Larry Fitzgerald did not catch a pass, and that was only the beginning of the brutality that was the Cardinals’ last trip to Buffalo.
It was way (way) back in Fitz’s rookie year of 2004. It was Denny Green’s first season. Anquan Boldin was coming back that day after missing the first six games with a knee injury suffered in training camp. Boldin had four catches for 50 yards. Fitz, alas, was shut out – the only time in his career he has not caught a pass in a game.
“That was probably the first time in my life I didn’t catch a ball,” said Fitzgerald, whose consecutive-games-with-a-catch streak is at 181. “Ever since I started playing football. There’s a first for everything.”
(Fitz did have a rushing attempt, for four yards.)
Of course, there weren’t many completions, period. Josh McCown completed just 9-of-24 passes, Drew Bledsoe just 8-of-17, as the teams played in nasty winds up to 30 miles an hour plus rain. It was a joy to watch. (It ended with a 38-14 Bills win).
The weather isn’t supposed to be bad Sunday. The temperatures will be mild, the sun is supposed to be out, the wind at a minimum. And of course, Fitz is playing with a team 12 years later that is light years better than that group that went to New York.
— No Evan Mathis this week, cut down by the dreaded turf toe. Earl Watford gets the start in his place. That’s an interesting development, in part because …
— Sunday will be a big test for right tackle D.J. Humphries. The defense played by the Ryan brothers usually features high-pressure from the outside. Do they go after Humphries? Goodwin said Humphries is doing better, although he noted there were mental lapses both against the Buccaneers and in practice this week. “He is always going to feel the pressure from me and coach (Arians),” Goodwin said.
Now you have Watford and Humphries on the right side of the line without Mathis.
— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher, on his reaction after hearing Bruce Arians accepting the blame for the zone-first defensive philosophy in the Patriots loss: “The first thing I thought was, we needed to tackle better in that game … our communication wasn’t good enough.”
“I love coach’s input,” Bettcher added. “He is one of the smartest men I have ever worked around. Not only is he the best head coach in the National Football League, he is a smart, smart football coach.”
— The Cardinals have yet to turn the ball over. Carson Palmer should have been picked a couple of times so far – the drop by Bucs CB Brent Grimes on the bad route by David Johnson last week the most memorable – but overall the QB has been good protecting the ball. In an offense like this, where the passing game will go down the field, a minimum of interceptions is impressive.
“Experience is one thing,” Palmer said in his explanation why. “You know when to take your shots. You know whether it’s the right type of third-down situation to be in, the right time of the game. You’ve got to be smart.
“(Interceptions are) going to happen. You try to avoid them as long as you can and when they do happen, you bounce back and go down and score on the next drive. That’s something that I pride myself on.”
— While Arians said the cornerback spot across from Patrick Peterson would be shared work-wise between Marcus Cooper and Brandon Williams, Bettcher said whoever had the better week of practice was going to earn the playing time Sunday.
— As we go, don’t discount the idea that newcomer Tharold Simon could also start to get some defensive snaps at cornerback.
— Former Cardinals linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, now 33 years old, is starting in Buffalo and has 1½ sacks and nine tackles in two games, plus a forced fumble and tackle for loss. “Lorenzo is playing really, really well,” Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “He’s got a sack and a half and he’s missed two or three. Just missed.”
— So far, Markus Golden is keeping up with the higher-profile Chandler Jones in sacks. Both have two in two games. Golden shrugged off his pace, but admitted he’ll be looking at it at season’s end.
“At the end of the year, of course, numbers mean something to everybody,” Golden said. “You want to do stuff people didn’t think you could do, so of course the numbers matter, but I feel like if you compete at the high level and play to win, you’ll get the numbers no matter what.
“Just got to keep hunting.”
Tags: Bills, Brandon Williams, Carson Palmer, Chandler Jones, D.J. Humphries, Earl Watford, Evan Mathis, James Bettcher, Larry Fitzgerald, Lorenzo Alexander, Marcus Cooper, Markus Golden
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Last week, Steve Keim talked about the sky falling after the loss to the Patriots. This week, the Cardinals’ General Manager played off the theme, noting that despite getting into the office before the sun was up Monday, “there didn’t appear to be a cloud in the sky.”
Such is the reaction after a 40-7 win Sunday. The vibe tends to be better. Mostly, Keim — during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 — saw positives, including the play of cornerback Marcus Cooper. It doesn’t hurt that Cooper was acquired for a seventh-round draft pick in 2018, a cheap price even if the Bucs’ performance ends up being Cooper’s best. Keim said Cooper was high on the Cards’ potential trade list in the preseason. (That includes not only scouting players, but also guesstimating what players teams might be willing to give up or cut at some point.)
Cooper has the length the Cards like and a “feel for the game,” Keim said.
“He’s just a savvy guy,” Keim said. “I don’t want to anoint him as the next coming of Deion Sanders quite yet, but at the same time, very excited with the way he played.”
— Keim said he was “still extremely high” on rookie cornerback Brandon Williams. He thought Williams played well Sunday in limited defensive snaps. “I have no concerns that Brandon won’t develop, but still, it’s nice to see competition at the position.”
— The only reason rookie DT Robert Nkemdiche was inactive Sunday was because of the ankle tweak he suffered late last week in practice, Keim said. He added Nkemdiche should be back this week.
— Right tackle D.J. Humphries played well, Keim said, and added that right guard Evan Mathis was the “epitome of a pro” for coming back from his foot/ankle injury.
— Keim liked the game nose tackle Xavier Williams played, as well as fellow nose tackle Corey Peters. Keim said moneybacker Deone Bucannon had an excellent game.
— Early in the game, Keim admitted he wanted the pass rush to get home more often, but felt that the pressure eventually started getting to Bucs QB Jameis Winston even without sacks, given how many passes of Winston came out high. “I thought Chandler (Jones) did a nice job being disruptive, even though it didn’t show up in the sack column until later in the game,” Keim said. “I think they got into Jameis’ head enough.”
Tags: Corey Peters, D.J. Humphries, Deone Bucannon, Evan Mathis, Marcus Cooper, Robert Nkemdiche, Steve Keim, Xavier Williams
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Practice over for the week and the players going off to leave for the day, Bruce Arians said during his Friday media meeting he hoped the Cardinals would do a better job of mental preparation between then and kickoff Sunday against the Buccaneers. Asked what he could do in that regard, Arians didn’t hesitate.
“That’s their job, not mine,” he said. “I’ve already prepared them. That’s their homework.”
A little while later, linebacker Kevin Minter chuckled when that message was relayed. “He told you exactly what he told us,” Minter said. “Almost verbatim.”
“He has a point though,” Minter said. The linebacker said the practices last week — like this week — were excellent. Something got lost before kickoff in Week 1. Maybe it had to do with the emotions of the moment, with a Sunday night game, and the Patriots, and 9/11, and the season starting. “Not making excuses, but we had to calm it back down,” Minter said.
“You get hit in the mouth like that, you better calm down,” Minter said.
Guess we’ll find out Sunday.
— So much is on the defense this week. They know they didn’t play as the should’ve last week (I’ve got the “10-for-16” burned in my brain at this point.) They face a much more dangerous passing offense in terms of explosion. They still have to find a way to go with work-in-progress Brandon Williams at cornerback. Can’t let Doug Martin get outside, but I think the Cards can handle the run game. Can they slow down Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson down the field? A couple of those TDs last week in Atlanta weren’t about bad coverage — it was Jameis Winston throwing to a tall receiver and that receiver making an incredible catch.
— The GMs in this game, Steve Keim and Jason Licht, are close friends. Wonder if there has been any trash-talking this week.
— It’ll probably be a week or two before new cornerback Tharold Simon is active for a game, but Arians said Marcus Cooper, the corner acquired in a trade a couple weeks ago, will “get action” this week. I assume that means on defense. Cooper played five special teams snaps against New England.
— The last time the Cardinals played the Bucs, it was in Tampa in 2013, the back end of a week away from Arizona. The Cardinals pulled out a late win against an inferior team because Patrick Peterson made two interceptions in the last four minutes of the game. (Why rookie QB Mike Glennon, in his first start, was throwing at that point no one knows.)
Peterson said he had forgotten about the circumstances until assistant athletic trainer Chad Cook brought it up. “Didn’t know that was in the last four minutes of the game,” Peterson said. “So that was pretty clutch.”
— Larry Fitzgerald now has 100 career touchdowns after his last one against the Pats. Fitz was asked where that TD ranks for him.
“Ranks 97 behind Jerry Rice,” Fitzgerald said. “So that puts it in perspective for me to keep working.”
As good as Fitz is, I don’t think he’s catching Rice.
— I think John Brown will be better this week than last. Not sure if he just needed a game to get the rust off, but I think you’ll see some Smoke this time. And I think the Cardinals need him.
— Peterson said the Cardinals will “definitely” bounce back after last week. “I’m not guaranteeing a win, but there is a different energy,” Peterson said. “I can feel the sense of urgency. … Good teams don’t lose twice (in a row).”
Bring on the Bucs.
Tags: Brandon Williams, Buccaneers, Doug Martin, Jason Licht, John Brown, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Marcus Cooper, Mike Evans, Patrick Peterson, Steve Keim, Tharold Simon, Vincent Jackson
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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.
Tags: Brandon Williams, Chandler Catanzaro, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, Jimmy Garoppolo, Kam Canaday, Kevin Minter, Larry Fitzgerald, Marcus Cooper, Mike Leach, Patriots
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The Cardinals have gotten down to the 53-man roster. Surprises? Perhaps a couple, although the way the wind was blowing over the last few days of the preseason, maybe not so much. Once we got to the end of the fourth preseason game, it was looking good for undrafted ILB Lamar Louis, and the knee injury of Kareem Martin might have helped ILB Gabe Martin on to the final roster (as well as his pick-6), although Martin has caught their collective eye for a while. I think cornerback Cariel Brooks had a good chance to make the team until he played so poorly against the Broncos.
The one legit surprise — in my eyes — was the Cardinals keeping Olsen Pierre, meaning there are nine defensive linemen on the final 53. Nine! That’s on a team with a 3-4 base defense that will use Chandler Jones as a defensive end in some passing situations. Then again, this could be partly for the future, not wanting to lose Pierre (and thinking he can play) when both Frostee Rucker and Calais Campbell are going into the last year of their contracts.
— The roster breakdown, right now, looks like this:
QB – 2
RB – 4
WR – 5
TE – 3
OL – 9
DL – 9
LB – 9 (counting Bucannon; sorry Deone)
CB – 4
S — 5
ST – 3
— So many wondered if Matt Barkley would stick, but as I have said many, many, many times, Drew Stanton was the No. 2 and Barkley simply didn’t show enough to pass him up. The Cardinals will have a QB on the practice squad — it could be Barkley — but it was clear listening to Bruce Arians over the time in camp he was disappointed Barkley didn’t come along faster.
— The trade for Marcus Cooper underscored the need for a veteran cornerback. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cards kept looking at that position.
— The same goes for backup tackle, although John Wetzel showed enough to stick for now.
— Only one draft pick wasn’t kept, cornerback Harlan Miller. I wouldn’t be surprised if Miller came back on the practice squad, but if you are Miller, knowing how much the Cards needed cornerbacks, you have to be disappointed you couldn’t make inroads in making the roster.
— When in doubt, teams go younger. That’s how you stay competitive.
— Teams will start making waiver claims tomorrow. There is still a (good) chance this 53 won’t be the 53 when the Cardinals return to practice Tuesday.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Drew Stanton, Frostee Rucker, Gabe Martin, Harlan Miller, John Wetzel, Lamar Louis, Marcus Cooper, Matt Barkley, Olsen Pierre, Roster
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The Cardinals have until Saturday afternoon to make their final cutdown to 53 on the roster, and Bruce Arians made clear earlier today that he wasn’t going to forthcoming with any information. But that doesn’t mean the Cardinals didn’t make a few moves — aside from the agreed-upon trade for Chiefs cornerback Marcus Cooper, which I would guess wouldn’t be official until Cooper passes a physical.
The team still hasn’t officially announced anything, but there were a handful of cuts listed on the official NFL transactions list today. Two veterans are out — S Chris Clemons (a minor surprise, given that he had been Deone Bucannon’s summer-long backup at moneybacker) and LB Donald Butler. They will each immediately become unrestricted free agents. That likely means good news for undrafted rookie ILB Lamar Louis. Waived were CB Cariel Brooks, RB Kerwynn Williams, T Rob Crisp, WR Marquis Bundy and G Antoine McClain. The team also had an injury settlement with C Taylor Boggs, who had been dealing with a calf injury.
That would be eight players off the roster of 75 in the quest to get to 53. The Cards actually have to move on from 23 total players, because Cooper is coming in. The other cuts will come out at some point Saturday.
Tags: Antoine McClain, Cariel Brooks, Chris Clemons, cuts, Donald Butler, Kerwynn Williams, Marcus Cooper, Marquis Bundy, Rob Crisp, Roster, Taylor Boggs
Posted in Blog | 34 Comments »