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Cast comes off for David Johnson

Posted by Darren Urban on November 13, 2017 – 1:49 pm

David Johnson’s cast officially came off Monday, and the running back tweeted about it. That part has been expected. Now the wait is on a couple of other factors as to whether Johnson actually could/will return this season. There is no disputing Johnson wants to get back on the field. But he did acknowledge rehab has to still take place — Carson Palmer was talking Saturday about the loss of strength and muscle in that area for himself and Johnson. That’s a major factor, especially for a guy who needs power and strength in his wrist to both hold the ball and pass protect if needed. No way to really know how long that would take.

The other part is where the team fits into the equation. As with Palmer, one of the factors for a Johnson comeback is the very basic notion of, for what? Whenever Johnson comes back, it needs to be for a reason. Will the Cardinals still be in playoff consideration? Even if they are not, is there reason to want to get him back on the field for another reason, like to see how he’d work with Adrian Peterson? Perhaps.

The cast had to come off first though. And it has.


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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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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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David Johnson return not before Thanksgiving

Posted by Darren Urban on October 12, 2017 – 11:01 am

Now that Adrian Peterson has arrived, it’s fair to wonder about when — and if — David Johnson will be more than just a locker room-mate at running back. Johnson, on injured reserve with his surgically repaired left wrist, said rehab is “going great.”

“Just got my cast, it’s going good, wrist is feeling great,” Johnson said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Johnson wouldn’t put a timetable on his comeback. “Wait and see how it heals,” he said.

Coach Bruce Arians said on his SiriusXM NFL radio appearance Wednesday night that the “earliest” Johnson would return would be Thanksgiving. That weekend, the Cardinals host the Jaguars, and there would be six games left in the season. There are still five games in between then and now. Arians had previously put Johnson’s return sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so his comment this week remains in line with that.

Johnson said it was a “humbling moment” to see Peterson come in the locker room. “It’s going to be cool to pick his brain and learn from it.” (Johnson, however, was disappointed Chris Johnson was released, calling Johnson his mentor.)

“The opportunities I’ve had to talk to him were brief,” Peterson said of his relationship with David Johnson. “He came to Minnesota, and I just had to congratulate him on the things that he had accomplished so far and things like that. He was just like, ‘Hey man, I’m just trying to be like you. You’re one of the guys that have paved the way.’ So for me, I sit back and kind of just marvel and smile when I hear young guys like that say how I influenced them and their play and their work ethic.”


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That Philly feeling, Friday before the Eagles

Posted by Darren Urban on October 6, 2017 – 3:36 pm

The Cardinals are en route to Philly right now, the fifth trip there since 2008, and the previous four have had some memorable moments. The 2008 game was the ugly Thanksgiving night beatdown, with the Cardinals losing by four touchdowns yet coming out of it not afraid at all of the Eagles (which showed a couple months later when they beat the Eagles in the NFC Championship.) The 2011 game was an improbable 21-17 win with John Skelton throwing a pair of perfect passes on the game-winning drive, one on a wheel route to the Hyphen, LaRod Stephens-Howling, and then a bomb to Fitz. In 2013, Bruce Arians’ first year, the Cards lost 24-21 when a late pick by Patrick Peterson was wiped out by a flag on Tyrann Mathieu, a penalty the Cards weren’t thrilled was called.

But it was the last trip that encapsulated so much with the Cardinals, especially in relation to where they are now. It was a 40-17 domination by the Cardinals on “Sunday Night Football.” The Cardinals clinched the NFC West title that night, an accomplishment that seems so much longer ago than 22 months. It was David Johnson’s coming-out party, with his Beastmode-like run and his career-best 187 yards rushing. And it was Mathieu’s devastating second ACL tear, that took all the wind from the excitement of the night and might’ve cost the Cardinals a chance at the Super Bowl.

The Cards have been a .500 team since then. Mathieu is still trying to find his groove. Johnson is hurt and cannot help. Chasing a division title is still a goal, but there is much to be fixed for that to be a topic.

— The Cardinals not only will have the early start Sunday – 10 a.m. Arizona time – but there might be a little rain. Bruce Arians doesn’t care. “They are all excuses,” the coach said in his opening statement Friday. It’ll be the first game the Cards will have played outside this season.

— After two rough games, right tackle Jared Veldheer was the highest-graded offensive lineman from the San Francisco game and offensive line coach Harold Goodwin said he was “proud” of Veldheer. “The biggest thing for him is gaining confidence but I was pleased,” Goodwin said.

— Arians, who was hired as Temple’s head coach at age 30 and left the job in part because it literally was making him physically sick, was asked if in-his-30s Arians would have imagined himself still coaching now (Arians turned 65 earlier this week).

“I would hope so, if I wasn’t dead,” Arians said. “That job down there killed me.”

— Another Philly guy is Earl Watford, who just signed this week and now could be in the starting lineup at guard Sunday. It looked like Watford’s days as a Cardinal were over, having played out his contract and with both sides ready to start fresh. But here we are.

“A lot of people would think that, but it’s just another opportunity,” Watford said. “I’m glad to be back here. To be familiar with people, playbook, coaches, I’m excited to be here.”

— Linebacker Haason Reddick now finds himself in the outside linebackers meeting room, trying to cram for a new role after the loss of Markus Golden. I’m very curious to see the snap spilt between he and Kareem Martin.

— Reddick, who is technically from New Jersey but lived just five miles from Philly and went to school there at Temple, said his call for the best cheesesteak comes from Max’s and he’s going to try and get some teammates to join him there.

As for the best way to eat a cheesesteak, it’s American cheese for Reddick. “I don’t do Cheese Whiz.”

“Cheese Whiz is a tourist attraction,” Reddick said. “Anyone who is really from Philly, I’ve never seen them put Cheese Whiz on their cheesesteak. I think that’s a little bizarre.”

(To be fair, it looks like an ongoing debate.)

— Carson Palmer has taken a lot of hits – 43, officially, in four games. “Hey, I don’t want to see him get hit,” Goodwin said. “Mr. Bidwill is paying that guy a lot of money.”

Part of that is the Cards’ lack of run game. Palmer is passing so much he’s inevitably going to be hit more, just like he’s on pace to obliterate his personal highs in attempts, completions and yards. But that doesn’t absolve the pass protection – or the struggles therein. Goodwin said he woke up early last week and the protection issues popped into his mind so quickly he just got up and came to the office. It was 4:30 a.m.

“That’s my job,” Goodwin said. “I embrace the pressure though. It’ll never break me.”

— Finally, there’s the case of Fitz the Philly killer. He had a nondescript three catches for 43 yards in that 2015 blowout of the Eagles – and even with that game averaged in, he’s still averaged (including the NFC Championship game) more than six catches, 104 yards and more than a touchdown per game against the Eagles all-time.

“He’s the same guy all the time,” Eagles cornerback Malcolm Jenkins told ESPN.

The Cards wouldn’t mind some of that same ol’ Fitz Sunday.


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A banged-up OL, and Friday before the Niners

Posted by Darren Urban on September 29, 2017 – 4:03 pm

Well, this is where the Cardinals are. In a week in which Friday finally felt like the day where the offensive line wouldn’t be the major topic, it became the major topic. It’s not so much that Mike Iupati is likely headed for IR – he hadn’t been playing – but Alex Boone is also missing time and Bruce Arians was anything but clear about D.J. Humphries’ availability.

I mean, even OC/OL coach Harold Goodwin is working on the gallows humor. “I’m planning on suiting up sooner or later,” he said.

It’s not like the game is going to be canceled. If Humphries is in there, fine, but if he can’t go, it’s probable we’ll see rookie Will Holden in the lineup, with he and John Wetzel in some combo of guard/tackle on the left side. Not ideal, and that’s even if the right side of Evan Boehm and Jared Veldheer were playing well, which has not happened of late.

Carson Palmer played well last week. The Cards moved the ball. Offensively, with John Brown back to at least play a little, the Cards have some guys who can help gain yards. But the line has to keep Palmer upright. It’s not unfair to wonder how that can happen.

“As you saw, because (the media) was writing earlier in the season Carson doesn’t have it anymore, that’s not the issue,” Goodwin said. “As long as he is protected, the ball is going to come out, it’s going to go to the right place and we’re going to score points. If he’s not protected, we’re going to struggle.”

— Bruce Arians was asked, now that the Cards have been through a couple of games, when the offense most misses the injured David Johnson.

“Every play,” Arians said. “Either fake it to him hand it to him or throw it to him.”

Sounds about right.

— I am curious to see how Andre Ellington is deployed. Brown may be back and I expect J.J. Nelson to play, but both probably won’t be their explosive selves. Ellington is really that only guy right now.

— Having Larry Fitzgerald go deep for a couple of long passes Monday night was some excellent nostalgia. How much it can happen, realistically, is another story. It’s not so much Fitz can’t make the catch in traffic. You still trust him in jump ball situations. But Fitz’s ability to get down the field fast to be in position to try for one isn’t what it was, and with the problems with protection, can the Cards keep Palmer up long enough to get Fitz where he needs to be?

— Deone Bucannon won’t be playing all the time, not yet, but this is where we get to see how the Cardinals want to deploy him with Haason Reddick and Karlos Dansby. I want to see the package – assuming there is one – that has both Bucannon and Reddick. DC James Bettcher said you don’t want to have too many specific packages, because it hampers the other nine or 10 players who would be on the field.

— Two numbers that, to me, are poison to the Cardinals right now: Allowing opponents to score TDs on 87 percent of red-zone visits, and averaging 2.8 yards per carry rushing the ball. One on each side of the ball. They have to change.

— Don’t forget Kurt Warner’s Hall of Fame bust will be on display at University of Phoenix Stadium Saturday from 12-4 p.m. if you want to get a picture. Warner will be presented with his Hall of Fame ring at halftime of Sunday’s game.

— Holden proposed to his girlfriend on the 50-yard line after the Monday night game.

“Football has been a big part of my life and a big part of her life now,” Holden said. “She’s been with me since day one at Vanderbilt. I felt like that was a special place.”

— See you Sunday. The Cardinals want to at least be .500 after the first quarter of the season. Even though the 49ers are 0-3, that’s not a lock.


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