You know that it’s the dead of the offseason — real dead — when it comes to mind to point out who will be on the Cardinals’ schedule for 2015.
But here we are, inside of two weeks before training camp begins and a week away from the quarterbacks and a handful of other players reporting for a couple of days of “quarterback school” prior to the opening of camp. It’s the last hurrah for time off for both coaches and players. It doesn’t leave a lot to discuss right now. That’s all coming. But as I flipped through the new edition of the NFL Record and Fact Book, I came across the 2015 opponents for the Cardinals. So I thought I’d point them out.
As always, there are the home-and-away games against the NFC West opponents. The teams visiting University of Phoenix Stadium include the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings, the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals and then an NFC South team that ends up inhabiting the same position in their division that the Cardinals do in the NFC West by the time the 2014 season is over.
Road trips in 2015 for the Cardinals include the Chicago Bears, the Detroit Lions, the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the corresponding NFC East team.
Tags: 2015 schedule, Bears, Bengals, Browns, Lions, NFC West, Packers, Ravens, Steelers, Vikings
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Ken Whisenhunt gets his second chance. The news came down Monday evening that the Titans had hired the Chargers offensive coordinator and former Cardinals head coach to be their new head coach. It was a surprise on a lot of levels, not the least of which that so many reports came out linking Whisenhunt with the Detroit opening and the fact the Lions are the lone team with a (more or less) established quarterback in place. It’s impossible to know if Whiz chose Tennessee over Detroit or if the Lions never really were that interested in Whiz. It doesn’t mean much now.
It will be interesting however to see how Whisenhunt works with QB Jake Locker. Can Whiz develop Locker, who thus far has not shown enough signs of being a long-term answer? Clearly, the inability for Whisenhunt (and to be fair, General Manager Rod Graves) to figure out the post-Kurt Warner QB situation in Arizona killed his tenure here.
What really struck me about the hire when I first heard it was the link between Nashville, the Titans, Whiz and the Cardinals. That too goes back to the QB problems Whiz had in the desert. Back in the preseason of 2010 — that first go-round of football after Warner retired — the Cardinals had Matt Leinart as the starter, Derek Anderson as the backup and back-to-back exhibition games in Tennessee and in Chicago. In between, there was a few days in Nashville, a joint practice versus the Titans and then a final practice at Vanderbilt.
The relationship between Whisenhunt and Leinart was already fraying. In the joint practice, Leinart struggled against the Titans — at the time, Titans defenders started noticing how quickly Leinart went to his checkdown receiver — and the next day at Vandy, Whisenhunt shocked everyone by giving Anderson first-team snaps. Afterward, it became official that Anderson would be starting in Chicago. Leinart was angry. And things devolved from there.
Now Whisenhunt starts it over. Whiz had a very good run in Arizona, getting the franchise to places they had never been. He also made mistakes. It will be interesting to see if Whisenhunt learned from those missteps and apply that with the Titans.
– There is a lot of speculation about Whiz and if he would reach out to try and bring over current Cardinals strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott. It wouldn’t surprise me, but we’ll see how that develops.
– There are still job openings in Detroit, Minnesota and Cleveland, the latter two of which have interviewed Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. But I am guessing Bowles stays put in Arizona.
Tags: Jake Locker, John Lott, Ken Whisenhunt, Lions, Matt Leinart, Titans, Todd Bowles
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So it’s gonna be about 70 degrees today. Sunny. Just sayin’. Seems like everyone else is making comments about the weather, so I thought I’d chime in.
– Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles reportedly met with the Browns for their head coaching job on Friday and was supposed to meet with the Vikings about their opening Monday. Neither team seems close to making a decision on their coach, although Bowles reportedly made an impression with the Vikings. Both Minnesota and Cleveland continue to look at more and more candidates, and that doesn’t include coaches still in the playoffs. Bowles won’t be interviewing in Detroit, where he was a candidate back in 2009. That makes sense, because many reports say the Lions would likely hire Chargers offensive coordinator and ex-Cards boss Ken Whisenhunt for that job once the Chargers are knocked out of the playoffs.
– On the all-pro team from profootballfocus.com, Tyrann Mathieu makes first team as a slot cornerback, Justin Bethel first team for special teams. Patrick Peterson is second team at cornerback.
– Cardinals director of football administration (and salary cap guru) Mike Disner was named on Forbes list of top 30 rising stars under age 30 in sports. (The man next on the Forbes slideshow after Disner? Kevin Durant. LeBron and Gronk are among the athletes on the list too.)
– I am not a fan of messing with the playoff format. It caught up with the Cardinals this season yes, it benefited them in the 2008 season. I do not think extra teams should be added to the postseason. That said, it is still often discussed. That doesn’t mean anything is imminent, but things could change at some point.
– In case you missed it — and in case you’d like a smile or two — check out here the year in quotes and quips from coach Bruce Arians.
Tags: Browns, Bruce Arians, Justin Bethel, Lions, Mike Disner, Patrick Peterson, playoffs, Todd Bowles, Tyrann Mathieu, Vikings
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, Instagram, Lions, Patrick Peterson
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Karlos Dansby was still trying to make sense of that interception he didn’t get Sunday. That one where Matthew Stafford lasered into Calvin Johnson in between Dansby and Patrick Peterson. Johnson got a 72-yard touchdown and Dansby – who said he knew the pass was coming and jumped the route and did everything right but actually pick off the pass – was left with air.
“I still got a fine to pay,” Dansby said, in a reference to the Cards’ kangaroo court. “I got a big fine to pay. You don’t understand. That’s a fine out of this world. That’s the crazy part about it. Oh man, you don’t understand this fine I gotta pay. You really don’t understand. It’s huge. It’s huge, bro.”
Dansby could smile. Always easier to talk about the bad after a win, and, especially with the way the Cards’ defense stepped up in the second half and shut down the Lions. The Cardinals had to have a win Sunday. Couldn’t go 0-2 heading into two straight road games back East. They got it. So, before I shut down for the night, some notes and thoughts from today’s win:
– Bruce Arians has said it before, and he said it again. “I have no problem with young players,” he said, and it’s not just the high picks. We already know the impact third-round draft pick Tyrann Mathieu has had, and it was Mathieu’s solid tackle of Nate Burleson on fourth-and-4 a yard shy of the line that sealed the win Sunday. Running back Andre Ellington has already proved to be a weapon as both a runner and receiver and a blocker, nice from a sixth-round rookie (who scored his first TD Sunday). And undrafted safety Tony Jefferson had three tackles in his first NFL defensive work as part of a dime package that was used for the first time.
“It’s a huge opportunity for us (young players) and you have to make the best of it,” Jefferson said. “To put a young rookie in and going against an explosive offense like that and they trust in you. You have to perform.”
– As for Ellington, he played more than any of the running backs not named Rashard Mendenhall. Does that mean he made a move up the depth chart? “I’m not sure how that works,” Ellington said. “We don’t really have a set depth chart. Coach just kind of calls you out there when he wants you out there. Whenever my name is called, I want to make the play.”
– After failing to come up with a pair of crucial third-down conversions late in the St. Louis game, the Cards never could get that going Sunday. They had just one third-down conversion in 11 tries (by contrast, they got two first downs on penalties that came on third downs) and it stalled the offense too often.
Asked if he was frustrated by that on the sideline, Arians said “I’m always frustrated. I’m pissed the whole game, nothing satisfies me. … We weren’t three and out, three and out. It was first down, first down, chunk play and manageable (third downs). We just didn’t convert.”
– Wide receiver Kerry Taylor, promoted Saturday from the practice squad, made his first three NFL catches. His first? Seventeen yards, from the arm of none other than Swiss Army knife Patrick Peterson. “It was brought to my attention that it was my first catch in the NFL thrown by a corner,” Taylor said. Taylor was impressive with Fitz down. It’ll be interesting to see if the Cards keep him up on the roster.
– There was better pass protection from the Cardinals. Some of that had to do with the Lions, some had to do with scheme, but for the most part, the offensive line kept Carson Palmer clean enough to throw his passes (although Arians said Palmer was hit too often.)
– The Reggie Bush injury, which basically took him out of the game in the second half, definitely seemed to impact the Lions. They couldn’t run – 49 yards total in the game – and getting Bush in space on pass receptions had been a major threat for Detroit in their Week One win.
– I know it’s early, but it seems Justin Bethel should already be getting attention as a potential Pro Bowl special teams player in the NFC. He’s been excellent in coverage, and then he got the big block of the David Akers field goal in the fourth quarter to keep it a two-point deficit. Bethel got an earlier running-into-the-kicker (which didn’t hurt when Akers missed a second straight try) but it gave him confidence for the fourth-quarter block.
“You’ve got to take the right angle, especially with a kicker who keeps his leg out there,” Bethel said. “(On the penalty) I saw his leg. I jumped and thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to leave his foot out here.’ I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ But I had a good takeoff and I was thinking, ‘OK, I know I can get there.’ And I got another chance.”
– Now, about that Dansby “fine” …
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Justin Bethel, Karlos Dansby, Kerry Taylor, Lions, Patrick Peterson, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Tags: Arizona Cardinals, AZ Cardinals, AZ Cards, Detroit Lions, Lions, NFL, University of Phoenix stadium
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This may be a game between the Cardinals and the Lions, but it feels like in some way, shape or form this week has been about arguably the best two wide receivers in the game (with a little Levi Brown sprinkled in.) Seeing how the Cardinals deal with Calvin Johnson – through Patrick Peterson, of course – was a natural, and then Larry Fitzgerald had to go and tweak his hamstring Wednesday and make his status a big part of the narrative.
The Lions are a better team and more importantly, in a better place, than the group that showed up to University of Phoenix Stadium last December and got pounded, 38-10. Then again, and I think this gets lost, so are the Cardinals. That Cardinals team was floundering on offense (and did so again in that game, mostly, even with the lopsided score) and on a nine-game losing streak. So it’s not like the Cards haven’t moved forward themselves.
It comes down to this: You can’t afford to start 0-2. Not in this division, not with this schedule, not with a team coming cross country to play in your home opener.
“We need a great crowd and the energy that will be there in the stadium,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Hopefully it will ignite us even more. Sometimes you use the opponent’s crowd cheering for them, but it’s nothing like when they are cheering for you.”
– Fitzgerald was asked this week if there are any matchups against a cornerback he relishes like Peterson does going against a guy like Johnson. Fitz said – no doubt knowing exactly what he meant – that it would be Peterson.
“Every day I match up with Patrick is special, in practice,” Fitzgerald said. “I have the benefit of having the top guy in my own locker room.”
We will take him at his word. Fitz did note how Peterson has gotten so much smarter as a cornerback, using safety help to create better leverage and just overall taking a step forward in the mental game when he already had a lot going for him physically. “That’s a deadly, deadly combination,” Fitz said.
– Life on an island against great receivers isn’t easy. But it can’t matter, cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “You know what you are getting into once you play this position,” Powers said. “You know some of the big-time names and guys in the league out there who have proved it, Calvin and Larry, that you know are top-notch. You have to believe in your technique and believe in your ability. They put their shoes on just like they do. You just have to have that type of confidence.”
– Big game for left tackle Levi Brown. It’s one thing to deal with speedster Robert Quinn on the turf. He’ll be back on grass, and the Lions don’t have an edge guy like Quinn. For all the focus on the Peterson-Megatron matchup, everyone knows Brown will be under the microscope too, after last week.
“We have a high expectation for that position and he has to meet that,” said offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Harold Goodwin. “(He needs to) carry over things he does in practice and take it to the game. That’s all he has to do and he’ll be fine.”
– Arians said he thought inside linebackers Jasper Brinkley and Karlos Dansby played “solid” in St. Louis, although he said Brinkley got caught in space a couple of times. Profootballfocus.com gave both good grades against the run but noted their struggles in pass coverage.
– Missed tackles were an issue last week too. “I’m not surprised,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “Probably disappointed. (The Rams) are a good football team. We just have to tackle better. We had been doing a good job of it, but we didn’t last week.”
– Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was credited with two tackles and one quarterback pressure last week, according to the coaching staff. Dockett will need to make more of an impact for this defense to really shine.
“I don’t feel I played bad,” Dockett said. “I played well in spurts. I can do better. No matter what the stats say I always feel I could have done something better. The biggest thing was creating pressure when I had one-on-one blocks, I could have done a lot better with those.”
– The Cardinals, if you wanted to know, will be wearing their red jerseys. I anticipate white pants.
– There were no fines last week for the Rams for any of the hits on Andre Roberts. But cornerback Cortland Finnegan was fined $7,875 for a late hit (I believe on Michael Floyd, that was the play Finnegan drew an unnecessary roughness flag) and so was St. Louis linebacker William Hayes, who hit someone late after the play on a punt.
– Almost a week later, Tyrann Mathieu still isn’t going to get all giddy about his forced fumble against Rams tight end Jared Cook last week. He’s much more matter-of-fact.
“It definitely boosts your confidence, let’s you know you can make plays in the NFL,” Mathieu said. “I am looking forward to making more plays like that in the NFL. It’s all about how you practice. If you practice those things, 100 percent of the time you will make those plays in games.”
I mentioned that both Arians and Hall of Famer Deion Sanders (who happens to be a Mathieu mentor) called it one of the best plays they had ever seen. Mathieu shrugged his shoulders. “If I forced a fumble and picked it up and ran it back 100 yards, that’s amazing to me,” Mathieu said. “But I understand why they said it. It was a big-time play. I’m happy those guys are rooting for me.”
OK, that’s plenty. Cards-Lions Sunday. I’ll be on pre-game radio at 10 a.m., on KTAR 92.3 FM, if you want to give a listen.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Calvin Johnson, Cortland Finnegan, Darnell Dockett, Deion Sanders, Harold Goodwin, Jasper Brinkley, Jerraud Powers, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Lions, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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It’s easy to think of the Lions and wide receiver Calvin Johnson and get locked in on him, but Bruce Arians tried to zoom out a bit when talking Wednesday about the Cardinals’ Sunday opponent.
“Everybody that they have is capable of beating you,” Arians said. “You can’t just look at one guy.”
Of course, Johnson is the guy people think of first. Patrick Peterson will not cover Johnson one-on-one all the time, Arians said, but he will do it some. That will likely work for Peterson, who cherishes these matchups (Peterson was not available during the media session today, so we’ll have more on this tomorrow.) Arians smiled with that assessment of Peterson, though. “You have to watch what you wish for sometimes,” Arians said.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz did say, if officials hadn’t overturned two touchdowns in the opener, Johnson would have come out much better than his four-catch-for-37-yard day. “If he has those two, it’s a Megatron game.”
– The ability of Detroit DTs Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley will mean the pressure this week will be on the Cardinals’ interior line of Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein and Paul Fanaika, as opposed to the pressure the tackles were under in St. Louis, Arians said.
– This from Arians, which was important to note: He said newcomer tackle Bradley Sowell can play both sides. But he said Bobby Massie cannot play left tackle — which would be a reason, for all of you who have asked, why he has not been tried there. Arians did say he thinks Massie “has all the talent in the world.”
– Arians, asked for his evaluation of Suh’s reputation as a dirty football player, said he only thing he goes off of is the video. “When I watch tape I see a great football player,” Arians said. “All the rest of the stuff, I don’t have to deal with.”
– Arians said the only player sitting out of practice was tight end Rob Housler, whom Arians already said would probably miss the Detroit game. Some players will be limited today. We will see the official injury report later today.
Tags: Bobby Massie, Calvin Johnson, Daryn Colledge, Lions, Lyle Sendlein, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Patrick Peterson, Paul Fanaika, Rob Housler
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