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Campbell back to practice, but will he play?

Posted by Darren Urban on October 23, 2014 – 2:26 pm

Defensive end Calais Campbell was back at practice Thursday for the first time since absorbing the chop block of Broncos tight end Julius Thomas. Campbell’s MCL suffered a slight tear, and Campbell — understandably — has been cautiously optimistic in his approach of playing against the Eagles Sunday after missing two games. He wants to play, of course. He also doesn’t want to go out unprepared. Campbell already knows the knee isn’t going to be right the rest of the season. He wants to make sure it’s right enough.

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles had some fun at Campbell’s expense when analyzing the end’s first practice back. “He’s slow to begin with so it’s hard to tell,” Bowles said, with a big laugh. “He looks the same as when he got caught by Peyton Manning on the touchdown.”

That’s a zing. If you recall, Campbell should have had an interception return for a TD in Denver (before his injury), only to have Manning somehow knock him down near the goal line.

The Cardinals certainly could use Campbell on the field. He was having a Pro Bowl-type season when he was hurt. The Cards have to deal with a better offense Sunday against the Eagles than they have against the Redskins or Raiders in the two games Campbell has missed. But in the long run, the Cardinals must have Campbell period. If that means one more game missed, it would be understandable. All along, Arians said Campbell had to practice at least Friday to play. He looks like he’ll have Thursday and Friday (assuming no setbacks after today.) That would see to bode well for a potential Campbell play Sunday.

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#ThrowbackThursday – Aeneas Williams and Donovan McNabb

Posted by since1898 on October 23, 2014 – 11:14 am

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Cards’ run defense must hold up

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2014 – 10:26 am

Before Calais Campbell got hurt a couple of plays into the second half of last weekend’s game in Denver, the Broncos had exactly four rushing yards. On seven attempts. With Campbell out of the game, the Broncos got 88 yards rushing on 21 tries.

There were, of course, other factors. The defense eventually got tired in the fourth quarter because the Cardinals could not generate any offense and stay on the field. But make no mistake, Campbell is an important part of the run defense. So too is Matt Shaughnessy, who was playing hurt in Denver and now is out a couple months with a knee injury. How the Cardinals deal with the loss of Campbell and Shaughnessy and hold up against the run, in my opinion, is the linchpin of keeping this season together as the Cardinals deal with all their injury-related setbacks.

If the Cardinals can continue to play like a top-five run defense — and they are fifth right now — they will stay in games. Certainly, the next stretch of the schedule will test that. The Redskins have Alfred Morris. The Eagles have Shady McCoy. And the Cowboys have the leading rusher in the NFL in DeMarco Murray. Getting Campbell back sooner rather than later will help, but there no way to know right now exactly when that will be. At this point, the Cards can’t afford to wait for reinforcements anyway. They must perform with who they have.

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Eagles aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 1, 2013 – 6:29 pm

The Cardinals smartly talked around the penalties that were and weren’t called late in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles. They gave some matter-of-fact answers. Coach Bruce Arians said he wanted to watch the video carefully before he really passed judgment (and here’s a guess he won’t talk much about it even then. No upside.)

But as frustrating as that was, it didn’t trump the issues the Cardinals had of their own doing. What Arians and his team will see on video is a team that could’ve been in a much better place by the times the flags were or weren’t thrown. Linebacker Karlos Dansby – who had a pair of sacks — was not a happy camper in the locker room, and penalties didn’t have much to do with it. I asked him if it was going to be hard emotionally to bounce back from a loss like Sundays, given the fact the Cards had been talking about every game like it was a playoff game.

“(Expletive) no,” Dansby snapped. “We’ve got four more games. We’ve got to go play some football. Some winning football. Some inspiring football. We didn’t play with any emotion today. We were flat. Too flat.”

That’s always the danger, playing on the road, playing an early game – even after flying out on a Friday. Tyrann Mathieu called it the Cardinals’ M.O., to start slow in a road game. That seems fair, although it’s a dangerous way to live. Between Sunday and the opener in St. Louis, though, the Cardinals are going to have their share of what-ifs if they don’t make the playoffs.

– The up-tempo portion of the Eagles’ offense didn’t seem to bother the Cardinals a lot. “It was faster in (Cardinals’) practice,” Arians quipped. The play-action part of the offense did bother the Cardinals. That and the fact they couldn’t generate a turnover.

– OK, they did generate a turnover, but Patrick Peterson’s interception was wiped out. I haven’t had a chance to see the Mathieu hold yet. That pick would’ve delivered quite a storyline had it stood.

– I was down on the field with Michael Floyd about 10 yards away on that final pass his way. It did look like a penalty to me from down there, for what that’s worth.

– I’m an ASU grad (and yes, I enjoyed Saturday night very much.) But I don’t see how you can look at Nick Foles and see anything other than a potential long-term QB for Philly. He made a couple errors, but he runs that offense very well.

– Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy quietly had a very good game – seven tackles, four for loss, and a sack. He did get that (questionable) defensive holding call at the end. He’s been a guy whom I’d think the Cardinals want to extend on a contract. It will be interesting to see if they can lock him up.

– I think running back Andre Ellington would have helped had he not sat with the knee injury, but I don’t know if his absence cost the Cards the game. Rashard Mendenhall was good again, and Ellington wasn’t going to be able to block the pass rush or prevent Carson Palmer’s two underthrown interceptions.

– Arians wasn’t guaranteeing Ellington’s return against the Rams next week, either. The coach said he was going to be careful with Ellington, and that notion was reiterated post-game Sunday. “We’ll get him right before he plays again,” Arians said.

– Eagles punter Donnie Jones was fantastic. He punted eight times for Philadelphia. Seven were downed inside the 20. Peterson struggled on punt returns again. It’s odd that unit was so strong just a couple of years ago and now it’s a concern – not just because Peterson doesn’t score, but simply because there seems to be more danger of turnovers and bad field position.

– There wasn’t a lot of head hanging, even though this one could sting in the grand scheme of things. “I don’t think we took a step backward,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. Said Arians on losing the progress his team has been making, “Progress doesn’t stop because you lost the game.”

Well, there is still a lot of flight left. But we can ponder this more tomorrow.


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Join the conversation – #AZvsPHI

Posted by since1898 on December 1, 2013 – 9:46 am

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Friday before the Eagles

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2013 – 4:02 pm

The Cardinals would like to get an interception Sunday. That would be a start. It’d be a start in slowing the Eagles’ high-speed offense, and a start in taking young Eagles quarterback Nick Foles down a peg. Foles has thrown 16 touchdown passes in eight appearances (five starts and one other game of significant playing time), but has yet to throw an interception. It’s an impressive stretch for an inexperienced quarterback.

The Cards are among the best in the league in getting turnovers. So maybe this is where Foles’ luck changes a bit.

“You can’t worry about throwing an interception when you’re throwing the ball,” Foles said. “I expect them to come out ready to go, ready to try to mess it up. That’s what a defense does, and they’re a talented defense.”

Cornerback Patrick Peterson, on that potential mess: “Our goal is to try and make turnovers, force him into some bad throws,” Peterson said. “We’re not getting caught up in that. The offense seems to be rolling with him. When that opportunity, if that opportunity does come, we have to make the play.”

Profootballfocus.com said Foles has been under pressure on just 34.8 percent of his dropbacks. That makes life as a QB easier. Linebacker Daryl Washington said there have been times when Foles has thrown balls that can be intercepted. Sunday’s game might just turn on such a situation.

– I’ve already touched on the Andre Ellington gimpy knee situation, but obviously, no Ellington would make a difference. Bruce Arians made the point it’s just one guy, but at this point, Ellington is the speed of this offense, the guy who can go all the way on a single play. His status Sunday has to impact this game, one way or the other.

– The last time the Cardinals – winners of four straight – won five straight? That was back in 1977, when Don Coryell’s bunch won six in a row in a weird season when the Cardinals went just 7-7. The winning streak made their record 7-3, and they lost their final four.

– Peterson reflecting on linebacker Karlos Dansby’s interception return for a touchdown last week: “Almost every time we break the huddle, I rub his hands, give him some of my grip,” Peterson said. Peterson smiled. “He could be in the race for defensive MVP if he caught the last six he dropped.”

– The key to this game to me is Dansby and Washington. The two inside linebackers are playing so well, and when the Cards have beat the Eagles the last two meetings, Washington has been a major factor. With the Eagles’ speed and Shady McCoy running the ball, the Cards need big games from their inside men.

– Just like Todd Bowles is having a redemptive season with the Cards after struggling with the Eagles, Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis is winning confidence after he was fired as Cards’ DC back after the 2010 season (with a stop on the Browns staff in between).

– I don’t know if Larry Fitzgerald can get free as much as he usually does against the Eagles – Philly is of course running a different look than the Andy Reid years when they always seemed to let Fitz get loose – but the rise of Michael Floyd would seem to be incentive to watch Floyd much more closely. Which should help Fitz.

– “As coach Buck (defensive line coach Brentson Buckner) always says, ‘You are remembered with the games you win in November and December,’ ” Peterson said.

Here’s the Cards’ first chance in December. It’s kind of a big one too.

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Ellington hopeful to play in Philly

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2013 – 12:38 pm

Running back Andre Ellington will be a game-day decision after hurting his left knee late in Thursday’s practice. Ellington said it happened on a pass route and that it was already better than how it was feeling Thursday. Coach Bruce Arians said Ellington’s status will be determined on game day. Ellington didn’t practice Friday.

“Nothing real serious but we are going to be real careful with it,” Arians said.

As for the impact it would have without the dynamic playmaker, Arians was not surprisingly forward-thinking on the matter. “It would be just one guy out,” Arians said. “There are still a bunch of guys capable of taking his place, and we will make our adjustments.”

Ellington said he is hopeful to play. The game isn’t until Sunday, he said, and “that’s a lot of rest.” Of course, depending on what he did to tweak the knee, Ellington is facing a long plane flight to Philadelphia and sometimes, injuries can swell some in those instances. That’s why it’s tougher to tell a status before a road game. As for the Cards’ offense, Arians said, if Ellington couldn’t go it may cost the Cards “five or six plays” in the game plan.

I know the next question would be, if Ellington doesn’t play, would the Cardinals make Ryan Williams active. The last time a running back was down, and that was Rashad Mendenhall, Williams remained inactive. Would it change if the missing body was Ellington, since Mendenhall and Stepfan Taylor are essentially the same type of back? I’m not sure. At this point, it may take something more catastrophic for Williams to be used. And again, Ellington is hoping to be on the field. We won’t know until Sunday.

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Arians revisits Temple (and Ellington hurt)

Posted by Darren Urban on November 28, 2013 – 1:17 pm

Bruce Arians, first-time NFL head coach, is going back to where he was head coach for the first time — Philadelphia, where he lead Temple University back from 1983 to 1988. And the place and the job that Arians said “almost killed me.”

“I was in the hospital about seven times my last season,” Arians said. “When I was only 36 I felt like I was about 86. Stress will do funny things to you. I had a bunch of migraines every week, and I got fired and never had another one in my life.

“I tried to do too much. The one thing that I learned was that if I ever got a job again, and it took a little while, but I would learn to delegate. I was the head coach, offensive coordinator, quarterback coach, recruitment coordinator, I had my hands on the defense and special teams, so I was trying to do everything and I felt as if it was my job. I’ve learned now to let other people do their jobs, and they’re more than qualified to do them, and relax.”

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles played for Arians at Temple, and the former safety was one of Arians’ captains.

“He was a good coach from the south,” Bowles said. “He came from Alabama where they ran the option and the veer and played eight-man fronts. He got up to Temple and played an eight-man front, and we were playing against (Doug) Flutie, (Dan) Marino and the other guys. It just wasn’t working. It was like, ‘Coach, we’re up east now, you’ve got to change.’ But he was outstanding. He was hard on us but he was fair, just like he is now. He’s very honest. He tells you when you’re good and when you’re bad.”

Arians is 61 now, finally enjoying his second head coaching job that he wasn’t sure would ever come. The Cardinals leave for the Eagles game Friday, and the team will hold their Saturday morning walkthrough at Temple.

“It’ll be fun,” Arians said. “Hopefully I’ll see some of the pictures when I had hair. But, yeah, it’s always fun going back. Temple kids are extremely dear to me. Those six years were fabulous. Probably stayed in touch with them more than any other college players I’ve ever coached. That group of guys, some were on my staff, I’ve coached with a bunch of them.”

–  Here’s what the Cardinals are not giving thanks for on Thanksgiving: Running back Andre Ellington being put on the injury report as limited with a knee problem. He wasn’t on there Wednesday, so I’d guess it happened Thursday, but we won’t know until Arians talks Friday. The Cards need Ellington.

A good story by SI’s Jim Trotter on the improving Cards’ offense. It’s something I wrote about earlier in the week, but it was interesting to hear Carson Palmer saying the mental error list was a page-and-a-half much of the season and now it is down to a quarter page. Another Palmer quote on the early-season offense: “It was a mess.”

– Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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Download the #AZvsPHI Facebook cover

Posted by since1898 on November 26, 2013 – 5:10 pm

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In a rush to be tested

Posted by Darren Urban on November 21, 2013 – 11:00 am

The Cardinals are second in the NFL in rushing defense heading into Week 12, allowing just 81.4 yards a game (The Jets are first, at 73.2.) But as the Cardinals head down the stretch with their final six games, that ranking will be tested and how the Cards hold up may go a long way in determining how real their playoff hopes will be.

Of the Cards’ final six opponents, all but one rank in the top half of the NFL rushing the ball and three are in the top six — including the top two rushing teams in the league, Philadelphia (150.6 yards a game) and Seattle (147.9). The others are San Francisco (sixth, 141.0), Indianapolis (15th, 112.9), Tennessee (16th, 112.3) and St. Louis (22nd, 99.4).

(How the Cardinals run the ball themselves will make a difference too — Arizona is 25th in the NFL at 85.6 yards a game — but that’s a topic for another post.)

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles came into the season saying he wanted the Cardinals to stop the run first and his players have often echoed it. That wasn’t the case last season and it often bit the Cards. This year, only three times have the Cards given up more than 56 yards to the other team’s leading rusher. Of course, in all three instances, the Cardinals will play those teams again, with the Rams (Daryl Richardson, 63 yards), 49ers (Frank Gore, 101 yards) and Seahawks (Marshawn Lynch, 94 yards) still out there. Richardson is no longer the Rams go-to guy but Zac Stacy, although Stacy has looked good. No reason to dwell on what Gore and Lynch bring; they are among the best in the NFL and the Cards have seen that up close and personal too many times.

Next week against NFL leading rusher Shady McCoy and Chip Kelly’s new-look offense will be interesting as well.

There’s a reason it’s a football cliché that teams must first stop the run. The Cardinals need to live it as gospel.

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