Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2014 – 12:37 am

Ryan Lindley walked toward the door in the locker room that takes people into the postgame interview room, and as is often the case, media members allowed Lindley to go in first. Lindley went through the door – and then held it open as reporters streamed through. It was an odd sight, especially for a quarterback who just went through a rough baptism on national television.

Unfortunately, Lindley did not look much better at quarterback than he had in some of his 2012 appearances. The Cardinals will flush the result of Sunday easily enough. There was talk about the 24-hour rule and they will start prepping for the 49ers. The question will be, who will be quarterback? Is there any way Drew Stanton can be ready by next Sunday? More importantly, is that a risk you want to take at this point, knowing how much you need him in the postseason?

Lindley talked about watching the video and correcting what was wrong, and he definitely needs more of a run game to help him, but it is hard to see how he played out there against the Seahawks translating into a ton of postseason success if he needs to play. Then again, no one with the Cardinals is naïve. You lose Carson Palmer, it hurts. You lose Drew Stanton, and you go to a third-string QB, and it’s going to be really hard to win. That would be true for any team in the league. The Cardinals are not immune, even in this season where they have been able to overcome so much else.

As for everything else, this one is going to be short and sweet. It’s late, and there isn’t much to pull from the still smoldering wreckage of Sunday night.

— Russell Wilson isn’t always great – the Cardinals made him look very human in Seattle last season – but man was he unreal Sunday night. The Cards’ defense did not play well. But Wilson made more than a few plays that just said “NFL star.” And that it’s going to be tough to deal with him for a lot of years going forward.

— The Cards had seven sacks in Seattle. Sunday night, just one – and on the very next play, Wilson completed a 39-yard pass.

— Not being able to convert that first drive into a touchdown changed some things, in my opinion. The Cards start at the Seattle 6-yard line, run a couple of times, and OK, have a third-and-goal at the 4. But then guard Ted Larsen has a false start and that’s a killer. Still, it looked like Lindley had Larry Fitzgerald open on third down and in front of Richard Sherman, and Lindley didn’t see him, instead trying to get a pass to John Brown that was nearly intercepted. Those are the chances you can’t miss on.

— Linebacker Larry Foote said he was the one who “blew the assignment” on the first Luke Willson 80-yard touchdown pass – the one where safety Rashad Johnson was trying to chase Willson down from behind.

— I don’t have a problem not putting Logan Thomas in. I get the swell of “he can’t be any worse than Lindley” but he probably isn’t any better either, and unless Bruce Arians sees an upside, I’m not messing with a rookie’s psyche. Not when you have hopes for him down the road.

— Arians talked about guys giving Lindley more help. That’s not about poor effort or even that Lindley played well and was let down. But when you are rolling with a third-string quarterback, you have to have exceptional play around him, especially against a team like the Seahawks.

— The Seahawks are playing some pretty unreal football right now. That’s part of this too.

That’s all. I’ve got to get some sleep before getting back into the office in what will be too few hours from now.


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Friday before the Eagles – this time, with Andre

Posted by Darren Urban on October 24, 2014 – 3:47 pm

The last time the Cardinals played the Eagles, the game was in Philly a few days after Thanksgiving. And Andre Ellington was not part of it.

A lot has been said about the Cardinals’ near loss to the Eagles last year, about the penalty flags the Cards questioned and the big early deficit and the inability to stop the tight ends. Often lost in the conversation is that Ellington didn’t play. That was right when Ellington was emerging as a key piece of the offense; it was two weeks later when Ellington had what Bruce Arians felt was his best game, in Tennessee.

Ellington missed the Philly game after slipping on the grass during the Cardinals’ Thanksgiving practice. He later said that, at the time, he thought he had torn his ACL. That would have certainly changed the course of the Cards’ recent history. Instead, Ellington is coming off his heaviest workload ever, with 30 touches.

The Cardinals survived losing Carson Palmer for a few games. They would survive a wide receiver missing a couple of games, or one of the linemen. Losing Ellington, though? You’d try not to think about it. Last week, Bruce Arians said he thought Ellington wasn’t going to play the second half with a rib injury. I asked Ellington about it, and he acknowledged he knows how much he is needed on the field.

“There’s a little bit of pressure, I have to admit,” Ellington said. “There is a side of me that wants to be out there for every snap. But at the end of the day, that’s why we have depth on the team. When the starters can’t go, we have guys who can step in.”

— I will be fascinated to see how Chip Kelly’s up-tempo, no-huddle offense operates in an enclosed stadium that tends to get LOUD (underratedly so.) In case you hadn’t heard, there is no NFL home – not Seattle, not New Orleans, not Kansas City – that has generated as many false starts by the opposition since 2006 than the 119 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Getting Calais Campbell would be a massive addition to the defense. That goes without saying. But seeing that Carson Palmer was no longer even listed on the injury report this week also meant something. Palmer getting back to lifting weights with his upper body will help his strength, and while it came from a different direction than last year, it certainly seems the Cardinals are set up for a second-half improvement in the passing game. Again, not ideal. But as long as Palmer is healthy, the arrow should go up.

— On the other hand, the Eagles haven’t gotten the same play from QB Nick Foles they did a year ago. He does have 10 TD passes but he’s completing less than 60 percent of his passes and has thrown seven interceptions (five more than last year already.) First job Sunday is to slow LeSean McCoy. After that, maybe the Cards can force Foles into some bad choices.

— The inactive lists will be crucial Sunday. Campbell is questionable, even if I think he’ll play. For the Eagles, they had three guys I didn’t think would be able to go who suddenly practiced “full” Friday. So maybe they will. Center Jason Kelce, linebacker Mychal Kendricks and running back Darren Sproles, if they can go, change the dynamics of the game.

— B.A. keeps talking about how his team hasn’t accomplished anything yet, and linebacker Larry Foote noted there are still 10 games to go in the season. But the team is 5-1 and feeling pretty good. So, Foote was asked, how do you get the message across?

“It’s impossible for young guys to understand it,” Foote said. “You have to say it and then you have to go out there and show them. Just your effort and the way you carry yourself in practice, they can feel the environment, see how older guys are playing, how serious they are with communication and in meeting rooms.”

Certainly, the Cardinals don’t want this to get away from them. With a two-game edge in the loss column, that’s nice to have in the bank. The Cards aren’t going 15-1. But it wouldn’t be bad to emerge from these next two games with at least a 6-2 record. Might as well get the one at home.

— Larry Fitzgerald was full of great quotes this week – talking about his “champagne problems” – and he had a thoughtful answer of what was more important for a successful team: talent, or confidence?

“I think it’s a healthy combination of both,” Fitzgerald said. “You have to have the confidence in yourself that you can go out and make the play, the guy next to you can make the play, and having that trust level in your teammates. That’s huge. It’s exemplified in our defense. Everyone saw the injuries and suspensions and people wrote us off, ‘There’s no way they can play at the same level’ and all they have done is the same thing.”

It’s a great point. The Cards need talent, and I think it only underscores the job GM Steve Keim has done with the depth that the Cards have been able to deal with their injured personnel. But the confidence means something. It oozes from the head coach, and it permeates the locker room. The Cards are 5-1 in part because they believe they should be, everything else be damned.

See you Sunday.


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Raiders aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 19, 2014 – 9:27 pm

If you were Jared Veldheer, Sunday’s trip to Oakland meant a lot. If you were Tommy Kelly, it meant a lot. If you were Carson Palmer, well, you tried to downplay it, but your teammates and coach weren’t so sure. It was an obvious storlyline though, with the Raiders sitting at 0-6, that Oakland writers wanted to hit the Raiders-return-home narrative.

Was it nice to get Carson a win, Kelly was asked? “Yeah, you want Carson to win, but I think more about myself,” Kelly said. “I wanted to win for myself.”

Makes sense to me.

The Cardinals had a lot of different reasons to get Sunday’s game, not the least of which the fact both Seattle and San Francisco lost and the Cards now have a two-game lead in the loss column. The brutal part of the schedule now commences –home against Philly, at Dallas, and we go from there. A lot can still happen. Bruce Arians was quick to emphasize the Cards hadn’t won jack yet and shouldn’t overestimate themselves. Nevertheless, it’s better to be up two in the loss column right now than the other way away, and while the Cards have their warts, so too do the Seahawks and 49ers.

— The Cards do get a victory Monday. Although as B.A. makes clear, anyone in their first- or second-year still has to come in tomorrow. Something tells me a good chunk of guys will still show up to get a lift in at least. That’s what happens when a team is winning.

— It was great to hear Andre Ellington say it was his call to come out at the end of the Cardinals’ long touchdown drive – the one in which Ellington had been the ball carrier on every play – so Stepfan Taylor could get a TD shot. First, I heard from a lot of fans (I’m guessing, Ellington fantasy owners) wondering why Arians had made such a move. But it wasn’t B.A., it was Ellington asking for a blow.

More importantly was why Ellington came out. Ellington knows he doesn’t have to practice a ton because of his bad foot. Taylor has to do extra work in practice and often there’s no payoff in games because Ellington gets the snaps. That Ellington would think of his draft classmate is cool.

— The Cards were still having some problems getting consistent pressure on the quarterback. Linebacker Larry Foote got the lone sack (although the Cards a couple times seemed like they would get to Carr and Carr escaped) but headed into games against Philly’s offense and Dallas – where a great running game buys time for Tony Romo – you have to wonder how that plays out.

— I’ll be curious to see how OC Harold Goodwin analyzes Sunday’s run game. The Cards got 123 yards. Goodwin probably wanted more production, but it was the key, especially on that TD drive that took control of the game.

— Palmer throws a pick. It was going to happen. In some ways, it might be good the streak is over.

— After a few games of bad third-down conversions, the Cards converted 9 of 15 third downs Sunday. That’s excellent. The Cards also held the ball for more than 36 minutes. That’ll win games even if the offense isn’t perfectly sharp.

— Patrick Peterson got caught for a couple more penalties Sunday. He has seven in seven games – four pass interference and three holds. He’s a physical cornerback, and this is life in the NFL this days for those guys. He’ll have to continue to adapt.

— Kicker Chandler Catanzaro is now 15-for-15 on the season kicking field goals, tying the mark of the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein as the most consecutive makes to start a rookie season (Washington’s Kai Forbath made 17 to start his career, but he wasn’t considered a rookie at that point, having been on injured reserve his entire rookie season.)

“It’s pretty cool a rookie record, definitely humbling,” Catanzaro said. “It’s my job. As much as I say it, it’s my job, that’s what they signed me up for.”

— Michael Floyd went up and got a 33-yard TD catch one-on-one in a battle with Terrell Brown and it seems like he always does that these days. In fact, Floyd in the jump ball area right now feels a lot like watching Larry Fitzgerald circa 2008.

— That’s enough for this game. The Cardinals are 5-1 for the first time since 1976. An impressive start. But there are still 10 to go. A lot can happen.


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Extending Palmer and the 2015 offseason

Posted by Darren Urban on October 17, 2014 – 10:21 am

It comes as no surprise that the Cardinals want to extend quarterback Carson Palmer. GM Steve Keim said he has had initial discussions with Palmer’s agent, and given the landscape, keeping Palmer around makes sense for both sides. For Palmer, who will turn 35 in December, he has found a comfort — and success — working in Bruce Arians’ system. Considering there probably aren’t many teams that are going to want to bring in a 35-year-old QB, at least not believing in him at the level the Cardinals do, Palmer wanting to remain is only logical.

The Cardinals have a quarterback who works for them, not only passing the ball but as a leader, a guy who easily was voted captain by his teammates. Palmer stands tall in that locker room, and it has nothing to do with his 6-foot-5 frame but the way he carries himself and plays off every guy in there. At some point, the Cardinals will have to find their long-term QB answer, and maybe it’s Logan Thomas and maybe Keim sees the franchise QB sitting there late in the first round this coming April, but there are no certainties and having Palmer in place is almost obvious for the team too.

The shoulder nerve issue probably threw a wrench into things somewhat. You have to believe Palmer will stay healthy. But assuming that, this should work. If it makes so much sense for both sides, it almost has to, right?

But that also leads into this incredibly interesting offseason to come for Keim. Last year, he said the 2015 season was really when the Cards would be in better shape in terms of the salary cap. You can only assume he was already taking into account the Larry Fitzgerald situation, and what he may or may not do with Darnell Dockett’s contract (a spot that’s gotten stickier now that Dockett, who turns 34 in May, will be coming off major knee surgery.)  That doesn’t include the scheduled free agents: Antonio Cromartie, Dan Williams, Sam Acho, Tommy Kelly, Larry Foote and Paul Fanaika among them.

If there is anything Keim has shown with a couple of offseasons under his belt, it’s that the Cardinals have a plan on how they spend. And going overboard isn’t part of it. There is a number the Cardinals have in mind they will want to give to any of these guys for 2015 — for a Fitz, for a Dan Williams. For a Palmer. Selling a chance to stay with a winner helps.

Of course, winning only happens when there is a QB in place. Palmer is that guy for the Cardinals. You want him to stick around.


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Giants aftermath, with a Stanton twist

Posted by Darren Urban on September 14, 2014 – 4:56 pm

Carson Palmer couldn’t play. Might not be able to play, at least another game. So that gives you … a Bruce Arians shrug. “Drew’s a starter in this league in my opinion,” Arians said. “Always has been.”

Drew being Drew Stanton, of course, and he was at a starter Sunday. Unlike the recent past, where backup quarterbacks would come in for the Cardinals and it usually meant problems – although at that time, the starters weren’t all that good either – this team is equipped to live through something like the quarterback going down and still coming away, after a cross country flight, with a victory.

The Giants are not the 49ers, of course, and if Stanton is still in the lineup next week, the Cards aregoing to have to up their overall game. The same can be said even if Palmer plays, realistically. But 2-0 is certainly much better than any of the alternatives.

The fact Stanton didn’t turn the ball over was a big deal. Sure, Eli Manning had better stats, but Stanton avoided causing his team trouble. Arians said Stanton played better than his stats would indicate. Perhaps. Stanton does need to capitalize on a couple of red-zone attempts – he wasn’t that close on some throws and another touchdown would have made life a lot easier – but he looks like a guy who knows the offense.

— When Palmer comes back is anyone’s guess. He kept talking about the nerve “waking up.” I would think it will be ready when it’s ready. Arians said he’s looking at this long-term with most of the season to go, so I’d expect Stanton against San Francisco if Palmer isn’t sure. Then again, if Palmer was possible to play Sunday Arians was going to put him in, so it sounds like it’s on Carson.

— What a day for special teams coordinator Amos Jones. Bad kickoff returns from Ted Ginn – Arians said he might be firing Ginn from that part of the game – and another punt block, this time because protector Robert Hughes allowed Rashad Jennings to push him back enough so that Jennings could get a hand on the ball. That’s two blocks in two games because of a poor block. But then Ginn snapped off his 71-yard return – and Ginn most certainly isn’t leaving punt returns – showing off his hellaspeed, and then Kenny Demens knocked loose the ensuing kickoff return for a fumble the Cardinals turned into a field goal.

— It was a rough game for Patrick Peterson. It did not help the physical cornerback was in a game with an officiating crew that was taking the edict on emphasizing illegal contacts/defensive holding very seriously. But Peterson said after he has to adapt, and he’s right. There is no other choice. The TD he gave up on the fade to Reuben Randle was a nice throw and a great one-handed catch from Randle, but in the end, that’s the kind of play Peterson – who now carries the weight and expectations of being the highest-paid cornerback – has to make.

— Andre Ellington was excellent Sunday. He nearly got to 100 yards – 91, actually – on only 15 carries, and this is a guy who isn’t 100 percent. Ellington said he isn’t even sure if he’ll be 100 percent at any point because his foot only gets better with rest and the bye week may not be enough time. Regardless, if he plays like Sunday, he and the Cardinals will make it work. The guy is a threat with his speed to get a first-down running on third-and-14, like he did Sunday.

— Safe to say going with Chandler Catanzaro was a good call? The kid looks good.

— For those scoring at home, that’s Cardinals 27, opponents 0 in the fourth quarter this season. And a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks.

— Fitz was back. Ten targets, six catches (for 51 yards). Almost had a touchdown, and should’ve have another catch for 36 yards had Jared Veldheer not been caught facemasking a pass rusher.

— Big game for Calais Campbell. A team-high 10 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, and would’ve had a another sack (and forced fumble the Cardinals recovered) if not for one of those pesky illegal contacts. He has to play like the great player he is for this defense to survive all its losses.

— Antonio Cromartie made a great play on that third down bomb late in the game to Randle, getting his hand in just enough to mess up a potential catch. That hits, and all kinds of drama. Instead, the Cardinals stopped the Giants the next play, and the game was over.

— Larry Foote on his game-ending interception: “There’s a dirty rumor going around my locker room that I can’t catch,” Foote said. “I told ’em I’d catch it when it counts.” Looked Fitz-like to me.

— Tyrann Mathieu with only a few plays (but his first tackle). It’s going to be a slow process, but he’s back on the field.

— The Seahawks lost. On the road, but it was to a Chargers team the Cardinals just beat. Yes, the NFC West should be interesting all year.

Rueben Randle, Patrick Peterson

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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.


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Cardinals release Bishop

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2014 – 1:27 pm

The Cardinals released linebacker Desmond Bishop Saturday, and given the glut of linebackers on the roster, dropping one can’t be a shock. It leaves an opening on the roster, which tends to make you think with the status of Andre Ellington in doubt, but there was no one added to the 53-man squad yet. Coach Bruce Arians said Saturday Ellington did enough in his limited practice work that he thinks he would be able to play Monday, but it will be a game-day decision.

It’s also important to note that letting a guy like Bishop go – a vested veteran – before the first game means that his salary is not guaranteed. If he were brought back at a later date, the Cardinals would have more flexibility to let him go down the road if they needed a roster spot again or if he just wasn’t working out.

Even with Alex Okafor not expected to play Monday with a thigh injury, the Cardinals still have nine linebackers at their disposal, including Glenn Carson, Larry Foote, Kevin Minter and Kenny Demens on the inside.

UPDATE: Punter Dave Zastudil was also added to the injury report as limited/questionable with a groin issue. That’s another roster spot that might need help Monday if Zastudil can’t go.

Tevin Reese, Jimmy Legree, Desmond Bishop

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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.


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Mathieu hits but isn’t sore; B.A. talks availability

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2014 – 12:37 pm

Tyrann Mathieu was a little irritated with himself after his first practice Thursday in 11-on-11 work, lamenting a dropped interception. Then again, the safety got to move around well, in the estimation of coach Bruce Arians, and he even got a couple of hits in during a non-hitting practice, knocking down Ted Ginn and Andre Ellington after catches.

“I wasn’t really trying to hit them, but I put a little weight on,” Mathieu said with a chuckle, a nod to the “11 or 12” pounds he added in the offseason so he could get stronger.

Mathieu admitted he felt a little lucky he wasn’t booted out of the work. “I thought (Arians) was going to throw me out of practice,” Mathieu said, smiling again. “He doesn’t usually let people hit Andre.” (That hit is pictured below.)

Better yet, Mathieu said he wasn’t feeling sore and there has been no swelling. Arians said the status of Mathieu and fellow just-off-the-PUP defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu could still conceivably play Sunday against the Bengals, but give that neither will have even gone through a full practice (they aren’t expected to this afternoon either) it seems very unlikely the Cards would expose either this week.

— Along those lines, linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral) and guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) would be game-day decisions, Arians said, but neither are practicing today. I can’t see either playing Sunday. Arians said next week — a very short week with the final preseason game Thursday — would be crucial. If they don’t play in the preseason finale, Arians said, he can’t see them playing in the Monday night opener.

— Linebacker John Abraham does have a chance to play against the Bengals. Nothing set in stone yet, however.

— Tackle Max Starks (ankle) will return to practice today and has a chance to play Sunday. Interestingly, Bradley Sowell — who had been struggling earlier in camp — has made “really good progress” the last two weeks. It is a battle between Starks and Sowell for the backup swing-tackle spot on the roster.

— Kenny Demens is the inside linebacker starter with Larry Foote while Minter is sidelined. Lorenzo Alexander has actually been working more at outside linebacker again, Arians said.

— After Carson Palmer starts Sunday, Drew Stanton  will come in at the start of the third quarter or possibly sooner, Arians said. Logan Thomas will quarterback the fourth quarter. Ryan Lindley is not scheduled to play and it’s clear he is behind Thomas.




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Time for the defense to recalibrate

Posted by Darren Urban on August 20, 2014 – 9:52 am

Perhaps the day off Tuesday came at the right time for the Cardinals. The defense can digest the season-ending injury to Darnell Dockett, and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can start to sort out how exactly he will run his defense with the pieces he has left. You can sit and mull what the Cardinals don’t have now compared to 2013, but it’s a moot point.

Along the defensive line, the Cardinals are expected to add a vet to the roster (Brett Keisel went back to Pittsburgh) but veteran Frostee Rucker should end up as the starter alongside Calais Campbell and Dan Williams. There should be plenty of mixing and matching, though, with rookies Ed Stinson and Kareem Martin and now, Alameda Ta’amu, who comes back to practice today. There would have been mixing and matching even if Dockett was healthy. Getting a steady rotation on the defensive line has been one of the main themes GM Steve Keim wanted to accomplish while re-tooling the roster. The key here could be Ta’amu, because if he can return to form relatively quickly, it will impact the middle of that line.

At linebacker, there have long been concerns and whenever Kevin Minter returns to the field, that probably doesn’t go away. I thought Larry Foote played pretty well in Minnesota and it was encouraging to see newcomer Desmond Bishop do what he did in a handful of plays, but the question marks don’t go away and now you don’t have a guy like Dockett in front of them. The plus is that outside linebacker John Abraham is back (his return to practice, pictured below, was seriously overshadowed Monday by the Dockett news) but again, until he plays his way into shape, it’s tough to know what he’ll bring.

In the secondary, the Cardinals not only have all their guys still but now Tyrann Mathieu is back in the mix too. That group remains the strongest, although playing out on an island at times means they need the front seven to come through. That was a bit troubling to hear Bruce Arians talk about how many times the Cardinals did not run their blitzes correctly in Minnesota — Bowles was magical last year the way he schemed players to often get to the quarterback untouched — and that will be a key to this whole thing.

The Cardinals’ offense will be better this season and they will need to be. Regardless, the Cardinals aren’t going to get where they want to go unless the defense plays at a high level. They will have to do it differently than they once planned.


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