On a brutal night, Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 10, 2017 – 12:16 am

It was hard to disagree with Larry Fitzgerald Thursday night when he said it felt like every time he turned around, trainers were running on to the field. I don’t know if football on a short week had anything to do with some of the injuries – when a large man rolls up on your leg during a play, that’s not day-of-the-week-related – but nonetheless, when you are talking about looking forward, that’s where you start.

A loss is a loss and it took a late touchdown to get a six-point deficit, but mostly, the Cards felt they put themselves in a position where they could have beaten the Seahawks. They didn’t, they are in a bad place in terms of chasing a playoff spot with seven games to go, and part of the reason it’s a bad place is because the injuries are headed to insurmountable.

If D.J. Humphries is done with an ACL injury, it’s a killer. A big reason the Cards’ offensive line had so many problems earlier in the year was because their left tackle was hurt. He had truly taken a step forward, and now his 2017 season sounds like it could be over after just five games. As good as Tyvon Branch has been this season, that is a little different, because Budda Baker is there and he’ll get a chance to have some defensive snaps.

Meanwhile, John Wetzel will go back into the lineup. I don’t expect Jared Veldheer to flip sides, but we’ll see. And the Cardinals will have to make it work.

— Adrian Peterson got his carries. He just couldn’t get any yards. But the Cardinals stuck with it.

— It wasn’t a good game for Peterson with the fumble on the first play and the safety. But the Cardinals’ punt return team can’t put the offense on its own 2 against the Seattle defense, with Kerwynn Williams fielding a ball inside his own 5 and then Justin Bethel getting a second holding call.

— Also, for those complaining about the Peterson run on the safety with the loaded box, I’ll respectfully disagree. If Stanton had thrown on first down and there was a holding call in the end zone or he was sacked, the village folk would’ve come after Arians with the torches and pitchforks. I’m OK with a run. Just has to be executed much better.

— I understand Antoine Bethea might’ve played the Baldwin 54-yard catch differently, especially when it was second-and-a-mile. I get that. But don’t talk to me about Russell Wilson being lucky. When he’s done it dozens – he’s probably up to the hundreds at this point – of times, it’s not luck anymore. The guy is both amazing and frustrating. Knowing he’ll be a roadblock to the Cards for years makes him feel like Jordan with the Bulls and the Cards are those Cavaliers from back in the day.

— Drew Stanton made some bad throws. But I felt like his pass catchers let him down more than he had errant throws. (*Waits for everyone to say how Blaine Gabbert needs to start*)

— Fitz was solid. Another 100-yard game, and it might’ve been the quietest 100-yard game of Fitz’s career.

— The Seahawks had 12 penalties, and they were already leading the league with more than 10 a game. Six of them gave the Cardinals first downs.

— Chandler Jones gets another sack, his 10th. Of course, I’m sure he wishes he had gotten his 11th on that second-and-21.

— Defensive lineman Olsen Pierre had an excellent game. And cornerback Tramon Williams continues to show he has something left.

— OK, that’s enough for tonight. The mini-bye awaits, and the Deshaun Watson-less Texans, in Houston, are next. Time to regroup. Again.


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Of Fitz and fans, Wednesday before the Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on November 8, 2017 – 4:33 pm

Drew Stanton targets Larry Fitzgerald more than any other receiver when he is quarterbacking.

“Wouldn’t you throw it to Larry?” Stanton asked with a raised eyebrow.

OK, it makes sense. Fitz is kinda good. But Stanton said there are other reasons to look for Fitzgerald, and it can help the Cardinals Thursday night against the Seahawks.

“I’m not dumb,” Stanton said. “I know that we get in this stadium Thursday night, and I throw him a pass and he gets up and goes nuts, that crowd is going to respond. That’s a huge asset for us. The offense goes through him. We feed off of that.”

I can imagine Fitz after a 17-yard pickup in a big moment, jumping off the turf and putting his head back in one of those primal screams as the crowd chants “LAR-RY” over and over. The Cardinals will need some of that. They are 4-4 and a win puts them ahead of the Seahawks in the NFC West and Seattle is likely down one of their best defenders in Earl Thomas. But this is a Cards team that’s still banged up itself, missing its quarterback, and yet to shut down an offense as capable as Seattle’s. It feels like emotions will matter. (Not as much as a solid defense, but you get the point.)

— Fitzgerald, by the way, shrugged off Stanton’s suggestion. “We’ve got to get the ball to Adrian,” Fitz said. “Let him feed and we’ll get him opportunities. He’s the linchpin right now.”

Adrian is Adrian Peterson, of course, the man who had 37 carries Sunday and could get a whole heaping helping of more Thursday night. It won’t be simple, of course. The Seahawks a) know it’s coming and b) are much better up front than the 49ers.

— Peterson knows what’s up too. As he said Wednesday, it can be “famine, famine, feast” when it comes to carries. Stick with the run, he was saying. So the defense just needs to keep it close.  As Bruce Arians noted, the formula against the Seahawks is often, run, run, run to make sure that defense can’t make big plays. I don’t know if AD gets 30 carries – he’s only had back-to-back 30-carry games once in his eventual Hall of Fame career – but he’ll be used. A lot.

— Speaking of workloads, a side note: While researching my Peterson story from earlier this week I came across this one, only part of which I knew. Buccaneers running back James Wilder had an incredible 407 carries in 1984, which is one I remembered. What I didn’t know is he had 85 pass receptions that season as well. Mind-boggling.

— The Cardinals battled the Seahawks to a 6-6 tie last season in Arizona and it was a game that belonged to the Cards’ defense. The Seahawks only were able to send it to overtime because of a blocked punt. The defense earned that win against Russell Wilson and company. That’s the kind of performance that side of the ball will need again.

— It came late, but Chandler Jones got another sack Sunday, and with nine in eight games he’s on pace to beat the franchise record. Simeon Rice had 16½ in 1999.

— Fitzgerald is a key, but not just because he can catch the ball. It’s his importance in the run game, and blocking (something Fitz does not get enough credit for, and something that always seems to jump out against the Seahawks.) Fitz calls the Seahawks the toughest matchup of the year because he has to block big strong safety Kam Chancellor so often. He even said he pushes his final bench press of Seattle week to 315 pounds knowing the rugged day he is in for.

“It’s like blocking a refrigerator for 60 minutes,” Fitzgerald said. “Toradol shots and smelling salts, everything else I can muster up to try and deal with this guy.”

— With the returns of David Johnson and Carson Palmer on the back burner at best, Arians did say that the return from IR by running back T.J. Logan has not been ruled out. Logan has been out since dislocating his wrist back in early August in the Hall of Fame game. Arians said Logan, who has already been eligible to return, will finally get on the field next week to see if he can catch punts while wearing a brace.

“To see where he’s at,” Arians said.

— The offensive line finally has some long-term continuity going, and it’s showing up. It goes beyond the tangible 159 yards rushing for Peterson last week.

“They were running some tricky stuff up front and we were passing it off,” center A.Q. Shipley said. “It was cool to watch on film. That helps us moving forward because now Seattle and other teams moving forward they’re like, ‘OK, they can pick things up.’ It’s huge. We all get along very well, communication comes easy in that group. Hopefully we can stay with it.”

— Speaking of the O-line, hope you had a chance to read how D.J. Humphries’ kid kept him in the NFL.

— One of the things that has hurt the Seahawks this season is penalties. Seattle is averaging an astounding 10.2 per game. There is still half a season to go, but only one team in NFL history has averaged 10 penalties a game, the 2011 Oakland Raiders.

— The roof at University of Phoenix Stadium will be open Thursday night. Plan accordingly.

See you there.

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Keim: Kicking problems “cannot happen again”

Posted by Darren Urban on November 6, 2017 – 8:19 am

It turned out not to matter, but it could have, so after Phil Dawson’s missed field goal Sunday — his sixth in eight games — General Manager Steve Keim said the issues with the whole unit have to be fixed. Quickly.

“The hard part is, the preseason and everything we saw out of Phil moving forward, felt like he was going to be a huge addition to this team and bring consistency to that spot,” Keim said Monday on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “For whatever reason, things aren’t clicking right now. We just have to go back to the basics and really dig in and see what’s going wrong and make sure we fix it, because it cannot happen again.”

Coach Bruce Arians blamed a bad snap from long snapper Justin Drescher, and Keim acknowledged the snap was low. Keim also said holder Andy Lee did manage to salvage it. Keim also said he was disappointed in the field-goal unit not only from the kicking standpoint but also in the blocking and the technical aspects.

“(Phil) has got to be held accountable,” Keim said. “In my opinion, when you’re getting paid, you’ve got to make those kicks. I don’t think that’s any secret.”

It does not sound like the Cardinals would consider looking at any kickers at least this week. A short week and a game Thursday plays into that, Keim said.

— There was praise for quarterback Drew Stanton in the win, but Keim also underscored the reality that the Cardinals benefit from the run game — in this case, Adrian Peterson’s career-high/franchise-record 37 carries for 159 yards.

“There’s no doubt we knew we had to run the ball effectively and I don’t think that’s a secret going forward the rest of the season,” Keim said.

— The offensive line did pretty well, particularly left guard Alex Boone and left tackle D.J. Humphries, Keim said. That’s what happens when the team stays committed to the run and balanced offensively. “Give those guys a chance,” Keim said, before acknowledging that it’ll be a tougher task Thursday against the Seahawks.

— Peterson had a second great game in three appearances for the Cardinals “The guy continues to impress me at his age,” Keim said. “Thirty-seven carries is unheard of. As (offensive coordinator) Harold Goodwin said, the more you feed him, the better he gets.”

— Keim did want to see better consistency from the defense, and is still concerned about the red-zone offense and converting touchdowns.

— Keim agreed with the idea Humphries is developing into a potential cornerstone left tackle, reiterating again that Humphries has matured a lot to match mentally his excellent physical talent. “He’s ultra-competitive and he likes to play the game,” Keim said.

— The short week is hard, but there is excitement over playing at home on national TV, he said, and the Cardinals will benefit from the mini-bye after the game.

— There was congratulations for veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby in joining the exclusive 40-sack/20-interception club. But Keim, who has know Dansby his whole career and has a great relationship with him, couldn’t let the moment pass. Keim noted Dansby was given a chance to make a speech post-game in the locker room. “He may be one of the worst speech-givers I’ve ever heard,” Keim deadpanned.

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A Stanton win and Niners aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 5, 2017 – 7:42 pm

It was hard to imagine Sunday happening with Bruce Arians as playcaller. Not so much that the Cardinals ran it so many times compared to passing it, but that they did it with only one running back. The Cards are, after all, on a short week, facing the physical Seahawks Thursday night.

But Adrian Peterson got the rock Sunday. A lot. The most he’s had in his career, a crazy notion given the fact he is both 32 and needed Thursday against those Seahawks. The Cardinals needed a win. As offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said last week, feeding Peterson is like throwing wood into the old stove, getting it hotter as the night goes on. Peterson really is a marvel, and he was crucial Sunday.

Now comes the Seahawks, who lost themselves at home. The Cards would pull even in the standings by beating Seattle. This is the formula, like the Cards had been saying (and interestingly, even with Palmer, is often the formula against the Seahawks anyway.) Run a lot, lean on the defense. Ask Drew Stanton to do some things but not a lot of things.

— Even with all the running, one guy who wasn’t about to declare the Cardinals now a running team was Larry Fitzgerald, who quietly had a solid game (five catches, 70 yards, a couple of key first downs).

“To say we have a whole new identity, I don’t know about that,” Fitzgerald said.

— The 37 Peterson carries set a franchise record. I hate to do this, but he broke the record of — wait for it – Edgerrin James, who had 36 in the Monday Night Meltdown game against the Bears. Edge was slightly less productive, gaining just 55 yards that game.

On the all-time lists, Fitzgerald surpassed Tim Brown for sixth place in NFL history for receiving yards. Peterson, who went past the 12,000-rushing yard mark, passed Thurman Thomas and Franco Harris and is now 14th all-time.

— Budda Baker was great in punt coverage, making an impact especially in the first half.

— It was a chippy day across the NFL – google Mike Evans and A.J. Green – so it kind of fit into things when it got heated late in the Cards’ game. Safety Antoine Bethea hit 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard as Beathard slid and the 49ers deemed it late. They had something to say. When it was over, Haason Reddick and Frostee Rucker were ejected, as was 49ers running back Carlos Hyde. We’ll see what the punishments and/or fines might be later this week. The sliding thing has been in the forefront ever since last week’s Kiko Alonso hit on Joe Flacco.

— Congrats to Karlos Dansby for getting his 20th career interception, as he became the fifth player in NFL history with 20 picks and at least 40 sacks. Dansby also had a sack in the game, so it will be a memorable one for him. So will the fact the ball bounced off the helmet of an offensive lineman, but they can’t all be gorgeous.

Dansby said Adrian Wilson had been giving him grief the other day in the team cafeteria about getting the pick. “Stop floating in the zone,” Dansby said Wilson told him. “It’ll come right to you.”

— It came late, but Chandler Jones got sack No. 9 in his eighth game, one of five sacks in the game. It was necessary to pressure Beathard all game given his beat-up offensive line, and for the most part, the Cards did.

— It was a nice day for the offensive line. Peterson ran for 159, and Pro Football Focus said the line allowed just two hurries, and Stanton wasn’t sacked.

— Finally, a few words about Stanton. He was solid Sunday. I understand there will still be those calling for Blaine Gabbert. I don’t expect that to change. But I don’t expect Stanton to go anywhere anytime soon. He took the blame for his interception in the end zone, although Arians interestingly took the blame for the same play. Stanton made a nice play to scramble around and find Jaron Brown on the first TD. He made a nice run on a planned play on third-and-1 to get a big first down.

He did enough to get a win. Yes, the Seahawks’ defense is another animal altogether, but Stanton did his job. The Cardinals are back at practice tomorrow. It’s just a walkthrough, but the week has already started. Not much time to enjoy a win.

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Jimmy G will he/won’t he, and Friday before the Niners

Posted by Darren Urban on November 3, 2017 – 3:18 pm

Jimmy Garoppolo is not playing against the Cardinals this week. Right?

“I’m expecting to see him, honestly,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “I think he’ll start. That’s just my opinion. What do they have to lose?”

(Other than maybe Garoppolo’s head, behind a struggling offensive line that now won’t have left tackle Joe Staley.)

Peterson isn’t the only one. Karlos Dansby said on the “Big Red Rage” Thursday night Garoppolo will play and many of the Cardinals defensive players have said similar things. It makes little sense to me, given how beat up the Niners are and how little time Garoppolo has had to get ready. Jacoby Brissett did start against the Cards for the Colts earlier this year, but that was Brissett’s second week with the Colts, not the first. Dropping in a quarterback that soon is just too complicated on the NFL level, not when you want good results. To be fair, Garoppolo will be active Sunday – as the backup, coach Kyle Shanahan insists – so the door is cracked. No, the Cardinals defense has not played consistently well. But I don’t see Jimmy G happening against the Cards this year. Beginning in 2018, yes.

— Speaking of that defense, which is around the bottom of the league in third downs and scoring, this is a chance to get better. The Cardinals played very well defensively against the 49ers the first time around. The last two road games, however, the Cardinals have surrendered a total of 67 points.

“You have a week off to have a chance to look at yourself in the mirror and be truthful with yourself,” Peterson said. “That’s where we were last week.”

— It’s stunning to believe that these teams met just about a month ago, and neither starting quarterback is on their team’s active roster.

— For all the struggles on the road of late – and there have been some ugly ones – if the Cardinals win Sunday it will be the 20th road win for coach Bruce Arians, which would be a franchise record.

— The Cardinals, especially with Drew Stanton, won’t make the mistake of underusing Adrian Peterson. He’ll get his carries. It’ll be up to the blocking up front, but Peterson will be getting more than 11 carries this week. If you go back to Stanton’s lone start/win in 2016, when he won in San Francisco, he threw a couple of TD passes to Larry Fitzgerald although he only had 11 completions. The Cards still scored 33, in large part because David Johnson had a season-high 157 yards rushing. That’s the formula.

— Peterson has 11,983 yards rushing in his career, so he’ll surpass 12,000 in this game. He needs 92 yards to pass Thurman Thomas for 15th all-time, and 138 to pass Franco Harris for 14th place.

— Arians was asked if he’s had any talks with veteran kicker Phil Dawson, who has surprisingly missed five field goals in seven games.

“Phil’s had talks with me,” Arians said. “I haven’t said a word to him. He got a chance to go watch his son and come back fresh and reloaded. I really anticipate him to have a great finish to the season.”

— Adrian Peterson and his wife will be featured on the Animal Planet show “Tanked” tonight at 9 p.m. pacific. The show is about people getting custom-made fish tanks. Peterson’s is a doozy.

— Without Staley, the 49ers could have a hard time handling Chandler Jones on the pass rush. Jones is already on fire with his eight sacks in seven games.

— The Cardinals could be thin at wide receiver. Brittan Golden (groin) and Chad Williams (back) weren’t practicing at the end of the week, although both are game-day decisions. Williams is usually inactive anyway, but if both can’t go, the other wideouts need to stay upright. Arians also said tight end Ifeanyi Momah, formerly a receiver, can play there.

— It’s a short week. The Cards have to turn around and host the Seahawks on a Thursday night, and regardless of what happens in the Bay Area, they will be much more short-handed than last year when they forged the heartbreaking 6-6 tie at home against Seattle. More heartbreaking would be an inability to get to .500 going into that game. As was being said the last time the Cards were playing the 49ers, this is kinda important.

“We cannot fall any further behind in our division,” Arians said. “I don’t think there is ever a must-game, but this is pretty close.”

See you Sunday.

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Not playing, Palmer another coach for Cards

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

Whether or not Carson Palmer plays again this season may be hazy, it won’t stop him from being a factor in the quarterback room. Following surgery to repair his broken left arm, Palmer has remaining in meeting rooms and goes out to observe practice and help the best he can. Wednesday, Bruce Arians said Palmer was wishing he could practice instead of sitting on the sideline.

Still, Palmer wants to remain as mentally engaged as he can. He and Drew Stanton are close, so it makes sense that Palmer try and guide him through the process of starting. Arians also said Blaine Gabbert is also benefiting from extra practice reps as well.

Palmer is the only quarterback the Cardinals have that is under contract for 2018, although it’s possible Palmer considers retirement as well. Even if he doesn’t play again this season, he can make an impact.

“He was talking to the guys,” Arians said. “It’s like having another coach.”

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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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Niners QB Hoyer returns to where he started

Posted by Darren Urban on September 28, 2017 – 9:44 am

Brian Hoyer played for the Cardinals for a very brief time, less than a month, in the dying days of the Ken Whisenhunt era. He was claimed off waivers from Pittsburgh in early December, with Kevin Kolb headed to IR, got in to the next-to-last game at home against the Bears and started the season finale in San Francisco. It wasn’t much time to learn the offense.

“Well, it definitely got you to the point where I remember just saying, ‘OK, where’s Larry?’ ” Hoyer recounted. “Like, throw to number 11. I remember (Fitz) telling me that in that huddle. He was like, ‘Don’t worry, just throw it to me.’ In the Chicago game, it worked, and then we came up to play San Francisco. They basically just tried to double him the whole game, and I remember Michael Floyd had a pretty big game that game.”

(Floyd did, the rookie notching his first 100-yard game — eight grabs for 166 yards and a TD.)

Hoyer comes back to Arizona Sunday as the starting quarterback of the 49ers. It’s been an interesting ride. The Cards gave him his first chance to play after he was locked on the bench in New England behind Tom Brady in his early years. But it got sticky after the season. Hoyer, because of the accrued seasons rule, missed out on being an unrestricted free agent by only a couple of days. The Cards tendered him an offer, even though new coach Bruce Arians was going to likely go in a different QB direction.

Kevin Kolb and John Skelton were cut. Hoyer remained on the roster, while the Cards intially signed Drew Stanton to be the starter in free agency, and then when they traded for Carson Palmer to be the starter. Stanton would be the backup. And Hoyer had to wait before the Cards finally released him, about five weeks after the Palmer trade.

“Getting released by the Cardinals was the best thing that happened to me because I was able to go to Cleveland and play,” Hoyer said. “I mean, had I been there, I don’t know if I’d have ever seen the field. For me, when Carson (Palmer) was traded, it became pretty apparent that I wasn’t a part of their plans.

“I remember (former Cardinals director of player personnel) Jason Licht was the main guy that I spoke to, and I just remember asking him, ‘If I don’t fit in here, just let me go sooner than later so I can get somewhere.’ ”

Hoyer was cut. He signed with Cleveland and actually had a winning record with the Browns before getting hurt in 2013. (Hoyer was actually 10-6 in 16 starts with the Browns over two seasons.) Arians said he had been impressed with Hoyer in the brief time he coached him. Hoyer said he’ll always have a “soft place in my heart” for the Cards because they gave him a chance to play.

“I was barely there,” Hoyer said. “I think about it, I was there for basically three weeks at the end of the season. I came back out, basically up until the draft, and I was there for a few workouts, and then I was gone.”

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Falcons aftermath, and Stanton’s hard count

Posted by Darren Urban on August 26, 2017 – 9:38 pm

That Drew Stanton hard count. Those of us who were at training camp practice every day saw it … well, just about every day. There it was, with the Cardinals 21 yards from the end zone, and he barked and the Falcons jumped. He had done it earlier, but guard John Wetzel flinched too. (Bruce Arians let him know: “I already got Wetzel – he don’t have much ass left.”)

But this time, just the Falcons moved and it gave Stanton a free play, and he lobbed a 21-yarder to Smokey Brown that Brown somehow came down with over-the-shoulder.

“We went back to (the hard count) and they kept jumping,” Stanton said.

Those two TD passes to Brown, along with a defense that made Matt Ryan look miserable (preseason, yes, but an 8.1 passer rating is not what the Falcons wanted to see in the third game of the preseason) made Saturday pretty good for the Cardinals. Not great. But good. Much better than this time last year. The starters and main guys are done now. They won’t play Thursday in Denver. Anyone playing this coming game is either not going to be on the team or is likely fighting (a few locks will play – they have to – but the last preseason game is what it is, especially with 90-man rosters).

That opening trip to Detroit, when things count for real, is only two weeks away.

— The running backs situation is interesting. Arians would not say Chris Johnson has locked up a roster spot, notable after Johnson fumbled twice. Elijhaa Penny also lost a fumble. Kerwynn Williams is making this team as a return man, but beyond he and David Johnson, it feels like Penny, Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington are battling for two spots.

— DT Olsen Pierre is in concussion protocol. Hopefully he’s OK. If he’s down for any time, depending on what happens with Robert Nkemdiche’s calf strain, things could get dicey on the defensive line.

— Stanton quietly had a nice night, completing 4-of-6 passes for 53 yards and his score.

— Linebacker Cap Capi probably isn’t making this team (although Jarvis Jones’ lingering back issue might create a need for a fourth OLB; that guy could still come from final cuts or a trade too). But Capi was impressive Saturday, enough to earn props from Arians. He had seven tackles, 1½ sacks and a tackle for loss.

— The playmakers on defense made plays. Markus Golden gets a strip sack. Tyrann Mathieu a pick on a tipped pass by Karlos Dansby. Patrick Peterson should’ve had a pick, but he lost it as he was going to the ground. “He’s getting fined for his drop,” Arians deadpanned.

— Matt Wile seemed to have a much better night than Richie Leone punting, although the numbers weren’t all that different. Right now, I’d guess Wile has the lead for a roster spot.

Huge comeback night for Brown. He spiked the ball on the pylon after his first score. “It was an emotional release to show people that I’m back and feeling good.” Brown said. Brown has to stay healthy. That’s a given. But the Cardinals need him out there and productive. His impact is obvious. We saw it Saturday.

— Arians acknowledged he considered not playing running back David Johnson Saturday until changing his mind, in large part because Johnson was part of the early script. Johnson made his lone catch of the preseason on the game’s second play, resulting in a first down. He came out after that.

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Keim: Cards want joint practices next year

Posted by Darren Urban on August 21, 2017 – 8:16 am

There were some “moving parts” that prevented anything this training camp, but Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 that “I don’t think there is any question” the Cardinals want to have at least one joint practice matchup with another team in 2018. The Cards, of course, worked out against the Chargers in San Diego in 2016, and went to St. Joseph, Missouri to have joint work with the Chiefs in 2012.

Keim said he, Bruce Arians and Michael Bidwill will talk and try to “hammer something out” for next season. The chance to sidestep camp boredom is a big factor. The Cardinals begin their fourth and final week of training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium this afternoon.

— Keim said he was not happy with the intensity of the Cardinals against the Bears Saturday. “We played the game like it was a preseason game,” he said. Not enough attention to detail was a major culprit. Defensively, way too many sloppy attempts at tackling bothered him. Even Tyrann Mathieu, who made the big interception, wasn’t immune, missing some tackles he normally makes. “That can’t happen,” Keim said, calling the amount of “leaky yards” the Cards surrendered “way too high.”

— Keim was asked specifically if Blaine Gabbert could be battling for the No. 2 QB job against Drew Stanton. “I don’t know if I look at it that way,” Keim said. “For me, it’s a process of getting to know Blaine.” Keim went on to say he is watching how Gabbert is improving in the areas they felt he needed to improve. He called Gabbert a “zero risk-to-reward” signing, which makes all this nothing but a positive if Gabbert shows anything. (But listening to Keim, it does not sound like Gabbert has a chance to unseat Stanton as No. 2, which, frankly, has been the same feeling I’ve had all along.)

— However, in praising Gabbert, Keim did say “you’d be hard-pressed to not say, the way he’s played this preseason, he could potentially be competing for some other teams’ starting positions. That’s just my opinion.”

— Cornerback Brandon Williams is “getting quite a bit better.” Williams arrived a raw rookie last year “frankly in over his head.” Now, he’s going in the right direction.

— Finally, asked if he thought retiring Anquan Boldin was Hall of Fame material, Keim said yes. But he noted he thought Adrian Wilson also deserved Hall consideration, and then noted how both players, along with a handful of others, not only performed so well on the field but were also keys in helping the Cardinals change the culture and direction of the franchise.

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