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A soaking wet Dolphins aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 11, 2016 – 10:04 pm

The message wasn’t a surprise. Calais Campbell has been calling every game a playoff game and none of the players in the locker room were confused at exactly what was at stake Sunday. Still, when Bruce Arians brought his team together after the rainy loss in Miami and said out loud that it likely doomed its playoff hopes, “it was terrible to hear,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “I don’t think that’s set in yet.”

Perhaps it was its downfall, but this team never really gave serious thought to the idea it wouldn’t make the playoffs. There are many reasons for that, one being that under Arians, this team has never been in this predicament. In his first season, the Cardinals won seven of eight down the stretch and went into the last weekend still with a slim chance to make the playoffs. The past two years, they had clinched playoff spots right around now.

No reason to belabor the point right now. The Cardinals do have three games left to play, and those last two – road trips to Seattle and Los Angeles – aren’t just any games. Those remain personal. Motivation is there.

But everyone knew the expectations of this season. Falling short of even making the playoffs wasn’t supposed to be part of the equation.

— We will see what the week brings, but left tackle D.J. Humphries left with a concussion and right tackle Ulrick John was injured on the Cards’ last offensive play. Not sure who might be left to play if both are too banged up to go. Earl Watford indeed was reinstalled as right guard in place of John Wetzel, but Wetzel ended up having to play anyway. Injuries have just torn up the offensive line.

Defensively, the Cardinals already were iffy on the return of Tyrann Mathieu and now Tyvon Branch may be down, and perhaps cornerback Marcus Cooper.

— The rain is not why the Cardinals lost, but it came down at times incredibly hard and it was weird how it did seem to kick up when the Cards had the ball.

“I swear to God it felt like every time we touched the ball it started raining,” wide receiver Brittan Golden said.

— Speaking of Golden, he got his first career TD reception, but he actually went in to the game for a play before that – at deep safety. Cooper and Branch were out and safety Tony Jefferson got banged up on a play and had to leave the field for a snap. Golden has practiced at times with the secondary, but this was the first time he actually went out there playing deep centerfield on a run play. And what went through his mind?

“Please don’t break that tackle,” Golden said with a grin.

— It was probably fitting that the loss that basically ended their hopes came in large part because of special teams woes. This week it was the kicker Chandler Catanzaro and long snapper Aaron Brewer. Couple of high snaps doomed two extra points, one of which was returned for two points. Add in the missed field goal of 41 yards, and that’s a seven-point swing in a three-point game. Killer.

Yet Cat Man mixed in a 56-yard field goal that I will admit I was shocked Arians called for, a boot that was the third-longest in franchise history – behind the 60-yarder he had in Buffalo earlier this season and the 61-yarder Jay Feely had against the Bills in Arizona in 2012.

— Sunday may be the first time in NFL history both teams faced a third-and-at-least-33.

— Larry Fitzgerald was targeted nine times Sunday but had only three catches for a scant 12 yards. He has 91 receptions this season but so many of late have been for so few yards that his per-catch average has sunk to less than 10 yards a reception – 9.8 to be exact.

— The rain made the downfield passing game terrible. Michael Floyd had 18 yards on two catches – and those were the most by any wide receiver. Fitz had his 12, Golden nine and J.J. Nelson eight. Smoke Brown played but wasn’t targeted.

— Kerwynn Williams did well in the wildcat. He took three snaps as a “quarterback,” running each time, gaining 34 yards. The Cardinals had 175 yards rushing as a team and averaged 6.5 yards a carry. But with the turnovers and the sideways special teams, it wasn’t enough.

— Three games left. We’ll see how the Cardinals play it out.

Carson Palmer, Ndamukong Suh


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Kerwynn Williams finds his wildcat

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2016 – 9:50 am

Sometimes, the mother of invention is simply right place, right time. Running back Kerwynn Williams has taken snaps before in his football career. He played quarterback in high school (surprisingly, Williams said) and at Utah State he was used in some wildcat formations. But with the Cardinals, it really hadn’t come up until the week of practice heading into the game against the Vikings.

The Vikings use the wildcat. So the Cardinals were practicing against it with their scout team. Normally, practice squad running back Elijhaa Penny would have served in that role. But Penny wasn’t at practice that day, his child being born. So Williams jumped in, and apparently, coaches liked what they saw.

“I guess the rest is history,” Williams said.

The next week, Williams had a part in the offensive package. Williams was in the wildcat twice in Atlanta. He handed off to David Johnson for a 16-yard gain on the first play. The second time, Williams broke for a nice 11-yard gain, although it was wiped out on an A.Q. Shipley holding penalty. It “adds a different wrinkle to the offense,” Williams said, and there is little question that Williams has proven over his years in Arizona — even though he has been on and off the roster — that he can run the ball. That’s never really been in doubt, and it flashed again against the Falcons.

As for playing wildcat quarterback, there is also the chance to pass the ball too, right?

“I did have a little bit of the laser back in the day,” Williams deadpanned. “It’s still there. I’ve still got the fundamentals.”

Williams smiled. “But that’s what Carson is for,” he added. “He’s a great quarterback, he makes a lot of great passes. I don’t think they need me to throw the ball.”

kerwynnwildcat


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Going deep, Friday before the Panthers

Posted by Darren Urban on October 28, 2016 – 3:22 pm

It’s a weekly occurrence, the concern about the Cardinals’ deep ball that just isn’t there anymore. Is there anything that can be done about it? Maybe not. It’s a simple equation for offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin of why they’ve dried up.

“Because no one is giving them to us,” Goodwin said. “People are playing deep coverage on us, and forcing us to make intermediate and underneath throws. That’s one reason the running game is a little bit better too.

“People know we live for the shot and people aren’t going to give it it up anymore. We respect that. We just have to beat them in different ways.”

The Panthers are a team that’s had problems on the back end and would seem to be susceptible down the field. Then again, the same things were said about the game against the Jets and the Jets played off and the Cardinals bludgeoned them to death with David Johnson. The Panthers are stout against the run, but the Cards aren’t giving up that part of the game.

But Bruce Arians continues to say — with a stronger nod to running the ball these days — that there will be times to take shots and some are still open. Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer definitely lamented the J.J. Nelson bomb against the Seahawks that Palmer simply threw too far out of bounds.

“I missed a couple,” Palmer said. “I had J.J. on a couple the other night. I’ve taken shots that I shouldn’t have in certain situations. I think one thing I need to do is be a little bit more picky – when to take them, when not to take them. That’s something I’ve really been trying to work on.”

— I didn’t think the Panthers were going to be 15-1 again this season. But they shouldn’t be 1-5. I thought Kelvin Benjamin was going to be a huge upgrade in helping their passing game. In all honesty, I didn’t think Josh Norman — or a lack thereof — would have this sort of an impact.

— Larry Fitzgerald had a tough flight home the last time the Cardinals were in Carolina. Bruce Arians, not so much. “Steve (Keim) and I were working on next year already.”

— The Cardinals need better special teams. And not just Chandler Catanzaro kicking field goals. Protections have to be cleaned up. Last week, the Cards were hurt when Jaron Brown went down, forcing Kerwynn Williams in as a wing protector on the punt team. Williams is the one who surrendered the blocked punt. There’s no question injuries have taken a toll on special team — Four guys on IR, Tyvon Branch, Jaron Brown, Alani Fua and Troy Niklas, were all key special teams pieces to begin the year.

“You always have to be ready,” special teamer Stepfan Taylor said. “It’s kind of a want-to and a technique kind of deal. We do a good job of everybody ready, but you can only suit up 46 people in the game. It becomes limited. You have people who have never played it before having to be in-game ready and jump in.”

— We’ll see if the 10 a.m. kickoff Arizona time impacts anything. The Cardinals didn’t play well in the 10 a.m. kickoff in Buffalo, although I’m not sure that was time-related. It would’ve been better to have the 1:25 p.m. Az time kick as originally scheduled (TV moved it because both teams aren’t playing well), but it’s not like they haven’t done it before. The team is in the air right now flying out to Carolina.

At least I’ll get home at a reasonable time. Hey, I’m looking at the silver lining.

— Injuries will play a big role in how the pass rushes for both teams might look. When the Cardinals are on offense, how does left tackle Jared Veldheer hold up with a cast on his right hand against the formidable Carolina defensive line? On the other side, not having starting left tackle Michael Oher (concussion) could make things interesting against edge rushers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden.

— One last word on the two field goal block/miss in Seattle. The NFL explains why both were legal in this video.

— There’s been a lot of talk about the tie the Panthers had in 2014, allowing them to win the NFC South at 7-8-1 over the 7-9 Saints. In context, of course, it was a point made after the Cardinals had their own tie last weekend. There’s only one problem — while the tie made the final standings cleaner in terms of seeing who won, the Panthers were going to win the division anyway. The Panthers and Saints split their two games, and the Panthers had a better division record. So even if the Panthers had lost and not tied the Bengals, they would’ve won the South.

— Don’t forget the Pat Tillman “A Football Life” tonight at 6 p.m. on NFL Network (and probably replaying a time or two. Check your local listing.)

— The Cardinals get the bye next week. There’s a pretty big difference between 4-3-1 and 3-4-1. At least in the chase to make the postseason.

beforepanthersblog


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Kerwynn Williams, and juggling the roster

Posted by Darren Urban on October 11, 2016 – 10:09 am

The life of a player on the fringe of the roster is not easy. Kerwynn Williams knows this. The running back was re-signed by the Cardinals Tuesday. He had been signed a week ago after Chris Johnson went on IR, and then when the Cardinals needed an extra tight end because Darren Fells was injured — the Cards promoted practice squad tight end Hakeem Valles — Williams was the one they cut, just a few hours before kickoff against the 49ers. Now that Carson Palmer is just about healthy, the Cardinals found a roster spot for Williams again, letting go of quarterback Zac Dysert.

Williams lives a tough reality. He’s not a special teamer (he can return kickoffs, if needed) so he’s not a guy that makes sense to be active unless you need him to run the ball. He’s no longer practice-squad eligible. But he’s proven many times he can run the ball, and run it well. If he had been PS-eligible, he very well would have made it over Elijhaa Penny.

But with Johnson down (at least for now; there is a chance CJ2K will return this season) Williams makes a lot of sense as an extra runner. Andre Ellington will be David Johnson’s official backup, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Williams finds a way to get some carries over the next few weeks.

That is, of course, assuming the Cardinals don’t need to find a roster spot again.

l-17837


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Kerwynn Williams cut; Nkemdiche sits

Posted by Darren Urban on October 6, 2016 – 4:05 pm

Not any surprises on the Cardinals’ inactive list. Not anymore, not when Bruce Arians made it pretty clear Friday this wasn’t a game where he thought rookie Robert Nkemdiche should be up. So he is not. And the  Cardinals also made a roster move Thursday, promoting tight end Hakeem Valles to the active roster with Darren Fells out for the game. To make room for Valles, the Cards cut running back Kerwynn Williams, who was just signed Tuesday.

Injuries, actually, play a big role in the inactive list for tonight:

— QB Carson Palmer (concussion)

— G Cole Toner

— DT Olsen Pierre

— TE Darren Fells (shoulder)

— DT Robert Nkemdiche

— DT Ed Stinson (toe)

— DT Josh Mauro (chest)

Frostee Rucker will make his return after missing the last few games. Not having Mauro hurts; he’s a guy that, if he’s not playing because of injury, you know he has to be pretty banged up.


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Quietly, Clemons among a handful of cuts

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2016 – 3:41 pm

The Cardinals have until Saturday afternoon to make their final cutdown to 53 on the roster, and Bruce Arians made clear earlier today that he wasn’t going to forthcoming with any information. But that doesn’t mean the Cardinals didn’t make a few moves — aside from the agreed-upon trade for Chiefs cornerback Marcus Cooper, which I would guess wouldn’t be official until Cooper passes a physical.

The team still hasn’t officially announced anything, but there were a handful of cuts listed on the official NFL transactions list today. Two veterans are out — S Chris Clemons (a minor surprise, given that he had been Deone Bucannon’s summer-long backup at moneybacker) and LB Donald Butler. They will each immediately become unrestricted free agents. That likely means good news for undrafted rookie ILB Lamar Louis. Waived were CB Cariel Brooks, RB Kerwynn Williams, T Rob Crisp, WR Marquis Bundy and G Antoine McClain. The team also had an injury settlement with C Taylor Boggs, who had been dealing with a calf injury.

That would be eight players off the roster of 75 in the quest to get to 53. The Cards actually have to move on from 23 total players, because Cooper is coming in. The other cuts will come out at some point Saturday.


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Fitzgerald, Mathieu, Peterson to sit out Texans

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2016 – 12:57 pm

Earlier this week, Tyrann Mathieu talked about being “mindful” of his health, weighing it against whether playing in the preseason was important enough to trump where he was in his rehab. The reality is, for many starters, playing in the preseason simply doesn’t overrule health (right, Tony Romo?)

There is no official “not-expected-to-play” list but three key Cardinals — Mathieu, CB Patrick Peterson and WR Larry Fitzgerald — all are in street clothes and not in uniform and they won’t be playing today. Mathieu, of course, is coming back from his ACL tear. Fitzgerald has been dealing with a minor MCL sprain and said this week he just wants to be ready for Sept. 11 against the Patriots. Fitzgerald was out in early warmups — helmet on, which is rare for any player at that time of the pregame — catching passes, and was moving around fine. This feels precautionary.

Not sure what Peterson’s issue is, if any. He did have his foot/ankle taped during Friday’s final practice so perhaps that is a factor, although he looked OK. In any case, it opens the door for the three cornerbacks battling for the other starting job — Brandon Williams, Mike Jenkins and Justin Bethel — to get important work. It’s unknown how much Bethel will play coming off PUP. Jenkins has yet to play in a preseason game himself because of his broken hand.

WR John “Smokey” Brown, coming back slowly from his concussion, also isn’t dressed, as is RB Kerwynn Williams. Not sure of his injury, although he was watched carefully by RB coach Stump Mitchell and trainers Tom Reed and Chad Cook early before the game.


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Cards’ inactives include Bryant, K. Williams

Posted by Darren Urban on January 16, 2016 – 4:44 pm

The Cardinals are able to have seven healthy inactive players today for the game against the Packers, which includes a couple of guys who have not been inactive of late: DT Red Bryant and RB Kerwynn Williams. The latter is important because it signals a comfort in the health of Andre Ellington in the backfield (although David Johnson is expected to remain the workhorse.) No Williams means the Cardinals will use someone different on kickoff returns (J.J. Nelson? Brittan Golden? David Johnson again?)

Bryant’s name is somewhat of a surprise with the injury to Cory Redding — especially since Xavier Williams is still inactive. With rookie linebacker Gabe Martin active, maybe the Cards wanted someone to fill in on special teams since Kareem Martin will have to play more defensive snaps (and Jason Babin, who is active, doesn’t do that.)

The full list:

—  QB Matt Barkley

— CB Corey White

— RB Kerwynn Williams

— LB Shaq Riddick

— DT Red Bryant

— T D.J. Humphries

— NT Xavier Williams


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Keim: Floyd has been excellent

Posted by Darren Urban on December 7, 2015 – 8:20 am

It got lost in the shuffle somewhat during the Cardinals’ win Sunday, but once again, wide receiver Michael Floyd had a very nice game. Included in it was the game-changing 31-yard catch Floyd made to convert a third down and spark the 98-yard touchdown drive that put the Cardinals in control. Floyd had the tough start this season coming off the hand injury of the preseason, but he’s a major component of the offense during this winning streak — even with his hamstring injury.

“It starts with a young man who has grown and matured the last couple of years,” General Manager Steve Keim said during his appearance Monday on the “Doug and Wolf Show” on Arizona Sports 98.7.

“He’s been excellent.”

Floyd’s contract option for 2016 was already picked up last summer. Keim said any extension would be discussed after the season — the pressing contracts are the guys who will be free agents. Floyd’s future once had some question marks in terms of being in Arizona. It’s hard to see the Cards not wanting to keep him.

Other Keim thoughts:

— The win over the Rams came across the whole 53-man roster, he said. “There’s a lot of credit to go around.”

— Keim was happy with the play of cornerback Justin Bethel, who signed a contract extension Saturday and was tested often Sunday, only to hold up. Bethel not only played all 50 defensive snaps, he also played a team-high 23 special teams snaps.

Keim said he told Bethel “not only does this contract reward you for you contribution on the past, but it acknowledges the expectations we have for you going forward.”

— The play of running back Kerwynn Williams isn’t unexpected. When the Cardinals reluctantly cut him at the end of the preseason, Keim said he was sure Williams was gone, soon to be claimed by another team. Then, even after Williams was available on the practice squad (twice, the Cards promoted him earlier this season and cut him again), no one grabbed him. Keim said he was “thankful” for that.

— No, it’s not great when rookie running back David Johnson fumbles. But Keim said it’s hard not to see Johnson’s “special qualities.” You want Johnson to improve, but the Cardinals may just find a way to live with it until Johnson does.

— Keim admitted watching live, he thought QB Carson Palmer was hit too much, but going back and watching the video, it is probably inevitable given the amount of pressure the Rams bring and the talent of the players who bring it. (Multiple Cardinals offensive linemen were shaking their head after the game at what a beast Rams DT Aaron Donald is and how hard it is to handle him.)

“As a GM, you hate to see quarterback get hit at all, but when you play the Rams, there are going to be some,” Keim said.


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Rams aftermath, with No. 2 on the mind

Posted by Darren Urban on December 6, 2015 – 6:40 pm

Short weeks are just that. Short.

“I’m going to watch Minnesota (tape) on the way home,” Carson Palmer said, after the Cardinals’ win against the Rams. “We’ve got a three-hour flight, whatever it is (technically, two hours and 48 minutes). I’ll get a good jump on them tonight, but there is no celebration. We did what we expected to do. We’ve got to move on.”

Palmer is right. The Cardinals did what they were supposed to do in St. Louis: Beat up a struggling team that, simply put, has no offense to speak of. Their building was half-empty, a crowd dulled by losing and anger toward an owner who wants to move them to Los Angeles.

On the plane ride home, the Cardinals got to watch the Panthers pull out a win in New Orleans, and their possibility of running down the NFC’s No. 1 seed continued to fade. But now the Cardinals are in control of the No. 2 seed, holding a two-game edge on the Packers/Vikings. They can put the Vikings (who were hammered at home by the Seahawks Sunday) out of their misery Thursday night.

There is a lot left here. Games against the Eagles, who won in New England, and the Packers, in a game that could still mean something for the No. 2 seed, and the Seahawks (…. the Seahawks.) But the Cards control what happens to them. That’s all you can ask.

— It would’ve been nice if David Johnson could have gained 100 yards. He came up a yard short. But he was excellent Sunday. Catching the ball, blocking – his blitz pickups, while not perfect, were solid, and that was a big concern for the rookie – and running.

— Johnson was going to come out of the game to give the other backs work right around the time he fumbled, Bruce Arians said. He wasn’t benched for the fumble. In fact, Arians brushed off the fumbles of both Johnson and Kerwynn Williams, saying it was something that will happen with young players.

— Nevertheless, you would’ve liked for Johnson to get through his first start without a fumble.

— The defense made Todd Gurley their mission. One tiny slip, but otherwise, mission accomplished. And the Cardinals have allowed the last two teams (Niners, Rams) to convert just 1-of-21 third downs. Scary good.

— The Cardinals had four drives of at least 80 yards. Carson Palmer quietly had a very good game. It may be tough to displace Cam Newton and Tom Brady in the MVP race, but Palmer deserves to be in the discussion.

— It will be under the radar, but that was a Hall of Fame-type catch by Michael Floyd to gain 30 yards to convert the first third down during the 98-yard drive. I’m not saying Floyd is a Hall of Famer, but that was a manly play. That’s why the Cardinals took him 12th 13th overall in 2012.

— That last 68-yard bomb to Smokey Brown? I’m guessing his hamstring is pretty OK (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cards keep him limited in practice, just in case.)

— Safety Rashad Johnson gets interception No. 5, leading the team, on great recognition on a deep route. Like Justin Bethel, Johnson was/is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. Bethel got paid. Johnson is hoping he will too.

— Speaking of Bethel, he held up fine starting in place of Jerraud Powers, but there were a couple of times he lost track of the ball and that’s something I’m sure he’ll be working on.

— Three days of prep (and practice will likely be very little actual full-speed practice, if any). Then the Vikings — another game with meaning. The best part of December.

Marcus Roberson, Rodney McLeod, Kerwynn Williams


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