Among the rules changes/updates made by the NFL owners Tuesday at their spring meetings here at the Arizona Biltmore was the decision to make as a point of emphasis the existing rule that “egregious” hits come with an ejection and/or a suspension even for first-time offenders.
That’s always a fine line. It makes sense, with the league trying to find ways to get safer, like banning leaps over the line to block kicks. In this case, the league hopes to have players more wary of going in for an “egregious” hit knowing an ejection may be forthcoming. (USA Today quoted Giants president John Mara as saying there were only about four such plays last year.) The problem, of course, is that for the player it isn’t always easy to make that call in the moment — like when Deone Bucannon, money linebacker, hit Bengals receiver A.J. Green in 2015, wasn’t penalized but was later fined for the hit. Bucannon had a similar bang-bang play against the Chargers in the 2016 preseason, but that was deemed clean.
“If you’re over there tip-toeing and trying to do everything perfect, that’s going to make you a worse player,” Bucannon said during 2016 training camp. “I’m not thinking about, ‘Oh, man, what the consequences are.’ I’ve got so many things I need to think about. I need to think about what I’m doing within the defense to help my team win the game. And then on top of that, you expect me in point-one second to (decide where to deliver a hit)? I can’t think about all that at the same time, but I’m going to train my body through practice so I can understand.”
D.J. Swearinger, now in Washington, had a couple of big hits this past season, but they were clean. It is still possible to do such things. The first time a player is actually booted for a hit, however, will make for a huge story.
UPDATE: Competition committee chairman Rich McKay emphasized that the consideration today was meant as a deterrent. “Don’t take that there could be a suspension for first-time offenders as ‘We’ve got a problem,’ ” McKay said. “We had three or four plays we showed the union, showed our coaches, and we recommended, that if a player isn’t ejected on the field — and that’s a difficult thing, we don’t get a lot of ejections for football plays — we recommend a suspension even for a first-time offense. … We don’t expect it to happen a lot, but it was a point of emphasis.”
Tags: Deone Bucannon, fines, rules
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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
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Oh, there was still drama Friday that impacted the Cardinals, but for the first time in a couple of weeks, it wasn’t directly related to the Cardinals themselves. Instead, the Seahawks traded (the guy who seemed to be a dangerous) playmaker Percy Harvin to the Jets. That means the Cards never had to play against the guy when he was in Seattle – he was injured for both 2013 meetings, and the Cards have yet to play the Seahawks this season. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about why Harvin was dumped soon – a lot of stuff out there already basically saying Harvin had worn out his welcome – but the Cards aren’t going to be dealing with him.
Otherwise, it was a boring Friday for the Cards as they prepare for their road trip to Oakland. That’s a good thing. No quarterback questions. No wondering about chop block fines. No new injuries. Just a game.
How about that?
— Bruce Arians all but scoffed at the idea of trap games, and the way he and his staff operates, that doesn’t surprise me. There has been zero looking ahead (Philly and Dallas are up next) from what I have heard/can tell. Arians did say the Cards can’t be as listless to start in Oakland as they were against Washington and I totally agree. The lesson hopefully was learned.
— Speaking of listless, the last time the Cardinals went to Oakland for a regular-season game was 2006. It was a disaster. It was a week after the Cardinals had the infamous Monday Night Meltdown and Denny popped off (hey, that eight-year anniversary, by the way, was yesterday!) The Cardinals had fallen to 1-5, but we’re playing the 0-5 Raiders and the I-don’t-give-a-flip version of Randy Moss. The Cards were terrible. Moss actually scored a TD. That was a long time ago.
— Andre Ellington believes the run game is close. He actually said he feels more fresh right now than he probably should, because his foot injury means he doesn’t do as much as practice as he normally would. Ellington has also be careful, as he was going to have to, of getting down on plays once he figures out he’s not going to gain any more yards.
It was noticeable against Washington, and I even heard from a couple of fans wondering why he was going down so easily. In the end, Ellington said, it’s about thinking big picture.
“I don’t have the strength to fight away from tackles,” Ellington said. “I try to do myself justice by getting down and getting ready for the next play.
“(Other people) are not out there taking those hits like I have to. I feel like once I get all I can get, I’m going to go down. I moreso do it on plays when I get a big gain. If it’s third-and-one, I’m going to fight for that yard.”
— Ellington also said the Cardinals would have “some surprises” in the run game Sunday. We’ll see what that means.
— Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker was fined $10,000 for ripping the helmet off quarterback Carson Palmer on that in-the-grasp-probably-should-have-been-a-sack pass completion Palmer made to Robert Hughes. Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson was fined $16,537 for a horsecollar tackle on the sideline made on safety Rashad Johnson after Johnson’s first interception. Neither play drew a flag from the officials (although Dan Williams, Jared Veldheer and Tony Jefferson tried to get in Jackson’s face after the play.)
— Running back Marion Grice got a few first-team reps at running back this week, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said, although Goodwin made it sound it was more exploratory rather a harbinger of anything imminent. Goodwin also reiterated he thinks Grice can perform all the same tasks as Ellington.
— The Cardinals are third in the NFL in run defense, meaning they moved up in the rankings even after losing Calais Campbell and Matt Shaughnessy. Now they face the next-to-last rushing team in the league.
— How about Dan Williams playing some defensive end? The nose tackle likes it. “I’ll take it where I can get it,” Williams said. “It kind of reminded me of college a little bit. I haven’t played that much end since my rookie year.”
— You just get a feeling Patrick Peterson is motivated to have a big game Sunday.
— You know the Raiders buried a football? That’s what interim coach Tony Sparano did with his team, symbolizing the end of the poor play that culminated with coach Dennis Allen’s firing.
“If you keep looking back with that same old mindset like, ‘Oh, yeah man, we can’t do it because this, this and that, we already lost five games,’ well you defeated yourself before you even tried to get on the field and to make something happen,” Raiders defensive end and former Cardinal Antonio Smith said. “I think that was the main thing that Tony was trying to symbolize when burying that ball—burying whoever you were before that day, whatever team we were before that day.”
The Raiders played better last week. But they still lost. The Cards don’t want that changing. Not yet.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, fines, Marion Grice, Patrick Peterson, Percy Harvin, Raiders, Rashad Johnson
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