Bruce Arians may have been a little salty about how the offense played in the Cardinals’ win Sunday, but he has left no doubt how he feels about the team’s turnover margin. “That’s probably the best thing we’re doing right now,” Arians said. Then again, how could he not see it that way?
Yes, there have been a couple of near-picks for quarterback Carson Palmer, but they have not been picks. So after two games, the Cardinals have yet to turn it over, and have amassed seven turnovers themselves — four interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. Math and the law of averages says the fumbles won’t always bounce the Cards way, but they aren’t putting the ball on the ground themselves.
Right now, they lead the league in takeaways (Carolina, Minnesota and San Francisco each have six) and lead in turnover differential (two ahead of the Vikings’ plus-5.) Oakland and Philadelphia are the other two teams without a turnover yet.
The Cardinals were second in the league in takeaways last season with 33, and they are doing it right now without one of their dynamic back-end players playing at full Honey Badger. That’s a good sign. Another good sign? The only other time the Cards went the first two games without turning the ball in the first two games of the season since 1940 was 2008 — the year the franchise reached the Super Bowl.
(OK, as coincidences go, it’s a stretch. But we’ll see.)
Tags: 49ers, Carson Palmer, Eagles, Panthers, Raiders, turnovers, Vikings
Posted in Blog | 9 Comments »
Training camp officially begins tomorrow when the Cardinals get back together at University of Phoenix Stadium to hold their annual run test. The first practice of camp is Friday (keep in mind, because of the CBA-mandated “acclimation” period, the Cardinals won’t be in pads until Sunday, making these next two days a little bit like glorified OTAs.)
We know the Cardinals’ schedule for 2016, of course, which starts in the regular season with a home “Sunday Night Football” game against the Patriots.
But what about 2017, I’m sure you were about to ask? Fear not. Here are the opponents for 2017, home and away:
— Dallas Cowboys
— New York Giants
— Jacksonville Jaguars
— Tennessee Titans
— NFC South team that finishes in same 2016 divisional place as Cardinals
— Seattle Seahawks
— San Francisco 49ers
— Los Angeles Rams
— Philadelphia Eagles
— Washington Redskins
— Houston Texans
— Indianapolis Colts
— NFC North team that finishes in same divisional place as Cardinals
— Seattle Seahawks
— San Francisco 49ers
— Los Angeles Rams
Tags: 49ers, Colts, Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Jaguars, Rams, Redskins, schedule, Seahawks, Texans, Titans
Posted in Blog | 11 Comments »
Patrick Peterson was an All-Pro this season and is one of the cornerstones of the Cardinals’ franchise. How about the idea that he nearly wasn’t a Cardinal? That’s what former Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner claimed during a conversation on ESPN the other day.
In July, after the lockout was finally settled that year, the Cardinals traded cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round pick for quarterback Kevin Kolb. Banner said if it hadn’t been for the lockout, the deal would have done before the draft and DRC would have remained a Cardinal, with the Cards instead shipping the No. 5 overall pick to Philly — which would have still been Peterson.
A lot to take in here. I’ll admit, I thought the original price for Kolb was a little steep in the first place and to think the Cards would have given up the fifth pick overall alone for Kolb is kind of mind-boggling. The 2011 draft was and has proven to be crazy deep (check out the first round by itself of all the great players, and that doesn’t include a guy like Richard Sherman in the fifth round.)
Of course, the Cardinals were scrambling in 2011 for a quarterback. Derek Anderson/Max Hall/John Skelton were not the answer, so they took a flier — an expensive flier — on Kolb. We all know how that turned out. I have to wonder if the deal really would have been those two picks for Kolb or if the Eagles were trying to push the Cards to that end game (since the lockout was never seriously close to ending until long after the draft and even the brief opening in April came a day after Peterson was picked) and the Cards never seriously would have pulled the trigger. I’ll say this: If it had ended up being the pick and that pick was Peterson and Peterson did what he has done, are we talking about that trade like we talk about the Raiders giving away Carson Palmer for a song?
Tags: Eagles, Patrick Peterson
Posted in Blog | 48 Comments »
Sunday night was a good night for the Cardinals. They dominated. They won the NFC West. They had a rookie running back rush for 187 yards and look tremendous doing it. They were happy to win the division, but know they haven’t yet accomplished what they want, which is the right mindset to have.
“We want to put banners up,” defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said. “We want to keep this thing rolling, and we’re on the right track.”
But it was hard not to see the stoic faces of both Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer after Tyrann Mathieu went down on a non-contact play late in the game, his knee buckling. Non-contact plays like that are a scary thing in this league, and when Palmer said he had already been praying for Mathieu, it shows where his head was at.
No, the Cardinals have not yet reached their goals. There are a lot of boxes left that need to be checked before/if the Cards can start thinking about a Super Bowl. It would really help if Mathieu is there to help. That answer isn’t out there yet as the Cards fly home from Philly in the middle of the night.
— David Johnson was tremendous. He provided an injury scare himself late in the first half – after he had already surpassed 100 yards for the first time in his career – but came back. He said he knew he was fine, and he was. Johnson had 187 yards rushing and 229 total yards and is firmly entrenched as this team’s No. 1 running back.
— This nugget from longtime Eagles beat writer Reuben Frank: Two players have ever rushed for at least 185 yards and three touchdowns in a game against the Eagles. David Johnson Sunday night … and Jim Brown.
— What was it with the drops? From jump, when Smokey Brown dropped what should have been a 78-yard touchdown on the game’s first play, it was something that receiving group never does. Brown ended up with three drops – including one in the end zone – and Michael Floyd had a couple himself. Bruce Arians said it should’ve been a big game for Brown. (There were about three other deep shots to Brown that just didn’t connect.)
— The Cardinals wanted to get better in short yardage and self-scouted to do so. Sunday night, the Cardinals had third down/goal to go and either one or two yards to make nine times. They passed it four times and ran it five – and they converted all nine attempts.
— A.Q. Shipley did a nice job in replacing the gimpy Lyle Sendlein at center.
— Two hardest hits of the night: New safety D.J. Swearinger hammering tight end Zack Ertz to prevent a completion in the first quarter to force a field goal, and tight end Troy Niklas, who accidentally belted punt returner Patrick Peterson hard enough that Peterson fumbled. Niklas jumped on the ball to save the play.
— Well, it’s very late. The attention is starting to wane, so I’m going to cut this off. The Cardinals may be 12-2, but they haven’t wrapped up a bye yet, and the team chasing them comes to town this week. Packers-Cardinals is a pretty good game, no?
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, D.J. Swearinger, David Johnson, Eagles, Frostee Rucker, Jim Brown, John Brown, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Troy Niklas, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 15 Comments »
The Cardinals will be without their coach on the field tonight. Safety Rashad Johnson, who didn’t practice all week because of an ankle injury, is inactive for the game against the Eagles. What will be interesting now is how the Cardinals account for that — Tony Jefferson is officially being listed as the starter in Johnson’s place.
Running back Andre Ellington (toe) isn’t going to play either.
The full inactive list:
— QB Matt Barkley
— RB Andre Ellington (toe)
— S Rashad Johnson (ankle)
— LB Shaq Riddick
— T D.J. Humphries
— DT Cory Redding (ankle)
— NT Xavier Williams
Tags: Andre Ellington, Eagles, inactives, Rashad Johnson
Posted in Blog | 6 Comments »
Larry Fitzgerald has made it clear he doesn’t necessarily like to block. But he likes to tackle.
Sometimes, it’s a subtle attempt at a takedown, like when he was giving Michael Floyd grief near the end of the win in St. Louis when Floyd didn’t come down with a diving TD catch and slowly moved into position before the lighting quick lower-leg takedown on the sideline. (I have been on the receiving end of that move a couple of times over the years.) Sometimes, it’s full speed, like when he took down Smokey Brown after his TD against the Eagles last year (spooking Brown enough that he rushed his TD dance against the Rams later in the season for fear of a Fitz hit). Or, for instance, last week.
Dwight Freeney had just sacked Teddy Bridgewater to seal the Cardinals win. And Fitz sacked Freeney.
“Listen, we’re the two oldest guys out there and you’re running full speed and I’m sitting there wondering what he’s going to do,” Freeney said. “And then I’m like, ‘Oh God, he’s jumping.’ The whole game I’m healthy until that damn play.”
Fitzgerald – who complained he was whacked on the head by guard Ted Larsen’s helmet when Larsen, helmet in hand, went to hug Freeney – said he just got excited.
“I’ve known Dwight for a very long time, a long time,” Fitz said. “To be able to see him do that at that moment, for that number, a $200,000 sack, that was big.”
Ahh, the cash. Freeney hit the $200,000 incentive in his contract for his fourth sack, and he gets incentive money for each sack going forward. Fitz doesn’t miss stuff like that.
“I appreciate that,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m going to appreciate every single one for him here on out, too.”
Maybe there will be a sack-tackle in Philly too.
— Every Friday, both the offense and defense leave for a players-only meeting after practice ends. It’s usually just a wrap-up reminder from unit leaders about the game plan, imploring focus. Most of the time, the defense is gone for 15 or 20 minutes. They met for much longer Friday. After the mistakes made against the Vikings – and what can happen with similar mistakes against the high-tempo Eagles – there has been a drive to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
— The Cardinals haven’t turned the ball over in three straight games, which has helped considering two of them were close (weird to think in the three games before those, the Cardinals lost the turnover battle yet still won, which feels statistically impossible in today’s NFL.) It feels like turnovers will be the deciding factor Sunday night. If the Cards stay clean, I don’t see the Eagles beating them.
— If Rashad Johnson can’t play, I’ll be very interested to see how the defense reacts and what it means. Patrick Peterson said this week he can’t imagine life without Rashad behind the defense. Will they have to find out? (And given that Johnson is a free agent-to-be, could it be a trial run for 2016?)
— If you haven’t seen “Bruce Arians: A Football Life” you might not know that the Cardinals last year adopted the song “I’m About To Whip Somebody’s Ass” for pre-game. Safety Tyrann Mathieu said he is the locker room DJ before games and is the “only one with that song” on the team. Arians sent it to Mathieu during a text conversation last year, Mathieu liked it, and it became part of the team’s pre-game ritual.
“Every game, home or away, it doesn’t matter,” Mathieu said.
It doesn’t hurt that the Cardinals have won many of those games.
— Michael Floyd grinned, admitting again how he probably stole the pass for Fitzgerald last week that ended up being a 42-yard TD for Floyd, with Fitz blocking. Fitzgerald was asked if Floyd was going to buy him dinner in exchange.
“Mike is the cheapest dude on the team,” said Fitzgerald, who never seems to pass up a chance to needle his fellow Minnesota native. “Mike don’t even pay attention. That’s how cheap he is.”
— Yes, the Cardinals are on the road, but in anticipation of what is expected to be an influx of Packers fans next week after a noticeable amount of Vikings fans at University of Phoenix Stadium last week, Fitzgerald isn’t thrilled.
“Nothing that irks me more than seeing that,” Fitzgerald said. “We want to create that same tradition here. I know we have only been here since 1988. … Hopefully we can change that tide.”
— Freeney signed so late in the season he got a locker not with the linebackers but where there was an open stall. It happened to be between quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.
“It was kind of funny,” Freeney said, who added with a smile, “but I like being near quarterbacks.”
— Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford, on the possibility of throwing at Peterson, who has been as much of a shutdown cornerback as anyone in the league this season.
“Well, I would probably prefer not to,” Bradford said. “Obviously, Patrick’s a great player. He’s proved that in his time in the league. But, if we have the opportunity and it’s there, you’ve got to throw it. You can’t let one guy take away a whole half of the field.”
— Kyle Odegard did a great job writing about running back David Johnson’s journey to the NFL. Check it out if you haven’t already.
— I think Johnson, who has 99 and 92 yards rushing in his two starts, cracks 100 yards this week.
— Next stop, Philadelphia.
Tags: David Johnson, Dwight Freeney, Eagles, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Sam Bradford, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 26 Comments »
The odds are that Matt Barkley — who the Cards agreed to trade for Friday — will not develop into a starter. That’s the reality of taking a flier on a guy who never meshed with what Chip Kelly was doing in Philadelphia. But this is a flier with almost no risk, costing a seventh-round pick and only then if Barkley makes the roster for six games. So Barkley is on a six-week tryout and if it doesn’t work, the Cards move on and keep the pick. The Eagles potentially get something for a guy they were going to cut. And Barkley gets a fresh start with a coach who is pretty good with quarterbacks.
But bigger picture, it’s another chance at a QB. It’s kind of funny, fans are always asking when the Cardinals are at least going to make an effort to find a future QB, a guy for post-Palmer. Then a trade like this happens and so many say why? Because if you don’t have a top 10 (or even top five) pick, this is how you find a future QB — you buy a QB lottery ticket. You go after a Logan Thomas in the fourth round or trade a seventh-rounder for a Barkley, and you hope. Sure, when the numbers are called on the TV Wednesday night, they probably aren’t going to match. You go buy another ticket. Sometimes, the numbers will match enough, and you get that $500 (or in this case, a backup QB.)
The chances of hitting the jackpot is slim. But the Cardinals have plunked their two bucks down, and we’ll see what that means for Barkley when his numbers come up.
Tags: Eagles, Matt Barkley, trade
Posted in Blog | 106 Comments »
The season for the Cardinals’ special teams had its highs and lows. Rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro proved to be a find and made the first 17 field goals of his career. Return man Ted Ginn, save for one (very important) punt return for a touchdown, was disappointing in his work. Justin Bethel remained a Pro Bowl specialist. Punter Drew Butler had his struggles (especially in the playoffs) but the Cardinals were still one of the best teams in the league when it comes to blocking field goal attempts.
Overall special teams play isn’t easy to analyze — especially in the return game, when there are questions about how much the return man himself struggled or how much was his blocking. But Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News has long tried to tangibly rate what Ron Wolfley loves to call the “transition game.” And in Gosselin’s 2014 rankings, the Cardinals were actually 11th in the NFL in overall special teams.
Gosselin has 22 categories that he looks at, and the formula from there is simple: The best team in a category gets one point, the worst gets 32 points. Lowest score when those 22 categories are totaled is the best. This year, that was the Eagles, and that makes sense — Philly had Darren Sproles returning kicks, they had a record-setting rookie kicker, a good punter, and blocked six kicks (returning three blocked punts for touchdowns).
What’s most impressive for the Cardinals is their ranking of 11th (and there is a significant dropoff from 11 to 12) is that the Cards and Ginn were last in the NFL in kickoff return average at 19 yards per runback. They were also last in average starting point after kickoffs (the 19-yard line — ouch). But they were best in the league in punts downed inside the 20 (35, so Butler did do some things right).
There will be things different on the Cards’ special teams in 2015. The team is expected to move on from Ginn as a return man. And any roster change from year to year impacts special teams the most, because it’s those new rookies and back-half-of-the-roster players who make up the bulk of special teams work.
Tags: Chandler Catanzaro, Drew Butler, Eagles, Justin Bethel, special teams, Ted Ginn
Posted in Blog | 43 Comments »
The NFC West can’t be decided this week. That is going to come down to the “Sunday Night Football” game at home against the Seahawks. But if the Cardinals can beat the Rams Thursday night, regardless of what happens in the rest of the league over the week, they will all but clinch a playoff berth.
The win would make the Cards 11-3, meaning their worst possible record would be 11-5. This is where the head-to-head wins over the Eagles, Cowboys and Lions this season become crucial. All three of those teams are 9-4. A loss by any one of them means the Cards will make the playoffs (again, assuming a win in St. Louis). Since the Cowboys and Eagles play this Sunday night, that’s practically guaranteed.
There is still a sliver of doubt, and as the Bengals and Panthers can attest, it’s not impossible. It is, however, incredibly unlikely an 11-5 Cardinals team is left at home for the postseason:
Here’s the one scenario which would leave an 11-5 Cardinals team out of the playoffs, as unlikely as it may be:
— The Lions finish 3-0 to go 12-4 (and they still have a game against the Packers).
— The Cowboys and Eagles tie Sunday night, and then each come up with wins in their final two games. That would make them 11-4-1.
(h/t to colleague Kyle Odegard for crunching these numbers.)
That scenario — and assuming the 10-3 Packers avoid what looks like an unlikely 1-2 finish against Buffalo, Tampa and Detroit — would leave the Cardinals at home. But a tie isn’t going to happen. Three more 100-yard rushing games by Kerwynn Williams seems more likely than an Eagles-Cowboys tie. (OK, the mathematicians out there probably would disagree, but you get the point.)
A win in St. Louis would be a major step.
Tags: Cowboys, Eagles, Lions, Packers, playoffs, Rams
Posted in Blog | 44 Comments »
As the clock wound down and Nick Foles was trying to get the Eagles in for a touchdown and the Cardinals were trying to hang on to the lead and the University of Phoenix Stadium crowd was deafening, it was hard not to have a flashback standing on the sideline.
No, Sunday’s game in no way matches the Cards’ NFC championship win. But it was a big win, and it certainly caused a few heart palpitations of its own, given multiple throws into the end zone that ended up very close to game-winning scores. The heady play of Rashad Johnson to shove Jordan Matthews out on the final throw – Nate Poole would like to remind everyone the force-out rule was abandoned long ago – capped a win that frankly, seemed improbable the way it played out.
But the Cardinals weren’t getting too giddy after beating the Eagles. Which is a big reason they’ve gotten to 6-1 in the first place. Sure, they get a Victory Monday, but the focus won’t wane.
“You know what our reward for today’s win is?” Larry Fitzgerald said. “A road trip to Dallas to play against the NFC East-leading team.”
Still, you have to wonder, as the Cowboys prepare to play the Redskins Monday night, if those players noticed that they have to play the NFC West leaders next week. The Cardinals have holes, yes. And they seem to overcome them every single time.
— The defense will not get enough credit for Sunday. They gave up a ton of yards (521). Foles threw for a ton of yards (411 – yeah, that pass defense ranking isn’t helped). But yet again, the scoreboard read only 20 points allowed. They twice forced turnovers as the Eagles smelled their goal line and another time held them out of the end zone to force a field goal – a stand that proved to be the difference in the game.
— They did all of that without Patrick Peterson. That scene, where Peterson was face-down on the turf after the helmet-to-helmet-to-helmet collision he had with Jeremy Maclin via the Deone Bucannon hit, was frightening. Peterson tweeted he was OK after the game, and Bucannon said Peterson was OK – OK in the grand scheme of things – but a scary moment. It’ll be interesting to see if he can be ready for the Cowboys.
— Peterson goes out, and that’s when you are very happy to have an Antonio Cromartie. And a quickly-getting-better Tyrann Mathieu.
— I counted eight deep shots (including the 30-yard pass to Fitz and a 25-yarder to Smokey Brown) Sunday. Palmer connected on three, including Brown’s 75-yarder at the end. There was a flea-flicker to Michael Floyd in the first half that was out of Floyd’s reach, otherwise it too might’ve been a TD. It’s a reason why Palmer completed only 20 of 42 passes.
— But 20 of 42 can be overcome when you generate 329 yards. And when you take no sacks and throw no interceptions. Another amazing day taking care of the things that hurt an offense bad.
— Oh, and to think Palmer had a nerve problem that wasn’t even letting him throw much at all three weeks ago. Could he have made the throw to Smokey Brown two weeks ago, Palmer was asked? “I’ll say yeah,” Palmer deadpanned. “Because you can’t prove me wrong.”
— The Cardinals need better pressure on the quarterback, but Arians felt moving the QB “off his spot” meant something. Unfortunately, Foles is pretty good “off his spot” – like on his 50-yard bomb on the run to Riley Cooper – but they did what they could.
“We’d like to sack him, but if he’s off the spot …. He hurt us off the spot, and we lost containment once or twice, but just to get him off the spot and disrupt the play,” Arians said.
— The Cardinals live and die with the blitz. So do the Eagles. That’s what cost them on the Brown TD.
— Interesting Andre Ellington was the only Cardinal with a rushing attempt in the game. Although 23 carries for 71 yards won’t be the production the Cardinals want or need.
— This one was memorable, for sure.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Antonio Cromartie, Carson Palmer, Deone Bucannon, Eagles, Larry Fitzgerald, Nate Poole, Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 46 Comments »