OK, so the Cardinals already knew their playoff chances were basically done after the loss in Miami, but they were officially killed off Sunday. Drew Brees hadn’t done anything for two games, and then he erupted to tear apart the Cards. All the while, it was the last home game of the year and one of those games where many players understood what that meant — Calais Campbell had already been talking about it, and Tony Jefferson tweeted about it pre-game — as contracts are ending and there is so much up in the air for 2017.
Carson Palmer is under contract for 2017. He was asked about next year, and he said he expects to be playing. Larry Fitzgerald is under contract for 2017. He said he will play the final two games “as hard as I can” and then see how the offseason plays out. If Fitz is gonna stick around, he’s going to want to know he’s got a chance to make the postseason and win.
Nobody coming into this season — even if you expected the Cardinals to take a step back from 13-3 — thought the Cardinals would be a pedestrian 4-3-1 at University of Phoenix Stadium. But here they were again, in a one-score game late, unable to win it like they had so many times the past two seasons at home. That’s what stuck with Bruce Arians, and that’s one of the (many) things to undo the 2016 season.
— It wasn’t his best game statistically but it was a very good game for David Johnson, tying the franchise record for touchdowns in a season and playing more regular wide receiver than normal because of a thin receiving corps. The Saints were also attuned to Johnson as a receiver, bracketing him often on passing plays — which is new for him.
“I was joking with one of their DBs and he was telling me when they were scouting us, (they said) don’t think of me as a running back, think of me as a receiver,” Johnson said. “That was cool to hear.”
— But Johnson now needs 200 receiving yards the final two games to reach 1,000, against two good defenses. So that will be tough.
— Palmer was good, and that was with an inability to hook up with John Brown on one wide-open deep pass (Brown did haul in a 30-yard TD bomb later) and with J.J. Nelson dropping what would have been a 56-yard TD bomb. It helped that the offensive line — from left tackle to right, Wetzel, Iupati, Shipley, Boggs and Watford — held up perhaps better than expected.
“I was happy with the way we played up front,” Shipley said. “There were obviously a couple things we would like back. But for a guy like Boggs who really hasn’t played and going against a top 10 pick (Nick Fairley), I thought he did admirable. There was one play early but other than that, he did a pretty good job. And Earl being in a position he hasn’t played in a long time, and Wetz, I don’t know what number combination of offensive line this is (for us) … I was happy with how the guys responded.”
— Another rough night for special teams. Chandler Catanzaro missed a long field goal and another extra point, although the latter ended up not mattering. Justin Bethel’s offsides on the field goal was painful though, as was the fact Bethel was offsides on three different kicks — the field goal and a pair of extra points, yards added on the kickoffs.
— Linebacker Sio Moore, on the questionable blow-to-Brees’-head penalty that killed the chance for the Cardinals to hold the Saints late in a seven-point game: “I didn’t even know the flag was on me until late,” Moore said quietly. “It was unfortunate timing for a call like that. I can’t argue with the refs. I’ve just got to figure what I’ve got to do so that situation doesn’t come up on my bill.”
— If you missed it, team president Michael Bidwill before the game addressed — strongly — the Michael Floyd situation.
— Campbell, in his ninth NFL season, scored on a 53-yard fumble return and that was the first time Campbell had been in the end zone since his senior year in high school when he had a four-touchdown game as a tight end. That was 2003.
— Tim Hightower is famous around these parts for scoring the game-winning touchdown in the NFC Championship game back in the 2008 season. He was traded away before the 2011 season, suffered a terrible knee injury and didn’t play in an NFL game from 2012-14, but has resurrected his career in New Orleans. Sunday, he scored two touchdowns in the same end zone where he beat the Eagles in 2008.
“I’m just thankful,” Hightower said. “This process has been one that has tested me in every way. … Just thinking of the last (Saints) loss here a year ago (in the 2015 opener). I wasn’t even on the roster. I was released the day before the game. It kind of had everything come back full circle. It was special.”
— Hightower was in the same Cardinals draft class as Campbell. It wasn’t surprising to see the two friends swap jerseys after the game. Campbell said he knew Hightower was behind him on his touchdown run, as Hightower tried to Beebe Campbell from behind. “I felt it,” Campbell said. “I pulled the ball up when I felt him coming for it. I told him, ‘If you had knocked the ball from my hands, we wouldn’t have been friends any longer.’ ”
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, David Johnson, Earl Watford, John Brown, John Wetzel, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Mike Iupati, Sio Moore, Steve Keim, Taylor Boggs, Tim Hightower, Tony Jefferson
Posted in Blog | 37 Comments »
It’s been a big week for Larry Fitzgerald. Becomes the player with the third-most catches in NFL history, is chosen as the Cardinals’ Walter Payton Man of the Year (and will it surprise anyone if Fitz is one of the three finalists?) and now, gets to go back to where he first had a game-winning touchdown.
You remember, right? Denny Green’s first year, Fitz’s rookie year, and the last time the Cardinals actually played in Miami. It was 2004, and Fitz’s 48-yard bomb with about a minute left set up his two-yard touchdown catch with 23 seconds left. It snapped a 17-game road losing streak for the Cards (those were the days …) and got Fitzgerald to the postgame interview podium for the first time.
He didn’t like it. It was a short and, if I recall correctly, much too awkward of an interview for a guy who just scored the game-winning points. But life is much different these days for Fitz. That was the day, coming off a personal shutout in the rain in Buffalo, that Fitz started his still-active streak of 191 straight games with a catch.
“That’s a long time ago,” Fitzgerald said.
Indeed it was.
Are these two Miami trips going to essentially bookend Fitz’s career? He was asked this week about catching Tony Gonzalez and/or Jerry Rice on that receptions list. Gonzalez is about 200 receptions in front of Fitzgerald.
“I won’t catch either of those guys,” Fitzgerald said, adding, “I don’t plan on playing long enough to catch both those guys.”
What does that mean? It would seem to put a damper on the idea Fitz will play past 2017, since the rest of this season plus next season plus, say, 2018, would seem to put him in Gonzalez range. So at this point – although Fitzgerald was quick to say he wasn’t making any kind of retirement announcement – Fitz’s time seems to be short. He’s obviously a lot closer to the end than the beginning. Trips to Miami mark the time.
— The Cardinals may adjust their offensive line again, with the possibility of Earl Watford returning to the lineup at right guard for John Wetzel. Watford got hurt at the end of the Minnesota game, and while he was healthy enough to play the last couple games, Wetzel instead got the call. Goodwin called Watford’s year “up and down.”
“It’s probably not where he wants it, not where I want it to be,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “I have high expectations of him, as a player and a person.”
Arians said Watford is healthy again, and simply, he has more experience than Wetzel. That’s a big deal going up against what can be a nasty Dolphins defensive line,
— With rookie defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche hurting his elbow in practice and missing parts of practice all week, I don’t think anyone has to wonder if this is the week he makes it back to the Sunday active list.
— Guys like Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson are going back to Miami to play for the first time and are excited. John Brown is also headed home for the first time, although it’s a much different vibe. Although Goodwin said Brown played well last week in his limited snaps – Arians had noted Smoke was open deep a couple of times, although the Cards couldn’t get him the ball – he didn’t have a catch and has just 31 receptions this season.
“Just going through it is kind of frustrating,” Brown said. “But everyone in here has my back. The coaches have my back. I’ll get through it. It’s just a small bump in the road.”
Brown did say he hasn’t played in front of his family since high school, so he is looking forward to doing so.
— Fitz, on whether rest days have helped the arm of Carson Palmer. “His arm has always looked good,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s 36 years old, you know he’s capable of doing everything. You don’t need to see it every day.”
— Arians was asked about the comparison to Tyrann Mathieu — who won’t play Sunday because of his bad shoulder — and former Colts safety Bob Sanders, who had an excellent career cut short because of injuries. Sanders was also undersized.
“Totally different players,” Arians said. “Bob was a box guy who would just knock your socks off all the time, but his body couldn’t take his bravado. Ty plays the game a different way. It’s just been bad luck.”
— After failing to score on the opening possession all season, the Cardinals have scored a touchdown on the opening drive each of the last two games. Palmer said the Cards have put a focus on it. I asked what does that exactly mean, since you figure they are working on all the plays equally.
“I wish there was one reason or five reasons,” Palmer said. “There are a ton of reasons why that happens. It’s not like all of a sudden Coach put together a really good opening drive. It is not like all of a sudden we didn’t make a mistake on the opening drive. I think if you looked at that and compared it to all the other opening drives, there are probably less mistakes, but there is no rhyme or reason or perfect formula, obviously, or else everybody would be doing it.”
— With no roster moves as of yet, it seems unlikely the Cardinals will make a move with practice squad punter Matt Wile this week. So I expect Drew Butler to have his regular duties against the Dolphins.
— The Cardinals win this weekend, and the last month of this season can be very, very interesting. A loss, and you’re talking about 2017.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Dolphins, Earl Watford, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Wile, Patrick Peterson, Robert Nkemdiche
Posted in Blog | 12 Comments »
Steve Keim has looked at his offensive line since the day he started. He signed Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati as his most high-profile free-agent additions. He drafted D.J. Humphries with the idea he could eventually upgrade at tackle over Bobby Massie. He signed Evan Mathis as a veteran to be the other guard this season.
We know how it’s turned out so far.
Veldheer and Mathis are done for the season with injuries. Humphries has gone through growing pains this year after sitting all of last year. Iupati, banged up himself, has struggled of late. Fellow guard Earl Watford, Mathis’ replacement, has also been banged up this week. The players off the bench are inexperienced.
As Carson Palmer said this week, continuity is ideal along the line — and the Cardinals have not had continuity. Not anymore. That isn’t to say there weren’t issues anyway, but juggling up front is not what you want. The Cardinals will likely need to score Sunday in Atlanta, since the Falcons are the league’s top scoring team. We might see a steady diet of David Johnson running, but it’s not like the Falcons don’t know that either. In a season of up-and-down offensive production, the tenuous nature of the offensive line has not helped.
“We’ll have five of them out there, for sure,” coach Bruce Arians said.
— Michael Floyd might yet play Sunday even after hurting his hamstring and missing Thursday and Friday on the practice field. But it seems like anything that could go wrong for the free-agent-to-be wide receiver this season has.
— Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones will have Patrick Peterson on him most of the game Sunday. Teams have sometimes had a cornerback “travel” to cover Jones, but Jones said it usually comes with a caveat.
“Teams have been trying to do that, but they’ve been playing a lot of two-man while they were doing it,” Jones said. “They’ll take their ‘OK’ corner and put him over me and then just have safety help, and try to put the better corner on the other side, try to let him lock that side down. Pat P, it’s just usually one-on-one.”
— So it turns out neither Peterson — for his unnecessary roughness call for knocking down QB-turned-WR Sam Bradford — or Tony Jefferson — for his hit on the still-trying-to-go-forward Stefon Diggs — were fined for their play. It’s fair to wonder if that means the league disagreed with the calls. Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson was fined $18,231 for his fourth-down hit on Palmer that extended the Cards’ final drive.
— The Vikings offensive linemen weren’t happy with Peterson about the hit. But Arians defended his player, not surprisingly, starting with the fact Bradford was lined up as a wide receiver and no longer had quarterback protections.
“That’s my understanding, and he just threw a flea-flicker on the exact same play, so don’t let it happen,” Arians said. “(Peterson) did what he was coached to do.”
As for the Vikings offensive linemen being upset, “Well, they shouldn’t have threw the flea-flicker the first time then,” Arians said. “He ain’t going to let it happen a second time.”
— The Cardinals are trying to get past an interception drought. They have now gone four games without one, the last time picking off an opposing QB coming way back on Oct. 17 when they nailed Ryan Fitzpatrick twice. Matt Ryan has just five interceptions this season (compared to 24 touchdown passes) but the Cardinals have gotten to Ryan in the past. He threw four interceptions against the Cardinals in Arizona in a 2013 game, and five picks in a game against the Cards in Atlanta in 2012. (Alas, the Cards still lost that 2012 matchup.)
— If Carson Palmer throws two touchdown passes, he’ll surpass Joe Montana on the all-time TD passes list. Palmer sits at 272, Montana 273.
When Palmer was asked about it, his response just reinforced to me my thought Palmer has every plan to play in 2017, regardless of how this season has gone/will go.
“What excites me about the game is the anticipation for Sunday, the process, going through and getting mentally prepared and physically prepared, obviously,” Palmer said. “There is no doubt that it would be an honor to do that, but I love playing the game because I love Sundays.”
— So atlantafalcons.com apparently does weekly simulations about the game ahead, and this week, they had the Cardinals winning the game, 21-19, behind David Johnson’s two touchdowns. So there’s that.
Tags: Carson Palmer, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Evan Mathis, fines, Jared Veldheer, Julio Jones, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Patrick Peterson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Steve Keim, Tom Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Vikings
Posted in Blog | 11 Comments »
In training camp, Bruce Arians had said if Jared Veldheer ever got hurt, D.J. Humphries would move from right tackle to the left side. That didn’t happen when Veldheer went down for real — John Wetzel moved into the lineup. But perhaps that could change now.
Thursday, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin did not rule out the possibility of Humphries moving to the left side now. Both starting guards — Mike Iupati (knee) and Earl Watford (shoulder) have been limited in practice. Wetzel can play guard, and the Cards also have Ulrick John, a right tackle whom they acquired earlier this season.
As far as Humphries moving, “we’ll see,” Goodwin said. “Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll see. He’s an athletic guy. He had some flubs last week in the red zone, especially on third down. But he’s getting smarter. I don’t know what we’re going to do. We will see on Sunday.”
The Cards have a lot of younger offensive linemen in play now. Goodwin’s approach? “Try and keep the curse words to a minimum and be positive at all times.”
As for what linemen will start against the Falcons, Goodwin was mum.
“We just have to have five guys out there, and I’ve got to do the best I can do coach them up,” Goodwin said.
Tags: D.J. Humphries, Earl Watford, Harold Goodwin, John Wetzel, Mike Iupati, Ulrick John
Posted in Blog | 15 Comments »
Steve Keim (like Kevin Minter Sunday) said it right away Monday, about how he sounded like a broken record. The stats were better than the opponent, the score was not. The Cardinals’ General Manager, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, was also blunt about the hole the team is in after 10 games and a disappointing 4-5-1 record.
“We’ve let our fans down, especially when expectations were so high,” Keim said.
That was the theme of Keim’s thoughts. “There’s nothing I care about more with in this organization than winning and putting a product on the field for our fans can be proud of,” he said. And this: “The season is not over, and I know that’s not what the fans and the people supporting us want to hear. But we’re certainly not going to quit.”
— Asked specifically about special teams and special teams coaching, Keim said there will be discussions about that and everything else after the season. He said the reoccurring theme not only for special teams but also the offense and defense was inconsistency. Keim is at practice daily, and he has seen and heard the coaching, not only on special teams but team-wide, and he noted that the players have to get better as well. “At some point and time, it comes down to those guys executing,”
— Along those lines, Keim said he takes ownership in the problems on special teams (and elsewhere) because he’s the one who supplied the players. “It’s something where we all have to look in the mirror, and that starts with me.”
— That was reflected on the long kickoff return. One issue Keim noted, sometimes it’s about “guys running downfield and having the will to make a play.” That’s about fighting through blocks and having a want-to he’s not seeing.
— Taylor Boggs was in the game late Sunday at right guard because Earl Watford was suffering from stingers, Keim said. He added he did not know if that might impact Watford’s availability for Sunday’s game in Atlanta. “We were down to our third guard,” Keim said. “(The Vikings) were running a lot of games and stunts (up front) and we had trouble picking those up.”
— Keim said he wasn’t sure if safety Tyrann Mathieu would be back this week to play, but said he was close in Minnesota and felt there was a good chance Mathieu would be available.
— He said, knowing how sick Michael Floyd was — Floyd was apparently up most of Saturday night ill — that he was willing to give him a pass on the deep pass where Floyd looked to slow up on what turned into a Carson Palmer interception.
— Palmer was impacted by receivers not getting open and protection that wasn’t very good. But “he made some critical mistakes as well,” Keim said.
— Keim said he doesn’t have a problem with the effort this season. But he also said, with limited things he can do to impact the current situation, he will continue to look hard at the back end of the roster and see if he can find players that can help, particularly on special teams.
Otherwise, he said he’ll continue to work by the motto he said he’s followed in his 19 years with the organization. “Be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” Keim said. “I have to be a positive leader.”
Tags: Earl Watford, Michael Floyd, Steve Keim, Taylor Boggs, Tyrann Mathieu
Posted in Blog | 65 Comments »
Carson Palmer walked off the field Sunday, baseball cap on his head, his look muted. He was by himself, and if it wasn’t for a brief stop to sign a Cardinals helmet for a disabled fan in a wheelchair when he entered the tunnel, he would have been alone in his thoughts until the locker room.
The quarterback said the same things as always when he met with the media – the team needs to figure out what mistakes they made and then set out on correcting them – but he knows the opportunities are slipping away for this team this season. All the Cardinals do. As safety Tony Jefferson said – quietly – “It’s never over ’till it’s over,” and mathematically the Cards aren’t really that close to eliminated.
But the tea leaves make it harder to remain optimistic, especially after a loss against a team the Cardinals are directly battling for a wild card spot. The Seahawks were handling the Eagles Sunday, and that’s another blow in the NFC West race.
It’s not like the Vikings were great Sunday. Bruce Arians said once again, it was his team beating itself. That’s happened way too often this season.
— Arians was asked if the special teams were being coached well enough. Special teams coordinator Amos Jones was not named specifically. “Extremely, extremely well,” Arians said.
— Special teams did have some good plays. Justin Bethel blocking an extra point. Brittan Golden getting a 49-yard kickoff return. But the kickoff return was a killer, and the failure of John Brown to catch the final punt hurt a lot too – although there was no guarantee the Cards would have moved it either.
— That was the first time a team had an interception return of at least 100 yards and a kickoff return of at least 100 yards since the Cowboys did it in 1962.
— According to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings targeted receiver Stefon Diggs eight times when Patrick Peterson was covering him. The result? Five receptions for 35 yards.
— The offensive line actually did a nice job blocking for the run all day – David Johnson was fantastic in both the run and pass game – but whatever it may have been able to do in the pass and play-action game was undone by the final quarter when Palmer was swamped repeatedly. Taylor Boggs was in at right guard at the end and not Earl Watford; there was no Watford injury reported.
— Palmer said he thought there was an obvious hold on John Brown on the 100-yard interception. Brown also said he was held although he was more muted in his statement.
— There was confusion – and anger – over the two 15-yard penalties called on Patrick Peterson (hitting QB-turned-wide receiver Sam Bradford) and Tony Jefferson (hitting what looked like a live Diggs on the sideline apparently too hard) and I personally am not sure why they were flagged. But it only lead to a field goal, and the Cards unfortunately couldn’t even generate enough to get into field goal range anyway. (UPDATE: This ESPN story contains a good analysis of the Peterson hit and the rule book.)
— Arians said the receivers didn’t run great routes. Michael Floyd can’t slow up on a deep ball, even if he isn’t sure if the ball will come his way. I’ll have to re-watch the end too, but when Palmer couldn’t find anyone open late, the wideouts seemed to have a tough time moving around to help him.
— It’s becoming weekly now – Chandler Jones with an important play. His strip-sack in the fourth quarter made it a game.
— Finally, it wasn’t a happy homecoming for Larry Fitzgerald. He started hot, with four catches for 53 yards in the first half, including a dazzling one-handed catch to get a first down inside the Minnesota 10 on the Cardinals’ first scoring drive. But he only had two catches for 10 yards after halftime. And the Cards suffered a painful loss.
“We had a bunch of yards and time of possession but at the end of the day it comes down to wins,” Fitzgerald said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s pretty or ugly. You are trying to come out with a win any way you can.”
Tags: Brittan Golden, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Chandler Jones, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Stefon Diggs, Taylor Boggs, Tony Jefferson, Vikings
Posted in Blog | 34 Comments »
The Cardinals officially put tackle Jared Veldheer and tight end Ifeanyi Momah on injured reserve today. To fill those roster spots, the team brought back guard Taylor Boggs — who was with the Cardinals in the preseason — and promoted safety Christian Bryant from the practice squad. The addition of Boggs means that for now, the Cards will deal with a tackle situation that is thinner than before. Ulrick John would be the top reserve, although starting right guard Earl Watford can play there, although it likely wouldn’t be ideal.
Boggs had gotten praise a couple of times in training camp from coach Bruce Arians. He can also play some center.
The Cardinals also cut tackle Martin Wallace from the practice squad. Replacing Wallace and the promoted Bryant are tight end Brian Leonhardt and linebacker Zaviar Gooden. Leonhardt has played in 16 games in his career with the Raiders and 49ers, while Gooden was a one-time third-round pick who has played in 25 games with the Titans and Lions.
Tags: Brian Leonhardt, Christian Bryant, Earl Watford, Ifeanyi Momah, Jared Veldheer, Martin Wallace, Taylor Boggs, Ulrick John, Zaviar Gooden
Posted in Blog | 8 Comments »
The Cardinals have a bye week coming. And there will be some roster changes, General Manager Steve Keim said Monday.
“I would say there will be a few,” Keim said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 “We’ll take a look at some different players. There should be a change or two.”
How much of that is voluntary and how much is forced upon the Cardinals is yet to be seen. Keim said left tackle Jared Veldheer — who was wearing a heavy wrap on his right arm in the locker room after leaving Sunday’s game — has a triceps injury. Keim said the team was still determining the extent of the injury, but that’s one where you wonder if it could be serious. Even if it isn’t long-term, the Cards may need an extra tackle available if Veldheer misses time. (Keim didn’t address Tyrann Mathieu’s shoulder, but he too is getting an MRI today.)
UPDATE: Veldheer needs surgery and is done for the season.
The rest of Keim’s shorter segment had to do with the second half and the big picture.
“The bye couldn’t come at a better time, not only getting healthy but also to reassess where we are at,” Keim said.
— The loss in Carolina was a “microcosm of the season as a whole,” Keim said. A slow start, unacceptable mistakes after. There were too many penalties, Keim said, and the pass protection was poor, which certainly was no secret. Keim said he was particularly disappointed in the play of guard Mike Iupati and Earl Watford.
— Keim didn’t have much to say about the fumble/review non-change, other than to say “if there are any complaints on our side, it’s frustration and excuses, because we had the opportunities to overcome those.”
— Keim said he thought Carson Palmer threw the ball exceptionally well — when he had time — and that J.J. Nelson has made excellent progress.
— He was disappointed in the tackling, and that the edge rush and intensity the team had had on defense the past few games was missing.
— Keim said the “silver lining” of the postseason scenarios is the NFC West and the fact no team is running away with anything. “We are certainly in a position to challenge,” he said. Keim is right of course, saying the Cardinals still basically control their destiny. He noted that in 2008, the left the field in both Philadelphia on Thanksgiving night and in New England wondering if that team was below average. Then they got hot and made the Super Bowl. Keim emphasized the wasn’t saying that would happen with this year’s version, but noted this team has a similar chance to prove people wrong.
— “We will certainly see the second half of the season how many of these guys are mentally tough,” Keim said. “This team hasn’t faced a lot of adversity the last few years. Now, we have.”
Tags: Carson Palmer, Earl Watford, J.J. Nelson, Jared Veldheer, Mike Iupati, Steve Keim
Posted in Blog | 54 Comments »
It was not good when both Evan Mathis and Mike Iupati got hurt in the same game, something that could have crippled the Cardinals’ offensive line. But perhaps it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.
Earl Watford slid in to Mathis’ spot — the spot that, in theory, Watford was drafted to play back in 2013, bookending with hopeful future left guard Jonathan Cooper. John Wetzel, a tackle by trade, filled in nicely for a game-and-a-half for the hobbled Iupati. All the Cardinals did in those two games was dominate in the running game.
Bruce Arians gave the entire offensive line (and running back David Johnson) game balls for the 171 rushing yards against the Jets.
Iupati should be back this week, sending Wetzel back to the bench. But if there is another injury at some point, the Cardinals have to be much more comfortable if Wetzel has to come in and play guard. Thinking long-term, however, the Cards may have some options beyond 2016. Iupati will still be around, but Mathis’ career is likely over, his one season in Arizona never really getting going because of multiple injuries. Watford is going to be an unrestricted free agent. Maybe he is brought back, the man to replace Mathis in 2017. If not, perhaps Wetzel is a candidate to fill in on the line, another big lineman who has really come out of nowhere to be a viable possibility.
Tags: Earl Watford, Evan Mathis, John Wetzel, Mike Iupati
Posted in Blog | 12 Comments »
Everyone knows the story now, that the Cardinals sought Ameer Abdullah in the 2015 draft and only took David Johnson a round later because the Lions jumped up and drafted Abdullah ahead of the Cards. Yes, you have to be lucky and good sometimes. But after Johnson ran through the previously No. 2-ranked rush defense in the Jets Monday, General Manager Steve Keim said Tuesday during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Johnson has been so impressive both on and off the field, “you wonder if he’s real.”
It was a pure compliment. When you talk to Johnson, Keim said, he’s smart and articulate and humble. A “true professional,” Keim said. And on the field of course, he’s been excellent. “B.A. gives him a hard time” Keim acknowledged, and Bruce Arians is willing to quickly mention what Johnson needs to do to improve despite his gaudy stats. “But the things he does for this offense puts a defense in a bind.”
Keim said he’s always seen Johnson’s skillset to create mismatches in the passing game. But Johnson’s evolution into a “pure runner,” Keim said, is noteworthy.
“He has really improved, particularly his patience and vision,” Keim said.
More Keim thoughts after the Cardinals got back to .500 Monday night:
— Keim said he liked the resiliency of the Cards fighting back to .500, although there is still a long season left. The Seahawks game is big, but (not unexpectedly) Keim said it was important because it’s the next game.
— Lots of praise for the defense. He said the Jets game was the first time he had seen the unit play fast and loose with minimal mental errors. It’s a tough unit when it plays like that, Keim said. When it was suggested that the defense is morphing from a blitz-first group to one who might do a little of everything (the Cardinals certainly finally have a group that can get to the quarterback with just four, especially when the four are Jones, Golden, Campbell and Okafor), Keim said “more than anything, I just think they are starting to jell.”
— Keim praised the play of Chandler Jones. “He impacted almost every play.” He also specifically named Markus Golden, fellow linebackers Deone Bucannon and Kevin Minter, and the play of two of the newer defensive backs, Tharold Simon and Marcus Cooper.
— Tyrann Mathieu continues to take steps forward. Keim said he doesn’t think the safety is 100 percent back yet, not from a movement standpoint. But “you definitely see signs of improvement.”
— It would be “huge” if the Cardinals can get Michael Floyd going in the second half of the season. But Keim said the Cardinals still want to do the same with the Browns — Smoke and Jaron — and even J.J. Nelson, who contributed quite a bit Monday night.
— Speaking of Jaron Brown, Keim did not have any injury updates.
— The offensive line and new guards Earl Watford and John Wetzel “did an excellent job” considering the opponent. The Jets had only given up one rushing touchdown coming into the game, Keim noted, and the Cardinals scored three. “Those guys stepped up for the circumstance they were put in,” Keim said.
Tags: Chandler Jones, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Jets, John Wetzel, Michael Floyd, Steve Keim
Posted in Blog | 27 Comments »