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Palmer, IR and the hard decisions

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2017 – 1:39 pm

So much for the Carson Palmer optimism.

The Cardinals officially put their quarterback on injured reserve Thursday. It means he is out at least eight weeks, it means he could at most play two more games, it means someone — likely T.J. Logan, but maybe Palmer, after all this — cannot come back this season. If Palmer indeed was going to be able to return sooner, you leave him on the 53-man roster and try and massage those inactives for a month-plus. But the Cards felt they needed the roster spot, and so Palmer is on the sideline. If the news after Wednesday’s surgery was definitive enough, then there is no reason not to IR him.

There is an open roster spot but Bruce Arians has already said it won’t go to a quarterback. Who they add (and it might not be until Monday or Tuesday, since the Cards are off until then) will be interesting. Wonder if there is a pass rusher out there who might be able to help out the struggling Haason Reddick in that regard. Also, is there still confidence in David Johnson coming back? I am guessing yes.

Mostly though, you think of Palmer. Unless the Cardinals can stay in the playoff hunt, it may not make sense to bring Palmer back for the last two games of the season. And yes, it makes you start to wonder if he has thrown his last pass for the Cardinals. If he returns, it’s a moot point — and don’t forget Arians said if Palmer was IR’d the Cards would “definitely” save one of their IR-return moves for him. (Again, teams only can bring two players back from IR in a season, after a minimum of eight weeks.) Palmer is also under contract for 2018. But is he going to play another year? There are still nine games left in this season, but the reality of the 2018 offseason and the potential changes to this team are hard to ignore.


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In London, Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on October 20, 2017 – 1:16 pm

The week in London is nearing its end. The Cardinals are hoping it means something. The Rams didn’t pull in until early Friday morning from Florida, while the Cards got here Tuesday morning. The players have adjusted for the time, but that doesn’t mean it’d be any easier for Carson Palmer to throw the ball if it turns out to be rainy and windy Sunday night at Twickenham Stadium.

It’s been a work week. Some players have gotten out – there were many who hit the city even Tuesday night, and I’ve just wrapped up a central London tour with rookies Haason Reddick and Rudy Ford, photos and video to come – but it’s been work.

(An interesting sidebar: Before leaving Jacksonville, Rams running back Todd Gurley told ESPN “they need to stop this, all this stuff. This London, this Mexico City stuff, it needs to stop.” He did say the the games are cool and he praised the fans, but it simply messed with the people’s schedule too much.)

Certainly an experience. But as kicker Phil Dawson said Friday, if the Cards play well Sunday, spending a week here makes sense. If the Cards play poorly, everyone will say they were there too long. It is all about results, just like every week.

— The trip to London probably muted what would have been a second straight week of Adrian Peterson buzz, but it’s still floating around. Peterson was blunt when he was asked if he thought those weeks with the Saints might’ve just been the end of his career.

“Oh, no,” Peterson said. “I definitely wasn’t going to let the devil do that to me. No, not at all. I knew things were going to change. I didn’t know when, but I knew. I refused to let that come into my mind. Like, ‘This is not the way it’s going to end. God has way more for me. My latter is going to be better than my beginning.’ That’s what’s in my mind, and this is just the start of it.”

There have been many players over the years who don’t think their career is over but they are the only ones who cannot see it. Turns out Peterson was right. The Cards will benefit from that.

— Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said last week’s offensive performance was what the Cards were looking for all year (and likely what they had envisioned if David Johnson had stayed healthy.)

“We just hadn’t got it,” Goodwin said. “The plays didn’t change, it’s just the attitude changed when Adrian got here. … Even when he got tackled he’s slapping guys in the back of the helmet. He’s setting the tone and that’s spreading throughout the offense.”

— Dawson has played in London before, and he played many seasons in the wind-whipped conditions of Cleveland. “The grass here reminds me a lot of Cleveland, Ohio,” Dawson said. “The wind, the misty rain, the longer grass. Hopefully those years will prove me well, but one thing I’ve learned after all these years is just because you’ve played in conditions one time doesn’t mean you’ll be prepared for the next.”

The weather forecast for Sunday night is the upper 60s and only a small chance of rain.

— Bruce Arians reiterated cornerback Tramon Williams will have a bigger role in multiple packages. He did not say he was starting (although to be fair, he didn’t say he wasn’t either). Whatever happens, we will see how he does and how Justin Bethel reacts.

— I’ve been lucky enough to meet some European Cardinals fans the last few days, and I expect that I’ll meet a few more. Always good to know the team has a following around the world. Those here – and the U.S. fans who have flown in for the game – will see an important matchup Sunday. Being here, it is easy to lose sight of the magnitude of Sunday’s result.

Until then, cheerio.


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A pair of Petersons, Friday before the Bucs

Posted by Darren Urban on October 13, 2017 – 3:59 pm

Adrian Peterson was the story of the week after he was traded to the Cardinals Tuesday. For a few days, all you can really have is speculation. The coaches and players are enthused about his arrival and what he might be able to do. Really, you’d expect nothing else. Optimism tends to reign in these situations.

“You got Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald on the same team, and Carson (Palmer) is delivering the ball to both of them,” tackle D.J. Humphries said. “It’s like, ‘What?’ That sounds like something you would do on ‘Madden,’ a team you’d create on ‘Madden.’ ”

The spotlight will be on “All Day” Sunday. If I had to guess – and this is purely a guess – I’m guessing on 12 or 15 touches. The revamped offensive line has to make some inroads, and that’s no guarantee. And while Peterson supposedly has looked good since arriving (we cannot watch practice), there’s no way to know exactly what the 32-year-old will do in a game situation.  Still, there is little arguing that, after a bad game in Philly, there was a vibe of hope around this offense this week.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think he’d be on my team,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “But he is.”

— The Cardinals have another Peterson. Patrick represents the other side of the ball. Unlike Adrian Peterson, who is still looking to prove he has a lot left, Patrick Peterson doesn’t need to, because he is at the height of his powers. But that can only go so far. And before the offensive Peterson arrived, it was the defensive Peterson’s overflowing passion in Philly that underscored some of the issues with a defense of which so much was expected.

Let’s say P2 does his job on Mike Evans this weekend. The Cards have to find a way to control DeSean Jackson and some good tight ends. They have to get off the field on third-and-long. (An aside, the Cardinals have been good at forcing third downs and even third-and-longs. They just have to close the deal.)

“It’s definitely something we’ve struggled with all season,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “I think it’s something we can correct. We’ve got a veteran group on the backend. Everything has to go together. If you call a zero blitz, the pressure has to get home. If you’re dropping zone, you’ve got to affect the passer. I think everything goes hand-in-hand.”

A zero blitz, like the one that didn’t get home at third-and-19 last week.

— Speaking of getting home, it was a tough first game at outside linebacker for rookie Haason Reddick. He made a couple of nice plays – there was one great stay-at-home play on a zone-read run by Eagles QB Carson Wentz – but mostly was locked up and a non-factor as a pass rusher.

“I don’t think he played as well as he wanted to play,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “He had four days playing the position. Play fast and play hard, he did that. Now we stack pieces on top of that.”

— Sunday is the Cardinals’ “Crucial Catch” game so if you have a chance to wear pink and represent, here’s your opportunity.

— Will be interested in seeing how the interior of the offensive line handles Gerald McCoy.

— With the running game having its issues and Palmer throwing all the time, he’s up to 1,573 yards passing. That’s a pace for 5,033 for the season, which would obliterate the franchise record.

— Another reason defense always seems to be a key: Under Arians, the Cardinals are 34-3-1 when holding the other team to 20 points or fewer.

— The Cardinals will wear their black uniforms Sunday (and for those who have forgotten, it was the Buccaneers who were the opponent in 2010 when the Cards wore their black alternates for the first time.)

That’ll be two straight home games in which the Cards wear black, because they’ll break out their Color Rush unis for the next home game Nov. 9, Thursday, against the Seahawks. The difference? The Color Rush jerseys will have red numbers instead of white. And the pants will be black, not white.

Here endeth the jersey conversation for today.

— OK, maybe not all the jersey conversation. After the talk about Adrian Peterson and Justin Bethel and wearing 28 (and there is a chance the league wouldn’t allow an in-season change, but I could not get an official answer on that), Larry Fitzgerald was asked if he went to a new team if he would expect whoever had No. 11 to give it to him.

“I would just go where I fit in,” Fitzgerald said. “It wouldn’t bother me. I wore No. 1 my whole life until I got here. They gave me 11. At the end of training camp a couple of 80-numbers were available, but I was like, I’ll stick with it, this is what they gave me. The number doesn’t make the player. The player makes the number. I’ve always thought that.”

— The Cardinals leave Monday night for London. But first, the Bucs. See you Sunday.


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Eagles aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2017 – 3:23 pm

J.J. Nelson wore an ice bag on his side, courtesy of the first hit he took in the game Sunday. The last one left more of a mental bruise – one in which it looked like the wide receiver would make the final score look a tad better on a 29-yard touchdown catch from Carson Palmer, only to have the TD erased and the ball lost when replay showed Nelson losing a fumble at the 1 and through the end zone.

“I was just trying to make a play, stick it out there (across the goal line),” Nelson said, shaking his head. “The guy hit me, and made a nice play.”

The score wouldn’t have really made a difference, but it figured to end like that. The loss in Philly couldn’t have been much uglier (although someone on Twitter suggested it was the Cards’ worst game in 10 years, and wow, that anyone could forget the 2012 Seattle trip stuns me). All the Cardinals’ current issues were laid bare – a failure to run, problems on the offensive line, an inability to score, giving up too many big plays – and then you add it a breakdown on third down defense. The Eagles weren’t just converting third downs but long third downs.

The backbreaker, although the game was basically secured by then, was the 72-yard TD on third-and-19, with the blitzing Cardinals unable to get to the quarterback. That was a common theme. The pass rush took a step back, and whether that was Markus Golden missing or something greater, it’s not a great sign.

Bruce Arians took the blame a couple of times in his press conference. He said he didn’t have the Cardinals ready to play. From a 40,000-foot level, seems an apropos assessment.

— The offensive line started Earl Watford at left guard. At one point, when right tackle Jared Veldheer had to leave briefly with a knee issue, the line was, from left tackle to right tackle, John Wetzel, Watford, A.Q. Shipley, Evan Boehm and rookie Will Holden. Veldheer did come back into the game, although Arians said Veldheer will be sore (and said the same about DT Corey Peters, who also left for a time with a knee.)

If Veldheer is OK, and maybe D.J. Humphries and Alex Boone can come back next week …

— It did seem like Arians stuck to the run more. It still didn’t produce. Only 2.2 yards a carry.

— Larry Fitzgerald keeps grinding. He didn’t have a catch for a while until grabbing one for a reception in his 200th straight game. He finished with six receptions for 51 yards.

— The Cardinals have lost long snapper Aaron Brewer with a broken wrist/hand, Arians said. So they’ll be in the market. Josh Mauro and Boehm filled in and did OK. But the blocked field goal was because of the snap. It wasn’t bad, it was just a tick slow – which is all it takes for a guy coming off the edge.

— Haason Reddick did play some outside linebacker, but he was having trouble getting past the blocking when rushing the passer. There will definitely be a learning curve there.

— Palmer didn’t have bad stats, but they could have been. He was nearly picked off three times on plays that were broken up by his wide receivers. Nelson had one and John Brown had two, showing off two different cornerback skills. The first Smoke did a nice job simply knocking it away. The second was in the hands of Jalen Mills – and Brown timed his hit perfectly, landing a heavy body blow as Mills was coming down, jarring the ball loose.

It was a day to seek such silver linings.


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That Philly feeling, Friday before the Eagles

Posted by Darren Urban on October 6, 2017 – 3:36 pm

The Cardinals are en route to Philly right now, the fifth trip there since 2008, and the previous four have had some memorable moments. The 2008 game was the ugly Thanksgiving night beatdown, with the Cardinals losing by four touchdowns yet coming out of it not afraid at all of the Eagles (which showed a couple months later when they beat the Eagles in the NFC Championship.) The 2011 game was an improbable 21-17 win with John Skelton throwing a pair of perfect passes on the game-winning drive, one on a wheel route to the Hyphen, LaRod Stephens-Howling, and then a bomb to Fitz. In 2013, Bruce Arians’ first year, the Cards lost 24-21 when a late pick by Patrick Peterson was wiped out by a flag on Tyrann Mathieu, a penalty the Cards weren’t thrilled was called.

But it was the last trip that encapsulated so much with the Cardinals, especially in relation to where they are now. It was a 40-17 domination by the Cardinals on “Sunday Night Football.” The Cardinals clinched the NFC West title that night, an accomplishment that seems so much longer ago than 22 months. It was David Johnson’s coming-out party, with his Beastmode-like run and his career-best 187 yards rushing. And it was Mathieu’s devastating second ACL tear, that took all the wind from the excitement of the night and might’ve cost the Cardinals a chance at the Super Bowl.

The Cards have been a .500 team since then. Mathieu is still trying to find his groove. Johnson is hurt and cannot help. Chasing a division title is still a goal, but there is much to be fixed for that to be a topic.

— The Cardinals not only will have the early start Sunday – 10 a.m. Arizona time – but there might be a little rain. Bruce Arians doesn’t care. “They are all excuses,” the coach said in his opening statement Friday. It’ll be the first game the Cards will have played outside this season.

— After two rough games, right tackle Jared Veldheer was the highest-graded offensive lineman from the San Francisco game and offensive line coach Harold Goodwin said he was “proud” of Veldheer. “The biggest thing for him is gaining confidence but I was pleased,” Goodwin said.

— Arians, who was hired as Temple’s head coach at age 30 and left the job in part because it literally was making him physically sick, was asked if in-his-30s Arians would have imagined himself still coaching now (Arians turned 65 earlier this week).

“I would hope so, if I wasn’t dead,” Arians said. “That job down there killed me.”

— Another Philly guy is Earl Watford, who just signed this week and now could be in the starting lineup at guard Sunday. It looked like Watford’s days as a Cardinal were over, having played out his contract and with both sides ready to start fresh. But here we are.

“A lot of people would think that, but it’s just another opportunity,” Watford said. “I’m glad to be back here. To be familiar with people, playbook, coaches, I’m excited to be here.”

— Linebacker Haason Reddick now finds himself in the outside linebackers meeting room, trying to cram for a new role after the loss of Markus Golden. I’m very curious to see the snap spilt between he and Kareem Martin.

— Reddick, who is technically from New Jersey but lived just five miles from Philly and went to school there at Temple, said his call for the best cheesesteak comes from Max’s and he’s going to try and get some teammates to join him there.

As for the best way to eat a cheesesteak, it’s American cheese for Reddick. “I don’t do Cheese Whiz.”

“Cheese Whiz is a tourist attraction,” Reddick said. “Anyone who is really from Philly, I’ve never seen them put Cheese Whiz on their cheesesteak. I think that’s a little bizarre.”

(To be fair, it looks like an ongoing debate.)

— Carson Palmer has taken a lot of hits – 43, officially, in four games. “Hey, I don’t want to see him get hit,” Goodwin said. “Mr. Bidwill is paying that guy a lot of money.”

Part of that is the Cards’ lack of run game. Palmer is passing so much he’s inevitably going to be hit more, just like he’s on pace to obliterate his personal highs in attempts, completions and yards. But that doesn’t absolve the pass protection – or the struggles therein. Goodwin said he woke up early last week and the protection issues popped into his mind so quickly he just got up and came to the office. It was 4:30 a.m.

“That’s my job,” Goodwin said. “I embrace the pressure though. It’ll never break me.”

— Finally, there’s the case of Fitz the Philly killer. He had a nondescript three catches for 43 yards in that 2015 blowout of the Eagles – and even with that game averaged in, he’s still averaged (including the NFC Championship game) more than six catches, 104 yards and more than a touchdown per game against the Eagles all-time.

“He’s the same guy all the time,” Eagles cornerback Malcolm Jenkins told ESPN.

The Cards wouldn’t mind some of that same ol’ Fitz Sunday.


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A banged-up OL, and Friday before the Niners

Posted by Darren Urban on September 29, 2017 – 4:03 pm

Well, this is where the Cardinals are. In a week in which Friday finally felt like the day where the offensive line wouldn’t be the major topic, it became the major topic. It’s not so much that Mike Iupati is likely headed for IR – he hadn’t been playing – but Alex Boone is also missing time and Bruce Arians was anything but clear about D.J. Humphries’ availability.

I mean, even OC/OL coach Harold Goodwin is working on the gallows humor. “I’m planning on suiting up sooner or later,” he said.

It’s not like the game is going to be canceled. If Humphries is in there, fine, but if he can’t go, it’s probable we’ll see rookie Will Holden in the lineup, with he and John Wetzel in some combo of guard/tackle on the left side. Not ideal, and that’s even if the right side of Evan Boehm and Jared Veldheer were playing well, which has not happened of late.

Carson Palmer played well last week. The Cards moved the ball. Offensively, with John Brown back to at least play a little, the Cards have some guys who can help gain yards. But the line has to keep Palmer upright. It’s not unfair to wonder how that can happen.

“As you saw, because (the media) was writing earlier in the season Carson doesn’t have it anymore, that’s not the issue,” Goodwin said. “As long as he is protected, the ball is going to come out, it’s going to go to the right place and we’re going to score points. If he’s not protected, we’re going to struggle.”

— Bruce Arians was asked, now that the Cards have been through a couple of games, when the offense most misses the injured David Johnson.

“Every play,” Arians said. “Either fake it to him hand it to him or throw it to him.”

Sounds about right.

— I am curious to see how Andre Ellington is deployed. Brown may be back and I expect J.J. Nelson to play, but both probably won’t be their explosive selves. Ellington is really that only guy right now.

— Having Larry Fitzgerald go deep for a couple of long passes Monday night was some excellent nostalgia. How much it can happen, realistically, is another story. It’s not so much Fitz can’t make the catch in traffic. You still trust him in jump ball situations. But Fitz’s ability to get down the field fast to be in position to try for one isn’t what it was, and with the problems with protection, can the Cards keep Palmer up long enough to get Fitz where he needs to be?

— Deone Bucannon won’t be playing all the time, not yet, but this is where we get to see how the Cardinals want to deploy him with Haason Reddick and Karlos Dansby. I want to see the package – assuming there is one – that has both Bucannon and Reddick. DC James Bettcher said you don’t want to have too many specific packages, because it hampers the other nine or 10 players who would be on the field.

— Two numbers that, to me, are poison to the Cardinals right now: Allowing opponents to score TDs on 87 percent of red-zone visits, and averaging 2.8 yards per carry rushing the ball. One on each side of the ball. They have to change.

— Don’t forget Kurt Warner’s Hall of Fame bust will be on display at University of Phoenix Stadium Saturday from 12-4 p.m. if you want to get a picture. Warner will be presented with his Hall of Fame ring at halftime of Sunday’s game.

— Holden proposed to his girlfriend on the 50-yard line after the Monday night game.

“Football has been a big part of my life and a big part of her life now,” Holden said. “She’s been with me since day one at Vanderbilt. I felt like that was a special place.”

— See you Sunday. The Cardinals want to at least be .500 after the first quarter of the season. Even though the 49ers are 0-3, that’s not a lock.


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Keim: Bad day in Detroit, no injury updates

Posted by Darren Urban on September 11, 2017 – 8:20 am

Never fun for the General Manager to do his weekly radio appearance after a bad loss like Sunday’s in Detroit, but there was Steve Keim on the “Doug and Wolf” show Monday morning, reiterating a lot of what we already knew: Carson Palmer played poorly, as did the team. He was actually OK with the defense, putting most of the end-game Lions scores on short fields and stamina after the offense had its bad game.

He had no update on the injuries to running back David Johnson (wrist) or left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee). Both are getting MRIs today. He said Humphries walked out of the stadium Sunday night so “who knows?” He said he couldn’t base anything coming off the information they had last night, and it would be “hard to forecast” if either had any shot at playing Sunday in Indianapolis. Various reports don’t have great news in that regard for either player. Hopefully Bruce Arians will have more when he talks at 12:15 today.

UPDATE: The news on Johnson was not good.

— Keim said the Cards came in with goals this season, four of which being better in the red zone, eliminate turnovers, improve special teams, and execute better by playing smarter. Keim thought the special teams was OK — although he knows Phil Dawson can’t miss a field goal — the Cards failed in those other areas.

“You can’t win like that,” Keim said. “Every time we had a chance to accelerate momentum, we shot ourselves in the foot.”

— Keim said when watching the film, he is “trying to be real” and wanting to be honest not only with himself but when talking to Arians and team president Michael Bidwill. Honestly, he said, a lot of things were disappointing. (Which may be an understatement in itself.)

— Palmer has to play better. “I don’t think it’s any secret Carson was off,” he said. Keim said Palmer usually bounces back after a game like that. Keim thought Palmer looked antsy in the pocket (I’d concur) and, like I mentioned yesterday, Keim brought up those few out routes that should have been completed on the sideline. Those are mechanical issues that can be fixed, Keim added, but need to be completed. Palmer also made some poor decisions.

— The running game wasn’t much better. Backup left tackle John Wetzel “had his struggles.” While the offensive line has to be better, Keim noted that Palmer also held the ball too long at times and reiterated that the passing game/pressure on Palmer, is subject to the entire offense executing. “They all have to work in unison together.”

— Keim liked what Haason Reddick flashed but also talked about the pressure and missed sacks, because Reddick had one. Chandler Jones could’ve had four, Keim said.

— Keim didn’t want CB Justin Bethel getting beat deep on the last touchdown. But he also brought up, on the defensive side, similar discussion about working in unison. Bethel allowed on third-down conversion when Stafford escaped the pocket and moved left. Keim said linebacker Markus Golden was supposed to loop outside on the play and have contain on Stafford’s left. Had he done that, Keim said, Golden would’ve had a sack or at least forced Stafford to throw it early. Instead, Golden stayed inside and Stafford could wait for the receiver to get away from Bethel.


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Lions aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 10, 2017 – 4:01 pm

The Lions tried. They really did. They botched a bunch of special teams plays early, committed bad penalties, made mistakes. Yet the Cardinals would not take the game. When the Cards were finally ready to take the game – that third-quarter sequence in which they went on a 94-yard touchdown drive to take a 17-9 lead, and then forced a punt – the football gods spit on them.

Not only did David Johnson fumble – the second time in the game, a bugaboo he had when he got into the league but one he had seemed to have overcome – but he got hurt on the play. I mean, the guy had just gotten whacked on his previous touch, an impressive seam catch on the TD drive that got a first down at the Detroit 3. Johnson didn’t get up right away on that, but apparently he had the wind knocked out of him.

It wasn’t the wind but his wrist the second time. Fingers are crossed everywhere, from the Cards’ organization to fantasy football players across the globe. Bruce Arians didn’t indicate one way or another on Johnson’s health – or D.J. Humphries’ knee, for that matter – but in the context of Sunday, it was a crushing turn of events.

That wasn’t the reason the Cardinals lost, although it would’ve been interesting to see them try and follow up that long TD drive. The defense couldn’t hold up by the end. There was some pressure, but not enough on Matthew Stafford on key plays, and missed sacks a couple times that were costly.

— Carson Palmer took all the blame afterward. He knows he wasn’t good for too much of the game. It wasn’t so much the interceptions that were bothersome (I mean, you can’t have interceptions, but …) as much as a couple of out routes, about 12 or 15 yards down the field. Both plays I’m thinking of should’ve been easy completions. They were short. Bruce Arians lamented Palmer’s accuracy and said Palmer’s arm was fine. They’re going to need him to fix that, quickly.

— Palmer is going to be the quarterback. So anyone asking/complaining that there isn’t a switch is just yelling to nowhere.

— If Humphries is down for some games – Ian Rapoport was tweeting it’s a sprained knee that could be a few weeks – I wouldn’t be shocked if the Cards flip Jared Veldheer back to the left side and let John Wetzel play the right side. But we’ll see how that plays out.

— Arians noted it, and so did many players, but in the NFL, if you are handed red-zone possessions and don’t get touchdowns, that’s usually going to turn out poorly.

— One plus for the Cardinals was the speed of rookie linebacker Haason Reddick. He had eight tackles, and showed his range sideline-to-sideline. I also thought John Brown played pretty well too, and Andre Ellington flashed in his brief appearance. New safety Antoine Bethea looked good too, especially in the first half.

— You don’t want to see Justin Bethel, after a solid game, be on the wrong side of those two late TD passes. But that last catch by Kenny Golladay was amazing, the way he laid out.

— Long flight back to Arizona coming. It’ll be longer because of how the game went.


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The fourth outside linebacker is around

Posted by Darren Urban on September 7, 2017 – 11:11 am

The news Deone Bucannon won’t play Sunday — not a huge shock, even without the setback of an ankle sprain — puts on hold what the Cardinals will do with rookie Haason Reddick when Bucannon, Reddick and Karlos Dansby are all available. Reddick will be needed to play in Bucannon’s role, at least in certain packages.

But it also goes to that concern lingering as soon as the Cards cut to 53 and, at least outwardly, the team only kept three outside linebackers. What about depth? What about a fourth behind Markus Golden, Chandler Jones and Kareem Martin? Coach Bruce Arians mentioned that veteran Philip Wheeler, signed as an inside linebacker, worked in practice recently on the outside and can play both spots. Defensive lineman Josh Mauro has occasionally taken reps at OLB and could serve there in a pinch, especially on running downs. But then there is Reddick.

Reddick, who played defensive end in college, slowly has gotten some reps as an outside ‘backer to build on his work on the inside. And once Bucannon is back, Reddick makes the most sense as a dual-threat guy, someone who can play on the inside in certain packages, who can rush the passer in certain packages, and who can also serve as that fourth guy behind Golden, Jones and Martin.

Again, versatility has been one of the hallmarks of the players GM Steve Keim has sought, especially on the defense. The linemen can play anywhere. The linebackers, mostly, can switch around. The defensive backs are interchangeable. That is how the Cards will solve that fourth OLB issue.


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After practice: Nkemdiche limps off

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2017 – 5:24 pm

Bruce Arians was talking at lunchtime about how healthy the Cardinals were getting. Then defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche limped off to the locker room, accompanied by a trainer. Looked like his left ankle or leg was bothering him. No way to know what it is — your first thought is that it isn’t serious, but we’ll talk to Arians tomorrow — yet with the very good preseason/camp Nkemdiche has been having, it’s certainly an undesirable situation.

— QB Carson Palmer took a rest day. So too did LB Karlos Dansby, who finally came back to practice Monday. I’m sure they are just being careful with Dansby, but it’s been a while since he’s had a couple practices in a row.

— With Dansby not out there, Josh Bynes was taking first-team reps at inside linebacker with Haason Reddick in Bynes’ first practice following a hamstring issue. It sure looks like Bynes has a roster spot, unless he collapses the rest of the preseason.

— RB Kerwynn Williams was also sitting out practice. Not sure his aliment. Arians did not mention him during his press conference.

— The last two days, Reddick has been taking reps as an OLB/pass rusher during one-on-one drills with the offensive line. (Actually, they have been two-on-two drills as  the OL works on protecting on stunts and twists.) The Cardinals aren’t going to overwhelm Reddick with too many non-ILB things right now, but Arians had said they want to get him a little more exposure to pass rushing.

— Is David Johnson getting to do enough? It’s interesting to watch the running back sprint 30, 40, 50 yards through a play sometimes — occasionally he doesn’t even have the ball — in what looks like an attempt just to get some running in. (Side note: He’s fast. Faster than you think.)

— During “thud” tackling, whoever is covering TE Jermaine Gresham better be ready. Gresham still plows into a defender who chooses to get in front of him.

— During scout team work, rookie QB Trevor Knight had a couple of nice 44-yard bombs to RB James Summers (over LB Chandler Jones) and WR Krishawn Hogan (over S Budda Baker.)

— Mostly though, it was a practice of the defense. Tyrann Mathieu was actually getting irritated late in the work because scout-look QBs were holding the ball so long against the No. 1 D (there would have been multiple sacks). Mathieu would have had one airborne pick before he yanked his arms down at the last second, preventing any kind of in-air contact, and on another play where Knight short-hopped a receiver Mathieu had defended perfectly, Mathieu angrily batted the ball back into the turf. He knows he would’ve had the pick.

— Guys that did get interceptions: CB Patrick Peterson, S Ironhead Gallon, LB Philip Wheeler in his first practice back from injury, and Baker.


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