The Cardinals were down 17-14 at halftime Sunday, thanks to the blocked field goal of Justin Bethel on the final play of the second quarter. At that point, linebacker Daryl Washington said, the defense as a unit committed to the idea 17 points was the most it could allow. A lofty goal. But if Rashard Mendenhall doesn’t fumble the ball away late inside the 10 — and if Andre Johnson doesn’t make yet another spectacular toe-tapping touchdown on fourth down for the Texans — the Cardinals’ defense would have pulled it off.
The Texans gained just 41 net yards in the second half and had zero net yards in the third quarter. In the second half, Houston had just three plays of at least 10 yards — two 11-yard passes and an 11-yard run. And in their five wins, the Cardinals — who were down at halftime in four of those games — have allowed just 21 points in the second half. They have 20 turnovers, which is tied for fifth in the league (and it should be higher if Karlos Dansby could hang on to the ball — more on that later today.)
– As of now, Elias is checking out whether John Abraham and not Frostee Rucker should get the late 23-yard sack of Case Keenum. It’s tough to tell on replay if Keenum lost his balance because of Rucker or because he was trying to dive out of the way of Abraham. Even if Abraham “only” ends up with two sacks yesterday, he’s one of only seven players this season with five sacks and three forced fumbles — nice production and exactly what the Cards were hoping for.
– Bethel’s block was the Cards’ 16th blocked field-goal attempt since 2008, by far the best in the NFL. Seattle is second with 10.
– Carson Palmer’s TD pass to Rob Housler was Palmer’s 200th in his career.
– RB Andre Ellington and his 7.19-per-carry rush average remains second in the league behind Oakland QB Terrelle Pryor (7.41) and by far the best running back with at least 50 rushing attempts.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Daryl Washington, Frostee Rucker, John Abraham, Justin Bethel, Rashard Mendenhall, Texans
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Daryl Washington, Houston Texans, NFL, Salute to Service, Texans
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In training camp, a couple of defensive players kept saying they thought the defense of Todd Bowles was actually more aggressive than that of Ray Horton, which frankly surprised me. I wasn’t sure that was possible. Late last week (sorry, with the bye weekend I’m just catching up) profootballfocus.com did research on teams — both offensively and defensively — who had allowed and created the most unblocked pressure on the quarterback. Guess who was at the top of the defensive list.
Again, these are the games charted prior to this weekend, but the Cardinals had managed to get unblocked pressure 49 times in eight games, tops in the league, and were able to hit the quarterback 61.2 percent of the time, which was the third-highest percentage. What does it mean? It means Bowles and his defense have been able to create enough confusion with their rushes/blitzes that guys are coming free (linebackers Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington are among the top individual players).
Also interesting to me: On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals have allowed 18 unblocked pressures, tied for sixth-fewest in the NFL — meaning that for all the faults of the pass protection, the scheme is at least accounting for the pass rushers most of the time. (And yes, it probably means the opposition blitzes less because they think they can beat the blockers with a four-man rush too.)
This week will be a test. Watching the Texans’ defensive line attack Indy’s Andrew Luck Sunday night with J.J. Watt and former Cardinal Antonio Smith, among others, was eye-opening. On the other side of the ball, Houston QB Case Keenum can certainly move around. But the Cards will have had two weeks to prep. And the Texans have to be reeling after another crushing loss.
Tags: Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby, Pro Football Focus, Texans, Todd Bowles
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This isn’t going to be lengthy, not with the bye weekend here and time off embraced. But here at the halfway point, I was trying to consider team MVP candidates from either side of the ball. Defensively, there are choices. Linebacker Daryl Washington may have only played four games, but he’s quickly shown why he is so important and he’s in the mix. Defensive end Calais Campbell has been outstanding, and I think given the matchups he is faced with each week, cornerback Patrick Peterson has been pretty good too. Veterans Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett have been solid as well.
Offensively, though, um, I’m not sure there is one. I guess you’d go with Andre Ellington at this point, even though he hasn’t gotten the ball a ton. Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t made enough of an impact in that regard, it doesn’t seem. Neither has Michael Floyd. I will say, I am very, very interested to see if this offense can make some steps forward in the second half of the season (especially with the schedule upcoming) or if they just are who they are.
– Congrats to Ellington, by the way, for winning the NFL’s Fed Ex Ground player of the week award, voted on by the fans.
– Tyrann Mathieu has been outstanding, and we don’t need national awards to prove it. Yes, I think the safety has a chance to win defensive rookie of the year. He already is making the move to displace Rashad Johnson as a starter. I’ll be curious to know if that stays the same against Houston. Another thing the first half has shown me: Mathieu is a great tackler. Not good, great. He’s the best tackler on the team (and no, Tyrann, I’m not just talking pound-for-pound). That’s been the most impressive part of his game for me.
– Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin can quip with the best of them, and the de facto offensive line coach was talking about that unit when he mentioned left tackle Bradley Sowell. “He didn’t give up a sack, thank God.” There was a little sarcasm there for all the Sowell questions he gets, and some truth too. But Profootballfocus.com not only graded Sowell with having his best game against Atlanta last week in not giving up a sack, PFF said Sowell didn’t even allow a QB pressure.
– Both Fitzgerald and Floyd rank high on PFF’s drop-rate list, so that’s good. They just have to see more catchable passes.
– Amazing. A future opponent loses another good player, with the news today Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon is suspended indefinitely for violating the substance-abuse policy. Blackmon had already been suspended the first four games of the season. What a waste.
– OK, that’s enough. Back to the regular season next week. And in the meantime, here’s a very cool slow-motion capture of that rumblin’, stumblin’ run of Stepfan Taylor against the Falcons. The play gained 15 yards, and he earned every one of them.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bradley Sowell, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Harold Goodwin, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Stepfan Taylor, Tyrann Mathieu
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2014 Pro Bowl balloting is now open! For the first time, the Pro Bowl will be unconferenced. You vote for the best players regardless of conference. Then, the stars will be realigned through a fantasy draft format with Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders serving as alumni captains. Vote now for your favorite Cardinals at AZCardinals.com/probowl
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, NFL, Patrick Peterson, Pro Bowl 2014, Pro Bowl voting, Tyrann Mathieu
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Daryl Washington, Instagram
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The Cardinals were hoping to at least get a split in this five-game stretch against the elite of the NFC West. That didn’t happen, clearly. So the Cards move on, with an extra couple of days to prep for a flailing Atlanta team that will come into Arizona a week from Sunday. The next three games are home against the Falcons and Texans – neither of which have played very well and have been punished with injuries – and then a road trip to Jacksonville. The season could turn quickly. But the Cards better figure out what ails them, especially offensively.
It’s late. This won’t be long. But in light of a rough game against the Seahawks Thursday night:
– Bruce Arians said he didn’t consider a quarterback change. What would go into the process, he was asked. It’s not just interceptions themselves.
“It’s the reasons for the interceptions,” Arians said. “Is it his decision-making? If it’s his decision-making, then we will make the change. The first (interception) to me was obvious pass interference (on Larry Fitzgerald), and the safety makes a great play. The second one was just a poor decision. Those are the ones we have to look at.”
– No surprise defensive end Calais Campbell played. He said there was a doubt coming into the day, but once he ran around he felt ready. He had a team-high eight tackles. Campbell also warmed up in an old-school Bryan Cox neck-brace/extension (google the image) but apparently discarded it before coming out for kickoff.
– I haven’t seen Andrew Luck play yet, but my vote right now for the best QB out of the current young bunch is Russell Wilson. He is so impressive on so many levels.
– The slow start was on both the offense and defense Thursday. Veteran safety Yeremiah Bell lamented too many busted coverages early — something that shouldn’t be happening — and Daryl Washington complained about the shoddy tackling. The offense needs to be much, much better but that’s 66 points allowed in the two games this week.
– So in the last two Thursday games the Cards have played, they have allowed a total of 16 sacks. That’s a tough way to live on national TV.
– Not the way I’m sure Machine wanted his send-off. Regardless, good luck in retirement.
– Larry Fitzgerald could have drilled defensive back Walter Thurmond on a blindside block early in the game. He did not, and Thurmond, while blocked, could’ve been much worse for wear. Later in the game, Fitzgerald did pop Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman harder, although replays showed Fitz could’ve creamed him much harder. And you wonder why Fitz has such a good reputation among his peers.
“I tried not to hit him too hard,” Fitzgerald said. “They fine you on those crackbacks and penalize you too. I didn’t want to put my team in a position to lose 15 yards in the red zone like that. I just tried to make a smart play.”
– GM Steve Keim said Bradley Sowell was going to have his ups and downs at left tackle. Thursday was definitely a down. He had a rough game getting pushed back, down and away by what is a very good Seattle defensive line. There were plenty of plays where other linemen had issues, but Sowell – with the Seahawks able to pin their ears back and come without fear of the run – was overmatched one-on-one much of the time.
– Not a whole lot else to say on this one. The Seahawks a good team. Better than the 49ers right now. After these two games, the Cards know where they stand. They wish it was in a better spot.
Tags: Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Daryl Washington, Larry Fitzgerald, Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, Seahawks, Yeremiah Bell
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Karlos Dansby was an extra.
Yes, the Cardinals already had Daryl Washington and knew Washington was going to be suspended the first four games of this season. So the team brought in veteran Jasper Brinkley on a two-year deal and had just spent a second-round pick on Kevin Minter. They still had Reggie Walker at the time. They’d bid their time at inside linebacker until Washington returned. Dansby was too expensive anyway. But then Dansby wasn’t, dropping his price and his thoughts on an extended contract, and he was willing to sign in Arizona for one year and $2.25 million. It was a bargain if Dansby could play like the Cardinals remembered. Now, he is doing just that.
But again, in this ever-changing, fluid world of roster churn, Dansby wasn’t part of the plan when GM Steve Keim first started this overhaul. So now the question is whether Dansby is now part of the plan.
Dansby’s play has been fantastic. He is in great shape, he and Washington are pushing each other and ‘Los smiles all the time. He’s a happy man. Some have suggested that having Minter sit on the bench is crazy, that Minter is a second-round pick and should play. To that I answer this: For who? Minter was probably going to play at some point until Dansby landed in the Cards’ laps. Right now, both Dansby and Washington are playing well. You don’t break that up just to say you are playing your second-round pick. Minter, at some point, will get his chance.
As for Dansby, yes, he will turn 32 next month, but he would seem to be a candidate for a extension. Does that happen? There is no question Karlos was expecting more from the free-agent market last offseason and now he’ll be a year older. Does he want to test the market? He said he’s not worrying about his contract situation, and I believe him. He already had reality slap him in the face last offseason. But this is where Steve Keim earns his salary, determining not only if and how Dansby fits beyond this season, but also how much to offer. In this new world of football analytics, you just don’t pay a lot for aging inside linebackers, even if they have played well. You are adjusting for what you are going to get, not what you already have gotten, and it will be very interesting to see what the price point will be for Dansby.
Clearly, though, the return of ‘Los to Arizona has been a tremendous success. He may have started as an extra, but he’s become much more.
Tags: Daryl Washington, Jasper Brinkley, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Steve Keim
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Some newsy quick hitters after Bruce Arians addressed the media today, the day after Daryl Washington’s return-to-action party:
– Arians sees Andre Ellington’s role at 30 to 35 plays a game. But that might top it out. Arians said he doesn’t see Ellington’s body type to hold up with a much heavier workload, and he emphasized Ellington will continue to get work as both running back and receiver.
– Stepfan Taylor is doing a “great job” on special teams. Ryan Williams, as we have said ourselves many times, doesn’t play special teams, Arians said. So Williams isn’t going to be active. I think that changes if there is an injury, but in the meantime, Williams will stay inactive, it looks like.
– The only injury from Sunday was a hamstring problem for linebacker Kenny Demens, which will likely sideline him this week, Arians said. Linebacker Jasper Brinkley (groin) and safety Rashad Johnson (finger) should return this week, the coach added. Arians said he didn’t want Johnson playing with a big “mitt” of a cast, but Johnson should be down to a small splint this week.
– He said Andre Roberts was playing inside early in the season when he was effective, and when tight end Rob Housler came back, Roberts went outside and became less effective. It’s something the coaches will look at.
– As far as Housler, he’s a “work in progress” Arians said. “He’s not on the same page as Carson (Palmer),” Arians added.
– Arians said there would be no change in the schedule to prepare for next week’s short week, which features a trip to San Francisco for Sunday and then a home game against Seattle a week from Thursday. The Cards won’t worry about Seattle until after San Francisco, Arians said.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Daryl Washington, Jasper Brinkley, Kenny Demens, Rashad Johnson, Rob Housler, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor
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Larry Fitzgerald was asked what he could say about the defense.
“You can’t say enough about the defense,” the Pro Bowl wide receiver said.
It was an impressive showing Sunday. It’s one thing to beat up a rookie QB like Mike Glennon. But Cam Newton had been playing pretty well, and while the Panthers got a few
yards, they didn’t get points, and the big plays were everywhere. If this team gets inside linebacker play from Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby like that, it won’t need nearly as much from its outside linebackers. Calais Campbell was a beast too. (And I really, really like what I have seen from new nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu. Dan Williams played well too. Nice to have some strength at the point of attack.)
We’ll get back to the defense in a moment, though.
It was hard not to notice Fitzgerald and the way he took on his press conference, clearly tussling with the mixed emotions of a victory yet knowing a) the offense didn’t play very well again and b) he was going to have to answer questions about it. Again.
He said the win helped “keeps you sane a little bit.” Then Fitz chuckled that knowing chuckle – did he learn that from Anquan once upon a time – when you can’t really say what you want to say. “We’ve got to get better.”
Then he was asked if he was surprised points are so hard to come by. “How surprised am I? Um. I don’t want to answer that. Uh.” And then another smiling chuckle. “I’m, I’m, um. We’ve got to do better.”
The Cardinals are 3-2 and the fact Bruce Arians went to the run a bit more Sunday is a good sign, because the passing game is having more ups and downs than they want. Can it get fixed? More importantly, will it be effective enough for the San Francisco-Seattle five-day twosome the Cards have next week? They better hope so.
– I’ll say this: If the Cards can perform this way defensively, they should at least be in games. Washington’s return was impressive, but the fact Dansby was everywhere was too. Dansby is a smart football player. He might not always have the speed anymore to get to where he wants to be, but he knows where he should be. That duo played the whole game at inside linebacker. Yes, Jasper Brinkley was hurt, but I think we know what direction the Cards are going there. Kevin Minter, barring injury, is going to be waiting a while before he gets to play defense.
– That’s two straight outstanding games for Patrick Peterson, I thought, and he almost broke that interception return.
– The pressure was intense often on Carson Palmer. It was mostly on the interior Arians said, and I tend to agree. Bradley Sowell was fine at left tackle, but we all knew the next two games were going to be a stiffer test.
– I think it probably went through the coaches’ minds to use Drew Stanton Sunday. I didn’t think they would both because Palmer tends to rally – and he did, for a second straight week, throw a late TD pass – and because that’s an open can of worms that changes a season regardless of what happens. But it’s not like they have a rookie behind Palmer. And we all know the trust Arians has in Stanton. Something to watch if Palmer continues to struggle.
– The Cardinals hadn’t had seven sacks in a game since they had eight against Dallas Sept. 13, 1987. For those scoring at home, that’s the last season in St. Louis for the franchise.
– Calais Campbell’s sack for a safety was the Cards’ first regular-season safety since 2004. Yes, they had one more recently – the infamous Steelers hold in the end zone giving the Cards two (important) points in Super Bowl XLIII.
– If there was a way to wed a punter and gunner together in a Pro Bowl category, there would be votes for Dave Zastudil and Justin Bethel. By the way, a 48.3 net average for Zastudil Sunday with two of four inside the 20.
– The game might have been different if the Panthers didn’t have four drops, including one sure TD by Steve Smith on the first drive of the game. Three instead of seven. The Cards will take it.
– Arians said it was Michael Floyd’s fault on the first interception, the reasoning being if the Cards are going to call for a jump ball, the receiver has to at least knock it down. Sounds fair.
– Antoine Cason sighting: The veteran cornerback has not played defense much at all, but he was in the right place when Campbell had his second sack, and Cason grabbed the ball in the air and returned it inside the Carolina 10.
“I haven’t played a lot,” Cason said. “But whenever they call me to play, that’s what I come to do. Don’t complain. Just go to work.”
– I could go forever but there will be more tomorrow. San Francisco week beckons.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Antoine Cason, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, Daryl Washington, Dave Zastudil, Drew Stanton, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Panthers
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