The last time the Cardinals played the Eagles, the game was in Philly a few days after Thanksgiving. And Andre Ellington was not part of it.
A lot has been said about the Cardinals’ near loss to the Eagles last year, about the penalty flags the Cards questioned and the big early deficit and the inability to stop the tight ends. Often lost in the conversation is that Ellington didn’t play. That was right when Ellington was emerging as a key piece of the offense; it was two weeks later when Ellington had what Bruce Arians felt was his best game, in Tennessee.
Ellington missed the Philly game after slipping on the grass during the Cardinals’ Thanksgiving practice. He later said that, at the time, he thought he had torn his ACL. That would have certainly changed the course of the Cards’ recent history. Instead, Ellington is coming off his heaviest workload ever, with 30 touches.
The Cardinals survived losing Carson Palmer for a few games. They would survive a wide receiver missing a couple of games, or one of the linemen. Losing Ellington, though? You’d try not to think about it. Last week, Bruce Arians said he thought Ellington wasn’t going to play the second half with a rib injury. I asked Ellington about it, and he acknowledged he knows how much he is needed on the field.
“There’s a little bit of pressure, I have to admit,” Ellington said. “There is a side of me that wants to be out there for every snap. But at the end of the day, that’s why we have depth on the team. When the starters can’t go, we have guys who can step in.”
– I will be fascinated to see how Chip Kelly’s up-tempo, no-huddle offense operates in an enclosed stadium that tends to get LOUD (underratedly so.) In case you hadn’t heard, there is no NFL home – not Seattle, not New Orleans, not Kansas City – that has generated as many false starts by the opposition since 2006 than the 119 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
– Getting Calais Campbell would be a massive addition to the defense. That goes without saying. But seeing that Carson Palmer was no longer even listed on the injury report this week also meant something. Palmer getting back to lifting weights with his upper body will help his strength, and while it came from a different direction than last year, it certainly seems the Cardinals are set up for a second-half improvement in the passing game. Again, not ideal. But as long as Palmer is healthy, the arrow should go up.
– On the other hand, the Eagles haven’t gotten the same play from QB Nick Foles they did a year ago. He does have 10 TD passes but he’s completing less than 60 percent of his passes and has thrown seven interceptions (five more than last year already.) First job Sunday is to slow LeSean McCoy. After that, maybe the Cards can force Foles into some bad choices.
– The inactive lists will be crucial Sunday. Campbell is questionable, even if I think he’ll play. For the Eagles, they had three guys I didn’t think would be able to go who suddenly practiced “full” Friday. So maybe they will. Center Jason Kelce, linebacker Mychal Kendricks and running back Darren Sproles, if they can go, change the dynamics of the game.
– B.A. keeps talking about how his team hasn’t accomplished anything yet, and linebacker Larry Foote noted there are still 10 games to go in the season. But the team is 5-1 and feeling pretty good. So, Foote was asked, how do you get the message across?
“It’s impossible for young guys to understand it,” Foote said. “You have to say it and then you have to go out there and show them. Just your effort and the way you carry yourself in practice, they can feel the environment, see how older guys are playing, how serious they are with communication and in meeting rooms.”
Certainly, the Cardinals don’t want this to get away from them. With a two-game edge in the loss column, that’s nice to have in the bank. The Cards aren’t going 15-1. But it wouldn’t be bad to emerge from these next two games with at least a 6-2 record. Might as well get the one at home.
– Larry Fitzgerald was full of great quotes this week – talking about his “champagne problems” – and he had a thoughtful answer of what was more important for a successful team: talent, or confidence?
“I think it’s a healthy combination of both,” Fitzgerald said. “You have to have the confidence in yourself that you can go out and make the play, the guy next to you can make the play, and having that trust level in your teammates. That’s huge. It’s exemplified in our defense. Everyone saw the injuries and suspensions and people wrote us off, ‘There’s no way they can play at the same level’ and all they have done is the same thing.”
It’s a great point. The Cards need talent, and I think it only underscores the job GM Steve Keim has done with the depth that the Cards have been able to deal with their injured personnel. But the confidence means something. It oozes from the head coach, and it permeates the locker room. The Cards are 5-1 in part because they believe they should be, everything else be damned.
See you Sunday.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Eagles, Larry Fitzgerald, Larry Foote, Nick Foles
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Bruce Arians was blunt. He isn’t concerned about getting the ball to any particular receiver, nor is he concerned that any receiver would be looking for that out of Arians’ offense.
To be clear, no wideout has made a peep about receptions or targets. Arians said that, and so did quarterback Carson Palmer, who added that if the Cardinals were throwing a bunch of incompletions, it could be an issue. But that’s not the case.
“As long as that ball’s in somebody’s hands and the chains are moving, our guys are happy and they’re blocking for each other and being used as a decoy for each other to get each other open,” Palmer said. “They’ve been very unselfish.”
The Cardinals’ leading receiver in terms of catches after six games is not Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd. It’s running back Andre Ellington, who now has 25 receptions. Fitzgerald is next with 23, Floyd with 19. Floyd has been the one with big plays — he has 353 yards — but Fitzgerald has just 283 yards and no one is on pace to get 1,000 yards at this point. Fitzgerald in particular is far behind the totals to which he once was accustomed.
(Fitz, by the way, has never complained once publicly. I can’t believe he doesn’t want the ball more, but he knows the Cardinals are winning.)
But Palmer has been all about spreading the ball around. He threw completions to nine different players in Oakland. Both Arians and Palmer acknowledged that on Sunday’s TD pass to Floyd, Palmer could have hit John Brown or Fitz (although Fitz would have been well short of the first down.) Instead, Palmer decided to take the deep shot. On another play, Palmer had Fitz open in the end zone, but a low shotgun snap threw off the timing and Palmer instead dumped it over the blitz to running back Stepfan Taylor for the score.
Palmer, as he’s said many times, reiterated he wants to get the ball to Fitzgerald more often and knows Fitz needs his touches. But he doesn’t want to force it and he definitely doesn’t want to pass up another open receiver to do so.
“In this system, you’ve got running backs who can catch it and go the distance, you have receivers that can do that, tight ends that can do that, so there are a lot of guys you have to cover,” Palmer said.
Arians said the passing game is all very simple: “You have to check your ego at the door. It’s about eliminating interceptions and taking what defenses give you. When you have the number of tools we have, we put five guys out there who are more than capable of breaking a game open, don’t force feed anybody.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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Oh, there was still drama Friday that impacted the Cardinals, but for the first time in a couple of weeks, it wasn’t directly related to the Cardinals themselves. Instead, the Seahawks traded (the guy who seemed to be a dangerous) playmaker Percy Harvin to the Jets. That means the Cards never had to play against the guy when he was in Seattle – he was injured for both 2013 meetings, and the Cards have yet to play the Seahawks this season. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about why Harvin was dumped soon – a lot of stuff out there already basically saying Harvin had worn out his welcome – but the Cards aren’t going to be dealing with him.
Otherwise, it was a boring Friday for the Cards as they prepare for their road trip to Oakland. That’s a good thing. No quarterback questions. No wondering about chop block fines. No new injuries. Just a game.
How about that?
– Bruce Arians all but scoffed at the idea of trap games, and the way he and his staff operates, that doesn’t surprise me. There has been zero looking ahead (Philly and Dallas are up next) from what I have heard/can tell. Arians did say the Cards can’t be as listless to start in Oakland as they were against Washington and I totally agree. The lesson hopefully was learned.
– Speaking of listless, the last time the Cardinals went to Oakland for a regular-season game was 2006. It was a disaster. It was a week after the Cardinals had the infamous Monday Night Meltdown and Denny popped off (hey, that eight-year anniversary, by the way, was yesterday!) The Cardinals had fallen to 1-5, but we’re playing the 0-5 Raiders and the I-don’t-give-a-flip version of Randy Moss. The Cards were terrible. Moss actually scored a TD. That was a long time ago.
– Andre Ellington believes the run game is close. He actually said he feels more fresh right now than he probably should, because his foot injury means he doesn’t do as much as practice as he normally would. Ellington has also be careful, as he was going to have to, of getting down on plays once he figures out he’s not going to gain any more yards.
It was noticeable against Washington, and I even heard from a couple of fans wondering why he was going down so easily. In the end, Ellington said, it’s about thinking big picture.
“I don’t have the strength to fight away from tackles,” Ellington said. “I try to do myself justice by getting down and getting ready for the next play.
“(Other people) are not out there taking those hits like I have to. I feel like once I get all I can get, I’m going to go down. I moreso do it on plays when I get a big gain. If it’s third-and-one, I’m going to fight for that yard.”
– Ellington also said the Cardinals would have “some surprises” in the run game Sunday. We’ll see what that means.
– Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker was fined $10,000 for ripping the helmet off quarterback Carson Palmer on that in-the-grasp-probably-should-have-been-a-sack pass completion Palmer made to Robert Hughes. Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson was fined $16,537 for a horsecollar tackle on the sideline made on safety Rashad Johnson after Johnson’s first interception. Neither play drew a flag from the officials (although Dan Williams, Jared Veldheer and Tony Jefferson tried to get in Jackson’s face after the play.)
– Running back Marion Grice got a few first-team reps at running back this week, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said, although Goodwin made it sound it was more exploratory rather a harbinger of anything imminent. Goodwin also reiterated he thinks Grice can perform all the same tasks as Ellington.
– The Cardinals are third in the NFL in run defense, meaning they moved up in the rankings even after losing Calais Campbell and Matt Shaughnessy. Now they face the next-to-last rushing team in the league.
– How about Dan Williams playing some defensive end? The nose tackle likes it. “I’ll take it where I can get it,” Williams said. “It kind of reminded me of college a little bit. I haven’t played that much end since my rookie year.”
– You just get a feeling Patrick Peterson is motivated to have a big game Sunday.
– You know the Raiders buried a football? That’s what interim coach Tony Sparano did with his team, symbolizing the end of the poor play that culminated with coach Dennis Allen’s firing.
“If you keep looking back with that same old mindset like, ‘Oh, yeah man, we can’t do it because this, this and that, we already lost five games,’ well you defeated yourself before you even tried to get on the field and to make something happen,” Raiders defensive end and former Cardinal Antonio Smith said. “I think that was the main thing that Tony was trying to symbolize when burying that ball—burying whoever you were before that day, whatever team we were before that day.”
The Raiders played better last week. But they still lost. The Cards don’t want that changing. Not yet.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, fines, Marion Grice, Patrick Peterson, Percy Harvin, Raiders, Rashad Johnson
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It comes as no surprise that the Cardinals want to extend quarterback Carson Palmer. GM Steve Keim said he has had initial discussions with Palmer’s agent, and given the landscape, keeping Palmer around makes sense for both sides. For Palmer, who will turn 35 in December, he has found a comfort — and success — working in Bruce Arians’ system. Considering there probably aren’t many teams that are going to want to bring in a 35-year-old QB, at least not believing in him at the level the Cardinals do, Palmer wanting to remain is only logical.
The Cardinals have a quarterback who works for them, not only passing the ball but as a leader, a guy who easily was voted captain by his teammates. Palmer stands tall in that locker room, and it has nothing to do with his 6-foot-5 frame but the way he carries himself and plays off every guy in there. At some point, the Cardinals will have to find their long-term QB answer, and maybe it’s Logan Thomas and maybe Keim sees the franchise QB sitting there late in the first round this coming April, but there are no certainties and having Palmer in place is almost obvious for the team too.
The shoulder nerve issue probably threw a wrench into things somewhat. You have to believe Palmer will stay healthy. But assuming that, this should work. If it makes so much sense for both sides, it almost has to, right?
But that also leads into this incredibly interesting offseason to come for Keim. Last year, he said the 2015 season was really when the Cards would be in better shape in terms of the salary cap. You can only assume he was already taking into account the Larry Fitzgerald situation, and what he may or may not do with Darnell Dockett’s contract (a spot that’s gotten stickier now that Dockett, who turns 34 in May, will be coming off major knee surgery.) That doesn’t include the scheduled free agents: Antonio Cromartie, Dan Williams, Sam Acho, Tommy Kelly, Larry Foote and Paul Fanaika among them.
If there is anything Keim has shown with a couple of offseasons under his belt, it’s that the Cardinals have a plan on how they spend. And going overboard isn’t part of it. There is a number the Cardinals have in mind they will want to give to any of these guys for 2015 — for a Fitz, for a Dan Williams. For a Palmer. Selling a chance to stay with a winner helps.
Of course, winning only happens when there is a QB in place. Palmer is that guy for the Cardinals. You want him to stick around.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, free agency, Larry Fitzgerald, Larry Foote, Logan Thomas, Paul Fanaika, Sam Acho, Steve Keim, Tommy Kelly
Posted in Blog | 34 Comments »
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Carson Palmer, Jared Veldheer, NFL, Oakland Raiders, Raiders, Throwback Thursday
Posted in Since1898 | 2 Comments »
That sound you hear is zero drama coming from the Cardinals’ practice complex this week. All the quarterbacks are on the field today, full go, and after last week, even Bruce Arians can smile at that notion.
“It’s really nice to have three quarterbacks,” Arians said.
Carson Palmer’s arm isn’t 100 percent. It isn’t rest he needs but reps, Arians said, to build strength in that right arm. Nevertheless, Palmer’s arm is “more than serviceable,” Arians said.
“The thing he keeps telling me is that (his arm) is great,” Arians said. “I know it’s not great, but it’s a lot better.”
Palmer said he continues to work on his protocol to work on his shoulder, and he remains cautious about saying when he’ll be 100 percent. But he doesn’t sound worried about it much at all anymore, as long as he keeps doing the rehab he has been doing.
“I’m probably as excited a guy as there is in the league for practice today,” Palmer said.
– The official injury report probably won’t be out until later today, since the Raiders don’t even get off the practice field until after 5 p.m. Only four Cardinals are missing practice totally: DE Calais Campbell (knee), who just started jogging and would be a long shot to play this week; TE Troy Niklas (ankle); TE John Carlson (knee), who took that shot to his leg on the opening catch of the game last Sunday; and DE Frostee Rucker (calf), who is going to have to be smart with his injury likely for the balance of the season. Rucker and Carlson should be fine to play in Oakland, Arians said.
In the open part of practice, RB Andre Ellington (foot) was also sitting out. Like Rucker, he’s trying to manage his injury.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer
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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.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Dennis Dixon, Frostee Rucker
Posted in Blog | 33 Comments »
In his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports, General Manager Steve Keim noted that while he still has “100 percent faith” in the physical tools of cornerback Patrick Peterson, he still sees Peterson losing focus and/or intensity at times during a game. “I promise you, that’s something (defensive coordinator) Todd Bowles and defensive backs coach Kevin Ross will clean up.”
Peterson got beat by DeSean Jackson for a 64-yard slant-and-run touchdown Sunday, although it looked like Peterson should’ve had safety help from Tyrann Mathieu to at least make it a much shorter gain. It looked like Peterson was on Pierre Garcon on the Redskins’ final TD pass to Garcon late in the game too. It’s impossible to be perfect as a cornerback in today’s NFL — every guy is going to give up scores — but Keim reiterated he thinks Peterson has just scratched the surface of his talent and can be much better.
“I know Pat is a competitor, I know he’s a pro and I know he’ll work at it,” Keim said. “I also have a tremendous amount of faith and respect for our coaching staff. … No one in the league has (Peterson’s) physical tools. Now it is up to Pat from a mental standpoint, and a focus and an intensity standpoint, to become the best. And that’s on him. I think he’s the kind of competitor, at 24 years of age, that he’s going to grow and continue to get better. But there are times when he has plays you’d like to have back.”
Keim also said Peterson isn’t 100 percent healthy either, dealing with a sore ankle. Plus, as Keim acknowledged, the lack of a great edge pass rush by the Cardinals also can leave the secondary out to dry at times. That too does not help Peterson, who is often going against the most talented receiver on the other team.
“If you play 70 snaps and 65 of them are excellent and five you get exposed, you can’t hide,” Keim said. “But we have high expectations out of of Pat and so do the fans. We expect him to play at a high level and I think he’ll get things cleaned up in the next few weeks.”
– Keim was happy with the win, although he said after watching the video, the Cardinals “didn’t play particularly well.”
– He, like most, were thrilled with the play of Carson Palmer considering the circumstances. Keim said he could tell Palmer didn’t have 100 percent velocity, but had a great pocket presence in his first game back.
– Keim was concerned with run defense coming into the game (he wasn’t the only one) but but felt the Cards “stepped up to the challenge.” The Redskins only had 72 rushing yards.
– He praised a few young players, linebacker Alex Okafor in particular, but also defensive lineman Ed Stinson and safety Deone Bucannon.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Carson Palmer, Deone Bucannon, Ed Stinson, Patrick Peterson, Redskins, Steve Keim
Posted in Blog | 34 Comments »
Late in the game Sunday, with the Cardinals trying to run the clock nursing a three-point lead, Carson Palmer thought it would be a good idea to call his own number on a bootleg. And he convinced Bruce Arians of that.
“I let them talk me into keeping that damn ball on third down, and I never should have done that one,” Arians said.
So, Palmer was asked, let’s get this straight: You hurt your shoulder, way back in the season opener, running the ball – and then Sunday, in your first game back, you talked Arians into letting you run the ball?
“That’s one way to put it,” Palmer said, to laughs. “I won’t say that. But you did.”
“I was talking (Bruce) into a lot of stuff,” Palmer said. “I was just excited to be out there.”
– It was easy to joke around after a win. After the debacle that was the Denver trip – a defensive breakdown and injuries galore – Sunday was the ultimate cheerup. Palmer was back as starting QB. The defense, while it had a couple breakdowns, held up decently. And then there was the cheer that reverberated around University of Phoenix Stadium late when the Cowboys’ win in Seattle was announced.
(Suddenly that trip to Dallas looks very, very difficult. But that’s a topic for another day.)
– The Cardinals’ play was far from perfect, with 14 penalties (yikes), an offense that couldn’t put the ball in the end zone even though the Redskins seemed to almost want them to be there, and a defense that had a couple of breakdowns. But these two weeks were about beating teams they should beat, and that’s one down. One trip to Oakland to go.
– Palmer said he “isn’t out of the woods” yet. The Cards will continue to approach this nerve deal cautiously. But he was no worse for wear after Sunday’s game. Call it a positive step.
– The play of the day for Palmer wasn’t the TD pass to Michael Floyd or the laser he completed to Smokey Brown for a first down, but the flip he somehow made to running back Robert Hughes on third-and-2 for seven yards. It kept alive a field-goal drive early in the fourth quarter, and it should have been a sack. Multiple Redskins were hanging all over Palmer, and frankly, I’m shocked they didn’t call it in the grasp.
“I should have gotten the ball out quicker,” Palmer said. “That’s kind of one of those things I’m talking about. I need to practice.”
Instead, he ended up with a I’m-a-warrior-type highlight.
– Great sign to see Alex Okafor with two sacks. If he can end up being a guy who can consistently pressure the passer, it would be a Godsend to this team.
– Tyrann Mathieu admitted he is “not really comfortable” with the knee brace he has to wear. “But I have to be comfortable with it, so I play these mind games with myself and tell myself I’m comfortable with it,” Mathieu said.
– Mathieu picked up the Andre Roberts fumble and starting running around in an old-school Honey Badger kind of way (which included holding the ball awfully loosely around the field …) but eventually decided discretion was the better part of valor. Why wouldn’t he, when he acknowledged he had some flashbacks to the punt return against the Rams – in which he was running around trying to make something happen – before he was caught and his knee was turned into spaghetti.
“No question,” Mathieu said. “Made two people miss and then I said time to get down. Very reminiscent of last year. Very.”
– Patrick Peterson got beat on DeSean Jackson’s 64-yard slant-and-run touchdown. Mathieu looked like he could have been over the top. Mathieu said the Cards “kind of messed up our coverage a little bit.” Plus, Mathieu said he took a “horrible angle” toward Jackson, costing him a chance at the tackle.
– Always nice to see Fitz get to the end zone. I’m guessing Fitz was the most happy about it.
– How many games can this team go without throwing an interception? No turnovers. Again.
– Speaking of turnovers, I was thinking to myself late in the third quarter the defense really needed to force one. Then came the questionable Roberts fumble – I could have sworn he was down, referee Ed Hochuli said after the game there was not conclusive evidence to overturn the fumble call – and then three straight picks. All in the last 13 minutes. All due respect to Rashad Johnson, but Jerraud Powers’ pick was the thing of beauty. He hid as the Redskins tried a wide receiver screen and popped out of nowhere to steal the pass.
– That’s enough for tonight. I can’t say the quarterback won’t be a story this week – Palmer gets to face his former team – but we are done with the QB-or-not-QB drama. Thankfully.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Jerraud Powers, Patrick Peterson, Redskins, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 29 Comments »
It’s about 90 minutes before kickoff. The Cardinals, as expected, will have all three of their quarterbacks active for today’s game. And as of right now, we don’t know who is starting. If there is an update to give, I’ll post it here.
In any event, here is the inactive list:
– RB Marion Grice
– LB Desmond Bishop
– LB Thomas Keiser
– LB Glenn Carson (ankle)
– DT Bruce Gaston
– TE Troy Niklas (ankle)
– DE Calais Campbell (knee).
Tags: Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, inactives
Posted in Blog | 6 Comments »