’t help. He couldn’t run, and the question is, how soon will he be able to run? Is another week off going to be enough? It might not be.
– More importantly, you’d think Michael Floyd would step to the forefront with Fitz down, but he was only targeted a couple of times and his one catch was negated by a penalty.
– Stanton hurt his left ankle late in the game, but he said was fine. He walked off the field without any issue and said he would’ve come back in the game. “It’s not anything major,” Stanton said.
– The Cardinals had eight sacks in the first eight games. After seven Sunday – including a career-best three from defensive end Calais Campbell – the Cards have 17 in their last three games. That thing when coaches are always saying sacks come in bunches? Yeah, that.
– It wasn’t the best special teams day for the Cardinals, but their field-goal block unit got another one thanks to Tommy Kelly (his second of the season) and Justin Bethel was irritated he didn’t get a piece of the first two Seattle field goals when he thought he had near misses.
– Arians gave Jaron Brown a pat on the back after his TD drop. Realistically, Arians said, the Cardinals at halftime were “where we’re at every week, within a score, up a score or down a score. We were right were we wanted to be.”
Then came the punt block, and the Cardinals never could get things right.
– The 204 yards of offense was the lowest total of the Arians era and the lowest amount of yards in a game since the Cards had 196 in a Ryan Lindley-started 38-10 win over the Lions Dec. 16, 2012.
– Newcomer Josh Mauro added some things on the defensive line at end, I thought. And further pushed the inactive-again Alameda Ta’amu down the depth chart.
– It was the best game of linebacker Kevin Minter’s year-plus: Five tackles, a first NFL sack, two tackles for loss.
– It’s about perspective. As someone mentioned on plane home, if someone would have said before the season the Cardinals were going to be 9-2 after the Seattle trip, no one would have turned it down. The Cards need to get it back quickly, though. Atlanta awaits.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Drew Stanton, Jaron Brown, Josh Mauro, Justin Bethel, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Marshawn Lynch, Michael Floyd, Seahawks
Posted in Blog | 42 Comments »
It was probably inevitable, but Bruce Arians made it official Friday: WR Larry Fitzgerald, who didn’t practice for a third straight day, will be a game-day decision for the Cardinals in Seattle. There is still 48 hours to get Fitz’s knee right (or at least right enough) and the Cards will take it to the last moment to see what they can do with Fitz. On a purely statistical level, Fitz’s 110-consecutive game streak is on the line. The Cards do not fear Fitz not playing; they are confident in what Jaron Brown can do (as well as Ted Ginn and maybe more Smokey Brown) in Fitzgerald’s absence. Maybe it will be smarter to keep Fitz out. Arians said missing practice is not a big deal for a vet like Fitzgerald, so the door is open there.
If I had to guess right now, I’d think Fitzgerald wouldn’t play, but with Fitz, I’ve been burned there before. He’s going to want to get out there even if he can’t do everything. Maybe the Cards will want him out there just so the Seahawks have to think about him. Maybe the next 36 hours does wonders and he’s better than anyone can anticipate. We’ll see.
Arians did rule defensive tackle Ed Stinson (toe) out. So there’s that.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Ed Stinson, Larry Fitzgerald, Seahawks
Posted in Blog | 11 Comments »
Bruce Arians was asked why specifically he had no interest in putting guard Jonathan Cooper in the starting lineup. His answer, as always, was blunt.
“If he was one of the best players, it’d be different,” Arians said. “He hasn’t shown he is one of the best players. He’s gotten a lot better than he was and I think he has a great future as long as he continues to do what he’s doing.”
Why isn’t the 2013 No. 1 draft pick one of the best, Arians was asked.
“The consistency in everything, staying off the ground, everything that goes into playing,” Arians said. “He gets his hands full with Calais (Campbell) every day on the scout team so I see improvement there. But there is nothing glaring where you’d say, ‘Take him out, put him in.’ That would be easy.”
Starting guards Ted Larsen and Paul Fanaika have not always been consistent, Arians and GM Steve Keim have said in the past. The line has to be better in the run game, Arians said. But the line isn’t going to include Cooper. Not now (which Arians has steadfastly said all season.)
“If I thought (playing Cooper) would fix it, hell yeah, I’d make the move,” Arians said. “I ain’t an idiot.”
– Defensive lineman Ed Stinson (groin, toe) and linebacker Desmond Bishop (hamstring) aren’t practiced today. DT Dan Williams, RB Stepfan Taylor, RB Andre Ellington, LB Lorenzo Alexander and S Deone Bucannon all are limited in practice today, Arians said.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Jonathan Cooper
Posted in Blog | 58 Comments »
Much more to come on azcardinals.com, but the worst fears of the Cardinals and quarterback Carson Palmer were comfirmed: Palmer indeed tore the ACL in his left knee against the Rams, ending his season. Drew Stanton is now the quarterback going forward, backed up by Logan Thomas and a likely third-stringer. Bruce Arians said the Cards are looking at candidates, but it figures to be someone that knows the system, like a Dennis Dixon or a Ryan Lindley.
It’s a gut-punch to a team having a wonderful season and one to Palmer, who talked about how much fun he is having and how much this hurts him emotionally. He also said, despite just signing a contract extension Friday, he hopes to still be around next year. I’m pretty sure that’s the plan, but Palmer is no dummy. He knows how the NFL works, and how teams do what is best for the franchise. Still, Arians has been talking about Palmer in 2015, so there’s a good reason to think Palmer isn’t going anywhere.
The good news is that the ACL tear is only an ACL tear. It’s not the complete explosion in the left knee that Palmer suffered when he was hurt back in January, 2006. Palmer said doctors have told him the surgery for his current injury has become routine, like setting a bone. Both he and Arians talked about Palmer returning possibly for OTAs next summer. Wouldn’t that be something.
“I’m going to play football again,” Palmer said. “I hope it’s here.”
I’ll have the full story up on the site as soon as possible (and click here for the story). The full Carson Palmer press conference will be posted later this afternoon as well.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer
Posted in Blog | 69 Comments »
And just when it felt like this week was going to be one of the least newsy in a long time, the Cardinals cap it off by signing quarterback Carson Palmer to a three-year extension – a move that isn’t unexpected, but one that is crucial for the team going forward.
Let’s face it, Palmer has provided the stability this team has needed at the position for a long time. He’s playing some of the best football of his career. Intelligent football. He has also become a rock-solid leader inside that locker room. That cannot be dismissed. As good as Palmer has been on the field, his leadership has been very, very important.
He’ll turn 35 next month. Reportedly, the deal guarantees $20.5 million up front between bonus and 2015 salary and nothing guaranteed after that. It gives the Cards flexibility going forward, yet makes sure they have a QB.
Another good move in a season of them for GM Steve Keim.
— Calais Campbell (@Campbell93) November 7, 2014
– The big deal Sunday will be keeping Palmer upright against the Rams. Last season when the Rams visited, Palmer hadn’t practiced all week but completed 27 of 34 passes and the Cards got a comfortable win. And that was without the currently upgraded offensive line.
– Everyone is going to want to knock off the Cardinals now. That’s part of the gig when you’ve fashioned the best record in the league.
“Every single week we’ll walk out there with a bulls-eye on our back,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “There is a big difference between being a hunter and being hunted. You have to have a much higher sense of urgency and focus to be able to deal with the pressure that comes with it.”
– The Cardinals used four-down linemen last week. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles hasn’t been shy about mixing and matching his lineups either. But Bowles said that isn’t him getting creative as much as making moves out of necessity.
“Last year we had three-down linebackers at both spots and we had (Darnell) Dockett who was on the field all the time,” Bowles said. “We didn’t have to change as much. We had (John) Abraham as a pass rusher. They were interchangeable because you let them do what they do best. This year with all the injuries, we have a bunch of moving part with different guys who do different things.”
– Bowles said safety Tyrann Mathieu (the one and only(?) Honey Badger) isn’t quite all the way back. Mathieu thinks he is. In fact, Mathieu really, really wants the decision-makers to let him take off his knee brace. I don’t think it’s going to happen — everyone wants to be smart here — but it let’s you know how Mathieu is feeling.
– Center Lyle Sendlein has had a good week. For one, he was not fined for the chop block he was flagged for in Dallas. Usually, that’s interpreted as a penalty that shouldn’t have been called (the Cardinals lost a 12-yard Andre Ellington run because of the flag, killing off a promising drive.) Regardless, the Cards won and no one dipped into his wallet.
– But the better part was the arrival of Sendlein’s first kid, a son that was born early in the week so Sendlein didn’t even have to miss practice.
“My wife is awesome, a great wife and mother,” Sendlein said. “She might let me sleep in the guest room until the season is over.”
She has to be better than that, though, after letting Sendein go with the name Crew Jack Sendlein for his newborn. Crew? Sendlein was asked where that came from.
“Well, I like the movie ‘Rad,’ ” Sendlein said, referring to a BMX racing bike movie from 1986. The main character was named Cru Jones. “It’s spelled a little different.”
– Bruce Arians was asked this week if he had ever this year drawn up any plays for cornerback Patrick Peterson on offense. The answer was no.
“(Expletive),” Arians said, “I can’t even get Jaron Brown in the game.”
True enough. After a big preseason, Brown has been a pick-and-choose guy, although he got his first touchdown catch against the Cowboys. “I wasn’t dropping that one,” Brown said, not after he was wide open for touchdown bombs twice this season, only to have the QB miss him.
Brown, however, only got so many opportunities in college at Clemson with a loaded roster. This isn’t new.
“I’ve been patient before, dealt with the same thing,” Brown said. “We were winning too, which always helps. I know my role. Hopefully it sets me up for down the road.”
At least he knows who is quarterback is going to be.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Jaron Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Rams, Steve Keim, Todd Bowles, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 44 Comments »
Ken Whisenhunt’s final coaching staff with the Cardinals numbered 17 members. With Bruce Arians, the number has ballooned to 24. It’s gone up just since Arians arrived, when he showed up in Tempe preaching how he wanted to teach and how he wanted his staff to be teachers as well. Arians’ theory is simple, and perhaps a given since Arians once thought he was going to get into middle school teaching and coaching: Smaller class sizes work. That goes in the NFL too, so why wouldn’t the offensive line benefit with three coaches (Harold Goodwin, Larry Zeirlein and David Diaz-Infante) instead of one. Why wouldn’t the defensive line need two coaches (Brentson Buckner, Tom Pratt), or there be a separate coach for inside (Mike Caldwell) and outside (James Bettcher) linebackers?
The Cardinals and president Michael Bidwill had to give the OK, of course, but Arians’ called it a “very easy sell.”
“Guys who have big position groups need more teachers,” Arians said. “I wish our school systems would take that approach.”
(I know my wife, who teaches high school down the street, agrees, as do many of her colleagues. But that’s something for another day, and probably another blog.)
“Michael has been great about it,” Arians added. “Rather than having one (coach) make this much money, give me three and let them make this much money. I’m not going to spend any more money, just give me more guys and we don’t care who’s sitting on whose desk in the office space.”
It has made for much more crowded football side of the team’s Tempe facility, but it’s worked. It’s not the only place things have changed with the organization. The personnel department has also grown in size, as has scouting. Heck, the building itself is growing, with new construction ongoing to enlarge the weight room, the cafeteria, the training/medical area and eventually, the locker room.
It’s hard to think anything other than that focused teaching has helped the Cardinals for the past year-and-a-half, that it’s helped a team overcome the kind of personnel losses this team has suffered, and keep playing at a high level.
Tags: Bruce Arians, coaching staff, Michael Bidwill
Posted in Blog | 26 Comments »
If the fact that fullback Ron Wolfley got a carry for the Cardinals the last time the franchise had gone to Dallas and won a regular-season game doesn’t grab you, the fact 22 players on the current roster weren’t even born the last time the Cards won there catches the attention.
Of course, all those “last times” don’t mean much right now, since this current Cardinals team took care of the Cowboys at Jerry’s World and don’t care about much of anything except what’s right in front of them. Again, Sunday’s game wasn’t one you’d bronze. There were a lot of good things, but some divots, especially offensively. But it doesn’t matter after yet another win, and a 7-1 record that stands as the best of not only the NFC but the NFL after the Broncos were knocked around in New England.
No, Tony Romo didn’t play. To that, the Cardinals basically said, so? “We don’t really want to hear the excuses right now,” locker-room sage Frostee Rucker said. (The Cardinals have done the play-with-the-backup-quarterbacks thing. They made it work.)
– The Cardinals stopped DeMarco Murray from reaching 100 yards, the first team to do so this season. It wasn’t as if Murray was ineffective, with 79 yards on 19 carries. But it was a goal to end his streak, and certainly, that fourth-down stand was the game in a microcosm – stop Murray, and you stop the Cowboys. Especially with Brandon Weeden as QB.
– Meanwhile, Andre Ellington outplayed Murray. If it wasn’t for the goal of getting Marion Grice some work, Ellington (95 yards on 21 carries) would have had his first 100-yard game. I thought Ellington battled for extra yards even better Sunday as well. He’s having an excellent season.
– Ellington did get his eyes checked during the game. Bruce Arians said he feared Ellington might be out with a concussion, but Ellington said his helmet came down over his eyes and blurred his vision for a moment.
– Red-zone troubles? No red-zone troubles here. When the Cardinals got there Sunday, they cashed in. Four trips inside the Dallas 20, and Chandler Catanzaro only came on the field for extra points. Even better, all four scores – three of them on Carson Palmer passes – were converted on third down.
– The Cardinals swept the NFC East. After sweeping the AFC South last year.
– Frostee was a little frosty on the sideline at the end of the game, hacked off that he and his teammates couldn’t stop the final Dez Bryant touchdown. It was meaningless, except it wasn’t.
“Me and (Darnell) Dockett were just talking about it, that’s the stuff you look back when the season is over and that’s the difference in being number one in something or being number three,” Rucker said. “Don’t give that up. Don’t give them anything.
“But I’m happy with the performance of all the guys. The team won this game today.”
– With John Carlson, Jaron Brown and Marion Grice all scoring Sunday, the Cardinals have had 12 different players score for them already this season though eight games.
– It was not a good day for the AT&T Stadium press box announcer. The Honey Badger as “Tyson Mathersly”? But it was worse for Cantanzaro, who was a couple of things – “Chancer Catanzaria” for one – before the guy gave up and just said, “Number 7 on to try the extra point.”
– Mathieu gets his first interception. He is certainly doing Honey Badger things again.
– Nose tackle Dan Williams was excellent, beyond his first sack of the season. “I would probably say it’s my best game,” Williams said. “I think I’ve been playing well thus far, doing the things coaches ask of me and make sure we get upfield. I think I actually played like I do each week, it’s just that the guys were cutting back into me, I made a few tackles. Today, I was pretty much just the clean-up man.”
– Larry Fitzgerald with another quietly solid game, with five catches for 70 yards. He fell short of surpassing Michael Irvin on the all-time yardage list, but more important was the touchdowns and a step toward better offensive production.
“We were able to score a little more consistent today,” Fitzgerald said. “But we are still finding out what we are capable of. We took a little bit of a step today. We pride ourselves on being a very smart, intelligent football team.”
– Not great were the five drops, three coming from tight end John Carlson. Carlson did have a touchdown catch, but combined with a holding penalty, it wasn’t his best game.
– This time, all the players earned a Victory Monday. Even the young guys.
– Your walk-off quote, courtesy of Arians: “Having been 1-7 before, 7-1 feels a lot better.”
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Cowboys, Dan Williams, DeMarco Murray, Frostee Rucker, Larry Fitzgerald, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 48 Comments »
The Cardinals used to go to Dallas every year when they shared a division address. But it’s been almost a decade since the Cardinals visited the Cowboys – all the way back to 2005, when only two current Cardinals were on the team: Larry Fitzgerald and the sidelined Darnell Dockett.
“That was a long time ago,” Fitzgerald said.
Indeed. Those were the days of Marcel Shipp and Josh McCown and Leonard Davis, the Arizona version. Those were the Dallas days of Keyshawn Johnson and Drew Bledsoe and Marion Barber. (The Cards, by the way, were drilled, 34-13, that day.)
Much has changed, not the least of which the venue, gaudy AT&T Stadium with its gigantic videoboard and 100,000-plus seats. “You can watch it from the sidelines,” Fitz said. “It’ll be fun to watch our defense flying around out there.”
That figures to be the key, doesn’t it? No, not the videoboard but the Cards’ defense. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is questionable after skipping practice all week and you’d have to think that makes it unlikely he’d play. But whether it’s a less-than-mobile Romo or a been-sitting-around-and-not-as-good Brandon Weeden, the Cardinals should be able to generate some opportunities. It’ll start by how they handle DeMarco Murray, of course. If Murray dominates, Dez Bryant might be able to be the QB and the Cowboys would be OK. But if the Cards can have some kind of Murray control and force it back into the QB’s hands, then the Cards will be in the game they wanted to dictate.
– Fitzgerald, on following up his stellar seven-reception, 160-yard performance against the Eagles: “A repeat performance all around wouldn’t be a bad thing on the road against the Cowboys,” Fitz said. “I know that much.”
I have a feeling the Cardinals know it too. It feels like Fitzgerald could have another nice outing.
– Fitz needs only 95 yards to surpass Cowboys Hall of Famer Michael Irvin in career receiving yards. It’d be kind of sweet to do it in Dallas.
– The Cowboys’ defense isn’t great. It has been good enough. It definitely took a hit with the season-ending biceps injury to linebacker Justin Durant, though. Durant was the Cowboys’ leading tackler.
– The last three times the Cardinals have played the Cowboys, the Cardinals have won on the final play of the game. In 2008, it was Sean Morey’s blocked punt recovered by Monty Beisel in the end zone in OT. In 2010, it was Jay Feely’s 48-yard field goal as the clock ran out. In 2011, it was a 52-yard screen pass to the Hyphen – LaRod Stephens-Howling – from quarterback Kevin Kolb for a touchdown.
– For those asking – for a road game, even! – the Cardinals are wearing red Sunday. The Cowboys almost always wear white at home.
– I’d expect Marion Grice to get at least a carry or two Sunday now that Stepfan Taylor is sidelined. Bruce Arians said Grice was ready, although he said Friday he was happy with Grice “until he dropped that handoff today.”
– Safety Deone Bucannon was not fined for the helmet-to-helmet hit on Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin, the one that caused the Patrick Peterson concussion. Cornerback Jerraud Powers was fined, $16,537 for his horse collar tackle in the same game. Eagles defensive lineman Trent Cole was dinged $22,050 for hitting Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer in the helmet.
– Arians said Peterson will cover Dez Bryant some of the time Sunday, but Peterson will not exclusively be on the Pro Bowl wide receiver.
– Punter Drew Butler has played at “JerryWorld” before, having punted for the Steelers in a 2012 overtime loss to the Cowboys. Did he hit the videoboard with any punts?
“Of course you try in pregame,” Butler said. “It’s a little ego boost there. I hit it a few times.”
Butler said hitting it in-game isn’t an issue because it’s inside the hashmarks and kicks are almost always angled outside the hashmarks. A bigger issue, he said, is because it gets dark higher up, sometimes the gunners have a hard time picking up the ball as it drops from the sky.
– Arians had his own description on playing in the Cowboys’ Dallas palace.
“It’s different,” Arians said. “It’s all those fans when you come in, like you’re walking out of a nightclub. It’s got an unbelievable gladiator feeling to it because you’re walking through the fans and they’re throwing (expletive) at you.”
On to Dallas.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Cowboys, Deone Bucannon, Drew Butler, Jerraud Powers, Larry Fitzgerald, Marion Grice, Patrick Peterson
Posted in Blog | 22 Comments »
It’s Halloween. People will dress up as all kinds of things. That includes Cardinals coach Bruce Arians. Get some kind of Cardinals top, grab a Kangol (or Arizona Cardinals baseball cap), put on some glasses, at least think about a goatee, and you’re in business.
Of course, it just leaves the man himself shaking his head.
“I find that shocking that someone would even want to try to do that,” Arians said. “Except it is an easy costume.” (@kykotony did so, via Twitter, below).
Someone asked Arians if it was more about the attitude.
“Yeah, you’ve got to have the attitude,” Arians said, “and a cocktail.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Halloween
Posted in Blog | 9 Comments »
The Cardinals looked hard for a pass rusher prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline. Nothing materialized. That’s really not surprising. In this league — especially when a team can flip into a playoff contender in one offseason — you just don’t trade decent pass rushers. You need them too much. And if you are willing to trade, you’re probably asking for more than they are worth, because they are at a premium, and a team like the Cardinals can’t just shred their draft options for that.
(Now, if Justin Houston was being offered for a first-round pick, yes, I make that move. I’d think GM Steve Keim would too. But the Justin Houstons of the world aren’t being offered.)
That leaves the Cardinals wanting on the pass rush. Yes, I’d think that will be the top target of the offseason, whether it is through free agency or the draft (or even both.) But the offseason is the offseason. That doesn’t help now.
The Cardinals have only seven sacks in seven games, and two of those are from defensive backs and one is from an inside linebacker. It’s no secret the Cards are blitz-happy out of necessity. It’s the only way they can generate consistent pressure, and it’s been a Todd Bowles staple, with the Cards blitzing about half the time. Would more sacks be welcome? Of course. But Bruce Arians sounds OK with the results so far. The last play Sunday is a great example. The Cardinals brought the blitz. They couldn’t sack Nick Foles — they couldn’t sack him all day, through 62 pass attempts — but it was the heavy pressure up the middle that forced Foles to backpedal and throw off his back foot. Jordan Matthews had been open in the back of the end zone, but the bad throw under pressure gave safety Rashad Johnson just enough time to recover and make sure the pass wasn’t completed.
“The thing we want to do defensively is be disruptive,” Arians said. “I thought we were disruptive (against Philadelphia). We created turnovers. Yardage doesn’t really matter. We want to lead the league in points (allowed) and we want to lead the league in sacks and turnovers. Sacks are the one thing that are obviously down, but there are disruptions there.”
At this time last year, the Cardinals had 19 sacks, en route to 47 on the season. A big part of that was John Abraham’s 11.5, and obviously losing Abraham — when the team had been counting on him to create some of those sacks — has left a mark. It was interesting to see that Marcus Benard is part of the outside linebacker rotation to create pressure, when Benard was one of the guys originally cut to add outside linebacker Thomas Keiser, who has mostly been inactive. Getting Calais Campbell back on the field will help, but it is, as Keim has said, beating a dead horse when talking about the Cardinals and creating/finding more of a pass rush.
The snap breakdown for the defensive line/outside linebackers against the Eagles, on 92 defensive snaps (92 – yikes!): Okafor 69, Acho 65, Campbell 62, Kelly 62, Stinson 51, Rucker 31, Dan Williams 18, Benard 16, Martin 10.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Ed Stinson, Frostee Rucker, John Abraham, Kareem Martin, Marcus Benard, Rashad Johnson, Sam Acho, Steve Keim, Thomas Keiser, Tommy Kelly, trade
Posted in Blog | 49 Comments »