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Splash plays, and Jaguars aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 26, 2017 – 8:16 pm

The Badger was active.

He made a huge interception at the most crucial of times – on a drive where it looked like the Jaguars had stolen momentum and were on their way for a game-winning field goal. But Tyrann Mathieu read the play perfectly and got the pick. That’s two this season, and while you’d hope for more, you can’t argue that the two could have come at better times.

The plays were there Sunday. Blaine Gabbert was pretty good again. You see what he can do when his legs are needed (although, as Bruce Arians pointed out, there are times when that can cause an issue too, because the fumble was a play that need not have happened.) Another touchdown pass to rookie Ricky Seals-Jones, and a run game too.

Defensively, Chandler Jones had two sacks and five tackles for loss and deserves consideration for all-pro. I don’t know if he’ll get any given the Cards’ record, but he has earned it thus far. The run game stops are what impressed me the most Sunday.

Next week will be interesting. The Rams come to town, playing so well, and the Cards are anxious to play them again after the London wax job. Jacksonville is a good team with a very good defense. That’s what this three-game homestand – good opponents – is about.

— Calais Campbell returned a fumble 10 yards for a touchdown, but otherwise was held in check. Gabbert spun away from a potential sack or two. But the Cards didn’t let their former star beat them, all the while welcoming him back. It was good to see the big guy.

“The Birdgang showed a lot of love to me and that felt pretty good,” Campbell said. “Definitely have me chills down my back. My old teammates on the Cardinals, talking to those guys and getting all the love before the game and during the game and even after. The coaching staff, I have a lot of friends in that building, so that was fun. I really wanted to get this win so it definitely hurts right now.”

— By the way, that’s two straight games in which Campbell has returned a fumble for a touchdown when playing at University of Phoenix Stadium. His final game here as a Cardinal was against New Orleans last season, when he scooped up a loose ball and rumbled 53 yards for a score. Campbell’s team has lost both games.

— A few weeks ago, I’m guessing not many thought Phil Dawson would be booting a 57-yard field goal to win a game. That would’ve been good from 62- or 63-yards, I’m thinking.

— D.J. Foster gets a spectacular 12-yard toe-catch to set up the field goal, and also had a very nice kickoff return. It was called back on a penalty, but you can see where he excels there. He’s got a chance to make an impact, especially with T.J. Logan still hurt. It’s a great story too, since he went to Scottsdale Saguaro High School and ASU.

“It’s pretty incredible, kind of a surreal moment to get out there on that field and represent Arizona,” Foster said.

— Mathieu talked this week about getting a chance to face friend Leonard Fournette on the field for their first time after the two came from the same neighborhood yet never played together. Mathieu did his job one specific time, tracking down Fournette on a screen pass and dropping Fournette for a loss of five.

“It’s a tough challenge, especially being 190 pounds and running a 4.5 and he’s 230 and runs a 4.4, so the advantage is on his side,” Mathieu said. “There was actually one play, he ran through the hole and then Budda (Baker) came flying in, so kudos to Budda. I was just waiting on (Fournette) and just trying to get in front of him but Budda made a great play. I might take him out to dinner after this.”

Mathieu smiled. It was a good day.

— There was a scuffle post-game between Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham and Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson, with some swings. It looked heated, but it was calmed quickly and as soon as it was over, Gresham was shaking hands with other Jaguars personnel. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Gresham. Jackson simply said “it was a misunderstanding.” Cardinals guard Alex Boone was there too, looking like he was trying to help end things. Asked about the emotions after a win like the Cards had, Boone said “I mean, I think they’re kind of high.”

— It was a quiet, workmanlike performance from running back Adrian Peterson, but those 79 yards on 20 carries were so important. The Cardinals gained 108 yards on the ground, which is the only way they are going to have a chance to win games.

— Fitz and Campbell swapped jerseys. As did Fournette and Mathieu, and Patrick Peterson and Jalen Ramsey. Lots of mutual respect there.


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Calais returns, Friday before the Jaguars

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2017 – 3:22 pm

The tale of the two players facing their former teams Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium also is a tale of their teams.

Calais Campbell comes back to the Valley with the Jaguars, after his nine seasons with the Cardinals and beloved by the fans. He’s already got a career-best 11½ sacks, he leads the best defense in the NFL and they are in first place in their division. Blaine Gabbert is long removed from his time in Jacksonville and he’s the starting QB for the Cardinals now – despite beginning the season third-string – as the Cards have endured so many injuries and have moved in a lot of ways to evaluation mode with many players.

On paper, it’s an uphill battle Sunday for the Cards. There is no other way to look at it. The Jags might be without top CB Jalen Ramsey, but in the end, they are playing better than the Cardinals right now and have momentum and the carrot of trying to secure the division. The Cardinals are without their top … well … too many to have it not matter.

The Cardinals can’t let Leonard Fournette run all over them, and they have to protect Gabbert. Maybe Adrian Peterson can get loose – the Jaguars are only middle-of-the-pack in run defense, although they give up a paltry 14 points a game. The spotlight will be on Campbell and Gabbert in a lot of ways, and the Cardinals have to reverse each player’s narrative to get a win.

— Another spot to watch Sunday is what running back D.J. Foster can do on third downs. Foster gets his chance now that the Cards let Andre Ellington go. He had nine snaps (and two catches) a week ago and he’s probably a better pass catcher than straight runner at this point. Coach Bruce Arians said receiving is what Foster does best.

“He’s a little bit small to be a pass protector but he’s tough enough,” Arians said. “That’s all you can ask a guy at his size, fight your tail off and get your ass kicked with dignity.”

— We all know Chad Williams, the third-round pick, will get snaps this weekend with John Brown injured. It’s a crucial time for Williams, who frankly is being counted on in as a key component of next year’s receiving corps. Larry Fitzgerald had good things to say about Williams’ maturity and work ethic. Now we see it on the field.

— Carlton Agudosi, whom Fitz and Arians also praised, also could play Sunday with Brittan Golden dealing with a groin issue – although the last time Golden battled that groin injury, he didn’t practice Friday and still played Sunday.

— If you didn’t see Fitz’s comments about Campbell, please check them out.

— Unfortunately for Fitz, he was fined $24,309 for the crackback block he was flagged for Sunday in Houston. The Adrian Peterson rush gained no yards, regardless.

— There has been a lot of talk about Campbell’s ability to get to play defensive end in the Jaguars’ 4-3 scheme and how it was his natural spot. Campbell was in a 3-4 in the base defense here in Arizona and then played inside in the Cards’ four-down-linemen passing down packages. Campbell still moves inside for the Jags on obvious passing downs. Here was his take:

“All of it plays a role,” Campbell said. “I always thought it’d be nice to play on the outside in the 4-3 scheme. That’s where I played in college and pretty much most of my life, but at the end of the day, I’m a football player. Put me anywhere you want me to, and I’m going to give my best shot. But, it’s cool being able to play on the edge a little bit, and I still get the rock inside and go back to the three-technique on third down, which is fun. I think that’s been beneficial. It’s a combination of a few things. A lot of good players around me make my job a lot easier.”

— There is one other “revenge” scenario for Sunday. Cardinals right guard Earl Watford signed a free-agent deal with the Jaguars last offseason, got $1 million guaranteed and was still cut at the end of the preseason. Jaguars coach Doug Marrone: “Unfortunately, he was hurt for a long period of time. Then, we just had players that were playing, and he did a nice job. It was a tough decision.” Watford declined to talk about his time in Jacksonville, brief as it was.

— Through 11 weeks, Fitzgerald had more receiving yards – 546, of his 768 – out of the slot than anyone else in the NFL, according to ESPN.

— A note from our esteemed social media manager Brandon Naidus, who once worked for the Jaguars (and who would undoubtedly be disappointed if I did not drop this in): The Jaguars have drafted three quarterbacks in the first round during their history, and all three will be on hand Sunday. Blake Bortles (2014) is their current starter. Gabbert (2011) is the Cardinals starter. And Byron Leftwich (2003) is the Cardinals’ quarterback coach.

— It’s interesting to see the dichotomy between the fan bases on Gabbert this week. Cardinals’ fans are (rightfully) encouraged by Gabbert’s play last week and are anxious to see him play again. Jaguars’ fans also are excited to see Gabbert this week – mostly because they feel he will not succeed. Clearly there are still hard feelings there with Gabbert’s failures as the Jacksonville QB.

— Don’t forget there is a food drive Sunday, so bring your canned goods and/or a monetary donation. They will be accepted at all stadium entrances.

— Might the Cardinals be able to run the ball a little? Adrian Peterson has a combined 55 yards rushing the last two games. If Gabbert’s task isn’t hard enough in the first place, another sluggish running effort could cripple the Cardinals.

“It’s something those guys are taking personal up front, and I’m taking it personally as well,” Peterson said.

— See you Sunday, where you come for the reunions, and stay for how the season begins to play out for the Cardinals.


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