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Injuries hammering not only Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on November 2, 2017 – 2:21 pm

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.

Brutal.


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Not playing, Palmer another coach for Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on November 1, 2017 – 2:45 pm

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.”


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Keim: “Active” in trade talks, IR updates

Posted by Darren Urban on October 31, 2017 – 8:15 am

The trade deadline is only a few hours away in the NFL. Cardinals GM Steve Keim said the team has been “active” in trade talks, but noted there are multiple moving parts for a trade to come to fruition, which is a willing partner, compensation and then how the contract situation of the player(s) involved impact the deal.

“There have to be so many things that have to make sense,” Keim said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “We’ll continue to work the phones.”

Keim did say he thinks the key injuries around the league have increased the action around the trade deadline, which is shaping up to be one of the most active in recent memory.

— Since it was Keim’s first interview since the London trip, he said there wouldn’t be one thing he’d want the Cardinals do do differently other than play better in the game. The logistics and trip itself went well. “I was hesitant with the thought of playing overseas, but what an experience it was,” Keim said. “The one thing that opened up my eyes, and I had no clue, was the international excitement that the fans had.”

— Obviously there were not as many good things to say about the game itself. Keim lamented the inability to run the football, which was a death sentence against such a good Rams defensive line in terms of being able to pass protect. Defensively, Keim said the Cardinals didn’t play with energy and didn’t tackle well.

“The way we played in Europe was flat out unacceptable,” he added.

— Injury updates: Keim said running back David Johnson (wrist) was doing well but the rehab is time-consuming. “We will continue to monitor that to see if he can come back this season,” Keim said.

As for Carson Palmer, Keim said there were a lot of “moving parts” for his potential return as well. He also acknowledged Palmer’s return will be influenced at least some on how the Cards are playing.

(Just judging by Keim’s tone, there was less optimism for returns of those star players than I had figured previously.)

— Keim noted the 49ers have a lot of cap room, which helps them make a trade for QB Jimmy Garoppolo despite a “small sample size.” Keim also said that in a perfect world, he would prefer to draft and develop a quarterback rather than trade for someone like Jimmy G.

“Because you can grow with them,” Keim said. “It not only helps you as a team, from a salary cap structure you can pay minimal money and build a team around him.”

 


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Palmer, IR and the hard decisions

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2017 – 1:39 pm

So much for the Carson Palmer optimism.

The Cardinals officially put their quarterback on injured reserve Thursday. It means he is out at least eight weeks, it means he could at most play two more games, it means someone — likely T.J. Logan, but maybe Palmer, after all this — cannot come back this season. If Palmer indeed was going to be able to return sooner, you leave him on the 53-man roster and try and massage those inactives for a month-plus. But the Cards felt they needed the roster spot, and so Palmer is on the sideline. If the news after Wednesday’s surgery was definitive enough, then there is no reason not to IR him.

There is an open roster spot but Bruce Arians has already said it won’t go to a quarterback. Who they add (and it might not be until Monday or Tuesday, since the Cards are off until then) will be interesting. Wonder if there is a pass rusher out there who might be able to help out the struggling Haason Reddick in that regard. Also, is there still confidence in David Johnson coming back? I am guessing yes.

Mostly though, you think of Palmer. Unless the Cardinals can stay in the playoff hunt, it may not make sense to bring Palmer back for the last two games of the season. And yes, it makes you start to wonder if he has thrown his last pass for the Cardinals. If he returns, it’s a moot point — and don’t forget Arians said if Palmer was IR’d the Cards would “definitely” save one of their IR-return moves for him. (Again, teams only can bring two players back from IR in a season, after a minimum of eight weeks.) Palmer is also under contract for 2018. But is he going to play another year? There are still nine games left in this season, but the reality of the 2018 offseason and the potential changes to this team are hard to ignore.


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Carson Palmer’s chances of a quicker return

Posted by Darren Urban on October 25, 2017 – 9:42 am

Bruce Arians originally thought Carson Palmer would be out eight weeks, but he said the quarterback was hoping it would be more in the 4-to-6-week range. If that ends up being the case — and there is apparently reason to believe it could be — that would be the best case scenario. Palmer was expected to have his surgery on his broken left arm today.

Former NFL team doctor David Chao writes articles about NFL injuries for the San Diego Union-Tribune and, via Twitter, often makes a general prognosis on an athlete’s injuries based on video review. In Palmer’s case, Chao also wrote an article about the part-time San Diego resident, saying that a return in 4-to-6 weeks makes a lot of sense. According to Chao, the video seems to show an isolated ulna fracture in the forearm. Other position players Chao had helped when he was a team doctor actually came back with a splint in as little as two weeks. Palmer likely needs more time given how much he handles the ball, but having him in a spot to play with a protected left (non-throwing) arm is possible in a little over a month. There is an outside chance, thanks to the bye, that Palmer could miss as few as three games.

The timing of all this is crucial because a trip to injured reserve means Palmer would have to miss eight weeks minimum. Keeping him off IR means he can return whenever — and would also keep the door open so that both running back T.J. Logan and David Johnson could be brought off IR and could both still play again this year.


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London — and Palmer injury — aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 22, 2017 – 4:11 pm

The story became so much more than just a week in London and what that meant for the Cardinals and why they played poorly in Sunday night’s across-the-pond loss to the Rams. Now it’s about the quarterback positon, the loss of Carson Palmer to a broken arm, and what that means for the future – on a couple of levels.

For Palmer, a player who no one was really sure how many seasons he still wanted to play, it leaves big questions. If he’s out eight weeks like Bruce Arians said, that’s basically the rest of the season. Does he stay on the active roster for that possibility?  A trip to IR is at minimum eight weeks. Maybe that’s what Arians was talking about, but bringing Palmer back would mean the end of bringing both T.J. Logan and David Johnson back, because you can only bring two players total back from injured reserve.

For Palmer, does he try to come back for 2018 for sure, so this isn’t the way it might end? There is so much that is potentially in flux for the Cardinals this offseason, especially given the age of many on the roster, that I doubt it’s a question that can be answered anytime soon.

As for the QBs that remain, Bruce Arians was adamant Drew Stanton would be his starter the rest of the season. Stanton is the backup and Blaine Gabbert the third-stringer for a reason, Arians said. And maybe the Cards have seen all the need to in order to evaluate what Gabbert can do for them. But I had thought Gabbert might get a chance if the season got away in the won-loss column. Perhaps not.

The Cardinals are going into a bye week. There is time to sort it out, but obviously, Sunday couldn’t have gone any worse.

— Stanton’s first start of the season is going to be in San Francisco. That’s where he had his lone start of 2016, when he threw a pair of TD passes to beat the Niners as Palmer missed his only game of last season because of a concussion.

— The Phil Dawson 32-yard field goal miss was his fifth of the season, more than he had all of last year. The footing was not great at Twickenham and the snap was low, but holder Andy Lee looked like he did a nice job getting it in place. It was also rougher when Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein converted all four of his field-goal attempts.

Arians said Dawson is “our guy” and all he can do is tell him to make the next one. But it’s hard to believe Dawson has struggled so much because it goes against everything he has been up until this season.

— Todd Gurley 106 rushing yards, Adrian Peterson 21. Boiling the game down really far, that’s it right there.

— I don’t know what would’ve happened if Palmer hadn’t been hit on his interception. He doesn’t break his arm. He probably doesn’t throw a pick. And the game was only 6-0 at that point. It just got ugly after Palmer left.

— Larry Fitzgerald is usually quiet after bad losses, but he seemed particularly so after this one. Bad loss, loss of QB, that can happen. He’s another guy for whom retirement talk lingers. Now what does he have coming the rest of the year?

“We’re confident Drew can lead us and do the same things that we were able to do in terms of play calling that Carson was able to do,” Fitzgerald said.

— So the London week is over. No one really knows what it meant. The Cardinals lost big and did it have anything to do with being overseas for a week? It’s difficult to imagine the Cards doing any better in Los Angeles if Palmer is getting hurt and the excellent Rams defensive front is plugging any potential Adrian Peterson holes.

In any case, the bye week is here. Before that a long, long plane flight, in which the Cards will have time to ponder what went sideways in England and how exactly they can try and make things better the second half of the season – if they are able.


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Adrian Peterson’s debut, and Bucs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 15, 2017 – 7:15 pm

The plan started on a private plane, sent by the Cardinals Tuesday to pick up Adrian Peterson in New Orleans and bring him back to Arizona. Running backs coach Freddie Kitchens was on board, so that the return trip to Arizona could be spent on a crash course about the Cardinals’ offense.

“It sounded like Chinese,” Peterson said Sunday, after that five-day tutorial turned into a 134-yard rushing debut.

Peterson said Kitchens walked him through what he needed to learn, calling him at home just to go over things. By the time Peterson got to Sunday, he felt prepared, and he played that way.

Kitchens downplayed his role, saying only that he helped get Peterson in the building. And there is little question Peterson, motivated as he was to do well, had the talent if he knew what was called.

“It was the terminology of the plays,” wide receiver/Peterson landlord Larry Fitzgerald said. “You don’t tell a great back where to run.”

Fitz is going to gush about Peterson. They are friends. But Peterson deserves the praise. Not just for his production, but for the intangible vibe that surrounded this team right about the time Peterson and Kitchens were flying back from Louisiana.

“I wish he’d have been here 11 years from the beginning,” Fitzgerald said. “I’d have a Super Bowl ring already. But having him here, his leadership, his demeanor in the huddle, I think it’s reinvigorating everybody.”

— I can’t lie. I did not expect Peterson to make that kind of impact. I thought the Cards would be better. Not that much better. But when he ripped off two eight-yard runs on his first two carries, I quickly reconsidered.

— Chandler Jones got his sixth sack in six games and got a couple tackles for loss. That doesn’t do his game justice, especially early. He’s had a very good season.

— Still, you want to see the defense finish better. It’ll be interesting to see if Tramon Williams gets more playing time at cornerback.

— And not because of Patrick Peterson’s quad problem. If P2 is down, the Cards will feel it, although Peterson insisted he will be ready to play against the Rams next week. That was a big part of the fourth-quarter problems Sunday. No Patrick. Adrian isn’t the only necessary Peterson.

— The offensive line was better. It wasn’t perfect, but the return of left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone, along with Earl Watford taking over at right guard clearly made a difference. There was a lot of emotion Sunday with Adrian Peterson and the crowd and that adrenaline helps. But if this group can stay healthy and together – that was the fifth different offensive line in six games – the Cards should be OK.

— Fitzgerald said it was kicker Phil Dawson who told him to waste some time on the onside kick recovery at the end, to make sure the clock ticked under the two-minute mark (and stoppage at the two-minute warning) so the Cards could kneel three times and be done. “That was Phil all the way,” Fitz said.

— Ryan Fitzpatrick likes putting a scare into Bruce Arians. First it was 2013 in Tennessee, then Sunday.

— Arians took the blame for Palmer’s interception, saying he insisted on throwing it deep there to go for the throat. But Arians said he needs to stay greedy. “There’s no lead big enough in the National Football League,” Arians said.

— Palmer is expecting both David Johnson and T.J. Logan to come off injured reserve, apparently, since he mentioned both running backs playing with Peterson later this season.

“I can’t help but think what B.A. will come up with when we get T.J. Logan back and Dave back,” Palmer said. “I can’t wait to see that.”

— That would be interesting. Just like the Cards were Sunday. Tomorrow, a flight to London.


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A pair of Petersons, Friday before the Bucs

Posted by Darren Urban on October 13, 2017 – 3:59 pm

Adrian Peterson was the story of the week after he was traded to the Cardinals Tuesday. For a few days, all you can really have is speculation. The coaches and players are enthused about his arrival and what he might be able to do. Really, you’d expect nothing else. Optimism tends to reign in these situations.

“You got Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald on the same team, and Carson (Palmer) is delivering the ball to both of them,” tackle D.J. Humphries said. “It’s like, ‘What?’ That sounds like something you would do on ‘Madden,’ a team you’d create on ‘Madden.’ ”

The spotlight will be on “All Day” Sunday. If I had to guess – and this is purely a guess – I’m guessing on 12 or 15 touches. The revamped offensive line has to make some inroads, and that’s no guarantee. And while Peterson supposedly has looked good since arriving (we cannot watch practice), there’s no way to know exactly what the 32-year-old will do in a game situation.  Still, there is little arguing that, after a bad game in Philly, there was a vibe of hope around this offense this week.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think he’d be on my team,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “But he is.”

— The Cardinals have another Peterson. Patrick represents the other side of the ball. Unlike Adrian Peterson, who is still looking to prove he has a lot left, Patrick Peterson doesn’t need to, because he is at the height of his powers. But that can only go so far. And before the offensive Peterson arrived, it was the defensive Peterson’s overflowing passion in Philly that underscored some of the issues with a defense of which so much was expected.

Let’s say P2 does his job on Mike Evans this weekend. The Cards have to find a way to control DeSean Jackson and some good tight ends. They have to get off the field on third-and-long. (An aside, the Cardinals have been good at forcing third downs and even third-and-longs. They just have to close the deal.)

“It’s definitely something we’ve struggled with all season,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “I think it’s something we can correct. We’ve got a veteran group on the backend. Everything has to go together. If you call a zero blitz, the pressure has to get home. If you’re dropping zone, you’ve got to affect the passer. I think everything goes hand-in-hand.”

A zero blitz, like the one that didn’t get home at third-and-19 last week.

— Speaking of getting home, it was a tough first game at outside linebacker for rookie Haason Reddick. He made a couple of nice plays – there was one great stay-at-home play on a zone-read run by Eagles QB Carson Wentz – but mostly was locked up and a non-factor as a pass rusher.

“I don’t think he played as well as he wanted to play,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “He had four days playing the position. Play fast and play hard, he did that. Now we stack pieces on top of that.”

— Sunday is the Cardinals’ “Crucial Catch” game so if you have a chance to wear pink and represent, here’s your opportunity.

— Will be interested in seeing how the interior of the offensive line handles Gerald McCoy.

— With the running game having its issues and Palmer throwing all the time, he’s up to 1,573 yards passing. That’s a pace for 5,033 for the season, which would obliterate the franchise record.

— Another reason defense always seems to be a key: Under Arians, the Cardinals are 34-3-1 when holding the other team to 20 points or fewer.

— The Cardinals will wear their black uniforms Sunday (and for those who have forgotten, it was the Buccaneers who were the opponent in 2010 when the Cards wore their black alternates for the first time.)

That’ll be two straight home games in which the Cards wear black, because they’ll break out their Color Rush unis for the next home game Nov. 9, Thursday, against the Seahawks. The difference? The Color Rush jerseys will have red numbers instead of white. And the pants will be black, not white.

Here endeth the jersey conversation for today.

— OK, maybe not all the jersey conversation. After the talk about Adrian Peterson and Justin Bethel and wearing 28 (and there is a chance the league wouldn’t allow an in-season change, but I could not get an official answer on that), Larry Fitzgerald was asked if he went to a new team if he would expect whoever had No. 11 to give it to him.

“I would just go where I fit in,” Fitzgerald said. “It wouldn’t bother me. I wore No. 1 my whole life until I got here. They gave me 11. At the end of training camp a couple of 80-numbers were available, but I was like, I’ll stick with it, this is what they gave me. The number doesn’t make the player. The player makes the number. I’ve always thought that.”

— The Cardinals leave Monday night for London. But first, the Bucs. See you Sunday.


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Keim: Cardinals need chip back on shoulder

Posted by Darren Urban on October 9, 2017 – 8:26 am

Steve Keim, not surprisingly, is frustrated. After Sunday’s bad game in Philly, Keim acknowledged while talking to the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 that “I don’t think we’ve played this bad in all three phases since the NFC Championship two years ago.”

Keim noted all the things that became painfully obvious. The defense could make third-down stops, with Keim blaming poor tackling and simple techniques in coverage. On offense, the lack of any kind of a run game makes it so easy for the opponent’s defense to tee off on Carson Palmer sitting in the pocket. And then “special teams didn’t help.”

It was interesting to hear Keim talk about the game reminding him how the Cards got their rears kicked around in Philly on Thankgiving night in 2008. That team, which also were whipped terribly in New York and New England that year, rallied, if you recall. “Am I suggesting we are going to the Super Bowl? No,” Keim said. “But there is something to be said about momentum and the team jelling together, and that’s the approach we have to take.”

First the Cardinals would have to find some momentum. There is none right now.

“Sometimes, when you get taken to the woodshed like this, if you’re going to use it for any positive, it’s to put that chip back on your shoulder,” Keim said.

— On the status of the offensive line, Keim said guard Alex Boone (chest) and tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) remain week-to-week and the Cards don’t want to put them in harm’s way by rushing them back.

“There is hope, once we get D.J. back and once we get Boone back, there’s no doubt in my mind it will improve,” Keim said. “That being said, there are some current players who will continue to play on this line who have to improve.”

— Keim, on Patrick Peterson’s sideline outburst. “There’s a part of me inside who loves it,” Keim said. “I like to see guys who don’t like to lose.

“It sincerely comes from Pat’s heart. I appreciate his competitiveness.”

— Keim was asked about special teams coach Amos Jones, and what goes on behind the scenes that make the Cardinals know Jones is the right coach.

“I think there are always things that people don’t see,” Keim said. “… More than anything, me or coach (Bruce Arians) or Michael (Bidwill) knowing that, the type of things that need to be taught are being taught. It’s whether the players are correcting those issues or not. We tried to really improve football I.Q. with our players, because that’s one of the issues we’ve had in the past. Once I think we get some of that stuff cleaned up and guys can play a little bit smarter, I think you’ll start to see some improvement.

“Again, week after week, the same mistakes keep happening. Quite frankly, if anything, we need to continue to rotate players in and out of here and find players who can help us. If a guy continually makes the same mistakes and isn’t going to fix it, we’ll go ahead and make a decision and look at ready list and bring in some guys and make some changes.”

— The Cardinals will bring in five long snappers for workouts today to find a replacement for the injured Aaron Brewer, who broke his hand/wrist Sunday.

— Keim reiterated that Palmer did not play well the first two games but the last three he has played “very good” given the circumstances, especially with the offensive line.

— Keim admitted he doesn’t have a lot of patience, but he doesn’t want this emotions to get the best of him. And he understands his players’ frustrations. “I think it’s a good thing from the standpoint of, if we had a bunch of guys downstairs just collecting their checks and they didn’t care, I’d be certainly concerned,” Keim said. “But there are lot of guys who are genuinely upset.”

 


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Eagles aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2017 – 3:23 pm

J.J. Nelson wore an ice bag on his side, courtesy of the first hit he took in the game Sunday. The last one left more of a mental bruise – one in which it looked like the wide receiver would make the final score look a tad better on a 29-yard touchdown catch from Carson Palmer, only to have the TD erased and the ball lost when replay showed Nelson losing a fumble at the 1 and through the end zone.

“I was just trying to make a play, stick it out there (across the goal line),” Nelson said, shaking his head. “The guy hit me, and made a nice play.”

The score wouldn’t have really made a difference, but it figured to end like that. The loss in Philly couldn’t have been much uglier (although someone on Twitter suggested it was the Cards’ worst game in 10 years, and wow, that anyone could forget the 2012 Seattle trip stuns me). All the Cardinals’ current issues were laid bare – a failure to run, problems on the offensive line, an inability to score, giving up too many big plays – and then you add it a breakdown on third down defense. The Eagles weren’t just converting third downs but long third downs.

The backbreaker, although the game was basically secured by then, was the 72-yard TD on third-and-19, with the blitzing Cardinals unable to get to the quarterback. That was a common theme. The pass rush took a step back, and whether that was Markus Golden missing or something greater, it’s not a great sign.

Bruce Arians took the blame a couple of times in his press conference. He said he didn’t have the Cardinals ready to play. From a 40,000-foot level, seems an apropos assessment.

— The offensive line started Earl Watford at left guard. At one point, when right tackle Jared Veldheer had to leave briefly with a knee issue, the line was, from left tackle to right tackle, John Wetzel, Watford, A.Q. Shipley, Evan Boehm and rookie Will Holden. Veldheer did come back into the game, although Arians said Veldheer will be sore (and said the same about DT Corey Peters, who also left for a time with a knee.)

If Veldheer is OK, and maybe D.J. Humphries and Alex Boone can come back next week …

— It did seem like Arians stuck to the run more. It still didn’t produce. Only 2.2 yards a carry.

— Larry Fitzgerald keeps grinding. He didn’t have a catch for a while until grabbing one for a reception in his 200th straight game. He finished with six receptions for 51 yards.

— The Cardinals have lost long snapper Aaron Brewer with a broken wrist/hand, Arians said. So they’ll be in the market. Josh Mauro and Boehm filled in and did OK. But the blocked field goal was because of the snap. It wasn’t bad, it was just a tick slow – which is all it takes for a guy coming off the edge.

— Haason Reddick did play some outside linebacker, but he was having trouble getting past the blocking when rushing the passer. There will definitely be a learning curve there.

— Palmer didn’t have bad stats, but they could have been. He was nearly picked off three times on plays that were broken up by his wide receivers. Nelson had one and John Brown had two, showing off two different cornerback skills. The first Smoke did a nice job simply knocking it away. The second was in the hands of Jalen Mills – and Brown timed his hit perfectly, landing a heavy body blow as Mills was coming down, jarring the ball loose.

It was a day to seek such silver linings.


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