The Cardinals haven’t had two players with at least 10 sacks in a season since 1984, when Al “Bubba” Baker and Curtis Greer did it. If Chandler Jones can notch at least a half-sack Sunday in Los Angeles, he and Markus Golden (who has 10 sacks already) will end that drought. The two will be linked forever in that regard — even as they are already linked now, by their own choice.
“They’re like stepbrothers walking around since day one,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “They have a great camaraderie, they’ve become close friends on and off the field. … You can see it.”
Jones said Golden reached out to him as soon as the Cards traded for Jones last March and “we’ve been tight ever since.”
“We are just two guys, we’re good friends,” Golden said. “We like the same things, we like to do the same stuff, we play the same position. We’ve got a lot in common. And Chandler is just an all-around cool dude.”
Does that relationship help on the field? “You play for your brother, for sure,” Jones said. Golden said it does help with communication, but in the end, the sacks are coming because that is what he and Jones are paid to do.
“No matter what, you’re going to go out and hunt, man,” Golden said.
Tags: Chandler Jones, James Bettcher, Markus Golden
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It’s a weekly occurrence, the concern about the Cardinals’ deep ball that just isn’t there anymore. Is there anything that can be done about it? Maybe not. It’s a simple equation for offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin of why they’ve dried up.
“Because no one is giving them to us,” Goodwin said. “People are playing deep coverage on us, and forcing us to make intermediate and underneath throws. That’s one reason the running game is a little bit better too.
“People know we live for the shot and people aren’t going to give it it up anymore. We respect that. We just have to beat them in different ways.”
The Panthers are a team that’s had problems on the back end and would seem to be susceptible down the field. Then again, the same things were said about the game against the Jets and the Jets played off and the Cardinals bludgeoned them to death with David Johnson. The Panthers are stout against the run, but the Cards aren’t giving up that part of the game.
But Bruce Arians continues to say — with a stronger nod to running the ball these days — that there will be times to take shots and some are still open. Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer definitely lamented the J.J. Nelson bomb against the Seahawks that Palmer simply threw too far out of bounds.
“I missed a couple,” Palmer said. “I had J.J. on a couple the other night. I’ve taken shots that I shouldn’t have in certain situations. I think one thing I need to do is be a little bit more picky – when to take them, when not to take them. That’s something I’ve really been trying to work on.”
— I didn’t think the Panthers were going to be 15-1 again this season. But they shouldn’t be 1-5. I thought Kelvin Benjamin was going to be a huge upgrade in helping their passing game. In all honesty, I didn’t think Josh Norman — or a lack thereof — would have this sort of an impact.
— Larry Fitzgerald had a tough flight home the last time the Cardinals were in Carolina. Bruce Arians, not so much. “Steve (Keim) and I were working on next year already.”
— The Cardinals need better special teams. And not just Chandler Catanzaro kicking field goals. Protections have to be cleaned up. Last week, the Cards were hurt when Jaron Brown went down, forcing Kerwynn Williams in as a wing protector on the punt team. Williams is the one who surrendered the blocked punt. There’s no question injuries have taken a toll on special team — Four guys on IR, Tyvon Branch, Jaron Brown, Alani Fua and Troy Niklas, were all key special teams pieces to begin the year.
“You always have to be ready,” special teamer Stepfan Taylor said. “It’s kind of a want-to and a technique kind of deal. We do a good job of everybody ready, but you can only suit up 46 people in the game. It becomes limited. You have people who have never played it before having to be in-game ready and jump in.”
— We’ll see if the 10 a.m. kickoff Arizona time impacts anything. The Cardinals didn’t play well in the 10 a.m. kickoff in Buffalo, although I’m not sure that was time-related. It would’ve been better to have the 1:25 p.m. Az time kick as originally scheduled (TV moved it because both teams aren’t playing well), but it’s not like they haven’t done it before. The team is in the air right now flying out to Carolina.
At least I’ll get home at a reasonable time. Hey, I’m looking at the silver lining.
— Injuries will play a big role in how the pass rushes for both teams might look. When the Cardinals are on offense, how does left tackle Jared Veldheer hold up with a cast on his right hand against the formidable Carolina defensive line? On the other side, not having starting left tackle Michael Oher (concussion) could make things interesting against edge rushers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden.
— One last word on the two field goal block/miss in Seattle. The NFL explains why both were legal in this video.
— There’s been a lot of talk about the tie the Panthers had in 2014, allowing them to win the NFC South at 7-8-1 over the 7-9 Saints. In context, of course, it was a point made after the Cardinals had their own tie last weekend. There’s only one problem — while the tie made the final standings cleaner in terms of seeing who won, the Panthers were going to win the division anyway. The Panthers and Saints split their two games, and the Panthers had a better division record. So even if the Panthers had lost and not tied the Bengals, they would’ve won the South.
— Don’t forget the Pat Tillman “A Football Life” tonight at 6 p.m. on NFL Network (and probably replaying a time or two. Check your local listing.)
— The Cardinals get the bye next week. There’s a pretty big difference between 4-3-1 and 3-4-1. At least in the chase to make the postseason.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, Chandler Jones, Harold Goodwin, Jared Veldheer, Jaron Brown, Kerwynn Williams, Markus Golden, Panthers, Pat Tillman, Stepfan Taylor
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Is everything fixed? No. Even Bruce Arians noted, for instance, that the Cardinals have yet to break their zero-points-in-the-first-quarter streak, much to his chagrin. The Cards were 5-of-16 on third downs. But the bottom line is the Cardinals got that win they needed, within the division, on the road, with the backup quarterback. The 49ers are not a good team, but a 12-point road win still means something.
In this case, it means the Cardinals can feel better about this next week-plus as they try to climb back into the thick of things. There is time for starting QB Carson Palmer to get healthy (and there is significant optimism he will be OK by the time the Cardinals play Oct. 17 at home against the Jets). There is time to get others healthy. Or at least, healthier.
There is a big stretch coming. “Monday Night Football” versus the Jets. “Sunday Night Football” against the Seahawks. A road game in Carolina before the bye. This will determine if the Cardinals will be players in the second half of the season or not.
“We’re a team that can rip off a bunch of them,” defensive tackle Calais Campbell said.
A bunch would be nice. Tonight, about 30,000 feet up somewhere over California, one is a nice start.
— David Johnson, in case you weren’t sure, is a beast. The Cardinals needed to run against the league’s worst run defense, and they did. Johnson banged out 157 yards, and that’s what you need when you are starting the backup QB.
“I feel unstoppable, basically,” Johnson said.
He looked that way, too, basically.
— Johnson’s 695 yards from scrimmage through five games is a franchise-best. John David Crow had 665 through five games in 1960.
— I’m sure Drew Stanton would’ve liked to pass the ball better. Arians said Stanton was simply working too fast at times. But the goal – the main goal and by far the biggest goal – was engineering a win, and that’s what Stanton did. The second goal? Don’t turn the ball over. Check that box too. Goal three (OK, I’m speculating here) is ride Larry Fitzgerald. Always a good thing to do.
— Calais Campbell, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is only the second player since sacks became official in 1982 to get two sacks, an interception and a safety in a game. Baltimore’s Adalius Thomas did it in 2006.
— Markus Golden was great. He’s turning out to be a heck of a second-round pick.
— Fitzgerald was magnificent on his two TDs. Run an excellent route to shake a cornerback for one. Squeeze the cornerback until the last second before the oh-so-subtle shoulder push to create room for the second. That’s why he’s a future Hall of Famer.
–Speaking of Fitz, the chest bump he delivered to guard Earl Watford after a score knocked Watford to the ground.
“Earl always thinks he’s like a phenomenal athlete,” Fitzgerald said. “So, I always tell him, whenever I score, I’ll meet you down there and we’re going to jump as high as we both can and he’s never even close and now he fell down too. So, that was real bad for him. I’m going to stay on him for that.”
Caught on TV, it’s something the big lineman will have a tough time living down –although he’s cool enough to embrace the moment.
@LarryFitzgerald made me look silly. Haha Oh well. We will meet again in the endzone. Got the dubya.
— Earl Watford (@EWatts78) October 7, 2016
— The special teams has not played well and deserve the criticism they have gotten as a unit. But Thursday night, they were pretty great. J.J. Nelson breaking off a 40-yard kick return. Ifeanyi Momah causing a turnover on a kick return. Ryan Quigley booming punts that hung in the air for five seconds. Good coverage on kicks and punts. A good day all around.
— Tyrann Mathieu had his rough moments as he moved back to his familiar slot cornerback role, but he’ll live with the ups and downs after the win. “I got out of there alive, so that’s all that matters,” Mathieu said with a chuckle.
“Sometimes I felt great, other times felt I was too hesitant,” Mathieu added. “Hopefully the more I play the position the more comfortable I will be doing it.”
— Great job filling in on the offensive line for Watford and John Wetzel, although we will have to see how Evan Mathis and Mike Iupati are. Iupati hurt his ankle – that’s a player you don’t want to lose for any extended time.
But at least the Cards have a little time to sort it out. After a win.
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Evan Mathis, Ifeanyi Momah, John David Crow, John Wetzel, Larry Fitzgerald, Markus Golden, Mike Iupati, Ryan Quigley, Tyrann Mathieu
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That first possession – the one the Bills had – went pretty well. A three-and-out, a Kevin Minter sack, and the Bills fans were already itchy in their seats.
But as the fruitless possessions for the Cardinals’ offense piled up, the defense couldn’t match. For a chunk of the game, it felt like many of the East Coast games of Cardinals yesteryear. This was a team that, frankly, hadn’t been part of the Bruce Arians era. At all. Even the NFC Championship game felt like an overwhelming performance by a better team. This just felt like the Cardinals never got into sync.
It’s certainly not where you want to be three games into the season. Carson Palmer and Michael Floyd still don’t seem to be on the same page. The run defense slipped hard, especially when the Cards all but predicted LeSean McCoy and, as a scrambler, Tyrod Taylor, were going to be the key to the Bills’ offense.
Now comes two straight NFC West games in what will be a five-day window. They are crucial, against two teams you expected to find behind you in the division standings. They won’t be if the Cardinals don’t find consistency.
— Not a lot of good in the game. But the Patrick Peterson one-handed interception was an incredible athletic feat.
— Speaking of incredible athletic plays, Tyrann Mathieu made one to force that fumble. If he could have only picked it up. He would’ve scored a touchdown. It could’ve been a one-score game with eight minutes left.
— There are – obviously – some decisions coming on the special teams front. Punter Drew Butler was clearly limping every time he was on the field and when he was headed to the locker room. It would seem likely they’ll need someone to at least fill in a week. The long snapper issue isn’t about injury. The Cardinals never had to worry about the position for the longest time. Mike Leach was as close to perfect as you could get. Kam Canaday is struggling. Arians had already acknowledged it. And with that position, it’s tough to wait out growing pains.
— As they did in the first two games, both Chandler Jones and Markus Golden got a sack. They each have three sacks in three games.
— The Cardinals had no turnovers. Now they have five, including four straight interceptions by Palmer to end the game.
— Painful stat of the day: Beginning with the first drive of the game, when the Bills set the Cards up with a punt and the Cardinals began at the Bills’ 36 and went nowhere, the Cardinals got to the Buffalo 36 or closer seven times but only scored twice.
Then again, most of the stats ended up painful.
Tags: Bills, Carson Palmer, Chandler Jones, Drew Butler, Kam Canaday, LeSean McCoy, Markus Golden, Michael Floyd, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Tyrod Taylor
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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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There will be some interesting parts to the Cardinals’ 2015 season revealed now that “All or Nothing” is now available to stream on Amazon video. One is there right at the outset of the first episode. The cameras take you into the Cardinals’ draft room when they are on the clock in the second round, all set to select Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah — VP of player personnel Terry McDonough is literally on the phone with Abdullah — when the Lions end up taking Abdullah the pick before Arizona. (The disappointment is palpable. It’s a scene you have to watch play out.)
How much would’ve changed last season had the Abdullah pick been made? Without the ability to draft Abdullah, the Cardinals took outside linebacker Markus Golden in the second round. And then they went with running back David Johnson in the third round. Golden has already played his way into a probable starting job following a solid rookie season, while Johnson had 13 touchdowns as a rookie and is going to be the anchor for the Cards’ running game in 2016.
Johnson, in fact, is a guy who the Cards’ decision-makers feel can be a star in the NFL. Abdullah had a solid rookie year for the Lions too, but I’d guess the Cards would have no desire to flip Johnson for Abdullah right now. Johnson showed he can run the ball and his ability to catch is fantastic (Johnson made a grab on a wheel route during OTAs that had teammates marveling. In the offseason.)
Feels like this turned out pretty well for the Cardinals.
Tags: Ameer Abdullah, David Johnson, draft, Markus Golden, Terry McDonough
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The players have been gone for a couple of weeks. The coaches are on vacation. Now is the time for them to not think about football, since football will dominate lives when the end of July arrives.
In the meantime, it is the perfect time to speculate and predict.
As I have done for a number of years, here are my picks, in late June, of who will be the starters for the Cardinals when they begin the regular season Sept. 11 against the Patriots on “Sunday Night Football.” They are the best guesses for a team that has yet to take part in training camp, yet to absorb any of the inevitable camp injuries, yet to sign anyone late as a Steve Keim blue light special.
While the Cardinals often are in some sort of sub-package, for this post we are going with the base defense. I’ll post my thoughts on the offense tomorrow (and here they are):
DT – Calais Campbell. Going into the last year of his contract, Campbell’s future with the Cardinals is fuzzy. But the Pro Bowler has played well, and the addition of Chandler Jones figures to make him better, and in a year where the Cards are going to push for a Super Bowl, he’ll be a key piece.
NT – Corey Peters. The Cards like Rodney Gunter, who was solid as a rookie. But Peters was impressing coaches before his Achilles injury last season, and I expect him to make a similar push to get back into the starting lineup by the time the season starts. Other than Campbell, the defensive line starter positions are a) up for grabs and b) part of a rotation, anyway. One caveat: This is assuming Peters is indeed all the way healthy, but coach Bruce Arians said Peters would be ready to go come camp.
DT – Frostee Rucker. Rucker missed offseason work with a foot injury, and he may not be ready right when camp opens. But assuming he doesn’t miss too much time, he figures to find his way into the lineup again. He’s been solid the last couple of seasons, and while there is youth available (Gunter, Nkemdiche, Stinson) Rucker still leads the way.
OLB – Chandler Jones. He was penciled into the lineup the day he arrived in a trade. He’ll be a three-down player.
ILB – Deone Bucannon. Last year at this time I picked Bucannon to be the starting strong safety. It was, after all, where he spent the entire 2015 offseason working. Then, when camp began, Buc was back at dollar linebacker. The Cards don’t even pretend he is anything but anymore.
ILB – Kevin Minter. He got his chance to show he could be a starter last year, and he made it work. He’ll be back in place again as he goes into the last year of his contract.
OLB – Markus Golden. When it comes to outside linebackers, Jones is the star, Alex Okafor is the former starter on the comeback trail after his dicey exit to 2015, and Dwight Freeney is the still-available free agent. Meanwhile, Golden, who was solid as a rookie, will slide into the starting spot opposite Jones. He’ll have the chance to be a nice bookend.
CB – Patrick Peterson. Yes, 2014 was mostly forgettable. Peterson couldn’t have made 2015 more memorable. That was the stud cornerback he could be, and the one the Cards are counting on going forward.
CB – Justin Bethel. There is competition, not from someone unsigned, but from the rookies. If Bethel is going to grab this job, he has to hold off raw rookie Brandon Williams. He should be able to do that.
FS – Tyrann Mathieu. In the end, I think Mathieu finds a way to be ready by “Sunday Night Football” to open the season. If not, Tyvon Branch – who will get a lot of playing time anyway – is around. The Cards need a healthy and productive Mathieu.
SS – Tony Jefferson. Branch will be in the mix too, and D.J. Swearinger will make a push, but in the end I think Jefferson finds his way on to the field first, as the Cards once again mix-and-match often their secondary. (Would I be surprised if Branch starts? Not at all.)
Tags: Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, Corey Peters, Deone Bucannon, Frostee Rucker, Justin Bethel, Kevin Minter, Markus Golden, Patrick Peterson, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Would Dwight Freeney be brought back? Until he signs elsewhere, I suppose that’s possible. But he just visited the Bengals and news came today he’s going to visit the Falcons, and at some point, if he makes sense somewhere else, he may just come off the market. In the meantime, it’s understandable that the Cardinals don’t see a need to have him right now.
The trade for Chandler Jones obviously impacted the situation. If Freeney — who was originally signed because Alex Okafor got hurt, if you recall — was the lead pass rusher, well, that’s Jones’ job now. Markus Golden likely is the other starter, and a healthy Okafor is back and apparently past whatever was left from his playoff disappearance. Plus, the Cards want to see what they have in Tristan Okapalaugo, Shaq Riddick and Zack Wagenmann.
If we get to training camp and Freeney remains unsigned and the depth isn’t looking quite like what the Cardinals wanted, Freeney would be a natural option. This deep into the offseason, though, it feels like a long-term waiting game, if it were to happen at all.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Chandler Jones, Dwight Freeney, Markus Golden, Shaq Riddick, Tristan Okpalaugo, Zack Wagenmann
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Not even 24 hours had passed since the Cardinals had lost the NFC Championship, and Steve Keim made clear his offseason priority.
“Create a pass rush,” the Cardinals GM said.
Easier said than done. There were a few pass rushers on the free agent market, although none were coming off eye-popping seasons. That didn’t stop the money from flowing, however, and the Cardinals tried to get into it, making a push for Jason Pierre-Paul that ultimately came up short. It didn’t look all that promising going forward, unless the Cardinals could grab someone with the 29th overall pick in the draft. Free agency overall was quiet for the Cards.
And then suddenly, the news broke Tuesday. A trade, and Keim had his pass rusher. Chandler Jones, who made the Pro Bowl with his 12.5 sacks in New England, was coming to Arizona (pending physicals, of course) in exchange for guard Jonathan Cooper and the Cards’ second-round draft pick in April. It’s hard not to see this as a huge win for the Cards. The reality was Cooper had never really developed into what the Cardinals wanted, and flipping a second-round pick for a proven pass rusher was simply a good move. This trade won’t be evaluated fully for a while, but on the day it happened, it is a Keim win.
Some other thoughts:
— Jones is going into the last year of his contract (making $7.8 million this season). That’s reportedly one of the reasons the Patriots were willing to deal him, because they have others who can do his job and they have so many players who need to be extended. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are in the same boat. The laundry list of scheduled free agents after this season is, right now, frighteningly long: Jones, Fitz, Floyd, Mathieu, Campbell, Rucker, Gresham, Minter, Ellington, Jefferson, Catanzaro and Fells, for starters. But I am guessing there will be an extension or two the Cardinals will be trying to get done.
— Jones was hospitalized in the postseason, reportedly after a bad reaction to synthetic marijuana (which, apparently, has no actual marijuana in it and is not illegal). It was a mistake, but one source in New England said it was not reflective of who Jones is and shouldn’t be an issue going forward.
— The addition of Jones shouldn’t rule out further pass rush help if the Cards find some in the draft or elsewhere. It will be interesting to see if Dwight Freeney will remain in play, and what this could mean for Alex Okafor, who had been starting along with Markus Golden.
— Cooper’s departure leaves a lot of unknowns on the offensive line. Center is still a mystery. With the possibility Ted Larsen could leave as a free agent, so is right guard. The assumption is D.J. Humphries can play right tackle, but that is no lock, especially with the news Andre Smith could still sign. Earl Watford could have a big chance to win a starting job, and the Cards have been intrigued by Antoine McClain on the practice squad. But there is still work to do to fill out the group next to Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati.
UPDATE: This could change some things. Ian Rapoport reports veteran guard Evan Mathis visited the Cardinals and he was offered a contract. Rapoport also said veteran guard Geoff Schwartz is also supposed to visit the Cardinals.
— The saga of Cooper is over. He will not be playing center (I’m not sure that was ever really a serious option, to be honest). He will not be the guard, he will not be getting back to his pre-broken leg level, at least not with the Cardinals. Three years into his career, questions still swirled around Coop. He admitted after the season he struggled with criticism — including from coaches — which is tough in this business.
“I will work on that because that is a major key to me improving is me being able to have my headspace correct,” Cooper said. “Letting one or two mistakes snowball and keep me down, I can’t let that happen anymore. Even hearing negatively from outsiders, I can’t let than bring me down.”
Tags: Alex Okafor, Andre Smith, Antoine McClain, Chandler Jones, D.J. Humphries, Dwight Freeney, Earl Watford, Evan Mathis, Geoff Schwartz, Jonathan Cooper, Markus Golden, Patriots
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There were so many reasons last year to think that a pairing of the Cardinals and veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney made sense, long before it actually happened. (The fact it took an injury to starter Alex Okafor to make it happen, and then to have Freeney perform as he did while Okafor somehow got hurt away from the team on playoff bye week, probably isn’t lost on the Cardinals.)
Freeney is a free agent. At his age — he turns 36 on Feb. 19 — he made clear both during the season and after that he is in year-to-year mode. He didn’t know if he was going to try and play in 2016, and if he did, there’s a question of whether the Cardinals will want to bring him back. But ESPN did a list of 10 “sleeper” free agents, and of them Freeney is one. The site notes Freeney had 36 pressures in just 264 snaps (and eight sacks, which is a pretty nice number for 264 snaps). For a team that is still looking to upgrade its pass rush, having Freeney around certainly cannot hurt.
Would Freeney take another lower-salary deal with incentives like he signed this season? Possible. Freeney made it clear he doesn’t want to play for a non-contender, so a) money can’t be everything and b) he definitely likes being with the Cardinals and Bruce Arians. He brings so much to the team besides QB pressures too; his ability to be a role model for younger rushers like Markus Golden is invaluable.
Freeney first has to decide if he wants to play again. If he does, it’ll be interesting to see what money that season he just had can generate. It’s possible he could wait it out and be a just-before-camp guy for the Cardinals. But I’d think as they put together the roster, if they see Freeney as a key component, that signing would come much sooner.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Dwight Freeney, Markus Golden
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