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Winston’s day at Cardinals facility “just great”

Posted by Darren Urban on September 15, 2016 – 8:10 am

Jameis Winston hasn’t yet played the Cardinals in his career. But he has played football at their practice facility.

The Buccaneers’ quarterback, who will be at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday, was in Tempe in March as one of the celebrity QBs for Kurt Warner’s annual charity flag football event. Cardinals Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Drew Stanton and Patrick Peterson were also QBs for their own teams.

“I can take so much from those guys, just seeing their true passion and love for the game,” Winston said. “I really enjoyed Kurt Warner’s event, because it was football. It was flag football. You reach so many people. You gave men the opportunity to play with guys that they never thought they would ever play with. That was just great. That really helped me out.

Winston got a chance to mingle with the other players, speaking with Palmer (pictured below) before the event got started, and interacting with veterans like Fitzgerald and Peterson. “I’m trying to learn and hopefully be like them one day,” Winston said.

About Winston, Palmer told Tampa reporters “I love his game” and said he’s played like a veteran already.

That day in March, Winston wanted to win the tournament — the final came down to the teams of Warner and, coincidentally, the quarterback for the Cardinals’ opponent next week, Tyrod Taylor — and you could see it during the day-long affair. At one point during a break, when most teams were, you know, taking a break, Winston had his team on the field working on plays while coaching them up.

“I don’t really discriminate,” Winston said. “I don’t care if I was playing against three-year-olds.”




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The history of Fitz touchdowns by QB

Posted by Darren Urban on September 14, 2016 – 10:32 am

So, one game into his 13th season, Larry Fitzgerald has 100 touchdown catches. He’s a long way from pulling in his first, a 24-yarder from Josh McCown in San Francisco on Oct. 10 of 2004. Not surprisingly, he’s caught more from Kurt Warner than anyone, and of course, his total does not include his postseason haul — which included his bonkers seven during his playoff rampage after the 2008 season.

But here is a list of each quarterback from whom Fitz has caught a touchdown (props to media relations wizard Mike Helm for compiling this list):

— Kurt Warner (39)
— Carson Palmer (23)
— Josh McCown (12)
— John Skelton (7)
— Kevin Kolb (5)
— Matt Leinart (5)
— Derek Anderson (4)
— Brian St. Pierre (1)
— Max Hall (1)
— Richard Bartel (1)
— John Navarre (1)
— Shaun King (1)

Drew Stanton has yet to make the list. Disappointingly, Ryan Lindley, Logan Thomas and Brian Hoyer did not make it. Fitz really has played with a lot of quarterbacks.

There are four teams Fitzgerald has not yet scored a touchdown against, although he has a chance to rectify that against only one this season: The New York Jets. The other three are the Ravens, Steelers and Broncos.


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Patriots aftermath

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

No way around it: That one hurt. You can say over and over that it’s the Patriots and Bill Belichick is the arguably the best coach in NFL history, and I do think the Cardinals worked hard this week on avoiding overconfidence, invoking last year’s painful loss in Pittsburgh. Still, losing to the Brady-less (and Gronk-less) Pats would be easier to take if the Cardinals played well and they were outplayed. It didn’t feel that way, though. Losing on a missed field goal actually seemed apropos for the evening. Close, but not enough. The Cards looked off in all three phases.

The last time they lost an opener at home, it was a disappointing outing against the 49ers in 2009. The Cards won 10 games that season. We’ll see how this one plays out.

— Would Mike Leach have delivered a better snap on the final field goal? Probably. But I will say this, I have big-time respect for Kam Canaday, a rookie from Portland State who hasn’t had many chances to be interviewed period but who stood there in front of a flood of cameras and reporters answering questions about a play he’d rather soon forget. He’s in the NFL and it comes with the job, but still, he manned up.

(And props to Chandler Catanzaro too, not only for doing the same but also saying publicly it wasn’t the rookie’s fault.)

— It’s too bad the field goal was missed because a win would have been one of those epic, Fitz-put-us-on-his-back victories. On a day the retirement thing came up again to boot. The vet was spectacular when they needed him.

— Speaking of which, if you get a chance, watch again Fitz’s 21-yard catch on the Cards’ final drive. Down on the field near where Fitz caught it, I have no idea how he did. The ball was on him before he got his head all the way around — it seemed to surprise him how quick it was there — yet he unbelievably snagged the pass and turned it into a 21-yard gain.

— Rough debut for rookie cornerback Brandon Williams, who blew a coverage on a touchdown and had a couple other mistakes. Justin Bethel, dealing with the sore foot, only played special teams I believe. You have to wonder if Bethel getting healthy or newcomer Marcus Cooper getting more practice will change the lineup at any point.

— Bruce Arians said J.J. Nelson could have returned with his shoulder injury. We will see. But there was Jaron Brown making a clutch catch at the end, setting up the final field-goal attempt. He’s there when the Cardinals need him.

— David Johnson looked pretty darn good.

— The defense, overall, didn’t. Or at least, it didn’t look like everyone expected. The Patriots had 363 total yards and converted 10 of 16 third-downs, and it was that last drive that was the killer. The Cards get the lead and then allow Jimmy Garoppolo to convert a 3rd-and-15 from his own 20? Can’t happen. Especially for a 32-yard gain. A stop there, and it’s hard not to think the Cards would’ve been in great shape even only up one with 8 minutes left.

“Back to the lab,” linebacker Kevin Minter said.



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Friday before the Gronk-less Patriots

Posted by Darren Urban on September 9, 2016 – 3:41 pm

The last time the Cardinals played the Patriots, the Patriots had Tom Brady, and Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez when that was someone you wanted. The Cardinals had Kevin Kolb at quarterback, Ryan Williams at running back, and Quentin Groves was a key linebacker. The game was in New England. And the Cardinals won.

It was improbable yes, and took a no-way-to-predict Stephen Gostkowski 42-yard field-goal miss to make happen, but it did. (We won’t reminisce about the 2008 New England trip, the time before that the Cards had played the Patriots.)

But if the Cards can knock off a Brady-Gronk Pats team in New England, what about a Brady-less-perhaps Gronk-less Patriots in Arizona, against a much stronger Cardinals’ roster Sunday night? We’ll see. If there is any coach that can make an inexperienced Jimmy Garappolo work at QB, it’s Bill Belichick. The Patriots are still strong, although they are missing some key components.

Still, if you are as good as the Cardinals should be, this is a game you should win, at home. Really no way around that. And there is no question this team is better than that 2012 squad, despite that win in New England en route to a 4-0 start. (Yes, they finished 5-11. We all know how that ended.)

— The Providence Journal reported that Gronkowski was among a couple of questionable injured players — including former Cardinals guard Jonathan Cooper — who did not fly with the team to Arizona Friday. It’s been pointed out that the Patriots have in the past and could still fly them to Arizona Saturday. But short of a private plane, you’d think it’d be easier to fly banged-up players on a big charter and let their bodies get used to the new surroundings for a day. Officially questionable, could Gronk miss this game too? It’d be a huge break for the Cardinals, for sure.

UPDATE: Gronkowski, Cooper and tackle Nate Solder have all been downgraded to out for Sunday’s game. That’s huge news.

— The story all through camp is whether newbies D.J. Humphries at right tackle and Brandon Williams at cornerback can hold up as starters. We’ll see. Humphries noted today that vet Evan Mathis is set to give him an adjustment if he messes up. Meanwhile, Kyle Odegard writes about why Williams is driven to make this NFL thing work even when people wonder about his late move to cornerback. (Hint: They are 7 and 2 years old.)

— New Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones said he didn’t have much insight he could deliver to his new team about his old team.

“One thing I do know about the Patriots, they will try to expose certain weaknesses,” Jones said. “That’s what they do. They study our weaknesses or who is the weak link on the team and they will try to expose it. that’s one thing you have to look out for.”

— Jones is going to have to play a big role. Don’t know how much the Patriots will let him get off in the pass rush, but this is the guy the Cards have been yearning for and he’s going to have a heck of a spotlight right out of the blocks.

All those times we talked about Larry Fitzgerald potentially being traded to the Patriots seems silly now, to be honest.

— Great line about starting center A.Q. Shipley from offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Harold Goodwin, who emphasized he has a lot of confidence in Shipley: “He knows about being told he’s short, he’s fat, he’s chubby and he’s got short arms, so he’s always trying to prove everybody wrong.”

— In case you missed the first Cardinals Underground podcast of the regular season, here it is.

— What to expect from Tyrann Mathieu? Everyone, from players to coaches, talk about how the Badger is back to being the Badger. But when Mathieu talks, there is definitely a pump-the-brakes aspect to his comments. I know Mathieu was disappointed with how he played the last time he returned from a (much worse) ACL injury. He’s made no secret of that. Maybe he’s just trying to temper expectations, especially his own. But I expect Mathieu to be able to play just fine, thank you.

— The parking lots open at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, for those asking.

— The past is the past, but under Bruce Arians, the Cardinals are 25-5 outside of the NFC West and 10-2 against AFC teams. The AFC East, of which the Patriots are part of and the Cards face this season, is the lone division the Cardinals have not played under Arians.

Here we go. Safe to say this is the most anticipated season for the Cardinals since they arrived in Arizona (2009, when the Cards were coming off the Super Bowl, was close, but no one thought that team was as good as this team.) See you Sunday.


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Top questions for Cardinals – answered?

Posted by Darren Urban on September 8, 2016 – 10:06 am

Before training camp got underway, I posted 10 of the top questions facing the Cardinals — Part I and Part II — as they began their season. Now that the games that count are here, were those questions answered? Let’s take a brief look:

— Can Carson Palmer do it again? Clearly this isn’t something that could be answered yet. The preseason had some rough moments. But Palmer is unflinching and so is his coach and his teammates. The confidence is there that the quarterback will be just fine.

— Who is the starting center? It’s A.Q. Shipley, and it was never really even close. Rookie Evan Boehm is getting better, but he doesn’t look like he’s close to usurping Shipley. And the Cardinals never looked on the street for another option. It’s possible that could change, but Shipley is entrenched for now.

— Will D.J. Humphries become the right tackle? Yep. Again, never really was a question once it was all said and done. There was no real competition, and to Humphries’ credit, he improved as camp went on. In my opinion, while he won’t be perfect, Humphries should be fine.

— How much will David Johnson carry the offense? Again, we’ll only know once the games start, but it’s hard to think he won’t be the anchor to how this all goes down. Looked good in camp and the preseason.

— How important was it to keep every single skill player? This matters when there was worry about the offense. The idea is that they know each other well. So hopefully, even though Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown played little in the preseason, they know what to do. And the other skill vets like Jaron Brown showed why it’s good to have their knowledge too.

— Who will be the cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson? Brandon Williams, almost by default, because of the injuries to Justin Bethel and Mike Jenkins. The rookie will get tested early and often. He had a strong start to camp and then slowed a bit, and his work is going to be under the microscope.

— What will be the impact of Chandler Jones? More TBD, but you have to love how he looked during camp.

— How is the health of the Honey Badger? Healthy enough that he’ll start and is expected to be full go against the Patriots. We’ll see how Tyrann Mathieu looks compared to all-pro-pre-ACL-tear Badger of 2015.

— Can Robert Nkemdiche play a big role right away? Maybe not a big role, not after missing a chunk of camp with an ankle sprain. But he’ll definitely play a role.

— What is Larry Fitzgerald’s future? You never know what he’ll do after the season, but at least the Cardinals made sure, if he plays in 2017, it’ll be in Arizona.


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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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Fitz: Contract about keeping good thing going

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2016 – 12:22 pm

The recent contract Larry Fitzgerald signed — keeping the wide receiver in Arizona in 2017, assuming he is still playing — wasn’t something he was looking for, but he emphasized that winning and the Cardinals’ ability to win played a role.

“It wasn’t my idea,” Fitzgerald said. “I didn’t go and stand on Steve (Keim)’s table and asked for an extension. If that’s what you’re asking, that wasn’t the case. I’m down for whatever is going to keep this thing going as long as we can.

“As you know, it goes in spurts in this league. A while back we had some teams that were pretty good, had a couple down years, and now we’re at that point where we have a really good thing going. We have a good mesh of older veteran guys and a mesh of good younger guys like Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Chandler Jones, D.J. Humphries. That’s a great blend to have.”

That wouldn’t be the only reason Fitz would want to play in 2017, but at this point in his career, it’s a must-have.

Other lunchtime stuff after a day off:

— WR Smokey Brown (headache) might not practice this afternoon. With Brown coming off a concussion, it’s something to watch.

— Fitzgerald isn’t practicing because of the slight MCL issue in his knee, but he waved off any concern. “I’m good,” he said. “I could probably go out there and be effective and do my job, but a setback now with less than two weeks to go would be less than ideal. I want to do what I can to help my team now but obviously Sept. 11 is when it really hits the fan.”

— QB Carson Palmer is getting a day off today. The injury list is pretty short right now, though. A good sign.

— Coach Bruce Arians shrugged off the idea the offense needs to get into a rhythm in a preseason game. “Not really,” he said. “I see it enough in practice.”

— Arians wouldn’t comment on the report he will be named the NFL’s competition committee. “Hasn’t been announced yet,” he said.

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Chargers aftermath, and Okafor

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2016 – 11:26 pm

The Cardinals got a lot good work in this week while practicing in San Diego. Bruce Arians said that, his players did too. But the end result didn’t feel all that good. The offense looked ugly, which really isn’t what you’d like to see at this point of camp (and things went pretty well in the first-unit’s one series in the preseason opener, so it’s not like they were bad a week ago).

But then you throw in the news that best case scenario, linebacker Alex Okafor would have to play the season with a torn biceps tendon, and that’s only if he decides not to have surgery. That’s a tough call. Okafor is going to be a free agent after the season. If he waits on surgery, he won’t be a full strength and he’ll have to have surgery right before signing with another team. Surgery now, and he’ll have no season in which to entice teams to sign him. He called it one of the most difficult decisions he’s made (and he had to make the same exact decision already, with Arians, when he was a rookie in 2013.)

Okafor suffered the injury in practice Tuesday night. We’ll see what his choice is and what it means. Okafor is/was the third linebacker to give relief to starters Chandler Jones and Markus Golden.

— Interesting that Arians said Jaron Brown is the best receiver the Cardinals have right now. Brown did make a pair of great grabs against the Chargers. One of the few bright spots.

— Larry Fitzgerald sat with a minor MCL sprain, Arians said. It isn’t serious.

— Deone Bucannon hammered wide receiver Dontrelle Inman early in the game, a clean hit (a penalty wasn’t called and the replays I’ve seen show a hard hit to the upper chest) that knocked Inman’s helmet off. Inman was checked for a concussion and cleared, but did not return.

“I’m a physical player,” Bucannon said. “That’s what it is and I like setting the tempo for the team and making plays within the rules of football. I love playing the game with passion.”

— Couldn’t tell exactly how D.J. Humphries did at right tackle, but frankly, there wasn’t anyone on offense (except maybe Jaron Brown) that will be able to be excited about how he played.

— Cornerback Brandon Williams gave up a 13-yard pass early, but held up better in my opinion. Overall, it seemed like a better performance.

— Arians, in his postgame radio interview: “You can’t play the game without passion, energy or brains and we didn’t have any of the three.”

One more week of training camp to go.

Dontrelle Inman, Deone Bucannon

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Fitz among players sitting out Chargers game

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2016 – 5:08 pm

Many of the names on tonight’s not-expected-to-play list for the Cardinals are known because they have missed practice time. The biggest name is wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who sat out practice Wednesday and who is resting his knee — although Fitzgerald was running sprints pregame and looked fine. Realistically, Fitz doesn’t need much time in the preseason to be ready.

It means two of the top three receivers are sitting, because John Brown is still sidelined because he has not cleared concussion protocol. Is that a concern? Of course. You hate to have one of your top pass catchers missing most of training camp and that’s what is going to happen to Smokey.

Philip Rivers is among those not playing for the Chargers.

The full list of those not expected to play tonight. (Some injuries haven’t been specifically announced):

— CB Alan Ball
— CB Justin Bethel (foot)
— WR John Brown (concussion)
— C Taylor Boggs (calf)
— CB Elie Bouka (hamstring)
— WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee)
— WR Brittan Golden (hamstring)
— DT Iosia Iosia
— CB Asa Jackson (ankle)
— CB Mike Jenkins (hand)
— S Tyrann Mathieu (knee)
— DT Robert Nkemdiche (ankle)
— LB Alex Okafor
— DT Frostee Rucker (foot)
— DT Ed Stinson
— G Earl Watford (knee)

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Larry Fitzgerald tackling, ranked

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2016 – 9:09 am

There were plenty of things to watch at Saturday’s Red-White practice, but in case you didn’t see it, Larry Fitzgerald made a catch heading out of bounds and before he came back inbounds, he took a slight detour to tackle former Cardinal and current game analyst Ron Wolfley before running back on the field. It was captured by various in-stadium cameras so it was preserved for all eternity.

Those that are around are well aware that Fitz likes to tackle innocent bystanders. Having covered this team for Fitz’s entire career, I’ve seen it many, many times. So I thought this might be an apropos time, in this day and age of power rankings, to throw in my own rankings of Fitz’s top five tackles. Unfortunately, one on James Harrison does not exist. Without further adieu:

5. Media members. Fitz isn’t shy of taking down a reporter. I’ve been on the receiving end of those a couple of times, although in recent years he prefers to toss the ball at me while I’m taking photos, so that’s a whole different balancing act.

4. Tackling Steelers OC Todd Haley during the game in Pittsburgh last year, only the latest example of Fitz dogging Haley in all the years they’ve known each other, dating back to Haley’s OC days in Arizona.

3. Fitz’s attempted tackle of OC Harold Goodwin, which instead turned into a Goodwin bear hug. Fitz didn’t read his keys at the Greenbrier that day.

2. Taking Wolf down (the fact we have multiple views of it on video just makes it better.)

1. Anytime Fitz takes down a kid with a big smile. I’ve seen it against the pee-wee football players that often play “games” at halftime of a Cardinals’ game, and I’ve seen it with the children of Cards’ people, like the sons of GM Steve Keim or VP of media relations Mark Dalton. Fitz is just a big kid in that regard.

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