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Safety and life after Tyrann Mathieu

Posted by Darren Urban on March 14, 2018 – 12:55 pm

From the day he signed his new contract, Tyrann Mathieu and everyone else knew revisiting the deal might be a possibility. No one thought it was probable, because the last time we had seen the Honey Badger on the field he was playing like an NFL defensive Player of the Year and certainly — despite an other ACL tear — he’d be back to that same player by March of 2018. While Mathieu was solid in 2017 (and played the most snaps in the NFL) even he acknowledged he wanted to play better. And the team wanted to adjust his contract with that revisiting deadline had finally arrived. The two sides couldn’t come to an agreement, and Mathieu is no longer a Cardinal.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out on the field. It’s not like the Cardinals didn’t want him — they tried to re-do the deal — so they had plans for him. There is this notion out there that his role would be diminished, and while we don’t know exactly what the defense of new coach Steve Wilks will look like, it’s hard to imagine Mathieu marginalized if he had stayed. He didn’t, however, so now Budda Baker is the focal point at safety, along with veteran Antoine Bethea. Tyvon Branch is a free agent and coming off a major injury, so the secondary — which also as of now needs a cornerback across from Patrick Peterson — needs some help.

As for the Honey Badger, it will be interesting to see what his market is, after Kent Somers reported that the pay cut Mathieu was asked to take was said to be “reasonable.” (Everyone has a different perspective on reasonable, of course.) What teams might reach out to him? Could he land in New York, where both of his former defensive coordinators (Todd Bowles as Jets head coach, James Bettcher as Giants DC) are working? Where does he fit?

On a personal level, Mathieu’s story was fantastic to cover and he was always excellent to deal with — even when you would delve into subjects not everyone would want to talk about. He was open about his past. He was interesting talking about the height of his play. He was introspective when speaking about his hometown of New Orleans, and how it’s been a difficult place for him to be. He’s a player you want to see succeed.

 


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Another coaching opening (and more all-pros)

Posted by Darren Urban on January 15, 2018 – 3:01 pm

The Cardinals, Giants, Lions and Colts still have coaching vacancies, but this morning, the Titans added themselves to the list when they and coach Mike Mularkey agreed to part ways. The rules say coaches still in the postseason can only interview again next week if they had been interviewed once already, but Ian Rapoport tweeted that meant any coach who had been interviewed period, not just by the Titans. So they have a small window for the Super Bowl coaches. Obviously, by next week, there will be only two teams left playing.

Also Monday came a bunch of reports of coaches heading places, none official yet but certainly more strong than previously. With those reports, Pats DC Matt Patricia will coach the Lions, the Giants have Pat Shurmur as their frontrunner and the Colts would get Josh McDaniels. There have been no such reports on the Cards (or the Titans, obviously). Patricia and Shurmur were both on the Cards’ candidate list and it was reported that the Cards like Shurmur. It will be interesting to see if the Cards get any more clarity this week.

— The Pro Football Writers of America released its all-pro team today, and like the Associated Press all-pro team, linebacker Chandler Jones and special teamer Budda Baker made it for the Cardinals.


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A shutout and Giants aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 24, 2017 – 7:54 pm

I’ve covered the Cardinals for a long time, and I’ve seen them shut out a couple of (ugly) times. But I’ve never seen them pitch a shutout before Sunday – the first time the franchise has done it since 1992 and only the second time it’s happened since the team moved to Arizona in 1988.

No, the Giants aren’t very good and have lost all of their offensive stars, but it means something that the Cardinals still have that kind of consistent performance. It’s hard not to play what-if, the way this defense is performing. Win in Washington, like they probably should have, and beat the Tom Savage-Texans, like they probably should have, and next week in Seattle is much different.

But instead, the Cardinals will play spoiler, and while that isn’t ideal, it means something. If the Cards can knock the Seahawks out of the postseason, that would mean something.

— I truly believe that Larry Fitzgerald is undecided about playing next year. Actually, I think it’s not just about what he wants to do but also what this team looks like – who is coach, who is quarterback – that will play a factor. Fitz has not told me this. But it is logical.

Regardless, what a showing to close out 2017 at home Sunday. Fitz is fun to watch. Always has been. That the fun has not fallen off as he plays at age 34 – he’s the Cardinals’ best playmaker, for goodness sake – says so much about how good he really is.

— Chandler Jones didn’t get a sack, so he’ll need to do some work against Russell Wilson to get the franchise record for a season. He remains at 15, and Simeon Rice has the record at 16½. Two things on that: One, getting two sacks on Wilson –given his line and his penchant for running around in the pocket – is realistic. Also, Jones had another good pass-rushing game Sunday. He didn’t get a sack, but Pro Football Focus had him with four pressures of Eli Manning.

— The Cardinals rarely over the recent past have had teams miss field goals against them. It’s only happened twice this season. But one was Sunday, a 33-yarder from Aldrick Rosas that obviously allowed the shutout to happen. It doesn’t take away from the Cards’ excellent performance, but sometimes, you need a little luck to blank an NFL team.

— Back to Fitz. I’ve seen him throw a ton of passes over the years, in practice, in OTAs, messing around on the sideline. I’m not talk about plays, per se, but chucking the ball 40 yards on an accurate line back to one of the equipment guys after a practice catch, for instance. I’ve always felt they should try that once in a while. It doesn’t help that he’s not a threat as a runner out of the backfield, but still. The play was supposed to be a bomb to J.J. Nelson, but Nelson got knocked down and Jaron Brown instead got the 21-yard catch.

“I was hoping I was going to be able to throw it deeper, but I had to take what the defense gives me,” Fitzgerald said with a smile. “That’s what I was taught.”

Said QB Drew Stanton, “He’s coming for my job probably.”

— I thought Stanton was solid. He did exactly what Arians was hoping he would do – got them in the end zone, got them a win. The one time Arians has lost in Seattle since coming to Arizona, Stanton was the starting quarterback when Carson Palmer was hurt in 2014. Stanton gets a chance to redeem that next week.

— More (happy) Fitz: He noted that Jaron Brown, with two catches (putting Brown at 30 receptions) earned a $500,000 contract incentive. (Editor’s note: I have not confirmed this is true, but Fitz tends to be accurate when it comes to money.) “I made him an extra $500,000, so I’m happy for him and his family,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m glad I could be a part of that. Merry Christmas, Jaron!”

— Deone Bucannon looked great, and that’s important. You want to see him continue to come back from the ankle surgery that clearly set him back. Robert Nkemdiche too, getting involved, will hopefully be a spark to get him going into next season. Oh, and the signing of veteran safety Antoine Bethea has been a good one. Five picks? And he’s done a solid job all year.

— I could go on but I won’t. It’s Christmas Eve. Hopefully you’re reading this, but I’ve got a family to get home to. Happy holidays and a Merry Christmas to all.


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John Brown returns, Kerwynn active

Posted by Darren Urban on December 24, 2017 – 1:02 pm

Wide receiver John Brown, who has been dealing with a toe injury that has kept him out four games, will return to the field today against the Giants — which hopefully, combined with Drew Stanton back at quarterback, will aid a passing game and an offense that is trying to get a touchdown for the first time in more than 10 quarters.

Running back Kerwynn Williams and linebacker Karlos Dansby, both of whom were questionable to play, are also both active.

A full list of the Cards’ inactives here on Christmas Eve:

— QB Matt Barkley

— WR Chad Williams (illness)

— LB Gabe Martin (hamstring)

— LB Josh Bynes (ankle)

— G Earl Watford (ankle)

— TE Troy Niklas (ankle)

— DL Xavier Williams


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TDs on the wish list, Friday before the Giants

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2017 – 3:04 pm

Who wouldn’t want a touchdown for Christmas?

The Cardinals certainly do. They’d like for the move to Drew Stanton to mean a TD on their first possession. They’d like to break that paydirt drought that has grown to more than 10 quarters. It’s gonna be Christmas Eve, after all. Are the Cards ready to do that? Bruce Arians hopes so, but he can’t predict it.

“You don’t know until you get in a game,” Arians said. “It’s totally different than practice. (Red zone) is one of the looks that’s hard to get from the scout team.”

Of course, it doesn’t have to be in the red zone. They’d take a 50-yard Stanton-to-J.J. Nelson bomb. They’d take a one-yard Elijhaa Penny plunge. They’d take another Ricky Seals-Jones end zone sighting. They’d certainly take a Fitz fade.

“B.A. talks about it, I talk about it, it’s simple execution,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “You go back to last week (in Washington), there are plays there to be made. Ball is a little high or (tackle) Will Holden gives up a sack, little things. Many opportunities, and we didn’t get it done. I kick myself all the time, we score one touchdown, we probably win that game.”

We know what’s on the Cardinals’ wish list.

— The roof at University of Phoenix Stadium will be open Sunday for the game. Temperatures are supposed to be in the upper 60s, so dress accordingly.

— When Carson Palmer went down, the Cardinals knew they were going to have to rely on their defense. The defense knew this, and they have basically played like it. Starting with the Seahawks game in Week 10 (the Cards still only allowed 10 points the game before against the 49ers), the Cardinals are the No. 1 defense in the NFL. They haven’t been perfect, but if the offense had been able to do a little more against the Seahawks, Texans and Redskins, the Cards would be in a different place, even with all the injuries.

— Linebacker Chandler Jones said he’s happy with his 15 sacks so far because it accomplishes his goal – which is an improvement over the previous season. “It was always to do better than last year,” Jone said.

The bar is going to be pretty high for 2018, then.

“Exactly,” Jones said. “Because I know next year around training camp, you guys are going to be asking me, ‘What’s your goal?’ And I’ll say,  ‘Better than last year, uhhhhh.’ ”

— In what could be Larry Fitzgerald’s final home game, he needs eight catches for 100 on the season and 18 yards for 1,000. It would be fitting for him to get both.

— The Giants have three players from near the Cardinals’ practice facility. Defensive end Avery Moss played at Tempe Corona del Sol, linebacker Devon Kennard played across the freeway at Desert Vista in Ahwatukee, and running back Paul Perkins is from Chandler High School.

— Karlos Dansby likely will play Sunday, but with Josh Bynes out, rookie Haason Reddick has a chance to play some inside linebacker for the first time since moving outside following Markus Golden’s season-ending injury. That would be good. Reddick’s future is inside in this defense.

— A better draft pick awaits if the Cardinals lose out, but the players would like to climb back to 8-8 (especially because it would mean beating the Seahawks in Seattle.), Besides, “you don’t want to put bad things on tape,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “We have great guys in this locker room that understand that.”

— For all you seeking a retro look, the Cardinals will finally be wearing their red pants with their red jerseys Sunday. It’s a festive look after all.

See you Christmas Eve.

 


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The end of Eli(?), and his Cardinals ties

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2017 – 8:39 am

The news of Eli Manning’s benching (and his emotional reaction) had me thinking of a lot of different ways Manning has direct and indirect ties to the Cardinals over the years.

— Tangibly, the Giants play in Arizona on Christmas Eve. Once it was supposed to be Eli versus Carson Palmer and possibly for playoff positioning. Now, we’re looking at a likely matchup of Blaine Gabbert against — if reports from New York pan out — rookie Davis Webb by then. Maybe Geno Smith. Probably not Eli though.

— The 2004 draft was pretty good for some big-name talents, but the years are starting to whittle at the list. Manning was the top pick, and now, what happens with him? Is it possible he is done for good? Just done as a Giant? Already, Larry Fitzgerald (No. 3 overall pick) and Ben Roethlisberger (No. 11) have talked about retirement being an option. No. 4 pick Philip Rivers once talked retirement instead of moving from San Diego to L.A., but then he re-thought things and shredded the Cowboys for 400-plus on Thanksgiving. (It was also the 10-year anniversary of the death of No. 5 overall pick Sean Taylor a couple of days ago.)

— Manning won an amazing Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium, when David Tyree pinned that ball to his helmet and then Manning made the perfect TD pass to Plaxico Burress — who was a Cardinals’ coaching intern this past training camp.

— And then, of course, it was Manning’s “role” in the Cardinals’ lone trip to the Super Bowl. If it wasn’t for Eli, Kurt Warner may never have come to the Cardinals. Warner signed with the Giants the same year Manning was drafted and everyone knew what was going to happen. (“We had a great understanding when he came, we were basically going to try and use each other,” then-Giants GM Ernie Accorsi told me the following offseason, after Warner signed with the Cards.) But it was the Cardinals who sped up the process.

It was the struggling Cardinals who sacked Warner six times at Sun Devil Stadium — four by Bertrand Berry, pictured — and had Giants coaches in the press box screaming “Throw the ball!” as Warner held on to it when he was taken down. The Giants had been 5-2, fell to 5-4 with the loss and were still in the playoff hunt — but the next game, Manning was in the lineup to begin the 210-consecutive-game starting streak that looks like it will end Sunday.

Warner came to Arizona the next year and eventually wrote the back half of his Hall of Fame career. Manning won two Super Bowls, so the Giants made out well. And today? Today we’re seeing the truth of all truths: Whether the Giants are making the right call or not to close out 2017, time is undefeated.


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Cardinals’ opponents set for 2017

Posted by Darren Urban on January 1, 2017 – 2:10 pm

It’s not exactly on par with the news that the Cardinals will play a game in London next season, but the opponents the Cards will play in 2017 is just about set. The only part left is Sunday night’s Packers-Lions game. The Cards will travel to play the loser of that game next season. UPDATE: The Packers beat the Lions, so the Cardinals will go to Detroit.

As always, the schedule is to be announced, although we know the London game will be either Week 7 or 8 (and will be followed by their 2017 bye). The full NFL schedule comes out in mid-April.

HOME

— Dallas Cowboys
— New York Giants
— Jacksonville Jaguars
— Tennessee Titans
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers
— Seattle Seahawks
— San Francisco 49ers
— Los Angeles Rams

AWAY

— Philadelphia Eagles
— Washington Redskins
— Houston Texans
— Indianapolis Colts
— Detroit Lions
— Seattle Seahawks
— San Francisco 49ers
— Los Angeles Rams (in London)


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With 2016 here, a look at the 2017 opponents

Posted by Darren Urban on July 27, 2016 – 10:51 am

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:

HOME

— 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

AWAY

— 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


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Pierre-Paul picks Giants over Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on March 8, 2016 – 12:55 pm

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul re-signed with the Giants today on a one-year deal, ahead of officially becoming a free agent. But the Cardinals apparently were in the mix for his services, as was pointed out on Pierre-Paul’s statement distributed on social media.

“I would like to thank each and every organization that reached out to my agent during this process especially the Arizona Cardinals,” Pierre-Paul wrote. “It was hard to decide, but me and my family decided that it’s best for me to stay in New York.”

The Cards reportedly offered more money than the $10.5 million Pierre-Paul will get on the one-year contract.

The Cardinals have reportedly been in talks with Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin as well (along with Rams defensive lineman William Hayes) as the team tries to upgrade the pass rush. Pierre-Paul, for all his issues last year after his fireworks accident, was still attractive (and he’s counting on his one-year deal to allow him to hit the open market and get paid big next offseason, so he could be available again.) Meanwhile, the Cards continue to talk with agents as the official opening of free agency approaches at 2 p.m. Arizona time Wednesday.

Jason Pierre-Paul

 


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Giants aftermath, with a Stanton twist

Posted by Darren Urban on September 14, 2014 – 4:56 pm

Carson Palmer couldn’t play. Might not be able to play, at least another game. So that gives you … a Bruce Arians shrug. “Drew’s a starter in this league in my opinion,” Arians said. “Always has been.”

Drew being Drew Stanton, of course, and he was at a starter Sunday. Unlike the recent past, where backup quarterbacks would come in for the Cardinals and it usually meant problems – although at that time, the starters weren’t all that good either – this team is equipped to live through something like the quarterback going down and still coming away, after a cross country flight, with a victory.

The Giants are not the 49ers, of course, and if Stanton is still in the lineup next week, the Cards aregoing to have to up their overall game. The same can be said even if Palmer plays, realistically. But 2-0 is certainly much better than any of the alternatives.

The fact Stanton didn’t turn the ball over was a big deal. Sure, Eli Manning had better stats, but Stanton avoided causing his team trouble. Arians said Stanton played better than his stats would indicate. Perhaps. Stanton does need to capitalize on a couple of red-zone attempts – he wasn’t that close on some throws and another touchdown would have made life a lot easier – but he looks like a guy who knows the offense.

— When Palmer comes back is anyone’s guess. He kept talking about the nerve “waking up.” I would think it will be ready when it’s ready. Arians said he’s looking at this long-term with most of the season to go, so I’d expect Stanton against San Francisco if Palmer isn’t sure. Then again, if Palmer was possible to play Sunday Arians was going to put him in, so it sounds like it’s on Carson.

— What a day for special teams coordinator Amos Jones. Bad kickoff returns from Ted Ginn – Arians said he might be firing Ginn from that part of the game – and another punt block, this time because protector Robert Hughes allowed Rashad Jennings to push him back enough so that Jennings could get a hand on the ball. That’s two blocks in two games because of a poor block. But then Ginn snapped off his 71-yard return – and Ginn most certainly isn’t leaving punt returns – showing off his hellaspeed, and then Kenny Demens knocked loose the ensuing kickoff return for a fumble the Cardinals turned into a field goal.

— It was a rough game for Patrick Peterson. It did not help the physical cornerback was in a game with an officiating crew that was taking the edict on emphasizing illegal contacts/defensive holding very seriously. But Peterson said after he has to adapt, and he’s right. There is no other choice. The TD he gave up on the fade to Reuben Randle was a nice throw and a great one-handed catch from Randle, but in the end, that’s the kind of play Peterson – who now carries the weight and expectations of being the highest-paid cornerback – has to make.

— Andre Ellington was excellent Sunday. He nearly got to 100 yards – 91, actually – on only 15 carries, and this is a guy who isn’t 100 percent. Ellington said he isn’t even sure if he’ll be 100 percent at any point because his foot only gets better with rest and the bye week may not be enough time. Regardless, if he plays like Sunday, he and the Cardinals will make it work. The guy is a threat with his speed to get a first-down running on third-and-14, like he did Sunday.

— Safe to say going with Chandler Catanzaro was a good call? The kid looks good.

— For those scoring at home, that’s Cardinals 27, opponents 0 in the fourth quarter this season. And a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks.

— Fitz was back. Ten targets, six catches (for 51 yards). Almost had a touchdown, and should’ve have another catch for 36 yards had Jared Veldheer not been caught facemasking a pass rusher.

— Big game for Calais Campbell. A team-high 10 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, and would’ve had a another sack (and forced fumble the Cardinals recovered) if not for one of those pesky illegal contacts. He has to play like the great player he is for this defense to survive all its losses.

— Antonio Cromartie made a great play on that third down bomb late in the game to Randle, getting his hand in just enough to mess up a potential catch. That hits, and all kinds of drama. Instead, the Cardinals stopped the Giants the next play, and the game was over.

— Larry Foote on his game-ending interception: “There’s a dirty rumor going around my locker room that I can’t catch,” Foote said. “I told ’em I’d catch it when it counts.” Looked Fitz-like to me.

— Tyrann Mathieu with only a few plays (but his first tackle). It’s going to be a slow process, but he’s back on the field.

— The Seahawks lost. On the road, but it was to a Chargers team the Cardinals just beat. Yes, the NFC West should be interesting all year.

Rueben Randle, Patrick Peterson


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