In the brief time Steve Wilks has been head coach of the Cardinals, he does not come across as someone prone to hyperbole. So when he praises 2016 first-round draft pick Robert Nkemdiche after Nkemdiche’s first two underwhelming NFL seasons, it’s easy to take note.
“Robert is a very intriguing guy,” Wilks said of the defensive tackle. “I constantly talk to Robert all week about tempo … (because) I really have to slow Robert down. We don’t have on pads. And that’s a great thing. That’s a real good thing. You want to be able to slow guys down, not tell them to pick it up. Robert is going to be tremendous for us this year. He’s locked in, he’s focused, he came back in shape, he’s ready to go.”
Nkemdiche needs to do more on the field. He has acknowledged that. But all last season, his work ethic and practice habits earned him praise from coaches. Now he’s getting more from a new staff. He just needs to translate it to the football field. At this point, his draft status doesn’t mean much — one-time undrafted DT Olsen Pierre, who had a very nice breakout season last year, was more effective than Nkemdiche — but he still has a ton of tools.
He’s also now playing for a coach who is known for getting different personalities to play well (right, Josh Norman?) and for honing in on developing players. A big step forward by Nkemdiche would be an awesome way for Wilks to immediately put that player-development stamp on his new team.
“He said, ‘Coach, I’m committed to excellence this year,’ ” Wilks said. “So far, he’s been a plus on the football field. I’m excited about him.”
Tags: Josh Norman, Olsen Pierre, Robert Nkemdiche, Steve Wilks
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It’s possible J.J. Nelson wouldn’t have even been on the field with 2:03 left Sunday, but as fate — and perhaps some virus, or bad food, would have it — Michael Floyd “was throwing up at that time,” Nelson said. So the Cardinals went with a play that could get Nelson open deep. Carson Palmer took a shot, and Nelson held on — something he hasn’t been able to do a lot of late.
“Them dropped passes I’ve had, I was like, ‘I’ve got to catch this,’ ” the wide receiver said.
He did, of course, and then the defense finished it off, and voila! The Cardinals had their win. There was so much talk about accountability and team meetings coming into this game, and maybe there was more attention to detail, but mostly, as Tony Jefferson said, it was Five Stars (as in five-star players) being Five Stars. Guys made plays. Nelson. Palmer. Patrick Peterson — who said he really didn’t think the players-only meeting impacted much tonight — with the pick. Heavy pressure on Kirk Cousins. Guys were making plays. David Johnson, at the forefront (more on him in a minute.)
They’ll see if they can keep it going in Miami.
— We knew it was coming, but props to Larry Fitzgerald for becoming No. 3 in the NFL all-time in receptions. The only two ahead of him? Jerry Rice and long-time tight end Tony Gonzalez.
— Going 10-of-16 on third downs and not turning the ball over usually is a recipe for a win.
— Calais Campbell played an excellent game. It was highlighted by his strip-sack when he collapsed the pocket, but he played so well all around.
— Lost on the last TD drive was a third-down holding call on Josh Norman on Fitz. From my vantage point on the sideline, it looked like he held. Norman said he felt he was within five yards of the line of scrimmage and thought he was in good position, but he also said he wasn’t going to blame the loss on a call.
— Why, exactly, the Redskins called a fade route to DeSean Jackson, with Peterson covering him, on the 1-yard line on third down I will never understand.
— Hey, remember when I was saying the Cardinals didn’t yet have a Victory Monday? They’ve got one now.
“There is nothing better than coming into this locker room and Coach giving us a Victory Monday in December,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s is the first Victory Monday. That is pretty bad, man.”
— Finally, there is David Johnson. What else can you say? Fitz is calling him the NFL’s MVP, Palmer is calling him the best player in the game. He’s got 15 touchdowns now, two shy of the franchise record set by John David Crow in 1962 (That’s the last time someone had at least 15.) He’s had more than 100 yards from scrimmage every game this season.
He’s got 1,005 yards rushing this season. He’s up to 704 yards receiving on 64 catches, and it does not seem far-fetched any longer to see him get another 296 yards receiving in the last four games. That’s an average of 74 a game. Definitely do-able, and it would bring him with Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk as the only ones to do it in NFL history.
When you have Johnson, why wouldn’t you try fourth-and-1 (although Arians was right; big props to the left side of the line and those two tight ends because we have seen Johnson stuffed before.)
On a night when Fitzgerald made more NFL history, it sure feels like Johnson is rapidly becoming a player that — with health and good teammates — could end up having a chance to be a historical player himself.
Tags: Calais Campbell, David Johnson, DeSean Jackson, J.J. Nelson, Josh Norman, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Redskins
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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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As if the Eagles-Browns trade wasn’t big enough news for the NFL Wednesday, this afternoon the Panthers in a stunning move rescinded the franchise tag from all-pro cornerback Josh Norman. Norman is now free to sign anywhere, and while in theory that includes back with the Panthers, it’s hard to see a scenario where that happens.
Norman had not signed his tender offer — worth nearly $14 million — and was in a position where he and Carolina had until July 15 to sign a long-term deal. Reportedly, Norman, 28, was looking for around $16M a year. Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said today it had become clear to him the team and Norman would never reach a long-term contract. Still, it’s odd the team would just let him go. Norman might have threatened to sit out (without signing the tender, he wasn’t obligated to show up, even to training camp) but he wouldn’t be the first, and he just said last month he was willing to play under the tag this season.
How does this impact the Cardinals? Not directly. Norman is a free agent, but the Cards a) only have about $6.5 million of cap space, b) are already paying a cornerback a ton of money (Patrick Peterson)and c) are on deck to pay another secondary member (Tyrann Mathieu) a lot of money. Norman isn’t coming here. But the Cardinals do visit the Panthers in 2016, so no Norman figures to help the Cards’ deep receiving corps.
That doesn’t mean the Cardinals won’t see Norman. Both the 49ers and Rams had been trying to sign premier cornerbacks in free agency, and the 49ers especially ($52 million in cap space) would seem to have the resources to give Norman what he wants.
Tags: 49ers, free agency, Josh Norman, Panthers, Patrick Peterson, Rams, Tyrann Mathieu
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Stefon Diggs is having a pretty good rookie season for the Vikings. But he couldn’t do much of anything against Patrick Peterson Thursday night. Diggs finished with just two catches for a scant 12 yards with Peterson covering him most of the game. (Full disclosure — Peterson was flagged twice for defensive holding. Both were declined.)
Tyrann Mathieu has been fantastic this season, and he was again Thursday night. He deserves the national publicity he has received. But with the way Peterson has turned into the lockdown cornerback everyone had been waiting for since he was drafted — this is definitely is best season as a pro — and how much this team would be hurting if he wasn’t out there, Peterson would seem to have the edge as this team’s defensive MVP.
Profootballfocus.com has Peterson targeted just seven times against the Vikings, and he gave up one completion — and that was a seven-yard screen pass to Diggs. Given the play scheme, it would’ve been almost impossible for Peterson to stop the pass. For the season, PFF has Peterson targeted only 55 times in 13 games, and he’s only given up 24 catches. He’s only allowed 309 yards and one touchdown.
By comparison, (in one fewer game) Denver’s Chris Harris is at 53-37-338-0, Carolina’s Josh Norman is at 70-33-296-1, the Jets’ Darrelle Revis is 59-28-281-2 and Seattle’s Richard Sherman is at 51-26-346-1.
The debate of who the best cornerback in the league seems to have died down from where it once was, mostly because Peterson and Sherman have apparently decided not to talk about it as much anymore. Peterson is letting his play do the talking. He’s making a strong point.
Tags: Chris Harris, Darrelle Revis, Josh Norman, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Stefon Diggs, Tyrann Mathieu
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