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Blogs

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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A top rookie quarterback would play

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2013 – 3:55 pm

Back in 2006, when Matt Leinart was just drafted and Denny Green was in charge, the hype around the Cardinals’ freshly-minted quarterback-of-the-future was off the charts. Back then, Kurt Warner was just a guy, a placeholder for Leinart much like Warner had been for Eli Manning and the Giants back in 2004. But Green was having none of the hype. He made it plain — in a perfect scenario for 2006, Warner would play all season, and Leinart would sit and learn the whole year and not even play a single snap.

(Of course, that didn’t happen because Warner fumbled the ball all over the place and Leinart came in and it got me one of my all-time favorite quotes from Denny. I asked him, with the Cards 1-8 and Leinart struggling, what it would have meant for Leinart to have sat the entire season as the original plan, and Denny’s first reaction was, “That’s an awfully philosophical question for a Wednesday.” As opposed to saving the philosophical questions for Friday. But I digress.)

Flash forward to 2013, when the Cardinals could spend their highest pick on a QB since that season. Will it be the first round? If I am guessing, I say no. Never say never I suppose. The second round seems more likely. But unlike Green, both GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians would rather drop a first-round rookie in the fire. No reason to wait.

“My philosophy is, if you are taking a player that high, particularly at the quarterback position, I think that guy needs to be on the field and play for you,” Keim said. “To me, a player grows by being on the field and taking snaps, and I don’t think you can replicate that, whether it is the speed of the game, the timing of routes … in practice. He needs to be on the field.”

Said Arians, “I’ve never been one to sit them on the bench. You never learn on the bench. He’s not going to get any reps in practice because that’s for the starter. If you want him to develop, you give him every rep in practice and you throw him out there. Hopefully you can put enough talent around him that he can handle the downside.”

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Aeneas and a Hall of Fame race with Warner

Posted by Darren Urban on February 1, 2013 – 2:44 pm

Who will be the first Arizona Cardinal to make it into the Hall of Fame? That could be an interesting race.

Former cornerback Aeneas Williams is among the 17 finalists for induction this year, just as he was last year. Williams, drafted by the Cardinals in 1991, is the first homegrown Arizona Cardinal to have a chance at the Hall. He deserves to get there at some point. He made eight Pro Bowls in his career (a decade with the Cards, and then four seasons with the St. Louis Rams), seven as a cornerback. He made one after moving to safety with the Rams. He had 55 interceptions, nine that he returned for touchdowns. Cowboys Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin has often talked about how hard Williams made his life. He was one of the game’s all-time best, although his career was underplayed because the Cardinals were often bad during his playing days.

Williams may be in a waiting game. If he doesn’t get in this year — and it will be tough with the names there — when would it happen?

In the meantime, quarterback Kurt Warner waits for his chance for eligibility. Warner isn’t homegrown, not after successfully breaking in with the Rams. But there is little question that the only reason Warner’s career elevated to possible Hall of Fame status was because he had a rebirth with the Cardinals. Without those years from 2005-2009 — particularly his renaissance with Ken Whisenhunt from 2007-2009 — this wouldn’t even be a topic. Warner’s first year of eligibility comes after the 2014 season, when, in a nice twist of coincidence, the Hall vote will take place at the Super Bowl in Arizona. (Team president Michael Bidwill also said on Radio Row the other day the team’s plans to eventually honor Warner themselves — perhaps the Ring of Honor? — would likely wait until Warner’s Hall status is possible.)

Many believe Warner is a surefire get-in-right-away Hall of Famer, but we will see. There are some significant players that have come up for the Hall of late and will be reaching eligibility over the next few years. There will be a logjam of worthy candidates. If Williams doesn’t get in this year, it’s because of the guys who he is up against. Finalists include Cris Carter, Warren Sapp, Tim Brown, Will Shields, Michael Strahan and Jonathan Ogden, among others. Hopefully, Williams gets in sooner rather than later. Who knows? Maybe they could both get in the same year, in Arizona.

This year’s class is announced at 3:30 p.m. Arizona time Saturday.

UPDATE: Williams did not make it, although he did get to the final 10.


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