Drew Stanton officially moved on from the Cardinals this weekend, agreeing to terms with Cleveland in an interesting QB group that now has Stanton, Tyrod Taylor, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and what is certain to be a rookie quarterback taken with the No. 1 choice in the draft, whether it is Sam Darnold or Josh Allen or whomever.
But Stanton’s departure also underscores the remarkable stability the Cardinals had at quarterback during the five years of Bruce Arians. Stanton was one of the first free agents signed by the Cards after Arians was hired, Carson Palmer was acquired in a trade a few weeks after, and that was the setup the whole time Arians was coach: Palmer as starter, Stanton was No. 2. There were others mixed in at No. 3, whether it was Logan Thomas or Matt Barkley or Blaine Gabbert or even Ryan Lindley, and certainly injuries impacted the position. But it was always Palmer/Stanton, stability that I think ultimately helped the offense. (Of course, that stability might have led to a comfort level that slowed a look for a future QB, but that’s a story that has been and will be talked about elsewhere.)
As for Stanton, here was a guy who signed with the Cardinals expecting to finally get a chance to start, and then never did because Palmer arrived soon after. But he eventually came to grips with who he was in the NFL and his role, and he did it pretty well. Stanton ended up winning nine of 13 starts in Arizona (and helped the Cards rally to a win against the Rams in 2014 in the game Palmer started and tore his ACL.) That he got a walk-off moment by beating the Seahawks in Seattle to close 2017 and his (and Arians’) Cardinals’ tenure was apropos.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Browns, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas, Matt Barkley, Ryan Lindley
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As the speculation bounces on a daily basis about what the Cardinals will do at quarterback, the big reason it’s a question — Carson Palmer’s retirement — got an official designation Monday when the team placed him on the reserved/retired list. It’s a formality, really, since Palmer is the type that wouldn’t have made such a decision unless he knew for sure. Still, it’s prudent to leave a retired player on a reserve list rather than just cut him loose. (It’s been popular for some to speculate that Palmer could be talked out of retirement, but that’s not going to happen.)
In terms of the QB search, there is so much time before anything can truly happen. The new league year — meaning free agency and trades — isn’t until March 14, so more than a month away. As Kansas City and Washington showed, talks can be ongoing and deals can be figured out between teams, but nothing can be finalized. There is a lot of chatter about Nick Foles and whether the Eagles could deal him, but I keep wondering about the health of Carson Wentz and the risk of not having a good backup in place.
Chances are good that the next five weeks or so are going to be filled with guesswork about a quarterback with no way to really know the answer. That doesn’t even include the draft speculation, and the draft isn’t until April 26. That’ll be a little different — because the Cardinals have a new coach, the players and coaches are back to work April 2 and the conversation can be a little more than speculative at that point. Until then, though, what’s filling the void is mostly wondering aloud.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, quarterbacks
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Mike McCoy was blunt, when asked if his offensive playcalling was about scheme or matchups.
“Players,” he said, and that’s always the ultimate answer.
As an incoming coordinator, McCoy was probably never going to have a lot of specifics. He was just hired, and even if there was a quarterback in place, a change in head coach usually means a change in the roster anyway. Besides, he still has to evaluate the guys who are on the roster in the first place. Then you add in all the uncertainty on that side of the ball, because of impending free agency with so many (and the question of Larry Fitzgerald’s future, although more on that in a moment) and McCoy didn’t have the specifics I’m sure many wanted to hear. It isn’t feasible yet.
But it always comes down to players.
That can get lost, and yes, coaching matters. McCoy’s best time as an OC came when Peyton Manning was in his Denver heyday in 2012, but that shouldn’t be a negative. It’s a fact, just like Bruce Arians was at his best offensively when Carson Palmer had his best season in 2015 or that Ken Whisenhunt had his best offense when Kurt Warner stepped forward in 2008-09.
It’s impossible to know what the Cardinals’ offensive personnel might be. McCoy talked about wanting to win, regardless of how pretty it might look. He did that in 2011 with a Broncos offense using Tim Tebow(!) to win a playoff game and leading the NFL in rushing. He threw plenty with Manning and Philip Rivers. The Cardinals have one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league in David Johnson and I’m guessing he’ll do a lot of both — because why wouldn’t he? McCoy is smart enough to know what he has.
Speaking of which, McCoy sure sounded like a guy who expects Fitzgerald to play, which continues to be the guesstimate put out by those closest to Fitz, like his dad or Warner. “We might shift some things we wanted to be our core, then we’ll go the other way,” McCoy said. ” ‘We’re better at this.’ ‘David likes these runs.’ ‘The quarterbacks like these plays.’ ‘Larry, this is what he loves. This is what he’s good at it.’ We’ve got to learn a lot about the players too.” That sounds like a guy thinking Fitz will be around.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike McCoy, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Steve Wilks, Tim Tebow
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Michael Bidwill mentioned the other day — after Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer had announced their retirements — that the Cardinals didn’t have a coach or a quarterback in 2013 for a time, and that worked out OK. So being without both right now is not a concern. The coach situation will be sorted out sooner rather than later, and then comes the QB. What exactly will happen is TBD, in part based on whoever the coach will be. Besides, a shift in QBs (with Palmer’s retirement) is often coming with a new coach.
The Cards were looking for a new QB in 2013 as Bidwill noted, but unlike now when the non-Palmer QBs all have expiring contracts — Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert and Matt Barkley — the Cards actually did have quarterbacks they could have kept in 2013 when Arians arrived. They actually had four as free agency began.
Kevin Kolb, beat up as he was, was due a big contract. John Skelton was still around, as was Ryan Lindley, and the Cardinals even extended a tender offer to restricted free agent Brian Hoyer for 2013. When Stanton signed as a free agent the second day that was possible, the Cards basically had four QBs. A couple of days later, the team let Kolb go. When Hoyer finally signed his tender offer on April 1, the team released Skelton. Palmer arrived the next day in trade. Hoyer was later released in mid-May. Lindley stuck around as the third QB that season.
There is much more up in the air right now. There is no pat hand to play, unless one or more of the FAs-to-be get an extension — which could happen. There were at least placeholders back in 2013, had the Cards not found what they wanted.
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Brian Hoyer, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Matt Barkley, Michael Bidwill, Ryan Lindley
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There were rumblings in the 2013 offseason that the Cardinals might try to trade for Carson Palmer, and I didn’t see it happening at first. The team needed draft capital to build in the first offseason of Steve Keim and Bruce Arians. When the trade finally did happen, it was for nothing, really. Whatever Palmer might have been at the time, even if he wasn’t the same QB he once was, it was still amazing the Cards essentially got him for dropping 43 spots late in the 2013 draft and giving up a late seventh-round pick in 2014.
Such is the price for success, huh?
In a lot of ways, Palmer was Kurt Warner 2.0, arriving in the desert for a rebirth. He didn’t quite reach the heights of Warner in terms of a Super Bowl appearance, but he did get to an NFC Championship game. Palmer had 16,782 passing yards and 105 TDs with a 91.1 passer rating in 60 games with the Cards, Warner was 15,843-100-91.9 in 61 games. As good as Warner was, he was never in the MVP conversation any year with the Cards, not like Palmer deservedly was in 2015. When Palmer had time to throw — and his receiving corps was at its best — he was an excellent quarterback.
Maybe we will never know just how much his finger was bothering him in the 2015 playoffs (he insisted it wasn’t a factor, and there are reasons to think it both was and was not.) We definitely will never know how exactly how that 2014 season or 2017 would have turned out if Palmer hadn’t gotten hurt. Seeing how good the Cards were in 2015, and how well they played in 2014 even when Drew Stanton was QB, you have to think 2014 was a missed opportunity.
But two intangible things always struck me about Palmer. One was his love of the process. I still think his great 2015 season, coming off the 2014 ACL tear, was built from an offseason in which Palmer embraced wholeheartedly in large part because he simply enjoyed it. It was hard coming off a serious knee injury, but he used the time to improve other aspects of his game — leading to an MVP-type year — and legit had fun doing it.
The other was Palmer’s leadership. Quarterbacks are mostly natural leaders. It’s tough to make it to this level at that position otherwise. But if you drew up the guy who you wanted to lead your team, Palmer was all of that. The way he carried himself, the way he handled success and failure — “He was the most resilient guy I’ve ever coached,” Bruce Arians said. “Bad play, good play. Good play, next play” — the way he made teammates want to play with him and for him. He was private yet he was good talking to people like me, understanding exactly what we were looking for in a quote even when the question might not have been the best.
A couple of seasons ago, Palmer said he wouldn’t mind playing 10 more years — after Tom Brady had said the same — knowing it wasn’t going to happen. He had too many young kids that he wanted to devote more time to, and after 15 years, getting beat up every week wasn’t very attractive anymore. The Cards are without a quarterback again, and the one that is leaving was pretty good.
Tags: Carson Palmer
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Who wouldn’t want a touchdown for Christmas?
The Cardinals certainly do. They’d like for the move to Drew Stanton to mean a TD on their first possession. They’d like to break that paydirt drought that has grown to more than 10 quarters. It’s gonna be Christmas Eve, after all. Are the Cards ready to do that? Bruce Arians hopes so, but he can’t predict it.
“You don’t know until you get in a game,” Arians said. “It’s totally different than practice. (Red zone) is one of the looks that’s hard to get from the scout team.”
Of course, it doesn’t have to be in the red zone. They’d take a 50-yard Stanton-to-J.J. Nelson bomb. They’d take a one-yard Elijhaa Penny plunge. They’d take another Ricky Seals-Jones end zone sighting. They’d certainly take a Fitz fade.
“B.A. talks about it, I talk about it, it’s simple execution,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “You go back to last week (in Washington), there are plays there to be made. Ball is a little high or (tackle) Will Holden gives up a sack, little things. Many opportunities, and we didn’t get it done. I kick myself all the time, we score one touchdown, we probably win that game.”
We know what’s on the Cardinals’ wish list.
— The roof at University of Phoenix Stadium will be open Sunday for the game. Temperatures are supposed to be in the upper 60s, so dress accordingly.
— When Carson Palmer went down, the Cardinals knew they were going to have to rely on their defense. The defense knew this, and they have basically played like it. Starting with the Seahawks game in Week 10 (the Cards still only allowed 10 points the game before against the 49ers), the Cardinals are the No. 1 defense in the NFL. They haven’t been perfect, but if the offense had been able to do a little more against the Seahawks, Texans and Redskins, the Cards would be in a different place, even with all the injuries.
— Linebacker Chandler Jones said he’s happy with his 15 sacks so far because it accomplishes his goal – which is an improvement over the previous season. “It was always to do better than last year,” Jone said.
The bar is going to be pretty high for 2018, then.
“Exactly,” Jones said. “Because I know next year around training camp, you guys are going to be asking me, ‘What’s your goal?’ And I’ll say, ‘Better than last year, uhhhhh.’ ”
— In what could be Larry Fitzgerald’s final home game, he needs eight catches for 100 on the season and 18 yards for 1,000. It would be fitting for him to get both.
— The Giants have three players from near the Cardinals’ practice facility. Defensive end Avery Moss played at Tempe Corona del Sol, linebacker Devon Kennard played across the freeway at Desert Vista in Ahwatukee, and running back Paul Perkins is from Chandler High School.
— Karlos Dansby likely will play Sunday, but with Josh Bynes out, rookie Haason Reddick has a chance to play some inside linebacker for the first time since moving outside following Markus Golden’s season-ending injury. That would be good. Reddick’s future is inside in this defense.
— A better draft pick awaits if the Cardinals lose out, but the players would like to climb back to 8-8 (especially because it would mean beating the Seahawks in Seattle.), Besides, “you don’t want to put bad things on tape,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “We have great guys in this locker room that understand that.”
— For all you seeking a retro look, the Cardinals will finally be wearing their red pants with their red jerseys Sunday. It’s a festive look after all.
See you Christmas Eve.
Tags: Avery Moss, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chandler Jones, Devon Kennard, Giants, Harold Goodwin, Josh Bynes, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Paul Perkins
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It’s hard not to notice, when you jump on the Cardinals’ stat page to see where Larry Fitzgerald’s numbers are and then the disparity with the rest of the receiving corps — a group that once again was expected to be a strength but like 2016, has not been. With two games left in the regular season, it is still the departed Andre Ellington (who was cut five games ago) second on the team with 33 catches. Fitzgerald’s 92 receptions is nine more catches than all the other wide receivers this season combined.
If David Johnson had been healthy all season, you’d expect a running back to be high on the receptions list, just like last year. But Johnson didn’t even make it through a game, and once he went down, the pressure went to the receivers to make up for it in the passing game. There are factors involved here — the pass protection has not been consistent, especially with all the injuries on the offensive line. Starting quarterback Carson Palmer only played half the season. But it’s clear that receiver — after only the QB spot and offensive line — will be a position of focus for General Manager Steve Keim this offseason.
Even if Fitzgerald comes back to play another season (which he has not said he will for sure yet), the Cardinals need to address wide receiver. John Brown and Jaron Brown will be unrestricted free agents. J.J. Nelson, who started strong and then struggled through inconsistency catching the ball, will be back. Chad Williams enters an important offseason after a nondescript rookie year. Brittan Golden, who is more important on special teams, has to heal from a broken arm and is also a free-agent-to-be.
After 2015, when the receiving unit was excellent and looked like it would be for a few years, the group hasn’t been the same. Losing Michael Floyd and having John Brown’s production fall off so precipitously has been a killer. Again, other spots will get more attention on offense. The quarterback thing has reached a critical point, and the long-term offensive line has to be found. But wide receiver will also be in the spotlight.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Chad Williams, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Steve Keim
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After Bruce Arians did his Monday press conference he did his weekly interview on the “Bickley and Marotta” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, and mentioned that he was still hopeful Carson Palmer would be able to play again this season. Palmer himself has said he’s working toward that, although it’s been left vague what exactly is the plan. Palmer would have to be healthy first, and he’s not even practicing yet. Slow healing could make all the discussion a moot point.
But you have to wonder, now that Jared Veldheer is done for the season and fellow starter Earl Watford will miss some time, whether that alone could force the Cardinals’ hand. Having a banged-up offensive line isn’t ideal for any quarterback, but it would seem less so for a quarterback who isn’t known for his mobility. It’s one thing to get Palmer healthy, it’s another thing to put him on a line with, for instance, rookie Will Holden at left tackle.
Again, this might all be moot. GM Steve Keim just said Monday that, aside from about-to-play long snapper Aaron Brewer, there is no one else trending healthy enough to come off IR. But when you start factoring in circumstances, maybe that’s for the best anyway.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Earl Watford, Jared Veldheer
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Injuries are part of the NFL. As former Cardinals defensive lineman Cory Redding once said, “The NFL is not if you’re going to get hurt – you’re going to get hurt.” But at this point, someone needs to call mercy. Today, not only is Andrew Luck’s shoulder injury finally deemed so bad he won’t play at all in 2017 (once, the Colts were hoping he’d be back by the Cardinals’ game in Week 2, remember?) but rookie quarterback sensation Deshaun Watson tore his ACL in a non-contact play during practice.
The Cardinals play in Houston in a couple of weeks, by the way, facing instead of the dynamic, mobile Watson probably the not-so-much Tom Savage.
As Bruce Arians always said about injuries, no one is going to feel sorry for us, and certainly, the Cards won’t. They’ve had their own bad, bad luck losing their best offensive player in David Johnson, their quarterback in Carson Palmer and their top 2016 sack man in Markus Golden. But this is a crazy epidemic around the league.
Among those joining Luck, Watson, Palmer, Johnson and Golden out for the season are Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt, Odell Beckham, Julian Edelman, Eric Berry, Ryan Tannehill, Cliff Avril, Brandon Marshall (the receiver), Jason Peters and Joe Thomas.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer, Cory Redding, David Johnson, DeShaun Watson, Markus Golden
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Whether or not Carson Palmer plays again this season may be hazy, it won’t stop him from being a factor in the quarterback room. Following surgery to repair his broken left arm, Palmer has remaining in meeting rooms and goes out to observe practice and help the best he can. Wednesday, Bruce Arians said Palmer was wishing he could practice instead of sitting on the sideline.
Still, Palmer wants to remain as mentally engaged as he can. He and Drew Stanton are close, so it makes sense that Palmer try and guide him through the process of starting. Arians also said Blaine Gabbert is also benefiting from extra practice reps as well.
Palmer is the only quarterback the Cardinals have that is under contract for 2018, although it’s possible Palmer considers retirement as well. Even if he doesn’t play again this season, he can make an impact.
“He was talking to the guys,” Arians said. “It’s like having another coach.”
Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton
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