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Friday before the Giants

Posted by Darren Urban on September 12, 2014 – 2:23 pm

The Cardinals moved up practice this week, starting at 10 a.m. on the field. That way, the players are “used” to playing football at 10 a.m., which is kickoff time for Sunday in New York against the Giants. Anything to be as prepared as possible for the earliest start time of the seasom.

“You do everything you can,” coach Bruce Arians said.

Larry Fitzgerald shrugged off the early-start-is-tough-on-the-Cardinals storyline this week – “That’s in the past, he said – and sometimes, there’s only so much you can do anyway. The Cardinals stayed in Florida all week last year after their road game in New Orleans to be properly adjusted for the game in Tampa Bay, and then they were terrible in the first half.

What the Cardinals didn’t have at that point last year was the confidence this group has these days. That makes a difference.

– There are plenty of injury questions for the Cardinals heading into the game, from Carson Palmer’s shoulder (he should be playing) to Andre Ellington’s foot (he thinks he’ll be playing) but maybe the most interesting thing at this point on the injury report is the fact Tyrann Mathieu is listed as probable. If he wasn’t likely to play, there’s no reason to not list him as questionable again. Food for thought as we wait the couple of days to see who is on the inactive list.

– The Giants’ passing game, under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, has been a mess. Eli Manning is trying to learn a new system after years under Kevin Gilbride, his weapons are questionable and his offensive line struggles. It’s a situation upon which the Cardinals can capitalize, especially if they continue to defend the run as well as they do.

That said, the Giants are already frustrated. Bruce Arians told the New York media this week it takes a half-season for a veteran QB to get comfortable in a new offense – paging 2013 Carson Palmer – but that’s not exactly the timeframe Giants coach Tom Coughlin was hoping for.

“I’m not patient,” Coughlin said. “I’m not one of those. I don’t have a real good handle on that maybe because we haven’t done that around here and I haven’t done that for a long time. I have to bite my tongue sometimes and kind of step back and realize it’s a process.”

– I want to see Chandler Catanzaro kick outside in a place that can have interesting weather. The Cat Man is off to a great start.

– The Giants got some pass rush on Matthew Stafford Monday. Their secondary seemed a little out of sorts (covering Calvin Johnson can do that). But I think the Cards’ offensive line held up well enough in the opener. That must continue.

– Don’t remember a game in which both starting punters might be sidelined with injuries, but Dave Zastudil is questionable with his bad groin and the Giants’ Steve Weatherford is questionable after hurting his ankle. The difference is the Cardinals already have a backup punter on the roster with Drew Butler. The Giants haven’t made such a move yet.

– There is always emotion at play during an NFL game. At the end of the Cardinals’ win – when running back Jonathan Dwyer was about to get a third straight handoff on third-and-5 trying to seal the win – offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said “a couple of choice words for him to keep the ball inside.”

“As big as he is, you saw the last run, he kept it inside and ran full speed, that’s what we’ve got to do,” Goodwin said.

Dwyer slammed up into the line for seven yards and a game-clinching first down.

“He was yelling, he said something, and it kinda pissed me off,” Dwyer said. “But I knew what he was talking about. I wanted to get the first down for my team. That’s what they brought me in to do.”

– If you missed this week’s Cardinals Underground podcast – and it was easy to miss – here’s a link.

– Lost in the will-Fitzgerald-get-more-targets stories of the week was the fantastic start to the season of Michael Floyd. Five catches, 119 yards, proof he’s a dangerous deep threat and the continuing uptick of his growth. He doesn’t get the spotlight, although that’s just how he likes it. That’ll change if he keeps playing this way.

FloydFridayBefore1USE


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Palmer limited, but it might not mean much

Posted by Darren Urban on September 12, 2014 – 12:41 pm

Quarterback Carson Palmer took his turn talking to the media Wednesday, as usual, in a session that happens before practice, as usual. The injury report didn’t come out until a few hours later, when Palmer appeared on it as limited with a right shoulder issue. He remained limited all week and is officially questionable for the game Sunday against the Giants. This, however, is not cause for concern.

At least, it isn’t for coach Bruce Arians. “It’s been sore,” Arians said about Palmer, “but we’ve been down this road before. The best game he had last year, he didn’t practice all week.”

That is true. Last season in early December, Palmer was officially limited all week with a right elbow injury. It came to light after the fact that “limited” was in the full context of the word; Palmer and Arians both said after that Sunday’s game against the Rams Palmer had not thrown a single pass in practice. He ended up completing 27 of 32 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown in a brutally efficient 30-10 win. So there’s that.

“Sometimes, at his age, it’s good not to throw it (in practice),” Arians said.

Arians said it was a “nerve thing” bothering Palmer, but he thinks Palmer will be fine. Drew Stanton is the backup, and Arians has said numerous times he has full confidence in Stanton if Stanton would have to play. Arians did say the Cardinals may be working with Palmer on his sliding during the bye week, because his sliding performance against the Chargers — as in, there wasn’t really any — is something that needs to improve.

– Running back Andre Ellington was limited too, but he said he’s “good to go” for Sunday and it would probably be an upset at this point if Ellington does not play.

– Interestingly, safety Tyrann Mathieu, who has been practicing full since the season started, was listed as probable for the first time. That would seem to bode well that he would be active, but Arians wouldn’t go that far. Instead, he reiterated Mathieu is “very, very close.”

CPlimitedblog


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Back on 9/11

Posted by Darren Urban on September 11, 2014 – 10:17 am

It’s hard to believe, but before the Houston Texans came along and there were 31 NFL teams, there was a bye every week — including opening weekend. In 2001, that team that had to sit out the NFL’s first week of play was the Arizona Cardinals. So that “bye” week — if you can call it that, since the Cardinals last played a meaningless fourth preseason game and were mostly just waiting — came and went slowly, and the players were ready to get going with a road game against NFC East rival Washington coming up Sunday.

Back in those days, Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis met with the media daily, including the players’ off day of Tuesday, so I — working for the East Valley Tribune — was still going to be headed over to the Cards’ facility. But I was woke up a little early by my wife, who had flipped on the TV in our bedroom a little after 6 a.m. and said, “I think you want to see this.”

And on the screen, the World Trade Center, both towers, were already billowing smoke.

I ended up going over to the Cardinals’ complex earlier than I normally would’ve, because you just wanted to be around people at that point. By then, the Pentagon had been hit and you start thinking that the hotel you are going to be staying at in just a couple of days is only a couple train stops down from the Pentagon and what the hell is happening in the world? I sat staring at the TV screen in the media relations office, and at one point, Pat Tillman sat down beside me just shaking his head, and I couldn’t help but try and get a comment about the Cardinals-Redskins game that was to be played.

“The importance of football ranks zero,” Tillman said, and of course he was right. That day, so much was left unknown, but it was quickly determined that the games that weekend would be postponed and frankly, with a 2-year-old at home, flying toward all that chaos wasn’t something I really wanted to do — not that it mattered, after all air travel was grounded for the time being.

The Cardinals didn’t play a regular-season game until Denver visited the following weekend. I remember going to New York to play the Giants in December for a Saturday game, and heading out on Friday night with cohorts Kent Somers, Scott Bordow and Pedro Gomez. By the time dinner was over, it was 11:30, and we drove over to Ground Zero. For December, the weather was surprisingly mild, and I remember coming around the corner and being much closer than you’d expect to the crash site. Workers even at that hour continued to plug away at the wreckage, pieces of the bottom of the building still pointing haphazardly in the air around so much debris, the floodlights giving the whole area an eerie glow. Just outside the gates were the leftovers of all the makeshift staging areas from the disaster, hundreds of “Have you seen me?” posters still hanging from those who had hoped against hoped they hadn’t lost someone in the towers.

A few weeks later the Cardinals played their makeup game in Washington, and I ended up at the same hotel and I took the train to the Pentagon stop, seeing the damage and thinking how — the previous year — it had been so easy to walk near the Pentagon to see it up close and how that was never happening again.

Now, the Cardinals find themselves going to New York this week again, a couple of days after the anniversary. In 2005, the Cards played in New York on 9/11, which was memorable. I haven’t had a trip to New York — including one with my family — without visiting the area, and this time will be no different. Today, there are always a flood of memories that come rushing back from a day, and a time, that will always resonate.

TillmanSept11blog


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Cardinals among top 50 valued sports teams

Posted by Darren Urban on July 16, 2014 – 9:54 am

Forbes came out with another list ranking the (estimated) value of sports teams, in this case, the world’s 50 most valuable franchises. The Cardinals make the list at No. 40, with an estimated worth of $961 million. Only the Raiders and Jaguars don’t make the top 50 list among NFL teams, meaning that even though it is top-heavy with soccer clubs (the top three are soccer, a major nod to the global fan base the sport produces) the list still provides context of how powerful the NFL — which dominates the United States — remains.

The top team is the soccer club Real Madrid, valued at $3.44 billion. The top non-soccer franchise is the New York Yankees, worth $2.5 billion, at No. 4. The top NFL team is at No. 5, with the Dallas Cowboys coming in at $2.3 billion. The Patriots, Redskins and Giants are also in the top 10.

Among NFC West teams, the San Francisco 49ers ($1.224 billion) are 20th, the Seattle Seahawks ($1.081 billion) are 28th, and the St. Louis Rams ($875 million and hoping for a new stadium, which would boost their value) are 45th.

Forbesuse


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With 2014 schedule, London calling?

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2013 – 3:03 pm

The NFL announced today that three teams will host games in London during the 2014 season: Jacksonville, Oakland and Atlanta. Why does that matter? Because you never know if the Cardinals could get picked to be the visiting team to a London game.

The Cards don’t play Jacksonville next season. But they do travel to Oakland, and with an away game at the “matching” NFC South team wherever they finish, there is a chance the Cardinals could have a road game in Atlanta next season — making then two of the three London games possible. We are far away from knowing for sure, of course, but it’s an interesting tidbit to chew on.

So, as long as we are discussion the 2014 opponents — because why wouldn’t you five games into the previous season — here is the list of the Cardinals’ schedule-to-be:

HOME

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

Kansas City Chiefs

San Diego Chargers

NFC North “like” finisher (If Cardinals finish in second place in division, for instance, they play the second-place team from NFCN)

Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

St. Louis Rams

AWAY

Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Denver Broncos

Oakland Raiders

NFC South “like” finisher

Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

St. Louis Rams


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Versus the final four

Posted by Darren Urban on January 20, 2012 – 1:37 pm

It’s an inevitable comparison, especially when the NFL gets down to a Final Four and the team you cover (or root for, in the case of a fan) isn’t one of those four: How exactly did Team Whomever fare against those left? The Cardinals had four games against three of the teams, sporting a 1-3 record. They split with the 49ers, of course, playing poorly (especially on offense) in San Francisco and then dramatically holding off the division champs in Arizona (in the only one of the last five home games of the season that didn’t go to overtime).

The losses to the Ravens and Giants, of course, were the two most painful of the season. In both cases the Cardinals probably should have won given the circumstances, with a 24-3 lead in Baltimore late in the first half in the first case and a 10-point lead with less than five minutes left at home in the second.

Of course, “should have” is a dangerous concept in this league. There are eight opponents of the Cards this season that were undoubtedly thinking “should have” after the Cards knocked them off. Still, second-guessing isn’t limited to fans and media. Players and coaches all say they put it behind them by Tuesday — and in the context of the season, they usually do — but it lingers and gets rehashed.

Not that it has an impact this weekend.

Speaking of this weekend, I’d be curious, if I could take a poll (and it was answered honestly) what the results would be about the 49ers’ place in the NFC title game and what they want to happen. Is it a case of guys wanting the NFC West to succeed? Or has enough bile built up that they are hoping the Niners get knocked off?

– As a postscript apropos of nothing, guard Daryn Colledge (who has been here rehabbing his surgically repaired elbow) and his wife donated $150,000 to his alma mater, Boise State, today to improve the weight room for the athletics program. Colledge was a four-year starter at Boise from 2002-05.


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Cards sell out game against 49ers

Posted by Darren Urban on December 8, 2011 – 3:01 pm

The Cardinals officially have sold out Sunday’s game, meaning it will not be blacked out locally and instead be shown on Fox (Ch. 10) in the Valley. The game is the 61st straight time – out of 61 possibilities – in which the Cards have sold out University of Phoenix Stadium.

That’s an impressive total (46 of those games are from the regular season) but they have a while to go to match the longest streaks. Both the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins have sold out all their regular season games since 1974. The Steelers since 1976. The Jets date back to 1981, the Giants 1981 and the Packers 1989.


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Giants aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 2, 2011 – 9:35 pm

Was it a fumble? Does it even matter?

This is the reality – Giants receiver Victor Cruz did an amazing job keep his feet after an initial hit by cornerback Michael Adams. He made a couple of moves back and forth. Then he “gave himself up” and then dropped the ball. The Cards picked it up. “I thought it was a fumble,” safety Kerry Rhodes said, and honestly, as I stood down on the sideline some 20 yards away, it looked that way to me. Giants quarterback Eli Manning admitted the Giants caught a break.

To me, I get the idea of being able to give yourself up, OK. But to me, you’ve got to catch and drop down immediately. If you’re not a QB, once you are running down the field, you should have to be touched down. If Cruz ended up pulling a Plaxico, so be it. It seems – based on reaction by NFL analysts around the league – the Cards indeed should have gotten the ball.

Watching the replay seems to make the call even more egregious than I originally thought.

Of course, as Larry Fitzgerald said, it shouldn’t have come to that and that’s completely true. The Cards aren’t the only team melting down with a lead Sunday. I was listening on the radio on the ride home about all the big lost leads and it was Dallas blowing one against Detroit and Philly choking against San Francisco. It doesn’t make it OK, but it happens.

The emotional swing from the time Beanie rumbled in for his third TD to the last incompletion to Fitz on fourth down was simply giant (pun intended). To be 2-2 going to winless Minnesota, compared to 1-3 …

Some thoughts about today:

– Beanie Wells said he isn’t even completely healthy. He sure looked healthy. He gets 138 yards and three touchdowns. He finally gets a big-carry game – 27 when it was all over. It was enough. It really should have been enough (although I won’t lie, I was hoping for the shotgun-quick draw to him on that final fourth down just to pick up the first down).

– The heave-it-up-to-Fitz-and-let-him-make-a-play worked giveth – on the 47-yard bomb to set up a TD – and it taketh away – on the Antrel Rolle interception. Although it did look like if Kevin Kolb had a little less air under the pass, I’m not sure Rolle would have gotten there. It was a very athletic play by Rolle. (Although Rolle said he “knew” that’s where he’d be headed the whole time.)

– Eli Manning has had some pretty good luck throwing into that one end zone at University of Phoenix Stadium.

– As usual, Jeremy Bridges brought a little bit of nasty to the field when he replaced Brandon Keith at right tackle. Keith hurt his right knee, but it will be interesting to see, even if/when Keith is OK if Bridges gets a chance to play more.

– The last sack Kolb took was on a screen, and coach Ken Whisenhunt said it was simply a four-man rush (which makes sense, because on a screen the linemen basically let the rushers go). “We should have gotten rid of it,” Whisenhunt said. To take a 10-yard sack there was a killer.

– Many people think Hakeem Nicks is one of the top receivers in the game. His numbers – 10 catches for 162 yards – seemed to show that. I know there is frustration with the cornerbacks, like Patrick Peterson on the last play, but Nicks made some Pro Bowl-esque plays.

– A.J. Jefferson was still returning kickoffs. I would guess that has more to do with LaRod Stephens-Howlings coming off the hand injury rather than feeling the Hyphen isn’t the best kick return man anymore.

– The vaunted running duo of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined for 57 yards rushing on 21 carries. It’s hollow somewhat because of the Giants’ comeback, but it was a nice effort by the Cards’ rush defense.

– I thought Darnell Dockett played really well. Officially Dockett had two tackles for loss among his four tackles, but he drew a few holding penalties and was in the backfield most of the day (and another hold could have been called on the infamous non-fumble play. I thought Dockett was going to reach Manning on that play).

Well, everyone was talking about moving on. That sounds like a good idea. I still have a little Sunday left to not think about football.


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Beanie and Hyphen active versus Giants

Posted by Darren Urban on October 2, 2011 – 11:34 am

As expected, running backs Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling are active for the Cardinals today, as the team is as healthy has its been since the season opener. Wells said earlier in the week the reason he sat out last week was to make sure he’d be back healthy right away, and it seems to have worked. Having Stephens-Howling return gives the Cards much more flexibility in the backfield as well.

There are no surprises on the inactive list, which is as fallows:

  • WR Chansi Stuckey (hamstring)
  • WR Stephen Williams
  • QB john Skelton
  • CB Korey Lindsey
  • T D’Anthony Batiste
  • TE Jim Dray (pectoral)
  • DE Ronald Talley

 


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Friday before the Giants

Posted by Darren Urban on September 30, 2011 – 4:06 pm

The term “must-win” always creates a sticky situation, unless, you know, a team must win – think, oh, the Atlanta Braves the other night after the St. Louis Cardinals won. That was a must-win. The Cardinals aren’t playing a must-win Sunday against the Giants, because the bottom line is that worst-case scenario, they would only be two games behind the 49ers in the division with 12 to play, and two games left with San Francisco. Logically, nothing is over with a loss.

Obviously, there is a sense of urgency, however, especially after the Cards came up short – painfully so – in Seattle. That was one I thought was going to be a victory, and I am pretty sure I’m not the only one. The Giants are coming off an impressive win in Philadelphia, and they are going to have defensive end Osi Umenyiora back. The momentum is on their side, especially after the Cards sputtered in the Northwest.

But oftentimes, these are the early-season home games the Cards somehow seem to win — the Steelers in 2007, the undefeated Bills in 2008 (and the Cowboys the next week), the Saints last year.

The ebb and flow of a football season can mess with emotions, especially with a week between games. The grind has a long way to go. Beating the Giants changes the vibe considerably, however, compared to the alternative – which would be a 1-3 record.

– This will be a big test for quarterback Kevin Kolb. Kolb said this week he felt like he took a step back in Seattle. Taking a step forward – against the Giants’ pass rush – isn’t an easy task. I expect, after the second-half issues with Fitz, that the Cards will work very hard to get Larry Fitzgerald consistently involved. Kolb is very aware of what the Giants’ defense is all about, having studied them as a division opponent his first four seasons (although he’s never played against them) and he got a chance to talk to Michael Vick earlier this week. Wonder if Vick was able to give him any pointers.

– Interesting to hear today that O’Brien Schofield will wear a wristband to make sure he knows the defensive plays. If that’s what it takes to get Schofield on the field more often, that’s fine. It’s not about pride, it’s about results no matter how it is accomplished.

– It sure seems Beanie Wells will be back carrying the ball this week. You got the vibe last week Wells wouldn’t be able to go and he didn’t. It’s the other way this week. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off. The Cards need that. A side boost from LaRod Stephens-Howling wouldn’t hurt either.

– It’s been two seasons, but the last time the Cards had a shot at Eli Manning, they made Manning look very ordinary up in New York in 2009 on “Sunday Night Football.” That was a game where the defense and Wells shined, more than being a Kurt Warner production. I would think that would have to be the recipe again. Tom Coughlin is conservative. If the Cards can force a couple of turnovers, I think they will be OK. If not …

– As nasty as the hit by Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor was on Todd Heap last Sunday, it may not have been illegal. That seems to be the sentiment from the NFL after Chancellor was not fined.

– The game is a sellout, of course. On TV locally, but more importantly, loud for the home team in theory. After two straight on the road, that will make a difference.

Interesting stats from Profootballfocus.com, as they grade out the offensive lines thus far as far as pass protection. They make the point that how quickly the quarterbacks release the ball isn’t factored into the equation yet, but the Cards – by their metrics – are 29th in the league, and every offense lineman except for guard Rex Hadnot is in their bottom rankings.

– The Giants still use running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs so well. Slowing them is the key – defensive coordinator Ray Horton said as much – as long as the Cards don’t let Hakeem Nicks get deep.

– Why does this feel like a game where Darnell Dockett makes the highlights?

Remember, it’s the breast cancer awareness game, as well as alternate uniform game. So be sure to wear your best pink-and-black combo, and we’ll see if the Cardinals can get back to .500 and steady the ship a bit.


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