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No picks thrown yet, Dixon cut and other B.A.

Posted by Darren Urban on October 13, 2014 – 1:17 pm

In five games, through three quarterbacks, the Cardinals have not thrown an interception. That’s 178 pass attempts this season, and 223 total in a row without a pick dating back to last season. Sure, Carson Palmer should have thrown one Sunday when Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo dropped one, but if, buts, candy, nuts and all that — right?

“It’s knowing where you are going with the ball,” coach Bruce Arians said. “But we’ve been lucky. We’ve had about three dropped.”

OK, that’s true. Arians did acknowledge the “experience and trust” the quarterbacks and receivers have built to make interceptions less likely. There is a luck component to it, but the same goes for making interceptions on defense (like Sam Acho’s pick off a batted pass in New York.) Arizona is only 74 passes from the NFL record for most attempts to start a season without an interception, or a little less than two-B.A.-called games.

All of that has helped the Cards to a plus-8 in turnovers thus far, third in the NFL behind New England and Green Bay, both of which are plus-9.

– Arians said he was still a little concerned about how Palmer would be after his 44 passes Sunday. “Until I saw him (Monday), Arians said. “Now, he feels great.” Arians said Palmer can “hopefully” do everything in practice this week. Drew Stanton had been ready to go in the game if Palmer had to have come out after getting poked in the eye during that sack-not-a-sack completion.

– With the health of the quarterbacks back to (almost) normal, the Cardinals cut QB Dennis Dixon from the practice squad.

– The Cardinals came out of the Redskins’ game relatively healthy. No one should miss any time from anything sustained against Washington.

– Defensive end Frostee Rucker should be OK to play, but his calf injury is going to be a constant issue he must deal with, like the foot problem with running back Andre Ellington, Arians said.

– There is a “slim chance” defensive end Calais Campbell plays this week, Arians said. I would be stunned if he played.

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Cards’ run defense must hold up

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2014 – 10:26 am

Before Calais Campbell got hurt a couple of plays into the second half of last weekend’s game in Denver, the Broncos had exactly four rushing yards. On seven attempts. With Campbell out of the game, the Broncos got 88 yards rushing on 21 tries.

There were, of course, other factors. The defense eventually got tired in the fourth quarter because the Cardinals could not generate any offense and stay on the field. But make no mistake, Campbell is an important part of the run defense. So too is Matt Shaughnessy, who was playing hurt in Denver and now is out a couple months with a knee injury. How the Cardinals deal with the loss of Campbell and Shaughnessy and hold up against the run, in my opinion, is the linchpin of keeping this season together as the Cardinals deal with all their injury-related setbacks.

If the Cardinals can continue to play like a top-five run defense — and they are fifth right now — they will stay in games. Certainly, the next stretch of the schedule will test that. The Redskins have Alfred Morris. The Eagles have Shady McCoy. And the Cowboys have the leading rusher in the NFL in DeMarco Murray. Getting Campbell back sooner rather than later will help, but there no way to know right now exactly when that will be. At this point, the Cards can’t afford to wait for reinforcements anyway. They must perform with who they have.

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Oh, captain, my captain — you OK?

Posted by Darren Urban on October 9, 2014 – 10:32 am

See that photo at the bottom? It’s a picture from the coin toss before the Monday night season opener against the Chargers. It is also the last time the Cardinals’ captains will have all played together in a game in 2014. It feels like the role has been cursed, right?

I mean, punter Dave Zastudil was already hurt in that game — the only reason he was active was to hold on field goals, while Drew Butler did the punting. Zastudil punted in one game (Denver, last weekend) before going on IR with his persistent groin injury, ending his season. Palmer, as we all know, has been hurting since the Chargers game and there is still uncertainty he can come back. Calais Campbell is now down with a knee injury, something that’s been at the forefront of the NFL world for a couple of days.

Wait, am I automatically jinxing Lorenzo Alexander now? (That’s rhetorical, folks. I don’t believe in such things.) Besides, Alexander got his bad luck last year when he got hurt, so …

Still, you have to like how coach Bruce Arians approaches the situation. When Darnell Dockett went on IR, he stayed involved. While hurt, Zastudil and Palmer have still been serving as captains. I can only guess Campbell will continue to do the same, and Zastudil too. “Dave is going to be very, very involved, like Darnell,” Arians said. “He’ll go out for the coin toss and do the things that captains do.”

And at some point, the Cardinals are hoping the other three captains are out there ready to play together on Sundays. Sooner rather than later.

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NFL: Correct call on Campbell play

Posted by Darren Urban on October 6, 2014 – 10:15 am

There already has been a lot of speculation on how the low block on Calais Campbell, the one injuring him, was a good call. The NFL this morning said that indeed, the Campbell play was a chop block, violating Rule 12, Section 2, Article 3 in items c) and d). From the league: “The officials threw the flag for the ‘reverse chop.’  Julius Thomas blocked Calais Campbell ‘in the area of the thigh or lower,’ as specified by rule, and Ryan Clady engages Campbell high “simultaneously or immediately after the block” by Thomas, resulting in the penalty.”

“The play also violated part c) of the rule, known as a “lure.”  While Thomas chops Campbell, Clady ‘confronts the defensive player in a pass-blocking posture but is not physically engaged with the defensive player’ “

Thomas could be fined. Any fines are issued from the league later in the week. Those are usually announced Friday, unless the player fined says something about it. A look at the hit, courtesy SBNation:

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Former NFL head of officials Mike Pereira, now with Fox, had previously said he thought it was flag-worthy.


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Keim: Campbell prognosis to come, no new QB yet

Posted by Darren Urban on October 6, 2014 – 8:12 am

General Manager Steve Keim addressed the two biggest issues facing the Cardinals following Sunday’s loss/injuryfest in Denver during his Monday morning appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports. Obviously, both were injury-related.

Defensive end Calais Campbell is getting an MRI this morning, but Keim said the belief is Campbell has a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his right knee. Keim said Campbell’s prognosis is tough to predict because it can range quite a bit. But it felt like a little optimism. Keim didn’t even close the door on Campbell playing against Washington Sunday (although that would be amazing) although multiple games sitting is definitely possible.

Also clear: Keim wasn’t happy about the Julius Thomas low block that hurt Campbell, saying he’s never seen a player go low on what was essentially going to be a chip block before Thomas ran a pass route. “Hopefully, we’ll never see that again,” Keim said.

– As for the quarterback situation, Drew Stanton will go through concussion protocol and Carson Palmer will continue with his shoulder treatment. Because in theory both could be ready for the Redskins, Keim said the Cardinals aren’t going to add another quarterback. Not yet. That will be determined in the next 24 to 48 hours. Keim wouldn’t divulge what quarterbacks the team would be looking at if they would sign one, although he said there are a lot of considerations that go into it and what they need plays into any decision. Keim noted any practice squad addition means keeping that player for three games on the 53-man roster, which might not make sense if Palmer and Stanton are on the verge of returning (and why Ryan Lindley, on San Diego’s practice squad, might not make sense.) Keim also said it’ll depend what the Cards might be looking for — a third-string guy?  A backup? I don’t think there is any question Logan Thomas is the starter if Palmer and Stanton aren’t playing.

– Tight end Troy Niklas has a high ankle sprain. He too will get an MRI.

– Cornerback Patrick Peterson (ankle) will probably be day to day, but Keim didn’t sound concerned.

– Keim’s total of drops he counted for his receivers? Nine. More than I had. Obviously, not a good total. Keim definitely didn’t sound pleased. “You can’t play like that and expect to win,” he said.

– He didn’t sound pleased with the offensive line. Keim said they played “below average,” and didn’t play in unison.

– Keim on Logan Thomas’ play: “He’s got to learn to get the ball out quicker,” Keim said, “but that will come in time.”

– Keim was pleased with the play of draft picks Deone Bucannon and Kareem Martin. Martin improvement would be important if Campbell is sidelined.

– The injuries don’t feel good for a GM either. “It’s tough,” Keim said. “But again, no one else in the league is going to feel sorry for us.”


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Broncos aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 5, 2014 – 7:48 pm

In his last meeting with the media Friday before playing the Broncos, Bruce Arians talked about weathering the storm early. If his team could do that, they’d have a chance to win Sunday. The funny thing is, I think the Cardinals did weather the storm, and until Drew Stanton went out with a concussion, I think they would’ve been in the game.

But Arians apparently didn’t see the tornado coming that turned out to be Peyton Manning’s day, which hit the same time as the hurricane of injuries blowing through. (Yes, I’m mixing my weather metaphors. Work with me.)

There was a reason the Broncos’ game wasn’t an end-all, be-all to the Cards. With a struggling Washington team visiting Arizona next week and then a trip to Oakland, the Cardinals had the opportunity to take on some lesser teams. But now, the equation has changed, hasn’t it? It was bad enough to have lost Darnell Dockett for the season, but to have Calais Campbell sidelined with an MCL sprain/tear/TBD for maybe a month? That is a painful, painful loss to absorb.

And that doesn’t even touch on the quarterback situation, which as of right now could include all three QBs available next weekend or could be just one, and the one is the inexperienced Logan Thomas – who looked appropriately overwhelmed Sunday in his NFL debut.

The Cards were saying all the right things after the game, but this is going to be another major suck-it-up type of the season. Having a QB would help, but as I write this on the flight home, it’s impossible to know where  Palmer and Stanton might be Wednesday, much less for kickoff against the Redskins.

– Manning was fantastic. Again. He did throw two interceptions – and the duck Jerraud Powers picked off was a bad, bad pass – but to have a career-best in passing yards after a career like he has had, is just special. Peyton was Peyton. It doesn’t hurt to have all those crossing patterns that border on pick plays, but really, that wasn’t the story. Manning knew where he could exploit the Cardinals, and he commenced exploitation.

– Always impressed when a guy comes out and meets the media no problem after a bad game. Antonio Cromartie stood there and answered the questions. He played poorly and said so. But that’s also the reality of leaving those guys on an island, and Demaryious Thomas – despite a slow start – is one of the league’s better receivers. Painful to note – he would have given up an extra 77-yard TD pass to Thomas, except that was the play tight end Julius Thomas chopped blocked Campbell out of the game.

– Calais, how could you possibly let Peyton cost you a pick-6? “Don’t give me a full tackle for that,” Manning said. “Give me like a half. Barely grazed his leg.”

– I haven’t really looked closely at the Campbell hit. But I’m not sure how you legislate that short of suspending a guy. And I don’t know if that is the answer either.

– USA Today got Julius Thomas to talk about the Cards’ contention of it being a dirty play. “I guarantee you being dirty is not part of my game, and to intentionally hurt somebody is something I would never do,” Thomas said. Thomas said he had a miscommunication with tackle Ryan Clady on who was supposed to block Campbell on the play.

– The protection wasn’t quite as consistent as previous games, but I didn’t think the line played poorly. DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller are going to get to the quarterback. They are among the best in the league. There was more pressure after Logan Thomas came in, but that’s expected when the QB is inexperienced. The first sack, when Ware beat Jared Veldheer, it looked to me Thomas dropped a little too far back and never moved up into the pocket until it was too late.

– That was a pretty pass Thomas drilled in there to Andre Ellington for the 81-yard TD. You take whatever highlights you can if you are Thomas. Something to remember. Got to do better than 1-for-8, obviously.

– The craziness of the NFL’s passing rating though: Thomas, because of his long TD, had a passer rating of 108.9 despite going 1-for-8. Manning, 31-of-47 for 479 yards, 4 TDs and 2 INTs, had a passing rating of 110.2.

– Can’t kick field goals against the Broncos. Can miss wide-open TD passes like Stanton-to-Housler or Stanton-to-Smokey Brown. Can’t drop the ball, repeatedly, when a catch gives you a first down. And it was equal opportunity drops.

We’ll see how easily the Cards can put this in the rear view. And who, exactly, they have to use against the Redskins.

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Giants aftermath, with a Stanton twist

Posted by Darren Urban on September 14, 2014 – 4:56 pm

Carson Palmer couldn’t play. Might not be able to play, at least another game. So that gives you … a Bruce Arians shrug. “Drew’s a starter in this league in my opinion,” Arians said. “Always has been.”

Drew being Drew Stanton, of course, and he was at a starter Sunday. Unlike the recent past, where backup quarterbacks would come in for the Cardinals and it usually meant problems – although at that time, the starters weren’t all that good either – this team is equipped to live through something like the quarterback going down and still coming away, after a cross country flight, with a victory.

The Giants are not the 49ers, of course, and if Stanton is still in the lineup next week, the Cards aregoing to have to up their overall game. The same can be said even if Palmer plays, realistically. But 2-0 is certainly much better than any of the alternatives.

The fact Stanton didn’t turn the ball over was a big deal. Sure, Eli Manning had better stats, but Stanton avoided causing his team trouble. Arians said Stanton played better than his stats would indicate. Perhaps. Stanton does need to capitalize on a couple of red-zone attempts – he wasn’t that close on some throws and another touchdown would have made life a lot easier – but he looks like a guy who knows the offense.

– When Palmer comes back is anyone’s guess. He kept talking about the nerve “waking up.” I would think it will be ready when it’s ready. Arians said he’s looking at this long-term with most of the season to go, so I’d expect Stanton against San Francisco if Palmer isn’t sure. Then again, if Palmer was possible to play Sunday Arians was going to put him in, so it sounds like it’s on Carson.

– What a day for special teams coordinator Amos Jones. Bad kickoff returns from Ted Ginn – Arians said he might be firing Ginn from that part of the game – and another punt block, this time because protector Robert Hughes allowed Rashad Jennings to push him back enough so that Jennings could get a hand on the ball. That’s two blocks in two games because of a poor block. But then Ginn snapped off his 71-yard return – and Ginn most certainly isn’t leaving punt returns – showing off his hellaspeed, and then Kenny Demens knocked loose the ensuing kickoff return for a fumble the Cardinals turned into a field goal.

– It was a rough game for Patrick Peterson. It did not help the physical cornerback was in a game with an officiating crew that was taking the edict on emphasizing illegal contacts/defensive holding very seriously. But Peterson said after he has to adapt, and he’s right. There is no other choice. The TD he gave up on the fade to Reuben Randle was a nice throw and a great one-handed catch from Randle, but in the end, that’s the kind of play Peterson – who now carries the weight and expectations of being the highest-paid cornerback – has to make.

– Andre Ellington was excellent Sunday. He nearly got to 100 yards – 91, actually – on only 15 carries, and this is a guy who isn’t 100 percent. Ellington said he isn’t even sure if he’ll be 100 percent at any point because his foot only gets better with rest and the bye week may not be enough time. Regardless, if he plays like Sunday, he and the Cardinals will make it work. The guy is a threat with his speed to get a first-down running on third-and-14, like he did Sunday.

– Safe to say going with Chandler Catanzaro was a good call? The kid looks good.

– For those scoring at home, that’s Cardinals 27, opponents 0 in the fourth quarter this season. And a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks.

– Fitz was back. Ten targets, six catches (for 51 yards). Almost had a touchdown, and should’ve have another catch for 36 yards had Jared Veldheer not been caught facemasking a pass rusher.

– Big game for Calais Campbell. A team-high 10 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, and would’ve had a another sack (and forced fumble the Cardinals recovered) if not for one of those pesky illegal contacts. He has to play like the great player he is for this defense to survive all its losses.

– Antonio Cromartie made a great play on that third down bomb late in the game to Randle, getting his hand in just enough to mess up a potential catch. That hits, and all kinds of drama. Instead, the Cardinals stopped the Giants the next play, and the game was over.

– Larry Foote on his game-ending interception: “There’s a dirty rumor going around my locker room that I can’t catch,” Foote said. “I told ’em I’d catch it when it counts.” Looked Fitz-like to me.

– Tyrann Mathieu with only a few plays (but his first tackle). It’s going to be a slow process, but he’s back on the field.

– The Seahawks lost. On the road, but it was to a Chargers team the Cardinals just beat. Yes, the NFC West should be interesting all year.

Rueben Randle, Patrick Peterson


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A tenuous schedule, and the captains

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2014 – 9:34 am

The Wes Welker suspension bomb dropped yesterday, and that’s a great example of why all these game-by-game results guesses never made any sense to me. The Broncos wide receiver is gone for four games, and since the Broncos have a Week 4 bye (as do the Cardinals), the fourth and final game Welker will have to sit out will be the Cardinals’ visit to Denver. Will that impact the outcome? Maybe, maybe not. But you can’t predict because this game doesn’t allow that. Last year, when the schedule game out, the Cardinals were facing two tough playoff teams coming to Arizona in Houston and Atlanta. By the time the Texans and Falcons arrived, injuries had shredded them and they were bad teams. This year, the Broncos won’t have Welker (or kicker Matt Prater, who has also been suspended the first four games), the 49ers won’t have linebacker Aldon Smith in the first meeting with the Cards, and again, you just don’t know how these things will play out.

Random aside: That Oct. 5 game will be only the second time in Payton Manning’s career he will play an entire game against the Cardinals. He did so in a Sunday night game in 2009, but he sat out virtually all off the 2005 season finale. That is, of course, assuming Manning is healthy by that point. Because you just don’t know what will happen.

– The Cardinals picked captains and the results weren’t really surprising when you think of it. The biggest one, noted by many fans, is that Larry Fitzgerald is not a captain. This year’s offensive captain is Carson Palmer. But this should not shock. Palmer has really been the biggest offensive leader since he arrived, although there is something to be said about taking a bit of a backseat in the first year. Palmer did that, and Fitz was a 2013 captain. But Palmer is unquestionably the guy out front. Fitz has always been more of a lead-by-example guy. It was interesting that Calais Campbell is the defensive captain, but then again, maybe that shouldn’t be that surprising either. It’s hard to think of Campbell as a veteran leader — sometimes, it still feels like he just got here, especially since Darnell Dockett’s experience always overshadowed him on the line. But he’s a guy the defense can get behind.

– The Cardinals finished off their 10-man practice squad today by signing cornerback Anthony Gaitor. The 5-foot-10 Gaitor was among the Bucs’ final cuts. He was a seventh-round pick of Tampa in 2011, and missed all of last season with a knee injury. He joins rookie Jimmy Legree as the defensive backs on the practice squad, which gives the Cards some in-house possibilities for help if there are injuries with the eight men on the active roster.


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Time for the defense to recalibrate

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2014 – 9:52 am

Perhaps the day off Tuesday came at the right time for the Cardinals. The defense can digest the season-ending injury to Darnell Dockett, and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can start to sort out how exactly he will run his defense with the pieces he has left. You can sit and mull what the Cardinals don’t have now compared to 2013, but it’s a moot point.

Along the defensive line, the Cardinals are expected to add a vet to the roster (Brett Keisel went back to Pittsburgh) but veteran Frostee Rucker should end up as the starter alongside Calais Campbell and Dan Williams. There should be plenty of mixing and matching, though, with rookies Ed Stinson and Kareem Martin and now, Alameda Ta’amu, who comes back to practice today. There would have been mixing and matching even if Dockett was healthy. Getting a steady rotation on the defensive line has been one of the main themes GM Steve Keim wanted to accomplish while re-tooling the roster. The key here could be Ta’amu, because if he can return to form relatively quickly, it will impact the middle of that line.

At linebacker, there have long been concerns and whenever Kevin Minter returns to the field, that probably doesn’t go away. I thought Larry Foote played pretty well in Minnesota and it was encouraging to see newcomer Desmond Bishop do what he did in a handful of plays, but the question marks don’t go away and now you don’t have a guy like Dockett in front of them. The plus is that outside linebacker John Abraham is back (his return to practice, pictured below, was seriously overshadowed Monday by the Dockett news) but again, until he plays his way into shape, it’s tough to know what he’ll bring.

In the secondary, the Cardinals not only have all their guys still but now Tyrann Mathieu is back in the mix too. That group remains the strongest, although playing out on an island at times means they need the front seven to come through. That was a bit troubling to hear Bruce Arians talk about how many times the Cardinals did not run their blitzes correctly in Minnesota — Bowles was magical last year the way he schemed players to often get to the quarterback untouched — and that will be a key to this whole thing.

The Cardinals’ offense will be better this season and they will need to be. Regardless, the Cardinals aren’t going to get where they want to go unless the defense plays at a high level. They will have to do it differently than they once planned.

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Dockett carted off with ACL injury

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 4:16 pm

UPDATE: Dockett tore his ACL and is out for the season. Here is the story.

The first practice of the last week of training camp didn’t go the way the Cardinals would have liked, not when defensive tackle Darnell Dockett went down during the workout and had to be carted off the field with a right knee injury. Dockett was headed to get an MRI on the injury, and it’s safe to say the Cardinals are holding their breath it is not serious. It’s tough to tell right now, although Dockett did look to be in some pain before he left.

“It was a routine play and Darnell was going hard,” defensive tackle Dan Williams said. “I don’t know the extent of the injury, but it’s part of football. His foot just got stuck in the ground. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Defensive end Calais Campbell said he didn’t see the play.

“It’s a tough situation to be in,” Campbell said. “He’s a great player, one we count on to be a leader. I’m not sure how serious it is, and hopefully he’ll come back soon but it’s always a scary moment when they bring the cart out.”

The Cardinals’ defensive line has been hammered with injuries. Defensive Bruce Gaston sat out Monday with his knee injury, Williams has missed time because of his knee and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu remains on the PUP list while he rehabs his ACL injury. Dockett has been remarkably durable, missing only two games out of 160 possible in his 10-year career.

Injuries, though, are part of the game.

“People go down every day almost,” Campbell said. “Sometimes it’s simple and they come right back into practice and sometimes it’s serious. It depends. In football, when people go down, you move the ball up and keep playing football. Since I was 6 years old playing the game, it’s always been when someone goes down, next man up.”


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