It’s been a week of criticism and accountability, of players meeting and talk of needing just one win. And as Bruce Arians talked for the final time before the last-gasp-for-now Washington game Sunday about such things, he veered to a message that wasn’t really asked about but something he clearly wanted to say.
“I love this team’s work ethic,” the coach said. “I never have to bitch about work ethic. They come to work Wednesday through Saturday. It’s a shame it hasn’t all shown up on Sundays, but I couldn’t ask any more on the field and in the classroom than what they are giving.”
Ultimately, the talk during the week is just talk. Something else that keeps popping up when Arians – and players – speak about everything that’s happened this week: No one knows what it all means until Sunday.
It doesn’t mean all is right with the win, or that it was a disaster of a week with a loss. But the on-life-support playoff hopes need a win to make sure they don’t head to the morgue, and it doesn’t get much more desperate than that. The Cards are working for that. Arians is sure of it. But that’s not really been a complaint all season. Just the results.
— There’s been speculation that the pounding Carson Palmer has taken this season could influence him to retire after the year. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, since he’s talked often about playing as long as he possibly could, and just said last week how much he still enjoys the prep during the week and game days.
But I asked him if indeed, the added hits could play a role in him deciding to retire.
“I don’t know,” Palmer said. “I’ll have to let you know, if I get there. If I get there.”
— I’m glad Fitz acknowledged he always knows where he is when it comes to stats because if he had said he didn’t, those who have been around him would’ve known otherwise. Look, Fitz desperately wants to get a Super Bowl title – the one thing he doesn’t have. But yes, the numbers have always been very important to him. He’s not catching Jerry Rice. He might not even catch Tony Gonzalez. But he’s had an amazing career.
(Yes, you can only imagine what it could have been with a good QB situation from 2010-2012, or a more steady situation in 2014, but we play the Cards we are dealt. He did have a huge 2011 season, though, when John Skelton just started throwing it to him down the field over and over.)
— How much does Josh Norman cover Fitz Sunday? And exactly what will be Patrick Peterson’s duties when he is on the field?
— Arians was asked about the lack of production from the draft class. The coach said they were all picks made for the future, with a deep and veteran roster. He noted that only injuries forced Brandon Williams into the lineup early this season.
“(The class) was more guys we felt we could develop and not need right away,” Arians said. “Hopefully that’s every draft from here on in.”
— Don’t forget there is a toy drive at Sunday’s game. Bring an unwrapped toy or donations to any stadium entrance.
— In case there was uncertainty about bringing Tyvon Branch back from IR, the uncertainty of Tyrann Mathieu as we go along probably should clear that up. Plus – and importantly – Branch plays special teams.
— David Johnson needs one touchdown to reach 14 this season. No Cardinal has done that since Roy Green did it in 1983.
— Washington is feeling good about itself. Their offense, even if Jordan Reed isn’t going to play, has moved the ball. This is not a simple game. Seeing how the Cardinals react to the events of their week – and the spot they are in at 4-6-1 – is intriguing. We haven’t been here in the Arians era. Everything is new.
Tags: Brandon Williams, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, John Skelton, Jordan Reed, Josh Norman, Larry Fitzgerald, Redskins, Tyrann Mathieu, Tyvon Branch
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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
The former was 2009, with Kurt Warner, or 2013 when Carson Palmer took every snap at quarterback for the Cardinals. The Cards had quarterback stability because they stayed (pretty) healthy and because Warner and Palmer were good. It’s what you need in the NFL to win. The worst of times, well, the Cardinals have done that too. When you are on a merry-go-round of quarterbacks in a season, it turns painful. The Cards did that in 2010, when Derek Anderson was backed up by rookies Max Hall and John Skelton (with a sprinkling of Rich Bartel at the end of the season). They did it in 2012, when Skelton and Kevin Kolb traded starts and injuries and then ineffectiveness leading to then-rookie Ryan Lindley (and a sprinkling of Brian Hoyer at the end of the season.)
Those years were totally different than this one, of course. The Cardinals struggled in those years. They weren’t battling for a division title going into the final regular-season game and they certainly weren’t playoff bound regardless. The Cards have only played four quarterbacks this season because of injury, not because of choice. That’s good, but it’s bad too. As offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said Christmas afternoon, “Week-to-week different quarterback, do you like it? No.” It certainly isn’t a present you want to find under your tree.
Monday Bruce Arians said he was leaning toward starting Logan Thomas unless he saw something in practice that made him change his mind, and then Thursday came the Kent Somers report that the Cards would instead start Lindley again. Either way, the Cardinals are trying to find the best option — especially if Drew Stanton can’t come back from his knee injury for the first playoff game.
UPDATE: Ian Rapoport is reporting Stanton had to have arthroscopic surgery because of an infection and could be done for the season.
“All our quarterbacks looked good, even the kid (Jeff Mathews) we have on practice squad now,” Goodwin said after practice (which is closed to the media) Thursday. “We’ll be OK no matter what.”
The Cardinals don’t really have a choice at looking at it any other way. Lindley or Thomas, Nos. 3 and 4, are the options — perhaps even as the Cards play in the playoffs.
“If they both go out this week and throw for 300 (yards), that’d be great,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.
Tags: Brian Hoyer, Bruce Arians, Derek Anderson, Drew Stanton, Harold Goodwin, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Logan Thomas, Max Hall, Rich Bartel, Ryan Lindley
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When the Cardinals beat the Seahawks last season, they took a quarterback who at times had looked like an MVP candidate with his efficiency and made him look very, very bad. Russell Wilson’s stats that day: 11-for-27, 108 yards, one touchdown, one interception. More importantly, he had just two rushing attempts (for 32 yards, including one outlier 27-yard scramble).
There aren’t many quarterbacks who throw on the run as well as Wilson. Aaron Rodgers, maybe, but his is a different style. With Wilson there is the constant fear he will take off. And he’s done that a lot this season – already Wilson has rushed for at least 100 yards in three different games – or triple the amount he had in his first two seasons.
The Cardinals would love to make sure Wilson has the same kind of game Sunday as he had against the Cards last year, but “I don’t think there is a blueprint,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “It’s catch ’em if you can.”
The top priority will be to slow Marshawn Lynch, because it always is. The Seahawks, without any real dynamic receivers, don’t have a scary passing game. If there is a way to slow Lynch and not let Wilson go off on broken plays, the Cardinals will have gone a long way toward winning another one in the Pacific Northwest.
— A player to watch in this regard: Rookie Deone Bucannon, the safety who is playing linebacker in in nickel and who has essentially replaced Wilson antidote Daryl Washington this season.
— This game, even if the Cardinals win, does not clinch the NFC West. But it goes a long way in doing so, as long as there isn’t an epic collapse down the stretch. And teams that win in Seattle and are 9-1 before that don’t collapse. A loss, and things could get interesting, especially with another game left to play with the Seahawks. The tough games do not end yet.
— As I mentioned, my gut here on a Friday is that Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t play, and as I mentioned, I’ve been wrong on Fitz before. It’s hard not to remember the obvious confidence OC Harold Goodwin showed in the rest of the receiving corps though. They want Fitz to play, of course. But if Jaron Brown and John Brown and Michael Floyd are the top three guys, the Cardinals can live with that. They are better suited to survive a short-term injury at receiver perhaps more than anywhere else.
— The Cards have to find a way to run the ball with some success, and it can’t be all Andre Ellington, Rashard Mendenhall had 21 carries in the Seahawks game in Seattle last year, Ellington 15 as the Cards had the most rushing attempts in a game in more than a decade. Yes, it was Jamaal Charles, but the Chiefs were able to run a lot and well against the Seahawks last week. Ellington plus, Step Taylor? Marion Grice? They just need to give Drew Stanton a chance.
— Stanton needs to be smart, but the Cards can’t be too cautious either. So far, the Cardinals, with Stanton, have moved the ball immediately in all his starts. It speaks to the Arians/Goodwin plans, and how much Stanton understands the offense. They just have to have it carry through the game.
— Great note pointed out to me on Twitter by @DylanCarey11. Stanton will be the sixth different starter at quarterback the Cardinals have used in Seattle the last six trips there:
2014 – Stanton
2013 – Palmer
2012 – John Skelton
2011 – Kevin Kolb
2010 – Max Hall
2009 – Kurt Warner
— As an additional note to that, the Cardinals will have used eight QBs in those six games, because Ryan Lindley played in relief of Skelton in 2012 and Derek Anderson came in for Hall in 2010. Neither time it was injury related. Just bad football.
— If you haven’t seen it, Michael Silver did a great piece on Bruce Arians and his path to Cardinals’ head coach. Some of it goes over familiar territory, but there is some good stuff, like the just-fired Ken Whisenhunt telling Arians good things about the franchise and encouraging Arians to interview for the job.
— There is also this great story by David Fleming covering the family of the donor woman who gave Carson Palmer his original ACL replacement – and the feeling after it gave out against the Rams, sidelining Palmer.
— There is also this story on the rise to GM by Steve Keim. It happens to be my work, so if you haven’t read it, just sayin’ …
— Matt Shaughnessy was back on the field this week for practice for the first time since a knee injury forced him to the IR-designated to return list. He can’t play the next two games, but he will be back for the Dec. 7 game against the Chiefs. Arians wasn’t definitive in how Shaughnessy will fit in the lineup; Shaughnessy’s replacement, Alex Okafor, is playing the best of the outside linebackers. Could it be Shaughnessy and Okafor, with Sam Acho as a reserve? Possible. Arians said he wants to see where Shaughnessy is first; there’s going to be rust that must be knocked off.
— Last year at the end of the Seahawks’ upset, a handful of defensive linemen had a snack of Skittles on the sidelines in the waning moments. Skittles, for the uninitiated, are famously the favorite treat of Lynch. There won’t be any this year, alledgedly.
“Naw,” defensive tackle Dan Williams said. “I got to cut back on calories.”
— Last year, the win in Seattle was the Cards’ 10th win of the season. Can they do that two years in a row?
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Dan Williams, Deone Bucannon, Drew Stanton, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Shaughnessy, Max Hall, Russell Wilson, Seahawks
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The day Bruce Arians was introduced as the head coach of the Cardinals, he talked about how he wanted to take about six shots downfield per game. Arians was about getting chunk yardage, and keeping defenses honest with such plays.
But the plays have to work to be effective. Arians knows they haven’t been nearly effective enough. Asked if he thought the Cards were getting about 50 percent of those plays, Arians scoffed. “We’re nowhere near 50 percent,” Arians said. “We’re probably down around 20 (percent.)”
According to profootballfocus.com, the Cardinals and quarterback Carson Palmer have thrown 22 passes this season of at least 20 yards in the air — an average of 4.4 tries per game. But Palmer has only been able to complete five of them, or an average of one a game. Two of those — a 24-yard TD to Larry Fitzgerald in St. Louis and the 36-yard TD pass to running back Andre Ellington against Detroit — have gone for scores. (UPDATE: PFF gave Palmer a third TD in this situation: The 13-yard TD pass to Fitz in Tampa. PFF counts all passes that cover 20 yards and do not stop at the goal line — so in charting that Fitz was seven yards deep in the end zone when he caught the ball, that qualified as a 20-yard-in-the-air pass.)
Three of Palmer’s at-least-20-yarders-in-the-air have been intercepted. Palmer is tied for 10th on the league in deep attempts, but he’s tied for 20th in completions. The 139 yards Palmer has on those throws isn’t a ton either. By contrast, Aaron Rodgers (505 yards) and Jets rookie Geno Smith (500) are at the top of the list, although both have 14 completions already of passes of at least 20 yards in the air. Rodgers, you can understand. Smith is surprising, just like it is surprising to see Detroit’s Matthew Stafford behind Palmer in most of these categories.
Obviously, Arians would like to get more from those kinds of passes. Palmer said yesterday he isn’t going to take chances on the jump balls anymore, like the one intercepted in front of Michael Floyd against Carolina (below). In fact, Palmer talked a lot about taking what the defense will give him, which sounds a lot like taking fewer chances down the field. Arians said he wants Palmer to walk the fine line between being smart and being aggressive.
It’s funny, because this has been a topic with the Cardinals much of the past few years. In Kurt Warner’s final season, there was a bunch of talk of how the Cards didn’t throw deep enough (and Warner’s 37 such attempts were the fewest of any qualifying QB that season.) Even in 2011, when Fitz set his career-high with 17.6 yards per reception, it wasn’t because John Skelton was throwing a ton of 20-yard-in-the-air passes. We’ll see if the Cards can adjust the offense to be more what Arians had hoped, or if various issues — including the pass protection — will force a change in thinking.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, John Skelton, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald
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It was the day Steve Keim was hired as general manager, long before Drew Stanton or Carson Palmer arrived or even before Kevin Kolb and John Skelton were discarded. Keim was talking about philosophies, and how he was going to approach the Cardinals’ search for a quarterback after the drought post-Kurt Warner.
“Particularly, I love the idea of quarterbacks, supply and demand,” Keim said that day. “It’s a tough position to find. (Former NFL GM) Ron Wolf always had that mindset that it’s always good to go out and try to get a quarterback every year. You never know how those guys are going to pan out.”
So, right now, the Cards have Palmer and Stanton and Brian Hoyer and Ryan Lindley. Head Coach Bruce Arians is saying “I think our quarterback room right now is as strong as anybody’s in the National Football League. That’s what we set out to do as an organization, to strengthen that position.” Keim obviously overhauled the spot, and that means … what exactly come the draft?
Even before the Cards got Palmer the vibe was always that the Cards were going to pass on a quarterback in the first round. Arians said none of the QBs out there had made him go “Wow” and that’s what it takes for No. 7. Does it mean the Cards won’t draft one, period? Nope. That’s why the Cards are reportedly checking into Matt Barkely and Geno Smith and Ryan Nassib and all these guys who are going to be available. None of that means the Cardinals will take one of those guys. But they are prepared if they decide to do so.
(On a slightly separate note, all the visits/workouts pre-draft for any team, including the Cardinals, shouldn’t be a big deal. There have been many instances where players have been chosen by teams without knowing ahead of time any interest and at the least, it shows proper due diligence to look at all the top players. Especially for a GM like Keim, who believes deeply in making a difference-maker his first pick, the Cards are going to look at all the main prospects.)
The Cards are thrilled to have Palmer but they know he’s not going to be the answer in a few years. That search for a long-term guy continues.
Because you never know how those guys are going to pan out.
Tags: Brian Hoyer, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, draft, Drew Stanton, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, quarterbacks, Ryan Lindley, Steve Keim
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The NFL Players Association tweeted out a document this afternoon listing every NFL team’s cap space, and, with everything fluid this time of year (cap space changes as soon as players are added or subtracted) the Cardinals have about $8.2 million in salary cap space for their top 51. That’s not a bad situation to be in after trading for Carson Palmer. (UPDATE: There seems to be some question if that is before the Palmer deal factored in.
Obviously if it hasn’t been, that will make a big difference It included Palmer already.)
The Cards did add a small piece today in former 49ers safety Curtis Taylor (the team has yet to officially announce it). I’d expect a few more similar signings over the next couple of weeks as the Cards prep for their first (voluntary) minicamp beginning April 23.
The Cards still only have 57 players after adding Palmer (and before Taylor) and they need to grow that number. There will be seven draft picks and a bunch of undrafted rookies, but again, the Cards eventually want to get to 90 players
— The Bengals claimed quarterback John Skelton, cut by the Cards Monday, off waivers Wednesday. Here’s hoping Skelton catches on as a backup. I still believe he’d already have a win in Cincinnati if Early Doucet hadn’t fallen down.
— I never wrote anything because of when it happened (and in case you were living under a rock) ex-Cards QB Kevin Kolb agreed to a deal with the Bills a few days ago. He has a chance to start there, at least as of right now.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Curtis Taylor, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, NFLPA, Roster, salary cap
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There is nothing new on the burgeoning Carson Palmer trade front at the moment, but it seems a lock to be completed at some point after the Cardinals officially released quarterback John Skelton Monday. So ends Skelton’s wild ride since arriving as a fifth-round rookie in 2010, getting a couple of starts in that year and then having an amazing way of playing poorly yet rallying the Cards to wins in 2011. Then he beat out Kevin Kolb to start the 2012 season before spraining an ankle in the opener, struggling mightily as the starter after Kolb got hurt. Clearly the relationship between he and former coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn’t good at the end, but even a coaching change couldn’t save Skelton’s roster spot.
Skelton tweeted out his goodbye:
The release wasn’t a big surprise after the team signed Drew Stanton, brought Brian Hoyer back and now are close to getting Palmer. All along it looked unlikely that Skelton would survive into May on the roster if this didn’t come sooner. Now it has. Not that it would’ve helped him, but recalling how Bruce Arians lamented the inability to talk to Kolb while watching video — to ask why and why not of certain plays — maybe Skelton lost out too. Then again, Skelton’s troubles were seen first-hand by general manager Steve Keim. Keim had a good sense of what he had in both Kolb and Skelton, and Skelton ended up — even with an 8-9 starting record — with 12 touchdown passes, 22 interceptions and a 61.9 passer rating in 17 starts.
— The Cardinals also announced that tendered free agents William Powell, Hoyer and Ronald Talley officially signed their contracts. The Hoyer and Talley news had already been out there.
Tags: Brian Hoyer, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ronald Talley, William Powell
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As the draft approaches and people speculate on (or fret about) what the Cardinals will do at quarterback, one of the storylines that could play out is the availability of Carson Palmer. Palmer is currently with the Raiders, due $13 million for 2013 which — like the situation with Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals — he probably was never going to see. If he were cut, it makes a lot of sense that the Cardinals would consider him, and the Adam Schefter report now is that is “unlikely” Palmer is willing to take a cut.
Yes, Bruce Arians says he is “comfortable” with Drew Stanton. Yes, he could start. But here was the key phrase last week when Arians was asked directly if he was going to name Stanton his starter.
“Once we get the roster set, if that (QB meeting) room hasn’t changed, he’s our starter,” Arians said.
That is one heck of a lot of wiggle room.
It brings us back to Palmer. Palmer isn’t in his salad days anymore, not the quarterback who was starring for the Bengals once upon a time. But he still did throw for 4,018 yards with 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season for the Raiders, pretty decent numbers for a team that wasn’t very good. Depending on the cost, he might make a lot of sense to at least compete with Stanton, or maybe even just slide in ahead of him. Would he be a long-term solution? No. But the long-term solution might not be there this year. There has been a ton of talk about the Cardinals and a draft pick, and as has been stated — and after Arians talked about not forcing a QB pick high — a quarterback might not be the No. 1 pick.
The best part for the Cardinals is that they have a ton of flexibility at the position right now. Stanton is going to be here. He’s the one lock, but if he ended up as the backup, I think Arians would be happy with that (I’m not sure Stanton would be thrilled, but that’s a different blog post.) Brian Hoyer is under a $2M deal but he could be traded or cut with no salary cap implications — tough for Hoyer, but flexible for the team. Plus there is the probable draft pick somewhere and John Skelton and Ryan Lindley to plug in the equation if needed.
Palmer needs to be careful, of course. I have no idea what kind of restructure/pay cut the Raiders would be offering, but the market is thin. Kolb I think was hoping to have popped up somewhere already but that hasn’t happened. Then again, Palmer may figure — and he could be right — that hitting the market when the Cards, Bills, Jaguars, Browns or even the Jets could still be considering a different QB could make him in demand. (UPDATE: Palmer doesn’t have any bonuses due soon and the Raiders are under the cap, so this could very well go up until the draft so the Raiders can see if/when they draft a QB. This might hinge on that.)
We’ll see how the Palmer situation plays out in Oakland first and then go from there. We’ll see if the Cardinals’ “room” has a chance to change.
Tags: Brian Hoyer, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, quarterbacks, Ryan Lindley
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Larry Fitzgerald was targeted 156 times last season. He ended up with just 71 catches.
Now, that doesn’t mean there weren’t times when Fitz could’ve and should’ve come down with a pass and didn’t. That certainly happened, and more times last year, I think, than in the past (profootballfocus.com had him with five drops last season, Stats.inc credited him with three.) But there were many, many, many more times when the pass went to Fitzgerald and the ball simply wasn’t close enough to even make a play on it.
This isn’t about Fitz though but the ability to make sure whatever quarterback is behind center can be accurate. There are many factors that go into an incomplete pass, including the pass rush and pass protection. But last season, none of the four quarterbacks who played for the Cardinals completed 60 percent of their passes. Kevin Kolb was 59.6 percent, John Skelton was 54.2, Ryan Lindley 52.0 and Brian Hoyer 56.6. These days, if you aren’t completing between 62 to 65 percent of your passes — at least — you are going to have a hard time being successful. It’s something to watch for with the rookies too, although given the upgrade in speed and schemes in the NFL, accuracy can be a projection for those guys.
The question is whether it can be improved in a prospect — or with anyone.
“I think you can improve all phases of their mechanics,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “Some guys, if the flaw is so difficult in their throwing motion especially from the trunk up, it’s going to be hard. But the majority of accuracy problems are your legs. Guys overstride, they understride, they put themselves in bad positions and stress themselves. Fundamentals, that’s why golfers go to the driving range every day. Tiger (Woods) is a great player, Rory (Mcllroy) is a great player, but they go to the driving range every day. Quarterbacks need to go to the driving range every day.
“You want to be more of a teacher than a swing coach. When you are a swing coach, you know you have problems.”
Tags: Brian Hoyer, Bruce Arians, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, quarterbacks, Ryan Lindley
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Left tackle Nate Potter is inactive today because of his sprained ankle, putting D’Anthony Batiste back in the lineup for the first time since Potter replaced him during the Green Bay game prior to the bye week Nov. 4. That will make for an interesting matchup when he goes against 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith (19.5 sacks). Fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) is also inactive, meaning tight end Jim Dray will fill in for the fullback duties.
Rookie guard Senio Kelemete is active for the first time this season, too.
Also inactive for the Cards today are:
— QB John Skelton
— WR LaRon Byrd (knee)
— G Mike Gibson (calf)
— WR Early Doucet (concussion)
— DE Ronald Talley (ankle)
Tags: Aldon Smith, Anthony Sherman, D'Anthony Batiste, Early Doucet, inactives, Jim Dray, John Skelton, LaRon Byrd, Mike Gibson, Nate Potter, Ronald Talley, Senio Kelemete
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