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The fine line of finding a quarterback

Posted by Darren Urban on January 6, 2014 – 11:39 am

So if you are the Cincinnati Bengals, what are you thinking about with Andy Dalton? And what does it say about “finding” your long-term quarterback?

These questions are not easily answered. The Cardinals have been looking for their “long-term” quarterback since, well, since they moved to Arizona. There were the Kurt Warner years, but the time where Warner was both the unquestioned and winning (a key adjective) quarterback for this franchise was less than three seasons: A few games into the 2007 season through 2009. Carson Palmer has come along, and was 10-6 in his first season, and likely is the Cards’ starter in 2014, but how long does he have?

Again, finding the young replacement isn’t simple. Look at Dalton. He has won nine, 10 and 11 games in his three seasons in Cincinnati. The Bengals have made the playoffs every single season. It’s a foundation many teams — even the Cards — would love to have with a quarterback after he was drafted. He threw for almost 4,300 yards this season and already has 80 TD passes in his young career. It’s the definition of finding a long-term guy … right?

Yet the Bengals have lost all three playoff games Dalton has quarterbacked, and he has not played well in any of them. He is, not surprisingly, getting hammered about it again and there are some who think the Bengals should look elsewhere. Now, there are QB-needy teams across the league who would probably love to have Dalton. Yet his situation underscores the minefield that is filling that position.

Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton have worked well. It looks like Colin Kaepernick has too (although I think he still tends to be more up and down than you’d like at this early stage) and Nick Foles flourished in Chip Kelly’s offense. Side note, you look at the playoff teams and the winners and it drives home the point this league is about good quarterback play.

Is Matthew Stafford the answer, even with all his gaudy stats? (Ken Whisenhunt may be hired soon to find out.) Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder were not. Sam Bradford? It’s no wonder Steve Keim says he has to fall in love with a QB to want to draft him, because let’s face it, if you do draft one early, you are married to him for a few years to see if he works out.

And, in the case of someone like Dalton, you still may be wondering if he is working out even when it seems like he is.

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Friday before the Jaguars

Posted by Darren Urban on November 15, 2013 – 3:55 pm

It’s strange, and maybe because it’s because the Cardinals face the Jaguars so rarely, but each of the last three meetings between the teams – dating back to 2000, my first full year covering this team – is burned into my brain for a particular reason.

2000 – The Cardinals were manhandled in Jacksonville. The Jaguars scored on eight of 10 possessions and the final possession ate up the last 9-plus minutes of the clock (as the Jags traveled all of 31 yards. Hard to believe). Afterward, though, it was classic Pat Tillman, raging against a team that had folded in a season that featured the firing of Vince Tobin.

“In this league, you have to overcome injuries, problems, coaches getting fired,” Tillman spouted. “Nobody cares (about excuses). Don’t tell me about the pain, show me the baby. We’re not showing the baby right now, we’re just bitching about the pain.”

2005 – It was a nondescript game at Sun Devil Stadium later in the year – a seven-point loss when Kurt Warner was sacked and fumbled late – except for an angry Anquan Boldin, who had 10 catches and more than 100 yards but got so ticked at what he perceived as dirty play that he got two personal foul calls fighting cornerback Terry Cousin. That wasn’t the memorable part. The memorable part was Boldin writing a letter to the editor of both local newspapers apologizing for the penalties.

2009 – The NFC champion Cards were coming off a home upset loss to the Niners when they had to travel cross country in Week 2. The Cards blasted the Jaguars, in a game marked by Warner’s amazing NFL record, completing 92.3 percent of his passes (24 of 26) to earn another slot in the Hall of Fame.

We’ll see if this game ends up providing some kind of memory.

– Don’t talk trap game with the Cardinals. “No, no, no,” Larry Fitzgerald said. “This is a playoff game. There is no such thing as a trap game in the NFL.” As you might expect, the Cardinals were handing out plenty of compliments to the Jaguars this week. The hope is that they play with that focus.

– Then again, there is this analysis of the Jaguars.

– It’s not often when the “Friday before” post is actually posted from the flight out, but it is today (and will be again in a couple weeks, when the Cards go out on Friday before the Philly game.) Coach Bruce Arians, coaching out West for the first time in his career, said he talked to many people in the offseason about setting a schedule. The Cards don’t get in to the hotel until about 10 p.m., but Arians said he didn’t want to move up the schedule.

“We’ve been down this road with Tampa,” Arians said. “There are no excuses not to come out and play well.”

– How red-hot is Justin Bethel on special teams? Profootballfocus.com, which grades special teamers (among others), has never had a guy grade out the highest in two weeks of the same season, and Bethel has done it three times – including against Houston last week, in which Bethel had PFF’s highest special teams grade ever.

– The Jaguars, which won their first game of the season last week, hasn’t won back-to-back games since 2010.

– Going against the worst rushing defense in the league – in part there, I am sure, because so many teams have blown the Jags out and have run a lot to grind second-half clock – the Cards should run the ball effectively. They need to run it effectively.

– John Abraham seemed confident he wouldn’t be hampered much by his bad hamstring. He’s playing so well, the Cards have to hope he isn’t.

– There isn’t much to analyze about this game. The Cards have put themselves in good position to be 6-4. Now they just have to play like it.


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Taking those shots down the field

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2013 – 9:54 am

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.

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Peterson’s throw-and-catch mean Hall of Fame

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2013 – 10:58 am

Against the Lions, Patrick Peterson became the first defensive player since at least 1970 to catch a pass and complete a pass in the same game. It was a significant feat, so his gloves and the ball from that game are now in Canton, Ohio, on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s not the first time this has happened for Peterson. When he tied the NFL record with four punt return touchdowns in a season in 2011 as a rookie, the Hall took Peterson’s cleats from his Nov. 6 return against the Rams.

Back in 2009, the Hall took some of Kurt Warner’s gear after Warner set the NFL record for completion percentage in a game against Jacksonville. And there has been a Pat Tillman exhibit for a while.

As for Peterson’s day, it was all in a day’s work. (Even if he admitted he might not have made his catch.)

“I prepare myself for these types of moments in the offseason,” Peterson said. “I believe I’m in probably the best shape on the team. I work extremely hard in the offseason and it pays dividends in the season. When my number is called I’m definitely ready to go. I believe that I can play pretty much every position and pretty much every second on the clock. That’s how I feel, but I just want to continue going out there and getting better each and every week, doing the things I need to do to help my team win ball games.”

As for what’s next? “We’ve got a lot planned up our sleeves,” Peterson said.

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The specter of Warner

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2013 – 10:03 am

Carson Palmer has been a Cardinals for nearly six months. He’s played with the team all offseason, and is two games into a well-established role as starter. And the Cardinals had gone through eight quarterbacks in some way, shape or form between the time Palmer arrived and Kurt Warner retired.

But the long Warner shadow hovers. Palmer acknowledged that.

“Definitely. You hear about it all the time,” Palmer said. “And I think that’s the case anywhere a great quarterback plays. And, Kurt was, obviously, a great quarterback. He played in Super Bowls, helped get this team to an NFC Championship game and win it. That’s just kind of the shoes you have to fill that you hear about. You heard about it forever in Denver when they were looking for the next John Elway. And, I think it’s still looming here. Until someone else takes this team to a Super Bowl, you are always going to hear those comparisons.”

Even Warner noted in training camp that his exploits would inevitably be linked to Palmer’s Arizona tenure. I do think it has lessened somewhat, simply because Palmer has shown he remains a pretty good NFL quarterback and, more importantly, he’s much better than any of the guys that came before him. There are comparisons to those guys too, and he’s obviously on the other side of that than he might be with the legend of Warner.

Palmer is probably better equipped to deal with the comparisons too. He’s a guy who’s confident in himself and knows he has a solid résumé. Can he turn in a playoff run with this team? We’ll see. He’s right — without one, the Warner talk probably won’t go away.

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What do Kurt Warner and Aeneas Williams have in common?

Posted by since1898 on September 3, 2013 – 4:00 pm

Legends

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Kurt Warner counts us down to the regular season

Posted by since1898 on August 26, 2013 – 10:42 am

13DAYS

 

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Two-quarterback roster? Maybe

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2013 – 12:26 pm

The Cardinals have four quarterbacks on the roster right now. It’s possible, Bruce Arians said, they could end up with just two.

Carson Palmer is the unquestioned starter. Drew Stanton is the unquestioned backup. And reality is Ryan Lindley is the third-stringer — Caleb TerBush isn’t really in the mix — unless Arians and the Cardinals go in another direction. Arians has been on teams “for a number of years” that have kept just two quarterbacks on the roster. He’d do it again.

“If it comes down to Ryan and another guy at another position, we’ll determine what’s more valuable to our football team at that time,” Arians said. “We’re going to keep the best 53.”

The Cardinals and Ken Whisenhunt tried it in 2007. That backfired. Matt Leinart broke his collarbone against the Rams five games into the season, and the team signed Tim Rattay to back up backup Kurt Warner. Then Warner had Julius Peppers fall on his left elbow early in the very next game, forcing Rattay on the field with just a couple of practices. Warner managed to play the rest of the season with a brace, but it was an issue that convinced Whisenhunt never to have fewer than three QBs on the roster going forward.

As for other current Cards’ news and notes:

– DT Ricky Lumpkin has a low ankle sprain, another blow to the ailing defensive line. Arians said the Cardinals will sign a defensive lineman or two, which are necessary with Lumpkin, Everrette Thompson and Dan Williams all out right now. ‘We’ll get a couple fresh bodies and coach real hard for two days,” Arians said. “We’ll see how good of a coach Buck (Brentson Bucker) is.”

– LB Daryl Washington missed the walkthrough while attending his latest court date for his assault case. He returned soon after and said nothing yet has been resolved and his next court date is set for October.

– RB Rashard Mendenhall will be back at practice. G Daryn Colledge will not play against the Packers. Arians said most injured guys are questionable. He still has hope that LB Karlos Dansby and WR Kerry Taylor (hamstrings) could play in Green Bay.

– Center Deveric Gallington,  tweeted out he was going to sign with the Cardinals. The Cards have been searching to find more center depth. Gallington was an undrafted rookie out of Texas Tech who spent some time this offseason with the Raiders.

– The Cardinals, surprisingly, haven’t had one scuffle — or even had a hint of a scuffle — all through camp. It was suggested to Arians it could be air-condition-related. Arians smiled. “I do all the scuffling,” he said. More seriously, “We have a no fighting policy,” Arians said. “We don’t play the Cardinals. Normally you still have a (fight). I would think (being) outside it would draw more of that heat.”


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Kurt Warner returns to University of Phoenix Stadium

Posted by since1898 on July 30, 2013 – 4:49 pm

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Breaking down a trade, and other Palmer aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on April 2, 2013 – 6:22 pm

There is really no way to know how long the Cardinals have been thinking about Carson Palmer, but it’s clear it’s been a little while even if the official trade talks with the Raiders didn’t start until last Friday. The Cards were in a good spot, since it seemed obvious Palmer wasn’t going to go back to Oakland. The price wasn’t steep, not even if it had been straight up for a sixth-round pick, and the Cards got a seventh-rounder back. (The conditional pick next year is reportedly another seventh rounder, and since the conventional wisdom that a pick a year later is worth less than the current year, does that mean the Cards might have given up an undrafted free agent?)

The price for Palmer — about $8 million in salary, according to reports — is fair for a veteran QB with a decent resume. More importantly, the Cardinals were good with it.

“Not only with the draft compensation but with the restructuring of the contract, we had an area we felt comfortable with as an organization,” General Manager Steve Keim said. “We stuck to it and we were patient and it worked out.”

Keim said he and Team President Michael Bidwill had a long talk about the direction of the organization when Palmer’s availability came to light. Keim stressed the opportunity to get a franchise quarterback at this stage (which sounds even better given the prospects in the draft, which are clearly not exciting too many QB-needy teams league-wide given all the QB moves.) The Cards had gone for a franchise QB trade recently, and that didn’t work out all that well.

“I think there were many lessons we learned from that trade and from other trades that we brought collectively to the table,” Bidwill said of the Kolb deal.

The changes have come fast and furious over the past month or so. “All along we talked about being proactive and being aggressive,” Keim said. The Cardinals have. And now they have a new quarterback to run out there.

– It does feel like this is a perfect fit for what Bruce Arians does. I do think Palmer can still play well, and I do think he was the best option for the Cards. Is he the long-term solution? Of course not. Even if he has a Kurt Warner-like renaissance, the Cardinals are going to keep looking for long-term answers. They already were caught short once when Warner retired and they don’t want it to happen again.

– There was also cautious optimism from players today. “Any time you add a weapon, it helps your team,” running back Rashard Mendenhall said. “But we are all waiting to see how it shakes out.” As Fitz said, “I’m coming off the most disappointing season of my career and I’m in ‘Prove it’ mode.” Everyone on the Cards, especially on offense, probably needs to view it that way.

– It can’t hurt on the timing, which got Palmer to Arizona right when voluntary work started. He lost out on most of Tuesday as the deal was completed, but emphasized he is now in Arizona ready to work. I assume that means starting full bore Wednesday. (He did get a post-contract mini-workout in with John Lott, and talked a little with new teammate Dan Williams as you can see below.)

– Speaking of Warner, Palmer knows the parallel of coming to the Cards at this late stage of his career (Palmer is 33, Warner was 34 when the Cards got him.) “It’s hard to make those comparisons. Kurt was a phenomenal player. He came here and just lit people up. I’d love to be compared to some of the things that he did here when it’s my time to leave here.”

– In his opening statement, Palmer addressed the many stories about his leaving the Raiders, including the one out there that he declined to renegotiate his contract down from $13 million in 2013 even though the Raiders were reportedly still offering $10 million this season.

“There’s been a lot of rumors and stories and inaccuracies about my departure from Oakland,” Palmer said. “I want to clear the air on that. I was presented with a contract there and I was advised not to sign that contract, with no security, no guarantees. My agent told me he would never have me sign that contract. That opportunity led me here.”

Palmer said the Raiders were moving toward youth and he had no problem with that. He also called Head Coach Dennis Allen and General Manager Reggie McKenzie “stars” at their jobs.

– Arians was increasingly optimistic about his team. It lead to the funniest exchange of the day as Arians praised the players he saw for the first time Tuesday morning.

“Having walked into that room today, that’s as good a looking football team as I’ve seen in my 20 years of coaching, stepping in the first day,” Arians said. “There’s not a bad body in the room. It’s a great looking bunch of athletes, and we will never use talent as an excuse.”

Palmer didn’t hesitate. “You saying you’ve got a good body?”

“Yeah buddy. Yes indeed,” Arians fired back. “Sixty and sexy.”

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