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No rush for “mindful” Tyrann Mathieu

Posted by Darren Urban on August 26, 2016 – 8:38 am

All along, Tyrann Mathieu has preached patience.

The safety has been encouraged with his progress coming back from his ACL tear, and still hopes to be on the field when the Cardinals play the Patriots Sept. 11. But as good as Mathieu has done in practice, he is clearly cautious.

“I wouldn’t say I’m ready to play a full game,” Mathieu said. “I still feel like I have a ways to go.”

Mathieu recently estimated himself around 80 percent, and this summer, talked about how he wanted to be 100 percent before playing, with a nod to how much he struggled at the outset of the 2014 season when he was coming off another (albeit much worse) ACL tear. Coach Bruce Arians said there is still a chance for the PUP guys — Mathieu, cornerback Justin Bethel and defensive tackle Frostee Rucker — could play in Houston Sunday. As for Mathieu in particular, he is “not necessarily cutting it loose” in practice, Arians said. “I’d like to see him in game action, but that doesn’t mean I have to see him.”

Listening to Mathieu, an appearance now seems doubtful. Realistically, this would be the one opportunity — it’s hard to imagine someone at the top of the roster playing in the fourth preseason game, much less someone coming off a significant injury.

“Your passion tends to override being mindful of where you are at in your recovery,” Mathieu said. “As long as I stay mindful of that, as long as people around me stay mindful of that, I think I’ll be all right.”

UPDATE: Mathieu did not practice Friday, but Arians said he expected the three PUP players to play “10, maximum 12 plays.”

MathieuPlayBlog

 


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Smokey Brown back, Okafor will play

Posted by Darren Urban on August 21, 2016 – 1:50 pm

Bruce Arians just spoke to the media prior to Sunday’s practice, with a lot of good injury news coming out of it (all of which will extrapolated upon later on azcardinals.com.):

— LB Alex Okafor has decided to try and play with his torn biceps muscle. Arians said it will be a matter of pain tolerance more than functional strength.

— WR John “Smokey” Brown has been cleared from concussion protocol and will return to the practice field. Needs to get in shape, but he’s finally back.

— DT Robert Nkemdiche is “close” to coming back from his bad ankle. Arians said he hopes he’s out there Wednesday. The Cards practice today and Monday and are off Tuesday.

— The PUP guys — S Tyrann Mathieu, CB Justin Bethel and DT Frostee Rucker — are back doing individual drills today and are in uniform for the first time.

— G Mike Iupati (knee) is not practicing.


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No more PUP but still no Smoke, Nkemdiche

Posted by Darren Urban on August 16, 2016 – 12:30 pm

The Cardinals are prepping for their night practice against the Chargers tonight and Bruce Arians delivered a bunch of injury updates, not the least of which the fact there are no more players on the physically unable to perform list. S Tyrann Mathieu, DT Frostee Rucker and CB Justin Bethel have all been put on the active roster, and while they will not practice yet — Arians said, as he did before, that they will only take part in walkthroughs and get mental reps — it’s a start.

Arians wouldn’t even say if all or some will be available Week 1 against the Patriots, although he did say Mathieu was “close.” They have to get to individual work before they even graduate to team practice.

— WR John “Smokey” Brown still has yet to be cleared after his concussion. At this point, Arians acknowledges it is a concern. The Cardinals will be smart about it, and Arians said Brown will likely sit out a couple extra days after he’s cleared just to be safe. Besides, Arians said, Brown will have to work his way back into shape anyway since he has been out so long.

— The hope is that rookie DT Robert Nkemdiche (ankle) will return to practice next week, Arians said.


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For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 23, 2016 – 1:35 pm

The players have been gone for a couple of weeks. The coaches are on vacation. Now is the time for them to not think about football, since football will dominate lives when the end of July arrives.

In the meantime, it is the perfect time to speculate and predict.

As I have done for a number of years, here are my picks, in late June, of who will be the starters for the Cardinals when they begin the regular season Sept. 11 against the Patriots on “Sunday Night Football.” They are the best guesses for a team that has yet to take part in training camp, yet to absorb any of the inevitable camp injuries, yet to sign anyone late as a Steve Keim blue light special.

While the Cardinals often are in some sort of sub-package, for this post we are going with the base defense. I’ll post my thoughts on the offense tomorrow (and here they are):

DT – Calais Campbell. Going into the last year of his contract, Campbell’s future with the Cardinals is fuzzy. But the Pro Bowler has played well, and the addition of Chandler Jones figures to make him better, and in a year where the Cards are going to push for a Super Bowl, he’ll be a key piece.

NT – Corey Peters. The Cards like Rodney Gunter, who was solid as a rookie. But Peters was impressing coaches before his Achilles injury last season, and I expect him to make a similar push to get back into the starting lineup by the time the season starts. Other than Campbell, the defensive line starter positions are a) up for grabs and b) part of a rotation, anyway. One caveat: This is assuming Peters is indeed all the way healthy, but coach Bruce Arians said Peters would be ready to go come camp.

DT – Frostee Rucker. Rucker missed offseason work with a foot injury, and he may not be ready right when camp opens. But assuming he doesn’t miss too much time, he figures to find his way into the lineup again. He’s been solid the last couple of seasons, and while there is youth available (Gunter, Nkemdiche, Stinson) Rucker still leads the way.

OLB – Chandler Jones. He was penciled into the lineup the day he arrived in a trade. He’ll be a three-down player.

ILB – Deone Bucannon. Last year at this time I picked Bucannon to be the starting strong safety. It was, after all, where he spent the entire 2015 offseason working. Then, when camp began, Buc was back at dollar linebacker. The Cards don’t even pretend he is anything but anymore.

ILB – Kevin Minter. He got his chance to show he could be a starter last year, and he made it work. He’ll be back in place again as he goes into the last year of his contract.

OLB – Markus Golden. When it comes to outside linebackers, Jones is the star, Alex Okafor is the former starter on the comeback trail after his dicey exit to 2015, and Dwight Freeney is the still-available free agent. Meanwhile, Golden, who was solid as a rookie, will slide into the starting spot opposite Jones. He’ll have the chance to be a nice bookend.

CB – Patrick Peterson. Yes, 2014 was mostly forgettable. Peterson couldn’t have made 2015 more memorable. That was the stud cornerback he could be, and the one the Cards are counting on going forward.

CB – Justin Bethel. There is competition, not from someone unsigned, but from the rookies. If Bethel is going to grab this job, he has to hold off raw rookie Brandon Williams. He should be able to do that.

FS – Tyrann Mathieu. In the end, I think Mathieu finds a way to be ready by “Sunday Night Football” to open the season. If not, Tyvon Branch – who will get a lot of playing time anyway – is around. The Cards need a healthy and productive Mathieu.

SS – Tony Jefferson. Branch will be in the mix too, and D.J. Swearinger will make a push, but in the end I think Jefferson finds his way on to the field first, as the Cards once again mix-and-match often their secondary. (Would I be surprised if Branch starts? Not at all.)

DefenseWorth


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Mathieu and the Cards’ contract cliff

Posted by Darren Urban on May 16, 2016 – 10:25 am

Tyrann Mathieu is going to get a contract extension. When, exactly, remains an unknown, although Ian Rapoport reported Monday the team and Mathieu are “deep in negotiations” toward a deal. I’ve long felt this was a matter of when and not if with the all-pro safety. For a multitude of reasons for both sides, it behooves both to get a new contract done.

But from the Cardinals’ end, a big reason to want to lock up Mathieu is because of the laundry list of players who, as of right now, are free agents after this upcoming season. It’s a subject we’ve talked about before, and the reality is not everyone will be with the Cardinals after this year. Still, if you have hope to having some guys around, you’d think the Cards would want to pare down the work facing them before this year ends. Here is the list — and it doesn’t include every single FA-to-be — of guys who are contract-less after 2016, as it stands right now:

— S Tyrann Mathieu
— WR Larry Fitzgerald
— OLB Chandler Jones
— DT Calais Campbell
— WR Michael Floyd
— G Evan Mathis
— DT Frostee Rucker
— RB Chris Johnson
— RB Andre Ellington
— S Tony Jefferson
— TE Jermaine Gresham
— OLB Alex Okafor
— ILB Kevin Minter
— WR Jaron Brown
— S D.J. Swearinger
— RB Stepfan Taylor

That isn’t the entire list, but those are the bigger names. Obviously, each are taken individually to an extent. Some guys the team will just move on from in the normal course of roster change in a salary-capped world. But big picture, it’s a puzzle GM Steve Keim and his department are working on as this season approaches.

Contacrtcliffblog


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Eagles, and Honey Badger, aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2015 – 1:35 am

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.

We’ll see.

— 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?

AriansLockerBlog


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Palmer leads Cards’ final Pro Bowl list

Posted by Darren Urban on December 17, 2015 – 11:45 am

Quarterback Carson Palmer was the top vote-getter for the Cardinals now that the public part of Pro Bowl voting has ended. Palmer got the fourth most votes of any player — 514,967, to be specific — and was also fourth overall in the NFL, since QBs all finished ahead of him (Brady, Newton, Dalton).

Free safety Tyrann Mathieu dropped a spot to third at his position, but Frostee Rucker made a late surge to get into the top 10. In all, 11 Cardinals were ranked in the top 10 in votes at their respective positions. Players and coaches vote later this week league-wide to come up with the final Pro Bowl tallies/roster, and they get announced Dec. 22.

The full Cardinals’ list:

— QB Carson Palmer fourth

— RB Chris Johnson eighth

— WR Larry Fitzgerald fourth (with an impressive 410,095 votes)

— G Mike Iupati fifth

— DT Calais Campbell fifth, Frostee Rucker seventh

— CB Patrick Peterson fifth

— SS Rashad Johnson seventh, Deone Bucannon 10th

— FS Tyrann Mathieu third

— Special teams Justin Bethel fourth

ProBowlBLOG

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Friday before the Bengals

Posted by Darren Urban on November 20, 2015 – 4:08 pm

The Cardinals will play their 100th game at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday night against the Bengals. They still have one player who has been around for all 100. In fact, Larry Fitzgerald – who, once we get there, will have played in 97 of them – actually can make comparisons, since his first two seasons were spent playing home games at Arizona State.

“I remember back in the days playing at Sun Devil Stadium when you couldn’t pay someone to watch us play out there,” Fitzgerald said. “Now you can’t get a seat in the building. It’s great to see the turnaround.”

It’s been a few weeks since the Cardinals last had a home game. That too was nationally televised against an AFC North team. The Cardinals beat Baltimore on “Monday Night Football.” Now, thanks to a flex choice, the Cardinals get Cincinnati on “Sunday Night Football.”

The 100 games – all official sellouts – includes everything: Preseason and postseason. This one will have a bit of a postseason feel too, given that the Cardinals are 7-2 and battling (for now) to keep the No. 2 seed in the NFC and the 8-1 Bengals hoping they can still catch the undefeated Patriots for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

This one should be fun, even with the Cards a little beat up. The Bengals have their issues too.

— The Cards will likely be down one starting offensive lineman in right guard Jonathan Cooper, but I’d think Ted Larsen would start for him (Earl Watford is still possible.) They will have Mike Iupati at left guard. I don’t think Michael Floyd plays after missing practice all week, and Smokey Brown isn’t at full strength. But the Bengals are also likely to not have two defensive starters in defensive end Michael Johnson and No. 1 cornerback Pacman Jones, so there’s no advantage.

If Floyd is down, J.J. Nelson will be active, and you figure he’ll be the deep threat if Brown cannot be. Besides, as long as Carson Palmer is in the pocket, the passing game will survive.

— Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin didn’t seem particularly worried about where the injuries left the Cards.

“We don’t turn the ball over, we’re a pretty good freaking offense,” Goodwin said.

— Bruce Arians acknowledged that he didn’t notice much of a difference last year when the University of Phoenix Stadium roof was open for “Sunday Night Football” against the Seahawks compared to when it is closed.

But, “do I like having it closed?” Arians said. “Hell yeah.”

— No official word about the roof status until Sunday afternoon, most likely.

— Speaking of the stadium, don’t forget there will be heightened security around the game because of recent terrorist events around the globe. Give yourself plenty of time to get into the building.

— With defensive tackle Cory Redding out with a bad ankle, there is a chance we could see undrafted rookie nose tackle Xavier Williams active for the first time this season.

— Palmer was fined $11,576 for his sideline gesture that was caught on camera in Seattle following Andre Ellington’s late touchdown run. Palmer had a couple of first pumps but then threw in a pelvic thrust toward the crowd. Palmer said after the game his reaction was toward three friends he had in the stands.

“I had my buddies on the sideline right four or five rows up,” Palmer said. “I saw them pretty excited, and it got me excited to see them excited.”

— Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright was fined $23,152 for his crushing hit to the head on Larry Fitzgerald. The Seattle Times reported that Wright, who is appealing, said he apologized to Fitz and that Fitz got up laughing after the hit. (I’m not sure what that matters in terms of the fine, but …)

— ESPN did a breakdown on the luckiest and unluckiest teams in the NFL based on random events, and the Cardinals actually were called unlucky. That’s because out of their own 12 fumbles on offense, the Cardinals have recovered only four, and out of 10 opponent fumbles while on defense the Cardinals have recovered only three. Since fumble recoveries are usually luck of the bounce/right place, right time, the Cards should have more. Also, opposing kickers have yet to miss on 16 field-goal attempts.

— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher is happy with his outside linebacker rotation of Alex Okafor, LaMarr Woodley, Dwight Freeney and Markus Golden, but he said it’s hard to get everyone the playing time they deserve. Golden only played 10 snaps in Seattle in the first game with all four players available.

“As a defensive coach, you don’t want to play more snaps, but you wish there were more snaps for guys to get,” Bettcher said.

— Profootballfocus.com said of their grades, only three cornerbacks do not have a game with a negative number this season: Carolina’s Josh Norman, and the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. (PFF considers Mathieu a slot cornerback since he’s played the most snaps there.)

— Ex-Bengal and current defensive line starter Frostee Rucker has been quietly one of GM Steve Keim’s best signings. Rucker signed in 2013 to be a backup and role player, but has emerged as a highly effective starter and locker-room leader. And Rucker is enjoying his increased role.

“It’s the pat on the back that someone doesn’t have to say, because you know you’re contributing to something that’s good,” Rucker said.

It’s a feeling a lot of Cardinals have right now.

On to Cincinnati.

BeforeCINCU

 


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Keim: Iupati sore but OK

Posted by Darren Urban on November 16, 2015 – 8:20 am

Considering how scary it was to see a 6-foot-5, listed-at-331-pound man down on the field to the point where an ambulance had to come on the field to take him away, the news about guard Mike Iupati was incredibly excellent after the game. Bruce Arians said last night Iupati has been cleared going forward. General Manager Steve Keim didn’t quite go that far during his appearance Monday morning on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7, but it sure sounds like there is at least a chance Iupati could be ready for next the upcoming Sunday night game against the Bengals. (Iupati looked like he was walking around fine when I saw him on the plane last night.)

“He’s pretty sore, but thank goodness there were no major issues from an injury standpoint,” Keim said.

Some other Keim points on a (very) short night, after the Cardinals didn’t even land at Sky Harbor until 3:15 a.m.:

— Keim wouldn’t say the Cardinals needed to win in Seattle, but echoed the sentiment of some of his players, that it was a “confidence-builder.”

“Playing up there you know you’re going to face adversity at some point,” Keim said. Yet the Cardinals rallied. The Cardinals, by the way, didn’t even win the turnover battle, with a minus-two for the game. No one expected that in Seattle, but now, that’s two Palmer wins there in a row despite losing the turnover faceoff.

— Keim noted the communication issues a couple of times with the pass protection.

— Keim said the drive that really stuck with him was the one ending with Jermaine Gresham to give the Cardinals a lead they didn’t relinquish. For Carson Palmer, that “was a statement drive.”

“That was a drive that really embodies the type of guy he is,” Keim said. “The leader he is, the mental toughness he has and the competitive spirit he has.”

Keim also marveled at the way Palmer continues to keep plays alive with his footwork in the pocket. Palmer was really, really good at that Sunday night.

— Props from Keim to wide receivers Jaron Brown and Brittan Golden, who came up big when no one expected.

— Some other players he noted for playing good games were defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker. As for wide receiver Michael Floyd, “he has really, really matured,” Keim said, adding that his practice habits are good and Floyd has “completely bought in.”


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Rallying to Browns aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 1, 2015 – 7:20 pm

There are times when Larry Fitzgerald is, let’s say, careful with his words. The veteran receiver understands what and what not to put out for public consumption, so there are times when he’s delivering sanitized material. Not Sunday, not when the first question was what exactly happened at halftime to change the Cardinals’ fortune in Cleveland.

“We just pulled our heads out,” Fitz said, and thankfully he allowed us to fill in to ourselves from where the Cards were doing the pulling.

Between the turnovers and the sloppy defensive moments it wasn’t hard to figure out that the Cardinals were doing themselves dirty in that first half. They are fortunate they were able to turn it around. Why it took so long – “It seems like until we get pissed off or something, then we start playing and we can’t be like that to get where we want to be,” defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said – is something that will be a point of emphasis. But if there is always something to be learned, this week it is that this team can overcome turnovers and pull one out. Now, if you are a minus-two (and at one point, a minus-four) against a good team, that will be problematic. But this week, it was not.

— From the time the Browns scored their third and final touchdown, the Cardinals’ defense forced five punts, had an interception, forced a fumble and then got a stop on downs. The Browns gained a total of 92 yards on those eight possessions.

— The last time a Cardinal running back had 30 carries in a game before Chris Johnson’s 30 Sunday (for 109 yards?) Edgerrin James had 36 on Oct. 16, 2006. Perhaps you remember that one. James had only 55 yards in that game, and well, the Bears were who we thought they were.

— CJ2K is also the first Cardinal to have four 100-yard games in a season since … wait for it … Stump Mitchell, now Johnson’s position coach, who did it in 1985.

— Former agent/cap guru Joel Corry tweeted out that with his surpassing of 664 yards rushing on the season, Chris Johnson has earned the first $280,000 of the $1.13 million in incentives built into his contract. Why 664 yards? Because he had 663 yards rushing last season while playing for the Jets.

— The Cardinals did not get enough pressure on Josh McCown in the first half. That changed in the second half, and you could see the results. In a side note, Dwight Freeney had his second sack in as many weeks.

— Carson Palmer was just talking last week about how he doesn’t care about stats but how he cares about red-zone efficiency and third-down conversions. Sunday, the Cardinals were 3-for-5 in the red zone – a very solid 60 percent – and 13-for-16 on third downs – an amazing 81 percent.

— And this is a team that missed on two wide-open bombs down the field on overthrows both Bruce Arians and Palmer said were because of the wind.

— Palmer is on pace for 40 touchdown passes.

— The bye comes at a good time. Arians pegged both wide receiver John Brown and cornerback Jerraud Powers at “85 or 90 percent” Sunday, but were held out because the Cardinals could afford to hold them out. If that’s the case, you figure a week off will do wonders and set them up to be ready after the bye. Same goes for Larry Fitzgerald, who hurt his ankle late and will get some welcome rest.

— The players are off Monday – “Victory Monday” has arrived. With the bye week, they’ll have practice Tuesday and Wednesday, and then get the mandated four-day weekend. At 6-2 halfway home, and with a two-game lead in the NFC West, it’s been a solid start.

BrownsAfterUSE


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