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Friday before the Titans

Posted by Darren Urban on December 8, 2017 – 3:49 pm

Patrick Peterson is the Cardinals’ Man of the Year for a second time, but his time as a punt returner, well, “that stage of my career is over,” he said. Not necessarily because he thinks he can’t do it anymore, but it’s not like the Cardinals are going to put him back there that much. He’s too valuable as a cornerback.

Now, if you asked to go play offense? “That chapter is not over,” Peterson said with a grin. “I’m going to leave that open, and I have a couple of blank pages for coach.”

Peterson said he wishes he could play offense. “I’m an offensive guy at heart,” he said. He wouldn’t even mind quarterback, although that’s not going to happen.

Catching a pass or two would be interesting. The Cardinals will be down John Brown Sunday against the Titans, and J.J. Nelson is nursing a sore knee. Chad Williams should get a little more work.

“(Patrick) used to be in the book, when we didn’t have any speed,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He may be back in there soon.”

*Editor’s Note: Peterson isn’t playing offense this weekend. Or this year, I’m guessing.*

— The other Peterson isn’t playing Sunday, but that isn’t a surprise any longer. Adrian Peterson still hasn’t practiced since suffering the neck injury and his road to return is vague, to say the least. Arians has no answers and Peterson has not yet spoken to the media since getting hurt. More chances for Kerwynn Williams.

— On the good side, having left tackle Jared Veldheer is crucial, especially when weighed against the fact the Titans are without pass rusher Derrick Morgan.

— Quietly, money linebacker Deone Bucannon returned to full practice this week from his ankle injury. Arians already said Josh Bynes – who is playing very well – will get snaps. It’ll be interesting to see how playing time is parceled out to Bucannon, Bynes and Karlos Dansby.

— Don’t forget that the Aeneas Williams episode of “A Football Life” is tonight.

— Also, there is a toy drive Sunday at the stadium, if you would like to contribute. Monetary donations or new, unwrapped toys will be accepted at the gates.

— Marcus Mariota is not Russell Wilson, not even close. Maybe someday, but not today. Still, there are some similarities in terms of mobility in the pocket. The one thing Mariota has (surprisingly) not done well this season (that Wilson absolutely does) is throw on the run. The Cardinals don’t want Mariota escaping for long runs, but if they can get him to move and still try to throw, maybe that is something they can exploit.

— Former Cardinals head coach Dave McGinnis is spending this season as the color analyst for the Titans’ radio network. Mac was a great personality to cover back in the day, and that final locker room speech he made after the famous McCown-to-Poole touchdown – knowing he’d be fired as coach – is as emotional as they get.

— The Titans visit University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday and that will complete the league – Tennessee is the only team not yet to have played in the Cardinals’ “new” stadium, which is in its 12th season. The Cardinals would prefer to be lousy houseguests – Arians is 6-1 against the AFC South since coming to Arizona.

— Larry Fitzgerald needs 26 yards to pass Randy Moss. I’m gonna guess he has that in the first quarter. No, I’m not putting any money on it.

See you Sunday.

 


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Dansby, chasing history, and his drops

Posted by Darren Urban on December 6, 2017 – 12:38 pm

Karlos Dansby is still chasing help for his legacy, even if he felt he became a “legend” when he made his 20th career interception in San Francisco in early November. He is hyper-aware of all the sack and interception totals of the other fellows who comprise the 40-20 club in NFL history (40 sacks, 20 picks), and the linebacker would love to top all of them in both categories. It’s become harder as he gets older of course, and his place in 2018 is murky — Dansby will be a free agent after the season, and the Cardinals, with Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick and a surging Josh Bynes (also an UFA-to-be), could very well look to build their ILB corps differently next season.

But this is the here and now. Dansby has 20 picks, but the argument can be made Dansby should have 23, because there were three other near-misses this season. The most recent was the most painful, a tipped pass against the Rams last weekend that looked tailor-made to be grabbed –until Los couldn’t hold on.

Dansby also could’ve had one against the Jaguars the week before (which would’ve been tough, but in this context, possible), and in the home game against the 49ers on Oct. 1 (In his hands, down the middle, in the fourth quarter). Those obviously would have buoyed his total.

What gets lost too is during his magnificent 2013 season with the Cardinals — a year Dansby should have earned that Pro Bowl berth he so desperately wants  —  there were missed picks then too. Dansby reminded everyone of that a couple of weeks ago on the Big Red Rage, which he co-hosts. Rookie safety Budda Baker was lamenting a dropped interception of his own, against Seattle in the Thursday night game.

“Budda, I’m going to make you feel a little bit better,” Dansby said. “In ’13, I dropped six. That’s why I said I can catch these guys (ahead of him). I know I can. I have confidence in what I am doing and how I am doing it. … Eventually, they are going to have to come to me, and they are going to have to come right to me.”

I’ll admit, I can’t remember six dropped picks from 2013. That’s a long time ago (Dansby, in 2013, had four interceptions, so 10 for a linebacker would’ve been … well, along with his 6 1/2 sacks, he would’ve been Defensive Player of the Year.) But let’s say he did have six and got them all, that’s nine more picks Dansby could have on his total.


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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 3, 2017 – 7:54 pm

The past few years, when the Cardinals had been good and the Rams not so much, the Cardinals would go on the road and beat the Rams. Period. And now, the script has been flipped. The Cardinals are not as good as they once were, and the Rams most certainly are good, and that’s how you end up with results like Sunday. The Cardinals were better than London. It wasn’t 33-0, even though it started like it might have been. But 16 points – which is what the Cards finished with – isn’t enough to win most games and it definitely isn’t enough to beat a Rams team that even on a day where they weren’t completely clicking offensively, they still put up 32.

Blaine Gabbert will remain the starting quarterback, Bruce Arians said, and that, as last week, makes sense. It was a terrible start to the game for Gabbert Sunday, with two early picks. Gabbert said he needs to look at the film on the first throw, and on the second, he said the Rams went against what they had always shown on film in that formation – usually LB Alec Ogletree rushed and didn’t drop – and so Gabbert didn’t expect him there.

Gabbert settled down, and you can see the difference a running game makes. True for any QB, I suppose. There is a lot to take it. Gabbert now has thrown five interceptions in three games. The Cardinals will have to continue to evaluate where he might be as a QB candidate for 2018.

That’s what a lot of this must be. Arians talked about the young players Sunday, making plays and, understandably, making some mistakes. Evaluations are ongoing for everyone with four games left.

— There is no way to say how impressive it was to see Kerwynn Williams play the way he did, knowing his has broken ribs. I loved his response when he was asked if he was experiencing pain during the game: “I feel like everybody is in pain,” Williams said, and it just felt like the opening lyric of a very personal song rather than a postgame quote. It would’ve been nice to get him to 100 yards, given that he had 86 at halftime. All that guy does is produce whenever he is thrust into the lineup.

— With a decent day next week, Larry Fitzgerald is going to surpass Randy Moss for third-place all-time in NFL receiving yards. He needs 26 yards to do so.

— Back and forth with the Cardinals linebackers on picks. Karlos Dansby dropped one he should’ve had, and it cost the Cards at least three points, since the Rams went on to kick a field goal. “We didn’t make the plays that we needed to make, me included,” Dansby said. “I’ve got to make that play. That changed the whole dynamic of the game.”

Then there was the athletic pick by linebacker Kareem Martin, which short-circuited a Rams drive (although Gabbert threw a pick-six a couple of plays later.) “We work on screen drills a lot,” Martin said. “I pretty much just pressed off him to attempt to go pursue. By the time I was about to turn around, I see the ball.”

— There was some wondering how the Rams could go through the long snapper Justin Drescher for the blocked field goal. The rules don’t say you cannot hit the long snapper. You cannot line up over him when the snap happens. As long as you do not, and then go against him after the ball is snapped, contact with the long snapper is legal.

— For the most part, I thought the Cards did a good job on Todd Gurley when Gurley ran the football. The problem was, and this is what defenses must deal with against David Johnson, is that Gurley was so dangerous catching the ball. He had 84 yards receiving (compared to 74 rushing).

— Arians noted the young players. Ricky Seals-Jones dropped one, but he had a couple of nice catches and would’ve had a TD on a good throw from Gabbert on one play. Budda Baker continues to be all over the field, getting eight more tackles defensively (and maybe should’ve had a fumble recovery on the opening kickoff, if there had been Sunday Night Football-type cameras.)


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Fitz remembers all, Friday before the Texans

Posted by Darren Urban on November 17, 2017 – 3:48 pm

The last time the Cardinals played in Houston in a game that counted, Larry Fitzgerald was only 22 years old, in the days when the Cards never talked about the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t remember. Fitz was asked this week about a 12-yard touchdown pass he caught in the game – a loss to a Texans team so bad they ended up with the No. 1 overall draft pick – and it took him no time to recall that it was the great John Navarre who threw him the pass.

“I have a photographic memory,” Fitzgerald said. “Slant route in garbage time. Fantasy owners were happy.”

Fitz proceeded to say he remembers almost every catch he’s ever made, and that’s quite a few. I mean, that’s 1,185 in his career and counting – a number that came into even sharper focus Friday morning with Fitz’s contract extension through 2018. As I said before, it’s good he’s under contract but for me, it doesn’t guarantee Fitz playing next season. Good sign, yes. But until I hear it from his mouth – I am guessing it will be a topic postgame Sunday – I can’t go all in.

This season, though, Fitzgerald is here and playing very well. If you can have a quiet 10-113 as a receiver, Fitz did last week against the Seahawks. With Blaine Gabbert starting Sunday, I’m guessing the new QB will lean on Fitz targets again, both because, duh, he’s a Hall-of-Famer-to-be, but also because of the troubles the pass catchers not named Fitz had with drops/near-catches against Seattle.

— It made a lot of sense all week that Gabbert would get the nod to play Sunday. He’s healthy. Drew Stanton is not. Bruce Arians wanted to keep Stanton in the lineup, and I do agree with B.A. that Stanton played pretty well against Seattle. Gabbert is playing because of injury but I also understand the idea of getting a chance to see what Gabbert can do, in this offense, in a game that counts.

— Fitz was asked if Gabbert’s success in the preseason gives him confidence in the new QB. It led to a long pause. “I’ve been in it a long time,” Fitzgerald finally said. “Preseason is preseason. I’ve seen him have success in regular-season games.”

— Interesting (to me, at least) that the Cards become the first team to start three QBs this season, given that it comes against the Texans. The long-ago loss in Houston, in which Navarre found Fitz? It was the only time the Cardinals have played three quarterbacks in a game. Kurt Warner started, completed all 10 of his passes (Fitz isn’t the only one who remembers all this stuff off the top of his head) before exiting with a knee injury. Josh McCown was the backup and came in, but he was horribly ill that day and he couldn’t continue. So the Cards turned to Navarre.

— Arians was asked about those receivers this week after the struggles they had collectively. “Practice is fine,” he said. “When those lights turn on … it’s going to be a big week for them.”

— The Cardinals have only played the Texans three times in the regular season. The loss in 2005, and the Cardinals getting home wins in 2009 and 2013.

— Stanton hurt his right knee when he was hit low by Seattle defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who was flagged on the play (and it kept alive the TD drive that ended with the Stanton TD screen pass to Jermaine Gresham). Richardson was fined $18,231 for his play, and was not happy about it. Also fined $18,231 was Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby, who was flagged for the hit to Russell Wilson’s jaw. Dansby is appealing, and the Seahawks are still dealing with the fallout for not properly checking Wilson for a concussion.

— Corey Peters has been solid in the middle of the defensive line this season. Not having him in the lineup is notable. The Texans are going to want to run to protect struggling QB Tom Savage. We will see who plugs the middle of the line.

— The Texans are putting former all-pro wide receiver Andre Johnson, their version of Fitz, into their Ring of Honor at halftime Sunday. Current star receiver DeAndre Hopkins was asked to name his favorite Johnson play. It turned out he named a reception over Patrick Peterson in Arizona in 2013.

Late in the game, Johnson was blanketed by Peterson, who actually got his hand on the ball and looked like he might get an amazing end zone interception. Instead, the ball bounced and Johnson somehow tipped it to himself and kept his feet in. (Here, look for yourself, around the 52-second mark.)

“I don’t know how he caught it,” Hopkins said.

— Fitz on Johnson: “He exudes class. He’s one of the best to ever do it. This is just a precursor to greater things down the road. He’s a Hall of Fame talent. I’m happy as a fan of his to witness and see it go up.”

— One final Fitz note. It was mentioned in his “A Football Life” episode that he buys suits for all the coaches. Fitzgerald said he’s been doing that “forever.”

“Our success on the field, it says our numbers, but those guys spend hours … (assistant head coach) Tom Moore is here at 4 o’clock in the morning every morning figuring out new innovate ways to be able to feature guys like myself and Adrian (Peterson),” Fitz said. “A lot of hard work was put into those schemes and you want to do right by those guys.”

“They all get custom stuff, make sure they look good. Some of them look better than others.”

See you in Houston.


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Monkey of a pick gone, Dansby seeks gold jacket

Posted by Darren Urban on November 7, 2017 – 9:28 am

How much did Karlos Dansby want that 20th interception in his career, the one that was going to put him in the exclusive 20-40 (sack) club? I mean, he did mention he was one interception away from being a legend when he re-signed with the Cardinals again back in March. It finally came Sunday, eight games in, when the weird pass from 49ers QB C.J. Beathard ricocheted off the helmet of tackle Trent Brown and floated into the arms of the 36-year-old linebacker.

“When I saw it hit off the guy’s helmet I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s it, that’s the one,’ ” Dansby said. “It was  along time coming, I finally got it, and I got the monkey off my back. ready to move forward now.”

The other five players in NFL history in the club: Seth Joyner, Ray Lewis, Wilber Marshall and Brian Urlacher.

How much of a big deal is it for Dansby? He said he was framing everything: the ball, his jersey, his gloves, his shoes. Dansby still has never been to a Pro Bowl in his productive career, but he makes no bones about the fact he is still hoping the Hall of Fame is within his reach.

“I had this goal a long time ago, when I first got in the league, to get a gold jacket,” Dansby said. “I’m one step closer. I don’t know what else I’ve got to do. I’ve got to try and top the guys in this group, so I’ve got to press it.”

Dansby gave credit to everyone he’s been around in the NFL, making sure to mention all his teammates, coaches, training staff and “guys on the scout team” with all four organizations he’s played for. He is, of course, on his third tour of duty with the Cardinals.

“We got it done,” he said. “We finally got it done.”

It no longer has to dominate his thoughts. He was given a game ball in the locker room after the game, and during his speech, he also thanked his teammates. He also said, in only a way Dansby can, “God blessed me with great talent, a great gift.”

“He patted himself on the back a couple of times,” safety Antoine Bethea said with a smile. “But hey, he deserved it.”


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Keim: Kicking problems “cannot happen again”

Posted by Darren Urban on November 6, 2017 – 8:19 am

It turned out not to matter, but it could have, so after Phil Dawson’s missed field goal Sunday — his sixth in eight games — General Manager Steve Keim said the issues with the whole unit have to be fixed. Quickly.

“The hard part is, the preseason and everything we saw out of Phil moving forward, felt like he was going to be a huge addition to this team and bring consistency to that spot,” Keim said Monday on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “For whatever reason, things aren’t clicking right now. We just have to go back to the basics and really dig in and see what’s going wrong and make sure we fix it, because it cannot happen again.”

Coach Bruce Arians blamed a bad snap from long snapper Justin Drescher, and Keim acknowledged the snap was low. Keim also said holder Andy Lee did manage to salvage it. Keim also said he was disappointed in the field-goal unit not only from the kicking standpoint but also in the blocking and the technical aspects.

“(Phil) has got to be held accountable,” Keim said. “In my opinion, when you’re getting paid, you’ve got to make those kicks. I don’t think that’s any secret.”

It does not sound like the Cardinals would consider looking at any kickers at least this week. A short week and a game Thursday plays into that, Keim said.

— There was praise for quarterback Drew Stanton in the win, but Keim also underscored the reality that the Cardinals benefit from the run game — in this case, Adrian Peterson’s career-high/franchise-record 37 carries for 159 yards.

“There’s no doubt we knew we had to run the ball effectively and I don’t think that’s a secret going forward the rest of the season,” Keim said.

— The offensive line did pretty well, particularly left guard Alex Boone and left tackle D.J. Humphries, Keim said. That’s what happens when the team stays committed to the run and balanced offensively. “Give those guys a chance,” Keim said, before acknowledging that it’ll be a tougher task Thursday against the Seahawks.

— Peterson had a second great game in three appearances for the Cardinals “The guy continues to impress me at his age,” Keim said. “Thirty-seven carries is unheard of. As (offensive coordinator) Harold Goodwin said, the more you feed him, the better he gets.”

— Keim did want to see better consistency from the defense, and is still concerned about the red-zone offense and converting touchdowns.

— Keim agreed with the idea Humphries is developing into a potential cornerstone left tackle, reiterating again that Humphries has matured a lot to match mentally his excellent physical talent. “He’s ultra-competitive and he likes to play the game,” Keim said.

— The short week is hard, but there is excitement over playing at home on national TV, he said, and the Cardinals will benefit from the mini-bye after the game.

— There was congratulations for veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby in joining the exclusive 40-sack/20-interception club. But Keim, who has know Dansby his whole career and has a great relationship with him, couldn’t let the moment pass. Keim noted Dansby was given a chance to make a speech post-game in the locker room. “He may be one of the worst speech-givers I’ve ever heard,” Keim deadpanned.


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A Stanton win and Niners aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 5, 2017 – 7:42 pm

It was hard to imagine Sunday happening with Bruce Arians as playcaller. Not so much that the Cardinals ran it so many times compared to passing it, but that they did it with only one running back. The Cards are, after all, on a short week, facing the physical Seahawks Thursday night.

But Adrian Peterson got the rock Sunday. A lot. The most he’s had in his career, a crazy notion given the fact he is both 32 and needed Thursday against those Seahawks. The Cardinals needed a win. As offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said last week, feeding Peterson is like throwing wood into the old stove, getting it hotter as the night goes on. Peterson really is a marvel, and he was crucial Sunday.

Now comes the Seahawks, who lost themselves at home. The Cards would pull even in the standings by beating Seattle. This is the formula, like the Cards had been saying (and interestingly, even with Palmer, is often the formula against the Seahawks anyway.) Run a lot, lean on the defense. Ask Drew Stanton to do some things but not a lot of things.

— Even with all the running, one guy who wasn’t about to declare the Cardinals now a running team was Larry Fitzgerald, who quietly had a solid game (five catches, 70 yards, a couple of key first downs).

“To say we have a whole new identity, I don’t know about that,” Fitzgerald said.

— The 37 Peterson carries set a franchise record. I hate to do this, but he broke the record of — wait for it – Edgerrin James, who had 36 in the Monday Night Meltdown game against the Bears. Edge was slightly less productive, gaining just 55 yards that game.

On the all-time lists, Fitzgerald surpassed Tim Brown for sixth place in NFL history for receiving yards. Peterson, who went past the 12,000-rushing yard mark, passed Thurman Thomas and Franco Harris and is now 14th all-time.

— Budda Baker was great in punt coverage, making an impact especially in the first half.

— It was a chippy day across the NFL – google Mike Evans and A.J. Green – so it kind of fit into things when it got heated late in the Cards’ game. Safety Antoine Bethea hit 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard as Beathard slid and the 49ers deemed it late. They had something to say. When it was over, Haason Reddick and Frostee Rucker were ejected, as was 49ers running back Carlos Hyde. We’ll see what the punishments and/or fines might be later this week. The sliding thing has been in the forefront ever since last week’s Kiko Alonso hit on Joe Flacco.

— Congrats to Karlos Dansby for getting his 20th career interception, as he became the fifth player in NFL history with 20 picks and at least 40 sacks. Dansby also had a sack in the game, so it will be a memorable one for him. So will the fact the ball bounced off the helmet of an offensive lineman, but they can’t all be gorgeous.

Dansby said Adrian Wilson had been giving him grief the other day in the team cafeteria about getting the pick. “Stop floating in the zone,” Dansby said Wilson told him. “It’ll come right to you.”

— It came late, but Chandler Jones got sack No. 9 in his eighth game, one of five sacks in the game. It was necessary to pressure Beathard all game given his beat-up offensive line, and for the most part, the Cards did.

— It was a nice day for the offensive line. Peterson ran for 159, and Pro Football Focus said the line allowed just two hurries, and Stanton wasn’t sacked.

— Finally, a few words about Stanton. He was solid Sunday. I understand there will still be those calling for Blaine Gabbert. I don’t expect that to change. But I don’t expect Stanton to go anywhere anytime soon. He took the blame for his interception in the end zone, although Arians interestingly took the blame for the same play. Stanton made a nice play to scramble around and find Jaron Brown on the first TD. He made a nice run on a planned play on third-and-1 to get a big first down.

He did enough to get a win. Yes, the Seahawks’ defense is another animal altogether, but Stanton did his job. The Cardinals are back at practice tomorrow. It’s just a walkthrough, but the week has already started. Not much time to enjoy a win.


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Ellington, Dansby, Golden OK to play

Posted by Darren Urban on November 5, 2017 – 12:36 pm

The Cardinals will have running back Andre Ellington back in the lineup today after he missed a game with a quad injury, as well as linebacker Karlos Dansby (finger/hamstring) and wide receiver Brittan Golden (groin). The latter helps make sure the receiving corps won’t be thin — and also helps on special teams. The full inactive list:

— WR Chad Williams (back)

— RB D.J. Foster

— LB Scooby Wright

— C Daniel Munyer (toe)

— T Will Holden

— TE Ricky Seals-Jones

— DT Xavier Williams


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Jimmy G will he/won’t he, and Friday before the Niners

Posted by Darren Urban on November 3, 2017 – 3:18 pm

Jimmy Garoppolo is not playing against the Cardinals this week. Right?

“I’m expecting to see him, honestly,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “I think he’ll start. That’s just my opinion. What do they have to lose?”

(Other than maybe Garoppolo’s head, behind a struggling offensive line that now won’t have left tackle Joe Staley.)

Peterson isn’t the only one. Karlos Dansby said on the “Big Red Rage” Thursday night Garoppolo will play and many of the Cardinals defensive players have said similar things. It makes little sense to me, given how beat up the Niners are and how little time Garoppolo has had to get ready. Jacoby Brissett did start against the Cards for the Colts earlier this year, but that was Brissett’s second week with the Colts, not the first. Dropping in a quarterback that soon is just too complicated on the NFL level, not when you want good results. To be fair, Garoppolo will be active Sunday – as the backup, coach Kyle Shanahan insists – so the door is cracked. No, the Cardinals defense has not played consistently well. But I don’t see Jimmy G happening against the Cards this year. Beginning in 2018, yes.

— Speaking of that defense, which is around the bottom of the league in third downs and scoring, this is a chance to get better. The Cardinals played very well defensively against the 49ers the first time around. The last two road games, however, the Cardinals have surrendered a total of 67 points.

“You have a week off to have a chance to look at yourself in the mirror and be truthful with yourself,” Peterson said. “That’s where we were last week.”

— It’s stunning to believe that these teams met just about a month ago, and neither starting quarterback is on their team’s active roster.

— For all the struggles on the road of late – and there have been some ugly ones – if the Cardinals win Sunday it will be the 20th road win for coach Bruce Arians, which would be a franchise record.

— The Cardinals, especially with Drew Stanton, won’t make the mistake of underusing Adrian Peterson. He’ll get his carries. It’ll be up to the blocking up front, but Peterson will be getting more than 11 carries this week. If you go back to Stanton’s lone start/win in 2016, when he won in San Francisco, he threw a couple of TD passes to Larry Fitzgerald although he only had 11 completions. The Cards still scored 33, in large part because David Johnson had a season-high 157 yards rushing. That’s the formula.

— Peterson has 11,983 yards rushing in his career, so he’ll surpass 12,000 in this game. He needs 92 yards to pass Thurman Thomas for 15th all-time, and 138 to pass Franco Harris for 14th place.

— Arians was asked if he’s had any talks with veteran kicker Phil Dawson, who has surprisingly missed five field goals in seven games.

“Phil’s had talks with me,” Arians said. “I haven’t said a word to him. He got a chance to go watch his son and come back fresh and reloaded. I really anticipate him to have a great finish to the season.”

— Adrian Peterson and his wife will be featured on the Animal Planet show “Tanked” tonight at 9 p.m. pacific. The show is about people getting custom-made fish tanks. Peterson’s is a doozy.

— Without Staley, the 49ers could have a hard time handling Chandler Jones on the pass rush. Jones is already on fire with his eight sacks in seven games.

— The Cardinals could be thin at wide receiver. Brittan Golden (groin) and Chad Williams (back) weren’t practicing at the end of the week, although both are game-day decisions. Williams is usually inactive anyway, but if both can’t go, the other wideouts need to stay upright. Arians also said tight end Ifeanyi Momah, formerly a receiver, can play there.

— It’s a short week. The Cards have to turn around and host the Seahawks on a Thursday night, and regardless of what happens in the Bay Area, they will be much more short-handed than last year when they forged the heartbreaking 6-6 tie at home against Seattle. More heartbreaking would be an inability to get to .500 going into that game. As was being said the last time the Cards were playing the 49ers, this is kinda important.

“We cannot fall any further behind in our division,” Arians said. “I don’t think there is ever a must-game, but this is pretty close.”

See you Sunday.


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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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