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Chiefs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 15, 2015 – 10:52 pm

There will be frustration of missing tackles and poor plays from Saturday night, but there is a reason teams have 90 men on the roster now and when the games count there are 53 — many of those guys who were playing and struggling won’t be play this time next month. That’s why you look at what the Cards did at the start, both with their offense and defense, and if you are Bruce Arians, you have to be generally pleased. That and there were no serious injuries, and in the end, that might be the most important thing to come out of any preseason game.

Before it gets too late, a few thoughts after the opener — understanding there are still two week of training camp left. And three preseason games. We’re still a long way from anything counting.

— Carson Palmer was sharp, smart and altogether untouched. “I could’ve hitched three or four times on any of the passes we threw tonight,” he said. “Very clean pocket.” This gets repeated often yet can’t be understated: If Palmer is healthy and performs like this, the Cards will be in good shape.

— It didn’t take long for Andre Ellington to show what he can do, even after the hamstring issues kept him out of practice. No, he shouldn’t have been caught — “I just need to get my cardio back up” — but again, he’ll be the main guy in the backfield because of what he showed.

— Who will join him back there is still up in the air. Chris Johnson is coming in Sunday for his physical/tryout. Again, he’d have to be signed and he’d have to show well, but he could still be Ellington’s mate back there. The run game still only produced 2.8 yards a carry Saturday.

— The Chiefs went after Justin Bethel, starting for Jerraud Powers, on the very first play. Bethel was there to break it up. The Cards need Bethel to play well at cornerback. They are very thin there beyond Patrick Peterson and Powers. Jimmy Legree, the one who looked like he might have an inside track at a roster spot this summer, struggled.

— In the first salvo of the punting battle, Dave Zastudil’s night was four punts, 40.5 average, 35.3 net. I’d guess Drew Butler will punt next week against the Chargers.

— I thought Logan Thomas looked better in the game than he has at practice. Which is a good thing.

— The Chiefs’ lineman turned the wrong way to let Rodney Gunter blow past him, but Gunter showed impressive quickness to blaze into the backfield for that safety. Gunter is going to be someone to watch.

— That said, while I’d need to watch the replay of the game, there weren’t any of the non-draftees that really stood out to me as guys that popped, other than maybe Jaxon Shipley on his returns and one catch — and it’s hard to see Shipley as anything more that a practice squad guy given who is in front of him.

— The Cardinals are off until Monday, and like last Monday, do not have a morning walkthrough. The next time Arians will address the media is Monday afternoon. We’ll see if the Cards have a new running back by then.


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Sitting out against the Chiefs

Posted by Darren Urban on August 15, 2015 – 5:09 pm

There is no “inactive” list for preseason games — everyone is eligible to play — but there are “not expected to play” lists. For the Chiefs, the most notable player not playing is defensive tackle Dontari Poe. For the Cardinals there is a long and wholly injured-induced list of guys sitting:

— WR Michael Floyd (hand)

— RB Marion Grice (hamstring)

— CB Darren Woodard (groin)

— S Chris Clemons (groin)

— RB David Johnson (hamstring)

— CB Jonte Green (hamstring)

— LB Shaq Riddick (hamstring)

— LB Sean Weatherspoon (hamstring)

— LB Darryl Sharpton (hip flexor)

— T Rob Crisp (knee)

— LB Zack Wagenmann (foot)

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Friday before the Chiefs

Posted by Darren Urban on August 14, 2015 – 11:19 am

The training camp of Palmer, Mathieu and hamstrings takes a brief break so the Cardinals can open the preseason Saturday night against the Chiefs. It figures to be what should always be expected in the first preseason game of the season — some good play, but also some stumbling out of the blocks. Vanilla offense and defense. A big game for those playing especially in the second half, because those are the guys fighting to stay on the roster. And as always, fingers crossed no one gets hurt.

Carson Palmer will get to make an appearance and that’s amazing, given that he tore his ACL last November. But as we’ve said multiple times, Palmer has been excellent in camp and now, it’s about the reality of exposing him to another team. He has to get ready for the regular season, even if Bruce Arians acknowledged he’d rather put him in bubble wrap for now.

Some other things to watch Saturday:

— It’s about time for Logan Thomas. He will get a lot of playing time. This is where he has to make a push to convince the Cardinals he will fit. His performance in the preseason opener last year was what first caught everyone’s eye. We’ll see if he can repeat that, and push aside a lot of the questions that surround him these days.

— Arians said there were a ton of players he wants to see, and it’s hard to disagree. Among what I’ll be watching: Jonathan Cooper as starting right guard. Tackle D.J. Humphries. Outside linebackers Markus Golden and LaMarr Woodley. Summer sensation tight end Ifeanyi Momah. Wide receiver J.J. Nelson. Undrafted rookie cornerback Cariel Brooks. All those undrafted inside linebackers, including Gabe Martin (pictured below).

— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher moves from the press box to the sideline. He’s been calling plays in practice, but now we get a chance to see what it’s like in a game.

— It’s a great story from the Chiefs side that safety Eric Berry — who was battling cancer last year — will be back on the field and playing.

— Watch the defensive linemen. With all those guys, someone is going to be out by the end of the preseason, either through trade or being cut. That’ll make for an intense competition.

OK. Football is back.


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A late start to camp (and the season)

Posted by Darren Urban on June 17, 2015 – 10:37 am

The Cardinals officially announced this year’s training camp dates today, with players reporting for the run test July 31 and the first practice — open to the public too — coming Aug. 1. If you feel like that’s late, it’s because it is. The Cardinals usually report at least a week earlier but that’s because the season usually starts earlier. Rules say camp can start 15 days ahead of the first preseason game, and the preseason games work backward from the regular season. The Cards’ first preseason game isn’t until Aug. 15 — hosting the Kansas City Chiefs — because the regular-season opener isn’t until the Saints visit Sept. 13. The Saints game is so late, of course, because the NFL doesn’t want to open on Labor Day weekend, and Labor Day comes as late as it can this year, on Sept. 7.

The last time the Cardinals started camp so late was 2004, when Labor Day fell on Sept. 6 and the Cardinals opened the regular season in St. Louis on Sept. 12. That was also Denny Green’s first season, when the team reported to Flagstaff Aug. 1. (And Green shocked everyone by cutting starting center Pete Kendall that day, the jumping-off point to a wild roller-coaster of a season.)

In all, there are 19 open practices at University of Phoenix Stadium. Sure, there are about seven weeks before football starts but I know I’m ready for some down time. It’ll be here soon enough.


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The Ker-wich and Chiefs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 7, 2014 – 8:43 pm

Apparently, he calls them a “Ker-wich,” because these are the details that emerge when you have, as Larry Fitzgerald said, “storybook stuff” like the Kerwynn Williams development. A Ker-wich, you see, is the specialty meal for Williams, the guy who had never had an NFL carry before the 19 he had Sunday and just happened to pick up 100 yards in the process.

“I have a Ker-wich every day,” Williams said. “PB and J. Four stacks. Two peanut butter, two jelly, stack ’em on top of each other. Have the milk, gotta dip it in milk too.”

Maybe it’s the diet of champions. Maybe it’s just the diet of a kid who, given a chance to play, provided the Cardinals something they so desperately needed. No one is going to confuse the Chiefs’ run defense with the Seahawks or even the Rams. But the Cards hadn’t been running the ball a lick for three weeks. Sunday they did. Jonathan Cooper got his first start at left guard and left tackle Jared Veldheer was battling a sore ankle but the lanes were there much of the game and the offensive line was at the heart of it all. And it was spearheaded by Williams, and the Cards came out with a win.

The celebration wasn’t exactly going to last long at all. It can’t. The Cardinals are back at it in just a few hours from now. They travel to St. Louis Wednesday afternoon for a brutal short week – especially with all the injuries – to play the Rams. Not fun.

“You have to love the NFL schedule though,” Fitzgerald said with a smile, and I’m thinking his true feelings are pretty much the opposite of love. “Eight o’clock meetings (Monday) morning and six o’clock treatment. This is the schedule.”

A schedule that’s a lot easier to digest, frankly, after a crucial win. Ten wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1975-76. You could see it in the locker room, this was important.

— Before we flash too far back, though, a look ahead. The short week is brutal for even the “healthy” guys. What about cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who was feared down with an Achilles injury? Bruce Arians said afterward it turned out to not be the Achilles (exhale now) but still couldn’t specify what was wrong.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed for him,” Arians said. That might be more optimistic for the long-term, but can he possibly turn around to play in a game in four days? Same goes for linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, who hurt his shoulder late in the game and didn’t return. We also need to see how Fitz, playing for the first time in three weeks but not at 100 percent, can bounce back on such a short week.

— Arians took blame for a couple of play choices that didn’t pan out (and drew plenty of questions on my Twitter feed at the time — @cardschatter, if you need it). “I called a couple of really bad plays,” Arians said. He named the Robert Hughes run up the middle on third-and-1 – when the Chiefs loaded the line of scrimmage with what seemed like 15 men – and the screen down at the Kansas City 5 that lost four yards in particular.

— It’s safe to say the Chiefs feel they got the short end of the stick on the two key calls of the game – the Fasano offensive pass interference and the Kelce fumble. (Who knew the Cardinals would benefit so much from the other team’s tight ends?) The Cardinals weren’t apologizing and insisted they thought a) Fasano committed a penalty and b) Kelce definitely fumbled.

But, defensive end Calais Campbell said with a smile, “Hey, that’s part of the game. The referees are a big part of the game some times. Sometimes it goes against you, sometimes it goes for you.”

— Not ideal that rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro put not one but two field-goal tries off an upright. I’m not sure he could do that again in five attempts if he tried 100 more times. But I do like how Arians laughed it off. The Cards can’t be thrilled, but public backing is important because they are going to need him.

— Frostee Rucker with a big game Sunday. Two sacks, and he was the guy in Alex Smith’s face to force the bad throw/Alex Okafor interception. Rucker has had a solid year for the Cards.

— Okafor (the pick, another sack) has turned into a find for the Cardinals at linebacker.

— No question that the Cardinals got a huge boost because Jamaal Charles got hurt. He had that 63-yard TD run and dynamic 18-yard TD catch off a swing pass and that dude was destined for a big day. But he hurt his ankle which I assume cost him touches. Still weird they didn’t go to him more. Judging by his reaction postgame, Charles felt it was weird too.

— Drew Stanton wasn’t great, but he was good enough, and that’s all the Cards can rightfully expect. He didn’t turn the ball over (although the Chiefs dropped one sure interception), he threw a beautiful TD pass to Jaron Brown on third-and-18 and threw a beautiful bomb to Michael Floyd for 45 yards. He kept going after Tamba Hali wrenched his ankle early in the game (on a play that I thought at first might’ve ended Stanton’s season.) You cannot fault the guy’s toughness or effort.

Guess it’s time to go. Short week for everyone. Including me. But the Cards have 10 wins in the book, so that’s a nice jumping off point.


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Fitzgerald active for Chiefs’ game

Posted by Darren Urban on December 7, 2014 – 12:35 pm

Larry Fitzgerald will play.

That’s the best news out of an ugly injury week as the Cardinals announced their inactives for Sunday’s game against the Chiefs. It’s a list that wasn’t that hard to figure, since Bruce Arians announced Friday four of the guys who were already going to be out: Andre Ellington, Paul Fanaika, Ed Stinson and Tyrann Mathieu. But Fitz will play. We’ll see how effective he can be — understand that his knee is not 100 percent, but all along, everyone involved said Fitzgerald wouldn’t play unless he could help.

The full inactive list:

— S Tyrann Mathieu (thumb)

— RB Andre Ellington (hip)

— DT Alameda Ta’amu

— G Anthony Steen

— DT Ed Stinson (toe)

— G Paul Fanaika (ankle)

— DE Kareem Martin

It’s been a rough year for Martin as the Cards’ third-round pick. He’s made much less of an impact than the Cardinals were hoping. Running back Kerwynn Williams is one of the active players. So is linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, after Shaughnessy missed eight games.

And as a postscript, the roof will be closed today.

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Friday before the Chiefs

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2014 – 3:48 pm

It’s been a while since the Chiefs have come to Arizona. The last visit was in 2006, in the first season of University of Phoenix Stadium. It, like this Sunday’s visit, comes a week after the Cardinals made a trip to Atlanta and lost. Back then, the Chiefs’ game was the first NFL start of a first-round draft pick – quarterback Matt Leinart. This week it’s the first NFL start of first-round draft pick Jonathan Cooper.

It’s an interesting parallel even if it doesn’t relate directly to Sunday’s game. Leinart actually played well that day with a couple of touchdown passes (even though Larry Fitzgerald left with a hamstring injury that would ultimately keep him out three games, the longest down-time of his career) and should have had a third if Bryant Johnson didn’t let a throw go right between his arms.

But that was then, this is now. Game-day decision Fitzgerald should play against the Chiefs after missing the last two games – keeping that three-game stretch back in 2006 as his career-high (or low?). And Cooper’s play, while important, won’t be as important as the play of quarterback Drew Stanton, who needs to bounce back. The QB is in the crosshairs, especially with the Cardinals without running back Andre Ellington and his problem hip.

— If the Cardinals win, they remain the NFC’s top team, regardless of any other game, with three games to go. If they lose, they will no longer be the NFC’s top team regardless, because Philadelphia and Seattle play each other and a win with a Cards’ loss puts either ahead in the standings. The Cardinals don’t want that.

— One running back the Cards won’t have is Michael Bush, who was released Friday. That could be a short-term thing, but for now, the non-Ellington backfield will feature Stepfan Taylor—who will get the start in a running-back-by-committee scenario — and Marion Grice. Arians had some praise for Grice Friday. And all season, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said he saw Grice as a player who could fill the Ellington role. Now he has to.

“We have a lot of trust in him,” Goodwin said.

— This is interesting: Cardinals punter Drew Butler was fined $8,268 for facemasking Falcons punt returner Devin Hester on Hester’s 70-yard punt return for a touchdown that was called back. It was called back because Hester was flagged for facemasking Butler. Except … Hester wasn’t fined for the penalty.

— So to recap, the man who was penalized was essentially exonerated with no flag, and the man who should have been flagged wasn’t. Throw in the fine-but-no-penalty for William Moore on Cards’ wide receiver Jaron Brown, and it doesn’t seem like the officials had the best game.

— For those who want to know, the Cardinals will again wear their red pants Sunday (with the normal red home jersey.)

— The Cardinals are holding their annual toy drive Sunday at the game. Partnering with The RoomStore, volunteers will join cheerleaders to collect unwrapped toys and donations for underprivileged children outside each entrance at University of Phoenix Stadium.

— If the Cardinals win, they will have seven home victories. That would be the most for the franchise since 1925, when the Cards had 11. Eleven home wins. It helps that the Cards that year played 13 of 14 games at home (which was in Chicago at the time.)

— In 59 career games before he infamously lost the tip of his finger trying to make a tackle in New Orleans, safety Rashad Johnson had three interceptions. In 22 games since, he has seven interceptions. To be fair, Johnson didn’t start really playing a lot until the second half of the 2012 season, but still.

— Larry Fitzgerald, asked if he takes pride in his run blocking in the offense: “I take a lot more pride in catching passes.”

Fitz laughed as he said it, and he did say he does want to help with his blocking. But let’s not confuse this. Later, Fitz said “I have nothing to do with the run game. I’m a wide receiver.”

— Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said the game in Atlanta was a “bad day at the office” for his unit. Bowles said they forgot it quickly, and have to move on. The defense needs to. They will be crucial down the stretch, especially as offensive injuries mount.

— Bowles was on the staff of Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid in Reid’s final year as Eagles’ head coach. It didn’t go well – the Eagles were bad, and Bowles, who eventually took over as interim defensive coordinator, was hammered by fans and media as the defense struggled – but Reid said now Bowles was the best interview he’s ever had. Bowles returned the compliment.

“It was great working for him,” Bowles said. “I probably learned more from him in one year than I have from a lot of people over a long time.”

— Hopefully for the Cardinals, it also means Bowles learned Reid’s tendencies. The Cards need every advantage.

See you Sunday.


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With 2014 schedule, London calling?

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2013 – 3:03 pm

The NFL announced today that three teams will host games in London during the 2014 season: Jacksonville, Oakland and Atlanta. Why does that matter? Because you never know if the Cardinals could get picked to be the visiting team to a London game.

The Cards don’t play Jacksonville next season. But they do travel to Oakland, and with an away game at the “matching” NFC South team wherever they finish, there is a chance the Cardinals could have a road game in Atlanta next season — making then two of the three London games possible. We are far away from knowing for sure, of course, but it’s an interesting tidbit to chew on.

So, as long as we are discussion the 2014 opponents — because why wouldn’t you five games into the previous season — here is the list of the Cardinals’ schedule-to-be:


Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

Kansas City Chiefs

San Diego Chargers

NFC North “like” finisher (If Cardinals finish in second place in division, for instance, they play the second-place team from NFCN)

Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

St. Louis Rams


Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Denver Broncos

Oakland Raiders

NFC South “like” finisher

Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

St. Louis Rams

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How the trade winds blow

Posted by Darren Urban on April 22, 2013 – 4:02 pm

There are plenty of realistic scenarios where none of the top three rated offensive tackles are left on the draft board by the time the Cardinals pick at No. 7. It’s been suggested by some that the Cards could think about trading up in that situation. I just don’t see it. I didn’t before, and I don’t now after GM Steve Keim said “I’m not in the business of giving away picks.”

Smartly, Keim isn’t going to rule anything out. But moving up from 7 is going to be too expensive, even if it was just a spot or two. And frankly, the Cards can’t afford to give up a second or a third right now when those guys have a chance to turn into starters on a team that needs to fill holes. (Mike Jurecki reported the Cards have discussed the possibility of trading for disgruntled franchised Chiefs tackle Branden Albert, but I don’t see that either. If the money he wants on a long-term deal is scaring the Dolphins away, I don’t see how it makes more sense here.)

So maybe the Cards don’t trade up, or trade for Albert. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t trade. One thing I can definitely see is Keim willing to trade down, especially in this draft. He may not want to give away picks, but stockpiling them I’m sure is of interest, especially for a draft guy like him. Of course, there has to be someone on the board at 7 someone feels the need to come up and get, which could be a long shot. And who, exactly are the Cards going to seek? Offensive line and pass rusher remain the most obvious choices, and there are a handful that have been discussed not only top 10 but into the 11-15 range that make sense.

I do see Keim being aggressive in such draft moves, willing to move up and back if necessary. That second round pick, in fact, could be interesting in that regard. In the first round, though, I’m thinking back and not forward — if the Cards move at all.


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Tackle situation shows why you don’t fall in love

Posted by Darren Urban on April 18, 2013 – 11:19 am

One of the clichés that always floats around at draft time is that a team never ever ever should fall in love with a player. I mean, if you’re picking No. 1, fine. But otherwise, there is always a risk that said player or players isn’t going to be there. And you don’t want to be disappointed or let the emotion of losing out on such a crush drive you to do something dumb when you are on the clock.

That crossed my mind this morning when NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock talked about what has become a growing sentiment — that all three high-end offensive tackles available: Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson — will all be off the board by the time the Cardinals pick at No. 7. Let’s make this clear, no one knows for sure the Cards even like all three at that point, although it stands to reason they do. For a while, it was people thinking Fisher would be there and Joeckel wouldn’t. Then it was Fisher being gone and Johnson being the consideration. But there is a strong likelihood that the Chiefs take Joeckel at No. 1 (KC wants to trade Branden Albert) and the Eagles (No. 4) and the Lions (No. 5) both easily could take the other two tackles. Even if one lasts to No. 6, the next scenario could be the Browns trading out of No. 6 to the Chargers or Dolphins, both of whom need a left tackle like Johnson (pictured below).

Now, the Dolphins are talking with the Chiefs about the Albert trade, which would take them out of the mix. But the Chargers, picking 11th, could try to jump up (with Ken Whisenhunt’s new team potentially stealing a tackle out from under his old team.)

What does this all mean? Well, this is operating under the assumption the Cards are focusing on a tackle. That was the thought last year too and they took Michael Floyd over Riley Reiff, so there’s that. I don’t see the Cards trading up and surrendering a pick, although I’m not positive on that. If all the tackles are off the board in the top five, I could definitely see the Cards trying to trade down a little, although other than the tackles, I don’t know who would trade up. And again, if three tackles go off the board that early, someone is sitting there that hadn’t been expected. Will it be someone the Cards want?

— As long as we are talking about potential picks at No. 7, we have our annual mock draft contest ready for play right here. Hope you decide to take a crack at who you think the Cardinals will select.


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