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Blogs

Center may be college non-center

Posted by Darren Urban on April 19, 2016 – 4:51 pm

Lyle Sendlein and Ted Larsen are gone. And while A.Q. Shipley remains and the Cardinals have signed a couple of other street free agents in Taylor Boggs and Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, it’s pretty clear the Cardinals are on course to draft a center at some point. Maybe it’s the first round, a guy like Alabama’s Ryan Kelly (who has been a favorite for mock drafters to scribble next to the Cardinals at 29th overall.) But it won’t be a surprise, even though the Cards don’t have a second-round pick, if they wait. After listening to both Steve Keim and Bruce Arians Tuesday, it shouldn’t even be a surprise if one comes later — and isn’t even technically a center. Not yet.

“In this draft, there are several opportunities to draft centers in all rounds,” Keim said. “Some of those guys are projections. There are some guys in the second, third, fourth rounds, who are going to be guys who played left tackle or they played guard at the collegiate level, who we worked out at center or they played center previously in their career that we think has the skill set. There are going to be opportunities to address that position if we feel necessary.”

Arians noted a couple of very good NFL centers like Jeff Hartings of the Steelers and Tim Grunhard of the Chiefs (Grunhard played guard in college, Hartings started his NFL career at guard before moving to center) that made the move. “When you say a college center, there might be three college centers, but there are 15 potential centers,” Arians said.

Options obviously open up a lot of possibilities for that first pick. Waiting on a center makes it easier to take a cornerback. Or a defensive lineman. Whatever Keim might want.

Ryan Kelly


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Arians confident in Jones’ Arizona future

Posted by Darren Urban on March 23, 2016 – 8:24 am

The trade that brought pass rusher Chandler Jones was a big move for the Cardinals, although it came with a semi-caveat — Jones is going into the last year of his contract, and given the market, he’s going to be in line for a large, large payday sooner rather than later. This is something GM Steve Keim acknowledged and said the Cards were prepared for when the trade became official. Now coach Bruce Arians is echoing that sentiment.

At the NFC coaches’ breakfast this morning in Florida at the NFL owners meetings, Arians told the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe he has confidence in Jones remaining a Cardinal long-term.

“When he hits free agency, we’ll have the dollars to make sure he stays,” Arians said.

Arians noted that Keim and director of football administration Mike Disner do a good job managing the salary cap three and four years out. The Cardinals undoubtedly are getting tight cap-wise for 2016 (the NFLPA has them with less than $4 million of cap space right now) but again, there is long-term focus. At the worst, there is a franchise tag the Cardinals can use on Jones (assuming, of course, they can extend a couple other guys, like, for instance, Tyrann Mathieu and probably Michael Floyd).

tempIMG_5194--nfl_mezz_1280_1024


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Posted in Blog | 30 Comments »

Peyton Manning — a near-Cardinal? — retires

Posted by Darren Urban on March 6, 2016 – 11:00 am

Peyton Manning did the expected. He is retiring from the NFL after his walk-off Super Bowl win last month. (He isn’t officially announcing it until Monday, but everyone — including the Denver Broncos — are congratulating him on his career today, so ..)

Manning is in the conversation for greatest player in league history. Considering he played for so long, he really didn’t cross paths with the Cardinals much. A quick aside: Manning went No. 1 overall in the 1998 draft. No.3 overall was the Cards’ pick of defensive end Andre Wadsworth.

In 18 years — 17 years of playing, plus that 2011 season he missed with the neck injury — Manning only played against the Cards three times. He started against the Cards in Indy in the 2005 season finale, completing 1-of-2 passes for 5 yards before leaving after one series. The prepping-for-the-playoffs Colts won anyway, 17-13. In 2009 he brought the Colts to University of Phoenix Stadium for “Sunday Night Football” and picked the Cards apart in a 31-10 Indy win, completing 24-for-35 passes for 379 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. In 2014, now playing for Denver, he ripped up the Cards again as the Broncos ran away with a 41-20 win. In that game, Manning completed 31-of-47 passes for 479 yards, four touchdowns, a pair of picks and one memorable tackle of defensive lineman Calais Campbell.

In between there, he of course considered playing for the Cardinals after the Colts cut him early in 2012. He chose the Broncos, which worked out pretty well for Denver and probably worked out the best for the Cardinals too. We will never know how the Whisenhunt-Manning Cards would have changed history, but the Cardinals are in good shape these days with Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians.

Arians, of course, was Manning’s first quarterbacks coach in the NFL.

“I called him the piranha,” Arians said in a statement Sunday morning. “I could never get him enough information, whether it was about the opponent or our game plan or anything else. We had him in for a pre-draft interview in’98 and he had a notebook full of questions for us, including one about the Indiana tax code. I remember thinking, ‘Who interviewed who here?’ He’s an absolutely tireless worker on the fundamentals and also one of the practical jokers in the world. I was proud to have him as a quarterback but I’m more proud to have him as a good friend. I wish him nothing but the best with whatever is ahead in the next chapters.”

Bruce Arians , Peyton Manning


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Cardinals will draft a QB – unless they don’t

Posted by Darren Urban on February 26, 2016 – 7:50 am

Is there an urgency for the Cardinals to develop a young quarterback, given that starter Carson Palmer is 36 years old? That’s not even a question that needs to be asked at this point. It’s not like the Cards haven’t been talking and thinking about this since Steve Keim and Bruce Arians came into power, though. There was a reason they drafted Logan Thomas in 2014.

So Thomas didn’t work out, and the team traded for Matt Barkley, and at this point, Barkley too is mostly an unknown. He didn’t get any significant practice time in the Cardinals’ offense, and they haven’t seen him in a preseason game. Pinning their hopes on his development — at least, pinning them only on his development — wouldn’t be prudent. The Cardinals probably need to draft a quarterback, and as I sit here in Indianapolis for the current version of the Scouting combine, long before the Cards have had any draft meetings, I will guess they will take one at some point in April.

But it’s not a guarantee. Both Keim and Arians acknowledge the need and importance to obtain a young QB. But both left the door cracked that the Cardinals might not. Keim insists he does not want to force a pick, especially at quarterback. The Cards will scour the background of these second-tier QB hopefuls — like Michigan State’s Connor Cook (pictured below) — knowing the top guys will be gone by the time they draft, and see if one makes sense. If you don’t feel a guy has a legitimate chance to play in the league, it doesn’t make much sense to draft one.

But the search is important. Someone has to play QB when Palmer is done. You’d rather make that decision pro-actively, rather than having it made for you when the time comes.

NFL Combine Football


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Seeking questions for Keim and Arians

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2016 – 10:31 am

The NFL Scouting combine has almost arrived. Next week the Cardinals (and every other team) will be sending personnel to Indianapolis to scouting the 300 or so college players invited that are expected to be drafted in a couple of months. It’s also the time when decision makers like Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians take some time to not only answer some questions from the media, but also from the fans.

As has been the recent custom, I’ll be sitting down with both Arians and Keim for a video chat while in Indy. What I’ll ask them is up to you. Submit your questions either in the comments below, or via Twitter (using the hashtag #CardsCombine) or you can even e-mail me at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Be sure to indicate if the question is for Arians or Keim. I’ll get to as many as I can.

CoachSpeak


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Posted in Blog | 35 Comments »

Search for a pass rusher

Posted by Darren Urban on January 28, 2016 – 9:54 am

Steve Keim was blunt when bringing up his number one priority of the offseason: “Create a pass rush.” It’s nothing new. This is something the Cardinals have been talking about every offseason for a decade pretty much. Yes, John Abraham had a nice 2013 but he wasn’t brought in until training camp and it was always known he’d be a short-term solution.

It’s not like the Cardinals didn’t look at it last offseason. They tried to trade up in the draft to get one of the “name” pass rushers in the first round. They still took Markus Golden and Shaq Riddick among their seven picks. Golden was solid as a rookie. Is he ever going to be the dynamic edge guy every team wants/needs? Maybe not, but he’ll be an important cog. We’ll see on Riddick, who never got on the field as a rookie, but they love his size and speed if he can learn the game.

Going forward, the Cards still need much more. Dwight Freeney helped, but he isn’t the answer at this point even if he comes back. I thought it was interesting that Bruce Arians, talking on Arizona Sports 98.7 said of the edge rusher sought “I doubt it would be a free agent.” Now, if Von Miller were to actually hit the open market and not get the inevitable franchise tag from the Broncos, that might change but still — it says something about the potential available pass rushers (or those who could be available but likely won’t by March.)

The next three months leading into the draft will be interesting in that regard. But it was clear there were too many times when the Cardinals didn’t pressure the quarterback enough, even when they blitzed. That’s a tough way to live in the rarified air of the upper echelon teams in the NFL.

Rusherblog


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No risk it, no biscuit, no regrets for Arians

Posted by Darren Urban on January 21, 2016 – 12:46 pm

So Saturday, Bruce Arians was blunt when saying why the Cardinals threw the ball with a little more than two minutes left and the Packers having no timeouts on second-and-8: “I play to win.” In the couple of days since, Arians admitted a run had been called but there was a pass option for quarterback Carson Palmer, and when Palmer saw 10 men in the box and Larry Fitzgerald one-on-one with cornerback Sam Shields, Palmer decided to take the shot.

We know the result: An incompletion, and even with a run on third down, the Packers were left with 35 or 40 more seconds on the clock then they might have had. That was then, and this is now. Arians was asked if the results might influence how the play might be called if a similar situation comes up again — say, Sunday night in Carolina.

“No,” Arians said. (He always starts out blunt, right?) “We had the running play called and it was a bad running play. We had 10 guys, we’ve got Larry Fitzgerald one-on-one, that’s as good as a running play.”

In terms of play calling, Arians said the same about the decision to blitz Aaron Rodgers on the Hail Mary instead of keeping a bunch of guys deep. “I don’t know if anybody else can make that throw, but we had them dead to rights and we didn’t defend the back end.”

The second-down playcall caught the attention of many national types (Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were certainly disagreeing while calling the game for NBC) but anyone watching this team knows that’s how Arians operates. And even if he does start with a running play, Arians also puts full trust in his quarterback, which is why Palmer gets the option to throw and why Arians backs his play.

It’s not always conventional. It has worked (Saints, 49ers) and it hasn’t worked (Ravens). But it’s not going to change, not in the NFC Championship, and not in what is possible beyond that.

Riskitblog

 


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Posted in Blog | 28 Comments »

Keim: Cards didn’t play well, but were resilient

Posted by Darren Urban on January 18, 2016 – 8:18 am

There are going to be close games in the playoffs, Cardinals GM Steve Keim acknowledged. He also said during his appearance Monday during the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 that “I didn’t think we played particularly well” Saturday night against the Packers. (Which you could kind of see as Keim walked off the sideline following Fitz’s touchdown. Among the sea of celebration, Keim wasn’t smiling. He didn’t look mad, but he looked like someone who knows the Cards have to play better to reach the Super Bowl.)

Keim’s greatest praise came for the University of Phoenix Stadium crowd, saying the atmosphere was great that that “it gives me chills” to think about the white towels waving.” The Cardinals won’t get that in the NFC Championship, since the game will be in Carolina. Maybe that’s why Keim noted the improvements that have to be made.

— Keim noted that, aside from wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, “I don’t think a ton of guys played great.” But the Cardinals were resilient, Keim added, which has been a hallmark of the team all season.

— On the 75-yard Fitzgerald catch in overtime, “what was the better play, Larry or Carson?” (As great as Fitz was on the run, Palmer made that thing happen.)

— Keim said he does not believe Palmer’s injured finger was a factor in Palmer’s game — which featured a few near-interceptions, aside from the two he threw. In the first half, Palmer had too much pressure in his face, Keim said. In the second half, Palmer just missed on some throws.

— The offensive line “played hard,” he said, but made mistakes, especially with second-level blocks. The run game has to produce more.

— On defense, pressure was sporadic (Keim wouldn’t touch the notion the Packers weren’t called enough for holding) and there were some mixups in the secondary and in gap discipline. Keim said he hadn’t yet talked to coaches about the last Packers drive, particularly the fourth-and-20 the Packers converted on a 60-yard pass when Jeff Janis got behind cornerback Justin Bethel. That can’t happen, Keim said, and he also said he thought a safety should have been over the top. “That’s Football 101, to be in the right place at the right time.”

— Finally, asked about Bruce Arians’ decision to throw the ball on second-and-8 with some 2:25 left in the game and the Cardinals up four points, Keim pointed out that the Cards threw up five with 1:44 left on second-and-8 in the season opener against the Saints. Running back David Johnson took that pass and scooted for a 55-yard touchdown.

“You know our style, you know our aggressiveness,” Keim said. “We play to win.” But was he nervous on that play? “Not at all. I trust our coach and I trust our players.”


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Packers aftermath, heading to NFC title game

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2016 – 1:09 am

Where to begin.

Let’s start here: I can’t recall a crazier ending for the Cardinals. Ever. That playoff win against the Packers back in the 2009 season was back-and-forth too, wild swings of emotion, but that was simply offensive football played at an incredibly high level. I’m not sure exactly what Saturday night was.

There was one guy playing at a high level. It was Larry Fitzgerald, and that’s the best place to start. I think Fitz had already made a strong Hall of Fame case. But what he did Saturday, basically jump-starting a moribund Cardinals offense by himself, and then making that play in overtime to race 75 yards and set up the (well, his) game-winning touchdown. I know there isn’t much more to be said about Fitz that hasn’t already been said, but Saturday night? That’s how legends are made. They are made with epic playoff performances like Fitz had in the 2008 Super Bowl run, and they are made with 176 yards on eight catches in a dramatic overtime win against the Packers to put your team in the NFC Championship.

— Next, Carson Palmer. It wasn’t Palmer’s best game. During the game there were plenty in the Twitterverse that blamed Palmer’s issues with his Bengals background. There is no question Palmer was off at times and that end zone interception was, in a word, terrible. You can’t do that in that situation.

But Palmer bounced back as Bruce Arians always says he does. He was under more pressure than the Cardinals can afford to let him be under – the Packers had the better pass rush this time around. And the way Palmer miraculously spun out of what should have been a sack and somehow found Fitz on the 75-yard play was as critical and clutch as Fitzgerald’s effort on the other end.

— Palmer gets his first playoff win. It wasn’t perfect, but who cares? Not Palmer, that’s for sure.

— The first person in the end zone after Fitz’s TD to congratulate Fitz was former teammate-turned-scout Adrian Wilson. A great moment.

— Speaking of Wilson, he stood next to Justin Bethel tucked in Bethel’s locker after the game, quietly talking to the cornerback for a long time. I would guess it was words of encouragement after some tough moments for Bethel, not the least of which being Jeff Janis getting behind him to convert that fourth-and-20 play at the end of the game.

— The game was so nuts that the touchdown pass to Michael Floyd that was intended for Fitz, deflected high into the air and toward the back of the end zone, over the head of another Packer and Jaron Brown, is a footnote.

— Floyd, about that play: “I think God was on our side on that one.”

— Here’s a new one: Patrick Peterson was sitting on the floor in the locker room having athletic trainer Michael Blankenship remove tape off his ankle, when a reporter wandered over to ask him a question. Soon, Peterson was surrounded by media – so he sat on the floor, outstretched legs in front of him, propped up by his arms, doing his entire media session.

— Linebacker Kevin Minter, on watching Fitz tonight: “That’s that guy I watched growing up.”

— The Cardinals blitzed Aaron Rodgers on the Hail Mary. They did it from his right so he couldn’t roll into his power. And he still escaped and flung a great pass so his guy would have a chance. Sometimes, you have to tip your cap to the other guy. I’m guessing the Packers – after the hurt wears off – will do that with Fitz. And you have to do it to Rodgers.

— Sure, the Cardinals could have run the ball on second down, right before the two-minute warning and their final field goal. They could’ve burned up another 35 or 40 seconds. But Arians went for the kill. “I play to win,” Arians said. No risk it, no biscuit. I’m sure there are those who have issues with the call, but folks, if you are following/rooting for this team, this is what you signed up for.

— I could write more, but it’s time to go home. Got to get some sleep so that I’m up in time for Seattle-Carolina. It’s on to the NFC Championship.

FoitzBlog


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Packers aftermath, now with more sacks

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2015 – 8:54 pm

The last time the Packers played in Arizona, it was highlighted by a strip-sack of Aaron Rodgers. It only made sense that this time the Packers came to Arizona, it was highlighted by a strip-sack of Aaron Rodgers. Actually, two. And actually, that’s the only thing those two games had in common.

That game long ago was seemingly who was going to have the ball last because Rodgers and Kurt Warner were so excellent that day (kinda ironic it ended on a defensive stop, so …) Sunday wasn’t that. Sunday was Cardinals’ domination, the kind of game that has to make any team that has to come to Arizona in the playoffs pause.

Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald both said they don’t think the Cardinals are peaking, and that’s in part because they would rather the team peak in about three or four weeks, when the playoffs begin. But the Cards were pretty good against an admittedly banged-up Packers team (although with the Cards without Tyrann Mathieu and Rashad Johnson, sympathy wasn’t forthcoming) and don’t have a whole lot of complaints.

Now, next week is going to be interesting. The NFL officially moved the Panthers-Bucs game to a late kickoff, matching it with the Cardinals, so the Cards can’t just base their playing time on the Panthers outcome (A Panthers loss and Cards win and the Cardinals are the No. 1 seed.) Meanwhile, you don’t know what the Seahawks are going to do. Do they definitely want to escape the sixth seed, which is still possible? The difference between going to frigid Minnesota/Green Bay or Washington in that case might mean something to the Seahawks.

So much to consider.

— There seemed to be a lot of concern about the right index finger (wrapped, as you can see below) of Palmer that was jacked up in Philly. He only missed one play, but some thought it was going to be an issue. Didn’t look like it to me.

— The Cardinals now have 57 touchdowns this season, soaring past the franchise record of 53 set in 1948. So, so many touchdowns.

— How’s this for interesting: With their nine-sack game Sunday, the Cardinals have 35 on the season – the same number as the Seahawks. The teams are tied with the Eagles for 14th in the league. The Cards are tied with Denver for fourth in scoring defense, at 18.5 points a game.

— Veteran DT Cory Redding couldn’t get to the end zone in Detroit, getting tackled after an interception after a 30-yard return down to the Lions 4. After he picked up a Packers fumble Sunday at the 36, it wasn’t going to happen again.

“I would not be denied,” Redding said. “My boys and teammates gave me a hard time the first time. Letting the quarterback tackle you, blah, blah, blah.

“I picked up the ball and tried to go as far as I could. I had a nice little convoy. (Packers RB Eddie) Lacy tried to (get me), I didn’t even know it was him. I just shoved off somebody and kept running.”

— Crazy Palmer numbers: He is now 29-8 as a starter for the Cardinals, and 26-4 in his last 30 starts. Quite a happy birthday for a guy who turned 36 Sunday.

— It was funny to see Larry Fitzgerald dress so quickly Sunday to try and do his interview at the podium. Usually Fitz is among the last but he wanted to get out of there. He was ready to go after Calais Campbell – except Dwight Freeney already thought he was next. Freeney, told he was going to go after Fitz, fixed that quickly. He pulled rank, telling Fitz he was older. So Freeney went first, and Fitz sat in the corner waiting, legs out like he was a kid waiting for his mom to finish shopping.

— Freeney has had three sacks in a game six times before Sunday, but Sunday was the first time since 2006.

— In three seasons, Bruce Arians – after taking out the Packers Sunday — has already beaten every NFC team at least once.

— Many asked during the game if David Johnson was hurt. He was not. He came out because of the big lead and Andre Ellington’s need to work. Arians said Johnson is fine.

— The amazing touchdown-to-punt ratio stat held up for another week. The tally now is 57 touchdowns for the Cardinals this season, and 55 punts. It’s hard to fathom if the Cardinals can make that hold up through the season finale.

PalmerPackBloguse


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