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Possible Palmer restructure as Cards cut cap

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2015 – 4:10 pm

Carson Palmer didn’t even get to play a full game after signing his contract extension late last season. Now, before the first season of that extension kicks in, Palmer reportedly could be restructuring it to ease his salary cap number of $14.5 million. Mike Jurecki first reported Palmer the possibility.

Palmer is due a roster bonus of $9.5 million (in addition to a $1M salary) this season. Add in his current $4M of bonus proration of $4M, and that’s his $14.5M cap hit. If the Cardinals were to turn the roster bonus into a signing bonus — which would then be distributed evenly over the remaining four years of the contract in terms of the cap — it’d take his cap number all the way down to about $7.4M for 2015. Of course, that also pushes more dead money on to future caps as well.

These are the choices a team makes, however, especially when it feels it can compete — as long as everyone stays healthy. Like Palmer. We’ll see if his contract gets an update. With more and more players getting released around the NFL and the market already flooded with players, there will be opportunities to sign contributors for reasonable prices. That’s why the Cardinals are trying to loosen more cap room. Neither General Manager Steve Keim or president Michael Bidwill has been shy of sharing the concept of the Cardinals being aggressive in free agency.

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Palmer health and an offseason of Logan Thomas

Posted by Darren Urban on February 20, 2015 – 11:27 am

Someone asked Bruce Arians how Carson Palmer was progressing in his knee rehab, noting by all accounts Palmer was doing well.

“Don’t jinx me, baby,” Arians said with a grin.

Palmer is doing well, Arians acknowledged, and Palmer is apparently still making noise that he hopes to be back for some offseason work. That, Arians added, is no lock if the Cardinals decide it might not be worth it. It’s not like they don’t already know what Palmer can do, and having Palmer available for training camp is much more important. Drew Stanton is also doing “extremely well,” his own knee issues nowhere near as severe as Palmer. Both are ahead of schedule, Arians said.

And if the Cardinals are limited in their quarterback availability this offseason? Not a problem, Arians said, because this will be the offseason of Logan Thomas.

“This will be a big spring for Logan because of the two guys,” Arians said. “We’ll see how much Drew can do. But I want to give Logan a ton of work anyway. If Carson is cleared and ready to go, we’ll put him out there.”

This is a big spring for Thomas regardless of where the other QBs were health-wise anyway. His rookie year is over. This is the offseason in which Thomas should be able to make the largest strides learning the offense. There is no transition to the NFL like he had as a rookie. He’s been around it for a year. His accuracy remains a question mark and while the Cardinals do not need him right now — again, assuming health for both Palmer and Stanton — there is in today’s NFL a short shelf life for “potential” and how long you work with it to see if it can eventually pay off.

LoganWorkinguse


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Larry Fitzgerald, his contract and “it takes two”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 12, 2015 – 1:45 pm

Back in 2008, Bertrand Berry was asked to take a pay cut to remain with the Cardinals. He decided to do so. In 2012, Adrian Wilson was asked to take a pay cut to remain with the Cardinals. He did so (and that didn’t save him from being released after the season.) The only leverage either player had was to say, “I’ll leave” if they didn’t like the offer. It’s not ideal, but it was reality.

That’s where we are with Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals. This is not a surprise, not with a $23.6 million salary cap number, an actual payout of a scheduled $8M salary and another $8M roster bonus due in about a month. Not with the Cardinals, even with a carryover of $4.2M from last year’s cap to tag on to a projected $140M salary cap for 2015, around $11M over the cap at this point (according to ESPN) and needing to get to at least even by March 10. Regardless of specific numbers, the Cards need to slice some cap money.

Again, none of this is new.

I’ll be honest – I listened to Michael Bidwill’s interview Wednesday morning on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 and nothing stood out. When he talked about bringing Fitzgerald back and working out a contract, it was the things you’d expect to hear.

At one point, Bidwill did say “it takes two” to reach a deal. That raised eyebrows. But should it? At some point, the Cardinals and General Manager Steve Keim were going to want to harness the salary cap, and that was going to start with Fitz’s current deal. I thought for a while that might come last offseason, but instead, the Cards — and Fitz — kicked the can down the road a season with a simple restructure to buy cap space. We have come to the rip-the-band-aid-clean-off stage of this thing.

There are 10 wide receivers right now averaging at least $9M on their contracts. Only three — Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson and maybe Vincent Jackson, given all the Buccaneers’ cap space — aren’t serious candidates to renegotiate/restructure/get released this offseason (and Johnson, as good as he is, is headed that way in the next year or two himself, given his cap numbers.) Fitzgerald’s situation, especially at his position, is not unique.

Like Berry, like Wilson, the ball will be in Fitz’s court, basically. Yes, there are salary numbers to figure out — as always — but the Cards aren’t going to change their thought process. Carson Palmer was asked to do something similar in Oakland; he declined and was traded to Arizona. Maybe that’s what Fitz will want to do. Maybe a new deal will work for him, and maybe the other benefits of being in Arizona on a personal level make it worth an agreement. Maybe a different opportunity is more intriguing, or maybe the numbers just won’t be good enough, and Fitz uses what leverage he has. But there are really no new angles that can come out on this thing. It’s not hard to analyze.

FitzBlogagain


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“One of the young guys” will be defensive coordinator

Posted by Darren Urban on January 26, 2015 – 1:56 pm

The announcement won’t come until after the Super Bowl, Bruce Arians said Monday, but he knows who his defensive coordinator is going to be — and it’ll be, as expected, a in-house hire.

“The defensive coordinator will come off our staff,” Arians said during an appearance on ESPN’s “NFL Insiders” show. “It’ll be one of the young guys. And we’ll bring in some guys to help him.

“We’ll wait until the Super Bowl is over but we’ve got everything in place and we’re ready to go.”

Looking at the “young guys” on the Cardinals’ staff — and young can be a moving target on a staff that features the 62-year-old Arians and a couple of coaches well into their 70s — the possibility of outside linebackers coach James Bettcher seems to fit the bill. Bettcher has long been highly thought of among the coaches he has worked for. (Along the “young” lines, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner would also qualify, but I’d think Bettcher would be the candidate.)

As for bringing in “some guys to help,” that could be anyone now that Dick LeBeau has passed up the chance to come to the Cardinals. But again, that’s been the thought this whole time, that the Cards would have a younger DC and have a mentor with him. It now just sounds like it’ll be a waiting game until next week — Monday maybe? — to get official word.

— Arians reiterated he hopes Carson Palmer is the quarterback for the Cardinals “for about three more years,” and that he again really likes the future potential of Logan Thomas. Arians added that Palmer is about a month ahead of schedule coming back from his ACL injury.

BAonESPN


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Keim talks Bowles interest and QB status

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2014 – 8:25 am

The playoffs are here, but for 20 non-playoff teams, the business of the NFL does not stop. Black Monday arrived in the NFL and already there are five teams with head coaching openings: The 49ers, Raiders, Jets, Falcons and Bears. Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is expected to generate interest in that market, and while the Cards gave Bowles a big raise this season, they also know there is the possibility Bowles could be offered and accept a head coaching job. It has always felt more like a question of when rather than if.

“Our expectations are that several teams will reach out to us,” General Manager Steve Keim said Monday during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “Now, it remains to be seen whether there will be mutual interest or not, but Todd has done an excellent job and at some point he deserve an opportunity. Hopefully for us we can keep him in place for a little while longer.”

The defense has had its issues the past two games but I do not expect that to undercut Bowles’ potential candidacy. I also think Bowles likes it in Arizona, and have always believed he will be very choosy in what jobs he may or may not want.

As for Keim, some of the other topics he covered the day after the Cardinals finished the regular season with an 11-5 record:

— The fact the Cardinals won 11 games playing four quarterbacks “is a testament to the coaching staff and their flexibility and quite frankly some of the young players who have stepped up,” Keim said.

The Cardinals are “the epitome of team,” Keim added.

— As for the status of quarterback Drew Stanton, he is “day to day and we’re hopeful” he can play this week, Keim said. Certainly the GM gave no indication Stanton was anything of a sure bet to be back. Keim said it was still unknown if Stanton could practice Tuesday.

— Even without Stanton, Keim (not surprisingly) professed confidence in Ryan Lindley’s ability to start. “I thought Ryan played a good game” Sunday, Keim said.

— Keim said rehabbing quarterback Carson Palmer is doing well and is “as fired up as ever” to play in 2015. “He’s very excited about the future here,” Keim said. “I think it goes back to show you, when you go through some injuries, how valuable Carson Palmer really was. The guy was having an excellent year. I think he’ll have a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, and he’ll be ready to prove some people wrong.”

I think it’s pretty clear that Palmer will be the No. 1 in 2015, barring something crazy happening in the offseason.

— Keim, like coach Bruce Arians, wasn’t happy with the tackling. “The tackling in general was unacceptable,” Keim said. He went on to say that he tends to be old school on the subject, and that tackling does have a technique to it, it is “mostly want-to.” He reiterated he had been disappointed Sunday. “(The 49ers) made us look extremely bad in space,” said, noting that against the Panthers in the playoffs, “we’re going to have to get that fixed in a hurry.”

— Guard Jonathan Cooper (wrist) will also be day-to-day, Keim said.


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Friday before the Niners, the Cards’ playoff primer

Posted by Darren Urban on December 26, 2014 – 4:08 pm

It seems like a lifetime ago when the Cardinals first met the 49ers this season. The Cardinals got behind 14-6 at halftime and then shut the Niners down, winning 23-14 behind the defense and two Drew Stanton-to-Smokey Brown touchdown passes. That was when the worst thing that had happened to Carson Palmer was a nerve issue in his arm, but at least he was coming back at some point. Jonathan Dwyer had just left the team but Andre Ellington was playing well. Stanton was doing great and the offense was at least generating points.

Yes, a lifetime ago.

The wins piled up this season but the injuries have certainly tried to keep up. If you would have asked anyone with the team back after that win over the Niners if they’d be OK with an 11-4 record the next time they’d see their division rivals, they would’ve taken it – even with the caveat of injury after injury. But when you take out the quarterback, the equation does not compute well. Not in this league.

For now, though, I’m quarterbacked out. It seems like it’s been the only topic around this team for two weeks, and obviously, it’ll be one next week too as the Cardinals (likely) go into a wildcard game. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are taking on a San Francisco team that’s been shredded by injuries too and have bent under the weight of the inevitable coaching change from Jim Harbaugh (did I mention it’s been a lifetime since the Cards saw the Niners?)

This team has never won 12 games as a franchise. If they can find a way to get one Sunday, regardless of all the other noise, it’d be a great accomplishment. Certainly one I never would have thought possible if you would have told me Carson Palmer would only play in six games.

— It’s hard to know if linebacker Larry Foote is hurting that much or if they want to make sure he is ready for the playoffs, but his knee likely will keep him out of Sunday’s game – after he has missed just one defensive snap all season thus far. It’s possible the knee impacted his play last week against Seattle, when he had trouble in coverage, but it’s irrefutable that his play was huge for a defense that needed it because of injuries and suspensions.

— As bad as the defensive performance was last week, the Cardinals remain fourth in the NFL in scoring defense (18.6 points a game). You know they’d like to stay in the top five.

— After getting away from the run in the Seattle game, I don’t think there’s any question Arians will make sure to run more in San Francisco. And yes, that means more (and maybe a lot more) Kerwynn Williams.

Long snapper Mike Leach will play in his 200th consecutive game Sunday.

— Arians hasn’t lost his sense of humor, even with all the quarterback drama. He waited for the media to arrive post-practice, and the last to arrive was veteran Associated Press writer Bob Baum, huffing and puffing as he jogged toward the group hoping not to miss anything.

“Easy, brother,” Arians said. “You ain’t getting no mouth-to-mouth around here!”

— A heartfelt congratulations to media relations assistant Allison LeClair and her significant other, Cameron, for getting engaged this holiday season. Always good to remember there are things in life beyond football.

— Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was fined $11,050 for grabbing his crotch at the end of his 79-yard run against the Cardinals last week.

— On a personal level, I don’t love having a game in San Jose/Santa Clara and being so far away from San Francisco, but there is no question I look forward to checking out the new stadium (and not going back to a not-very-pleasant Candlestick Park.)

— Harbaugh has never been very good on the conference calls over the years, but he had a couple of funny answers in what looks like his swan song with us this week, at least as the 49ers coach. If you missed it, he was asked what the season has been like with so many rumors floating around about his future.

“The interesting thing is if you don’t look at the Internet and you don’t watch TV, you really do not know that it’s going on,” Harbaugh said. “That has been exactly what I have done. … On the way home, you don’t turn on the talk radio and you don’t look at the Internet, you can be completely unaware that anything is swirling. I walk by people and I see their faces (and) I know something is going on.”

Someone then told Harbaugh he may be the only American who doesn’t watch TV or go on the internet.

“There has to be another American beside myself. Don’t you think? Yeah, I bet there is,” he said. “I would think there would be plenty of Americans who probably focus on another task at hand and dedicated to the mission they have and excelling and not having distraction.”

But there are always distractions, even if you pretend they aren’t there. We’ll see which team deals with them the best Sunday.

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Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2014 – 12:37 am

Ryan Lindley walked toward the door in the locker room that takes people into the postgame interview room, and as is often the case, media members allowed Lindley to go in first. Lindley went through the door – and then held it open as reporters streamed through. It was an odd sight, especially for a quarterback who just went through a rough baptism on national television.

Unfortunately, Lindley did not look much better at quarterback than he had in some of his 2012 appearances. The Cardinals will flush the result of Sunday easily enough. There was talk about the 24-hour rule and they will start prepping for the 49ers. The question will be, who will be quarterback? Is there any way Drew Stanton can be ready by next Sunday? More importantly, is that a risk you want to take at this point, knowing how much you need him in the postseason?

Lindley talked about watching the video and correcting what was wrong, and he definitely needs more of a run game to help him, but it is hard to see how he played out there against the Seahawks translating into a ton of postseason success if he needs to play. Then again, no one with the Cardinals is naïve. You lose Carson Palmer, it hurts. You lose Drew Stanton, and you go to a third-string QB, and it’s going to be really hard to win. That would be true for any team in the league. The Cardinals are not immune, even in this season where they have been able to overcome so much else.

As for everything else, this one is going to be short and sweet. It’s late, and there isn’t much to pull from the still smoldering wreckage of Sunday night.

— Russell Wilson isn’t always great – the Cardinals made him look very human in Seattle last season – but man was he unreal Sunday night. The Cards’ defense did not play well. But Wilson made more than a few plays that just said “NFL star.” And that it’s going to be tough to deal with him for a lot of years going forward.

— The Cards had seven sacks in Seattle. Sunday night, just one – and on the very next play, Wilson completed a 39-yard pass.

— Not being able to convert that first drive into a touchdown changed some things, in my opinion. The Cards start at the Seattle 6-yard line, run a couple of times, and OK, have a third-and-goal at the 4. But then guard Ted Larsen has a false start and that’s a killer. Still, it looked like Lindley had Larry Fitzgerald open on third down and in front of Richard Sherman, and Lindley didn’t see him, instead trying to get a pass to John Brown that was nearly intercepted. Those are the chances you can’t miss on.

— Linebacker Larry Foote said he was the one who “blew the assignment” on the first Luke Willson 80-yard touchdown pass – the one where safety Rashad Johnson was trying to chase Willson down from behind.

— I don’t have a problem not putting Logan Thomas in. I get the swell of “he can’t be any worse than Lindley” but he probably isn’t any better either, and unless Bruce Arians sees an upside, I’m not messing with a rookie’s psyche. Not when you have hopes for him down the road.

— Arians talked about guys giving Lindley more help. That’s not about poor effort or even that Lindley played well and was let down. But when you are rolling with a third-string quarterback, you have to have exceptional play around him, especially against a team like the Seahawks.

— The Seahawks are playing some pretty unreal football right now. That’s part of this too.

That’s all. I’ve got to get some sleep before getting back into the office in what will be too few hours from now.

Seablowafteruse


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Friday before the (biggest) Seahawks (game)

Posted by Darren Urban on December 19, 2014 – 4:56 pm

First, a history lesson. Or at least a flashback.

I was there in New Jersey in 2012 as the life drained out of the Ken Whisenhunt regime and the Cardinals, when Ryan Lindley started against the Jets in what might have been the ugliest game ever. You remember, when the Cards nursed a 3-0 lead into the fourth quarter and eventually lost, 7-6. The game was striking because Lindley simply could not move the offense that day, and Whisenhunt refused to put in backup John Skelton.

Lindley completed just 10 of 31 passes for 72 yards, and that, more than the four interceptions he had against the Rams in a loss the week before or his Lions start that the Cards won because of defense and Beanie Wells, is what I remember most of Lindley 1.0.

What will Lindley 2.0 look like?

He’s had a week to practice with the first unit, and he’ll be playing with a better offensive line than he had back then. Honestly, I have no idea what Lindley will do Sunday, or how he will play. Sure, we could see the guy who has the 0-to-7 TD-to-interception ratio in his career. The Seahawks can make a lot of quarterbacks look poor (Drew Stanton didn’t exactly dominate against the Seahawks in the earlier game). But maybe he’ll be enough. Maybe, in a year where the Cards simply find a way to win at home every time, he’ll make the plays. Carson Palmer threw four interceptions just about this time last year against the Seahawks – in Seattle – and the Cards still managed to win.

That was because of defense and a commitment to the run, and the Cards should have both again Sunday. Lindley doesn’t have to be Aaron Rodgers. He just can’t be Lindley 1.0.

— The biggest thing that struck me this week was the confidence around the team. I’ve been around this franchise for 15 years, in this building the last eight. I know when the mood in the locker room skews bad, or when there is concern where the team sits. And from my vantage point, that isn’t the case right now.

I don’t know if that’s confidence in Lindley, or knowledge a playoff berth is already secure regardless of the outcome Sunday, or Arians’ trickle-down mindset. But mentally, the Cardinals are in the right place. We’ll see if that translates against the Seahawks.

— The Cardinals will wear their red-and-red uniform combo for the game. I could talk about what a great record they have wearing that combo, but I’m one of those that doesn’t believe uniforms make a difference, so, yeah. They are wearing red-and-red.

— Palmer was in the locker room after practice today, walking around although noting that was about all he can do at this point. He won’t be attending Sunday’s game, he said, because after about an hour of standing his surgically-repaired knee would swell considerably. He also wouldn’t want to think about getting hit on accident on the sideline – he’s not super mobile – and hurting his knee all over again.

“I’m too old for that,” he said.

— A hint for halftime Sunday if you are going to the game: You might not want to leave your seats. A special six-minute laser light and video show that highlights the season and pays tribute to the fans will be played. It incorporates 12 laser light projectors to create graphics on the field and the roof. Should be fun.

— Goodness, these Tim Tebow fans

— Defensive end Frostee Rucker played for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC, and this week, Carroll  talked about how Rucker was a tailback coming out of high school.

“When we got him we weren’t sure where to play him because he was growing at an alarming rate,” Carroll said. “He was no longer in tailback kind of profile. We moved him around. He was such a good athlete and such a good player that we finally found a place for him to play on the D-line where he wound up.

“But he dotted the ‘I’ pretty well there at tailback in the old days — wing-T, he brought it to life when he was in the game.”

Rucker smiled when told Carroll remembered back then. “That was back in my heyday,” Rucker said, noting that his position change was the best thing for him. “I still need to thank him for that.”

The Cards will too. Frostee has been a lifesaver.

— The Cards need the run game. There are some wondering if the two-game surge in running production – 141 and 143 yards the last two games – was because of Jonathan Cooper’s insertion into the lineup, and if it goes away now that Cooper is out with a wrist injury. I think Cooper might have helped. It might have helped that Ted Larsen was playing the right side. It definitely helped that Kerwynn Williams got on the field. And if the Cards take a step back, it may be more about the defense they are playing than anything else.

— Got to keep Russell Wilson contained. Can’t give the Seahawks short fields, whether off turnovers or bad special teams play or poor punts. The Cardinals do that, I think they are in this game.

And if they are in the game in the fourth quarter, we’ll see what happens.

B4seablog


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Cards feel the cost of injuries

Posted by Darren Urban on December 17, 2014 – 10:55 am

The Cardinals are not the most injured team in the league, although there has been little argument they have been undercut by the players they have lost. In the NFL, of course, anytime you lose a starting quarterback, that automatically puts you near the top of the list.

Quantifying that compared to other teams in virtually impossible. There are dozens of ways to look at it. But here is one. Spotrac.com has compiled a list that adds up the salary cap hits each team have sitting on injured reserve, and, no surprise, the Cardinals have landed in the top five. The Cards are fourth, with eight IR’d players taking up $28.8 million in cap space. The three teams ahead of them: the Giants with $34.7M, the Rams at $30.6M and the Bears at $29.9M. The Giants are there in part because they have a whopping 22 players on IR. The Rams have one less player on IR than the Cards, but with QB Sam Bradford’s huge contract ($17.6M himself) the total is slightly ajar.

The eight Cardinals on IR: Carson Palmer, John Abraham, Darnell Dockett, Troy Niklas, Ed Stinson, Dave Zastudil, Andre Ellington and Eddie Whitley. That total doesn’t include linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, who was out eight weeks when he was on IR/designated to return.

You can argue that the money could be weighted — the Bears, for instance, just put wide receiver Brandon Marshall on IR — but the overall totals do speak to the “importance” of the players on IR, because you figure the guys with the highest cap numbers are usually the most crucial.

As for the full list of walking wounded Cards, here are the guys who have missed games this season because of injuries, with the total games they have sat out thus far:

DT Dockett (14)
LB Abraham (13)
P Zastudil (12)
LB Shaughnessy (8)
QB Palmer (8)
TE Niklas (7)
DT Stinson (5)
S Tyrann Mathieu (3)
LB Alex Okafor (3)
LB Glenn Carson (3)
WR Larry Fitzgerald (2)
LB Desmond Bishop (2)
DE Calais Campbell (2)
RB Stepfan Taylor (2)
G Paul Fanaika (2)
RB Ellington (2)
DE Frostee Rucker (1)
TE Rob Housler (1)

We’ll see if the final two games bring any more surprises.

EllingtobloginjuryesUSE


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Rams (and 11-win) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 12, 2014 – 2:02 am

Yes, Drew Stanton is hurt, and yes, there is a fear this could be a serious thing – ACL? – to take yet another quarterback away from the Cardinals.

But first, let’s talk about what the Cardinals did Thursday night (the Cards’ first Thursday win since 1948, albeit only with a handful of Thursday opportunities over the years), on a short week. They won on the road without a touchdown for the first time since 1935, and became the first team in the NFL to win without a touchdown since the Ravens did in in Detroit Dec. 16, 2013.

They’ve won 11 games for the first time as a franchise in 39 years. They’ve all but made the playoffs, unless the Eagles and Cowboys conspire for a backbreaking tie (Not gonna happen.) It’s been an amazing run even as the body shots accumulate, and if Bruce Arians doesn’t win another coach of the year award, I’ll be truly surprised.

(If the Cardinals manage to beat the Seahawks a week from Sunday, you might as well engrave his name on it that evening.)

That’s why there were so many laughs and smiles coming off the field Thursday night. This isn’t how you’d draw up a Super Bowl team, not losing all these guys. But the Cards have won in spite of all of it anyway. To paraphrase a former Cardinal great, it’s hard to win in the NFL. (I’m leaving off the expletive at the end.)

— OK, spinning this forward: Is Stanton done? We will see. No one is saying one way or the other, at least not at 1:45 a.m. on this plane ride home. But let’s assume, for the moment, Stanton won’t be available. That means Ryan Lindley, I’d think.

Arians made it clear Logan Thomas isn’t ready yet. And no, Lindley doesn’t have a great track record after his disastrous 2012 rookie stretch – when, like Thomas, he shouldn’t have been playing – but at least he has played. He was gone until Carson Palmer blew out his ACL, a cut so that the prospect of Thomas could be kept, and that’s why he was third-string when he returned. But it always made more sense that, if the Cards had to turn to the backup’s backup, that guy would probably be Lindley.

— As my cohort Kent Somers tweeted, Arians is going to talk about how much confidence he has in Lindley. Because that’s what B.A. does, especially with QBs. If that’s the guy who is playing, he’s going to have Arians’ full support.

— I expect the Cards to sign a third QB, maybe bring back Dennis Dixon. But for those on Twitter tonight (at 1 a.m. Arizona time on a Friday? Don’t you people have to work in a few hours?) asking about who the Cards are going to get, I don’t see any earthly way it’s someone who they plan to play. These are the cards these Cards have been dealt. The top two QBs could be done. You gotta make it work.

— Amazing that Antonio Cromartie thought he ruptured his Achilles five days ago, and not only played Thursday night but did it without looking like he was ever hurt.

— They take a lot of heat, but Arians was right, special teams was excellent. Chandler Catanzaro drilled his field goals. Drew Butler, after a horrible first punt, was great the rest of the night, constantly pinning the Rams deep, with help from his coverage units. (Long snapper Mike Leach with the awesome downing of the ball around the 5.) Six punts were downed inside the 20 out of eight. Ted Ginn broke off a 42-yard punt return. A very nice night for special teams coordinator Amos Jones’ guys.

— Quiet MVP from Thursday: Left tackle Jared Veldheer. Not only led a great night for the offensive line, but jumped on that late Kerwynn Williams fumble that could have changed the game.

— Frostee Rucker caused all kinds of havoc in the backfield. He’s been quietly great the past few games.

— Another guy causing backfield havoc was … cornerback Jerraud Powers? Yep. He was the blitzer a lot of the night. One delayed blitz was timed perfect and he drilled Shaun Hill late in the first half. It caused an incompletion and was a split second from causing a fumble. On the Rams’ last legit drive, his blitz on fourth down and leap allowed him to knock down Hill’s pass.

“I had some guys in my group texts, (former teammate) Antoine Bethea and a couple other guys, saying, ‘Who do you think you are? Dwight Freeney?’ ” Powers said. “I’m like, ‘Nah.’ ”

— So the last three times the Cardinals have played the Rams they have lost Tyrann Mathieu to an ACL tear, Palmer to an ACL tear and now, maybe Stanton has a serious injury? Unreal.

— Williams looked like the real deal again. Didn’t get 100 yards splitting time with Stepfan Taylor, but he averaged five yards on 15 carries and a couple of times was one defender away from breaking a TD run.

— The Cards are (probably) in the playoffs. They have more than a week to prep for the NFC West-deciding home game against Seattle. That will be an event on “Sunday Night Football.” It’d be nice if somehow, Stanton is OK.

“Obviously we’d like a full deck of cards, no pun intended,” Larry Fitzgerald said.

If not, there will probably be a shrug of the collective shoulders. Why should the end-all, be-all NFC West showdown be any different than the rest of the season?

AfterRamsBlog1use


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