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Cash for a fast Combine 40, and the Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on February 9, 2016 – 3:13 pm

Long before he came to the Cardinals, even before he rushed for 2,000 yards and became the only player in NFL history to have more than 2,500 yards from scrimmage in a season, Chris Johnson caught everyone’s attention when he ran a 4.24-second 40-yard dash at the 2008 Scouting combine (I think, had he lasted until the second round, the Cardinals were very interested at the time. They took Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 16th; Johnson went 24th to the Titans.)

So this year, adidas is offering up $1 million for any player who can top Johnson’s speed at the combine. (The catch: A player has to wear the company’s Adizero 5-star 40 cleats.) In previous years, adidas has been offering 40 money — $100,000 at a time. Two years ago, $100,000 went to current Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who went 4.33 seconds. That still gets a wistful shake of the head from Cardinals wideout Smokey Brown, who ran a 4.34 and understands how close he came to the cash.

Last year, the prize was going to be a custom Porsche, but it conflicted with NFL endorsements, so three guys collected $100,000 each instead: Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes (4.31), Colts wideout Phillip Dorsett (4.33) and Bears wideout Kevin White (4.35). The painful Cardinals connection was that it was actually wide receiver J.J. Nelson who ran the faster 40 time at the combine last year, at 4.28. But to win the money the player had to be signed to an adidas endorsement contract before he ran. The other three were. Alas, Nelson was not.

J J Nelson


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In a rush for 2,000

Posted by Darren Urban on December 30, 2015 – 10:33 am

It’s been a popular question posed to me recently, from fans and when I’m doing radio interviews: What’s the difference between this year’s team and last year’s pre-Palmer knee team? There are a few. But the most obvious — and the most important, in my opinion — is the Cardinals’ ability to run the football.

The Cardinals, with one game left, are sixth in the NFL with 126 yards a game rushing. This is a team that hasn’t ranked higher than 23th in rushing since 2005 and has been in the bottom three in rushing six times in that span — including last season, when they were 31st. Yes, injuries played a big factor in last year’s troubles. Still, the massive improvement isn’t just being healthy. In fact, like last year, Andre Ellington has been banged up much of this season. And the Cardinals lost Chris Johnson. But GM Steve Keim drafted David Johnson and made sure he had three capable runners. He signed very good run blocker Mike Iupati for his offensive line.

This is a team that got 814 yards rushing out of Chris Johnson — which was third in the league after 11 games, when CJ2K got hurt — and looks like they upgraded at the position with David Johnson. Don’t forget too, Ellington was off to a great start running the ball as starter in the season opener before he got hurt (Ellington only has 43 rushing attempts this season, but he has averaged an eye-popping 6.7 yards a carry.) David Johnson has 556 yards on 114 carries, 4.9 yards a tote.

Overall, the Cardinals need 110 yards rushing against the Seahawks to reach 2,000 rushing yards this season. (By comparison, the Cards rushed for 1,308 yards in 2014.) But 2,000? That’s a total this franchise hasn’t reached since 1988 — the first year the Cards were in Arizona. If only Drew Stanton didn’t have his 13 kneeldowns for minus-13 yards, right?

Rush2000Blog


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Palmer leads Cards’ final Pro Bowl list

Posted by Darren Urban on December 17, 2015 – 11:45 am

Quarterback Carson Palmer was the top vote-getter for the Cardinals now that the public part of Pro Bowl voting has ended. Palmer got the fourth most votes of any player — 514,967, to be specific — and was also fourth overall in the NFL, since QBs all finished ahead of him (Brady, Newton, Dalton).

Free safety Tyrann Mathieu dropped a spot to third at his position, but Frostee Rucker made a late surge to get into the top 10. In all, 11 Cardinals were ranked in the top 10 in votes at their respective positions. Players and coaches vote later this week league-wide to come up with the final Pro Bowl tallies/roster, and they get announced Dec. 22.

The full Cardinals’ list:

— QB Carson Palmer fourth

— RB Chris Johnson eighth

— WR Larry Fitzgerald fourth (with an impressive 410,095 votes)

— G Mike Iupati fifth

— DT Calais Campbell fifth, Frostee Rucker seventh

— CB Patrick Peterson fifth

— SS Rashad Johnson seventh, Deone Bucannon 10th

— FS Tyrann Mathieu third

— Special teams Justin Bethel fourth

ProBowlBLOG

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Mathieu, Palmer lead way for Pro Bowl votes

Posted by Darren Urban on December 9, 2015 – 11:20 am

With the Pro Bowl fan voting winding down (it ends Dec. 15, and you can vote by going to azcardinals.com/probowl), seven Cardinals are in the top five in their position, led still by free safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is second only to Carolina’s Kurt Coleman (although Coleman has him by 50,000 votes right now.)

Quarterback Carson Palmer remains among the top 10 in overall vote getters at seventh overall (although he’s behind Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman?) The MVP candidate is fifth among quarterbacks. Here’s the full list of the 11 Cardinals who are in the top 10 for Pro Bowl voting at their positions.

— QB Carson Palmer fifth

— RB Chris Johnson seventh

— WR Larry Fitzgerald fourth

— G Mike Iupati fifth

— DT Calais Campbell fifth

— CB Patrick Peterson fourth

— SS Rashad Johnson seventh and Deone Bucannon ninth

— FS Tyrann Mathieu second

— Kick returner David Johnson 10th

— Special teamer Justin Bethel fourth

ProBowlBlog


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CJ2K down until Super Bowl, so …

Posted by Darren Urban on December 1, 2015 – 3:49 pm

After it came out that Chris Johnson had a fracture in his knee (to be clear, it is a tibial plateau fracture, with a chip in the tibia near the knee), it was pretty clear he was going to miss some time. The Cardinals clarified that Tuesday when CJ was put on the IR-designated to return list, meaning he cannot play before the Super Bowl. You know, assuming the Cardinals can get there.

Many have asked if the Cardinals were going to sign a running back. They promoted Kerwynn Williams from the practice squad. They are hoping Andre Ellington, who looks like he’ll be week to week with a turf toe, comes back sooner rather than later. And I was reminded of what running backs coach Stump Mitchell told Chris Johnson when Johnson was considering signing with the Cardinals back in August.

“I love Andre Ellington,” Mitchell said. “I love Kerwynn Williams. I love Stepfan Taylor. I love all the running backs we have here right now. Honestly, we don’t need you to win.”

This isn’t to denigrate Chris Johnson or what he has accomplished. He is shelved with 814 yards rushing, fourth-best in the NFL for now (and sadly, he won’t be one of the few 1,000-yard rushers for the franchise since moving to Arizona. But I digress.) But assuming the Ellington problem is short-term, the Cardinals are prepared and were prepared to attack this season without CJ2K. Rookie David Johnson has looked pretty good in limited time and he looks like he’ll be the starter if Ellington is gimpy. Would they have been as successful? Hard to know — David Johnson certainly would’ve gotten more work by now — but this isn’t something they feared.

Now, if David Johnson gets hurt, or Ellington can’t get healthy, then there’s a problem. It’s not like this offense was anchored by Chris Johnson. This offense still revolves around Carson Palmer and the passing game. You want the running game to be effective, but there is belief that it will be (with better blocking). There is little question every single guy in that locker room is hoping CJ2K plays again this season. Both for his sake, and for theirs.

NoCJblog

 


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Report: Chris Johnson suffers leg fracture

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2015 – 5:00 pm

There is no official word from the team, but Jay Glazer — the Fox Sports NFL reporter who worked out with Chris Johnson this offseason — reported Monday afternoon that Johnson has a fractured tibia, suffered when he took a helmet to his leg during Sunday’s game in San Francisco. (Multiple reports have since echoed Glazer’s news.) Glazer said the team is still trying to determine how long Johnson might miss, but it’s probably safe to assume he’s out for now.

On a personal level, it’s rough for Johnson, who has 814 yards rushing and has heavy incentives for yardage totals and also for a Pro Bowl berth (which was looking like a lock for a while there.) He had been slowed of late — he has just 138 yards rushing total the past three games — but he was still the starter and the guy the Cards were looking to to grind out yards.

On a team level, there was already a look toward rookie David Johnson since both Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington were hurting. Ellington has a turf toe, and his return is also up in the air. The Cards might be too deep in the season for IR-scheduled-to-return, so it’s an important question of when CJ can come back, or if he can come back. That’s a roster spot that’s valuable, especially with injuries piling up.

CJtibiafracture


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Keim: MRIs pending, but hoping RBs day-to-day

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2015 – 8:12 am

Nothing certain yet on the injuries to running backs Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, but General Manager Steve Keim said Monday during his appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Johnson (bone bruise on his left knee) and Ellington (toe on right foot) both are believed to be day-to-day for now. Both are awaiting MRI results.

As for Sunday’s win, Keim was, not surprisingly, filled with mixed emotions. He noted a phone call he got from close friend/former co-worker/current Bucaneers GM Jason Licht, who told him when watching film of a victory not to be mad just appreciative of a win. Keim said it was good advice. Nevertheless, after watching the 49ers game, Keim acknowledged he was “a little frustrated” and has a page full of notes that “aren’t very good.”

“But a win is a win,” Keim said. “Sometimes, there are letdowns, unfortunately.”

— Keim wouldn’t say the Cardinals got beat up physically up front by the 49ers defensive line. There were times when the Cards were physically beat for sure. Mostly though, Keim said the issues were fundamental, mistakes in passing off blocks on stunts and twists, getting the face across numbers, weakness in getting off combo blocks into the second level that often create the run lanes. It echoed Bruce Arians’ comments after the game that it was about mental lapses on the blocking more than physical.

— Asked about Patrick Peterson’s move to bring in the defense today for film work despite Arians giving the players a Victory Monday off, Keim noted how Peterson has grown into a leader. It doesn’t hurt that Peterson is playing (easily, in my opinion) the best football of his career. Keim: “I don’t know if there is a corner playing better football than Pat right now.”

— There were times when QB Carson Palmer looked a little rattled Sunday. Keim said Palmer can’t be expected to play perfect football every game. “I think Carson would tell you not one of his better games, but he made some huge plays,” Keim added.

— Not a great day for punter Drew Butler or kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who for a second time missed a point-after that could have cost the Cardinals big. Keim noted that the Cards had already brought in other punters and kickers for workouts recently.

“Since then (Butler and Catanzaro) have kicked pretty well,” Keim said. “Sunday, no question that was a concern.”


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Niners aftermath, and a sigh of relief

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2015 – 10:10 pm

J.J. Nelson smiled. His thoughts on his soon-to-be 36-year-old quarterback racing toward the end zone for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown?

“A sigh of relief,” Nelson said.

It’s hard to think of it any other way. This wasn’t like the 47-7 beatdown the Cardinals put on the 49ers back in September. San Francisco has a better quarterback behind center (I can’t believe I typed that, but it is true) than it did then. Still, the Cards only allowed 13 points. What was the cold water on the face Sunday was the Cards’ inability to consistently score and definitely the inability to generate a steady run game. That’s the first game all season Carson Palmer didn’t throw a touchdown pass. It’s so odd to think the Cards won the turnover battle for the first time a month-plus yet had to work so hard to finish off the Niners.

Here’s all you need to know: Bruce Arians gave the players a Victory Monday off — and immediately, Patrick Peterson jumped in and told the defensive players they have to be in by 11 Monday. “We’ve got to fix this,” he said.

— I’ve been wracking my brain since the sequence happened early in the second half, but I cannot remember a weirder sequence than the one during which the Cards scored their first touchdown – nor can I remember a sequence in both sides were frustrated.

It started with a first-and-goal at the SF 3. The Cardinals ended up running nine plays inside the 5. Four were from the 1. And the Cardinals couldn’t push it in. No worries – the 49ers were flagged for four penalties, including three pass interference calls, all of which were automatic first downs. The Cards even tried trickeration, putting Drew Stanton in at QB and splitting Palmer out wide as a receiver, only to have Stanton hand the ball to Chris Johnson for a one-yard loss.

— The plays spotlighted the short-yardage issues the Cards had all game trying to run. Ironic that the score eventually came via the ground, with David Johnson punching one over. But the line of scrimmage was not won by the Cardinals’ offensive line most of the game.

— The Cards ended up with bigger problems running backs-wise than just missed third-and-1 tries. Chris Johnson exited with a left knee injury, and on the same drive, Andre Ellington left with a right foot injury. Their status is TBD. There is a reason the Cardinals built their running back depth, and rookie David Johnson isn’t a bad guy to turn to if the other two are sidelined.

But it’s a concern. Johnson tweeted out a handful of praying hands emojis after the game, although he said he doesn’t think it’s serious. What he is praying about is left to the imagination for now. They will get fully evaluated back in Arizona. Johnson has had issues with his knee all week.

— Tyrann Mathieu was all over the field Sunday with 13 tackles and he picked off Gabbert. He wasn’t satisfied – he was upset he allowed the touchdown pass the 49ers had – but he continues to have an all-pro season.

— The thin cornerback corps could get thinner. Bruce Arians said the Cards are hoping Jerraud Powers’ injury is a calf and not an Achilles issue, but either way, it puts Justin Bethel up again. Thank goodness for the Cards that Patrick Peterson looked fine on his injured ankle.

— It turned out not to matter, but that missed extra point by Chandler Catanzaro really, really could’ve mattered. Cat Man sees again how you can go from hero to near-goat in an awful hurry as a kicker.

— Larry Fitzgerald had 14 targets and 10 catches. He never could get loose – with 66 yards, he is still eight yards shy of 1,000 for the season – but he became the short-yardage answer on third downs when the Cards realized they couldn’t run it.

— On eight run plays in which the Cardinals needed three yards or less, the Cards lost yards on five of them. They were stopped for no gain on two. The other was David Johnson’s one-yard TD at the end of that nine-plays-inside-the-5.

— The 49ers are ticked off about the officials. The Cardinals weren’t thrilled either, but certainly not to the level of the game’s loser. It was not a great day for the officials in terms of making things clear, but their calls impacted the game. No doubt about that. I didn’t get a chance to study the Dial hit on Palmer on replay, but it’s not surprising a flag would be thrown. That’s the NFL we live in these days.

— Wide receiver Smokey Brown looked better than he has in weeks, running full speed down the field, his hamstring apparently not a problem. “I’m almost there,” he said. He had five catches for 99 yards.

— The Seahawks came from behind to win. The Vikings won. It was an important day for the Cards not to give up ground. Now a trip to St. Louis, where physical is going to be the word of the day. More NFC West fun.

J.J. Nelson, Jimmie Ward


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Leaving points, and Friday before the 49ers

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2015 – 3:41 pm

It’s hard not to talk about the points.

The Cardinals lead the NFL in points scored, in case you hadn’t heard. They also have a league-high 176 points on the road – with still three road games left – this season, with their 22 road TDs five more than the rest of the field (Cincinnati is second with 17). They just happen to be visiting San Francisco this weekend, to play a 49ers team that they happened to score a season-high 47 points against earlier this season.

So why is it, when talking to the players or coaches, they always seem to be a bit irritated with how the Cardinals play offense? It’s simple, really. They get ticked when they don’t convert a third down, when they have a red-zone hiccup, when they turn the ball over. Perfecting the “nuances,” as Larry Fitzgerald called them.

“Scary to think if we do, how many points we could score,” Fitzgerald said.

Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin was being asked about the running game and it needing to be more consistent. Even though the Cards have run it fine and again, most points in the league.

“It’s something good for me to get pissed off about,” Goodwin said. “Leaving points out there.”

Goodwin, and Bruce Arians, and everyone else, knows what they have (assuming Carson Palmer is healthy): A deep offense capable of scoring with a great many options, and a quarterback who knows how to make it all run.

“As long as the offensive line protects, we can dice anyone up in this league,” Goodwin said. “I stand on solid ground when I say that.”

— The Cardinals had a long injury list when the week began, but realistically, they aren’t going to be as short-handed as thought. Patrick Peterson looks like he’s going to play, receivers Michael Floyd and John Brown (Brown is “probable” for the first time in a while) both should be on the field and while they are down a couple of defensive lineman, the addition of Red Bryant should help.

— The idea of sitting players because it’s “just the 49ers” is never going to fly, by the way. The Cardinals need all these wins. If you are healthy enough to play, you play. If you aren’t, you don’t. Could that change in Week 17 if the Cards are locked into their playoff position? Sure. But not with six games left.

— Fitzgerald needs 74 yards to reach 1,000 yards receiving in a season for the first time since 2011. That’s been a pretty long drought too.

— Markus Golden already had started a couple of games when Alex Okafor was out, but that starting job is his for good now that LaMarr Woodley is out for the season. Golden is turning out to have the greatest impact from the draft class, with all due respect to Rodney Gunter and David Johnson. Profootballfocus.com has him among the top 10 rookies in the league, and he’s on his way to being a key part of this defense the next few years.

“Since the beginning of the season I’m way better,” Golden said. “I’m more focused, and I’m not thinking as much.”

— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said he loves the outside linebacker rotation, even with the Woodley loss. In a perfect world, he said, those guys would have snap counts in the 20s, although he said he was OK with veteran Dwight Freeney around 30 or 35 snaps.

— S Deone Bucannon was fined $23,152 for his unflagged helmet-to-helmet hit on Bengals receiver A.J. Green last week. It was a surprise the play didn’t draw a penalty. Could that have been the source of the concussion Bucannon suffered?

— One name that could appear now with Woodley out is rookie Shaq Riddick, who has been inactive every game. “We think he’s a guy who is going to be in the mix, could be this weekend, maybe the future,” Bettcher said.

— This will be Mike Iupati’s first game against his former team. If you recall, there was a chance Iupati, coming off training camp knee surgery, would debut against the 49ers, but he wasn’t quite ready that week. He admitted the game will have meaning for him.

“I do care about them,” said Iupati, who spent five seasons in San Francisco. “They are having a tough season. But that’s how it is. It’s football. I don’t know what’s going on over there.”

— The Cards have had a 100-yard receiver in six straight games against the 49ers – either Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd. Floyd in particular has done well in San Francisco. Perhaps he can get there again.

— Both Arians and Goodwin were hoping that the running game will find its way back after a couple of off games versus two good front sevens against the Seahawks and Bengals. The coaches are hoping for more steady plays – four yards every play, rather than getting one looking for a big one. It’s a concept running back Chris Johnson admitted isn’t always easy.

“Being the type of player I am, the type of back I am who is so used to breaking the long runs, getting big gains,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of tough being patient and waiting on it. It’s the sort of thing where you’ve got to understand the gameplan of the week and you’ve got to stick to it.”

— Johnson also said at age 30, the maintenance needed to stay ready at this point (he’s averaging 24 carries the past three games) is crucial.

“You’ve got to put more time in as far as off the field,” Johnson said, referring to massages and the training room. “You put more time in and you’ll be OK when Sunday gets here.”

— Crazy to think the Cards have had more trouble winning in San Francisco than Seattle. But a win this weekend, and the Cardinals are 3-1 in the NFC West. If there is anything Arians has yet to accomplish, it’s a winning record within the division. That’s something they’d like to check off the list.

FloydBeforeNoinersBLOG


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11 Cards still top 10 in Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2015 – 12:19 pm

The Cardinals continue to do well in Pro Bowl voting (which you can do yourself by clicking here or going to azcardinals.com/probowl. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has dropped out of the overall top 10, but quarterback Carson Palmer remains there, seventh overall and the fifth quarterback. Fitzgerald is now fourth among wide receivers, behind Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones.

The top Cardinal at a position remains free safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is still second among his position, 14,000 votes or so behind Carolina’s Kurt Coleman (the Panthers have a fanbase dedicated to the voting; they rank high at most positions.) The other Cardinals ranked in the top 10 at their respective positions:

— RB Chris Johnson is fifth.

— Mike Iupati fell to sixth among guards.

— DT Calais Campbell is fifth.

— CB Patrick Peterson is fourth.

— Rashad Johnson is sixth and Deone Bucannon is eighth among strong safeties.

— David Johnson is 10th among kick returners.

— Justin Bethel is fourth for special teamers.

Pro Bowl voting continues through Dec. 15.

ProBowlVotePP


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