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Abraham provides another headline for Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on September 10, 2014 – 4:52 pm

At this point, you certainly can’t say it’s been dull around the Cardinals. Between key injuries and comebacks and starting jobs and receiver targets — and a one-point, come-from-behind win — this team has kept in the public eye. Wednesday it’s the news that linebacker John Abraham is considering retirement, as he takes leave of the team and takes another piece from the defense. He has five days to decide if he wants to stay or go, although you wonder if it’s gotten to this point, how Abraham hasn’t already given it serious thought. Funny thing, when he came back from his rehab and got to training camp, he insisted he never once thought about not playing. Football was his life, he said. Now, it may not be.

Whether Abraham would have notched a bunch of sacks eventually may never been known. He did get off to a slow start last year before eventually breaking into double digits. But in the end, I think the Cardinals find a way around this, just as they did with Darnell Dockett, and I think the defense can still play at a high level. But yes, Todd Bowles will have earned even more respect if he continues to weave his playcalling magic.

– There will be more tomorrow on Larry Fitzgerald when he speaks to the media on his normal Thursday, but this was noteworthy from Bruce Arians today: He acknowledged that Fitz’s knee issues limited him as the Cardinals headed into the first game and the reason Fitzgerald wasn’t on the field for three different passing situation third downs was because Fitzgerald hadn’t been able to practice those plays. “I learned my lesson last year not to ask (Larry) to do things in a game that you’re not practicing,” Arians said. “It’s not fair to the quarterback either.”

Abebloguse


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Larry Fitzgerald: Winning “my only concern”

Posted by Darren Urban on September 9, 2014 – 10:17 pm

I’m guessing that if Larry Fitzgerald’s one-catch game had come a couple of games down the road, his is-he-being-targeted storyline wouldn’t have been as big of a deal. But Bruce Arians talked about it today, and that came after Fitz’s dad, Larry Fitzgerald Sr. — who was at the game Monday — dropped a tweet that caught national attention:

The tweet got enough attention that Fitz Jr. decided to tweet a response Tuesday night:

Fitz had a big smile after the win. He has a good understanding where this team and this offense is right now. “In terms of numbers and stuff, goals I would set for myself back in the day, they were realistic where I was playing,” Fitzgerald told me last week. “Now you have to adjust that based on what you are asked to do.” He’ll be asked about this Thursday, the day he normally meets with the media, and he’ll echo what he said in his tweet. That’s Fitz. I’m sure he’d like more chances, but he’s looking for the victories too, and besides, he’s not the guy who is going to raise a fuss. He never has been.


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Fitz’s targets, Ellington’s toughness and day-after B.A.

Posted by Darren Urban on September 9, 2014 – 1:36 pm

Why, Bruce Arians was asked, wasn’t wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald targeted more in the Monday night game against the Chargers?

“You have to ask the quarterback,” Arians said. “(Larry) is going out for a pass every time. I don’t look at that. We don’t design plays for guys to get the ball. That’s interceptions waiting to happen.”

In fact, Arians referred to early last season, when Carson Palmer acknowledged he had been trying to force the ball to Fitz a couple of times, with turnover-laden results. It would seem, however, that Fitzgerald would be in line to be targeted a little bit more. “I learned some lessons last year,” Palmer said. “You want to get him involved, but it can bite you in the butt. We weren’t going to do that tonight.” Arians acknowledged there were a couple of times Fitzgerald was open and Palmer threw the ball elsewhere.

“But I’m not interested in anybody’s numbers other than the ‘Ws,’ ” Arians said. “Those days are long gone.”

Fitzgerald was officially targeted four times, with one catch for 22 yards.

– Running back Andre Ellington will wear a boot on his injured left foot so it can “calm down” after playing on it and he’ll probably not practice Wednesday. Then he will try and go Thursday and Friday to get ready for the Giants game. Playing through a little pain — knowing the injury can’t get worse — is important, Arians believes. Ellington did the same thing last year, skipping the Philadelphia game after hurting his knee and then coming back to play arguably his best game, in Tennessee. “You’re never going to be 100 percent until March as a running back in the National Football League,” Arians said, adding that Ellington wanted to play Monday night.

– LB John Abraham is going through the concussion protocol, so he’ll be day to day this week. Arians said DE Frostee Rucker will not practice Wednesday with his calf injury and looks doubtful to play in New York. Punter Dave Zastudil, with his bad groin, is day to day, although Arians said he was happy with the way Drew Butler punted.

– There are going to be a lot of tense moments this season as the defensive backs — especially Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie — are going to be very much on an island as the Cardinals try to bring extra guys to create a pass rush. “Where we are putting them, they are going to get beat sometimes,” Arians admitted. “The pressure better get there.”

– Guard Jonathan Cooper played one play because Paul Fanaika hurt his knee. Cooper pulled and didn’t do the best job on his block. But there won’t be any extra plays for Cooper barring injuries, Arians said.

– For a second straight press conference, Arians noted that the offensive line had some communication issues because of crowd noise at University of Phoenix Stadium. Asked if that meant the crowd needed to learn to quiet down when the Cardinals are on offense, Arians said “yeah. And keep their tickets.”

– The Cardinals made a pair of practice squad moves Tuesday, adding running back Chris Rainey, who played for the Steelers in 2012 and was with the Colts in the preseason, and bringing back cornerback Teddy Williams. The Cards released receiver Kevin Cone from the practice squad, and put running back Dominique Williams (knee) on the practice squad/injured list.


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Chargers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 9, 2014 – 1:05 am

Jonathan Dwyer had just run up the gut for a first down to clinch the win Monday night, and it was hard not to notice the player who looked like he had the biggest grin on the field: Larry Fitzgerald. Yes, Fitzgerald only had one catch on the night but it was a doozy, a 22-yarder that he hauled in to put the Cardinals into San Diego territory on the game-winning drive. Fitzgerald’s targets — four of them officially — will be a topic of conversation, but the Cardinals won and so those things move into the background. Hard to argue when the quarterback still gets 300 yards and there are enough others to make the plays when Fitz isn’t (Michael Floyd, 5 for 119 to start what I’m guessing will be a very big year.)

Besides, it’s tough to get that smile out of my head as the clock ticked down.

– The Cardinals look like they are going to be fine on defense. Yes, Todd Bowles is going to have to dial up some different things. The pass rush on some plays was, match up with receivers one-on-one across the board and send everyone else. That’ll be tough against Detroit with Calvin Johnson, but Bowles sees what he has and goes with it. He lost two more pieces during the game when linebacker John Abraham (concussion) and defensive end Frostee Rucker (calf) went out. Oh well. “Survival of the fittest,” Bowles said. “Your healthy, you play.”

– One of those guys who is playing is Larry Foote. No, he’s not Daryl Washington. But a good camp was followed up with a good opening game, something that brought a smile to Bruce Arians’ face. “He’s going to be the bellcow for us all year,” Arians said.

– The good was Deone Bucannon looked comfortable and solid as that dollar linebacker in the nickel defense. The bad was him missing the block that allowed new punter Drew Butler to get one blocked. “I was just overexcited,” Bucannon said. “I was trying to get out too soon, trying to get down there to make a tackle. Totally stupid. Selfish by me.”

– Overall, the “kicking game hurt us more than it should have,” Arians said. Besides the block, Ted Ginn did not have a good opening game returning kickoffs. Field position wasn’t great much of the time. Chandler Catanzaro, however, held his own as kicker. The Cardinals look like they made a good choice with the rookie.

– Arians didn’t seem that bothered by the fact right tackle Bobby Massie didn’t just fall on the Andre Ellington fumble, which ended up with the Chargers and cost the Cardinals an early scoring chance. The cast on Massie’s hand — which he apparently has — was the culprit, Arians said. “He tried to pick it up and run with it,” Arians said. “The cast dropped it.”

– Safety Tony Jefferson said he got props from both San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates after the game, after Jefferson chased Gates around much of the game. Still, Jefferson was still irritated with the defensive holding he was called for on a play he ended up getting an interception on. He didn’t feel he held, although he admitted he needed to look at the video.

– Andre Ellington wasn’t at full speed, but that was still good enough. That 18-yard run he made on the game-winning drive was a huge play and if he can muddle through his tendon injury, the Cardinals will be much better off with him in there.

OK, that’s that. I’ll be doing a chat tomorrow (Tuesday) at 2 p.m. on this short week, if you want to take part. But now, it’s time to go home.

Blogafteruse


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A tenuous schedule, and the captains

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2014 – 9:34 am

The Wes Welker suspension bomb dropped yesterday, and that’s a great example of why all these game-by-game results guesses never made any sense to me. The Broncos wide receiver is gone for four games, and since the Broncos have a Week 4 bye (as do the Cardinals), the fourth and final game Welker will have to sit out will be the Cardinals’ visit to Denver. Will that impact the outcome? Maybe, maybe not. But you can’t predict because this game doesn’t allow that. Last year, when the schedule game out, the Cardinals were facing two tough playoff teams coming to Arizona in Houston and Atlanta. By the time the Texans and Falcons arrived, injuries had shredded them and they were bad teams. This year, the Broncos won’t have Welker (or kicker Matt Prater, who has also been suspended the first four games), the 49ers won’t have linebacker Aldon Smith in the first meeting with the Cards, and again, you just don’t know how these things will play out.

Random aside: That Oct. 5 game will be only the second time in Payton Manning’s career he will play an entire game against the Cardinals. He did so in a Sunday night game in 2009, but he sat out virtually all off the 2005 season finale. That is, of course, assuming Manning is healthy by that point. Because you just don’t know what will happen.

– The Cardinals picked captains and the results weren’t really surprising when you think of it. The biggest one, noted by many fans, is that Larry Fitzgerald is not a captain. This year’s offensive captain is Carson Palmer. But this should not shock. Palmer has really been the biggest offensive leader since he arrived, although there is something to be said about taking a bit of a backseat in the first year. Palmer did that, and Fitz was a 2013 captain. But Palmer is unquestionably the guy out front. Fitz has always been more of a lead-by-example guy. It was interesting that Calais Campbell is the defensive captain, but then again, maybe that shouldn’t be that surprising either. It’s hard to think of Campbell as a veteran leader — sometimes, it still feels like he just got here, especially since Darnell Dockett’s experience always overshadowed him on the line. But he’s a guy the defense can get behind.

– The Cardinals finished off their 10-man practice squad today by signing cornerback Anthony Gaitor. The 5-foot-10 Gaitor was among the Bucs’ final cuts. He was a seventh-round pick of Tampa in 2011, and missed all of last season with a knee injury. He joins rookie Jimmy Legree as the defensive backs on the practice squad, which gives the Cards some in-house possibilities for help if there are injuries with the eight men on the active roster.


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Bengals aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2014 – 10:44 pm

No reason to overanalyze here tonight, not with Bruce Arians talking to the media again just 14 hours from now and a short week ahead. This is going to go quickly, from the 13 cuts that are coming in the next day or so (officially, they must be done by Tuesday at 1 p.m. Arizona time) to the “practices” the Cardinals will try and hold Monday and Tuesday even though everyone is beat up from Sunday night’s game and more football is on the horizon Thursday.

The big concern/talking point again was Carson Palmer. He deserved praise the first two games. He was not nearly as good against the Bengals, and even he would admit that. But watching the game, while Palmer wasn’t good enough for this team to keep up in the NFC West I did not think he was terrible. Arians backed that up afterward. “Carson is going to take the blame and the heat for his quarterback rating but there are two drops that are wide open,” Arians said. “I don’t put a lot of stock in that one.”

Arians said Palmer made the right read on his interception and that it was the receiver (who was Larry Fitzgerald) who made the mistake but not cutting across the face of the defender. Fitz owned up to it as well. Truth be told, it looked like there were so many defenders in the area maybe the throw was ill-advised, but it’s got zero chance if the receiver isn’t where the QB thinks he’ll be. Palmer can’t miss a wide-open Michael Floyd either — and when we say wide open, it is literal. The Bengals just forgot to cover him deep. That said, I saw a replay where Floyd stopped near his defender and then started running again, and if Floyd runs full out the whole time, maybe the ball is in the right place for the TD.

Doesn’t really matter. No one will remember this in a few days. The Cardinals will fix some things. It wasn’t a terrible game. It wasn’t what they wanted, but it wasn’t unforgivable.

– The run defense was impressive. Arians did say he is worried about the pass rush when it’s only four players, and that’s been an issue for a long time. LB John Abraham played for the first time and Arians said he actually played more than expected. Abraham also drew a holding penalty. But it can’t be all about Abraham when the Cards are trying to get non-blitz pass rush.

– It certainly looks like rookie John Brown is this team’s third wide receiver. And if a fourth is needed, it looks like Jaron Brown will get the call more often than Ted Ginn. There will be plays for Ginn in three-receiver sets I am sure, but right now, if I had to put together a depth chart, I’d peg Ginn as behind the Brown boys. Ginn is the return man and the “get deep” threat.

– Other notable spots on the live depth chart watching the game. UDFA Glenn Carson was with Desmond Bishop as second-unit ILBs, with Larry Foote and Kenny Demens starting. Kevin Minter is still out; Carson could be a practice squad candidate. Jonathan Dwyer is pretty clearly the No. 2 running back. Bradley Sowell was the second-unit right tackle, and Max Starks worked third team. Arians said Sowell had been doing better the last couple of weeks. It’ll be interesting to see if Starks or Sowell are kept, because the swing tackle backup job is between those two.

– No injuries Sunday night? That’s the best news of all.

– The offensive line played well. In protection and the run game. That’s an excellent development.

That’s good for now. I’ll make a stab at guessing the 53-man roster in the next couple of days. Time to go home. Back to work in a few hours.

CPbengalsblog


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The impact of losing Darnell Dockett

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2014 – 10:16 pm

Injuries happen every preseason. They are not all created equal.

Even the long-term injuries are not created equal. As much as Jonathan Cooper’s injury hurt the Cardinals last year — and at the time, GM Steve Keim felt Cooper was the Cardinals’ best offensive lineman — there is an jarring emotional slam with the news Darnell Dockett is done for the season. That comes on many levels. On a defense that already lost Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington from last year’s unit, losing Dockett is a difficult pill to swallow.

After Dockett was carted off and practice resumed with some 7-on-7 work, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner gathered his players on the field and they all took a knee. I don’t know exactly what was said, but it certainly looked like Buckner was helping his guys get through what already looked like a rough patch that was later confirmed.

Now though, it’s about moving on. It’s about the future, which is in the short-term the 2014 season and in the long-term where 2015 might take Dockett and the Cardinals. Veteran Frostee Rucker should move into Dockett’s starting role, but again, there was always going to be a rotation on the defensive line. There was a reason the Cardinals drafted Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson. Those rookies are going to have to play a bigger role. They are going to have to grow up very fast because Dockett won’t be there to anchor — along with Calais Campbell — the line. One potential free agent to look at is long-time 3-4 defensive end Brett Keisel, Keisel was cut by the Steelers this offseason but he knows Bruce Arians and Buckner from their time in Pittsburgh. I have no idea if it’s possible he could come — I have no idea what kind of money he might want — but the Cardinals will need to add someone.

What will happen next year becomes very interesting. Dockett will turn 34 in May. He will be coming off major knee surgery. He will be going into the last year of his contract and will be due $6.5 million in salary and will have a $9.8M cap hit. That’s a lot of money for an older lineman. Like Larry Fitzgerald and his $23.6M cap hit in 2015, Dockett’s bulky contract was always going to be an issue after this season. That certainly hasn’t changed, and perhaps, becomes more of an issue because of the injury.

In the moment, though, there is only the gut-punch to the Cardinals. And the long rehab Dockett faces while the Cards try to prepare for the season to come.


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Larry Fitzgerald made it to the John Legend concert Sunday

Posted by since1898 on August 18, 2014 – 10:34 am

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Watch Preseason games anywhere with this

Posted by since1898 on August 7, 2014 – 8:45 am

Click to watch games from anywhere at anytime

psl_cp_cards

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The price of Fitzgerald’s future

Posted by Darren Urban on July 27, 2014 – 9:43 am

For awhile, Larry Fitzgerald was the only one on the field.

It was Friday, and the Cardinals were scheduled to have their conditioning test in a matter of minutes and Fitz was out, warming up by his lonesome. Turned out that the strength and conditioning staff had their own warmup planned, and the Cardinals were going to come out on the field together led by Bruce Arians. But Fitz didn’t know that yet and he wanted to make sure he was ready to run. In the end, he didn’t have to run as much as the other receivers — those long-time vets were subtly pulled out by Arians — but Fitz was ready. He is still driven to be as good as he ever was, and that includes running at the outset of camp.

But the NFL isn’t just about work ethic and talent. It’s about business and the salary cap and the puzzle that is a pro roster. So the months are going by and Fitzgerald’s future in Arizona is coming to a watershed moment. This is a subject that has been touched on many times, by myself and others. Kent Somers has a quality, detailed breakdown of Fitzgerald’s bulky contract right here.

Next year, Fitz’s salary is more than $15 million. He also is due a roster bonus in early March of $8 million, a mechanism used in many contracts in large part to force a decision by the team. Something will have to happen by then. Those two numbers are how his cap figure  jumps to more $23 million next year. (A trade isn’t happening, by the way. The Cardinals absorb more than $14 million in dead cap money whether they trade him or cut him, but a trade means the new team has to inherit that contract. I don’t see anyone taking on such a contract.) Kent suggests a new deal paying Fitz between $6M and $8M could make it work. I guess the question would be what Fitz might make on the open market.

None of this is new news, really, other than the passage of time. This was created not just when Fitz signed his last contract extension in 2011 but also when he got his previous one in 2008 and even when he signed his rookie deal. That the Cardinals will have made it through 11 seasons is impressive in itself. The new CBA of 2011, which flattened the cap, and the reality of Fitz simply getting older also are factors.

So much depends on what Fitz will want to do. I don’t see a scenario other that a pay reduction in which Fitz stays in Arizona. I think it’ll matter how he does this season, his second in Arians’ offense. I think how the team does will matter. I truly believe the decision won’t just be about money with him. Once, I don’t think I would have said that. But he is and always will be a megastar in Arizona, regardless of what happens on the field, and if he went elsewhere, it wouldn’t be the same.

The Cardinals want Fitz to stay around. I think Fitz wants to stay around. I think Fitz would rather think about where his name might be emblazoned in University of Phoenix Stadium for the Ring of Honor rather than his contract. We’ll see. There’s a season to play, and Fitz is focused on getting ready for that. But the future eventually becomes the present.

FitzBySelf

 


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