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Chargers aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 23, 2015 – 12:11 am

Let’s be real — Bruce Arians would have liked to get a preseason win Saturday night, but he couldn’t have wanted extra football in the form of overtime. Injuries happen that late with tired bodies, and there is no upside of a fifth quarter this time of year. It shouldn’t have come to that anyway, of course, if Marion Grice doesn’t drop a wide open pass on the Cardinals’ previous drive, or if Phillip Sims doesn’t overthrow 6-foot-7 tight end Ifeanyi Momah soon after. Or if Logan Thomas and Momah don’t get crossed up on a pass where Momah was wide open in the third quarter, failing to connect on a pass that seemed like it could have been a touchdown.

In the preseason, these things get forgotten, however. In the regular season, Thomas or Sims would (hopefully) never throw a pass. So, with a nod to the football gods for letting us get out of this one in regulation time, my thoughts:

— Carson Palmer said he wanted to take a couple of hits. Not sure he wanted to be buried on two sacks and get whacked another time. But he didn’t break and that pass to J.J. Nelson was a thing of beauty. So was that touchdown dart to John Brown.

— If David Johnson really can perform like that in the backfield, and Andre Ellington — who had a very nice 11-yard run himself — stays healthy, the Cardinals are going to be fine running the ball.

— Chris Johnson out a week or two with a hamstring pull. He might not get any preseason carries now. You wonder where it might put him after David Johnson’s performance.

— It’s always good to be a young player on the bubble to be named by name by the head coach as playing well. So linebacker Alani Fua, cornerback Cariel Brooks and defensive end Josh Mauro, that’s a good thing.

— Arians also praised Sims, as he should. Sims did miss Momah late, but Sims looked incredibly cool in the pocket and patient. Arians said there is no leader at third quarterback between Sims and Logan Thomas, but Sims is making his push.

— After all the Rodney Gunter talk, it was Matt Shaughnessy out there in the starting lineup with Frostee Rucker and Calais Campbell. Gunter did play with the starting unit, however.

— The Cardinals are off tomorrow, and practice Monday before taking Tuesday off. They play next Sunday in Oakland.

— Arians screamed at the officials much of the game but at no time was it more noticed that late when he (and Patrick Peterson) kept yelling for some flag on Chargers’ defensive backs guarding Jaxon Shipley. That Cardinals cornerback C.J. Roberts was flagged for holding on what turned out to be the game’s deciding play on a pass that wouldn’t have been completed stuck in Arians’ craw too.

“Don’t ask me about officials. Please,” Arians said, after he was asked about the officials. “That’s why I’m hoarse. We need to relearn the rules they changed two years ago. This crew might need eight preseason games to get ready.”

That’s a good way to end it. G’night all.

BAchargerafter

 


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The race at running back

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2015 – 9:30 am

So now Chris Johnson joins the Cardinals and the team did not get rid of a running back as he walked in the door. It’s a crowded backfield. For the record, the Cards now have Andre Ellington, two Johnsons — David and Chris — Kerwynn Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Marion Grice, Robert Hughes and Paul Lasike.

Johnson — the new one — only signed a one-year contract. He becomes the latest in a line of vets who were wooed by GM Steve Keim for the chance at getting a shot on a good team to revive their contract worth. Frostee Rucker. Matt Shaughnessy. Karlos Dansby. Eric Winston. Antonio Cromartie. LaMarr Woodley. Jermaine Gresham. Even Lyle Sendlein. Johnson reportedly will only make the minimum salary too, unless he rushes for at least 1,300 yards (which a back has never reached since the team moved to Arizona.)

What does all that mean? Well, for starters, if Johnson doesn’t work out the way the Cardinals want through the rest of the preseason, he can be released without much impact on the salary cap ($400,000 is guaranteed.) More likely he’ll simply be part of the rotation. If I had to guess right now, the Cardinals will keep five running backs. Ellington will be the starter. The two Johnsons will be there. After that? I’d think there would be one between Hughes and Lasike as the “big” back — Hughes has the inside track there — and one among Taylor, Williams and Grice. Taylor is good on special teams, and Williams’ game is similar to Ellington’s and Chris Johnson’s (plus, he could go on the practice squad if necessary.)

As for the desire to pick up a veteran and supplanting a recent draft pick, this too is something Keim has already done. The Cardinals drafted inside linebacker Kevin Minter in 2013 in the second round and turned around and signed Dansby just couple weeks later, and Dansby’s play left Minter on the bench all season. Now, David Johnson may have the same thing with Chris Johnson. For Keim, it’s about what the Cardinals can do this year.

RunningBacksShot

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Arians: Cards looking for RB

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2015 – 1:54 pm

With no morning walkthrough, Bruce Arians didn’t meet with the media until just now, right before practice. While Andre Ellington is practice today, David Johnson remains out and is “very iffy” this week and Arians made clear a couple of times he is not happy with the overall running back play at this point and the team will be looking to potentially add one to the roster.

“I am not pleased with the time (Andre) and David have lost, and I was not fired up about the running backs’ performance on Saturday,” Arians said.

Marion Grice has also been out with a hamstring issue.

Arians said he thought there were a couple of times when running backs should’ve beaten the defenders in one-on-one situations Saturday and could not. He said Johnson’s injury is normally a two-week problem but he’s still unproven and “we’ve got to make plans in case it does (linger).”

RBsAddBlog


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With Washington wait, a new #58

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2015 – 9:47 am

There is no new news on the status of Daryl Washington — I don’t know why it’s been so long, and no one I have talked to has answers, or is giving any — but there is news about his jersey No. 58. Undrafted rookie linebacker Edwin Jackson will now be wearing that number. That’s the reality of a preseason game coming up, a 90-man roster and a handful of jersey numbers already retired (and not that the Cards are necessarily moving on from Washington.)

The NFL has a rule that says two players on the same team cannot be on the field at the same time wearing the same number. This time of year, it’s not unusual for the Cards (or other teams) to give an offensive and defensive player the same number, since offense and defense wear opposite colors in practice. That doesn’t happen in a game, of course.

As of Saturday, the Cardinals had two sets of players sharing numbers. Running back Marion Grice and safety Harold Jones-Quartey each wore No. 23. Safety Brandon Person and running back Paul Lasike each were wearing No. 34. Because there was a good chance those players could end up on the field at the same time for special teams, multiple shuffles were in order.

That led to Jackson, who had been wearing 45 (and who had a big finish Saturday lighting up Lasike on a hit, pictured below), ending up with the linebacker-friendly No. 58.

The Cardinals could “unretire” one of their retired numbers, but that wasn’t going to happen. For a linebacker, the only options there were Pat Tillman’s 40 or Marshall Goldberg’s 99. (The Cards have five retired numbers: Tillman, Goldberg, 8 for Larry Wilson, 77 for Stan Maudlin and 88 for J.V. Cain. This the biggest reason why the Cardinals don’t retire numbers and instead use a Ring of Honor — NFL teams need jersey numbers.)

Once the Cardinals cut to 53, some jersey numbers inevitably will change again. That always happens. We’ll see where Jackson is at that point, and what happens with 58 then.

Jackson


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Jaron’s catch, Humphries down and walking wounded

Posted by Darren Urban on August 4, 2015 – 5:12 pm

Practice ended 25 minutes early today because, linebacker Alex Okafor said, the Cardinals finished the script and there was no reason to keep going. But it was an odd practice too. Carson Palmer took his scheduled day off and with missing key players like Sean Weatherspoon, Andre Ellington, David Johnson, Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas, there wasn’t really a buzz. Then the Cards had players have to leave with unknown injuries — tackle D.J. Humphries looked like he hurt a knee and limped off, and guard Earl Watford, running back Marion Grice and tackle Rob Crisp all left the workout. (Kent Somers reported that Humphries’ injury isn’t expected to be serious, but the Cards are doing tests.)

All those offensive linemen missing made it tough on what ended up being Tuesday’s second-string offensive line, because they struggled mightily against the deep defensive line and guys like Matt Shaughnessy and Calais Campbell. As usual, we’ll get an injury update tomorrow at lunch from Bruce Arians. The Cards practice Wednesday and then are off Thursday, and maybe that’s coming at a good time.

The highlight of the practice was Jaron Brown’s excellent leaping one-handed catch. Click here for the video. Brown gets forgotten sometimes behind the Fitz-Floyd-Smokey Brown trio and he’s basically a lock for the fourth receiver, so he isn’t discussed when talking J.J. Nelson vs. Brittan Golden. But Brown has showed well in his couple of years, and did again with his high-in-the-air, Odell Beckham-style effort.

“Odell Beckham moment,” Brown said with a chuckle. “Yeah. Best impersonation.”

Catch2BLOG

 


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Some rough Falcons aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2014 – 8:29 pm

Everything Sunday was supposed to be for the Cardinals – everything the Cards needed it to be – it wasn’t. Bruce Arians called the loss to the Falcons disappointing, lots of players called it disappointing, but more importantly, they were asking themselves why it happened the way it did when they simply couldn’t afford such a performance.

“We didn’t wake up,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “It was like we were asleep the whole game. We’ve just got to do better, man. Do what got us here, as far as hitting people in the mouth, just playing hungry, playing nasty – play like we are one of the top teams in the league, which we supposedly were until these last two games. We’ve just got to wake back up and get back on this winning train.”

The offense wasn’t good, and we’ll get to that in a moment. But from the time that Steven Jackson – Steven Jackson? – reeled off a 55-yard run on the game’s first possession, it was the defense that simply didn’t do enough Sunday. No, the offense didn’t do enough either, but this year, with this team, the defense is held to the higher standard. The defense will be what takes the Cardinals however far they will go.

Jackson gained 101 yards. The Cardinals never give up 100 yards to a running back. Julio Jones put Patrick Peterson on blast to the tune of a career-high 189 yards, and Harry Douglas added 116 himself – you know, as long as Roddy White was hurt, why not?

The last time the Cardinals gave up at least 100 yards in a game to a running back and two receivers? Way (way) back on Nov. 12, 2000, when Robert Smith rushed for 117 yards, Cris Carter had 119 yards receiving and Randy Moss has 104 for the Vikings. Of course, that was for a bad, bad Cardinals team that went through a midseason coaching change. This was by a defense that not only is better, but when it is playing well is one of the best in the league.

Adversity has come to visit, linebacker Larry Foote said. With four games left – including the last three within the division – the Cardinals have to figure out how to overcome. It starts on defense.

— Stanton did seem to find a little bit of a groove after a very slow start. But the Cards kill themselves over and over. A Michael Floyd fumble here. A Ted Larsen holding penalty there. An incomplete bomb to Ted Ginn on third-and-2. The first thing Stanton talked about after the game was converting third downs, of which the Cards did only once Sunday.

— Andre Ellington said he’ll be OK after his hip pointer – he said it was a different injury than the one he has been dealing with – but the run game didn’t help again. Falling behind so big so early didn’t help, but Ellington and backup Marion Grice combined for just 10 rushing attempts, for just 35 yards.

— There were too many important players standing out of uniform on the sideline during the game – Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett, John Abraham – to not make you think if all the injuries are starting to catch up to this team.

— The Cardinals do get linebacker Matt Shaughnessy back this week and he can play against the Chiefs. That isn’t a small thing.

— Jaron Brown had his best game, with a team-best seven catches for 75 yards in Fitz’s absence, and absorbed one wicked blow late as he was tackled. Brown was fine with that, he said. He wasn’t fine with the ball that glanced off his hands early in the game, which turned into the Falcons’ first interception. The pass looked too high from Stanton, but to that Brown shrugged off.

“That catch I should have made,” he said. “It hit my hands. Those tips are something we can’t have.”

— Lyle Sendlein, who used to be an offensive captain before Carson Palmer took a foothold in the locker room, is wearing the “C” on his uniform again now that Palmer is out for the season.

— With the high-ankle sprain of Paul Fanaika, it sure looks like Jonathan Cooper will be in the lineup as a starting guard for a little while at least. Even before Fanaika got hurt, Cooper was swapping series with Ted Larsen at left guard. It looked like the effort to reintroduce him into the lineup had begun.

— Arians said he didn’t challenge the 41-yard catch by Julio Jones in the second half – the one in which numerous fans mentioned to me on Twitter Jones only got one foot down – because the coaches upstairs never saw a replay. Peterson was called for holding on the play, but a challenge could have saved the Cards 36 yards if the catch had been negated.

— The punt team nearly was burned on a 70-yard punt return touchdown by Devin Hester. But Hester was called for a facemask while trying to straight-arm punter Drew Butler, and then the Falcons were flagged for another 15-yard penalty for complaining about that call. Cost the Falcons four points in the end (Atlanta later got a field goal). Hester afterward insisted it was a bad call.

— That’s it from 30,000 feet. The Cardinals go back to work tomorrow, trying desperately to right what’s wrong.

AfterBruceuse

 


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Bush becomes potential help in run game

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2014 – 4:58 pm

Who would have believed that it was the loss of Jonathan Dwyer that might’ve been one of the harshest the Cardinals suffered this season? But after the way Bruce Arians used Rashad Mendenhall and Andre Ellington last year at running back, he seemed poised to have a similar-if-flip-flopped move of Ellington this year getting more of the carries but Dwyer as a key component. Then Dwyer got into trouble off the field, was lost for the season, and there seemed to be an absence the Cards couldn’t make up. Not with Stepfan Taylor, not with Marion Grice.

So the Cardinals signed vet Michael Bush Tuesday and at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, he’s the inside load Ellington isn’t. Bush was cut by the Bears in March right around the beginning of free agency and didn’t get a gig until now. So he’s had no offseason, no training camp, no practice, and it would be foolish to expect him to step right in and make a huge impact. We’ll see if he can make any impact; I remember when the Cards were looking for backs and signed Chester Taylor near the beginning of the season and he just had nothing left. Bush has 809 career carries so there is wear on those tires. Ellington is still going to get the bulk of the work if and when Bush becomes part of the offensive equation.

But it makes sense the Cards were going to be proactive. The running game hadn’t done enough of late, and here’s a potential player of help.

Michael Bush


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Friday before the Cowboys – in Dallas this time

Posted by Darren Urban on October 31, 2014 – 4:03 pm

The Cardinals used to go to Dallas every year when they shared a division address. But it’s been almost a decade since the Cardinals visited the Cowboys – all the way back to 2005, when only two current Cardinals were on the team: Larry Fitzgerald and the sidelined Darnell Dockett.

“That was a long time ago,” Fitzgerald said.

Indeed. Those were the days of Marcel Shipp and Josh McCown and Leonard Davis, the Arizona version. Those were the Dallas days of Keyshawn Johnson and Drew Bledsoe and Marion Barber. (The Cards, by the way, were drilled, 34-13, that day.)

Much has changed, not the least of which the venue, gaudy AT&T Stadium with its gigantic videoboard and 100,000-plus seats.  “You can watch it from the sidelines,” Fitz said. “It’ll be fun to watch our defense flying around out there.”

That figures to be the key, doesn’t it? No, not the videoboard but the Cards’ defense. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is questionable after skipping practice all week and you’d have to think that makes it unlikely he’d play. But whether it’s a less-than-mobile Romo or a been-sitting-around-and-not-as-good Brandon Weeden, the Cardinals should be able to generate some opportunities. It’ll start by how they handle DeMarco Murray, of course. If Murray dominates, Dez Bryant might be able to be the QB and the Cowboys would be OK. But if the Cards can have some kind of Murray control and force it back into the QB’s hands, then the Cards will be in the game they wanted to dictate.

— Fitzgerald, on following up his stellar seven-reception, 160-yard performance against the Eagles: “A repeat performance all around wouldn’t be a bad thing on the road against the Cowboys,” Fitz said. “I know that much.”

I have a feeling the Cardinals know it too. It feels like Fitzgerald could have another nice outing.

— Fitz needs only 95 yards to surpass Cowboys Hall of Famer Michael Irvin in career receiving yards. It’d be kind of sweet to do it in Dallas.

— The Cowboys’ defense isn’t great. It has been good enough. It definitely took a hit with the season-ending biceps injury to linebacker Justin Durant, though. Durant was the Cowboys’ leading tackler.

— The last three times the Cardinals have played the Cowboys, the Cardinals have won on the final play of the game. In 2008, it was Sean Morey’s blocked punt recovered by Monty Beisel in the end zone in OT. In 2010, it was Jay Feely’s 48-yard field goal as the clock ran out. In 2011, it was a 52-yard screen pass to the Hyphen – LaRod Stephens-Howling – from quarterback Kevin Kolb for a touchdown.

— For those asking – for a road game, even! – the Cardinals are wearing red Sunday. The Cowboys almost always wear white at home.

— I’d expect Marion Grice to get at least a carry or two Sunday now that Stepfan Taylor is sidelined. Bruce Arians said Grice was ready, although he said Friday he was happy with Grice “until he dropped that handoff today.”

— Safety Deone Bucannon was not fined for the helmet-to-helmet hit on Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin, the one that caused the Patrick Peterson concussion. Cornerback Jerraud Powers was fined, $16,537 for his horse collar tackle in the same game. Eagles defensive lineman Trent Cole was dinged $22,050 for hitting Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer in the helmet.

— Arians said Peterson will cover Dez Bryant some of the time Sunday, but Peterson will not exclusively be on the Pro Bowl wide receiver.

— Punter Drew Butler has played at “JerryWorld” before, having punted for the Steelers in a 2012 overtime loss to the Cowboys. Did he hit the videoboard with any punts?

“Of course you try in pregame,” Butler said. “It’s a little ego boost there. I hit it a few times.”

Butler said hitting it in-game isn’t an issue because it’s inside the hashmarks and kicks are almost always angled outside the hashmarks. A bigger issue, he said, is because it gets dark higher up, sometimes the gunners have a hard time picking up the ball as it drops from the sky.

— Arians had his own description on playing in the Cowboys’ Dallas palace.

“It’s different,” Arians said. “It’s all those fans when you come in, like you’re walking out of a nightclub. It’s got an unbelievable gladiator feeling to it because you’re walking through the fans and they’re throwing (expletive) at you.”

On to Dallas.

FITZGERALD WILLIAMS NEWMAN DAVIS


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Taylor injury thins RB options

Posted by Darren Urban on October 28, 2014 – 9:57 am

Andre Ellington has been the Cardinals’ running back workhorse, with increasing carries the past couple of games. This team was always in a position where they needed Ellington to stay healthy and perform, given his skill set. That just becomes more important now, as Stepfan Taylor — Ellington’s backup — is expected to miss “significant time,” according to coach Bruce Arians, because of a calf injury.

(Feels like the Ellington-Taylor story might have been a jinx. … OK, not really.)

Taylor didn’t have a carry against the Eagles before going out with the injury in the second half. But it now means that the top two backs that were supposed to support Ellington — Jonathan Dwyer and Taylor — are not around. And this is all while Ellington is playing through a bum foot. The Cardinals have explored adding a running back through trade but nothing has been that close to happening and now, Marion Grice — a rookie sixth-round pick of San Diego who was cut and on a practice squad before the Cards signed him — is the Ellington backup. You’d think at some point, the Cards will have to add a back to the 53-man roster. Kerwynn Williams is an option from their own practice squad. Robert Hughes simply has a different role.

Of course, if Ellington can stay on the field, maybe it doesn’t matter as much. Ellington took every one of the Cardinals’ 23 rushing attempts against Philly. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin has said a couple of times he thinks Grice can play the same kind of role Ellington does. The Cardinals may have to find out, at least on a limited basis.

UPDATE: The Cardinals made a practice squad move to give them running back options, bringing local guy Zach Bauman back to the practice squad and releasing cornerback Anthony Gaitor.

EllingtonTaylorblogUSE


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Campbell playing; Grice active for first time

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2014 – 11:26 am

The big if not unexpected news: Defensive end Calais Campbell is active today and will be playing for the Cardinals. That isn’t a shock with the way Campbell was talking Friday.

I know I’ve gotten more questions about a rookie sixth-round pick that was already cut once than I ever expected, but for all those waiting, Marion Grice will be active for the first time today for the Cardinals. That’s the guy the Cards pick to replace their third quarterback active, which Logan Thomas was last week. Grice, given the way the Cards would like to run the ball, could see some action today. Linebacker Desmond Bishop is also active for the first time since being re-signed.

Here’s the full Cardinals’ inactive list:

— QB Logan Thomas

— LB Thomas Keiser

— LB Glenn Carson

— DT Alameda Ta’amu

— DT Bruce Gaston

— G Earl Watford

— TE Troy Niklas (ankle)

For the Eagles, RB Darren Sproles (knee) and C Jason Kelce (hernia) are inactive. Starting LB Mychal Kendricks is active.


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